Looking Down or Looking Up! Jeremiah 38:6

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

No, that is not a rendering above of the prophet Jeremiah sunk in the mud! And that covering this man’s face and clothes is snow and ice, not mud! But, if you can imagine the white as brown, this is what Jeremiah must have looked like when he was in that muddy-bottom cistern – covered with muck and mud, and with an utterly defeated and weary look on his face!

Here is the verse that describes the prophet’s predicament, Jeremiah 38:6:

     So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of 
     Machiah the king’s son, which was in the court of the 
     prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in 
     the dungeon there was no water, but mire.  So Jeremiah 
     sank in the mire.

He’s called the weeping prophetbecause of so many tears he shed over the hardness of his fellow Jews’ unrepentant hearts! (see Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17; 14:17; 16:17; Lamentations 2:11). He must have also shed a few tears in the muddy-bottom cistern – tears for himself as well as those who would so reject God’s word and persecute His prophet!

He was called of God to be His prophet, the spokesman of אֵל שָ דַּי (El Shadai), the All-Powerful or Almighty God! And seeing that the LORD was All-Powerful and All-Mighty, Jeremiah had a choice: he could either look down, or he could look up!

  • If he looked down…
     ✡   ...he would see his beaten, bruised, and bloodied 
         body! It says in Jeremiah 38:4 that he was given 
         into the hands of...

              ...the princes [who] said to the king “...
              let this man be put to death, for...he weak-
              ens the hands of the men of war who remain 
              in this city, and the hands of all the peo-
              ple, by speaking such words to them. For 
              this man does not seek the welfare of this 
              people, but their harm.” 

And King Zedikiah caved to their appeal (see Jeremiah 38:5), for Jeremiah had been loudly telling his fellow Jews:

         “Thus says the LORD: ‘He who remains in this city 
         shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pesti-
         lence; but he who goes over to the Chaldeans shall 
         live....’ Thus says the LORD: ‘This city shall 
         surely be given into the hands of the king of 
         Babylon’s army, which shall take it.’” (Jeremiah 
         38:2, 3).

The princes knew Jeremiah would die in that cistern! That was their goal! So we can postulate that the prophet was soundly beaten before he was lowered into that muddy cistern!

     ✡   …he would see mud (mire)! How deep this mire was 
         we don’t know. It was deep enough for the prophet 
         to sink in, but not so deep that he couldn’t still 
         have the use of his hands (see Jeremiah 38:12). We 
         are just told, “…Jeremiah sank in the mire.” The 
         Hebrew word for mire is טיט (pronounced teet, and  
         meaning, “sticky…mud or clay), Strong’s Hebrew 
         Dictionary. The cistern was originally dug to hold 
         water, but apparently was now out of use. Such an 
         unused hole in the ground would be a convenient 
         place to dump garbage! So the mire into which Jer-
         emiah sank could very well have been a mixture of 
         mud and rotting garbage!
     ✡   ...he would see himself facing starvation and 
         death! He would starve because “...there [was]
         ...no more bread in the city.”(Jeremiah 39:9).  
         But, even if there was bread in the city, the 
         prophet’s enemies had no intention of giving 
         him any food!  Remember, they had said to the 
         king, “...let this man be put to death...” 
         (Jeremiah 38:4).  And the prophet’s stomach was
         growling! 

But…

  • If he looked up…
     ✡   ...he would see a bit of blue sky, perhaps clouds, 
         or stars at night!  And he would also be reminded 
         of the God who created the sky, the clouds, and 
         the stars! (see Genesis 1:1-25).  

     ✡   ...he would be reminded that the highest creation 
         of God was human beings!  And they were precious 
         to Him, even being made in His very image! (see 
         Genesis 1:26-30).  Jeremiah, knowing the Hebrew 
         Scriptures, also might have recalled to mind Psalm 
         116:15, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the 
         death of His saints.”  And as I pointed out at the 
         beginning, Jeremiah was the prophet of אֵל שָ דַּי (El 
         Shadai), the All-Powerful or Almighty God, who pro-
         mised to take care of him! (see Isaiah 46:3, 4).

     ✡   ...he would soon see God’s provision of rescue 
         in the person of “...Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian
         ...[who] spoke to the king, ‘...these men have 
         done evil...to Jeremiah...he is likely to die 
         from hunger in the place where he is....’” (Jer-
         emiah 38:8, 9). So this Ethiopian eunuch, with 
         the help of thirty men, rescued the prophet (see 
         Jeremiah 38:10-13). And “...Jeremiah remained in 
         the court of the prison until the day that Jeru-
         salem was taken.” (Jeremiah 38:28).

What does this all mean for us?

  • We can look down…
     ☹   ...and see the mess of our restricted lives in 
          the midst of this pandemic, counting those who 
          are sick and those who have died – some very 
          close to us! 

     ☹   ...and count the businesses that have failed and 
          are failing every day!  And this has become an 
          economic tragedy for so many owners and employees! 

     ☹   ...and be in fear of what it will mean that the 
          national debt is reaching 28 trillion dollars (at 
          the time of this writing), and increasing at a 
          rate of one million dollars every 23 seconds (one 
          billion dollars every six and a half hours, or 
          one trillion every 9 months!)

     ☹   ...and see the national division in politics, 
          race, and income, more of a divide and hatred 
          than we have ever seen in our lifetimes!

     ☹   ...and be frightened by the mob violence often 
          fomented by police brutality!

     ☹   ...and be scared of rising foreign powers, the 
          growing access to nuclear weapons, and the con-
          tinuing threat of terrorist activity!

…and on, and on, and on!

Or…

  • We can look up to God who…
     ✞   ...will be with us forever! (see Matthew 28:20; 
         Romans 8:35-39; Hebrews 13:5). 

     ✞   ...promises to provide for our needs! (see Psalm 
         33:18-21; Matthew 6:31-33; Philippians 4:19). 

     ✞   ...will see us through our troubles! (see John 16:
         33). 

     ✞   ...strengthens us, and even carries us when we 
         feel we can no longer continue! (see Isaiah 40:
         28-30; 46:3, 4). 

     ✞   ...through the Apostle Paul tells us, I can do all
         things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philip-
         pians 4:13). 

     ✞   ...has provided for us an indescribable place in 
         His eternal heaven! (see John 14:1-3; Romans 12: 
         I Corinthians 2:9; II Corinthians 12:4).

So, as Jesus said in Luke 21:28, “…look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption draw near.

Look up, not down!

How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

Colossians 2:18, 19

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” Whether in jest or seriousness, the question is thought to be based on what Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Summa Theologica, (circa 1270 AD). In it he proposed several questions about angels, such as “Can several angels be in the same place? ” Aquinas was a Dominican monk and his Summa work is a compendium of the main Catholic theological teachings of that medieval time. Such ‘pin-head’ questions were later used to discredit scholastic philosophers who…

     …did occupie a place; and so, whether many might be 
     in one place at one time; and how many might sit on 
     a Needles point; and six hundred such like needlesse 
     points. 

