The New Heavens & The New Earth – Isaiah 65:17-25; Revelation 21:1-27

ISAIAH 65:17-25                                            THE NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH                                                           Day 30


Isaiah spoke of blessings not yet received:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox…. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:6-7, 9)

“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD. (Isa. 65:25)

These, and many other prophecies, point to the fulfillment of the Messiah’s work. In bringing the new creation, Jesus is bringing a day of peace. This peace has begun in those who walk with him now. It will be complete and absolute when he returns to bring the new heavens and new earth.

There is a striking resemblance between the coming heaven and earth and the Garden of Eden. They are not the same, but are similar. The new paradise will surpass Eden. The first paradise was a garden; the last is a city. In the first, God came to walk with Adam & Eve in the cool of the day; in the second, “the dwelling place of God is with man.” In the first, God was a visitor to the Garden; in the second, He is the Father of those there.

The measure of the new Jerusalem is a perfect cube – like the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple. This symbolizes the place where God lives among His people. However, in the Temple, the High Priest, but not the people, could enter but once each year; in this city, God’s people will live eternally blessed.

In a sense, our presence in this home of God has already begun, as we sit with Christ at the right hand of God, having been raised with him to newness of life. Today, we realize this only by faith; then we will know it completely.

The earth itself will also be new, as Paul wrote:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:18-23)

Truly, God has prepared for us “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined…” (1 Cor. 2:9). However, God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. And, as Israel in the wilderness looked forward with hope to the land of milk and honey, so we live in hope of what is unseen, but for which we long.

Even so, Come LORD Jesus!

The Gospel Goes To The Gentiles – Acts 10:1-48

ACTS 10:1-48                                      THE GOSPEL GOES TO THE GENTILES                                                                   Day 29

Our last reading was the conversion of Saul of Tarsus who became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Today we read of the first Gentile converts.

This was traumatic for the early church, even more than the persecution that scattered them from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria. Persecution made the church grow; Gentile conversions threatened its unity.

There are traces of this in today’s reading: Peter resisted the voice saying to eat “unclean” food and took six brothers with him as witnesses when he went to Cornelius. Why? He knew how his brethren would react (see Acts 11). They rejoiced that God granted repentance to Gentiles, but soon some wanted these converts to become Jewish proselytes by being circumcised and keeping the Law (cf. Acts 15:1-31). There was great debate over this, but a letter was sent from Jerusalem to the Gentile churches with instructions to avoid Pagan practices – idolatry, fornication, eating blood, and things strangled.

Judaisers still dogged Paul. They wanted Gentile converts to be circumcised and observe the Law. Several of Paul’s letters to churches dealt with this, for example:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:1-6)

God’s call to Abraham said to him, “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Isaiah had prophesied, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it.” (Isa. 2:2). The prophet Amos also spoke of this: “’In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,’ declares the LORD who does this” (Amos 9:11-12). Israel’s restoration would be incomplete without the nations (the Gentiles) coming to God to receive the blessing of Abraham.

It wasn’t circumcision and kosher food that would bless the nations. It would be faith in God and walking in the steps of Jesus that would “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

In fact, in Christ, “neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:15-16). In Jesus, all who walk with him are sons of God and children of Abraham – without the special “markers” that separated Jews from Gentiles. Instead, Jesus’ disciples are known by loving one another (John 13:34-35).

The new creation is already breaking into the world in us because of Jesus. Tomorrow’s reading will be the end of the STORY, where the new heavens and earth are revealed as the fullness of the new creation.

Paul’s Conversion – Acts 9:1-31

ACTS 9:1-31                                                            PAUL’S CONVERSION                                                                      Day 28

Saul of Tarsus was a student of Gamalial, the greatest Rabbi of the 1st century, and possibly one of the Sanhedrin. Saul held the coats of those who stoned Stephen.  This began a persecution that scattered the disciples through Judea and Samaria. Saul led this, even going to other cities to find Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for prison or death.

On one such trip, to Damascus, Jesus himself appeared to him in blinding light (Acts 9:1ff; 22:1-22; 26:4ff). In his epistles Paul often wrote of his early life.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:12-14)

After his baptism, he immediately began preaching in the synagogues of Damascus saying Jesus is God’s son. Later, after being in Arabia three years, he met a few apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-30). Many believe in those early years he was taught by the Lord in the wilderness.

