So just what is all this stuff about this “Jesus” guy? Why has he been so popular after all this time? There are so many different groups who claim to follow him…which one is right?

And why is he so important anyway? What does he have to do with me?

If you read on, I’ll try and answer some of those questions for you.

Well, if you’re curious about Jesus, there is a lot of stuff out there written about him. There are a lot of people out there who claim to know him, and they’re all talking about him, too. They can’t be all right can they?

The answer to that is “no.” And not just “no” but “Heck no!” There are a lot of people, both today and in the past, that have done evil things in the name of Jesus. The majority of them didn’t even know the guy, they were just out to use his name to make a big splash for themselves. And those who were sincerely trying to follow him have made some real bad blunders because they just didn’t understand him well enough.

So when it comes to learning about Jesus, who can you trust? Where can you go where you won’t be lied to or mislead?

The answer is “the Bible.”

The Bible

the bibleIf there is any book in the world that tells you the most about Jesus in a way you can trust it’s the Bible. Maybe that’s why so many people have said bad things about it like, “It’s full of mistakes,” or “It’s just a book of nice stories.” One of the first things you read when you open up the Bible is how human beings went bad and rebelled against God. Looking at it that way it kind of makes sense that those same rebellious human beings would be down on the one book that is supposed to be the best place to learn about Him.

Now there are a lot of different complaints about the Bible and, so far, I’ve been able to find the answer to just about all of them. In fact, I’ll leave my info in the back of this little book so that you can get with me if you want help on one of those complaints you’ve run across.

But right now, I just want to try and share what I know the Bible to say so that you can understand it before you try and learn about all the big arguments going on over it. First things first right?

Adam and Eve

adam and eveOK.  The Bible says that the first people God created were Adam and Eve. He set them up with an awesome life. No work, no worries, no hassles, just chill out all day and talk to the animals! Well, I don’t know if the animals could talk back but you get the idea.

There was just one catch. God had built a test into the whole thing. God put up something called “The Tree of Knowledge” and put it in with Adam and Eve and said, “Yo. Can’t touch this.”

I don’t think He said it like MC Hammer but that’s pretty much what He said. This tree had fruits on it. If you ate the fruits, you would find out a lot of the things God knew but never told you (could it be He had a good reason??).

Oh yeah, you would die too.

So guess what they did?

‘Course it’s not that simple. There was this dude called “the devil” who was down there trying to mess things up for everyone. He saw how God loved Adam and Eve and he was jealous. He already got kicked out of his crib for rebelling against God so he was looking to get them kicked out of theirs.

So what did he do? He went up to Eve when Adam wasn’t around and filled her full of lies (he does that a lot) about how she really wouldn’t die if she ate the fruits. God just didn’t want her to know all the good stuff. So she ate one.

As soon as she did she said, “Oh no, I broke it now!” ‘cause she realized she was necked. She was all upset ‘cause she was the only one holding the bag so she went out and talked Adam into trying some too. Typical guy, he was like, “OK, sure!” Then they were both in it!

Soon as that happened, God was like, “OK, everybody out of the pool!” It was actually a pretty bad thing. God laid down some serious curses on everyone for dissing Him like they did. Now Adam had to work for a living and Eve had to go through all kinds of pain to have kids (just like God was going through pain over His kids). But what about the devil? The devil got this promise that, one day, he would get his butt kicked real bad. By guess who? —Jesus!

Looking for Jesus

Now that’s not real obvious if you just skim over that passage of Scripture so you have to be looking for Jesus. God told the devil (who was masquerading as a serpent) that someone in Eve’s family tree would crush his head (ever see “The Kids in the Hall”?)—

Genesis 3:14-15
14  So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you will be punished. You are singled out from all the domestic and wild animals of the whole earth to be cursed. You will grovel in the dust as long as you live, crawling along on your belly.
15  From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head…”
New Living Translation

looking for JesusYou have to put 2 and 2 together by reading the whole Bible. Who has the power to kick the devil’s butt? How did he kick the devil’s butt? It’s actually a very important lesson about reading the Bible and especially reading the Old Testament—when you’re reading something you don’t understand, just ask yourself, “Where is Jesus in this?”

Heck, if you’re dense, Jesus pretty much tells you to do that!

John 5:39
39  “You search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!”
New Living Translation

Um, Jesus was like the most important guy there ever was so a lot of Bibles put what he said in red letters so you don’t miss anything good.

But let me take a sec. and explain this idea about reading more than what you think you are when you read the Bible.

Rubik's_cube]If you just read the Bible cover to cover and didn’t skip a page, you’d probably be bored to tears within the first month or so. Unless you’re really strange or a mathematician dude, once you hit some sections with lots of numbers and instructions on how to do Jewish things, you’d probably say, “HO-kay, time to quit.”

But what if I were to tell you that the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, were a big puzzle with Jesus being the answer every time?

Check this out—

Proverbs 25:2
2  It is the glory of God to hide something, but the glory of kings is to find it out.
paraphrased

Would that make things a little more fun to read for you?

And believe it or not, you can find Jesus in the strangest places! You just have to have your eyes open and looking for him.

One of the ways God does this is by using symbolism. When one thing is happening, He’s really trying to teach you about something else.

Not to jump ahead on you but there was a time when God had Moses leading the Jewish people around in the desert and they didn’t have no food so God made this bread stuff fall down right out of the sky!

No really!

But check out what God said about this—

Deuteronomy 8:2-3
2  Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would really obey His Commands.
3  Yes, He humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people need more than bread for their life; real life comes by feeding on every Word of the LORD.
NLT

How about if I were to tell you that God might even talk to you when you read. The more you read the Bible, the more God talks to you.

Like there was this one time when a buddy I had talked to gave me some advice. He was a good guy but I didn’t know if he was on or not with what he said. I asked him to let me sleep on it. The next morning, I got up and read my Bible like I try to do every morning and I just happened to read this—

Isaiah 11:3
3  And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear…
New American Standard Update

Now this was really a prophesy about Jesus but at that moment, on that morning, I felt it was God telling me not to do what my buddy had told me (even though he was a good guy and all).

Now this can be real cool but you gotta be very careful because the devil can use the same radio to call at ya. The only way to get around being fooled is to read even more and do lots of talking to God and asking Him to let you know what He wants you to do.

But back to the first 2 peoples.

When God was handing out the curses for Adam and Eve screwing up, it was the first time the Bible talked about Jesus and, to Adam and Eve, God was talking about the future. When you talk about something that’s going to happen before it actually does, that’s called a “prophecy,” and the Bible has tons of them on Jesus.

In fact, that’s one of the main reasons why so many people believe in him. Because there were things written about him before he was even born (in his human body, that is) that all came true. Things like, where he would be born—

wise men following the star of bethlehem

Micah 5:2
2  But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from before time.
New Living Translation

The way Jesus was born miraculously without having a human father—

Isaiah 7:14
14  All right then, the Lord himself will choose a sign for you. Look! A virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel—‘God is with us.’
New Living Translation

Now some smarty pants might say, “Hey, Jesus was never called ‘Immanuel.’” But wait a minute, what was Jesus all about? —God becoming one of us and walking around with us right? Read carefully. That’s exactly what it says. Jesus didn’t have to be called “Immanuel” because he was “Immanuel”!

See! There’s always an answer if you look hard enough and keep your heart focused on God (and not focused on how much you hate to give up sin and want to prove the Bible wrong).

So anyway, I don’t want to get sidetracked. You get the idea. There are over three hundred prophesies like the 2 I just threw up there for you. So many that it is mathematically impossible for any one man to fulfill them all by random chance. Definitely a BIG reason to believe that Jesus was the man and the Bible is the book!

So back to our story.

ugly wrestler

ugly wrestler

It looked like there was a good reason that only God knew what was in the Tree of Knowledge because as soon as Adam and Eve chowed down on the fruits some bad things started to happen. It wasn’t long before people got real evil. One of their kids, “Cain,” (not the ugly wrestler) killed his own brother! No joke! Just ‘cause he was jealous of him. Hey fighting’s one thing but that’s ridiculous!

Well, this caused a very serious problem. God loved His kids but He was good and they weren’t.

Now when I say “good” I don’t mean He ate His brussels sprouts at dinner even though He didn’t like them. I mean perfect. Where did I get that? The only place that counts—the Bible (and specifically Jesus)—

Matthew 5:48
48  Therefore you should be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.
New King James Version

So how the heck do we be perfect? Does that mean that we can’t go to Heaven if we’re not?? Ah-ha! The plot thickens!

Noah’s Ark

The next thing we read about is Noah’s Ark and how the people of Noah’s time were really bad. I mean so bad that God couldn’t find anybody outside of Noah and his family worth saving so He had Noah pack up the family ark (no one on his block had one!) with lots of animals and He drowned everybody else out!

noah's ark hits land

Now, a lot of people get all funky on this like, “Oh come on JD! How could Noah get all of those animals in one boat?” It’s easy! Read carefully what the Bible says. By some “coincidence,” (really there’s no such thing when God is involved) we have the instructions on how big to make the ark from God to Noah right there in the Bible! Now some people might argue about how big a “cubit” is but some really smart guys have estimated it so that we could find the ark to be about 1.5 million cubic feet and have three decks (Genesis 6:16).[1] Without getting into it too much, a serious student will find that it actually was possible.

Notice how I said, “serious student.” Many of the people who make fun of things like Noah’s Ark really don’t care about making objective arguments based on facts. They’re only looking for an excuse to diss God because they like to sin too much. Those are the ones you probably won’t be seeing in Heaven (which will really suck for them). The sad part about it is that it’s not about giving up your sins, it’s only about loving Jesus which is a lot easier! First you love Jesus then he helps you with everything else! If that’s where you really want to be, but Noah makes you gag a bit, skip him for now! It’s not about Noah, it’s about what Noah can teach you about Jesus.

The Father of Faith

The next really important guy we read about is Abraham.

God pulled ole’ Abe aside one day and He said, “Abe!” and Abe said, “Here I am!” I always get a kick out of stuff like that because it happens to so many people in the Bible and you’re like, “Dude, He’s God. He already knew where you were.” But I guess that’s what happens when God says “Yo!” to you and you’re like, “Whoa! Is that really you God?!”

So anyway, God pulled Abe aside and said, “Abe! I’ve got a deal for you. If you can quit your job, sell your house, diss your family and go where I tell you, I’ll make you real famous!” So Abe was like, “OK.” Kind of wild, but he isn’t called the “Father of Faith” for nothing.

You see, one of the ways God was going to make Abe famous was by making him the very first guy of a new country and a new religion. Today, we call Abe’s decedents “Jewish” because he was the first Jewish dude.

Lion of the Tribe of Judah

Now Abe was really digging the idea of being famous and starting his own country and stuff but there was this one little problem—him and his wife Sarah didn’t have no kids. So his new country only had him and his wife, which is even smaller than some of them places in Central America!

To make it worse, they stayed that way for years. I mean, Sarah and Abe was getting’ old and God was still like just standing there whistling.

So finally they got tired of waiting because they thought God had forgot about them and all, so Sarah had this really messed up idea (which probably came from the way people did things in the evil area they were living at called “Canaan”). She decided to have Abe fool around with one of her slave girls so that any kids that might show up would be owned by them too and then adopted to start this new country with.

Pretty sick but when you’re desperate and you don’t believe God is going to bail you out, you do stupid things. So that’s just what they did. They had this kid “Ishmael” and he was the first Arab dude.

But God just looked at Abe and shook His Head. He waited until Sarah and Abe were so old, there was no way they could have kids. And then they had one (and God was like, “Told ya dude,”). His name was “Isaac” which sort of means “Told ya dude.”

As soon as that happened Sarah was like, “Oh, my bad. Send that other kid and his slave girl mom away. We’re gonna keep this one instead.” If you ever wondered what all the fuss was about between Arab people and Jewish people, this started it. Even though God loved Sarah and Abraham, their mistakes and sins are still causing problems to this day.

Faith Tested

Needless to say, Isaac made Abe and Sarah very happy. They loved showing him off, especially with them being old and all.

The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Rembrandt

The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Rembrandt

Until, one day, God said, “Abe!” And Abe said, “Here I am!” (he did it again). God said, “OK, now give Isaac back.” Abe was like, “What do you mean ‘give him back’?” God said, “Prove that you love Me by killing him off for Me.”

Whoa. Pretty messed up huh?

See the thing was that God loved Abe a lot (just like He loves us all). God hooked Abe up with all kinds of money and power and now a kid in his old age to show him how much He loved him. Now God wanted to know, “Do you love the things I gave you more than you love Me?” When you look at it that way, it was a fair question wasn’t it?

I guess Abe looked at it that way too because then he said, “OK, I’ll do it.” Like I said before, they don’t call him the “Father of Faith” for nothing.

But if this all sounds kind of weird, you’re forgetting to ask yourself, “Where is Jesus in this?” If you read carefully, he’s not hard to find.

Genesis 22:2
2  “Take your son, your only son—whom you love—and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there…”
NLT

Now Isaac wasn’t Abe’s “only” son but as far as God was concerned he was. He was the “only” son born the right way between a husband and wife, which was according to His Promise.

But look at that carefully. God said, “Take your only son, whom you love,”—first place in the Bible the word “love” is used—“and have him die for Me.” Just like God would take His only son whom He loved to have him die for us.

