The Greatest Story – Part 12: Temptation

Jesus smiled as He heard His Father’s voice boom out from Heaven, oh how He missed hearing Him so clearly. He thanked John and waded out of the water as people stood with a look of wonderment upon the faces. Many pushed closer to touch Him and Jesus smiled, welcoming them to Him. When all the fuss died down He withdrew to the mountains nearby to pray and was then led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness.

For forty days and forty nights Jesus had fasted and prayed, today He felt as if all His strength evaporated and His parched lips reminded Him of how desperate He was for a drink. Although He felt physically weak His spirit remained steadfast and strong. The fact that Jesus could call upon Scripture had brought Him much comfort over the long days and nights. He knew that it was the words from the Psalms that had enabled Him to endure and in particular He had often called out for God to revive Him, just like the Psalmist had cried out:

“I’m bruised and broken, overwhelmed by it all;
breathe life into me again by your living word.” Psalm 119:107 (TPT)

As Jesus rolled over His weary head began to pound and He once again cried out for a refreshing. He could feel the sun beating down on Him causing further damage to His aching skin but He couldn’t find the strength to move. He tried to roll His head to the side but sharp rocks cut into His scalp. Jesus laid there and tried to pray through the pain and discomfort. As darkness began to creep over the land Jesus felt a change in the atmosphere and knew that something was shifting, as He slowly sat up He was surprised to see that He had company. The hooded figure remained standing over Him and Jesus tried to see who it was. The Accuser glared at Jesus and menacingly growled: ‘Are You really the Son of God?”, Satan bent down and spat the last word out and then continued: ‘IF You are then why don’t you tell these stones to become loaves of bread?’, he laughed as he kicked rocks towards Jesus. A few tumbled and hit Jesus’ knee which caused a shooting pain. Jesus calmly returned the menacing gaze and softly replied: ‘No! The Scriptures explain that man does not live on bread alone but lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Satan continued to sneer at Jesus and walked to the edge of the cliff, beckoning Jesus to join him. Jesus slowly pushed Himself up and stifled a groan as His freshly injured knee tried to take His weight. As Jesus looked out over Jerusalem He smiled, the Temple sparkled as the sun’s rays hit the golden carvings.  Satan turned to Jesus and indicated to the ground below ‘IF You’re truly the Son of God then jump off the cliff.’ Satan leaned in closer and sneered ‘the Scriptures say that God will order His angels to protect You.’, he looked down at Jesus’ injured leg and laughed ‘I thought the angels were meant to hold You up with their hands so that You wouldn’t even stub Your toe on a stone.’ Satan indicated to the ground again ‘jump!’. Jesus took a step back from the ledge and replied: ‘it is written that you must NOT test the Lord God.’

Satan quickly turned and climbed higher up the mountain, beckoning Jesus to follow. Jesus took a deep breath and slowly made His way higher. Near the peak of the mountain Satan stopped and Jesus joined him but at a distance, Jesus could feel His legs shaking and prayed for strength as the dark spots danced before His eyes trying to overtake Him and pull Him into a dark slumber. Satan turned to Jesus and smiled ‘I will give ALL of this to You, just one taste and You will see how intoxicating power can be!’ his hand made a grand sweeping gesture. Satan leaned in close to Jesus ‘just kneel down and worship me.’, he smirked and looked at Jesus with eager anticipation in his eyes. Jesus lifted His eyes and looked back into the Accuser’s face ‘leave me alone, get out of here! For the Scriptures say that we are to worship only the Lord God Almighty and serve only Him!’ Satan looked closely at Jesus’ face with delight, he could see that Jesus was struggling, but Jesus screamed out: ‘GO!’ and Satan quickly withdrew down the mountain. As soon as Satan was out of sight Jesus collapsed onto the ground, as He laid there He could feel the last of His energy leaving His body.

Jesus felt a cold cloth being pressed to His mouth and quickly tried to sit up, ‘shhh, it’s ok’ Jesus forced his tired gritty eyes to open and smiled as He took in the magnificent face of Michael. Jesus looked around and saw that Michael had brought his faithful warriors and breathed a sigh of relief as He took in the sight of many angels surrounding Him. He could feel hands of comfort tending to His injured knee, blistered feet and sunburnt face.

Michael handed Jesus manna and He grabbed it with gratitude ‘ah the food of angels.’, Michael smiled ‘yes but for some strange reason eating it 3 times a day for 40 years tends to make people grumpy’, Jesus laughed but then reflected with sadness on the Israelites in the wilderness, they had witnessed many astonishing miracles, but yet their hearts had quickly turned to rebellion and disobedience. God’s beloved and delivered people had been led by a cloud each day and a pillar of fire each night, but yet still they had doubted God’s presence amongst them. They had been given food, the very same food that Jesus now held in His hands, which had been delivered direct from the heavens, but yet still they had grumbled and complained doubting God as their perfect Provider. When Moses had struck the rock and water gushed forth surely that would have been an amazing sight to behold, but yet they took their fill and still mumbled and complained. When the Promise Land was within easy grasp fear and trepidation has arisen in their hearts, they still had not learnt that God is a mighty, fierce and faithful Warrior. Jesus allowed tears to flow as His heart ached, how He longed for all to know and truly believe that God IS faithful towards those who believe in Him.

Jesus sat up and broke the thin bread, He could smell the sweet coriander and as He placed it on His tongue the richness of honey revived Him immediately. Michael handed Jesus a jug of water and Jesus took great big gulping sips, ‘hey slow down’ Michael laughed, ‘I can’t have you getting all water logged on me’. Jesus laughed and put the jug down to have some more of the delicious manna.

