A Gift for Our Savior

Gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is the second week we are looking at these valuable gifts presented to Jesus by the Magi. Each gift portrayed a purpose and position the little boy Jesus would grow to fulfill.

Today, we will look at the message of myrrh.

Like frankincense, myrrh is a natural gum or resin extracted from a small, thorny tree. A myrrh seed is bitter. When broken, the seed emits a sweet fragrance. Myrrh has been used as an embalming spice. When mixed with wine, it can be consumed as a drink. It symbolizes bitterness, brokenness, suffering and affliction.

Myrrh prophetically pointed to Jesus as the Savior of the world. Myrrh was an expensive gift for the Magi to purchase. However, it signified something even more costly – our salvation. It cost Jesus His life.

Jesus referred to brokenness when informing His disciples what He would face after the Passover meal. He used broken bread as a symbol.

Jesus reclined at the table with His apostles. And He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before My suffering’. . . . And He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.’(taken from Luke 22:14-20)

Then came the reality. When Jesus was flogged and beaten, His skin was torn. When the thorny crown was pressed upon His head, the prickly points penetrated His skin. While He hung upon the cross, blood flowed from His hands and feet that were pierced by nails.

Paul echoss Jesus’ words of brokenness in I Corinthians 11:23-25 and adds in verse 26, For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” We are reminded of Jesus’ brokenness every time we hear these words spoken when partaking of the sacrament of communion.

The Seven Last Words are phrases Jesus spoke from the cross. Two of these phrases are applicable to myrrh and brokenness.

John 19:28-29 records, “. . . Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ . . . so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.” Myrrh was an ingredient of this drink.

Matthew 27:46 says, “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” This verse reveals the broken relationship between Jesus and His Heavenly Father. God the Father, perfect and holy, could not look upon His Son who carried the sins of the world as He died upon the cross.

Jesus, who was holy, became broken so that we, who are broken, can be made whole. Romans 5:10 says, For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Now let’s see how myrrh applies to us today.

Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.Although Christ was broken through crucifixion for us. there is still an aspect of crucifixion we must encounter. We must be broken, or separated from, our old nature to become new creations in Christ. We must be willing to crucify, or break away from, our fleshly desires. Embracing Christ as our Savior requires us to be broken from our past.

The breaking process may seem bitter but the result will be a beautiful fragrance. We will become the aroma of Christ. (II Corinthians 2:15) We embody both the bitterness and the sweetness of myrrh.

Hear the message of myrrh. Jesus tasted the bitterness and experienced its brokenness. Now the sweetness of salvation is available to us.

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A Gift for Our Priest

Gold, frankincense and myrrh – the three gifts of the Magi. We usually think of these gifts in correlation with the birth of Jesus rather than His death and resurrection. However, we are going to look at these precious and expensive gifts from a different perspective as we prepare for Resurrection Sunday.

We will begin by focusing upon frankincense.

The Magi’s gift of frankincense was a prophetic picture of the role Jesus would fulfill as our Great High Priest.

Frankincense is an aromatic incense. It is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The Old Testament priests used it when making sacrifices. In Leviticus 2, the priests put frankincense upon the grain offerings. In Leviticus 6, it was used with meat offerings.

The priests were from the tribe of Levi. They interceded to God for the people by offering the sacrifices required by the law. However, all the sacrifices only temporarily covered the people’s sins.

Jesus offered the final sacrifice when He became the sacrifice. Jesus was greater than any other priest, so He became our “Great High Priest”.

John 19:17-19 describes how the sacrifice of Jesus was made. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.”

The writer of Hebrews points out several distinctions between Jesus as the Great High Priest and the former Levitical priests.

“. . . we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. . . . For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.Hebrews 4:14-15

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.Hebrews 7:23-25

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:14

We no longer need to go through earthly mediators. When Jesus died on the cross, the temple’s veil was torn from top to bottom. Jesus restored our relationship with God and we no longer rely upon earthly priests.

Romans 8:34 says, “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Jesus made the final sacrifice. However, His mediation for us continues. Jesus reveals the will of God to us through the Holy Spirit. John 14:26 says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

I John 4:10 sums it up well saying, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Yes, Jesus embraced the Magi’s gift of frankincense to the fullest by becoming the greatest sacrifice.

Can we apply anything about frankincense to ourselves? I think so.

I Peter 2:5 says, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Peter adds in verse 9, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are priests!

Romans 12:1 states, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.There is a sacrifice for us to make. However, we are encouraged to be living sacrifices rather than a gum resin in a bottle.