This is the first known instance of a statement that is near our featured question. It is found in the 1619 work of an English clergyman, William Sclater, in An exposition with notes upon the first Epistle to the Thessalonians.

It does seem from the Scripture record that angels are not spatial and so are not confined to our three dimensions. So perhaps a thousand angels could occupy a point! But is that worth arguing?

What does the Bible say? I think a fitting warning is what Saint Paul wrote in Colossians 2:18 and 19:

     Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in 
     false humility and worship of angels, intruding into 
     those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up 
     by his fleshly mind,  and not holding fast to the Head, 
     from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by 
     joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is 
     from God. 

Perhaps the phrase, …worship of angels…could include the idea of seeking answers to foolish questions concerning them!

Paul is saying:

     Don’t get sidetracked with...those things which...
     [are] not seen...,instead concentrate on the impor-
     tant truth:...holding fast to the Head, from whom 
     all the body, nourished and knit together by joints 
     and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from 
     God.
  • Who is the Head? Paul answers that in Colossians 1:18: Writing about Jesus Christ, he says, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Jesus is the head! And if you read Colossians 1:12 through verse 22, you will get an idea of what this head has done for you!

     Verse 12 – He has made...us to be partakers 
         of the inheritance of the saints in the light.We will dwell forever in the glory of God (see 
         Revelaion 4:1-11) with our loved ones! (see I 
         Thessalonians 4:14-17). 
Verse 13 – “He has delivered us from the power 
         of darkness and translated us into the kingdom 
         of the Son of His love.” (see John 5:24).

     Verse 14 – By Jesus’ blood we have been redeem-
         ed, and our sins are forgiven! (see Isaiah 1:18; 
         Psalm 103:12).

     Verse 15 – “He is the image of the invisible 
         God (see John 14:9), and the firstborn over all 
         creation. (see I John 1:7).” 

     Verses 16 and 17 – He is creator of all things, 
         and sustainer of all things! (see Hebrews 1:2, 3).

     Verse 18 – “...He is the head of the church...” 
         (see Matthew 16:18).

             The Jubilee Bible translates Matthew 16:18 
             right:  “And I say also unto thee, That thou 
             art Peter, a small rock, and upon the large 
             rock [Christ Himself] I will build my congre-
             gation...and the gates of Hades shall not 
             prevail against her.Verse 18 – “...He...is the beginning, the first-
         born from the dead (see I Corinthians 15:23), 
         that in all things He may have the preeminence.” 
         (see Philippians 2:8-11).

Verse 19 – “For it pleased the Father that in 
         Him all the fulness should dwell....” (see Phi-
         lippians 2:10, 11).

     Verse 20 – All creation is redeemed through His 
         sacrifice! (see Romans 8:20, 21).

     Verse 21 – “And you, who were once alienated and 
         enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He 
         has reconciled....The worst of us sinners can 
         be saved! (see Luke 24:39-43; I Timothy 1:15). 

     Verse 22 – “...in the body of His flesh through 
         death (see Isaiah 53:12; John 19:30), to present 
         you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in 
         His sight.” (see Ephesians 1:6; 2:13).
  • We are but the body of Christ (see I Corinthians 12:27). The body has no mind of its own! It must take all its direction from the head (the brain)! We must be in submission to our Lord Jesus Christ!

Whether we are in studies for our own growth or to better witness to others so that they may come to saving faith in Jesus, don’t get sidetracked by needlesspinhead questions!

  • The best answer concerning angels is in Hebrews 1:14: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
  • The main focus of witnessing is really threefold:
     1.  We are all sinners before God, destined for hell!  

     2.  Jesus Christ lived the holy life we could never 
         live, then laid down that life as a sacrifice for 
         our sins!  

     3.  He rose from the dead to live forever to receive 
         and save all who come to Him in faith!   

So come to Him, and grow in Him!

The Consequences of Sin

II Samuel 12:7, 9, 10, 14

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The above painting by Guy Rowe* depicts Nathan the prophet confronting King David concerning his sinful acts, recorded in II Samuel 12:7, 9,10, and 14:

     Then Nathan said to David...“Why have you despised the 
     commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight?  You 
     have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword...and...
     you have taken his wife to be your wife.  Now therefore, 
     the sword shall never depart from your house, because 
     you have despised Me....because by this deed you have 
     given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blas-
     pheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely 
     die.”

David’s response to God’s accusation through the prophet is just six words in verse 13, “I have sinned against the LORD.That just sounds too trite for the seriousness of the sins! But it really is more of a summary of his heartfelt confession in Psalm 51! Here are just a few verses from that deeply penitent Psalm:

     Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkind-
     ness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, 
     blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my 
     iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin....Against You, You 
     only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.... 
     Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and 
     I shall be whiter than snow....Hide Your face from my 
     sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a 
     clean heart, O God....Restore to me the joy of Your sal-
     vation.... (Psalm 53:1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 12 – see also 
     Psalm 6, 32, 38, 102, 130, 143).

David greatly sinned…

  • …against God! As he confessed in Psalm 53:4 (see above), “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” Why would he say that when the terrible sin also involved adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah? Because all sin is ultimately against God!
  • …against the people of Israel! For he was their king! And the leader of any people should set an example, politically, ethically, and morally (see Deuteronomy 17:14-20).
  • …against Bathsheba! Although from the record it seems she was a willing participant, David had no right to look upon and lust after this beautiful woman! His lust turned into action, as is often the case, and he committed adultery with her, and then murdered her husband!
  • …against Uriah the Hittite! Although he is listed in both II Samuel 23:39 and I Chronicles 11:41 among “…the mighty men whom David had…” (II Samuel 23:8), the king’s most trusted warriors, David nonetheless commanded Joab, his military general,Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.” (II Samuel 11:15). His Highness was trying to cover his tracks for having gotten Uriah’s wife Bathsheba pregnant! (See II Samuel 11:4, 5).

Digging deeper into the Scriptures, I found something very interesting:

     In II Samuel 11:3 after David saw beautiful Bathsheba 
         bathing, we are told, “So David sent and inquired about 
         the woman.  And someone said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, 
         the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

Three things should have stopped David right there! He knew that God comdemned adultery! (See Exodus 20:11, 17). Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, one of David’s trusted soldiers! And her father Eliam was another of David’s mighty men! How do I know this about Eliam? It says so in II Samuel 23:34.

       But there is another bit of information revealed in 
         II Samuel 23:34: It tells us that “...Eliam [is] the 
         son of Ahithophel the Gilonite.” Why is this import-
         ant? In II Chronicles 27:33 it says, “Ahithophel was 
         the king’s counselor.Apparently, he was a loyal 
         and trusted subject and counselor of King David... 

