Monday, December 25, 2023

Christ Is Coming 3: The Watchers Rejoice For Him Luke 2:25-35


Christ Is Coming 3: The Watchers Rejoice For Him
Luke 2:25-35

Today we celebrate the first coming of Christ into this world. When He came in the flesh on that night in Bethlehem, everything from then to now was sovereignly, and supernaturally altered. No other event in all of the great events of the world since creation changed the world as much as that night’s events. Such a powerful change did not happen without planning, without power or without prophecy. It also did not happen without people who were watchers waiting with hope to experience or to see the one who would not only begin the change, but would bring the change and be the change. Our sermon this morning is about the birth of Jesus but it is also about those faithful people who believe in the promises of Jehovah and watched for those promises to become reality.

Faithful Promise - Luke 2:1-14

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

God’s Plan in Prophecy

The Messiah Comes. God had promised His people, Israel, a Messiah (which means an anointed one, in Greek a Christ), he would also be their King from the bloodline of David. A King who would rule Israel and free His people. Nor was the promise given only once or twice, but in the Old Testament it was given in details over 300 times.
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6-7 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
God’s plan didn’t stop at just written prophecy, nor did it stop at just the people of Israel. God, because He is God, wrote His sovereign plan in the events of history.

God’s Plan In History

When Jesus was born it was exactly the right time and place because God had prepared the world to be ready for Messiah to come. Israel at this time a nation that is in turmoil, balanced upon a precipice. Less than 200 years before this time, Israel had been a free and independent nation. Ruled by the Maccabees family after a bloody war against the Greek tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes. But now Israel is no longer free, it has submitted to the power of Rome. Rome has filled their nation with thousands of foreign, pagan soldiers. Taken their land for fortresses and even appointed an Edomite King, called Herod the Great to his face but Herod the cruel behind his back. They people were harshly taxed for the privilege of being Rome’s great Empire.

The talk and hope of the promised Messiah was everywhere during these harsh times. Secret organizations like the zealots were planning assassinations and a war for freedom. Finally, in 70 AD they got their war and it destroyed Israel. They lost their nation, their Temple and their hope of freedom. During these days, many false Messiahs had rose to prominence and some had raised hundreds of followers, who they led to their deaths.
Into this turbulent, dangerous time the real Messiah, Jesus was born as we read in Luke 2.  This hated empire that ruled over them, ordered a registration, in order then to tax the nation, And God used this registration to move Jospeh and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem where He had promised the Messiah was to be born.

All of these events, nations and people, God was using according to His plan, moving them like pieces on a chess board, putting them in the right place at the right time. God used history, events, nations and kings to set the stage for His Son to come and show Himself as the Messiah.

God, because He is God, can and does use nations, kings, heroes, villains and unknown common people to do His will and carry out His plan for mankind. All these have been moved, controlled, influenced, directed or redirected by the Sovereign Creator to do as He pleases.

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.

Proverbs 21:1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

Daniel 4:35 Nebuchadnezzar, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

Quote – “Though all human acts are free in the sense of being self-determined, none are free from God’s control according to his eternal purpose and foreordination.” - J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 39.

And especially is God’s sovereignty and plan seen in His preparing the world for the coming of the Messiah.

God’s Plan In the Present

Nor has God quit working. He has not wound up the universe and left it to run down on its own. He is still working His plan through prophecy, history, nations and individual people, even people like you and me.

We will not have a place in that plan like Mary, Joseph or the leaders of the nations, but you would be foolish to think that God in his omnipotence and omniscience has not made plans for all his people, even the people of Calvary Baptist Church on a rainy Christmas Eve Day in 2023.

What did Jesus teach? Matthew 10:29–31 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Yes, He watches me and though I may not fully understand it, He also moves me. Just as he moved all those others when Jesus was born.

God was faithful keeping his promises and the couple that God chose to raise His son, were faithful in their obedience and walk with God. Look at vs. 21

Faithful Parents – Luke 2:21-24

21And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, (Joshua, Yeshua, which means Jehovah is salvation) which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Joseph, Mary Obey God’s Law

According to the Law, a male child born to a Jewish couple was sanctified, set apart to the Lord and that child had to be redeemed by an offering given at the Temple. So, after Jesus was circumcised at 8 days old, and after Mary’s time of purification was past they set out for Jerusalem about 7 miles south of Bethlehem.

According to the Law, a woman, after giving birth, was to be in seclusion for 30 days if she had a boy and for 80 days if she had a girl. (When you get to heaven you can ask God why 80 days for a girl.) The, after that time, she would sacrifice to at the Temple. This is what Mary was doing in Luke 2:22 and together she and Joseph would present Jesus before the Lord. Their offering was a pair of turtledoves or pigeons which the law said could be given if you could not afford a lamb.

This story in the life of Joseph and Mary is the only insight we have about the early life of Jesus. Luke is the only author of the Gospel accounts that tells us anything about the young child except for Matthew statement that after the visit of the Magi the fled to Egypt for safety. There are legends and fictitious stories about Jesus as a young child, but they are not just foolish they are dangerous and most turn him into a wizard or a Buddha like teacher. All we need to know about Jesus’ childhood is what we are told in this chapter. And what we are told is that they were a devout family that were faithful in following the Word of God and at that v52, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

Faithful Families Obey God

I just want to make one quick application here to the parents, You should be also stive to be like Mary and Joseph, faithful in the following God as a family. Love them, protect them, be an faithful example to them and never neglect to take them to the Lord’s house.
Paul says it pretty plainly in Ephesians 6:4 ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Genesis 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment...
God put Jesus into a faithful, God-fearing family, that was not an accident. Nor is it an accident that God has chosen you, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles to be the most important examples of faithfulness to young children in your family.
Take that responsibility joyfully and seriously. Pray the wisdom, strength and love to fulfill the most important task you have while on this earth.

Now let’s get to the two people who are at the heart of this message, Simeon and Anna. Two people of Faithful Patience and God blessed them for that faithfulness.

Faithful Patience - Luke 2:25-27

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

Simeon and Anna’s Faithful Watch and Wait for God’s Promise

Simeon and Anna, like Zacharias and Elizabeth were God’s people who were faithful to God’s word and hopeful of God’s promises. They so fit the description that God gave to Malachi in Malachi 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

I have to read you part of the next verse. Malachi 3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; What a beautiful promise, they shall be mine when I make up my jewels.

The faithful, expectant people, who were living at the end of the Old Testament, were those that God took note of. We read of them here, but there is a much bigger book in heaven, that is being written for all the faithful of all time, to be called Jehovah’s jewels one day.

Simeon and Anna, in a sense are representative of all the Old Testament saints who had lived their lives in faith and repentance looking for the One who would come and deliver them. In Simeon and Anna, we can see and hear all who waited and watched throughout the centuries.

Simeon, whose name means “harkening or listening” is usually thought of as a very old man, perhaps he was though we are not told this in scripture. There is a tradition that says he was 113 years old, but that is all it is, a tradition.

Anna’s name means “grace” and the Bible tells us that she was at least 84 years old and possibly, depending on how you interpret Luke’s description of her,  well over 100. Both were waiting, watching, praying for God to fulfill His greatest promise to Israel and through Israel to the world.

They knew the Old Testament prophecies and so, they knew that when Messiah came he would be a male and his parents would come and present him before the Lord. So, day by day, year by year, they watched, as the people came to the Temple. I imagine they approached every mother with a male child, looked into innocent faces and waiting to see if the God would reveal to them, this is the one, this is Messiah.

And one day, the day Luke records, that is exactly what happened. The Holy Spirit revealed the child who would be the Savior, Redeemer and King.

Simeon’s Character

The Bible says of Simeon, Luke 2:25-27 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

He was just, this describes his relationship and attitude toward others. He was devout, this described his relationship and attitude toward God. He was led by the Holy Spirit, this describes his attitude toward following and obeying God.

The Bible says that Simeon was told by the Spirit that he would not die until he saw, “the consolation of Israel.” This must have become a lifelong mission, a divine quest to spend his life looking for the consolation of Israel.

So just and devout was Simeon that on this day the Holy Spirit got his attention and led him into the Temple. We don’t exactly how this was done, just that God directed him to the right place at the right time because he was the right man.

Now in vss. 28–32 we find Simeon’s response to the fulfillment of his life’s mission. He praises, he prays, and he prophesies while he holds this little month-old child in his arms.

Simeon’s words give us the fifth song that Luke records in these opening chapters, we have heard the songs of Elizabeth in 1:42–45; Mary in 1:46–56; Zacharias in 1:67–79; the angels in 2:13–14 and now Simeon adds his praise to these the first Christmas Carols.
Simeon’s Song - Luke 2:28-32 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
It is a song of thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness, “Lord let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen they salvation.” He blesses God for keeping His promise and sending the Messiah. He joyfully praises God that he has been privileged to see the Lord’s salvation in the face of this child.

It is a song of fulfillment and contentment. Now he is content to die, ready to go home, knowing that he has seen the One who will save Isael.

It is also a song of salvation for all. “You have prepared salvation for all the people. Then he expands that by saying, “A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.”

This child would be the fulfillment of promises like Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. Isaiah 42:6-7 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.

It is also a Song of Prophecy Luke 2:34-35 Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Simeon stopped praising and started prophesying, and in his message, he used three images: a stone, a sign, and a sword.

Jesus would be the stone upon which many would stumble and fall in judgement and others would fall in repentance but rise in salvation.

Again, the Holy Spirit is leading Simeon to remember the old prophecies. Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

Peter commenting on this verse says in 1 Peter 2:6-8 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

The Messiah child that Simeon held would also be a sign, The world means “a miracle,” not a miracle of power but a miracle of revelation, of God’s truth. Just as the angel told the shepherds about the sign they would recognize the newborn, Jesus himself is the sign by which we can recognize the love of God.

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth (proved) his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God proved His love for us through the sign of Jesus birth, and yet just as Simeon prophesied, “he would be a sign which shall be spoken against.” Jesus was denied in His time on earth, and He is still being denied today. People call out for a sign and when God gives that sign by the birth, life, death and resurrection of His own son, they still deny the sign. And in denying His sign, they also deny His love.

Simeon also said that the Messiah would be a sword. This sword would be a two-edged. One edge would pierce the heart of Mary with terrible sorrow and the other edge would sever all earth’s relationships and reshape them according to heaven’s relationships.

Matthew 10:34-39 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Jesus would be the sword that severs all other relationships and breaks all previous bonds. His coming is the dividing line of history, of families, and of eternity.
Simeon was there that day and led by the Holy Spirit he saw it. And he was not alone, as he praised God, someone came close, listened and then added her praise to his.

Anna’s Character – Luke 2:36-38

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

Now we come to Anna’s part in this story. Her name means “grace.” She was an aged widow. She was also a prophetess. This doesn’t me she told the future but that she was one who spoke of God’s words.

She departed not, literally this means, she kept on not leaving. She kept on keeping on in the Lord’s House. The House of God was her anchor, her landmark, her calling. She had to be there.

She served God with prayers and fasting night and day. This doesn’t mean that she lived on the Temple grounds but that anytime there were times of worship, times of prayer and fasting, she was there. She never missed a service in the temple. She never missed an opportunity to serve the Lord by being in the House of God. By simply being there she honored her God.

Her faithfulness to the Lord’s House made her stand out from all others and God rewarded that faithfulness on this day. Wouldn’t it have been a shame to miss going to
The Lord’s House on the day the Messiah came through the gates. But Anna, the Bible proudly notes, Anna never missed a service.

Luke in vs. 38 says Anna “coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord.”  Just as Simeon finished his praise, she jumps in. We aren’t told the exact words, only she “gave thanks likewise unto the Lord.” But we do see something that we didn’t see before.

She gives thanks and then she goes a step further “she spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” We get the impression that Simeon and Anna weren’t the only ones who went to the Temple and looked at the parents as they brought in their sons. It seems there were others who had patiently and faithfully waited for God’s promises to be proven true. Anna made sure that others knew, she had found Christ in the Temple that day.

She, Simeon and the other faithful ones saw so much, endured so much, suffered so much but above all these they hoped for much more. And that hope was fulfilled that day. The greatest thing that ever could happen, happened when the Messiah came. They experienced the climax of life, they saw the summit of history. Everything else was secondary, unimportant now because they had found the consolation of Israel, and the redemption of Jerusalem.

Have you Found Him?

Have we all found Him? Have we found the One who was born to be our consolation and our redemption?

Paul talking to the Athens spoke of seeking the Lord. In Acts 17:27-28 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being.

If we seek him the Bible says we will find Him because Jesus is not hidden but is here. Here in this story, here in this Book, here in this house of God. He is here and in all other places. He is not far from every one of us, because just like Simeon and Anna believed, God is faithful, His word is true and His Spirit is leading.

If we are lost in sin, then the Spirit led you on this rainy Christmas Day here to the Lord’s house to find Jesus. If you have already found him and He is your savior, the Holy Spirit still leads you to discover and know Him more.

