Sapphire Sky

May 25, 2018

The Herald of the King

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 12:38 am

Thoughts from Matthew 3 …

I remember many of my children’s books that I had when I was younger.  There were colorful Bible Story books, showing scenes and characters from popular events.

But there was one character that I always loved to see. They always pictured him in a faraway place, holding a long staff and wearing strange clothes. He had to be the strangest man that could ever think of:

He lived in the desert!

He dressed in camel hair (my picture books always showed him wearing some strange, hairy toga)!

He always had a big beard (in all my picture books)!

HE ATE BUGS!!

My Bible Story books showed people coming from far and wide to hear him. They would go into the desert to listen to this strange man preach. He would then lead them into the Jordan River where he would baptize them.

As I grew older, I saw many movies which dramatized the life of this man in the desert. He was no longer just a picture in a book, but a live person walking through my TV screen. It seemed like all the movies depicted this person, John the Baptist, as a very angry man. He was always shouting at people, trying if he could to scare them into repentance.

As we look at the Bible says, the picture of John the Baptist emerges as a very important man. Jesus would later describe John as the greatest man who ever lived (Matthew 11:11)!

Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews, was about to arrive. John’s message had the following parts:

First, the king is coming! The long-awaited Messiah was about to be here! He would come and set up His kingdom on earth as the prophets foretold.

Second, the people were not ready. They needed to repent!

Finally, if their repentance was true, then they needed to come into the Jordan River with John. They would put their heads under the water and demonstrate to the world that they were now ready for the kingdom.

What does it mean to repent? It is much more than simply being sorry for disobeying God. Repentance involves both the knowledge and the sorrow that you have violated the law of a Holy God. It then involves a conscious act to turn away from your disobedience and to turn to God.

“Repentance means that the natural man takes God’s side against himself.” – H.A. Ironside 6

This was John’s message, but he had opposition. The religious leaders came to see why he was upsetting the status quo. John compared them to deadly snakes and urged them to flee from the fires of God’s judgement.

These religious leaders were caught up in their own imaginations about what it meant to be right with God. They believed that they were safe from God’s judgement because of their family relations — they were descendants of Abraham! They also believed that God would look favorably on them because they worked so hard to keep the law. But John said that all of these things — the family connections, their own good deeds — they all were worthless to God. They needed to come back to Him.

There was no longer any time for middle ground. You need to either repent and join the king, or be swept away in God’s wrath.

The people were impressed by John, but he always deflected their praise (see also here). He was not the king, he was simply the announcer for the king. When the king comes, John did not consider himself worthy to wash his feet!

 

Remember!

Most of us have head of John the Baptist before this. The story of his life may not give you any new information. However, don’t forget some of the things that God is showing us through his life:

  • If you have not turned to God, then the time is now! Repent and join Him! You may not have another chance!
  • If you already belong to God but are not obeying Him, then you too need to repent. Don’t let this day go by before you get right with God!
  • Don’t stop at the inward steps of repentance, but show it in your life. If you really have turned from your disobedience and turned to God, then there will be real, tangible changes in your life.
  • Don’t let your pride or preconceptions stand in the way of getting right with God. Very few of the religious leaders believed John because they thought they knew better.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

 

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May 13, 2018

Friends and Enemies of the King

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 12:58 am

Thoughts from Matthew 2…

Matthew’s second chapter continues his account of the promised King.

 

Who was this king? Who is this person that Matthew was writing about?

Matthew’s first chapter told of the heritage and birth of the new king. He has the heritage and the rights of the great dynasty of Israel, going back to King David himself. His birth was a miracle, born to a poor unmarried woman and her betrothed husband.

But why should we care? Why should our modern world care about an ancient Jewish king?

Because He is much more than that. He is not simply some distant story. He was God Himself, come to mankind!

Matthew’s account is clear: He was born to a human mother among a human family. He was very much human (see here).

But His father was God (see here, here, and here). Therefore he was also very much God.

And He came for a purpose. Matthew stated His purpose in his first chapter, “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). He will save His people from their sins. He was the promised one that the Jews had been waiting for, their Messiah!

