Sunday takeaway for today? I need to study my Bible more. Like, really STUDY my Bible and history and see how everything connects. I need timelines and maybe bulletin boards with string connecting everything.
In both the Sunday School lesson and the sermon, world history played a huge part in understanding what was happening during what we were reading in the Bible. And not just the history of the world, with the conflicts, the wars, rulers, etc but also Bible history, knowing how events in the Old Testament set up the events of the New Testament. Honestly, I’m kind of sitting here mind blown right now.
There is no way I will do justice to all the history I was told today but there are a couple of things I want to touch on. First, a lesson from Ray Vanderlan on New Testament events that was actually part of the sermon too. When King Herod died he split his kingdom among his sons; Antipas, Archelaus, and Philip. The sons disagreed with this – they all wanted to rule the whole kingdom – so they went to Rome to protest. Interestingly enough, a contigent of the people also went because they did not want Archelaus to rule over all of them because he was known to be as harsh as his father. Rome upheld Herod’s will and when Archelaus returns he slaughters all those who spoke against him in Rome. Fast forward a little bit to when Joseph is told in a dream to return to Israel from Egypt he begins to return to the area of Bethlehem. When he realizes that Archelaus is ruling over the region of Bethlehem he was afraid to return there and went to Nazareth instead. (Matthew 2:19-23) Thus fulfilling prophecy.
The point that Ray went on to make was that Jesus was very much involved in the world and culture around him. He used that knowledge to reach people. He did not separate himself from the world and then suddenly pop on the scene. In fact, according to Ray Vanderlan, the wife of the ministry of finance of the area very likely funded Jesus’ ministry when he began to minister full-time. People knew him and he knew people. He knew what was occurring in the world.
Back to the story of Archelaus above, read Luke 19:11-27. If you’ve been in church for a number of years you might recognize the parable of the talents. It’s usually told as a parable to represent how we are to use the gifts and talents that God has given us, but see if you notice anything about the parable now that you know some world history of the time. Interesting, isn’t it? Jesus used events that people were familiar with to bring understanding to them. There was so much more but it would require so much detail that I did not get it all written down. I think I need to watch it again to absorb it all.
I was really looking forward to today’s sermon as Mike had said last week that he was going to be talking about the Magi and how he had learned so much about them. Since they do seem to remain mysterious, i was curious about what he learned. It did not disappoint.
Again, for us to understand who the Magi (or wise men) were, we have to understand a little bit of world and Bible history. Who were they? Where did they come from? And why did they care about this Messiah that was to be born? A little world history first.
At that time, the Parthian-Persian Empire was to the east of the Roman Empire in what would be modern day Afghanistan, Irag and Iran (I think.) These two empires had a cold war going on at the time that Jesus was born. They weren’t actively fighting at the moment but they had in the past and were not trusting of each other.
Who were the Parthian-Persians? They would be the Babylonians of the Old Testament. This is where Bible history comes in. How did the Magi know about the Jewish Messiah? Why did they care? We know from the book of Daniel that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, laid siege to Jerusalem and took some of the Israelites back to Babylon with him in 605 B.C. (You should really read the first part of Daniel if you don’t know about the story of Daniel and his three friends.) Daniel was one of the youths taken. For various reasons Daniel grew in favor with the court and he was given the ability to interpret dreams by God. In the second chapter of Daniel he is made chief governor over all the WISE MEN OF BABYLON. Well, being wise and well versed in the scriptures, it’s easy to see how Daniel would have imparted that knowledge, including the prophecies of the coming Messiah, to the other wise men. I never knew this or thought of any of this correlating later! Wow.
Something else that was brought out is why did the arrival of three men alarm Herod? How did he even know that three men arrived? Because it probably wasn’t just three men that arrived – maybe as many as 10,000 men arrived in the contingent of wise men. Think about that. 10,000 men from the country you are sworn enemies with come to your town and ask where the new king is? That would be alarming. Oh, and these Magi were known as the “king makers” in their own country. So much to fully understand the story we’ve been told since children.
Another point that Ray brought out this morning that also correlated with the sermon is how money is not evil. How did Jesus and his disciples live while ministering? We all know you need money to buy food, clothes, etc. As mentioned before it’s thought by some that part of that funding came from people with lots of money to give. Jesus didn’t deny the use of that money because it came from rich people – it was God providing. Same with the wise men, if you look at the chronology of the events, Mary and Joseph didn’t have a lot of money – we know this by the type of sacrifice they offered at Jesus’ dedication (a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.) Where did the money come from to flee and live in Egypt? Well, who had come to visit just prior to that trip? The Magi. What did the Magi bring? Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Besides the significance of these gifts they were also practical gifts. The gold would have been like cash and the frankincense and myrrh could have been sold in small amounts to help bring in money also. I saw all of this as an example of the Lord providing just what we need as just the exact moment we need it. Something I’ve struggled with often in my life. We’re also told often in the church that money is evil. It is not, it is the love of money that is evil. Ray Vanderlan said that wealth is no different than your brain, your mouth, or abilities God gives us. They are all giftings God has given us. We are to use whatever God gives to further his kingdom.
I know this is scattered and maybe confusion. There was just so much to today, I’m overwhelmed! There was so much more in the sermon this morning that I highly recommend you watch the whole message and our amazing gifted singers at the end. Be blessed and have a great week!