For those of you who don’t know, Isaac wasn’t done in. Although God would not spare the pain of watching His Son die, he didn’t ask Abe to do the same. At the last minute, He sent an angel to stop Abe.

But why did God have Abe and Isaac travel to a special place three days away?

Genesis 22:4
4  On the third day of the journey, Abraham saw the place in the distance.
NLT

And even give it a special name?

Genesis 22:14
14  Abraham named the place “The LORD Will Provide.” This name has now become a proverb: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
NLT

Notice the future tense. The only way it all makes sense is to ask yourself that golden question — “Where is Jesus in this?”

Think about it. From the time God asked Abe to sacrifice his son for Him there was at least three days travel time. During that time, Isaac was as good as dead to Abraham. Just like Jesus was gone for three days after He died on the cross—

Matthew 12:40
40  For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so I, the Son of Man, will be in the heart of the Earth for three days and three nights.
NLT

Why a special place with a name that sounds like a prophecy? There are some Bible teachers who believe that the place where God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son was the same place many years later where He sacrificed His

John 19:17-18
17  Carrying the cross by himself, Jesus went to the place called Skull Hill (in Hebrew, Golgotha).
18  There they crucified him.
NLT

Isaac

So Isaac didn’t kick the bucket. He survived until his father was really old.

Now about the time Isaac was ready to get married, there was a problem. You see the Promised Land that God brought Abe to already had people in it. And they weren’t very nice people. They were called Canaanites and they had some real nasty habits like pagan “worship” with prostitutes who burned their babies alive in fires to these “gods” they worshiped. This is a far cry from what the real God wanted to teach Abraham. Obviously the only “god” who would get someone to do that had horns on their head and a pointy tail. Not that the devil really looks that way but you get my point.

Needless to say, Abe didn’t want a daughter-in-law from those people so he had his best servant go back to his homeland to pick a wife for Isaac amongst Abe’s relatives.

No, Abe isn’t from the south, that was just they way they did things back in the day. They didn’t go for close relatives, just distant cousins and stuff. Don’t get hung up on it, it ain’t part of the story.

caravan

Anyway, this servant dude was close to God and so he had this really tough assignment—find a wife for his master’s son! So what did he do? —He prayed about it! In order to know if he found the right one, he asked God for a sign. A girl was coming up to his caravan and he asked that she be so nice, she offer to give water to not only him but all his animals too. Which was a pretty good test because that would show how nice she was as well as that she was the one for Isaac.

And a very pretty girl named “Rebecca” did just that. By some strange coincidence she just happened to be from Abe’s family.

Ha. “Coincidence.”

Wanna ask the magic question again?

What, did you forget already?? —“Where is Jesus in this?!”

How about this—Abe is God the Father, Isaac is Jesus, the servant who goes to get Isaac a wife is the Holy Spirit and Rebecca is you!

Now that puts a wild spin on what being a “Christian” is but I’ll get into that more later.

So Isaac finally got a wife. But guess what? She couldn’t have kids. Sound familiar?

But Isaac seemed to be a little bit more locked on to what the right thing to do was. Instead of playing, “Oh let’s just have sex with a slave girl,” he prayed about it. Believe me, it may sound like a few minutes of fun but paying the check wasn’t worth it.

And because he did it the right way, God said, “Yo. No prob.” And Rebecca was able to have kids.

Two of them, in fact.

Jacob and Esau

Twins. And boy did they fight all the time. Heck, they were fighting before they came out! They were wrastlin’ so much, no one was sure who was going to make it out first. Back in the day, that was a big deal ‘cause the first one out was the one who got all dad’s stuff (like the yard and the cash).

baby be like seriouslyThe first one out was a dude they named “Esau.” “Esau” means “red” and apparently that’s what the little bugger looked like (kinda’ scary huh?).

And the second one out wasn’t happy about it so he was hangin’ on to his brother’s heel so they named him “Jacob.” “Jacob” means “hangs on to dudes’ heels,” or “trips people up.” It was a name he would earn later on.

Well, the fact that Esau was getting the family loot when he growed up didn’t sit well with anybody. Even Esau! Jacob was ticked about it because he wanted to be the one. Mom was ticked because she liked Jacob better. And Esau pretty much didn’t care (which actually didn’t make God too happy). The only thing old Isaac wanted (‘course he was an old dude by now) was to just sit around and eat the good vittles Esau brought him.

One day, when Esau was coming back from a bad hunting trip (he didn’t catch nothing), he saw his brother there cooking some red stuff. He was really hungry so he said, “Yo dude, hook me up with some of that red stuff before I die of hunger.”

But Jacob wasn’t the kind of guy to give away something for nothing (God wasn’t too happy with that, either), so he figured he’d Pearl Harbor his bro and said, “No prob, just give me your rights to the family loot.”

Instead of getting ticked, Esau was like, “Whatever.”

Do you know you can ask the question here? You might have to look hard this time.

Now what Esau had was called a “birthright.” God’s first “religion” was Judaism. What do you think the “birthright” of the Jews was? —Jesus! And just like Esau, the Jews despised their birthright—

Genesis 25:34
34  And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
NKJV

And the second “religion” God gave was Christianity (Christianity really isn’t a religion but more on that later). Just like Jacob, many Christians are under-the-table connivers that have done a lot of damage in the name of “good.” Especially to their brother Jews! The answer to “Where is Jesus in this?” is hidden in the two religions built around him, but he’s still there.

The second thing that was important was when ole’ Isaac was ready to move on. He had to give a special blessing to each of his sons based on their ages and what was expected of them (the oldest was supposed to carry on the family name and whatever). Back in the day, this was a big deal. People took this real serious. Probably because, in a way, God did too so somebody who got blessed by a father who was close to God got some really cool stuff.

And Jacob wanted that cool stuff even though it belonged to his brother. And his mother wanted her favorite boy to have that too. So the two of them got together and schemed some. They knew that Esau was like hairy and stuff so they put some extra skins on Jacob (OK, so he was real hairy) and hoped that Isaac—who couldn’t see good no more—would only touch him and not ask too many questions. To pull it off momma gave Jacob some of the good food Esau brought his pop. Although pop was like, “Ay, this don’t sound like Esau,” he gave his blessing to Jacob. The conniver.

not quite jacob's ladderNeedless to say, when Esau found out, he was really peeved. So that meant that Jacob had to skeedattle, but quick.

It was while he was on the run in the desert that Jacob had a dream one night. In the dream he saw a great ladder leading down from Heaven to Earth and angels on the ladder going both up and down. In the dream God promised the land of Canaan to Jacob and that he would be the beginning of a great nation. Just like He had done for Jacob’s grandpappy.

OK, so ask the question again. Can you see Jesus here? Not to jump ahead on what Jesus did for us and what he stands for but he is the bridge between God and man right? So how about Jesus being represented by the ladder between Heaven and Earth?

So Jacob wandered around until he came upon some relatives.

Uh-oh. Good place to look for a wife huh? OK, no comments. That’s just the way it was done back then.

And, of course, a beautiful girl showed up.

Her name was Rachel. When Jacob met her pop, he said, “Yo man, if you let me marry your daughter, I’ll work for you for seven years ‘cause I think she’s really hot!”

So, Rachel’s pop said, “Do it.”

I guess it was a good test for Jacob because it wasn’t like most guys who just want a girl for her looks. He was actually in love with her. He had to be or else he wouldn’t have stuck around all that time.

But seven years can go by pretty quick when you’re in love. The way they did things back in the day is that the honeymoon was really where the thing was done. Once the 2 hooked up, they were married. Imagine if that was the way it was today!

princess leahBut Rachel’s pop saw that God was with Jacob and that God made Jacob rich in whatever he did so he didn’t want to let the guy go just yet. That’s why he pulled a switcheroo on ole’ Jake. Because the honeymoon thing was done in the dark, Rachel’s pop threw her sister Leah (no, not the princess from Star Wars) in on Jake. Before he figured things out, it was too late. They was married.

Just like Jake had done to his poor brother. Proving that, as far as God was concerned, what goes around comes around.

Needless to say, Jake wasn’t too pleased. But Rachel’s pop was like, “Dude, no sweat! Stick with me for 7 more and I’ll throw Rachel in as a package deal—two for the price of one.”

Now it may sound like fun at first but, believe me, most guys have enough trouble with just one wife. That’s probably why God said to people who really loved Him and wanted to do the right thing, “Ay! One is enough!”

But this wasn’t real clear back in the day. So with God not being clear and guys being guys, there was a lot of polygamy (as in tyin’ the knot more than once) going around.

And it didn’t take long for that situation to bite ole’ Jake right in the butt. Guess why? —Just like his granny, his main girl couldn’t have no kids. Which back then, was real embarrassing.

What made it even worse was when the girl he wasn’t too keen over, Leah, was havin’ loads of ‘em. That just ticked Rachel right off. So she pulled the old, “Here, fool around with my slave girl,” routine. It was a pretty messed up, twisted story. By the time Rachel had any kids of her own there was about 12 of ‘em all together. The problem was, they had different moms. And that lead to a lot of fights (which is why God said, “Yo, I told you one was enough!”).

Joseph

Ole’ Jake didn’t help none when he let everybody know he had a favorite too—one of the two kids his main girl Rachel had.

Joseph.

Because Joseph was the favorite, he got pretty spoiled. I’m sure many of y’all know what it’s like to have a brother or sister that gets away with murder while you get smacked for not brushing your teeth!

Even worse was when papa Jake made this really nifty outfit that had lots of colors in it. To Joe, it was fun to say, “Yo, I’m special.” But his brothers only hated him even more.

From the children’s cartoon, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, Burbank Animation Studios

From the children’s cartoon, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, Burbank Animation Studios

One day, his brothers were out doing the sheep herder thing when ole Jake said to Joseph, “Ay, what’re your brothers up to?” And Joe said, “I don’t know. I’ll go find out.” So, off he went.

But when his brothers saw him on his way to them, they were like, “Oh look, here comes daddy’s favorite little spy.” They got so mad that they all decided to kill Joseph off.

Fortunately, the oldest one had a little bit more sense than the rest and he talked them into just chucking Joe into a well. Which wasn’t all that great but it was better than being dead.

But after that, some slaver dudes came by and Joe’s brothers said, “Hey, we can do two things at once—get rid of this obnoxious brat and also make some dough.” So they sold Joe off and he ended up a slave in Egypt.

Yet, during all this that Joe was going through, God was with him. Not only did he get promoted up from being a slave, he got to be vice president of all of Egypt! Just because God was looking out for him.

Ready to ask the question again?

So where do you see him? How about this—Joseph is a model (Bible teachers call it a “type”) of Jesus. He was the favorite of his father but hated by his brothers (who represent Jesus’ Jewish brothers). So they tried to do away with him forever but he ended up spending time in the ground instead only to be raised up to second highest from the very top (just like Jesus is second only to God the Father).

Get it?

Life in Egypt

 

sphynx and pyramid

So once in Egypt, Joe’s bros all had to come groveling to him because God smacked everybody around by letting all the food dry out from a big famine. So they had to go to Joe who knew ahead of time how to save up for rainy days (or, actually, “really, really dry days”). Actually, God told him in a dream about what was going to happen and it made him even more popular with the king to have this calamity foretold ahead of time.

But Joe was really cool about people coming to him for food. He had everybody over a barrel but he was fair in the way he dealt with them. Even though his bros tried to kill him, when they came around, he was fair to them too.

You know why? Check this out, just after ole’ Jake passed on—

Genesis 50:19-21
19  But Joseph told them, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you?
20  As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people.
21  No, don’t be afraid. Indeed, I myself will take care of you and your families.” And he spoke very kindly to them, reassuring them.
NLT

You see, the Bible says that once you let Jesus make you tight with the Big Guy, He never stops taking care of you. Even when it seems like He’s not there and bad things are happening, He’s fixin’ up those bad things so that they can still help you.

Like a lot of times people don’t learn important lessons until they screw up. That’s one way God takes care of you. If you aren’t tight with Him, then He can’t help you and you just keep making the same dumb mistakes over and over ‘cause the devil is out there too and he hates you.

Eventually, the whole family ends up living with Joe ‘cause he’s got it so good in Egypt.

Even Jake makes it there before passing on.

lots of babiesOne of the last things Jacob did was adopt Joseph’s 2 kids as his own. Which brought the total number up to 14 (as if he didn’t have enough, right?).

So each one of these kids, also had kids. And they were all Jewish so Jewish people got in the habit of identifying themselves based on which one of Jacob’s kids they came from (which they called “Tribes”).

Oh yeah. Speaking of names, forgot to tell you something.

At one point earlier on, when things started to go good for Jacob, his father-in-law started cheating him again. Jake finally got fed up with it all and took off with his wives and kids and all his stuff to head back for his home town (the same place God had promised his pop and grandpop)—Canaan. Which would someday be “Israel.”

On the way, he decided to finally make up with his brother so he hooked Esau up with tons of gifts because of the way Jake screwed him over before.

During this time, Jake ends up throwing down with a mysterious dude who messes up his leg during the fight because Jake was doing so good. Jake put a sleeper hold on him but the guy said, “I gotta go.” By now Jake realized that this weren’t no ordinary dude so he said, “Give me a blessing first.” The guy said, “Fine. I’m changing your name to ‘Israel’ because you’ve taken on people and even God and you’re still here.” Which is pretty much what “Israel” means and that’s where the name came from.

