Christmas Characters – Caesar Augustus

Augustus is part of this story!  I am adding him as a reminder (to myself) that God is in control even of power-hungry political figures (Democrat and Republican).  The census is more than just taxation.  Augustus gets to know how many people he controls, a true “power trip”.  Even with Roman roads and a courier system, the thought and decree were probably started more than a year in advance of Jesus’ birth.  Herod was also part of Augustus’ handiwork.

I have a feeling Joseph was a practical man and would not have chosen that long trip unless he was made to do so.  Mary had already walked to Bethlehem once before she was “great with child” and would not have looked forward to a bouncy trip on the back of a donkey.  Prophesy, however, had to be fulfilled, Jesus was not to be born in Nazareth.  Caesar had to be part of the plan or Mary and Joseph would have stayed where they were!

If I was scripting a scene for a movie, Augustus’ part would have been the introduction.  All you would have seen was him signing a scroll and ordering an official to get it out fast.  The camera would then pan up to show Father God saying to Jesus, “Good, that is started are You ready?”

Further Thought – When has God used political problems to advance the Gospel?

http://rome.phillipmartin.info/rome_soldier.htm

http://www.LumoProject.com.

The Exodus Story in Other Places

glory 1

People may argue parts of the Exodus story and how it could not have happened. But the fact that the story is retold throughout the rest of scripture should speak volumes about its validity and its credibility. (This may not be all of them but you get the idea.)

  • Gideon  – Judges 6:13 – Questioned about the miracles
  • Jephthah – Judges 11:15-27 – Retold conquest story
  • Micah 6: 1-5 – The Lord had a case against Israel and highlighted the Exodus to prove his point.
  • Ezekiel 20:4 – God giving a discourse to the elders of Israel about their love for idols of Egypt even though He brought them out of Egypt and gave them a good land.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:4 – Spiritual lesson about Israel being baptized into Moses and Israel sharing spiritual food and drink and still some died in the desert.
  • Moses’ Psalms 90 -100 – I still think they are a series of songs to teach the people about God and His requirements.

Psalms

  • 66: 5-12 A highlight telling of Israel’s time in Egypt and their leaving.
  • 77: 11-20 A call for Jeduthum to remember and meditate on the miracles of God; the parting of the Red Sea is the focus with what God did.

Just a thought, look at Psalm 78-83 as a block for teaching people after Jerusalem fell.

  • 78 A comparison of Israel’s testing God and His mercy and miracles.
  • 80: 7-11 A call to God to remember that He did bring Israel out of Egypt and to have mercy on them again.
  • 81:3-10 To remember that God brought Israel out of Egypt and established that He should be praised.
  • 95: 8-11 Not to harden your heart as people did at Meribah.
  • 105:16-45 A Sunday School lesson of Abraham, Joseph, the plagues and the joseph-dreams of wheatExodus.
  • 106 A history of God’s faithfulness in not destroying Israel starting in Egypt and going through the Conquest into the unfaithfulness in the Promise Land.
  • 114 It reminds Judah who they belong too and that mountains, hills, and the “waters” obey the Lord.
  • 135:8-14 That man (Egypt, Pharaoh, Sihon, Og, and the kings of Canaan) will not stop God’s people.
  • 136:10-22 Resembles Ps. 135 

Picture of Sheaves from http://www.freebibleimages.org/photos/joseph-dreams/

Tribes of Israel – Ephraim

Ephraim

The second son of Joseph or after being claimed by Jacob and elevated in status he was Jacob’s thirteenth son. Born and raised in Egypt from the daughter of an Egyptian priest we know very little about his life.  He and Manasseh were probably in their early twenties when they received the blessing from Jacob; they were born before the famine started and Jacob lived in Egypt 17 years before he died. The only story about Ephraim outside of Genesis is in 1 Chronicles 7:20-24 where it recounts a raid gone bad in Gath where two of his children were killed. That changes my idea that the children of Jacob lived quite lives in Egypt tending flocks and growing crops.

Now being the “first-born” of the beloved son of the favored wife Ephraim received the double-portion blessing of Jacob. The blessing is in Genesis: 15 Then he (Jacob) blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day 16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm —may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly on the earth.”(NIV) This made them equal to the eleven and combined with Joseph’s blessing in Genesis 49 did truly set them above the others.

I want to mention two of Ephraim’s children Joshua and Jeroboam. Joshua, Moses’ military leader and a faithful spy really set a high standard for anyone to follow. He truly is the picture of a “double blessing” person and worked hard for all the tribes he lead into the Promise Land. Jeroboam was a man that had a truly great blessing put in front of him and ignored it. His story starts in 1 Kings 11:26; he had a prophetic call to rule Israel because of Solomon’s unfaithfulness. All he had to do was walk after the ways of David and he would have had an “enduring dynasty.” I feel that this opportunity was extended to him because he was an Ephraimite and had the right to the double blessing from Jacob. Instead he took the ten tribes given to him by the Lord and led them astray. He got a second chance in 1 Kings 13:6 but he could not trust God to fulfill the promise so his linagetop of timeline died out rather quickly. His son Nadab only ruled for a short time and was killed. (see my King’s Timeline)

