Young Jesus at the Temple

Luke 2:41-52

Only Luke provides us any information about the boyhood of Jesus, and all of it is found in this section. Speculation about the reasons for this are useless and distracting. They lead us to go beyond what has been written in the Word. Instead, we need to think about what these words reveal about our Lord and Savior. The Bible is God’s message about his one and only Son (Luke 24:44; etc.) We mislead ourselves and others if we pursue speculative knowledge, which includes speculation about the “timeline of prophecy”. Don’t do it! Break the bad habit of taking pride in what you suppose the Spirit ought to have written rather than what is written. Neither do we need to speculate about why Luke included this event. Let’s content ourselves with reading and meditating on what has been written. So then, what should we learn?

Jesus was raised by believing, godly parents (2:41). The law covenant required all Israelite men to attend Passover, Pentecost, and Booths (cf. Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16). Israelite women did not have this burden put on them. It was a burden, because it required a long trip, usually on foot, from the towns of Israel. A man would have to leave his job and home during the festivals and the journeys to and from Jerusalem. This required faith in the Lord to protect his possessions and to provide for the journeys and the expenses involved in attending the festivals. We also see Mary at the festival. She was about twenty-eight at this point and already the mother of several of her other (at least) six children. This would involve a lot of work for Mary and Joseph to worship the Lord.

Jesus was growing in many ways (2:43, 51-52). At twelve years old, a boy could stay with the women and children or go with the men. Jesus chose the second option. He was in Jerusalem, the city of the Great King, and there was much for him to see with his human eyes. Since he knew he was God’s Anointed, he would want to see his city. Boys have a “joy of life” excitement in exploration. We do not know if his parents gave him any guidelines about reporting back to them. Again, it is easy to speculate according to how we want this event to look to prove some point we want to make. At the end of this section, Luke emphasizes Jesus’ obedience to his parents. He also mentions Jesus growth in knowledge. Beyond those boundaries we should not go.

Jesus went to the best place for him to be, to his Father’s house (2:43-47). There he interacted with trained Bible teachers. He listened to them and asked them questions. Since he was a boy, it was not fitting for him to teach, but when asked he gave insightful answers. Certainly, this shows his humility, for the One who is God’s wisdom knew far more than any of them. It also sheds light on his later interactions with such men. He had listened to what they taught. He had the opportunity to reason out how their views compared with the truth of what he was. But the key point is that he wanted to be where God was worshiped and to participate in it in every facet. Jesus was acknowledged as an exceptional youth.

Jesus conversed wisely with his parents (2:48-50). He listened humbly while his mother gave a typical motherly rebuke. He had done nothing wrong, and he kept his mouth from any discourteous replies. But he gave them a revelation that he knew who he was, and he expected that they ought to have thought about him, according to what the Father had already made known to them. He was the Son of the Most High, the Son of God (1:32, 35 NIV). They ought to have known that he would be at his Father’s house, the temple. This sets a pattern that we see in Jesus. He was not on a quest for self-knowledge. He is knowledge and wisdom, and he expects people to recognize his greatness. Do we? Do we function according to the truth of who and what Jesus is?

Grace and peace, David

Three Prisoners (Part Two)

Genesis 40:1-23

Difficult times in our lives are opportunities for God to work and for us to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord. They are also occasions for God to develop us to serve him and others in new ways. Though Joseph was in prison, the Lord was with him. That was all that was needed to prepare Joseph for his life’s mission. What happened? Joseph became an interpreter of dreams (40:5-19).

At this point, we observe the mingling of God’s providence and human responsibility. They are seldom far apart, though we might not observe both. God caused the cupbearer and the baker to dream about their future in a figurative way. The Lord has immediate access to the spirits of people, which he can use for his own plans (Proverbs 21:1). Joseph rightly inquired into the cause of their dejection. Evidently, dreams like theirs came with a certain terror to their minds (41:8; cf. Daniel 2:1; Matthew 27:19). Their faces revealed their inward turmoil (cf. Nehemiah 2:2). Joseph spoke with compassion and kindness. This act of kindness led to his release from prison. Regardless of the outcome, we ought to care when our neighbors sorrow. In this case, God used his concern to help him.

Joseph heard and interpreted the dreams. He began by honoring God (40:8). They were locked into a pagan, worldly approach to the subject. “Go to the experts; they can help you.” But they had no “experts” to turn to. Our country has heavy traffic in astrology, seances, counseling, and such things to find solace. Everything except humble, believing prayer. Joseph pointed them to the living God. It was like Joseph told them, “This is beyond human ability. You need God to intervene. Perhaps he will reveal the meaning of your dreams. I will intercede with him for you.” The revelation of the future is God’s business. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’ (Isaiah 46:10 NIV). In our witness to our neighbors, we should reassert the proper relation between God and mankind.

