An Unwed Mother

Imagine this scene.

Joseph leading a donkey-drawn carriage towards Bethlehem. Inside that carriage sits his pregnant wife, Mary. She was found to be pregnant before they had consummated their marriage! This would be the scandal of the town. Imagine the gossip and stares. Surely she was a promiscuous woman. And both of them are guilty of premarital sex!

A few months before, Joseph had to make a difficult decision. He could have easily exonerated himself by publicly exposing Mary’s perceived infidelity. But, in doing so, it would have led to Mary’s death (Deuteronomy 22:23-27). Joseph had wanted to break off the engagement discreetly, a course that would not shame or harm her (Matthew 1:19). But that was not to be. For an angel ordered him to proceed with marrying the pregnant Mary as planned, for “the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). And Joseph was to name the baby boy “Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

We’re not told how much the distraught and confounded man truly understood about his situation. But we are told that Joseph simply obeyed. He immediately “did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born” (Matthew 1:24-25).

Today, there’s not a hint of anything scandalous about Jesus’ birth, or that Jesus was an illegitimate son (John 8:41). Instead, there’s an inexplicable sacredness and indescribable awesomeness about a virgin who was with child.

The story of the unwed mother is the story of God’s power (Matthew 1:18), God’s salvation plan (Matthew 1:21), and God’s presence (Matthew 1:23). By God’s grace, we experience those same things today.

by K. T. Sim

Fruit, More Fruit, Much Fruit

John 15:8,16

I lived for a while in the mountains of North Carolina, in a place that was known as Fruitland. The area got that name because it was—and still is—apple country. I once went to visit a member of my church there, and his wife told me he was out in the orchard, pruning trees. So I walked out to watch. Not knowing any better, I said, “Man, you’re going to kill that tree.” He turned to look at me and said, “You stick to preaching. I’ll take care of the pruning.”

Later I learned that in order to produce a good crop, the tree branches had to be pruned. It’s a lesson I have never forgotten, because it also applies to our spiritual lives. Sometimes we argue with God when bad times hit and we are hurting. We assume He must not love us if He would allow such painful things to happen. But what the Lord is actually doing is pruning us so that we will bear quality fruit; then He prunes us again for more fruit, and finally He prunes us for much fruit. If a branch continues to grow without being cut back, lots of little shoots will emerge from it and draw away the sap’s life-giving sustenance.

Little things in life can be like those shoots, thwarting our fruitfulness: Sometimes we allow our kindness to depend on how we feel when we wake up in the morning; we might let a bad habit develop; or perhaps we allow our peace to get wrapped up in our circumstances. But if we accept God’s pruning with the proper attitude, the Holy Spirit’s sap will nurture the fruit in our life.

Zechariah’s Visions: Under the Myrtle Trees

“I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.” (Zechariah 1:8)

The Lord divulges ten visions to Zechariah in one night. All of them are among myrtle trees in the “bottom” of a dark, mysterious, and somewhat eerie ravine near Jerusalem. The first vision reveals a man on a red horse responding to questions from the “angel of the LORD” and “the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 1:8-17).

It is likely that the angel of the Lord is a pre-incarnate form of Christ speaking to the First Person of the Godhead. Two other horsemen are cited, which ties these heavenly envoys to the four horsemen of Revelation and to the horsemen driving the four chariots revealed in Zechariah 6.

When Zechariah asks, “What are these?” (8:9), he is told that they are responsible to “walk to and fro” on Earth and inform the Godhead of their findings. On this specific occasion they report that “the earth is at rest.” Immediately, the “angel of the LORD” asks the Lord of hosts how long He would wait to bring judgment on the nations that have abused Judah now that the 70 years have passed and the punishment of Israel and Judah has been accomplished.

The Lord gives “good and comfortable words,” noting that He was displeased with the nations who had carried out His judgment because they had done more damage than necessary. However, the Lord promises that He will return and build his house, restore Jerusalem to prominence, and “comfort Zion” (Zechariah 1:17).

The following visons outline the inexorable promises of God that will be fulfilled in the years to come. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). HMM III

The living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy

My soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation.—Psalm 35:9.
The living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.—1 Timothy 6:17.
Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart.—Isaiah 65:14.

GIVE me, O Lord, a heart of grace,
A voice of joy, a shining face,
That I may show where’er I turn
Thy love within my soul doth burn!
A tenderness for all that stray,
With strength to help them on the way,
A cheerfulness, a heavenly mirth,
Brightening my steps along the earth!

THOSE who love God are encompassed with gladness on every side, because in every passing moment they see and feel a Father’s love, and nothing of this world can take it away or lessen it. H.L. SIDNEY LEAR.

To be happy is properly the beginning of all schemes for making happy. SARAH W. STEPHEN.

My life is so strangely free from all trial and trouble, that I cannot doubt my own happiness is one of the talents entrusted to me to “occupy” with, till the Master shall return, by doing something to make other lives happy. CHARLES L. DODGSON.

Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward

Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. Exodus 14:15

Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in his sight. — We made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. — If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. — Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD.

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. — Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. — Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.

Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not.

1 Chronicles 19:13. Nehemiah 4:9. Matthew 7:21. John 7:17. Hosea 6:3. Matthew 26:41. 1 Corinthians 16:13. Romans 12:11. Isaiah 35:3,4.

The Lord is in the midst of thee

The Lord is in the midst of thee. Zephaniah 3:15

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. — Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; He will come and save you. — The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. — Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart.

I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and
there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.

Isaiah 41:10. Isaiah 35:3,4. Zephaniah 3:17. Psalm 27:14. Revelation 21:3,4.