Category Archives: Christmas

God Matters

**An Audio recording of this message is available in the right sidebar of this page or at www.soundcloud.com

Title: God Matters

Text: Luke 2.8-21

Introduction: We’re in the midst of our Sermon Series Christmas Songs. Our previous two songs (Zechariah & Mary) were set in the timeframe of ‘BC’ – that is, “Before Christ.” They took place before Christ was born. 1st, we meet Zechariah when he enters into the Holy Place and sees an Angel named Gabriel. Think about this: at this point in history, God has been silent for some 400 years. The Remnant of Israel came back from Exile and settled, or should I say ‘resettled,’ the land. You might recall that the Old Testament closes out with the promise of one who would come and prepare the way of the Messiah. Amos and other minor prophets foretold of a famine of God’s Word. And so there was silence… for 400 years. Next, we meet Mary. Her story a little different than Zechariah’s story, but, as we shall see, presented in similar fashion.

These two songs appear in Luke 1. In Chapter 2.1-7, we have the story of the birth of Christ. That’s our Christmas story – so we’ll hold off on telling it for another week. Our story this morning takes place at the same time as his birth or thereabouts. It is a ‘meanwhile, back at the ranch’ moment. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, angels are a bringing a birth announcement to the Shepherds.

I love Baby Announcements; show pics

That’s is how our story begins this morning – with an announcement. But it isn’t just a regular announcement. This announcement outdoes all other announcements. Sure, these announcements are cute and clever. But, man, oh, man – this announcement is pretty spectacular!

We pick up our story in Luke 2.8; rd v 8; Luke has created some spectacular scenes spread out across the country: from the Temple in Jerusalem, up North to a town in Galilee, out to some small village in the Judean Hill Country, to the little town of Bethlehem, and now out into the countryside where shepherds are keeping their watch over their flocks by night. Luke makes these stories so easy for us follow. He helps us see how each story follows:

A Similar Pattern (8-12)

exp.: This storyline follows the same pattern as the previous storylines of Zechariah and Mary:

  1. The Appearance of an Angel (rd v 9a,b)
    • Zechariah sees an Angel standing at the Altar of Incense
    • Mary sees an Angel come to her
    • The Shepherds see an angel who appears to them. They are working in the dark of night and the darkness of night flees as the angel lights up the sky, dispelling the darkness. I think there is something here of the darkness and the light. Imagery, if you will. As with the appearance of an Angel, each of our stories has…
  2. The Reaction of Fear (rd v 9c)
    • Zechariah: fear fell upon him
    • Mary was greatly troubled. In our story this morning…
    • The Shepherds are filled with great fear, or as the King James says: they were sore afraid!
  3. The Appeal to Fear Not in v 10
    • 13 – Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because God has heard your prayers!
    • 30 – Do not be afraid, Mary, because you have found favor with God!

in both of these passages, the literal translation is Fear not, which is what we see in our text this morning, rd v 10;

  • Do not be afraid, Shepherds, because I bring you good news of great Joy!
  1. The Announcement of a Birth: a son
    • Zechariah, God has heard your prayers! Elizabeth is going to bear you a son and you shall call his name John.
    • Mary, you have found favor with God and you will conceive and bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus.
    • Shepherds, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
  2. The Sign:
    • And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place.
    • And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
    • And this will be a sign for you: You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths (i.e.: strips of cloth) and lying in a manger. Here is a question: what makes this sign something special and different that it’ll be easy for them to identify?
      • There is the time frame, which is limited to ‘this day’.
      • There is the location: the city of David, which is identified for us in v 15; rd v 15; – which fits with Micah’s prophecy (Micah 5.2)

These alone will limit their search. It isn’t like Bethlehem is a big city and it isn’t like there were 25 babies born that day. But, here is where it gets good. Wrapped in strips of cloth is unusual. And even more out of the ordinary is a baby sleeping in a feeding trough. And this is what makes it a sign: This description doesn’t match that announcement!

ill.: Ok, here’s the deal. The greatest miracle of all time is happening this morning! God is coming to earth in human form as a baby boy. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Messiah you’ve been looking for since Genesis 3.15. Oh, and by the way, the way you’ll recognize him is that he’s going look like a pauper!

t.s.: So, first, we see how each story has a similar pattern. And 2ndly, we see how each story has…

A Song of Praise (13-14)

exp.: rd v13-14; I see this as a crescendo of what has been happening through the evening and possibly early morning hours. When you watch this in a play, it usually takes 30 minutes to an hour. I don’t think the actual story lasts nearly as long. I know what you’re thinking: like your sermons! You guys are so funny.

ill.: I need your help with this. I want you to time me. Get your timer ready. Tell me how long this lasts. Go:

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”

app.: Stop. Less than a minute, right? Well, I’m thinking with full orchestration it lasted a few seconds longer! But you get the point. This announcement is a lot quicker than many probably think!

t.s.: So we see A Similar Pattern and A Song of Praise. Third, our stories then demonstrate

A Searching Out of the Possibilities (15-20)

exp.: Zechariah is stricken with silence – for months and his barren wife becomes pregnant! Mary travels to their house to take all of this in. Check out what our Shepherds do in v 15; 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Do you see the word translated things in v 15? The Gk word is ῥῆμα; You’ve probably heard that word before. I think ῥῆμα is hard to translate in English because it doesn’t have just one word in English you can use. Luke 1.37: Because not not able with God every word (or thing or matter). The Shepherds said let’s go see this thing… The Angel said in 1.37 No thing is impossible with God. Or, get rid of the double negative and you have: All things are possible with God! This word can also be translated matter. The Shepherds said, let’s go see this matter… or with the Angel to Mary, No matter is impossible with God. If it matters to God, it’s possible!

Now you see how I got the title to my message this morning!

app.: Like Mary, Like the shepherds, this needs to be our reaction to God’s Word – God’s ῥῆμα; An angel of the Lord probably isn’t going to appear at the end of our bed in the night. Right? But he doesn’t have to! We have God’s Word right here! We need to know that every ῥῆμα of God is going to be accomplished. When God declares a ῥῆμα – a word to you through his Holy Word – you should seek these things out. I don’t like the word things, but things here would be equivalent to the word ῥῆμα. You should seek this ῥῆμα out. Seek this matter out. That’s what the shepherds do. They say: Let us go immediately to Bethlehem and behold this matter which has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.

I have a question for you to ponder: Do you ever wonder if you miss out on wonderful matters because you don’t seek out the matters God makes known to you? Or worse: Do you think God makes matters known to you and you just don’t care enough to pursue them?

Imagine with me now: The shepherds are out in their fields, watching over their sheep by night. Lo, and behold, an Angel of the Lord appears to them and gives them God’s ῥῆμα (just as he did Mary). “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”

Picking up now in v 15: When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Wow, that was really cool. Now, where were we? Ahmed, you were saying…?”

I think that’s kind of how we are when reading God’s word – His Holy Word and we don’t pursue it! It is almost like we just want to read God’s Word to find a good devotional thought for the day. But v 15 doesn’t read that way! 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste…

Matters go just as the Lord revealed they would; So they make a plan (15), they go (16a), they find (16b), they declare it (17), the people are amazed (18), and lastly, God is glorified (20);

t.s.: Now, some of you might be saying: Hey, Hang on there! You skipped v. 19. Don’t you just love verse 19? 19 But Mary treasured up all these things (ῥῆμα), pondering them in her heart. Which brings me to the conclusion this morning…

Conclusion: The events of our lives are matters that must be treasured. Ponder that for a moment. God works in so many ways: relationships, events. God is actively working in your life at this moment. He’s working in the mundane. He’s working in the routine. He’s working in the surprises. He’s working in the sickness. He’s working in the pain. He’s working in the promotion. He’s working in the relationships. He’s working in the struggle. He’s working in the storm. Whatever is going on in your life right now – or, whatever isn’t going on right now – God is at work!

app.: and that matter right there should lead us to do what the shepherds did – glorify and praise God.

Invitation:

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Mary’s Song

**An Audio recording of this message is available in the right sidebar of this page or at www.soundcloud.com

Title: Mary’s Song

Text: Luke 1.26-56; 2.19, 35

Introduction: Our Story today picks up in the middle of last week’s story. We see two connections to the greater storyline as we pick up in 1.26; rd 1.26a: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel…; 1st, there is the connection with the time reference – 6th month. Back in v 24, we’re told that Elizabeth has kept her pregnancy quiet for 5 months. Now, it is a month further into that pregnancy. And we’ll see another reference when we get down to v 36, Gabriel tells Mary about her cousin Elizabeth. 2nd, we have the connection with the angel Gabriel, who declared to us back in v19 that he stands in the presence of God. Lit.: in his eyes.

So, with this connection, we’re to understand that these stories are related – really, entwined.

As we continue with this verse, we see a foundation for the whole story. Rd 1.26b; Gabriel was sent from God. This word sent in the Gk is the verb form of the word for which we get for our word Apostle (ἀποστέλλω). It means commissioned. Gabriel has been commissioned by God for this very special task.

Continue in v 26c-27: Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. Let’s take a moment to look more at his mission

Gabriel: Commissioned of God

  • His Mission – sent from God with a very specific task; Mary is a popular name, but this Mary is a virgin. She is also engaged – that is, she’s in the middle of her courtship with a specific man, Joseph. This Joseph happens to be in the lineage of King David. The writer here, telling us this story is being very specific in the details.
  • His Message – you will have a son
    • Greetings: Lit.: Rejoice!14; O favored one, it is interesting to note that Gabriel said the same thing to Daniel in Daniel 9.23; The Lord is with you! Read v 29; Usually, when an angel shows up, you can’t help but wonder what it might all be about. But Gabriel assures her; rd v 30; I think v 30 is all a part of his message. But, to this point his message has been non-prophetic, so to speak. But that is about to change.
    • The Prophecy of the Messiah: Let’s continue; rd v 31-33; The Angel is pretty straightforward here: you’re going to conceive a baby boy in your womb and you’ll give birth to him – and when you do, his name is called Jesus. Furthermore, he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. AND, the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. AND, he will reign over the house of Jacob – forever – there will be no end to his kingdom.

Now, Mary is thinking in the present. I wonder if she has really grasped all of this forever, and no end bit of the prophecy. Look at what she asks: rd v 34; 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Lit.: I do not know a man. “Know” as in the biblical way of know – Adam knew Eve and she conceived… Well, she is engaged, but that part of the relationship hasn’t been consummated, yet. Physically, this would be impossible.

Why?

Some people have wondered why Zechariah got in so much trouble over his question and Mary appears to not get into trouble for asking her question. Let me show you. It has to do with two different words know and be:

  • When you read Zechariah’s question in v 18, it is apparent that he wanted to ‘know’ this before he would believe, demonstrating his disbelief.
  • Mary asks how this will “be”, demonstrating she believed it would be, she just didn’t understand how.
  • Her question is more about the process and how it will all come about. Zechariah doesn’t think it will come about and wants some concrete answers before he’ll go there.
  • Added to this, the angel tells us the Zechariah didn’t believe in v 20; Her belief is declared down in v 45, but it is also expressed in what she says and what she does in v 38-39.

So Gabriel spells things out for her:

  1. By way of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Most High God (God the Father) will envelop her; cf.: Luke 9.34; that’s how it will happen; 2ndly, rd v 35b;
  2. Ok, I like the NASB’s translation of this next phrasing: and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you – for this reason, because of this, the holy begotten (Child) will be called the Son of God;

Ok, so that is a full explanation for her, but Gabriel offers more – he gives her a sign that God is already at work in all of this; rd v 36-37; So, look at Elizabeth.

  1. Elizabeth is a Sign for Mary – Elizabeth is now in her 6th month! Here is a barren woman – that is a woman who was never able to have a baby. Added to this physical impossibility is her age – she is already beyond childbearing years. But God has taken the impossible and proven that nothing is impossible for him. But check out Mary’s Humility: rd v 38

Mary: A Demonstration of FaithHere we see Mary’s faith expressed

  • Her Faith Expressed: 1st, through her words. 2nd, through her actions.
    • First, Mary declares her faith in God by humbly acknowledging that she is the Lord’s slave. He is God and she wants to serve Him in whatever capacity He chooses.

Can I just say that this blows my mind? First, it blows my mind because she is so young but responds with such maturity. But, 2ndly, this will humiliate her. The consequences of what God will do in and through her life will make her the lowest in her society. She’ll be made fun of, if not worse – persecuted, mistreated, or even sentenced to death by stoning.

Question – before we move to that 2nd expression: Are you willing to be considered a fool in order that you might be obedient to your Lord and Master? The truth is, you are a fool to that which you serve! Is it cigarettes? Alcohol? Food? Social Media? People? Pornography? In High School, I saw a man with a ‘sandwich’ billboard that he was wearing. On one side it read: I’m a fool for Christ. On the other side, it read: Whose fool are you?

Mary will be considered a fool. She is going to make Joseph look so bad. She’ll embarrass her parents. She now faces unknown hardship because of her faithfulness to God. She’s a fool for Christ. Whose fool are you?