So how many Tribes of Israel are there? That depends on how you count them. If you count just the original dudes, there’s 12. If you count Joe’s 2 kids, there’s 14. If you figure Joe’s 2 kids as representing him, there’s only 13. Follow all of that?

Ok, let me break it down for ya. Here’s the 3 ways of counting—

12 13 14
Rueben Rueben Rueben
Simeon Simeon Simeon
Levi Levi Levi
Judah Judah Judah
Dan Dan Dan
Naphtali Naphtali Naphtali
Gad Gad Gad
Asher Asher Asher
Issachar Issachar Issachar
Zebulun Zebulun Zebulun
Joseph Benjamin Joseph
Benjamin Ephraim Benjamin
Manasseh Ephraim
Manasseh

So you get it now?

Actually, I just wanted to practice all the names ‘cause I forget them a lot. stylin

Falling on Hard Times

Well, things were good in Egypt for the new Jewish nation. Of course they didn’t have their own country but they sure were multiplying!

In fact, they was multiplying so fast that the Egyptians started thinking like, “Hey, if we don’t put these dudes under control they’re gonna take over! We can’t have that because we hate Jewish food.”

So, they took all of the Children of Israel (that’s just a symbolic way of saying “Jewish” cause in a way, they really are all Jacob’s kids), and made slaves out of ‘em.

So, for a while, life was pretty tough. No more eating out. No more video games. Just always having to clean other peoples toilets—and not even get paid for it!

Life was getting pretty sucky for Jacob’s kids. So what happens to a lot of people when life gets sucky on them? They remember, “Oh yeah! There’s this God dude who can help us out.” They never bothered with the poor Guy when they was livin’ it up. Sometimes, that’s why God lets people have problems—so they can remember who He is and that He’s out there.

But once you reach out to Him, God’s not the kind of guy to push people away. So He said, “OK, I’ll send you somebody to kick some butt for you.”

Up From the Water

Now even though the Jewish people were slaves of the Egyptians, they were still multiplying like rabbits. So the Egyptian king (“pharaoh” they called him) got raw on them. He said that the only way to slow them down was to kill off all the newborn baby boys.

The Bible says that, just like God is real, the devil is real too. And he can really mess things up when he wants to. When you see something that is really messed up, expect that he’s behind it.

So just when God says He’s gonna send a guy to help all the Jewish people out, now all the little Jewish boys gotta die. Hmmm, I wonder who is behind that?

But God is God. You can’t mess with Him even if you are the devil. He’ll find a little way to just totally screw up your plans.

So what did God do? He had this special little kid get put in a little basket by his mother and put on the banks of the Nile river where, by some strange coincidence (yeah, right) the king’s daughter came down and found him.

Well who can resist a little kid left on your doorstep? So she adopted him and named him “Moses” which means something like “Up From the Water.”

So this meant that Mo had a pretty good life growing up. I mean you can’t do much better than being adopted into the king’s family.

Heston as Moses
Moses!
oh…I mean Charlton Heston portraying Moses.

But he was still Jewish. And even though some movies and cartoons show him as not knowing that (The Prince of Egypt and The Ten Commandments are still great movies though), the Bible implies that he always did.

Well it was tough for him to be all hooked up with the good stuff of being in the king’s family while all of his bros were getting beat up and whipped every day.

One day, he saw that going on—a mean Egyptian dude beatin’ up on a Jewish dude—and so when he saw that he could get away with it, he capped the Egyptian dude. Yeah, he did the guy in.

But guess what? When he was thinking, “I’m gonna free my Jewish bro from gettin’ beat up and everyone will just love me,” it didn’t happen.

The answer’s pretty obvious. You can’t just go around killing dudes even when it’s to do something good. God had a plan to free the Jewish people. His way. And if anybody had to die, it was going to be because God had to do it as a last resort, not because some dude down here decided to take matters into his own hands.

Why did Mo do that? Because he wasn’t tight with God. God had planned to use Moses all along for that, but first Mo had to train for the job. The ego that he had needed to go away. God can’t work with people who have egos. And Mo must’ve had a huge one because it took God 40 years to get rid of it.

Back to the Desert

Well, needless to say all the rest of the Egyptian dudes didn’t think it was too cool of Mo to go wiping out one of their bros. So Mo had to skeedattle out of there.

He ended up—where else?—in the desert. There he met a nice religious dude who said, “Ain’t you married yet?” and when Mo said, “Ah, no,” he said, “Oh here. I got some daughters. Take one.” I guess it was the thing to do because Mo got married and settled down to join the family business—raising sheep.

Now that sounds kind of funny but taking care of sheep seems to be something that happens a lot in the Bible. Do you think God is trying to tell us something? Like maybe, we’re like sheep in a lot of ways? Everything in the Bible is there for a reason. If the Bible really was written by God, then He obviously has the power to put some awesome things in it to show you that is the book that is different from all the others. Jesus even tells us this—

Matthew 5:17-19
17   “Don’t misunderstand why I have come here. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them.
18  I assure you, until Heaven and Earth disappear, not the dot of an ‘i’ or the cross of a ‘t’ of God’s Law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.”
NLT

So if Jesus is getting that serious about such small details, it’s probably because he wants you to pay attention.

And, by the way, “the Law and the Prophets” is a Jewish way of saying “the Bible.”

So that’s the way Mo lived his life. For another 40 years (he was 40 when he hit the desert).

One day, he was just kicking back and chillin’ with the sheep when he saw something that flipped him out—a little tree on fire. But it wasn’t burning up! It just kept going and going.

Mo said to himself, “Hey, I need to check this out.”

Moses and the Burning Bush by Arnold Friberg

Moses and the Burning Bush by Arnold Friberg

When Mo got up to the burning tree, an ominous voice said, “Moses!” And, yep, Moses said, “Here I am,” (he must’ve been related to Abraham somehow).

So the voice said, “Dude. This is God. Wipe your feet off near my tree.” Then Moses was like, “Whoa,” and he wanted to hide.

You know, that’s the way everyone acts when they finally meet God. The first thing they think of is all of the nasty stuff they did. All during their lives, we do evil things and flip God off, but when He finally shows up and says, “Ah, dude, I seen all that,” we’re like Homer Simpson—“Doet!”

So God told Mo, “My Jewish people are hurtin’. They’re not having a good time over there in Egypt. I need somebody to go there and get ‘em out. You!”

For a minute there, Mo just looked around as if, “He can’t be talking to me.” And he was like, “Ah, Boss, none of those guys are going to listen to me. Both sides hate me. I’ve been chillin’ out here all this time, um, I’d just like to stay here OK?”

Can you imagine someone saying, “Thanks but no thanks,” to God? He’s not the kind of Guy you want to say “no” to. It was kind of like a Hollywood gangster who says, “I’m gonna make a deal you can’t refuse,” except God isn’t looking to rub you out. He loves you and wants to make you happy and powerful, but in His way.

I guess the problem was that Mo had spent so much time being a nobody, he didn’t believe he could actually be a “somebody” again like he was when he was younger. So he kept telling God “No thanks,” even after God gave him all these neat tricks to use like making his hand go all funky with leprosy and turning his staff into a snake.

OK, real quick—ask the question again here. “Where is Jesus in this?”

God showed Moses how to turn his right hand leprous then put it back to normal again. Here’s a hint—

Mark 16:19
19  So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
NASU

In a way, Jesus is God’s right-hand man. To turn Mo’s hand leprous and then back again could symbolize dying and being brought back to life. Get it?

But when Mo kept saying, “No thanks,” to the Big Guy, He got a little steamed after a while. I mean, can you blame Him? He is God you know.

Eventually, God changed His plan. He wasn’t going to give up on Mo and so the Creator of the Universe changed His awesome plan just so that He could accommodate His weak child. He said, “For crying out loud Mo! Look, here comes your brother. You go to Pharaoh and your brother will do the talking for you OK?!” In other words, Mo was the representative of God, so to the king of Egypt, he was God—

Exodus 4:14-16
14  Then the LORD became angry with Moses. “All right,” He said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? He is a good speaker. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. And when he sees you, he will be very glad.
15  You will talk to him, giving him the words to say. I will help both of you to speak clearly, and I will tell you what to do.
16  Aaron will be your spokesman to the people, and you will be as God to him, telling him what to say.
NLT

So Mo’s brother Aaron was Mo’s right-hand man. There Jesus is again and we didn’t go but a paragraph or two! To the king of Egypt, Mo would be God and Aaron would be Jesus!

The Angel of Death

angel of deathSo Mo and his bro took off for Egypt. When they got there, they found the king and said, “God told us to have you let all the Jewish slaves go.” And the king of Egypt was like, “Ah, yeah. Sure pal.” He was using them to get all his lawns cut and bathrooms cleaned for free! No way was he going to let them go.

That meant that God had to pull some miracles on him. And God did some really wild stuff. But each time something happened, this Pharaoh dude would get right to the brink of giving in, then think, “Who’s gonna clean up my room tonight if my slaves are all gone?” and he’d change his mind again.

Well after nine times of this, God was really ticked.

I mean really ticked. So ticked that He wasn’t foolin’ around any more. Here was this little earthling dude saying “Screw you” to God. Not once, not twice, but nine times! So God was going to get his attention—with something BIG.

lintels and postsGod told Mo, “Ay, the stuff is hittin’ the fan. I’m sending down the guy who don’t mess around—the Angel of Death. He’s taking out everybody’s first-born. You got one chance. Take a lamb and cook him up. Put his blood on your doors and, when the Angel of Death sees it, he will pass over your house.”

So anybody who listened to God didn’t have no problems that night (and you didn’t have to be Jewish, even any Egyptians who said, “That Jewish God is ticked! I’m gonna do what they’re all doing!” got off the hook too). But anybody who didn’t, lost their firstborn anything—people and animals.

Pretty harsh. But God ain’t someone you want to mess with. He always gives you plenty of slack, but He eventually puts His Foot down.

Why did He do this “Passover” (that’s what this day is called) that way? Well all you have to do is ask the question to get your answer—where is JC in this?

The first-born will die unless an innocent lamb dies in their place (when a guy like Jesus does nothing wrong but love people, a lamb is a good symbol of him). If you put the lamb’s blood on your door, the Angel of Death will pass over your home. Just like anyone who asks Jesus into their life, takes the blood he shed for them and passes over Hell and into Heaven with it.

And there’s even more than one way to see JC in the same place. After this happened, even Pharaoh (who lost his kid too) was ready to cave in. So after the first-born of Egypt died, the Jewish people were set free. Just like after the first-born of God died, those who love him are set free from sin and Hell.

Toll Bridge

But there’s more. Would you believe that even after all that, the king of Egypt still got pissed and wanted his Jewish slaves back? You’d think that, after all those plagues and miracles—10 of them—the guy would’ve figured out that he wasn’t going to win fighting this Jewish God.

Stubborn, egotistical people do stupid things. So Pharaoh saddled up his army and went after the Israelites as they were parading off into the desert.

Well the Jewish people looked over their shoulders and saw this army coming up to kick their butts so they were like, “Oh ____! We gotta get out of here!” Then they looked in front of them and saw this huge lake! And nobody could swim. And you know who they took it out on? —God and Moses. So both sides were being stupid that day.

God looked down on them (after all the miracles He did for them) and just shook His Head in disgust. He told Mo to have the people just shut up and watch. Mo lifted up his hand with his staff and held it out over the water, and that whole lake parted right down the middle. So the people said it again—“Oh ____! Go, go, go!” So they all took off and got to the other side.

Well Pharaoh and his dudes came up and said, “Hmmm. I don’t remember no bridges here.” But they wanted revenge bad. So they figured, “Hey, if it worked for them…” and the whole army took off after the Israelites.

But God said, “Uh-uh! You didn’t pay no toll!” And He took all the water and put it back—right on top of the Egyptians. They couldn’t swim either.

Ready to ask the question again?

Adam and Eve sinned. And their sin put up a barrier that separated us from God. Jesus opened up a pathway for us to get back to God by laying his arms down on a cross of wood. Just like Moses opened up a pathway of escape for all of the Israelites with his arm and staff. But those who don’t accept Jesus as their path to the Promised Land, get swallowed up by death.

Laying Down the Law

OK, so all the Israelites were on their own. You know that means trouble! What do you do when your parents leave you on your own for the weekend? PAR-TEY!

And God knew it, so He had some rules to give to Mo. But while He was giving the new rules to Mo, the people were already gettin’ down and gettin’ into trouble.

The rules weren’t just the 10 Commandments. They included a whole list of things that made the Jewish religion what it was. But because the government decided that the 10 Commandments might hurt you if you saw them in school, I’ll list them for you here—

The Word of the Lord by Arnold Friberg

The Word of the Lord by Arnold Friberg

I  I Am the Lord your God. You shall have no other “gods” before Me.

If your heart is in the right place, this should be pretty scary to read. Here’s God saying, “Hey, I MADE YOU. Don’t forget Me, don’t push me aside. I should always be the number one thing in your life…or else.”

There are a lot of fakers out there. If God really exists, then so does the devil and the dudes who work for him. They love to screw you over. What better way to hurt God and destroy you than to get you to worship one of them as they masquerade as “Buddha” or “Muhammad”?

