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Zechariah and Elizabeth

5In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. 8Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” 21Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25“This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” (Luke 1:5-25, NRSV)

What would you do if you were met by an angel and that angel told you you were going to have a baby, and not only that but you and your spouse are both up in years and have been barren all of your life? Would you question it?

I think most of us would, even in the innermost part of the sanctuary. We would wonder if this were true. Because we know that life has given us and what is physically possible. We do not think about what God can do and God will do for us. Knowing that anything is possible with God.

Especially now as we await the coming of Jesus in the manger, as a baby. And as we await His return to us as judge over all the world.

Let us hold tight to what God has done for us and will continue to do for us. Do not lose sight of the wonder of the baby in the manger and hold tight to the promises God has given us.

 

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What Makes a Good King

14When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,” 15you may indeed set over you a king whom the Lord your God will choose. One of your own community you may set as king over you; you are not permitted to put a foreigner over you, who is not of your own community. 16Even so, he must not acquire many horses for himself, or return the people to Egypt in order to acquire more horses, since the Lord has said to you, “You must never return that way again.” 17And he must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself. 18When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the levitical priests. 19It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20neither exalting himself above other members of the community nor turning aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he and his descendants may reign long over his kingdom in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20, NRSV)

Who is a good king?

One who is of your own people.

One who will not amass wealth, who will focus his thoughts on the people.

One who will not exalt himself over others, but see himself as a servant to the masses.

We are called to serve one another. Let us think first of the other and love as God loves us.

 

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Hard Times to Come

15“So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), 16then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 17the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; 18the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 19Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. 21For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’ —do not believe it. 24For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25Take note, I have told you beforehand. 26So, if they say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look! He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.29“Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. (Matthew 24:15-29, NRSV)

Let the reader understand…

Let the reader understand what? What happened with the sacrilege of holy items in Daniel, where the king took the items from the temple and used them as common everyday dishes. Or is there something else we should understand?

If it is the taking of items for daily use that should be for holy use, what is there to understand, that we shouldn’t do this? Or those of us who are doing it because we are revering the items and not taking them because they are made of precious metal and have intrinsic value. The king in Daniel raided the temple and took the items because they were valuable, not because they were holy and using them for daily use when they are holy when you see them only as valuable is wrong. Because every moment of our lives is holy, there is never a time we are not with God, so know that God is always with you and every moment is holy and use the implements of the holy time in your daily life because it is holy, not because of its value.

Let the reader understand…

 

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The Wedding Banquet

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14, NRSV)

What does this mean?

The king called the nobles and they wouldn’t come and some of them actually killed the king’s servants. So the king sent his army and destroyed the city. But the king still needed guests for the banquet.

So he called all the common people, everyone was invited! But when the king came in he noticed one person without a wedding robe. And he asked how he got in without one and told his servants to cast him out. It just doesn’t make sense.

But what if I told you that the king provided the wedding garments for all to where? The common people were not expected to own fancy wears but only had to use them. This man chose not to put on the robe. It is like saying I don’t want to be covered with Christ I will stand before God on my own. How far will that get you?

Take the garment and follow after Jesus.

 

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David’s Heir

12When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13, NRSV)

How would you like to hear this from God? God is saying when you die I will raise up your offspring and establish his kingdom forever.

You know the offspring of David that God is referring to here is Jesus. And the throne of Jesus’ kingdom was established and it will last forever. And the house that Jesus built was the church.

So know you are part of the body of Christ and God will always be with you.

 

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The Unforgiving Servant

15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” 21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:15-35, NRSV)

Wow. I am in deep trouble. This passage has Jesus telling us if we do not forgive others, that God will not forgive us. God will hold us accountable for every wrong we have done and make us pay back everything we owe God. Which is ultimately everything. Here a slave is forgiven a huge debt. How big was this debt?

Well in comparison the other slave owed the first 100 denarii which is the same as the pay for 100 days of work. so in about 4 months, a person could earn that amount. But 10,000 Talents is a lot more. You see a Talent is a measure of weight for gold. 1 Talent is equal to about 75 U.S. pounds. So just to give an example in today’s values, on February 22, 2019, when I typed this devotional the value of 1 ounce of Gold was $1,323.24. So 1 Talent would equal $1,587,888! and 10,000 would be $15,878,880,000! That is over 15 Billion. And the king forgave the debt when the slave begged! But that slave could not take the forgiveness he was given and give it to others because he needed what was his.

But think about what God has forgiven you. And that is worth way more than 15 Billion so we should forgive others.

 

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Bless the Lord!


19The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
20Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word.
21Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will.
22Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
(Psalm 103:19-22, NRSV)

We have every reason in the world to bless the Lord for everything God has done for us.

So let your soul sing and give glory to the king.

Bless the Lord!

 

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The Lions Den, part 2

When the king heard the charge, he was very much distressed. He was determined to save Daniel, and until the sun went down he made every effort to rescue him. Then the conspirators came to the king and said to him, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!” A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him. Then, at break of day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?” Daniel then said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.” Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. The king gave a command, and those who had accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. Then King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world: “May you have abundant prosperity! I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: For he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end. He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth; for he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Daniel 6:14-28, NRSV)

So the king was wanting to change his law that those who pray to others other than him would be thrown into the lion’s den. He did not want Daniel to be killed as he loved Daniel and all he was doing for the kingdom. But the law could not be changed regardless of what the king wanted. So Daniel had to be thrown into the lion’s den. And did you see what the king did before Daniel was thrown in?

The king tried to stop it, but after that and before the stone was rolled and the signet ring was used to seal the opening.

If only we could have the faith that the king had in a God he didn’t even believe in at that point! The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!” The king knew that Daniel served his God faithfully and he hoped that this God would be able to deliver Daniel from the lions.

Do we have this faith?

Do we show the world this faith as we wait for our savior?

Do we help others know the love of God?

 

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The Fiery Furnace, part 1

King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O King. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:1-12, NRSV)

King Nebuchadnezzar is just like almost every other king of history and sees himself as a god.

So he created an idol and ordered his kingdom to worship it. And everyone who doesn’t do this will be thrown into a furnace and killed.

All people need to worship their king. Yet as Jews and Christians we are called to worship God alone and not have idols.

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego should not worship the idol and they don’t and it gets them noticed.

When do we live our faith out loud?

How can we in this season of Advent live our faith in a way that helps people see the real meaning of Christmas and points the world to the love of the coming Savior?

 

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The Glory of a Foreign King

This happened in the days of Ahasuerus, the same Ahasuerus who ruled over one hundred twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia. In those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, in the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his officials and ministers. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were present, while he displayed the great wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and pomp of his majesty for many days, one hundred eighty days in all. When these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in the citadel of Susa, both great and small, a banquet lasting for seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and blue hangings tied with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. Drinks were served in golden goblets, goblets of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. Drinking was by flagons, without restraint; for the king had given orders to all the officials of his palace to do as each one desired. Furthermore, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in the palace of King Ahasuerus. (Esther 1:1-9, NRSV)

Can you imagine a feast so grand that everyone is invited? And this banquet lasts forever and ever…

Sometimes it is hard to imagine a king so inviting and open and loving to all of the people of their kingdom because it isn’t what we learned about kings and kingdoms from history.

But that is what the kingdom of God is like. When all people come together and feast for days together in the peace of the feast of the kingdom.

That is how all eternity will be. And that is the hope we all have!

 

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