The Fruit of Repentance

luke 39 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 3:7–10 (ESV)

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.

Parallel Text: Luke 3:7-9

Understanding and Applying the Word

John the Baptist’s ministry was focused on calling people to repentance. When the Pharisees and Sudducees show up, he has harsh words for them. He calls them a “brood of vipers.” And warns them to bear fruit consistent with repentance. The Pharisees and Sudducees prided themselves in their ability to keep the Mosaic Law and follow religious rules. For this reason, they would have felt little need to repent. In their minds, they had done nothing wrong! They also would have thought, “We are biological descendants of Abraham. We are fine with God!” However, John warns them that being the physical descendants of Abraham will not be enough.

John’s warning to these two groups to bear fruit in keeping with repentance tells us that God is looking for more than external religious activity. He is looking for sincerity of heart. True repentance may be symbolized through baptism, but it is only real if there is a heart change. And when there is a heart change, it is reflected in how we live.

The gospel calls us to repent and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. When we do that we are saved. Have you done that? Does your life reflect it? If not, take the time right now to repent and call on the Lord. He is faithful and gracious to all who will turn to him.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

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Prepare the Way of the Lord

the voice in the desert

The Voice in the Desert (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 3:1–6 (ESV)

1 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.

John 1:19–23 (ESV)

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 1:1-6; Luke 3:1-6 

Understanding and Applying the Word

The prophets Malachi and Isaiah had spoken of one who would appear before the Messiah to prepare his way (cf. Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6 and Isaiah 40:3). He would be one who would prepare the hearts of the people and he would come in the spirit of Elijah. The Gospel writers quote from Isaiah to tell us that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning this one who would prepare the way of the Lord. And the description of John’s clothing and food reminds us of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8.

John the Baptist’s message was one of repentance. The Messiah was coming and the people needed to prepare for him. To “repent” means to turn from sin, which the Bible tells us is what separates us from our holy Creator. It is only through repentance and forgiveness that we find in Christ that we are able to come into a right relationship with the Lord. Let us prepare ourselves by turning from our sin and calling out to Jesus to forgive us so that we can stand before him, not as enemies, but as reconciled friends.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

Jesus, the Submissive King

luke 249 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 2:41–52 (ESV)

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Outside of the birth narrative, we do not get much information about Jesus’ childhood. The only other details we have come from the passage we are reading today in Luke’s Gospel. This takes place when Jesus was twelve years old. He and his parents had traveled to Jerusalem for Passover, but they had become separated when the family began their trip home. Jesus stayed behind. His parents eventually realize that he is not with them on their return trip (likely a caravan of travelers). So, they return to Jerusalem and find him in the temple interacting with the teachers.

This brief passage gives us a quick glimpse of Jesus as a young boy, but it also gives us a sneak preview of who he will be as a man. The people in the temple were amazed at how he interacted with the teachers. He knew so much about the Scriptures! Of course, as the author, we would expect him to!

We also see how he interacted with his parents. He knew who he was and what his purpose in the world was. When his parents found him he said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house.” He was God in the flesh, yet we are told that he returned to Nazareth and was submissive to Mary and Joseph.

Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, humbly submitted to his parents. Later, he would humbly submit to the will of the Father as he went to the cross to bear the sins of mankind. Paul reflects on Jesus’ humility in Philippians:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:1–11, ESV)

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

Destroy Jesus?

the massacre of the innocents

The Massacre of the Innocents (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 2:13–21 (ESV)

13 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.”

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.”

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When Herod realized that the Messiah had been born, he immediately wanted to remove the threat. Herod was in charge and he wanted to keep it that way. So, when he could not locate Jesus, he commanded that every male child two years or younger be killed. However, unknown to Herod, God had instructed Joseph to flee with his family to Egypt to escape this massacre.

From the very beginning, Jesus’ entry into the world did not go as we might expect. Should not the long-awaited Messiah be met with great joy and happiness? Should not the Son of God receive great honor and praise? Yet, while Jesus was joyfully greeted by some (e.g. the shepherds and wise men), he was also despised and rejected by many others at his birth and during his later life. Herod tried to put him to death while he was still a child. The religious leaders sought his life when he was an adult and eventually succeeded in sending him to the cross.

We see in the actions of the different people we read about in the Gospels that there are ultimately two responses to Jesus. We can either reject him and denounce him and try to destroy him or we can rejoice in his coming and fall before him in worship and praise. How do you respond to Jesus?

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

luke 2_30–32 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading, which is below. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along as we read through the Life of Christ in 2019.

Reading the Word

Luke 2:21–38 (ESV)

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Visitors from Afar

journey of the magi

Reading the Word

Matthew 2:1–12 (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.’ ”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus was born, we read of visitors from far away. Most translations call them “wise men.” We may also think of them as kings due at least partly to the song We Three Kings. The Greek calls them magi. It is the word that we get “magician” from and was used to refer to a number of different things: a magician, a sorcerer, or an astrologer are some of the common things. These wise men were probably astrologers since the text tells us they were watching the stars. We also read that they were from the east, which is probably in the region of Babylon.

