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The Message of the Angel

“And the angel sad unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:lO-12).

 

 

          In December of each year there is a renewed interest in the second chapter of the Book of Luke. Bibles which have been closed since last December are opened, and the old story of the birth of Jesus is reviewed once again.

In innumerable churches around the world, plays and skits once again repeat the story in sight and sound, in flesh and blood. One of the principal characters in many of these skits is the angel who first announced to the Judean shepherds the birth of the Messiah.  Songs and stories abound in which this heavenly messenger and his message are mentioned.

Yet with all of this emphasis there is still a great need to examine what the angel really said. The angel’s announcement, properly understood, provides a remarkable description of the identity and nature of the child born in Bethlehem.

 

FEAR NOT

 

First, let us notice that when this heavenly envoy appeared the shepherds were sore, or very, afraid. This is still the reaction of many people when faced with a manifestation of God’s power. So the first words of the angel were “Fear not. . . .” God is good and His love for mankind is great. A desire to help, not harm, mankind was the motive behind the incarnation.

The message of the angel is initially that we do not need to be afraid of the will of God. Many seem to hesitate to follow God’s directions because they fear they will not like or enjoy what He has planned for them. Fear not. Being in His will will bring you more fulfillment and greater lasting happiness than anything else you could do. Fear not.

 

GOOD TIDINGS

 

In the message of the angel are broad but specific hints of things to come. Even today the whole of God’s Church echoes the angel when we mention the gospel. Gospel literally means “good news.”  The shepherds were thus the first to be informed that this babe’s coming was “good news” for the world.

This good news has, as the angel declared, brought great joy to all people who will accept it. The joy of the Holy Ghost is available because of Jesus’ coming. Throughout the centuries .the joy of the Lord has been the hallmark of His coming. From the Ethiopian eunuch who went rejoicing on his way (Acts 8:39) to the latest one to receive the Holy Ghost, the coming of our Savior has meant joy unspeakable.

And, as the angel proclaimed, this good news has been for all people. For the birth, life and death of this One, whose birth announcement was given by an angel from heaven, has brought about the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the salvation of the Gentile nations. This good news crosses all color, social, economic and political lines.

 

THE CITY OF DAVID

 

We, centuries later, know much more about the eventual outcome of this life than did those shepherds who first heard it announced. But all that they needed to understand about the mission and identity of this babe was given to them by the angel.

 

Unto You.   This child’s birth was important to the shepherds. They seem to have been chosen as representatives of the human race. They were hard working, diligent, probably not too wealthy, and most likely looked down upon by some. Yet from the sheepcote had come one of Israel’s greatest kings, David.

As there are good and bad shepherds, with dullards and potential kings within their ranks so it is with all of humanity. And it was to humanity that Jesus came. “Unto you. . .” seems to echo through the years until the Apostle Peter picked up the refrain on that special Day of Pentecost and amplified it: “. . .unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).

Is Born.  The Jews as a whole expected their Messiah to come into their midst in regal splendor and power. They were expecting something quite different from the normal birth of a child in a borrowed stable. It somehow had not occurred to them that His coming would not be with the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham.

They read the prophecies and gave mental assent to the human nature of the coming Messiah, while in their hearts they anticipated an angel. Their plans required a king, so they overlooked the pauper.

Jesus robed Himself in human flesh that He might taste death for every man. He would live facing all that life throws at us. And He would die as a man dies, that we might know that He knows our problems, not just theoretically, but from experience.

Besides the other things that He accomplished and the sacrifices He offered, He walked where we walk, and left us an example, that we should follow in His steps.

          David.  To these men especially the mention of Israel’s second king ought to have brought to mind memories of the promises made to the shepherd-king by a faithful God.

“The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne” (Psalm 132:11).

Among the many promises to David, this one stands out as a clear indicator of the identity of this Child in Bethlehem. For here the God of the Old Testament declared that He, and not some other, would come as a descendant of David to sit upon his throne “. . .and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Isaiah 9:7). The One who would do this would come as a Child, as a Son, and yet be the mighty God and the everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).

The reference to David, in itself, should have quickened to the shepherds’ minds, and to ours, the fact that this Babe whose birth the angel announced was none other than Jehovah come to be among men.

Then the allusion by the angel to David’s city should bring to our minds the history of this royal family which proves the necessity of the virgin birth. Many years before this night one of the ancestors of Joseph, the carpenter, had been a very wicked man. This man, Jehoiachin, the Coniah of Jeremiah 22, and the Jechonias of Matthew 1, was cursed so that no male of his family could rule as king again (Jeremiah 22:30). Since Joseph, the supposed father of Jesus, was descended from Jehoiachin neither he nor his son could ever be king, although they were legal heirs of the throne.

But Jesus was literally a son of David on his mother’s side through David’s son, Nathan. Thus He fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 132: 11 only by being virgin born. He was the offspring of David through Mary. And from Joseph he inherited the throne, without inheriting the curse.

