Posts Tagged ‘Angels’

JESUS’ FULFILLMENT OF THE MOSAIC FEASTS

 

At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, three events occurred in rapid succession: His crucifixion, His resurrection, and the Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit indwelt believers and empowered them to do exploits. All three of these events were imprinted in the minds of the Israelites over a millennium earlier by Moses in terms of feasts and observances.

The first event, Jesus’ crucifixion, was initially foreshadowed in detail by God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, as related in Genesis 22. But the commemorative feast for this event is the Passover, as instituted by Moses just before the Israelites were to cast off their enslavement and depart for Egypt. The account of the institution of this feast is given in Exodus 12:1-3, 5-7, and 12 and 13:

And the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak you to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house . . . Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: you shall you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it . . . For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be to you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.”

The lamb was kept in the house for four days, just long enough for it to become a household pet with the formation of a loving bond between the people and this innocent creature. Then it was slain and its blood spread on the doorposts and lintel as a sign to God to spare the occupants within as He went out to slay the firstborn of Egypt.

The Passover Lamb was a type of Jesus, who was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover, the exact time when the lambs were traditionally slain. He was described as the Lamb of God by the Apostle John, first in John’s Gospel and then in the Book of Revelation. Christians claim the remission of their sins and their spiritual salvation by the washing of Jesus’ blood: He is our Passover Lamb.

The second event that was linked to a feast was Jesus’ resurrection after three days and three nights in the grave following His crucifixion. The corresponding feast established by Moses is the wave offering of first fruits of the barley harvest, traditionally held during the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan. The exact day is given in Leviticus 23:11 as the day following the Sabbath. The Sabbath after Jesus’ crucifixion was Saturday, Nisan 16, making the Feast of First Fruits the following day, or Sunday, Nisan 17. The account is given in Leviticus 23:9-14:

“And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you are come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the next day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer that day when you wave the sheaf an he-lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering to the Lord. And the meal offering thereof shall be two tenth parts of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savor: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, a quart. And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until that same day that you have brought an offering to your God: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

The wave offering was intended to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, as Jesus was the first fruit of resurrected mankind.

The third feast is related in Leviticus 23:15-21:

And you shall count to you from the next day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: even to the next day after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meal offering unto the Lord. You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth parts; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the first fruits unto the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year . . .”

The passage continues with additional offerings, ending with the command that the feast is a holy convocation, no work being permitted, and a statute forever.

As it traditionally occurred fifty days after the Feast of First Fruits, this event is called the Feast of Pentecost. It is named after the root word pente, which means fifty. Pentecost is known by Christians as the mighty presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit that took place fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection and ten days after His return to heaven as related in Acts 1.

The event itself is described in Acts 2:1-18:

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly here came a sound from heaven like a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, You men of Judaea, and all you who dwell at Jerusalem, be this known to you, and hearken to my words; for these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but [nine o’clock in the morning]. But this is that which was spoken through the prophet, Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

We can glean a number of facts from this correspondence between the Mosaic feasts of the spring and major events associated with Jesus’ crucifixion.

First, Jesus’ crucifixion was a preplanned event. Some false theologians are fond of asserting that Jesus was caught unawares by His arrest. That notion violates the clear teaching of the Old Testament.

Second, Scripture is not only truthful, it is precise. It is truthful in every detail. The days of Jesus’ crucifixion, His resurrection, and the birth of the Church were set with precision over a thousand years before the events took

place.

Third, the Church is an integral part of God’s master plan. The mystery of Ephesians 5:25-31 wherein the Church is defined as the Bride of Christ is not trivial. It is essential.

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HOLY CLOUD

 

If one looks up the word “cloud” in a Bible concordance, even a modest one, he will see well over forty entries. They don’t all have the same meanings, of course, but there are several that do. And some that do have the same meanings don’t seem to at first, because they are used in different contexts. The Biblical clouds that are mentioned here all have the same meaning, and that meaning is a holy one.

In Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8, the Glory of the Lord, called by the Hebrews the Shekinah, indwelt as a Cloud both the tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s Temple at their dedications. This indwelling feminine Presence was a type – a representative precursor to – the Holy Spirit who indwelt Jesus’ disciples at the Pentecost described in Acts 2 and now, as the Comforter promised by Jesus in John 14, indwells every constituent of Jesus’ entire Church, described by Paul as living temples of God.

