Dear Student of the Word,
It's time again for an installment in our online study of Luke's gospel. As we enter the Christmas season, this week's study should help you get in the mood, since it looks at the birth of Jesus in Luke 2. I never cease to learn from the Christmas story of how God intervened in the affairs of the world without some realizing that He was doing so! What's more, when God moved, He moved quickly and decisively as centuries of promises unfolded and were fulfilled in a matter of days. Here is a sample from Study 4, Part 2 of 7:
Study Four, Part Two
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
2:4 – God had promised that He would put one of David’s descendants on the throne and that descendant would rule forever”
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Keep in mind that these promises were hundreds of years old at the time of Jesus. To think that I get uptight if the Lord doesn’t fulfill His promises to me in a week or a month! I realized years ago that I may die in faith, not having received all that the Lord promised me. I made a decision then that I would rather die having lived in faith, than to have lived in unbelief or presumption.
2:5 – Joseph and Mary were still not married. We can only speculate what Mary’s family thought about this or what rumors circulated among the people. I don’t think that Jesus ever lost the stigma that He was “illegitimate,” and Jesus never seemed to clarify the issue. God surrounded Jesus’ birth with mystery and misunderstanding, so that anyone who followed Jesus would do so from a revelation of who He was and not some prophetic or political perspective, hope or assumption.
2:6 – God did not give Mary an easy time. Not only did she have to endure the suspicions of her peers, but then she had to make a trip while she was nine months pregnant. Mary did this on a donkey or maybe she walked. Either way, I doubt if it was an easy trip.
2:7&8 – Not only did she have to make a trip while nine months pregnant, but then she went into labor in a strange town with no family other than Joseph there to support her. The hotels were full and she had nothing with which to clothe her newborn baby. Remember, Mary had said, "I am the Lord's servant; may it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). She was tested in her resolve to serve the Lord no matter what the circumstances.
Just because God is with you and using you, doesn’t mean that you will have it easy. God will teach you to trust in Him not only when you receive a word, but afterwards as well. Are you surprised by the circumstances you are in and how difficult it is to carry out the will of God at times? We must all overcome idealistic impressions of what it will be like to serve the Lord. At times it is so difficult that everything in you wants to quit. It is at that point that you must abandon putting any and all hope in anything except the Lord. He will not disappoint you, but He may test you severely. Are you in the midst of a test? Then be encouraged by this passage today:
Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you (Deuteronomy 8:1-5).
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the daily devotional entitled What Would Jesus Ask You Today? Thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy this study of Luke's gospel from God's word.