“Hello, Jesus,” Joseph whispered, his eyes glistening with tears.
He held in his arms the Promise of Israel. His whole body trembled with joy and relief over the days’ events. Fearing he would drop the babe, he kissed his forehead and placed him back in the manger.
Mary stirred. “Joseph.”
“My beloved one, you have a beautiful son,” he said. “How do you fare? Is all well?”
“Everything is fine, my darling. However, I think I shall sleep a thousand sleeps tonight,” she yawned. “Does my father know yet that he has a grandson?”
“Indeed I do!” Heli announced as he and Rebekah re-entered the stable. “In fact, the birth announcement has already been proclaimed.”
Puzzled, she looked at him. “Proclaimed?”
“Throughout Bethlehem – in every inn apparently.”
“Abba, how could you have done that so quickly, when I have just given birth?”
“Actually, you already have visitors – or rather Jesus does. Are you up to seeing them, Mary? I know you are tired, but they have quite a story to tell you.”
Mary and Joseph exchanged curious glances. “Visitors … proclamations? I am already intrigued,” Mary said as she struggled to sit up. “Tell them they may come in.”
Quietly, the shepherds shuffled into the warm, cozy stable. As soon as they saw the baby in the manger, they fell to their knees in worship. Mary watched them in silence, struck numb by the sudden clarity of who the baby in the manger was. I just gave birth to the Son of God. Blessed be the Lord!
She looked around the stable. What a contrast. Cows, goats, and sheep surrounded her. She sat in a bed of hay while the king of the world slept in a feeding trough at her side. And wonders of wonders, shepherds were kneeling in the hay worshipping her son. She looked at Joseph who had also fallen to his knees. What a night. What joy! Her heart overflowed with thanksgiving for Yahweh’s provision and she wept with happiness.
One of the men stepped forward and spoke for them all. “We are shepherds. My name is Josiah, and these are my friends. We were watching our sheep tonight and we saw … we saw …” he looked at his friends for support and they nodded their encouragement for him to continue. “We saw an angel!”
“BAH! What good is the word of a shepherd? You are either lying or drunk,” one of the patrons said, dismissing him with a wave of his arm.
“We are neither drunkards nor liars. I tell you, we saw an angel of the Lord! I am not lying. He actually appeared to us and it was terrifying. The angel said to us, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the city of David, a Saviour has been born to you – he is Christ the Lord.’
“Then he said, ‘This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Then if that wasn’t enough to shock us, there were all kinds of heavenly beings that appeared in the sky with the angel and they were praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.’”
Josiah looked at the faces around him and seeing he had everyone’s interest, he continued. “What I am saying is the truth. When the angels went back into heaven, we decided to come to Bethlehem to see for ourselves this event which the Lord had told us about. So, we have gone to every inn and home around Bethlehem to see if any babies have been born. We ask again … is this where the child lies?”
Heli knew at once that his grandson (God’s son) had been born. He turned to the men and said, “Follow me.”
“I have not seen Jacob at all. But let me tell you –”
“Oh, Joseph, please help me!” Mary cried from the back of the wagon. “It’s getting closer!”
“Heli, what are we to do? She can’t have the baby in the street!”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, Joseph. We have a place.” Heli grabbed the reigns of the oxen from Joseph and started to drive them through the crowd.
“A room? You have a room? Well, why didn’t you say so?” Joseph sighed with relief. “Mary, it’s all right, we are going to our room now. Can you hang on?”
“I don’t know, Joseph. Please hurry!” she sobbed. They went as quickly as they could to the far end of the street, where Heli directed Joseph to the back of an inn.
“What’s this?” Joseph asked as they neared the entrance to the stables.
“Your room,” Heli declared as he carefully retrieved Mary from the back of the cart.
“You can’t be serious?” Joseph protested as he watched Heli carry Mary to a stall in the back of the stable. “Heli, she cannot give birth in a stable.”
Heli laid his daughter on a fresh bed of hay covered with a blanket. He stood, then turned to face his bewildered son-in-law.
“She can and she will. It’s clean, it’s warm, and it’s private.” Heli was adamant and Joseph could tell by the look on his face that his father-in-law would not change his mind.
“It’s fine, Joseph,” Mary whispered, her strength waning. “It’s fine.”
Joseph, clearly at a loss, looked to Rebekah, who arrived with warm water and fresh cloths. Surely, she would agree with him. Mary could not give birth here – could she?
