"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Raising the Standard: Punctuality Is Remembering Anniversaries That Are Important To Others

"And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations...Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year." ~ Exodus 12:14; 13:10
Living Lessons On Punctuality:
Anniversaries are memorials of the past and milestones for the future. They preserve the heritage of former generations and provide stability for future ones. The very nature of anniversaries requires the discipline of punctuality. "In the fullness of time," God accomplished the most important event in history. During that period, there was tension between two world powers. When this is understood, it sheds light on why one of these powers attempted to destroy the most important anniversary in the world
How Is The Importance Of Remembering Anniversaries Illustrated In Scripture?
Anniversaries are so important to God that He built the life of His nation and the Christian world around them. Who might well hold the world's record for expending the most time, energy, and money to honor a very significant Christian anniversary? The Magi. The Parthian kings of Persia advanced westward against the expanding Roman Empire in 53 B.C. The two major military powers met in battle approximately one hundred miles west of Antioch in Palestine. The well disciplined Roman army proved no match for the skillful Persian cavalry. Seven Roman legions, each consisting of over 5,000 fighting men, were destroyed. Ten thousand Roman soldiers were captured and the myth of Roman invincibility was shattered. Thirteen years later the Roman senate appointed Herod as king of the Jews and dispatched him to the eastern fringes of their empire to guard against future Persian aggression. Herod relished his new position and power. He answered only to the emperor in Rome. Internal affairs were left completely in his hands, and Roman legates did not require the "puppet ruler" to pay tribute money. Despite his newly acquired benefits, Herod recognized the precarious position of his kingdom. Anyone suspected of disloyalty or subversion was swiftly eliminated. Although there were minor uprisings and rivalries, Persia remained Herod's greatest concern. One day he became greatly alarmed when a Persian delegation entered his royal city. Their request to meet with the king caused further panic. Suspecting a plot, Herod increased the number of guards around the garrison and cautiously invited them into his presence. The Persian representatives entered with impressive pomp and ceremony. These foreign officials were responsible to appoint the next king of the Persian Empire. Herod's eyes brightened with ambition, but his vain thoughts were quickly dispelled when the dignitaries announced that they had come to honor the next king of the Jews. The startled sovereign bitterly thought to himself, "I am the king of the Jews." He feigned interest in their mission and inquired as to the whereabouts of this new king. Finally, the delegation was dismissed with orders to report back to the palace. A short time later, the Persian noblemen knelt in the presence of the one whom they had traveled so far to honor. They presented royal gifts to Christ. Then they returned to their Persian capital. When Herod realized that the delegation had left without returning to him, he attempted in vain to destroy the "rival" king. The spiritual kingdom of Christ ultimately conquered the pagan Roman Empire. The empire then established the birth of Christ as the focal point of history so that all men would honor its anniversary. Today every time a date is written, it officially commemorates "the year of our Lord." [From Matthew 2:1-21]
Why Did The Magi Associate A Star With The King Of The Jews?
The unusual star was used to confirm, rather than initiate, the Magi's belief in the coming Messiah. Just as Jesus confirmed Himself to the fishermen through their knowledge of fish (see Luke 5:1-11), so the Lord drew the Magi to Himself through their knowledge of the heavens. The Magi were undoubtedly familiar with the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, since the Scriptures had been known to them for centuries. Daniel, "Chief of the Magi" for a time, must have explained to them about the coming Messiah. The prophecy of Balaam may have led some to expect a star as a sign. "I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel..." (Numbers 24:17). Isaiah's words may also have contributed to this expectation. "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isaiah 60:3). Daniel himself predicted the coming of the Messiah and dated that coming near the time of the Magi's observation (see Daniel 9:25). Thus, an unusual astronomical phenomenon directed the Magi's thinking to the prophecies of the Messiah in Scripture. This in turn motivated them to pursue their search in the direction of the Jewish capital of Jerusalem.
Why Was Herod So Disturbed By The Visit Of The Magi?
Herod was aware of the fervid Messianism which had been gathering strength during the first century B.C. The Jews knew the promise that a descendant of David would be born in Bethlehem who would rule the nation in peace (see Micah 5:2). The previous outrages of the Maccabean age and the present harsh Roman rule greatly stimulated the expectation of a coming Messiah. Herod, not a Jew by birth, did not qualify as their deliverer. The Jews' increasing displeasure with Herod and their anticipation of his replacement led to a climate of fear and suspicion. In fact, Herod had become so paranoid that two of his own sons were strangled under suspicion of treason. Herod took great pride in the title "king" which had been given to him by the Roman Senate. When the Magi came to Jerusalem and inquired, "...Where is he that is born King of the Jews?...", it is not surprising that such a man would be troubled. (See Matthew 2:2.)