Joseph told the chief cupbearer a favorable interpretation. He assured him that he would be restored to his old position in three days. Great changes can occur quickly. Note well: Joseph could foresee the chief cupbearer’s release, but not his own. A godly man with insight does not know everything. He asked the chief cupbearer to remember to show kindness to him. While we ought to patiently endure suffering, we also should use lawful means to get release from it (cf. Matthew 10:23). Joseph spoke the truth about his case without disparaging others. “When we are called to vindicate ourselves we should carefully avoid, as much as may be, speaking ill of others” (Henry).

He told the chief baker an unfavorable interpretation. As God’s minister, Joseph must tell the truth. False comfort of the ungodly is damaging to their souls. Clearly, the second man also looked for hope. “Here’s a fellow with some good news.” But he had only death to prepare for. God gave the baker a rare gift. He knew in advance the day of his death. The Bible does not say what use he made of this warning. If we knew the day when the Lord Jesus was returning, would we live differently?

The interpretations of the dreams happened (40:20-23). The occasion was an ancient birthday party for an absolute monarch. There is nothing wrong with such celebrations, provided they bring honor to God. Pharaoh celebrated by demonstrating his power. “I can restore or condemn men as I see fit.” But in reality, these things are in God’s hands. However, the chief cupbearer forgot Joseph. “This was probably no more than the usual lack of concern on the part of the high and mighty for the lowly and the disadvantaged” (Aalders). Whatever the reason, God had his hand in it. His time had not yet come for Joseph’ s release from prison. Let us remember that one of God’s answers to our prayers is “Wait.”

Grace and peace, David

Tough Training

img_4396Proverbs 23:12

Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge (NIV).

The Proverbs are wisdom literature; they provide us with God’s ideas and viewpoints about life in this world. The purpose is that we may gain skill for godly living. They are necessary to equip us for every good work (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-170. I encourage everyone to read Proverbs. Sharon and I use Proverbs in mentoring couples about their marriage and family. I suggest that you read the introduction to Proverbs in a good study Bible (for example, ESV Study Bible, NIV Zondervan Study Bible) before you do an in depth reading. This will help you avoid errors in interpretation. (Probably someday I should write an article about Study Bibles. They can be useful, or useless, and some can be harmful. If you have questions, please contact me.)

Many beneficial activities are not easy. Saving money requires a plan, discipline, and self-denial. Getting or staying in physical condition requires a plan, discipline, and self-denial. So does a walk with the Lord. He calls us to follow him in the path of godliness. Certainly, the plan includes an understanding of your identity in Christ, the work of the Spirit of God, and active dependence on our Lord and Savior. To grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18) also requires discipline and self-denial.

The above proverb provides us with counsel about discipline for growth. It follows a form of many proverbs where the second part restates the first with variation to deepen our understanding. Here it does it by way of contrast between in inner (“heart”) and outer (“ears”) of our being. What can we gain from this?

  • Becoming wise is not easy. We must apply our hearts to instruction. Remember that sinful actions come from the heart (Mark 7:21-23). For this reason, we must take charge of our hearts. To do this we need the help of the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is self-control (Galatians 5:23). The sin in our hearts will crave foolishness, so we must put foolish desires to death and direct our inner persons toward godly wisdom. This can feel like part of you is dying; for example, your lust for laziness or to gossip about others. Go ahead; by the Spirit put it to death (Romans 8:13).
  • We need instruction to become wise. We need what is called a “teachable spirit” or attitude. This involves humility, because we have to admit to ourselves and to others that we need instruction. As the Proverbs make clear, pride is not the path of wisdom. The Lord has given us teachers in the church, so that we might do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). And teachers need to receive instruction. Before I can teach, I must receive instruction from the Word and from other godly teachers.
  • The development of wisdom necessitates our whole being. We must apply our ears to words of knowledge. Those who desire to be wise will devote substantial parts of their time to listening to the truth, whether by reading it, by listening to it taught, or by discussing it with believing friends. Growth in wisdom involves sharing your life with other followers of the Lord.

I repeat: This is not an easy process. But it is very beneficial. By way of testimony, I enjoy hearing what the Spirit is teaching others from the Word for their lives. It encourages me; yes, it challenges me to live godly in Christ Jesus. It is good to walk out from a group of brothers and sisters and to be able to say, “My ears and my heart were instructed today by those who love the Lord and me!” May you know this experience!

Grace and peace, David