March 23

Luke 3

John the Baptist was compared to Elijah. Elijah had gone through a long drought underneath a Jewish king that worshipped the idol of Baal. Many prophets were murdered and any remaining prophets retreated to hide in caves. There was no message from God for several years. The Israelites followed their king in worship to Baal (Baal means controller). Elijah stepped forward with a message from God, calling for the people to repent, or turn back to God.

When John started his ministry, he began to prophesy for God, a message of mercy, turning back to God, and preparing hearts for the promised Messiah. Before John, there was no record of any prophetic messages directly to the nation for over 400 years. As a result of John’s prophetic word and ministry, many repented and turned back to God, paving a way for Jesus’s ministry.

John went traveling and preaching around the Jordan river, baptizing people as a way of declaring their surrender and repentance. It was symbolic of dying to self and living for God, letting go of sin and returning to do the will of God. John’s ministry was prophesied by Isaiah in Isaiah 40:3-5. He prepared people to receive the Messiah.

In verse 7, John, with a message of mercy, uses a harsh tone, saying, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Why was John so upset? In verse 8, John addresses Jews about claiming to be children of Abraham. What was happening here was that Gentiles were hearing about salvation and repenting. John required Jews to be baptized just as the Gentiles. The Jews felt they were on a higher level with God than the Gentiles were. John responded to these pompous Jews, “God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” Religious pride is an enemy of the Gospel of salvation, and the Jews were struggling with their pride. John was setting them straight.

In verse 15, the Jews were considering that John was the promised Messiah. This is why John responds in verse 16, “One is coming who is mightier than I.” John let them know he was not the Messiah, but that the Messiah was coming soon. He said, “He must increase and I must decrease (John 3:30).” He was baptizing in water, but John said Jesus would baptize the people in the Holy Spirit and fire. John knew people were looking to him, so He pointed them to Jesus.

Now, knowing this, Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized of John. Imagine what John must have thought. He knows by the Spirit that Jesus is the Messiah. John says, “No, I’m the one that should be baptized by You (Matthew 3:14). Jesus said that being baptized would fulfill righteousness. Jesus didn’t need to repent of anything, but He would become sin on our behalf that we could become the righteousness of God. His baptism that day was not just a ceremonial activity. His baptism was a sign of His surrender as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. As Jesus is baptized, the heavens open, the Spirit of God moves on Jesus (as a dove moves, not in the body of a dove) and everyone hears a voice that says, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

John saw this, and still, he sent his assistants to inquire of Jesus, “Are you the one or should we look for another (Luke 7:19)? Perhaps John was questioning how he had spent his life, now in prison, soon to face death. Jesus responded, but He responded in a way that John would knew God was the One at work in Jesus. He said that supernatural miracles were taking place to help the blind, the lame, the leper, the deaf, the dead, and the poor. Then Jesus said, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” The word offended could also mean stumble. Jesus wanted John to know for certain, without any stumbling, that He was the Christ, the One John had given his life for.

The rest of chapter 3 gives us a genealogy of Jesus, mentioning David and Abraham. Abraham was the one God choose to be the head of the Israelite nation. David was a prophetic king that was a type of Christ. It was important that Jesus come through that lineage.

Joshua 9-10

In chapter 9, we read where the people heard about Jericho – how these huge, insurmountable walls of Jericho supernaturally fell to the ground all at once. The Canaanites were spiritual people, worshipping idols, and they believed Jehovah was not a God to be messed with. Not only that, but from verse 24, they had heard that God was going to given them the land and they were to kill all the inhabitants.

The Gibeonites were deceitful with Israel, saying that they were from a far away land, showing proof of old, busted wineskins and dry and moldy bread. They asked for Israel to make a peace covenant with them. In 9:14 we see that the Israelites did not inquire of the Lord, but Joshua was tricked and entered into a peace agreement. Afterwards, they learned that the Gibeonites were actually their neighbor. Has anyone else ever been deceived? I know I have been. Has anyone ever rushed into something that seemed good without consulting God? I know I have. Today’s reading is a good reminder to check in with God before making an important decision.

Could Israel have tried to justify their decision and back out of the covenant? No. When someone made a covenant oath, they bind themselves to it with their very life blood. If the Israelites were to break a covenant, they would be guilty of sin. Sin was punished by death. The Gibeonites became their servants. They believed God was real. I imagine many of them learned about the laws and customs of Israel and complied with them. Perhaps some found faith in the Lord and surrendered their hearts.

In chapter 10, five kings of the Amorites came together to defeat the Gibeonites because they made peace with Israel instead of standing and fighting with them. Here was see covenant at work – the Gibeonites went to Israel to help them fight their battle. Israel came to their side. Israel would be fighting them sooner or later, but this was a combined strength and strategic attack. However, God spoke to Joshua, and said, “Do not fear them, for I have delivered them into your hand.”

Again, God supernaturally helped Israel to defeat the enemies. As Israel fought and was winning, the enemies fled. As they retreated, God rained down large hailstone from heaven, killing them all. These miracles were showing the other people groups that God was helping Israel to conquer the land. In verse 14, it says that the Lord heeded the voice of a man. What a reminder that God hears and answers our prayers.

Joshua said that the sun and moon stood still for a day, giving them time to defeat the Amorites. This is another miracle that got the attention of everyone. Joshua and the armies of Israel continue to take more land, little by little. There might be a situation in your life where God is helping you to gain ground one step at a time, especially if there are enemies that need to be defeated and walls that need to come down.

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