January 31 – Out of Egypt

Read: Hosea 11 & Matthew 2:13-25

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

In 700 B.C. the prophet Hosea wrote that Jesus’ family would flee to Egypt as refugees. It was a courageous and faithful act on the part of Jesus’ adopted father Joseph that saved the young Messiah’s life. But to further fulfill prophecy, and ultimately the mission of God for mankind, Jesus had to leave Egypt.

I really believe that along the way God sometimes directs us to places that are more like pit stops than they are destinations. We can, and should, do whatever good we can at these stops, but ultimately they are small parts of our journey. Whatever reason God has for sending us to those places, it is usually more about protecting us, helping us learn and grow, or helping someone there, than anything else. Sometimes you have to flee to your own personal Egypt to become who you are supposed to be, but you almost always have to leave it behind to step into your destiny.

Jesus didn’t spend an incredibly long time in Egypt. Joseph only kept him there until the danger had passed and it was time to return to Nazareth. It would still be many years before Jesus would begin his public ministry. Sometimes God takes us from one season of preparation to another. These seasons look different, are often at different locations, and come with a plethora of diverse learning experiences. Don’t be in a hurry to speed through these times. God can still use us in times of growth and learning. He will call us out of it when we’re ready for the fullness of His plan.

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January 30 – Into Egypt

Read: Matthew 2: 13-18

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.” (Matthew 2:13 ESV)

Herod did not respond well upon learning that the wise men had tricked him. When the secret identity of the would-be king eluded him he turned up the crazy and went into full tyrant mode slaughtering an entire generation of boys. It was a horrendously evil act born of desperation, insecurity, and selfishness. Thankfully Jesus escaped unscathed because of his adopted father Joseph.

Joseph was such a courageous man. He risked incredible personal danger and disaster to protect his wife and adopted son. He obeyed commands that he didn’t even fully comprehend in order to keep Mary and Jesus from harm. There is a lot to learn from the continued faithful response of a man we actually do not know a great deal about.

First of all he listened when God spoke. Whatever the means of communication used to reach Joseph, he paid attention. Some of us just have to much noise in our lives. It makes it hard to hear when God speaks. Secondly, Joseph obeyed God. Not only was he willing to listen, but he was willing to respond with faithful courage and obedience. I know sometimes I feel like God is trying to tell me something but I’m just too scared to do anything about it.

Think about it. Joseph was courageous. He not only listened to God, but he obeyed. And in his obedience he rescued Jesus from an insane tyrannical puppet king by taking him into Egypt.

Discipleship

This past weekend our collegiate ministry hosted our annual Winter Retreat on top of Mt. Nebo. My friend Ron Barnard flew in to encourage our students over several sessions Friday and Saturday.  This is a brief excerpt from the weekend concerning discipleship in a modern context.

January 29 – Where is the King?

Read: Matthew 2:1-12

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (Matthew 2:3-6 ESV)

Herod was a puppet king put in place by the Romans to govern the Jews. His dynasty was known for incredible greed and cruelty fueled by a borderline insane paranoia. The foundation stones of the Herodian Temple were actually all found to be stamped with his giant royal seal. He covered everything in plated gold. He liked himself.

So when the wise men blew through town in their wealthy caravan from another land Herod took note of their message. A king had been born. Herod had competition, at least in his mind. Where is this king? He assembled all of the sophisticated know-it-alls and overly educated folks and inquired, Where is the Christ to be born?

Herod was living amongst God’s people. He was in a place of power, leadership, and stewardship. Herod had no idea where the king was.

I wonder if we sometimes find ourselves in a similar place? Many of us live among God’s people. We worship with God’s people, work with God’s people, and fellowship with God’s people, but we still have trouble knowing where the King is. Maybe the rough stuff in life gets in the way. Maybe we are our own adversity. Still, the King, Jesus, is available to us. He offers life if we will take it. He offers sonship and adoption if we will take. He offers to be Lord, Steward, Captain, Provider, and Father. All we need to do is look for our King.

January 28 – Wise Men

Read: Matthew 2:1-12

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1, 2 ESV)

The story of the wise men is nearly always told in conjunction with the birth of Christ. Why? Because Jesus really is the King of Kings. He is Messiah to all peoples. he is such a king that even non Jewish wise men (magi the Greeks called them) travelled many months and miles to demonstrate their love for a God they probably only comprehended as an exalted earthly ruler.

We don’t know how many there were, though tradition often alludes to there being three. We only know that they travelled very far, across rugged dangerous terrain, at great personal expense to shower a very young Jesus with luxurious gifts and praise. Imagine their surprise at discovering the prophesied king was the child of a lowly carpenter and his poor peasant wife.

Jesus really is the King of all. King of all people. King over all harm. King over any adversity. King of the universe, of all time, and your heart. He is the King? The only thing to be determined is whether or not you will recognize his kingship and join in with the wise men and many more across history to worship the King.

January 27 – Waiting for Jesus

Read: Luke 2:25-38

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32 ESV)

Simeon had been waiting a very long time to see Jesus. He had believed for years that he would live to see the days of the Messiah, and then one day out of the blue Mary and Joseph showed up with the baby Jesus. The old believer got so excited, he scooped his infant Lord up and under the power of the Holy Spirit began to worship him.

Can you imagine waiting for something for so long? Have you ever got impatient waiting for something that wasn’t even that important? We all have. Simeon had waiting so long to see God’s promise fulfilled in his lifetime. He kept waiting. He kept believing. And one day he got to experience Jesus.

How fast do we give up? How easy do we quit? In truth we often we give up too fast on the things that are the most important. Let’s face it, we live in a microwaveable fast food world where convenience, amenities, and information are easily attained. Many of us are completely unfamiliar wi the kind of patient faithful waiting that Simeon demonstrated.

What if he had quit waiting? What if he had given up just a day too early? He would have missed Jesus. Don’t stop believing for whatever it is God has put in your heart. Just wait. Be faithful. He is worth it.