Categories
Bible Verse

Anna, the Devoted Widow & Prophetess

Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

Luke 2:36-40 NKJV

Anna in The Presentation in the Temple by Tissot
Anna in The Presentation in the Temple by Tissot

Background

Anna was a devoted servant of God. Widowed early in life, Anna dedicated herself to fasting and praying in the temple. When Jesus was bought into the temple, her life of piety was interrupted. No longer were her religious actions on hope of the long-awaited Messiah. The Messiah was there, in the flesh, in the temple with her! Her hope was rewarded. God was praised. The presence of the Messiah was met with her gratitude to God. Like other true believers, she could not be silent about her Savior. The Good news had to be shared!

Throughout the Bible, women had a role in proclaiming the truth of God. God chose in the biblical narrative, to mention women as well as men who went in boldness to tell others about God and speak his word to others. These women are sometimes called “prophetesses”, a female version of a prophet.

Context

Why is Luke including Anna here in his Gospel? Because his major theme is that God sent Jesus to earth that ALL might be saved.(Luke 2:10) In a culture that generally did not hold women in high regard, Luke wanted to show that God is different. He wants to be sure that the reader understands that women as well as men will be part of the Kingdom of God. In fact, Luke’s Gospel tells us more about women than any others. Later in the book of Acts, also written by Luke, we learn of other women who prophesy. (Acts 2:19)

Gospel Implications

Anna was a mighty woman of God. She was a watchful woman and used the spiritual disciplines of fasting and praying to keep her mind and heart focused on God. As a long-term widow, Anna could have wallowed in self-pity. But she did not. Instead, she devoted herself to pleasing God and waiting for him to fulfill his promises. Anna was a woman of faith and God rewarded her with the greatest gift of all.

Luke wants us to know that in the birth of Jesus, God is fulfilling his covenant promises of the Old Testament. This fills Anna with gratitude and joy so much that she must share the Good News with others.

Application

In the midst of all your activities this Christmas season, find time to tell others about Jesus.

Key Verse

And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Luke 2:38

Prayer

Lord, Help me to spread the Good News about Jesus this Christmas season. Amen.

Categories
Christmas

Simeon’s Song of Prophecy & Praise

For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:30-35 NKJV

The Song of a Prophet

This song of Simeon is the fourth of four songs or canticles found in the beginning of Luke. We have read songs by Zechariah, Mary and the angels. Now we read Simeon’s song of praise. These canticles have since antiquity been named after the first word or words, also known as the incipit of the song, in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. This ancient translation was completed in 400 A.D. by biblical scholar Jerome. The first words of Simeon’s song in Latin (verse 29) are “Nunc dimittis” meaning “Now you dismiss.” Simeon is saying that God is now releasing him from earthly life because he met the Lord’s anointed, the Christ, baby Jesus.

Who Is This Jesus?

In today’s reading, we see Simeon continuing his song. Simeon prophetically tells us the identity of Jesus.

The blessed baby is:

  1. Salvation for all people
  2. Light to the Gentiles
  3. The glory of Israel

Mary and Joseph are amazed at this continuing revelation of the identity of their new baby. Zechariah, Elizabeth, the angels and now Simeon revealed the truth of who this baby is and what he came to accomplish.

Blessing and Hard Truths

Then Simeon blessed the Holy Child and his family. Instead of leaving after the blessing, Simeon turns his attention to Mary. She is likely feeling the joy and warmth of the old prophets’ blessing when he turns to speak to her directly. I imagine he addressed her with a slight heaviness in his heart as God, through the Holy Spirit, showed him that difficult times are ahead for Mary and Jesus. Simeon faithfully gives the hard message that:

  1. Jesus will cause both the fall and rise of many in Israel. Some will accept Jesus and rise to everlasting life while others who reject him will stumble and break. (Isa. 8:14; Rom. 9:32)
  2. Jesus will be spoken against. In just a couple of years, Herod will be the first to oppose Jesus when he makes the command to kill all the babies in an attempt to get rid of Jesus whom he feels threatened by. At the end of his life, Jesus will be spoken against by the Jewish religious leaders. From beginning to end, Jesus faced opposition at Simeon prophesied.
  3. Mary will be hurt by what happens to her son. The word for sword used here refers to a very large, broad sword. The verb construction reflect an action that occurs continuously or repeatedly. We see in Mary’s life that she is a mother who watched her son endure much opposition throughout his ministry.