The Shekinah Glory of the Wilderness Tabernacle is described in Exodus 40:33-38:

“And [Moses] reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; but if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”

The description “cloud of the Lord”, “fire by night” and “taken up” leaves no doubt that this “cloud” is equivalent to the Shekinah of the Red Sea adventure and of Isaiah 4:5.

The Shekinah Glory of Solomon’s Temple is described in 1 Kings 8:5-11:

And King Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be counted nor numbered for multitude. And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered the ark and its staves above. And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the inner sanctuary, but they were not seen outside,; and there they are unto this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.”

In Daniel 7:13 and 14, and Matthew 17:1-5, the Holy Spirit, still represented by a Cloud, accompanies Jesus in His spiritual appearance before men.

“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

“And after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain, privately, and was transfigured before them; and his face did shine like the sun, and his raiment was as white as the light. And, behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you will, let us make here three booths; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and, behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you him.”

In Matthew 24:30, Acts 1:8-11, and Revelation 1:7 and 14:14 that same Cloud conveys Jesus between earth and heaven:

“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

“But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth. And, when [Jesus] had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in while apparel, who also said, You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heave, shall so come in like nammer as you have seen him go into heaven.”

“Behold, [Jesus] comes with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also who pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”

“And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat, like the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.”

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17 and Revelation 11:11 and 12, the cloud also conveys from earth to heaven special humans, constituting the Church and the prophetic witnesses in Jerusalem at the last days of the age:

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

“And after three days and a half the spirit of life from God entered into [the two witnesses], and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them who saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies beheld them.”

In each of the passages noted above, the settings, associations and contexts readily identify the Cloud as representing the Holy Spirit. But our appreciation of and involvement with the Holy Spirit is greater than mere recognition or even conveyance. As I noted in my book Marching to a Worthy Drummer, the connection between the precursor temple Presence and the indwelling of Christian believers is given in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:19-22, wherein Paul asserts that the Church herself, through her constituents, is a temple indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

“Know you not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

“Now, therefore, you are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.”

SOLOMON’S WISDOM

According to 1 Kings 3:5-28, Solomon asked for wisdom and received it – in abundance:

“In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, Ask what I shall give you. And Solomon said, You have showed to your servant David, my father, great mercy, according as he walked before you in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with you; and you have kept for him this great kindness, that you have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king instead of David, my father; and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or to come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, who cannot be numbered or counted for multitude. Give, therefore, your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge this your great people?

“And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said to him, Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life; neither have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words: lo, I have given you a wise and an understanding heart, so that there was none like you before you, neither after you shall any arise like unto you. And I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches, and honor, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto you all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as your father, David, did walk, then I will lengthen your days.

“And Solomon awoke, and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants. Then came there two women, who were harlots, to the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, except we two were in the house. And this woman’s child died in the night, because she lay on it. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, it was dead; but when I had looked at it in the morning, behold, it was not my son whom I did bear. And the other woman said, Nay; but the living child is my son, and the dead is your son. And this said, No; but the dead child is your son, and the living is my son. Thus they spoke before the king.

“Then said the king, The one says, This is my son who lives, and your son is the dead; and the other says, Nay; but your son is the dead child, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spoke the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her heart yearned over her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor yours, but divide it.

“Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and by no means slay it; she is the mother of it. And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice.”

The wisdom of God indeed was in Solomon, far beyond imparting to him the ability as king to elevate the nation of Israel over all others in space and time. For his noble desire to place his service to God above self, God gave him an understanding of Wisdom as a Person, the Divine Member of the Godhead whom we know as the Holy Spirit and the Person of whom Solomon wrote in the Book of Proverbs.

In like manner God gave his father David an understanding of the Divine Will, the Holy Father. Subsequently, David wrote about Him in the Book of Psalms, of which David was the primary author.