After Paul found Jesus on the Damascus road, everything changed. That sign from heaven, showed him the rejected cornerstone and the sword was Jesus. He crushed and cut Paul into a different man. After finding Jesus everything in his past life meant nothing and to know more of Christ meant everything.

Philippians 3:7-10 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. Yes, he was more than willing even to die for Jesus because knowing Him was worth dying for him and living for Him.

Faithful Finish

The climax of Simeon and Anna’s lives was finding Jesus the Messiah.
And for every person that has truly found Jesus it is the same. All other relationships are secondary. All goals become subservient to knowing him. All other wealth, knowledge,  power, or glory becomes insignificant when I find the Savior.

What can be a greater day than the day I find eternal life? What can be a great accomplishment than my soul being cleansed by the blood of Jesus? What can be more fulfilling than realizing that my life now has purpose in God’s plan of eternity?

Monday, December 18, 2023

Christ's Coming 2: The Wise Men Seek Him

Seeing the Star Matthew 2:1-3

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Wise Because They Searched

The word for wise here in the KJV is the Greek word Magi. It is the same word we get magic and magician from. In ancient times a magi was any person who was dedicated to learning, to discover, ultimately they became our scientist and our scholar. The magi or wise men had different specialties or division as we can see from Daniel 2:10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.

The magi that come seeking the newborn king were astrologers, who looked to the heavens for signs. One day as they looked they saw a new star something that had not been there before.

Some believe it was a nova, a sun that suddenly burns brightening as it dies and then disappears. Others believe it was a comet with its tail pointing toward the west and indeed both the Chinese and other ancient people who watched the skies did see a comet, that they called a “broom star” right about the date that Jesus would have been born.

Whatever they saw, they took it as a sign, of a momentous, even history changing event. Something had happened and they needed to know what it was.

Now this is my thought, because we are not told, but I believe these magi were from the old Babylonian empire, they resided in Persia and when they saw this sign in the heavens, they went to their library of writings by other wise men and they found a scroll written by a very famous magi named Belteshazzar, aka as the Jewish prophet Daniel. They may have been familiar with Daniel’s writing as he had served as a wise man and counselor for both Babylon and for Persia.

And if my theory is right they found this prophecy written in Daniel 9:21-24 Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, (the same angel that came to Elizebeth and Mary) whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. …24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Daniel was given a specific length of time when the Messiah would be born, if you go through the prophecy, then you will find that it would have been within the time that coincided with this star. They didn’t know his name, but they knew they had to search for the anointed most Holy one, which is what the “Messiah” means.

Are You Wise enough To Seek?

You know this world today could use a lot more wise, searching, seeking people. I read a book recently called “Bible, the story of the King James Version.” Great book, btw. The author was talking about the wise men who translated the KJV and he made a statement, “The population from which scholars can now be drawn is much larger than that of the seventeenth century, but it would be difficult now to bring together a group of more than fifty scholars with the range of languages and knowledge of other disciplines that characterized the KJV translators. “We may live in a world with more knowledge, but it is populated by people with less knowledge.” – Gordon Cambell And that is the truth.
Today we know a little about lots of unimportant things, but we know almost nothing of anything important. And the reason is because we no longer are willing to search for the important things.

Let’s clearly state that the most important thing those wise man could ever find was the Messiah, the Christ. And likewise, today, the most important thing you can ever find is still Jesus Christ.

And yes, like the magi, we are surrounded with signs, that God is using to get our attention and make us think seeking important things, eternal things. Let me give you some signs from God, no not a comet in the heavens but events in your life today.

Events like Marriage. The blending of two lives into one.  The realization of our total need upon something greater than ourselves to make these two lives worth living. What an event, what a time to begin seeking God.

Or, the birth of a child. Parents and grandparents is there any greater miracle of God's creative power that you can actually hold in your hands. What could be more life changing?  What could be a more momentous time to seek Jesus.

Or when we experience the death of a family member or friend.  That painful, sorrowful departure of a life from us and this world. That feeling of loss when someone has stepped through that door that separates life from death. What a sobering time to seek God.

And by far the most important sign or event in your life is the hearing of the Gospel. To hear that God sent His son to seek and save me. To realize that He has not left me to grope in the dark but has provided guideposts and landmarks through His word that I might come to salvation. What a joyous time to come to Jesus.

As Paul told the Romans in Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

All the good things in your life, from marriage to the Gospel are God’s signs to lead thee to salvation, to eternal life, to the most important discovery ever made, but are you willing to take search? Many are not, many are despising the riches of his goodness and longsuffering, turning their back on One who is seeking them.

Searching the Scriptures - Matthew 2:4-6

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule (shepherd) my people Israel.

Wise Because of Where They Searched

They came from the east and I believe using Daniels prophecy they went to Jerusalem and there the asked, where the Christ should be born. Daniel told them when but not where.

They had to turn to the Old Testament prophecies of the birth of the Messiah, the had to search the Word of God and there they found in Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

They searched the scriptures and in the Word of God they found the answer they were looking for. No surprise because the OT was filled with prophecies that foretold the birth, life and death of the Messiah.  Signs that God had given to point the way to the Savior.

His coming at a set time.  Ge 49:10 Da 9:24,25
His resurrection.  Ps 16:10 Isa 26:19
His being forsaken by God Ps 22:1
His being mocked  Ps 22:7,8
His hands and feet being nailed to the cross Ps 22:16
The intensity of his sufferings Ps 22:14,15
His garments being parted, and lots cast for his vesture  Ps 22:18
His being betrayed by a friend Ps 41:9 55:12-14
Gall and vinegar being given him to drink  Ps 69:21
His being born a virgin, His being called Immanuel.  Isa 7:14
His being preceded by John the Baptist.  Isa 40:3 Mal 3:1
His being numbered with the transgressors, intercession for His murderers, Death  Isa 53:12
His being buried with the rich.  Isa 53:9
His entering publicly into Jerusalem. Zec 9:9
His being sold for thirty pieces silver  Zec 11:12
His price being given for the potter's field  Zec 11:13

All these and over 300 more all to make sure that man would know the Messiah when he came. So, they would know Him.  So, they would have the chance of a lifetime, the chance of eternity, the chance to know Jesus Christ.

Jesus himself taught his disciples exactly this truth, Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. It is wisdom is to realize that to find the Christ of God, you have to search the Word of God.

Have You Searched the scriptures?

One day, there will be many who will say, "God why didn't you tell me? Why didn’t you show us, Jesus. Why did you not give us a sign? But God, will say, “You had my very words in your hands. You had my house. You had my children. Why didn't you seek there for the evidence, the truth I left for you?

