Shock and Awe by God – Matthew 27:44-54

God Announces Significant Events With Signs and Wonders

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 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?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Drape Divided

At three o’clock local time in Israel, on April 3, 33 C.E.*, the temple veil was torn in two.  This is significant for several reasons.

First, the temple veil kept the innermost part of the temple, the Holy of Holies (in the Greek, the naos), separate from the rest of the temple.  It was holy – set apart for God and God alone.  Only the high priest could enter this area, and only once a year to perform the yearly sacrifice for sin for the Israelites.  When the veil was torn in two, it symbolically announced the arrival of the time that Jesus had foretold to the Samaritan woman at the well:

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Indeed – the time had come when all true worshipers would worship in truth and spirit.

Secondly, the veil was torn from top to bottom.  This signified that it was God who tore the veil, and not man.  God was the one who now changed the relationship between man and Himself.  No longer would there be a separation between God and man, requiring that people come to the temple to worship.

Thirdly, God changed the location of the temple.  The naos** was the location where the presence of God dwelt.  Up until the time of the death of Jesus, this was the tent of meeting or the Holy of Holies in the temple.  Now, God dwells in each believer.  God has forsaken the vessels built by man and is now inhabiting the vessel built by God – the believer’s body.  The temple is no longer a building but the very bodies God has given us:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple** and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Enormous Earthquake

When God makes a statement, He generally tends to do it either softly (the still, small voice), or with a lot of panache.  On this day, God used a LOT of panache.  Not only did the veil hiding the Holy of Holies tear from top to bottom, but there was a great earthquake.  God wanted to make sure He got EVERYONE’S attention.  Signs in the Sun, Moon, and stars were going on, and if people weren’t paying attention, they would miss it.  God ensured that everyone in Israel would be stirred to attention to what had just happened.

Boulders Broken

Not only did the ground shake, the boulders shook as well.   They Bible says that the rocks were rent in two – the rocks had cried out and bore witness to the sorrow of the death of the Son of God.  Having no clothing to rent (tear apart), they tore themselves apart.

Death Defied

Not to be outdone, God wanted everyone to know that this was no ordinary day of events.  God raised the dead from their graves and sent them into Jerusalem.  The dead had risen – only The Lord God Almighty has the ability to raise the dead.  This day would not be soon forgotten by those who had witnessed it.  And just to make sure, God ensured that the centurion and others who were guarding Jesus on the cross bore witness when they cried out, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Heavenly Hosts

And God, who does not change, made sure that this event had a heavenly sign as well.  When the Moon rose that night, it was a full blood Moon, as prophesied by Joel***.  But the most interesting part was that at exactly 3:00 PM Israel local time, when Jesus gave His last breath, the Moon went into eclipse.  The people of Israel would not have seen the Moon until about 6:00 PM.  And when they did, they would have seen that the Woman rose with the Moon at her feet, and the twelve stars crowning her head.  But this time, she was not clothed with the sun.  She came in darkness, the most blackest darkness as befitted the death of the most Holy Son of God.  And the Moon, which first rose as a new, white-as-snow crescent Moon at the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit in Mary, a life just starting, now rose as full Moon, stained blood-red with Jesus’ death, a life fully lived.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I paying attention to the signs that God is placing in the sky with the Sun, the Moon, and the stars?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are faithful in all that You do.  You show us signs and wonders when You do significant things.  Help us to be a people who pay attention to Your word, and what You are doing.  Give me a sense of urgency in my heart for what troubles Yours, and help me to bring about Your plan that You have put into place to tell the world about You, Your Son, our sin, and Your desire to reconcile with us here on Earth rather than at the White Throne seat of judgment, where we will no longer have any chance to settle our debt with You.  Father, You are a holy and just God who cannot tolerate sin.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins.  Make my heart ache as I watch those who do not know you.  Give me a sense of purpose and boldness, that I too would testify about Jesus as Peter did at Pentecost and before the Sanhedrin.  And Father, help me to pay attention to the signs that You are giving that Jesus is coming soon.  For wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes – This blog has been edited for clarity.

*Fred Larson has definitively identified April 3, 33 C.E. as the day of the death of Christ.  Using logic and clues from the Bible, he was able to accurately determine the date.  Using the software program Starry Night, Fred Larson was able to corroborate that this was the day by confirming that a blood Moon – a full lunar eclipse – occurred on this day as well.

**  The Greek word used here is naos, the same word that is used for the Temple’s innermost sanctum, the Holy of Holies.  God had Paul use this word because it was the only part of the temple that God could reside in.  It was declared holy – set apart for God’s plans and purposes.  In the same way, we are set apart as well.  Paul later reminds us of this in Romans 12:1-2:

1 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. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

*** The sun turned to darkness is interesting.  From the perspective of the Earth, the Moon turned to blood.  If you were able to stand on the Moon and look at the Sun (a REALLY COOL feature of the Starry Night software program!), you would see that the sun was now in full eclipse as well – it would appear as black as sackcloth.  When Jesus died on the cross, and He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”, God the Father withdrew His presence, power, glory, and His holy light from His One and Only Son.  And indeed, from Jesus’ perspective (the Moon was blood-red, indicating that it was representative of Christ’s condition and position, so the Sun would represent God the Father’s position and condition in relation to the Son), the light had indeed turned to darkness. (Special thanks to Fred Larson for spelling this out in his movie, “The Star of Bethlehem“.)

Chronology and History – Luke 2:1-7

God’s Timing Is Perfect And Everything He Does Is Precise

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

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 guest room available for them.

Date Debate

Part of the difficulty in determining the dates of various ancient (2000 years ago is ancient relative to today) events is that records were destroyed through various battles in history.  We can now use what records are left, and rely upon archeology to fill in the gaps.  The problem with this approach is that there is some leeway in the Generally Accepted Date (GAD) for these events.  Because of this, we can only make approximations.  If, however, we can tie them to specific astronomical events, we may be able to get a better idea of when they occurred.

Here we find two important historical events that occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth:

  1. Quirinius was pro-Counsel in Syria when Jesus was born. (Luke 2:2)
  2. A census sent Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. (Luke 2:3)

These events will help us to place, along with other clues in the Bible, the time of Jesus birth.

Census Called

The Roman census was a great tool for taxation.  It was called every fourteen years, and required that everyone return to their hometown to be registered and pay their tax.  There were two Roman censuses taken that can be dated around the time of the estimated birth of Christ – 8 B.C.E. and 6 C.E.  However, unlike today with television, email, and rapid transportation, it took time to spread the word to the ends of the dominion of Rome.

Additionally, the Israelites despised having to pay the Romans tax for the privilege of living in the very land that God have given them.  So they did everything in their power to delay paying their taxes until absolutely necessary (“…there is nothing new under the sun…”).  So finally, when the delays would be tolerated no longer by the Roman officials, the Israelites traveled back to the land of their ancestors to pay their taxes.

Governor Guided

Quirinius was the pro-Counsel in Syria when the Roman Census was called in 8 B.C.E.  This helps us to narrow down the time frame.  There have been some claims that the Roman Census of Quirinius took place at 6 C.E., but this may be due to a mistake by Josephus in his writings.

Baby Born

There were two signs in the heavens that date the birth of Jesus Christ.  The first was recorded by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation:

1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

Fred Larson, the writer and producer of the film “The Star of Bethlehem”, using Starry Night software, confirmed that an astronomically rare event occurred on September 11, 3 B.C.E.  That morning, the star Virgo rose directly behind the Sun in the sky at sunrise, and the moon was at her feet – the feet of the constellation of Virgo. It is a small crescent moon, because it is the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah. It is a representation of a life just starting. This may possibly be describing the sign of the Son of Man – the conception of Jesus – because conception is the birth of life according to the Jews and (many) Christians. The twelve stars upon her head were the constellation of Leo (for more information, please see the movie “Star of Bethlehem”, and Fred Larson’s website, www.bethlehemstar.com).

The second sign occurred nine months after Virgo was clothed with the Sun, with the Moon at her feet, and the twelve stars crowning her head.  On June 17th, 2 B.C.E., Venus and Jupiter came in close conjunction. They literally stacked upon each other like a snowman. This created the brightest star in the sky that ANYONE had ever seen at that time. And off rode the Magi of the East to Jerusalem.

If you don’t have access to the movie, here is a concise summary of the movie and its conclusions.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Which do I believe, the conclusions of man, or what is written in the Bible?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You continually show us signs and wonders as You work in us and among us.  Father, give me a heart of wisdom and discernment to know the truth, and to search Your scriptures for all things.  Help me to know and understand Your word.  Thank You, Father, for giving us the tools to verify what You have already stated to be fact.  And where there is conjecture, help us to rightly discern the truth of these matters.  Strengthen me in Your work and Your Spirit, that I may know the truth, and that the truth would set me free.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


This blog has been edited for grammatical errors.

The Perfect Plan of God – Isaiah 28:23-29

Use The Right Tools And Methods To Accomplish Any Purpose

23 Listen and hear my voice;
pay attention and hear what I say.
24 When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?
Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil?
25 When he has leveled the surface,
does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin?
Does he not plant wheat in its place,
barley in its plot,
and spelt in its field?
26 His God instructs him
and teaches him the right way.

27 Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin;
caraway is beaten out with a rod,
and cumin with a stick.
28 Grain must be ground to make bread;
so one does not go on threshing it forever.
The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it,
but one does not use horses to grind grain.
29 All this also comes from the Lord Almighty,
whose plan is wonderful,
whose wisdom is magnificent.

Magnificent Methods

God shows us in these verses that there is a very discernible method to His ways.  He asks several rhetorical questions that would be been easily answered during the prophet’s time, as they were a primarily agricultural people.  Perhaps we could rephrase the question for today’s world and say, “When we prepare concrete for pouring, do we mix it forever?”  There is a time (chronos) and a season (kairos) for all things.  Just as a farmer doesn’t work the field all season (he must eventually plant seeds or nothing will grow), God shows us what we should be doing as well

Tremendous Teaching

God teaches us the way we should go.  Since everyone is a different part of the body, each of us must be instructed on what we are to do, where we are to do it, and when we are to do it.  It is God who provides the instruction for each of these steps.  We are to be submitted to the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus was, so that God can use us as His tools to accomplish His purposes.  It is God who teaches us all of these things, and in doing so, prepares a generation of people who can help instruct and guide the next generation through their sovereignly assigned duties and tasks

Process and Procedure

God uses some very interesting agricultural examples to show us the necessity for using the right tools in the right way to accomplish our goals.  Have you ever tried to insert a screw into wood with a hammer?  I do not recommend ever trying this method.  It is beyond frustrating, and will most likely damage whatever project you are working on.  Everything has its proper tool and process to use it correctly.  Though many of us, upon receiving brand new technology, just open it up and start using it, they come with instruction manuals to help guide us with their use, diagnose what is wrong when it doesn’t work right, and provide solutions to address any issues encountered.

When faced with difficulties as the plan of God unfolds, remember that God has given you an instruction manual – His holy word, the Bible.  And when you need tech support, feel free to call upon God for assistance in prayer.  Additionally, it never hurts to confirm what You have been shown with some of the experts in their field who have been down the path before you.

Expert Extraction

God uses the threshing of seeds as a prime example.  If you were to use a sledge-hammer to attempt to extract the seeds of caraway, you would completely destroy the valuable part of the seed.  Each seed requires its own method of extraction.  Some use the same methods as others, but each requires a specific method.  The people of that time would have recognized this, and understood the greater underlying spiritual truth that God is revealing to us – that God knows EXACTLY how to handle each and every situation that we encounter.

Perfect Plan

God has a perfect plan.  His plan was crafted before the first matter in the universe was created.  His plan was thought out and crafted before time was even a construct.  Each and every detail of His creation was laid out and examined, perfectly placed, and is being perfectly executed.  Nothing escaped His attention, and God accounted for every contingency.  Even the issue of sin was taken into account, and the remedy to bring that which would be lost to sin back in harmony with the Creator was carefully planned, and when implemented, was perfectly executed.

God shows us, through His creation and the fulfillment of all of the prophecies that He has provided to us, that we can trust Him implicitly.  God is incapable of failing, and His perfect plan is working exactly according to His plan and purpose.  What appears to us to be chaos, setbacks, and failure is merely a launching pad for circumstances that will bring about even greater glory to God.

Wonderful Wisdom

God reveals to us through His perfection – the perfect display of His character – that He has all wisdom.  We can trust in God, for God is omniscient – He knows all things.  Knowledge, however, is not wisdom.  God, however, is all-wise.  Seeing all things perfectly without the lens of sin to distort reality from His perfect gaze, God has perfect wisdom to match His perfect intellect and knowledge.  And when we look back over how our small part of His larger story plays out, we begin to see the magnificent wisdom of the Lord God Almighty, and how His perfect plan is being perfectly executed.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What lessons are God trying to teach me about His perfect plan and the part He has assigned for me to accomplish?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You reveal Your character in how You treat each and every one of us here on Earth.  Thank You for Your continued patience and prodding, and for revealing Yourself through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You for revealing Yourself through Your word.  And thank You for providing me an opportunity to play a part in Your perfect plan.  Show me, Father, what You would have me do.  Call me, equip me, and strengthen me to do all that You desire to accomplish.  Help me to remember that You are sovereign in all things, and that my perception of loss and difficulty in events and circumstances that are painful and difficult are all part of Your plan to bring about Your perfect will in all things.  Guard my heart against impatience, pride, and bitterness, as trials and tribulations abound in this life.  Give me peace and joy in knowing that You have everything under Your control.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Timing of God – Mark 6:46-52

God Arrives in the Fourth Watch of the Night

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

Training Through Trials

Everyone goes through trials.  Some trials seem longer and more difficult than others.  The worst ones are where you feel like you are fighting for your very life.  Your circumstances are pulling at the very fabric of your soul, and your strength has been depleted by non-stop battering.  You feel like just after a fresh gulp of air the waves come crashing over your head, and you get water for what you thought was your next breath.

The disciples were fighting for their very lives.  Life on the Sea of Galilee could be very dangerous.  Storms would often appear out of nowhere, and for a small fishing boat, capsizing in the water at night with high waves was a terrifying thought.  But we need not be terrified by our trials, for God is sovereign and has everything under control.

James has this to say about our trials:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Trial of Trust

When fighting for your life in a trial isn’t enough, it seems that God adds insult to injury by letting us struggle through it for a very L O N G time.  We cry out to God, but often He doesn’t seem to answer immediately.  We wait and wait (and wait some more), and no help comes.  This is the trial of trust.

God has this way of showing up in the fourth watch of the night.  The night back in the time of Jesus was set up in four – three hours segments:

  • First Watch: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Second Watch: 10:00 – 12:00 pm
  • Third Watch: 1:00 – 3:00 am
  • Fourth Watch: 4:00 – 6:00 am

The fourth watch was the longest watch of all.  Most of the night had already passed, and through exhaustion and anticipation of daylight, it made the fourth watch go very slow.  Jesus had seen in the night that the disciples were struggling, but waited until just before dawn to go out to them.  This allows our faith to be tested, to see if we really believe that God is going to intervene and help us with our needs.  This is the secondary trial of trust – patience.

Strategic Support

Jesus has a tendency to wait until the very last minute to come and help us with our problems.  He is trying to show us where we are in our understanding of His sovereignty, character, and love for us.  By denying us immediate relief, we must decide whether we can trust God to act as our situation becomes more bleak second by second.

As you feel like you are trying to stop tumbling down a mountainside, you can see the cliff in front of you that drops thousands of feet.  Unable to stop, you fight for your life.  It is just before you go over the cliff, or sometimes after you start falling, that God will intervene.  He does not do this to cause us emotional harm, but to give us the opportunity to trust Him more.  If you have prayed that God would help you to trust him more, expect these types of trials to enter into your life.  This is about on the same level as praying for patience.

Regardless, it is the timing of the response that careful attention should be paid.  God has a plan much larger than our myopic short-term vision.  Each and every moment is moving towards an unstoppable event – the second coming of Christ, and the end to sin.  We need to remember as we are in the storm that God’s timetable isn’t always ours.  That is why “trust and obey” is our only way…

Stopping Storms

When God does calm the storm, we are often just as amazed as the disciples were when Jesus stepped into the boat and everything calmed down.  Jesus demonstrates that He is sovereign over all.  Sometimes, the storm doesn’t stop until we pass away into glory, but nonetheless, the storm stops.  We can be assured that whatever our problems are, God is working through His plan to bring glory to His name.  For there is no purpose of God that can be thwarted, and God works everything to good for those who love Him.

Regardless of the emotional, financial, and/or physical damage that the storm has wrought, we can confidently rest in the knowledge that when God does come, He will help us to pick up the pieces.  And we will have the scars to remember His help, and never forget what we went through to get there.  It is also important that we don’t allow our hearts to be hardened by our training through trials.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we trusting in God’s goodness, mercy, and grace as we are fighting for our lives in our trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and grace, and your mercies never cease, but renew every morning.  Grant me patience as I trust in You to deliver me through my trials.  Help me to overcome through perseverance, so that I may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  Give me the strength to endure the trials I am facing, and guard my heart against the attacks of the enemy as they taunt me and tell lies about You.  Father, help me to remember Your word, that Your promises will never be far from my heart or my lips.  For You have promised to never leave me nor forsake me.  You have promised to work all things to good for those who love You.  You have promised that none can snatch me out of Your hand.  I will stand on Your promises, oh God, so that Your name may be glorified and magnified, regardless of the outcome of the trials.  This I ask in the precious Name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?