  • Second, she packs up to go and see this miracle of God – a pregnant Elizabeth. Verse 39 ties these next so many verses with the overall storyline, just as we saw connections in v 26. In those days; rd v 5; rd v 24; So, we’re still in this same storyline; we’ll see it again in 2.1; What happened in that 6th month?
  • Her Faith Experienced: rd v 40-41; So, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, as was Zechariah, whom we looked at last week. And then Elizabeth breaks out in song. Now, I’ve not listed this as one of my songs for the sermon series – and, the ESV doesn’t print it like a song, but my Greek text does! Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Rd v 43; this is a sign of humility; rd v 44; We spoke of this last week, that an unborn John leaps in the womb at Mary’s hello! And look at this blessing on Mary rd v 45: She is blessed because she has believed. Just the fact that she has run off to see Elizabeth is pretty powerful – it is a demonstration of her belief.

And so Mary breaks out in song: Magnificat; rd v 46-55;

I don’t know that this will mean much to you, but this song is broken into four stanzas with four lines each. There are two units with two stanzas in each unit. Each unit has the focus of the Mercy of God. It is composed with organization to it. God has shown mercy to Mary and blessed her. And not only that, but God shows mercy to those who fear him. And in sending Jesus… God has shown Mercy through keeping his covenant with Israel.

Mary magnifies the Lord by 1. declaring who he is (Lord, God, Savior, holy; v 46-7) and 2. by declaring what he has done (for her: v 48-9; for those who fear him: v 50; kept his promises: v 51-5).

That is probably what all songs should do, isn’t it? Magnify the Lord? Because, if you remember the way I began this message, I pointed out that God is the one who started all of this. It really is all about him. And so Mary brings us full-circle to God again.

Mary then, returned home about the time of John’s birth: rd v 56

Conclusion: You know the ‘rest of the story’, as Joseph was greatly distressed over her pregnancy. And, being a godly man…being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

 23         “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

There are two other passages that highlight Mary’s part in this story. The first is found down in Luke 2.19. After the Shepherds came and found the baby lying in a manger – they left and shared their testimony of all they had heard and seen. And the Scripture says: 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. This word pondering is a word that means to cast it all together: συμβάλλω. I’ll bet that is a common theme among mothers.

This would be a wonderful ending if this were it for Mary, but as we’ll see in a couple of weeks, Simeon has something to say to her. Rd v 34-35; And a sword will pierce through your own soul also.

She pondered all that she had experienced concerning her son in her heart. A sword will pierce through her soul. I’m sure there is more here than we’ve covered concerning her heart and soul. But what I want you to see is that this story isn’t all gumballs and roses. This prophecy declares pains for her in the future. It is a reminder to us who know the whole story just why Jesus came to earth. He came to die for the sins of mankind. He was born to die for us.

And so God sent his Son to earth to die for our sins – and in return he calls for commitment from us. Mary called him her God and her savior. Would you do the same?

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Matthew 1:1-18

Title: News Stories

Text: Matthew 1.1-18

 

Introduction: Last week I mentioned that some stories are in some Gospels and other stories in them all. Most of the Gospels though chose the stories that worked with their themes – their goals. We have the genealogy of Christ in two Gospels; however, both are different: one traces the lineage of Joseph and the other of Mary. Matthew’s is found in chapter 1.

So we ask the question of last week: why? Why did Matthew use this genealogy list? It can be quite boring if you just read it like this: rd v7-10. There really is more here. I believe Matthew wants us to see more than a list of names.

On July 17, 1983, a small pro-Soviet Indian newspaper called the Patriot published a front-page article titled “AIDS may invade India: Mystery disease caused by US experiments.” The story cited a letter from an anonymous but “well-known American scientist and anthropologist” that suggested AIDS, then still a mysterious and deadly new disease, had been created by the Pentagon in a bid to develop new biological weapons.

“Now that these menacing experiments seem to have gone out of control, plans are being hatched to hastily transfer them from the U.S. to other countries, primarily developing nations where governments are pliable to Washington’s pressure and persuasion,” the article read.

The Patriot’s article was subsequently used as a source for an October 1985 story in the Literaturnaya Gazeta, a Soviet weekly with considerable influence at the time. The next year, it ran on the front page of a British tabloid. After that, it was picked up by an international news wire. By April 1987, it was suggested that the story had appeared in the major newspapers of more than 50 countries.

The problem? The story was patently false.

Ill. Cont.: Dr. John Johnson, CEO of Edgeward Economics asks in his Huffington Post article: How bad is the fake news phenomenon?

A man who was “self-investigating” a fake news story was arrested after shooting his assault rifle in a Washington, D.C. pizzeria.

President-Elect Trump fired a member of his transition team for sharing fake news.

And the Wall Street Journal is attracting new readers by promising their stories are “created, curated and checked in a real newsroom.”

The Pope jumped on the Fake News bandwagon this week and condemned it, calling it sin. Well, I’d have to agree – bearing false witness is one of those forbidden activities on the most famous top 10 lists ever: The Ten Commandments.

One older gentleman being interviewed said:  I miss the days of getting news the old fashioned way – having Walter Cronkite tell you.

Boy isn’t that true. With the Brian Williams scandal of NBC and the bias reporting in the media, whom can you trust? Many citizens feel like they can’t trust the news, newspapers or professional journalists.

Transition: Well here’s a news story that is different than most stories you hear. 1st of all…

I.     This story is true (1)

exp.: That’s what makes it so good: it’s true – as opposed to false! This isn’t star wars or some fairy tale. V 1 opens with this claim: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Here is a person and here is where he comes from.

This passage before us today outlines just what is important for us to realize, to absolutely know that it is valid and true. You see, the genealogy, especially for the Jew, validates one’s lineage and one’s heritage. What Matthew is declaring to us is that His story isn’t a myth. It isn’t false. This story you’re about to read is true.

News is supposed to be something that is simply reported. News has become relative to whatever anyone wants it to be. There was a time when news was something that you heard and for the most part, could believe it to be factual: 1. A building burned; 2. people died. News today seems to be like people are just trying to give you advice about what you should do or what you should believe or how you should feel. Reporters aren’t giving reports anymore: they’re citing their opinion. This story is different, though. Matthew is saying: The story you’re about to read is true…

t.s.: 2ndly, it is also real.

II.    This story is real (1-17)

exp.: Jesus was born to a momma and a daddy (16). He lived a life out in the public, which was witnessed by many. His story is real as opposed to fake.

I’m going to wonder aloud. I’m not passing judgment, mind you. I’m just wondering. I wonder if we hurt the Christmas story by all of the other false stories we tell during holiday times. I don’t just mean Christmas. I mean, any holiday – pick one. I don’t want to betray the fun some of your families have – our family, too – but if we tell these stories that are false, if they’re not real, then we run the risk of making this story appear false.

Daddy is that true? Well, no baby, it’s not. What about that one? No, little Johnny, that one isn’t true either. What about… eventually, the child comes to the nativity and wonders: is that one true? Let me encourage you: Yes, Virginia, There is a Messiah named Jesus.

Now, there are many who would lump Jesus in with all of the other holiday fables; however, I want to assure you that the parents of Jesus, which you see in the nativity, were real people. Their names are included in the two genealogies.

Here’s something else I wonder: Do we as preachers contribute to this delusion that the Christ story is a fable? Here’s what I mean:

ill.: When I was younger I preached a sermon on the Wise men: Wise men still seek him, Wise men still find him, Wise men still worship him. Are you a wise man? I was proud of that message. Now, not so much! By the way: I got an A for that sermon in my first preaching class!

app.: Here’s why I would be critical of a pastor who preached that message today: this story isn’t recorded for us to hold up as a moral to be taught. Be like them! I didn’t say this at the end of my sermon, but I could have said: And the moral of the story is… No, that was story recorded because it is true. If Mr. Cronkite could report on this, he’d say: And that’s the way it was…

t.s.: it is true… it is real…

III.   This story is unpredictable (1-17)

exp.: Here’s what I mean by that: many stories written throughout time appeal to the romantic or the daring or the adventurous. Those stories are patterned after this story. But what makes this story different is that it isn’t predictable. For example, most genealogies are used for validation.

ill.: Ezra 2.59 reads: 59 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel…

At the end of the list of names and their numbers, Ezra continues: 62 These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 63 The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.

Other genealogies were used because it gave the person prominence. That’s what Ezra does when he presents himself: rd 7.1-6;

Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest— this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.

The lineage was important (as demonstrated by Ezra) because it validated who they were and where they came from. Often times certain family members were removed if they gave a poor reference. The genealogy of Christ doesn’t remove people who might make Jesus look bad. Matthew presents a genealogy quite different from that of what we find in most genealogies. The first difference is:

  • Characters; in his genealogy you have prostitutes and kings; Manasseh and Rahab; I would say that Manasseh was probably the most evil king in Israel’s history. He is like the lowest of how low these kings get. Rahab appears to run a brothel. That would at a minimum make her a pimp. We don’t know all of her history, but we classify her as a prostitute. You have David and Tamar: David probably the greatest king throughout their storied history, and yet – an adulterer, a murder, a liar. Indeed, Bathsheba isn’t even mentioned by name, but rather we read in v 6 that she was the wife of Uriah. For those of you who don’t know: David had a group of men who were kind of like the Secret Service. They were his closest military warriors. Uriah was one of those Mighty Men. David had an adulterous relationship with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Then, in order to cover his sinful behavior, he had Uriah killed. So, it is interesting for us that Mathew doesn’t just say: David, Solomon, Rehoboam. Instead, he mentions Uriah by name, drawing attention to this man’s sinful behavior. Tamar played the prostitute with her father-in-law (Genesis 38). She pretended to be a cult prostitute of a pagan deity. Characters… the 2nd difference is…
  • Gender: most genealogies are patriarchal; You’ll note the four women listed here:
    • Tamar (3)
    • Rahab (5)
    • Ruth (5)
    • Bathsheba (6), some folks add
    • Mary down in v16; would be the 5th; I put her in Luke’s list; however, it is interesting to note the similarities between these women and Mary. There is a 3rd difference:
  • Race or Ethnicity: Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites; Ruth was from Moab; Most Jews would only name Jews in their genealogy to show purity to their heritage.

app.: Matthew demonstrates for us some people with shady stories in the genealogy of Jesus which I don’t think we could have predicted if we’d had written it ourselves.

t.s.: The Good News is a true and a real story. It is filled with characters you could not have predicted would be listed. And finally,

IV.  This story really is Good News! (17)

exp.: Mark 1.1 begins with: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The word gospel translated into English is most literally: good news or a good message. rd v 17; 14 generations in the 1st section and 14 in the 2nd; and ditto in the 3rd. Actually, if you count them up it’s 13, 14, 13 respectively. But from what I understand this was a common practice to alternate and use a name to start the next section with which you just finish with – and you count it both times.

I’ve heard of people through the years playing math tricks with this passage. The term is Gematria (Geh-may-tree-ah) and it concerns the numeric value of Hebrew words; I’m not smart enough to give any credence or discredit them, but let me just give you an example: the numeric value of the name David in Hebrew is 4+6+4 = 14; There are 14 generations in each section: Abraham to the Kings; from the Kings to the exile; from the exile to Christ. David is the 14th entry; But listen – I think there is more to this than just numbers. But there is a point made by Tim Keller dealing with this issue of numbers that makes a lot of sense to me.  This is especially highlighted for me since taking a sabbatical. Here’s what we learn about the 4th commandment and the ties to it.

  • The Sabbath is the 7th It is to be a day of rest; it’s what God did; it’s what he has commanded us to do;
  • 7 Sabbaths from the Passover to Pentecost;
  • Every 7th year – the fields were to lie fallow (rest);
  • 50th year was the year of Jubilee; The plan of God was for the Jews, his people, to set their slaves free; and the forgiveness of debt; the restoration of land to the family to which it belonged; etc.
  • In our text, we have six 7’s. Christ ushers in the 7th Seven; there is something very special about this new era. It should be a time of rest, and freedom from bondage, restoration.

t.s.: this story is so unique; the genealogy brings truth and reality; it doesn’t dress the story up, but instead presents parts that most people would avoid (gender, race, black sheep); it presents us with hope, that by faith, we can find peace, rest, forgiveness.

Conclusion: And isn’t that really where Matthew is pointing us – to the Christ who would bring us all of these things and more? And that is the real news story today…

But, I think all of this still points to one overall arching fact. The fact that this good news is evidence that God keeps his promises. All of these stories add up to a really long time! Many people looked with hope for the promise, but never saw it realized. And that’s where faith comes in! These people looked forward in faith that God would do as he promised. They understood that God is a covenant keeper.

So, yeah, this story is good news for you and me today because it is true and real and filled with messy people. But what’s more, it is good news because God keeps his promises. And because of this, you and I can look forward to the promises yet to be fulfilled.

Let’s pray:

Invitation:

 

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Matthew 2

Title: Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?

Text: Matthew 2

Introduction: Matthew 2 is unique to the Christmas story. Luke doesn’t tell these stories. Neither do Mark or John. When I was younger, I would often wonder why one of the gospel writers would choose to tell a story that the others didn’t. What was it about that particular story? Take this story, for example: why?

Well, I’ve come to understand through time that each writer has a purpose to his book. You can usually find their purpose set up at the beginning and the end of their books. In hermeneutics we call this the top and the tail. For Matthew we find a phrase here and at the end of the book: The King of the Jews. Pilate asks Jesus plainly: Are you the King of the Jews? Here, the wise men come seeking this one who has been born King of the Jews. Bookends. Top and tail.