II Corinthians 2:15 declares, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Maybe the aroma of Christ that we emit can be compared to the fragrance of frankincense.

Frankincense was presented to Jesus by the Magi when He was about two years old. Frankincense was a prophetic symbol pointing to when Jesus would die on the cross approximately 31 years later. According to Romans 8:34, He now sits at the right hand of God interceding for us as the Great High Priest.

 

 

Hidden Mysteries

Have you ever found the perfect gift that you just had to buy for someone? Did you then hide the gift because it was not the right time to give it?  I think God does this with us.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Proverbs 25:2
It is interesting that God hides things. Although God interacted with the people of the Old Testament, He also chose to keep some things concealed. He revealed messages through pictures and prophecies but the people did not completely understand all He was saying and doing. I sometimes wonder if God hides things from us just so we will look for them. Today, I am searching for what He has hidden.

. . . filled with the full riches of complete understanding, so that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:2-3
Paul is talking about Christ being the mystery that was concealed in the Old Testament but revealed in the New Testament. He also emphasizes that there are more treasures hidden in Christ.

So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
Matthew 13:35
Jesus taught through parables. He fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 78:2. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old.” Sometimes His parables hid meaning and other times they gave insight. Although I have read Jesus’ parables many times, the Holy Spirit continues to give me fresh perspectives. I can discover things that had previously been hidden.

there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
Matthew 10:26

Jesus spoke these words as He sent His disciples out to “the lost sheep of Israel”. They were to reveal the Gospel’s hidden message.

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth
John 16:12-13
Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit. People were not ready or able to comprehend all that God still wanted to reveal. Now we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper so we can gain new understanding about God and His plans and purposes.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3
Although God has concealed things, He also desires to reveal things. He promises to tell us things we have not even thought about! When we need to hear something fresh and are able to understand more deeply, God will reveal it to us. I find this verse very encouraging.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

Although Moses spoke these words to the Israelites, they still apply today. When God entrusts us with His revelations, it is our responsibility to share His insights with those who have not yet heard the gospel or do not understand it.

You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
John 13:7

Jesus spoke these words to Peter while washing the disciples feet. However, I also hear Jesus saying them to us
today. The greater eternal purposes of God are beyond our comprehension. Our knowledge is limited while God’s wisdom is beyond measure.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 NLT

“What we cannot see” can refer to our lack of ability to see intellectually as well as impaired vision of the eye. Faith does not require us to know everything perfectly. All of us have questions for God. However, we need to be content knowing that what may now be concealed will be revealed in the future.
If I knew everything about God, I would have facts not faith. Faith allows us to accept the mysteries that God keeps concealed. It allows us to accept the limits of our revelation and honor God’s secrets. Although what our eyes see is easier to understand, faith is always more challenging and exciting.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
I Corinthians 13:12 NLT
It is still God’s glory to conceal some matters. As long as we seek deeper insight, God will give us
clearer understanding. The mysteries of God encourage us to grow in our faith. Personally, His mysteries keep me from becoming bored. I am not content. I always want to learn more.

God has purchased the perfect gift for each of us. He still hides the fullness of this gift. However, He gives partial revelations at the appropriate times. God is too big for us to fully understand with our finite minds. But, the day will come when we will completely know Him. What a wonderful promise! Meanwhile, what an awesome journey!

Up and Down

It all began when I wanted to ask my husband a question. He was in the basement, so I went downstairs. When coming back up, I paused. I asked God, “Do You have something to show me about steps and stairs today?”

When I reached the top of the stairs, I went to my desk. With my Bible beside me and my fingers on the computer keys, I was ready for a search. The following is what the Lord showed me.

Jacob’s ladder was the first Bible story that came to my mind. Stairs and ladders are similar.

Genesis 28:10-22 records Jacob’s dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder between earth and heaven. In this dream, God talked with Jacob. When he awoke, Jacob said in verse 16, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.God in heaven communicated with Jacob on earth. Finally in verse 17, Jacob described this place as the gate of heaven. Halley’s Bible Handbook points out that the ladder was a hint of the Promises of God that would culminate in a bridge between heaven and earth.

Jesus says in John 1:51, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man. Jesus is referring back to Jacob’s dream while also revealing the purpose of His leaving heaven and coming to earth. The BibleRef commentary says that Jesus was giving His disciples a tiny preview of the miracles to come. He was making a subtle reference to the reason for His ministry: to be the connection between men and God.

