Luke 2:25-35: Blessing Through The Spirit

Luke 2:25-35: Blessings Through The Spirit

Luke notes that Simeon was a devout and righteous among Jews waiting for the “consolation” for Israel, which that is the comfort or solace of Israel, but more than that Luke notes that the Holy Spirit was with Simeon which was rare indeed prior to the ascension of Christ. The Holy Spirit had told him that he would not see death until he had seen the Christ, which was Jesus. Luke doesn’t say, but it is probably safe to assume that Simeon had been waiting for a long time for this day, and after seeing Jesus he praises the Lord, saying that he can die in peace.

Simeon also offers two blessings that are also prophecy in response to seeing Jesus – one to God and one to Mary. The first blessing Simeon notes that Jesus is God’s salvation for not only the Jews but also the Gentiles. He says that Jesus was the salvation prepared for “all people” and that Jesus light to the Gentiles. Mary and Joseph were both “marveled” about this, but then Simeon says to Mary a blessing that on the surface may not seem to be much of a blessing. The nature of the blessing notes that Mary’s heart would be pierced and that the child would be for the rising and falling of many in Israel. In other word, Jesus would be a stumbling block for some, but for others would be salvation, ultimately through his death and resurrection.

The connection between the Holy Spirit to blessings and prophecy is remarkable here and elsewhere in the New Testament. John 14:16-18 and later in John 14:26 calls the Holy Spirit a “helper” or “counselor” depending on the translation. The Greek word here is the noun form of the word Luke used in Luke 2:25 when he notes that Simeon was waiting for the “consolation” of Israel, which is “paraklētos”. It was through the Spirit that Simeon was able to know Jesus when he saw him, bless God and bless Mary, and ultimate prophecy concerning Jesus. The Spirit was also upon the disciples when they spoke at Pentecost to in a similar manner (Acts 1:4-8, Acts 2:1-4).

It was after Pentecost though that the Spirit became available to all those who repent and believe in Jesus (Acts 2:38), not only Jews but Gentiles as well. For Christians that are in the in tune with the Spirit there is much that they can sense that those that are not in tune cannot. God works through the Spirit which enables Christians to do the work that God has set out for them. It is imperative then to seek out the will of God by devoutly walking in righteousness the way as Simeon did, and in doing so the Spirit can work!

Lord, use your Spirit to do your work through me!

 

Hebrews 2:5-18: The Blessings of the Incarnate Jesus

Read: Hebrews 2:5-18

After telling his readers not to neglect their salvation, the author of Hebrews talks about the blessings that came from Jesus becoming a man, dying, and resurrecting from the dead. Continuing on the subject of angels, the author reasons that the angels were not sent to the world, rather Jesus was sent, to handle the matter of salvation, the “which we are speaking” in verse 5. He then goes to make two arguments interwoven together.

The first argument comes from Psalm 8:4-6 to establish that man was made lower than the angels. Psalm 8 talks about the majesty of God being displayed in all the earth, and yet in light of this, God takes note of man who “crowned with glory” from God and placed is given dominion over the earth. The Septuagint again translates the Hebrew word “אלהים”, (pronounced “el-o-heem”) here into the Greek word for “angels”, while most English Bibles translate it “God”. The author of Hebrews is talking about angels and using the Septuagint, so applies this to Jesus, who referred to himself as the “son of man” numerous times in the Gospels, being made lower than the angels as a man. In doing so Jesus died for everyone. But unlike man, Jesus had the power to overcome death and remove the power of death from the devil. The author reasons that those who receive salvation also receive glory because of what Jesus did. And all the more, because Jesus became a man, he becomes a “merciful” and “faithful” high priest who can sympathize with the weaknesses of man (this is expounded in chapters 4 and 5).

The second argument comes from a selection of verses from two places: Psalm 22:22, Isaiah 8:17-18. Psalms 22:1 is quoted by Jesus on the cross (Matthew 27:46). The first half of the Psalm talks about a person experiencing great angst, yet the Psalm shifts in attitude when the psalmist recalls that God is not far off. In a manner of speaking, Jesus was reminding those who were witnessing his death that God was not far off. And after three days, Jesus rose from the dead and was with them again. Psalm 22:22 talks of the one undergoing angst proclaiming God in the midst of “brethren”. Isaiah 8 is in the midst of several messianic prophecies. The first one is of his birth (Isaiah 7:7), the second of his name Immanuel (Isaiah 8:8), and the third one of his titles (Isaiah 9:1-7). Isaiah 8 specifically is talking about the judgment to come to Israel from the Assyrians, but nevertheless there are a few faithful who put their trust in God. The author of Hebrews likens this to Jesus too. The common theme between Psalm 22:22 and Isaiah 8:17-18 is that is the presence of family, namely “brethren” and “children”. The author of Hebrews is arguing that Jesus, in becoming a man, makes family of man, such that he is not ashamed to call them “brethren”.

