Family Ties

by Mike Stine

As children, we would go over to friends’ houses to play. Some families were like ours. Some families were much more well to do than us. Some families had problems that were very apparent. Nevertheless, we can’t do much about our family. Unlike our friends, we only get one family and we are stuck with them for life. This is a blessing or a curse depending on what family you are in.

God has told us that he will bless the families that honor him for a thousand generations. But those who do not honor the Lord he will punish to the third and fourth generation. While this is not a hard and fast rule, we do see this played out, especially in the case of David and his descendants. While the descendants of David did not always follow God’s ways, he still continued to be merciful to them because David was a righteous man.

There is one family however that we find God blesses tremendously. We don’t know much about the family as a whole but only about two children. Why God chose this family, we don’t know all the reasons why. What we do know is that this family loved the Lord.
The story begins in Luke 1.

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zachariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years. 8 When his division was on duty, and he was serving as priest before God, 9 it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zachariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zachariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and will never drink wine or beer. And he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people. 18 “How can I know this?” Zachariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20 Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless. 23 And when the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, 25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”

This is our first look at the family. The first thing that we discover is that Elizabeth was a direct descendant of Aaron. Her husband Zachariah is a priest. There is a good lineage as well as a good family currently. Today, it would be the equivalent of being a descendant of Martin Luther and being married to someone who worked closely with Billy Graham on his crusades.

Not only does this sound like an ideal family, we also learn that they are righteous in God’s sight. Nevertheless, Elizabeth is unable to have children. Not only this, but they are both beyond the years of having children.

As Zachariah goes into the temple to offer incense an angel of the lord appears to him. The news he brings is that he and his wife will have a child. This will not be just any child however, this will be a special child. (More special than just a child born to a barren woman past child bearing years.)
The child’s name will be John and he will be full of the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. John will turn many people back to the Lord. Not only will he do this, he will go in the power of Elijah and he will make people ready for the coming of the Lord.

Zachariah does not believe this however, and asks how he can be sure of this. He is given a sign that this is from God as well as a punishment for his disbelief. He is left unable to speak until John is born. When he emerges from the temple, the other priests immediately realize that he had seen a vision.

When Zachariah’s time of service was completed he returned home and his wife became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months. She recognized the miracle that was taking place and knew that it was the Lord who had shown favor on her and had taken away her disgrace.

Luke then tells us the story of Mary and a similar visit by the angel Gabriel. I won’t tell the whole story because you are familiar with it. I will point how Mary’s reaction is different from Zachariah’s at the news. Zachariah says, “How can I be sure of this?” Mary asks, “How can this be?” Both sound like questions of disbelief, but this isn’t the case with Mary.

Zachariah wants proof of what has been promised. I would like to think that if an angel came and spoke to me that I’d be willing to believe anything he said. However, I would likely be questioning my sanity and whether this was truly happening, so perhaps asking for a sign isn’t out of the question. After all, Gideon asked for several signs before he was willing to act.

Mary’s question is not the same however. She wants to know how this is going to happen. She doesn’t question how it CAN happen, but simply how it will. Gabriel answers both questions however. It will happen by the power of the Holy Spirit. It can happen because it has already happened with her relative Elizabeth. 1:36, “Even Elizabeth, you relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.”
Mary rushed off to see her relative Elizabeth.

39 In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah, 40 where she entered Zachariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is your offspring! 43 How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!”

When Mary hurries to her relative’s house the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps. Remember that Gabriel told her that the child while still in the womb would be full of the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth is also filled with the Holy Spirit and recognizes the miracle that is taking place. She knows that Mary will bear the Messiah that the Jews have long been waiting for. Although she herself was barren and past child bearing years and is now pregnant she still does not consider herself worthy “that the mother of [her] Lord should come to [her].”

Mary stays with Elizabeth until the baby arrives.

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months; then she returned to her home. 57 Now the time for Elizabeth to give birth was completed, and she bore a son. 58 Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her His great mercy, and they rejoiced with her. 59 When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zachariah, after his father. 60 But his mother responded, “No! He will be called John.” 61 Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” 62 So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: His name is John, and they were all amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came upon all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard took them to heart, saying, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him.