As the stars came out Michael and Jesus talked late into the night, by the warmth of the fire Jesus slept soundly and awoke feeling strong and revived.

“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin.” Hebrews 4:15 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Notes:

The temptation of Jesus is found in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.

You can read more about it at allaboutjesuschrist.org.

If you would like to read more about manna gotquestions.org has an interesting article.

Jesus, the only One

who deeply understands

our weaknesses

see Hebrews 4:15

The Greatest Story Part 11: John The Baptist

John smiled as he looked around his home, the inhabitable hostile environment had become a place of refuge for him. It was here in this dark cave, away from the crowds and family expectations, that he had been prepared for what he was about to embark on. He looked around with some sorrow in his heart for he knew that he would miss this place. As he prepared to leave he reflected upon the journey that had brought him to this place.

His wonderful and loving parents took great delight in telling him, every birthday, about his miraculous entry into the world. They had both given up hope of ever having children until a visit from an angel told his father, Zechariah, that his mother, Elizabeth, would soon conceive a boy and that he was to be called John (Jehovah is gracious), for God had heard their prayers and was now answering them. John’s mother would laugh each time his father humbly recalled how he doubted that it could happen. John’s mother would say it was wonderfully quiet when his father was unable to speak and then they would all smile and laugh.

When John had been presented at the temple his father was given the ability to speak and had prophesied over John:

‘Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has extended to us His amazing grace. He has visited and redeemed His people.
He has sent us a mighty Saviour, One who will rise up in strength and fight for us. The promise made to David has been fulfilled and the prophet’s words from long ago will now unfold. The covenant made with Abraham now is revealed, oh how merciful and faithful God is!

What a glorious day for now we will be saved from our enemies and those who despise us. We can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness we bow down to the only One who can save, may we serve Him faithfully for all of our days.

You, my precious son, will be called the prophet of the Most High and you will prepare the way for the great Redeemer. You will tell people how to find salvation and turn their hearts to repentance.
God’s tender mercy is extended to us and the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us. This Light will shine on those who sit in the darkness, pulling them from the shadow of death and guiding them along the path of perfect peace.’ (Luke 1:76-77 paraphrased)

John had memorised every word that his father had declared that day because each time he heard it something had stirred deep within him and now he knew it was time to act.

John’s appearance, clothes woven from course camel hair, and strange eating habits, wild honey and locusts, should have turned people away but his words struck at their hearts:

“Prepare your hearts for the coming of the Lord Yahweh” Mark 1:3 (TPT)

“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” Matthew 3:2 (NLT)

People flooded to him from Jerusalem, Judea and all over the Jordan Valley to listen to him speak. When people repented John would baptise then in the Jordan River. His following stirred the interests of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but they did not appreciate him calling them a ‘brood of snakes’; they were outraged that John did not respect their ties to Abraham and that he dared to even say that their lineage would not matter to God; they had almost dragged John away when he referred to them as being chaff and that God was ready to separate the chaff from the wheat, that God would then clean up the threshing floor and burn the chaff with an never-ending fire (Matthew 3:1-15).

They became so outraged that they tried to turn people away from listening to John, however, no matter how hard they tried people kept flooding in to hear John’s message, just as the prophet had foretold the messenger prepared the way:

“The Coming Day of Judgment: ‘Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Malachi 3:1 (NLT)

The people were stirred into a great excitement and expectation for John often referred to another that was coming. One who would be greater and more powerful, who would come and baptise them with the Holy Spirit:

“There is a man coming after me who is greater and a lot more powerful than I am. I’m not even worthy to bend down and untie the strap of his sandals. I’ve baptized you into water, but he will baptize you into the Spirit of Holiness!” Mark 1:1-8 (TPT)

Then suddenly the day arrived, John was baptising people and sharing the Good News when suddenly Jesus appeared. He waded into the water and walked up to John ‘hey cousin’, Jesus embraced John as the crowd stood watching. John embraced Jesus with tears in his eyes ‘oh it is good to see You.’

Jesus stepped back and said ‘please baptise me’

John looked at Him puzzled ‘but I need to be baptised by You’

Jesus smiled ‘it must be done, for we all have to be obedient to God and follow His commands.’

John’s heart filled with deep revelation and understanding, and he nodded. As John lowered Jesus into the water words flowed from his mouth with great reverence and awe ‘I baptise You in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’

As Jesus came up from the water He smiled at John, then stepped away a little and prayed. Suddenly the heavens opened, the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and the voice of God declared:

“This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me such delight and great joy.”

Notes:

The article Who Was John the Baptist? By Wayne Jackson is a fascinating read, if you’d like to know more about the amazing man here is the link: www.christiancourier.com

The baptism of Jesus can be found in Luke :21-22, Matthew 3:13-17 and Mark 1:9-11. See more details at BibleStudyTools.com.

The Greatest Story – Part 10: Pilgrimage

The years flew by, life In Galilee suited Joseph and Mary. Joseph set up a carpentry business and they welcomed more children into their family: James, Elizabeth, Joses, twin girls Joanna and Sapphira, Judas and Simon. Jesus proved to be a helpful big brother and Mary was grateful for His constant encouragement and help when He wasn’t studying or assisting Joseph. Elizabeth was just as sweet and kind as Mary’s cousin and become a second mother to the other children, even Jesus listened to her and James when given a stern look from his mother. Mary’s heart was full of love for her children and her life was busy but wonderful.