II  You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in Heaven above or on the Earth beneath or in the water under the Earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing love, kindness and mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.

In other words, you need to have all of your attention on Him, even though He’s kinda hard to see. People like to focus their attentions on things but God says, “To do what’s right, you have to deny what your evil nature is telling you.”

Again, this is scary stuff here. God ain’t playin’ around. Can you blame Him? You’re His kid. He put a lot of love into making you. Then you turn around and diss Him by saying, “Ah, God didn’t make me. But man I love my car.” Yeah. Well the Bible says that every good thing you have is a gift from God, so your heart ain’t in the right place. Be careful. As this Commandment says, God will smack you so hard your kids will feel it!

III  You shall not take the Name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His Name in vain.

Oh and how many times have you done that? And wait ‘til you see what qualifies. Not just the obvious—yelling out JC’s name when you’re not really talking to him. But even just saying, “Oh my God!” which I have heard people say over and over, not having a clue that they are blaspheming the Name of God. Words mean things. There is power in the Name of God. Any of His Names.

IV  Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, any person or animal that works for you and any guest who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the Earth, the sea and all that is in them, and stopped working on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath Day and made it holy.

I’ll bet you’re reading this and going, “What? Huh?” You’re not even close to doing this one are you? Our Jewish brothers and sisters understand that Sunday is the first day of the week, that leaves Saturday as the 7th. How many people do you know who refuse to make a buck on Saturday, or to work around the yard to honor God? There might be one somewhere, but not in my neighborhood.

So how come Christians go to church on Sunday? Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday. This is a really great thing because the Bible says that what happened to him will happen to us if we believe in him. So the early Christians (who were all Jews by the way) started putting Sunday aside as their Sabbath. The day really doesn’t matter, what matters is where your heart is! Who’s first on your list? Making money? The yard? Or God?

You can even ask the question here—“Where is Jesus in this?” The Bible says that the only way into Heaven is to have a relationship with Jesus and he will take you there. You can’t get there on your own because no matter how hard you work you’ll never be perfect like God. And to live with Him you have to be like Him. So the Sabbath is a way to honor the sacrifice of Jesus bringing you to God.

Honor your father and your mother, and the Lord will bless you with a long life.

Uh huh. So, can we say that every time you sass your mother for asking you to clean your room, you’re knocking a day off of how long you live? What do you think that God wants you to learn from obeying your parents even when you think they are wrong? —Having obedience and faith in Him. If you believe in God, then you also have to believe that He loves you and wants the best for you. He may ask you to do things that are very painful or difficult to do. But He does it because it will hook you up with something awesome when you’re done. Obeying your parents, even when you think it’s a pain in your arse, is good practice for doing tough things God might ask you to do.

VI  You shall not murder.

Well, that one’s easy. God breathed life into each and every one of us. You dare not be the one to undo that.

Is He saying that He won’t do that? No. God says several times that there are things you can do that are so evil you give up your life to pay for them.

The Bible also says that the government rules under God’s authority so the government has that power as well. But you don’t.

‘Nuff said.

VII  You shall not commit adultery.

“Adultery” is fooling around with another man’s wife (or vice versa). One of the strongest drives we have is sex. God designed it that way so that we could have a view of what it would be like to be with Jesus in Heaven.

But God also gave us free will. And when your heart motivates you to do nothing but bad stuff all day long, sneaking a little nookie with the neighbor’s wife seems like the best of it.

That’s only if you have no clue what love is all about. To really love someone is to want them to be a part of you. In every way. Their heart, their mind, their soul and their body.

Genesis 2:24
24  For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
New American Standard Update

And when you take another person’s spouse and defile them, if they truly love their spouse you’re no better than a murder or a rapist, even if that person had an equal part in it.

Besides, messin’ with another person’s main squeeze just ain’t healthy—

Proverbs 6:32-35
32  But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys his own soul.
33  Wounds and constant disgrace are his lot. His shame will never be erased.
34  For the woman’s husband will be furious in his jealousy, and he will have no mercy in his day of vengeance.
35  There is no compensation or bribe that will satisfy him.
NLT

VIII  You shall not steal.

Um, duh.

You know, when you ask Jesus into your life, the evil things you enjoy doing become a little easier to say “no” to. Which is cool.

IX  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Lying is so easy to do. When your heart is full of evil it just spews out of your mouth so quickly you don’t even realize what you’re saying sometimes…until it’s too late—

Matthew 15:18-19
18  But evil words come from an evil heart and defile the person who says them.
19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.
NLT

James 3:2-12
2  We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way.
3  We can make a large horse turn around and go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth.
4  And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong.
5  So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.
6  And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by Hell itself.
7  People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish,
8  but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison.
9  Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the Image of God.
10  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!
11  Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?
12  Can you pick olives from a fig tree or figs from a grapevine? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty pool.
NLT

But throwing around words to see where they splatter is a bad idea…for anybody who dies. Because once you do, you’ll be standing before the Throne of Almighty God—

Matthew 12:36-37
36  “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment.
37  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
NASU

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

In this life, as long as you are human, there will always be things that you want but can’t have. I don’t care if you are Bill Gates. There are things to have that money can’t buy.

So where does “sin” start? —In the mind. Once an opportunity is there, you think about it. If you dwell on it, pretty soon, you’re doing it—

James 1:13-15
13  And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either.
14  Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires.
15  These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death.
NLT

“Death” meaning that all sin must be paid for because God is PERFECT in Heaven. If you want to be with Him you must be like Him (Matthew 5:48). All sin must be paid for in full. Either by Jesus for you…or by you in person.

So how do you fight it? Don’t dwell on it. Put it out of your mind and walk away—

Isaiah 33:14-15
14  “Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?”
15  He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; he who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil…”
NASU

So now the Jewish religion got kicked into high gear. Moses had gotten all the important stuff from God, all they needed now was a place to live.

But there was trouble in River City (just a saying, don’t know what the heck it means). It didn’t take long before Jake’s kids were whining again. First they didn’t like not having any food, then they didn’t like the really cool food God rained down on them (stuff called “manna” that they collected every morning and made into bread and whatever). Then they wanted to go back to Egypt. It’s no wonder God didn’t just want to throw in the towel, wipe ‘em all out and start over again.

In a way, that’s kind’a what He did. He got so fed up with them all that He just waited ‘em out. He had them follow around a cloud and some fire through the desert until they were just so totally lost that most of ‘em died off! The only guys that were left from that generation were the ones who had never complained—Caleb, and Joshua.

Cleanin’ House

Well, the kids of Jake (“Children of Israel”) wandered around in the desert for so long that poor ole’ Mo had to quit—by kicking the bucket. He had lead a good life of serving God and he was ready to meet his reward.

But before he left, there was a big job to do. God was finally ready to give over the special land the Israelites were supposed to live on, but there was one problem—there was some nasty people already livin’ there! So Moses had to turn the command over to someone with guts to get the job done. Someone who was going to serve some serious eviction notices to the folks living in the Promised Land. That guy was Joshua.

Some people have complained at the way God told Josh to wipe out everyone. They’ve used it as an excuse to ignore the whole rest of the Bible and the entire message of Christianity.

And that’s just what it is: an excuse. If you spend only a few minutes of hard study you’ll see that God had a bunch of very good reasons for punishing the people living in His Promised Land (called “Canaanites”). Here’s a few; worshiping demons, practicing every form of perverse sexuality possible, using that perversity in their worship and when any of the women got pregnant as a result they would take the babies and throw them alive into bonfires as further “worship.” And they had been doing that for over 400 years.

pagan idolWhy do I bother to mention all that? Because this is another good place to ask the Golden Question: “Where is Jesus in this?”

Joshua is the one who lead the armies of Israel, God’s Chosen People into the Promised Land to conquer the evil people who were living there. “Joshua” in Hebrew is “Yehoshua.” “Jesus” in Hebrew is “Yeshua.” The mean pretty much the same thing too, “victory,” “salvation.” The way the Bible reads the Book of Joshua that talks about how the Israelites conquered the Promised Land behind Joshua seems to be a prediction of the way Jesus will lead his people to conquer the whole world when he comes back. You find predictions of this in the Book of Revelation and there are some amazing similarities there to Joshua.

Many years later God’s new nation had a place to call “home.” Things were going pretty good. They had all the rules and regulations to live by that Moses had given them. But they hadn’t obeyed Him completely. They were supposed to clear out all of the Canaanites. Not only so that they could have a large country to live in, but also so that they wouldn’t have to grow up with the influence of a bunch of perverts living right next door. God knew that with time, His children would become perverts too.

And that’s just what happened.

Judging Right from Wrong

When Joshua died, each of the tribes had a little chuck of land to call their own but they didn’t have any organization for keeping things sane. They needed people to help protect them from the Canaanites that they hadn’t knocked off (see how that backfired?) and to keep the peace inside the country.

Soon the Israelites began doing what they saw their neighbors doing, worshipping pagan “gods” and whatnot. The Bible tells us that any time you worship something that isn’t God if you’re not so dumb as to worship a tree or something, it’s going to be a demon—

Deuteronomy 32:17
17  They offered sacrifices to demons, non-gods, to gods they had not known before, to gods only recently arrived, to gods their ancestors had never feared.
NLT

That’s enough to tick God off right there.

But if you’re worshipping demons, you know that there is going to be some evil stuff involved with the “worship.” I’ve already given you examples of what the Canaanites were doing.

So when the Israelites started doing the same thing, God said, “Oh heck no!” and allowed some of the nearby countries to go in and clean the Jews’ clocks.

Well being conquered by mean people didn’t sit well with the Israelites and they did what God expected them to—called out to Him. So He started raising up butt-kickers called “Judges.”

One judge was Samson.

Samson’s parents couldn’t have kids. Sound familiar? And, oh yeah, forgot to tell ya that not having kids was something the folks in the Middle East really hated. Probably because, when God said this—

Genesis 1:27-28
27  So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after Himself; male and female he created them.
28  God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals.”
NLT

—They took Him real serious.

So Samson’s ma was shocked when an angel came to her and said, “You’re going to have a little crumb-cruncher soon. Not only that but he’s going to be a special little boy from God so God wants him to take a special vow for his entire life.”

The vow Samson had to take was called a “Nazarite vow.”

The Nazarite vow was kind of interesting. It said that the guy who took it could never cut his hair, nor drink alcohol or any grape product and must be very careful to obey the Laws of Moses by not touching stuff God said was “unclean,” for as long as they took the vow. And, for Samson, that was all his life.

Now, real quick, Moses got a lot of stuff from God on Mt. Sinai. Some of what he got was a list of stuff that was “clean” and “unclean.” Some of it was stuff you couldn’t touch, others was stuff you couldn’t eat. If you know any Jewish people they might tell you this is “kosher” and “unkosher.” I just think it was a way for God to teach us about sin verses righteousness.

But where did this “Nazarite vow” stuff come from? Well, ask the golden question, “Where is Jesus in this?” Jesus was from Nazareth! So, if everything that comes from the Bible is teaching us about him, then we should be able to see him everywhere. Perhaps the idea of not cutting your hair is that, for once, all the pictures and paintings of Jesus might have gotten something right in how he had long hair (although that probably was one of the trends of that time).

And the alcohol? Not that Jesus never drank wine, but that no one could claim that the amazing things he said and did were because he was drunk (as they claimed when the Holy Spirit had Christians speaking in foreign languages in Acts Chapter 2).

And as for him being “clean,” Hebrews 4:15 tells us how Jesus never sinned.

So that was Samson. And he was gifted by God to be real strong. He would go in and wipe out whole armies! He even killed a lion with his bare hands! Really!

samson takes down a lionGod sent Samson in to kick butt on a group of people hurting the Jews called “Philistines.”

But Samson was a little too strong for his own good. He got prideful in his power and decided to date girls that Moses said he wasn’t supposed to date—Canaanites. If there’s one sin that will really kill you, it’s pride. Pride got the devil kicked out of Heaven, it made Eve take the forbidden fruit and it can make you feel like you don’t need Jesus because everything is going great for you…until you die.

So Samson went after this Canaanite chick named Delilah. Nothing but trouble. He belonged to God, she didn’t. Guess who won? She figured out that Samson got his strength from the Nazarite vow he had taken so she got him to break his vow by cutting his hair. ‘Soon as he did, God let him be just as strong as anyone else and the bad guys came and got him.

After he had caused them so much trouble they wanted to torture him and screw with him rather than just killing him off so they blinded him. Lessons come tough and painful when you rebel against God.

But an amazing thing happened during Samson’s captivity. Without his strength and in his pain, he was no-longer prideful and arrogant. He was broken and humbled and reached out to God to ask for help.

Which is an important lesson. Many times people ask, “Why does God allow suffering if He really loves us?” Because sometimes, suffering is the only way some pig-headed mules like us can realize we need the love of Jesus in our lives. If He didn’t throw in some temporary suffering we’d take our prideful butts right into Hell. And that’s forever.

So God answered Samson (as He does each time for us all).

samson takes down pagan columnsThe pagans were having a party for their pagan “god” in their pagan temple and they decided to have some fun with Samson. They pulled him out of jail and brought him to their temple.

But Samson’s hair had grown back by that time and God had answered his prayers. He let a nearby boy have him put his hands on the pillars that supported the place. Then God gave him his strength back and he wrecked the place wiping out all the pagans in it.

