RESISTING TEMPTATION

Scripture Reading: Genesis 39:7-20

“‘How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?’ And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not l listen to her, to be beside her or to be with her.” (Genesis 39:9b,10)

As we have seen, Joseph faced a continual and intense battle with temptation. Day after day Mrs. Potiphar attempted to seduce him because she was attracted to him — “Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me'” (vs. 6b,7). But Joseph refused to do so. He resisted the temptation day after day.

Notice what Joseph said — “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Let’s break down his words. “How then can I DO?” The temptation becomes sin when we act on it. When this happens, the battle is lost and we denied Christ’s power and grieved our heavenly Father. “How then can I do this GREAT WICKEDNESS?” Joseph called sin what it is. He saw it as a great wickedness. “And sin AGAINST GOD?” Here is the bottom line. Hurting others is bad, but offending God is the ultimate wickedness of sin. This is why David in his Psalm of Confession said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4).

Joseph refused to give into the temptation. He said, “NO!” to it over and over. He removed himself physically when he was being tempted. This is a critical step in resisting temptation. We have to take action and remove ourselves from situations where we are being tempted.

James tells us this about resisting temptation — “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:4,7,8a). We must submit to God. In other words, we must keep a fresh and vibrant relationship with our God. We cannot resist temptation in our own strength. We have to look to Jesus to give us the desire and the strength to resist temptation. We have to see God for who He truly is. When we do this, we will desire to honor Him at all costs.

C.H. Spurgeon Worte these words — “While I regarded God as a tyrant, I thought sin a trifle; but when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought that God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against He one who loved me so, and sought my good” (C.H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 41, p. 304).

When we see God for who He truly is, we will desire to submit to Him, for we will not want to grieve the One who loves us so much. Then we can resist the devil and know that he will flee from us.

Heavenly Father, I have offended You and dishonored You so many times. Forgive me for failing to resist temptation and falling into sin. You are so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion. I know that I grieve You when I fail to submit to You and resist sin. I am so sorry, for I know that You love me so much and You always seek my good. Let me rekindle my love for You and give me the strength to resist the devil and all temptations that come my way.

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FACING TEMPTATION

Scripture Reading: Genesis 39:7-20

“And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused…’How then can I do this wickedness and sin against God?’ (Genesis 39:7,8)

The temptation Joseph experienced was very intense. First of all, it was a sexual temptation. It is amazing how powerful sex can be. Many have fallen because they have yielded to the over desires of their flesh. Second, Joseph was away from home when the temptation came. He was in a foreign land and did not have the influence of his godly father. Third, the temptation came from an influential person. If Joseph did not agree, his career could be at risk. Mrs. Potiphar could make life miserable for him. Fourth, the temptation came to Joseph repeatedly. When temptation first comes, we may resist it. But when it comes again and again, it gets harder to walk away from it. Fifth, the temptation came to Joseph at the perfect opportunity. No one was around. Can you see how intense the temptation was that Joseph faced continually?

James warns us about temptation — “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14,15). Temptation itself is not a sin. But when we dwell upon it, we easily fall into sin. Notice the language in James: Temptation can carry us away (draw us away), and entice us (comes from a word that means “bait”). Then our lust takes over, and we fall into sin.

When we face temptation, we must have both an offensive and defensive position. We have to be honest about sin. We have to call sin what it is — an offense against God. Joseph understood that what Potiphar’s wife was asking him to do was evil — “How then can I do this great wickedness?” (v. 9). We must realize that most sins hurt other people. Rarely does a sin just affect the one sinning. Untold damage is done to children, spouses, family members, and friends because of the sinful acts of people.

Most importantly, we must acknowledge that all sin is ultimately against God. Joseph stated it clearly — “How could I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” How can we grieve and dishonor God when we consider all that He has done for us? We must develop the discipline that is necessary to resist sin. Joseph resolved in his mind to honor God at all costs. He refused to give in to the temptation. Let me state it clearly at this point — We cannot do these things in our own strength. We must draw off the power of the indwelling Christ or we will fall on our spiritual faces. We will talk more about resisting sin in our next devotional

Lord Jesus, I face temptations many times a day. I admit that I am weak and cannot resist temptations in my own strength. I know that sin is an offense against You. Forgive me when I fail You and grant me strength to resist temptation when it comes my way.

