Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

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John the Baptist prepares the way (part one) – Matthew 3:1-12


John the Baptist prepares the way (part one) – Matthew 3:1-12 – 02/17/2016

Matthew 3:1 (ESV) In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

This is a series in the Gospel of Matthew which looks to visit the text from the Gospel of Matthew on a line by line and verse by verse teaching and Lord willing we will get through the full book of Matthew, this is part of a New Testament bible study series that you can read all other studies in this section on this link.

Let’s start our bible study in verse one of chapter three.

V1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew now moves on from his narrative away from the childhood of Jesus and leaves that account with Jesus growing up in Nazareth in the last article in this series (link here) and begins looking at the child who was promised of Zechariah and Elizabeth called “John the Baptist” so let’s look at who he was. We are introduced to the foretelling of the baby John in the gospel of Luke…

Luke 1: 5 (ESV) In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. 8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” 18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

So we understand this baby will come and grow into a man who will have the “Spirit of Elijah” Luke carries on in the first chapter of Luke when he accounts of the birth of John the Baptist and a prophecy by his father…

Luke 1:57 (ESV) Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

Zechariah’s Prophecy

Luke 1:67 (ESV) And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

And here is where we carry on the story in Matthews Gospel and John’s message was not one of hearts and flowers and if modern day folks who examine preachers and assess whether their message would be very “seeker friendly” would find John wanting. John had a simple message because he knew his role in ushering in the Messiah. It was his job to call whoever would listen to repentance, but not repentance for the sake of John, he was requesting a true repentance of the heart and a turning back to God for all people.

His message was so in unison with his messiahs mission that his first words were the same as Jesus, both started their missions calling the ones who had gathered to listen to “repent” and that gives an indication of how far the world had sunk away from God’s plan. That message is still relevant today because we need to lose ourselves and seek the Lord while he may be found and to call upon him while he is near.

John states this by saying “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and that is just as true today than it was then, Jesus is coming again soon and the anticipation of that second coming of the Messiah should excite us to continue our kingdom work down here. John’s main message was not the repent, but he reason for the repentance.

Lord willing, in our next article in Matthew we will look at part two of the introduction to John the Baptist where we pick up in verse three and see what John actually preaches and the heart behind that, I would hate for you to miss it and the riches that will be revealed in that bible study. I pray that you are able to join us as we go through the bible, line by line and precept by precept.

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.

TTE Advent Calendar Day Eleven – December 11th


TTE Advent Calendar Day Eleven – December 11th

Jeremiah 31:15 (ESV) Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

Thank you for reading our eleventh installment of our advent series, please check out our advent page for more articles in this series.

Thanks for reading our article today and we look again at the prophecies that point towards the messiah and see how they are fulfilled in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

A few days ago we quoted this verse and the story that we told then we will go into a little further detail. We spoke about this when we looked at Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the account when they fled to Egypt due to Herod wishing to get rid of this new king.

I will be honest with you, unless I had the confirmation by Matthew having been inspired by the Holy Spirit, I wouldn’t have made the link between the two events. Matthew declares that it is and quotes the passage in the prophet Jeremiah verbatim.

I love that it is quoted though, it is like finding a jewel in the most humble of places and it is very God. Look at how the messiah was born, in the humblest of surroundings when he was (and still is) the king of Kings. He should have had servants, the finest palaces, and the best of the best but look at where he was born.

See him lying in the stable bare

Luke 2:1 (ESV) 1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

I love that the God inspired infallible, inerrant word of God is so specific. It stands the test of time and gives way more information that is required in order to verify its contents. It gives a historical account of who was the Roman in charge at that point, it gives the governors name also. We can clearly identify the point in history when Jesus was born of Mary.

This whole section is a fulfillment of prophecy

1) Born of a woman (verse 5)
2) Born in Bethlehem (verses 4-6)
3) lineage of parents (verse 4)

Need I go on? The evidence is overwhelming.

We see that the messiah, the King of Kings, LORD of LORD’s, the one who no name is higher being born in the most humble of circumstances. He didn’t even have a hotel room at an inn (modern day bar room) the only cover they found was in a smelly barn surrounded by animals.

He did not even have a crib or bassinette, his place to lie down was a receptacle that was used to feed animals. There was no mattress; he lay in cloth that was set aside for wrapping the dead. He lay on straw but in that baby who was a few minutes old was 100% human but also 100% God.

He did not need to be born this way, God could have created him fully grown as he did with Adam and Eve, but God allowed him to experience everything that we as humans experience. Jesus relates to every situation. He understands what it is like to be tempted, to have seen poverty, he lived as we lived but lived the lives we should have lived.