Is there any symbolism here too? Of course. Who is it that refused to accept Jesus because of their pride? His Jewish people! You can’t accept Jesus or even be used by him very well when your ego gets in the way.

But one day the Jews will be humbled like Samson and return to their God and accept him—

Zephaniah 3:11-12
11  And then you will no longer need to be ashamed of yourselves, for you will no longer be rebels against Me. I will remove all the proud and arrogant people from among you. There will be no pride on My Holy Mountain.
12  Those who are left will be the lowly and the humble, for it is they who trust in the Name of the LORD.
NLT

Zechariah 12:10
10  “Then I will pour out a Spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on all the people of Jerusalem. They will look on Me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.”
NLT

Do I have to spell this awesome Old Testament passage out for you? “Look on Me whom they have pierced.” “Mourn for him like an only son who has died”? That’s Jesus dude. Right there in the Old Testament.

If it had been a snake it would’ve bit ya.

Long Live the King

The next thing that warped the Children of Israel was seeing that their neighbors had a “king.” In the system God gave them, they didn’t need a king—they had Him!

But that’s the way our minds work when we let the Original Sin in us have it’s way. There’s a saying that fits what they did real well, “The grass is always greener on the other side.”

So, because the people were thinking with their “flesh” (another way of saying the evil that lives in our bodies because of the Original Sin of Adam and Eve), God decided to give them exactly what they wanted. A guy who was unusually tall and good looking named “Saul.” The perfect king…on the outside.

But the inside is where it counts and Saul had some trouble doing just what God told him to do (which was usually through a prophet named Samuel then).

Over time, it was obvious that he wasn’t really a very good king.

But God had planned for a better man to take the throne all along. And it seems that He wanted to be sure the guy could handle the power by giving him real humble beginnings—in a field surrounded by smelly sheep.

While Saul was screwing up, God sent His mouthpiece Samuel to pick out the next king. When he got to a certain family, he started going through all the children to see which one would be it. When he got to the biggest, strongest, toughest-looking guy he thought, “Here he is!” But check out what God said—

I Samuel 16:6-7
7  But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person’s heart.”
NLT

So Sam was like, “Well who else is there at this guy’s house?” ‘cause he had gone through all the guy’s sons. And the dude said, “All I have left is this little squirt out in the field taking care of my sheeps.”

His name was David.

The King of Israel

Now David became real popular with the people real quick. But there was just one little problem—Saul was still king. And Saul knew how popular David was getting and he didn’t like it. In fact, he tried to do David in a couple of times. But the Bible says that God was with David and each time he got the best of king Saul.

Yet, instead of turning around and whacking Saul (which was a sure way to make himself king), David refused to rush God. If he was going to be king, God was going to do it for him. That was one of the things that made David so great. When there’s something you want, do you try to help God along to get it to you? Remember the mess Abraham and Sarah got into when they did that?

That’s the kind of faith David had in God when the Israelites started fighting again with some of their evil neighbors, the Philistines. They wouldn’t have had to put up with the crap if they had wiped ‘em out the way God said to but they left the Philistines hanging around to raid on ‘em and kill ‘em so they had to go back to war with them.

Now the Philistines were so evil that they had demons giving them an ace in the hole. Somehow or other (don’t ask), demons were able to monkey with human genetics. Normally that’s not possible but it was really messed up what they did so that’s why I say “don’t ask.” It was the same kind of perverse stuff they were doing when Josh brought the Israelites there in the first place. They didn’t wipe out the Canaanites so they didn’t stop them from doing what they were doing.

Well these people the demons were experimenting with weren’t just normal people. They were like super-warriors who were real tall and stuff. One of them was this bad-ass named “Goliath.” Dude was over 9 feet tall! So each day, he would go out onto the battlefield and challenge the Jews to a one-on-one, whoever wins, wins the war.

Chah! Right! That’s like my grandmother taking on The Undertaker in a WWF free-for-all (and my grandmother is a short little shriveled-up chick). Needless to say, dude couldn’t get no takers.

So every day he kept coming out and he was getting raw on the Jews and on God with his mouth because he didn’t think anyone could touch him. Well, one day, David was up bringing some snacks to his bros who were soldiers and stuff, and he heard this loud mouth insulting God. Now David loved God a whole lot and he got all kinds of ticked off. Especially when he saw all these Jewish soldiers just standing there and letting the dude do it. So he was like, “I’ll take him on!”

But everybody else saw this little teenage guy and they looked back at Goliath and they were like, “Chah! Right!”

But what did they have to lose? Nobody else was going out there!

david and goliathSo David had this little sling shot he used to keep the wolves and lions off of his sheeps and he was real good with it. Even though the king tried to give him some armor, it wouldn’t fit so he skipped it. What was really going on was that God was prepping everyone for a monster miracle. David went out there and in mid-insult, whacked the giant but good! Took the dude out with a rock! The Jews were like, “Woohoo!” and ended up winning the war from that. But even then they didn’t wipe out every last Philistine and that will play out later (just like it did the first time).

Needless to say, David got real popular after that.

Actually, I got it backwards. David knocked off Goliath before Saul got jealous and tried to do him in but the bottom line is that David really loved God a lot and refused to do the wrong thing even though everybody knew he was gonna be the next Big Cheese in Israel.

And, sure enough, Saul and all his sons (who would’ve taken over from their father as king) got wiped out by—guess who? —The Philistines.

So not only did David become king, his conscience was clean because he didn’t make it happen in some evil, selfish way on his own.

Trouble in River City

As soon as David became king he started kicking butt on all of the enemies around Israel.

But, being king, David had a lot of off time to just sit around. What happens to you when you have off time? You get into trouble don’t you? Did you ever hear the saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s work,” (or something like that)? That’s because we all have evil in us. One way to keep it back is to keep busy. If we’re not busy, the evil has a great chance at coming out and causing trouble. And that’s kind of what happened to David.

You see David was a king in the Middle East. And kings out there had this habit of not being happy with just one woman. They wanted a bunch of them (like any hormone-driven man with no fear of God). But the king can make up his own rules so they started having what is called a “harem” which is a bunch of “wives” for the king. ‘Course the rules are different for the little people but isn’t that the way it always is?

So what are we talking about when kings do this? Sex. But just sex. Pure physical lust. And you find out that, when you do the nasty just for the sake of physical fun without having your heart and soul involved (this can only happen through God, playing by God’s Rules), you feel empty when the fun is over.

That’s what David had. He didn’t know any better. He was just acting like the kings around him (which is one of the big reasons why God wanted the Israelites to wipe out the evil people around them).

hot chick in cold waterNot being satisfied with what he had, David saw a babe taking a bath one day and decided he wanted her too. Only problem was she had a husband who was off fighting a war for David!

So Dave thought he could get a little midnight rendezvous in. But guess what happened? Not only did they tango but they had to pay the piper afterwards. Chick got pregnant.

So Dave figured, “Crap! I’ll just call the guy back, he’ll sleep with his wife and he won’t know the kid is mine.”

But the dude was a nicer guy than Dave gave him credit for. He came back alright, but he refused to have a good time with his wife when his buddies were fighting and dieing on the battlefield. He slept outside which screwed Dave’s plan completely.

So the next lesson learned was that sin feeds itself and rolls downhill until, if you don’t stop it, it blows up in your face big time.

Dave now began to get desperate. The only way he could figure to cover his butt was to do the guy in. So he sent the guy back to the battlefield with his own death warrant—orders to the captain dude to send him all the way up to the front, front lines.

This time Dave’s plan was successful. The captain dude had all of Dave’s best warriors (and this guy, “Uriah,” was one of them) charge right up to the wall of a castle where a woman dropped a rock on him and did him in.

Now, if that seems like an embarrassing and insulting way for a top warrior to die, it was. Betrayed by his own king whom he was fighting and bleeding for.

Wanna ask the question now? What other courageous, straight-shooting good guy got betrayed and murdered and died in an embarrassing, insulting way? Jesus.

Even though David loved God and God loved David, God was looking down at that and said, “Yo man, that’s messed up.” So God sent a prophet named Nathan to tell David, “Yo man, that’s messed up.”

I mean really, adultery and murder when you are the king just looks bad to all the people who hate your guts and gives them an excuse to diss God.

As soon as Nathan called David on what he had done, instead of getting all prideful and making excuses, he fell on his knees and asked for God’s forgiveness. Another reason why David was so great, even after making such horrible mistakes (but haven’t we all??).

When that happened, God told him that his sins were forgiven—a real important thing if you’re looking to get into Heaven. That’s why it’s so awesome to have Jesus.

But Dave didn’t have Jesus. And even though God forgave him, he was still responsible for what he did. So he paid the piper. And he paid BIG.

What did David do? —Violation and murder. And that’s just what happened to him. In his own family, amongst his own kids.

You see David had a lot of love in his heart and that was what hurt him the most. The same thing that made him so great hurt him the most—

I John 4:8
8  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
NASU

But David sucked it all up. He knew he was paying for what he had done wrong so he took all the pain like a man and never once cussed out God.

Which is probably why, despite his mistakes, he goes down as Israel’s greatest king.

So far. Another King will be back soon. And I don’t mean Elvis.

More Signs

The son that Dave chose to rule after him was his son Solomon.

Solomon was like this really wise dude who also came from that Bathsheba chick (how about that for mercy from God). One day, there were these 2 chicks. One of them suffocated her baby by accident and stole the other’s baby to replace it (messed up huh?). So they both ended up in front of the king who was like, “OK, who wants the kid?” But they were both making like the kid was theirs so the king said, “Cool. Get me a hacksaw and I’ll split him up for y’as.” He said this ‘cause he was like really wise and stuff. He knew that the real mom would rather see her baby taken from her than killed. When the fake mom said, “Do it,” he knew who the real mom was.

Solomon wrote all kinds of really wise stuff in the Bible in books called “Proverbs” and “Ecclesiastes” (which means “preacher”). The most important part about that is that Solomon had all the time, money and power a guy could want but, no matter what he tried to get his jollies, it still left him empty. That’s what Ecclesiastes is all about. You have a Jesus-shaped hole in your heart that only he can fill. Without Him, you just keep searching.

Acts 17:26-27
26  From one man [Adam] God created all the nations throughout the whole Earth. He decided beforehand which should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries.
27  His Purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us.
NLT

But the really interesting thing that happened was that, after Solomon his son took over being king, a dude named Rehoboam. Hey, I don’t name ‘em, I just write ‘em!

But the interesting part was that the guy sucked at kinging the people. They got all ticked off and split up the kingdom over it. So ask the question again. Ready?

First is king David, then his son, and then the kingdom is divided.

First is God, then His Son, then a division of Jews, some becoming “Christians” and some refusing to accept Jesus—a division amongst God’s Chosen People.

History

map of the divided kingdomThe two nations that came out of the civil war were the Northern Nation called “Israel,” and the Southern Nation called “Judah.”

The Northern Nation just went all to pot. They didn’t have Jerusalem (their capital was Samaria) or any of the special Jewish things that kept them close to God so they immediately started screwing up. So after a bit of that, God was like, “OK, everybody out of the pool again.” And He sent in the Assyrian nation to whoop up on the Northern Nation of Israel (which had 10 of the 13 tribes—counting “Joseph” as “Ephraim and Manasseh”). And when the Assyrians went in, whomever they didn’t take away as slaves, they forced to intermingle with other people. Exactly what God said for the Israelites not to do because it would give them evil habits. But they already had that anyway so it didn’t really matter.

As a result, the people left behind in Samaria turned out to have this weird mix of Judaism and paganism. That’s what started the rest of the Jews hating them so much.

What’s sad and interesting is that, if you look at the Northern and Southern Nations as models of Israel and the Christian Church, you get kind of embarrassed because even though the Northern Nation (called “Israel,” model of Israel and Judaism) was really rebellious and bad, the Southern nation (called “Judah,” model or “type” of the Christian Church) didn’t do much better. Eventually, they were rebellious enough to get their butt whooped too. God sent the Babylonians in to do to them what the Assyrians did to the Northern Nation.

The Little Mouth that Roared

Amongst the people taken back to Babylon as slaves when this happened were four young guys named Daniel (whom the Babylonians renamed “Belteshazzar”), Hananiah (“Shadrach”), Mishael (“Meshach”) and Asariah (“Abednego”). For some reason, the Babylonian king had this odd habit of taking young slave dudes and hooking them up with good educations and good food so that they could work for him. And that’s what happened to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Asariah.

The only bad thing for them in all this was that the king’s special food was stuff that was killed or cooked outside of the ways Moses had said (“unkosher” remember?) and they were offered up to pagan idols in Babylonian worship services. So the four dudes asked the guy in charge over them if he would please bring them veggies instead.

Well disobeying the king was something that got your head separated from the rest of you but the guys were so nice about it their manager was like, “OK, we’ll give it a try. But if you start looking hungry and sick in front of the king, the deal is off,”—‘cause then the king would know something was up and heads would roll!

But the Bible said that God was pleased with the way the 4 dudes were trying to do the right thing even though they risked their necks to do it so that after a week and a half they looked more healthy than any of the other employees of the king.