…until the king seduced his granddaughter Bathsheba and murdered her husband! When David’s own son Absalom rebelled against his father and tried to take over the kingdom (see II Samuel 15:6, 10), Ahithophel joined the uprising! Then someone told David, ‘Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.’ ” (II Samuel 15:31). Apparently, the former loyal counselor of the king, was just waiting for the opportunity to revenge David’s sinful actions against his daughter and her family!

If you consider the length of time covering all that happened, from David’s lustful gaze in II Samuel 11:2 to the confession of his misdeeds in II Samuel 12:13, it was at least half a year’s time that the king was not in close fellowship with the LORD! We are told in Proverbs 28:13, “He who covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.That mercy, that reconnection with God, took six month’s or more to happen! I have experienced dry times in my spiritual life, and it was always because I was not living close to my Lord Jesus! I never let it go on for six months or longer, but David did! It must have been an awfully spiritually dry time for him!

Because of his grievous sin…

  • David and Bathsheba’s child died! (See II Samuel 12:18).
  • Bathsheba, from the way she presented herself to the king in I Kings 1:15 through 21, seems to have grown somewhat distant from her husband, although it may just be royal protocol when she was approaching the throne.
  • David received a prophesy in II Samuel 12:10 through 12 that he would have family troubles from then on! For Nathan told him (Easy-to-Read Version) :
     This is what the LORD says: I am bringing trouble a-
     gainst you. This trouble will come from your own family. 
     I will take your wives from you and give them to someone 
     who is very close to you. He will have sexual relations 
     with your wives, and everyone will know it! You had sex-
     ual relations with Bathsheba in secret, but I will pun-
     ish you so that all the people of Israel can see it.
  • The king’s son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar (see II Samuel 13:6-13), and then disowned her, chasing her from his presence! (See II Samuel 13:15-18).
  • Amnon’s half-brother, Absolom (brother of Tamar) waited two years, and then murdered Amnon! (See II Kings 13:28, 29).
  • This was the same Absolom who rebelled against his father and tried to take over the kingdom! He was later killed in battle against David and his forces (see II Samuel 18:14-17), to the great grief of his father! (See II Samuel 18:33).
  • Another son to the king, Adonijah, rebelled against his father and tried to take over the kingdom. He even convinced General Joab and the priest Abiathar to join him! (See I Kings 1:5-7). He later lost his life after Solomon became king.

What can we learn from all this? There are consequences of sin! Yes, God does forgive us our sins and He takes away their eternal penalty. But it is so much better to avoid sin in the first place…

…because sin does have consequences!

_______________________________________________________________________

* Guy Rowe was commissioned to produce the 32 paintings for IN OUR IMAGE, “[26] Character Studies from the Old Testament,selected by Houston Harte. Oxford University Press, New York, 1949.

The Loss of a Loved One

I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Funerals during coronavirus have strict rules - here's what you need to  know - Mirror Online

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The Corona virus has hit this country and the world hard. So far, as of January 3rd, the United States has recorded more than 20.6 million cases of Covid-19, and 351, 682 resulting deaths! And now there is an even more infectious variant making its rounds in an increasing number of countries. There is hardly anyone in this country who has not known someone who is very sick or who has died as a result of this pandemic!

A funeral, as pall bearers carry the casket to the grave, as depicted above, has become an occurance far too often! And so we mourn the passing of loved ones.

I have been an American Baptist minister for 50 years. I have officiated at hundreds of funerals, and visited and counseled surviving family members before and/or after the service. Some of these times stand out in my memory in a negative way:

  • A young woman, crying amid her screams, threw herself upon the casket of the deceased (I don’t recall her relationship to the departed). She had to be practically dragged off, and led back to a chair, where she sat sobbing throughout the service!
  • Four years after her husband died, I sat with an older woman in her darkened living room, because the drapes were fully drawn. It was a beautiful afternoon beyond the walls of her house, yet she was still in her nightgown and bathrobe – still in deep mourning! I found out that she had hardly left the house since her husband’s passing four years earlier! I tried, but I could not convince her to get back to living her life!

But then there are the positive expereinces:

  • Steve was a wonderful Christian man! Although his wife and grown children keenly missed him, there was an air of solemn celebration at his funeral service. He had Jesus Christ as his Savior, and actively lived out his faith!
  • Dick was a dear friend, a confidant of mine! Although I miss his gentle and joyful presence, I am sure he is safe, contented, and happy! His dear wife has that same assurance. I was privileged to be involved in Dick’s funeral service

We will see these dear ones again, never to be separated from God or each other!

And so I have chosen for the featured Scripture Paul’s writing of I Thessalonians 4:13 through 18:

     ...I do not want you to be ignorant...concerning those 
     who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who 
     have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and 
     rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who 
     sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of 
     the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the 
     coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who 
     are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from 
     heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, 
     and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ 
     will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain 
     shall be caught up together with them in the clouds 
     to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always 
     be with the Lord.

It was a relatively short stay the apostle Paul had in the northern Grecian city of Thessalonica (some scholars say he was there around a month, others say longer). But it was not long enough to fully instruct the new believers in Christian doctrine. Because of violent opposition (see Acts 17:5-9) Paul had to leave in a hurry, (see Acts 17:10), fleeing first to Berea, and then to Athens! (See Acts 17:13-15). From Athens, the apostle sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how the newly-founded church in that city was doing. The word he brought back to Paul was encouraging:

  • The Thessalonian believers were steadfast in their new faith, and in propagating the gospel to others!
  • But they had need of further teaching concerning sexual matters (see I Thessalonians 4:3-8) and the parousia (the return of the Lord Jesus – see the featured Scripture). Their questions seemed to center around, “What happens to those who have died? Are they at a disadvantage to the living at Christ’s second coming?

Paul’s answer to this second area of concern begins to explain something that was hidden in the Old Testament: the rapture of the Church – the taking out of the world believers both living and dead before the Tribulation breaks upon the earth!

The study of the rapture is too involved to be fully dealt with now. However, here is a list of Scriptures that will give you a beginning grasp of this controversial subject:

  • John 14:3
  • I Corinthians 15:50-53
  • Philippians 3:20, 21
  • I Thessalonians 1:10
  • I Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • II Thessalonians 2:1-8
  • Revelation 4:1, 2 – preceded by the Church Age in chapters 2 and 3

Speaking of conducting funerals, the most difficult times I have had leading such services are those funerals of people who by their life and the confession of their lips are not Christians! What does the Bible say about such people?

