My Eyes Have Seen Your SalvationPurification
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss describes the rich meaning behind a simple act of obedience. Mary had just given birth and she presented a sacrifice at the temple.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As this is happening, as Mary brings these birds whose blood will be shed for her purification, Mary is holding in her arms the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, December 11.
If you’ve ever had a newborn, you know how hard it is to get out of the house and around town. Hard as it was for Mary and Joseph, they traveled with the infant Jesus in order to obey the law and dedicate him at the temple. Nancy will show us what happened next, continuing in the series "My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation."
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Nancy: I do want to thank every listener who has participated in the matching challenge going on right now. Some friends of this ministry know how important the month of December is to the health of the ministry. Nearly half of all the donations arrive at the end of the year. So these friends are doubling each gift given this month, up to the matching challenge amount of $530,000.
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Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.
Let’s get back to the third day in the series "My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation."
Nancy: We’re looking at some aspects of the Christmas story, the first Christmas story, that we don’t often take time to look at. We’re familiar with the scenes about the angel coming to Mary and then to Joseph, about the birth of the baby in Bethlehem and the shepherds coming. Those are some of the scenes that we talk about most often.
But we’re looking in Luke chapter 2 during this series at some scenes that may not be quite as familiar. There are a couple of scenes that took place right after the birth of Christ, and they’re important in helping us understand who He was and why He came.
Let me ask you to turn in your Bible to the Gospel of Luke chapter 2. I want to read a paragraph beginning in verse 22. We’re talking about Mary and Joseph and the newborn baby Jesus. “When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem is about six miles from Bethlehem where Jesus had been born. Mary and Joseph brought him, “up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’) and to offer a sacrifice, according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’” (Luke 2:22–24).
How many of you have heard a Christmas message from that paragraph? Not very many hands going up here. But there are some important things in that paragraph that I want us to stop and consider and see what the Lord would have to say to us.
The first thing that I notice in this portion of Scripture is the fact that Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Joseph, his adopted father, were obedient to the law of God. Obedience to the Law of Moses, the Law of God, is something that plays prominently in this passage. There are five references beginning in verse 22 and continuing through the end of this passage in verse 39. Five references to obedience, obedience to the Law of Moses.
Verse 22: “When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses.” Verse 23: They brought the baby Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord “as it is written in the Law of the Lord.” Verse 24: They brought with them a sacrifice to offer “according to what is said in the Law of the Lord.”
And then in verse 27 we see that his parents brought him to the temple “to do for him according to the custom of the Law.” Then verse 39 tells us, “When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee.” Five references to “the Law of the Lord” in just this one account.
This says to me that Mary and Joseph took the Law of God seriously. They had a heart to obey; it was their pattern to obey the Word of God. They knew what the law said to do. The Law of God said when the newborn is eight days old he is to be circumcised and that is when he is to be named. We saw in the last session how Jesus was circumcised at eight days of age according to the law in the Old Testament.
Forty days after the child was born, the mother was to be purified. We’ll talk about that in just a few moments. But Mary and Joseph knew what the law said they were supposed to do. They knew the Word of God.
People didn’t have their own copies of the Bible. They didn't have printed copies. There was no such thing as a printing press. People didn't have their own copies of the Bible. But they knew the Law of God because they had passed it down from one generation to the next. They listened to it; they were attentive to it. They had learned these things from their parents, and their parents had learned from their parents.
We see the Mary and Joseph's obedience was detailed. It was thorough—even in the little things. We read that they performed everything according to the Law of the Lord. I assume that at times that was inconvenient. It may not have been convenient for them to make that six-mile journey on foot from Bethleham to Jerusalem with a six-week old. But they did it anyway, because that's what God's Word said they were supposed to do.
There was a pattern of obedience here. That obedience was evidence of a covenant relationship with God. If you were a Jew, this is what you did. This what the Law of God said, and you obeyed it.
Let me pause here and put in a little parenthesis for those of you who are parents and say that this passage is a reminder of the importance of believing parents being obedient parents, Christian parents setting a pattern for their children of parents obeying the Law of the Lord, the importance of parents raising their children according to the Word of God.
