Luke 2:1-20 Jesus is the Son of Man: Birth of Jesus Christ

Luke 2:1-20

Jesus is the Son of Man

Birth of Jesus Christ

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 2! That’s right! We have made it through an entire chapter of Luke’s Gospel! If you do not have or own a Bible, we would love to give you one if you come see me after the service.

Luke is a historian. He is interested in the details. His purpose is so that we would believed what we have heard. And he knows some of the stories that we encounter in the Bible, and especially in the Gospels, might, to some, be hard to believe. And so, he often includes details to show that he knows what he is talking about and that these are real, historical, literal, physical events that actually happened.

We see that this morning as well. Luke has spent the first chapter of his Gospel building to this event. Now, he didn’t break it down in to chapters, that come later on in history, after the Bible was put together. But he has been building to this moment in history.

HE starts with the announcement of John the Baptist coming in a miraculous way. Nest we see the announcement of Jesus of Nazareth coming in a miraculous way. Then we see Mary sing a song of Praise. Then we see the birth of John the Baptist, the announcement fulfilled. After the birth, Zechariah let out a song of praise.

Today we see the birth of Jesus, the announcement fulfilled. And hosts of angels show up and sing songs of praise. And at the end, the Shepherds will also be giving praises to God as well.

That’s where we will pick up this morning.  We will be reading and looking at a big chunk of the beginning of Luke Chapter 2. Overall, we will be looking at verses 1 through 20 and like last week, we will read through them in two sections. First, we will read through verses 1-7. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I know we all have different translations and that’s great. They all come from the same God, One God, all the Word of God. What’s important is that we open that book up and not just depend on what I, a human being, tell you, but read for each and every one of ourselves, what the Word of God says.

So, without further ado, Luke, after interviewing, investigating and researching, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes, in verses 1-7:

 

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.[c]

 

You know, we often read the Bible, and we get very focused on the specifics. We get focused solely on the people in the story we are reading, focused on the immediate, without the context of what’s come before or what’s coming afterwards. We look at the stories without looking at what was going on in the rest of the world at that time.

But what is going on in the world at the time of Jesus birth was important. Caesar Augustus was in charge of the Roman empire, which included Israel. This was the first Caser with the Augustus title, which, essentially is the title of God. Before Quirinius, this title was ONLY attributed to the deities. When he died, his followers consoled themselves by telling themselves that because he was a god, he would not stay dead.

God doesn’t just use Christians. God doesn’t just use churches in this world to bring about his will. God uses and, in fact, decrees all people, all governments and all institutions to do his will and to bring about his purposes.

God used the Roman Government occupying and ruling over Israel and the Caeser wanting to make sure he was getting as much in taxes as he was able to bring Mary and Joseph down from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This is important for a number of reasons.

Micah 5:2 prophecies:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

 

God used the people of this world, those who believed and those who didn’t believe to bring about his purposes. He did what he had been saying he was going to do for over four thousand years at that point. Israel was waiting. The world was waiting. And then, as Paul writes in Galatians 4:4, But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

          At the fullness of time. When God told Adam and Eve he was going to send a savior, when he told Isaiah, when he told Malachi when he told everyone he told that he was going to send a savior, the Messiah. He knew exactly when he was going to do so. He wasn’t looking for an opening. He wasn’t waiting for enough people to get their heads on straight. He already knew exactly when. In the fullness of time.

Caeser Augustus says that everyone in the Roman empire must go to their family’s hometown and register. Joseph was a descendant of David, not only filling prophecy of Jesus, of the Messiah being from the house of David. But it also meant that Joseph and his teenage expectant betrothed wife to be, Mary had to travel approximately 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. And we are going to see that they would not get back to Nazareth for a number of years.

Now, the common picture is that Mary was pushing nine months pregnant as they were making this journey to Bethlehem. But scriptures never say anything about the timing of her pregnancy during the travels. We know that Mary was three months pregnant when John was born, and she was with Elizabeth until at least that point. So, she was more than three months pregnant, but its very likely she was not 8 or more months pregnant.

Now, Bethlehem would have been filled up with much of Josephs family. Some still living there, having homes and many travelling to the town and trying to stay with the aforementioned family. The town was small and out of the way. Not as small as Nazareth, but no one was going to visit it on purpose or go on vacation there. The town was not set up for housing that many people.

So, Mary and Joseph would have ended up staying in what is commonly understood as the animal room in or attached to one of the homes, or worst case, a cave where the animals were bedded down. While they were staying there, then, it became time for Mary to give birth.

Luke says it simply, humbly, quietly. she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, Jesus’ birth, his first coming, He came not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh. God became man. The Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the World. He finally arrived. The Light, the sun was finally breaking dawn on the world that had been in the darkness of night for over 400 years. And no one noticed. The King of Heaven and Earth. The LORD of all Creation.

Colossians 1:15-20:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

 

And no one noticed. He was born in a quiet, humble occasion. And this is of course, in direct contrast to his second and final coming. That will be no secret event. There will be no confusion, no misunderstanding. There will be no missing it. When he comes again, he will not come quietly or secretly or humbly.

We see, though in highly symbolic language, we see this in Revelation 19:11-16:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in[b] blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule[c] them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

 

But his first coming, the one where he was born, an actual human baby boy, the most vulnerable of all people, he came under the radar. He came not with fanfare, not with worldwide trumpets, but one quiet night, 200 years ago.

 

Now, we will see the first announcement, the first spreading of the news of the birth of Jesus Christ as we read verses 8-20. Luke writes:

 

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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!”[d]

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 and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

 

Presumably the night of the birth, in a field nearby, just outside Bethlehem, there were a group of shepherds. shepherds were the lowest of the low. They were not able to be ceremonially clean and so they were only above lepers in the societal view back then. They were out in the fields, watching someone else’s flocks, day after day, night after night.

Nothing much changed. This would have been the same as every other night. Maybe even quieter than most nights.

All of a sudden, an Angel of the LORD showed up to them. To THEM! The poor, the forgotten about, the out of the way, poor, manual labor, blue collar, dirty, last people ANYONE would have expected.

All of a sudden, bright shining light, the reflection of Gods glory, shining and lighting up the darkness of the night, an Angel appears to these Shepard’s. And, as happens with the appearance of angels, the shepherds were filled with fear.

The angel told them not to fear. This was not about punishment or judgment or anything like that. The angel was here to share the Good News! This was important, don’t overlook this. If Jesus was born, died and was resurrected, but there was no one to tell us, it would not benefit us. We need someone to tell us so that we can respond to the truth by faith. Faith comes by hearing.

The Angel tells them, I bring Good news of great joy! The Gospel literally means Good News. And the Good News is what it is. ! Corinthians 15:3 & 4:  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

          And Romans 5:8: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

          And John 3:16-18:

“For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

 

That the good news! And that good news should fill us with great joy. Have you ever met a crabby Christian? Not just at certain times, we wall have our moments. Have you have met a Christian who was just miserable all the time? IF so, they have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel. A true understanding of who God is and what he has done with us will fill us with joy.

And this is put out for all people to hear the Gospel and given an opportunity to respond by faith. Not all will respond, but our job is not to determine who will or wont. The free offer of grace is presented to all. Charles Spurgeon once said: If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the street lifting up shirt tails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I’d give them the gospel. But God didn’t do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that ‘whosoever will may come.’

 

And God proved that very first night that no one was to be denied the opportunity to respond to the Gospel. OF all people, the angel came and presented this good news to some shepherds. OF all people, God chose to call Paul, the self-admitted chief of all sinners. Of all people he chose to present the Gospel and call to faith and repentance, me, the least deserving of Gods Grace.  The angel did not appear to Caesar. He did not appear to Herod. He came to the lowly and the poor.

The angel told them, “unto you is born.” Making it clear that the shepherds would be included in the Gospel. Isaiah said, as we read a little bit ago in the scripture reading, for to us a child is born, for to us a son is given. A baby that was born in the city of David, he is Christ the LORD.

It had been an angel speaking to the Shepard’s, but now, a multitude of heavenly host showed up. Can you image this as the shepherds? Sitting out in the middle of the fields, watching sheep, or whatever, night after night and then an angel shows up and tells you good news. But wait there’s more! A whole host of angels shows up and have a worship session.

We have seen Mary praise God. We have seen Zechariah praise God. And we see Angels now praise God.

“Glory to God in the highest,


and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

 

Peace, true, lasting, complete peace is only available by given Glory to God in the highest.

One commentator writes:

Even those who had outward peace in Roman times did not have rest for their souls. One stoic philosopher Epictetus-a contemporary of Luke- observed that “while the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief and envy. He can not give peace of heart, for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”  Nor could the emperor offer peace with God, which is the most necessary peace of all. But now a new King was born, and with his birth the angels pronounced peace on earth- peace like the Hebrew shalom, total peace for the whole person.

 

          The angels came and worship God, announced the great news and then left. Now, I don’t know about you, but if something like that happened, and the angels said, “look, it happened right over there in Bethlehem and you can go see it for yourself. He is the baby in the manger.” I hear that and I’m going to do just what the shepherds did. Hey! Let’s go see it for ourselves!

 

So, they left their job, left the flocks they were attending, risked getting fired from the only job they could get and ran into the town to search for this baby boy who was the savior. They found Mary and Joseph, and more importantly, Jesus, exactly like the angel said they would. They angels’ story was confirmed and proven true. They told Mary and Joseph what happened.  And everyone was amazed.

 

As this passage ends, we see that both Mary and the shepherds very specifically were changed and affected by what happened here. The Shepherds went off praising God and telling everyone their experience and spreading the Good News. One of the earliest evangelists.

Mary was much more reflective. Remember that Luke very likely personally interview Mary before he wrote this. She told him that she treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  Now, this is what I hear in that. Mary knew what Gabriel told her. She knew what Elizabeth told her. She knew what the shepherds just told her. She very likely knew what Gabriel told Joseph as recorded in Matthew chapter 1. She knew all this, and we know from the scriptures that she had faith and believed what God has communicated to her. But that doesn’t mean that she understood it all.

Faith is like that sometimes. We don’t always understand what God is telling us. God speaks through this book right here, the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. This is Gods revelation to us. We don’t always understand it or how it applies to our situations or our lives. That does not mean that our faith should lack. We observe, we study, we pray and then we treasure up all these things and we ponder them in our hearts. As Philip Graham Rykien says, Mary had a faith that was seeking to understand. We should all hope and strive for that faith that seeks to understand.