But there is more: within each story are lessons for us. That is probably closer to the answer than the top and the tail. Paul wrote in Romans 15: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. God is using Matthew’s stories to draw us in and show us a little about ourselves. So let’s looks for ourselves. I’ve outlined Mt 2 for us like this:

  1. Feeling Threatened
  2. Coming Undone
  3. The Paradox of Christ’s Kingdom

Transition: let’s begin with point #1…

I.     Feeling Threatened (1-10)

exp.: Boy! Who wouldn’t? Think about this: you’re a king. You’re sitting on your throne. A large delegation comes from a far away country. Their camels are loaded with gifts. These magistrates, these important political leaders from this a far away country enter with pomp and circumstance. Why have you come to see the King? We’ve come to inquire as to where is this one who has been born King of the Jews? Our text says that Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him. And rightfully so, because Herod was well known for his treatment of those he thought threatened his throne. His wife…which by the way, he had a few, but she was his favorite…he had his wife killed because he thought she wanted her son to take his place. Oh, and he killed his son, too (others in his family, as well). I’m sure the thought was: whatever you make the King think, don’t make him think you want his throne!

The King summons the religious leaders as to where ‘this one’ would be born. They consult the Scripture and find that he is to be born in Bethlehem. So Herod tells them and sends them on their way with this one ‘request’: when you find him, let me know, in order that I too may come and worship him. And we know he’s lying!

But, God was at work protecting his son. So, he warned the Magi in a dream to go home by a different route. And so they did. Not only did God warn them in a dream, but he warned Joseph, too. So, Joseph packed up his family and fled to Egypt.

When we get to v 16, we read that Herod was furious. That alone demonstrates his heart for us. But he went further – he wanted this baby king dead; rd v 16:  16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

ill.: I think it is interesting…timely maybe, that at this time in our history, there are many refugees, millions even, fleeing that part of the country…fleeing from war, persecution, famine and, like this family here in the Bible, oppression. This past week a refugee became disgruntled and jumped a curb at Ohio State University. He then jumped out of his vehicle and started slashing people with a knife. He didn’t kill anyone, but himself. He injured something like 11 people. So, this issue is before us, almost on a daily basis. If you think about it, Jesus and his family were refugees. They did like many are doing today; they fled across the border to Egypt where there was a large Jewish population.

app.: Now, these two stories (the Somali refugee and King Herod) point us in the direction I think Matthew is wanting us to go. We want answers. Why would someone go off like that? – Either one of them? Some would argue against the rich and the powerful. They did this! Think Trump and the post-election demonstrations going on across the US. Others would argue that this comes from the poor, disgruntled people: those on the other end of the spectrum. But I think Matthew’s point is that the answer is a much larger section of people. Think really big because the Bible teaches us that this wickedness is in every person’s heart; including yours and mine.

Transition: which brings me to my 2nd point…

II.    Coming Undone (3)

exp.: this can actually be seen in two ways:

  1. Coming undone: as in coming apart; losing it; trying to kill or destroy what threatens your kingdom and authority. This is what we see in King Herod of Matthew 2.
  2. Coming undone: as in recognizing Jesus as King and removing yourself from the throne of your heart. Surrendering to Jesus and crowning him Lord and King of your life.

You see, this 2nd definition is much harder to accomplish. Your and my natural tendency is to become angry and fight against giving up our heart’s throne.

Jeremiah 17.9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Think about this: if you want to be king of your own heart and someone comes and tells you that you don’t belong there – that there is someone who is really the King – you’re going to fight that. Those are fighting words. When someone says that Jesus is Lord and if anyone would come after him, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow him, they’re calling for total allegiance. No one can serve two masters: either you’re king of your heart or Jesus is. King Herod isn’t the only one with this problem. You and I suffer from the same malady.

Romans 8.7 tells us why it is that way: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. “Hostile toward God”; you and I have a natural tendency toward self-preservation and self-centeredness. We think to ourselves: No one is going to tell me what to do.

Even if you’re a Christian, your natural tendency is to fight it. So a battle rages everyday. We have to fight it every single day of our lives because it isn’t natural to surrender our heart. That is why it is so hard for us to pray. I’m talking about intense, “get on your knees and fight like a man,” kind of prayer.

Paul really brings this to light in Romans 7, where he says: 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Why is this? It is because you and I have a little king Herod inside of us that wants to fight to sit on that throne.

app.: But, when you and I come to the realization the this story of Christ, born in a manger is true, we must surrender to that – every day. That is why you and I must become undone – not the King Herod way, but the Isaiah way and say: Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

t.s.: Well, part three is…

III.   The Paradox of Christ’s Kingdom (19-23)

exp.:  As we’ve been making our way through Isaiah on Wednesday nights I’ve been struggling with the prophecies concerning this King Jesus. My struggle is identifying exactly which ‘coming’ of Jesus Isaiah is talking about. You see, according to Scripture, Jesus is coming twice. The 2nd coming will be in power. It will bring to an end all evil and suffering. When Christ came the 1st time though, it was in a totally different way. That’s what threw so many off – and still confuses many today. For example:

  • He wasn’t born into pomp and circumstance; his 1st bed was a feeding trough for animals. He wasn’t born in a palace in Jerusalem, but rather in a home in Bethlehem to common, poor folks.
  • He grew up in Nazareth. Matthew 2.19-23 teaches us about the family’s return to Israel. Rd 19-23; Instead of Judea, they returned to Galilee; instead of Jerusalem, they went back to Nazareth. That doesn’t mean much to you and me, but for Israelites, they new that Nazareth wasn’t the place to be from. In John 1.45 Philip found Nathaniel and told him they had found the Messiah – the one Moses and the prophets wrote about. Philip said: Jesus, of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Nathaniel replied: Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

ill.: Do you guys remember the movie Blast from the Past with Brennan Frazier? In that movie, Adam, played by Frazier, is warned by his mother to avoid women from Pasadena. I’m guessing people from California found that funny. But, for you and me, those of us not from California, we understood what she was saying: Can anything good come out of Pasadena?

app.: here’s where I’m going with this: This 1st time around Christ did things in a way that didn’t draw people naturally to him. For some reason, God has chosen the weak things to confound the strong and the wise. He’s always done that:

  • Isaac over Ishmael
  • Jacob over Esau
  • Leah over Rachel – the one who was not loved over the one who was…
  • He chose the Jews to be his people in a land that isn’t even very attractive. How odd of God to chose the Jews. Why not Rome or Greece or Babylon – some rich, powerful nation? No, that hasn’t been his style.
  • Oh the list goes on: David over his older brothers; Ephraim over Manasseh; Abel over Cain;

app.: Here is what Matthew is leading to: Jesus, through his weakness would bring victory and salvation to the World. He would save us – not with a sword, but on a cross. He would never really own anything, never really travel anywhere outside of the few miles he lived. He would never acquire degrees, or accolades. He would never hold office or invent something that everyone needs. He wouldn’t become rich and powerful.

t.s.: So, what? Where do we land when we come to this conclusion?

Conclusion: I think we all need to go through these three steps.

  1. Feeling Threatened: we need to recognize that feeling and desire to be king of our lives. We need to see that rebellious attitude we have toward God. We need to see that by nature, we are at enmity, we are enemies, we are hostile toward God’s declaration that he must be King and not us. We must identify that threat. And then 2ndly,
  2. Coming Undone: Then, we need to come undone! Not like Herod, but rather like Isaiah. We must recognize our tendency and desire to be king of our own hearts and then surrender all of that to God. The Bible calls that repenting of our sin. It means acknowledging that God is right and we’re wrong. When He calls s sinners, and says that all have sinned – all have rebelled – that there is none righteous, no not one – He means you and me. And that means daily taking up our cross, denying ourselves as king and following him.
  3. Living the Paradox of Christ Kingdom: to quote St. Francis of Assisi:

It is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Make me an instrument of your peace,

I want to know what its like to follow you.

When men look at me, I want them to see,

The Light of the World inside.

 

Invitation

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Title: False Christmas Traditions

Text: Luke 2.1-7

Introduction: The traditional Christmas story… note the picture in the title page;

So how off is the traditional story from what Scripture clearly shows…let’s look at some parts to the story that aren’t in the Bible; Luke 2.1

What a great beginning! Caesar Augustus; The Roman Empire lasted hundreds of years and there were many Caesars. But this Caesar is considered:

  • The greatest of all Caesars.
  • It has been said that when he became Caesar, Rome was made of Rock. And when he died, Rome was made of Marble.
  • There is an inscription, which has been uncovered and discovered in our generation that reads of Caesar Augustus: The son of God and The Savior of the World.
  • He was born into a wealthy family and inherited his role from the famous Julius Caesar.
  • He ruled from 27 BC to 14 AD
  • Indeed, the Gregorian Calendar’s 8th month is named in his honor: August

Rd v 2; thing to note: this is the 1st registration while Quirinius is Gov of Syria; I like the preposition before better: this was the 1st registration before Quirinius was governor of Syria. rd v 3-4; this is beautiful staging: From the ruler of the known world, to the region of Quirinius, down to a young man and his wife and their journey to their town…Bethlehem; From the richest, most powerful man in the world down to the lowliest of peasants; but what an incredible contrast:

  • Born to lowly peasants
  • To no great fan fare
  • He truly would become the Savior of the World.
  • He wouldn’t have day or a month named after him, but He would restructure the way time was counted and every date would be ascribed in reference to his birth BC & AD! What is truly funny is that academia has successfully changed the way these things are recorded. Modern scholars are now using BCE & CE as in Before the Common Era and The Common Era. But, nonetheless, the dates are still set by Christ.

Speaking of dates, here is my 1st Fallacy:

I.     Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.

We don’t really know the date. Jewish historian Josephus placed the death of Herod in the spring of 4 B.C. between a lunar eclipse on March 12 and the Passover on April 11. Not in December, but probably in the Fall of 5 BC. Truth is, we just don’t know.

So, according to Scripture, we’re only given a time period.

Transition: at this point, we don’t have a date, but we a time… 2nd fallacy,

II.    There was No Donkey – ill.: Small One; That’s right, there is no donkey or burro mentioned in Scripture. It is at the end of his life, but not here. I remember having this conversation in Bible Study a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, there is no Donkey. She probably walked with Joseph. She could have ridden a donkey, but there isn’t any evidence that she did. #3…

III.    They were not Late Arrivals. When Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had already been in Bethlehem – probably for some time.

exp.: we think of Joseph struggling to get to Bethlehem; maybe travel was harder because his wife was slowing him down? So, he got a donkey for her to ride on because she’s so close to giving birth. No, the text actually tells us that they were there for a period of time before she gave birth. Luke give us this double entendre to clarify: KJV And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. KJV, v 1; v15; same here in v 6 – Lit.: And it came to pass ‘while they are there’; You see, Joseph and Mary would have had plenty of time to make arrangements for lodging; just note:

  • This is his family’s hometown – he could have reproduced his simple heritage; he was royalty; the son of Jacob, the son of Eleazar; Or,
  • Mary’s family was just down the road in the ‘hill country of Judea’

ill.: I haven’t lived in Copperas Cove since 1989. I was only at Robertson Avenue Baptist Church for just over two years. Yet, my sons could travel there today and find a place to stay in someone’s home – someone who knows us and would remember them.

app.: Joseph isn’t some sort of uncaring, unprepared husband; One more point here: I find it hard to believe that this little community would reject her in her labor. I don’t imagine there is a place in the world – a civilization in the world that would reject a woman in labor. Maybe some place with ethnic cleansing and war – but that’s not the case here.

t.s.: Fallacy # 4;

IV.   Jesus was not born in a barn.

exp.: or a cave; rd v 7; so she gives birth, to her ‘first born’ son; lit.: she wraped him in cloths; she swaddled him; My all time favorite description of this came from Joshua Webb: She made a burrito baby; the text says she laid him in a manger. Well, to the western mind, that would mean a barn. But, that’s not the case in this time Period in the Holy Land.

The 1st question for us here is: just what is a manger? This word manger is popular in Scripture. Each time it is used, it means the same thing: a feeding trough for an animal; say a goat, a lamb or a cow; we as East Texans in 2015 know that you feed your cows outside or in a barn; but those from the Middle East see this differently;

The key isn’t found in the word ‘manger’ but rather in the next set of words which record the reason for why she laid him in a feed trough; Now, I’m going to use the KJV again, because that is the most popular version of the Christmas story and the one that has established what we believe. We start with the word because: KJV/NASB – because there was no room for them in the inn.

  • No Room – lit.: place or space; two popular words in Gk for our Eng. word place; this word here is the most popular; 1. is to place or stand something there; the 2nd, is topos – meaning space; Meaning: if I said: put it over there in that space; You might respond: I can’t…there isn’t enough room! That’s what this word here means – there wasn’t enough space for them there. It doesn’t mean there were no rooms available for rent. We don’t have time to look at all 90 times this word appears, but move down a couple of chapters to Lk 4.17: 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written.

Now there is a 2nd word we need to look at here in this verse – because there was no room for them in the inn.

  • Inn –the word is κατάλυμα and it appears 3x’s in the NT; most lit.: a shelter or a dwelling; this word appears here; and again in Lk in 22.7-12(11); Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” So Luke uses this same word to describe a room added to a house. Guest room; 3rd time in Mk 14.14 – which is the same story;

Here’s the problem with because there was no room for them in the inn. I have 26 English translations; and 23 of them translate this word ‘inn’. My guess is the translators didn’t want to change what people had come to know as tradition. In keeping with the King James and tradition; one translation (NLT) says: no lodging was available; which insinuates an inn; and TNIV – no guest room was available; which still hints at an inn; YLT is the closest – because there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber.