Elizabeth gave birth to a son, just as Gabriel had told her husband. This was a time for rejoicing. The neighbors and relatives came and rejoiced with her. Yes, this was a miracle that occurred, but everyone’s reaction was the same as if this was normal. Any time a baby is born, friends and family stop by to see the child. And everyone celebrates.

On the eighth day the baby was taken to be circumcised as was Jewish custom. It was at this time that the child was named.

The people wanted the name the baby Zachariah after his father but his mother knew that he should be called John. However, there was no one else in the family by that name. Ultimately, it was the father’s responsibility to name the child. Zachariah wrote that the baby should be called John.

At this moment his mouth was opened once again and he began praising God. This caused a stir among all who saw this and they talked about throughout the countryside. And they also recognized that John would become great because God’s hand was with him.

So we have a very special family that God chose to bless. In some ways it may be very much like ours. In others it may be very different. Nevertheless, they loved the Lord and God chose to bless them for their obedience in following him.

The Gospel According to Luke – Part 3

The Life and Infancy of Jesus
Luke 2:1-7

by Paul George

Jesus of Nazareth: Jesus of Nazareth is the most misunderstood, misquoted man in history. He was born in Bethlehem. He grew up in Nazareth where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years, He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He did not go to college. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He turned the religious world upside down. He is the full disclosure, without blemish or distortions, of God Himself. He is the focal point of all history, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and the source of New Testament revelation. He is the greatest personality of all history. He is the Christ of the Gospels.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. One of them betrayed Him. His own people handed Him over to their enemy who nailed Him to a cross. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property he had on earth, taken down from the cross and put in a borrowed tomb.

If we want to know more about God, we need to learn more about the Christ of the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth.  We need to separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, remove the half-truths introduced and accepted in the Christian community about Jesus of Nazareth.

In twenty-first century Christian community, we have every type of Jesus imaginable. We have Jesus the pacifist, the humanitarian, the revolutionary, the broad-minded. It is true Jesus told the disciples to turn the other cheek. He also told the disciples under what situations they were to turn the other cheek. Jesus did relieve the pain and suffering of many during His ministry, His mission was to seek and save that which was lost. It is true Jesus spoke out against the evils in the government and religion. Did He use force and the demonstrations used by the anti-establishment movement of the twenty-first century? Was Jesus broad minded?  Would He permit, or at least tolerate the sins and perverted life-styles of men and women who occupy positions of church leadership in the twenty-first century Christian community? Would He speak out and denounce the false prophets and teachers of the twenty-first century. Would He take a more tolerant view of divorce, sexual immorality and the abusive behavior in our nation and the religious community? The authors of the New Testament answer these and more questions about the existing activity and conditions in the twenty-first century Christian community.

The enemies of Jesus claim the Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus are stories, accounts, or explanations invented by the human mind. The Jesus, who is the product of human imagination, is not a very commanding figure. He does not demand commitment. The Jesus of the Gospels demands commitment. In a society, that has swept commitment and truth out the back door commitment is a dirty word. Just as there was no room in the inn for baby Jesus, there is no room in the heart of the self-centered society of the twenty-first century.

The Jesus of the Gospels is God’s provision for man’s sin. He died in the sinner’s place. He who was sinless took man’s sin upon Himself, and suffered the penalty of God’s wrath for all who believe (2 Corinthians 5:21). He provides every believer with His righteousness so that we may spend eternity in fellowship with God (Romans 3:21-26). He is the example, the standard of righteousness for all who believe. His life is the pattern for Christian conduct (1 Peter 2:21). He is not only the standard of righteousness; He is also the source of it. He is both the pattern and the provision for the Christian walk.

Paul wrote in Romans chapter 5, “Much more, then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9-10). In Romans chapter 6 we are told, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:4-5). The Christian life is one in which Jesus Christ lives His life out in us.

The enemies of Jesus tell us there are many ways to enter into the presence of God and achieve everlasting life. The Gospels tell us there is only one-way to God and it is through Jesus. There are many people, some in the Christian community, who sincerely believe that God has provided many ways for men and women to come to Him. Some believe they can come to God through good works. If a man were responsible for such matters, this might be true. However, Jesus Christ is unique in that He makes an exclusive claim to be God’s one and only provision for eternal life. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Peter the apostle said, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). John the apostle said, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

What is happening today in the Christian community is beyond comprehension, theologians, ministers, and teachers, professing Christians are attacking the nature and character of Jesus. They are attacking the characters of the authors of the New Testament, in short calling them liars. Where would we be today if the human authors of the New Testament did not record the facts regarding the nature and character of Jesus? Christianity would have gone the way all the religions of the world have gone. If we continue to remain silent for fear of offending and permit the weakening of the claims regarding the nature and character of Jesus, Christianity will fade away and completely lose its influence on a world that is falling farther and farther away from the truth and into judgment.

One of the major problems in the Christian community today, is inconsistency. Today we have an increasing number of theologians, pastors, and teachers who remain silent when men and women attempt to play God in the matter of human life. These same people claim God has no right to intervene in human affairs. We are living in an age where God is the created and humans the creator. We are living in an age that wants to replace the God of the Bible with one that enables them to achieve their selfish and demonic influenced goals without paying the consequences. The goals the enemies of Jesus have achieved are due to the fact professing Christians supported them in their effort to undermine the truth. It is time we wake up and speak out against those who are perverting the life and ministry of Jesus.

For the past forty plus years, and it is increasing in this twenty-first century, we have witnessed an increase in the attack upon the doctrine of the incarnation, the miraculous conception of Mary, and the resurrection of Jesus by theologians, ministers, and teachers.

We know Jesus’ birth was not a miracle; He came into this world as every other child has come into the world. The miracle is the conception of Mary. When the enemies of Jesus attack the miraculous conception, they are attacking two of the core doctrines of the Christian faith. Take away the doctrines of the incarnation what do you have. You have another man ordained religion. You have the birth of another child among the many that were born on the night Jesus was born, a child who cannot “save His people from their sins,” a child who needs a Redeemer.

It is possible that a man or woman could come to saving faith in Christ, many have, and not know what happened in Nazareth and Bethlehem two thousand years ago. However, it is very difficult to understand why anyone who has spent years studying the Bible and under Bible preaching and teaching ministers reject the doctrine of the incarnation and miraculous conception of Mary. The denial of the doctrines of the miraculous conception of Mary and incarnation jeopardizes the creditability of the Old Testament prophets, the apostles, and the authors of the New Testament as well as God Himself.

If we cannot trust the Old Testament prophets, the apostles, the authors of the New Testament, and above all, God in these matters, who can we trust. If any portion of the Bible contains information that is not the truth the reliability of the Bible is destroyed and Jesus is who His enemies say He is. This is what Satan wants to do and he will use any source available to achieve his goal including theologians, pastors, and teachers.

The denial of the doctrines of the miraculous conception of Mary and the incarnation undermines the creditability of Jesus. The Samaritan woman told Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus told her; “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:6). In John 8:58 Jesus told the Jews who claimed they had never been enslaved to anyone, a denial of the truth, they were under the yoke of the Roman Empire, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh of the Old Testament and the Jews understood what He was saying to them, their reactions to what Jesus said is evidence they understood (John 8:59). He claimed the authority of God (Mark 2:5-7), and accepted worship as God (John 20:28).

Jesus came as the second Adam; the perfect, sinless Lamb of God Who alone could die as an innocent substitute for the sins of men. If His birth were anything less than what Matthew and Luke described in their Gospels, this would disqualify Jesus as the substitute for sinners. If Jesus had been no more than a very remarkable, godly man, what Matthew and Luke wrote about the events surrounding His birth is a lie. But if Jesus was the same person as the eternal Word, the Father’s agent in creation, ‘through whom also He made the worlds’ (Hebrews 1:2) those who deny the miraculous conception of Mary and the incarnation are liars and agents of Satan and they need to be exposed.

