Prepare the Way of the Lord

Bible:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
 make his paths straight.’”

Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:1-6 ESV

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5 ESV

Reflection:

In 2015, King Harald V of Norway came to visit Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State. The university had to do many things to prepare for their royal visitor, even months before he came. They inscribed some stones on campus to honor the king. They invited people to come and wave flags and perform Norwegian dances and greet the king when he arrived on campus. The university made sure they had a Norwegian flag to fly on the campus square and arranged to have it flying when the king appeared. They had to make sure they had an appropriate gift to give the king. They had to plan to let the media–TV and radio and newspapers and the internet–know about the visit, but they had to make sure that the announcement they made was okay with the king’s employees at the royal palace in Norway. Parking plans for the visit and seating arrangements for a special luncheon had to be arranged. In all, it was very stressful and challenging to prepare for a visit from the king!

When Jesus was about to begin his ministry, John the Baptist began his work of preparing the people to receive their king. But John didn’t arrange for flags and luncheons and dancers and royal heralds. Instead, he made his announcement out in the wilderness, and the people came out to hear him. John dressed in camel’s hair with a leather belt, and he ate wild honey and locusts–which taste a little bit like shrimp when they’re cooked. But as unusual as John’s location and clothing and diet were, his message was very simple. He called on people to repent, to turn away from their sins. And people who were sorry for their sins and wanted to be ready for the promised Savior were baptized in the Jordan River.

When an earthly king comes to visit, people work hard to make sure things go smoothly, and usually they don’t make any serious mistakes. But preparing for Jesus perfectly isn’t possible for anyone. We might try really hard not to sin anymore and to do better, but we always fall short. We need the forgiveness that only Jesus can give us, and that’s the reason he came. He died on the cross to pay the penalty for all our sins, and he washes us in the water of Holy Baptism. He sends us his Holy Spirit to give us hearts that want to turn away from sin and walk in God’s ways. Because of Jesus, we are forgiven every day, and he helps us to follow him and is with us every day with his love and blessings.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for doing everything we needed to make us ready for you. Please forgive our sins and help us to walk with you. Amen.

Source:

https://www.plu.edu/resolute/fall-2015/king-harald/

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The Favored One

Bible:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:26-33 ESV

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

Reflection:

Once there was an African king named Cophetua. He didn’t have a wife, but one day he looked out the window and saw a beggar woman named Penelophon. He fell in love with her and decided that she would become his wife and his queen, so he went out with some coins and gave them to all the beggars in the street. When Penelophon came up to him he took her by the hand and told her that he loved her and that he would marry her and make her the queen. So Penelophon went from being a beggar to being a queen, and she and the king lived happily together until they died.

This is only a story, but it’s a little bit like what happened to Mary. She was a humble young woman who lived in a little village called Nazareth, but one day the Angel Gabriel appeared to her with some amazing news. He told her that she was highly favored by the Lord. Mary was afraid and worried about what all of this meant, so the angel explained it to her. God had chosen Mary to be the mother of the Messiah. Her Son would be the one God’s people had been waiting for for centuries, the one from David’s line who would be the king forever. The Lord was giving Mary an amazing, incredible honor.

God has given us his favor, too, through Jesus the Son of Mary. We haven’t been chosen to be the mother of God’s Son, but we have been chosen to be God’s people. We were as weak and helpless as beggars, but God has taken us from the sin and death that had us in their power and brought us into his kingdom. Jesus came to defeat sin and death by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead, and because of Jesus, we have all of God’s love and favor, now and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us your love and favor through Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/boeb/boeb04.htm

Undoing the Evil Edict

Bible:

The king’s scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king’s signet ring. Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king’s service, bred from the royal stud, saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods, on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, being publicly displayed to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take vengeance on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift horses that were used in the king’s service, rode out hurriedly, urged by the king’s command. And the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. Esther 8:9-14 ESV

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:10-14 ESV

Reflection:

Once there was a king and a queen who had a beautiful baby princess. When they had a party for their new baby girl, they invited seven fairies from the kingdom, and each of them brought the princess a good gift. When six of them had given their gifts, such as beauty and grace and the ability to sing and dance, an evil fairy who had not been invited came in. She was very angry to have been left out, and she put a curse on the baby princess. The evil fairy said that when the princess was seventeen years old, she would prick her finger on a spindle and die. There was one good fairy left, but she couldn’t completely undo the curse. She couldn’t stop the princess from pricking her finger on a spindle, but instead of dying the good fairy said that the princess would sleep for one hundred years, and then a prince would come and awaken her.

