Christmas Connection’s 2020

My wife found these two verses as we were looking into a place called Migdal Eder.  This Christmas connection adds support to the story we know and love.

Migdal Eder is a new place and term for us.  We heard about it in connection with the sheep and shepherds around Bethlehem.  In my post (Jeremiah – A Christmas Connection) we talked about Jeremiah 31:15 because of Rachel and her death and mourning.  Both of these things are part of the history of Bethlehem.  Migdal Eder was a tower that was used to guard the sheep that were used for the Temple.  This tower/cave/birthing pen/stable might have been where Jesus was born.  The reference in the Bible is Micah 4:8 and uses the term watchtower and stronghold and in 5:2 we have Bethlehem added as the location. There are many opinions and much uncertainty about Migdal Eder but I feel it has a place in the Story.   

During the study we saw Job 38:7 – “the morning stars sang together and all of the angels shouted for joy” (NIV).  This is part of the Lord’s answer to Job.  It also would fit very well into the Genesis narrative of the story of creation.  It describes the angel’s songfest for the shepherds on the first Christmas.  So, how does a creation idea work into Christmas?  Jesus’ arrival marked a new beginning for mankind and especially Israel. The Bible is the story of the children of God and our history.  First, with natural Israel and then with spiritual Israel.  The two stories need to be told together to get to all that the Lord God wants to show us.

Over the years, we have heard many facts and traditions about the swaddling clothes or strips of cloth that Mary put on Jesus and that the shepherds were to be looking for.  These two things are tied to Migdal Eder.    

They could have been at THAT stable for the lambs for the Temple.  There seems to be a few facts about the wrapping up of Temple lambs in strips of cloth from the worn-out priest robes.  Some people reference tour guides in Israel as their source of information and others quote an eighteenth-century book about a third-century oral tradition. Do your own study – the idea is nice but very few solid facts about wrapping up baby lambs.

Ezekiel 16:4 does talk about the practice of child care after birth.  The child was washed in water, rubbed with salt, and wrapped in strips of cloth.  This verse and story of how God treated Jerusalem can also be used as part of the Exodus story as the washing might be the trip through the Red Sea after they were delivered from Egypt. The rubbing with salt may be the forty years of wandering and the wrapping up could be the protection God gave Joshua and David.

These verses are good additions to my other Christmas Connection verses.

 

I AM – Exodus

“I AM” the name that God Almighty chose to reveal to Moses in Exodus 3:14. The name so holy to the Jews that they leave the vowels out of it so that it is not pronounceable – YHWH.  According to the footnote in my NIV, Lord sounds like and may come from the Hebrew for I Am. 

My purpose in studying this passage/phrase is to look at the times Jesus said “I AM” in the Book of John.  I feel it will add to the miracles that John highlights as proof that Jesus is the Son of God.  But this is my background study and I am glad that I started here.  There are several things I saw and want to show you.

First, in Exodus 6:3 God tells Moses He showed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty or El-Shaddai (Genesis 17:1).  That is important when you realize that they had no written Word or anyone to teach them about the true God.  Joseph and his brothers (so their children) only had oral traditions and possibly dreams and visions to guide them.  (It does make you wonder what part Melchizedek played, if any, in their education.)  The “few times” that God interacted with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives had to be impressive or they would have wandered away.  (The reason I said a “few times” is the number of recorded “visits” or “revelations” versus the number of years they lived.)    

Names are important in the Bible – some are changed, you can be given a new one (Revelations) and Jesus has one that will not be revealed.  I tend to start with the meaning of names (people and places) in my studies but they can hold a mixed bag of information.  Lo Debar is deceptive if you do not study the town, where it was located, and its main source of income.  The three Ananias’ in the Book of Acts portray a wide range of characteristics and not all of them fit with the name or at least my paradigms.

Second, is the play on words between Moses and God with the phrase “I am”.  I know some of this depends of the translations you read, KJV is slightly different than many others.  KJV has Moses using “am I” twice, once in verse 4 (Here am I) and then again in verse 11 with God using “I AM” seven times (the number of completion) in the same conversation.  Many other translations have Moses in verse 4 saying, “Here I am.”

The third thing that is interesting is the change in the word Lord.  My Second Edition Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance has two different listings under the word lord.  A more common use of the word is first used in Genesis 18:27 while the word rendered Yahweh starts in Genesis 2:4. Then, there are times when the word Adonai and YHWH are together and you see LORD in the NIV. (This is from the preface in my NIV.)  The non-God reference in this concordance is #123 with donay being #151 and Yahweh is #3378 (These are not Strong’s numbers.)

Forth, I suggest using the parallel function on Bible Gateway and see the way different translations handle Exodus 3: 4-15. I paralleled The Names of God Bible, Complete Jewish Bible, Orthodox Jewish Bible, the Revised Standard Version, NIV, and others.  Check the footnotes as “I AM” may have other meanings- “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE” was a common possible version.  Verse 12 in the NIV has God saying, “I will be with you” to Moses.

Please check YouTube for Jonathan Chan videos as he has very good revelation into the I AM mystery. Also, check –   https://www1.biu.ac.il/indexE.php?id=17636&pt=1&pid=14398&level=0&cPath=43,14206,14373,14398,17636   This is Bar-Ilan University, they have several viewpoints on this topic.  I also found https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_that_I_Am   helpful on the Yahweh and ehyeh connection. In Genesis God revealed Himself to Abraham as God Almighty or El-Shaddai.  In Exodus, He added the name of I AM or Yahweh or LORD.  I will be showing how Jesus used “I am” in introducing Himself in the Book of John to show Himself as the Son of God.

Thoughts On Out Of Egypt

Israel wanting to back to Egypt

Exodus 32: 1 is a progression in the story of the People’s discontent with God and Moses.  They had crumbled and test God ten times in this progression and it will come to a head in Numbers 14.  In this installment of the story Moses is on Mount Sinai getting the tablets of the Law, he was gone a long time and the people want a physical “god” they can follow.  

In Numbers 14 the spies have come back from the Land and Joshua and Caleb are the only ones to have a good report.  The people lose their minds and work themselves up to pick a new leader and go back to Egypt!  Most of the time when I have heard this taught the speaker says something about slavery and all of the bad things that happened.  What if, they were planning to go back and attack Egypt and enslave them!  They had been trained and were ready to go fight for the Land. It is only two years since they left Egypt and they had left Egypt in shambles.  (It is interesting that in Numbers 13: 33 they saw themselves as grasshoppers.  The hordes of grasshoppers that do invade the lands of the Middle East are still today viewed with dread!). It would make sense that they felt they could conquer Egypt or at least a part of it and live there.  How many times are Christians plagued with the thought that at least some portion of the old life could be made acceptable because going forward seems so hard?  

Caleb and Joshua

This thought about Joshua and Caleb has left me hanging!  Did their families (wife and children) go in with them, if they were over nineteen years of age?  Numbers 14:20 starts the consequence part of failing to obey the Lord’s voice.  God drew a boundary of twenty years as the age of who would get in.  We know from Joshua 15:13 and Joshua 24: 15 that both of those men had families in the Promised Land.  Caleb tells his age in Joshua 14: 7 (40 yrs.) when he explored the land. He could have had “family” by then.  I know a lot can happen in thirty-eight years, Caleb had a daughter in Joshua 15: 16.  She was the reward for taking the land that Caleb had received from the Lord. 

Since everyone over nineteen years old did not make it in, I will go that they had their families after the spying incident.  (Remember, girls, married in their teens and sometimes the men were older and established before they took wives.)

Caleb was eighty-five at the time he asked Joshua for the right to “take” his land.  so, 45 – 38 means that at that point the conquest was seven years old. Forty-five is how long he had been kept alive and thirty-eight was the wandering time.  (See thirty-eight) (See Out of Egypt)

It would have been hard for me to watch everyone I know to die!  On a different note -Numbers 14: 20 does say that the people had been forgiven, just that they were not going into the Land.