Added to this: Matthew 2 tells us the story of the Magi who came from the east seeking this baby who was born King of the Jews. They found him in a house. Now here’s why I have a problem with this word being translated Inn. Is there a word for inn in the Bible? Yes, and it just so happens that Luke uses it; πανδοχεῖον; 10.29-35 (34, 35);

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

In this story, we have the word for inn and the word for innkeeper. If Luke had wanted us to know that Mary and Joseph couldn’t find a room at the inn, he would have used this word or these words.

But, there is even more evidence.

exp.: let me show you the blueprints for a typical house as drawn up from archeological evidence from that time period and for centuries before and after; show pictures. 1) side view; 2) top view 3) top view w/ kataluma 4) top view 2/ side Kataluma

But what is most important for us in asking: Was it really that way? – is for us to see what Scripture says – Can I take a moment and tell you how important this is – we must use Scripture as our basis – our standard!

1 Sam 28.24 – 24 Now the woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly killed it, and she took flour and kneaded it and baked unleavened bread of it, 25 and she put it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night;

Judges 11.29-40; 29 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”

This understanding of the home brings clarity to such passages as:

  1. Matt 5.14-15: 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house; how many of you can light a candle and it will give light to your whole house? It did for these people because there was only one room to the whole house!
  2. Luke 13.10-17; 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
  3. Mk 7.35: 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. She was untied, released…just as they had done to their animals that morning; Kenneth Bailey, in his book Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, quotes from the Arabic Bible, translated in the 9th Century: Does not everyone of you untie his ox or his donkey from the manger in the house and take it outside and water it? There is no “in the house” in the GK, but this Arabic speaking Christian in the 9th Century understood the text and the culture.

I think the story of the shepherds, which follows in Chronological order, then makes even more sense. These folks were the lowliest of people. Uneducated, poor; Q: why in the world would they be invited to see the King of Kings? If they went, they’d probably be turned away! But no, here is a sign for you: rd v 8-12; Ok, let me stop here and give you fallacy #5…

V.     The Angels didn’t sing

And the Angel said to them: rd v 11-12; you’ll find the baby swaddled…just as other common folk would care for their newborn babies; and 2nd, he’d be lying in a manger…not in some mansion or governor’s home, but rather in a home like theirs!

Suddenly, there is a host of angels! Rd v 13-14; Again, they didn’t sing but said: Praising God and Saying; rd v 15-16; Question: If they’d found the child and their family left out in the cold and rejected by Bethlehem’s residents, don’t you think one of them would have intervened? …Especially, after the announcement by the Angel!

Conclusion:

  • Mary & Joseph were not late in arriving to Bethlehem.
  • Jesus was not born in a barn, and not in the guest room because it was already in use. He was most likely born in a home just like other babies in the era.
  • One room homes were assumed by the listeners of Jesus: Matt & Luke
  • The word translated room is topos; meaning spacee.: because there was no space for them in the guest room: kataluma: vs 7 she wrapped in him swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because that is where she was staying…in the house, not the guest room, because there was no space for them in the guest room.
  • The Magi visited the house where they stayed (cf. Mt 2.11)
  • This is how middle easterners thought and translated from the Greek over a 1,000 years ago (800’s)

Curious to hear from the many members who are from other countries as to what their home language records…

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Mt 2.1-12; Lk 2.1-20

Title: Right on Time!

Text: Matthew 2.1-12; Luke 2.1-20

Introduction: Recording? We’re going to move freely between Matthew 2.1 & Luke 2.1… Go ahead and bookmark those passages as we begin.

Let’s gain some context here of the overall Christmas Sermon Series.

I’m breaking the series down like this:

  • Promised from the Beginning – His Story in Ancient History. Gen 3.1-24
  • Prepared Throughout History – His Story in the Old Testament. Matthew 1.1-17
  • Proclaimed Unexpectedly – His Story Announced. Matthew 1.18-25
  • Arrived at the Right TimeHis Story in our Time. Matthew 2.1-12

We began with the Fall and a promise made. Then, we continued through history as we looked at the lineage of Christ. Last week we looked at how he was proclaimed unexpectedly. God had been silent for hundreds of years and now – wah-lah, God announced the coming of his promised messiah through angels to Joseph – also to Mary and Zechariah. Now, the Baby has arrived and his timing is perfect!

So, let’s begin in Mt 2; if you’re wanting to follow along with me this morning, Here’s how I’ve outlined the following passage:

God’s Timing is Perfect

  1. God’s Timing is Problematic
  2. God’s Timing is Not Limited in Scope to accomplishing His Plan
  3. God’s Timing is Planned to ignite in you a desire for worship

Transition: Let’s begin with point #1…

Introduction: God’s timing is perfect in sending us the Messiah, the Promised One

exp.: rd v 1; In the days of Herod the King (in the time of Herod the King); Luke 2.1; in those days (at that time); Luke 2.6 the time came (lit.: day), vs. 11 (lit.: today); the time came; they came – they arrived;

ill.: during the day, today, back in my day. All in the family,

Boy the way Glen Miller played 
Songs that made the hit parade. 
Guys like us we had it made,
 
Those were the days.
 

And you knew who you were then, 
Girls were girls and men were men,
 
Mister we could use a man
 
Like Herbert Hoover again.
 

Didn’t need no welfare state, 
Everybody pulled his weight.
 
Gee our old LaSalle ran great.
 
Those were the days.

Xronos vs. Kairos vs. Hemera vs. Semeron

  1. Xronos: a period of time, a season – χρόνος (measured time, duration) to see time as either a flowing river which carries us away (chronos)- : chronometer
  2. Kairos: a point in time, as well as a period of time – καιρός (time of opportunity and fulfilment) – a quiet lake which we swim in (kairos) For the most part, they’re synonymous. One writer said: It’s really the difference between aminute and a  Chronos is about chronological time. Kairos is about the living experience within time. 
  3. Hemera: day, in the day of Herod (in the time of King Herod)
  4. Semeron: today, lit.: a contraction of the definite article and the word hemera. From what I gather from this word it is literally the day we are in or this day. We use the word,

Jesus used both words Kairos and Xronos when the disciples asked him just before he ascended to be with the Father if would restore the kingdom of Israel at that time (xronos). Jesus said: “It is not for you to know times (Xronos) or seasons (Kairos) that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

Transition: Both words are used in His Story. Christ was born in a moment of time. God knows the day, the hour, the minute, the place.

Here is the point: there was a time in history – His Story, when God sent his son to be our Messiah. God had a plan from Genesis 3.15, when he promised Christ would come. That plan was laid out perfectly. God knew the season, the events, the circumstances. More than that, God orchestrated them all to bring his son into this sinful world. The Timing really was perfect. Gal 4.4: But when the fullness of time (χρόνος) had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Transition: with an understanding that God’s Timing is Perfect, Let’s look at how God’s perfect timing touched our world, it’s people and us…

I.     God’s timing is problematic for those opposing the Messiah, the Promise One (3-7)

exp.: God’s timing is inconvenient for anyone whose concern is more for themselves than it is for others. As Humans, we have too often misplaced our ‘Awe”; We have an ‘awe’ problem; We place it on creation, people, things, possessions, etc. etc. etc. In this passage, we see two such groups who were in an ‘awe’ problem: Awe of Self & Awe of Religion;

  1. Awe of Self: Herod

Herod, the Great:

  • His Rule: my understanding of his name having, the Great on it is because he was the eldest child of Antipater – procurator of Idumea as established by Caesar. Antipater gave his son responsibilities and watched his son be successful at each and every task. At the age of 25, Herod became governor of Galilee. Rome was impressed with his handling of stressful events, including Galilean bandits and a showdown with the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem. Herod proved his leadership skills and continued to impress Rome. When his father was assassinated, Herod fled to Rome, where he was made “King of the Jews” and returned to set up his reign. It wasn’t easy, for there was sitting in his place Antigonus II, the last of the Hasmonean rulers. Herod was told he would be king, but first had the assignment of displacing Antigonus, who had been placed as ruler by the Parthians, enemies of Rome.

As King, Herod was successful as a ruler and also, he was famous for his building endeavors. He built:

  • His Creativity:

a.  The port at Ceasarea – located on the Mediterranean coast of northern Israel. It was to be the harbor from which Herod and others would sail to and from Alexandria, Egypt, and Rome. It appears to me that this is where Paul would have set sail from in Acts 27.1.

b.  Herodium – located just south of Jerusalem. Josephus describes Herod’s massive fortress as a citadel created in memory of the great battles fought there. He adorned it with the most costly palaces, and erected very strong fortifications, and called it, from his own name Herodium.

c.  Masada – probably Herod’s most famous fortress, of which he built many. Most famous because it was the last to fall to Rome in 73 AD.

d.  The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem – don’t be too impressed. It was said of Herod that he built other temples to other foreign gods, too. He probably did this to help his relationship with the Jews. Although the rebuilding wouldn’t be complete for another 20 years after Christ died, the remodeling and rebuilding had been going on for some 46 years at the time of Jesus. John 2.18-20: 18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”

  • His Paranoia: Herod saw success as a ruler and builder; however, he is probably most famous for his murderous ways. He had Antigonus killed to solidify his throne, as well as other members of the Hasmonean dynasty. He had members of his family put to death because he was suspicious of their motives. He always thought someone was trying to take his throne. He killed one of his 10 wives – Mariamme. What is so surprising is that she was his favorite. He was so protective of her that he ordered her killed if ever anything was to happen to him while traveling abroad. First, Herod killed Mariamme’s parents and then, when she continued to protest, he had her tried and executed. He later killed his two sons by her because he thought they were positioning themselves to take his throne. this idea had been planted by his oldest son, Antipater. Antipater experienced no advantage from their deaths because he, too, was killed by his father. I read two separate reports: one that reported just days before Herod himself died, he ordered his son to be executed. And the other that his son was to be executed at his death.

With this picture of Herod in mind – this picture of one so in Awe of himself, rd v 1-3 with me; rd v 1-3;

So, you can see why Herod was nervous about someone being born King of the Jews. He wanted all the glory – all of the awe. So desperate was he for the Awe of others that he ordered the execution of the Jewish elders who were being held in prison at his death. That way, Jerusalem would be filled with mourning at his death.

No wonder he was ‘stirred’ – troubled and all Jerusalem with him! He fought too hard to attain this place he held as King of the Jews. No wonder he will order the death of all boys two years and under down in v 16-18. He was threatened.

Transition: that’s what happens when we serve the god of self and do not surrender the throne of our heart to Christ. That’s what happens when we’re more in awe of ourselves than we are of Christ. But there’s a 2nd group who have a problem with this report.

  1. Awe of Religion: The Chief Priests & Scribes

What happens when we are awed by our religion and not our Savior? Awe of self and religion and anything not God blinds us to what is real. We see this happening to the Chief Priests and the Scribes.

Answer: People who are in awe of Religion and not the Savior are more worried about themselves, their position, and their money. Let’s get this straight: these guys missed their role as God’s servants. So ‘in to’ their religion are they, that they miss the reason for their king’s inquiry. Rd v 4; Here’s why they shouldn’t have missed this – Here are the facts:

  1. Herod doesn’t normally assemble them for their advice! He’s an Edomite and they’re not big fans of each other. Sure, he’s converted, but they don’t think he’s serious – and with good reason (remember the other temples to other gods?). He doesn’t ask them to assemble, he doesn’t meet with them, he never seeks their counsel!
  2. They understand this is the Messiah they’re being asked about. They have knowledge of this matter; Rd v 4; And they give an answer: the Christ, the Messiah, the promised one; rd v 5; . These guys have been praying and asking God to send Him. They’ve been watching and waiting for him to come; The opportunity arises and they miss it.
  3. Their apathy is evident in that they offer Herod a passage of Scripture, but no follow up. Rd v 5-6; it appears that no one follows them, no one even follows up on this inquiry. Why isn’t v 7; rd v 5-6 and add v 7, why do you ask? Does this have anything to do with the Magi who’ve come from the East?

app.: People who are in awe of Religion and not the Savior are more worried about themselves, their position, and their money. People who are in awe of Religion and not the Savior are more worried about their church, their ministry, their following and the financing it brings. This scares me when I think of end times. Are we so obtuse to the things of God that we’ll miss what’s in store because we’re in awe of ourselves and our religion?

Transition: God’s timing is Perfect in sending His Messiah. God’s timing is Problematic for those who oppose God’s Messiah, and 3rd,

II.    God’s timing is not limited in scope to accomplishing the work of His Plan.

exp.: God didn’t choose to bring the Messiah into the world because he finally found the right couple with the right relatives. God didn’t say, oh, now is the time because there is a star floating toward Jerusalem and the right magi are in the east watching. This was all planned! Everything is at his disposal! Rd v 7-8; We’ve seen this so far in our passage.

  1. He uses the heavens: A Star – he controls the heavens; every single object in the heavens, whether shining or not is at his disposal. In 7 BC, an astronomical phenomenon occurred when Jupiter and Saturn intersected. There is another astronomical phenomenon occurred in Chinese records around 4 BC. We don’t know what was seen, but we do know the Chinese recorded the sighting of an evanescent star. Those earthly records don’t necessarily mean either one was this Star. What we do know is that this star was used of God as a sign in the heavens.
  2. He uses Pagan Magi – this is a reminder that God controls foreign governments; men who have studied secular teachings, Philosophy, Astronomy, Science, Mathematics. A reminder to us is the Creation Story. God said: “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years…
  3. He uses The Jewish leadership
    1. Herod – the King Rome put over the Jews
    2. Chief Priests & Scribes
  4. He uses Angels (Messengers to Announce)
  5. He uses common people like shepherds, Joseph, a carpenter, Mary, a young girl, Zecharias, a priest, Elizabeth, a wife, Simeon, an old man, Anna, an old woman.