  • Matthew 10:28 – “…do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
  • Luke 16:22, 23 – “The rich man…died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades [the anteroom of hell for unbelievers]…he cried and said…‘I am tormented in this flame.’
  • II Thessalonians 1:8, 9 – “…those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ…shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power….
  • Revelation 21:8 – “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

I cannot say at the difficult funeral of such an one as described a
bove,
Oh, what a good person this one was. And now, though he/she suffered, they are at peace.” But also, I don’t want to say, This one is now screaming in the fires of hades!So I speak to the living – those who are mourning the loss of their loved one. And I clearly present the good news to them, that…

  • …Jesus Christ lived in perfect obedience to the Father, obedience that we could never live! (See I Peter 2:22).
  • …He died on a cruel cross, offering His perfect life as payment for our rebellion and sin! (See I Peter 2:24).
  • …Jesus rose from the dead, proof that the Father accepted His sacrifice! (See Acts 17:30, 31; Hebrews 10:12).
  • …the debt we owed before God because of our many sins is completely paid! (See Colossians 2:13, 14).
  • …He ever lives to receive those who come to Him in faith believing! (See Romans 6:9; Hebrews 7:25).
  • …there is nothing more we can do…but come! (See Matthew 11:28; Ephesians 2:4-9; Titus 3:5).

So now, dear person, you too have been presented with the good news (the gospel)! If you already know Jesus as your Savior and Lord, thank and praise Him anew for all His blessings poured into your life! (See Psalm 68:19). If you do not know Him, look back again at the six statements listed immediately above. Believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior! Then follow Him daily as your Lord!

Joshua Abraham Norton Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico

Matthew 24:4, 5, 23-27

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

I bet you didn’t know the United States had an emperor! I didn’t either, until a few Sundays ago, my pastor Matthew opened his sermon with that same statement, and then gave a brief biography of Joshua A. Norton, known as the self-proclaimed “Norton – I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico!

Joshua Norton was born in England, February 4th, 1818, but moved with his family at age 2 to South Africa. Around 1849 he arrived in San Francisco. A businessman who had lost his fortune speculating in the rice market, his claim to fame began on September 17th, 1859 when he ran the following announcement in the San Francisco Evening Bulletin , which began…

     At the peremptory request of a large majority of the 
     citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, 
     formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for 
     the last nine years and ten months past of San Fran-
     cisco, California, declare and proclaim myself Emper-
     or of these United States....

He later added to his title, “…and protector of Mexico.

San Franciscans went along with his grandiose delusion for the next 21 years until his death in 1880. They bought him royal clothes, expensive meals, opera tickets, etc. The police chief even ordered his policemen to salute ‘Emperor Norton, the First’ in greeting when they met him on the street!

Today many San Franciscans still celebrate the onlyEmperor of the United States and Protector of Mexicothese two countries ever had!

I just had to write a Gem about Joshua A. Norton! After all, my name is D. W. ChipNorton! So, here’s toGreat, Great Uncle Joshua! (I have no idea if I am related to “Norton, the First, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico!)

But I thought this would be a good introduction to the featured Scripture for today, Matthew 24, verses 4 and 5, and 23 through 27:

     And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that 
     no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, 
     saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many....
     Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ 
     or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and 
     false prophets will rise and show great signs and won-
     ders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I 
     have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to 
     you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or 
     ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 
     For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes 
     to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of 
     Man be.” 

…false christs and false prophets….How can we tell them apart from the true Christ and true prophets?

Let’s look at prophets first:

  • According to Deuteronomy 18:21 and 22:
     And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the 
     word which the Lord has not spoken?” – when a prophet 
     speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not 
     happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the 
     Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it pre-
     sumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
  • Jeremiah 28:9 says the same thing from a positive standpoint: “As for the prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent.

A true prophet of God will have his word fulfilled! There can be an exception, such as when Jonah prophesied to the Ninevites, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). A great revival broke out when the people wholeheartedly repented! (See Jonah 3:5-10). Instead of forty days, history testifies that God gave Nineveh another 120 years! God changed the outcome due to a true morality change in the hearts of the people of Nineveh, from king to the most humble peasant.

Yes, God doeschangeHis mind, at least it appears so from our limited standpoint. So I put the word “change” in quotes. For instance, He did “change” His mind from destroying all the Israelites (see Exodus 32:10) when Moses interceded for the people! (See Exodus 32:11-13). It says in verse 14 of Exodus 32, “So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

  • A true prophet of God will never contradict any other part of God’s Word! So it behooves anyone trying to discern between a true and false prophet, to read, study, even memorize Scripture! The Holy Spirit will then use that knowledge to confirm the true prophet or expose the false. By the way, this also is true of any so-called Bible teaching you might receive!
  • A true prophet of God will always be directed by, filled with, and empowered by the Holy Spirit!

What about false christs? There does not seem to be a lack of claimants! Here are five featured in the August 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine:

  • Near Brasília, Brazil, there is a messianic character, Álvaro Thais, that goes by the name of “INRI Cristo”! INRI comes from the initials of the Latin inscription that Pontius Pilate posted on Jesus’ cross – “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews” (John 19:19). INRI claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ! His followers, most of them women, live full-time with him in his walled compound, which is protected with barbed wire and electric fencing.
  • Moses Hlongwane (also known as “The King of Kings, The Lord of Lords, Jesus“) says that God identified him as the Messiah during a dream in 1992! At the time He was working as a jewelry salesman. Since then, he’s preached in Eshowe, Johannesburg, and other cities in South Africa.
  • Vissarion (also known as “The Christ of Siberia“) was born Sergei Torop. He had a revelation almost 30 years ago that he was Jesus Christ reborn! Founder of the Church of the Last Testament, he now has at least 5,000 followers who live off-the-grid in eco-utopian villages in the Russian woods. They have their own schools, churches, and social standards. Vissarion’s proclamations can be read in 16 volumes entitled The Last Testament.
  • Bupete Chibwe Chishimba lives in Kitwe, Zambia. Known as “Jesus of Kitwe” (also known as “Parent Rock of the World, Mr. Faithful, Mr. Word of God“). He works as a cab driver and lives with his wife and six children. He received a revelation from God 23 years ago telling him he was the Messiah! He preaches that he is the arrival of Jesus, and the end of days is upon us!
  • Mitsuo Matayoshi, age 76, founded the World Economic Community Party in 1997, which bases its policies on his identity as Jesus Christ reborn! Known as “Jesus Matayoshi“, he says his goal is by democratic political process to bring about the End of Days, eventually being appointed secretary-general of the United Nations, through which he will institute the will of God throughout the world!

So how can we tell if someone is a false Christ? There are over 300 Old Testament prophesies that have been fulfilled by the birth, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth! Some Bible scholars have found up to 574 Old Testament verses that point to His first advent! (See https://www .gotquestions.org/prophecies-of-Jesus.html for a partial list.)

The following is from the Christian Broadcasting Network website (www1.cbn.com/bible study/biblical-prophecies-fulfilled-by-jesus):

  • 1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies? The chances are 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (one in one hundred quadrillion)!
  • 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies? It would be 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power (10 followed by 157 zeros!) – a number so high, I don’t know how to identify it by name!
  • 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies? Only Jesus!

