“The Babe of Bethlehem”

“And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,  And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” Matthew 2:5-6

At the writing of Matthew 2:5-6, over 700 years have gone by since the Old Testament prophet Micah told of a Ruler that would be birthed out of this little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-3).  While over those centuries of waiting, countless babies have entered this world and linked the beginning of their lives to this motherland, only One’s heritage can connect the dots with those long ago words that herald the coming of the Savior of the world.

He would be the freedom the world has longingly yearned for.  He would be the peace, souls since the beginning of time, have dreamt about.  He would be the Shepherd who would not lead with a rod or a staff, but with His life.  This blessed Babe of Bethlehem would be the all eternal One, whose days are from everlasting (Micah 5:).  He would be the Babe seen as He “who is, and who was, and which is to come, the Almighty,” (Revelation 1:8), and He would change everything the world once knew.

No wonder hearts were stirred.  No wonder souls were searching with excitement.  No wonder kingdoms were in a ruckus.  The Babe of Bethlehem was no ordinary babe.  He was God incarnate, God in the flesh, “God with us,” (Matthew 1:23).  The imperfect people born in this world would need the help of that perfect Savior born in Bethlehem.

The celebration of Christmas is the celebration of that precious Babe who had finally arrived in the world to bring this long-awaited hope.  He that was born as the prophesied Messiah would lift the judgment of condemnation for those who not only seek Him, but find Him.  And, they are no longer content to have Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, but their soul’s desire is to wrap Him in their hearts.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

“Follow the Star!”

Photo: Pixabay

Hope.  I have to believe their journey was measured with steps of hope.  They’ve heard the prophecies.  They have studied to know when and where and what to look for and at its appearing in the sky they knew for sure, somehow, some way, that by following that particular star, it would lead them to the source of all hope being fulfilled.  It would lead them to the Messiah, the true King, who is worthy to be honored, worshipped and praised (Matthew 2:1-2).

There’s a lot of following and pursuits that people chase after every day.  But, if those steps aren’t leading us closer to the true King then it is a vain journey.  To have that wonderful life or miracle of newness on any street we don’t need to wait for a fictitious figment of our imagination to come to town.  We need to place one spiritual foot in front of the other and go after the true Star.

Not the twinkling celestial bodies in the sky that give light to the objects below, but the Star who is the “light of the world,” (John 8:12) that allows us to escape the darkness of sin and breathes new life into the dreary souls of these world travelers, illuminating a new path for our journey.

It is Him we are to look for.  It is Christ we are to chase after.  And, as they say, “Wise men still seek Him.”  Therefore, follow the Star.  For He is not only the King of the Jews the men of the old days were seeking after.   He is also the King of our hearts and the fulfiller of all the hope we are in search of.

Sunday School Lesson – “Mary’s Song” Luke 1:39-56

Photo: Pixabay/Fotorech

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 1:39-56 (KJV, Public Domain)

The news that Mary received that she would be the carrier of God’s plan of salvation was phenomenal, to say the least.  One could even say that it all may have been a bit overwhelming.   After all, this would be the actual Son of God in her body and the angel Gabriel told her some pretty awesome stuff concerning Him.  Upon hearing it all and taking it in – she accepted the calling of God on her life and yielded, literally, her body as a sacrifice.

Still, one can imagine questions rolling around in her mind.  If our minds get blown away at the little special stuff God does for us here and there, I can’t help but think Mary may have been a little taken aback of the whole scene before her and the future that lay up ahead.

Despite it all, Luke 1:38 tells us she acquiesced to the hand and plan of God and spoke, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

Not once did she ever ask for a sign but as the scene of today’s lesson unfolds God gives her one.  Miraculously and mysteriously God peels back what people could not have known except by divine revelation and confirms not only the promise to her but His plan of salvation to the world.

 Elisabeth’s Confirming Praise

Luke 1:39-40 “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.”

These verses pick up immediately after the angel Gabriel departed from speaking with Mary God’s plans and promise for her life, and the life of the Child she was to carry.

But, before his departure, he encouraged Mary, noting, “For with God nothing shall be impossible,” (Luke 1:37) after telling Mary, “Behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren,” (Luke 1:36).  I can only imagine after all that was said and done, she remembered these blessed words and “arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda.” 

Perhaps it was one of those “I just have to see Elisabeth” moments after all she heard.  Regardless of the reason, we do know that it was with “haste” that she was compelled to go.  Immediately, without hesitation, she wanted to be where Elisabeth was.  God was doing an unexpected thing in her life and she possibly wanted to connect with the other name Gabriel gave her in relation to this great miracle.

So…, long ago, in a hill far away, Mary went.  It almost reads like a fairy tale, but the story herein is very true and worthy to be learned and appreciated for the intricacies of details God weaves through their lives and the history of our salvation as well to bring about His promise for mankind.

