fulfillment

All According to Plan

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Matthew 2:13-18 ESV

After having spent more than three years of his life with Jesus, Matthew had come to believe in two things: The Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah and the providence of God. Over time, he had come to recognize that Jesus was the fulfillment of all that the prophets had written concerning long-awaited “anointed one” of God.

Matthew would have remembered the words of Jesus, spoken at the synagogue in Nazareth immediately after He had read the following passage from the scroll containing the writings of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
– Luke 4:18-19 ESV

Jesus had read from Isaiah 61:1-2, a text that the Jews in His audience would have known carried Messianic implications. And when He had finished, He had sat down and stated: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 ESV).

Jesus had boldly claimed to be the fulfillment of this passage. He was the anointed one of God, who possessed the Spirit of God and had been sent on a mission by God. And more than three years later, after Jesus had died and resurrected, He had suddenly appeared to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. Once they recognized Him as their risen Lord, Jesus had provided them with insight into His Messianic pedigree.

…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:27 ESV

Those disciples had returned to Jerusalem, where they shared the news of Jesus’ resurrection with the rest of the disciples, including Matthew. And Luke records that Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst and said to them:.

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. – Luke 24:44-45 ESV

Matthew fully believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. But he also believed that God had been working providentially in the life of Jesus from the moment of His birth to the final minutes of His life on the cross. Nothing had happened that God had not ordained and providentially orchestrated, including the arrival of the Magi and the sinister reaction of Herod to the news of the birth of Israel’s new king.

All of the events surrounding Jesus’ incarnation were planned by God from eternity past. He was not operating in a reactionary mode, responding to events as they happened or forced to alter His plans based on the whims of men. Nothing was a surprise to God. There was never a moment when He was caught off guard or found Himself having to come up with plan B. 

Matthew had come to recognize that every detail concerning Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection had been providentially planned by God. Even the flight of Joseph, Mary, and their newborn son to Egypt had been part of God’s divine strategy. Matthew records that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, warning him in advance that Herod had evil intentions for their son.

“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” – Matthew 2:13 ESV

Joseph had done as the angel commanded, taking his young wife and newborn son to Egypt in order to escape the wrath of Herod. And we know from the following verses, that the threat had been real, because Herod had all the male children under the age of two murdered, in a vain attempt to eliminate any potential threat to his throne.

But Herod’s plan would fail. He would prove unsuccessful in his efforts to kill the rightful heir to David’s throne. In fact, according to the Jewish historian, Josephus, Herod would die a painful and miserable death. Even Luke records that Herod would be “eaten by worms” (Acts 12:23 ESV).

But Jesus would find refuge in Egypt, much like the people of Israel had done hundreds of years earlier. Jacob and his family had also turned to Egypt when faced with a famine in the land of Canaan. And 400 years later, God would lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and return them to the land of Canaan. And the prophet Hosea would later record the news of God’s providential rescue of His people from their captivity in Egypt.

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son. – Hosea 11:1 ESV

Matthew uses this very same Old Testament passage to illustrate how Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of what happened when God had returned His “son” from Egypt. Jesus would return from a distant land “to proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, (and) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

When God had led the people of Israel out of Egypt, He had done so in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham. He had plans to return them to the land of Canaan, which He was going to give them as an inheritance. He had promised to give Abraham a land, a seed, and a blessing. But while the Israelites finally made it to the land and eventually occupied it, they had never fully lived up to God’s expectations for them. They had proved disobedient and unfaithful. But God was still going to bless the nations through the “seed” of Abraham. And Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise. The apostle Paul made this point perfectly clear when he wrote:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. – Galatians 3:13-16 ESV

God would once again call “the seed” of Abraham out of Egypt, but this time the blessing would come to the Gentiles. Jesus would do what the Jews had failed to do. He would live in perfect obedience to the will of God, carrying out His commands and accomplishing His will. And there was nothing Herod the Great or his son and successor, Herod Antipas, could do to thwart the plans of the sovereign God. Jesus would not only return from Egypt, but He would also survive childhood, grow to be a man, and begin His earthly ministry just as God had sovereignly ordained. All according to the divine plan and in keeping with on God’s predetermined timeline. 

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4-5 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

You Will Not Be Forgotten

21 Remember these things, O Jacob,
    and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
    O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
    and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.

23 Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it;
    shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
    O forest, and every tree in it!
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
    and will be glorified[c] in Israel.