The tangible benefits new life, having a perfect high priest that can sympathize with our weaknesses, and having God as family are simply amazing blessings. Paul uses a very similar motif in Romans – before one is saved, one is destine to die. But what God does through Christ is raise one from a slave to an adopted son such that one is a joint heir with Jesus and also partake in his glory in God’s kingdom (Romans 8:11-17). Knowing Christians are adopted by the King should bring great comfort. God is not far off, and certainly Christians can know that they can take refuge in him, calling him “Abba”, which is analogous in English to “Daddy”!

Lord, your coming has made me alive and a part of your family!
Help me to draw comfort from you because you close by!

Joshua 21:43-45: Promise: Fulfilled

Read: Joshua 21:43-45

These three verses summarize the blessings that God had given to Israel that the book of Joshua elaborated on from chapters 13-21. The verses reiterate many things. First, they reiterate that God promised good things to Israel’s ancestors. The promise was initially given back in Genesis 12:7 when Abraham left his home in what is modern-day Iraq and moved west. The promise was reiterated to Abrahams in Genesis 17:8 and his descendants too (Isaac: Genesis 26:3, Jacob: Genesis 28:14-15). Second, the passage reiterates that the enemies of Israel could not stand before them because God had done the fighting on their behalf. The responsibility of Israel was to be courageous and obey God (Joshua 1:1-9, Joshua 10:14). Third, the verses reiterate that God fulfilled all that he said he was going to do. Joshua spends the last 8 chapters talking in great detail about how God promised inheritances to the people of Israel and how each tribe received that inheritance. God did what he said he was going to do long before any one of those who received the inheritances were born.

There are probably not enough books in the entire world to record the blessings that God has given his people. At the same time, there is a certain confidence too that God’s people can have concerning his blessings, and these promises are in no short supply. Jesus makes all sorts of assertions about the things that were to come after he ascended, such as the promise of the Holy Spirit, words to say, and power to accomplish insurmountable tasks, a promise to build his church, among many others. When one looks back over one’s life, one can see the places where God was at work and also see how the particular promises of God are fulfilled one’s life. These verses in Joshua reiterate the promises, the giver of the promises, and the surety of the promises. In the same manner, one can proclaim just as Joshua did and have confidence in the one who gave the blessings!

Lord, you have done all that you have promised and I am blessed beyond measure!

May it all be to the Praise of your Glory!

Joshua 17: Blessing and Obedience

Read: Joshua 17: Blessing and Obedience

Joshua 17 follows much of the same pattern as Joshua 15 and Joshua 16 – it talks about the dividing of the land for the inheritance of the people and makes some commentary on the particular inheritances. In Chapter 17, Joshua notes three things of interest. First, some of the descendants of Manasseh – one of Joseph’s sons – were able to receive an inheritance along with the sons. Typically, the inheritance was passed to the sons but in case the inheritances was passed to the daughters because there were no sons. Second, the tribe of Manasseh thought of themselves as blessed because they were the descendants of Joseph and also to numerous for the land allotted to them. Joshua said that could conquer the forest country that is part of modern-day Lebanon and take it for their inheritance. Third, it notes that when Israel became “strong enough” they subdued many of the cities and made them forced labor.

The language used in Joshua 17 seems to note a particular urgency of the tribe of Manasseh to receive their inheritance. They had been blessed by God through Joseph, no doubt. And for this reason, they have a particular boldness about them when they come asking for the inheritance for the daughters of Manasseh, citing the episode from Numbers 36 where Moses receive d instruction from God. Likewise, they say they are blessed and to numerous for the allotted inheritance in the hill country, so Joshua instructs them to take the forest land in what is modern-day Lebanon. But even as mighty in number and blessing as they were, they could not drive out a few Canaanite cities. And when they did, they disobeyed the order to drive them out anyways by making the Canaanites vassals. When the Israelites trusted God and obeyed his commands, God did the fighting for them. Apparently, Israel wanted the blessings of God but at the same time stopped obeying him.