“And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.”  Upon arriving at her destination at the house where Elisabeth dwelt with her now mute husband, Zacharias, Mary entered and greeted her according to custom.

Luke 1:41-45 “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

The words of Mary’s greeting aren’t recorded, but the response by Elisabeth and what happens after is.  “When Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb.”  When Mary’s greeting reached the ears of her cousin God phenomenally made His way known during what seemed to be a very normal and customary interaction between two people.

Something moved in Elisabeth at the hearing of the voice of Mary; and not just the baby inside of her (Although as noted in the lesson he “leaped” and reacted to hearing her voice as well.  See note below).  Mary’s voice connected with her innermost being by the moving of God’s Spirit, hence we see her at this very time being “filled with the Holy Ghost.” 

Please Note: Babies in a womb have an amazing connection to their own mother’s voice and maybe even dads.  But, rarely will they react in such a strong way to a voice they have never heard.  This makes the baby’s reaction all the more powerful and a reason to take note.  The baby, later to be known as John the Baptist, was filled with the Holy Ghost at this time fulfilling a promise as well (see Luke 1:15).  God used an unborn child to spiritually testify of the work He was doing.  Awesome!

Can I give you something to try to associate this feeling with?  Imagine someone knocking on your door one day to give you the best news possible.  Maybe you are one of those famous sweepstakes winners and all your financial needs would be forever taken care of.  Or, perhaps someone announced that you are a long-lost relative of someone who has left you an extraordinary inheritance.  Maybe that knock brings a lost love home again for which the joy felt can’t be measured in dollars and cents.  Any one of these events would practically leave us in joyful tears and simply awestruck at what is happening.  I can imagine the same “I can’t believe it!” joy being felt by Elisabeth at the sounding of sweet Mary’s voice.

Mary and Elisabeth were no longer just cousins of the flesh, but they were sisters in the Spirit because God was working mightily through both.

Continuing to be moved by the Spirit of God, Elisabeth’s voice rang out in exuberant praise, declaring, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”  When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he too used words like “highly favoured” and called her “blessed” (Luke 1:28).  Her life would become extraordinarily different from women everywhere and in every era.  There wasn’t then, and would never be, another woman like her in the entire world or the world’s history who was called to do what she did.  She was “blessed.”  And Elisabeth’s declaration: “blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” (even though Mary was nowhere near showing at this time to give the outward appearance of pregnancy) means that she [Elisabeth] was speaking directly in reference to the miracle that God has performed in her [Mary’s] life.

In an age where instant notifications, emails, text, Facebook, and the like didn’t exist, as quickly as these events unfolded there appears to be no prior knowledge of Mary’s pregnant condition before the infilling of the Holy Ghost.  God revealed this to Elisabeth and Elisabeth sang out in praise declaring how special she [Mary] is because of the babe [the fruit of the womb] that is inside of her.

Still a little awestruck at the greatness of all that is transpiring before her, Elisabeth continues, saying, “Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Immediately, without any questioning of detail or such, she knew that Mary was the “mother of my Lord.”  What a declaration for Mary to hear!  In the very near future, when word got out about her pregnancy, she would hear, I’m sure what I assume to be a myriad of hateful and hurtful remarks.  But for now, I can imagine Mary letting Elisabeth’s words wrap around her as a warm hug confirming what God is doing in her life.

Elisabeth goes on to tell Mary of the reaction her own babe had at the hearing of her voice: “Lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”  Inspired by the Spirit of God, Elisabeth not only felt the baby physically leap but inwardly she knew the reason was for “joy.”  The forerunner of Christ was already getting happy and testifying to the greatness that was to come through Him.

Ringing out these Holy Ghost inspired words, Elisabeth continues to say, “Blessed is she that believes.”  That’s a powerful statement.  It not only testifies to Mary’s confident acceptance of what God was doing through her, but it also shows how much faith must play a key role in anything God calls anyone to do.  Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  One’s faith is important for without it we are told it is impossible to please God (see Hebrews 11:6).  As scary as this situation was for Mary, she got on board with God’s plan without knowing everything that would unfold in her future.

Because of that, “there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”  Mary accepted in faith, and Elisabeth declared that God was moving on her behalf.  God has never failed to follow through with His promises.  He speaks them.  Here it is confirmed.  And, it shall come to pass.  Other areas of the Bible remind us of this great truth, saying, “For I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass…” (Ezekiel 12:25; see also Psalm 111:7).

In response, Mary’s soul joins in with rejoicing!

Mary’s Song of Rejoicing

Luke 1:46-47 “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

“My soul doth magnify the Lord.”  What God revealed to her through Gabriel and confirmed through Elisabeth is nothing short of AWESOME!  It goes beyond the concept of human thinking and understanding and takes you to a realm of the way He thinks and operates.  It beckons one to step out into the unknown with a life and a heart of total trust.