Each year Joseph and Mary had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival (Luke 2:41). Mary always loved the journey because it meant quality time with her family and friends. She always found that the eight-day festival was a time of refreshing and rest because there were many hands to help out with the children. As she prepared for the upcoming pilgrimage she smiled and rejoiced, this one felt extra special. Jesus in particular seemed to be cherishing this trip more than the others. Mary smiled as He raced in to wash up for dinner, He had been out helping Joseph deliver items and was covered in sawdust. ‘slow down’ she called out as He raced past and nearly toppled Simon. ‘sorry’ Jesus yelled back with a grin. Mary tried to look stern but her heart swelled with pride, Jesus was just always so excited about everything and He brought so much joy to her life. Joseph came in and Mary smiled as he was swamped by the children ‘all set?’, Joseph smiled ‘yes I’ve finished what I can and there is no rush for the rest of the items.’.

After a noisy dinner Mary and the children settled down to listen to Joseph retell the story of the first Passover. When he had finished Mary put the youngest children to bed, she came back into the kitchen to find Joseph and Jesus busily packing the last items as Elizabeth prepared the final food stores they would need. Mary looked around at all the items they had gathered, ‘you’d think after all these years we would be able to pack a bit lighter?’. Joseph laughed ‘yeah right’. When the final preparations had been made Mary collapsed into bed utterly exhausted, she wasn’t sure how she would fare on the long trek and prayed for a refreshing sleep.

Over the next few days the kilometres quickly clocked up and Mary discovered that the fresh air actually invigorated her, it probably had a lot to do with the wonderful conversations she was able to have. Each night she laid down feeling content and happy. There was something truly special about this trip, the closer they got the more convinced she became. On the outskirts of Jerusalem, the crowds increased and Mary kept a close eye on her children. Mary and Joseph would be staying with Rufus and Merry again and she was so excited about being able to catch up with her dear friends. Each year it was one of the highlights at the end of the long journey. The upstairs room was crowded with all of them squeezed in so Jesus and James insisted on sleeping in the hay with the animals. Mary laughed at Jesus’ request and took great delight in showing Him exactly where He had spent His first few nights. Mary stood there squeezing Jesus and re telling the tale of His birth, tears flowed freely as she recalled the shepherds and the young boy. Jesus was fascinated and listened to Mary retell the story as He stroked the sheep that had gathered around them. Making sure that the boys were comfortable Mary went in to help with dinner preparations.

The next few days passed in a euphoric blur, they days were busy and full. Mary was able to take the younger children home most afternoons so that they could all have a sleep and stay up late for the evening events. Jesus and His cousin John spent a lot of time together and Elizabeth and Mary were harassed regularly by their constant requests to go into the hillside. Most days the boys would escape before dawn to explore the woods nearby and Mary constantly prayed for their safety.

The days passed quickly, Joseph and Mary soon found themselves packing up to leave. As usual Jesus was off with John so Mary gathered her other children and began the long trek home. At camp the first night Mary made her way over the Elizabeth to check on Jesus, her stomach dropped when she saw that Jesus was not with them. John explained they he hadn’t seen Jesus all day. Mary raced back to Joseph with her heart hammering and her mouth uttering a prayer: ‘Oh God, I’m so sorry’. She rushed into Joseph’s arms crying and blubbering that Jesus was lost, ‘I’m sure He’s here, why don’t you check with your relatives that way and I’ll check over this way.’. Mary nodded numbly and stumbled in the direction Joseph had pointed her. By the time darkness fell over the camp Joseph and Mary realised that Jesus was most definitely NOT with them. Mary cried herself to sleep that night and they made plans to return and look for Him.

Rufus and Merry were surprised but delighted to see them return so soon but their celebration soon turned into concern when they heard the news that Jesus was missing. For 3 days Joseph and Mary exhausted themselves looking everywhere they could for Jesus and each night Mary fell into a fitful sleep. She awoke early each morning with the feelings of guilt and condemnation falling heavy upon her heart. Her mind was assaulted with constant questions: how could she have been so careless? Losing the Son of God, how could she ever be forgiven? What if something truly terrible had happened to Him?  Mary fretted that her 12 year-old son was somewhere strange, alone and afraid.  As the sun rose Mary drew upon God’s grace and mercy afresh and asked for help to find Jesus.

Joseph and Mary had checked everywhere they could think of when a cousin came running up to them ‘I’ve found Him’ he puffed and tugged them along to the temple. Mary wept with relief when she saw Jesus but was surprised to find Him surrounded by the religious leaders and her ears could hardly believe that Jesus was actually asking extremely in-depth questions. As Joseph and Mary made their way closer she could hear Jesus asking all sorts of questions and was amazed that the Rabbis were patiently answering. Mary could hear the murmuring from those close by ‘for a young man He seems so full of wisdom’, she looked around and could see that people were amazed by His knowledge. But then the relief in Mary’s heart quickly turned to anger, didn’t He understand that they had been frantic with worry! Why did He stay behind? As Mary got closer she called out: ‘Son, why have you done this to us? We’ve been frantic with worry and searching for you everywhere!’ Jesus looked at her and smiled ‘there was no need to search, you should have known I would be in my Father’s house.’ Mary looked at Joseph puzzled and troubled, what did He mean? Joseph shrugged and gave Jesus a hug and they made their way home. (Luke 2:43-50).

“As Jesus grew, so did his wisdom and maturity. The favor of men increased upon his life, for he was loved greatly by God.” Luke 2:52 The Passion Translation (TPT)

Notes:

Jesus’ brothers are mentioned in the Gospels (Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3) but his sisters aren’t mentioned by name. The book: Jesus’ Family Tree: Seeing God’s Faithfulness in the Genealogy of Christ (Rose Publishing), suggests that there were at least seven children in the family. I researched for some girl’s names and found Yeshua in Context, I picked 2 from that list and decided that Mary’s close relationship with her cousin Elizabeth probably would have led her to choosing to name her first daughter Elizabeth.

More info can be found at Bible Info  or Chrsitianity.com.

