Monday, December 20, 2010

Two Turtle Doves

This is the time of year when lights are in windows, stockings are hung by fireplaces, and the smells of candies and cookies fill warm houses on cold winter days. This is also the season of musical melodies seldom heard at other times of the year. Whether you hear "Deck the Halls" or "Jingle Bells" or "White Christmas" - you get used to those songs that have become a part of your yearly December experience.

Anytime a person hears the expression "two turtle doves," no doubt their first reaction is, "and a partridge in a pear tree!" Everybody is familiar with "The Twelve Days of Christmas." It is a part of our culture. We can probably all recite the 12 days, even if we transpose the days of the "Lords O' Leaping" and the "Drummers Drumming."

Let me for one moment, give you something else to think about, that may change your first reaction to "two turtle doves" forever. Though many know it, few think about the fact that the real reason these birds were chosen for the song, surround the actual events of Jesus' birth.

According to Leviticus 12:2, a Jewish woman who gave birth to a male child was unclean for seven days. She was not allowed to enter the temple for forty days (Lev. 12:4). At the end of the forty days, the required sacrifice to the Lord for her purification, which would also serve as a dedication of the newborn to Jehovah, was "a lamb a year old for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtle-dove, for a sin-offering" (Lev. 12:6).

Leviticus 12:8 ends the chapter this way - "And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean."

Now consider this section of Luke's account of the birth of Christ - "Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, 'A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons'" (Luke 2:22-24).

In a time of year, filled with giving, good cheer, and physical blessings, I am most thankful for the reminder that Jesus - God in the flesh, King of Kings and Lord of Lords - was born into the poorest of families, and placed in a dirty feeding trough meant only for livestock on the outskirts of Bethlehem. It reminds me of genuine value and true riches. It tells me that humility was never so expressed in any moment in time - as was seen in the birth of our Lord.

I can never doubt how much God loves me, and what He is willing to do for me. All I have to remember, is "two turtle doves" - and be thankful.

"who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men." ~ Phil. 2:6-7

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blessed is the Man who Trusts the Lord

"I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust..." ~ Psalm 40:1-4a.

From these four verses we are reminded about the grace and deliverance of God. Anytime you seem to be in a rough spot, it is important to be patient and trust in God.

1. Because he hearkens. To hearken is more than just to hear. To hearken is to listen with great care. The word "inclined" in verse 1 means - "To stretch, to extend, to reach out, to bend or bow." What an amazing thought that God would make such an effort to help our pitiful state. When you cry out to the Lord, he will move from where he is to where you are. You will no longer be alone.

2. Because he helps. The "pit" and the "miry clay" in verse 2 describe two places of desperation from which there seems no possible deliverance. The pit is likened to something man has made - a dungeon, a cistern, a well. Sometimes we are cast into difficult places by others. The clay is, on the other hand, a natural calamity, that we probably ventured into in our own foolishness. But God will take us from the gutter to greatness; from sinking sand to solid stone.

3. Because he heals. How many of us have lost our song? How many of us have lost our desire? How many of us have faith that has grown cold? While we have lost our sense of spiritual self, God has stayed the same. He can heal hardened hearts and remind us again of the goodness of his grace. Christians need to let God put a new song in their hearts that exits their lips in praise to their marvelous God. Let God do this great work in your life - no matter how long it has been since you first obeyed!

Remember that God hearkens, helps and heals. Let this reminder turn into praise for God in your life that will cause others to fear and respect the Lord. The psalmist offers this wonderful promise - "Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust..."

"But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You." ~ Psalm 5:11