Keith Hunt - Bible Story, NT - Chapter 4: The Circumcision of Christ   Restitution of All Things

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Chapter Four:

Joseph & Mary Perform the Temple Rituals

     As prescribed in the laws of Moses in the Old Testament when
the eighth day arrived after the birth of the child Jesus, Joseph
and Mary made sure He was circumcised, and at that time the babe
was officially named "Jesus" (as we have seen, meaning, one who
saves), as the angel from the Lord had said to them that He
should be so named. Having a male child circumcised on the eighth
day was in accordance to Leviticus 12:1-3.


     The laws of Moses further prescribed that if a woman gave
birth to a male child, she should continue in her body's blood
cleansing, the healing and restoring of her body back to a more
normal condition as when not carrying and giving birth to a baby,
for another 33 days. During that time she was not to come into
the Temple or Tabernacle to participate in the ritual religious
practices of Israel as given by God from the days of Moses.
     This law is found in Leviticus 12:4.


     Also in the laws of Moses for the people to observe was a
law that if the first child that a woman gave birth to, was a
male, then he was to be dedicated to the Lord. Originally he was
to be given to serve the Lord in the physical work of God in the
religious life of Israel, working in the Tabernacle. Then God
decided to have one tribe of Israel, the tribe of Levi, to do all
that work and be the priests to serve in the Temple. All this can
be seen from Exodus 13:1-2,12-16; 22: 29; Numbers 8:15-17. 
     The firstborn of males among the animals could not be
redeemed or bought back, but were to be offered in sacrifice to
the Lord (except for those born to unclean animals, as noted in
Numbers 18: 15). The firstborn of male children were to be
redeemed, by using other offerings, so they did not automatically
have to serve in the physical work of God. 


     The reason for all this is stated by God in Exodus 13:14-16.
It may seem a little strange to us today, but under the
circumstances as to how and what God did in order to bring the
people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and slavery, to the
Israelites back in the days of Moses and for other generations to
come afterwards, it was a constant reminder of the miracle God
performed in delivering them from Egyptian domain and slavery.
     As we have said, God then decided to take the males of the
tribe of Levi to serve in His physical work in the Tabernacle or
Temple, as we find in passages such as Numbers 3:11-13, 41, 44,
45;  8:13-22;  18: 6.


     Joseph and Mary came then to the Temple in Jerusalem not
only to have the baby Jesus circumcised on the eighth day after
His birth, but came again to redeem and dedicate Him to the Lord,
after another 33 days had gone by. With that dedication they
offered a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons according as
it is written in the laws of the Lord, for those who were not
able to offer a lamb for whatever reasons. This was all allowed
for in the law of Leviticus 12: 8.


     From this passage as written in the Gospel of Luke (chapter
2:21-24) we see that Joseph and Mary stayed in the area of
Jerusalem for at least 40 days and maybe longer, before they left
and returned to their own town of Nazareth in the region of
Galilee (note verse 39).
     The wise men from the East had not yet come to pay respects
to the child Jesus.  We shall see shortly that it was not till
after Joseph and Mary with the new born Son of God, had returned
to Nazareth, that the wise men arrived in search of the new child
to pay homage and present their gifts.


IN THE TEMPLE WITH SIMEON 


     Joseph and Mary had entered the Temple enclosure to perform
the ceremonial rites and sacrifices as ordained in the laws of
Moses. Unknown to them there was also another man within the
Temple grounds by the name of Simeon. He was a very devoutly
religious man, righteously following the ways of the Lord God,
and was looking for the comfort and salvation of Israel that God
had promised in the Old Testament Scriptures.
     The Holy Spirit had been upon Simeon for a long time. In
fact so close to God was he and so dedicated to serving Him that
the Holy Spirit of the Lord had already revealed to him that he
was not going to die until he had seen with his eyes the very man
child that was the Son of God, the Lord's Christ or Messiah, the
Anointed One (Luke 2:25-27).


     Simeon saw Joseph and Mary with the little babe Jesus and
through the revelation of the Holy Spirit guiding him, he knew
immediately that this baby was the Lord's Anointed One, the
Messiah.
     His heart started to pound inside his chest, great joy and
excitement overwhelmed his mind, walking over to Joseph he
politely asked if he could hold the baby in his arms, and Joseph
replied that he could.
     Simeon, taking the baby Jesus in his arms, and looking up to
heaven with praise, said,  " Lord, now I am ready to die in
peace. You have fulfilled your promise towards me. I have seen
the Savior that you have brought into this world for salvation to
all people. He is the light to the nations, and is the glory of
your people Israel. "


     Both Joseph and Mary, although they had seen and been told
many things by the angels sent to them, were still in some
amazement  on hearing the words of Simeon.


     Then under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Simeon blessed 
them both. Afterwards he turned and looking more at Mary than
Joseph, said, " This child will be rejected by many in Israel,
and so it will be their undoing and loss. But He will be the
greatest joy   to many others. The deepest thoughts and attitudes
of minds will be revealed. A sword of mental pain will pierce
your very life."