Why did you not read John 3:16-19 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
In God’s word are the truths we should be seeking.

The truth of Jesus coming back. 1 Thessalonians 4:16  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

In the scriptures are signs and answers about salvation, about the second coming, about raising your family, about loving your spouse, about succeeding in this world as God counts you a success. But if you aren’t reading it, if you aren’t seeking for answers in its pages, then you are not wise. You are ignoring the most important knowledge that has ever been given to mankind. Here in God’s word is where your knowledge should run deep and wide.

Titanic ignores warnings.

When the unsinkable cruise ship Titanic sank, warning after warning had been sent to tell them they were speeding into an ice-field. But the messages were ignored. In fact, when a nearby ship sent an urgent warning, the Titanic was talking to Cape Race about the time chauffeurs were to meet arriving passengers at the dock, and what menus were to be ready.

Preoccupied with trivia, the Titanic responded to the warning: "Shut up. I am talking to Cape Race. You are jamming my signals."

That is what too many today are saying when it comes to God’s revelation to this world, “Shut up God, I’m on Facebook.” The tragedy of the Titanic will be trivial compared to the tragedy of those who ignored God’s word.

One last thing makes these men, wise. Look at vss. 7-12

Seeking the Savior - Matthew 2:9-11

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Wise Men They Worshipped The King

Notice some things about the wise men.
First, we don’t know how many there were. Three is traditional because of the three gifts, but we don’t know. Nor do we know their name, though that hasn’t stopped some from giving them names. Nor were they kings, as far as we know. Though I love the carol, “We three Kings of Orient Are.”

There are things we don’t know, but these things in God’s word we do know. We know that the star “went before them.” The star reappeared to them and this time I believe it was not a comet but was an angel, shining brightly, leading them just like glory of God led the Israelites in the wilderness. But this time the glory of God was the one they were being led to, and so the messenger, the star was another angel going before them and stopping right above the house where Jospeh, Mary and Jesus lived.

Notice also they came into “the house.” It was not a stable, but a house and notice it wasn’t a babe in a manger but a young child. The words in the Greek are different, The word here for young child is the word we would translate toddler and could have been up to 2 year old, though probably this is no more than a few months, depending on how far they had to travel from the East to Bethlehem.

Notice also how they reacted upon seeing the Christ. They fell down and worshipped Him. What else could you do before a king born under the sign of a star?  Before one whose coming had been foretold over a thousand years ago. Who had been looked for, hoped for and prayed for by a hundred generations of people. Whose life would be the price paid through sacrifice to bring us back to God.

They gave him proper and perhaps prophetic gifts. Gold, a gift for a king. Frankincense, an incense prophetic of a priest and Myrrh, a perfume used in preparing the body for death.

In the gifts we see Jesus, King, Priest and Sacrifice

The Wise Still Come To where Jesus Is.

If we would be wise, then we like the magi, must come into the house where Jesus is worshipped. Do I have to tell you where that is? No, or course not this is the House of the Lord, His church and if we would honor Him then we must come to this house. 

Am I wise in my worship? What is my attitude when I come before the King? The magi fell down and worshipped. But what do I do when I come into the Lord’s house? Do I take for granted the one who died for me?  Do I ignore the one who will return at the head of a great heavenly army to claim this universe?  Do I settle for commonplace Jesus who will make a new heaven and a new earth and rule for all eternity?  Am I really worshipping Jesus Christ, the King of Glory? Or am I just going through the motions, the rituals, the ruts and the traditions of my religion?

When I come into His house, I should bring gifts, fitting my King. What is the fitting to give to Jesus, to the one who gave his life for me? What else is worthy of Him but my life, my heart and my soul. My life given in serving him now on this earth.  My heart given to love him forever. My soul given for salvation for all eternity.  

Matthew 22:37 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Three gifts, the only ones I can offer, the only ones befitting this King.

Conclusion: "I gave my life for thee.  What hast thou given for me?

This was Frances Havergal's first hymn, she wrote it at a young age in 1858. She wrote it as a poem after seeing Sternberg's painting Ecce Homo in Düsseldorf, Germany. A caption on the painting read, "This have I done for thee; what has thou done for Me?" She came across the poem some years later, and thinking poorly of it, threw it into a stove. Unbeknownst to her, it did not burn, but was found later by her father, who persuaded her to publish it.

I gave My life for thee, My precious blood I shed,
That thou might ransomed be, and raised up from the dead
I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?
I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?

My Father's house of light, My glory circled throne
I left for earthly night, for wanderings sad and lone;
I left, I left it all for thee, hast thou left aught for Me?
I left, I left it all for thee, hast thou left aught for Me?

I suffered much for thee, more than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitterest agony, to rescue thee from hell.
I've borne, I've borne it all for thee, what hast thou borne for Me?
I've borne, I've borne it all for thee, what hast thou borne for Me?

And I have brought to thee, down from My home above,
Salvation full and free, My pardon and My love;
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me? 

Monday, December 11, 2023

The Christ Is Coming #1: Preparation Proclamation - Luke 1:1-25, 39-45

 The Christ Is Coming #1: Preparation Proclamation

Text: Luke 1:5-25, 39-45

William Carey, Prepared By God to Inspire World Missions
The modern mission movement of which we are still a part today, began in the late 1700 and early 1800’s and on man in particular is credited with its beginning. His name was William Carey, He is called, “The father of modern missions.”

Carey was an unlikely person for God to use in such a great way. Until about 14 years old, he was a lukewarm Anglican, who said of himself, “I was addicted to swearing, lying, and unchaste conversation; which was heightened by the company of ringers, foot-ball players, the society of a blacksmiths shop….

Carey was apprenticed to a shoe maker at 15 where he and another apprentice would make repairs on old shoes. The other boy, John Warr was a Baptist and as they worked together, they would discuss the Bible. Carey always had the last word, but Warr’s sincerity began to have an affect on young Carey. Finally, at 17 after a national day of prayer and church service, Carey made the decision to follow Christ and he later he became a Baptist.

As he toiled at the cobbler’s bench, Carey with his heart now on fire for the Lord taught himself, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Dutch, and French. Soon he was the village schoolmaster and then he began to pastor a local Baptist church. His heart began to be burdened about the lost around the world when he read a biography of David Brainerd, the missionary to the American Indians. In 1792 Carey wrote a book called, “An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.” That book and sermons he preached led to the first Baptist Missions Society and became the inspiration for almost all modern missionaries.