Pilgrimage
A long journey
A quest
A devoted search

Following Jesus and learning about His wonderful ways is a lifelong journey.

Studying God’s Word and trying to live it out is a lifelong quest.

Getting to know the Holy Spirit is a devoted search that transforms us from glory to glory for all of our days.

The Greatest Story – Part 9: Home

Mary sat down and let the tears fall. She watched as Jesus slept and wondered if she should join him. The tiredness felt heavy today, she tried to pray but failed to find the words. For over 3 years she’d tried to settle into the unfamiliar place, to learn a new language and accept the weird smells around her but today it was all too much. Mary wept for her homeland and her family. The nausea from the past few days lingered and Mary wondered why. Giving into her feelings of desperation Mary laid down next to Jesus and prayed for sleep to come, maybe the world wouldn’t feel so big and overwhelming with a clear head.

Joseph came home early sensing that today Mary would be struggling, it was her Mother’s birthday and Joseph knew that Mary’s mind would be drawn to the fact that she was missing out on another family celebration. There had been many tears that they had missed celebrating Jesus’ 3rd birthday with family and friends, they had held a tiny celebration, but it had held an undercurrent of much sorrow.
Joseph saw Jesus stir and smiled, he raced over and picked him up. Jesus’ excited squeals woke Mary and Joseph apologised ‘so sorry for waking you’

Mary struggled to rise ‘oh Joseph sorry I wasn’t feeling well’

‘that’s ok, why don’t you keep resting and I’ll take Jesus for a quick walk before dinner. There are some new camels to look at and you know how much He adores the strange beautiful creatures.’
Mary smiled ‘I’m sure He’d love to do anything with you but He’d be especially excited about camels.’
Joseph kisses Mary’s forehead as she laid back down ‘you look very pale, are you still nauseous?’
Mary closed her eyes and nodded as fresh tears started to flow.

Joseph bent down and hugged her as she cried, Jesus rushed in and nuzzled into Mary’s neck causing her heart to lift. She smiled and said ‘now you boys go have some fun.’

Joseph gave her a big squeeze and smiled ‘we won’t be long, you sure you’re ok?’

Mary nodded and tried not to sob ‘I’m ok, now go.’

Joseph took a moment to closely examine Mary’s face and then smiled and nodded ‘back soon’

‘Ok’ Mary kissed Jesus’ cheek and smiled as He ran after Joseph.

Mary laid back down as her stomach churned, she did feel a bit better but the nausea lingered, it just didn’t make sense or did it? Mary hadn’t experienced sickness with Jesus but she’d heard many other women did feel sick when first pregnant, could that be what was wrong? It would explain why she was feeling so emotional, Mary remembered that Elizabeth had been extremely tired for the first few weeks of her pregnancy and nauseated all day. Mary sat up. She wasn’t sure if she should be excited or terrified. She cried out ‘God thank You for this gift of new life. I’m terrified though. I long to be with family and friends who can support me through this. How can I possibly cope with 2 young children on my own?’ Fresh tears fell as Mary thought of her family, the nausea increased as her homesick heart cried out to God. Somewhere in her praying and crying Mary must have fallen into an exhausted sleep because she awoke to Joseph and Jesus making dinner. Mary rolled over and tried not to breathe in the smell of the fish they cooked over the simmering coals. Joseph saw her stir and rushed over, ‘you ok?’. Mary sat up and nodded ‘yes but I might be pregnant’ Joseph smiled, ‘well that’s exciting news!’ Mary sobbed ‘oh how I wish we could go home’ Joseph hugged her ‘I know’.  Mary clung to Joseph and cried. Jesus crawled into her lap and wiped her tears with his fingers ‘Eema’ Mary smiled, how she cherished the title of mother and how fortunate that another little mouth will soon utter those words. She hugged her boys and got up ‘let me help with dinner’.
After dinner Mary felt better and enjoyed listening to Joseph tell the story of David defeating Goliath, it was Jesus’ favourite and often requested after dinner story. Mary smiled as she watched her boys laugh and try to recreate the scenes. She wondered what the new child inside her would look like and stroked her stomach.

As Joseph and Mary laid down that night to sleep a sense of peace fell upon them both and they fell into a deep sleep. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: ‘Get up! Take Mary and Jesus with you back to the land of Israel for those who were trying to kill the child have died.’ (Matthew 2:19-20).

Joseph awoke with a start and saw that the sun was just starting to rise. He quickly arose and prayed ‘Oh Lord how I praise You and thank You for this momentous day. How truly wonderful it will be to see the faces of our loved ones again, how wonderful it will be to see the rolling hills I love so much, how truly astounding it will be for Jesus to grow up among those who will love and protect Him.’. Joseph spent more time praising God as he waited for Mary and Jesus to awake, he could barely contain his excitement and knew that Mary would share his great joy. Mary must have sensed his need to talk to her for she awoke and looked into his eyes ‘is everything ok?’ she quickly sat up ‘oh Mary it is a wonderful day! An angel visited me last night and said we can return home, oh did you hear me Mary we’re going home!’ Mary quickly jumped up and hugged him tightly with tears of joy streaming down her face ‘Oh Joseph that is such wonderful news! When are we leaving?’

Joseph laughed, ‘Well as soon as we can get organised.’

Mary replied: ‘breakfast first and then we pack.’ Mary and Joseph quickly set to the tasks of the day and Jesus soon joined in the joyful mood and toddled around their feet with squeals of delight. Joseph went and made enquiries with the local merchants about the next caravan leaving for Israel. The merchants were helpful and quick to advise Joseph as he had always provided quality products and shown great integrity. Joseph smiled when he heard the news that a caravan was planning to leave in 2 days, how perfectly timed that would be. The next days flew by in a frantic excited rush and before they knew it Joseph, Mary and Jesus were on their way home. The excitement helped them persevere when the days were long and hard. Thankfully Mary’s sickness had abated as soon as they left the outskirts of town and she was able to enjoy the scenery as it passed by.

