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Monthly Archives: July 2013

     The joy in Jesus’ heart often came out in songs.  When His weary neighbors heard His voice praising God, their own hearts were lightened.  His songs seemed to fill a place with fragrance like incense, and to drive away evil.

     Through all those years in Nazareth, Jesus’ life flowed out in sympathy and tenderness.  The elderly, the sad, those with heavy burdens, playing children, little creatures in the trees, the donkeys and oxen at work; all of them were happier when He was around. 

The One who set the planets in place would stop to help a wounded bird.

     As Jesus grew both taller and wiser, He was loved by God and was better liked by the people around Him.  The atmosphere of hope and courage that surrounded Him made Him welcome in every home.  Often, in the synagogue on the Sabbath, He was asked to read the lesson from the prophets.  When He did, the hearts of all who heard were moved by new thoughts from the familiar words.

     During His life on earth, Jesus did not avoid work or responsibility even though many who claim to be His followers do.  Many with great talent are weak or useless when difficulties come because they have not had the discipline of hard work.  The same energy, positive attitude, and strength of character that Jesus had are to be developed in us.  We, too, can face life with the same grace and cheerfulness that He did.

     Jesus lived His whole life among the poor.  He shared their cares and their hardships. 

No one who truly understands His teachings and His life can believe that there are different classes of people, that the rich are more valuable than the poor.

     The One who had been the Commander of angels in heaven now served faithfully and cheerfully in a peasant’s home.  The mind and body of Jesus were strengthened as He worked.  He was just as perfect as a worker as He was in character.  

     By His example , He taught that it is our duty to be good workers in whatever we do, even as children.  Hard work is honorable and should be done faithfully and well.  God created work to be a blessing.  True joy in life only comes to those who work faithfully at whatever they do.  

     God lovingly approves of children and youth who cheerfully help their parents in the home.  Children like that will go on to become valuable members of society.

     From His earliest days, Jesus’ life was in harmony with God.  His character was tested, but in His busy day there were no idle moments that might lead to temptation.  No empty hours opened the way to corrupting friendships.  He was wise enough to recognize evil and strong enough to resist it.

     Nazareth was well known for its wicked ways. 
Jesus ~ the only sinless Person who ever lived on earth ~ lived for thirty years with the wicked people of Nazareth.  No person has an excuse for evil because of where or how he or she lives.

     From His earliest years, Jesus had one purpose:  He lived to bless others.  His studies of nature helped Him in doing this.  New ideas flashed into His mind as He studied plants and animals.  In life around Him, He was constantly searching for illustrations that would make it easier to share the truth about God.  The parables He used later in His ministry show how open He was to nature and how its study can open a person to spiritual truths.

     When the grandeur and beauty in nature strikes a person, his or her soul is refreshed and inspired.  When we come in contact with the work of His hands, our hearts go out to God.  Spending time with God in prayer strengthens us mentally and morally.

     It was a joy to encourage His learning and thinking.  Mary saw the perfection in His character, His attitude, and behavior.  Through the Holy Spirit, she was given wisdom to cooperate with heaven in her boy’s development, her boy who could claim only God as His Father.

     In the days of Jesus, the teaching of religion to children was very formal.  Tradition had become more important than Scripture.  The Jewish teachers emphasized the ceremony ~ the actions of being “holy” ~ and did not teach the basics of serving God or of understanding His law.

 

The students were given no quiet time to spend with God or to hear His voice speaking to their hearts. In their search for knowledge, they were turned away from the Source of wisdom. Under the training of the rabbis ~ the Jewish teachers ~ the minds of the young became cramped and narrow.

     Once again, Joseph was led to a safe place.  He took the family back to Nazareth, his former home.  There, young Jesus lived and grew up, fulfilling the prophecy that He would be called a “Nazarene.” 

Galilee, the region where Nazareth was located, had a much larger mix of foreign people than the region of Judea.  Because of this, there was less interest in things that concerned only Jews.  The claims about Jesus were not likely to concern those in power there.  

     There seemed to be no place of safety for the infant Savior when he came to earth.  God could not trust His beloved Son with humans even while He was carrying out His plan to save them.  He sent angels to be with Jesus to protect Him until He accomplished His mission on earth ~ until He was killed by death on the cross ~ by the those He came to save.

     Of course, this caused their rulers ~ like Herod ~ to hate them and their promised Messiah.  In this way, they created the feelings that led to the slaughter in Bethlehem.  Satan tried to use the Jews’ pride to destroy Jesus.  But instead of injuring Him, their twisted words came back to hurt them and their children.

     Herod’s act of cruelty in Bethlehem was one of his last.  Soon after his slaughter of the innocent children, he was forced to face his own horrible death.  At that time an angel spoke to Joseph who was still hiding his family in Egypt.  It was time to go home.

     Joseph wanted to make their home in Bethlehem, the city of David, since Jesus was the Heir to the throne of David.  But Herod’s territory had been divided by his sons when he died and Archelaus was the ruler in Judea, where Bethlehem was located.  Joseph was afraid that Archelaus would try to do as his father had.

     If the Jewish people had been faithful to God, He would have protected them.  But they had separated themselves from Him and rejected their only shield from evil ~ the Holy Spirit. 

     They had not studied the Scripture in order to learn more of God and His will for them.  They had studied only for prophecies that could be understood to predict glory for Israel and that seemed to indicate how God despised all other nations. 

     They proudly boasted that the Messiah would come as a conquering king who would destroy his heathen enemies.

     Back in Jerusalem, King Herod waited impatiently for the wise men to return.  When they did not, he became suspicious.  It seemed to him that the priests and rabbis who had tried to avoid telling him where the Messiah was to be born had figured out his plans and warned the wise men away.  The longer he waited, the angrier he became.  Finally, he decided that if he could not trick them, he could always use force. 

He could make an example of this baby king and teach the Jews what they could expect if they tried to force him off the throne.

     In a jealous rage, Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem with orders to kill all children two years of age and under.  The horror and heartbreak in the city of David was the sad fulfillment of prophecy.  ” ‘A voice was heard in Ramah of painful crying and deep sadness:  Rachel crying for her children.  She refused to be comforted, because her children are dead’ ” [Matthew 2:18].

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