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SUCCESS GOD’S WAY

Scripture Reading: Genesis 39:1-6

“The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.” (Genesis 39:2,3)

When we come to this chapter, Joseph is in Egypt. Instead of killing him, his brothers sold him to some Midianite traders who were traveling in a caravan to Egypt. They sold him to an Egyptian ,who was the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard. Joseph was 17 years old when this occurred. Joseph could have easily become bitter and begin to question God; but he did not. Instead, he trusted in his God and sought to honor Him no matter what circumstances he was in. Joseph was determined to make the best out of a difficult situation.

The chief emphasis of Joseph’s story is found in the opening words of this chapter — “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man.” We cannot have ultimate success in our lives unless the Lord is with us. Joseph clearly understood that it was the Lord who gave him success. Even Potiphar, a pagan unbeliever, saw that the Lord was with Joseph and caused all that Joseph did to prosper (v. 3). Joseph found favor in Potiphar’s sight (v. 4), and he became Potiphar’s personal servant. Joseph served Potiphar for 11 years.

Why do you think Joseph found favor in Potiphar’s sight? I believe that Potiphar saw the character of Joseph. He was faithful, loyal, a hard worker, a man of integrity and dependable. But, the main reason was that Potiphar recognized that the Lord was with Joseph. He saw Joseph’s faith in His God.

When we consider what success is, we can learn from Joseph. The primary key to success is God’s presence in your life. We can never have genuine success without God’s presence. We must learn to acknowledge that it is the Lord who gives us success. God deserves all the credit. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).

Joseph’s primary concern was to please God at all costs. Pleasing God is far more important than pleasing man. Our goal is to love God, to seek His presence, and to honor Him in all that we do. Our commitment must be to seek the Lord’s will first in our lives and to experience His gracious presence with us. When the Lord is with us, we will find genuine success.

Lord God, I know that any successes I have experienced have come from Your good hand. Thank You for being with me and for giving me many opportunities to serve You. I desire to seek Your will first in my life and to experience Your glorious presence with me. I pray that You grant me success and I seek to serve and obey You.

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THE FRUIT OF ENVY

Scripture Reading: Genesis 37:12-36

“They (the brothers) saw him (Joseph) from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another,’Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Thus we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” (Genesis 37:18-20)

It is amazing to see what envy can do to people. This certainly was the case with Joseph’s brothers. They were extremely envious of him. The brothers had a root of bitterness deep with them. The Scripture says, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).

Envy is a serious sin. Webster defines envy as “the painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.” Proverbs 14:30 says, “Envy rots the bones.” Joseph’s brother were filled with envy.

Envy’s bitter shoot is hate. Joseph’s brothers hated him. One reason they hated him was that he was different from them. Joseph was a godly young man; his brothers were just the opposite. There were other reasons that led to the hatred the brothers felt for Joseph — his favored position with his father and his dreams. As we will see, Joseph was God’s choice for a position of future prominence. This explains why Joseph had dreams of reigning over his brothers (37:5-9).

The fruit of bitterness manifested itself when the brothers intended to kill Joseph. The result of their envy was a tangible act. Bitter people do bitter acts to others — harsh words, unjust criticism, gossip, slander, and other forms of malice.

Let’s not forget the ultimate expression of a bitter act when we consider what was done to our Savior, Jesus Christ. The religious leaders of His day were envious of Jesus. Their envy led to hate and then to the plot to kill Jesus.

We must be honest with ourselves as we examine our hearts. Are we envious of anyone? Is there a root of bitterness in us? If so, we must repent and confess our sin of envy. We must turn to Jesus for forgiveness and the strength to let the envy go. He alone can set us free from the sin of envy and any bitterness that is in our hearts. Look at Him and remember what He did for us — “Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you will not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3).

Lord Jesus, when I consider what You endured for me, I am deeply humbled and filled with love for you. Forgive me when I harbor envy in my heart. Forgive me when I experience bitterness within me. Thank You for Your grace and mercy. Enable me to keep my eyes on You this day and enable me to love others with the love You have for me.