What Was Significant About The Gifts Of The Magi?
The Magi presented gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Christ. Gold was the most precious of metals and represented anything of great value. (See Proverbs 3:14; 8:10, 19) Gold was worthy of use in worship. (See Exodus 25.) Their gift of gold signified the Magi's belief that this babe was indeed born a king. The other gifts, frankincense and myrrh, were also used in the worship of Jehovah. Frankincense, derived from the resin of special trees produced a sweet pleasant odor. It was used to make holy incense for the tabernacle. (See Exodus 30:34-36.) Both frankincense and myrrh were found in the perfume worn by kings. (See Song of Solomon 3:6.) The Magi had brought gifts worthy of a king.
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
The cliff swallow, which is common to all parts of North America, is about six inches long with a whitish forehead, steel blue upper body, grayish underside, chestnut-colored head and throat, and reddish brown rump. The cliff swallows is one of the more than eighty members of the swallow family. Before North America was settled by the Indians, the cliff swallow nested on cliffs. Now, as the bird has adapted to civilization, it attaches its nest primarily to man-made structures. It prefers rural areas where stables and dung heaps provide a breeding ground for the flying insects it eats.
How Is The Importance Of Anniversaries Illustrated In The World Of Nature?
Two people in the widely separated parts of the country took a marker and carefully circled a special day on their calendars. They each circled the same date, but with two very different celebrations in mind. One calendar hung in the kitchen of an attractive woman. She smiled with anticipation every time she glanced at the big red circle around March 19th. Whenever she visited a store she thoughtfully wandered through the gift section searching for something that would best express the importance of that day. As the special day approached, she purchased a gift and lovingly wrapped it. She also enclosed a beautiful card with a carefully written message. The other calendar hung in a small town hall in southern California. Beaming with anticipation, the mayor leaned back in his chair and imagined the excitement that would fill his community with the arrival of March 19th. The mayor called special meetings with local officials and established blue ribbon committees. Elaborate plans were worked to make this the most memorable celebration the town had ever seen. As march 19th drew near, banners were hung along the main streets and streamers decorated storefronts. The citizens of the town would add to the occasion with festive outfits and colored signs. March 19th marked two very important arrivals. The young woman was confident that the one she was expecting would return from a trip and join her in celebrating the happiness of the occasion. The residents of the western town could not be quite as confident. However many years of punctuality had inspired an admiration for their notable arrival. In fact, that was what they were celebrating. The day finally came. Thousands of enthusiastic tourists and townspeople crowded into the streets of that California town. Many carried binoculars to catch the first glimpse of their famous guests. Others bought souvenirs to commemorate the event they were about to witness. Suddenly, a shout went up from several in the crowd. Heads turned and eyes strained. The distinguished guests had arrived on the very day that they were expected! Now the people could begin the celebration. The cliff swallows had not disappointed them! March 19th also arrived for the loving wife. All day long she waited with excitement for her husband to call. This was their wedding anniversary. Friends and relatives who were aware of her preparations called to ask how her husband had surprised her. That evening her husband came home. Glancing at the calendar that was hanging in the kitchen, he noticed the circled date. He realized that he had forgotten the anniversary that was so important to his wife and that should have been equally important to him. For this preoccupied husband the punctuality of the cliff swallow has a vital message. Year after year these birds travel thousands of miles to return to San Juan Capistrano on March 19th. Their punctuality brings great joy to those who wait to celebrate their arrival, just as we can bring joy to others by remembering important anniversaries.
The Characteristics Of The Cliff Swallow In Scripture:
The cliff swallow is a migratory bird. It is mentioned at least four times in Scripture. The tiny bird's most famous characteristic, returning at a predictable time, is referred to in Jeremiah 8:7:
"... The swallow[s] observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.
Just as their are fixed times for the arrival of the swallow, there are fixed times for God's judgment. God reasons that if people can recognize when the swallow returns, they should be able to recognize the signs of His judgments and repent of their wickedness. Isaiah gives a similar message but emphasizes the persistent sounds of the swallow to illustrate his continual warnings.
"Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove..." ~ Isaiah 38:14
The 'chatter' of the swallow is not a loud, raucous sound, but a quiet cooing. Elijah learned on the mountain that God spoke most powerfully in a "still small voice." (See 1 Kings 19:12) Proverbs 26:2 reveals how an undeserved curse is as unpredictable as the flight of the swallow and returns to the one who spoke it without affecting the one who was cursed. Psalm 84:3 has a literal and figurative significance. Just as the swallow makes his nest and raises its young near the altar of the Lord, so the Christian and his family should desire to dwell in God's presence.

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