24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
    who formed you from the womb:
“I am the Lord, who made all things,
    who alone stretched out the heavens,
    who spread out the earth by myself,
25 who frustrates the signs of liars
    and makes fools of diviners,
who turns wise men back
    and makes their knowledge foolish,
26 who confirms the word of his servant
    and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
    and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
    and I will raise up their ruins’;
27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
    I will dry up your rivers’;
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
    and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
    and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”
– Isaiah 44:21-28

By now, we have seen that God has a number of things in store for the people of Judah. One involves their impending destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. God has already informed King Hezekiah that this would happen.

“Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.” – Isaiah 39:6 ESV

And to make matters worse, God informed Hezekiah that some of his sons would “be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (Isaiah 39:7 ESV). But God had also revealed that, while Judah would “receive double for her sins” (Isaiah 40:2 ESV), He would not abandon them completely. Yes, they would face His righteous wrath in the form of their defeat and exile, but He would once again show them His unmerited favor. Isaiah was to say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” He was to assure them, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might” (Isaiah 40:9-10 ESV).

In chapter 41, God reminded the people of Judah that they belonged to Him and, no matter what happened, they had nothing to fear. He was not going to care for them, even in their greatest times of distress.

“‘You are my servant,
    I have chosen you and not cast you off’;
fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
– Isaiah 41:9-10 ESV

“For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not,
    I am the one who helps you.’”
– Isaiah 41:13 ESV

In chapter 42, God revealed His plans to send His Servant, who would one day “bring forth justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1 ESV). This obvious reference to Jesus, the Messiah, lets the people of Judah know that God has something remarkable in plan for them in the future.

“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
   to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.”
– Isaiah 42:6-7 ESV

But God has more to say about the matter. In chapter 43, He let them know that there was even more good news coming. Their exile would be followed by a second exodus from captivity and a re-entrance into the land of promise.

“Fear not, for I am with you;
    I will bring your offspring from the east,
    and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, Give up,
    and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”
– Isaiah 43:6-7 ESV

God was not going to forget Judah. Yet, when the Babylonians began invading their territories and commenced the slow and methodical pillaging of their cities and towns, it was going to feel as if God was nowhere to be found. They would assume He had abandoned them, leaving them powerless and defenseless before their enemies. But, once again, God assures them that nothing could be further from the truth.

“Remember these things, O Jacob,
    and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
    O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
    and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.”
– Isaiah 44:6-7 ESV

Not only would God not forget them, but He would also forgive them. He would remove their sins from them. All He asked is that they would remember that He alone is God. He called on them to recognize the futility and foolishness of false gods. An idol made by the hands of a man was incapable of remembering or redeeming. A false god can’t forgive sins. Only God can do that.

In response, Isaiah calls on the whole creative order to praise God for His salvation of Israel. And his statement regarding Israel’s glorious restoration by God is in the past-tense, as if it has already happened.

For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
    and will be glorified in Israel.
– Isaiah 44:23 ESV

And the following verses seem to provide an explanation for this amazing act of redemption and restoration. God is described as the Lord, Jehovah, their Redeemer. And that description is followed by a series of statements that all begin with the word, “who,” which provides further explanation of God’s character.

who formed you from the womb – vs 24

who alone stretched out the heavens – vs 24

who spread out the earth by myself – vs 24

who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners – vs 25

who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish – vs 25

who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers – vs 26

who says of Jerusalem, “She shall be inhabited,” and of the cities of Judah, “They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins” – vs 26

who says to the deep, “Be dry; I will dry up your rivers” – vs 27

who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose” – vs 28

All of these statements set apart God as distinct and wholly different from any other god. He is the one true God. These are statements of authority, sovereignty, and unparalleled power. So, when God says of Jerusalem, “‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid’” (Isaiah 44:28 ESV), it is guaranteed to happen. The people of Judah would end up in exile in Babylon, because God had decreed it. But they would also be restored to the land, because God had declared it. And here is God, revealing that He will use Cyrus, a Persian king, to fulfill His will for Judah. This remarkable prophecy was fulfilled to the letter when, after Judah had spent 70 years in exile in Babylon, King Cyrus issued is decree giving them royal permission and provision to return to the land and rebuilt their city and temple.

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” – Ezra 1:1-4 ESV

God did not forget. And He did blot out their sins, allowing them to return to the land of promise. His grace arranged it all, including the king’s decree, the provision of funds, the rebuilding of the city and its walls, and the restoration of the temple and the sacrificial system. He proved Himself faithful. And this amazing story of God’s covenant-faithfulness should encourage us today. He always follows through. He always keeps His word. He never forgets and He never forsakes.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Nothing Is Too Hard For You.