As to God’s Timing: there is no limit to what God might use to accomplish His purpose. Nothing is hid from Him and unavailable. Nothing. Fourth and finally,

III.   God’s timing is planned to ignite within us a Desire to Worship His Son and to sacrificially give him our lives.

exp.: rd v 9-12; I shared Galatians 4.4 with you earlier; Gal 4.4: But when the fullness of time (χρόνος) had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

There is another verse I love which demonstrates this idea of perfect timing: Romans 5.6: 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Transition: Yes, it was an unexpected announcement – the Messiah was coming into the world. But the timing, it was perfect. All of history had moved in this direction. Thanks to Alexander the Great and the Greeks something wonderful had happened:

  1. The entire world had one common language: Greek – what a great way to spread this good news.
  2. There were roads connecting the countries. One could literally walk to Rome or China or Africa.
  3. For the most part, there was one over-arching government. Rome ruled the known world. You didn’t need a passport to take these roads to these other countries.
  4. Because of the Diaspora, Jews lived all around this world – the basis for Christianity. It was just the right time to spread the Gospel. God had brought it all together under his plan – to save humanity.

Take-a-ways:

  1. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews. For those wondering, we do not worship the same God as the Muslims. We worship God in three persons. The 2nd person in that trinity is Christ, the Messiah, the Long Awaited Savior of the World. His position as God demands your surrender.
    1. Of your life – in service to him.
    2. Of your possessions – sacrificed for him.
    3. Those are easily shifted from him to self – to possession, to religion… When you surrender all of who you are and all of what you have to him, you’re gaining a Awe of God.
  2. God’s purpose in all of this is to make his Son known to you. There isn’t anything that isn’t available for his use. Every single thing in the world and even in the universe is at his disposal, to make his Son known to you and worshiped by you. God will move the heavens and the earth, He’ll move the people around you, even the animals if he so desires. – All for the purpose of making his son known to you!
  3. The coming of Christ is problematic to people who do not want to worship him and brings out opposition for those who do. So, I’m calling on you today to pick a side. If you’ve never surrendered your life to Christ, would you today?

 

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Matthew 1.18-25

Title: Proclaimed Unexpectedly

Text: Matthew 1.18-25

Introduction: Let’s gain some context here of the overall Christmas Sermon Series.

I’m breaking it down like this:

  • Promised from the Beginning – His Story in Ancient History. Gen 3.1-24
  • Prepared Throughout History – His Story in the Old Testament. Matthew 1.1-17
  • Proclaimed Unexpectedly – His Story Announced. Matthew 1.18-25
  • Arrived at the Right TimeHis Story in our Time. Matthew 2.1-12

We began with the Fall. We continued through history as we looked at the lineage of Christ. What a storied lineage! We saw Real People, with Real Struggles. We saw sinful people used of God to accomplish his plan. Last week we saw undeserving people be used of God in glorious ways. I think of Bathsheba being chosen over Abigail. And, why Judah and not Joseph? The List goes on… We learned last week that God was working throughout Old Testament History to fulfill his promises and his plans. The continuance of family lines listed for priestly heritage and royal lineage in Matthew and Luke are due to God’s miraculous, gracious intervention. The story continues this morning with the interruption of the normal. Life is moving along just fine. Real people have dreams, plans, and expectations…

And then you have this unexpected proclamation: rd v 18; 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. In this way is the Gk word οὕτως. I’m sure you’re familiar with this word, οὕτως. It appears in John 3.16, It’s the 1st word in the Gk text, the 3rd word in the English text. For God… so loved the world. That is, most literally, if we use these words here Matthew 1.18, In this way, God loved the world, he gave his One and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

In this way… this is the manner… in which Jesus, the Messiah was born. And then, Matthew gives us a timeline. We read When in the English. The Gk is one word: Lit.: having been betrothed. This one word tells us so much. It’s an Aor. Pass. Ptc. Passive, meaning she didn’t do this – someone promised her to someone else. Someone gave her to this man, our text says, to Joseph. My guess is that Joseph and Mary’s father had already worked out the details for this marriage. The Jewish Custom and practice would have brought these men together to discuss this matter of marriage. I’m fairly confident that Mary’s dad shared the information with Mary’s mom. This arrangement would not be entered into lightly. There would be discussions, meetings, and bargaining. Both sides of the deal would be ok with the arrangement.

Everyone loves a wedding. Not everyone loves the planning, the work, the detail – ugh! But, that one hour or so for the ceremony, when a man and a woman join themselves together in holy matrimony… priceless. In Israel, according to their Jewish custom, all I’ve mentioned would have taken place: meetings and discussions and an agreement and a public announcement. For one year this couple would be pledged or betrothed to each other. They would enjoy the privileges of marriage, except for one last final step – the actual marriage ceremony. The Jewish words describing these ceremonies would be:

  1. The Kidushin – betrothal (pledge) to be betrothed means that one has pledged their ‘troth’ to another; their truth or fidelity;
  2. The Huppa (Wedding ceremony – one year later); this is the ceremony we read about in Cana of Galilee.

t.s.: It is in between these two times that tragedy strikes with an unexpected discovery.

I.    An Unexpected Discovery (18)

exp.: rd 18b;

  1. The Timing – note the words: before they came together, she was found to be with child. : Before their coming together – I think this is the huppa ceremony. I don’t think this is specifically referring to the consummation of the marriage. I think this is a statement that includes everything about the Huppa. Yes, it would intimate there has been no consummation of the marriage, but it is more than that. Before their coming together – found in the belly having.
  2. It was discovered that she was pregnant! γαστρὶ; γαστήρός, belly – a medical term today. This word ‘found’ is used to describe the adultery or fornication. Found is used in others way, too. But, when in this context – its bad. Like Sleep is a normal word in our vocabulary, but sometimes its used in ugly ways to describe… just what we’re talking about here. Of this word found, look at

Deut. 22.20ff: 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

  1. There is humiliation:
    1. For the family. Both mom and dad are humiliated. They have to face Joseph. They have to face the community! Remember, Mary still lives at home. The family will suffer tremendously from external pressure.

You know of the arranged marriages in that culture; these exist today; ill.: our missionaries serve in a country where there are arranged marriages; one of the struggles is that these young ladies surrender their lives to Christ and are then married to men who don’t know Christ;

2.  For Joseph. His arrangement is moving along as expected, except for one small detail – before they came together she was found to be with child; “oh yeah, and by the way, Mary’s pregnant.” He’d have to be told. Maybe he was suspected of being the Father. That would be an accusation against his character – against his integrity. Can you imagine the tough conversations in their home with Mary? The parents trying to get information out of her: Who is the father? What is this you’ve done? What were you thinking? Joseph has to feel this, too.

app.: So, it is during this one year period that it is discovered she is pregnant – and that, not by Joseph, but by others: probably her family and those closest to her. And Joseph doesn’t know the last part of that verse yet…by the Holy Spirit. Listen, there are some secrets you can hide. Others you can’t…

t.s.: So, 1st we see a discovery that will change their lives; and her unexpected discovery will lead to an unexpected divorce.

II.    An Unexpected Divorce (19-20a)

Ill.: Really, who plans for a divorce before one gets married? Do you remember It’s a Wonderful Life. At the end of the movie, when all of George Bailey’s friends are bringing him money and dumping it all in a giant punch bowl. There is a woman…her name is Annie. She worked for Baileys’ in the early part of the movie. At the end, she comes running in with all of George’s friends and dumps her money in the giant bowl. She says: I’ve been saving this money for a divorce, ifn I ever find a man.

#2: more real to life, I remember back in the Army we had rushed to some place to stand in line. That’s one thing I remember about the army… hurry up and wait. Any, this once, we were all lined up and just talking amongst ourselves. The soldier in front of me was talking about this wedding he had planned where he and his girl were going to the JOP. I was like: why don’t you get married in a church? He said: next time I’ll get married in a church. What? He tried clarifying, but the rest of us were in stitches that this guy was already planning for this marriage to fail. Then, the next time he got married would be in a church. Eventually he convinced us that wasn’t what he meant.

exp.: I’m sure divorce never crossed Joseph’s mind. That is, until the unexpected occurred; The main part of the sentence, that is, the subject and the verb we read: Lit.: Joseph, her man, resolved to divorce her. rd v 19a; Now, there is so much more in this sentence; however, this is the message – he is going to take legal action against her and her family. Let that sink in for a moment.

Can you go there? Can you imagine the pain that seared his soul? The Bible records here that he was a righteous man. δίκαιος; What happened to good things come to good people? It doesn’t appear that he dwells on this for too long. A decision has to be made – a baby is coming – and this baby is not his. Here are his options:

  1. Complete the Marriage Vows and seal the deal. He can marry a girl who obviously loves someone else.
  2. Divorce her in the midst of this engagement and break the deal.

He chooses what’s behind door #2 – Divorce. It really is divorce – for this culture, this time, this practice. Today, people just break off the engagement. And in today’s society, statistics show us that the couple is probably already cohabitating and has already consummated the relationship. These two, Mary & Jospeh, they’re married w/ two main exceptions:

  • They’ve not consummated the relationship
  • She still lives w/ her parents – she doesn’t live with him.

So divorce it is and aren’t too many options available for him in obtaining this Divorce:

  1. His Rights: The Law said that such a crime deserved death – but that probably wasn’t going to happen.

Deut. 22.20ff: 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

The penalty was higher for the daughter of a priest; Lev 21.9; And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire. Any daughter of a priest should be burned to death; so, he could have put her to death…but not really. The laws in that day had been changed and altered and explained in a way that it wasn’t really that common. You remember the crucifixion? The Jews couldn’t just execute someone according to their laws – They had to have the approval of the Roman Court. My guess is that the divorce at this time would be putting her to public shame and humiliation – and not just her, but her whole family.

  1. His Heart: But here’s the thing with Joseph; rd v 19b – he is unwilling to put her to shame; Gk word 2x’s; Col 2.15: 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. So, death isn’t a reality and a public trial is out of the question; but he could have really broken her spirit; this little comment says so much about his character, his kindness – even toward one who has hurt him! So, He is resolved in his heart to divorce her quietly;

Ill.: The father probably received a dowry for her; (they lose a worker, the other family gains one); if the marriage were to be dissolved, there needed to be a returning of the dowry; λάθρᾳ (lathra); lathroscopic; privately or quietly; Acts 16.37; But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? Why? Because of the 1st statement…he is just, righteous; Acting in righteousness, he is acting just like Jesus; Isaiah gives a picture of Christ in the Suffering Servant; one of those – ch. 42.1ff reads…

42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him;

he will bring forth justice to the nations.

        He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

        a bruised reed he will not break,

and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring forth justice.

        He will not grow faint or be discouraged

till he has established justice in the earth;

and the coastlands wait for his law.

Joseph looked beyond the punitive measures of the law to meet the needs of a young teen whose life had been radically changed. She was bruised and burnt out, but he didn’t break her or snuff her spirit out.

Joseph is going to divorce her, but he doesn’t want to expose her to public shame and humiliation. So, he’s going to divorce her quietly. Here’s what’s so interesting for me: He chooses to do this when he’s hurting so bad. I think his pain has been implied in the fact that he wants to get a divorce. But there is more here.

  1. His Pain. I think that Matthew wants us to see this here in the next verse (20a); this word, is only used one other time: here and it is also in
    1. Matthew (9.4); But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? their thoughts were evil. Thoughts lead to actions. Joseph’s thoughts are leading to divorce.
    2. Gen 6.6 (LXX; regret); And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
    3. Now, one more comment about this word. It’s a compound word, and part of this word is used by Matthew just a few sentences down in Matt 2, as he describes Herod and ‘all of Jerusalem’ (troubled, disturbed, angry, most lit.: stirred); I think as he considered these things; literally means, he’s in turmoil; there is sorrowful regret that he ever entered into this agreement, engagement. But most important, note is the timing – lit.: while he is in turmoil…behold, an angel of the Lord…rd v 20b-23;

t.s.: So, Matthew shows us 1st, this unexpected discovery – her pregnancy, leads to plans of an unexpected divorce. It would appear the decision had been made – He resolved in his heart…, but once again, we’re surprised with

III.   An Unexpected Decision

exp.: Instead of divorce proceedings, he follows through in obedience to the angel of the Lord’s commands. Note: four specific details show us his obedience and submission to God’s will:

  • He did
  • He took
  • He knew her not
  • He named

Conclusion: We read in Luke about a census for taxation purposes. More than one commentary stated that Women didn’t have to go along on these journeys to handle the legal matter of registering for the census. So, why did Joseph bring Mary along? Maybe he was concerned for her back home with what the people knew (or assumed they knew). Maybe he didn’t want to leave her to have the baby alone; Maybe, he wanted to bring her along because he knew the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem; Whatever his reason, even in her state, he brought her along which demonstrates a deep kindness and just how much he cares for Mary.

 

(Pause)

 

Transition: Thinking of their story has me pondering life. You know, if we lived up further north, we might be getting snow. But you never know. The sports channel reported rain for Green Bay today. you’d think the Cowboys would be in snow. The thing is, you just never know. The Truth is we plan. We work. We hope. We dream. But we’re really not in control of this thing, are we?