We are free to accept or reject what Matthew and Luke wrote about the birth of Jesus or what the agents of Satan claim is the truth about the life and ministry of Jesus. However, we cannot escape the consequences of our decision. We can accept what the Old Testament prophets predicted or reject their predictions. Their predictions pointed to a supernatural birth or we should rather say a supernatural conception brought about through a virgin, resulting in the manifestation in human flesh of the second person of the Godhead.

In addition to ancient prophecies, prior to the supernatural conception there were other supernatural announcements and events. Gabriel announced to Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, she would give birth to a son and he was to call him John. Mary and Joseph both received angelic communication (Luke 1:26ff; Matthew 1:20-21). Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary uttered inspired testimonies concerning the coming of Messiah (Luke 1:67ff; 1:41-45; 46-55). Angels announced the coming of Messiah to shepherds in nearby fields. Even the heavens gave witness to the birth of Messiah as ‘His Star’ appeared in the East and prompted the magi to journey to the land where Jesus was born to worship the newborn King. Simeon, under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed Him as the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:25ff). Anna also gave witness to Messiah’s arrival (Luke 2:38).

When the agents of Satan claim the writings of Matthew and Luke are an overstepping of the boundaries of truth to add substance to their faith in Jesus. When they claim the Gospel writers were deceived and are deceivers. When they claim Jesus was a deceived man and a deceiver and we are deceived if we believe what they wrote. We deceive others when we proclaim the birth of Jesus. We need to ask for their evidence that proves the doctrines of miraculous conception of Mary and the incarnation are deceptions, science, and the laws of nature.

Where did Matthew and Luke receive the information for the accounts of the birth of Jesus? Were their source Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, and the wise men from the East, Simeon or Anna? Was their source the religious leaders?

Among these mentioned there was only one who was among the followers of Jesus during His ministry. It is possible some of the shepherds were among the followers of Jesus, but there is no reliable evidence we can use as proof any of the shepherds were among Jesus’ followers. From the Gospels there is no evidence we can use as proof Joseph was among the followers of Jesus. It is doubtful Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna, because of their age, were followers of Jesus. Who is left, Mary, Jesus’ mother?

Since Mary is the only remaining witness, the agents of Satan point to her as the deceiver. She used the story of a miraculous conception to cover up one of two reasons for her pregnancy, the breaking of the Law by Joseph and Mary, or the raping of Mary by a Roman soldier. The agents of Satan have used both of these reasons in their attempt to destroy the nature and character of Jesus. They are so confused and brain dead they are unable to agree which of the two reasons is the truth. The agents of Satan use Mary as a source of deception and not their master the father of liars, Satan.

If the account of the birth of Jesus is a lie, why did Satan’s agent Herod order the killing of all the boys from age two to birth? Why did Satan’s agents use the religious leaders of Israel to turn Jesus over to the Roman authorities who crucified Him? Why are the twenty-first century agents of Satan working overtime in their assignment to destroy the credibility of the Old Testament prophets, the Gospel writers, and above all Jesus?

The source of the twenty-first century agents of Satan in their battle against the truth is not what Matthew and Luke wrote because they hold to the idea Matthew and Luke are liars and deliberately falsified their accounts. The agents of Satan base their attack on the idea that miracles cannot happen. The denial of the miraculous conception of Mary is the presupposition there is no divine element in the conception since this would fall under the category of a miracle and not on the weight of science.

When we stand before the judgment bar of God, God will not ask us what church we joined, how much money we gave, or whether or not we were baptized. He will ask us one question, “What have you done about My Son, Jesus?” Today we see Jesus through a darkened glass, but one day we will see Him face to face. Will we hear Him say, “Well done My good and faithful servant” or “depart from Me, I never knew you?”

How say you? Have you trusted in the Jesus of the Gospels as your Savior? Do you believe He died for your sins? Is He your Lord? If not He is waiting for you to come to Him. Will you do that today?

The Gospel According to Luke – Part 2

The Life and Infancy of Jesus
Luke 2:1-7

by Paul George

The Birth of Jesus: Jesus was born in the days of Caesar Augustus, when Cyrenius the Roman governor of Syria ruled Judea. “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth…And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because it was the house of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child” (Luke 2:1, 3-5 – NASB).