Miracles are given to confirm the word of the Lord and strengthen our faith – learn from them!

Featured pic Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org

Day of Atonement, Passover, Epiphany

The Day of Atonement, Passover, and Epiphany may seem like three strange Feast to be linked together when talking about the birth of Jesus.  Bear with me as I explain their connection.  

I know it is a good thing that God is a “God Who hides Himself” and did not give us exact dates for everything that occurred.  “He concealed things” so we could search them out.  Luke or Matthew could have given us “better” timestamps but Holy Spirit stopped them.  But Luke did give us some very important calendar dates.

Time

Jewish timekeeping is different than Western thought, it was started by God in the Garden.  (another post on time) The Biblical day starts in the evening and goes to daylight.  This thought is consistent in the Bible as there are many examples of things going from dark to light.  The Jewish religious month is lunar-based; they would add an extra month when needed to keep them in line with the revolution of the earth.   In the Book of Leviticus, the major feasts are set in this framework of months.

Day of Atonement

This important day, for the Jews, of fasting, prayer, and repentance is explained in Leviticus 16.  In Leviticus 23: 26 its time is given as the tenth day of the seventh month.  In Luke we find Zachariah, John’s father, doing the offering of incense behind the Veil in the Second Temple.  Luke 1: 23 had him finish “his time of service” before going home.  This possibly was until the end of the month, so he was with Elizabeth in the eighth month.  She stayed secluded for five months.  (I am not trying to do days or exact times, those belong to God!)

Passover

Luke 1:26 has the “sixth month” for Mary’s visit with Gabriel.  That should be the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, which makes it the first month of the Jewish year, the month of Passover!  The Father is a God of order.  It would seem fitting to “birth” Jesus in Mary at Passover. That would put Jesus’ “coming out party” with the angels and shepherds in the December/January time frame (Julian Calendar) of the month of Tevet.  (see the calendar below)

Epiphany 

From ancient times (before the fourth century) the 6th of January has carried special importance in the Church!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Testament to Freedom, pgs. 504-5 talks about Epiphany.  I read it in a compilation called God is in the Manger.  On page 90, he talks about four events associated with that date – the birth of Jesus, His baptism, the wedding of Cana, and the arrival of the Magi. Traditions are frequently built on fact.  Some of these I will not try to defend or deny, but it sure is interesting.  (Again, I am not trying to be dogmatic in writing this.)

Tevet is the Jewish tenth month.  The root of the word comes from tov or nine.  The meaning of the word is “good”.  If you look in Psalm 119: 65 – 72, the ninth section of that acrostic psalm you will find the idea of good four times in the NIV. (I did an alternative to how Psalm 119 is written.)

Matthew, in his telling of the Christmas story, injects that the Wise Men had seen the star two years earlier (Herod killed the babies two and under.).  He gives no timestamp, but if it was on Jesus’ birthday (Passover) when they found Him, it would fit. 

Okay, I will go out on a limb here, because I know the Father is a God of order!  Jesus’ return with Mary and Joseph from Egypt should have been at the same time as the Exodus (Passover).  I will inch a little further out and say that Jesus’ baptism with John coincided with the anniversary of the “baptism” of the people in the Red Sea. 

The wedding at Cana – I am clueless!  John was writing about proofs of Jesus’ divinity when he wrote on the Seven Miracles (or the Plus One I added), not about dates and times.

For you scholars out there, in Joy To The World by Scott Hahn on page 162, he has a small discussion about Epiphany and gives references. To be honest, I have read his book several times and do not remember ever seeing this discussion.  (Rereading is never a problem.)  I like the way the times and feast fit together, and it gives me a reason to reflect on Epiphany.  One day in Heaven I will have to ask how close I was to being correct.   