We have to know our Bible, and be obedient to the Word of God! I will give you one example that I have used before in earlier Gems:

  • In Revelation 6 the scroll with seven seals is opened by the Lamb of God, Jesus! When the first seal was opened it revealed this: “…behold, a white horse. And he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.” (Revelation 6:2). I read the verse to my Bible study group of fifteen adult Christians and asked them, “Who is this?Fourteen of the fifteen (I had told my wife not to answer) identified this personage as Jesus Christ!
  • I then asked them to turn to Revelation 19 and read verses 11 through 16:
          Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. 
          And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, 
          and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His 
          eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were 
          many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew 
          except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped 
          in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 
          And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, 
          white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now 
          out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He 
          should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule 
          them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the wine-
          press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 
          And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name writ-
          ten: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. 

Obviously, the second Scripture refers to the return of Jesus Christ in glory! The first isthe great pretender, the antichrist! But the first might look like the real thing until you compare it with the Truth!

One more thing we can count on as Christians – the seventh of the nine spiritual gifts listed in I Corinthians 12:8 through 10 is, “…discerning of spirits…” (verse 10). By the supernatural discernment of the Holy Spirit within us, we can learn of the motivating spirit within …false christs and false prophets…,and so avoid being taken in by them!

Not all pretenders are as easy to spot as Joshua A. Norton,The Emperor of the United States of America and Protector of Mexico!

We need to be prepared!

God Encourages Overeating! Jeremiah 15:16

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Perhaps the New Year’s resolution that is the most promised is to lose weight! And it is also the quickest resolution to be broken! I resolve to lose ten to twelve pounds that I gained over the holidays, starting with the Hallowe’en candy I raided from my six grandboys’ haul! And I intend to keep this resolution……but we’ll see!

However, while gluttony is one of ‘the seven deadly sins,’ there is another way in which God encourages overeating! And I think you might have discerned such divine encouragement by the photo above. Here is the featured Scripture, Jeremiah 15:16: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.

There was hardly an Old Testament prophet more persecuted, more sorrowful, than Jeremiah! He was called to the prophetic office as a young priest from Anathoth, a priestly town about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. God commissioned him to prophesy to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, his message was not well-received! For the main message that he preached was that God condemned the people of Judah:

     “...you have forsaken the LORD your God, and the 
     fear of Me is not in you....For though you wash 
     yourself with lye, and use much soap, yet your 
     iniquity is marked before Me,” says the LORD God
     ....  “...My people have forgotten Me days with-
     out number....Also on your skirts is found the 
     blood of the lives of the poor innocents....Yet 
     you say...‘I am innocent...I have not sinned....’”
     (Jeremiah 2:19, 22, 32, 34, 35).

In Eerdmans The New Bible Dictionary, two paragraphs from the article on “Jeremiah” seem to catch the struggles the prophet encountered:

     He insisted on repentance from a people who were in-
     capable of contrition. He unmasked the nation’s sins 
     and broadcast its judgment knowing that it would end 
     in futility. Those whom he loved hated him.  A loyal 
     patriot, he was branded a traitor. The prophet of un-
     dying hope had to exhibit the fallacy of his people’s 
     hope.  This priestly intercessor was commanded to in-
     tercede no more. This lover of Judah was by Judah ma-
     ligned.

     It is impossible to plumb the depths of grief into 
     which Jeremiah was plunged. Despairing of comfort…he 
     desired to dissolve in tears for doomed Judah.

He is known asthe weeping prophet! (See Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17; Lamentations 1:16; 3:48, 49).

Here are some of the highlights (or should we say ‘lowlights’) of his recorded forty year ministry in the last days of the southern kingdom of Judah:

  • The first eighteen years of Jeremiah’s ministry were exercised in comparative peace concerning the reaction of Judah’s population to his message. After that, opposition and violence broke upon the prophet!
  • In chapter 20 of his prophetic writings is recorded the first major persecution against Jeremiah! He had been prophesying in the previous chapters about the siege (and accompanying famine) and destruction of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army! Jeremiah 20:1 and 2 describes how after hearing this awful prophesy, “…Pashur …the priest who was also the chief governor in the house of the LORD…struck Jeremiah…and put him [overnight] in the stocks….

In chapter 26, the prophet had spoken out God’s message that Jerusalem would be devastated, “…like Shiloh…a curse to all the nations of the earth.” (Jeremiah 26:6). Shiloh was at one time the religious center of Israel. Scripture does not tell us exactly why or how this place was judged and abandoned, but Jeremiah used Shiloh as an example of what was going to soon happen to Judah’s capital city, Jerusalem!

Verses 8 and 9:

     ...the priests and the prophets and all the people 
     seized him, saying, “You will surely die!  Why have 
     you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, 
     ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city 
     shall be desolate, without inhabitant?’”

Jeremiah, in chapter 27 and verse 2 (God’s Word to the Nations), was told by the LORD, “Make leather straps and a wooden yoke, and strap the yoke on your neck.” This was to signify…

     ...the nations [including Judah] that bring their necks 
     under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I 
     will let them remain in their own land...and they shall 
     till it and dwell in it.

But Jeremiah wrote in chapter 28, verses 1 through 3:

     ...Hananiah...the [false] prophet...spoke to me in the 
     house of the LORD in the presence of the priests and...
     all the people...“Thus speaks the LORD of hosts...‘I 
     have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within 
     two full years I will bring back...all the vessels of 
     the LORD’s house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon 
     took away....’”

Hananiah then broke Jeremiah’s wooden yoke from off his neck, reinforcing his prophesy that the yoke of Babylon would be quickly broken! (See Jeremiah 28:10, 11). But Jeremiah told him that God would replace the wooden yoke with an iron one! Also, as a result of being a false prophet and misleading the people of Judah, God said Hananiah would be‘…cast…from the face of the earth.’ …So Hananiah…died the same year in the seventh month.” (Jeremiah 28:16, 17).

  • In chapter 36 and verse 2, God commanded Jeremiah to “Take a scroll…and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel…Judah, and…all the nations….” Jeremiah obeyed, using “…Baruch the son of Neriah…” (Jeremiah 36:4) as a secretary. With the prophet and his secretary in hiding, the scroll finally came to the attention of King Jehoiakim. But when the Judean princes’ messenger, Jehudi read it before the king, Jehoiakim cut the scroll apart and…cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire….” (Jeremiah 36:23).

Jeremiah kept on prophesying:

     “Thus says the LORD: ‘This city shall surely be giv-
     en into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which 
     shall take it.’” Therefore the princes said to the 
     king, “Please, let this man be put to death, for thus 
     he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in 
     the city, and the hands of all the people, by speak-
     ing such words to them. For this man does not seek 
     the welfare of this people, but their harm.” ...So 
     they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of 
     Malchiah...and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. 
     And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So 
     Jeremiah sank in the mire. (Jeremiah 38:3, 4, 6).