 

A SAVIOR

 

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).

By announcing that the child was a Savior, the angel let those who understand know who had come to this world. Isaiah told long ago that God is our Savior. In fact the word translated “salvation” in 1saiah 12 is the Hebrew word from which we get the name Jesus.

Salvation comes only through the Jehovah God of the Old Testament. “But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD” (Psalm 37:39). A clear understanding of the message of the angel will tell us assuredly that this Babe was Jehovah in the likeness of sinful flesh.

 

WHICH IS CHRIST

 

And as He dwelt among them, He revealed His name: Jesus. Christ is a title; Jesus is His name. There has arisen a strong misconception about the term “Christ.” This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” which means “anointed of Jehovah.” The anointed of (or with) Jehovah is what this Babe was. But Jesus is who He was.

The angel was not giving the shepherds His name. They were merely being told “the Messiah you have longed for is finally here.” The Messiah, Christ, is the joining of human flesh with eternal Spirit. The flesh of this man was what had been anointed by the Spirit. Through that anointing, God was then in their midst in a new and different way.

And as He dwelt among them, He revealed His name:  JESUS.  Christ is a title.  Jesus is His name.

 

THE LORD

 

Then before giving the shepherds directions to the manger, this celestial messenger made things so clear about this One’s identity that none should miss it. The One you will find lying in a manger is the Lord!

The Hebrews who had had some two thousand years of training in religious matters could understand this only one way. The Lord is their God, the Jehovah of their fathers. In the light of the Scriptures there is no difficulty in conceiving of God being in flesh and at the same time filling heaven and earth. Even as far back as Moses’ day, God had made it clear that there did not need to be several gods doing things. He was, and is, great enough to do it all and still just be one.

“Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else” (Deuteronomy 4:39).

 

THE MESSAGE

 

Year after year the message of the angel is repeated. Multitudes fall under the sound of the words heralded so long ago.  Yes, we hear the message. But do we understand its meaning? This is more than just a high powered birth announcement. God sent this message that the world might know He had come. But more importantly, it was sent that they might know who He is.

 

This article first appeared in the Oklahoma District Beacon about 1974 or 75, and then in the Pentecostal Herald December, 1976.

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How Old Is The Earth?

       Some people have seen what they suppose is a contradiction between the Bible and science.  This has caused a crisis of faith in some, a reason for derision in others and a “so what” attitude in still more.  As with many other things, the conflict may not be so much with the Bible or scientific data as with the interpretation that has been forced on that information.  Is the earth some six thousand years old, or has it been around for billions of years?  Let us look at what the Bible really says instead of what we have thought or been told it says.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.         (KJV)

Genesis 1:1 tells of the original creation of the world.  There is no time noted except ‘the beginning,’ whenever that was.  This original creation was fully formed and quite unlike what we find in Genesis 1:2.  Look at what the prophets say about the creation and what followed it:

Isaiah 45:18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

Jeremiah 4:23 I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.

The implication here seems to be that between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 some sort of calamity occurred to destroy the original state of this orb and resulted in the total chaos existing when the six days of ‘creation’ began in Genesis 1:3.  The word translated in English versions as ‘was’ in Genesis 1:2 can also be rendered as ‘became.’  That translation would give credence to the possibility of a prior creation that was the victim of some disaster.

OT:1961 hayah (haw-yaw); a primitive root [compare OT:1933]; to exist, i.e. be or become, come to pass (always emphatic, and not a mere copula or auxiliary): (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

If this translation of the word were appropriate, then Genesis 1:2 would read as follows:  “And the earth became without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Whether this catastrophe was associated with the fall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-17) or something else is really irrelevant.  It happened.  How and why is of no import now except as to how remnants of that world are interpreted in relation to this age.  In Genesis 1:3 we get the story of the REcreation of this old orb.  The six day restoration of habitability is what is important to us.  Our salvation is a matter of God’s dealings with the family of Adam and Eve.  Whatever may have happened before is no more important to our destiny than what plays may have previously been on the stage we now occupy.  As props used in prior productions may yet litter the area behind the curtains, so remnants of a prior ‘creation’ may be dug from the dust of the past.  Gross error can creep in if, to follow our analogy, the present cast and crew try to figure out how the discarded scenery and props relate to the current production.  The cauldron from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the furniture from Ionesco’s The Chairs, and the masks from any of Euripides’ plays, while interesting, are of minor impact upon today’s theatrics and can only confuse the dialogue and flow of the present production.

I am not trying to kick millions of tons of fossils under the table rather than deal with them.  Instead I acknowledge their existence, but have a different, biblically plausible, explanation for their existence. They were part of a previous creation.  The similarity of physical structure is no problem.  The Great Designer used a model that worked.  In the new ‘creation’ He updated and modified the basic version.  Why throw away a design that works?  If dinosaurs and another type of man once trod the earth and were destroyed in a great calamity (or calamities), that has little or no relevance to our present state in the matter of salvation.  What ultimately concerns us is the fall and restoration of Adam’s family.

