Under Authority

"And when the days for their purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD"), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS." Luke 2:22-24

The little town of Bethlehem was not some backwater burg that had never known the spotlight of significant events. After all, this was the city of David, and it had seen its share of excitement. The brief account of 2 Samuel 23:13-16 supports this claim to fame. David was in an ever-tightening noose, fighting on two fronts. He was on the run from soldiers of King Saul on one flank, and the armies of the Philistines on the other. He was a fugitive from the King's justice, and on the most wanted list of the sworn enemies of the people of Israel. He knew he could find refuge in the hills, and a favorable reception from his kinfolk. He headed to his mountain stronghold overlooking Bethlehem with his 30 Mighty Men. He knew the hills and valleys of this terrain like the back of his hand. From this vantage point, he and his battle chieftains could slip into town for provisions, and defend themselves from the approach of an enemy. His strategy was dashed when the Philistines garrisoned Bethlehem, to set a trap and to cut off his supply line. David was standing over his hometown, and a little overwhelmed by his circumstances. He was flooded with a wave of nostalgia, longing for the good old days. With a touch of homesickness, David whispered, "Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate." It was not an order. David was just reminiscing about the lost days of his youth. When he was a simple shepherd boy, returning home from his watch over the sheep, he would often quench his thirst with the cold water that could be drawn from the deep well at the gate to the city. Three of his chief men heard him, and strapped on their swords and went to get David what they thought he wanted. Literally, his wish was their command. They returned to David with the water, bloodied and bruised after a brutal fight with the Philistine garrison. David would not drink it. It had cost them their blood, and he poured it out on the ground as an offering to the Lord. David knew that his influence over these men was a gift from God. As long as David "inquired of the Lord" these men sensed God's hand upon him. They respected David, not because he had a position of power, but because he was a man "under authority." Prayer was David's pipeline for his power. When David cut off his pipeline to power, he still kept his position, but lost the respect of his people. One word: Bathsheba.

One of the greatest insights I have ever received from the Word of God came from Ron Dunn. He walked me through Matthew 8:1-13, and showed me the source of the power and influence Jesus received from God. When a centurion approached Jesus to tell Him of his servant's illness, Jesus said, "I will come and heal him." The centurion told him to "just say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority." For years, I had read this passage, and had understood it to say. " I am a man in authority." After all, don't men in authority have the position that provides them with the power. Ron Dunn pointed out that Jesus marveled at the statement because everyone around Him was jockeying for position and ambitiously grasping for personal power. He said, "I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel." Jesus knew that men "under authority" have the real influence, because they know they only represent the source of the power. The Roman centurion was aware he had no power of his own. His orders were carried out because was was a servant of Caesar.

The Word of God or The Law of the Lord was obeyed in the home of Mary and Joseph. Jesus learned the principle of being "under authority" at a very early age. His devoted Jewish parents allowed God to have authority and jurisdiction over their lives. This may be a revelation of why they were chosen to carry out such a tremendous responsibility. This couple took The Word of God seriously. They knew Jesus was set apart for a purpose. From His first breath in the cradle, to His last breath on the cross he was under the authority of the Word of God. His earthly parents had allowed the authority of the Word of God to saturate His life and develop His character. The Son of God spoke with the authority of God, because He was in touch with The Source of power. The prayer life of Jesus was the pipeline of His power. Jesus could be trusted to be obedient to the Word of God, and God would give him influence over the hearts of men.

Luke's account reveals three Jewish ceremonies that Mary and Joseph participated in after the birth of Jesus. Their special assignment did not exempt them from obedience to the Law. The first celebration was the Circumcision of The Child. It could be done by a local priest. Likely this was done, because Mary would not have been able to approach the temple due to her need to be purified.

The second was the Purification from Childbirth. Poor people could bring two doves or pigeons. One of the doves was for a burnt offering of praise to God, and the other was offered as blood for a sin offering. Due to the flow of blood that continued after childbirth, a woman was considered unclean. For 40 days, Mary was restricted from touching anything sacred or even approaching the temple area. After the ceremony of circumcision, she had to wait an additional 33 days before she could present herself to the priest.

The third ceremony was the Consecration of the Firstborn. This was public recognition that the family agreed with the Word of God that their firstborn belonged to the Lord. (Exodus 13:1)
It was also the occasion when a price of five shekels was paid to the priest that redeemed the child for God and set him apart for His service. This is related to the Passover passage in Numbers 3:11-13. Luke does not mention the payment being made on behalf of Jesus.
Mary and Joseph had already traveled close to 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A four day trip by caravan, probably took them close to a week, due to Mary's condition. A woman with a late term pregnancy would be hard pressed to cover the 20 miles per day that a caravan would travel. After the birth of Jesus. They were required to make the six mile journey to Jerusalem from Bethlehem for the purification and the dedication of the firstborn.

Their six mile trip to Jerusalem from Bethlehem was not the ordeal they must have experienced traveling from Nazareth to the city of David, but it could hardly be called convenient. This couple set a standard of obedience for those who want to put Christ back into the celebration of the Christmas season.

There will never be a more convenient time to allow the Word of God to exercise authority and jurisdiction over your life. Jesus was born in a cold, dark stable, but he was nurtured in the warmth and the light of Scripture. This Christmas let the Bible be authoritative for your life. Allow prayer to be the pipeline through which God can let His power flow through you to people in need of His warmth and light.