Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - December 25, 2018

Today's Reading:

Luke 2:21-52

Ezekiel 38-39

Isaiah 61

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

In Scripture we are encouraged with the injunction that Yahshua is our Example in all things (1 Peter 2:21). As children of Yahweh, we are to grow in Grace, after His beautiful Pattern. In Luke 2:52, there is a beautiful statement that I will focus upon today. It says:
Luke 2:52 "And Yahshua increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." 
Since Yahshua was literally growing, from childhood to adult, He increased in stature. This part happens to us naturally and does not require comment. The part I'd like to focus on is the fact that He increased in wisdom and in favour with God and man. That is quite a testimony! What causes these blessings of Spiritual growth? If we are to emulate Yahshua, we need to know how we also can increase in wisdom and grow in favour with God and man.

As Scripture explains, these blessings don't just randomly fall upon us. We have a part to play in our spiritual growth. As it turns out, growing in wisdom and in the favour of Yahweh happens as we increase in our level of Light.
Daniel 12:3 "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
Yahshua wants to show a contrast between your life (as a child of Light) and the lives of those in the world. – Ezekiel 22:26

A grateful heart reflects the glory of Yahweh. A complaining heart communicates the gloom of the world. – Philippians 2:14-15

The ultimate good work is to turn others from darkness to righteousness. – Daniel 12:3 (see above)

When others know you are a child of the Light, they will attribute your good works to Christ, glorifying Yahweh. – Titus 3:81 Peter 2:12

Our light is of no benefit unless it is displayed for all to see.

One powerful way we let our light shine to Yahweh’s glory is demonstrating generosity in our dealings with others.

Generosity is demonstrating the nature of Yahweh by wisely investing the resources He has entrusted to us.

Generosity follows the laws of the harvest. The more we sow, the more we reap.
2 Corinthians 9:6 “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” 
The test of generosity is not how much we give, but how much we have left.

Generosity is the result of focusing on Yahweh’s riches rather than our resources.
Psalm 50:10 “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills”

So what is our part to play in the process of growing in wisdom? How can we increase our level of spiritual enlightenment to the glory of Yahweh? There are ten ways to brighten your light:

1) Turn away from beholding darkness and from Satan's power - Acts 26:18

2) Expose areas of hidden darkness to the light - 1 Corinthians 4:5

3) Look unto Yahweh's Light - Psalm 89:15

4) Repent for all sin and hate - 1 John 2:911

5) Daily read and memorize the Word of Yahweh - Psalm 119:105130

6) Put on the Armor of Light each day - Romans 13:12

7) Have set times of fasting - Isaiah 58:6-8

8) Have a single eye – Matthew 6:22-23

9) Show compassion with good works - 1 John 3:17Isaiah 58:10

10) Gather with the followers of Messiah for set times of fellowship and spiritual encouragement - 1 John 1:7

Daily Bible Reading - December 24, 2018

Today's Reading:

Luke 2:1-20

Ezekiel 37

Isaiah 60

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

As I have shared on this blog in the past, Yahshua was born on the first Sabbath (annual) of Sukkot - the Feast of Tabernacles, which takes place in the Fall (in the Northern Hemisphere). This time has come and gone. But because our Bible reading in Luke 2 is dealing with the Birth of Messiah, I would like to add a few details about the Bethlehem star, which strip away some of the mythology which has been added to the story of our Saviour's Birth.

Before I begin, I should give you some backstory information. It is possible to calculate the Feasts of Yahweh going backward in time to any year. This is because it is possible to use astronomy software accurately calculate the position of the heavenly bodies on any given date. And knowing when the new moons are, in any given year, is all we need to know to correctly calculate the timing of the Feasts. 

Johannes Keppler, in the 16th century, was inspired to come up with the mathematical calculations to plot the courses of planets and heavenly bodies in the night sky. His calculations and mathematical formulas were so accurate that his math is still being used today, and is the basis for the accuracy of the astronomy software. 

Specifically, I use the industry standard astronomy software package called Starry Night Pro. And it was through the use of this program, that I am able to share the following details about the Bethlehem star.

Now, let's look at the story of Yahshua's Birth - remembering of course that the timing of it was in the Fall of the year 3 BC, at the Feast of Tabernacles.

There is a great deal of mythology which has been added in to our understanding of the story of Messiah's Birth. We have been led to think there were three wisemen, although there is no Biblical evidence of that (three gifts doesn't mean there were only three wisemen) - and historical evidence suggests otherwise, as I will show. We have been led to believe that the singing angels formed the star which led the wisemen to the Saviour's manger. And we have been programmed to picture the wisemen coming to worship the Christ Child along with the shepherds, on the night of His Birth...  But, as I will show today, these are details which come from traditions and are not part of the true Story.