How long the prophet was knee-deep in dungeon mud, the Scripture doesn’t say. But he must have despaired even of life in that dark hole! If it wasn’t for the king’s eunuch, Ebal-Melech the Ethiopian who rescued Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 38:7-13), the prophet surely would have died in that dungeon muck!

  • It all happened just as Jeremiah had prophesied!
     ✡   Jerusalem was taken, sacked, and burned by the 
         Babylonian army! (See II Kings 25:9).

     ✡   King Zedekiah, the last Judean king, was blinded 
         and exiled to that far away city by the Euphrates 
         River – Babylon! (See II Kings 25:7).

     ✡   A puppet governor, Gedaliah, was installed over 
         Judah, but was soon murdered! (See Jeremiah 40:7; 
         41:2).

     ✡   The few remaining Jews fled to (what they thought 
         was) the safety of Egypt, forcefully taking Jere-
         miah with them! (See Jeremiah 43:7).

Consider Jeremiah 15:15, 17, and 18 (Good News Bible), the verses surrounding our featured Scripture, Jeremiah 15:16:

     LORD, you understand. Remember me and help me. Let me 
     have revenge on those who persecute me. Do not be so 
     patient with them that they succeed in killing me. Re-
     member that it is for your sake that I am insulted....
     I did not spend my time with other people, laughing 
     and having a good time. In obedience to your orders I 
     stayed by myself and was filled with anger.  Why do I 
     keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable?

Remember Jeremiah 15:16?Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.

  • He was called by the LORD’s name!
  • He devoured God’s Word (digested it so he could give it back out)!

And these two things – the very things that brought Jeremiah so much trouble in his life and ministry, were the very things that brought joy and rejoicing to his heart!

What about you? Are you going through trying times when everything and everybody seems against you?

  • If you are a Christian, you are called by His name – Christ! You carry the very name of the Savior and Lord of all! That should give you joy and rejoicing!
  • Are you reading and studying God’s Word? Are you digesting it? That will give you joy and rejoicing!

I doubt that many of us are facing the hard trials and tribulations that Jeremiah regularly experienced. So if it worked for him to produce joy and rejoicing, it will work for you!

Your words were found, and I ate them,
and Your word was to me
the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
for I am called by Your name,
O LORD God of hosts.

Daniel In The Lions’ Den

Daniel 6:6, 7

In the opening verses of chapter 6 of the book named for its chief character, we read of Daniel being considered by King Darius for a kingdom-wide promotion over all the king’s wise men and administrators. Jealousy blossomed and grew quickly, and the kingdom officials plotted for Daniel’s death! Here is described the plot from Daniel 6:6 and 7:

     Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and 
     satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and 
     the king gave thought to setting him over the whole 
     realm. So the governors and satraps sought to find 
     some charge against Daniel....So these [men came]...
     before the king, and said... “King Darius, live for-
     ever! All the governors of the kingdom...have con-
     sulted...to make a firm decree, that whoever peti-
     tions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O 
     king, shall be cast into the den of lions.”

I have an twelve year old grandson named Daniel. He is a godly young man who reads his Bible and is interested in the things of the Lord! Because he has seen me often at the computer writing Gems for my website, Gems for Living (gemsfor living.net), Danny asked me if he could write a Gem and have me post it. I agreed ….with a little editorial privilege from Grampa!

So this Gem is from Danny B.!

In the Old Testament book of Daniel, in chapter 6 there is a plot revealed against Daniel!

Once upon a time a man name Daniel was praying to the LORD three times a day, morning, afternoon, and evening – even though he was forbidden to do so by a law pushed through by King Darius’ other offcials! The men got jealous of Daniel for being considered for a promotion to be the number one person with the king. So they thought of a way to get Daniel in serious trouble, and brought the idea to the ruler. They said, “…whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.” (Daniel 6:7). Daniel heard about the law but still prayed to God. So the men told the king and, although he didn’t want to, the king had to put Daniel in the lions’ den according to the law. All night King Darius could not sleep a wink! In morning he ran straight down to the lions den…

     And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lament-
     ing voice...saying...“Daniel, servant of the living God, 
     has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to 
     deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, 
     “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the 
     lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I 
     was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have 
     done no wrong before you.”

Daniel was still alive! The king ordered Daniel to be released from the lions’ den. And then he threw the wicked accusers – and their families – into the den! And the lions ate them! After that King Darius made this decree:

     To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in 
     all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.  I make a 
     decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must 
     tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is 
     the living God, And steadfast forever; His kingdom 
     is the one which shall not be destroyed, And His do-
     minion shall endure to the end.  He delivers and res-
     cues, And He works signs and wonders In heaven and on 
     earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the 
     lions. (Daniel 6:25-27).

Daniel did not do anything wrong, so that is why he did not die when he was thrown into the lions’ den! It is also why he was promoted to serve over the whole kingdom!

We must always serve our God and do what He says is right …no matter what!

All Things New!

Revelation 21:3-5

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

With all the chaos in this old world – the Covid-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, racial tensions, protests turning violent, defund the police, cancel culture, etc. – we long for some good news, something we can depend on! There is no greater focus for our dependence than the Lord Jesus Christ! He is the truth (see John 14:6; I John 5:20; Revelation 3:7, 14), He speaks the truth (see John 7:18; 8:14, 16), and by His Holy Spirit we are taught the truth! (See John 15:16; I John 2:27).

One of the greatest truths to which Christians can look forward is found in Revelation 21:3 through 5:

     And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, 
     the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell 
     with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself 
     will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe 
     away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no 
     more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no 
     more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  
     Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make 
     all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these 
     words are true and faithful.” 

Verse 3 is the basis of this promise:Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

  • …the tabernacle of God is with men….” The Old Testament tent had the inner room called the most holy place, which housed the ark of the covenant containing the ten commandments, and covered by the golden mercy seat overlooked and guarded by the golden cherubim. This tent was also called the tabernacle! But the name had a double meaning, according to Exodus 25:8 and 9:
     Verse 9:  “According to all I show you [God said]
         ...the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern 
         of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.” 
         The word tabernacle here identifies the tent struc-
         ture that God ordered built as the focus of worship 
         for the Israelites as they journeyed toward the 
         Promised Land of Canaan.  This tabernacle served 
         that purpose (in one degree or another) until the 
         temple was built by King Solomon five hundred years 
         later.