It’s a good thing to remember. If you ever get to the point in your life where you are loving Jesus so much that you are taking stands for him left and right, be nice about it. Don’t throw things in people’s faces. It only turns them off to Jesus because you are a representative of him. In fact, if your heart is in the wrong place while you are doing the right thing, you don’t get no credit for that—

Luke 18:9-14
9  Then Jesus told this story to some who had great self-confidence and scorned everyone else:
10  “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector.
11  The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery,
12  I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
13  But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to Heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’
14  I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.”
NLT

And that’s just what God did for those four dudes. Especially Daniel because he was the leader with the original idea. God raised him up to be really important to the king whose name was (get this) “Nebuchadnezzar.”

One day, the king had this wild dream that made him really upset so he called together all his employees whose job it was to tell him this stuff and asked them what the dream was all about. So they were like, “What was your dream Nebby?” But the king said, “Anybody can play ‘Sigmund Freud’ and pretend to make up meaning behind what I dreamed. If you’re worth your salt, you’ll tell me without me saying what it was.” I think the king had too many of his “magicians” lie to him (‘cause magicians are phony anyway). So they said, “Hey, we can’t do that!” So the king was like, “Then what good are ya’s?! Off with your heads!!”

Daniel (who was one of the would-be victims) got wind of this and said, “OK doc, give me a whack at it.” He went up to Nebby and said, “Yo king. There’s only one guy in the whole universe who knows what you want to know—the God of Israel. And I’ve already prayed about it and God showed me in a dream what your dream was all about.”

nebuchadnezzars_statueThe dream was of a giant statue. The head was gold, the chest and arms were silver, the midsection was bronze, the legs and feet were iron and the feet and toes were iron mixed with clay. This turned out to be a wild prophesy of the major empires of man throughout history. The golden head was Nebby and the Babylonian empire. The silver chest and arms was the Medo/Persian empire. The bronze midsection was the empire of Greece and the legs of iron was Rome.

The feet and toes of iron mixed with clay? That was to be an empire that would rise from the ashes of Rome. A confederation of 10 nations that had some strange components to it (notice how all the statue was metal until the clay at the end). Some Bible scholars believe that the same shenanigans the devil pulled with putting demonic giants in the Promised Land to keep Joshua and the Israelites from conquering it, he is doing now to keep Jesus from returning and conquering the whole Earth. There is also an idea that what is called the “European Union” (a European version of the United Nations) is that last world empire. When the “EU” starts getting powerful—it already exists—expect Jesus to be around the corner. Will you be ready for his return?

The Fiery Furnace

Needless to say, Danny got Neb’s dream right and solved the puzzle for him to boot. So he got a serious promotion. So Danny turned around and hooked up his buds with promotions too.

But the dream seemed to get Nebby fixated on gold statues. He decided to build one and tell everyone to kneel down and worship it. Hananiah, Mishael and Asariah decided to take a stand and not do that.

Well, all the jealous Babylonians who were ticked at these outsider Jews getting phat promotions now had something to complain about. And complain they did, right on up to ole king Nebby.

When Nebby got wind of that, he went bonkers. He got a special furnace stoked up so hot that the guys throwing the wood in got burned up themselves. Then he got Hananiah, Mishael and Asariah in front of him and said, “Look boys, worship my statue or in ya go.” Hananiah, Mishael and Asariah looked at the king and said, “Kingy, with all due respect, no.”

Getting serious for a sec, these guys really did say pretty much, “We’d rather be burned to death then go against what God doesn’t want us to do.” People who have that much faith and who love God that much, end up being a lot more famous than any movie star. That’s why we’ve been reading about Hananiah, Mishael and Asariah for the past 2,537 years.

That’s also probably why God pulled such an awesome miracle on them. Because Nebby sure did throw them into the fire. There was just one little problem—they didn’t die. They didn’t even get burned! In fact, they just walked around in there! But what was really weird, was that they weren’t alone. Look what Nebby said as he watched—

Daniel 3:24-25
24  Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.”
25  He said, “Look! I see four men walking around loose about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”
NASU

walking around in the fiery furnacePagans have “gods” but who do you think a “son of god” could be?

Hmmm…gotta pause for a moment on that one…

In fact, this whole incident is chock full of symbolism with Jesus. One way to look at it is that, if you love Jesus, he won’t let you go through painful challenges all alone.

Another way is that, if you love Jesus, the fires of Hell won’t touch you or have an affect on you. King Nebby finally had to call the guys out and he was like, “Ah guys, please come out now.” ‘Cause sure as heck no one was going in after them! When they came out, they didn’t even smell of smoke.

And that’s pretty much what it’s all about. Having a relationship with Jesus that guarantees you a free pass into Heaven. Because I’ll tell you what, “forever” is a long time to spend in someplace you don’t want to be.

The Writing on the Wall

(a short aside)

This is not real important to history but there are a lot of things that people throw around today that comes from the Bible and they don’t even know it.

One of them is “man does not live on bread alone.” Ever hear that? That’s from the Bible and it is a quote from the Old Testament that Jesus used to tell the devil to shove off with—

Matthew 4:1-4
1  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2  And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
3  And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4  But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”
NASU

For some reason, people like to leave off the “But on every word that proceeds from the Mouth of God” part. Usually because anything that has to do with “God” or “Jesus” either makes people happy with their faith or makes them ashamed with their sins. There’s no in between and most people are the ones who are ashamed with their sins. That’s why there’s all this bull puckey about “separation of Church and state” (words, by the way, which aren’t even in the Constitution). The real truth of the matter is that most people just want to run away as far from Jesus as they can so they can ignore him and love their sins.

There’s another saying that comes from the Bible and the Book of Daniel explains it.

There was another king after Nebby in Babylon named “Belshazzar” who may have been Nebby’s grandkid. He was kind of dumb in that he cared more about getting his jollies with wild parties than he did running the kingdom. Well, when you’re on top like the Babylonians, everyone wants to take a crack at you and the Persians were next in line. So while the Persians were outside the walls of the city of Babylon trying real hard to break in, Belshazzar was like, “Hey, lets par-tey!”

But boozin’ and cruisin’ wasn’t enough for Shazz. He wanted to show off too. And his idea was to have someone go get the nice shiny things they had taken from the Israelites out of their Temple when they conquered them.

Not a good idea to show off at God’s expense—

Galatians 6:7
7  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, they will also reap.
NASU

the writing on the wallWell in the middle of Shazz’s party, the fun came to a screeching halt when everyone saw a giant hand whose finger burned some writing into a wall—“MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” Which means, “Numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.”

Needless to say, Shazz was a little shook up to have his party crashed by a giant hand. OK, a lot shook up. So he was like, “Quick! Get someone to figure this out!”

So Shazz’s mom came in and said, “Relax sonny. Even though your magicians couldn’t figure this out,”—and they couldn’t—“there is an old guy your grandpappy relied on for such things named Daniel. I’ll get him.”

By this time Danny was an old dude. And maybe even a little bit cocky over how smug and obnoxious this kid ruler was. Even though Shazz made all these extravagant promises to whomever could tell him what the writing on the wall meant, Danny was like, “Don’t bother dude. I’ll tell you for free because you’re done for anyway.” And he told him about how the God had put the writing on the wall (Daniel was good at that wasn’t he?) and that it meant Shazz had been measured, weighed and found deficient on the scales and so his kingdom was now to be divided between the Medes and the Persians. And, sure enough, that’s just what happened.

After reading the writing on the wall, Shazz bit the big one when the Medes and Persians snuck in by drying up the part of the Euphrates river which ran through Babylon (this way they didn’t have to try and break down the strong city walls). They figured that out while Shazz was partying.

And that is also what will happen to anyone who refuses to accept Jesus as their Savior. When you die you will be measured and weighed. Without Jesus standing with you on the scales, you will drop…right into the fires of Hell. Now is the time to read the writing on the wall and ask Jesus into your heart and your life.

Down in a Hole

OK.  Had to give the little salvation pitch there. Sorry. But you might see it again.

The cool thing was that Daniel survived the take-over quite well. Darius the Mede (I think I’m going to start calling myself “JD the American”), also known as “Cyrus,” took Danny from being important to the Babylonians and made him important to the conquering Medes. Very unusual unless you factor in how God was with Daniel and loved him.

But there were still a lot of little Mede peons that didn’t like that one bit. Just like the Babby peons who were ticked at Jewish dudes gettin promoted over them.

And you know what? They got even more ticked when they found out they had nothing to frame Danny with. By this time he was around 80. What some Christians might call a “Silver Saint.” He’d been living right for so long he didn’t know any other way. Getting bad habits under control isn’t easy, but once you learn how to do it every day, it becomes second nature. The Medes couldn’t find anything to frame Danny on. He didn’t take bribes, he didn’t sleep around, he didn’t cheat. It drove them nuts. The only thing they could get him on was his devotion to a strange God.

So they came up with the idea to get Darius to make a law forbidding people to worship anyone but him. Made the little weasels look good and totally screwed over Daniel, who kept right on praying three times a day like he always did.

As soon as they saw that that weasels went running to the king to get Danny in trouble.

Now the king didn’t have a clue about what they were up to and when he saw that they had framed Danny he was very upset because the king liked Daniel a whole lot. So he tried to find a way to let Danny off the hook but couldn’t and was forced to throw Danny into a cave full of hungry lions.

The king spent the whole night fasting. The next day he ran to the cave to see if Danny had survived and, you know what, he was still there! He told the king how God sent His angel to close the mouths of the lions. When Darius saw that Danny was still alive he was very happy. And when the king saw that Danny had survived by a miracle from God, he took the guys who had framed him and put them and even their families in the cave instead for a lion snack. They weren’t quite as protected as Danny. *burp*

Daniel in the lions' den

The symbolism here is not as clear as other places except for the obvious—those who love Jesus have the best friend and ally they every could.

I John 2:1
1  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…
NASU

Daniel’s Seventy Weeks

Crystal_Ball_by_TrishBut perhaps the best and most exciting part of the Book of Daniel are the prophetic (as in, “will happen in the future”) visions in the back. Like I’ve already said to you, prophesies in the Bible that have come true to the most precise detail are powerful reasons to believe the Bible is the Book. As a result, the idea of “when” such prophesies are written is always a big issue between those who support the Bible and those who attack it. The Book of Daniel is no exception. Once again, if you want to get in to this stuff, let me know by calling or writing and I can send you something or direct you. But for now, I’ll just worry about explaining stuff to ya.

In Chapter 9 Danny tells us that, one day, he was reading his Bible (well, at least the parts he understood to be from God in his day like writings from the prophet Jeremiah). And while reading what Jeremiah wrote, he saw a prophesy about how long the Israelites would be enslaved in Babylon for their sins—

Jeremiah 25:11
11  This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.
NLT

Pretty wild huh? But the thing was that Danny realized that the Jews really didn’t deserve to have their punishment end. They hadn’t turned around very much at all. So Daniel got real serious about asking God to keep His Promise even though they didn’t deserve it by praying a whole lot and fasting. Fasting is swearing off something important to you for a little while like food (but not just food) as a sacrifice to God so that He will see how much you love Him and answer your prayers…because love is sacrifice.

And it’s kind of awesome how Daniel was doing that anyway because really what did he care? He was all hooked up in Babylon with special rights and privileges. He didn’t need to return to Israel.

But Daniel loved his people and he wanted the good things that happened to them to show the world how awesome his God was. And God loved him for that so He sent an angel to answer his prayers.

And not just any angel, the archangel Gabriel who always brought messages about Jesus. This is what he told Daniel—

angel with swordDaniel 9:24-27
24  “A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to put down rebellion, to bring an end to sin, to atone for guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
25  Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times.
26  After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end.
27  He will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. Then as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the end that has been decreed is poured out on this defiler.”

Now this is an awesome prophesy. Let me take it one line at a time.

“A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city…”

Most people understand “seventy sets of seven” to mean “490 years.” So Gabriel was saying that there would be 490 years before—

“…to put down rebellion, to bring an end to sin, to atone for guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”

Now that’s some pretty wild and amazing stuff. In fact, there’s something screwy here because Danny wrote this around 537 BC and there’s no way that 490 years couldn’t have happened by now even depending on when you started the count, but there sure is a lot of sin in the world still. And I know that there ain’t no “everlasting righteousness” here. But maybe the next verse can help—

“Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven…”

“Listen and understand,” is another way of saying, “Hey! This is tricky so pay attention!” “Seven sets and sixty-two sets” seems to be another way of saying that the 490 years will be broken up into 483 and 7. Something is going to happen first, the clock will stop, then it will start again.

But what is going to happen and when?

“…from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times.”

So a command is going to be given for the Israelites to return to Jerusalem! Danny must’ve been like, “Woohoo!”

But not just any command. The people were actually going to be allowed to rebuild the city defenses so that no one could come whoop up on them again. That was very unusual. Sometimes a conquering king might get in a generous mood and allow some slaves to return home but never would they say, “go home and strengthen up so that no one (even me) can come get you again.”

And who the heck is this “Anointed One”?? Here’s a hint; “anointed one” in Greek is “Christ.”

So here we have a prediction of when Jesus will show up! But when does the clock start ticking? That’s where this really unusual command comes up (probably why God put that in there). If somebody was serious enough about doing their homework, they should be able to find it in history.

And there was just such a guy named Robert Anderson.

He was an English dude that worked at the Royal Observatory (the British got a lot of “royal” stuff over there). Unlike me, Robby liked to do his homework. He went through history and found that, even though there was more than one command to the Jews to go home, there was only one where they were told to get strong again.