William Carey went to Calcutta, India where his wife Dorthy died after slipping into insanity. He married twice more, losing his second wife to death as well as several children including his first-born son.

Despite the problems he founded the first, degree granting college in India, translated the Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit. He helped launch the American Mission movement through Adoniram Judson, wrote many books and translated many Indian books into English. He established the first Indian public school and using the Bible he taught all children, boys, girls and even the untouchables. He changed missions in England and America, and he changed India through those missions. He died in 1834.

Now who would have ever thought that God could have used a cobbler to inspire missions around the world. But God had made preparation for William Carey long before William Carey thought anything about God. That is what I want us to think about this morning the God’s Preparation in the lives of His children. God in his omniscience and omnipotence leaves nothing to chance when it comes to His plans and the people he uses in those plans. As we can see in the story of John the Baptist and his parents
Zacharias and Elizebeth in Luke chapter 1.

The Prepared Gospel - Luke 1:1-4
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word: 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.

Outline of Luke 1:
Luke begins the narrative of Jesus’ birth and life in four visits. Those visits give us an outline of chapter 1.
I. Gabriel Visits Zacharias (1:1–25)
II. Gabriel Visits Mary (1:26–38)
III. Mary Visits Elizabeth (1:39–56)
IV. God Visits His People (1:57–80)

A Prepared Book:

Luke is the only Gentile author of any portion of the Bible. Other Gentiles are recorded in the Bible but only one was chosen by God to write, Luke the physician. Luke in fact wrote more words in the New Testament than any of the other authors of scripture.
Luke wrote both his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles as a record of the life of Christ and the early church. He made this inspired record for a man named Theophilus. Now if you know anything from being in church for any length of time you know that Theo is the Greek word for God and Phileo is the word for love, Theophilus’ name then means “a lover of God.” He may have been born with that name, he may have changed his name after he was saved to reflect his new faith, or it may have been a codename to protect him if he was in a position where his faith would have brought him under persecution.

We know nothing about Theophilus but what we read here. He may have been Luke’s patron who helped him financially as Luke traveled and gathered material for his Gospel. He may also have been an official or minor ruler because Luke calls him “most excellent, Theophilus” a title like your excellency. But we really don’t know.
We know more about Luke. He was a trained physician, who joined Paul’s missionary work during the second missionary journey probably in Macedonia or Greece in Acts chapter 20. Of all the writers of the Gospel he was the most detail oriented and the most precise in place names and dates.

Prepared For Us

When you consider Luke and his writings you can’t help but realize that God prepared and used Luke to write a Gospel account that was specially prepared for us as Gentiles. Luke’s perspective wasn’t Jewish. He saw things from a former pagan background, a Gentiles background.

Today more than at any time since Paul and Luke traveled the Roman world, we need a Book prepared by God to reach a neo-pagan, godless society. We need to see this world of ours today as more like the world of Paul and Luke. We are a civilization that was built upon the precepts for God’s word. And because of that we were a civilization that was more beneficent, had more freedom, was more tolerant and opened more opportunities for more people of all classes than any other civilization in all of history.
But no longer, we have turned away from those foundational principles that made us blessed and free. Today we are much closer to the world of Luke, a world ruled by the rich, the elite and governed not by principles based up the Judeo-Christian Bible but by neo-paganism, socialism, Marxism and humanism.

If this seems dire and dangerous, well it is but understand this, never forget this, God has prepared a book, a people and a Savior that changed the world once and still can change hearts and lives today. God’s Word is still the only way to break through the chains of ignorance and free people that they might come to God.

God prepared a book and in that book is the story of the coming of the Christ, the anointed one of God, the chosen one to save mankind. And in bringing Christ, God also prepared and chose people like Zacharias and Elizebeth and their son, John who would in turn prepare the way of the long-promised Messiah.

Go to verse 5 and look how God prepared these parents for the birth of John.

The Prepared Parents – Luke 1:5-10

5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia, and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. 8And it came to pass that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

Parents Prepared By God

Prepared by Faithfulness. In Luke 1v5 we meet Zacharias and Elizabeth. Now I love seeing the meaning of people’s names in the Old and New Testament, very often they give us insight into the background of the people that God chooses. Zacharias name means “Jehovah has remembered” while Elizabeth’s name means “God is my oath.” The Bible tells us that were both righteous before God. They were a godly couple, both of which had a linage from the Levitical line of priests. Zachariah’s line was from of Abia and even more prestigiously for Elizebeth she was a daughter of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel. The priests during this time were divided into twenty-four courses (1 Chron. 24), and each priest served in the temple two weeks out of the year.

Prepared by Providence. Zechariah was only one of eighteen thousand priests and so with that many priest they would draw lots to see what service they would perform. Luke tells us that the lot for Zacharias was to burn incense when he went into the temple. Of all the ministries a man could serve at the Temple this was considered the greatest, other than the work of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. To light the altar of incense was to symbolically show the prayers of the nation to Jehovah God. Prayers for forgiveness, prayers for the nation during the occupation by Rome and the evil King Herod and prayers for the Christ, the Messiah to come. With that many priests, the offering of incense would take place only once in a priest’s life, so this was a very special day for Zechariah and Elizebeth, what must have seemed the climax of both their lives and heritage.

Prepared by Sorrow. This great honor would be seen as the pinnacle of their lives for another reason, they were old and they had never been blessed with a child. There was a void, a vast emptiness in their lives because they had no family of their own and now were past the time when a prayer for a child could possibly be answered. According to the custom of the times a person was not considered old until they were past 60. (I guess that means I am officially old. So very, very, very old.) So that means they were probably past 60 and some put their age at 80 years old.
God, though, is at work in this old couple’s life. He has worked in the past through their family line, their heritage and He worked even through the casting of the lot to put Zacharias in the Holy place at the time of the lighting of the incense, and He even worked through their sorrow to prepare them for the part they would play in the coming of the Christ.

People Prepared By God

Over and over in the Bible we see God working this way don’t we. Over and over, we see God preparing prophets, parents, and people just like us. And those that He has prepared don’t see it coming. They can’t see it coming. Zacharias and Elizebeth sure didn’t see themselves being prepared by God to be the parent of the greatest Prophet since Elijah. A prophet who would himself prepare the way for the Lord to come.
I believe God is always preparing His people to be used in small and sometime big ways in His service and for His kingdom. And just like the Ezekiels, Daniels, Jeremiahs, Ruths and Esthers of the past, we can’t see that preparation until we hear the voice of the Lord ask us as Mordecai asked Esther, Esther 4:14 who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

We can’t see the work of preparation, but we can put our faith in the God who makes those preparations. We believe in the preparation He has made for us in salvation, in forgiveness, in preservation, in our home in heaven. As Jesus said, “I go and prepare a place for you.” He was talking about all those things.

We also believe that when it comes to being used of God for work in the church and in the Kingdom of God, He has made the necessary preparations in our past, our present and in our future.

Remember how Paul put it in Romans 8:28-31 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

We are the people of God, made to serve God by the providence and preparation of God. We can’t always see the preparation, but we believe God has already accomplished it.

In vss.11-14 we see that God’s preparation continues with a Prepared Proclaimer, the angel Gabriel.

The Prepared Angel – Luke 1:11-14

And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, ‘Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth:.

Prepared to Proclaim

Of all the angels that the Bible tells us about, there are only three that are named. Two that were faithful to God and one that rebelled against God and became Satan, the Devil. The two faithful angels named in the Bible are Gabriel and Michael. I know you want to hear what their names mean. These may be of special interest to members of our church since some of them share these same names.

Gabriel means “man of God” now that’s a big name to live up to. Michael means “Who is like God?” also a big name to carry around once you know its meaning. The angel who fell, as you know was not name Satan which means opposer or Devil which means accuser, but he was name Lucifer, which mean light bearer. Michael and Lucifer were archangels of God’s throne, when Lucifer fell many believe Gabriel took his place because only these three angels in all the thousands and thousands of angels are named in God’s word. BTW the word angel just means messenger. So when we see an angel appear in the Bible it is usually accompanied with a message from the Lord. Such is the case here with Zachariah. Look at the message Gabriel brought to Zachariah and through him to Elizebeth.

Let’s set the stage for this scene. According to the Jewish guidelines for the priests during this time, Zacharias after winning the cast lot, would choose two friends or relatives to help him in his sacred duty. One friend or relative would clean the altar from the previous evening’s offering. Then he would worship as he walked backwards out of the Holy Place. Then the second person would come forward and spread live coals from the altar of sacrifice on the outer edges of the altar of incense. He then would exit as he worshipped without turning his back upon the Holy Place.

Zacharias would now spread the incense upon the altar, making a sweet savor that symbolized the prayers of the nation of Israel to God. Outside there would be a very large crowd in the outer courtyard waiting to see that sacred smoke rise. Nor would the priest tarry long in the Holy Place, for they had a great respect of their God. But on this day, the smoke ascended but Zechariah, did not come out immediately.

The Bible tells us, that an angel of the Lord was suddenly standing on the right side of the altar of incense. Likely Gabriel waited till Zechariah was alone and concentrating on his once in a lifetime honor. Then as he backed away from the altar of incense, there He stood.

When Zacharias saw him, the Bible says, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. Remember this was the Temple of the God of Israel. In times past His presence had dwelt above the mercy seat.  Aaron’s sons who offered strange fire upon the altar of incense had been struck dead by God. Zacharias had just made that offering and now suddenly there was an angel looking at him. Yeah, I’d be pretty shook up as well.

But the angel said, ‘Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth. We aren’t told what Zacharias was praying about but considering his and Elizabeth’s age he probably wasn’t praying for a child to come into their life now, but the prayers that they had both prayed in the past were not in vain. God had been storing them up till this special time and place. They would have a child, and not just any child but a child named by God. His name would be John and his name means “Jehovah is a gracious giver.” Now that is fitting isn’t it, since John would be a gift to his parents and he in turn would prepare the way for the greatest gift of all time, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Prepared for God’s Preparation

I just want to make a quick application here. The best way to be prepared for God’s preparation is to be faithful in service to God. That is what Zacharia and Elizebeth were doing. Just be faithful serving their God.

Titus 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

You will be ready for the God’s preparation, if you live faithfully. You will be ready, to be used of God, if you live faithfully as God has commanded. This is when God will use you and probably is using you right now, while you are serving and living faithfully in the everyday challenges, the common tasks and daily callings of life as a child of God, you are being used of God and fulfilling the preparations He has made even if you are not aware of it.

Moses and David were working as a shepherd when God called, Joseph as a carpenter, Amos was a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit, Nehemiah was the kings cupbearer. All were faithfully doing their jobs when God’s preparation come to a point of personal application in their lives and they were ready. Be faithful and God’s preparation will come to fruition in your own life.

One last act of preparation by God and this the most important to our story today, the preparation of a Prophet.

The Prepared Prophet – Luke 1:15-17

15 for he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’

The Preparation of the Preparer of the Way

His Character.  Gabriel tells Zacharias about the character of his coming son.
Your son, Zacharias, shall be great in the sight of the Lord,

He shall not drink wine nor strong drink. He would be a Nazarite, a separated one for God’s service.

Zachariah your son will be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. Isn’t that amazing? This prophecy says that the Holy Spirit will fill John even before his birth. We see this demonstrated when Mary pregnant with Jesus the Messiah comes to visit her cousin Elizebeth and the unborn John still in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy.
Remember the story? Luke 1:41-44 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

How can anyone not believe that a child in the womb is not a child? This child was named by God, filled with the Holy Spirit and used by God to identify the Messiah all before He was born. The babe leaped for joy! Well, of course he did, he just met the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of all mankind.

The Calling of John: Gabriel then tells Zachariah what John would accomplish. He says in vs. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias (Elijah). This is not just a prophecy of the great ministry of John but also a revelation of who the Messiah would truly be. Gabriel says, He would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God and then he says that John would go before Him. Before who? Before the Lord their God in the power of Elijah who was prophesied in the OT to come before the Messiah. In one statement Gabriel tells us that the Messiah would not only be the son of David but would also be the son of God.

He also says that as John goes before Jesus, the Son of God, in the power and spirit of Elijah he would “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,” John’s preaching would heal divided families and divided Israel as they all turned to look upon the anointed One of God. His preaching would also turn the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of justice, to God’s righteousness, to God justice, to God’s wisdom. John’s ministry would see many turn from their wickedness and show their repentance by submitting to John’s baptism of repentance.

Matthew 3:1-6 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. … 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

As families were reconciled and as sinners repented, God was using John “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” We don’t know how long John preached before Jesus come to the Jordan to be baptized by this same John. However long it was, his preaching was powerfully effective. Multitudes of people poured out of the cities and towns to hear his message, hundreds, perhaps thousands believed his message, “Repent, for the Kingdome of Heaven is come.” They believed that the Messiah was coming and from that pool of believers Jesus showed himself and then chose his apostles, his first disciples and his church. John laid the groundwork, prepared the way and Jesus stepped onto that prepared stage and presented himself as the Messiah and Savior. And John withdrew having fulfilled his calling. What a great prophet, what a humble servant, what a man of God.

Are you Prepared to Prepare The Way?

There will never be another man or prophet like John. He stood with one foot in the Old Testament and another in the New. He has been called the last prophet of the Old and the first prophet of the New. No one can ever be another John the Baptist, but in our own way we are called to have a ministry like his, a ministry of preparing the way of the Lord. Not for an entire nation of course but for those who God has placed in our life.
We as the people of the New Testament, as the church of the Lord are commanded, chosen and prepared by God to prepare the way of the Lord.

We are to share the Gospel, Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

We are to share our testimony, Acts 1:8 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

We have been prepared by the Lord to reproduce in others what has been produced in us. Matthew 28:18-20 All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

How can you do this? How can you be a preparer of the way into the hearts of those who don’t know the Lord? I think it will be the same as it was for Zacharias and Elizebeth. Be faithful, be believing and just be ready.


We began the sermon with an introduction to William Carey, the father of modern missions. Carey once preached a sermon that helped launch the Mission Society that changed modern missions. In that sermon he gave this very famous quote.
“Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God.” – William Carey.

Can you think of a better way to wrap up 2023 and step into 2024? God has made the preparations for us now all we need do is serve faithfully, trusting in all that He has prepared and provided and when we have the opportunity or can make the opportunity let us seize it with the same zeal of a William Carey.

“I will in 2024 expect great things from God and I will attempt great things for God.”

Monday, December 4, 2023

The Promised Messiah Isaiah 7:14


The Promised Messiah Isaiah 7:14

There is a real old and not very good joke, that still works as an introduction to our sermon today. So even thought it is old and not that good, I’m going to tell it anyway. After all those reasons haven’t stopped me in the past so why should I worry about them today. The joke goes, a man was pulled over by a police officer. The cop walks up to the door and tells the driver, “Sir, I pulled you over because you ran that stop sign back there? Didn’t you see the sign?” The man honestly replied, “Yes, officer. I saw the sign but I didn’t see you.”

And that brings us to our text Isaiah 7:14 where God gives a sign, to the whole world and the whole world sees the sign, every year that sign is celebrated, but though they see the sign, the don’t see God.

 The Storm - Isaiah 7:1-2

And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it. And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.

The Storm of Syria

The raider nation of Assyria was growing stronger and stronger, threatening the security and peace of all the other surrounding nations. To counter this threat,  Israel and Syria, formed and alliance. When they approached Judah, the southern Kingdom to join them, Judah refused. This may sound like an action of faith but in reality, the scornful King of Judah, Ahaz was secretly negotiated with Assyria for his own protection, as we read in 2 Kings 16:1–9. He wasn’t looking to God for help, he was looking to the enemies of God.

So Syria and Israel, the northern kingdom, went up to make war against Jerusalem. The Bible says that this threat of defeat made the king and the people’s heart to move like the trees of the wood are moved with the wind. A terrible storm was blowing, and the King and people of Jerusalem were directly in the path of the storm.

The Storms of Satan

God’s people, whether they be in the Old Testament or the New Testament, are always in the path of Satan’s storms, the world’s whirlwinds and hate’s hurricanes. It was true for Jerusalem in the days of Ahaz and its true today.

Jesus warned us so that we would understand why and when it happens.

John 15:18-25 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

The reason the lost world hates us is because they hated Jesus and the reason, they hate Jesus is because He tore away their covering cloak and their sin is exposed. Jesus words and works exposed their sin and they hate Him. They hate Him and because we belong to him and serve Him then they hate us. It cannot be any other way. If we are truly God’s people then our words, reflect His words and expose their sin. Our works, as we serve the Lord, uncover their corruption and they stand guilty with no way to hide their iniquity.

Let me give you some examples of Satan stirring up storms against God’s people.

From 1989 – 2017 in the United states there were over 20 violent attacks against churches by homosexuals, LGBTQ activists.  

Churches are being bombed, burnt to the ground and Christians around the world are being beaten by mobs, jailed by governments and ridiculed and hated by Muslims, Hindus, communists, socialists, atheists, leftists and liberals.

If you do an internet search on the most persecuted religion you will find, year after year, that Christianity is number one and Judaism is number two. If you internet search all the way back to the time of the Roman empire, you will still find the same.

I never thought I would see in our nation, Christian churches and businesses being shut down, bakers, florists, wedding planners and churches being sued by LGBTQ, homosexual activists try to sue in order to shut them down or bankrupt them. Orthodox Jews are being beaten in broad daylight on the sidewalks of New York city. And in almost all these cases the city, state and federal government tends to be on the side of the persecutors and the media refused to report or acknowledge it.

We may not be facing an invading Syrian army, but we are facing an invading army of the worst kind of sinful perversion and hate. The storm is blowing and I can identify with the people of Jerusalem. Our nation, our families, our children our churches are in the path of Satan’s storms and we always have been.

That’s enough depressing illustrations, I’m not even going to talk about Covid-19 or all the other personal storms of Satan that we face. This is a Christmas message so lets get to some hope.

What are God’s people to do during such anxious, stressful, fearful times? Old Testament or New, the answer is the same. Look to the Lord and listen to His word. He always has a message of hope. This is even the case with King Ahaz.

The Surety Isaiah 7:3-9

Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field; And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it,and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: Thus saith the Lord GOD,
It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin;and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.

Syria Shall not Stand

God sent Isaiah and his son to meet King Ahaz while the ruler was inspecting the Jerusalem water supply probably in preparation for an upcoming war. God gave Isaiah a message of hope, of deliverance from the present oppression.

He tells him not to be afraid, for within sixty-five years the two nations outside Jerusalem would be broken and no longer a threat. This was fulfilled when Assyria defeated Syria (Damascus) in 732, and then Israel (aka Ephraim, Samaria) in 721, both within the allotted time given.

Now in vs. 9 is the phrase that we need to key in this section. Isaiah 7:9 If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.

Believe it, God’s prophecy was going to happen, no matter what Ahaz did or what he believed, but he and the nation would not be established unless they did believe it. One commentary says this phrase is a play on the word fast and would read it like this, “If Judah did not hold fast to its God, it would lose its fast hold by losing its country, - Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 7:138.

Standing On the Promises

The application of this verse to our lives is the basic tenet of the Bible and of our relationship to God. It all comes down to faith. It is expressed here in the negative, “If you will not believe, you will not be established.” If you will not stand on God’s promises, you will not be able to stand at all.”

Your faith or lack of faith does not hinder God’s sovereign will, but if you are to share in the blessings of God’s then you must enter into God’s will and stay in God’s will through faith.

Faith in God’s word, His promises is the only sure way to find peace in the midst of the raging storm and the attacks of Satan and this world. Later in the book Isaiah writes, Isaiah 26:3-4 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.

The principle of faith is given throughout the Bible and we hear its message distinctly in the pages of the New Testament.

1 John 5:4-5 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

The most quoted verse in the New Testament from the Old Testament is Habakkuk 2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. It’s quoted in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. The just shall live by faith.

Faith in God, faith in the promises of God, are the only way we can stand when the storms of life and the attacks of this world begin. Have faith and you will stand.

Hymns always come to mind when I’m preparing my sermons and when I did a search for hymns about faith, well you can imagine, the number was more than I could have read in a week. One online source the I use frequently came up with around 5000 hymn that were about faith. You could fill about 5 big hymnals with just songs about faith. That is indicative of how vital faith is to our life and our walk with God. In the past few years one of those hymns has really been close to my heart. I heard it first during the start of the Covid pandemic and we’ve sung it dozens of times since then. It was written around 1750 by a woman in German named Kathrina Von Schlegel of whom we know almost nothing. It was translated a hundred years later in 1855 by a Scots woman named Jane Borthwick. The music was composed in 1900 as part of a symphony by a Finish composer named Jean Sibelius. All of that had to come together to give us the beautiful hymn, “Be Still My Soul.”

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in ev'ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; your best, your heav’nly friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past;
your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while he lived below.

Be still, my soul; when dearest friends depart
and all is darkened in the vale of tears,
then you will better know his love, his heart,
who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears.
Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay
from his own fullness all he takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hast'ning on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still my soul; when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Now we come to the final verses of our sermon today and the heart of the Coming Messiah prophecies from Isaiah.

The Sign Isaiah 7:10-16

Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

A Son called Immanuel

When Isaiah asks King Ahaz to ask God for a sign, the King tries to act pious, very humble and he refuses. Isaiah just told him, “Ask a sign from the Lord your God, ask it from the depths of Sheol or the heights of Heaven. Ask it and the Lord will show you.” But Ahaz refused not because he did not want to test the Lord, but because he really didn’t believe the Lord and did not want to deal with the Lord.

Ahaz refuses a sign, but Hezekiah requests one - The son of Ahaz was one of the great Kings of Judah, Hezekiah who all his life had ot stand against the storm of Assyrian invasion. When he got sick with a deadly disease, Isiah come and told him, “The Lord has said this sickness will be your death.” Isaiah response was what a child of God does during times like this, he prayed and put his trust in God. God heard his pray, turned Isaiah around and then told Hezekiah, “The Lord has added 15 years to your life.” Do you know what Hezekiah did then? He asked for a sign! Perhaps because he remembered when Isaiah had offered his father a sign and his wicked father had refused. In 2 Kings 20:8-11 And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day? And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.

Did you catch all that? He was given a sign from heaven and it was confirmed on the sundial of his father who refused a sign. The shadow of the sun dial built by his father went backward 10 degrees or 10 minutes. Did the Lord stop the earth and turn it backwards 10 degrees? I don’t know, he could have but he also could have bent the light of the sun and made the sundial go back 10 minutes. Perhaps an angel stood in the son with a giant mirror, doesn’t matter how God did it. The point is Hezekiah believed the promise and God confirmed that faith with a sign.

Ahaz is too good, to ask for a sign and Isaiah’s response is harsh, “Isaiah 7:13 Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?”

So, then the Lord turned from Ahaz and instead of giving him a sign, he gives it to the entire house of David and through the house of David the sign is given to us. Isaiah 7:14 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

See the Sign, See the Savior

This sign may have had a first fulfillment in Isaiah and a yet new wife and unborn son, and it is not uncommon for God to give a prophecy that has a double fulfillment. Scripture is full of such prophecies. But the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 as we all know so well, was in the birth of Jesus Christ.  

Matthew 1:22-23 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Jesus, whose name was given by the Angel, was born of the Virgin Mary, conceived by the miracle of the Holy Spirit so that the creator of all, became a creature of that creation.

Luke 1:31-35 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

This ultimate sign from God, the sign of Immanuel meant that God would be with us. Jesus whose name means “Jehovah is Salvation” was God come in human flesh, living on this earth without sin and then dying for us on the cross of Calvary and taking on our sin, to pay the price for justification and redemption.

The Hymn “One Day” isn’t a carol, but it tells this story, it tells the Gospel.

One day when heaven was filled with His praises,
One day when sin was as black as could be,
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin,
Dwelt among men, my example is He!

Refrain - Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely, forever;
One day He’s coming: O glorious day!

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain,
One day they nailed Him to die on the tree;
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected,
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He! [Refrain]

One day they left Him alone in the garden,
One day He rested, from suffering free;
Angels came down o’er His tomb to keep vigil;
Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is He! [Refrain]

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer,
One day the stone rolled away from the door;
Then He arose, over death He had conquered,
Now is ascended, my Lord ever more! [Refrain]

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming,
One day the skies with His glory will shine;
Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing;
Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine! [Refrain]

That is the Gospel, that is the Sign of Immanuel, and yes, God is still with us. God bent all of time and history to focus on the fulfillment of that sign on the day Jesus was born. Israel for hundreds of years prayed and waited for Immanuel, their Messiah to come. And when He came all of time and history was altered. The world could no longer be the same for Immanuel changed everything.


He is still changing everything.

Do you realize that messiah’s coming is still changing everything? It is still changing everything because it is not yet over. There is still more of Isaiah prophecy to see fulfillment.

Jesus came as a babe on that long ago night and the first coming of Messiah was fulfilled. That was the First Advent. Still to come is the final coming of Messiah as King who will rule the whole earth from the throne of David. That will be the Second Advent. And yet there is one more coming of the Messiah and without that advent, the first and second mean nothing.

Jesus must come, this time to you, not in a manger and not in the clouds but into your heart. You must believe. Your eternity depends on this personal coming of Jesus. You must believe the sign, not a star in the heaven, not the heaven’s rolled back like a scroll but the sign of heaven given in God’s word.

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Does that sound a lot like Isaiah 7:9 If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.

Do you need to stand when the woe of this world, the sin of this world, the pain and sorrow of this world is trying to knock you down? Then believe, put your faith in the word and promises of God. Immanuel truly is with us and we need faith. God has given us the sign now it is up to us to see the Messiah beyond the sign, believe and stand fast.