The Bible is not written as a science or history book to give us the full scope of everything that has ever happened.  It is given to us as a guide to salvation for this ‘creation’ and this people.  What may have happened before Genesis 1:3 is finished.  When God breathed into man the ‘breath of life’ a new chapter began.  The Bible is to guide us now, not to satisfy our curiosity about some distant, irrelevant yesterday.

And how old is the earth?  God only knows, and our disputations about it are far less crucial than obedience to other, plainer; matters in the Word.

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Remember:  What the Bible says may not be what we have thought it said.

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Patriarchal Genealogy

 

Patriarchal Genealogy 

THE PATRIARCHAL GENEALOGY

 

In this study we will take a look at the genetic beginnings of the nation of Israel.   I have attached a chart of the family of Terah, Abram’s father.  (Click  here on Patriarchal Genealogy for a larger PDF version of the chart.)  In the Bible Abram and Abraham refer to the same man and Sarai and Sarah is the same woman.  You may find even more things in the chart than I will point out, but here is a start.

Abraham and Sarah were half brother and sister, having the same father but different mothers.  Abraham’s brother Nahor married their other brother Haran’s daughter Milcah.  Milcah’s siblings, Lot and Iscah, were not allowed to become part of the nation of Israel.  The single Biblical exception to this is Ruth the Moabitess who married Boaz and became the great grandmother of King David.

Abraham had eight children by three wives: Sarah (Isaac), Hagar (Ishmael) and Keturah (Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah).  Of these eight only Isaac was accepted by God as the promised seed.  The descendants of these other children became, to a greater or lesser degree, enemies of Isaac and his descendants.

Isaac’s uncle, Nahor and cousin, Milcah, had a son, Bethuel, who in turn had two children: Laban and Rebekah.  Isaac married Rebekah and they had twin boys, Esau and Jacob.  Esau wound up married to Canaanites and was a great grief to his parents.  Because of major problems between the twins it became necessary for Jacob to leave home and go stay with his uncle Laban for about twenty years.

Meanwhile, back in Mesopotamia, Laban had married and fathered two daughters, Leah and Rachel.  Through a series of deceptions and jealousies Jacob got married to both of these girls, his cousins, and to their handmaidens, Bilhah and Zilpah – a total of four wives and thirteen children, twelve boys and one girl.

Now that we have the basics of this family tree down, (and this one hardly forks at all), let me draw a quick conclusion of the matter.  Am I the only one who has looked at this family tree and seen what appears to be a breeding chart used to fix certain characteristics in the offspring?  It seems to me that those who had the traits God wanted were kept in the breeding program.  Those, like Lot and Ishmael, who did not possess those qualities were shunted to the side.  Then after four (through Abraham), five (through Nahor) or six (through Haran) generations the attributes were so firmly fixed in the family that there was not a need for such intense inbreeding, though of course it did continue as they became slaves in Egypt.

This inbreeding was for a purpose.  Ranchers reinforce characteristics of their stock for their own purposes.  We are not entirely sure for what or how God was selecting characteristics for His chosen people.

Even though the Bible makes plain that there were pleasing physical characteristics in the family (Sarah – Genesis 12:11…a fair woman to look upon:..,”  Rebekah – Genesis 24:16 “very fair to look upon…,” Leah – Genesis 29:17 “…tender eyed…,” Rachel – Genesis 29:17 …beautiful and well favoured…,”          Joseph –  Genesis 39:6 “…a goodly person, and well favoured.”) this was obviously not most important to the Creator.

It was not a matter of good decisions.  Abraham and Isaac were deceptive about their relationships with their wives.  Rebekah and Jacob conspired in chicanery to obtain the blessing of Isaac.  Jacob and Laban (one accepted and one rejected) deceived each other, each giving about as good as he got.  Jacob was not wise is showing favoritism to Joseph.  Joseph was unwise in the way he shared his dreams.  The ten older brothers had fratricidal jealousy.

 

The Egyptians built better buildings (pyramids).  The Hittites were better fighters. The Greeks were better at math and philosophy.  The Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Greeks and Romans were more advanced in human governance.  All peoples outnumbered the old couple that started all of this.

 

If there is a way to transfer an inclination to faith thru DNA modern science has not discovered it.  We may not figure out all that is involved here, but we can trust God to do all things well.

 

A continuing tragedy is that once someone was culled from the chosen group, their descendants, with the exception of Ruth, were cut off through succeeding generations.  Do not cull yourself from the household of faith and deprive your descendants of a contact with the holy.  Do not break the chain.

 

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* Remember this – God will have his way in the midst of the confusion of our lives.

 

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