Tribes of Israel – Joseph

Joseph is the twelfth child of Jacob and the first son of Rachel; he was the last child born in Paddan Aram. The NIV Bible says the name means “may He add” Rachel believed to have another son. He is the first-born son of the “loved” wife and it showed when he met Esau; Rachel and Joseph were in the back far away from the first attack (Genesis 33:2).Joseph as a slave

Deuteronomy 33: 13 About Joseph he said: “May the Lord bless his land with the precious dew from heaven above and with the deep waters that lie below; 14 with the best the sun brings forth and the finest the moon can yield; 15 with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills; 16 with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers. 17 In majesty he is like a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of a wild ox. With them, he will gore the nations, even those at the ends of the earth. Such are the ten thousands of Ephraim; such are the thousands of Manasseh.” (NIV)

Genesis 49:22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall. 23 With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. 24 But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, 25 because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb. 26 Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers. (NIV)

Jacob and Moses in their blessings pretty much gave it all to Joseph and his children.  I really don’t have a lot to say about Joseph because I think every pastor has at least two Joseph sermons. He has all kind of types and shadows from being a type of Jesus to a picture of blessing and faithfulness in hard times.

In Genesis 47 Joseph does his job and gives all of the lands of Egypt to Pharaoh. Oh, we are supposed to do an excellent job for a heathen boss. This is done in the last five years of the famine after his family has joined him.

It is interesting that Jacob continues the “second son” being first in Genesis 48; he was the second son, Joseph is the “second son” and was placed before even Judah as noted in Genesis 48:22 and 1 Chronicles 5:2. Ephraim’s children do live up to all the predictions and play important roles in Israel’s history.  In Amos and Obadiah the children are grouped again under the name of Joseph and in Revelation 7 Manasseh is mentioned by name but Ephraim is not and instead, it is the “tribe of Joseph.”

joseph-dreams of wheatAll told Joseph must have been an amazing person who understood his destiny and believed God was going to get him there even when he sold as a slave and put into prison.

Pictures from: http://www.freebibleimages.org/photos/joseph-dreams/ 

Tribes of Israel – Predications of Genesis 49

I have been writing about the boys and referencing Genesis 49 but it is interesting to look at the inspiration for Jacob’s words.

  • 1. Reuben turbulent water   The water that Jacob would have know was a swollen Jordan River or the flooded, rushing gullies in the wilderness after a thunderstorm. He understood the violence and power of moving water; so he recognizes Reuben’s strength, power and abilities.
  • 4. Judahlion    Lions were common in Palestine usually living near the Jordan River. In Africa the male lion’s roars can be heard up to five miles away. Their stately appearance and raw strength has apparently inspired respect for thousands of years. A modern moniker for Jesus is the “Lion of Judah” directing our thoughts to the strength and power of a risen, glorified Jesus.
  • 5. Dan – snake/viper     Eerdman’s sites that there are harmless snakes in that region but that all biblical references refer to venomous snakes. They site the Carpet or Saw-scaled viper (Palestine viper) as a possible candidate and the Arkive Organization attest to its quick strike and the amount of human attacks.  The tribe of Dan in Judges 18 where they stole “gods” and then killed off a quiet people and took a northern most position in Israel show their violent nature and is a good picture of what Jacob must have seen in his son.
  • 6. Naphtali – a doe    According to Eerdman’s the possible animals may have been the Fallow Deer, Gazelle or the Nubian Ibex. I am not sure that the specific animal is important but the symbolism; a doe and its fawns are such a tranquil picture. So I would assume that Naphtali did not have the temper of Simeon or Levi.
  • 9. Issachara strong donkey   A strong donkey shows his usefulness and his tendency to be like Jacob, a “home-body.” Interestingly he was not called a wild-donkey because they are the exact opposite; they are free roaming and very hard to get along with.
  • 12. Joseph – a fruitful vine   The only choice of plants here is the grape and the picture would be like the cluster of grapes the spies brought back in the Exodus story. Besides the words for Judah this is the only one that I could call a blessing; Jacob here gives it all to Joseph and calls for the supplying of all his needs and ask special favor of God to take notice of Joseph.
  • 13. Benjamina wolf    They are a social yet fierce predator that takes care of family.  So I still think that Jacob was recognizing a loyal yet mean side to his youngest son. There were other predators that could have been chosen like foxes, bears or jackals so him picking the wolf is interesting.
  • 2. Simeon and 3. Levi  – still after all the years that lapsed Jacob had nothing good to say about these two.
  • 10. Zebulun – he will live by a seashore
  • 7. Gad – he would be attacked and then fights back
  • 8. Asher – that he would have and make awesome food

The last three are hard to track down in the Bible so I wonder if they may not have been words about their life in Egypt.

references: Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible,                                                              about the viper http://www.arkive.org/palestine-saw-scaled-viper/echis-coloratus/                             picture of viper http://www.flickriver.com/photos/aviadbar/2616597272/                   picture of wolf http://www.cosmosmith.com/arabian_wolves.html                               picture of the flood http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ein_Avdat_Flood_1.JPG