The days had taken their toll but finally they were on the outskirts of Judea, tomorrow they would be there but for tonight they simply had to rest. As Joseph fell into a deep sleep an angel of the Lord appeared to him again ‘Joseph do not go to Judea for Archelaus rules.’ (Matthew 2:22).

He awoke with his heart racing, Mary sensed his alert and quickly sat up ‘what is it?’

Joseph took a deep breath: ‘I had another dream, we cannot go into Judea for Archelaus rules.’ Mary’s heart froze at the mention of that name, she had heard that Herod’s son was even more vile and cruel than he had been. They discussed options as the sun rose. Joseph thanked the caravan leader and explained that they would visit family close by, waving them off and wishing them a safe journey. It wasn’t a complete lie as they could visit a cousin or two nearby and then Joseph felt they could make their way to Nazareth.

 

“So he settled his family in the village of Nazareth, fulfilling the prophecy that he would be known as the “Branch.” (or Nazarene).” Matthew 2:23 The Passion Translation (TPT)

The Greatest Story – Part 8: Escape

Mary awoke suddenly from her dream, she reached over to where Jesus was with her heart pounding. She held her breath as she leaned over and then gave a huge sigh of relief, He was ok. She looked around the room and outside the window, all was quiet.

As her breath steadied Mary wondered what the awful dream was about? Why was her heart racing? She grabbed her shawl and sat staring at Jesus. Mary allowed the horrible images to fill her mind and the terrifying sounds to fill her ears. She recalled watching mothers have their sons ripped from their arms and slaughtered. She had heard the screams of grief as if the horrific events were happening right there in the room. What did the awful dream mean? Was it a warning? She had heard rumours that the merciless King Herod was out to destroy her precious child. Was there truth to those words? Was the terrifying dream based on the history that had transpired in the time of Moses, or was it a premonition of events to unfold. Mary took a few deep breaths, surely Herod’s insanity wouldn’t extend to those levels? If so how could Joseph protect them? What could they do?
Mary decided the best action was to pray, she reached a hand out towards Joseph and the other towards Jesus. She prayed for protection and for the cloud of fear to lift. She reminded God that He alone had given her this precious child to love, guard and watch grow. She cried out and desperately pleaded for God to send His mighty angels to protect them. She cried out for wisdom and direction knowing that they needed to keep Jesus safe at all cost!

As she prayed it felt as if the whole room was shrouded in fear, Mary softly sang one of her favourite psalms that David had written when Saul had set an ambush for him:

Oh my mighty God, protect me! Keep me safe from all my enemies, for they’re coming to kill me. Put me in a high place out of their reach, lift me up to a place so high that these assassins will never find me. Save me from these murdering men, these bloodthirsty killers. See how they set an ambush for my life. They’re fierce men ready to launch their attack against me.

O Lord I’m innocent, please protect me! I’ve done nothing to deserve this, yet they are already plotting together to kill me. Arise, Lord, see what they’re scheming and come and meet with me. Awaken, O God of Israel! Commander of Angel Armies, arise to punish these treacherous people who oppose you! Don’t go soft on these hardcase killers!

Lord, I pause in Your Presence.

Please act for in the dark they came to spy, sneaking around the city; I hear them snarling, prowling like a pack of stray dogs in the night; see how they boil over with rage, shouting out their curses, convinced that they’ll never get caught.

But I know You Lord and I hear You break out laughing at their plans, amused by their arrogance, scoffing at their sinful ways.

Praise You Lord, for my strength is found when I wait upon you.

Watch over me, God, for You’re my mountain fortress; You set me on high!

The God of passionate love will meet with me; my God will empower me to rise in triumph over my foes. Lord I beg, don’t just kill them but stagger them all with a vivid display of power. I long to see them scattered by Your armies of angels, O mighty God, our protector! Use Your awesome power to make them wanderers and vagabonds and then bring them down. They are nothing but proud, cursing liars; they sin in every word they speak, boasting in their blasphemies!

Pour out Your wrath and destroy them; finish them off! Make an end of them and their deeds until they are no more! Let them all know and learn that God is the ruler over Jacob, the God-King over all the earth!

Lord, I pause in Your Presence.

Hear my cry, for here they come again. I can hear them prowling, growling like a pack of stray dogs in the city. I hear them drifting, devouring, and coming in for the kill, they refuse to sleep until they’ve eaten their fill.

But as for me, Lord Your strength shall be my song of joy. At each and every sunrise You’ll hear my lyrics raising to Your ear. I will sing forevermore of You great love until it completely fills the air!

Oh how wonderful You are, glory-fortress, such a sweet stronghold in my day of distress.

O my Lord of Strength, I sing with joy Your praises.

O my mighty Stronghold, I sing with joy Your song!

O my powerful Saviour, I sing with joy the lyrics of Your faithful love for me!

(Psalms 59:1-17 TPT paraphrased)

Mary must have fallen asleep somewhere in her desperate prayers for although it was still dark Joseph was gently shaking her.

‘Mary, wake up. We must leave right now.’

Mary’s heart leapt with terror, ‘Is it happening? Are children being slaughtered? Are we in danger?’

Joseph looked at her with confusion, ‘I’m not sure what you think is happening but I’ve been told that we need to go. Did you see the angel also?’

‘No, I just had a vivid horrible dream that children were being killed. Oh Joseph it was awful.’

‘We can talk more on the way. We need to leave RIGHT NOW. Even before the sun rises.’