Let’s Pray.

Luke 1:57-80 Jesus is the Son of Man: Birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:57-80
Jesus is the Son of Man
Birth of John the Baptist

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 1. As usual, if you do not have a Bible or do not own a Bible, please grab one from the back or see me after the service so that we can get one to you.
We are picking back up in our series through the Gospel of Luke. We are in going through Luke’s Gospel verse by verse and I expect that we will be spending the next few years here in this book. This is sermon number 5 in our series, and we are just now finishing up the first chapter and Jesus is yet to be born.
Luke’s purpose of writing this book is that we may believe what we have heard. That our faith in Jesus Christ can be rooted in reality be set on a firm foundation. Luke would not have wanted us to have a blind, unthinking faith, just believing what someone else tells us. But faith in something real. Jesus was a real person, a real, historical person. Our faith is in Him. Hebrews 11:1, the author writes: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Luke’s pattern so far in the first chapter looks a little bit like this. First was the prophecy, the announcement of the coming birth of John the Baptist. Then that is paralleled with the prophecy, the announcement of the coming birth of Jesus Christ. After that announcement, Mary sings a song of praise. Today, we will see the birth of John the Baptist and then we will see Zechariah sing a song of praise. Coming up in Chapter 2, we see the parallels continue with the birth of Jesus and the Angels sing a song of praise as well. Luke is very organized and very methodical in his writing as we see here.
Now, Elizabeth was miraculously pregnant by God. Her young cousin, Mary was now miraculously pregnant by God. Mary went to visit Liz and stayed with her the last three months of Liz’s pregnancy. We pick up the story with Liz now due at any time.
Let’s go ahead and read the first part of this morning’s scriptures. We will be looking at it in two sections. Over all, we will look at Luke 1, chapters 57 through 80. The first chunk we will read and look at is verses 57 through 66. That’s what we will read first. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your Bible, in your preferred translation and follow along, reading the very words of God.
Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes:
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