Establishing a pattern; and you start that even when your children are newborns. It's important that you are obeying the Law of the Lord yourself, even when your children are tiny, tiny, tiny—before they can realize what you are doing. You’re establishing a pattern of obedience. As your children grow older, your obedience becomes a basis for training them, a basis for teaching them about choices. Why do we do what we do? Because that’s what God’s Word says. That’s what God tells us to do in His Word. It’s according to the Law of the Lord.
In order to be an obedient, believing parent, you need to know what the Word of God says. You need to be familiar with it. You need to know what the will of God is and then be committed to do it.
How well do you know God’s Word? And then how obedient are you to God’s Word? Not just do you know it, but do you do it? Or do you pick and choose? “These are the things I like, but today I feel like grumbling so I won’t give thanks in all things.” Are you obedient to the Word of God in everything as Mary and Joseph were?
Don’t expect your children to be more obedient to the Lord than you are. You see, as your children get older, it breaks your heart when you see them violating the ways and the laws of God, when you see them rejecting the Word of God.
But if you want your children to grow to obey the Word of God, make sure that you are setting the model, setting the example of yourself being obedient to God’s Word.
That doesn’t mean that if you are obedient to God’s Word, your children will always be obedient to God’s Word. But don’t expect them to surpass your obedience to the Word of God.
So we see Mary and Joseph being obedient to the Law of God and Jesus being obedient even as an infant submitted to the Word of God as His parents brought Him in for these initial rites that newborns were to be taken through according to God’s law.
When this child grew up, He would one day be accused of breaking the Law of God. He would die ultimately as a common criminal, as a lawbreaker on a Roman cross. But in the inspiring of this account in Luke 2, I think the Holy Spirit wanted us to know that Jesus was no lawbreaker, that even from the very beginning, from before the time He could Himself actively keep the law, He was a faithful, law-keeping part of the community of Israel.
Jesus was “born under the law,” Galatians 4:4 tells us. He obeyed its commands even from infancy. And a pattern of obedience that was established in his life carried into adulthood.
You see that at Jesus’ baptism at the age of thirty when He went to John at the Jordan River and asked to be baptized by John. John was hesitant. He said, “I need to be baptized by you; and do you come to me?” (Matt. 3:14).
Jesus said, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this”—why?—“to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15 NIV). Jesus said, “I want to obey the law of God.” And for Him, that started as a newborn.
So Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law of God. He kept it through all of His life from His earliest days so that when He went to the cross, He did not go there for any sin or guilt of His own. He did not go there as a lawbreaker. He went there as a blameless, sinless, Son of God taking the place of us who are lawbreakers, to be the substitution sacrifice for our sins.
He could not have been a suitable substitute for our sins; he could not have died in our place if even one time he had failed to keep the law of God even from the time he was eight days of age. If one time he had not fulfilled the law of God, He could not have been our Savior. So even from infancy Jesus went through all the ceremonies, all the ordinances that God had established for His covenant people.
In the last session we looked at one of those ordinances. That was the ordinance of circumcision commanded by God for all Jewish baby boys when they were eight days old. Jesus went through that rite of circumcision at eight days of age.
Now we see Jesus in the passage we’re looking at today in Luke 2 at forty days old, almost six weeks old. Here we see the purification of His mother that was required by the law for every Jewish mother after childbirth.
Verse 22 of Luke 2 tells us, “When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. And to offer a sacrifice (a sacrifice for her purification) according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’” (vv. 22–24).
According to the Law of God—you find this in Leviticus 12—a woman who gave birth to a son was ceremonially unclean for seven days and then she was confined for an additional thirty-three days. A total of forty days she was ritually impure. That was if she had a son. It was actually eighty days if she had a daughter.
So Leviticus 12:2-7 tells us, (in that first forty day period) “she shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed . . . And when the days of her purifying are completed . . . she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood.”
This is the law that Mary and Joseph were following when they came to the temple when Jesus was forty days old. Mary came for her purification.
Let me point out it was not the birth itself that made the mother ceremonially unclean. And the baby was not considered unclean. It was not that she had sinned in having a baby. The uncleanness, the ceremonial uncleanness was caused by the discharge of blood that she experienced during the birth. That was what required a sacrifice to be offered for her purification.