But Matthew then showed that Jesus did not only come for the Jews. He was born to a Jewish family, but some of His first attendants were outsiders, or Gentiles.

Jesus was still a young child — probably only a few months old — when He was visited by dignitaries from far away. These visitors, or Magi, had learned of the new king and come to worship Him.

Even at the start, Jesus’ own people didn’t care for Him (see here). The religious leaders knew exactly where He would be. They even gave directions for the Magi but they never came.

The king over the Jews saw Him as a threat. King Herod knew that this was the long-awaited Messiah, and he tried to kill him. At first he tried to use deception to find the baby. When that failed, he resorted to massacre. He sent his soldiers to murder all the young boys in Bethlehem!

But it was these outsiders, the ones who should have never cared, who came to worship Jesus the Messiah. The Magi used their own resources to travel a long and dangerous road, carrying priceless gifts, unsure of the final destination.

God had given them a glimpse of His glory, in the form of a bright light, in their home country of Babylon. That vision caused them to come to Jerusalem, seeking the new king of the Jews. They were then directed to the nearby village of Bethlehem, where they again encountered God’s light. They found the new king and worshipped Him, giving their gifts.

Remember!

Most of us have heard about the “wise men” as part of the Christmas story. It can seem distant, exotic, and very removed from our present lives. But we should take time to remember some of the lessons from these wise men (or Magi):

  • The Magi knew very little about God, but they followed what they knew. They didn’t know His location but they came gladly to worship!

  • You don’t need a Jewish heritage to worship Jesus Christ. You only need to follow Him.

  • God does not look for those who are especially powerful, religious or smart. The educated priests ignored Jesus Christ and the powerful king wanted to kill Him!

  • God will protect His own! He directed Joseph to take Jesus and Mary away to Egypt when Herod wanted to kill him, and then back to Israel when it was safe to return.

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May 2, 2018

The Birth of the King

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 1:03 pm

If you were to tell the story of a great king, what would you tell about his beginning?

Most stories have the king born amidst splendor, with the great people of his day. Others may tell a great “rags to riches” story, how the great king emerged from such a humble start.

But for the King of Kings, the truth is greater than any fiction that we could imagine! Jesus Christ Himself came to earth, born of a poor village girl, in the middle of a terrible scandal.

His mother, Mary, became pregnant out of wedlock. She had had no relations with a man — there was no human father. The baby was a miracle from God Himself.

Mary was away for several months, visiting her cousin Elizabeth. She returned to her conservative, religious small town of Nazareth, showing that she was obviously pregnant. Nobody believed her.

Her own husband didn’t believe her. She was betrothed to Joseph, anticipating the great celebration where they would fulfill the ceremony and become man and wife. But all Joseph could see was that his wife was unfaithful to him. He cared enough for Mary to not make a public scene, but he could never marry her after what she had done. He opted for a quiet divorce.

This was the beginning of the life of the King of Kings. Born to a scandalized mother and a heartbroken father.

But Matthew’s account is not about Mary, nor is it really about Joseph. This was about the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit created the embryo in Mary’s womb. He also sent an angel to direct Joseph. There were things that Joseph needed to know about the child, and things Joseph needed to do.

Joseph needed to complete the marriage. Mary was not unfaithful and she was his wife.

The child was the work of the Holy Spirit. God was directly intervening with mankind, and the result was the baby who was growing in Mary’s womb.

Joseph was to name the child Jesus, meaning, “Jehovah is Savior”.

This baby has a special purpose. He will save his people from their sins. He will be the long awaited Messiah!

Matthew shared the beginning of the life of Jesus Christ on earth, showing a sharp contrast between what the world sees as opposed to but God sees.

The world saw Mary as an adulteress, who had a baby without a husband. God saw her as a pure woman who was willing to follow and obey Him regardless of the cost (see here).

The world saw Joseph as a poor carpenter who was either complicit or the cause of Mary’s adultery. God saw him as a man willing to follow Him in protecting and caring for the young Messiah.