Rebekah pleaded silently for Heli to take Joseph outside. She placed a comforting arm on her son-in-law and said, “It is as it should be, Joseph. We have cleaned out the stall. We have fresh hay. We are even using the cattle’s feeding trough as a little crib for the baby. Go now. Mary will be fine.”
At first, he had been frustrated that he would be forced to leave his wife for such a ridiculous reason. Then his frustration had turned to outrage when a Roman official told him that his wife had to go with him – no excuses.
“How could she possibly stand the journey? She is with child and is approaching her final month,” he had argued. “Surely Caesar Augustus would not expect her to endure such a trip?”
The official had smirked and said, “Caesar expects only one thing, and that is obedience from his subjects. If you fail to comply, you will suffer the consequences.” Joseph had not bothered to find out what those consequences would be. Instead, he had turned and stomped away.
As he neared his home, he saw Mary talking animatedly to her mother and father. All three seemed upset and Joseph knew at once that they had heard about the edict. Heli’s and Rebekah’s concern for their daughter’s welfare was evident.
“I see you’ve heard about Caesar’s plans?” Joseph asked as he waved the edict in his hands.
Heli turned to him and with a sad shake of his head said, “This is ridiculous, Joseph. To force a woman with child to take such a journey …,” he trailed off, overcome with worry for his daughter and unborn grandchild.
Rebekah reached out to comfort him and asked, “What if she just didn’t go? How would they know? So many people will be there, after all. Would it really matter if one girl was missing from the crowd?”
“Perhaps not,” Joseph said. “But I would never be able to leave Mary alone while I go to Bethlehem. She could have the baby and there would be no one here to help her.”
“I suppose if they wouldn’t miss one girl, they probably wouldn’t miss her mother either, would they Heli?” Rebekah asked.
Heli smiled and shook his head. “We will all go to Bethlehem. I myself must register. There is no other way.”
Mary nodded. “It must be this way, Ima. Do you not see how Yahweh has arranged this census? For it is written: ‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.’ Everything is as it should be,” Mary said with confidence.
Heli nodded slowly, his weary eyes dawning with understanding. “She is right. Everything is unfolding as it should. I forget sometimes, my daughter, the miracle of whose child you carry.”
“You know, I recall the Rabbi speaking those very verses last Sabbath,” Joseph added, “and I have been pondering on them ever since – about what it meant, concerning the babe Mary carries. God’s Son, if He is to be the ruler over Israel, must come out of Bethlehem to fulfill the Scriptures.” He shook his head in amazement. “I was wondering how we were going to end up in Bethlehem. God is using Caesar’s evil census to get us there.” He laughed. “God is great! We need not worry for Mary, for He does indeed have everything in His control.”
 Micah 5:2
The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 3:6-10, NKJV).
In the verses above we see the sin Israel committed. We also see God calling Israel to return to Him. When she didn't, her sister Judah followed her into sin. So, God cut Israel off from His presence. This is something the USA and Canada should heed. Both countries have banned God from schools, the marketplace and from the halls of government. And now apparently the U.K. has also decided that God doesn't matter and a U.K. judge is calling for Britain to be systematically de-Christianized. When you stop honouring God and remove all traces of Him from life, the end result will not be good and Israel is the perfect example of how devastating that can be.
Jeremiah 3:8 states that God had given Israel a “writ of divorce”. The word for divorce in Hebrew is kĕriythuwth and it comes from the root word karath which means to cut off. It also means to “cut a covenant”. So God is saying he is cutting his covenant with Israel. This is serious! He had sent Israel away and cut her off from Him. The nation He had called to be holy, to be an example to the world, was now so far away from God, He wanted nothing to do with them. He not only removed His hand of blessing (Jeremiah 3:3) but He removed them from His presence. This is Canada! This is the USA! Yet Judah, seeing Israel cut off from God's presence, did not fear losing their relationship with God and followed Israel into sin. This is now the U.K. and every other Christian country that has said no to God. It is every person who has said no to God. If you don't want Him in your life, He will not suffer your presence and He will remove Himself from you. But what happens when you realize your mistake? Judah pretended to repent of her disobedience and return to God. But God saw through Judah's pretense of repentance and knew it wasn't real. If confession is not followed by true repentance,God is not fooled.