Jacob described angels ascending and descending. Jesus talked about them too. What does God want to show me about angels and stairs? Are angels ascending and descending for us today?

Leslie White makes some good comments on the website beliefnet. Leslie writes,Though we may not see them or know they are there, angels are watching over us, transporting blessings into our lives, protecting us from danger and helping us to glorify God better. . . .  Angels are fascinating spiritual beings. . . . When we get to heaven, we’ll probably be amazed to discover just how often God’s angels protected us or intervened on our behalf. Whether you realize it or not, angels are watching over you at this very moment. What a wonderful creator God is.” Leslie validates her remarks with numerous scriptures. I will include a few.

See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” – Exodus 23:20

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” – Hebrews 1:14

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.”Psalm 91:11-12

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2

I went downstairs to ask my husband a question. I did not want to just shout to him. I wanted to be near him so we could talk. We were able to hear each other better when we were in each other’s presence.

I believe the message God wants to relay to me is that He wants to be with us. He wants to communicate with us. He desires to be active in our daily lives. God relates to us in various ways. He speaks through His Word. The Holy Spirit lives within us and is our Helper. God may give us dreams and visions. And, He sends His angels as messengers and warriors. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

God took the opportunity to show me His symbolic spiritual stairway while I was descending and ascending our basement stairs. I am glad God spoke to me in picturesque ways that I could understand. Like Jacob, I declare, “surely the presence of the Lord was in this place.”

Turn on the Light

You are the light of the world.
Matthew 5:14

Last week I shared about being salt. This week, I am thinking about being light. Through both images, Jesus is speaking about being a witness.

The very first verse of the Bible states that there was darkness over the face of the deep before God created the heavens and the earth. God’s first words recorded in Genesis 1:2 are, “Let there be light and there was light.” This verse describes physical light replacing physical darkness. However, as a witness, I am thinking about spiritual light overcoming spiritual darkness.

Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” Then Matthew 5:14 says, “You are the light of the world. How can I connect these verses of Matthew and John? I am reminded of Genesis 1:27, “God created mankind in His own image.So, if Jesus is light and I am made in His image, then, I guess I can also be light. However, I like to make a distinction by thinking of Jesus as the light of the world while I am a light of the world. I am like the moon that reflects the light of the sun. The moon has no light of its own. It reflects the light of the sun. I shine forth light, but my light is a reflection of the light of God’s Son.

When Jesus says that He is the light of the world in John 8:12, He goes on to say,Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.Jesus is explaining that He is the source of spiritual light that overcomes spiritual darkness. He declares in John 12:46, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should remain in darkness.

Ephesians 5:8 NLT says, For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light.’” I was not always light. I once knew what it was like to be in darkness without the light of understanding. I became light when I accepted Jesus, the Light, as my savior. Now it is my responsibility to be a light to those who are still in darkness.

Matthew 5:15 says I must not hide my light but let it shine. Matthew 5:16 emphasizes, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” My light is not to shine on me. My responsibility is to light the way for others to come to see Christ. I desire for God to be glorified – not me.

How can I be the light I am called to be? The natural realm helps me understand the supernatural realm. A lamp setting on a table will not emit light in a dark room if its cord is not plugged into a source of electricity. If I am to be a light to the darkened world, I must be connected to Jesus, the light of the world. The Holy Spirit is my spiritual cord. He is my connection. He is my helper. John 14:26 NASB says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

John 1:4-5 says of Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Light overcomes darkness rather than darkness extinguishing light. Light is more powerful. It exposes the deceptions of darkness and illuminates the brilliance of truth. Proverbs 14:25 says, “A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful. As a witness, I am a light sharing God’s Word of truth with those who have not yet been enlightened by Jesus. Sharing scripture is one way of witnessing. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your (God’s) word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Paul warns in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.(my emphasis) Choices I make affect how effectively and brightly my light shines to those in darkness. My actions are as much a part of my witness as are my words. I must be careful or my light will be very dim.

I Peter 2:9 NKJV declares, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. His own special people, that you proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. The Lord has called me into the light and now I am to go back into the darkness to proclaim the marvelous light of Jesus Christ. I have a testimony to share. God says in Isaiah 43:10, “You are My witnesses.” It is a privilege to be light for Him!

My Reader, are you a light?  Think about it every time you turn on a light.

Shake the Salt from the Salt Shaker

You are the salt of the earth.
Matthew 5:13

If I am salt, I picture myself being composed of little seasoning granules. My body is the salt shaker holding the granules of Christ in me.

