Welcome to the Mountjoy Ministries Blog

This blog was authored by Bryan W. Sheldon, author and Bible teacher. His books are listed below. The studies in the blog are offered in the desire that they may be helpful in directing readers to the truths contained in the Bible.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Life of Jesus of Nazareth (Continued)

The Redemption of the Christ Child

The court of prayer where the rite of purification took place
and where the redemption money was paid.
There were three requirements at the birth of the firstborn son, which applied to Jesus since he was a son of Abraham and a son of David. He would need to be circumcised at least seven full days after the birth – Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day, the day when he received his angel-given name of Jesus (Yeshua). This signified an acceptance of the privileges and obligations of the Abrahamic        covenant.  Then there was the payment of the redemption money – that would be at least thirty full days after the birth. In addition, Mary would need to attend at the Temple for the rite of purification. This could not take place until at least forty full days had elapsed  after the birth. So some six weeks after the shepherds had seen the Shekinah glory of God, the mother and step-father of the baby,     identified by heaven as the Messiah, went up to the Temple to fulfil their obligations - the offering of sacrifice for the purification of the mother, and the payment of money for the redemption of the first-born. Luke records: “And when the days of her purification … were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)” (2:22,23) This was done for the first-born but not for the children born afterward. And it was not done for all first-born unless ‘the first-born were fit for a priest’.  In Jewish writings (Berakhot 8:1) they distinguish between ‘a first-born fit for inheritance’ and ‘a first-born fit for a priest’. That is, if the first-born should be in any ways maimed, or defective in any of his parts, or had any kind of spot or blemish in him, this laid no bar for his  inheriting but yet made him unfit and incapable of being consecrated to God. The infant Jesus was physically without blemish and without spot. It is likely that the purification of Mary would take place first.  

She must have enquired the price of pigeons (the offering of the poor) and made the payment by depositing the sum in the appropriate chest in the Treasury.

Then, at the time of the evening offering (3.00 p.m.) Mary attended at the platform in front of the Nicanor door where the priest (after     having offered the appropriate number of sacrifices) would sprinkle each of the attendees with water into which had been mixed the   ashes of the red heifer. About that time a godly man, Simeon, entered the court of prayer, held the child in His arms and declared the baby to be God’s Messiah.  This man was not only a student of the     Scriptures and therefore aware of the timing of the coming of Christ, but also a godly man who had received an  indication from God that he would not die until he saw Him (Luke 2:25,26).  Standing in the court that held the four giant menorahs, He took up the Holy Infant in his arms and prayed, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant     depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring       revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”(Luke 2:29–32) In the shadow of the Temple furniture that was designed to represent the light and glory of God, Simeon declared that Jesus was to be the ‘light of the world’ and the ‘glory of Israel’. The prophetess, Anna, likewise declared Him to be her Messiah.

The centre gate is the gate of the firstborn
Exiting the court of prayer and walking along the side of the Temple buildings, they made their way to the gate of the first-born. There  Jesus was formally presented to the priest. Two benedictions were said – one for the law of redemption and one for the gift of a firstborn son. Then the redemption money was paid acknowledging God’s claim over the firstborn of Israel. In this way the ‘parents’ of the Messiah had come to the Temple and offered Him to the LORD and received Him back again. Mary had fulfilled the requirement of the Law and was now ceremonially clean and so could partake again of the sacred offerings, and the Messiah had been identified as the    Redeemer to all who would look to Him – both Jew and Gentile.

 More Next Time

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Life of Jesus of Nazareth

The Birth of Jesus (Continued)