The first came from this dude Cyrus I told you about. When he came in and whooped up on the Babylonians, he was shown prophesies the Jews had written about him before he had ever been on the scene—

Isaiah 44:28-45:1
28  “I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command that Jerusalem be rebuilt and that the Temple be restored.”

Chapter 45

1  This is what the LORD says to Cyrus, His anointed one, whose right hand He will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never again to shut against him.
NLT

When Cyrus saw that, he was like, “Hey that’s wild. You know what, just for that I will let you guys go.” But that wasn’t the one where he specifically said, “Rebuild your defenses.”

And there was a problem. The Israelites had actually gotten nice and comfy in Babylon. Most of them weren’t all that eager to leave. It took a fire-breathing prophet named Nehemiah to get the people to return and to rebuild the most famous city in the world—Jerusalem.

But first he had to get the “OK” from the Persian king at the time. A dude named Artaxerxes (“Longimanus” ‘cause there was more than one of them). And that was the commandment that Robert Anderson was able to locate as the starting point for Gabriel’s prophecy.

And there was something else Robert Anderson found out. During this time in history, both the Jews and the Babylonians used 30 day months and 360 day years rather than the calendars we have today. That had to be figured in to the equation.

So just how many days is 483 years? Figure it out for yourself! 483 years x 30 days in a month x 12 months in a year = 173,880 days. And when did Artaxerxes give the command to “restore and rebuild” Jerusalem? March 14th, 445 BC. So if you start there, and count 173,880 days into the future, you land on April 6th, 32 AD. The day this happens—

Matthew 21:1-11
1  As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead.
“Go into the village over there,” He said, “and you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them here.
If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately send them.”
4  This was done to fulfill the prophecy—
5  “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey—even on a donkey’s colt.’” [Zechariah 9:9] 6  The two disciples did as Jesus said.
7  They brought the animals to him and threw their garments over the colt, and He sat on it.
8  Most of the crowd spread their coats on the road ahead of Jesus, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
9  He was in the center of the procession, and the crowds all around him were shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David! Bless the one who comes in the Name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!”
10  The entire city of Jerusalem was stirred as He entered. “Who is this?” they asked.
11  And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”—NLT

jesus on a donkey clipartThis happened to the exact day. Pretty wild huh? One of the ways I answer people when they say, “So what’s different about Jesus and the Bible next to all the other religions of the world?” Remember, that’s only one of over three hundred prophesies about Jesus. There are even more prophesies than that about other things like the nation of Israel. Anyone who is sincere and objective in doing their homework (as opposed to someone who walks up trying to prove something before they even get started) can’t help but become a follower of Jesus through that. And many have.

Oh yeah, speaking of doing your homework, Robert Anderson was knighted by the Queen of England for all the homework he did on that prophesy. If you like homework you can read it for yourself in his book called The Coming Prince.

I don’t know if he kept his armor though.

The Coming Prince

Well, after all of this lead-in for Jesus, symbolism, prophecy and what-not, perhaps it’s time to talk openly about the guy.

As most of you know, he was born in a little town called “Bethlehem.” But perhaps not as many of you know that this was another fulfillment of prophecy—

Micah 5:2
2  “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His origins are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
New American Standard Update

The birth of Jesus had a few more prophesies attached to it. That he would be able to trace his family lines through king David—

Jeremiah 23:5-6
5  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.
6  In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’”
NASU

Through Abraham—

Genesis 12:1-3
1  Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you;
2  and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing;
3  and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. and through you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
NASU

And even all the way back to Adam—

Genesis 3:14-15
14  The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life;
15  and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.”
NASU

That’s why the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have obvious genealogies in them. Believe it or not, the Jews acted up again later on and God had to send yet another country in to whoop up on them. This time it was the Romans and the biggest reason God sent the Romans in was from Jesus…because they had rejected him—

Luke 19:41-44
41  But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry.
42  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How I wish that even today you would find the way of peace! But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from you.
43  Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you.
44  They will crush you to the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you have rejected the opportunity God offered you.”
NLT

This was fulfilled in 70 AD by the Romans who came in to sack Jerusalem and burn down the special Temple there. Interestingly, since that day it has been impossible for any Jew to trace their family tree to be sure of the prophecies concerning the lineage of the Anointed One (“Messiah” or “Meshiach” in Hebrew). So, either God was lying, the Bible is wrong, or the Messiah had to have been here before 70 AD. Gee, I wonder who that was?

A Virgin With Child

Perhaps you’ve heard about Jesus was “all God” and “all man” both at the same time. How is that possible? Well, one of the reasons for that was how his Earthly body was made. For that, let me talk real quick about the “s” word; sex (for those of you who just said “Oh boy!” re-lax!).

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Why am I here?” The answer is that you are here to be the companion of Jesus, the Son of God—

Colossians 1:16
16  For by Him all things were created, both in the Heavens and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
NASU (emphasis added)

The Creator of the Universe wants you to be his friend—

Exodus 33:11
11  Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.
NASU

James 2:21-23
21  Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was declared right with God because of what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
22  You see, he was trusting God so much that he was willing to do whatever God told him to do. His faith was made complete by what he did—by his actions.
23  And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous.” He was even called “the friend of God.”
NLT

But even more than that. We are meant to be for Jesus what a wife is to her husband—

Ephesians 5:25-32
25  And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the Church. He gave up his life for her
26  to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word.
27  He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.
28  In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man is actually loving himself when he loves his wife.
29  No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church.
30  And we are his body.
31  As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”
32  This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.
NLT

So the complete intimacy and joy a wife has with her husband is a model of the intimacy and joy we are meant to have with Jesus in Heaven.

That’s what sex is about and why it dominates the minds of so many people. They just want to fulfill their purpose of being the companion of Jesus and most of them don’t even know it.

Sex was created by God so it is never “dirty.” And it is meant to show us the joy of being with Jesus in Heaven so, despite what a lot of square Christians have said, it’s primary purpose is not to create crumb-crunchers. In fact, having babies is a model of the new life that comes from joining yourself to Jesus—

John 3:1-4
1  After dark one evening, a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus, a Pharisee,
2  came to speak with Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you.”
3  Jesus replied, “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God.”
NLT

Problems show up when people don’t have enough moral discipline to have sex with that one special person God intended for them in marriage and so the model is spoiled. Jesus doesn’t want you to “date” him. He wants you to marry Him and be His forever! So when you have sex with just anyone, it is actually offensive to God.

The key to really enjoying yourself in this life is discipline. Having the discipline to wait for just the right moment will make that moment so much more enjoyable than if you jump right in and ruin it.

But, sex is only a model. Compared to the real thing, it actually does seem “dirty”—

Romans 8:15-18
15  So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into His Family—calling him “Father,” even “Daddy.”
16  For His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.
17  And since we are His children, we will share His Treasures—for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share His Glory, we must also share His Suffering.
18  Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will give us later.
NLT

Because like I said before, real love, “true” love is selfless sacrifice. It’s not what “they” can do for you, but what you can do for them.

But how about that idea that as great as sex can be (and any teenagers reading this saying “I don’t know yet”—don’t worry about it!), it is so far beneath the real thing it looks dirty? That’s probably one of the reasons God skipped right over that part to bring Jesus to us. For Jesus to be born that way it almost seems “dirty.” So he wasn’t. Instead he was conceived through a gentle miracle—

mary's annunciationLuke 1:26-35
26  God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,
27  to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.
28  Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29  Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
30  “Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to bless you!
31  You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus.
32  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.
33  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34  Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”
35  The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the Power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”
NLT

This too was a fulfillment of prophecy—

Isaiah 7:14
14  “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
NASU

A lot of people (especially rebellious Jews who try real hard to deny Jesus) have said, “Yeah, well Jesus wasn’t called ‘Immanuel.’”

They haven’t done their homework. If they had, they would’ve found out that “Immanuel” means “God with us” to speak of the miracle of Almighty God coming down and existing amongst lowly men and women.

And you don’t even have to be that good at your homework because Matthew spells it out for you!—

Matthew 1:22-23
22  Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23  “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”
NASU

The Enemy

Now just like Jesus is real, the devil is real too. And, being that he got kicked out of Heaven—

Revelation 12:9
9  And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the Earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
NASU

—He’s not a real happy guy. Especially towards us. The last thing he wanted to see was Jesus making it into the world to pull us out of Hell and leave him and his buds there all alone. So he came up with a plan. He got into the head of the ruler in that area called “Herod.”

You see, word was out that someone special was going to be born. Not everyone was dense about the prophesies in the Old Testament. When Herod heard of a special King of kings coming around, he got real jealous. He found out that the King would be born in Bethlehem but no one would tell him who it was. So he just killed off all the baby boys there and near there. Not a very nice guy huh? Especially when he has the devil whispering in his ear.

Fortunately for all of us, an angel came and told Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary, to get the heck out of there before that happened.

So, little Jesus growed up quick and strong.

But it was obvious to most everybody that he was just a little bit different. Like the one time when he was at church and started schooling the preachers there…when he was only 12 years old! Imagine what it would be like to have him as a brother? Every time something got broke in the house you’d get hit for it! ‘Cause everybody knew Jesus didn’t do it!

In fact, some religions don’t believe that Jesus had brothers and sisters. These are people that don’t read the Bible—

Matthew 13:54-56
54  He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?
55  Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
56  And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”
NASU

And, actually, although I was funnin’ about having Jesus for a brother, his brothers and sisters really didn’t believe in him when he was around—

John 7:1-5
1  After this, Jesus stayed in Galilee, going from village to village. He wanted to stay out of Judea where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death.
2  But soon it was time for the Feast of Tabernacles,
3  and Jesus’ brothers urged him to go to Judea for the celebration. “Go where your followers can see your miracles!” they scoffed.
4  “You can’t become a public figure if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, prove it to the world!”
5  For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.—NLT

Not to jump ahead, but seeing him alive after being killed on a cross changed them all. In fact, it is well understood that two of the books of the New Testament were written by half-brothers (they shared the same mother but not the same father/Father) of Jesus—what we call “James” and “Jude” who were actually his brothers Jacob and Judah.

Pretty cool huh?

Make Ready the Way of the Lord

john the baptist preachingNow Jesus had a cousin named John. John was also born in a miraculous way (just not as miraculous as Jesus ‘cause his dad had a part in it). An angel told John’s mom Elizabeth that her child would be special to God from the very beginning. And he was. He grew up to care about nothing except pleasing God. He didn’t care about his clothes, his food or where he lived. All he cared about was preaching and changing people’s lives. And baptizing them.

Baptism was and is an important way for people to make a public statement about how they wanted to leave their sins and love God. Except that a lot of times, when you make a public statement that you wish to live for Jesus, he uses that moment to give you the Holy Spirit. That makes it easier for you to do that. Having the Holy Spirit with you makes you powerful for God, and it’s an awesome gift.

And that’s pretty much what John said; that he was baptizing with water but someone would be showing up after him who would baptize with the fire of the Holy Spirit. He was talking about Jesus.

Now Jesus grew up doing all the right things, especially when it came to being Jewish. And he knew about John trying to make people right with God and baptizing them so he went too.

Matthew 3:14-17
14  But John didn’t want to baptize him. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
15  But Jesus said, “It must be done, because we must do everything that is right.” So then John baptized him.
16  After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the Heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.
17  And a Voice from Heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am very pleased with him.”
NLT

That was for all the people who say, “How important is this guy Jesus?”

But of course Jesus was still the top man on the devil’s hit list. He missed killing Jesus off in Bethlehem with Herod’s plot but he decided to try something different—getting Jesus to sin. If he could get Jesus to sin, he could ruin the whole plan for Jesus to save us.

You see, it has to do with the mechanics of how Jesus did it. Some people say, “Well, I’m a good person why can’t I get in to Heaven on that?” Because that’s your definition of “good.” God’s Definition of “good” is “perfect”—

James 2:10-11
10  The person who keeps all of the laws of God except one is as guilty as the person who has broken all of God’s Laws.
11  For the same God who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” So if you murder someone, you have broken the entire Law, even if you do not commit adultery.
NLT

And if you want to be with Him, you must be like Him—

Matthew 5:48
48  “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
NASU

But we can’t because we sin. So He sent His Son to pay for all our sins so that we could take on his perfection. But if Jesus sinned and was then killed, he wouldn’t have been dying for our sins, he’d have died only for his.

II Corinthians 5:21
21  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
NASU

So the devil tried to get Jesus to sin—

Matthew 4:1-11
1  Then Jesus was led out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted there by the Devil.

This is an important verse even if it might not make any sense. You see no matter how “powerful” the devil is, God always has the last say. Sometimes God will even allow the devil to fool with you just to test you, but as long as you love Him, you’re never in any real danger.

2  For forty days and forty nights he ate nothing and became very hungry.

Some people say, “Aw come on! People can’t go 40 days without eating.” Dude, it’s Jesus. He can do that. :)

3  Then the Devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change these stones into loaves of bread.”
4  But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life; they must live on every word that comes from the Mouth of God.’”

The very thing that was bugging Jesus the most—that he hadn’t eaten in a while—was the first place the devil attacked. Remember that. The devil isn’t stupid. He doesn’t use the things you are strong with to make you sin, he goes for your weaknesses.