The Psalms and Proverbs do more than inform us of the nature of God; they also informed the Jesus who came in the flesh about His own Divine Roots. To that end, the Book of Psalms was a loving letter of greeting and instruction from the Divine Father to His only begotten Son. In that circumstance, David was the surrogate Father who, in writing that letter, inserted that knowledge of the Father into Scripture for Jesus to read and study. Perhaps that is why Jesus called Himself the Son of David.

In the same way the Book of Proverbs also was a loving letter of greeting and instruction from Jesus’ other Divine Parent, the Holy Spirit.

If that is the case, He would have understood Psalms and Proverbs to have been written especially for His intimate understanding of his Divine Parents. Proverbs 1:8 is a particularly appropriate remark in that context:

“My son, hear the instruction of your father, and forsake not the law of your mother;”

Perhaps also Jesus would have rejoiced in reading Proverbs 8:22-31:

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth – when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth; while he as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when he gave to the sea its decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delight was with the sons of men.”

Perhaps a filial concern clouded Jesus’ features when he came to Proverbs 8:36:

“But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all who hate me love death.”

If so, it explains why Jesus spoke so protectively in Matthew 12:31 and 32 against blaspheming the Holy Spirit:

“Wherefore, I say to you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven men. And whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, neither in the age to come.”

NAMING THE ANIMALS

 

In Genesis 2, God pronounces it not good that Adam should be without a mate. But before He proceeds to do something about it, He brings the animals of His Creation to Adam and asks him to name them. Then he forms Eve out of Adam’s rib.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help fit for him.

“And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help fit for him.

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

This passage raises a number of questions, particularly in the sequence of events, but with other issues besides. Why did God insert the naming of the animals between His concern over Adam being alone and His forming of Eve? What was so important about Adam naming the animals? How could he possibly name all the animals, given the enormous diversity of life?

As to the first issue, the sequence of the Biblical narrative, I like best an answer picked off the Internet on the Creation Moments website: God was using the simple tool of names to teach Adam to communicate, a skill that he would then pass on to Eve, enabling them to bond through joint communication. That answer is appealing, as it would be a valid prerequisite to the event of bringing Adam and Eve together, much to be preferred to the two staring dumbly at each other and at a total loss for words.

This reason also answers in part the second issue, the importance of Adam naming the animals. But there are other important reasons other than helping Adam to communicate with Eve, one of which is that in having Adam name the animals, God was asserting that these creatures were fixed kinds, finished designs whose basic properties would remain intact throughout history. Thus, this episode in Adam’s life is a slap in the face to Darwin’s theory of evolution, which postulates that life is unceasingly undergoing change. In Darwin’s view, all life is in constant transition from one form to another, so that the animals we see now are simply snapshots in time of what may be very different in the future.

Noted biochemist Douglas Axe captures the essence of this contrast between God’s stability of form with Darwin’s corresponding instability in Chapter 6 of his book Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed. There, under the heading “Life A La Darwin”, Axe speaks of the salmon and the Orca whale, each very different but “utterly committed to being what it is”. Life, as Axe sees it, magnificently represents completion of form, creatures living precisely as God designed them to live.

This stability of form leads to the next issue, the question as to how Adam could have named all the animals, even within his very long lifetime. If all kinds of life are stable as was asserted above, the very diversity of life would not only indicate that this variety existed at the time of Adam, but also would make his task extremely difficult. At this point I’ll make a statement that appears to directly contradict this supposed stability of life: there were a relatively few “kinds” of animals that Adam was asked to name; first they were limited to birds and the larger animals; second, these “kinds” were the much-fewer basic precursors whose offspring branched out after Noah’s Flood to the diversity we see today. But then one might say, “See? Animals aren’t stable in form at all!” But the post-Flood diversity has much more to do with designed-in adaptability than actual change corresponding to the evolutionary model. The difference is that God’s engine of change is His inclusion in DNA of pre-existing alternate design modifications, whereas Darwin’s “engine” is dumb, random variation.

Take, for instance, the dog. There exists today an enormous variety of dogs of varying shapes, sizes and attributes. But they’re all still dogs, having the wolf as a common ancestor. The DNA of the wolf is information-rich, capable of accommodating plans “B”, “C”, and so on according to environmental conditions or the human interference of breeding. Most common breeds today are the product of the intelligent operation of selective breeding, and some, but not all, of their features would quickly revert back to those of their common ancestor if they were to be divested of their human overseers and go into the wild. It is true the Mexican hairless creature would be in serious trouble in another ice age because some features such as length of hair might be incapable of reversion. But that would be due to DNA information loss arising from forced breeding.

