“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’””- Matthew 2:4-6
Morning and Evening by Charles SpurgeonDecember 13: Morning
"Salt without prescribing how much." - Ezra 7:22
Salt was used in every offering made by fire unto the Lord, and from its preserving and purifying properties it was the grateful emblem of divine grace in the soul. It is worthy of our attentive regard that, when Artaxerxes gave salt to Ezra the priest, he set no limit to the quantity, and we may be quite certain that when the King of kings distributes grace among his royal priesthood, the supply is not cut short by him. Often are we straitened in ourselves, but never in the Lord. He who chooses to gather much manna will find that he may have as much as he desires. There is no such famine in Jerusalem that the citizens should eat their bread by weight and drink their water by measure. Some things in the economy of grace are measured; for instance our vinegar and gall are given us with such exactness that we never have a single drop too much, but of the salt of grace no stint is made, "Ask what thou wilt and it shall be given unto thee." Parents need to lock up the fruit cupboard, and the sweet jars, but there is no need to keep the salt-box under lock and key, for few children will eat too greedily from that. A man may have too much money, or too much honour, but he cannot have too much grace. When Jeshurun waxed fat in the flesh, he kicked against God, but there is no fear of a man's becoming too full of grace: a plethora of grace is impossible. More wealth brings more care, but more grace brings more joy. Increased wisdom is increased sorrow, but abundance of the Spirit is fulness of joy. Believer, go to the throne for a large supply of heavenly salt. It will season thine afflictions, which are unsavoury without salt; it will preserve thy heart which corrupts if salt be absent, and it will kill thy sins even as salt kills reptiles. Thou needest much; seek much, and have much.
"I will make thy windows of agates." - Isaiah 54:12
The church is most instructively symbolized by a building erected by heavenly power, and designed by divine skill. Such a spiritual house must not be dark, for the Israelites had light in their dwellings; there must therefore be windows to let the light in and to allow the inhabitants to gaze abroad. These windows are precious as agates: the ways in which the church beholds her Lord and heaven, and spiritual truth in general, are to be had in the highest esteem. Agates are not the most transparent of gems, they are but semi-pellucid at the best:
"Our knowledge of that life is small,Faith is one of these precious agate windows, but alas! it is often so misty and beclouded, that we see but darkly, and mistake much that we do see. Yet if we cannot gaze through windows of diamonds and know even as we are known, it is a glorious thing to behold the altogether lovely One, even though the glass be hazy as the agate. Experience is another of these dim but precious windows, yielding to us a subdued religious light, in which we see the sufferings of the Man of Sorrows, through our own afflictions. Our weak eyes could not endure windows of transparent glass to let in the Master's glory, but when they are dimmed with weeping, the beams of the Sun of Righteousness are tempered, and shine through the windows of agate with a soft radiance inexpressibly soothing to tempted souls. Sanctification, as it conforms us to our Lord, is another agate window. Only as we become heavenly can we comprehend heavenly things. The pure in heart see a pure God. Those who are like Jesus see him as he is. Because we are so little like him, the window is but agate; because we are somewhat like him, it is agate. We thank God for what we have, and long for more. When shall we see God and Jesus, and heaven and truth, face to face?
Our eye of faith is dim."
Scripture Reference: Exodus 1:15
Name Meaning: Child bearing or joy of parents.
Alarmed over the rapid increase of the population of Israelites in Egypt, Pharaoh ordered two Egyptian midwives to destroy all male children as soon as they were born (Exodus 1:15-20). He would never have employed Hebrew women to destroy the males of their own nation. The answer of the two named midwives, Puah and Shiprah, to Pharaoh's anger when he discovered that his cruel edict was not being carried out, implies that they were used to wait upon Egyptian women who only employed them in difficulty at childbirth (Exodus 1:19 ). Hebrew women seldom employed midwives for they were more "lively," or had far easier births than the Egyptians.