Mary quickly got up and started packing and dressing. ‘If you can load the donkey and leave room for me, I can attend to Jesus on the way out of town. If He’s feeding He will stay quiet.’

Joseph nodded and quickly packed up their things. With all the wonderful new gifts they had received they would need 2 donkeys now, Joseph counted out money for a second donkey and quickly scrawled out a note of thanks. Mary was sad that she could not properly thank Rufus and Merry but understood Joseph’s haste. They packed quickly and quietly as Jesus slept soundly seemingly unaware of the frantic activity happening all around Him.

When Mary was ready to grab Jesus and go, Joseph gave her a quick hug and guided her out the door.

Joseph quickly loaded the donkeys and they found themselves on the very outskirts of town just as dawn broke. Seeing a sheltered place to stop and recheck everything, Joseph guided the donkeys towards the shelter. Mary was grateful for the break and placed Jesus down on her shawl to give her arms and shoulders a much needed rest. She hadn’t realized how tensely she had been sitting.
Joseph took a few moments to gather a small breakfast for them and they ate in silence. The only sound was the birds welcoming in the sun and Jesus’ contented cooing. Mary decided she had better find out what the plan was, ‘so where are we going? Do you know?’.

‘Not exactly. All the angel said was to head to Egypt because King Herod was going to search for Jesus and kill Him.’

Mary gasped. Maybe her dream had been a prophetic warning? ‘Oh Joseph, this really wasn’t the life we had dreamt about was it?’

Joseph smiled ‘no, but God has chosen us to do this and I’m sure He will help us. I think I can find work there. I’ve heard about one particular town that would be remote but large enough for me to find work. I think we will go there first.’

‘Sounds good. We should get moving.’

Joseph quickly watered the donkeys while Mary bundled Jesus back up. They set off towards Egypt trying to process the reality of parenting the Messiah.

“Out of Egypt I called my son.” Hosea 11:1 

picture created using a Pixabay image

The Greatest Story – Part 7: The Temple

Mary awoke before the sun with a great excitement in her chest. While Joseph and Jesus slept she sat looking out over the landscape and prayed. Would there be great rejoicing that the Saviour has come? Would people even recognize Jesus as such? Would there be great fanfare? As Mary sat and contemplated all that could unfold, she prayed for people’s hearts to be open to receive. As the sun rose Jesus stirred and Mary attended to His needs and prepared Him for the momentous day.

With all of their bellies full Joseph, Mary and Jesus made their way to the temple. As they made their way to the temple Joseph prayed, he knew the laws so well and wanted to show his deep gratitude to God for blessing him with such an incredible gift. God had commanded Abraham and his descendants to be circumcised (Genesis 17: 9-14) and that small ceremony had been carried out when Jesus was just 8 days old. However, today marked the 40th day since Jesus’ arrival and they were fulfilling another command, the purification offering. Joseph prayed that he could find a pair of turtledove or pigeons that would be fitting to offer.

As they approached the temple Joseph felt intimidated by the size and craftsmanship on display. His trained eye could detect how painstakingly intricate the features were and he could see how much love and care had been poured into the building before him. As they made their way through the hustle and bustle Joseph did his best to protect Mary and Jesus from the crowd.

Simeon’s eyes were immediately drawn to the trio, he gasped as the gentle whisper confirmed that this was the One he had been waiting for. Simeon tried to run but his weary legs caused him to stumble, he prayed for strength and pushed through the crowd towards Joseph, Mary and Jesus. As he got closer his spirit lifted within him and tears flowed freely down his face. Finally, he stumbled up to Joseph, bowed slightly and took a few deep breaths: “Oh what a glorious day! I was promised by Yahweh that I would witness the long-awaited arrival of the Messiah!” Joseph and Mary exchanged a smile and listened with tears now flowing down their cheeks. Simeon reached out for Jesus and Mary handed him over with a smile, Simeon’s cheeks shone with his tears but there was a spark in his eyes as he praised God: “Oh Sovereign Lord how good You’ve been to me, I can now leave this world in peace for I’ve seen the promise come to pass! I hold Your great salvation in my arms, I gaze into His beautiful face and my heart rejoices. He is the great Light that will reveal God to the nations, He will reveal that which was once hidden and unknown. Oh He is the One to bring praise, honour and glory to God’s people.” (Luke 2:29-32). A small crowd gathered around and listened as Joseph and Mary stood with amazement and awe filling their hearts. As Simeon handed Jesus back to Mary he blessed them all but then paused and looked deeply into Mary’s eyes “please listen carefully” and he lowered his voice so that only Mary and Joseph could hear “this child is destined and appointed to cause many in Israel to fall but also many to arise. He will reveal the deepest thoughts of many hearts, bringing light to the good and bad that dwells within.” Simeon’s eyes filled with grief as he continued “a sword of deep and great sorrow will pierce through your very soul” (Luke 2:34-35). Mary gasped and turned to Joseph with concern in her eyes, a deep fear gripped her heart. Joseph tried to smile and reassure Mary but a troubled spirit rose within him as well. Mary looked down at Jesus with tears in her eyes,  the words “a great sorrow” rung in her ears, what had he meant. Mary prayed for strength “Lord please prepare us for what will come.”.