The wise men must have heard of the promised Messiah from some of the Jews who were still residing in the region of Babylon after they were exiled four hundred years earlier. They knew the prophecy and they saw a star that signified the time of the Messiah, so they traveled to Jerusalem to find him and bring him tribute. This is amazing! These non-Jewish astrologers come from a long way away to find the Messiah and bow before him, yet Herod, the Jewish king and the religious leaders of the day, wanted nothing to do with Jesus. They sought to destroy him from the very beginning.

Once again, we learn that Jesus is the Messiah, but he was a Messiah for all people. He came not only for the Jewish people who would trust in him, but also people from all nations. He did not come to cater to the powerful and elite, but all who would recognize him and follow him. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus will instruct his followers to go into the world and make disciples of “all nations.” Jesus came as the King, the Messiah, and the Savior for the whole world. He came for you. He came for me. What a great King!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

Good News of Great Joy

white sheep on farm

Photo by kailash kumar on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Luke 2:8–20 (ESV)

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday we read how Jesus was placed into a manger, which is an animal feeding trough, when he was born. Such an amazing thing to think that the King of kings, the Creator of all things, would enter into the world in such a humble way.

Today, we read of the birth announcement. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah promised in the Old Testament Scriptures. The Jewish people had been waiting for hundreds of years for his arrival. So, when he does arrive we expect it to be a grand occasion! What we get is an angel appearing to a few shepherds out in a field nearby. The angel makes sense, but why these lowly shepherds?

Jesus was a Savior for all people. He did not come just for the rich or the powerful or the social elite. As the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all of the people.” The birth of Jesus was good news for everyone, including the shepherds. It was good news for you and for me. And it is good news for all who will turn to Jesus as Savior. Let us do as the shepherds did: let us tell the world of Jesus and give glory and praise to God for all we have seen and heard.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

God in a Manger

luke 27 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 2:1–7 (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.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses we read of the Jesus’ birth. The whole thing is recorded in seven verses. The most startling thing, and the thing we overlook because we are so used to reading it, is that Jesus was placed into a manger. A manger is an animal feeding trough. Think about that for just a moment. Jesus, the divine Son, came into this world as a baby and was placed into a trough that animals ate from.

Would you do that with your child? Would you expect anyone to do that with their child? Consider this: Jesus was not any child. Jesus was the Messiah. He was the King. He was God in the flesh; the King of kings and Lord of lords! Would any royal family place their newborn child into a manger? No way!

When we meet Jesus in a manger, it tells us something about him. Yes, he was the Messiah, but he was different than other kings. Jesus is the King who came to save the lowly of the world. Jesus was the King who came to serve his people. Jesus was the King who came to give his life for his people that they might have life through him. What an amazing King we have!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

God’s Plans or Our Plans?

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Reading the Word

Matthew 1:18–25 (ESV)

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When Joseph found out the Mary was pregnant, they were not yet married. They were what we might call “engaged” in our current world. This presented a big problem. Pre-marital sex was not acceptable behavior in Jewish culture. The couple would be looked upon with suspicion and face ridicule from the community. Also, a who was the father? Joseph had to be wondering who Mary had been seeing behind his back. So, Joseph was ready to do what we would probably expect. He was ready to end the relationship.

As Joseph considered what he would do, an angel appeared to him and told him about Mary’s pregnancy and the importance of this child. Mary had not been unfaithful, but the child was of the Holy Spirit and was the fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 7:14. So, when Joseph awoke, he remained with Mary and they named the baby Jesus.

We should not quickly look past the impact the birth of Jesus likely had on Joseph. Mary’s pregnancy would have been a shock to the community and would have caused whispering and confrontation over improper sexual conduct. Joseph’s reputation likely suffered and he probably faced pressure to admit his sin or divorce his adulterous wife. Yet Joseph heard the word of God through the angelic messenger and accepted that this was the Lord’s plan for him. It would be difficult, but he was willing to do what God had called him to do. Would we be willing to do or go wherever God might call us, even if it meant difficulty for us? Do we trust the plans and purposes of God even when they interfere with our own plans?

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

The Promised King

2 samuel 716 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 1:1–17 (ESV)

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday, we looked at Jesus’ genealogy as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Today, we look at Jesus’ genealogy as recorded by Matthew. When we read this list of names, it is important to understand why Matthew is giving us this list. He tips us off to his purpose in the very first verse. He wants us to know that Jesus is the son of David and the son of Abraham.

Luke shows us how Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise made to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. That is why his genealogy traces all the way back to Adam. However, Matthew is showing us that Jesus is the fulfillment of promises made to both Abraham and David. God had promised Abraham that kings would come from his line (Genesis 17:6) and he had promised David that he would have a descendant who would sit on the throne forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the King whose reign was promised and would never end.

It is amazing to think about the promises that God made in the Scriptures long ago. Through them, we see that God is faithful and trustworthy. He keeps his promises! We also see that God loves us even though we are often unlovable due to our sin. But God sent his Son into the world to be our King, the King who would die for his people so that we could be saved and have life. What a great King he is!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We will be reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.