Key Verse

A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel. Luke 2:32

Prayer

Lord, Thank you for Jesus, our salvation, the light of the world, through whom we see the glory of God. Thank you for the example of these godly parents who sought to do your will in the resining of their child from his infancy. Thank you for the prophecies about Jesus so that we might believe and know with certainty why we believe and who we believe in. Amen.

Categories
Bible Study Christmas

Simeon and Jesus

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word;

Luke 2:25-29 NKJV

Portrait of a Prophet

This is not a good time for Israel. Like in their time of bondage in Egypt, God seems to have forgotten them. He doesn’t seem to see their suffering at the hand of the oppressive Romans. Or if he sees, God seems not to care. Where is the promised salvation? Will Messiah ever come?

No Angels Needed

Simeon remembers. He has been waiting in joyful hope. A devoted Jew, he was blessed by a revelation from the Holy Spirit. It was revealed to him that the Messiah, the “Consolation of Israel”, would come to God’s people in his lifetime. Yes, he was old, old enough to die a natural death. Yet he knew he would not die before Messiah came to rescue his people. So he waited. Probably, he looked for a royal procession or armies led by a successful general to fulfill the prophecy. No angel had to come and proclaim hope to him. The Holy Spirit already spoke to him.

The Spirit Stays

The same Spirit who gave Simeon the revelation about the coming of Christ now directs Simeon to the temple. Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple with baby Jesus to find Simeon waiting for them. Simeon, still filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes Jesus as the fulfillment of the revelation he was given.

James Tissot, The Presentation
James Tissot, The Presentation

Blessing and Honor Given

Simeon reacted to the presence of Jesus, promise fulfilled, in the only way he could, by thanking and praising God. God was true to his word! How sweet it is to wait patiently for the Lord, confident that he will come through, and have his promises fulfilled! Simeon recognized how privileged he was to hold the Savior in his arms. He must have felt such peace and joy!

Key Verse

he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

Luke 2:28 NKJV

Have you accepted Jesus and blessed God for his wonderful gift?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus. You sent your only Son to earth to be our Consolation, our Savior. Help us to live in gratitude and remember this great truth everyday but especially this Christmas. Amen.

Categories
Bible Study Christmas Devotional

Jesus is Named & Presented

And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord ” ), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Luke 2:21-24 NKJV

Bridging the Gap

Circumcision

Jesus’ life represents movement from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. He lived, died and was resurrected to usher in a new way for us to have forgiveness of our sins. The temple curtain will be torn, the veil between God and man destroyed. The law of Moses is fulfilled through Jesus. His participation in Mosaic legal requirements is the beginning of this role. Now, reigning at the right hand of the Father, the risen Jesus completely fulfills the role of high priest, see Hebrews 8.

Categories
Bible Study Devotional

Shepherds Visit Baby Jesus

And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Luke 2:16-20 NKJV

Receiving Visitors

Mary and Joseph, after their long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, were unable to find a proper place to stay. Instead, they are in a stable area with the animals of the household. In this uncomfortable arrangement, Mary’s time comes and she gives birth to Jesus.

Categories
Bible Study Devotional

Glory to God in the Highest

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Luke 2:11-15 NKJV

Angelic Visitation

In keeping with the perspective of common people God inspired Luke to write about, we learn about common, lowly shepherds being given privileged information. To them is proclaimed the fulfillment of prophecy- The Anointed One, The Christ, is here! The Savior, promised by God and his prophets many years ago, is here! This announcement must have confused them. They knew the Christ would be from the line of David, so the city of David made sense. But why is a baby the sign? Could the Anointed One be a baby, lying in a feeding trough, a manger?

Categories
Bible Study Bible Verse

A Humble Birth

Jesus is Born in Bethlehem

“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”

Luke 2:6–10, NKJV

An Arrival with Startling Humility

A back room with the animals. A rough feeding trough fit for animals. Simple cloths to protect a new life. This is how the Savior of all, the King of Kings, made his grand entrance into the world.

Categories
Bible Verse

Journey to Bethlehem: Joseph and Mary

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.” (Luke 2:1–5, NKJV)

Map of Journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem

Another Prophecy Fulfilled

In the earlier part of Luke’s narrative, we learn that Mary, mother-to-be of Jesus, lives in Nazareth, about 100 miles north of Bethlehem, prophesied to be the birthplace of the Messiah. How will this happen? God’s got this. He uses the secular rulers to bring his prophesy to pass. The Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, declared that all the world under his jurisdiction should be registered.