“After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord, saying: ‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds. You have shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day. You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror. And you gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. And they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or walk in your law. They did nothing of all you commanded them to do. Therefore you have made all this disaster come upon them. Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it, and because of sword and famine and pestilence the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it. Yet you, O Lord God, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.’” Jeremiah 32:16-25 ESV

If anybody but God had recommended to Jeremiah that he make a long-term investment in real estate located in Judah, he would have told them to take a hike. But when God commanded that Jeremiah buy land from his cousin, Hanamel, he obeyed. No, it didn’t make any sense. Paying good money for land that had been confiscated by the occupying forces of King Nebuchadnezzar had to have seemed like a lousy investment strategy – even to Jeremiah. But he did what the Lord commanded. Then he prayed. And in his prayer, he communicated to God his confusion over what had just transpired. But first, he started by praising God for His great power. He acknowledge that God was the creator of the universe. He acknowledged God’s unfailing love, but also noted that God was just and righteous, giving people exactly what they deserve. He confessed that God had a reputation for doing great things for His people, having delivered them from captivity in Egypt. Then He had given them the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, helping them take it from the pagan people groups that occupied upon their arrival. And Jeremiah praises God's all-powerful capacity to come to the aid of His people, acknowledging that “Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17 ESV). Now, part of that is probably Jeremiah speaking what he cognitively knows to be true, but he is obviously wrestling with it on a practical level. While he has praised God for His power and the unquestionable reliability of His word, he ends his prayer with the statement:

Yet you, O Lord God, have said to me, ‘Buy the field for money and get witnesses’—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.” – Jeremiah 32:25 ESV

Everything God had said would happen to the people of Judah had happened. He had brought disaster upon them in the form of the Babylonians. Siege walls had been erected the city of Jerusalem. Famine and pestilence had already begun with the city because of the blockade created by the Babylonian forces. Food was not making its way into Jerusalem. People were dying of hunger and, as a result, disease was spreading among the living. And Jeremiah tells God, “What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it” (Jeremiah 32:24 ESV).

And this is where Jeremiah becomes a bit incredulous. With all that is taking place, he can’t believe that God would have him buy land in Judah. Even though he believes that nothing is too difficult for God, he is having a hard time getting his head around the idea that one day land in Judah will be of any value again. This prayer is a great reminder to each of us that trusting God will not always be painless or doubt-free. Jeremiah believed in God. He had seen God do incredible things. He had watched as every single one of God’s pronouncements against Judah had come about. He knew God was reliable and trustworthy. He was convinced that God was fully capable of accomplishing anything and everything He promised to do. But now that Jeremiah had a personal investment in the future of God’s restoration of Judah, he was struggling with some doubts. Now, he was personally dependent upon God to one day restore the people to the land. And it had to have crossed Jeremiah’s mind that he would not be around when that event took place. God had already said that the people of Judah would be in captivity for 70 years.

“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” – Jeremiah 29:10-11 ESV

There is no way Jeremiah would live long enough to see that day. So, God’s command that he buy land in Judah had to have seemed that much more strange to him. How would he ever know how things turned out in the future? What guarantees did he have that his descendants would occupy the land he purchased? He was going to have to trust God. As we looked at yesterday. the author of Hebrews describes faith as “being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). Jeremiah could see the Babylonian troops and the siege walls. He was fully convinced that God’s promises come true, because they were staring him straight in the face. But when it came to the promise of the restoration of the people to the land, something God had said would happen 70 years later, Jeremiah was a bit less adamant in his belief.

In speaking of the faith of Abraham and Sarah, the author of Hebrews says they “died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13 NLT). That is exactly what God was asking Jeremiah to do. By having Jeremiah purchase the land in Anathoth, God was forcing Jeremiah to put his hope and trust in something he couldn’t yet see. Not only that, he would never live to see it happen. But this was about far more than just a piece of property in Anathoth. This was about the far-in-the-distance promises of God. At the end of Hebrews 11, the author states:

And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us. – Hebrews 11:39-40 NLT

Each of the patriarchs listed in this great "Hall of Faith" died without having seen the promises of God fulfilled in their entirety. Moses never entered the land of promise. Jacob and his son Joseph would each die in Egypt, but both believing that their descendants would one day return to the land. Joseph even made his brothers promise to take his bones with them when the did return. Sarah had to believe that God was going to bless her with many descendants, even though Isaac would be the only one she would live long enough to see with her own eyes. She never lived to see the incredible fulfillment of God’s promise to she and Abraham. But she believed. And Jeremiah was going to have to believe God as well. The land purchased by Jeremiah would one day be inhabited by his descendants. No, he would not be around to see it, but he could trust God for it. And as Jeremiah stated in his prayer, nothing is too difficult for God. But he was going to have to trust God for that which he could not see. The apostle Paul puts it this way:

Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:24-25 NLT

Paul emphasized the same thing to the Corinthian believers.