From Jerusalem, the church sent him back to Tarsus. Barnabas invited Saul to join him in Antioch in Syria where the gospel was advancing among the Gentiles (Acts 11:19-27). This continued until the Holy Spirit said to separate Barnabas and Saul for a special mission journey (Acts 13:1-3). Early in this first journey, Saul took leadership of the group, and he became called Paul (13:9).

He made three separate “missionary journeys” through modern Turkey and Greece, visiting cities such as Philippi, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus – as well as many smaller cities.

After he brought alms to the poor saints in Jerusalem from the Gentile churches he had established, the unbelieving Jews were about to lynch him because they thought he had taken a Gentile into the Temple, but he was rescued by the Romans. Kept in protective custody for two years, he appealed to Caesar when the Roman governor was about to send him to Jerusalem for trial there. He spent two more years in Rome waiting to be tried. Tradition says he was released briefly before being arrested again and beheaded by Nero c. A.D. 66.

Along the way he wrote at least 13 (some think 14) of the books of the New Testament (Romans – Philemon or Hebrews). Everywhere he went, the Jews pursued him from city to city. He was also arrested by the Roman authorities at times. Read a list of his trials in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33.

The Jews hated him, yet he never lost his love for them, saying, “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh….” (Rom. 9:3). Most of his work was among the Gentiles, though in every city he preached “to the Jew first, and also to the Greeks” (Rom 1:16). Near the end of his life, he wrote:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Our next reading is about the first Gentile converts and how that fits into God’s STORY of redemption.

The Holy Spirit Comes On Pentecost – Acts 2:1-42

ACTS 2:1-42                                           THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES ON PENTECOST                                                   Day 27

When Jesus ascended, his disciples stood looking up until two men in white appeared and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). They went into Jerusalem to wait for the promised Spirit, for Jesus said they should tarry there.

While 120 men and women were waiting, they prayed and selected two who had been with them from John’s baptism until Jesus ascended. The casting of lots showed God had chosen Matthias to replace Judas.

On Pentecost, the Spirit came. A crowd gathered. Some wanted to know what was happening. Others mocked, saying “These are drunk on new wine.” Peter preached.

In his sermon he said this was what Joel meant in his prophecy for the last days. God would pour out His Spirit. Peter said this came from the risen Jesus, exalted to the right hand of God. There, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father (cf. Acts 1:4). This was what they were seeing and hearing. Peter argued this showed that the same Jesus they crucified had been made Lord and Christ by God.

Why did Peter spend so much of his sermon talking about the Holy Spirit?

Well, it was one of the most important things that happened that day. It was visible evidence to the multitude that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead and had ascended to the Father. Of course, Peter also backed this up with Scripture that pointed these very things happening, things that let Israel know God had made Jesus LORD and CHRIST, the anointed king. When they wanted to know what they should do since they had crucified their MESSIAH (Hebrew word for the Greek word Christ), Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What would the “gift of the Holy Spirit” mean to them?

Think back over the history of the world. Man’s heart had turned from God. It had become hard as flint and desperately wicked. Just before going into Canaan, Moses charged Israel, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn” (Deut. 10:16). This was so they would love the Lord and serve Him. But they didn’t do it. In fact, they couldn’t circumcise their hearts. A true heart-circumcision would not come until God Himself would circumcise them with a circumcision not made with hands (cf. Col. 2:12).

The Spirit promised at Pentecost pours God’s love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5). This enables us to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength – and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Throughout the New Testament, we are encouraged to avoid the works of the flesh, and to walk in the Spirit. Then, the fruit of the Spirit will be seen in us (Galatians 5:16-24).

The work of the Spirit in bringing order out of the chaos of our hearts is not done in an instant, nor is it a magical thing that happens without our willing participation. It is a work not completed until we see Jesus as he is (1 John 3:1-3). But now we are sons of God; the new age has begun, and the transformation of the darkness of the world into the light of God has begun in us.

Our next reading will see one man’s transformation.

Jesus’ Resurrection & Ascension – Luke 24:1-53

LUKE 24:1-53                          JESUS’ RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION                                                     Day 26

He is not here, but is risen! These seven words changed the world forever.