Herod kills the little children

Matthew 2:16 (ESV) 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

As we read two days ago, Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt. God could have used Jesus as a baby and with the power of God could have wiped out Herod’s soldiers, but this was not the plan of God. God knew this would happen and chose instead to use this wicked king in order to fulfil prophecy.

I would think that he would have used the information taken by the recent census (remember that is why Joseph and Mary were there in the first place) he would have had fresh information where the young children would have been and there would have been little searching required.

Herod was known historically for three things:

1) Vast building and structural projects to flex his muscles over his (puppet) kingdom
2) Suspicion over threats to his rule
3) Killing people for personal reasons, including members of his own family

We see points 2 and 3 are evident here, he saw this “new king” as a threat to his earthly kingdom. Herod was so blinded in maintaining his own little position of power that he missed the point of the messiah.

There is application in there for all of us, how often do we pass up what God has called us to, regardless of how humble that may be to chase after things that we were never called to. Sometimes we do this through vain ambition, personal discontent and sometimes it is just good old fashioned pride, other times we do it trying to do Gods will and do Gods job for him, we have to be careful and validate that it really is God’s plan for our lives.

Jesus came not to take his kingdom but to be the sacrifice for all of our sins. Jesus will return and establish his kingdom without end. The cross was not the end but merely the beginning. So Herod’s actions were futile. He died a few years later and others took his throne.

His legacy is very much a negative one, this makes me think about my legacy and how I will be remembered. Really and not to be too blunt but my priority is my family, how I am viewed by my wife and daughter. I fully realize that I have some major work to do in this area. Some areas I do not do well in and other areas I plain stink. I am in prayer that I see the priorities and that I do better.

My wife did an awesome blog entitled “How will my daughter remember me” and I would encourage that you read that.

God bless you one and all, I thank you for reading this article. Please share, comment or like below as the LORD leads you too.

TTE Advent Calendar Day Nine – December 9th


TTE Advent Calendar Day Nine – December 9th

Thank you for reading our ninth installment of our advent series, please check out our advent page for more articles in this series.

Today’s article will probably be the shortest in the advent series. In case you have not read the previous articles, we are looking at the prophecies that would show the Messiah is true. We have narrowed it down with each prophecy and each prophecy so far has pointed towards Jesus being the Messiah. Let’s look at today’s verse in the prophetic book of Hosea chapter eleven verse one.

Hosea 11:1 (ESV) When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

This part of scripture has two applications, one which speaks of a past tense and one that speaks of a future tense. This has caused scoffers and skeptics to try to discount it as a prophecy. I plan to look at both the past and the future tense.

Past tense – Hosea remembers calling the nation of Israel out of Egypt, Moses led them out of Egypt and the documentary evidence can be found in the book of Exodus. We see the children of Israel enter the land (which at that time was called Canaan) in the book of Joshua.

Future tense – Hosea speaks about that God called his own son of Egypt. Herod was on the throne in the land where Jesus was born, when he realized that the wise men from the east were not returning to him he then decided to find the Messiah on his own. Let’s look at Matthew chapter two chapter thirteen.

Matthew 2:13 (ESV) Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Joseph dreamed (from the LORD) once the wise men had gone, God spoke to him in an urgent fashion in the same way that you would be spoken to in an emergency. This was life threatening stuff. Herod was only concerned with securing the little kingdom that he had, he had little comprehension that Jesus was a different kind of king.

This young child was not a threat to that throne, but King Herod saw him as a weaker rival and a rival that had to be removed. (Verse 13) So under the cover of darkness they escaped to Egypt and remained there until the King had passed on.

Going to Egypt is preservation by God. He sent them to one of the Roman provinces out with Herod’s control. An area that would have a Jewish migration that was far enough away to escape Herod but close enough that they could return when the time was correct.

The character of Joseph is shown here, his first concern was his family, his wife Mary and the child he held in his arms that whilst he was not actually the father, he was going to ensure the child’s safety from danger.

We often hear the Christmas hymn “Mary did you know?” I wonder if anyone asked Joseph if he knew when he was escaping the clutches of the king’s guard with wife and child.

Matthew ties in the verse from Hosea by quoting it directly to show both meanings and to show that it while it was speaking in the past tense it also had a literal fulfillment in the book of Matthew.

Just in case you were under any doubt of Herods intentions, they are listed below.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

This was no false alarm, Herod in his own wicked mind thought he was taking all steps necessary to remove teh new king. He was blinded by his own power and trying to keep his own diminished part of the power pie. He was keeping a delicate balance between keeping the Romans happy and also keeping the religious people happy (and there were two different factions there also)

So to say that he was a puppet king in a volatile kingdom is an understatement. He had very little real power as a monarch in a place where the real decisions were taken in Rome, he saw the messiah as a political threat and felt that he had to go.

