Simeon and Anna

Luke 2:28; 38 NIV

The story of Simeon and Anna – and ‘the Presentation at the temple’ – is often overlooked. Mary and Joseph take the child to the temple in Jerusalem for Mary’s ritual purification and Jesus’ dedication to God as the firstborn son. At the temple they meet two people. The first is Simeon. He has been told by the Holy Spirit that he will not die without seeing the Messiah and he has been summoned to the temple on this day. Simeon takes the infant Jesus, praises God because of Him and prophetically declares that he has now seen salvation and that the child will be a blessing to Jew and Gentile. But the baby will be a mixed blessing for the people of Israel, causing some to rise and some to fall, and Mary will know bitter pain because of His ministry. The second encounter is with Anna, an aged prophetess who recognises in the baby the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel. Simeon highlights Jesus’ significance, declaring, ‘For my eyes have seen your salvation’ (Luke 2:30 NIV). The infant is not going to talk about how people are to be saved but will be the means through which they are saved. Simeon also says that the child is to be ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel’ (Luke 2:32 NIV). This means that the good news will go out across the world, to all people. Salvation, light to the world, the glory of Israel, will all be accomplished not through the temple building but through this child. In a world where we can often feel reduced to insignificance, we need to remember the baby in the temple. Sometimes the little things are vastly more significant than the big ones.

Job 21-23; Luke 1:67-80; Ps 128; Ecc 10:5-9

Joseph’s coats (1)

Genesis 37:3 NIV

Let’s look at the three different coats Joseph wore, as they present a picture of our lives as Christians. The first coat is the coat of salvation. It was a ‘gift’ from his father; Joseph never paid a penny for it, or sewed a stitch, or provided an inch of fabric. And that’s sounds a lot like the story of our salvation. The Bible says, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). Motivated by jealousy and resentment, Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit and dipped his coat in the blood of a goat in order to convince their father that he had been killed by a wild animal. The Bible says: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7 NKJV). In Old Testament times, when someone sinned they brought a sacrificial lamb to the altar and the priest shed its blood as payment for their sins. But the priest did not examine the person, he examined the lamb. If the lamb was ‘worthy’, the person was accepted and their sins were atoned for. So the moment we acknowledge our sin and pray, ‘Father, I come in the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God,’ we’re totally forgiven and accepted. ‘Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV).

Isa 38-41; John 7:45-53; Ps 9; Prov 28:13-16

Blame (2)

Isaiah 55:8 NIV

Yesterday we thought about the times we blame others. Today we’re focusing on the times we blame God. Maybe we’ve prayed about something, and it feels like God’s not listening or not answering. Maybe we prayed for healing, and the person got worse. Maybe we thought God said He’d do a miracle, and we see nothing. We get disappointed. We get angry. We blame Him for everything that’s going wrong in our lives. It’s not bad to show God our emotions, after all He knows them anyway. In Psalm 13, we see David in a pretty bad place. ‘How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?…How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?’ (vv.1-2 NIV). David felt that he’d been abandoned by God. And we can feel like that too. We feel that He’s let us down by not doing what we wanted Him to do. But He says: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV). We won’t always understand how God works. We won’t always be able to see Him working, or see the bigger picture. That’s where trust and faith come in. David ends Psalm 13 with: ‘But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me’ (vv.5-6 NIV). Will we express our emotions to God and then remember His goodness? Will we be honest with Him and then refuse to let anger, disappointment and blame break down our relationship with God?

Exo 13-15; John 1:43-51; Ps 131; Prov 26:7-9

Plant yourself

2 Peter 3:18 NIV

Just like a plant, our growth is affected the most by two things – what we take in from the environment around us, and how we then process that. Even though we can’t necessarily have complete control over who’s around us, we can control whose input we place value on. Plants filter what they need from the air and the soil, and you can make that same choice. Look around you at the people who crop up in your daily life. Take some time to assess who is godly, encouraging, and wise. Commit to listening closely to their words, while brushing off the bad advice and criticism of those who you know aren’t good for you. As the proverb says: ‘walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm’ (Proverbs 13:20 NIV). Secondly, even if the environment is perfect, if the plant’s internal processes aren’t functioning properly, then it can’t possibly use the nutrients around it to grow. It’s the same for us. We can do everything mentioned above, surround ourselves with great encouragement and wise teaching, but we won’t grow without our own individual relationship with God. We need to give ourselves time and space to grow with Him on a deep, personal level through spending time in that quiet place, getting to know His Word, praying, and listening for carefully His voice amongst our thoughts. As the Bible says, ‘Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him’ (Psalm 62:1 NIV). It’s through spending that time with God that we can fully grow into His love and grace, and know what being saved by Him really means.

Num 29:1-6; Matt 24; Rev 11:15-19; 1 Cor 15:50-58

What’s in a name? (5)

Jeremiah 23:6 NLT

The name Jehovah-Tsidkenu: The Lord our righteousness, was given by God through Jeremiah, announcing the coming of Jesus: ‘I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line…And this will be his name: “The Lord Is Our Righteousness”‘ (vv.5-6 NLT). Before Jesus came, our righteousness lay in our own efforts. ‘We will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands…God has given us’ (Deuteronomy 6:25 NLT). But Jesus changed everything. He is our righteousness. ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). It’s only in Jesus that we ‘become the righteousness of God’. We don’t need to try harder to feel righteous, or do more good works, or obsessively obey all the commands. We should be aiming to live like Christ, but we don’t need to try and make ourselves righteous. We’ll always fall short, we’re human. But Jesus ensures that in the eyes of God, we don’t fall short. Our guilty hearts can draw forgiveness, our anxious hearts can draw peace, and our weary souls can draw strength from Jehovah-Tsidkenu. We receive salvation by faith alone. And we must draw righteousness, and everything else we need, by faith in what God has accomplished and stored up for our use in Jesus, our righteousness. Paul said: ‘not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith’ (Philippians 3:9 NIV). We need to stop striving to become righteous, and instead, devote ourselves to Jesus, our righteousness.

Josh 16:1-19:23; Luke 20:9-19; Ps 20; Prov 23:10-12