Can you imagine the fear and joy the women who first heard them felt? We have heard them so often our hearts seldom thrill to hear them. But this was the subject of every sermon in Acts.

As Adam was the first man of the old creation, Jesus is the first man of the new creation (1 Cor. 15:45). Because of Jesus’ resurrection:

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Cor. 15:49)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:7).

Already, in Christ we enter into the new creation of which he is the firstfruits.

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:20-22)

In baptism, we re-enact his death and resurrection. We die with him that we might live with him.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:11)

This is our new reality. Before being in Jesus, we were dead in sin. Now in Jesus, we are to consider ourselves alive to God because of sharing in his death and resurrection through faith in the power of God. Having entered into the new life that’s in him, the power that raised him from the dead is working in us. Paul prayed that we might know…

…the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. (Eph. 1:19-20)

Jesus is not only raised; he ascended back to the Father where he sits in glory at God’s right hand. This is the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision:

…behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom…. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever. (Daniel 7:13-14, 18)

That is why Paul went on to say in Ephesians 2:4-7,

But God…made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ.

Already, now, we have been seated with him in heavenly places; in the coming ages he will show even more wonderful riches of grace in his kindness toward us. Just as his crucifixion is about more than removing guilt, his resurrection is about much more than merely proving that he is the son of God – though it does that. In his resurrection, the new creation is breaking into the old creation, this sin-cursed world, to make things right again. It began with Jesus; continues in those who believe in him; and will continue until the restoration of all things. This is where God’s STORY is leading.

Jesus’ Crucifixion – John 19:1-41

JOHN 19:1-41                                                          JESUS’ CRUCIFIXION                                                                        Day 25

There they crucified him.” These four words describe unbelievable agony. Never having witnessed a crucifixion, we can only imagine it. Passion plays and movies help us see it. If you’ve never seen one of these, watch Mel Gibson’s, Passion of the Christ. Believe me, it is gory, and is not for children. The Scriptures never dwell on the blood and gore of flogging and crucifixion, perhaps because in the 1st century there were few who didn’t know exactly what crucifixion was.

Scripture focuses, instead, on why he died; saying he was crucified conveyed all that was necessary to convey the agony of the event.

Why did he die?

The human purpose is evident. The Jews delivered him to Pilate out of envy. Then, Pilate and the Jews each manipulated the other into getting what each of them wanted: Pilate wanted the Jewish leaders to acknowledge they had no king but Caesar; the Jews wanted Jesus crucified. Neither was interested in justice.

The divine purpose is more complex. He died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3). But how are we to understand this? He died:

  • Because of sins, for it was sinful men who actually nailed him to the cross (see above).
  • Bearing our sins in his own body, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).
  • To heal our brokenness before God by returning us, like straying sheep, to the Shepherd (1 Pet. 2:25).
  • To redeem us as God redeemed Israel from Egypt, through the forgiveness of sins by his blood (Eph. 1:7).
  • To reconcile us to God in Himself by making peace through the cross (2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:20).
  • As a propitiation or atonement by his blood (Rom. 3:29). Note: This differs from both the pagan propitiation of the gods and the Jewish sacrifice of atonement, for God provided the atoning sacrifice.
  • As a ransom from him who held us captive, so we can become willing servants (Mark 10:45; Heb. 9:14).
  • To bring the blessing of Abraham to the Gentiles (Gal. 3:14).
  • To take the curse of the Law on himself (Gal. 3:10-13).
  • As obedience to God (Phil. 2:8).
  • To bear much fruit by dying (John 12:24).
  • To draw all men to himself (John 12:32-33).
  • To justify sinners, making them righteous (Rom. 5:9).
  • To purchase the church (Acts 20:28).
  • To give us hope that those who have died in Christ will return with him (1 Thess. 4:14).
  • So we can live with him (2 Tim. 2:11).
  • To teach us to live righteously now (Tit. 2:11).
  • To give us confidence to enter God’s holy place (Heb. 10:19).
  • To sanctify us (Heb. 10:29; 13:12).
  • For his own ultimate joy (Heb. 12:2; Phil 2:8-11).
  • To ransom us from our empty, futile ways (1 Pet. 1:18-19)
  • To bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18).
  • To cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
  • To empower Jesus to open the scroll (Rev. 5:9).
  • To destroy the devil who has the power of death (Heb. 2:14).
  • To deliver all who were enslaved through fear of death (Heb. 2:15).
  • To empower us to conquer the Satan (Rev. 12:11).