The condition of Israel had still exists very much today: people come to God wanting to receive blessings from God but do not want to obey him. God gave the ultimate blessing through Jesus’ death and resurrection – the gift of eternal life by faith. For many, they want to receive this blessing and continue to live life as they did before they received it or receive it and forget about it. The appropriate response, however, should not be one of disobedience. Rather, God’s blessings should compel those who receive them to obey. Christians love God because he loved first (1 John 4:19). The ones who love Jesus show they do this by obeying his commandments. A truly blessed life is one that receives the general blessings of God and the blessings of obedience. This is what God had in mind for Israel and what he still has in mind for all those who follow him now.

Lord, I am most blessed when I obey you! Help me to do just this!

Joshua 14: Delayed Blessings

Read: Joshua 14

Caleb was one of the two spies that went into Canaan after the Israelites had left Egypt. He alongside Joshua was one of the two people that believed that they could take the land that had been promised to them. For their faith, they were the only Israelites that left Egypt that lived to see Israel enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 13, 14). Israel spent 40 years wondering in the desert and now, after some years of conquest, he was 85 years old. Joshua remembered Caleb and for his inheritance, Caleb received the city of Hebron.  Caleb inheritance is noteworthy because Caleb and his family were initially an independent tribe living in the Negev, a desert region in southern Palestine (1 Samuel 30:14). Some of the descendants of Caleb are referred to as “Calebites” noting there ancestry albeit they were absorbed by the tribe of Judah and Caleb was the son of Kenaz, a tribe associated not with Israel but with Edom.  It would be unusual for an outsider to receive such an inheritance because Caleb had no real claim to a birthright. But Caleb didn’t receive his inheritance by birthright; rather he received it because he followed the Lord through all his years.

The New Testament speaks of the blessings of faithful service: The beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5:1-12 speak of many different conditions, each with a blessing that comes from that condition. The New Testament also speaks of four “crowns” First there is a “crown of righteousness” mentioned by Paul that is receive by those who live a righteous life (2 Timothy 4:6-9). Second, there is a “crown of life” that comes from one persevering under trial (James 1:12). Third, there is an “incorruptible crown”. Paul says this crown is received for preaching the gospel and living according to it. It is received because he practices what he preaches, saying the rules and not disqualifying himself by obeying the rules (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Fourth, there is a “crown of glory” that comes from rightly shepherding a flock (1 Peter 5:1-4). Ultimately the crowns that are received for faithful service will be cast before Jesus as an act of worship because all the glory, honor, and power belong to Jesus (Revelation 4:9-11).

Caleb, although he was an outsider, believed in the God if Israel. He did not receive the blessing immediately – it took 45 years and it still was not completely his until he conquered Hebron. Like Caleb and Paul, faith that spurs on obedience has its reward. The rewards that are given are eternal rewards that will ultimately bring more glory to Jesus and may or may not be seen until one meets Jesus face to face.

Lord, help me to be faithful to you even when the blessings are not apparent!

Joshua 11: Obedience and Inheritance

Read: Joshua 11: Obedience and Inheritance

Joshua spends one chapter recounting the conquest of the northern regions of Canaan. The chapter closes giving a summary statement of the conquest: Joshua did as the Lord commanded and Israel received the inheritance that had been promised to them some generations before (Numbers 26:52-55). The chapter constant refers to Joshua as the servant of Moses because Joshua was carrying out commands that Moses had received from the Lord and given to Joshua. And constantly the chapter recounts Joshua doing just as the Lord had commanded Moses. When verse 23 connects the inheritance of the land of Canaan with something that had been repeated over and over namely obedience to the commands of the Lord, it is making a point: the Israelites received the inheritance of Canaan because they were obedient. The previous generation lacked faith and grumbled against God and did not receive the inheritance. Instead, they wandered the wilderness for 40 years until the next generation was ready to conquer the land.