As a believer, it is my responsibility to shake and share Christ-crystals upon those around me. In other words, I am to be a witness. In Isaiah 43:10, the Lord declares, “You are My witnesses.” Before Jesus’ ascension, He told His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He still says this to me today.

I want to think about how some of the characteristics of salt teach me to be a witness for Christ.

Before refrigeration became available, the chemical compound known as salt was often used as a preservative. If people had eaten improperly stored meat, they could have died from food poisoning. As a believer, God allows me to shake the salt of salvation upon those around me. My salt comes from God’s Word. My saltiness proclaims John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.Proverbs 14:25 says, “A truthful witness saves lives.

Salt is often added to food to enhance flavor. Some people’s taste buds are tantalized by a saltier flavor than others. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.Reading God’s Word is never bland. However, sometimes one needs a little extra flavor sprinkled upon the written Word. Maybe I can add a little extra saltiness to scripture by sharing how I have applied a specific verse to a personal problem.

I can strive to add flavor by sharing God’s favor. God’s favor is His grace. According to
I Corinthians 15:10, I know that the grace of God is with me. And, I Corinthians 12:9 assures me that God’s grace is sufficient. The presence of God’s favor is part of my tasty testimony. I can assure others that they too can have God’s flavorful favor according to Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

After eating something extremely salty, like potato chips or peanuts, I want a drink of water. God’s purpose for me as salt is to create a thirst in others for spiritual water. In John 7:37 Jesus says, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” I desire to shake enough salty Christ-crystals upon others to create a spiritual thirst.

I like the fact that I am salt according to Matthew 5:13. However, I do not want to be a salt shaker that never distributes the salt within me. Colossians 4:6 encourages me to be a witness by saying, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” David says in Psalm 1914,May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” May my words be palatable granules of glory to God and the flavor of favor to those around me.

My Reader, are you salt?  Think about it each time you use a salt shaker.

Lion and Lamb

There is an old proverb about March that says, “In like a lion and out like a lamb.” As a child, I would always watch the weather on March 1. Was it like a lion? Was it like a lamb? I have also heard that if March comes in like a lamb, it will go out like a lion. Not much truth in this saying other than March weather can be a volatile. Spring arrives in the middle of the month but plenty of winter still hangs around – especially in the northeast where we live. March is a month with ferocious lion-like winter days as well as milder lamb-like spring days. 

Lions and lambs. Two very different animals. Both terms are used for Jesus Christ. He is the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb who was slain.

Lions are fierce animals that symbolize power. A lion roaming its territory creates a sense of majesty. A lion is known as the king of the beasts. What a powerful prophetic picture of Jesus!

In Genesis 49:9-10, Jacob blessed his son, Judah, saying, You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness – who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.The tribe of Judah became known as the kingly tribe.

I find it interesting that Judah was referred to as a lion’s cub. Was it significant that he was a cub while Jesus later became the Lion of Judah?

Lambs were often the sacrificial animals throughout the Old Testament. They were symbolic of Jesus who would become the sacrifice of all sacrifices. Hebrews 10:14 states, “For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

In Genesis 22, God provided the lamb for the burnt offering so Abraham did not have to offer the sacrifice of his son Isaac. The account of the first Passover is recorded in Exodus 12. The sacrificed lamb provided protection for the Israelites.

John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” in John 1:29. Three years later, Jesus fulfilled the role as the Lamb of God when He died upon the cross for our redemption.

In the last book of the Bible, Jesus is described as both the Lion and the Lamb. John says in Revelation 5:5-6, “and one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking, as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by four lining creatures and the elders.

While Jesus is described as both a lion and a lamb, each animal reveals a different aspect of His character. We see Him as the conquering King who will slay the enemies of God when He returns. And, we see Him as the sacrificial Lamb who took away the sin from His people so they can share in His ultimate victory.

In one of his sermons, Augustine emphasized that the lion stands for Christ resurrected and the lamb for His sacrifice. His words are “He endured death as a lamb; he devoured it as a lion.”

I like the song The Lion and the Lamb. Partial lyrics are as follows:

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before You
Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world, His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
So open up the gates, make way before the King of kings
Our God who calls the saved is here to set the captives free

Lions and lambs create an interesting topic whether we are talking about weather or Jesus Christ. According to the calendar, we know March 1st is coming in a couple of days. Then we will find out whether the weather is like a lion or a lamb for 2019. We do not know when Jesus will return. However, the Lamb of God promises in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon!