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.

Travel by the Spirit – Acts 8:39

God Is Sovereign And May Take You Where You Need To Be

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

Virtually Vanished

Twice in the Bible, an interesting method of travel is mentioned by God concerning His people.  The first appearance of this is in 1 Kings 18:12 when Obadiah, a faithful servant of the Lord, is told by Elijah to announce to King Ahaz that he can be found where he stood.  Obadiah’s response is interesting:

11 “But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ 12 I don’t know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the Lord since my youth.”

Obadiah is very concerned that Elijah won’t be there when Ahaz comes to take him away.  But there is a sense of the suddenness of Elijah’s departure that is interesting.  After all, Elijah on foot could only go so far.  King Ahaz’s men should surely be able to find him.  Yet Obadiah was concerned that the Spirit of the Lord would carry him off somewhere, implying that it would be very far away, and that no one would be able to find him.  We see the very exact same situation documented in Acts 8:39 where the Spirit of the Lord seizes (hErpasen, from the root word harpazo, from the same root word used to describe the effects of the taking of disciples during the rapture) Philip from the Ethiopian to be somewhere else.

This is amazing!  In God’s sovereign timing and will, prophets of old would be hErpasen by the Holy Spirit and taken where God wanted and needed them to be!  Who needs airplanes, cars, boats, rocket ships, or “Star Trek style” transporters when the Holy Spirit of God provides this as He desires?

Amazing Appearance

But while the seizing of someone was amazing, the appearing of someone was just as amazing.  In several scriptures we are shown where, suddenly, people appeared from nowhere.  They were most likely hErpasen by the Spirit of God and placed where they needed to be.  Acts 8:40 seems to indicate this:

Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

This method of transportation appears to be used when it is needed, rather than all of the time.  When Peter was chained in prison, an angel of the Lord freed him, walked him out of the prison, and sent him on his way.  God could easily have hErpasen him to where He wanted Peter to be, but chose an angel to free him instead.

Other instances of people suddenly appearing include, but are not limited to:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Tremendous Timing

In each case, it was the sovereign will of God in His timing that each of the people appeared where they needed to be, when they needed to be there.  God’s timing in His word is impeccable, and further confirms that He is sovereign by showing that everything that He says will come about does come about exactly when it is supposed to happen.

God’s timing is crucial in every aspect of life.  There are times when a delay in our day seems like Satan is trying to impede our progress.  If you believe this, seek out and find all of the people who found themselves delayed on September 11, 2oo1 2001 as they were headed to their jobs at the Twin Towers in New York City.  God spared each and every one of them.  God’s warnings and discipline are timed exactly when they need to occur in order to get the job done right.

God’s blessing and provision are also timed exactly right to ensure that God receives the maximum glory and honor that He so richly deserves.  And God’s timing, in the act of taking people from one place and (with an apparent instantaneous action of) moving people from to another place, fulfills His plan to ensure that every resource that He has available is being used to their fullest capacity while giving God the maximum glory.

Forever Faithful

Our God is an amazing God.  He does things that seem impossible, but for Him, are not only possible but done to increase our faith and our effectiveness.  We can be assured that God is faithful in all that He does, and that no one can thwart His plans, no matter how egregious the enemy rages against God.  In the end, God is the one who will ensure that everything that He has planned in His heart will come to fruition.  Nothing on Earth, under the Earth, or in the heavens above are able to keep The Lord God Almighty from being faithful to His word, His plan, and His people.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to be used by God in such a way that I would accept, without reservation, if He suddenly seized me and placed me elsewhere?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a most glorious and wonderful God.  There is none like You.  Thank You for Your faithfulness in all things.  Give my heart encouragement that no one and nothing can stop You in executing Your perfect will in Your perfect plan.  Help me to accept my circumstances as being sovereignly permitted by You for Your will and my sanctification.  Give me encouragement as I see the enemy do everything in his power to try to thwart Your plans.  And help me to humbly rest in joy as I watch You exert Your sovereign will in all of these things.  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?

Identity in Christ – John 15:5 (ESV)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Just as a branch needs the sap of nourishment from the tree, so do we need the same from Jesus Christ.  The branch is attached, and attached tightly; it’s not on the ground, or off doing its own thing.  It is bonded (even if grafted in) to the plant itself.  We should be so firmly bonded to Christ and in Christ, that there is no break between Christ and ourselves.

And Jesus shows us the benefit of this: when we are In Christ, we will bear much fruit.  When we go off and do things ourselves, there may be a result, but it is not bearing spiritual fruit in accordance with the Will of God, for the Purposes of God, in the Timing of God, and to the Glory of God.  Jesus also says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 

This is a sobering thought.  When we are not in/attached to the vine, receiving nourishment and direction, we may be doing things, but not bearing the correct fruit.  It is as if we were a foreign, invasive species of plant trying to imitate the original plant.  Others may think that we are part of that plant, because we have mimicked the original; however, we have no part in the original plant.  Jesus gives us this direction as well:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 

When we have our identity in Christ – when we solely and ONLY identify with Him – we will bear much fruit, receive nourishment from the vine, and find the small gate with the narrow path.  Once we do that, we, like Christ, will be able to say,

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Our citizenship will be solely in the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than in earthly things, like race, ethnicity, nationality, religious denomination, Northerner or Southerner, political affiliation, sports team, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, or any other thing on earth.  For when we identify with Christ, all are ONE in Christ.

So, let’s ask the question:  With whom or what do I identify most?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we thank You for the wonderful opportunity to be reconciled to You through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  You love us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us on the cross.  Lord God, we have been set free from sin; but we were made to worship and serve.  I greatly desire to serve You and You alone.  Remove from me any and all identity with earthly things that would hinder my walk with you.  You have shown me the small gate and the narrow path.  Guide my feet, my heart, and my mouth, that as they see to glorify your name in and offer themselves as a living sacrifice to You, that my feet would not slip, and that they would not wander off the path.  Bring revival to Your body, that it would turn away from the draw of temporal blessings and set our hearts on Heaven, so that our treasure may be found there.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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