We were born to live, Jesus was born to die. The sole design of the crib is the cross!

Dec. 17 – (Ps. 45:6-7; Dan. 2:44; Luke 1:33; Heb. 1:8-12) Messiah’s throne will be anointed and eternal.

                The quotation in Heb. 1:8-9 is from a psalm about the Davidic king (Ps. 45:6-7).  Only Jesus, the Davidic Messiah (the anointed One), truly fits this description.  Considering the clear statement about Christ’s deity (Heb. 1: 8—9), the author emphasizes Christ’s role in creation and His eternality.

WOW!  I am learning so much… or rather I’m beginning to better connect prophecy in the Old Testament with its fulfillment in the New Testament.  How enlightening!  

Dec. 18 – 400 YEARS’ SILENCE 

                There were the “400 silent years” from the end of Malachi in the OT to the beginning of the NT. (How long have you felt God’s silence? Take heart!) Therefore, I will rely on the history of those years to set the stage for Jesus’ coming. This time in history can be separated into six periods, Grecian, Ptolemaic, Syrian, Maccabean, Hasmonean and Roman.  I will give a very brief description of each but have attached a paper by Dr. James F. Davis, that gives a fuller explanation.  I learned soo much from this paper!  You might enjoy and gain a whole new perspective by reading through it. 

GRECIAN -Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in 331 BC. The Persian king Darius was the last ruler mentioned in the Old Testament. Alexander the Great allowed religious freedom but brought in the ideals of Hellenism (tutored by the Greek, Aristotle).  To be successful one needed to adopt these ideals and even the Greek language.  This period ended in 323 B.C. at Alexander’s death.

PTOLEMAIC PERIOD - After Alexander’s death, there was a struggle and 4 diadochior successors emerged. Ptolemy took control of Palestine, as well as Egypt, Phoenician, and Southern Syria. This would last 300 years. There was still religious freedom, but Greek was now the common language among the Jews. This is when the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek and would have been read in Jesus’ time.

In northern Palestine, there were many conflicts by Syria which eventually lead to defeat for Ptolemy V in 198 B.C. The Ptolemaic empire would continue in Egypt for another125 years.

SYRIAN PERIOD – Antiochus III and his leadership were received well by Jews in Palestine and religious freedom continued, with a continual bent toward Hellenism much like the previous period. In Antiochus III’s quest for more, he challenged Rome and was defeated by them in 190 B.C. Though he lost most everything, he was allowed to keep Palestine but looted the temple just trying to pay Roman taxes.  He was eventually murdered during one of these raids.  Jews lost religious freedom and exercised their religious practices under the threat of death.  Only pagan gods could be worshiped.  Antiochus IV had his supporters in the Jewish community.  The Sadducees supported him in an attempt to maintain control of the temple.  Pharisees, Zealots and Essenes became powerful forces of opposition.  Antiochus IV foolishly underestimated the stubborn commitment of Jews to follow their religion and the stage was set for one of history’s best-known rebellions.

MACCABEAN PERIOD - Mattathias Hasmon, an old Jewish priest killed both an agent of the king who was trying to bribe and demand him to perform pagan rituals and a Jew who had stepped in to do the rituals for the agent. He and his 5 sons ran and hid in the hills.  His life is documented in The Apocrypha, in the second chapter of The First Book of Maccabees. He and his succession of sons fought a guerrilla war in the region against Seleucid forces. In 164 B.C., Judas (his oldest son, called “the Hammer”) had his most impressive win in recapturing the Jerusalem Temple and cleansing it.  In honor of the event, the Festival of Hanukkah began.  200 years later, Jesus would stand in this very temple and celebrate this event!

The last son to head this movement succeeded in completely driving the Syrians out of Jerusalem and the Jewish national autonomy of Palestine was restored in 142 B.C.

HASMONEAN PERIOD - The Hasmonean Period is named for the family name of the original Maccabees who led and governed Jerusalem in the prior period.  Their behavior is so different in this period than their ancestors of the previous time that they are remembered with a different name.  The Maccabees were clearly focused on the freedom of the Jews, religiously, politically and socially.  The Hasmoneans were more about their personal and political agendas and often more focused on secular and Hellenistic values than their forefathers.  While Jews maintained religious freedom and much of their cultural traditions during this period it was a time of general unrest in Palestine.

Simon’s son, John Hyrcanus became the Jewish leader upon his father’s death.  He was a cruel and self-centered leader who became aligned with wealthy Jews who supported the values of Hellenism.  During his reign, we see the continued growth and development of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  The Pharisees were those who had been closely aligned with the Maccabees.  Sadducees were now more dominant as they were more aligned with the values of the Hasmoneans, now in power. Hasmoneans became known for their personal lust for power.