5  Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple,
6  and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He orders his angels to protect you. And they will hold you with their hands to keep you from even striking your foot on a stone.’”
7  Jesus responded, “But the Scriptures also say, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’”

You see Jesus knew that real love is sacrifice. So if you really loved God, you wouldn’t ask Him to prove that He loved you. It’s the same with loving people too.

8  Next the Devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him the nations of the world and all their glory.
9  “All this was given to me and I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will only kneel down and worship me.”
10  “Begone, Satan!” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God; serve only Him!’”
11  Then the Devil went away, and angels came and cared for Jesus.—NLT

Notice how the devil even used the Bible to tempt Jesus. The only way that Jesus was able to win each time is that he knew the Bible even better than the devil did.

And his heart was in the right place too.

You see, life isn’t really about physical or material things, it’s about spiritual things. That’s the Great Test; can you look past what you see in front of you that might look real good (but often isn’t once you have it) to what you don’t see and, having faith that it really is better, go for that instead?

Most people can’t. They would much rather live for the “here and now” than worry about a spiritual future they can’t even see. So they go on sinning and doing as they please…until they die. And everybody dies.

Following the Man

Well, it didn’t take long for a guy like Jesus to build a following. Which only makes sense. The Bible says that we were made for Jesus. Remember Acts 17:26-27? You should! I quoted it a couple of pages back! So when he finally shows up people are going to notice.

Jesus started out with a corps group of—guess how many Apostles (by the way, “Apostle” means “one who is sent”)? C’mon, think how many kids Jacob had. 12! That’s why some Bible scholars say that 12 is God’s number for government. Eh. If you agree, cool. If not, it ain’t important.

SO…just in case you don’t know ‘em all (as most people don’t), I’ll take a sec and list the original 12—

1)  Simon, aka Peter, aka Cephas (Greek name)

2)  James (brother of John)

3)  John (brother of James)

—These first three were very special to Jesus.—

4)  Andrew (brother of Peter)

5)  Philip—just “Philip”

6)  Nathaniel, a.k.a. Bartholomew

7)  Thomas, a.k.a. Didymus

8)  Matthew, a.k.a. Levi (Jewish name)

9)  Simon the Zealot (passionate political dude who hated the Romans)

10)  Jude, a.k.a. Thaddeus

11)  James the Less (short guy—just kidding)

12)  Judas Iscariot (we all know him!)

Now, remember the different ways of counting Jacob’s kids? Depending on which way you counted you could come up with 12, 13 or 14 tribes. Well, by some strange coincidence, the same is true for the Apostles.

When Judas realized that he had been the reason a great and innocent man had been executed, he hung himself. That meant he had to be replaced. So the other Apostles prayed on it and selected a guy named Matthias for the job. What were the qualifications? Well, you had to have known Jesus from the day he was baptized to when he ascended into Heaven after Pentecost. As a result, there ain’t no more Apostles even though a lot of people today in churches want to give themselves special titles like that.

Oh yeah, there was one more—Paul, aka Saul of Tarsus. So there is the original 12, then Matthias and Paul without Judas is 13, or all of ‘em together is 14. Cool huh?

And did you also notice how a lot of them had a second name? There’s a lesson in that. Jesus said that, in order to get to Heaven, you must be “Born Again.” Changed, by accepting him into your heart and life (John 3:1-4). When that happens, you leave the worldly, sinful “you” behind and become a new person in Jesus—

II Corinthians 5:17
17  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things are here.
NASU

Having a second or new name was a symbol of that.

And here’s something else that’s cool about the people whom God chose to be around him—they were all regular guys. Some smelly fishermen, a guy who was in politics and even a guy who worked for the IRS. God didn’t go around and pick the most brilliant scientists or the most powerful world and religious leaders to have as his closest friends. He picked people like you and me—

Matthew 11:25-26
25  Then Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, thank you for hiding the Truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to those who are simple and childlike.
26  Yes, Father, I can see how it pleased you to do it this way!”
NLT

The Man, the Life, the Legend

Now before I get into too much detail about things the man did, let me tell you that I’m not going to list each one. That would make this darn study F-a-t. I just want to give you a teaser. You can read the more full account for yourself in your own Bible.

But even then, it won’t be a complete list—

John 21:25
25  And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.
NASU

jesus overturns tablesBut there are a couple of things that are worth exploring. Like the time Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration (a requirement amongst Jewish men; Deuteronomy 16:16) and found the people and priests buying and selling animals for the sacrifices. Besides the fact that people were trying to make a buck in God’s House, there were even people who claimed to represent God who were abusing their authority.

Just like today.

You see, when it came to the animal sacrifices in Judaism, the animals had to be of a special kind. Like the lambs for the Passover had to be perfect (Exodus 12:5), just like Jesus was perfectly without sin. So the Temple priests were responsible for inspecting lambs that all the Jewish families brought in. But what was to stop them from saying, “Uh-oh. Nope, this one won’t do. But I just happened to have this lamb over hear that you can have for your mandatory sacrifice…at a slightly inflated price.”

When Jesus saw that he freaked out. He took a knotted rope and started whoopin’ up on all the people.

One of the reasons I mention this is that most people think of Jesus as one-dimensional—a quiet, nice, meek guy. Of course Jesus was full of love but the other side of that coin was that he also hated evil—

Psalm 97:10
10  Hate evil, you who love the LORD…
NASU

It was after this that Jesus had a talk with a Rabbi named Nicodemus. Nicodemus is the one whom Jesus told “You must be Born Again to see the Kingdom of God.”

Eventually, John the Baptist rubbed the wrong people the wrong way by setting them straight on them being sinners. The son of Herod the Great who murdered all the babies in Jerusalem got mad when John told him he shouldn’t have taken his brother’s wife. Go figure. His name was Herod too (Herod Philippus). There were a lot of Herods and they all sucked. There was one of two ways Herod Philippus could’ve gone on hearing what John said. The first was, “Whoops, my bad. I’m sorry John, I’m sorry God. I’ll send the chick back.” Instead, he had John executed.

God Has Enemies?!

Something else that didn’t take long was for Jesus to make enemies.

You wouldn’t think that a guy who was all about love and never sinned could have enemies unless you took into account that being all-good didn’t sit well with most of the sinful humans around him. Bad people confronted with good can go one of two ways just like old Herod Philippus Suckius. You can either be humbled and run to God, or be arrogant and run to your sins. Most run to their sins…and to their own damnation—

John 3:19-21
19  “This is the judgment, that the Light (Jesus) has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
20  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
21  But the one who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that they may be shown as having been one with and close to God.”
paraphrased

Now besides this, Jesus had a mission: to let all of God’s Chosen People know that he was the guy they had all been waiting for!

It shouldn’t have been too hard if the Jews were studying their Bibles. As I’ve already shown you Jesus is on ever page of the Old Testament—

Matthew 5:17
17  “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Jewish phrase for “the Bible”); I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”
NASU

John 5:39
39  “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…”
NASU

But there were a lot of Jews who had gotten powerful in their religious positions. The last thing they wanted to see was some upstart telling the people that they could get to God without having to go through priests and religious leaders. And that is exactly what Jesus said and did for us on the cross—gave us one easy, direct route right to the Throne of God. Not through angels, not through Mary, not through people who have died; Jesus

I Timothy 2:5-6
5  For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
6  who gave Himself as a ransom for all…
NASU

Remember that when the Jews wanted to make their animal sacrifices to atone for their sins, they couldn’t do it themselves. It was only the High Priest who had direct communication with God. But not after the one-and-only Sacrifice of Jesus—

Hebrews 4:14-15
14  That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to Heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him.
15  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.
NLT

It’s really sad and messed up how people created new religions even after Jesus did this for us and told us how we still needed priests and go-betweens to get to God. When they tell you that you need them, don’t believe it! All you need is Jesus—

I John 2:1
1  My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if you do sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who pleases God completely.
NLT

jesus miracle raised lameLike the time Jesus healed a guy who spent his entire life not being able to walk. But because the guy was carrying home the stretcher he spent his miserable existence on, the religious leaders got mad at Jesus for disobeying the commandment of Moses to not work on the Sabbath. Really!

Now you remember the 4th Commandment right? Following that Commandment was a good thing. But if your heart isn’t in the right place, even something God told you to do becomes evil. Those leaders weren’t saying, “Hey! Stop being selfish and working when you should be honoring God!” They were digging for a legalistic way to slam Jesus—who was God and whom the Sabbath was for in the first place!

And that was really the main reason people plotted to kill him. He was love and light and righteousness that showed them up for what they were—evil, selfish, failed humans.

But he didn’t do it in such a way as to rub it in. He did it with arms extended full of love saying, “I know the terrible things you’ve done, and I love you anyway. The price of your sins is death, let me pay for it so that I can have you with me always”—

Romans 6:23
23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
NASU

How can you beat a message like that? The Creator of the Universe loves you so much that before you were even born, He was giving the most precious thing He had to give, His Son, so that you might be His best friend—

Exodus 33:11
11  Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.
NASU

James 2:21-23
21  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
22  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
23  and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the Friend of God.
NASU

What did it cost?

Well, first of all, the Bible is quite clear in telling us that Jesus was completely God—

Colossians 2:8-9
8  Don’t let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ.
9  For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body…
NLT

God is infinite, humans are not. Jesus started sacrificing for us before he even got here by letting go of all of his powers just to exist as one of us and complete trust his Father in giving him power to act as God. How can I illustrate that? A poor example would be if someone gave you the option of becoming permanently paralyzed so your kid brother could walk again. Would you do it? He did…for you—

Philippians 2:5-8
5  Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.
6  Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God.
7  He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.
8  And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.
NLT

That’s right. Jesus didn’t suffer just any quick death, he suffered the torture and death of a common criminal. The death that was due to us because of our sins.

Before he even reached the cross he agonized over what would happen to him—

Luke 22:44
44  And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
NASU

He asked God if there was another way to set us free from Hell but there wasn’t so he walked face-first into his torture.

They pulled his beard out—

Isaiah 50:6
6  I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
NASU

Played evil games at his expense—

Luke 22:63-65
63  Now the guards in charge of Jesus began mocking and beating him.
64  They blindfolded him; then they hit him and asked, “Tell us who hit you that time prophet?”
65  And they threw all sorts of terrible insults at him.
NLT

Spat on him and drove giant desert thorns into his head—

Matthew 27:29-31
29  And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
30  They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.
NASU

And, in general, beat him so badly he wasn’t recognizable to those who loved him—

Isaiah 52:14
14  Many were amazed when they saw him—beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person.
NLT

Then death by crucifixion meant to be hung up with huge spikes in your wrists and feet, to dangle by your wounds until you couldn’t breath anymore and suffocate or bleed to death, whichever lovely one came first.

Each blow he took without saying a word because it was worth it to him to have you in Heaven with him forever.

And what’s it cost you? Everything…and nothing.

How easy is it to be “Saved” and grab a permanent ticket to Heaven forever? Just ask for it—

Acts 16:29-31
29  Trembling with fear, the jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down before Paul and Silas.
30  He brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be Saved?”
31  They replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be Saved…”
NLT

Romans 10:8-11
8  Salvation that comes from trusting Christ—which is the message we preach—is already within easy reach. In fact, the Scriptures say, “The Message is close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.”
9  For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be Saved.
10  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
11  As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.”
NLT

Some get all uptight and say, “Oh, I’m not ready for that,” or “Not just yet,” because they are worried they will have to stop “having fun.” But actually, that’s not true at all. You don’t have to make dramatic changes. With all of the love and sacrifice he spent on you, all you have to do is take little baby steps towards him. Say you party every weekend where you always get in to trouble, just pick one and don’t go rather than giving them all up at one time. He will do the rest.

Then try and get yourself surrounded by good people who are trying to do the same thing you are. A church is a great place to start. If you try and go to Jesus, but stay in the old evil routines with the old nasty friends you got, it ain’t gonna work—

I Corinthians 15:33
33  Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
NASU

And you’ll be amazed at the wonderful things that start happening. You’ll feel better about yourself. Things will start to click for you. You’ll have a peace about your life and even about your death too!

I Corinthians 15:55-57
55  As the Scripture says, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56  For sin is the sting that results in death, and the Law of God gives sin its power.
57  How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!
NLT

As opposed to spending an eternity in torment—

Matthew 13:40-43
40  “Just as the weeds are separated out and burned, so it will be at the end of the world.
41  I, the Son of Man, will send my angels, and they will remove from my Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil,
42  and they will throw them into the Furnace and burn them. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
43  Then the Godly will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand!”
NLT

And believe me folks, “forever” is a long, long time to spend in someplace you don’t want to.

lake of fire

So, what’s it gonna be?

Epilogue

If you have prayed to ask Jesus Christ into your heart, congratulations! You’ve just made a change of address for your future—from torment and damnation to Paradise…forever!

But just like you don’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, you’ll want to get to know him a little better as you build your relationship. The best way I know how to do that is read the Bible. A little every day is the common prescription, maybe even once in the morning and once in the evening if you really want fast, awesome results—

Psalm 1:1-3
1  Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers.
2  But they delight in doing everything the LORD wants; day and night they meditate on His Word.
3  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.
NLT

jesus film

Remember, the devil is going to fight you every step of the way. You will need to surround yourself with Christians you know and trust to protect your new lifestyle and your future. If you need any help, call, write, e-mail or carrier pigeon me.

Yo. God bless!

Johnny Cirucci

Author Johnny Cirucci

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