The timetable that God works to is very precise. The prophecy of  Daniel was always in view and from the birth, in a little over 33 years, on 10th Nisan, Jesus King/Messiah has to enter Jerusalem in fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech.9:9 cf. Matt.21:5). But this meant that there was much to accomplish before then. It included the      necessity for the Son of David to be born in Bethlehem (David’s city). But Joseph and Mary are in Nazareth – how can Joseph be motivated to take a difficult journey with his pregnant wife to another town for the birth? A convergence of events was used by God to bring about the birth in the required location – a census carried out on behalf of Rome. This has been anticipated by the Lord, for while Mary is of the line of David, and qualifies her son to be a son of David, and king of the house of David (remember Jesus is seed of the woman (Joseph is not His father)), Joseph is also of David’s line. This compelled    Joseph to attend at the registry in Bethlehem. It is while they are there that Jesus was born establishing the connection with his ancestor David.
Such an event, which could easily be ignored by the world, could not be ignored by heaven. A heavenly choir was dispatched to sing of the event. It was attended by a light show that was energized by the   Shekinah itself. And a message was delivered to the shepherds who were attending to the sheep and lambs that were destined for the Temple. … the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”(Luke 2:10–14).
They would not have known but in one generation the need for lambs for Temple sacrifice would be extinguished—for the Lamb of God will have died and forever after forgiveness will be through His sacrifice, not that of substitutionary animals in the Temple.
Next Time : The Redemption of the Christ Child

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Life of Jesus of Nazareth

First let me apologise - I have not updated this blog for some weeks. Unfortunately I have been unwell and consequently there has been a gap in the Bible teaching - but I hope that is behind me now and we can continue with our designated subjects.

The Birth of Jesus

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel was once again sent to take a message regarding another miraculous birth. Not to the Temple this time, nor even to Jerusalem, but to a village in Galilee, Nazareth, and to a young maid named Mary who was betrothed to be married. He greeted her; “Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28) The young girl was troubled at his words so he began again, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found    favour with God. (Luke 1:30) He continued: And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”(Luke 1:31–33) Mary asked the obvious question – ‘how is this possible since I am still a virgin’. Gabriel then conveyed news that was both amazing and uplifting; “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) Gabriel referred to his visit to Zacharias to offer some measure of confirmation and comfort to Mary:Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”(Luke 1:36–37) In this  manner, Mary began her journey toward motherhood.

Mary and Elizabeth
Mary, still recovering from her angelic encounter, decided to visit  and stay with Elizabeth until the elderly couple’s son was delivered.     Arriving at the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth in a town in the hill country of Judah this godly maid was greeted by the elderly, righteous Elizabeth,  offering  a  word  of  encouragement:  Blessed  is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”(Luke 1:45) Mary responded with her own peon of praise to the Lord – now universally known as ‘the Magnificat’ (Luke 1:46-55).
There was great rejoicing when Elizabeth finally delivered the promised son. It was customary on the eighth day after the birth to both circumcise the child and also to name him. Family and friends were insistent to call him Zacharias (from the root ‘the Lord remembers’) after his father. It would have been very appropriate. However, Elizabeth wanted him to be named ‘John’. When Zacharias concurred his debilities disappeared – and with his newly loosed tongue he voiced a most wonderful prophecy, rejoicing in the coming of the Saviour, but also spelling out the ministry of the new-born baby: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.(Luke 1:76–79)
But such a child, such a son, such a prophet, who was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, will have to be educated and trained. Who could take on such a task? Not Zacharias! – Age will catch up with him. It will have to be God himself. When the training began we are not told, but we are informed: “… the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel. (Luke 1:80)
Mary returned home, now pregnant and, apart from Elizabeth and Zacharias, misunderstood. Joseph, who had not been there when the angel visited Mary had considered his options, and was about to separate from his beloved when he too received a message of reassurance – it came in a dream: But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:20–21) Did Joseph fully understand the magnitude of the event that was to take place? – it is doubtful! But Matthew, the biographer who gave us the information about    Joseph was in no doubt: So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”(Matt. 1:22–23)
Paul wrote: … not many mighty, not many noble, are called.(1 Cor. 1:26). How true. It would appear that Elizabeth and Zacharias had little to commend them apart from being godly – as also, I would   suggest, Mary and Joseph. God has no favourites. The disciples were mainly fishermen – however, they were committed and whole-hearted. God says of those that are godly (like Zacharias) – ‘I can work with them’ – of those that have faith (like Elizabeth) – ‘I can work with them’ – of those that are committed (like Joseph and the disciples) – ‘I can work with them’ – and of those who have faith, are godly and committed (like Mary) – ‘I can definitely work with them’.
More Next Time