ROMAN PERIOD - While Rome took political and military control of Palestine in 63 B.C. it allowed local Hasmonean leaders to maintain some level of authority over local affairs until 37 B.C.   During that interim, things in Rome were changing.  Pompey, the Roman general who conquered Palestine died in 48 B.C. Shortly after, through military success, Julius Caesar became Rome’s new leader.  His power would only last until 44 B.C. when he was murdered.  Octavian, his nephew quickly seized control and eventually secured his position as leader with the Roman people by leading a defeat of Antony and Cleopatra near Actium, Greece in 31 B.C.  In recognition of his accomplishments in 27 B.C. the Roman Senate named him Rome’s first Emperor and Commander-in-Chief.  He was given the name Caesar Augustus.  This brings us to Luke 2:1, “a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken,” which led to Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem.  Caesar Augustus would remain in control of Rome and subsequently Palestine through the birth of Jesus and part of his childhood, his reign ending in A.D. 14.  At his death, his son Tiberius would become Emperor and be the leader of Rome through the life of Jesus.  When the last Hasmonean died in 37 B.C., Palestine needed a new authority and this one would come from Roman authority.  Antipater who had worked to influence previous Hasmonean leaders used his political influence to persuade the Roman Senate to elect his son Herod as king of Palestine.

            Herod’s rule over Palestine was deeply resented by the Jews.  There were three main reasons he was never able to win their loyalty or respect. First, he was not a Jew.  Jews believed that only a true Jew could sit on the throne of David.  Second, he was strongly committed to Hellenism, as were the Romans.  He built many grand structures in Jerusalem and Palestine. He elaborately rebuilt the temple (it took more than eighty years), but Herod’s intention was not to glorify God but himself with this structure. Lastly the Jews resented Herod for his evilness.  He was responsible for the murder of his own wife and children as well as many others who thought him to be their friend.  He would kill anyone he felt was a threat to his authority.  He put Jesus into that category, ordering the murder of every baby boy in Bethlehem in an attempt to eliminate the threat he perceived.  While the Jews had some religious freedoms under his reign it was a time of violence and general unrest in Jerusalem and all of Palestine.

                I know this is a bit lengthy, but I gained so much insight!  Hopefully the attachment is readable.  If not go to: http://studytoshewthyselfapproved.org/intertestamental-period-400-silent-years/

 Dec. 19 - (John 1:1-18) OVERVIEW OF JESUS’ PURPOSE

                We were born to live – Jesus was born to die!  The sole design of the crib was the cross! 

                Jesus’ birth in the stable that day was only the culmination of a long history that reached its climax in that remarkable event. As Paul writes in the book of Galatians, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that he might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:5; Heb. 1:1–3). What does Paul mean when he says Jesus was born in “the fullness of time”? He means that all the divine preparations for the Savior’s birth had been completed. All the prophecies regarding the coming Messiah had been uttered. All the lessons had been taught to God’s people Israel. All the OT symbolism anticipating and pointing to Christ had been instituted. Now there was only one thing left to do: For God to send His Son. Today let’s reflect on what you might call “Christmas according to John”.  He doesn’t bring us to the earthly actual birth events but seems to be focusing on taking us up with him to heaven, to a time when there was no creation, no humanity, no animals, not even angels.  Time when Jesus, the Word, co-existed with God in perfect love and unity of purpose.  

                In looking at John 1:1-18, Let’s look for answers to 3 questions.

1.       Who is that Word that was made flesh?  He was God (and being that close could show “God” better than anyone). He was creator (those whom he created would reject Him). He was the Light (as Creator and as Messiah). He was the Life (overcame in the cosmic battle between eternal death and life with God).

2.       Why did the Word come into the world?  Why did Jesus come into this world? A lot of people in our culture and around the world don’t understand why Jesus was born. They never get past the trappings of Christmas, the presents, the tree, Santa Claus, stockings, candy canes, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Likewise, many people don’t understand why Jesus died on the cross. The reason for this lack of true understanding, I believe, is that it takes eyes of faith, and the Holy Spirit, to understand the spiritual purpose of Jesus’ coming, the true meaning of what we celebrate at Christmas.

3.       What is Christmas according to John, and how can understanding John’s message transform the way we celebrate Christmas?  Verses 14-18 gives us two reasons – “grace and truth”.  John tells us in vv. 14–18, in Jesus we have seen God’s glory, and we have received from his fullness, both grace and truth. He wants to lift us up far above any preoccupation with the external trappings of Christmas, so we can contemplate the wonder of a God who would care enough for the world and the people he has made, to send his Son to die, knowing that the world would reject him, knowing that glory would come to him through rejection and suffering and brokenness. Thank you, Jesus Christ!