We could add more, but this is sufficient to show that Jesus’ death is for much more than removing guilt. It empowers us to have victorious lives filled with his power.

Though many see it only as forgiveness of guilt, God’s STORY is about more than guilt. It is about transformation. Also essential to this is the next part of the STORY: resurrection!

The Last Supper & Jesus’ Arrest – Mark 14:12-50

MARK 14:12-50                                    THE LAST SUPPER & JESUS’ ARREST                                                    Day 24

For months he had been warning them it was coming. Beginning in Caesarea Philippi after he asked who they really thought he was. Peter spoke up quickly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus commended Peter, but reminded him this knowledge came from God, not from any human revelation.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21)

The disciples were not ready for this. Peter rebuked him, “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus rebuked him sharply: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matt 16:23).

About a week later, he took Peter, James, and John up a mountain and was “Transfigured” before them as Moses and Elijah came to talk with him about his coming departure in Jerusalem (Luke 9:30). Coming down the mountain, Jesus charged them not to tell anyone what they’d seen “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9). They kept quiet, but wondered among themselves what “rising from the dead” meant, but were afraid to ask him.

As they were traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem for that fateful Passover, Jesus again said to them,

See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise. (Mark 10:33-34)

But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask…. (Luke 9:45)

As the hour neared, Jesus arranged to keep the Passover with his disciples. At that meal, he elevated the Passover into a remembrance of his body and blood. His body, he said, is given for you; his blood, “poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20).

The final temptation came following the supper, in Gethsemane. How different this garden encounter was from that in Eden! The tempter was there while Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:41-46). As he prayed, the disciples whom he had asked to keep watch with him, slept. Before sunrise, they would flee, and one would deny three times that he even knew Jesus. But Jesus was faithful to his Father’s will.

Another of them brought his enemies to arrest him, identifying Jesus by kissing him. Jesus asked, “Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).

Jesus taught openly in the Temple all week. They had not arrested him then because they feared the people who hung on his every word with delight. The people loved it when the Jews tried to trap Jesus in his words with difficult questions – and he made them look foolish every time. Instead of arresting him openly, they took him in the dark of night while he was away from the adoring crowds.

But that is the way of evil. Men love darkness more than light because their deeds are evil (see John 3:19-20).

This begins the darkest hour of the STORY, but take heart! Sunday’s coming when the Light will burst into view!

Jesus’ Triumphant Entry – Luke 19:29-48

LUKE 19:29-48                         JESUS’ TRIUMPHANT ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM                                     Day 23

Following his baptism and temptation, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” (Luke 4:14), where he began to teach and perform miracles. When he came back to Nazareth, in the Synagogue he laid out the agenda for his ministry:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19, reading from Isaiah 61:1-2)

In summarizing Jesus’ ministry in his sermon to Cornelius, Peter said, “He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). Mark wrote, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’”(Mark 1:14-15).

Gospel preaching and doing good. Proclaiming good news, especially to the poor, the captives and oppressed. Doing good in his miracles – but also in lifting up those who were fallen. When John in prison sent disciples to ask Jesus if he were the one who was to come or if Israel must look for another, Jesus replied:

Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (Matthew 11:3-6)

Crowds flocked to him, not only because of his miracles, but also because his teaching amazed them, whether on the Mountain, by the seaside, or in the Synagogue. “The crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).

Sometimes Jesus’ words were hard, and many who followed him just to be blessed by his miracles went away. Once, he even asked the twelve he had chosen, “’Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’” (John 6:67f.). He thought no alternative is better than Jesus.

Near the end of his life, he came to Jerusalem for the climax. The authorities were already determined to kill him, but the people still followed him gladly. He came as the roads were thronging with pilgrims coming to the Passover. When those already in the city heard he was approaching, they went out to meet him.Together, along with his closest disciples, they made a joyful procession into Jerusalem.

They took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (John 12:13-15)

The shouts of the crowds announced him as the promised King, the Messiah, the Christ. This led the Pharisees to ask him to shut them up. He replied that if they were silent, even stones would cry out and continued into the Temple where he cleansed it.

Yet, in this moment of triumph, Jesus wept over the city because they did not recognize that God was visiting them to redeem Israel. (The STORY will continue….)

Jesus’ Baptism & Temptation – Matthew 3:13-4:11

MATTHEW 3:13 – 4:11                          JESUS’ BAPTISM & TEMPTATION                                                       Day 22

After fleeing from Herod to Egypt, Joseph & Mary took baby Jesus to Nazareth. We know little of him until he was 30, except for one incident in the Temple at age 12. There, he was about his Father’s business, asking and answering questions, amazing the scholars of the Law.

But God was moving in Israel. John began preaching in the wilderness. People recognized his prophetic voice and began coming to hear him in large numbers. His message was “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” because “the kingdom of God is near.” When the Jewish leaders asked if he were the Messiah, he denied it; “If not, then who are you?,” they continued. He replied, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ’Prepare the way of the Lord’” quoting Isaiah 40:3.

Jesus came to Jordan to be baptized by John. Why? That’s what John wanted to know also, saying that he needed to be baptized by Jesus instead. He had already told people that one coming was greater than he, for he was before me and he who would baptize in the Holy Spirit, not merely in water. Yet Jesus insisted on being baptized by John “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

When Jesus was baptized, a voice from Heaven announced, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” reflecting Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. In keeping with the later, the Holy Spirit descended on him as a dove.

Then the Spirit drove him into the wilderness where he fasted 40 days and was tempted by Satan. It was necessary for the Son of God to suffer temptation,For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect was tempted as we are, yet without sin”(Hebrews 4:15).

In his baptism, though he was without sin, he took his place alongside sinners. In temptation, he identified himself with mankind. He was truly man, suffering all that we suffer; ultimately, he suffered more than we. Hence, we can go to him in every distress, knowing he understands.

What were his temptations? How did he overcome without sin?

·         If you are the Son of God, make these stones bread….  Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God.

·         If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the Temple…. You shall not tempt the Lord your God.

·         I will give you all the kingdoms of the world if you will bow down and worship me…. You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.

In every temptation – using God’s gifts for self and personal comfort, exhibiting magical powers to gain a following, and accepting a crown without a cross by denying God – Jesus relied on God’s Word to beat back the onslaught of Satan. In this, he followed the Psalmist: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Would that we would do the same!

After tempting Jesus, the Devil “departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). He had not given up on Jesus any more than he gives up on you. He would still do all in his power to turn Jesus from serving God.

After defeating Satan’s temptations, Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.” There he began his ministry (Luke 4:14). We also need the Spirit to serve God successfully.

Jesus’ Birth – Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-21

MATTHEW 1:18-25; LUKE 2:1-21                 JESUS’ BIRTH                                                                                Day 21

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). “Fulfillment” is the word to describe how His birth was announced.

TO ZECHARIAH: “Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John…. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:13, 15-17; cf. Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6).

TO MARY: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus…. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30, 32-33; cf. 2 Sam 7:12-13; Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14)

TO JOSEPH:’Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)’” (Matthew 1:20-23; cf. Isaiah 7:14).

When Mary went to Elizabeth, she was greeted: “Why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). Mary responded by recognizing that 400 years after Malachi God was at last moving to fulfill His promises to Israel, “He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever” (Luke 1:54-55).

At the birth of John, Zachariah prophesied to praise God for at last fulfilling His promise to send a Savior from the House of David to save Israel from their enemies. His own son, John, would go before Him to prepare His way (Luke 1:57-79).

When Jesus was born, the angel announced His birth to the shepherds. He told them he was “a Savior who is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). By calling Him “Christ,” the angel identified Him as the Messiah, the long awaited King from the house of David. When Joseph and Mary went to the Temple for her purification 40 days after His birth, Simeon, a “righteous and devout” man who was “waiting for the consolation of Israel (cf. Isaiah 40:1-3), met them and told them God had promised he would not die “before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” or Messiah. He went on to say that he could not die in peace for he had seen Him.

There is more, but this is enough to see that those who welcomed Jesus into the world were alerted that God was on the move! The time had come. The virgin had conceived. Her son was Messiah, the King of the Jews. God had not forgotten that the STORY of Israel was not yet complete – until Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.