After an incredible 9 months, 9 months that Liz had likely come to expect that she would never experience, she gives birth and gives birth to a son! This was a specific answer to prophecy, as Gabriel told Zechariah that he would have a son, back in verse 13.
Now, especially in a small town, a birth is not something that you can easily keep quite. I remember when Malachi was born, it was not even the end of the day and the midwives were still with Hope, I ran down to the Bangor store to get some Ice. I get there and the one behind the counter already knew that Hope had given birth! News travels fast in a small town.
The same thing happened here. Once Elizabeth gave birth, E’er body in town knew. Now, some speculate, based on the reaction of the town and verse 24, where Elizabeth kept herself hidden for some of the months, that no body actually knew that Elizabeth was pregnant until she gave birth. They say this would explain the celebration and rejoicing that went on.
Either way, the neighbors heard about the birth and they came and gave Glory to God. They celebrated with Liz and Zechariah. They recognized the hand of God at work in this situation. This is again, a specific answer to prophecy. Back in verse 14, Gabriel told Zechariah, And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. And many did.
On the eighth day, they were circumcising John as was both the custom and in accordance with the law handed down to Moses, originally instituted with Abraham all the way back in Genesis 17. This was every family in every town for thousands of years. This is, however, the first biblical evidence for naming a child on the eighth day. However, this does read as if it was a normal custom at this point in time.
As was also the custom, everybody expected the baby boy to be named after his father, Zechariah. Elizabeth was adamant that he would not be named Zechariah, that he would be named John. John means “Gift of God.” One of the things we see there is that one of two things happened during Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Either Elizabeth also got direct revelation from God regarding the name of the son, or Zechariah was able to communicate somehow, someway with her to tell her that his name would be John.
Now, the friends and family didn’t understand this. Custom was that the firstborn son would be named after the father. If a son wasn’t named after his father, he would be named after another member of the family. John was neither his fathers name, nor a family name.
So, since Elizabeth wasn’t listening to common sense, the friends and family appealed to Zechariah himself. Now Zechariah was a priest, so he was educated. Whoever was preforming the circumcision would have been educated. Elizabeth may have been educated, if Zechariah was able to write to her during the pregnancy. SO, he wrote to this group of educated people, who knew how to read and write, he wrote to them, “John is his name.”
Zechariah believed God, believed the angel, Gabriel, and he acted on it. He believed what Gabriel had told him those 9 or so months ago and though he didn’t show faith at that point, he did now. His faith produced obedience. That’s the way it works, not the other way around.
Our obedience does not produce faith. I saw a great way of saying it yesterday, it said; Do not make a savior of your morality. Obedience is a fruit, not a root. The thing is, we cant obey God until we believe in him. We cannot obey God until we trust in Jesus. Back to Hebrews, Hebrews 11:6 reads: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Zechariah lacked faith when Gabriel told him what was going to happen. For that lack of faith, he was struck mute for the entirety of the pregnancy plus an unexpected 8 days until the circumcision. Then he showed his faith, it produced obedience in what he would name his son, which went against all the traditions and customs. This obedience, birthed from faith was what ended his muteness.
All of a sudden, his tongue was loosed. He was able to speak and Zechariah immediately praised and blessed God. He will see the details of this in the next chunk of verses, verses 68-80. Zechariahs punishment, his muteness, left him with time to reflect, to focus and time to think about God and His Goodness and His Greatness. It did him a great spiritual good. It humbled him and allowed to grow closer to God than he had been before.
And maybe, just maybe… that was the point.
Maybe, just maybe… that’s the point when we are going through stuff. Maybe God is trying to give us the time and the opportunity to allow us to reflect, to repent, to grow in our faith and to praise and bless him.
The neighbors saw all that was going on. Event after event. Detail after detail. They saw that God was at work. They saw the hand of God in these events. God was at work in a way that no one could have expected. They were struck with fear and awe and reverence.
The circumstances around the birth, Zechariahs muteness, John being spirit filled in the womb. They knew there was something strange, something different about this boy.
God called John for a purpose. John was not called to be Zechariah JR. He was not called to be his cousin Jesus. He was not called to be anyone else but John. You and I are called by God for a purpose.
We are called to be us. We are not called to be Daniel. We are not called to be John the Baptist. Dave is not called to be Mike. Mike is not called to be Jim. Jim is not called to be me. I am not called to be Dave. We are called by God to be who he created us to be.
I am not called not be Billy Graham. I am not called to be RC Sproul. I am not called to be John MacArthur. I am called to be none other than Casey Holencik. I am not called to pastor to the world. I am not called to pastor RC Sproul’s church. I am not called to pastor John MacArthur’s church. I am called to pastor Bangor Community Church, and God willing, this is where I will be until God calls me home.
IF we spend time trying to be someone else, we waste time not being who God called us to be. We need to be careful we don’t fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. And we need to be carful not to compare those around us to others.
John was called to be the forerunner, to pave the way for the messiah. The people didn’t necessarily know this yet, but they knew he was called by God for some very special purposes.
From here we are going to read the song of praise that came out of Zechariahs mouth when he was unmuted. So next we will read verses 67-80.
Recorded by Luke, we read:
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us[h] from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Zechariah had been silent for over 9 months and here we see the first words out of his mouth and they were worth the wait.
He starts with praising and blessing God and look at some of the things he says here. Many prophecies speak of things to happen in the future, but speak in past tense. This is no different.
Zechariah says that God has visited and Redeemed his people. He is a personal God. Jesus Christ, God become man, came down from heaven, to be born a man. This is the incarnation. We are going to see coming up in chapter 2 the birth of Christ take place.
And he came to Redeem his people. He saved his people by what’s called the Great Exchange. He exchanges our sins, takes them on himself, pays the penalty. He takes the wrath of God upon himself and in exchange, he gives us his perfect righteousness.
Like Mary’s song, Zechariah appeals to, alludes to and references the Old Testament throughout his song. He references the Davidic Covenant, saying that salvation is through the house of David. He saw how Jesus fulfilled that through his lineage.
HE will be the horn of salvation. The horn, we saw a little bit in the visions of Daniel, are a symbol of strength. Jesus is that horn here. One commentator says that the Horn, Jesus is where “all the power of God is focused.”
We see a lot of Old Testament Warrior language here too. We will be saved from our enemies. This is the Abrahamic Covenant. God promised to deliver him from the hands of his enemies. Then, that looked like nations and militaries. Here is what we know that does not mean, It does not mean that there will be not defeats, no giving in to temptation, no hard times. Zechariah just spent 9 plus months muted. There will be hard times.
But we know that in the end, the very end, Revelation 19 shows us that God does indeed finally and completely defeat and deliver us from our physical, earthly enemies. But even more important, we see the same promise but in New Testament Language.
Jesus is King and we are his bondservants. He has come to save us form our enemy, the enemy which causes death. The wages of sin are death. Sin is that enemy. HE has delivered us from the enemy with the Great exchange. 1 Corinthians 15 tells us about him defeating the final enemy; death.

Zechariah switches subjects of song from God to his son, John. He would be a prophet of the Most High. He was going to change the peoples understanding of salvation. The common understanding at the time was what was referenced in the Abrahamic Covenant. Israel was looking for a military savior. They were looking for a political savior. They were looking for any type of savior except a spiritual savior.
Many American Christians today, with their words, affirm looking for a spiritual savior. But with the very same mouth, their words and their actions show that they are indeed still looking for a military or a political savior. We see this especially during this next month more than ever, but in reality, it never stops.
John is here to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and he is to pave the way for the Messiah, his Cousin, Jesus. Preaching repentance is one of the ways that he does that. John reminds the people of Israel that their sins are a big deal and repentance is required. Jesus comes along and shows that through that repentance, grace is abounding.
But that was Jesus ministry. John was not responsible for Jesus ministry; he was responsible for his own. Each of us, we are responsible for what God has called us to do. We are not responsible for what God has called others to do. This is related to what we were saying earlier. We are responsible for our own obedience.
But, our ministries, our responsibilities, our calling supports, influences and paves the way for others and their ministries, responsibilities and calling. Just like theirs does for ours.
John is going to give the knowledge of salvation to the people. He is going to help people start to understand the Gospel. As one commentator points out, this is not “theoretical knowledge, but personal knowledge of the inward experience of salvation as the result of a divine gift.”
John was to show the people the knowledge of salvation, Gods Mercy. He was to show that light was starting to break through the darkness of the last 400 years in Israel. John was going to be a guide for the path that leads to Jesus.
Amazing words out of the mouth from a man who had been silent for over nine months. We finish off seeing a temporary end to Johns story. John grew in both physical strength and in spirit until it was time to start his public ministry and he would come out of the wilderness preaching repentance, forgiveness and salvation. This is a reminder that we need to prepare, we need to study, we need to be an active part in what God has called us to do.
Lastly, I want to read from Philip Graham Ryken as he lays out salvation and most importantly, the last bit about Gods purpose for it.
He writes:

This was Zechariahs Song- a song of salvation. Now everything he promised has been fulfilled for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the salvation that comes from God. God had to intervene. Unless he sent his Son to be our Savior, we never could have been saved. We needed someone to live a perfect life and die an atoning death in our place. This was the promised salvation, and it was a mighty deliverance, as salvation always is. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ have delivered us from sin, death, and Satan. We are no longer enslaved by our selfishness but are free to give our lives away in service to others. This is why God has saved us: he has given us grace so that we can live for his glory.

Let’s Pray.

Village Missions Sunday Focus on Rural Missions Ephesians 4:11-16

Village Missions Sunday

Focus on Rural Missions

Ephesians 4:11-16

 

 

Good Morning! SO. Go ahead and grab your Bibles with me this morning and turn to Ephesians chapter 4. We are going to be taking a break this morning from our series through the Gospel of Luke to look at Gods design for the local church and what our role in that is and what role Village Missions plays in it as well.

Who here had heard the name Village Missions? Who here has a general idea of who they are and what they do? Who here knows exactly who they are and what they do? Village Missions mission statement is that they exist to produce spiritually vital churches in Rural North America.

The text I want us to read this morning will show us what it means to become a spiritually vital church in our community. So, we are going to read from Ephesians chapter 4, verses 11-16. Grab your Bibles, follow along with me. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version though more important than which translation you read along with, is that you do in fact read for yourself what the Word of God says.

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

          May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

The first thing I see in this passage is that God has given us all the things we need, people, gifts, each other, to grow the local church into a spiritually vital church. A lot of people think that it’s just the pastor’s job to grow and build the church.

But we see that has given the church more than just the pastor. As the pastor, I have very specific purposes and very specific things that God has called me to, and I will be held accountable for. But it is not solely my responsibility to grow and build the church. It is all of our responsibility.

The church is what and who helps the church grow. I have been around when new people have come to a church. Sometimes they are there for a day, sometimes they are around for a couple weeks, sometimes a couple months, but they leave because of someone or someone’s in the church.

At one church, we had many families start to come into the church, young families with kids. Exactly what the church said they wanted. Only the inner influencers at that church chased away every single family that came through the doors. Families didn’t dress or live the way they were supposed to. Kids didn’t sit down, shut up and stand quietly off to the side. The church actively, though likely unknowingly, stopped that church from growing.

The other option is that people come in those church doors and the people in the church help them stay. Bring them in, welcome them. Make them feel like the church is happy for them to be here. Help them to hear the Gospel and to grow in maturity of Jesus Christ.

That is the responsibility of each and everyone of us in this room. One of the things that Ephesians 4 makes clear, both in our passage this morning and back in verses 3-6 is that the unity of his church is absolutely vital to the church being spiritually vital.

Unity. Its one of the things that we have talked about and prayed for for the entire 2 ½ plus years I have been here. Unity is something that we are continually striving to get better at. We are a community Church. We are not a specific denomination. We hold the Bible up as our standard. With that, people from all different theological backgrounds and no theological backgrounds.  We are not going to agree on all the different details, and we don’t have to. You hear me say it often, but it bears repeating often. Unity is not uniformity.

Hear that. WE don’t all have to believe all the same things. We don’t all have to live the same life. We don’t have to look a certain look. We have to believe and be united in one thing. And that is Jesus Christ. We have one core set of beliefs that classify us as Christians.

We are saved by the grace of God alone. That grace is poured out through a gift of God called faith. And it is through that faith alone in the one and only Jesus Christ alone, fully man, fully God, lived a perfect, sinless life, died a death in our place to pay the penalty for our sins, through that faith that Jesus Christ reconciles us to God the father and grants us eternal forgiveness and eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. We believe that this is revealed only through the Word of God alone, that Word given to us by the scriptures that are combined into what we have and is known as the Bible. None of this is or can be deserved by us. It is done for the glory of God alone and by the glory and holiness of God alone.

We believe that core group of beliefs and everything else is secondary. We believe those core beliefs and we can rightfully call ourselves Christians. We believe those core beliefs and we are united as a church family and as the chosen children of God. We are united in our standing before God. Justified by faith. Justified through Christs perfect righteousness. In united in that we are all disciples of Christ.

You know, I use that word “disciples,” very purposely. New Village Missions Executive Director John Adams asks this question; “Do you think like Jesus, respond like Jesus, trust God like Jesus does?”

We are disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a lifelong goal and a lifelong process. God is always offering opportunities for us to grow. But we can’t do it alone. We were never meant to do it alone.