                There is still more explanation from a sermon by Andreas Kostenberger, I can’t include it all. It really gave another aspect of understanding Jesus’ birth. You can find it at: http://www.biblicalfoundations.org/christmas-according-to-john/

 Dec. 20 – (Foretelling - Mal. 3:1; Isa. 40:3; Fulfillment - Matt. 3:1-3; John 1:23; Luke 1:5-38) BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST AND JESUS FORETOLD

                As we have studied the 400 years’ silence, we now look at the actual events of Jesus’ birth.  As we know, Malachi, the last book of the OT, was a message of encouragement for the Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon.  Matthew wrote his Gospel more than 400 years later.  The Jews still lived in their homeland, but under the oppressive rule of Rome.  Matthew tells the good news about how Jesus the Messiah fulfills the promises of God in the OT beginning with the genealogy of Jesus.

                With John (as well as with Jesus) we have foretelling in the OT and NT before the actual births.  This gives greater importance to their births.  John the Baptist came as the Elijah of prophecy.  I need way more understanding in this, but I know His Word is true.  John was to herald the Event of the Ages and succeeded in doing that! 

                We have spent almost 2 weeks on the foretelling and connections with Jesus’ birth.  We have in Luke 1:26-38 another foretelling to Mary who would carry Jesus to birth.  As I have studied this passage, I was thinking about the angels. Their appearance caused fear (Luke 1:12, 29-30). They were not cute little helpless cherubs.   Also keep in mind, for 400 years the Jews believed the Holy Spirit had not been active in Israel.  It may have been a shock to witness this!   


                As you read through these verses, ask the Lord for a fresh look at some of the “support team” that obeyed God and in doing so, ushered in the greatest birth of all times. I was drawn to Elizabeth’s exclamation. How did she know all those things would come from the baby in Mary’s womb?  It was through the Holy Spirit!  Her words had to confirm what the angel had already spoken to Mary.  Do you see how the Holy Spirit encouraged both women as they verbalized His message to each other?    I must ask myself, what would have been diminished if they had not been listening and then obeyed?  Okay then, what am I missing in hearing the Holy Spirit, today, as part of His “support team”.  Selah 

Dec. 22 – (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-7) JESUS BIRTH 

                Read these verses pretending to never have read them before (If that’s possible). Let’s think about the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus demanded that everyone go to their home town to be counted.  At least 400 years earlier, a prophet foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Now, a “heathen” ruler has demanded something of this godly couple that certainly was not convenient or easy given Mary’s full-term pregnancy.  And yet they obeyed their secular ruler and endured this hardship, thus fulfilling prophecy and obeying God in the process!  Amazing God!   

                I am drawn to wonder why the OT said Jesus would be named Emmanuel (meaning God with us) while the Angel told both Mary and Joseph, He was to be named Jesus (or Yeshua meaning Salvation of Jehovah).  I have realized through my “Multiply” with my partner, that history gives us some clues. In Genesis we see that God created us to be in an intimate relationship with Him, but Adam and Eve’s sin caused a separation. After hundreds of years, God provided the tabernacle where only one high priest and Moses could be in His presence. When Jesus came it was God with us. When Jesus died for our sin it was God in us by the Holy Spirit. Let me repeat what I wrote last week as a reminder of this. 

                                In the OT, it is – God For Us

                                In the Four Gospels, it is – God With Us

                                In the Acts and Epistles, it is – God In Us

                “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Of course, He is for us, and with us, but, now, by His Spirit, He is always in us. He is our eternal Inhabitant – the Indweller Who will never leave us- the Comforter, abiding with us forever (John 14:16). (Herbert Lockyer) 

Dec. 23 – (Luke 2:8-21; Matt. 2:1-12) ANGELS AND SHEPHERDS

                First, let’s think about the angels involved. Gabriel, the archangel, appeared to Daniel (Dan. 8:16) and to Zacharias and then Mary. In each instance, the response was different. Daniel responds with holy fear, Zacharias responds with unbelief, and Mary was over awed by his announcement and though she had questions of how it would happen, submitted in trust to God’s will. (For an excellent teaching on Mary’s response, Listen to Pastor Jeremy on our podcast for Dec. 9, 2018.) What is our response when the Holy Spirit reveals things to us?  Let me make two more statements about the angelic host at Jesus’ birth:  1. What a striking contrast the birth of Christ affords!  Around Him impoverished circumstances, yet above Him the glorious and angelic host of heaven announce His birth.  2. The first hymn honoring Christ came from a multitude of the heavenly host.  JOY TO THE WORLD!!!!

                Let’s look next at the lowly shepherds.  How fitting it was that the Good Shepherd who was coming to give His life for His sheep, announced His birth first to good shepherds watching over their flocks!  The angels of heaven didn’t bring their “glad tidings” to the Scribes and Pharisees at Jerusalem (we will discuss their response a little later) but to shepherds who immediately obeyed the heavenly commandment and told others of what had come to pass… AND TOLD OTHERS OF WHAT HAD COME TO PASS!  How can we not be doing the same?