Puah and Shiprah are Egyptian names. Aben Ezra, the ancient Jewish historian, says that these two women "were chiefs over all the midwives, who were more than 500." As superintendents of such a large staff to which they had been appointed by the Egyptian government, Pharaoh ordered them to carry out his terrible command just as he would give orders to any other of his officials. As it is likely that only the chief Hebrews could afford the service of midwives, probably the order of Pharaoh only applied to them. Although Egyptians by birth, it would seem as if they had embraced the Hebrew faith, for we are told that Puah and Shiprah "feared God" ( Exodus 1:21).
Receiving the royal command to commit murder, these two loyal, vigorous, middleaged women were caught between two fires. Whom should they obey? The God of the Hebrews in whom they had come to believe, or the tyrannical king of Egypt? True to their conscience and honored calling they knew it would conflict with the divine command to kill, and so "saved the men children alive." Thus, they obeyed God rather than man, and in so doing brought upon their heads the rage of Pharaoh. Confronting his anger, Puah and Shiprah took refuge in a partial truth. They said that because Jewish women had easy deliveries, their children were born before they could reach them and assist the mothers in labor.
Cognizant as He was of the partial truth the two midwives told, God knew all about the crisis behind it, and commended Puah and Shiprah for their courage of faith. They had risked their lives for many Jewish infants. Such an act was meritorious in the eyes of the Lord, and He honorably rewarded them by building them houses. Fausset suggests that the nature of such a reward consisted in the two midwives marrying Hebrews and becoming mothers in Israel (2 Samuel 7:11, 27). Puah and Shiprah are striking witnesses against the scandalous practice of abortion, which several nations have legalized.
Manasseh, Manasses[Mānăs'seh, Mānăs'sēs] - causing forgetfulness.
1. The elder son of Joseph, who was born in Egypt and was half Hebrew and half Egyptian. He was the founder of a tribe (Gen. 41:51; Num. 1:10 ). Manasseh and his brother Ephraim were Jacob's Gentile descendants, since both were children of an Egyptian mother. Ephraim means "the multitude of nations," or "the fulness of the Gentiles," and was prophetic of Christ as the Saviour of the world. The tribe of Manasseh produced two out of the four Old Testament men whose faith has been thought worthy of notice in the New Testament - Gideon and Jephthah (Heb. 11:32).
2. The grandfather of Jonathan who, with his sons, became a priest to the tribe of Dan when they set up a graven image in Laish (Judg. 18:30). Perhaps Moses should be read for Manasseh in the verse.
3. The son of Hezekiah and father of Amon, king of Judah, who succeeded his father when he was only twelve years of age (2 Kings 20:21; 21).
The Man Whose Policy Was Wrong
Manasseh, the prodigal king of the Old Testament, was overwhelmed by Assyrian forces and in the twenty-third year of his reign was taken as a prisoner to Babylon where he lingered for twelve years. During these years he turned to God and was restored to freedom and his kingdom. For the next twenty years left to him, he sought to undo the wrong of the past. His long reign of fifty-five years, the longest in Jewish history, closed not inauspiciously. He died a penitent, and left a son who followed his father in his sins but not in his repentance.
Gathering together what we can of Manasseh's life, it would seem that he was a man of policy:
His policy of idolatry. How he hated the first two commandments of Sinai, and reversed the reforms of his father! How exceedingly bold he was in his idolatry!
His policy of immorality. Idolatry and immorality go together, thus in rejecting God there came the worship of the Syrian Venus. This action let loose a flood of iniquity over the land of Judah.
His policy of persecution. Manasseh allowed nothing to stand in the way of license and open evil. Martyrdom became the cost of service. Idolatry was set up under the pain of death.
His policy of destruction. As far as he could, Manasseh destroyed the Word of God. Every copy found was consigned to the flames. God's truth testified too plainly against the sins of king and people. So complete was this destruction of the Word of God that when Josiah, Manasseh's grandson, came to the throne, a copy of it was found in the Temple.
