Episode NT4 – Wise Men & Mortal Danger

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – New Testament

Based on Matthew chapter 2

Wise Men & Mortal Danger

Many miles from Israel, in a land where people didn’t really know God properly, men gazed into the skies – trying to find meaning and guidance from the stars. In their ignorance of God they looked to the stars to find out His plans, and, even though God wouldn’t want us to do the same thing today, He was to have mercy of these ‘wise men’ of the eastern lands.

And as they turned their eyes to the heavens something new appeared in the night sky, a star they had never seen before. These men were men of learning and wisdom and spent many long hours trying to discover what this new star could mean. And as they tried to find out, so God Himself started to reveal to them what almost no one else knew. This star was a sign from God to guide these men, from a far away land, to find – a King! A newborn King. THE – newborn King of the Jews. Just how God revealed all this to them we don’t know, it was a miracle. God was leading men from far away, people who weren’t Jews and who some thought had no right to even know about the King of the Jews – to seek out and find Him!

Overjoyed with their discovery and certain that everyone in Israel must know about Him already, the wise men loaded their camels and set out to find the newborn King of the Jews. It was easy, all they had to do was follow the star. But as the men came to Israel, the star that had so clearly lead them this far – disappeared! What were they to do? Well, to them it was obvious, go and see the rulers in Jerusalem and ask them where He was and how they could find Him.

Meanwhile, without any knowledge of the newborn King, the present king of Israel, Herod, sat on his throne. Old and ill this evil man ruled with a rod of iron – no matter who came against him, even if it were his own sons, they were shown no mercy! His fear of losing his kingdom would make him fight to his last breath to hold on to what he’d taken – no matter how many lives it cost.

But as the wise men arrived and started to ask their questions, at first they were shocked that no one in Jerusalem knew anything about the newborn King! Jerusalem was the capital city of Israel, why didn’t anyone know anything about this wonderful news? Why were they so ignorant? And so the wise men asked more and more people how they could find the newborn King. (P) Instantly Jerusalem was in uproar and it took no time at all for king Herod to hear of the strangers’ questions! And when he did, the evil old king was deeply troubled – who was this baby that would challenge him as king? (PAUSE) Could they be talking about the long-awaited Messiah? Quickly, he called his religious advisers and demanded that they tell him where the Messiah would be born.

‘Bethlehem,’ came the reply. ‘The prophet wrote many years ago; ‘O Bethlehem of Judah,

you aren’t just a lowly village, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’ (PAUSE) So it was Bethlehem! Bethlehem, just a short journey south from Jerusalem would be where the baby King could be found.

With this information in hand, Herod hatched his plot. He called the wise men to a secret meeting and with all his evil cunning – he fixed a holy and sincere look on his face. ‘This is such wonderful news,’ he lied, ‘My people have been waiting so many years for the Messiah to be born, and I too wish to go and worship him. Tell me, how long ago did this star first appear in the sky?’ (P)

The wise men could never have known the pain that their answer was to bring. ‘The star first appeared 2 years ago,’ they replied.

Then Herod continued, ‘The birthplace of the Messiah is Bethlehem. Go there and make a careful search for the child. And when you’ve found Him, come back here and tell me where He is – so that I too can go and worship.’ His face and voice may have sounded sincere, but there was murder in Herod’s heart!

With this news, the wise men set off for Bethlehem – alone! All Jerusalem had been stirred by their enquires, and yet no one travelled to the next town to see the newborn Messiah. These wise men were truly wise, for they had travelled such a distance to seek the King of kings, and even though the star had disappeared, God had put it in their hearts to carry on looking – until they found Him. And as the wise men travelled, to their joy, the star that had led them before reappeared in the sky. Overjoyed at the return of the star, they followed it until it led them to the very house where the child was.

What must they have thought as they came to see the King of the Jews? The star had led them to the kind of house only poor people live in – this was no palace! But God makes no mistakes; He had sent the star to lead these men, men from a far off country – to find His Son. And even though He was found in a poor house, they knew God could be trusted. And so they entered the house where Mary and Jesus were and fell down and worshipped Him – worshipped the Messiah, the Saviour – the King of the Jews!

How God revealed so much to these men we’ll never know, for having worshipped the child, they opened their treasure chests and presented Him with three wonderful gifts. Gold – the gift for a King! Frankincense – burnt with a sweet smell to worship God. And Myrrh – used for burying the dead! For Jesus, God the Son – was the King who would one day die for us all. (P)

But by their very presence in Bethlehem, the wise men had put the child and His family in mortal danger! Herod had no intension of worshipping Jesus – he wanted Jesus dead! Herod had only one way of dealing with potential rivals – murder! And the wise men were due to return to Herod the very next day and tell him exactly where he could find the child! But that night as the wise men slept, God revealed to them in a dream that they mustn’t go back to Herod, but travel home by another road.