Let's start off with our examination of the Gospel record. Let us see what the Bible actually does say about the Bethlehem star. In fact there are ten Scriptural clues given in the Gospel record to help us identify the Bethlehem Star.

1) Timing of the Bethlehem star - it was sighted in 3-2 BC - 
Matthew 2:1 tells us that the Bethlehem Star appeared around the time Yahshua was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod.
Herod died in 1 BC, as the best evidence indicates, so we should look at the years 2 and 3 BC.
The Backstory of the Magi, who sighted His Star from the east... 

Matthew 2:1 also tells us that Magi from the east saw it and came to Jerusalem.

According to historical records, at the time of Christ's Birth, there were magi (wisemen) of various schools from many locations, and some were more respected than others.  But from Herod’s reaction to these Magi (in granting them immediate audience and taking their words seriously) we can see they were respected.

Actually, the wisemen who came to worship the Christ Child were from the same school of magi to which Daniel had once belonged. These Magi were well-respect, king-makers. When they traveled, historical records show that they usually had a whole camel train of servants and valuables. They also typically had warriors with them to protect them and their valuables in their travels. It is more likely that the wisemen who came to see Messiah were traveling with a large caravan. They got attention, not because they were proud and haughty, but because they were well-known, deeply respected, and especially known for their understanding of prophecy and astronomy. 

Ancient historian Philo Judaeus wrote of this group of magi as follows:

"Among the Persians there is a body of the Magi, who, investigating the works of nature (including Biblical astronomy - which is not to be confused with pagan astrology) for the purpose of becoming acquainted with the truth, do… initiate others in the divine virtues by very clear explanations."

How did the wisemen from the East know so much about the heavens - correlating them with Bible prophecy? Remember, that Daniel was a magi and it was through Him that they came to understand the Messianic star-prophecy of Jacob and to watch for the Saviour's arrival.
Daniel 2:13 "And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. 
"The Magi were... priests, descendants of the priesthood the prophet Daniel had organized in Persia some 500 years earlier. Knowing the time was at hand (for the Messiah to come) these priests had been searching the heavens for the promised Sign of His coming..." (Grace Through Faith, The Christmas Story, part 2). 
“Parthia was a powerful kingdom north and east of Israel, a remnant of the Persian Empire that had recently defeated the Roman Legions… The Magi were among Parthia's most powerful leaders. No Parthian ruler could ascend to the throne without their blessing and indeed their political influence was felt through out the Middle East.” 
“…Because of his lifetime of service at the highest levels of Babylonian and Persian governments, Daniel had become a wealthy man. Since he was most likely castrated by Nebuchadnezzar he had no heirs, and so after he formed the Magi, he left his fortune in their care to be given to the Messiah upon His birth… The Magi's gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were Daniel's fortune, delivered to Him just in time to fund His escape from Herod's soldiers.” (ibid)
When we understand the Magi's connection with Daniel, it makes perfect sense why they were able to recognize the celestial event, which Jacob had foretold, which heralded Christ's Birth. It also makes sense why they brought such informed gifts to the Saviour. Gold is the gift to give a king (and He was King of kings). Frankincense was the gift to give to God (and He was). Myrrh was the gift to give to someone important who would die. These gifts were not only valuable, they were prescient, making it clear that the wisemen understood Messiah's Identity and Purpose.

Now let's turn our attention to the star itself. There are nine Scriptural star clues, which help us accurately identify the Bethlehem star.

2) The star indicated a BIRTH - The question the Magi asked Herod shows that the starry even indicated Someone important had been BORN.

3) The star further indicated that the one born was a KING.

4) The star connected this king with the JEWS.

How can we know the heavenly event foretold these three clues?

Matthew 2:2 - Here we find the magi's asking Herod a very “telling” question: “…And asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”

The Magi's question gives us three points for our list of qualifications for the Star. Whatever happened in the sky indicated 1) birth, 2) kingship and 3) Jews. It also gives us a clue about the Magi. 
Matthew 2:3 - Here we find an interesting detail in Herod’s reaction. “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”
In 63 BC, Roman historical records tell that the magi made a presentation to the Roman Senate. They described celestial portents (heavenly sky-events) indicating that a new ruler had been born. The Senate responded by ordering the death of baby boys in the candidate age range. When Herod ordered the slaughter of children in Bethlehem he may have been following a sort of Roman precedent. 
We also see the tremendous credibility of these magi. For Herod took the Magi's message as factual. Upon hearing their testimony, he immediately consulted the Jewish experts about the location of Christ's birth.
Matthew 2:4-6
“When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of My people Israel."
The Book of Micah was being quoted to Herod.