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THE FORMATION OF A CHILD’S CHARACTER

Scripture Reading: Genesis 37:1-11

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.” (Genesis 37:3,4)

For the next several weeks, we will be turning our attention to the last major section in the Book of Genesis, which primarily deals with the life of Joseph. James Boice wrote these words about Joseph — “Joseph’s life spanned the social spectrum of the ancient world. Raised as the future heir of the wealthy Jewish patriarch, he fell into slavery in a far-off Gentile land but later rose to a position of prominence as second in command only to Pharaoh. He was loved and hated, favored and abused, tempted and trusted, exalted and based. Yet at no point in the 110 year life of Joseph did he ever seem to get his eyes off God or cease to trust Him. Adversity did not harden his character. Prosperity did not ruin him. He was the same in private as in public. He was truly a great man” (James M. Boice, “Commentary on Genesis”).

Joseph was the first son of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. Rachel was the love of Jacob’s life. He worked 14 years to get her as his wife. Joseph was the child of Jacob’s later life. This is very significant because Jacob, the deceiver, went through a major change in his life after he wrestled with the angel of the Lord (Genesis 32: 22-32). God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. Israel’s life changed dramatically. He became a godly man. Joseph was influenced by his changed father. The other sons were most impacted by the deceiver Jacob. They all had bad reputations. They did some very bad things and obviously lacked the character, faith and integrity of Joseph.

We can immediately see a problem that existed between Joseph and his brothers. We are told that Israel loved Joseph more than an other of his sons. Israel showed favoritism to Joseph. The result was that “his brothers were jealous of Joseph,” and they hated him. Obviously Israel made a major mistake in showing favoritism to Joseph as it created problems for the family for many years.

The foundation of a child’s character is greatly influenced by the environment of the home. In the earlier days, the tents of Jacob were filled with strife and jealousy. It is sad to see homes that are filled with strife, deceitfulness, jealousy, and bitterness. Our homes should be a safe-haven for our children, not a war zone. Jacob experienced a major spiritual renewal in his latter years. Surely Joseph experienced a great love from his father and he was influenced by Israel’s faith. I’m convinced that Joseph’s character formation was greatly influenced by his father’s spiritual renewal.

Parents must be aware of the importance of creating a healthy atmosphere in the home. Our homes must be places where our children can be nurtured, loved, and encouraged. We see also how important it is for parents to live out their faith before their children. They must set a godly example to their children, and be open and honest about their faith. Being a grandparent, I also see the influence I have on my grandchildren. We must seek to live out the gospel before our children and grandchildren. Doing so will greatly influence the development of their character.

Lord Jesus, grant me grace to live out my faith before my children and grandchildren. Let them see You in me. Enable me to have a godly influence upon them and give me wisdom as I seek to love and nurture them. Let me live out the gospel before my children and grandchildren. Let them see my love for You.

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FROM WHERE DOES MY HELP COME?

Scripture Reading: Psalm 121:1-8

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1,2)

A year ago I was considering what great opportunities and challenges may come my way in 2020. Little did I know! There is no question that this has been a difficult year for most. We faced a pandemic like none of us have ever experienced in our lives. Our country was shut down for a period of time. Our children are having to be educated virtually. People lost jobs; businesses closed; and some lost loved ones. Many became ill with Covid, including Mary Ann and me. Yet, God has remained faithful. He has never let me down. He has always given me what I needed to face the trials that have come my way.

Who knows what 2021 will be like? We don’t know what will happen with the pandemic, the economy, the political scene of our country. There are many uncertainties. But no matter what we face we are not alone in it. We have a divine Helper who will provide all we need to face the challenges, opportunities and uncertainties of life in 2021.

The Psalmist was facing uncertainties as well. He turns his eyes upward — to the hills — “I will lift up my eyes to the hills.” The mountains were considered a safe place. Spurgeon wrote these words about this Psalm — “The purposes of God; the divine attributes; the immutable promises; the covenant, ordered in all things and sure; the providence, predestination and proved faithfulness of the Lord — these are the hills we must lift our eyes, for from these must our help come” (C.H. Spurgeon, “The Treasure of David”).