John 4.35: 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. I think the teaching of Jesus in this verse is applicable to this story and your story today. You see, really, it’s His Story. When you say 4 more months, you’re thinking in the physical. And, yeah, they’ll probably be a harvest of wheat or apples or something then. But Jesus is speaking of the Spiritual.

Observations:

  1. Maybe your story of struggle this morning seems physical, but really it is more spiritual in nature.
    1. Maybe God’s using your trial to teach you something
    2. Maybe God is wanting to bring something about – and it’s not about you.
    3. If you think your struggle is all about you, you’ll miss some great opportunities to share the love of Christ.
  2. Your life touches others. The decisions, the actions, the reactions, the obedience – it all touches others around you.
    1. Don’t you find it interesting that God didn’t say, no, we can’t do it this way, it’ll be too embarrassing for the family. We don’t want to do that because it’s gonna hurt someone’s feelings.
  3. God is at work in it all. You might not see it – more than likely you can’t. But maybe, just maybe, God is at work in your discussions, your embarrassment, your humiliation, your pain, your struggle.

I like to think of Peter and his weeping in a dark corner. I picture him struggling with what he thought would be and what was happening: Christ crucified. He was in pain. His plans were all dashed. Everything he’d worked for over the last 3 years or more had dissipated before his eyes. But God’s plans were greater! Will you trust that God is at work this morning?

 

 

 

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Matthew 1.1-17

Title: Prepared Throughout History

Text: Matthew 1.1-17

Introduction: Let’s gain some context here of the overall Christmas Sermon Series.

I’m breaking it down like this:

  • Promised from the Beginning – His Story in Ancient History. Gen 3.1-24
  • Prepared Throughout History – His Story in the Old Testament. Matthew 1.1-17
  • Proclaimed Unexpectedly – His Story Announced. Matthew 1.18-25
  • Arrived at the Right TimeHis Story in our Time. Matthew 2.1-12

We began with the Fall. God promised a messiah in Gen 3.15. The promises of the seed of Eve and the Enemy were fulfilled in both the individual and the collective. Do you remember the story of the skull crushing battle won by David, as he faced Goliath? I gave some examples of that prophecy fulfilled throughout the O.T. and of course, the prophecy fulfilled in the individual, the man, Jesus.

Today, I’d like to work our way through history to show more of God’s plan and how he was always at work fulfilling his plan.

Usually when I begin a passage of Scripture I like to gain a perspective of the context. The passage before and the passage after usually help me in this regard. Well, Before we have the O.T. – Malachi. What is the last bit of information Malachi gives before the Lord goes silent for 400 plus years. Rd 4.5-6; This is prophecy about John the Baptist, the one who would prepare the way of the Lord! Luke 1 clarifies this for us: 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

So the preface is about the Messiah and the “Elijah” who would come and announce his coming. Look at the passage that follows the Genealogy; You have a subtitle which begins the passage; what does it say? rd v 18: 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.

So in case you miss it somehow, Matthew clarifies in v 1 & 17 of his topic: Jesus, the Messiah.

What I find so interesting is that Matthew decided to introduce his letter this way – with a genealogy. Genealogy! How boring, right? How many of you, now, be honest, how many of you, when you come to the genealogy in the Bible – here or elsewhere, you skim it? Just be honest and show us by raising your hand. Let’s pray for these pagans!

We’ve read the text this morning already and so let’s dig into the text. I think the text illustrates for us three main teaching points.

  1. God uses real people to accomplish his plan.
  2. God uses sinful people to accomplish his plan.
  3. His Plan is all about keeping his promises.

As I make my way through each teaching point, I’d like to do something I don’t usually do. I came up with the idea this morning while reviewing my message: I want to elaborate on the stories. Now, I’ve got to be careful, so, I’m going to keep a close eye on the time, so as to not stray too far. However, with your permission, and even more so, the Lord’s blessing, I’d like to tell some stories from the Bible as they come to me. I know, I know this is scary, but humor me – give me a little leeway. It is after all the holidays.

So, with that in mind, let’s begin with the 1st point…

  1. God uses real people to accomplish his plan. (2-6a)

He breaks through the time barrier, which doesn’t hold him captive as it does us, and accomplishes his purposes and goals. What is most interesting to me about his work is that he chooses to use real people in real places with real problems to bring about his desired outcome. These names represent real people. They are not mythological. Nor, or they simply legends. These people lived and breathed and walked the face of this earth just like you and me. They got up each morning and dealt with many of the same problems you do.

I have loved our WEBS through Genesis. It took a couple of years, but each step along the way we were involved in the lives of real people:

  • Abraham (who BTW, wasn’t the 1st born in his family), Abraham was told in Gen. 12, 15 where the Scriptures record that Abraham believed God and God credited his belief as righteousness. Nowhere is it more apparent than in Gen 22 – the famous chapter where Abraham offers his son on an altar of wood – raising the knife up in the air, God intercedes and provides a lamb.
  • Sarah and Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac (who wasn’t the 1st born either),
  • Jacob & Esau, Jacob, who wasn’t the 1st born fathered Judah and his brothers, as for Judah, we see him here in v 2b-3; He had wicked children, the oldest of whom the Lord killed: Er. All of this takes place while in the meantime, Joseph is sold into slavery by his own brothers, Joseph and Potiphar, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife; Joseph & Pharaoh; Joseph responded to life in an arrogant way – at least in the first 17 years of his life. God dealt with him as he needed and humbled him there after.

Naomi and Ruth were real women with real problems. Especially for this time in history! Ruth, a Moabite woman was brought to the Holy Land through severe famine and loss of life. It would have been hard being a Gentile – Yet, she would overcome great obstacles to become the Great Grandmother to David, the shepherd boy who would face Goliath of Gath to become a hero of the nation. He also would one day become King of Israel. But that was a long and painful path. His Father-in-law hated him and on occasion tried to kill him!

App.: God uses real people in real situations of life to accomplish his purposes. We’ve seen that throughout history.

Transition: 2ndly,

  1. God uses sinful people to accomplish His Plan. (6b-11)

Yes, he used Joseph and Moses and Abraham. But even these men were sinners. Just look at some of the other examples God uses; We mentioned Judah earlier who fathered wicked sons – so wicked that God took their lives: Gen 38.7: But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. V 10 says the same of the next son – wicked – so God put him to death, too. Er’s wife was Tamar, but none of the sons would be responsible for her. God had a plan for just such situations: Kinsman Redeemer. We see this multiple times in Ruth. For Tamar, there was a stigma attached to a woman without children, so she took matters into her own hands. She disguised herself as a prostitute and sold herself to her father-in-law, who got her pregnant! Which, was her plan!

Look at our text, picking up in 6b; rd 6b; now how rude is that! I’m guessing most of you know the story of David and Bathsheba. Lust, Adultery, murder, cover-up – sounds like a tv show! It’s not just interesting to me that God uses a sinner like David. But, listen carefully, he uses this couple and through them the Messiah would come. In the stories of David, my favorite wife is Abigail. She’s just an awesome woman. She’s wise, she’s strong, she’s a leader, she takes action. Why not her? Why didn’t God use her to pass on the royal lineage? He doesn’t. Instead, he takes Bathsheba and gives her a son who will become king. And, he takes another son of hers and passes on the priestly line of the Messiah. Nathan is his name, and you can find his lineage in the priestly line, the lineage of Mary, in Luke 3.

Solomon would turn from the Lord in his later years, wrecking not only his faith, but the kingdom. This man would be considered the wisest man ever and yet, look at his son; Rd v 7a; Rehoboam – who split the kingdom because of his foolishness! He might be as much to blame for all of the idol worship that occurs in the Northern Kingdom as Jeroboam is! Read the names in 8ff;

  • Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and
  • Abijah the father of Asaph, and
  • Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and
  • Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and
  • Joram the father of Uzziah, and
  • Uzziah the father of Jotham, and
  • Jotham the father of Ahaz, and
  • Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and
  • Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and of Manasseh it was said there was no king more wicked than him. He sacrificed his own child to a false god as a burnt offering. He set up idols in the Temple of God. There was a time of repentance, but his evil was so gross and so offensive to God, that it was determined here that God would send his people into exile. Rd on
  • Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, Josiah was a great king, but God said, uh-uh – the punishment that’s coming is coming and your good behavior won’t stop it now! Rd v 11
  • 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

App.: I’m amazed that God chooses to use sinful people for his purposes. Here, we see that God has a plan, he’s working his plan and he’s using sinful people in the process. I’m think that you might just be thinking: wow! That means there is hope for me. You bet there is. I’m guessing that where you are today is nowhere near the depths of sin outlined by some of these people. I’m guessing your sin, in comparison hasn’t led to the downfall of many. But even if it has, there is hope for you. God can use you – and will use you if you will surrender your life to him.

Transition: God uses real people to accomplish his plan. God uses sinful people to accomplish his plan. And three…

  1. His Plan is all about keeping his promises. (12-16)

Exp.: Sometimes, it’s hard to see his promises – But God is faithful to fulfill all that he has said. Rd v 12-13; Just reading this at 1st – a cursory glance doesn’t really catch your attention. But, if you know the history of these Kings, something doesn’t add up. 1st of all, so offended was God at Jeconiah that he promised to cut off his lineage. Look at Jeremiah 22.24-30:

24 “As I live, declares the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off 25 and give you into the hand of those who seek your life, into the hand of those of whom you are afraid, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of the Chaldeans. 26 I will hurl you and the mother who bore you into another country, where you were not born, and there you shall die. 27 But to the land to which they will long to return, there they shall not return.”

28         Is this man Coniah a despised, broken pot,

a vessel no one cares for?

Why are he and his children hurled and cast

into a land that they do not know?

29         O land, land, land,

hear the word of the Lord!

30         Thus says the Lord:

“Write this man down as childless,

a man who shall not succeed in his days,

for none of his offspring shall succeed

in sitting on the throne of David

and ruling again in Judah.”

 

Write this man down as childless… remember that, because we have his genealogy listed in 1 Chronicles 3.16-20. Go ahead and go there:

16 The descendants of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son; 17 and the sons of Jeconiah, the captive: Shealtiel his son, 18 Malchiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah; 19 and the sons of Pedaiah: Zerubbabel and Shimei; and the sons of Zerubbabel: Meshullam and Hananiah, and Shelomith was their sister; 20 and Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah, and Jushab-hesed, five.

Now, this Genealogy is so important for the royal lineage. The lineage listed here in Matthew 1.12-13 is Jeconiah, Shealtiel, Zerubabbel. But according to the official records, Shealtiel had no sons. Meaning that the Prophecy came true: Jeconiah’s son, Pedaiah was childless and the royal lineage stopped right there. But, Pedaiah’s son is listed as Zerubbabel – Zerubbabel was Shealtiel’s son – meaning that Shealtiel became Pedaiah’s Kinsman Redeemer and fathered a child for him. The Jews understood this rule for lineage. They would have no problem with it. Thus, the royal line would continue in spite of Pedaiah’s inability to produce an heir. My guess is that Pedaiah died and Shealtiel’s responsibility was to be the Kinsman Redeemer.

These are his descendants, but didn’t Jeremiah prophesy that Jeconiah his lineage would end? It does.

A no brainer for the most part: v 2-6a are found in 1 Chr 2:1-15; v 6b-11 are found in 1 Chr 3:10-14; v 12-16 are 1 Chr 3:15-19; Every name is covered up to v 13; from Abiud through to Christ is unconfirmed, but really no problem. It was very common for families to keep their genealogy!

ill.:

Abraham to David the Lineage is the same.

David David (3:5)

Solomon                                                                                                Nathan

Jechoniah                             3:16; Jer 22:23-30                                      Neri

Pedaiah                                                                                               Shealtiel

Zerubabbel

Abiud                                                                                                         Rhesa

Joseph                                                                                                         Mary

Jesus

Caveat: This scares me; at times I feel like this is way beyond my mind. I’m grateful for the men who’ve figured all of this out so that I can read, study and apply it. I feel like Job who said after he was confronted by God:

        “I know that you can do all things,

and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

        ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

Application: Here is why this is so important: God keeps his promises. He fulfilled his word against Jeconiah and he kept his word for David. The Jews would then have no problem accepting Christ as Messiah even though Joseph didn’t offer his seed for Mary to conceive the Baby Jesus. God, himself, would serve as the Kinsman Redeemer, and Jesus would have both the Priestly Lineage and the Royal Lineage in himself. Christ as both priest and king – Messiah.

Transition: Throughout history God has been moving and working to achieve his plan.

Observations & Implications:

  1. The continuance of family lines listed for priestly heritage and royal lineage are due to God’s intervention. My guess is that applies to your family line, too. Chances are you’ve got some ugly stuff in your family tree? Thank God for where you are today – that you’re not where you were. And Thank God that you’re not where you’re going to be!
  2. The members of these families who enjoy firstborn status, weren’t always firstborn! And you, if you are Christ’s, you enjoy the status of the firstborn child. You’ve been given position in the family of God.
  3. These families anticipated a royal lineage, through this family would come a unique King who would restore the broken relationship of Genesis 3. We now enjoy this restored relationship as Christians.
  4. God worked miracles for these families. He gave children to barren women. He gave descendants through women whose husbands died by giving them a kinsman redeemer.
  5. God provided in all this the accomplishment of his plan. He acted in a way that we could understand, so that we might come to know Him.