When King Ahasuerus made the law that on a certain day the people of his empire would be allowed to attack and kill all the Jews, it became a law that couldn’t be changed. All of Esther’s pleading couldn’t change the law, but the king did what he could to undo the evil effects of his edict. Mordecai acted for the king to send out a new edict that said that the Jews were allowed to defend themselves from anyone who would attack them. They were also allowed to take any of the wealth and property of the enemies that they killed. Messengers were sent swiftly throughout the empire to get the word of the new edict to everyone.

We were all under a curse because we couldn’t ever obey God’s law perfectly, and the curse of our disobedience to the law is death. But Jesus came to undo that curse for us, and he undid the curse of the law completely. He obeyed God’s law perfectly in our place, and he died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. When Jesus hung on the cross, he became a curse for us, but then he defeated the power of sin and death by rising again from the dead. Because of Jesus, we are free from the curse of sin and death, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus, our Savior, to undo the curse of the law for us. In His Name, Amen.

Beg for the King’s Favor!

Bible:

When Esther’s young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them.Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.” Esther 4:4-11 ESV

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 ESV

Reflection:

Ben was having trouble with math at school. He found it very confusing, and when he turned in his homework, it always had a lot of mistakes. He knew he needed help, but he was afraid to ask his teacher. Most teachers want to help their students learn, especially if they’re having trouble, but Mrs. Sullivan was different. She would get impatient and even a little angry if kids asked her questions. She would say that they hadn’t been paying attention, or she would yell at them for not understanding something. The kids in Ben’s class were afraid to ask her about anything , because they knew she wouldn’t give them the help they needed, and would probably get angry with them, too.

Esther, even though she was the queen and the wife of Ahasuerus, was afraid to go to him to ask for help for her people. There was a rule that if anyone approached the king without being invited to come into his presence, that person would be put to death–even if it was his wife! The only hope for the person would be if the king would hold out his golden scepter to him or her. This would mean that the king forgave the person for coming into his presence without permission, and would be likely to do whatever that person asked. Esther knew she couldn’t wait until the king invited her to come and be with him, because he seemed to have forgotten her, and hadn’t called for her for a whole month. But if she went to the king without being invited, she would be risking her life.

Our God isn’t like King Ahasuerus or like Ben’s teacher. He welcomes us to come to him in prayer whenever we have any problems or needs. We never have to be afraid to ask God for his help, because he is our Heavenly Father and he loves us. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, and because of that all of our sins are forgiven. God welcomes us to come to him in prayer, and he wants us to talk to him often and to tell him about whatever is troubling us. We can be sure that he will help us and answer our prayers in the way that is best.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for letting us come to you and for hearing our prayers for help. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A New Law Causes an Upheaval

Bible:

Then the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king’s satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring. Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion. Esther 3:12-15 ESV

Forever, O Lord, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens.
Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
By your appointment they stand this day,
for all things are your servants.
If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have given me life.
I am yours; save me,
for I have sought your precepts.
The wicked lie in wait to destroy me,
but I consider your testimonies.
I have seen a limit to all perfection,
but your commandment is exceedingly broad. Psalm 119:89-96 ESV

Reflection:

In old England, people lived in woods and wetlands and open grasslands and used the resources of the land to support themselves and their families. But when England was conquered by the Normans, who became their rulers, the laws changed drastically and suddenly. The first Norman king, William, loved to hunt, and he decreed that large areas of the forests and other land should be kept free for him to hunt and for the animals he hunted to feed. That meant that people who had small farms weren’t allowed to protect their crops from animals by putting fences around them. They weren’t allowed to collect fuel for their fires by gathering sticks or brush, or to cut down trees to build new houses. They weren’t allowed to hunt animals to feed their families. Some people were even put off their land to make room for the king to hunt, and many others were charged a fee for the use of the king’s land. The penalties for disobeying the Forest Laws were usually very harsh. These new laws caused confusion and suffering for many people in England.