As soon as the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph. ‘Hurry, get up and escape to Egypt with the child and His mother, for Herod is going to try and kill the child! Stay there until I tell you to return.’ So that very night they packed up what they could and hurried away to Egypt, staying there until Herod died!

When Herod realised he’d been outsmarted by the wise men he flew into a rage and ordered soldiers to go to Bethlehem at once and murder every baby boy aged 2 years and below – any child born since the time the star had first appeared! (P) What terrible pain his wicked cruelty caused. (PAUSE)

It wasn’t too long until the evil king Herod died, and when he had, the angel came once again to Joseph and said, ‘Go back to Israel with the child and His mother, the one who wanted to kill Him is now dead.’ So Joseph returned to Israel, but when he realised that Herod’s son Archelaus was now king he was badly frightened. And after another dream warning him to go to Galilee, the family settled in the small village of Nazareth.

Episode 8 – Abram to the rescue

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapters 13 & 14

Abram to the Rescue

‘Hello, I’m Abram. Last time I told you how me and my wife Sara had left our hometown and come to live in this beautiful land of Canaan. (P) Yes, I’d made some pretty big mistakes along the way. I’d stopped trusting God when there was a famine. I’d thought I could deal with it myself by going down to Egypt. But that wasn’t what God’d wanted, and when I’d started to tell lies about Sara being my sister and not my wife, I’d almost lost her to King Pharaoh. It was only when God stepped in to help that I got Sara back – even then we were still all kicked out of Egypt – and I came back to Canaan like a dog with its tail between its legs!’

‘But I’d learnt from my mistake. I’d apologised to God and, although I didn’t deserve it, He’d forgiven me. However, it wasn’t long before I had to face another test. And this time I was determined to do the right thing and trust God.’

‘We were back in Canaan with my nephew Lot. The Lord had really looked after us, and He’d given us lots of animals, wealth and servants, but between us we had too many animals for the land to support. And this led to fights between our shepherds. I couldn’t let it carry on – so I called Lot over for a chat.’

‘Come on Lot,’ I said. ‘We need to talk about this. We can’t allow this fighting to continue. – I think I have a solution.

‘We can’t share the same land, as there’re too many animals, so my proposal is this. You choose where you’d like to go. If you choose to go to the right, then I’ll go left. If you choose left, then I’ll go right.’

‘Lot was a smart man, but he hadn’t learnt from the mistakes Sara and I’d made. He didn’t ask God where He wanted him to go! With his own thinking, and without talking to God, he made a decision that later – he was to bitterly regret. (P) Lot looked around and saw a beautiful river valley with more than enough pasture for all his animals, and decided to go there. – But unfortunately, in that river valley were some cities that were filled with people who were very wicked. Lot saw how evil the people were, and the way they behaved upset him. (P) At first he pitched his tents in the valley a little bit away from the evil cities. But as time went by, his tents moved closer and closer until the day came when Lot and his family actually ended up living in one of those wicked cities.’ (PAUSE)

‘After Lot had gone, God spoke to me again.’

GOD ‘Abram, look around at this land. This is the land I’m going to give to you and your descendants forever. You will have so many descendants that, just like the grains of dust that cover the earth, no one will be able to count them. Take a walk through this land and see what I’m giving you.’

‘I did what God said, and moved to another area, but all the time I was thinking about that word – ‘descendants’. God was promising us ‘descendants’ and yet here we were in our old age without any children at all! (P) But even so, I knew one thing for sure, if anyone’s able to keep their promises, it’s God. So I carried on trusting Him.’ (PAUSE)

‘However, all was not well with Lot. There were stories of war and rebellion. For 13 years the city where Lot lived had been ruled over by a foreign king, King Kedorlaomer. But the people of that city, along with four other cities, had rebelled against this king. Within a year Kedorlaomer and his allies came to put the rebellion down. The two armies met in the beautiful river valley, while Lot and those not involved in the fighting waited for news.’

‘But the news, when it came, made even the strongest man shake with fear. It’d been a rout! Kedorlaomer was far stronger than the rebellious army. The soldiers from Lot’s town and the other four towns were so badly beaten, they’d turned and run without even looking where they were going. The valley where they were fighting had lots of tar pits in it and, as the frightened soldiers ran for their lives, quite a few of them slipped to their deaths in the tar pits. The rest ran to the mountains and hid.’