So for that purification rite, that purification ceremony when the baby was forty days old, they went to the temple. Now this temple at the time when Jesus was born was what was known as Herod’s Temple. It’s a temple that Herod had expanded and built up from the temple in the Old Testament.
I did some research on this while I was studying this passage. It’s fascinating. I had not known much about Herod’s Temple. It was a magnificent structure. Let me tell you a little bit about it. Around the outer perimeter of the temple there was what was known as the court of the Gentiles. This was the area outside and around the actual sanctuary.
The court of the Gentiles was the lowest area. It was enclosed by walls, but it was an outdoor area. This was the market where the sacrificial animals were sold and bought for the animal sacrifices. This is where the tables for the moneychangers would have been that Jesus would one day come and overthrow. This was in the court of the Gentiles.
In this court there was a marble screen that was four and a half feet tall that had a Greek and Latin inscription on it warning Gentiles not to proceed beyond this point on pain of death. “Don’t go beyond here.” That’s why it was called the court of the Gentiles. Gentiles could not go into the sanctuary.
For those who were Jews you would go from the court of the Gentiles up a flight of fourteen steps into the sanctuary itself. The sanctuary itself consisted of three courts. Each one was higher than the previous one.
The first and largest court was the court of the women. It was so called because women were not allowed to proceed beyond this point. Then there was the court of Israel, which was for men only. Then there was the court of priests. Each one of these was higher than the last. The court of priests was, of course, for the priests only. And then there was the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place where only the high priests could go once a year into the presence of God.
So you have this ascending up into the temple, ascending up into the sanctuary. You read about this in some of the Old Testament psalms that are called “psalms of ascents.” This would be as they would go up into the temple to worship the Lord.
The court of the women, as we said, was the largest of the three courts in the sanctuary. Any Jew could come there—man, woman, child. This was a place that was a beehive of activity. As I read about it, I could just kind of picture it. There was constant singing and dancing and music.
This is the place where the treasury was, the temple treasury, where people gave their offerings. Against the walls of this court of the women there were thirteen chests, boxes, where people would put their offerings. Those chests were called trumpets. They were called that because they were narrow at the top and they were wide at the bottom, and they were shaped like trumpets. Each of these thirteen trumpets or boxes was marked for a particular type of offering.
It’s kind of like when you go to church at our church (I don’t know if they do it at yours). They have offering envelopes and you can put your offering in there. And they have places on the front you can mark. Is this for missions? Is this for the general budget? Is this for the building fund? Is this for a special project?
Well, there were these thirteen boxes or trumpets around the walls where people could put their offerings, and each one was marked for a certain kind of offering for the temple.
The third trumpet, the third offering box, was the place where women would put their offering if they wanted to buy a turtledove for the burnt offering or the sin offering required for this purification ceremony.
Then after you made your offering there in this court of the women, you would go up another flight of stairs, fifteen steps, up to the gate of Nicanor. At that gate, which had an arch over it, that gate of Nicanor was what would then take you into the court of Israel.
Women could not go through that gate into the court of Israel. They could only go up to the gate. But this is the gate right at the edge of the court of the women where women would go for this purification ceremony.
A lot of things took place at this gate of Nicanor that was between the court of the women and the court of Israel. This is where you have a lot of Old Testament ceremonies that were prescribed—for example, people that had leprosy who had to go and be inspected by the priests. This is where they would do this, at this gate of Nicanor.
You remember in the Old Testament if a wife was accused of adultery she was taken to the temple and presented to the Lord and given some bitter water to drink. If it made her sick to her stomach, that would be evidence that she was guilty. It was some supernatural thing that God did. That ceremony took place at this gate.
This is the place where women would come for purification after childbirth. So there were a lot of ceremonies that would go on at this gate. The priests were there. The people would come and present themselves to the Lord.
This is where Mary and Joseph came with their forty-day old infant Jesus for Mary’s purification forty days after her firstborn son was born. They came to present themselves to the priest.
Let me make two observations about the purification rite that Mary went through. First of all, we read in the text that Mary and Joseph brought a pair of birds. You remember when we read in Leviticus 12, a woman was to bring a burnt offering and a sin offering. It said she was to bring a lamb for the one offering and a bird for the other offering.