 

Study of the Kingdom – The Baptist in Matthew 11

In this “Study of the Kingdom” we will focus on Matthew 11: 11 to 15 (NIV).  But first, let’s fill in the time-lapse since the last post.  Jesus went through all the towns and villages preaching the good news of the kingdom.  He told the Disciples to pray about workers going into the fields and then He sends them out.  They are sent with authority and a solid block of instruction/teaching (Matthew 10: 5 – 42).  Verse one in chapter 11 leads me to think He went teaching on His own.  Jesus then has a visit from John’s disciples, again.  Steven Furtick, pointed out recently that John’s disciples did not hear verse 7 to 30 as they were leaving.  As I have said before, we tend to break things up for our convenience, but I feel it is important to remember that all of this has a “John” focus! 

Verse 11

Jesus is not shy in his accolades of John.  In doing this series I have come to believe that Christianity may be guilty of downplaying John’s importance and the shadows that he fulfilled and the pattern he shows for the future and the end times.  The part of the verse that grabs my attention is “who is least in the kingdom of heaven” and who was Jesus talking about?  Normally, you think that is referring to future Christians that maybe did not do as much as they should have.   The word “least” makes me think of a servant, so in this phrase, Jesus could be talking about Himself.  He considered Himself the servant of all.

Verse 12

I felt I needed to use the parallel function on Bible Gateway with this verse, I was very surprised at the wide interpretations of this verse!  The King James uses words like violence, violent men, suffereth, and force.  Pull this out of the context of John’s situation and add in a little fire and brimstone this will get you a slanted view of the Christian life.   

As I continue, we need to focus back on John the Baptist.  The next two ways of viewing this verse are wrapped up with him. 1) Herod and his soldiers are violent men and they are trying to stop the Gospel by taking people (John) away by force.  (This seems to be the current thought in the latest NIV.  My 1990 version more or less reflects the KJV.)  2)  That people are turning to the Gospel with a forceful change of life and attitude.  Several paraphrases pick up on the meanings of biazo (violence) and harpazo (force) in determining their verbiage.  In reflecting on the mission of John and grace, I want to think #2 is a better idea.  Luke 16:16 is a companion verse and it holds this idea.  The Disciples were out on their first mission trip and that adds strength to the second idea.  Since Jesus is speaking in current terms, it is just as easily #1.  Either view works, so choose one or both, but keep it in the context of John, his mission, and that fact he is in prison.  

Verse 13

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” (NIV) This verse/idea has changed my thinking on John and just how important he is in God’s timeline.  Wherever you want to stop the “prophesying”, his birth, the start of his ministry, his imprisonment, or his future death that is in just a few months or years from when Jesus is speaking.  Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and training His disciples did take an upward turn with John’s death.

Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:14 and 20+21 and 10:4) puts this into perspective.  Death reigned from Adam to Moses, the Law was added – Moses to John, and grace picked up with Jesus who ended the rule of the Law and ushered in righteousness (if you believe).  If you add in John to Jesus (Matthew 11:11) there is the forceful joining to the Kingdom. 

Verse 14+15    

Since this is Jesus speaking about John, it is worthy to take note.  It must have been a jolt to his audience and is as close as He comes in the Gospels to say who He was and His mission.  This does raise the question for me – If John prepared for Jesus, did Elijah prepare for Elisha?

Thoughts and Observation

  1. “At that time” is used in the NIV in Matthew a lot!  It gives the feeling of just a few hours or days.  In one respect it shrinks the stories to very special days and not a scatter-shot of time over three years.  I realize that the same parables were told and retold.  I like Luke who keeps the milestones and time markers in line and adds parables where they will have the most impact.
  2. Because of #1, Chapter 11 occurs close to a Sabbath and the Disciples returned from their trip as this session ended.  A course the disciples in chapter 12 may not have been the Twelve. 
  3. The forceful men in verse 12 made me think of the Israelites as they were coming out of Egypt.  They always wanted to go back to Egypt!  Well, that is not very forceful!  Unless, they wanted to go back, not as slaves but as invaders.  Egypt was a mess and the army was rebuilding, what better time to conquer the land!

http://www.freebibleimages.org for the pic