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Filed under Christmas, Genealogy, Matthew, Sermon

Genesis 3.15

Title: His Story in Ancient History: Promised from the Beginning of Time

Text: Genesis 3.1-15

CIT: God had a plan from the beginning of time to redeem mankind.

CIS: Christmas isn’t just about the birth of Christ. It’s the understanding that God had a plan to redeem us since the beginning. The Cradle, and The Cross, were all a part of the plan of God.

Introduction: I’d like to leave Ezra-Nehemiah for a few weeks and focus on the Christmas story. If you tell me ‘no,’ I’m going to be in trouble! There is an idea – a story line that has bounced around in my head for a few years. This past summer I actually had time to work through the idea and bring it in the form of a sermon series. I’m calling it: His Story, as in History. My understanding is that this word comes from the German language. It’s broken down from History to His Story. I’m breaking it down like this:

  • Promised from the Beginning – His Story in Ancient History. Gen 3.1-24
  • Prepared Throughout History – His Story in the Old Testament. Matthew 1.1-17
  • Proclaimed Unexpectedly – His Story Announced. Matthew 1.18-25
  • Arrived at the Right TimeHis Story in our Time. Matthew 2.1-12

We begin with the Fall. We begin with the Fall because God’s had a plan from the beginning. It wasn’t something he came up with because Adam and Eve messed things up. No. If you focus on Adam and Eve, then you miss what God is doing. This isn’t their story – It’s His Story!

Gen 1 – a beautiful story of creation; Gen 2 – a picture of perfection in the garden. All is well! Genesis 3 – the fall. What a mess! Yes, a mess. And, all would seem hopeless if not for a closer look; At least at first glance…

In Gen 3.1-7, the Fall of Man is recorded. The Garden must have been the most wonderful human experience.

  • Adam and Eve had an incredible relationship with the animals.
  • Caring for the garden must have been a pleasure – no weeds, no scarecrows, no sprinkler systems to maintain, no problems.
  • Walking and talking with God in the Garden in the cool of the day…sharing every intimate detail of life with God.
  • No sin to separate them.

But then, in one small moment in time, all was lost. God appears in v. 8 – but not by sight, only by sound; rd v 8; heard, hid from the presence; rd v 9-10; Adam still hiding, only hearing – not seeing; rd v 11-13; they blame, they confess; And then – curses; you actually see the word in v 14; cursed are you, in v 17 cursed is the ground;

Yes, at this point, it would all seem so hopeless; But there is more to this story than just the fall and the curses. It is found in what God says in v. 14-15; rd 14-15; enmity – hostility; once again, there was a different world inside the garden. There was no hostility between the humans and the animals. There was no hostility between humans and the world of the spiritual. Now, there would be enmity – look at v 15; between your offspring (seed) and her offspring (seed). This is the topic I would like to focus on for the rest of this message: Who is or who are these offspring (seed)? And what’s more, what implication does it all have for us? I need at this point to identify three men I’ve leaned on heavily to answer these questions:

  • James Hamilton, professor at SBTS and senior pastor of Kenwood Baptist Church, Louisville, KY and
  • H. Spurgeon – that great pastor and scholar from the 19th Century, and another pastor – a contemporary of Spurgeon,
  • Stuart Robinson – pastor, scholar in the 1800’s.

Hamilton identifies for certain lenses we use when focusing on the O.T. In Starting Points we call them filters: Here I will put on these lenses, these filters—lenses that assume that the OT is:

  1. A messianic document,
  2. Written from a messianic perspective,
  3. Written to sustain a messianic hope.

With these filters in mind, let’s look at this question of the offspring. When we read this passage, the question that arises concerns the numeric value of the seed: is it collective or singular? Is it a people or a person? The simplest answer is ‘yes’.

ill.: Often times in Scripture we find prophecy and are left with the question of whether it was for this person or another person or even a people as a whole, say Israel. Confusion has ensued when prophets or scholars have tried to limit the understanding of that prophecy to one answer. A great illustration is Psalm 16.10. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. Who is this author talking about, Himself? Or another? Answer: yes. The author is King David and he’s was talking about himself, in that God protected him in spite of Saul’s attempts to kill him. God protected him and kept him alive. But, it is also a prophecy about Jesus: Acts 13.35ff. 35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

app.: This is a great teaching lesson for us. Let the NT be a commentary for us. If you don’t understand a portion of Scripture, see if the NT refers to it. You’ll see how they interpret that passage based upon the commentary of the N.T. Writers.

In doing research on this question, I came across a blog that referenced a work by a certain pastor, Stuart Robinson, a reformed pastor in Louisville, KY in the 1800’s. The blog is by Nicolas T. Blatzig; I found the book in the Google Library. On pg 65, Robinson gives a great commentary on this passage – Gen 3.15:

Thus it will be seen, on careful analysis of these words, and deducing the truths embodied by implication in them, that they set forth these eight points of the gospel creed.

  1. That the Redeemer and Restorer of the race is to be man, since he is to be the seed of the woman. So, he is a man – fully man.
  2. That he is, at the same time, to be a being greater than man, and greater even than Satan; since he is to be the conqueror of man’s conqueror, and, against all his efforts, to recover a sinful world which man had lost; being yet sinless, he must therefore be divine. So, he is also God – fully God.
  3. That this redemption shall involve a new nature, at “enmity” with the Satan nature, to which man has now become subject. – This new nature means that we’re all sinners, always struggling against Satan’s rule.
  4. That this new nature is a regeneration by Divine power; since the enmity to Satan is not a natural emotion, but, saith Jehovah, ” I will put enmity,” &c. – This is God’s doing, it’s His work.
  5. This redemption shall be accomplished by vicarious suffering; since the Redeemer shall suffer the bruising of his heel in the work of recovery.
  6. That this work of redemption shall involve the gathering out of an elect seed a ” peculiar people” at enmity with the natural offspring of a race subject to Satan.
  7. That this redemption shall involve a perpetual conflict of the peculiar people, under its representative head, in the effort to bruise the head of Satan, that is, ” to destroy the works of the Devil.”
  8. This redemption shall involve the ultimate triumph, after suffering, of the woman’s seed; and therefore involves a triumph over death and a restoration of the humanity to its original estate, as a spiritual in conjunction with a physical nature, in perfect blessedness as before its fall.

Such, then, is the gospel theology here revealed, in germ, through the very terms of the curse pronounced upon the destroyer of the race. It will be seen that here are all the peculiar doctrines of salvation, by grace, which every Christian accepts, who exercises the faith which is unto salvation. And in the broader and higher sense of the terms, Moses, as truly as Mark at the opening of his evangel, might have prefixed to this third chapter of Genesis the title,” The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”

Transition: Spurgeon would have Amened Robinson at this point. Dated about the same time, is a sermon from Spurgeon on Genesis 3.15 and in that Sermon he lists 4 facts about the Gospel found in Genesis 3.15.

I.     The Facts as outlined in Gen 3.15

exp.: Spurgeon’s facts: I sound a bit like a lawyer…

  1. Enmity was effected by God: God said: I will put…God is the one who put all of this into effect. He brought about the division – the enmity between the woman and the serpent; He created a new nature, one subject to ruler of the prince of darkness; and he made a plan for the redemption; there was nothing that Adam and Eve could do to repair the damage done. It would take a work of God. That work would be accomplished in her seed – A champion, as Spurgeon calls him.
  2. A Champion was now coming: indeed, he is now promised! I will put enmity between your offspring and her offspring. He shall bruise or he shall crush your head. The writer of Hebrews records in 2.14 –14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

exp.: This work will include enmity between the seeds – his seed (Satan’s) and her’s. A question arises here that causes one to wonder: is the seed seen as a collective and as in individual. The Answer is yes. Like Psalm 16.10 mentioned earlier – this prophecy is seen in both. Let’s look at these two for a moment:

  1. The seed as a collective – the people of Israel in the O.T. and the people of God in Christ in the church age.
  2. The seed as an individual – that is, the Messiah, Christ Jesus, the Son of God.

I’m grateful for the work of James Hamilton in this area of the collective seed. In his paper The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3.15, Hamilton identifies Old Testament passages that fit the prophecy, with the idea that Israel, a the collective ‘seed’ of the woman is ‘bruised’ at times, but crushes the head of their enemy – the philistines, the Moabites, the Edomites, etc.

  1. David & Goliath: You know the story… 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. A skull crushing victory.
  2. Debra & Barak – go with me, the victory will be given to a woman, Sisera fled to the tent of Jael. Do you remember what Jael did? 21 But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died. A skull crushing victory.
  • Hamilton notes that sometimes the skull crushing was of an individual enemy like those mentioned above. At other times, the prophecy is fulfilled in the crushing of a king, the head of another people. Or, another people who are ‘head’ of another people. And those people, those kings might be the physical seed of Abraham, but were obviously enemies of Yahweh; Isaiah 7.1-14.
  1. So, Which is it? Yes, it is both; Paul used both the collective and the individual in his letters
    1. Furthermore, Paul uses it in both terms:
      1. Rom 16.20 – 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
      2. Gal 3.16 – 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

Transition: Fact #3…

  1. This Champion will be wounded. The Scripture reads – He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The Champion will suffer a major blow – one that even appears to be fatal. But, He shall prevail. Satan will do his worst on this Champion.

Please allow me the liberty to quote freely from Spurgeon’s Sermon. It is most eloquent and poetic. Spurgeon writes:

Do you need that I explain this? You know how all His life long His heel, that is, His lower part, His human nature, was perpetually being made to suffer. He carried our sicknesses and sorrows. But the bruising came mainly when both in body and in mind His whole human nature was made to agonize; when His soul was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death, and His enemies pierced His hands and His feet—and He endured the shame and pain of death by crucifixion.

Look at your Master and your King upon the cross, all stained with blood and dust! There was His heel most cruelly bruised! When they take down that precious body, and wrap it in fair white linen and in spices, and lay it in Joseph’s tomb, they weep as they handle that casket in which the Deity had dwelt, for there, again, Satan had bruised His heel. It was not merely that God had bruised Him, “though it pleased the Father to bruise Him.”

But the devil had let loose Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas, the Jews and the Romans, all of them his tools, upon Him whom he knew to be the Christ, so that He was bruised of the old serpent. That is all, however! It is only His heel, not His head which is bruised! For lo, the Champion rises again! The bruise was not mortal nor continual. Though He dies, yet so brief is the interval in which He slumbers in the tomb that His holy body does not see corruption, and He comes forth perfect and lovely in His manhood, rising from His grave as from a refreshing sleep after a long day of toil!

Oh the triumph of that hour! As Jacob only halted on his thigh when he overcame the angel, so did Jesus only retain a scar on His heel, and that He bears to the skies as His glory and beauty! Before the throne He looks like a lamb that has been slain, but in the power of an endless life, He lives unto God.

Transition: Fact #1: Enmity was put into effect by God. #2 – A Champion was coming. #3 – This Champion would be wounded. #4…

  1. This Champion will mortally defeat Satan. Spurgeon: He crushes the head of the serpent in fatal effect! Here is a picture of a snake biting the heel of a person. You would think that to be a fatal blow. And, at first, it might appear that way. But, in the course of the serpent effecting his blow upon the heel, the heel then crushes the head of the serpent – bringing victory! What the woman and the man in the Garden once destroyed has now been restored in the seed. Death has been conquered. Sin has been atoned for.

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is found in Genesis 3.15. God makes a promise and he has kept his promise. You might think in all of this found in Gen 3.14-17 that Adam and Eve would mumble – blame each other – lash out at God, but look instead at the result in 20-21.

II.    The Result (20-21)

exp.: rd v 20;

  1. Adam acts in Faith – he believed God! rd v 20, he named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all living; we should be spurred to faithfulness in this! Here is a man who has rebelled against his creator. This man has believed the deceiver and rejected God’s will for his life. He is standing before God listening to God speak out what will be. He could have murmured and mumbled at his wife for the situation they now must endure. But he doesn’t. He sees the promises of God and acts in faith – he acts like he believes God and he calls his wife by the name she will live up to – the mother of all living.
  2. God acts in Mercy – rd v 21; he made garments or clothing of skins; why? Because they were naked. Adam would no longer have to say, “I am naked.” God covered his shame.

Transition: Oh, friend – would you respond to the mercy of God today like Adam did? Would you act out what you believe in your heart, that Christ, the Champion came and conquered and lives again victoriously. And in his death he washed away your sin – the sin that has separated you from your God. Yes, Adam and Eve’s actions put us in this place – But our champion, Christ Jesus has come to set us free.

Challenges:

  1. This Christmas season – read this verse as an entrance to the Christmas Story
    1. Tell your family about the fall and the promise.
    2. Share of the plan throughout history to bring us Salvation.
  2. Put Adam and Eve in your Nativity Set this Christmas. Use the leaves to cover them or better yet, cover them with animal skins. Then when people ask…
  3. Make an ornament out of a leaf. Use cloth. Take an ornament ball and fill it with leaves. Be creative.
  4. Share the story of Christmas beginnings with others as an opportunity to witness.

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Luke 1.26-38

Title: Nothing will be impossible with God.

Text: Luke 1.26-38

CIT: Very much the outline of Zechariah’s story, Mary’s has a visit from the angel, Gabriel; however, her response and her son are very different.

CIS: Luke’s desire is to demonstrate the grand difference between the forerunner and the Savior. Jesus out distances John for a reason. He’s the Son of God and He will save his people from their sins.