The latter parts of Joshua (Chapters 14-19) talk about the inheritance that each of the tribes of Israel received after the conquest. For the Israelites, there was a separation between real estate and personal possessions. Leviticus 25 makes some interesting remarks concerning land. First, living on the land that God had given the Israelites was connected to their obedience to the law. God says that if they obey his statues they will live securely on the land. Second, the land actually belongs to God and the people living on it are “aliens” sojourning with God. Third, the land was supposed to be permanently possessed by the original grantee, so in the event that the land was land was sold, it was sold with the option to reclaim it later on and there was a guarantee that the land would be returned during the Year of Jubilee. All in all, the land was supposed to be an inheritance given by God to the particular peoples who received it so they could live on it and receive blessings from it as they obeyed the commands of God.

When Christ came, he revealed a better inheritance: the kingdom of God which is everlasting and imperishable (1 Peter 1:4, Matthew 25:34, Ephesians 1:18, Hebrews 9:15). For the Christian then, inheritance is not associated with a piece of real estate on earth; rather an eternal (that is perpetual and everlasting) blessing that comes from being with God. On two occasions, Jesus is asked what a person must do to inherit eternal life:

  • Mark 10:17-22 recounts the story of a wealthy man that came and asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus says to the man, obey the commandments. The man says he had done so since he was a child, but Jesus comes back and tells him that he must sell all that he has and give it to the poor. The man went away sad because he had great wealth. The problem with the man is not that he was a bad person, but that his conception of inheritance and obedience kept him from seeing the better blessing that came from Christ.
  • On another occasion (Luke 10:25-37), a teacher of the law stands up and asks the same question and Jesus asks him what the law says. This man answers according to the scriptures quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and in these things the law is summarized. Jesus tells them to do these things, and he will live. The man wanted to “justify” himself and asked who his neighbor was. Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan – the point being that everyone is one’s neighbor from the most familiar to the complete stranger. In order to love one’s neighbor, one must love everyone without exceptions.

In effect, the means to inheritance is no different from what it was for the Jews. The Jews first believed in God, then followed the commands of God. For Christians the same is true. The difference, however, is that the inheritance is no longer land, rather eternal and imperishable. Hebrews 10:1 notes that the things mentioned in Hebrews 9 were only shadows of things to come, and among those things were the inheritance. Christians, therefore, ought to long for the imperishable, everlasting inheritance. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-29 talk about an imperishable crown that comes from running and winning a race according to the rules. Christians ought to consider how they live their lives in obedience to the commands of Christ so they too, like Israel, will receive an inheritance and be blessed by God because of it!

Lord, help me to do as you say so that I may receive an inheritance too!

Ecclesiastes 11:1-2: Being a Blessing

Read: Ecclesiastes 11:1-2

The reflections in Chapters 11 and 12 are the beginning of the end of the book of Ecclesiastes that reflects on the finality of life and how one should live in light of this. The Preacher begins these reflections by talking about charitable giving and being a blessing to others. He seems to be pessimistic and almost a miser in many ways as he massed fortunes. But in all this, the Preacher concludes, contrary to popular belief, that charitable acts have benefit. The Preacher says that one should “cast there bread on the water” and find it there later and that one should divide his fortune too. The preacher here is encouraging acts of a charity and being a blessing to others. Such acts can have a high return on investment.

Charitable giving is something that exists throughout the Bible. Deuteronomy 15:7-11 encourages those with means to give freely to those in need. Proverbs 11:24-25 and Proverbs 22:9 encourage the wealthy to be generous in their giving rather than miserly. The entire story of Ruth talks about the charity of Boaz towards Ruth and Naomi.  Jesus says that it should be done for charities sake rather than trying to be braggadocios about it (Matthew 6:1-4).  The early Christians sold their possessions shared the proceeds with those in need (Acts 2:44-45, Acts 4:34-37, Acts 11:29-30, Romans 15:25-28). The act of giving to others in need is undoubtedly an integral part of what could be called “normal” Christian behavior.

The ultimate purpose of blessings is so that the salvation of God will be known among the nations. The Psalmist in Psalm 67 asks God for blessing to this end. He wants the ends of the earth to worship God because of the blessings that God pours out on the earth. The ultimate blessing God gave came through Jesus. Jesus died on the cross and resurrected from the grave to make a way for everyone to receive salvation from God. At the end of the age, there will be a multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshipping before God (Revelation 5:9). The Preacher is correct in noting that blessings have a good return on an investment. God uses it as a means to draw the nations to himself. In the same manner, Christians to should be willing to bless others through charitable giving!

Lord, help me to bless others through what you have blessed me with!