      Verse 8:  “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I 
         may dwell among them.”  The word ‘tabernacle’ came 
         to mean the place God chose to dwell among His 
         people!  
  • This sets the theme of the opening promise in our featured Scripture, verse 3: “…the tabernacle of God is with men….
     Exodus 25:8:  “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that 
         I may dwell among them.Revelation 21:3:  “...the tabernacle of God is with 
         men, and He will dwell with them....
  • It is not just any people with whom God will dwell! It is a special called-out people, called out of slavery to sin, and called unto the Lord!
     ✡   Israel is reminded of their special standing in 
         Exodus 19:4 through 6: 

             You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, 
             and how I bore you on eagles' wings and 
             brought you to Myself.  Now therefore, if 
             you will indeed obey My voice and keep My 
             covenant, then you shall be a special trea-
             sure to Me above all people; for all the 
             earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a 
             kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

     Revelation 21:3:  “...and He will dwell with them, 
         and they shall be His people. God Himself will be 
         with them and be their God...in the eternal New 
         Jerusalem!

     But let us remember that the Son of God, through 
         the Holy Spirit, is even now tabernacling (indwel-
         ling, taking up residence) within those who have 
         opened their hearts and lives to Him as Savior and 
         Lord!

Revelation chapters 21 and 22, at the end of the Bible, describe…the holy city New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…” (Revelation 21:2). This holy city is the forever-dwelling place of Almighty God! And it is the glorious forever-abiding place of those redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ! In this New Jerusalem, “…God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4).

  • Oh, there are tears, death, sorrow, crying, and pain in this old world – ever since sin entered into the human race! And the extent of sin is horrendously evident, especially where believers in Jesus Christ are persecuted! Peter Walker, in an article in the online publication, the Independent (https://www.independent.co.uk), states, “The Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) says 900,000 Christians have been ‘martyred’ in the last decade, equating to 90,000 a year and one every six minutes.In many places in this world, Christians already feel like they are going through the Great Tribulation!
  • But God takes notice of His people!
     ✡   He has seen our tears!  As it is written in Psalm 
         56:8 (Contemporary English Version):  “You have kept 
         record of my days of wandering. You have stored my 
         tears in Your bottle and counted each of them.✡   He has heard our groanings!  The psalmist says in 
         Psalm 38:9 (King James Version):  “Lord, all my 
         desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid 
         from thee.✡   He takes note of our sorrow, as He did with the 
         writer of Psalm 116:3, 4, and 8 (Bible in Basic 
         English):

             The nets of death were round me, and the 
             pains of the under world had me in their 
             grip; I was full of trouble and sorrow. 
             Then I made my prayer to the Lord, saying, 
             O Lord, take my soul out of trouble....You 
             have taken my soul from the power of death, 
             keeping my eyes from weeping, and my feet 
             from falling. 
  • The Lord knows what we are facing as we live our lives in this fallen world!
     Jesus told us in John 16:33, “These things I have 
         spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In 
         the world you will have tribulation, but be of good 
         cheer, I have overcome the world.And Paul writes in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that 
         the sufferings of this present time are not worthy 
         to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed 
         in us.
  • Consider whom Jesus is especially comforting in Revelation 21:4. He is drying the tears of the faithful of Israel who just came through the hell of the Great Tribulation! (See Matthew 24:4-26; Revelation 6:9-11; 12:17).
  • But also what blessing and encouragement Revelation 21:4 has been to all those who are going through hard times!

Revelation 21:5: “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’

  • It has been a rough year for so many in this time of global pandemic, even for those who normally enjoy a measure of peace, freedom, security, and prosperity!
  • God gives us a promise appropriate for 2021 that holds out hope for a better year: Behold, I make all things new….
     Yes, this promise is applicable to the eternal 
         future.  But remember, He has already started the 
         process!  God is making us ready now, for Saint 
         Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:17, “...if anyone 
         is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things 
         are passed away; behold, all things have become 
         new.And He will continue this process according to II 
         Corinthians 3:18 (English Standard Version):

             And we all, with unveiled face, beholding 
             the glory of the Lord, are being transform-
             ed into the same image from one degree of 
             glory to another. For this comes from the 
             Lord who is the Spirit. 

     ✞    This transformation will continue until we reach 
          God’s goal described in...

         ➔    Romans 8:29:  “For whom He foreknew, He 
               also predestinated to be conformed to 
               the image of His Son, that He might be 
               the firstborn among many brethren.”

         ➔   I John 3:2 (Easy-to-Read Version):  “...we 
              know that when Christ comes again, we will 
              be like Him. We will see Him just as He is.

So take heart,…for these words are true and faithful…!

Prophesies of Christmas – VI Matthew 2:1, 2, 9, 10

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The story of the wise men traveling from the east to find “…He who has been born King of the Jews…” is very much a part of the Christmas story. Here is just some of that story from Matthew 2, verses 1 and 2, and verses 9 and 10:

     Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the 
     days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East 
     came to Jerusalem,  saying, “Where is He who has been 
     born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in 
     the East and have come to worship Him.”...behold, the 
     star which they had seen in the East went before them, 
     till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  
     When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly 
     great joy. 

I left out their meeting in Jerusalem with King Herod because I wanted to emphasize the star, often called The star of Bethlehem! Also, this installment of The Prophesies Of Christmas is posted four days after Christmas! It is fitting because the wise men didn’t show up at the stable to worship the newborn babe lying in the manger! They arrived up to two years after Jesus’ birth! More on this a bit later.

How did the wise men know to follow the star to Bethlehem? Although all the information is not directly given in Scripture, we can surmise their reasoning and put together the time line.

  • It goes back 14 centuries to when Israel was about to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. This was forty years after their Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. In Numbers 22:1 we are told, “Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the [eastern] side of the Jordan across from Jericho.The king of Moab, Balak, and all the Moabites were …exceedingly afraid of the people [of Israel] because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread….” After all, Israel had recently conquered two powerful kings and their kingdoms,…Sihon king of the Amorites…” (see Numbers 21:21-24), and “…Og king of Bashan…” (see Numbers 21:33-35). So King Balak sent an embassy to the city of Pethor in northern Mesopotamia to summon the renown prophet Balaam, telling him:
         Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover 
         the face of the earth, and are settling next to me! 
         Therefore please come at once, curse this people for 
         me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall 
         be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, 
         for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he 
         whom you curse is cursed. (Numbers 22:5, 6).

But Balaam, who turned out to be a false prophet in the end, would not curse Israel, but blessed them instead three different times! So King Balak sent him packing back to Pethor! But before he departed, Balaam gave a prophesy concerning the future of Israel, Moab, and other kingdoms, including an amazing oracle recorded in Numbers 24:17:

     I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; 
     a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall arise 
     out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and des-
     troy all the sons of tumult.

This proved to be a prophesy of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ! And a Star was to be involved in His appearance!