5) The star rose in the east (not all celestial objects do that)
Matthew 2:2: the wisemen give us another clue. They say, “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him."
When the wise men said "we saw his star in the east," they didn't mean "we saw his star while we were in the East."
The Greek text here says the Star was "en anatole," meaning they saw His star rising in the east.
That's what all but polar stars do, because of the rotation of the Earth. Stars rise in the east, but not all celestial objects do that. So, that's another qualification for the Star: 4) it must rise in the east like most other stars, but it couldn't be a polar star.

6) The Bethlehem star appeared at a precise time.
Matthew 2:7: “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.”
7) The appearance of the star was something only astronomers would have found significant. Ordinary people didn't notice it.

Here we find that the star appeared at an exact time. Significantly, Herod didn't know when it appeared. He had to ask the wisemen, who were the astronomers. This means that the Bethlehem star wasn't an angel-star, although there is no question that the angels sang. It also wasn't a comet, an asteroid, or any other heavenly event that un-trained people will notice. The Bethlehem star escaped the notice of the ordinary people...  Only when it was pointed out by astronomers (the wisemen), did it become obvious in its significance.
Matthew 2:8-9: “He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the Child was.”

8) The star remained in the sky over a considerable period of time. For the Magi first saw it from Babylon (their home), traveled to Judea and it was still visible for all this time.

9) The Bethlehem star appeared ahead of the Magi as they trekked southwards from Babylon (which helps us gain a sky direction also).

10) The star stopped... Can stars do that? Yes, at least they can visually appear to stop. 

So, what was the Bethlehem star? 

Was it a comet? - No. There were no recorded comets in 3-2 BC. Besides, if it had been a comet, everyone - even the non-astronomers like Herod - would have noticed it without help.

Was it a meteor? - No. Meteors don't stay in the sky for very long. And they don't "rise in the east."

Was it a Nova? - No. There were no recorded Nova's in 3-2 BC.

What's left?
Well, Herod had to ask when the Star appeared.
Anyone can glance up and see planets and stars. That is the nature of things in the sky. But, apparently, one could look up at the Star without realizing it. Herod didn't know of it. It took Magi to explain it. But once the Star was pointed out, all Jerusalem went abuzz, and Herod went into action.
A reasonable hypothesis is that the Star must have been something in the normal night sky which was striking when explained.

Did anything interesting happen in the ordinary night skies over the Middle East in 3 or 2 BC?

Yes, something did - and it involved the planet Jupiter and the star called Regulus.

JUPITER was originally called Tsedek, which means “The King" Star and  "YAH Our Righteousness”.
Jupiter is the largest planet of our solar system (a "gas giant“).
Jupiter is approximately eleven times the size of Earth and over 300 times more massive.
It circles the Sun far beyond Earth, in an orbit of about twelve years duration.
In ancient times, planets like Jupiter were considered "wandering stars." 

So, what happened with Jupiter in 3-2 BC? Jupiter circled Regulus (the star located between the lion's paws in the constellation Leo) three times, in a crowning and rare triple conjunction. Notably, Jupiter is the planet which indicates the King. And Regulus is the star which means "the scepter" of the King. Both of these heavenly bodies indicate a King. And the movements of Jupiter around Regulus would have been nothing short of a heavenly coronation ceremony, to the trained eye of any astronomer, as were the wisemen.

Because Jupiter and Regulus were so close during the period of this heavenly coronation, it visually appeared as if a new, brighter star had been born (which we call the "Bethlehem star"). Using Starry Night Pro, we get the following picture to see the amazing sky event which the wisemen had long awaited. Here's what happened (as is well-presented in the DVD called The Bethlehem Star):

Jupiter came into a close conjunction with the star, Regulus. In 3/2 BC, Jupiter's retrograde wandering would have called for the full attention of the Magi.
Afterwards Jupiter continued on its path through the star field. Then it entered retrograde. It visually "changed its mind" and headed back to Regulus for a second conjunction. After this second pass it reversed course again for yet a third rendezvous with Regulus, completing the TRIPLE CONJUNCTION.

A triple pass like this is more rare. Over a period of months, the Planet of Kings danced out a halo above the Star of Kings. A coronation.
But how do we know that this was the heavenly event which Daniel had told the wisemen would announce Yahshua's birth? Daniel, as a Biblical prophet, had access the parts of the Bible that were written before his time. One such was the Torah writings of Moses, which contained the Messianic, death-bed prophecy of Jacob foretelling this activity with the star between the lion's paws.