     Mary would have seen how true and how drastically that
prophecy of Simeon came to pass as she later would have to suffer
the mental and emotional pain of seeing her firstborn, the Son of
God, put to death in a most horrible manner. But before trying to
relate that event in human words, there is much to recall and
expound to you about the life and the teachings of God's Messiah.
We shall come to how He died much later.


ANNA THE PROPHETESS


     The Lord, in doing His work and proclaiming His truths,
would sometimes give a special spiritual gift to some women.
Those women could often see ahead of time, certain events that
were to happen. Sometimes God would give them a special message
that they were to tell His people about or pass on to other
leaders of His people. Then on the other hand  the Eternal God
would just inspire them to preach His truths to others in a
dynamic way. These women are called "prophetesses" as a group, or
"prophetess" as a single person, in the pages of the Bible.
     Such a prophetess there was in Jerusalem when Joseph and
Mary came to the Temple with the baby Jesus.


     Her name was Anna. She came from the tribe of Asher. One of
a few (from the 10 northern tribes of Israel, known as the House
of Israel in the books of Kings and Chronicles and in the
prophetic books from Isaiah to Malachi) who escaped the captivity
under the Assyrian armies that progressively took the northern
Kingdom of Israel into captivity from the about 745 to 718 B.C.
Some of the northern people of the House of Israel fled to the
south and became a part of the Kingdom of Judah. The ancestors
of Anna were some of those who came to live in Judea. She was the
daughter of Phanuel, but nothing is recorded about him in the New
Testament, except he was of the tribe of Asher.


     Anna, it is recorded was of "great age." She had been
married to a husband for seven years from the time of her
virginity, which is another way of saying from the day of her
wedding and marriage. Somehow she lost her husband, but we are
not told under what circumstances she lost him and became a
widow. The word "widow" is given to a lady who was married but
lost her husband in some way.
     As we have seen, most young women in the Jewish society of
that time, were married in their teenage years, often in their
middle teens. If this was the case with Anna, then she may have
been around the age of twenty-two or twenty-four when she lost
her husband.
     The Greek in Luke 2:37 can be understood as saying she had
been a widow for eighty-four years, or, being a widow she was now
eighty-four years old. If the first understanding be the correct
one then Anna could have been over one hundred years old. This is
not out of the question, for an increasing number of people today
in North America are living to be over a hundred years of age. 
If the second understanding is the correct one, we can still see
that the age of eighty-four could be termed "great age"
especially to younger people and children who have not yet even
become adults.


     It is stated by Luke that at this old aged Anna did not
depart from the Temple, probably meaning that it was her daily
way of life to be in the Temple each day. She was in constant
worship to the Lord with fastings and prayers night and day,
which is again a way of saying that she had dedicated her life to
doing lots of fasting (missing meals during the week) and
spending much of her day and evenings in prayer.


     She must have been in fine physical strength to live this
kind of life style, most of us feel pretty weak in the knees
after missing just one meal now and again. Well, I'm sure
she was given strength from the Almighty to dedicate herself in
this manner as she served Him as one of His prophetesses.


     Anna, coming into the Temple when Joseph and Mary were there
with Jesus, instantly knew that this baby was God's Anointed One,
the promised Messiah. She immediately started to praise the Lord
God. And Luke also records another very important job that Anna
then performed. She went out and shared the good news of the man
child that would bring saving redemption and salvation to the
people of Jerusalem and others from around the world.
     Luke records that Anna, "spoke of Him to all who were
looking for the redemption of Jerusalem."  This tells us a few
things we need to take note of. Anna did not necessarily go up
and down the streets of Jerusalem knocking on every door of every
house, to preach God's truth to them. She spoke of this Jesus the
Messiah to all that were of the mind of God and who were looking
for the redeeming Savior that God had promised was to come. She
was speaking in a personal way to people who were spiritually
minded about the things of God.


     And this example also shows us that if there are times when
God works with us in a special way, in clearly revealing His will
and way and promises to us, then we should get excited and
enthusiastic, and share it with other members of the Church of
God, or those looking for and desiring to know the word of the
Lord.


     When Joseph and Mary had performed all the laws of Moses,
which were the laws of God given under the leadership of Moses,
it is said that they returned into Galilee, to their own city of
Nazareth.  We have seen this was at least 40 days after the birth
of Jesus. Up to this time the wise men from the East had not yet
arrived in Jerusalem. Indeed they would come from the East to
inquire of Herod the king where this Christ child was, but not
till after Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had returned to Nazareth. 
     They did not find the infant that was born to be King of
kings and Lord of lords in a stable as did the shepherds. All
this we shall see in chapter five.


     Luke finished this part of his Gospel by telling us that
Jesus, while in Nazareth growing up, grew in physical health and
strength, that He was filled with wisdom, and the favor and grace
of God was upon Him (Luke 2: 36-40).


              ................................

Written November 2000
     

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