Mary felt a hand upon her arm and looked into the eyes of Anna, Mary smiled and noticed that Ann’s gaze was firmly fixed upon Jesus as she began singing:

“Long awaited precious promise
Son of God and son of man
Heaven’s glory in a manger
Has come to us in Bethlehem

Messiah
Messiah
A baby born to save us all
Messiah
Messiah
On our knees we fall

All we longed for, all we needed
Shining in this child’s eyes
Hope forever, death defeated
Because of this one holy night

Messiah
Messiah
A baby born to save us all
Messiah
Messiah
On our knees we fall

O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
Christ the Lord

Long awaited precious promise
Coming back again

Messiah
Messiah
A baby born to save us all
Messiah
Messiah
On our knees we fall
On our knees we fall”

(Lyrics of “Messiah” written by Francesca Battistelli / Jeff Pardo / Molly Reed)

When her song had finished Mary handed Jesus to Anna and watched as she showed him around the crowd with great pride, as if He was her own precious child. Mary sat and chatted with Anna while Joseph took Jesus and the birds further into the temple for the ceremony. Mary’s heart broke as Anna shared her story, Anna had been married for only 7 years before her husband suddenly passed away, since that day she had stayed in the Temple worshipping God night and day. Mary marvelled at this woman’s devotion to God, she could see by the lines on her beautiful face that it had been decades, Mary prayed that she would also become an example to other women. When Joseph and Jesus returned Mary thanked Anna for her beautiful song and they made their way back through the crowds.

Notes:

The painful process: The last 2 parts (6 & 7) have been excruciatingly difficult, but this week in particular. There has been ALOT going on physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I’m needing divine assistance like never before!

I sense that there is so much I could research and write about but I have such limited time and ability. I also don’t want to get so bogged down in research that I have no energy to write.
Arghhh! As frustrations and tiredness mounted tonight (Thursday) I considered not publishing because it was simply too hard. But I really wanted to try so I put on my worship music and set time aside to write with the aim to proof read in the morning and publish 1 day late.

Praise God, here it is!

I love the way that the process is described here:

“Work on a good piece of writing proceeds on three levels: a musical one, where it is composed; an architectural one, where it is constructed; and finally, a textile one, where it is woven.”  Walter Benjamin, One Way Street And Other Writings

Quote discovered at goodreads

Messiah YouTube video

Pixabay image link

Greatest Story – Part 6: Lasting Legacy

Joseph and Rufus left the house while it was still dark to attend a sunrise prayer meeting, their departure had stirred Mary slightly but when she had rolled over and snuggled under the covers the warmth had lulled her back to sleep. A little while later Jesus had awoken her as the first rays of light had appeared. Mary had enjoyed the glorious display of colours as she fed Jesus looking out over the rooftops. She sat and thanked God for the brand-new day and smiled as the dim light became orange and then red and finally gold. She marvelled at how the brilliant colours needed to be watched closely as they appeared for only a brief moment. Mary leaned her head against the wall and thanked God for the safety they had found, Joseph’s distant cousin Rufus had been an amazing host to them and Mary cherished her moments of chatting to Merry.

Jesus had a full belly just as Mary’s stomach made its discomfort known, she quickly changed Jesus and got herself dressed before going downstairs. Merry was already up and had breakfast almost ready “oh good morning, I was just about to bring breakfast to you.” Mary smiled and sat at the table, “thank you but you don’t have to wait on me, let me help today.”. Merry placed breakfast in from of her and gently took Jesus from her arms, “eat up and we can discuss the to do list shortly”. Once a hearty breakfast had been consumed Mary and Merry quickly passed the morning with chores and by midday the men had returned to enjoy lunch with them. Afterwards, as Jesus slept in Joseph’s arms, the 4 adults chatted about their family’s lines. Joseph talked in great detail about how the redemption and faithfulness of God overlooked so many faults.

It had been Adam and Eve who had first bore the deep grief of sin, their banishment from the garden of Eden brought a struggle into their lives that had almost broken them. Their precious firstborn son, Cain, had allowed anger and jealousy towards his brother Abel to overtake his heart resulting in murder. Adam and Eve were granted a new son, Seth, who then gave birth to Enosh, it was at this time people first began to worship the Lord by name (Genesis 4).

Enosh was followed by Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch (who lived in close fellowship with God), Methuselah, Lamech and Noah. It was in Noah’s time that sin ruled people’s hearts and all that they did was wicked and evil in the sight of the Lord but in amongst the horridness Noah found favour with God because he walked in close fellowship with the Lord that produced righteousness. God revealed a plan to Noah that would cleanse the earth of its wickedness, and God made a covenant with Noah that he and his family would live. Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, worked together to build an ark that had kept them safe during the flood that destroyed the earth and its inhabitants (Genesis 6 – 9).

Shem then became the father of Elam, who became the father of Arphaxed, who became the father of Shelah, who became the father of Eber, who became the father of Peleg. It was then that the people of the world were divined in different language groups. Peleg was followed by Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah and Abram (Genesis 11). The story of Abram and Sarai, who later became Abraham and Sarah, was often reflected upon by Joseph and his family because Abraham was considered not only their ancestor but the father of faith for all.  Abram had followed God’s instructions to leave Haran and head to the land of Canaan. It was beside the oak of Moreh that God promised he would give Abram the land of Canaan and numerous descendants.  The decades that had followed saw Abram and Sarai battled long periods of doubt and wrestle with the consequences of rushing the promises of God. But finally, after much wait, their long-awaited promised child Isaac was born and brought much delight and laughter to his parents (Genesis 12-21). Abraham prayed and carefully sought the right wife for his son Isaac and Rebekah brought much comfort to Isaac after the loss of his mother.  Rebekah gave birth to twins Esau and Jacob who were vastly different in personality and skills. Esau loved the outdoors and was a skilful hunter whereas Jacob had a quiet temperament and enjoyed being at home. Exhaustion and extreme hunger led to Esau giving away his firstborn rights for a simple bowl of stew! Thus Jacob, with also a little trickery by Rebekah, was elevated to the place of firstborn (Genesis 24-27).