The edict of King Ahasuerus to put all the Jews in the empire to death caused a terrible upheaval in the capital city of Susa, and it would have caused confusion and unrest throughout the kingdom as well. The command to put an entire group of people to death was an extremely drastic and shocking idea, and people felt fear and panic. King Ahasuerus had absolute power, and the law could not be changed. Some people would have felt glad and looked forward to having the chance to attack people that they hated and to take their property and money, but other people might have worried what the king would do next, and if anyone would be safe from his harsh decrees.

Laws can change, sometimes very quickly, and sometimes people are hurt by harsh or cruel changes in the law. But there is one law that will never change, and that is God’s law. His word is forever, and he is always faithful to his promises. We can count on the Lord to do what he said he would do for us, and his word to us isn’t death, but instead life. We deserve death because we have broken his holy law, but God sent us a word of life in Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the commands of the law for us, and he died on the cross to pay the penalty for the way we’ve broken the law. Jesus promises that everyone who believes in him will have life forever. We know that the Lord will always keep that promise, and that his love for us will never change.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your holy word and for your promise to give us life through Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/forest-laws/

An Unhappy Marriage

Bible:

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him.

Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment, the men next to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom): “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?” Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.” This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed. He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people. Esther 1:10-22 ESV

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV

Reflection:

Sarah and Adoniram had been married for forty years. Adoniram was a prosperous farmer who had promised his wife before they were married that he would build her a beautiful new house before their first year was over, but he had never kept that promise. He had built new barns for his cows, but his family still lived in the same poor little house that they had started their marriage in. Then Adoniram built another beautiful barn for some new cows, and his wife was very upset. She reminded him of the promise he had made to her before they had been married, and showed him how shabby and poor their old house was, but her husband wouldn’t change his mind. So when he went out of town for a few days, Sarah and her two children moved all of their furniture into the beautiful new barn and turned it into their home. When Adoniram came home and discovered what Sarah had done, he realized that he had not treated his wife and children well, and he promised he would fix up the new barn to make it into a lovely house.

The story of King Ahasuerus and Queen Vashti didn’t end so happily. When the king called for his wife to come to the men’s party so he could show off her beauty, she refused to come. She probably didn’t want to have a bunch of men staring at her, especially since they would have been drinking too much wine. God wants wives to respect their husbands, but he also wants husbands to treat their wives with kindness and consideration and love, and the king didn’t seem to care about his wife’s feelings. Ahasuerus became very angry, and after getting some advice from his wise men he divorced Vashti and removed her from being the queen. He even made it a law that men should be the bosses of their homes, and if their wives spoke a different language, they had to speak their husband’s language at home. King Ahasuerus cared most about his own pride and of not having people look down on him because Queen Vashti had disobeyed him.

Sometimes Jesus is pictured as a bridegroom, and his people are pictured as his bride. Jesus isn’t like Adoniram or Ahasuerus. He loves his people dearly, and even though we’ve disobeyed him and turned away from him, his love caused him to come to earth and give his life for us. We had been separated from him, but he brought us back, and he covered our ugly sins with his perfect holiness. Usually a bride provides her own wedding gown, but Jesus provided us with his righteousness and forgiveness, which washes us clean of all our sins and covers us like a beautiful wedding dress. Husbands and wives don’t always love and respect each other perfectly in this world, but in Jesus we know what perfect love and care are like.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for your amazing love and care and forgiveness. Amen.

Source:

http://wilkinsfreeman.info/Short/RevoltOfMotherNEN.htm

A Royal Feast

Bible:

Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel, in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days. And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired. Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus. Esther 1:1-9 ESV

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 25:6-8 ESV

Reflection:

When King Richard III and his queen, Anne Neville, were crowned as king and queen of England in 1483, there was a huge banquet to celebrate the event. The hall where the feast was held was decorated with flags and banners, and the king’s high table was made of marble. The feast started at about four in the afternoon, and continued until after dark. The king and queen were served on gold and silver dishes, and 3000 guests sat at four long tables that were set up to run the length of the hall. There were two small stages in the hall. One was for minstrels and trumpeters and the other for heralds. The food was served in three courses, and there were a lot of different dishes in each course. The first course included beef, mutton, pheasant, swan, jelly, and pies. The second course included peacock, pigeon, summer apples, carp, and deer. The third course included nuts and fruits, rabbit, quail, baked oranges, and quinces. This amazingly lavish banquet was meant to show the power and wealth of the new king and queen of England.