One of the first questions asked of the wise men was “When did you first see the star” and that’s why he killed the children under 2 years old. You have to remember Joseph was there in the first place because of a census so Herod would have known who and where the children would have been.

We do not know the population of Bethlehem at that time; however the population of 2 year old and under may not have been that large. We do know however that Herod in his last days was suspicious of anyone he deemed as a threat and even had murdered members of his own family.

This verse (18) is a quotation from Jeremiah 31; it had literal application at the time as well as prophetic application in this verse.

What these passages tell me is that yet again Jesus shows himself to be the messiah. My prayer is that you find him as your messiah too. Feel free to contact us if you wish to discuss further.

God bless you one and all, I thank you for reading this article. Please share, comment or like below as the LORD leads you too.

TTE Advent Calendar Day Two – December 2nd


TTE Advent Calendar Day Two – December 2nd

Thank you for reading our second installment of our advent series, please check out our advent page for more articles in this series.

Micah 5:2 (ESV) But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Thank you for reading day two of the TTE advent calendar, today we look at a verse which was often quoted in the time of Jesus being on this earth.

Where was the messiah to be born?

In yesterday’s article we looked at how the messiah was to be born of a woman, really, the skeptic among you may say “well that could apply to anyone” and that would be true. However passages in the bible really narrow it down to who is the messiah. They also point to the trustworthiness of the bible.

This passage was quoted in Matthew 2 when Herod asked where the Messiah was due to be born, we read…

Matthew 2:1 (ESV) 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Herod didn’t get the point of the messiah, he assumed that in the volatile political climate that he lived in that this Messiah would take away his limited power that he had. He already had to concede power to Rome and was essentially a puppet of Rome but he did not wish his power to be diluted any further by this religious messiah.

We can learn from this, we get so involved in our lives and our problems that we fail to observe or notice the messiah. We resolve to fix our issues ourselves instead of allowing the one who takes our burdens to bear them for us.

Why Bethlehem?

We are told Bethlehem, in the land of Judea was to be the place, what an honour for the place that was also the birthplace of David, the mighty King of Israel and a man after God’s own heart.

Historically this was a period that the nation of Israel were not proud about, they were ruled by a foreign Roman power, they were ruled by an unjust king in an uneasy political balance where Jerusalem was a melting pot between Roman, Herodian and religious authority.

So in these humble times, how fitting that God used a humble city, one that was not even regarded as much within it’s own borders to prophesy and deliver a messiah from. I see this in my life, that when I have been in the most humble of places, that is when God has used me and delivered abundance through me.

Ruler in Israel

This is where Herod got scared, he seen his power going away. Historically I find this laughable that he thought this way as the Messiah was known to be God. He could have taken out Herod with one word, however as we learn from the later part of Matthew 2, Herod was not going to last forever and he passed away while Jesus was in Egypt.

Jesus kingdom was not temporary, Jesus confirms this in his trial in the dialogue with Pontius Pilate, we read in the Gospel of John…

John 18:36 (ESV) Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

What amazing humility to submit to those he had created. This truly blows my mind on so many levels. Jesus will rule, but when he comes back at the end of the world. The religious leaders thought they had snuffed out the problem when they coerced the Romans to crucify him. They did not want to face that he was God, but as Jesus proved at Calvary – YOU CAN’T KILL GOD!

Coming forth of old, from the ancient of days

This part shows that he was not just a man, limited by a finite span on earth. He was there of old, he was there at the beginning, he was there at the end, and he was and is and is to come. This gives further credence to the fact that Jesus was there at the beginning of creation.

This tells us that although Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the story did not start there. He is the ALPHA and OMEGA, the beginning and the end. (We read this is Revelation 22.) Being a third of the trinity he is as timeless as God.

The Gospel of John in chapter 1 (Quoted fron Genesis 1) .tells us when Jesus began…

John 1:1 (ESV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Who was Jesus?

He was all of this and more, he was God, he had humanity, he had humility, he was perfect, he was sympathetic to man, he was love, we was sacrificial, he was glorious, he was the fulfillment of prophesy, he was the creator and he was and is and is to come the only way to heaven. He was all this and much, much more. He is my Savior and is the LORD.

My hope is that this look at a messianic passage was a help to you and my hope is that this blessed you and hopefully stirred some questions about Jesus being your messiah.

God bless you one and all, I thank you for reading this article. Please share, comment or like below as the LORD leads you too.