Categories
Bible Study Devotional

Zechariah’s Prophecy, Part 3

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Luke 1:76-80 NKJV

Luke’s Details

Luke gives us more information about Mary and Zechariah than any other Gospel. His account includes details not found elsewhere in the Bible. This corresponds to what Luke stated at the beginning of his narrative. He promised to shed light on “all things from the very first”. Luke seems to have firsthand information from sources like Mary and Zechariah so that these beautiful songs are preserved for us today. Did they make you feel more certain about what you believe as Luke stated he desired for his readers?

Salvation

John’s message would be one of the necessity of salvation because of the sins of the people and the provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. John’s words were both challenging and comforting. It is because of the great mercy of God towards his people (literally translated “bowels of mercy”) that he saves. God loved the world so much that he sent his son Jesus to earth for our salvation. (John 3:16)

Although the word for salvation can have the sense of health or wellness, in this case, the fact that salvation is spiritual and not just political or physical is alluded to as Zechariah describes the role of remission of sins.

Breakthrough

Dayspring. A word we don’t use anymore but it is a picture of dawn. Dawn is daylight springing forth from darkness. The word in Greek, anatole, means “east”. It is used to convey the sun rising in the east as in the dawn. Interestingly, the ancient Jewish Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek translated the Messianic word Branch as anatole. Why? Possibly because both have the sense of a Messiah “breaking forth” or “breaking out”. The sun breaks out into the sky at daybreak and a branch breaks out from the root. Both metaphors reflect the breaking into human history of a deliverer and redeemer, Jesus.

Greek scholar Bill Mounce writes that the compass direction of orientation in the ancient Near East in the time of Jesus was east just as we use north in compasses today. Jesus, our Savior, Redeemer and King, comes from the exalted direction, the east. This Dayspring is also Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus graced the world with his presence for us!

Jesus didn’t come quietly or in a subtle way. The whole world was irrevocably changed when Jesus came on the scene in human form, as a helpless baby. He broke into our humanity with its sin, shame and death, to bring light. The light of Jesus is the glorious light of salvation.

Jesus in his own words confirmed Zechariah’s prophecy. He spoke of being light. “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”” John 8:12, NKJV

Luke in writing about the Dayspring also brings to mind the vigorous and victorious image given to us by the prophet Malachi:

“But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.” Malachi 4:2, NKJV

Zechariah’s words echo Isaiah’s prophecy (also repeated in Matthew 4:16):

“The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2, NKJV

The light of Isaiah’s prophecy looks forward to our great hope in Jesus.

Prepare a Way in the Desert

John’s father summarizes his childhood in the final verse of this section. John grew spiritually as well as physically during this time. Zechariah tells us that John was in the desert until the start of his public ministry. This fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah said:

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the LORD;

Make straight in the desert

A highway for our God.

Is 40:3 NKJV

Key Verse

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” NLT Luke 1:78-79

Prayer

Heavenly Father, We thank you for the glorious light of Jesus, the one who came to earth to save us and redeem us! Thank you for faithful prophets like John the Baptist and his father Zechariah who led the way for you. Fill us with fresh wonder about the miracle of Jesus being a born a baby, fully human and fully man, to live among us. What a wonderful, precious gift! Amen.

Categories
Bible Verse Devotional

Zechariah’s Prophecy 2

That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

Luke 1:71-75 NKJV

Victory in Jesus

Jesus came into the world to conquer sin and death that we too would find victory over that which keeps us from God. Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. We recognize that our primary adversary is Satan. He stands against us as an accuser and opposes everything that Jesus stands for. Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy but Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

Promises Fulfilled

Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises of God. All the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). God promised that through a descendant of Abraham all the world would be saved.

“I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” Genesis 12:3, NKJV

“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” Genesis 17:7, NKJV

Tissot- God's Promises to Abram
Tissot- God’s Promises to Abram

Saved to Serve

Jesus saves so that we can serve. We are set free from sin, death and shame so that we can freely serve God and man. Perfect love, God’s love, casts out fear so we are free to live righteous despite risk. Yes, we may be misunderstood, hated and persecuted but if we live in holiness, we need not fear. We will be able to walk in holiness all of our lives and “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” Psalm 23:6.

Key Verses

To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

Luke 1:74-75 NKJV

Prayer

Thank you, Lord for freeing us from the bondage of sin and death and the accompanying fear. Help us to boldly serve you all the days of our lives. May we seek you as we desire to live in holiness and righteousness. Guide us today and every day for the rest of our lives. Amen.