How else is Mary to respond except to say, “My soul doth magnify the Lord?”  God was about a great work (as He always is).  For centuries they have longed for the promise of the Messiah to be fulfilled.  Generations have laid up their hopes in store for this great day.  Mary’s soul can’t help it but praise God.  She knew before anyone else that God was ready to do a great kingdom shift.  She is rejoicing because that time is finally at hand for the long-awaited promise to come to pass and she is to be personally involved.

Thus, she was moved to “magnify the Lord.”  We use the word “magnify” to mean to enlarge.  We can’t make God bigger than He already is.  1 Kings 8:27 declare, “The heaven of heavens cannot contain thee.”  But we can exalt and praise Him – we can lift His name up at the joy of what He is doing in the lives of His people.  We can make our praise of Him grow and grow until it affects the lives of those around us.  Through our worship, we can’t help but to enlarge His territory and gain back spiritual ground in the lives of those who witness what God is doing in us.

When was the last time that you can honestly say, “My soul doth magnify the Lord?”  When was the last time you felt a shift in your spirit to move into the realm of praise over the greatness of God in your life?  Mary was at her cousin’s house when she busted out with this hymn of rejoicing.  You can feel the Spirit of God move you to worship anywhere!  You don’t have to wait until Sunday morning service!  Let your soul “magnify” Him now!  That’s why she continued, and said, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

“God my Saviour.”  This is all about Him and what He is doing.  Man cannot save himself.  Man does not have the means to secure permanent deliverance from sin for himself.  Try as he might, it just won’t work.

But, God…

Her people were under the tyranny of Herod and whoever else decided to put their hands in the pot of affliction over them.  Worse than that, despite laws and sacrifices, the tyranny of sin still permeated the world and had mankind shackled in its bonds.

But, God…

Mary can “rejoice!”  There is hope for her.  There is hope for her people.  There is hope for the world.  “God my Saviour” is ready to let loose His plan of deliverance once and for all!  Titus 3:4-5a says, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us…” Rejoice!  “God my Saviour” had and has a plan to “save us!”

Luke 1:48-50 “For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.  And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.”

“For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.”  Who are you to those who see you every day?  Are you known as mom or dad, sister or brother?  Are you just that church member who sits on the end of pew five from the front?  Or, are you just that neighbor down the street?  Who are you to those at work or to those who see you drop off the kids at school?  How do people identify you?  Are you just a passing thought to most or do people “regard” you?  Do people take notice of you and your life?

Mary, when she woke up that morning before Gabriel spoke to her, she just saw herself as Mary; nothing more, nothing less.  She was just one in a group of young women who lived in her town of Nazareth.  Yet, the whole time God “regarded” her.  God had His eyes on her for something bigger and better in life and she didn’t even know it.  “He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.”  In a spirit of humility, she may have viewed herself as nobody and her humble surroundings would suggest it as well, but she was somebody God paid attention to.

“From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”  God is big on remembering those who submit in obedience to His will and allow themselves to be used by Him.  “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Heb. 11:6).  Jesus told His disciples one day after Mary (not the Mary from today’s lesson) anoints Him with the oil from the alabaster box, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”  People are going to remember her.

With the Mary of today’s lesson, the one that would bear the Son of God, people are going to do more than just remember her, they “shall call me blessed.”  She will forever be linked to the greatest miracle God has ever done and considered “blessed” to be a part of it.

“For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.”  How often has God moved in the life of one to bless and bring about “great things” to only have them take credit for it or attribute it to another?  Mary didn’t do that.  She recognized that God is the “mighty” One and He was the One that was performing these “great things” in her life.  1 Samuel reminds us, “For them that honour me I will honour,” (2:30).  She honored God and attributed glory to His name for His mighty hand in her life.

“Holy is his name.”  Mary is rolling out this beautiful hymn of what God is doing and in the middle, she takes as we call it today, a praise break!  At least, this is how I viewed it J!  God has overwhelmed her in such a good way and it’s like she can’t help but stop and declare, “Holy is his name!”

God is unique in who He is and in the way He does things.  After God delivered the children of Israel from Pharaoh and his chariots at the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel sang a song, Exodus 15:1.  In that song, they also recognized the holiness of God.  They sang, “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (15:11).  This is the same heart of song that Mary rejoices with in today’s lesson when she pronounces “Holy is his name!”  Psalm 99:3 declares, “Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.”

When God moves in your life; when God does the impossible if, at no other time, one ought to especially then recognize His holiness, His power, His uniqueness in it all and praise Him for it!

“And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.”  I have a lot of favorite psalms but by far one of my top favorites is Psalm 118.  This is one I cling to and often go back to for times when I need encouragement.  It starts off giving a brief history of the goodness of God in the life of His people because “his mercy endureth forever.”  Then, this beautiful psalm moves to an even more beautiful declaration of God’s promises for those who put their trust in Him.  There is not a verse in this Psalm that I don’t like.  It even ends with another, “For his mercy endureth for ever,” (Ps. 118:29).

Mary recognized God’s hand of mercy over “them that fear him from generation to generation.”  Psalm 103:17 tells us, “But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.”  Both verses express the unending mercy of God.

God promised David through Nathan the prophet, speaking of his descendants, saying, “I will be his father, and he shall be my son.  If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the road of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee,” (2 Sam. 7:14-15).

Mary saw God’s promise to David and that His mercy was still at work to “them that fear him.”  Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,” (see also Pro. 9:10-11).  Time did not erase the promises of God.  Though they have waited, and at times the wait may have made it seem the Messiah wasn’t coming, God’s mercy was working it out from “generation to generation.”

Luke 1:51-53 “He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.  He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.”

“He hath shewed strength with his arm.”  When God has a plan, He shows up in the full strength of His power to accomplish it.  God is omnipotent.  There is nothing that He can’t do.  There is none who can subdue or usurp His power.  That’s why we are encouraged to, “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually,” (1 Chron. 16:11), because God’s strength is unmatched in power and authority.

In His strength, He “scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts… he put down the mighty from their seats… the rich he hath sent empty away.”  He made them broke, busted and disgusted!  Those that should have had no lack; those that should have been top of their game; God humbled them and removed them.  Why?  Because they lived in reliance on their own power and ability.  They lived a life of pride; a life in opposition to God.  Therefore, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6).

God flips the script and He “exalted them of low degree” and “He hath filled the hungry with good things…”   God lifts up and blesses the lowly of this world such as His people Israel.  “Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly,” (Ps. 138:6).  It was the lowly, the unassuming and the unexpected course that God would use to usher in the reign of the Messiah.  From the choosing of a young woman from Nazareth to His lowly birth and being “laid… in a manager,” (Lk. 2:7); all was done without pomp and circumstance to bring forth the Savior of the world.

Luke 1:54-55 “He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”

“He hath holpen his servant Israel.”  God has been a constant source for His people “Israel.”  They were a people of promise.  They were a people who would be an example to other nations (Deut. 4:6-8).  They were a people through whom we would be blessed also.  “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed,” (Gal. 3:8, see also Luke 1:55 (today’s lesson); Gen. 12:3).  He remembered “his mercy” despite their failings and short-comings.  God has helped Israel and stood by Israel’s side for them to be the people they were called to be.

Luke 1:56 “And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.”

Mary, we are assuming, stayed with Elisabeth up until the time of her giving birth to John.  Gabriel came to her in the sixth month (Luke 1:26), and here we are told she “abode with her about three months” which would equal out to the normal time for pregnancy to be completed.  Then, she “returned to her own house.”  After which, verse 57 (not in today’s lesson), tells us of the birth of John.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Mary’s Song

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Mary’s Song

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Mary’s Song

Blank Journal Pages to fill in for your own ideas: 2 journal pages

Coloring Page: Mary’s Song Coloring Page

Memory Verse: Mary’s Song Memory Verse

Word Search: Mary’s Song Word Search  Answers: Mary’s Song Word Search Answers

Crossword: Mary’s Song Crossword  Answers: Mary’s Song Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Mary’s Song Word Scramble  Answers: Mary’s Song Word Scramble Answers

This time of the year we are doing a lot of singing right along with Mary.  We are magnifying God in the Christmas songs that we sing.  What better way to Magnify God than to sing of the birth of His Son.  Below you will find several candle activities that children can easily do.  Children can use these “candles” as they carol and sing of the praises of God.  Enjoy!

“Mosaic Candles for Christmas” (This is just a general idea.  Decorate any way you want.  Enjoy!)

“Candle Ornaments” (Candles from popsicle sticks – how great is that!  Use this craft as is or use larger craft sticks and make candles for students to hold instead of ornaments when they sing. Enjoy!)

“Colorful Votive Craft for Kids” (These are great and simple to do.  One note: Decorate the jars any way you want but I would use battery operated lights instead of real tea light candles.  Enjoy!)

Below is another way we can celebrate this lesson and sing and Magnify God as Mary did using printable songbooks.  Simply keep the song you want and omit those you don’t.  Enjoy!

“Christmas Carol Lyrics Sheets”

One great and easy idea is to make your own songbooks for students.  Simply fold construction paper in half and use blank white sheets or song lyrics in the middle.  On the outside cover attach this music coloring sheet or any that you wish to decorate your book.  There you have it.  Enjoy!

Other suggested activities:

“Mary and Elizabeth Knew that Jesus came to save us”

“Mary Visited Elizabeth”

“Mary’s Song” (Here you will find many activity sheets, coloring and group activities.  Enjoy!)

“Sing Unto the Lord Coloring Sheets”

“Where’s the Note Game” (Oh, this is a super-simple game to prepare and play with your student, but boy, will it leave an impact on the lesson.  This can be done with any song of praise to God or even using Christmas song which would be great this time of year.  This is a must try!  Enjoy!)

Sunday School Lesson – “The Branch and His Reign of Peace” Isaiah 11:1-10

Photo: Pixabay

VERSE DISCOVERY: Isaiah 11:1-10 (KJV, Public Domain)

The current situation of our culture and world is far removed from the idyllic picture of peace the prophet Isaiah foretold of in the verses covering the latter part of this lesson.  Just turning on the news in the morning spouts stories of evil, hatred, gossip, destruction, and lives torn apart due to the ravages of sin in this world.

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if it were different?  What if we lived in a time when peace prevailed and our relationship with God was uninterrupted by sin?  There once was a time like that.  It was during the period of innocence with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

As we are continually dealing with the evils around us today, you too may have wondered for a time when the world knew nothing but the peace of God.  The good news is we have a renewal and restoration of such a time coming in our future.  For the people of God, one day we will be introduced to a world devoid of the hatred and sin we have become so accustomed to when our Savior, the prophesied Branch, comes back and takes His reign.

In the chapter before today’s text, where people are hearing such words as “Oh Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation,” Isaiah 10:5, there needed to be a measure of hope for the people to look forward to.  When God’s warnings go unheeded, He does what He must do to direct the hearts of sinful people back to Him.  God then sends them a promise of a remnant (Isaiah 10:20-23) and tells them, “Be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee . . .” (Isaiah 10:24).  It was going to get rough for the people and they would suffer punishment, but the promise was still up ahead for something so much more wonderful.

Have no fear, for those same instruments He uses, He will judge due to their own pride (see Isaiah 10:15-16; 33-34).  “He shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one,” (Isaiah 10:34).  But, for God’s people there is the promise of new growth that will arise and be a beacon of hope, ushering in peace unimaginable.

Isaiah then paints a beautiful picture for them and us to hold onto in chapter 11 (today’s text).  This world and all its trappings, fighting, and sin will not have the final say.  What’s up ahead is so much more glorious.  Just wait for the return of the Branch at His reign.

 The Branch

Isaiah 11:1-2 “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;”

Isaiah, the first of the Major Prophets and the author of this book, is known and called by many today as “the eagle eye prophet” for his ability to foresee the birth of Christ some 700 years before it occurred. Though much of his ministry was filled with rebuke and warnings to God’s people over their wicked ways, he was also able to encourage them through what the Lord allowed him to see in their future.

Some of the visions he saw went even beyond the birth of Christ into His future reign at His second coming.  This is magnificent when you think about it.  This prophet was allowed to see the first and second coming of our Savior King.  And, what he saw in correlation to the second coming was mind-blowing.  For those who are tired of the troubles of this world, there is a greater story up ahead and it starts with a glimpse of the past.

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”  This verse and those following we identify as the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  As many Bible students are aware, Jesse is the father of King David.  Why is that significant?  The fact is God gave David a promise through the prophet Nathan saying, “Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever,” (2 Samuel 7:16).

Although David and his descendants died and passed off the scene and saw corruption, there would still be a sprout that will grow from the roots of this family to secure that seat on that throne that shall be established forever.  There will be one who springs up from this royal lineage that will not see corruption, but rather reign forever (Acts 13:37).  And, His name is Jesus.

Of Him it was spoken of, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:  And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end,” (Luke 1:32-33).  From before the beginning to the end of His life Jesus was fulfilling the promise of this forever kingdom rule.  He is that prophesied rod and Branch Isaiah foretells of.

If you have ever cut back some plants and placed them in water and tend to them, they begin to grow roots and sprout new life to them.  A new and better life has always been God’s desire for His people which is why it was so important that they learn about this promised Branch and cleave to the hope of peace found in Him.  Prophesying of this Branch was not only something Isaiah foretold of but Jeremiah as well.

Jeremiah 23:5, supporting the imagery found in Isaiah, also prophesies of Christ as the Branch from David: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth,” (see also Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 33:17).

One more note on our Branch description of Jesus to solidify He is the fulfiller of these prophesies.  After His birth, His parents had to flee Bethlehem for fear of Him being killed by Herod.  This landed them in Egypt.  When it was time for Him to be safely returned to the area, God spoke to Joseph in a dream instructing him on what to do next.  In Matthew 2:23 these directions led them to Nazareth.  This was very important because as it reads: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”  That word “Nazarene” is “nezer” or “netzer” in Hebrew which means “branch.”  The Bible could not be any clearer on who this true Branch is: Jesus Christ.

“And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.”  The Branch is full of God’s Spirit.  When John the Baptist baptized Jesus it was evident that this was the Son of God by a sign that was given him. John 1:32-34 says, “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.  And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.  And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”

PLEASE NOTE: Jesus did not “get” the Spirit at the time of His baptism.  Jesus has always been fully God, meaning, fully endowed with the Spirit, and fully man at the same time.

Anything done for God must be done through the Spirit.  Isaiah 42:1 also shows and prophesies, “I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment unto the Gentiles.”  Here in today’s text, we see He is empowered by the same Spirit authoritatively, justly, and perfectly to function in areas where normal man is limited by the finiteness of his humanity.  He will have “the spirit of wisdom and understanding . . . counsel and might . . . knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” 

These functions allow Him to be the ultimate righteous judge we see figured in the next few verses.

PLEASE NOTE: When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2 which begins with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…”, and declared the same prophecy spoken therein was speaking of Him (see Luke 4:17-19).

Isaiah 11:3-5 “And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.”

The term “quick understanding in the fear of the LORD” simply means He justly and obediently operates and follow’s His life course to please the heavenly Father.  His life is as an aromatic offering of Himself.

“He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.”  One of the strongest things that condemn or acquit a person in our judicial system is evidence; the stuff that people see and hear that prove a case or not.  We rely on this in order to have fair and unbiased proceedings.  But, what if a situation comes where the evidence is just circumstantial and can’t really be trusted to condemn or not?

He, of whom this prophecy speaks of, will base His judgment on nothing other than “righteousness” which is the truest measure wherewith anything can be measured by.  He will make sure those that are considered the least of all; those who are usually not able to defend themselves – He will make sure they will have a just, fair, and right outcome.

His righteousness is mandated by His holiness.  His holiness and just judgment are directed by the power of the Spirit in and of Him which includes all those special areas as noted above: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord.  He is completely empowered to discern, advise, and carry out His sovereign righteous reign.

“He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of lips shall he slay the wicked.”  2 Thessalonians 2:8 tells us, “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”  No adversary, not even Satan himself, will be able to stand when the reigning Christ opens His mouth in judgment.

The Centurion, when Jesus was coming to his house to heal his servant, sent and said unto Him, “Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed,” (Luke 7:6-7; emphasis mine).

In that coming day, when Jesus cracks the sky and returns, He will but speak a word “and with the breath of lips shall he slay the wicked” (compare His powerful words to Hebrews 4:12).  He will totally crush and destroy evil with the truth and right judgment that comes from His mouth.  He that it is spoken of that came to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) will ultimately face the same demise he tried to afflict on humanity.

“And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.”  As a belt that holds up a garment, He that is coming will be wrapped in “righteousness and faithfulness.”  What that means is all that He is, and all that He has, and all that He does is guarded and supported by some of the most precious qualities about Him: His righteousness which simply is to do that which is completely and perfectly right, just, and with the utmost integrity; and, His faithfulness which personifies His sure character of never failing and steadfastness.

Out of all the leaders throughout our history here on this earth and out of all the leaders we currently see in power or vying for position now, He is the only One empowered completely to reign right.

In other passages of Scripture we see, “The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself . . .” (Psalm 93:1), and “For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak,” (Isaiah 59:17).  Our King is already now and will be then, dressed and ready to render proper justice in this world and no evil will be able to stand against His judgment.

His Reign of Peace

Isaiah 11:6-10 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.”

Peace as we have never known before.  An age that resembles the innocence of living in the garden with God once again as He originally designed.  There’s a beauty here that can’t be missed.  A place now where only our imagination can take us until that promise of hope is finally fulfilled in that day.

Once I wrote an article titled Interruption of Peace, expressing in it how the enemy comes to steal peace that God gives, yet peace is His divine promise and blessing to us.  In it I talk about how peace is something that must be fought for; it’s about what we let dominate our lives (read article www.wordforlifesays.com).  But, here’s the blessed thing of that coming future day – we don’t have to fight for this peace.  We don’t have to struggle with the day to day issues of life to lay hold of it.  It is there.  It is our promise.  It is our hope.  It is what He has already secured for us and at His reign, we will know it like we have never known it before.

PLEASE NOTE: We I speak of “at His reign” I am speaking of the future day of fulfillment when Jesus returns a second time to rule forevermore.  Of course, as saints of God, we know that He is ruling even as we speak now.  We are not diminishing that; rather we are magnifying the extraordinary event that will take place in that day when the Branch comes and solidifies His reign of peace.  Oh, what a day that will be!

In that day, God’s creation will operate under a spirit of divine fellowship with one another as He originally created them to be.  There is no top of the food chain or bottom of the food chain status to worry about.  His peace; His righteousness will be felt by every being in nature and none shall be absent from the knowledge, the simple knowing, of who He is.

Animals that were at odds with one another, one hiding for fear of death and another seeking to satisfy a need to eat – it will all be done away with.  These competitors become companions: “wolves with lambs, leopards with the kid, lion and the fatling – led by the direction of an innocent child.”   

Even as fantastic as some childhood movies and books depict humans and animals living together in harmony, side by side, without fear of attack or being eaten [I happen to love those kinds of stories by the way], in most of those stories there are still elements that can cause fear, distrust, and anguish between the two.