But Manasseh's eyes were opened to his sinful condition and he sobbed out the misery of his helpless and craven soul. The occasion of his repentance was affliction. In the prison-house of Babylon he prayed. As to the character of his repentance, he besought the Lord and humbled himself before the God of his fathers and prayed unto Him. Penniless and penitent, his cry for mercy came from a broken heart, and God graciously received this prodigal king. Alas, however, he stopped short of being out-and-out for God! He allowed the high places of idolatry to remain. It will not be possible to doubt God's grace in heaven in the ages to come if we can but catch a glimpse of Manasseh - godly-reared, apostate, idolatrous, devilish, stricken, humbled, repentant Manasseh!
4. One of the family of Hashum who had married a foreign wife (Ezra 10:33).
5. One of the family of Pahath-moab who had done the same (Ezra 10:30).
Reading 1: David's Forever Kingdom
King David loved God and wanted to build a temple for God to live in. But God said he would establish an even greater "house" -- a kingdom that would last forever. God had great plans for David's family. Not just for his son or grandson, but for someone who would be born many generations later.
2 Samuel 7:1-17
God's Promise to David
1 After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent."
3 Nathan replied to the king, "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you."
4 But that night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying:
5 "Go and tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"'
8 "Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.
"'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'"
17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.
JUST THE FACTS
- Who gave God's message to King David? (v . 4)
- What did God promise his people? (vv. 10 - 11)
- What did God promise David and his descendants? (vv. 12,15 - 16)
- What do you think it meant in David's time to "establish a house"? In what ways are families important in our culture today? How is your family important to you?
- Who were your ancestors? How many generations can you identify? What is it like to imagine having children and grandchildren who will come after you?
God made a promise to David that he would establish a kingdom for David's descendants. Hundreds of years after David died, God sent his Son, Jesus, who came from David's family, to be the king of the Jews.
POINTS OF INTEREST
7:6 The "tent" God was referring to was the tabernacle that had been his portable dwelling place ever since the Israelites camped at Mount Sinai in the desert. It was intended to be used only while the Israelites were on the march. But the Israelites had lived in the land God had promised them for more than 400 years and still had not built a permanent temple--a house in which they could worship the one true God.
Prepare the Way
by Nancy Guthrie
What happens at your house when guests are coming? Do you clean up things that are messy, fix things that are broken, make plans for how you will welcome your visitors? As God prepared to send his Son into the world, he sent someone to get things ready. He had promised to do that, so some people were watching for this special individual.
Two Old Testament prophets (Malachi and Isaiah) had prophesied that before the Messiah would come, God would send a messenger to prepare the people. Malachi wrote, "Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.... Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah" (Malachi 3:1, 4:5). Isaiah had written, "Listen! It's the voice of someone shouting, 'Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!'" (Isaiah 40:3 ). Mark recorded, "This messenger was John the Baptist" (Mark 1:4). Luke wrote, "He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly" (Luke 1:17).
John the Baptist was the person God sent to prepare his people for Jesus. It wasn't food or beds that needed to be prepared; it was hearts. It was John's mission to call people to repent--to leave behind their sin and turn back to God. John prepared the people for Jesus by helping them get their hearts ready to receive him.
God knows our hearts need to be prepared to receive Jesus. During December we tend to get very busy preparing for Christmas with parties and programs and presents. But the most important preparation we need to make is to prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus in a fresh, new way. We do this by cleaning out the clutter of sinful attitudes and selfishness so that we look expectantly for Jesus to make himself known to us.
Right now, Lord Jesus, our hearts are being prepared to receive you. Show us what must be removed, the sin that must be repented of, so that our hearts can fully receive you.
- When Luke said that John came with the "spirit and power of Elijah," he might that John proclaimed judgment for sin and called for repentance. How does an awareness of our sin help prepare us for Jesus?
- What happens when we refuse or neglect to prepare the way for Jesus to come to us?
- As we think about what we do to prepare for company, what similar things can we do to welcome Jesus into our home this Christmas?