  • Forward 800 years. Because of the sins of the split kingdoms of Israel and Judah, both were sent into captivity – Israel by Assyria (see II Kings 17:5, 6), and Judah by Babylon in three deportations (see II Kings 24:1-4; 10-16; 25:8-11). And when the Jews went, they carried their sacred writings, the Scriptures, with them – including the book of Numbers!
  • In the second deportation, we are told in II Kings 24:14 (Good News Bible):
         Nebuchadnezzar [king of Babylon] carried away as 
         prisoners the people of Jerusalem, all the royal 
         princes, and all the leading men, ten thousand in 
         all. He also deported all the skilled workers, in-
         cluding the blacksmiths, leaving only the poorest 
         of the people behind in Judah.

Most likely, Daniel and his three Hebrew fellows, were taken to Babylon at this time! We know that Daniel was elevated to the position of…ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:48). Daniel was the chief Magi! Six hundred years later, the Magi (called “…wise men from the East…” in Matthew 2:1) came to worship the Jewish Messiah King!

  • The Bible record does not say the wise men were from Babylon. Our featured Scripture just tells us they were…from the East …” (Matthew 2:1).
  • The Magi (the word from which we get our words, ‘magic’ and ‘magician’), were not those who performed sleight of hand, nor where they given only to occult practices. They were astrologers/astron-omers who studied the events of history, as well as the events of the present, believing the realm of the heavenlies influenced what took place on earth! Their studies included the collected documents (clay tablets, parchments, etc.) of both current and ancient writings.
  • Daniel (given the Babylonian name Belteshazzar) and three other Jewish young men – Hananiah (Shadrach); Mishael (Meshach); and Azariah (Abed-Nego), were also deported with Daniel (see Daniel 1:6, 7). These four were promoted by King Nebuchadnezzar to be Magi! They would have known and taught the Hebrew Scriptures to the other Babylonians around them! Such knowledge was passed down through successive generations.
  • In their document libraries were copies of the Jewish Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament, also called ‘the books of Moses’); including Balaam’s prophesy in Numbers, chapter 24: …a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall arise out of Israel….
  • The cult of the Magi lasted for centuries, even to the time of the birth of Christ, when the Magi, the …wise men from the East came…saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?’ ” (Matthew 2:1, 2).

And so came the Magi! It does not say they were kings, nor does it say they were three. It just tells us in Matthew 2:11 that there were three royal gifts:…gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Apparently, the Magi did not tie together two important prophesies concerning the Messiah:

  • Balaam’s prophesy from Numbers 24:17, and…
  • Micah’s prophesy in Micah 5:2 (see Prophesies Of Christmas – V):
         But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little 
         among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall 
         come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose 
         goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.

They came to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem because, logically, Jerusalem was the capital of Judah where the king reigned. That was where they thought they would find…He who has been born King of the Jews…” (Matthew 2:2). Instead they found an aged, sick, and demented King Herod on the throne! But through Herod’s access to the chief priests and scribes (see Matthew 2:4), the Magi learned…

     ...where the Christ was to be born.... “In Bethlehem 
     of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: “But 
     you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least 
     among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a 
     Ruler who will shepherd My people Isreal.” (Matthew 
     2:6).

And so the Magi departed from King Herod.

     ...and behold, the star which they had seen in the East 
     went before them, till it came and stood over where the 
     young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced 
     with exceedingly great joy.  And when they had come into 
     the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, 
     and fell down and worshiped Him. (Matthew 2:9-11).

Note: Earlier I made the comment: The Magi arrived up to two years after Jesus’ birth! This is deduced from several bits of Biblical evidence:

  • If the star of Bethlehem appeared when Jesus was born, it would have taken months for the Magi to research their many documents to discern the meaning of the star! If indeed the wise men were from Babylon, that city was 500 miles directly east of Jeruslem! But it was more than a 700 mile journey by caravan route! It would have taken many more months for preparation and travel!
  • Matthew 2:11 says that “…when they had come into the house…a house, not a stable!
  • Continuing with what Matthew 2:11, it tells us: “…they saw the young Child ….Thayer’s Greek Definitions describe young Child this way: “…a young child…a little boy, a little girl…,not necessarily an infant! Yet when Jesus was birthed, obviously He was a new-born infant!
  • In Matthew 2:16, King Herod (demented with age and infirmity) gave a command to…
         ...put to death all the male children who where in 
         Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years 
         old and under, according to the time which he de-
         termined from the wise men.

Why two years old and under? Two years before was the time the star appeared! And that was how long it took for the Magi to research the matter and to travel to Judea!

O come, let us worship and bow down [with the Magi];
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture,
and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you will hear His voice,
do not harden your hearts…
(Psalm 95:6-8)

Prophesies of Christmas – V Micah 5:2

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Oh, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie….” We sing about it in this famous Christmas carol, but do you know why this insignificant town was the place of birth for the King of Kings?

Why Bethlehem? Both Joseph and Mary were residing comfortably in Nazareth, about 90 miles north of Bethlehem, and Mary was well into the ninth month of her miraculous pregnancy! Why? Because it was prophesied in Micah 5:2:

     But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little 
     among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall 
     come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose 
     goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.

First, before we start to look at the reasons ‘why’, consider the name of the town designated in Micah’s prophesy: …Bethlehem Ephrathah….There were two Bethlehems in Palestine in Jesus day:

  • Bethlehem in northern Palestine in Galilee, about 20 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.
  • Bethlehem in southern Palestine, about 5 miles south of Jerusalem. To distinguish it from the northern Bethlehem, it was known as Bethlehem Judah or Bethlehem Ephrathah (see Psalm 132:6), or Ephrath (see Genesis 35:19).
     Bethlehem means “house of bread” according to 
         Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary.

     Ephrath or Ephrathah means “fruitfulness” (ibid.).

The southern town of Bethlehem was the home of King David and his ancestors (see I Samuel 16:1, 13). It is written in Luke 2:1 through 5:

     And it came to pass in those days that a decree went 
     out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be 
     registered.  This census first took place while Qui-
     rinius was governing Syria. ...So all went to be reg-
     istered, everyone to his own city.  Joseph also went 
     up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into 
     Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethle-
     hem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 
     to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife....

Both Joseph and Mary were descended from David! Matthew 1:6 through 16 traces Joseph’s lineage to David through David’s son King Solomon. Luke 3:23 through 31 gives Mary’s lineage back to David through another son named Nathan. Since both Joseph and Mary were descended from David, and since their ancestral home of David’s family was Bethlehem Ephrathah, Caesar’s registration (census for the purpose of taxation) necessitated that they both travel the 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem!

Who cared that Mary was almost nine months pregnant? Certainly the distant emperor in Rome didn’t! The couple from Nazareth were not planning to birth Jesus elsewhere. But they had to obey the order from the emperor. So they precariously traveled to Bethlehem Ephrathah, where Mary gave birth. Jesus, …the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting…,was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, in a stable, and laid in a manger!

God used the decree of a distant Roman emperor to fulfill a prophesy Micah had written seven and a half centuries before!