Sabbath, January 24, 2009
“Christ was appointed to the office of Mediator from the creation of God, set up from everlasting to be our substitute and surety. Before the world was made, it was arranged that the divinity of Christ should be enshrouded in humanity. ‘A body,’ said Christ, ‘hast thou prepared Me’ (Hebrews 10:5). But He did not come in human form until the fullness of time had expired. Then He came to our world, a babe in Bethlehem.” –Selected Messages, Book 1, p.
AN EXHAUSTING TRIP
1. What long, difficult trip did Mary take at the very end of her pregnancy?
Luke 2:1-5 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. Such a trip from Nazareth, in Galilee, to Bethlehem, in Judea, required crossing the entire area of Samaria and covered a distance of at least 120 kilometers (66 miles). In those days, without train, bus or car, it required many days of walking. This would not be easy for a woman under normal circumstances, so we can imagine how stressful it would be for Mary to travel by foot or ride a donkey in her final days of pregnancy!
THE MESSIAH’S BIRTH
2. Arriving tired and exhausted in Bethlehem, the village of their birth, were Joseph and Mary able to find a good place to stay for the night? What can be said about the reception provided for these descendants of the royal line?
Luke 2:26, 27 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law.
“Angels attend Joseph and Mary as they journey from their home in Nazareth to the city of David.… But in the city of their royal line, Joseph and Mary are unrecognized and unhonored. Weary and homeless, they traverse the entire length of the narrow street, from the gate of the city to the eastern extremity of the town, vainly seeking a resting place for the night. There is no room for them at the crowded inn. In a rude building where the beasts are sheltered, they at last find refuge, and here the Redeemer of the world is born.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 44.
3. Compare the circumstances of Jesus’ birth and childhood with those of your own family members.
Luke 2:12, 16 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger… And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
“His birth was without worldly grandeur. He was born in a stable and cradled in a manger; yet His birth was honored far above that of any of the sons of men. Angels from heaven informed the shepherds of the advent of Jesus, and light and glory from God accompanied their testimony. The heavenly host touched their harps and glorified God. They triumphantly heralded the advent of the Son of God to a fallen world to accomplish the work of redemption, and by His death to bring peace, happiness, and everlasting life to man. God honored the advent of His Son. Angels worshiped Him.” –Early Writings,
VARIOUS TYPES OF RECEPTION FOR THE SAVIOUR
4. While some people rejoiced with all their heart at the birth of the Saviour, how did others feel?
Luke 2:8-11, 20 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 unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord… And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Matthew 2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
“In the fields where the boy David had led his flock, shepherds were still keeping watch by night. Through the silent hours they talked together of the promised Saviour, and prayed for the coming of the King to David’s throne. ‘And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them…. And the angel said unto them… behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy… For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.’…
“Heaven and earth are no wider apart today than when shepherds listened to the angels’ song. Humanity is still as much the object of heaven’s solicitude as when common men of common occupations met angels at noonday, and talked with the heavenly messengers in the vineyards and the fields. To us in the common walks of life, heaven may be very near. Angels from the courts above will attend the steps of those who come and go at God’s command.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 47, 48.
5. What fearful danger confronted the newborn Child and his parents? What prophecy already began to be fulfilled?
Matthew 2:13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
Luke 2:34, 35 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
“Many who have never been placed in positions of trial appear to be excellent Christians, their lives seem faultless; but God sees that they have traits of character that must be revealed to them before they can perceive and correct them. Simeon prophesied under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and said unto Mary in reference to Jesus: ‘Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’ In the providence of God we are placed in different positions to call into exercise qualities of mind calculated to develop character under a variety of circumstances.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 55.
GOD’S WAYS–DIFFICULT BUT PERFECT
6. Not long afterward, what instruction did an angel give Jesus’parents to save him from terrible danger? How long was this second trip?
Matthew 2:13, 14 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.
The distance from Bethlehem to Egypt was more than twice as far as Nazareth was from Bethlehem. This means that the second trip required at least 270 kilometers (about 150 miles) of walking or riding. Imagine how many days they traveled and how difficult such a long trip must have been for Mary with her little baby!
7. In light of the difficulties this little family endured, what great difference is there between our own thinking and the course God chose for the life of His beloved Son?
Isaiah 55:8-11 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Ephesians 2:4, 5 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
“The dealings of God with His people often appear mysterious. His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. Many times His way of dealing is so contrary to our plans and expectations that we are amazed and confounded. We do not understand our perverse natures; and often when we are gratifying self, following our own inclinations, we flatter ourselves that we are carrying out the mind of God. And so we need to search the Scriptures, and be much in prayer, that, according to His promise, the Lord may give us wisdom.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 503.
“Christ submitted to insult and mockery, contempt and ridicule. He heard His message, which was fraught with love and goodness and mercy, misstated and misapplied. He heard Himself called the prince of demons, because He testified to His divine Sonship. His birth was supernatural, but by His own nation, those who had blinded their eyes to spiritual things, it was regarded as a blot and a stain. There was not a drop of our bitter woe which He did not taste, not a part of our curse which He did not endure, that He might bring many sons and daughters to God.
“The fact that Jesus was on this earth as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, that in order to save fallen man from eternal ruin, He left His heavenly home, should lay in the dust all our pride, put to shame all our vanity, and reveal to us the sin of self-sufficiency. Behold Him making the wants, the trials, the griefs and sufferings of sinful men His own. Can we not take home the lesson that God endured these sufferings and bruises of soul in consequence of sin?” –Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 253.
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.
The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett