Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Miracles

Have you ever thought about the little miracles God performed in order to bring us the hope that Christmas delivers? There's so much behind the scenes stuff to consider, so much more than shepherds seeing and hearing from angels in the sky.

First God moves a southern small town man, Joseph, to another small town up north. From a quick modern glance this doesn't set off warning flares. But on a closer look it does resemble a little miracle to me.

Joseph moved from renowned Bethlehem to can-anything-good-come-from-there Nazareth. This means he went from being located just off a main road leading to Jerusalem and the temple to a town positioned on a dead end road leading up a steep hill, where you couldn't see the place until you were almost right up on it.

This would be like going from walking thirty minutes to church to walking more than a couple of days to get there. And while there's a home Bible study group in town, all the major church celebrations still need to be done at the church now a couple of days away.

Not only was the distance a new issue for this righteous man, but his new town is in a part of the country thought to be a disgrace to the nation. Between the people slurring their words with other languages and keeping peace with the cruel Roman guards in the area, they were not respected by the rest of the Israelites. So now we're talking about going from an acceptable place to the bad side of the tracks. But Joseph goes to Nazareth anyway and miraculously stays.

While we don't really focus on the repercussions of Joseph following God's encouragement to take Mary as his wife, that in itself was a miracle as well. Joseph chose to put his reputation on the line and marry a girl who was already pregnant. Hello rumors. And then he has a woman living under his roof but he has to contain himself because he knows she must remain a virgin until the prophecy is fulfilled. Only with God's help was he able to do this. . .another miracle.

Then there's the census, which according to my commentaries occurred for some unknown reason. It didn't follow the need-to-take-a-census patterns in place in those days. But it was the means to get Joseph to leave Nazareth and return home to his family's land. Oh and by the way, a little food for thought, since Mary's family came from David's blood line also, more than likely her family came along for the census too.

And while our celebrations don't focus on these details as miracles, they are. God hasn't changed. He still works these little miracles into play, you know, putting the right people in the right place at the right time in order for his will and plan of action to take place and be fulfilled. We just never know what he has up his sleeve until we find ourselves in the midst of the bigger miracle.

May the miracles of the Christmas season bring you hope for eternal peace.

For a follow-up post on the birth of Jesus and the shepherds you can read my guest post on on December 26th.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Why Take Jerusalem?

Last week I mentioned David and his army finding the water tunnel that gave them access to take the city Jebus. The big question is, why did David feel compelled to take the city from the Jebusites in the first place?

Perhaps the draw for David may have come from the city once being called Salem when it was the home of God's prophet, Melchizedek, to being in the hands of a foreign people, the Jebusites. (Genesis 14; Psalm 76, Judges1) But, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary the city was located in neutral territory because no one had conquered any of it since the nation returned from Egypt. I say neutral because the nation was already divided between the northern and southern kingdoms when David began his reign. I somehow overlooked that fact.
When David settles his army on the hill near what would be called Jerusalem he challenges his men to find a way into the city. It wasn't until they captured the walled city atop the steep hill that the two locations were united into one city and then called the City of David.

What I find interesting is that the Jebusites were so confident that David wouldn't find a way into their safe haven city that they taunted him (2 Samuel 5) by saying even the lame and blind people in the city could defeat him. Can you imagine how much arrogance it takes to bring lame and blind people into an argument that might lead to fighting? I've always wondered why both sides were picking on those weaker people. I feel sorry for them. They couldn't fight for their home let alone fight off David's army.

In any case, David and his army took the city and established it as the headquarters for his kingdom. Did you notice he used parts of the former names to unite into one name, calling the place Jerusalem? It united the nation and the people. And, eventually, David brought the ark and the temple to Jerusalem to the high hill where everyone could see God's resting place.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Where's the water?

Did you know that the Romans had aqueducts around Jerusalem? At one point I figured they brought the water into the city so that they would be able to follow their traditions of bathing. But recently I discovered the water was already there. I've heard about the Gihon Spring, but I didn't realize the significance of the city's water source, even before it became the City of David.

Before it was known as Jerusalem the city was called Jebus, and had remained in the hands of the Jebusites for centuries. It was quite secure, mainly because it had a steep hill topped with tall walls. And in addition to that, the Jebusites achieved a remarkable feat. In order to hold off attackers for an extended period of time and secure their safety, they needed access to the water at the base of the hill. So the Jebusites carved out a tunnel.

And this tunnel was quite a task to build - descending to the water level then digging out sixty five feet in order to reach the mouth of the spring at the base of the mountain - all of this done through solid rock. And then they hid the entrance to the tunnel, which until King David and his army arrived on the scene remained hidden.

According to the Chronological Study Bible the tunnel still stands to this day and is viewed by visitors to the city.

I find the hidden entrance aspect fascinating. Imagine all the people who tried to capture the city from the Jebusites never finding the entrance to the tunnel. And then there's the fact that some of the tribe of Benjamin peacefully lived at the base of the hill along side the Jebusites.

I've got to wonder what the Benjaminites thought to themselves centuries later when King David and his army found the secret entrance leading up to the city at the base of the mountain. Did they wonder why their people never found the secret way in? Or were they in no hurry to fight for the mountain? In any case, you've got to admit it's interesting how long that spring entrance remained hidden.