In that coming day, none of that will exist.  Only the companionship of simply being will matter.  After all, who ever heard of “cows and bears” getting along or a “lion” that eats “straw like the ox?”  Who would ever in this day of ours allow babes and toddlers (sucking child and weaned child) to play with snakes (asp and the cockatrice)? 

His coming kingdom, at His perfect reign, the things which by nature seem impossible and unheard of now, will be possible then.  The only characteristic there is summed up in one word: PEACE.

All sin and evil by then will have been done away with and full restoration will come to head.  “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (compare wording to Habakkuk 2:14).  There is the absence of pain and tears.  There is no more hardship and adversity.  The things and wrong thinking that used to ravage humanity sending it on its downward spiral of sin – all of that is gone.  It’s not in this future kingdom (see also Isaiah 2:4; 65:25; Hosea 2:18).

“The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”  If you will allow me, I see the whole story of Creation, the whole history of man, and the whole of the promise that lays waiting for us in our future as being summed up in one word: GOD.

Psalms remind us, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God,” (90:2; see also Exodus 15:18 and Revelation 19:6).  And, it is that same Sovereign rule of our holy Creator that every man and creature will respect and know of because of the very essence and knowledge of who He penetrates the world as a whole thanks to the victory gained through that righteous Branch.

And, it won’t only be those of Israel who will be drawn to “his rest.”  As He stands as an “ensign;” as a banner raised, even the “Gentiles” shall “seek” him.

The nations will be drawn to the source of their salvation.  Jesus once taught Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:14-15); whether they be Jew or “Gentile.”  Jesus, the Branch, the “root of Jesse” was raised once on the cross when He died for the victory over our sins, and He will “stand for an ensign of the people” in that glorious day, declaring once and for all His victory and His reign of peace.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – The Branch and His Reign of Peace

Suggested activities noted in the lesson:

“Chart of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus” (Some useful information to note specific Isaiah prophecies when leading into the lesson)

“Children’s Video of Isaiah 11:1-9 prophecy”

“Grow Carrot Tops Activity” (This activity will help students see how new growth can sprout from a carrot.  Simply follow one of the easy ways shown on this site for a successful and fun project for your students.  Enjoy!)

“Geneology of Jesus Wheel Craft” (This craft or a family tree will help students trace Jesus’s family line.  Enjoy!)

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Better Days are Coming

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Signs of Peace at Jesus’ Reign

Blank Journal Pages  for adults and children to fill in your own verse or ideas: 2 journal pages

Draw the Scene: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Memory Verse

Word Search: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Word Search  Answers: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Crossword  Answers: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Word Scramble  Answers: The Branch and His Reign of Peace Word Scramble Answers

“Peace on Earth” (Activity sheets, coloring, and printables)

“The Prophet Isaiah” (Links to coloring pages, teacher’s guide, etc.)

“Be Happy!”

“Rejoice evermore,” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

“. . . Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” Psalm 144:15

 Happiness.  Some say it’s overrated.  I tend to disagree.  The Bible speaks over and over again about being blessed, happy, joyful, glad and rejoicing.  With so many different ways of saying it, I believe the Lord has made His point.  He wants His people to be absolutely elated in who they are –  His child!

Too often, we as Christians are waiting for conditions to be right before we choose to be happy about it.  That’s contrary to the Word of God.  Many times when we see words synonymous with being happy in the Bible, there is usually a counterweight of circumstances which doesn’t seem favorable or applicable to happiness.  Take the Beatitudes for instance:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad for great is reward in heaven . . .”

                                                                        (Matthew 5:3-12).

What the Lord Jesus Christ did was point out numerous circumstances of life that would normally account for not being happy.  But, by putting a statement of happiness in the front of it, He was relating that one doesn’t have to wait for the tides to turn in your favor to declare that blessedness.  The Beatitudes are about going through the storms of life even when the waves seem adverse and still seeing the promise of heaven at work.  Even when it feels overwhelming, to the point of feeling totally surrounded by trouble.  Jesus said happiness can still be found during those times.

How?  “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven.”  I WILL NOT trivialize anyone’s hardships in life.  There are some unimaginable things that people have to face every day that hurt; that disappoint.  Situations that seem to do all they can to strip away one’s faith.  Our Lord is not denying the hurt, but what He is saying is there is still a reason to be joyful.

It would be totally unrealistic for one to tell another not to be upset over a wrong committed.  Yet, we have a deeper revelation that beyond this mess there is a reward.  Oh yeah, this stuff here stinks.  But, over there – AWESOME!

We may go through trials and tribulations like anybody else, but one thing we have as opposed to them is the comforting presence of our Heavenly Father.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” (Ps. 23:4).  How can one not feel a measure of joy and comfort at words spoken such as these?

It just makes me feel that no matter what I am going through, I can “Rejoice evermore,” because, He is there.  He knows.  He comforts me.   He’s thinking about me.  He hears my prayers.  He sees the tears I shed.  I can feel His presence bottling every one of those tears up, working to wipe them away.  I may cry, but I can also rejoice because I have a true, living God who loves me and cares for me.