So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT

For we live by believing and not by seeing. – 2 Corinthians 5:7 NLT

Jeremiah had been forced to invest in the trustworthiness of God. And isn’t that what each of us does when we place our faith in Jesus? We are believing in that which we cannot see. We are investing in a future that has not yet happened or realized. In His great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke these powerful words that echo the expectation God was placing on Jeremiah by having him buy the land.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” – Matthew 6:19-21 NLT

In essence, Jeremiah’s investment was a heavenly one. He was buying temporal land, but it was based on eternal and spiritual promises given by God Himself. His purchase was not based on earthly financial strategies. It was in obedience to the word of God and solely based on the trustworthiness of God to accomplish His divine will – even if Jeremiah never lived to see it happen. Now, that is faith.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson≠≠

He Is Coming!

Daniel 11-12, Revelation 22

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20 ESV

As the books of Daniel and Revelation both come to a close, they provide encouraging reminders that the events recorded in them will take place. Daniel is told to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4 ESV). He is to seal up what is contained in the prophesies provided by God and preserve them. God was not telling Daniel to hide them, but to make sure that he preserved them so that the words contained within them would be proven true when all took place just as God had said. In the book of Revelation, John is told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Revelation 22:10 ESV). This was an indication that the end was close. The culmination of all God's plans for the redemption of mankind were nearer than they had ever been. There is a surety and a certainty contained in both of these books. What God has said will take place. What He has prophesied will come to pass. There will be much that will happen between now and the end of time. Daniel was told of events involving the nations of the world that would result in all kinds of political and military upheaval in the centuries to come. The Persians, Egyptians, Seleucids, and Greeks would jockey for power, conquering one another and making the Middle East a volatile and unstable environment for years to come. All the way up until the rise of the Roman empire, Palestine would find itself in the middle of a power struggle between powerful nations, leaving the people of Israel as helpless pawns and easy preys for their enemies. The 400 years between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament were some of the most tumultuous times on earth – just as God had said they would be. But they would end with the coming of the Son of God as an innocent human baby.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But Christ's first advent was designed to pay for sin and offer salvation and justification to all who would believe in Him. His first coming was to satisfy the just demands of a holy and righteous God who had to punish mankind for their rebellion against His sovereign rule. Jesus became the sin substitute, accomplishing for man what he could not have done for himself. Jesus lived a sinless life and lived in perfect obedience to the just requirements of God's holy law. He became the perfect, spotless Lamb who was sacrificed as a payment for the sins of mankind. His death made eternal life possible. He exchanged His righteousness for man's sins. He bore our burden and died the death we deserved. All in fulfillment of God's divine plan. But while His redemptive work is finished, His job is not yet done. He is coming again. He has unfinished business. The point of all prophesy is the future. In Daniel's case, he was given insight into events that would take place over the coming centuries. And all of what was recorded in chapter 11, verses 1-35 has taken place. The various kings and nations mentioned can be easily traced and the accuracy of the prophecies contained in these verses can be easily proven. So if what God said would happen has actually taken place, why would we not believe that everything else He promised would be fulfilled as well. God told Daniel that “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1 ESV). He was speaking of the Great Tribulation, the missing seventieth week spoken of in Daniel 9. It will be a time of great trouble. Jesus Himself described it in these sobering terms: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21 ESV). But God had good news for Daniel. “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1b ESV). God would redeem a remnant of His people. He even told Daniel, “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13 ESV). This does not mean that Daniel would live to see the end, but that he would be part of the faithful remnant who would undergo resurrection from the dead and stand before “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:3 ESV).     

What does this passage reveal about man?

Jesus told us, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:7-8 ESV). The centuries have recorded a wide range of events, from wars to natural disasters. We continue to watch as the influence of sin on the world manifests itself in a variety of unsettling forms. There are days when it would appear as if the end was near. We even question whether it can get any worse. But Jesus said these things are simply the birth pains. They are the precursor to something even greater yet to come. Man's rebellion against God will continue to increase up until the bitter end. The period of the Great Tribulation will see the rise of the Antichrist and the greatest outpouring of persecution on the Jews that the world has ever seen. Sin will have reached its apex. Man's rebellion against God and Satan's war against God's people will come to a climax. And then God will step in.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

John records the stirring words of Jesus Himself, predicting His second advent. “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12-13 ESV). He is coming again. God predicted it and He will bring it to pass. Again, Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon”  and the response of those of us who call Him our Lord and Savior should be, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20 ESV). We should long for His coming. We should pray for His return. And while we wait, we should issue the words found in Revelation 22:17: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17 ESV). Jesus is coming again. And while there may appear to be plenty of time before that event takes place, we must live with a sense of urgency. We are to live soberly and righteously, as if His return could take place at any minute. We are to issue an invitation to everyone we meet, inviting them to “Come!” We are to point all those who are thirsty to the source of living water – Jesus Christ. And while we wait for His return, we are to do exactly what the angel told John, “Worship God” (Revelation 22:9 ESV). He is to be our focus. He is to be our source of hope. He is to be our help in times of trouble and our strength when we feel weak. We must constantly remind ourselves that God is not done yet. His will WILL be done. His plan WILL be fulfilled. His Son WILL return. His Kingdom WILL come. And sin WILL be no more.

Father, You are worthy of worship. You are deserving of my praise and my trust. You have proven Yourself trustworthy and true time and time again – in history and in my life. Your Words always come true. Your prophecies always get fulfilled. Your will always comes to pass. Help me to live in light of those realities. And, come Lord Jesus, come! Amen

God's Plan Unfolding.

Matthew 2:1-23

“This fulfilled what the prophet had said.” – Matthew 2:23 NLT

Four different times in this passage we read of events that were in direct fulfillment of prophetic writings recorded hundreds of years earlier. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not as a result of random chance, but in direct fulfillment of God's divine plan that He had put in place long before the creation of the world. In these 23 verses, we see God's perfect plan unfolding with precision. It is not coincidence that Herod the Great is on the throne, operating as the Roman-appointed king of Israel. He was a tyrant, a ruthless and wicked man who had murdered members of his own family to protect his position as king. Two years after Jesus' birth, Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus are still living in Bethlehem. Wise men from a distant country, arrived in Jerusalem, seeking information regarding the newborn king of the Jews. It seems these men somehow knew that the star that had appeared in the sky was a premonition of something new that was happening. How they linked it to the birth of a new king in Israel, we are not told. But their arrival on the scene in Jerusalem and their questions regarding the birth of the Messiah, deeply concerned King Herod. Unwilling to tolerate a potential threat to his throne, he begins to plot how to discover and eliminate this usurper. Through it all, God is in control. He warns Joseph to take his wife and the child and escape to Egypt. What is amazing is that the funds for this costly trip would have been provided by the gifts of the wise men. The gold, frankincense and myrrh could have easily been liquidated into cash used to pay for their trip and the accommodations they required while living in Egypt. This trip and their time in Egypt were also in direct fulfillment of God's Word. As the children of God had found themselves exiled to the land of Egypt and then rescued by the hand of God, so the Son of God would spend time exiled into this foreign country. But God would bring Him back and restore Him to the land.

Upon hearing that the wise men had refused to return to Jerusalem and give him word regarding the whereabouts of this newborn king, Herod's anger erupted and he unleashed his fury on the innocent children living in Bethlehem. His pogrom of infanticide was also a fulfillment of what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. Herod, acting as an enemy of God, failed in his attempt to eliminate the Messiah. This would not be the last time that the enemy would attempt to thwart the plan of God in order to prevent the Messiah from fulfilling His role as Savior.

At just the right time, God gave word to Joseph that it was safe to return. But rather than return to Bethlehem, God directed Joseph and his family to Nazareth. This would become Jesus' home town for the next 30 years of His life. He would live there in relative obscurity and anonymity until it was time for His earthly ministry to begin. All in fulfillment of God's meticulously detailed plan. All had happened as God had ordained it. No mistakes, no coincidences, no human intervention or unexpected occurrences. It all was unfolding just as God had planned it. Right down to the smallest detail.

Father, it is amazing to think that this story was written long before mankind even existed, before there was a Jewish people or a Roman nation. You came up with this plan before Abraham was chosen or David was anointed king of Israel. And yet I still worry at times that You are not in control or are incapable of seeing my through my current circumstances. Help me rest in Your sovereignty and power. You are in control, at all times, and over all things. Amen.