Paul makes it clear in Ephesians that the church is to be “No Christian Left Behind.” WE build up the body until we ALL attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

          Christ is our standard. We cannot and will not meet that standard here in this lifetime. But we work towards and we desire for that progress. The Holy Spirit works in us and if we are truly Gods children, we will see continual growth and maturing over our lifetime. And we will see it together. And of course, it won’t be like a rocket, a straight line moving up, instead our sanctification is more like the stock market. It will have us and downs. We will rise and we will fall. But over time, we will always see it trending towards that maturity and that unity in the faith.

We work together, walking with each other from the beginning of our walk with Christ. We don’t start immediately mature. I know when I became a Christian, I knew very little of the Bible. Most of us are in the same boat. And because we don’t have that anchor in place, that foundation set of the Word of God, we are susceptible to false teachings. We are susceptible to passion and persuasive abilities to deceive. We are susceptible to those who would play off our emotions and take us down the wrong path.

We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we already agree with. We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we want to believe instead of what’s true.  We see this all the time. Do you have a bible teacher, a pastor online, or an author that you really like? Be careful, because we tend to put blinders on to what they teach and ignore if they say something unbiblical. Worse yet, if they start sound and go down the path and end up completely unbiblical, we ignore the problems with the new teaching and when confronted with it, we point to the older, more solid stuff. My point is this; if there is anyone that you let teach you or influence you and you cannot find anything that you disagree with them on, you just made them an idol.

Focus on the Bible. In context. Focus on learning and knowing his Word. That’s how we get to know Jesus. John Adams makes the point that The Better you know Christ and the more entrusted every area of life to his will, the less likely you will be deceived. Know and Trust his Word. BE sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit but be cautious. Only Jesus had a 100% true belief system. We only get a diminishing percentage of error.

The more we know Gods Word, the more we can speak the truth to others. But we have all been on both the giving and receiving end of speaking truth in a very unloving way. We unfortunately see it too often. I see it around here more often than I would like. I have also been guilty of it myself more often than I would like. We don’t always realize we are doing this when we do it though, so I want to say that if I have spoken truth to you or spoken anything for that matter, in an unloving way, I am sorry.

Paul here is talking about more than just the words that come out of our mouth though. The word used for truth here is a verb. It basically means that we are to be truthing in love. Our Words, our actions, our attitude even when we are speechless, our whole lifestyle, living out truth and love. Again, I know we can all agree that God gives us plenty of opportunities to improve in this area and to build unity.

If we have truth without love, we have hurt feelings, anger, and so much more. If we have so called love without truth, we have pretty lies. We give false hope. We see this in some many portrayals of Christianity in our culture. Christians are often only portrayed one of two ways.

First is that bigoted, close minded, hate filled protestor that says that everyone except them is going to hell. Now, they have some truth in that, in regard to we need to repent of our sins when we come to Christ. Rejecting Christ and embracing our sins will unfortunately lead us down the road to eternity in Hell. The other portrayal is those who claim that none of that matters and that every one gets to go to heaven or as long as you’re a nice person, you get to go to heaven, or that all religions lead to the same path towards heaven. They have what looks like love, but there is no truth there. Jesus makes the claim, the true claim, that He is the way, the truth and the life, and the only way to the Father is through him. You can’t have it both ways.

Truthing in love can and will be hard. But that what God calls his church to and it’s a sign of that spiritual maturity. And Paul is showing us what Gog has called his church to look like.

Discipleship.

Truthing in Love.

Unity in Christ

Growing in Maturity.

Using our gifts to build up the saints and to do the work of Gods Kingdom.

 

Gifts that Christ has given the church. Pastors and teachers to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. You. You are the saints. You are here to do the work of the ministry. To walk and grow with each other. Make Bangor Community Church a spiritually vital church. You determine what this church looks like, how it acts, how it is seen in the community.

If you are here because God called you here, then you have a vital role to play in this church. If you are here because God called, you here you are responsible to use your gifts for the betterment of the church. You play a vital role in making this a spiritually vital church in our rural community.

First, and I’m not talking chronologically, but first, we make ourselves and our church family more spiritually mature. We walk together and grow to act more and more Christlike. We gather together and we worship together.

I said it recently and Ill say it again this week. A common anthem over the past 6 months with COVID and the church shutdowns and what not, the anthem is that the church is not the building, it’s the people. And that’s true but its not the whole truth. The word that is used for church in the New Testament means gathering. So more accurately, the church is the gathering of Gods people.

We gather to preach the Gospel. We learn and teach and study the Word of God. WE preach the Word.

 

The second thing we do. We love the people. We look out from this church; we look out from the building and we look at the community around us. We look at our family and our friends. We look at our co workers and all those we know that don’t know Christ.

Each and every one of us is responsible for showing and more importantly, telling those we know about the good news of the Gospel. Each and every one of us is responsible for praying for our friends, neighbors, loved ones, the Bible even says we are all responsible for praying for our enemies and those who don’t like as well. We are to love the People.

 

You know, one of the mottos that I fell in love with from Village Missions, and I cling to this, and use this as one of my guides. They say our job as Village Missionaries is to Preach the Word and Love the People. That’s what I just described.

Someone asked this week, “IF we don’t Bangor, who will?” There is so much truth in that question. Most rural communities are forgotten places. Most rural communities the non-hyperbolic answer is that outside of their own community, literally no one will be praying for them.