As we face this New Year, we must look up from where our help shall come. Satan will make every effort to cause us to look down upon our fears, sorrows, and difficulties. The question is — What will be our focus? The writer to the Hebrews gives us the answer — “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). The key is to keep our eyes on Jesus. Look at what He has done for us — endured the cross. We are the joy that was set before Him. And remember that He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, where He is in control of all things.

As we lift up our eyes to the eternal hills, our hearts will be lifted up also. Instead of fear, we can have confidence. Instead of anxiety, we can have peace. Look up — Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. He is in control and He will give us the help we need to face whatever challenges, uncertainties, and opportunities may come our way in 2021.

Lord Jesus, I lift my eyes up to You, the founder and perfecter of my faith. I know what You suffered for me. I know how much You love me. I have nothing to fear for You are with me. You are my very present Help in times of trouble. As I begin this New Year, I do so with confidence and peace, for I know that You are with me and You will give me what I need to face whatever comes my way in 2021.

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PRESSING ON

Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:12-16

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13,14)

As we continue to talk about perspective and as we face a New Year, let’s not forget who we are — “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own” (v. 12). Paul recognized that he had a long way to go in his spiritual growth. He knew that he was not where he needed to be. But he also knew who he was — he belonged to Jesus Christ — “Christ Jesus has made me His own.” Yes, we belong to Jesus. Jesus has made us His own. Our identity is found in our relationship with Jesus, in which we are secure in His hands and significant to Him.

Paul realized that spiritual growth takes time and effort. Thus, he made a commitment to press forward toward “the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” To press forward also means to let go of the past — “forgetting what lies behind, I press forward.” There has to be a discriminate forgetfulness of the past. It has to be discriminate, because there are things we must never forget — all the benefits that are ours in Christ (Psalm 103), God’s love and mercy, His faithfulness in the past, His many blessings bestowed upon us.

But there are things we need to forget. We need to forget our past sins. Christ died for them and God remembers them no more. We need to forget our past failures. We need to do what we can to make them right and then move on. We must remember that adversity builds character. We must let go of past hurts. We can hold on to them and become bitter people. And we must let go of past successes. Some people are so proud of what they have already achieved that they let thousands of opportunities pass by them.

While there must be a discriminate forgetfulness of the past, there must also be an uncompromising drive for the future. As we face this New Year, we must reach forward to what lies ahead. God has a plan for us. Look forward to what He is going to do with you in this next year.

Lord Jesus, I rejoice in the fact that You have taken hold of me and made me Your own. I belong to You. I know that I have a long way to go spiritually. Enable me to press on toward the goal of the upward call of God for me to be more and more like You. Enable me to let go of past hurts, disappointments, failures and successes so that I can have an uncompromising drive for the future. I know that You have a plan for my life. I look forward to what You are going to do in this New Year.

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A TIME OF PRAISE AND REFLECTION

Scripture Reading: Psalm 103:1-22

“Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” (Psalm 103:1,2)

We looked at the importance of perspective in yesterday’s devotion. David recognized the importance of keeping a godly perspective in his life. He was in dialogue with himself when he wrote this Psalm. He is talking to himself. We all experience self-talk, don’t we? Sometimes my self-talk is negative and I become anxious and miserable. But at other times, my self-talk is positive, which is what David is doing in Psalm 103. He is reflecting upon all the blessings God had bestowed upon his life.

Notice that David encouraged himself to praise God with his soul. His starting point is God. True praise for God comes from our souls — “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” The soul is the immaterial part within us that gives us life. It is eternal and to bless God with my soul is to bless him with the very essence of my being.

David understood that we are to bless the Lord with ALL that is within us. We are to bless Him with our minds, our intellect. We are to bless Him with our hearts, our emotions. We are to bless Him with our wills, by surrendering ourselves and our desires to Him.

David goes on to reflect upon all the benefits that God had bestowed upon him — “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (vs. 2-5).

Let’s take time today to answer these two questions. First, what attributes of God have you experienced this past year, for which you can praise Him? Second, what are some of God’s benefits that you have enjoyed this past year? Then do what David did — Bless the Lord, praise Him for who He is and for what He has done for you.