Not just words of rhetoric but words of substance.  Words that make me happy in spite of it all!  Today, I choose to be happy because I am in Him, and He is in me.  “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” (Ps. 30:5).  The tears may cloud over my eyes and fall down my cheeks, but eventually, it has to move and make room for the happiness I have in Him.  I am blessed.

Photo: Pixabay/Free-Photos

“God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect!”

God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect. God doesn’t operate on our timetable or according to our plans. But, when He does operate, it’s ALWAYS just right.

“Power Belongs to God!”

We don’t have to do life on our own. We don’t have to try to press through the days in our own power and strength. Rather, we are in a relationship with a loving, heavenly Father, who cares about everything we are going through and everything we are dealing with and He has the power to take control of it all because all power belongs to God (Psalm 62:11).

Father God, in your hands we commit every worry, every fear and every trouble. Father God, we lean and depend on Your grace and mercy. We thank You for all that You have already done and continue to do in each and every one of our lives. We know that You see all and know all. Help us to rest in You. Give us that peace which surpasses all understanding as we hold on to You and Your word and Your hope for this day and this week. Thank You that You love us enough to hear our prayers and it’s in Your hands we leave them. Thank You for being our all in all. In Jesus’ name we pray – AMEN!!!

Listen for God’s leading and then do something about it!

Listen for God’s leading and then do something about it!

“We get new ideas from God every hour of our day when we put our trust in Him — but we have to follow that inspiration up with perspiration — we have to work to prove our faith. Remember that the bee that hangs around the hive never gets any honey.” – Albert E. Cliffe

“No Other Rock I Know!”

no-other-rock

He is the ONLY ROCK I know! On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Dear Friends, that means He is unwavering and unfailing. God is our strength when we are weak. He is our fortress in the time of travail. He is our comfort in the time of sorrow. Any other source, any other person, any other thing we choose to depend on will fail. But, God will never fail. He is solid! He is unmoving! We stand on Him because He is our firm foundation!!!

“Grateful to be Undeserving!”

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Mark 2:17

Have you ever been looked down on? Felt as if you didn’t measure up to the standards of another? Do you have short-comings staring you in the face?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you are not alone. Our society has a way of stoking the fires of perfectionism; of making one feel that if they are not in the status quo then they are defected. Predominance is the attitude here in the west where the drive for success will cause one to feel as if they have been run over because they are not moving as fast as everyone else.

At the same time, our society has produced a group of over-inflated egos that really believe they have it all together. This group is dependent on no one because their fascination with themselves has misled them to believe they are complete; they are at the peak of perfection and everyone else should strive to be like them. These groups define their success by some outward measuring post, but on the inside are lacking more than they will ever know.

In Mark 2, Jesus found Himself wedged between these two groups of people. On the one hand, He was in the house of Levi, the tax collector (whom we know as Matthew), there He was eating dinner with “publicans and sinners,” (vs. 15). On the other side of the spectrum comes the self-righteous “scribes and Pharisees,” (vs. 16) to challenge His choice of company.

The sinners knew who they were. They were the rejected. They were the ones people laughed at and talked about. They knew what a mess they were and yet, they were grateful. How could this man Jesus want to be seen talking with them, let alone eating with them? He was holy, and still, He saw beyond all their imperfections to care enough to spend time with them; to draw them nearer to Him through His love, care and genuine concern.

The scribes and the Pharisees saw no such need for a man like Him. As far as they were concerned everybody should be striving to be like them; the holy elite, the cream of the crop. Others should gaze upon their own “righteousness” and desire to mimic it. No wonder the Lord often called them hypocrites and some other stuff, (Mt. 23:13-15). Their own self-righteous attitude about the realness of their lost state kept them from receiving what this Physician had to offer – Salvation!

But, to him who recognizes that “without Me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5), Jesus says I can do something with him. To him who knows the reality of his undeserving state, Jesus looks on that humility of heart with compassion and seeks to bring healing to that soul. There is something most precious in the moment when one can look up from all their failures and disappointments to see a Savior standing there, arms opened wide, ready to take it all away. That undeserving soul becomes eternally grateful because they know who they are, and they know who He is, and they also know that He didn’t have to do it; He didn’t have to save them.

Just as with the “publicans and sinners” we know that we don’t deserve to be in the company of Jesus. But, He chose to be there with you and me. He took Himself away from the elite to spend time with those who needed Him the most. It was His choice to love us, to draw near to us, and to eventually die for us so that He could free us. He left His home in heaven to become “God with us,” (Mt. 1:23); with the undeserving. Unlike the “scribes and Pharisees,” I recognize my need for Him and I am ever so grateful.  I can truly sing:

“I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior!
I come to Thee.”

(I Need Thee Every Hour/Annie Sherwood Hawks – Hymnal.net)

Photo: Pixabay/josealbafotos