This one of the benefits to Village Missions. Its an organization, a web of churches in rural communities that can and do pray for each other. And they make it so easy to pray for each other. In our bulletin each week, we include the Village Missionaries of the week. The give a brief description of their field and then give a few brief prayer requests. They include in their communications, Stories from the Field. These are actual stories sent in by Village Missionaries about the work that God is doing on those fields. This way you can see how to pray and see the answer to those prayers.

Their quarterly Newsletter called Country Matters gets sent out as well, highlighting Village Missionaries and the mission. This most recent one talks about the retirement of Executive Director Brian Wechsler and the new Director, John Adams.

AS you all walk in the front, you will see the work in progress map I’ve got going on. That is a map of all the Village Missions fields throughout the country. These are rural or formerly rural in a few cases, rural communities that are all connected. They pray for each other. They know and share the unique challenges that come with rural ministry. They know the struggles and the blessings. The know the opportunities and the joys of seeing friends and family come to know the LORD and the heartache of seeing families destroyed, communities torn apart and disunity in the church.

IF you wonder if there is anyone outside of Bangor praying for us. There is. 230 communities throughout North America. 230 communities that Village missions serves plus numerous others that receive the Village Missions material. All praying for Bangor Community Church and this community.

Praying for the saints for each and everyone of us to build up the body of Gods church. Remember, Paul tells the Ephesians, no family member left behind, until we all attain the unity of the faith.

We sow the see of the Gospel. We go out and make disciples. We preach the Word and Love the People. We do that and God grows his church. In the book of Acts, it says that God added to his church daily.

IF we do Gods work, if we use the gifts that God gave us to use for the building up of the body of Christ, our local church, Bangor Community Church, will grow into a spiritually vital, spiritually healthy church.

And Gods church, the universal church will grow in numbers. God will bring the increase. We sow the seeds and he bring the growth. Numerically, that may or may not our local church. But we know that his church will increase, his people will come to know him and that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

After I pray, I’ve got a few Village Missions videos to play, maybe take 10 minutes total.

Let’s Pray.

 

 

 

Luke 1:39-56 Jesus is the Son of God: Mary and Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-56

Jesus is the Son of God

Mary and Elizabeth

 

          Good Morning! Please grab with me, if you will, your Bibles and turn to Luke Chapter 1. So, as we are going through Luke, you can see that we are going to be taking awhile to get through. We are in the fourth sermon and still in Chapter 1, with at least a little longer as we move forward. Now, as I always mention, if you do not have or own a Bible, please grab one from the back or see me after the service for a Bible that is our gift to you.

Now, we have seen a lot in the previous three sermons as we start the Gospel of Luke. Remember First, we saw the purpose. Luke wrote this Gospel so that we may be convinced and assured of the things we have heard about Jesus who is the Christ. To ensure this, Luke did massive amounts of research, interviews with the main characters and eyewitnesses and went to the places these things happened.

And as he recounts this story, this truth of who Jesus is and what he has done, he spends a lot of time leading up to the birth of Jesus. And we are not there yet. First, the angel, Gabriel visited Zechariah, whose wife is Elizabeth. They were old, barren and righteous before the LORD. By the Word of the LORD, they would become pregnant. Their son would become John the Baptist.

6 months later, Gabriel would appear to Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph. She was young, a virgin, unmarried and childless. She was a cousin of Elizabeth she too would become pregnant. Her son would be Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the World.

When she didn’t understand how this would take place, Gabriel gave her a sign by telling her that her older, barren cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. With God, anything is possible. And in that, Mary submitted her will to Gods will.

And we are going to pick up right there, starting in verse 39. This morning we will read Luke chapter 1, verse 39-56. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version. I exhort you to read for yourself, in your preferred translation as I read the passage out loud. Luke 1:39-56.

Luke, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit records:

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[g] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Holy Word.

 

 

So, after Gabriel left Mary, she likely wasn’t sure what to do next. Gabriel had told her that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. So, Mary hightailed it to Elizabeth’s. She likely left within a few days, at most. All the commentators I’ve seen estimate this journey at around 100 miles, a trip that would have taken her 3-4 days.

Mary would have been so excited for Elizabeth and she knew that Liz would be excited for her. I mean, this is big, this is physically impossible. Liz is really pregnant? After how long she has been waiting and trying and praying? Mary had to go see for herself. So, she went to another small, out of the way, nowhere, rural town.

And while Mary wanted to see and be excited for Liz, she also wanted to share with someone what had just happened to her. She wanted to tell others of her experience with God. Because those experiences change us. They will have an effect and they will make us want to spread it around.

And when God does something great in out lives, we want to share it, not just with everyone, but especially with those who will understand. We want to share it with those who will be genuinely happy and excited for us. For those who will support. In other words, with our church family.

Mary knew that Elizabeth was a righteous woman, that she believed in and worshiped the one, true God. The joy and encouragement that Elizabeth would be sharing with Mary would help confirm what just happened. It would give Mary the encouragement and strength to stay faithful and strong during those weak moments that always seem to pop up.

