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A Bible Study Devotional

Luke 2:21-24: Significance in Symbols

Read: Luke 2:21-24

Mary and Joseph were devout Jews that not only kept traditions of the their people, but also kept the instructions that were given to them by angels.

  • Jesus was circumcised and named on the 8th day. This was done in accordance with the Law given to Moses and Abraham (Genesis 17:12, Leviticus 12:3).
  • Mary and Joseph were told to name their child Jesus independent of one another by angels on two separate occasion (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:31).
  • Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple according to the law (Leviticus 12:6).
  • Mary and Joseph also made sacrifices according to the law (Exodus 13:2)
  • Mary and Joseph also sacrificed two doves or pigeons according to the law (Leviticus 12:8). It is apparent that they could not afford a lamb, but the law made provisions for that.

While naming a baby and following traditions may not seem that remarkable, there is great symbolism in what they were doing in naming Jesus and presenting him as first born. The name “Jesus” in English is comes from the Hebrew name that means “God saves”. Matthew 1:21 makes note of this, saying that Jesus would be the one to save people from their sins. Also in this, the consecration of the firstborn male in a family was to remind the people when the Lord brought them out of slavery in Egypt – another motif of salvation. God spared the firstborn of everyone who sacrificed a lamb and put the blood on the doorposts of their homes (Exodus 13:12-15).

Christians don’t follow the laws like the Jews did because Jesus became the sacrifice for sin. Nevertheless there are some symbols that Christians have to remember what Christ did. First, Christ ordained what is known as communion or the “Lord’s Supper” as a memorial to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This sacrifice was the payment for the sins committed by man (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Luke 22:17-20). Second, Jesus gave Christians baptism, which notes both the cleansing of sins and the resurrection of Jesus and ultimately all believers (Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12).

Rather than get caught up in rote religion, Christians ought to reflect on the reasons that symbols and signs exists. Usually these serve as a reminder of some work that God has done or a promise that God will fulfill as wit communion does for Jesus’ blood being spilled and baptism does a reminder of the resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of all men. These symbols and tradition can help draw us into a deeper relationship with the one who gave them.

Lord help me to remember what you have done and will do!

Luke 2:8-20: Good News For All People

Read: Luke 2:8-20

When Jesus was born, his circumstances were less than ideal. While swaddling a baby wasn’t particularly unusually, laying a baby in a manger for a crib was. But God had plans for this. God sent an angel to some shepherds who were just doing their job, which was nothing unusual. Shepherds basically lived with the sheep day and night to protect them from danger. But when the angels showed up. They were afraid. But the news that God revealed through the angels was astounding: the Savior had been born basically right around the corner. The sight and sound of angels proclaiming the “good news” and singing was enough to cause the shepherds to leave their flocks and seek out the baby that the angel told them would be laying in a manger.

When the Shepherds went to Bethlehem, everything was exactly as the angel had told them. So they spread the news around: The news about baby being born laying in a manger, the news about angels singing, the news about them finding the baby as they angel had told them, and the greatest news that the Savior had been born. While they were certainly frightened by the sight of an angel, they were overcome with joy when they found everything as they were told.

In the midst of all this, Luke makes note of Mary “pondering” these things in her heart. She had been told by and angel herself that she would give birth to Jesus who was the Lord and the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38). The shepherds report vindicated what she had already experienced in a new and fresh way now that Jesus was born.

Good news was first delivered to Mary, then to shepherds, who then relayed to numerous other people, all who were amazed at what they heard. God intended this good news to be for all the people so that they too would be amazed when they heard it. This good news is still going out to all the world even today that the Savior was born into the world. Christians should be like the shepherds and proclaim this news so all can meet Jesus and be amazed!

Lord, Your coming is Good News. Help me share it!

Luke 2:1-7: Humble Roots, Glorious Ends

Read: Luke 2:1-7

Luke is meticulous about the details of the historical setting of his Gospel. Here, he places Jesus birth during the reign of Caesar Augustus. The difficulty though with dating this text has to do with dating the census in reference to Quirinius was governor of Syria around AD 6, but Herod who was the king of Judea who had died sometime earlier. There have been a number of proposed solutions to this problem (some more reasonable that others) while others think Luke was simply mistaken. Given that Luke’s accuracy is impeccable on other matters, it would be jumping to conclusions to say he was mistaken. But it would also be jumping to conclusions to say that any one of the proposed solutions is indeed correct either without further historical evidence.

In any case, we can affirm that God used the most powerful political and military figure in the world at the time to fulfill his purposes in earth. The census that went out from Augustus forced Joseph to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem, his home town and the town of his ancestor, King David to register with Mary his espoused wife who was very pregnant at the time. When Mary gave birth, she gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. In ancient times, inns were usually accompanied with a stable for animals. An upper room would be for guest and a lower room would be for the animals. The plain reading of this suggests that the inn was simply full. Some have suggested though that the innkeeper did not have room specifically for Mary and Joseph. Nevertheless, the picture of God using the most powerful man in the world to start a chain of events that would lead to the King of Kings being born in a lowly stable is intentional. God was fulfilling an age old prophecy from Micah 5:2-4 which tells of a King that will come from lowly Bethlehem that would be known to the ends of the earth.

What started from humble roots in a stable in the small Bethlehem has shaped the course of human history and is still shaping the course of human history. Jesus’ renown is still going forward into all the nations and more and more people are coming into his kingdom every day. The juxtaposition of the God exalting the humble and diminishing the proud is a theme in scripture (Psalm 138:6, Matthew 8:11-12, Matthew 19:30, James 4:6, 1Peter 5:5, etc). Caesar’s reign ended and the empire eventually crumbled. But Jesus after enduring the cross was exalted. His name is the name above all names and every knee will bow to it (Philippians 2:5-12). Christians are encouraged to be like Christ, and lay aside what we might have rights to and become humble, and in doing so God will lift them up to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-14)!

Lord, you humbled yourself for glorious ends: the salvation for all men.
Help me to be humble so you can be lifted up!

Luke 1:67-80: Praise and Prophecy

Read: Luke 1:67-80

After Zacharias and Elizabeth had named John, Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit. He issues up a song that is both praise and prophecy. The song starts with an accolade to God’s grace and mercy. He notes the “horn of salvation’ in the “house of David”. Zacharias was a priest so he was likely from the Levitical line. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron from which the Levitical line came too (Luke 1:5). Zacharias notes later that John would prepare the way for the Lord and notes that he would proclaim the message of Salvation which is Jesus who is the horn of Salvation from the house of David. Zacharias also recalls the promise to Abraham. This alludes to the when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, but the Lord stopped him. And from this, God promised to Abraham that he’d have countless descendants that would bless the nations (Genesis 22:16-18).

The second part of the song is a prophecy pertaining specifically to John, where Zacharias tells what John would do: he would prepare the way for the Lord and proclaim the message of salvation to the people of Israel. John did precisely this before Jesus started his ministry. He proclaimed a message of salvation and repentance of sin in proclaimed that Jesus would come. And at this point, John would point to Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (Luke 3:1-23).

Zacharias’ prophecy was fulfilled during the lifetime of Jesus. There are many other prophecy in the New Testament though that have not been fulfilled. While Christians wait for these prophecies to be fulfilled, Christians can praise God for what he has done in the work of Jesus – the horn of Salvation that came to save the nations from their sins.

Lord, I praise you for what you have done and what you will do!

Luke 1:57-66: “What Then Will This Child Be”

Read: Luke 1:57-66

Jews were people of tradition, and they kept detailed records of family genealogies. Many times, sons were known by their fathers or a significant ancestor. Naming a son or daughter after a significant relative was a way of honoring that relative, as it is many cultures even today. When Elizabeth and Zachariah broke from tradition and name their son a name that hadn’t been used was a marker of significant—there was something special about this child. Elizabeth and Zacharias independently choosing cemented what they already believed to so. Elizabeth spoke the name, but Zacharias could not speak because he had doubted God, so he wrote down the name. Nevertheless, God had given them a son in their old age and they weren’t the only people who saw the significance of this. When the news spread of what happened, many were amazed and asked, “What then will this child be”.

On this side of history, we know the significance of John. He would be the one to prepare the way for Jesus as a prophet likened to Elijah. When Jesus did come John baptized Jesus. John’s message was a message of repentance and forgiveness that lead up to Jesus who would be the savior of the world.

From time to time, God breaks into the repetition and traditions of the lives of Christians reveals something significant. Like Elizabeth and Zacharias, we should be in tune with the Holy Spirit in such a way that we recognize where God is at work and respond appropriately. And at times things will unfold in such a way that people will ask, “What then will this be?” and watch as God’s plan unfolds.

Lord, help me see where you are at work and join in!