As lavish and King Richard’s feast was, it was nothing like the feast Ahasuerus celebrated after he became the king of Persia.  The banquet King Ahasuerus gave for his officials and servants lasted 180 days! After that he gave a feast for the all the people living in his capital city of Susa, and that feast lasted seven more days. We don’t know what kind of food was served, but at these feasts there were decorations of white and purple wall hangings, marble pillars, gold and silver couches, and even the pavement had marble and precious stones in it. The cups used for drinking were made of gold. The king gave this lavish banquet also to show his wealth and his power and to celebrate the beginning of his reign.

The richest banquet in the world is nothing compared to the feast the Lord will give his people someday. God uses the picture of a royal banquet to describe the glory and the joy of our heavenly home. He says this banquet will have the best of food, and even better, there will be no more death or sorrow or tears. The best part about this banquet is that it won’t ever come to an end. We can be sure that the Lord will keep his promise to us and bring us into his heavenly kingdom because of what Jesus did for us. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and he rose again from the dead to defeat the power of sin and death. Jesus will bring us to his heavenly kingdom someday, and we will enjoy the best royal banquet of all.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for preparing a royal feast for us, and for sending Jesus to bring us into your kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://e-royalty.com/lifestyles/our-5-favorite-coronation-recipes/

A King on a Donkey

Bible:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth. Zechariah 9:9-10 ESV

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” Mark 11:1-10 ESV

Reflection:

Queen Elizabeth II of England has ridden in many royal cars through the years, and they’ve all been very expensive, fancy cars. Some of the cars she’s used have been Bentleys, Rolls- Royces, Land Rovers, and Daimlers. She usually has a chauffeur to drive her, but through the years she has also done some of the driving herself. The queen rides or drives in these cars to do her royal business, and also to visit different parts of her kingdom. What a king or a queen rides is a symbol of wealth and power. It would seem very strange if Queen Elizabeth were to ride in a beat-up old pickup truck or perhaps a motor scooter or roller skates!

The prophet Zechariah described a coming king who wouldn’t ride on the finest war horse the way people would expect. Instead, he would ride humbly on a young donkey. The king they were looking for would be mild and gentle, and he would also be peaceable. He wouldn’t lead his people in war, but instead he would bring the nations under his rule by speaking words of peace to them. The king Zechariah was talking about would be a king worth waiting for!

Jesus was the promised king and Savior, but the people in Jesus’ time were looking for a proud warrior king, and many of them didn’t recognize Jesus as the one they were waiting for. But some people realized that Jesus was the one they had been hoping would come for so many years, and when he rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey, they shouted his praises and welcomed him. But only a few days later the humble king was put on a cross to die, and it seemed to be the end. But Jesus rose from the dead on the first Easter Sunday, and everyone who believes in Jesus has the forgiveness of sins and life forever with God. We are so happy when we see people from all over the world come to know and trust Jesus, and come to know the peace with God he has to give them.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for being our humble and gentle king, and for dying on the cross for us. Amen.

Source:

https://www.thestar.com/autos/2016/04/15/regal-rides-cars-in-queen-elizabeths-motor-stable.html

The King Stops the Work

Bible:

The king sent an answer: “To Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. And I made a decree, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”

Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:17-24 ESV

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30 ESV

Reflection:

In the United States, the Interstate 90 expressway runs from the city of Boston to the city of Seattle, all the way across the country. In the city of Seattle, there were many ramps leading on and off I-90 planned to be built to connect it with another interstate freeway as well as to other roads. But for almost three decades, these ramps weren’t finished. If you drove by, you saw a number of freeway ramps leading to nowhere, just ending, many of them pointing up and then suddenly ending in midair. What happened was that there were legal challenges to the work, as well as environmental issues, and so what was begun in the 1960s didn’t get completed till the 1990s. For many years, the unfinished project simply sat, with its ramps leading to nowhere.