In Jeremiah 3 we not only see how serious God is about sin, but how merciful and willing He is to take back those who have sinned when they repent. In fact, I would have to say that Jeremiah 3 sets a tone for all people who have failed God, fallen into sin and want to return to Him. It is clear throughout the chapter that God's desire is for His people to return to Him. However, a simple, "I'm sorry Lord I messed up, please forgive me," will not do. With confession there must be true repentance. However, sometimes our actions of disobedience come with consequences that we have to suffer through. And though Israel eventually did repent, she still needed to be entirely cleansed of her sin. Israel's flagrant sin toward God, would lead to their exile from the land. They would lose their temple and their city (Jerusalem), while they spent seventy years in Babylonian captivity. Even when we confess and repent, sin still has its consequences. So be willing to accept them.
So what do we do? How can we make ourselves right with God if we have fallen away from Him? Some Christians believe that since they accepted Jesus as their Saviour they no longer need to confess their sins or repent of them. Unfortunately, they use Jesus' saving grace like a "get out of jail free card". Believing that they are no longer accountable to God because Jesus death cleansed them of all sins - past, present and future. And while we are forgiven for all our sins, we should not expect sin to go unnoticed by God. There will always be consequences for disobedience. Loving parents do not let their children defy them or continue to do wrong. Our Heavenly Father is the same way. He loves us too much to let us live in direct defiance of Him and His Word. Those Christians who claim that they are saved by grace and therefore don't need to worry about sin are only fooling themselves. Yes, we have been saved by God's wonderful grace. But are we to take advantage of that grace? What did God ask of Israel in order for Him to accept her back into fellowship with Him?
"Only acknowledge your iniquity. That you have transgressed against the Lord your God, and have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree, and you have not obeyed My voice," says the Lord (Jeremiah 3:13, NKJV)
1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR INIQUITY
Iniquity means “premeditated choice, continuing without repentance.” In other words, God wants us to acknowledge that we decided to sin and continued to do so without being sorry for it. Iniquity leads us to have no fear of God because we wilfully continue to sin in His presence. God wants us to acknowledge that we wilfully sin against Him.
2. Acknowledge your transgressions
Transgression is presumptuous sin. It means “to choose to intentionally disobey; willful trespassing.” I realize that sounds a lot like iniquity, so let me give you an example between the two. When David slept with Bathsheba and then had her husband murdered - that is iniquity. Premeditated choice. Transgression is slightly different. For example, when we lie or knowingly run a stop sign. It could be a one-time thing. Like when Samson broke his Nazarite vows by touching a dead lion (Numbers 6:1-5; Judges 14:8-9). So God wants us to acknowledge those sins we continue to partake in (iniquity) and those sins that we commit without thought (transgression).
3. acknowledge You have not obeyed God
After naming your sin for what it is (don't sugar coat it, or come to God with excuses about why you sinned) acknowledge that you have disobeyed God. You tuned His Holy Spirit out. You disregarded His commandments. You forsook His Word. You sinned. Admit it. As long as your sin goes unconfessed and you have an unrepentant heart, you are mocking God. You have (like Judah) just paid lip service to God. You have broken your fellowship with God. Yes, you are still saved through the grace of Jesus' sacrifice, but you are living in direct disobedience toward your Creator. When you harbour sin in your life, you are clinging to it more than you are to God. You are placing your love of sin over your love of God. If you continue to sin and say it doesn’t matter because you are saved by grace, you are fooling yourself and mocking God’s saving grace.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it” (Romans 6:1-2)?
Did you happen to notice the main element to confession and repentance? It is acknowledging your sin. When we acknowledge our sin before God and confess how we have erred against Him it should bring us to our knees in repentance. Repentance means turning away from your sin and never doing it again. One of the greatest gifts God gave us was sacrificing His Son so that we might be saved from eternal damnation. Jesus' death resulted in our sins being forgiven - past, present and future. But our sin nature has not been taken away. We are still capable of sin. If you think you are righteous just because you have believed in Jesus as your Saviour, you are fooling yourself. Your belief in Jesus does not make you righteous. His forgiveness of your sins makes you righteous.
If you claim the title of Christian and you realize that you have not been living a God-honouring life, there is only one thing for you to do. Acknowledge your sin before God (confess it) and repent. To those of you who believe in "free grace" and feel there is no need to repeatedly confess your sins and ask for forgiveness - I will remind you that you still have a sin nature. Yes, you are forgiven, but you are still capable of sin. If you are not sinning then you shouldn't have a problem. But if you are sinning and follow it up with a flippant, "I'm forgiven, so it's okay," than my friend you are simply mocking God's grace. Like Judah, God sees right through you. Return to Him, keep the lines of communication open and do not grieve His Holy Spirit any longer. Your are forgiven for your sins - now live like you are.