Luke 1:46-56: Song of the Humble

Read: Luke 1:46-56

Mary’s song in response to Elizabeth’s greeting bring is about bringing the utmost glory to God for what he had done in her life concerning Jesus’ conception. God saw an unpretentious woman who feared him and he exalted her because of it. When Mary speaks her verse, she extols the Lord in a number of ways, but the point being that God extends mercy and blessings to those who are humble and seek him, yet scorns those who are proud for whatever reason.

The juxtaposition of Jesus exalting the lowly and scorning the proud is a common theme all throughout the New Testament (Luke 14:1, Luke 18:14, Matthew 5:3, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5-6 and many others) and the Old Testament (Psalm 138:6, Proverbs 3:34, Proverbs 15:33, Proverbs 16:18-19, Proverbs 29:23, Isaiah 57:15 and many others). God undoubtedly prefers such people who are humble because these are the people who truly know there place before God, and when something extraordinary happens they turn the glory back to God rather than themselves.

The theme of God opposing a proud heart was not new in Jesus’ day and is not something new even until now. God does not turn a blind eye to those that seek his face and do it with a pure heart. Genuine humility is not about trying to make sure that everyone else knows sees one’s humility, rather being mindful of God in a quiet way as one live his or her life as Mary was doing when God chose her. Because she was humble, obedient, and believed God, she was blessed. And she turned the glory back to God when she was.

Lord, help me to remain humble and praise you when you exalt the humble.

Luke 1:39-45: Blessed Believers

Read: Luke 1:39-45

The Holy Spirit was alive and working among the four characters mentioned in this text:

  • Elizabeth knew that Mary was carrying her “lord” even though the child wasn’t even born. And for this reason, she held Mary in high regard as one would respect a person of honor.
  • Elizabeth and her child John were both filled with joy even as Mary and her child approached – so much so that Elizabeth’s child “leaped” in the womb.
  • Elizabeth recognized these facts in spite of the fact that Mary was yet unmarried. Conventional wisdom would have condemned such a pregnancy.

The blessings Mary received came because of her faith – she had the great honor carrying God incarnate. The coming of Mary and her child caused those who were sensitive to the Spirit’s workings to be filled with joy and with the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-8 shows that even in times of hardship and persecution the Spirit gives joy. This is because the readers of Thessalonians had become “imitators” of “us” – namely the apostle Paul and his companions that had been to Thessalonica to plant a church there. Christians nowadays too are like the Christians in the scriptures – they have the Holy Spirit and they have Jesus. When the Lord comes near and the Spirit works, the natural response of Christians should respond in joy in spite of the odd of unusual circumstances as Mary and Elizabeth were experience. Christians can believe and be blessed as Mary was.

Lord, when you come near, help me respond in joy!

Luke 1:5-38: “May It Be”

Read: Luke 1:5-38

Gabriel was a messenger from God and describes himself as one who “stands in the presence of God”. To even be in the presence of God would be something of note, but to stand in God’s presence indicates that Gabriel was an angel of great importance. He was previously sent in Daniel to explain to Daniel the significance of the rams and goats and give the 70-week predictions (Daniel 8, 9).  He was dispatched to deliver the news concerning two great men: John the Baptist and Jesus. John would prepare the way as a prophet for Jesus, the Lord.

The angel Gabriel appeared to two different people – Mary and Zacharias. Luke notes that Zacharias’ wife, Elizabeth, was barren and could not have children. Nevertheless, Zacharias continued to pray for a son and God answered this prayer. Elizabeth conceived and had John. Although Zacharias and Elizabeth were both described as blameless and God-fearing, Zacharias when he has the vision asks for a sign, because he didn’t believe Gabriel’s message. Because of this, Zacharias became mute. On the other hand though, when Mary was told that she would become pregnant with Jesus, she asked how, but didn’t ask for a sign from God on the matter. Rather, she believed it and said let it be so.

Jews during Jesus’ day were always looking for signs and wonders as proof. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees when they asked for a sign and said that the only sign he would give them would be the “Sign of Jonah”, which is a rather cryptic response. He was referring to himself in that Jesus was calling them to repent and predicting his death and resurrection  as Jonah was in the fish for 3 days, Jesus was in the ground for 3 days (Matthew 12:38-41, Matthew 16:1-4, Luke 11:29-32). Jesus was the sign, and after Jesus ascended he gave the Holy Spirit to open the minds of Christians to the things of God so that they can know the truth (1 Corinthians 1:22, 1 Corinthians 2).