FORTY DAYS IN THE LIVES OF MOSES AND JESUS

 

After Moses’ return from the top of mount Sinai with the stone tablets upon which God had written the Ten Commandments, he found that the people had returned to worshiping a golden calf cast from jewelry. In his intense anger, he broke the tablets. In his mercy, God allowed him to return to the mountain, where God would inscribe a second set of tablets with the Ten Commandments. The episode is recorded in Exodus 34:1-10 and 27-29:

“And the Lord said to Moses, Hew you two tables of stone like the first; and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which you did break. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me in the top of the mount. And no man shall come up with you, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount. And [Moses] hewed two tables of stone like the first; and he rose up early in the morning, and went up to Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.

“And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, to the third and to the fourth generation.

“And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. And he said, If now I have found grace in your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray you, go among us; for it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance. And [the Lord] said, Behold, I make a covenant: Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord; for it is an awe-inspiring thing that I will do with you.”

“And the Lord said to Moses, Write you these words; for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. And [Moses] was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.”

Moses’ time spent on Mount Sinai had a prophetic element, as the forty days and forty nights of his stay on the mountain in the presence of the Lord pointed to Jesus Christ and the identical time which He spent in the wilderness as His first act after being baptized. The account is given in all the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). The following is Matthew’s version of the event, Matthew 3:16 and 17, and 4:1-11:

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went immediately out of the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. And, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungry.

“And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But [Jesus] answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Then the devil took him up to the holy city, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down; for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you, and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test. Again, the devil took him up to an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me. Then said Jesus to him, Begone, Satan; for it is written, You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him only shall you serve. Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.”

Shortly after this forty-day period of trial, Jesus started His ministry. The Gospels don’t mention the number of days that passed between the two events, so one cannot dogmatically assume that it was ten. Nevertheless, it is a possibility that fifty days passed from the time of Jesus’ baptism to the beginning of his active ministry.

If that is indeed the case, the pattern of forty plus ten days continues beyond Jesus. In John 12:26 and 14:12, Jesus indicates that His disciples will follow His lead:

“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor.”

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to my Father.

In John 20:22, apparently on the day following His resurrection, Jesus breathes on His disciples, conferring on them the Holy Spirit. He remained with them for forty days. From the time of Jesus ascension until the Pentecost ten days later, the disciples didn’t appear to have responded to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Their power from God came at the Pentecost, as described in Acts 2. Could that forty-plus-ten-day period have been a time of testing and strengthening for the disciples, as it may have been for Jesus?

The number forty is common in Scripture. Moses communed with God with a backdrop of terrifying violence while Jesus as God communed with His Word with a backdrop of terrifying evil. Both of them fasted for the duration. God granted Nineveh through Jonah forty days to get its act together.

The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years; both David and his son Solomon reigned as kings for forty years.

JESUS’ RIDE TO DESTINY

 

Daniel had foretold the appearance of the Messiah around five hundred years earlier in his famous prophecy of the seventy weeks. In Daniel 9:25, the angel Gabriel tells Daniel that from the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the Messiah the Prince would be a total of sixty nine “weeks” of years, or 483 prophetic years, which amounts to 173,880 days. When that very day arrived 483 prophetic years from Artaxerxes’ command to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 B.C., Jesus presented Himself at Jerusalem as King and Savior. The event is recorded in Matthew 21:1-11, the first three verses of which describe Jesus’ acquisition of two asses for His journey into Jerusalem:

“And when they drew near to Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying to them, Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them and bring them to me. And if any man say anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them, and immediately he will send them.”

It has been said that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass to show His humble nature. But He was following the lead of King Solomon as well, who also came on a mule to receive his kingship over Israel. That earlier event is described in 1 Kings 1:33,38 and 39:

“The king [David] also said to them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon, my son, to ride upon my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon . . .So Zadok, the priest, and Nathan, the prophet, and Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon King David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon. And Zadok, the priest, took a horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save King Solomon.”

Around the middle of the nine hundred or so years between Solomon and Jesus, the prophet Zechariah in verse 9:9 predicted this very event, where Jesus would follow Solomon’s lead in riding a lowly animal to be crowned King of Israel.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, your King comes to you, he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.”

The foretelling of this event is one of a large number of prophecies in which the Holy Spirit, through the writings of obedient humans, displayed the character of the Jesus to come. In this case, Jesus showed His humble nature, but also acknowledged His rightful Kingship over Israel and His believers throughout history.

Elsewhere in Scripture the Gospels affirm that Jesus also acknowledged His Godhood and the importance that He placed in the Spiritual domain as opposed to the material world. In John 8, for example, Jesus identified Himself as God of Abraham who also had spoken to Moses in the burning bush:

“Your father, Abraham, rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews to him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I AM.”

Notice here how the Pharisees were so fixated on the material world that they couldn’t comprehend Jesus’ pre-existence in the spiritual domain. Yet, through His healing acts, Jesus demonstrated how thoroughly He controlled the material world, showing man that the spiritual world is of far greater significance than the material domain. Jesus constantly told His disciples that a greater life awaits them out of this world that we find ourselves in, a domain that is worthy of a greater allegiance than our material world. Jesus brings this point home in John 17 as He prays to His heavenly Father:

“And now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

THE TIMING OF THE WISE MEN’S VISIT TO JESUS

 

This discussion of the timing of the Wise Mens’ visit to Jesus includes a reconciliation between the alleged inconsistency between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in their accounts of Jesus’ birth.

At first glance, the story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Matthew appears to conflict with the account given in the Gospel of Luke. The event, in Matthew’s account, is accompanied by violence against the young males in Bethlehem, danger for Jesus, and the flight of Jesus’ family into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. Luke, on the other hand, presents a peaceful scenario surrounding the birth of Jesus.

According to Matthew 2:1-16:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And when they said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah in Micah 5:2], And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of you shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privately called the wise men, enquired of them diligently about what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they left him; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Keep in mind two items from the above account: first, to enquire diligently is to ask for details. The details were such that Herod must have suspected that Jesus was up to two years old at the time of the Wise Men’s visit.

Second, the wise men came into Jesus’ house, not the manger. Both of these facts point to the visit of the Wise Men having taken place at some time after His birth.

The corresponding account of the event of Jesus’ birth from Luke’s perspective is presented in Chapter 2 of his gospel:

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them.

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

Luke’s account, unlike that of Matthew’s, paints a peaceful scenario, one in which the family of Jesus makes an uneventful return from Bethlehem, one that includes the presentation of Jesus to the Lord at Jerusalem. But Mary also had to wait until her purification was completed before Jesus was presented at the temple. The Mosaic law that specifies the post-birth purification is given in Leviticus 12:

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, If a woman has conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying thirty three days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are fulfilled.”

According to this purification rite, Mary had to wait at least forty one days, and possibly longer, depending on her health, before presenting Jesus to the temple. During this time, there is no suggestion in Luke’s account of any violence or effort of Herod’s attempt on Jesus’ life. Rather, in harmony with the details of Matthew’s account, this peaceful interlude points to the likelihood that the visit of the Wise Men didn’t occur until after Mary’s purification period, and possibly years after.

The distance that the Wise Men had to travel after seeing the star in their homeland also suggests a lengthy time duration between their first sight of the star and their arrival at Bethlehem, which would place their arrival well after Jesus’ birth. But why would the Wise Men associate that star with the birth of Jesus? Bible scholar Hal Lindsey has suggested that the Wise Men were members of a cadre of Persian mystics whose Chaldean forbears had access to the teachings of Daniel during his captivity in Babylon. The information imparted to them by Daniel may well have included the prophecy of seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24-27, which would have given the Wise Men an understanding with virtually pinpoint accuracy of when Jesus would appear. When the star appeared to them, its timing must have identified it with Jesus as well as pointing to the direction of Jesus’ birth from their location.

The Wise Mens’ wisdom consisted in their faith in Daniel’s prophecy and their diligence in observing the sky for confirmation and direction.