Regulus means "the scepter". So, in Jacob's prophecy from Genesis 49, we find the lion constellation described. The star between the lion's feet is Regulus - the scepter. And this star appeared to depart from between the lion's paws when Jupiter conjuncted with it. As Jupiter was in front of Regulus, the scepter star disappeared from view, exactly as Jacob foretold. This disappearance was the sign that "Shiloh" had come. And Shiloh is a Name for Christ - meaning Prince of "Peace". Not only did Regulus disappear from view, its light encircled and added to the light of Jupiter, making it visually seem that another star had suddenly appeared in the sky, being much brighter than Regulus had been (since the light of the two was now joining together to form a brighter star).

On December 28 of 2 BC as it entered retrograde, Jupiter (Tsedek) reached full stop in its travel through the fixed stars.

By this time, the Magi would have been viewing the star from Jerusalem. Remember the Magi had a long journey from Babylon. They finally arrived in Jerusalem when Yahshua was nearly two years old, which is why Herod ordered the massacre of all boys aged two years old and younger (Matthew 2:16). From Jerusalem, the direction of Regulus' starry dance with Jupiter is in the right part of the sky- the Magi would have seen Jupiter appear to be stopped in the sky above the little town of Bethlehem.

"Ancient Jewish historians record that the patriarch, Seth, gave a prophecy that in the period in which the Promised One would be born a bright star would appear in the heavens..."(Gospel in the Stars, p. 161)
Now, at that time, the lion (now called Leo) constellation was often viewed as being part of Virgo. This was because it was known that the lion (a title for Christ, who was the lion of the tribe of Judah) would be born of a virgin. 
Naturally, if a starry event of any magnitude was going on, you would expect that astronomers of the day would have written something about it. And there are many astronomers who witnessed the "Bethlehem star" and wrote about it. They record it appearing in "Virgo", because, as I mentioned, the lion was considered to be a part of the woman, since He was to be born of her.

“A new and peculiar star made its appearance in…    Virgo in the period… (immediately preceding Christ’s birth) It sparkled brilliantly above all stars.” (Ignatius) 

This star continued to remain in the sky for an extended time, which fulfills one of the Bethlehem star clues..
Ancient Astronomer Hipparchus observed the star just prior to Christ’s birth – and recorded his observations - so it happened at the right time..

Ancient Chinese records also mention this new bright star at the time corresponding to Christ’s birth.

Daily Bible Reading - December 23, 2018

Today's Reading:

Luke 1:57-80

Ezekiel 35-36

Isaiah 59

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

In Luke, we read about the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Messiah. John was born on the Feast of Passover. It wasn't unusual for a prophet or significant person of Yahweh to be born on a Feast day. For example, consider the timing of Isaac's birth. Genesis 18:13-14 tells us that he was born "at the time appointed", which is translated from the Hebrew word "mo'ed" (Strong's Concordance number 4150 - meaning Feast of Yahweh). 

But to show the connection between John and Passover, I need to start at the beginning. I'd like to show you the whole, beautiful picture of how Yahweh consistently always does His big Work on His holy Days. Here are a few of the significant events recorded in Scripture, all of which took place (there are no exceptions) on a Feast of Yahweh (His Feasts are listed in Leviticus 23):

  • Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed during the Feast of Unleavened Bread - Genesis 19:1-3
  • The Children of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt on Passover - Exodus 12:11-12
  • Pharaoh's army, which pursued the fleeing Children of Israel, was destroyed during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (which is determined by the count of days from Passover to when the Red Sea was parted in the Biblical record).
  • Yahweh came down upon Mount Sinai and spoke His Torah to the Children of Israel on the Feast of Pentecost (called the Feast of Weeks and the Day of the Assembly, which falls in the third Biblical month) - Exodus 19:1-2Deuteronomy 18:16Leviticus 23:21

The great Flood also happened during Yahweh's Feasts - specifically the Feast of Unleavened Bread. But proving that requires a chain of evidence. So, to deepen our awareness of Yahweh's Pattern of always doing His big Works on His holy Days, I'm going to pause and give that chain of evidence, as follows:

Now, at first, it looks like the Flood didn't happen during Yahweh's Feast days...  Because the Flood came in the second biblical month
Genesis 7:11 "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." 
Passover/Unleavened Bread fall in the first biblical month...  Pentecost is in the third biblical month...  But there are no annual Sabbaths during the second biblical month! So, how can I show that the Flood took place during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it happened a whole month late?