God is still communicating with people today through his word, which is “God breathed” (3 Timothy 3:16-17). Asking for additional revelation as Zacharias did doesn’t seem too harmful, but the evidence was standing right before his eyes (as if the presence of an angel wasn’t enough!) Rather than ask for a sign one should ask for wisdom and understanding as Mary did. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the minds of Christians can be illuminated to understand the truths in the scriptures, and respond to the commands of Christ as Mary did, saying “may it be”. It is okay to question God when one doesn’t understand, nevertheless asking for more proof that what is given shouldn’t be necessary, because enough proof already exists.

Lord, when you speak, help me say, “may it be”.

Luke 1:1-4: “Exact Truth”

Read: Luke 1:1-4

Luke when writing his gospel wanted to give an orderly and accurate account about Jesus in the form of a gospel/letter of sort. Luke addresses his gospel to man named “Theophilus” that means in Greek, “lover of God”. Luke also holds Theophilus in high esteem because addresses him as “most excellent” — a title that Paul used to address Festus and Felix when he was on his way to Rome to be tried (Acts 24:3, Acts 26:25). Theophilus could have been a high ranking Roman citizen or something to that extent. Regardless though, Luke’s purpose was to show this man who loved God and was esteemed by Luke just who Jesus was.

Luke tells how he accomplished this task too. First, he “compiled accounts” about the things accomplished among “us”. Because Luke and Acts are probably a two volume set, Luke is including himself in the “us” – that is build a story of things in the present. He dovetails from these present tense accounts to the traditions that they had received “since the beginning”. He’s talking about the testimonies about Jesus’ life by those who walked, talked, and lived with Jesus while he was on earth — the eyewitnesses — many of who were probably still alive when Paul was writing Luke and Acts. Luke states that he was careful in his investigation so that he could accurately reflect the life and ministry of Jesus and the history of the early church.

The veracity of Luke’s account has been corroborated by archaeology. He names people, places, and events that many thought were fictional, but when a few discoveries were made in the 1800′s archaeology started taking Luke more seriously. Sense that time, many more discoveries have been made corroborating Luke’s gospel. From a historical perspective, this vindicates his assertion that he “investigated everything carefully”. The historical corroboration along with the high quality of the source materials used by Luke such as eyewitnesses show that the content of Luke isn’t merely mythological account of a a Jewish rabbi from Galilee, it is an accurate and historical account of the Savior of the World, Jesus.

Christians can trust the content of Luke’s gospel and the reality of their faith like Theophilus, knowing they have the “exact truth” about Jesus written in the pages of the of the Bible. Jesus was no fake, and for this reason, Christians can speak honestly about the gospel and hold to their convictions.

Lord, You have given me the exact truth! Help me to know it well!

Luke 1:1-4: Good News for Everyone

Read: Luke 1:1-4
Jesus’ coming into the world was good news for all people – he wasn’t merely the messiah for the Jews, rather the whole world. While all the gospels present Jesus in such a light, Luke’s gospel is perhaps the one that would resonates the most with a Gentile audience for a number of reasons:

  • The Gospel of Luke was probably written by the same author of the book of Acts. They were probably a two volume set, as the prologues of each book seem to indicate, written to a man named “Theophilus” which literally means “lover of God”. Theophilus is otherwise an unknown character in the scriptures, but the name is of Greek origin.
  • Luke himself was a traveling companion of Paul, a doctor by trade, and probably a Greek by birth (Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, Philemon 1:24). Luke was himself not an eyewitness to the accounts given in Luke, nevertheless he probably interviewed and gather information concerning the events contained in his gospel from eyewitnesses and other source material to write his gospel (Luke 1:1-4).
  • The Greek language employed in Luke’s gospel is much more advanced than other Greek used in the New Testament save that of maybe Hebrews and some of Peter’s epistles.
  • Luke focuses on the universality of salvation in that he deals with not only Jews, but the marginalized in society, Samaritans, and Gentiles as well. Acts carries on this same convention.

The focus on the Gentiles and the marginalized in the book of Luke is one way of communicating the importance of the gospel for all people everywhere no matter who they are or what they have done. Jesus relates and forgives people at all levels. Jesus’ willingness to associate with those that others considered to be lesser people serves as an example, and Christians ought to be willing to do the same even if it means that one may be ridiculed for doing so as Jesus was.

Lord, you came to seek and save everyone, not just some.
Teach me to be universal in my vision for the lost!

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