‘Kedorlaomer and his army were overjoyed at their victory, and they marched to the cities that’d rebelled against them and took everything they could get their hands on. Food, clothes, animals, money, and people – if it could be moved, they took it. And then, loaded down with their bounty, they started on their long journey home.’

‘Lot had been in one of those cities. And as the army of Kedorlaomer came through, taking everything they could lay their hands on, they also took Lot and all his possessions with them. Lot was going to become a slave. And surely no one’d try and save him now, not after Kedorlaomer had shown how dangerous he was.’ (PAUSE)

‘A short while later, while I was sitting with a friend, I saw a scruffy little man running towards me. As I stood up to see what the man wanted, he ran right up to me, and after catching his breath, he spluttered out his news.’

‘Mr Abram sir. Your nephew, Mr Lot, he’s been captured! King Kedorlaomer came and ransacked the city and took everything, including Mr Lot.’ (P)

‘Well, I knew at once what I had to do. I had to trust God for help and go and rescue Lot. I called together all the men of my household, 318 in all, you know, including servants, shepherds and everybody. And I armed each one of them and set out after Kedorlaomer.’

‘Now, Kedorlaomer and his army couldn’t move very quickly with all the animals and treasure they’d stolen from the cities. So within just a few short days, I caught up with them in the north of Canaan.’ (P)

‘As I spied out the situation, it was obvious Kedorlaomer’s army was far too strong for my 318 men to attack during the day. So we waited until the darkest part of the night before we launched our attack.’

‘Kedorlaomer didn’t know what hit him. In the middle of the night – screaming warriors raced at him, sounding like thousands of fighting men. He and his army were terrified and ran for their lives with me and my men in hot pursuit. Then when we’d seen off Kedorlaomer once and for all, I recovered everything Kedorlaomer and his army had taken, the goods, the people and especially Lot and his possessions and set off back home.’ (PAUSE)

‘Now here’s an interesting thing. As I returned from our victory, a man named Melchizedek, who was the King of the city Salem, and also a priest of the Most High God, brought us some bread and wine. And Melchizedek blessed me in the name of God Most High and I gave him a tenth of all the goods I’d recovered.’

‘But as for the man in charge of the evil city Lot lived in, I wouldn’t accept anything from him. He offered to allow me to keep all the good I’d recovered from Kedorlaomer, but I refused. (P) You see, I want everyone to know that it’s God who looks after me, Abram, and that I don’t need help from anyone else, least of all such an evil man as him.’

Episode 7 – Abram – down to Egypt

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 12

Abram Goes Down to Egypt

‘Hello, my name’s Abram, and I’m married to Sara.’

‘I want to tell you how God gave us something we’d longed for, for many years. We thought we’d get it very quickly, but that wasn’t God’s plan. Yet as we waited, we learnt so many lessons, and especially how we ought to keep trusting God!’

‘I remember it all so well, we thought we were happy in the city of Haran, with lots to do and see. We were near our family and content enough, although my father had died recently. But looking back now, I can see how much we were missing.’ (PAUSE)

‘Sara still gets cross with me when she remembers how she found out that something was happening. One day she heard a commotion outside her room. And as she looked out, there I was rushing around and telling the servants to start packing, saying we were going to leave! It was the first she’d heard about it! I can still remember her voice! ‘Abram! ABRAM! What’s going on? Why are you telling everyone to start packing?’

‘Sara, you’ll never believe it!’  I said.

‘Try me,’ she replied.

‘God spoke with me Sara! He told me that we have to leave this place and go to another country that He’ll show us.’

‘But we’re happy here Abram, why would God want us to leave?

‘Sara, it’s so wonderful. He made me a promise, something we’ve wanted for a very very long time. (P) He promised us – a son.’

Then she got all upset. ‘Oh Abram, please don’t. You know I can’t talk about it anymore. He hasn’t given us any children in all the years we’ve been married. (PAUSE) Did He really promise?’

‘Sara, He promised me that I’ll become the father of a great nation. – – – – – – -He promised to bless me and make me famous, and that I’d be a blessing to others. If anyone curses me, He’s going to curse them, and if anyone blesses me, He’ll bless them. He promised that one day every family on earth would be blessed through me. (PAUSE) But (PAUSE) we have to leave this country and our family and go to the place He’s gonna show us. (P) I can’t be that father if we don’t go.’                                                                                                                                                     

Sara couldn’t believe it. ‘All our married life we’ve wanted children Abram, but God hasn’t let us have any. He’s given us wealth, but what good is wealth when you don’t have any children to leave it to? But now, God really has promised?‘ I nodded. – ‘Time to start packing!’

‘We both thought we’d have the child very soon, but that wasn’t God’s plan. I think what was most important to God was that we loved and obeyed Him. Because over the following years we learnt so much about God, and that even when we couldn’t see the answer, we had to trust Him that He would keep His promise.’

 ‘So we left Haran with our servants, cattle, sheep and shepherds. Oh, and with my nephew Lot who came with us with all his – family, servants, cattle, sheep and shepherds. And we travelled to a beautiful and fertile land called Canaan, which was the place God wanted us to go to!’ (P)

‘Not long after we’d arrived, God appeared to me again and promised that He would give this land to ‘our descendants’. There it was again, His special promise to ‘our descendants’! But I was getting to be an old man now, and Sara, even though she was so beautiful, was also getting older. And we couldn’t have ‘descendants’ to inherit the land if we didn’t have a child. We just had to keep trusting that God would keep His promise and we would have a son.'(P+)

‘I wish I could say that I did always keep trusting God, but Sara often reminds me that when things started to get a little difficult – I failed. You see there was a famine in Canaan- nowhere near enough food and water for us all. And so we made a little – err –  ‘trip’ down to Egypt!

You see, God had told us to go to Canaan. But what was I supposed to do when things started to go wrong in Canaan? There was a famine! The sheep were dying before our eyes. Every day things got worse, more animals died. At night I found it hard to sleep as the sheep bleated for water. I felt I had to take matters into my own hands and find food and water.’

‘Anyway, we’d met a man from Egypt who told us there was plenty of food and water down there. (P) God hadn’t said to leave, but I figured I had to do something.! And as far as I could see, the only way to save the animals, … and us, was to go down to Egypt and stay there until the famine passed. I tried to convince myself God wouldn’t mind – and so we packed up and left.’ (PAUSE)

‘But there was one other slight problem. – Sara!’

‘I’m not saying Sara was a problem, but she’s so beautiful I was afraid that if the Egyptians saw how beautiful she was, they’d kill me so they could take her for themselves. Then where would God’s promises be?’

‘And so to my shame, I asked Sara and my servants to – lie. I told them to tell anyone who asked, that Sara was my … sister, and not my wife. You see, I hoped they’d treat me extra well if they thought she was my sister. But things got out of hand when Pharaoh’s servants saw how beautiful Sara was. And the news of her beauty reached king Pharaoh himself.’

PHARAOH ‘If this woman is so beautiful then bring her to my palace,’ he ordered. ‘Surely all the most beautiful women should belong to me, king Pharaoh. Give her brother Abram riches, but bring the woman to me!’ (P+)

‘They came and took Sara away. They took her to the palace and the royal harem with all of Pharaoh’s other wives.’

‘It’d all gone wrong. Not only had I lost my wife, but with her gone, he’d also lost any hope of a son. (P) And I don’t think God was very happy with me either. I’d disobeyed Him by leaving Canaan, I’d made Sara and my servants tell lies because I was such a coward, and now I’d lost Sara to Pharaoh! (P) But one of the things I have learnt over the years – is that God is a loving and forgiving God and He won’t let His plans fail.’ (PAUSE)

‘The first I heard about it was when armed guards came to take me to Pharaoh.’

PHARAOH ‘What have you done to me?‘ Pharaoh roared!

‘Er … erm … er ..’ I replied.

PHARAOH ‘My family is dying before me eyes, a plague is spreading through my household! And when I tell my wise men to find out why, do you know what they tell me?’

ABRAM ‘Er …er… no?’

PHARAOH ‘They tell me that God, your God, has sent this plague to punish me! Why would your God want to punish me, I ask my wise men? And then, at the fear of losing their heads, they tell me that your God is punishing me because I have taken … another mans wife! Your wife!’

‘You lied to me Abram, and your God is punishing me! How could you let me believe that Sara was your sister and allow me to bring her into my harem? Why didn’t you say she was your wife!’

ABRAM ‘I … um … I. … er.’

PHARAOH ‘Get them out of my sight!’ Pharaoh roared and then turning to his guards. ‘And get them out of my land! Them and their servants and all their belongings, I want them out of here and out of Egypt NOW!’

ABRAM ‘It was all very frightening, armed guards rushed us out of Pharaoh’s presence and hurried us back to our tents. Then they made us pack up as quickly as we could and rushed us and our servants and our animals back over the border into Canaan.’ (P)

‘Looking back on it all now, I’m so ashamed of my behaviour. I wish I’d trusted God and stayed in Canaan. But I’m also glad that when I said sorry to God, He forgave us. (P) But even though I had Sara back, we still didn’t have our promised son!’