But there was a provision that God in His mercy made for Jews who could not afford to bring a lamb. Leviticus 12:8 tells us, “If she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.”
So God had made provision for those Jews who did not have the means to offer a lamb every time they had a child and had to go through this purification rite. Mary brought this poor person’s sacrifice.
Now it wasn’t the poorest person’s sacrifice. There was another provision in the Old Testament law where if you couldn’t afford the two birds you could bring some grain or meal. So they weren't destitute. Joseph had a job; he had a trade. But neither were they wealthy. And so not being able to afford a lamb, they brought a pair of doves or pigeons. They brought what they could afford and that was acceptable to God.
As I pondered that verse in Luke 2, I was reminded of another verse in the New Testament. Second Corinthians 8:9 tells us, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
We see a glimpse of that even here when Jesus is forty days old at the presentation and the purification there in the temple. He was not born to wealthy parents. Now, had He been born to the wealthiest parents on planet earth, He still would have been poor by comparison to what He had left in heaven. But I think it’s just a wonderful picture that God gave us by sending Jesus to be born to common, ordinary, middle-class at best, parents—parents who couldn’t afford a wealthy offering.
God sent His Son to be born into that family, to be born into the back side of an inn in a cattle trough, probably not even a room, just a place where cattle would go and feed. The whole thing is a picture not of abundance, but of being poor.
We’re reminded that Jesus stripped Himself of His glory and His wealth as God, and took on human form, became a man. Why did He do it? So that through His poverty we could become rich. Again we see the humility of Jesus, the amazing love of Christ.
Then also in this purification rite we get a glimpse of the gospel in the fact that purification requires the shedding of blood. Mary was being purified from her ritual uncleanness. Hebrews 9:22 tells us that “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
The purification rite that Mary went through required that these birds be killed, that the blood of the sacrificial animals be shed for her purification. It was a picture of the gospel that Jesus Christ came to bring to this earth.
You can just imagine this scene at the gate of Nicanor there just on the outer edge of the court of women as you went into the part of the sanctuary where the priests would do their sacrifices. All over this place people were offering sacrificial animals. Blood was being spilt, shed everywhere. It was being poured on altars. As this happening, as Mary brings these birds whose blood will be shed for her purification, Mary is holding in her arms the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world.
It’s such a picture. She brings a pair of birds to offer up as a sin offering and a burnt offering. Their blood is shed; they’re killed and their blood is shed for her purification and there in her arms she holds the One who will one day shed His blood to cleanse her and to cleanse all who believe in the Lord Jesus.
So we’re reminded as we look at this incident in the life of the baby Jesus.
What can wash away my sin?
[What can purify me?]
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Nothing can for sin atone;
Naught of good that I have done.
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This is all my hope and peace.
This is all my righteousness.
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh precious is the flow,
That makes me white as snow!
No other fount I know.
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
("Nothing But the Blood" by Robert Lowery)
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has painted us a picture of what Christmas is really all about. She’ll be right back to pray.
Today’s moving story about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the temple is from Luke 2. Nancy explains it so well in our current series called "My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation."
Maybe you’ve been in a church during a baby dedication. Why do we dedicate babies? Mary and Joseph thought it was a good idea. Find out why tomorrow when Nancy picks the series back up. Now she’s back to pray.
Nancy: Father, we thank You for this glimpse that You’ve given us in Your Word of how the mother of the Lord Jesus went to the temple and offered that sacrifice to be purified from her ritual uncleanness, how she offered a sacrifice. And there in her arms she was holding the sacrifice that You provided so that once and for all we could be cleansed from our sins.
Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for being willing to be made poor, for being the sacrificial Lamb of God, the One who purifies us from all our sin. We bless You, amen.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.
|Fully Human, Fully God||Dec. 9, 2013|
|The Humility of Christ||Dec. 10, 2013|
|A Very Special Baby Dedication||Dec. 12, 2013|
|A Legacy of Dedication||Dec. 13, 2013|
|Waiting for Consolation||Dec. 16, 2013|
|Longing Fulfilled||Dec. 17, 2013|
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