Random Readings in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 71: Luke 2:1-20, The Birth of Christ, by Johann Ludwig Lund (9/8/15)
2 Samuel 7:4-16 (2/18/13)
You know what I like about this painting? What's not there. Even the simplest nativity scene has the holy family, with the baby in the manger. Some nativities have the holy family and shepherds. Typical nativity paintings and scenes also have an ox, an ass, sheep and goats, one to several angels, three kings, camels, and a star, plus or minus some camel drivers and the sponsor of the painting, not one of which is in the scripture passage that talks about the visit of the shepherds to the manger! The angels had already departed, the scholars hadn't arrived, the star was out east guiding the scholars, and the ox, ass, sheep, goats, and camel drivers are not reported. This painting of The Birth of Christ, by Johann Ludwig Lund, does have the star, but otherwise those who are named in scripture are in the picture, and those who aren't, aren't.
Previous Step. Next Step.
"Birth of Christ," by Lund,
from the Gamble family Bible,
now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.
In English, we can speak of a “house of worship,” which is a building, and we can also speak of the “house of Windsor,” which is the reigning royal dynasty in the United Kingdom. This dual meaning of “house” is exactly the same in Hebrew.
David was a man after God’s own heart. After he had been king of Israel for some time, he decided to build a temple for God. God said to him, “You are not the one to build me a house,” meaning a building, “but I am going to build you a house,” meaning a dynasty. Messianic prophecy was unanimous in saying that the promise God made to David meant that the Messiah would be a king in the direct lineage of David.
Micah 5:1-5a; Isaiah 9:6-7 (2/19/13)
David was from Bethlehem in Judah before he became king and ruled first from Hebron and then from Jerusalem. Most of the kings of Judah, all of whom descended from David, were apparently born in Jerusalem. In spite of this, the prophets said not only that the Messiah would be a king born from David’s own lineage, but also that this king would be born in David’s home town.
Isaiah 11:1-5, 10-16 (2/20/13)
The prophets agreed that when the Messiah king was born from the lineage of David, the son of Jesse, he would reign with righteousness and wisdom over a remnant of God’s people. There were two options for the Messiah: the suffering servant who would be wounded for his people, or a warrior king who would restore the earthly kingdom of Judah. We see some of the latter in the second part of today’s reading.
Matthew 1:1-17 (2/21/13)
I suspect that when most people (me, for example) read Matthew, they skip over the “begats,” or else they read them without paying much attention to the names. This week we have seen that the prophets were unanimous in saying that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. What the “begats” show is that Jesus of Nazareth is by law a descendant of David in the direct male line. This is important! Matthew doesn’t start his gospel this way in order to put us to sleep; he does it to focus our attention immediately on the fact that Jesus satisfies the Number 1 requirement for being the Messiah.
Matthew 2:1-12 (2/22/13)
We saw earlier that the prophet Micah said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, David’s home town, and that’s what happened. What has always puzzled me a little about this passage from Matthew is why, when asked where the new king was to be found, Herod immediately asks his scholars where the Messiah (“Christ” in Greek) was going to be born. How did he make that connection? Matthew must have left out of lot of the discussion between Herod and his advisors, presumably because Matthew didn’t know what was said. Herod was paranoid throughout much of his life and probably didn’t let anyone else in on the discussion until he sent the magi to Bethlehem. On the other hand, this was a time when many false Messiahs came into prominence and led revolts, so Herod might have had Messiahs on his mind.
By the way, I’m reading an interesting book by Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise
. Silver makes the point that one way to tell whether someone’s long-term predictions are any good is to look at whether their short
-term predictions are any good. Another way is to examine whether their methods are any good. This is essentially the same system used by the Jewish religious leaders and populace to decide whether someone was a prophet or a false prophet. Both Silver and the Bible warn us against false prophets, except that Silver calls them “forecasters.”
More of The Rest of the Story
Week 1. Beginning of Life As We Know It
Week 1. More on the Beginning of Life As We Know It
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Isaac…But not Ishmael or the sons of Keturah
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Jacob…But not Esau
Week 3. Joseph Preserves Two Nations
Week 4. Deliverance
Week 4. More on Deliverance
Week 5. New Commands and a New Covenant
Week 6. Wandering
Week 6. More on the Wandering
Week 7. The Battle Begins
Week 8. A Few Good Men...and Women
Week 9. The Faith of a Foreign Woman
Week 10. Standing Tall, Falling Hard
Week 11. From Shepherd to King
Week 12. The Trials of a King
Week 13. The King Who Had It All
Week 14. A Kingdom Torn in Two
Weeks 15 and 16. God's Messengers and The Beginning of the End
Week 17. The Kingdoms' Fall
Jeremiah, Prophet of the Exile
Story 19. The Return Home
in the Old Testament
Story 21. Rebuilding the Walls
Story 22. The Birth of the King
Story 23. Jesus’ Ministry Begins
Story 24. No Ordinary Man
Story 25. Jesus, the Son of God
Story 26. The Hour of Darkness
Story 27. The Resurrection
Story 28. New Beginnings
James, Brother of the Lord
John and Jude
Story 31. The End of Time
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