Caesar Augustus is one of the characters involved in the birth of Jesus that is often overlooked. Why would anyone consider a pagan emperor being involved in the birth of Jesus? It has to do with the fulfillment of Micah 5:2. The fulfillment of the prediction of the birthplace of the Messiah, Micah 5:2 required the birth of Jesus to take place in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. To fulfill the prediction Mary and Joseph must be in Bethlehem when Jesus comes into this world. Common sense tells us Joseph would never take Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem when the time was near for her to deliver the baby she was carrying in her womb. Something must happen that would force Joseph to take Mary to Bethlehem. This is where God intervenes. Watch what happens.

Caesar Augustus issues a decree at the right time requiring all the subjects of Rome to register for the purpose of taxation and a census in the place where they were born. This was the first time the subjects of the Roman Empire were required to go to the birthplace of their ancestors or their birthplace. Augustus did not know God, though the Holy Spirit motivated him to issue the decree when he did. Joseph had no choice he had to go to Bethlehem and he took Mary with him. It is God placing everyone in the place they must be to fulfill the prediction of the birth of the Messiah. Today God is putting everyone and every thing in the proper place for the return of Jesus. Just as it was, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem the world is not prepared for, watching for or praying for the return of Jesus.

Since God is to bring to fulfillment of Micah 5:2 it would seem He would have provided a proper place for the birth of the Messiah. Luke tells us there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn. The promised Messiah, the King of kings, Lord of lords, will be born in a stable. His bed will be a manger, instead of a cradle. Interesting, the Messiah, the King of kings, Lord of lords will be born in the humblest of humblest places.

“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flocks by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:8-11- NASB).

The angel was not sent to the chief priests or the elders; they were not prepared to receive the “good news of great joy”, but to a company of poor shepherds. The angel did not wake up the innkeeper, anyone occupying the rooms in the inn or any of the residents of Bethlehem; they were not sleeping, they were keeping watch over their flocks. When the angel announced this good news to them from heaven above, they were wide-awake, and therefore could not be deceived in what they saw and heard. They were keeping watch over their flock, to secure them from thieves and beasts of prey. Interesting, what should pastors be doing, watching over their flocks, driving away thieves and beasts of prey.

The appearance of the angel surprised them and terrified them. When Jesus returns there will be a great multitude that will be surprised and terrified. The last thing the shepherds expected to see was an angel, they were not expecting to hear good news when the angel appeared. There are multitudes of religious people that will not hear good news when Jesus returns.

Before they can receive the message of good news, the shepherds must set aside their fear because there is nothing in the message that creates fear. The intent of the message is to fill the heart of the shepherds with joy. One of the greatest fears of men and women today is death. They fear death because they do not know there is good news in death. The good news is Jesus has removed the sting of death.

The good news is the Savior that has been so long expected, which is Christ the Lord, the Messiah, the Anointed, Lord of all, the heir to David’s throne, God incarnate, has been born in the city of David. He is a Savior, and He will be a Savior to those who accept him for their Lord. The Savior is born, he is born this day; and this is a matter of great joy to all people, do not keep it a secret, and proclaim it to the entire world. He is born in the place predicted in Micah 5; 2, unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. To men, not to angels He did not take on the nature of angels. He took on the nature of man. This is a matter of joy, great joy. Let heaven and earth rejoice.

The angel gives the shepherds a sign for confirming what they have heard, “you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12 –NASB). They will not find the heir of David’s throne dressed in fancy robes, and lying in a bed in one of the best houses in the town, they will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.

The message was no sooner delivered by one angel than suddenly there was with that angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God (Luke 2:13-14) for extending His good will to men manifested in sending the Messiah who will introduce His peace to the world and end the enmity that sin had raised between God and man. He will introduce His peace, a peace the world cannot give or take away. All the peace we have, or hope for, is the result of God’s good will. Peace will never be achieved in any way that is inconsistent with the glory of God. This was the peace proclaimed by the angel to the shepherds. It is on earth and extended to all who will accept it according to God’s terms and not man’s.