As we face the beginning of this New Year, let’s remember these things from Psalm 103 about our God — “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him” (v. 17). Don’t forget God’s great love for you, for it is from everlasting to everlasting. “The Lord established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all” (v. 19). We have nothing to fear, for our God is sovereign and rules over all things. We are loved more than we can begin to imagine and we are safe in the hands of our sovereign Lord.

Lord God, I bless You with all my soul and all that is within me. Your steadfast love for me never fails and I know that I am safe in Your hands for Your kingdom rules over all. Thank you for all the blessings You bestowed upon me this past year. Even though it was a difficult year, I can look back and see Your hand at work in my life. Don’t ever let me take for granted all the benefits You have lavished upon me — forgiveness, healing, redemption, Your steadfast love and mercy, and the satisfaction I have because my value is found in my relationship with You. My soul and all that is within me blesses You and thanks You for all You have done for me.

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PERSPECTIVE FOR THE NEW YEAR

Scripture Reading: Philippians 1:1-14

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

As we approach the end of one year and the beginning of another, it is good to look back at what God has done and to look forward to what he is going to do. We will give time each day this week to look back and to look forward. In both cases, we must do so with the right perspective.

Perspective has to do with how we view things. Perspective is the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance. There are several factors that influence our perspective on things. First is our God given personality. Some people are visionaries; others are technicians. Some are people oriented while others are more task oriented. Some are more active while others are more passive.

In addition to our personality traits, circumstances influence our perspective. What a year 2020 has been! We’ve all faced some very difficult circumstances over the is past year. Some have been filled with fear, anxiety, and even depression over the uncertainties associated with the Covid pandemic. People have lost jobs; they have suffered the death of loved ones; and some may have been ill with the virus. We could easily allow ourselves to be overcome with anxiety, fear and disappointment.

There is another important factor that affects our perspective — the spiritual dimension of our lives — our faith. The depth of our faith greatly governs our perspective on life. How we view God affects how we will face the circumstances that may come our way. Our relationship with Christ is essential to keep a positive perspective on life.

Paul was in prison when he wrote Philippians. He had been imprisoned because of his faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, he kept a positive perspective — “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus” (v. 6). Paul had confidence in God. He knew that God would complete the work He has started in His people. He saw the positive side of things — “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (v. 12). Now that is a godly perspective on life.

As we approach this new year, our goal is to gain God’s perspective. This will enable us to see things as they really are. And it will help us determine what our priorities should be for this new year.

Lord Jesus, as I approach a new year, enable me to have Your perspective. I know that You are sovereign and in control of all things. I know that You have promised to cause all things to work together for my good. I know that You have a plan for me this year. I look forward to what You will do in this new year.

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THE SONG OF SIMEON

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:22-35

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

On this Christmas Eve, we are considering the last of the Christmas songs found in Luke’s gospel. The event recorded in our passage took place some forty days after the birth of Jesus. Jesus was presented to the Lord by His parents as the Old Testament law required (Exodus 13:2). At the time of Mary’s purification (forty days after the birth), she presented a sacrifice to the Lord in accordance with Leviticus 12:6,8. It is interesting to note that the sacrifice Mary made was the sacrifice God allowed for the poor — “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (v. 22).

When Mary and Joseph brought the Christ-child to the temple, an elderly man met them. We know very little about Simeon, other that what we are told in this passage — “This man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (vs. 25,26).

Can you imagine how surprised Mary and Joseph were when Simeon took Jesus into his arms? “And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel” (vs. 27-32).

Simeon expressed to God his readiness to die. He had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. Simeon saw with his eyes and held in his arms the One who would bring salvation. Now he could die in peace.

However, Simeon had a bittersweet message for Mary — “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (vs. 34,35).

One day Mary would experience the sword that would pierce her soul, when she stood by the cross of Jesus (John 19:23-25). Simeon’s prophecy helps us keep the message of Christmas in perspective. Standing behind the manger was the shadow of the cross of Jesus. As we celebrate Christmas tomorrow, let us keep the true meaning of Christmas near to our hearts.

Lord Jesus, as Simeon stated, You are my salvation. You are a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel. On this Christmas Eve, I realize that You were born to die. You came to save Your people from their sins. Behind the manger was the shadow of Your cross. I worship and praise You for Your birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. I know that You are now seated at the right hand of the Father and because You are sovereign, all is well!

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