In the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) a special provision was given, which allowed for Passover/Unleavened Bread to be kept a whole month late. This provision was given in the cases when a death happened in the family. If a family had a death around the timing of Passover (Passover is the fourteenth day of the first month and Unleavened Bread begins on the fifteenth day - Leviticus 23:5-6), they were spiritually unclean and could not keep the Feast at the regular time. In such cases, Yahweh instructed His people to keep the Passover and Unleavened Bread on the same days during the second biblical month:
Numbers 9:6-7, 1o-11 "And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the Passover on that day: and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day:  And those men said unto him, We are defiled by the dead body of a man: wherefore are we kept back, that we may not offer an offering of Yahweh in His Appointed Season among the children of Israel?... Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the Passover unto Yahweh.  The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs."
So, it was possible for the Passover and subsequent Feast of Unleavened Bread to be kept in the second biblical month. But the question is, was there a death in Noah's family that would have necessitated this delay? And, if so, was this death a big enough event to cause the Feast to be delayed planet-wide (for Yahweh Himself would have been honoring the delay by sending the Flood during the second Passover)? The answer is YES! But to show this, let's look again at when the Flood occurred.
Genesis 7:11 "In the six hundredth year of Noah's lifein the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." 
The Flood came when Noah was 600 years old. And it started in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, which was during Unleavened Bread, if a death had caused a second Passover... So who died? Methuselah!

As Chuck Missler explains in the Koinonia House website article “Meanings of the Names in Genesis 5:

“The Flood of Noah did not come as a surprise. It had been preached on for four generations. But something strange happened when Enoch was 65”. Enoch was given a prophecy that as long as his son was alive, the judgment of the Flood would be withheld, but as soon as he died the flood would be sent forth.’
Enoch named his son to reflect this prophecy. The name Methuselah comes from two roots: muth a root that means “death” and from shalach which means “to bring” or “to send forth”. Thus, the name Methuselah signifies “his death shall bring”.

And indeed in the year that Methuselah died the Flood came. It is therefore fitting that his lifetime is the oldest in the Bible, showing the extreme extensiveness of God’s great mercy.

But to prove that Methuselah died the year the Flood came, you need to do a bit of math, from the biblical record of the patriarch's ages. Remember, he would have had to die in the first biblical month in order to have died the year of the Flood (causing a Passover delay - since every saved person on earth, at that time, was related to Methuselah).

Genesis 5:25-27 tells us that Methuselah's son, Lamech, was born when he was 187 years old. 

Genesis 5:28-29 tells us that Lamech was 182 years old when his son, Noah, was born.

Genesis 7:11 tells us that Noah was 600 years old when the Flood came.

Genesis 5:27 tells us that Methuselah died at 969 years old.

Now let's do the math:

600 (Noah's age at the Flood) + 182 (Lamech's age when Noah was born) + 187 (Methuselah's age when Lamech was born) = 969 (Methuselah's age when he died).

Methuselah died in Noah's 600th year, which happened the year of the Flood...  So, how can we know that the Flood happened during the timing of the second Passover/Unleavened Bread? The following chart shows the timing of this Feast and the Flood:

Notably, in Exodus 12:3, the Bible tells that the Passover lamb was selected on the 10th day of the month. It was the 10th day of the month when Noah and his family entered the Ark and the door was shut. And the rain began on the 17th day of the second biblical month, which was the third day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

There are no exceptions to this Pattern:

Yahweh’s Greatest Works ALWAYS happen on His Feast Days

And this Pattern continued in the New Testament. Here are a few examples...

  • Yahshua's Birth was on the Feast of Tabernacles, as I have already shared, in this blog.
  • And John the Baptist was born on the Feast of Passover. Here's how we can know this... Allowing two weeks for the monthly period of separation between man and wife that God commanded in Leviticus 12:515:1924-25 after going back to the house (Luke 1:23) and then going forward nine months puts the birth of John on Passover. Consider the significance of Elijah (John was the second Elijah) to the Passover celebration.
  • Yahshua died on Passover - Matthew 26:2
  • The Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost - Acts 2:1-3

The birth of John is one small, but powerful piece in a bigger picture of Yahweh's Pattern. And, according to the prophet Daniel, Yahweh's Pattern of doing His Work on His holy Days will continue. 

Thus, the birth of John isn't just a great story. It is a lesson to all who are called to the Final Elijah team...  Watchman! What of the night? (Isaiah 21:11-12) Do you know what time it is - prophetically speaking? When we keep the Feasts of Yahweh, we align with Yahweh's Heavenly Time-clock. This is a vital part of being a faithful watchman.