“When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us. So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph and the baby as He lay in the manger” (Luke 2:15-15 – NASB). They immediately went to Bethlehem. It is possible the shepherds told Joseph and Mary of the vision of the angels they had seen, and the song of the angels they had heard, which would be a great encouragement to Mary and Joseph. It is also probable that Joseph and Mary told the shepherds what visions they had had concerning the child; and so, by exchanging information they strengthened one another’s faith.

The shepherds saw nothing in the child that should cause them to believe that He was Christ the Lord. What they saw agreed with the sign that the angel had given them. So they made known abroad the whole story of what was told them concerning this child, that he was the Savior, even Christ the Lord that in Him there is peace on earth. This they told every body, and agreed in their testimony concerning it. What impression did this have upon the people? We are told all which heard it wondered at those things that the shepherds told them.

The shepherds were plain, downright, honest men. Those who heard what they heard and saw could not suspect them of spreading a rumor. What they had said therefore was likely to be true, and, if true, they could not but wonder at it that the Messiah should be born in a stable and not in a palace, that an angel should bring news of it to poor shepherds and not to the chief priests. They wondered, but never inquired any further about the Savior, but went about doing their own things. Are we following the example of the shepherds?

Mary made them the matter of her private meditation. She said little, but kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. The truths of Christ are worth keeping; and the way to keep them safe is to lay them up in the heart. The shepherds made them the matter of public praises. They returned, glorifying and praising God. If others would disregard the report they made to them, God would accept the thanksgivings they offered to him. They praised God for what they had heard from the angel, and for what they had seen, the baby in the manger. They thanked God that they had seen Christ. To some, Christ born in a stable is foolishness and an obstacle, but others see in it the wisdom of God and the power of God.

In Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus God used the issuing of a decree by a pagan emperor in the fulfilling of Micah 5:2. Angels announced the fulfillment of Micah 5:2 to shepherds. The first to proclaim the good news of the fulfillment of Micah were the shepherds and not the religious of the day. However, there is a third party involved in the birth of Jesus.

Matthew 2:1-2, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’” They did not ask if the King of Jews was born, they asked where he is born. When Herod heard the wise men from the east were looking for a newborn king, he was greatly troubled and so were the people. Herod was troubled because he saw in this newborn king his power slipping away. The people were troubled because they did not know how Herod would react to the announcement of a newborn king.

Just as God used a pagan emperor to prepare the way for the birth of the Messiah, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Satan will use Herod in an attempt to destroy the One who will bruise his head.

Herod holds a staff meeting; he asks them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him in Bethlehem of Judea. The proof they produced to prove Bethlehem is the place where the Messiah will be born is Micah 5:2. Herod meets with the wise men without his staff who told him when the star appeared. Herod sends the wise men to Bethlehem with instructions to find Jesus and report their finding to him. Now this might seem suspicious if Herod had not hid his true intentions from the wise men. What is hard to understand is that Herod puts his trust in the wise men and not his staff. He does not know if the reason given by the wise men for coming to Jerusalem seeking the place of the birth of this newborn king is their true reason for coming to Jerusalem. It sounds as if Herod is faced with the same situation as that of  Nebuchadnezzar’s court; he did not trust his advisors.

The wise men leave Jerusalem and the star they saw in the east went before them and “stood over the place where the Child was” and when they went into the house they saw Jesus and His mother, Mary, and fell down and worshipped Him (Matthew 2:11). They did not worship Mary. Then they opened “their treasures” and “presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They did not give gifts to Mary.

When the wise men did not return to Jerusalem and reveal whereabouts of Jesus Herod was enraged and ordered the killing of all male children in Bethlehem and the surrounding area that were two years old and younger. This was Satan’s first attempt on the life of Jesus through his agents. In a dream, an angel told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt where they remained until the death of Herod. After the death of Herod an angel, in a dream told Joseph it was safe to return to Israel.

Once again we see God working out His plan for the salvation of man. Following the death of Herod the Romans divided his kingdom among his three sons. Was it by chance Rome gave Herod’s son Archelaus authority over Judah and Samaria? “When Joseph heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth” (Matthew 2:19-23 – NASB).

Jesus, “continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40).