Introduction: Good morning, we’re in Luke 1; This is probably an odd question, but I’m guessing most folks have heard a sermon preached at Christmas time about Mary. But I’ll bet most folks haven’t heard a sermon dedicated to Zechariah; or Elizabeth; or even John the Baptist. At least not at Christmas; usually, these characters are footnotes as the focus is placed upon Mary, Joseph, The Wisemen, The Shepherds and of Course, Baby Jesus.

So, I’m guessing you’ve heard of Mary? I’m guessing everyone has; Begin 1st, by reading the text;

A basic outline for Mary is exactly the same as last week’s message for Zechariah:

  1. The Angel’s Appearance (11-12; 26-27)
  2. The Angel’s Announcement (13-18; 28-33)
  3. The Angel’s Answer (19-23; 34-37)

That’s interesting to me. Is this Luke’s plan? Did it come out this way because as a writer, he wanted to flow and symmetry? I wonder, because upon closer inspection we see some incredible similarities:

  • He was troubled; v 12                  She was greatly troubled v 28
  • The angel said to him; v 13          The angel said to her; v 30
  • Do not be afraid; v 13                   Do not be afraid; v 30
  • Will bear you a son; v 13              You will…bear a son; v 31
  • And you shall call his name; v 13 and you shall call his name; v 31
  • He will be great; v 15                    he will be great v 32
  • Said to the angel; v 18                  said to the angel; v 34
  • And answering the angel               and answering the angel

said to him; v 19                                      said to her; v 35

  • Gabriel…God…sent; v 19             Gabriel….sent…God; v 26
  • And behold – this sign; v 20           and behold – this sign; v 36

Yeah, I think it is his plan. I think he wants to show how these two individuals work together, because they fulfill what was spoken of by the prophets. I read somewhere recently that Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies as spoken of 500 years, 800 years, 1000 years, 2000 years before. But there is more here; I think Luke’s practice isn’t so much to see what is similar, but really to see the differences.

Look at the vast differences between these two passages:

  • Elizabeth has a need – she’s desperate for a child, so that her shame might be taken away.
    • Mary has no such need. Indeed, her situation is going to shame her!
  • Three times the writer places emphasis on Elizabeth’s barrenness. (7a, 7b, 18)
    • Three times the writer places emphasis on Mary’s virginity. (27a, 27b, 34)
  • Gabriel encounters Zechariah in the holy of holies, just before the veil that separated the presence of God and the priest. (8-11)
    • Gabriel encounters Mary when he travels to where she is – Nazareth (26). A place that is considered ‘insignificant, despised and unclean’. John 1.45-46; Can anything good come from Nazareth?
  • Zechariah is a priest, selected by lot, that is to say, by God to serve in the Temple (v 5, 8).
    • Mary is the lowest of the low. She is probably barely a teenage girl from Nazareth. There is nothing special about her – age, gender, maybe even her family heritage; yet she is the one favored by God.
  • There will be what looks like similarities between John and Jesus, but, when it is said and done, Jesus will outdistance himself from John:
    • John will be great before the Lord (15) vs. Jesus will be great – the Son of the Most High God (32); John will be great before him, but Jesus will be his son!
    • John will be filled with the Holy Spirit (15) vs. Jesus’ conception will be the result of the activity of the Holy Spirit (35) John will be filled with the Holy Spirit, but Jesus will be of the Holy Spirit; John will be filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be holiness incarnate.
    • John will go before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah; John will be a prophet and a priest vs. Jesus will be King in the line of David – he will be prophet, priest and King; (36)

This last point struck me; it really did – it caught me off guard; here’s what I mean: I’ve been amazed at how the 12 disciples were willing to die for their faith in Jesus. Chuck Colson really convinced me of this with the issue of Watergate; three men couldn’t keep a secret; If Jesus were false or fake, if they didn’t really believe him to be the messiah, if they had stolen his body – they would never have all agreed to the conspiracy. No way. They had their property confiscated, their lives threatened, then beaten, and eventually, they all died, except one. Surely one would have turned states evidence! I get that. But John the Baptist?

John the Baptist is Jesus’ relative. They’re cousins. John the Baptist runs parallel with Christ for such a short time. We’re talking months. Then Jesus rises in popularity and John doesn’t fight it. How can this be? Check it out, he’s been the man for a few months now. People are coming out to him in the wilderness in droves. Then, his disciples complain that more and more people are following Christ and less and less are following John. John shows incredible humility. This is the way it is supposed to be. He must increase and I must decrease. Listen, that’s not the way humans respond.

Ill.: I heard an interview with Jimmy Johnson this week. He’s the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys – super bowl champs in 92, 93. Then Jimmy left. What? He was asked why? He said one day he made a trade for Tony Casillas. It was a big deal. He walked down the hall to Jerry’s office and told the owner that he’d made the trade. Jerry hadn’t even heard of Tony Casillas. Less than two hours later, the coach, Jimmy Johnson hears Jerry on TV announcing this blockbuster trade he just made for Tony Casillas. As soon as Jerry gets back to his office, Jimmy comes down there and asks what just happened. Jerry said: there’s a lot of attention out there and I want to get some of it. Jimmy Johnson said he knew that it was just a matter of time and he would be gone. Jerry wasn’t going to share the spotlight.

Ill.: I think of Basketball – remember Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil? 3 championships in a row! They probably could have kept going, but neither one could let the other one take the credit! They blew up the team. Shaquille then played for the Heat, Suns, Celtics and Cavilers; honestly he just faded from the scene. I never even heard of his retirement. All because he couldn’t share the spotlight! He wanted all the credit.

App.: what will become of John, staggers the human mind. His willingness to let his cousin take his place in the spotlight and surpass him in popularity shakes us as we think deeply about it. It’s just not natural! I’ve seen this played out in the church and people don’t like someone else rising above them. Whether it is on the praise team or in the Bible Study class or the one who holds the power on a committee – people don’t like being one-upped.

I can see some of you disagree. Not you! You’re incredibly humble. If the Bible were written all over again, it would be said of you, that you are the meekest, must humble person on the earth. Have you ever thought?

  • Why do the elders get to decide…
  • Why do the deacons or why don’t the deacons…
  • Why does she get a bigger, why does he get a better class room than me? One so close to the kitchen, so close to the bathroom – why do they get a bathroom in their class?
  • Why does Venture get to…
  • Why does Bridgemark have a…
  • Why does she always sing on the praise team?
  • Why does he always play on the praise band?
  • Why does that committee get so much money?
  • To quote Abe Lincoln: Why is this thus and what is the reason for this thusness?
  • Why does KK get… or have… or need…
  • Why does Wendy get…or have…or need…
  • Why does New Beginnings Deaf Fellowship get or meet or have…
  • Why didn’t they ask me to serve on that committee… why did they ask her or him be that representative or…?

Listen, you may not voice your objections to someone else’s success – but the fleshly part of us cries for some recognition and hates it when we’ve been upped by someone. Even if you’re someone who works behind the scenes, you still want the credit due you! Especially if we think we deserve that…whatever it is.

There are some similarities, but the differences are greater by far. John is filled with the Holy Spirit, even from birth; But Christ is Holy. He is the Son of God. He will be King.

Here’s another stark contrast between the two stories:

  • Zechariah responds in disbelief; 18-20
    • Mary responds in belief; rd v 38; Lit.: Behold, the slave of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.

Exp.: you don’t see it in the English, but the Greek has word that appears in both v. 37 and v. 38; ῥῆμα; It’s translated: Nothing; the word ῥῆμα means word or thing; So lit.: No thing (event, matter) will be impossible for God. I like: No word, spoken by God will be impossible. Then she says: Let the word of God, that you have spoken happen to me.

There is some OT imagery here. Think of Sarah in her later years. God says: Nothing is too hard for God. Nothing. What He says – that is what will be accomplished.

There is still another difference:

  • We mentioned Zechariah’s disbelief; but what amazes me is the focus on his righteous and blameless life. Things are right and he’s willing to enter into the holy of holies with a clean conscience. But when it comes down to it – he rebels. That’s what disbelief is – it’s rebellion. When God tells you something – and you don’t believe him – you’re rebelling against him. Think of the Hebrew Children coming out of Egypt, getting ready to enter in the Promised Land. Here’s where I’m going with this:

App.: Some people are happier with their rules and regulations than they are with simple obedience. We line up with the Religious Rulers of the Old Testament when we live by a standard and a system but not by a surrendered obedience. We go to church, Bible study, serve under the bridge and look down upon those who don’t meet our standard. That’s Zechariah – obedient, blameless according to the Law, righteous in his actions, but when it came down to it – he rebelled;

  • Mary simply believed and obeyed; γένοιτό μοι; But, you may say the Bible doesn’t say she believed? Yes it does, Rd v 45

What does it mean to believe? Mary is a great example. It’s not about who has the best attendance or who memorizes the most verses or who gives the most money. It’s about a surrendered life that says: God, here is my life. I’m willing to be shamed for your glory. I’m willing to be used for your glory. I am your slave. γένοιτό μοι; Have your way in me!

*** Meghan O’Gieblyn: How do you sell God in the 21st Century: More Heaven, Less Hell. The Guardian – Liberal Newsmagazine. I was drawn to the article because of it’s title. Many of you probably remember my illustration a few weeks ago of the article recommending a Christianity without hell. I wondered if Meghan was commenting on that in any way. She doesn’t. Meghan is a former believer. According to her testimony, she got saved when she was 5. She doesn’t remember it though – all she knows is what her mother told her. Her struggle was and is over the issue of hell. No one could ever explain hell to her. She never really got over that: Why would a loving God ever send anyone to hell?

I would have stopped reading, but she began to really struggle with a particular issue, which she never resolves. She clearly understands the concept, but struggles with the reality. She participated in Street Evangelism as a student at Moody in Chicago. She traveled out to see what all the fuss was over this mega-church, Willow Creek. In her struggle with the doctrine of hell, she found it interesting that Bill Hybles never mentioned hell. She writes that she began to make it a game to watch him skirt the issue of hell. And it wasn’t just him, but the teachers as well.

Meghan was attending Willow Creek when 9/11 happened. She writes that Bill Hybels addressed the what had happened from the stage – and for the 1st time, she heard Hybels address evil.

I started my sophomore year at Moody in September 2001. The Sunday after 9/11, Willow Creek was one of many American churches filled with newcomers. I was eager to see how Bill Hybels would handle the event – whether he would demonise the enemy or invoke safe platitudes about the brevity of life. As it turned out, he did something completely different.

One of the biggest lessons of the past week, he began by saying, was that “evil is alive and well”. It was the first time I’d heard the word from his pulpit. He proposed that the evil we’d experienced was not limited to the men who flew the planes. He alluded to the terrorists’ accomplices and the people in other countries who were shown celebrating the tragedy. The pastor paused for a moment, and then said, “Let’s bring it close to home – what about the evil in me? Because boy, I felt it this week.” Hybels described his own anger when he was watching the news footage, his immediate craving for revenge. “What is it in us that makes some of us want others to pay a hundred times over for the wrong done to us?” he asked. “Well, that would be evil, and I felt it in me. Did you feel it in you?” With regard to the military response, he argued that Jesus’s teaching to not repay evil with evil was just as relevant at a national level. The vindictive rage we felt watching the attacks from our kitchen televisions was the same emotion that was creating hell all over the world.

At this point in her article, I think she misses the whole point of the message. She writes: I don’t know what prompted Hybels to diverge from the market-tested optimism that day, but it was a powerful sermon – people at Moody were talking about it all week. At the time, I didn’t appreciate just how radical it was. In speaking about his own capacity for revenge and hatred, he had opened up a possibility, a way of talking about evil that felt relevant and transformative. It wasn’t fire and brimstone; it wasn’t condemning the sinner as some degenerate Other. Rather, he was challenging his congregation to exercise empathy in a way that Jesus might have, suggesting that he among us without sin should cast the first stone.

Here’s what get’s me: Each of us has evil in us. That was my point earlier when I asked if you’ve ever felt bothered by being one-upped. If you’ve ever felt jealousy toward another or if you’ve ever coveted someone else’s position or place. In her article, she acknowledges the evil within. But, instead of seeing the salvation from this human condition she explains it away.

Part of what made church such a powerful experience for me as a child and a young adult was that it was the one place where my own faults and failings were recognised and accepted, where people referred to themselves affectionately as “sinners”, where it was taken as a given that the person standing in the pews beside you was morally fallible, but still you held hands and lifted your voice with hers as you worshipped in song. This camaraderie came from a collective understanding of evil – a belief that each person harboured within them a potential for sin and deserved, despite it, divine grace.

You see that last line – that’s where Meghan missed it. The Bible never teaches that we deserve divine grace. Instead, it teaches that because we’re evil, because we’re sinners, we deserve hell. Please don’t miss this: God is infinitely holy. There is no sin, blame, fault, or blemish in him at all. We are infinitely sinful. Just one sin separates us from God – so far that to explain it in earthly terms will limit that separation. God created a place of torment for those angels that rebelled against him. And, the Bible teaches as well, that the sin in us will be punished there, too.

That’s the whole point of the Christmas message! Listen to Matthew 1.18-21, where Gabriel appears to Joseph: 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

That’s the gospel message – not that we deserve the grace of God – but that in spite of what we deserve, God grants it.

Let’s pray…

Conclusion: Invitation to come to Christ

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