Isaac followed in his father’s footsteps and urged his son Jacob to seek the right wife. It was between Beersheba and Haran that the Lord appeared to Jacob and confirmed the promise made to Abraham saying: “the land you’re on belongs to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth and spread out in all directions – to the west, east, north and south. In fact all families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. Do not fear for I will protect you wherever you go and once day bring you back to this land. I will never leave you and I will give you all that I have promised.”.

Joseph paused and looked around “it was there at Bethel that Jacob built the memorial pillar to become a place of worship. It was there that Jacob begun the tradition, that we follow now, to give a tenth of everything to the Lord.” (Genesis 28). Mary snuggled Jesus close to her chest and thanked God for her faithful ancestors and prayed that Jesus would influence the world around Him just as His ancestors had and leave a lasting legacy.

Rufus filled their cups with wine and continued where Joseph had left off. Poor Jacob fell in love with Rachel immediately, but after working for 7 hard years to earn her hand in marriage he was tricked into marrying her older sister Leah instead. Jacob was given Rachel but had been required to work another 7 years. Jacob prospered greatly through all his hard work and his father in law, Laban, saw his riches increase. Leah gave birth to Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah but it was quite some time before Rachel was able to conceive, finally giving birth to Joseph. (Genesis 29-30).

Jacob and his large family returned to his brother Esau and made peace, it was then that Jacob could return to Bethel and settle. Not only was Jacob given a place to reside but also a new name Israel because he would become the father of a great nation and kings would be among his descendants (Genesis 34-35). Rufus recalled with much sorrow and sadness in his voice the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers, it had overwhelmed them so much that murder stirred in their hearts. It was Reuben who had tried to reason with his brothers and suggested throwing Joseph down a cistern so that he could later come back and rescue him. However, when Reuben left the scheming brothers alone they sold Joseph as a slave and pretended that he had been killed. Jacob had grieved greatly for his son almost to the point of death. Whilst Joseph endured much hardship he was eventually rescued by finding favour with Pharaoh himself.  As Joseph’s years in Egypt had dragged on his brothers’ lives had continued as normal with them taking on wives and having children. When the famine hit hard Jacob urged his sons to go to Egypt for food. Joseph recognised his brothers immediately but they did not recognise him, after some testing he revealed himself to them and was able to save his whole family because of his high position. Joseph had declared to his brothers: “what you intended for harm God used for good and I’m able to preserve my family from this famine because of my position of favour”. Jacob had rejoiced greatly over seeing his precious son again and Joseph was able to meet his brother Benjamin (Genesis 37, 39-47).

Judah, the third in line, was elevated to become first and his son Perez (mother Tamar) carried on the family line (Genesis 29:35, 38, 46, 49; Micah 5:2 & Hebrews 7:8).

Followed by Hezron (Genesis 46:12),

Ram (1 Chronicles 2:9, Ruth 4:19),

Amminadab, Nahson (Numbers 1:7),

Salmon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse (1 Chronicles 2:9-12),

and David who became King (1 Samuel 16).

Mary’s heart sparked at the mention of Kind David, she smiled as she recalled the many songs and Psalms she had sung since an early age. Mary spoke out about how David’s Psalms had touched her heart like none other and confessed that she often found great comfort in singing the songs he had written. The others nodded in agreement and Mary reflected about how David’s heart had been stained by adultery and murder. But then she smiled as she remembered and spoke about David’s redemption story, God’s grace had been extended mightily to David. Even to the point that a mighty wise king had followed when Solomon took the throne. Mary’s eyes filled with tears as she recalled the many kings that followed with great rebellion and idolatry in their hearts. It wasn’t until Zerubbabel, another relative that both Joseph and Mary shared, that righteousness came back into their family line. Zerubbabel had been a wise governor of Judah who had been filled with integrity when he returned from exile in Babylon, his heart had been set upon rebuilding the temple.

Mary’s line then followed with Rhesa, Joanan, Joda, Josek, Semein, Mattathias, Maath, Naggai, Esli, Nahum, Amos, Mattathias, Joseph, Jannai, Melki, Levi, Matthat and her father Heli (also know as Eli) (Luke 3:23-38).

Joseph recalled how his family line had spilt from Zerubbabel to Abihud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Akim, Elihud, Eleazar, Matthan and Jacob (Matthew 1:1-16).

With the hour now late they all made their way to bed. As Mary lay in the dark she cherished the conversation and pondered on the many mysteries that she had been taught. From the earliest moment there had been a promise that a woman’s seed would bear forth the Messiah, the Promised One, it had been one of the most puzzling mysterious that many had wrestled with. Many saw the man’s seed as the more powerful lineage so how could the messiah come from the woman’s line? Was it God’s redemption at work, Eve had corrupted Adam resulting in sin  and separation from God, was that why Mary was used to bear the Messiah? Was a simple woman the key to bridging the gap?

Mary’s weary brain simply couldn’t put all the pieces together, her eyes felt gritty and heavy but her heart was beating fast. As she took a few steadying breaths she tried to relax her body and eventually welcomed a deep peaceful sleep.

 

“… “Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.” So God renamed him Israel. Then God said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants!” Genesis 35:10-11 NLT

God keeps His promises,

He is faithful for a thousand generations, 

and lavishes unfailing love

on those who love and obey Him.

Deuteronomy 7:9 & Psalm 105:8 

“Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9 NLT

“He always stands by his covenant— the commitment he made to a thousand generations.” Psalms 105:8 NLT

 

To read more about the women of the Bible Francine River’s has a Lineage of Grace series.

I found the book: ‘Jesus’ Family Tree : Seeing God’s Faithfulness in the Genealogy of Christ‘ by Rose Publishing a great resource for this blog.