The same kind of thing happened in Jerusalem. When the people started to rebuild their temple, and the city and its walls, their enemies started to give them trouble. They wrote a letter to the king of the Persian empire accusing the Jews of planning a rebellion, and when the king got the letter he wrote back saying that he agreed that rebuilding Jerusalem meant trouble for him. He had found in his historical records that Jerusalem had once been the capital of a powerful country with kings that had received tribute from surrounding nations, and also that there had been rebellions against powerful empires coming from Jerusalem. He would have read about the glory days of the kings David and Solomon, and also about the way Jerusalem had stood firm when the Assyrian empire had taken the northern kingdom captive. So the king of Persia decreed that the Jews had to stop their building project. For many years the city stood only partly finished.

Sometimes we have things in life that we want to get done, and then something gets in the way and we can’t finish our projects.  It can be very frustrating when this happens, but it’s a reminder that there are many things in life that we can’t control. The most important thing to remember is that if we try to earn our way into God’s favor, we will never even come close to finishing what we need to do! We sin against God every day, and there’s nothing we could ever do to make up for the ways we’ve rebelled against him. But Jesus came to help us with this. He obeyed God’s law perfectly for us from the beginning to the end of his life, and then he laid his life down on the cross for us. The moment he died he said, “It is finished.” That means that Jesus did everything he needed to do to save us and bring us back to our Heavenly Father. As long as we live, we will be unfinished in becoming like Jesus, but we can always be sure that Jesus completely finished our salvation for us.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for your perfect life, and for finishing our salvation by dying on the cross for us. Amen.

Source:

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19900212&slug=1055692

A Letter to the King

Bible:

And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. . . . (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.” Ezra 4:6-7, 11-16 ESV

O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. Psalm 71:12-16 ESV

Reflection:

Kit had moved from Barbados to New England as a young woman, and she had a very hard time learning to live in a new place. One of the things that was the most difficult for her was trying to understand the way the Puritans in New England thought and understood the world. The way she dressed was considered wrong and sinful by the Puritans, and one of the friends she made was an old woman who was an outcast in her village. Then a terrible thing happened to Kit. A number of the people in her village got together and accused her a being a witch! This was a very serious thing, and if she were found guilty she might be put to death or banished from the village. At her trial, people she hardly knew made all kinds of false accusations. They said that she had put a spell on one man’s cattle so that they couldn’t move, and that they had seen her dancing around a fire one night, and that she had put a spell on a woman’s sewing so that she couldn’t make the sleeve set into the pattern right. All of these accusations were lies, but Kit was in danger of being found guilty if no one spoke up in her defense.

The people who had returned from exile and were rebuilding their temple and the city of Jerusalem had the same problem. Their enemies did everything they could to make trouble for them. They wrote a letter to the king of Persia saying that the Jews were troublemakers who were planning a rebellion against the Persian empire, and that if the king didn’t make them stop building he would lose his land and subjects in that part of the empire. The men who wrote this letter told the king to look back in history and see that Jerusalem had always been a rebellious city who had fought against foreign control, and that the reason the people were rebuilding Jerusalem was so that they could start their battle for independence from Persia. The Jews weren’t planning a rebellion, but their enemies made up this lie to make trouble for them and try to get them to stop rebuilding their city and their temple.

Jesus faced many false accusations when he was on trial for his life. Many people told hateful lies about him to try to get him into trouble. But Jesus didn’t fight back or try to defend himself. He let himself be sent to the cross to pay for all our sins and bring us back to our Heavenly Father. Sometimes we feel bad about our own sins. Our hearts accuse us of the things we’ve done wrong, and other people point out all the ways we’ve let them down. Sometimes these accusations are lies, and sometimes they’re true. But no one, not even the devil, can accuse us to God. The Lord is with us every day, and he encourages us when we feel worried or sad about our sins or about the lies other people tell about us.  Because of what Jesus did for us, God forgives us all our sins every day, and there’s no accusation that can ever stop God from loving us and helping us.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for us, and for forgiving our sins. Please help us and give us strength when we are sad and worried about what people say. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Speare, Elizabeth George The Witch of Blackbird Pond Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958.