The world saw Jesus as an illegitimate child. God knew that he was a miracle of the Holy Spirit, and the One who would be the Saviour of the world.

The apostle Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians that the wisdom of God is seen as foolish to the world, yet the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God. It is so easy to see ourselves and others as what the world sees us. We need to look at people the way God sees them.

Finally, we should never go to Matthew’s gospel account without being challenged to renew our appreciation for Jesus Christ. He is the King of Kings; He is the long awaited Messiah to the Jews; He is the one who will save the world from the curse of sin!

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April 25, 2018

The History of the King

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 11:16 pm

The New Testament opens with a message for the Jewish people. It is a message that they will not accept, given by one of the most hated people.

The Romans in the first century relied upon a hierarchy of publicani, or tax gatherers, in order to collect taxes for the empire. Local merchants would pay for the privilege to collect from their countrymen. These local tax gatherers would often add on a large percentage of taxes for themselves, thus becoming both very wealthy and very hated by the local people.

The tax gatherers were considered the worst of society. They were often used in the gospels to illustrate bad people, with the synonymous term, “tax gatherers and sinners” (e.g. Matthew 9:11, Mark 2:16).

Matthew (also known as Levi) was such a tax gatherer who left his business to follow Jesus (see the passages here).  Matthew turned from his old life to become one of Jesus’ twelve apostles (see here).

Matthew’s message to the Jewish people is that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the long-awaited king who has come to save His people (see here).

Matthew’s gospel account begins by showing that Jesus deserves the title of king. Jesus is the descendent of David and heir to the throne over all Israel.

The first part of Matthew’s gospel account traces Jesus’ family tree back to Abraham. This family tree dates back for 2,000 years and includes many heroes of Old Testament history, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, and many of the kings of Judah. This list includes some of the greatest men to have ever lived.

This list included some very evil men. Rehoboam was the foolish king who divided his father’s kingdom. Manasseh was so wicked and violent that God promised to remove the kingdom because of him. Jeconiah was cursed to never have a descendent to sit on the throne of Israel (see Jeremiah 22:30).

This list included scandals. Judah fathered Perez because his daughter-in-law disguised herself as a prostitute. David took Bathsheba as wife after adultery and murder. Jehoshaphat married his son Jehoram to the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, setting up two generations of family murder and intrigue.

This list included foreigners and women. Rahab was the Canaanite prostitute who rescued the Israelite spies and turned to follow their God. Ruth was the Moabite widow who chose to remain faithful to her destitute mother-in-law.

The list ends with Joseph, who would be the legal guardian of Jesus the Messiah.

What is the point of this history lesson? Is it simply a chance to reflect on history, with perhaps a chance to walk down memory lane?

Of the many lessons that we can gather from this passage, remember the following:

 

God can use broken people!

The family history of Jesus Christ is full of fallible humans. Even among the great figures in history:

  • Abraham lied and tried to build his family through a slave girl
  • Isaac was partial to one son over the other
  • Jacob was a liar and a deceiver
  • David was an adulterer and a murderer
  • Solomon was a polygamist
  • Asa would not trust God
  • Jehoshaphat befriended the evil kings of Israel
  • Uzziah tried to become a priest
  • Hezekiah bargained with God for his life
  • Josiah had three wicked sons

If God was able to use broken people in past, He is just as able to use you and me, despite our failures.

 

God’s plan is not broken by evil people!

The bloodline of Jesus Christ was never broken!

  • Even when Jehoram was murdering his brothers and Athaliah was murdering her grandchildren, God’s plan never failed.

  • Even when Manasseh was searching Jerusalem so that he could murder anyone who was faithful to God, His plan never failed.

  • Even when the Babylonian army was burning the temple and taking the people into exile, God’s plan was never broken.

If God’s plan never failed through the worst of ancient history, He is fully able to keep his plans today, despite anyone who rises to oppose Him.

 

Jesus is king!

Jesus is the king, not only over ancient Israel, but over the world today. He has all authority over heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).

Jesus still has just as much authority today as He did 2,000 years ago. We can know that, through all of our uncertainties, He is still king!

 

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