I know, for me, this last month has had some tough moment. During and around Daniels birth, I wasn’t down here as much. Two weeks ago, we didn’t have service due to the smoke and evacuations and those weeks, I felt it. I missed being around you all. I felt like I wasn’t doing my job as well. And then last week and this week, is getting together and worshipping, meeting Wednesday mornings. Talking to some of you throughout the week, I feel that weightlifting off my shoulders as we move forward. The need to be around and to share with other believers who will hold us accountable, yes, but to build us up and to encourage us and to genuinely pray for us, it is absolutely vital for our Christian walk in this world.

You know, especially during this pandemic, these last 6 months, Christians have been quick to point out that the church is the people not the building. And that’s very true. But it leaves something out. The word in the New Testament for the church, ecclesia, literally means gathering. So, we can’t be the church, the people are not the church without gathering as the church.

Kent Hughes writes:

Like Mary, we must fly to the church because we find people like Zechariah and Elizabeth who share a mutual faith, believing the same things. Mary’s faith, as great as it was, would very likely have faltered had it not been for the fellowship of Elizabeth. Therefore, we must purposely place ourselves deep within the fellowship of those who also believe God’s Word. Christians will naturally experience a mutual elevation of faith in the credo, the “I believes,” of the Church.

Like Mary, we must make a priority of being with those who share the mutual experience of miraculous new life within. The resonance of soul that comes from such mutually experience universally empowers all believers.

And like Mary, we must hurry to the community of faith because there we experience elevation through our mutual hope in the ultimate fulfillment our own new birth, as the Apostle John so memorably explained: Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

 

You know, one of my favorite scriptures speak to this very same thing as well. Paul, when writing to the Romans, explained early on, one of his goals and desires for wanting to go and see them in person. He says in chapter 1, verses 11 & 12: For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

 

 

          So, Mary gets to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth and what a meet up it was! One commentator makes the point that this was even more of a meeting that we see on the surface. John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He was there to pave the way and to announce the coming of the messiah, the coming of Jesus Christ, the son of God, the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. And Jesus was and is the Christ. He is the LORD of the covenant, instituting the New Covenant. This is was literally the meeting of the two covenants. And it was John beginning the fulfillment of his calling.

 

 

 

We see here that Mary, who would have left Nazareth almost immediately, was already pregnant when she got to Elizabeth. She already had fruit in her womb. When she showed up to Elizabeth, John leapt in her womb. Moms, you know this feeling. Dads, we can know a fraction of this, but Moms, you know exactly what Liz felt here. Luke already told us that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even in the womb.

And again, John, in the womb, a fetus, was already a person here. He was reacting to who was around him and he was being influenced by the Holy Spirit. Person hood exists before birth occurs.

And Liz was of course, super happy for Mary and what was happening. And this is key. It would be easy for Liz to focus on herself or to demand preferential treatment. But we see that both Mary and Elizabeth can be happy for each other, can encourage each other, can build each other up without it taking away from the other. It reminds me of Paul in Philippians 2:3, writing: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

 

          Elizabeth says to Mary that she is blessed. Again, as we emphasized last week, we are not lifting Mary up too high to a position of worship or to be prayed to. But we are careful no to swing the pendulum too far the other way and diminish the call and the faith of Mary. Mary is blessed by God, to be chosen for this honor to give birth to the second member of the trinity, God the Son, Jesus Christ.

Liz was also blessed because she gets to see Mary, the Mother of her LORD and gets to worship Christ before he is even born. We remember too that Mary is blessed because of her faith. She believed what the Angel Gabriel told her and submitted her will to the Gods Will.

One commentator brings up a great question. Elizabeth says in verse 45,  And blessed is she who believed that there would be[g] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And the question becomes, was Zechariah standing there hearing this. If so, did he take it as a rebuke? Remember his problem was that he did not believe what Gabriel said that God was going to do. But Mary was blessed because she did believe what Gabriel said God was going to do.

Now, Mary had a number of reasons to be worried. She was away from home. She was super young. She was a pregnant virgin whose reputation was going to be dragged through the mud in the next 9 months, let alone for the rest of her life. Even the pregnancy itself. She had never been pregnant. This was going to be all new to her. Moms, how much do you worry about the pregnancy and about the baby’s health as you go through those 9 months? And to do it for the first time, so young? And carrying the son of God? Fuhgeddaboudit.

And so, with so much to worry about, to stress over, Mary instead chooses to worship. And she lays out this song, it is widely held up as one of the greatest songs of worship ever. Its is called the Magnificat.

Song is such an important part of worship. We worship in all we do. Worship is more than singing, but Singin is one of the ways that God instructs us to worship.

Some people may ask why, a few months ago, we never stopped singing when the Governor told us we shouldn’t. It would be easy to answer and for it to be true that we sang in protest, or to prove a point. However, if we weren’t singing for the sole purpose of praising and worshipping God, then our hearts were wrong.

Mary here, pours out her heart and lifts it up to God. There’s a lot here that we don’t have time to get into this morning, but we will touch on some of the main themes and points. Alistair Begg says that this song announces that God is Mindful, He is Mighty, and He is Merciful.

HE is mindful of us all as individuals. He does not save or condemn nations or groups, but each individual has the opportunity to put our faith and trust in Christ, to repent of our sins and to worship and follow God. When God made a promise to bless the world through the seed of Abraham, that individual seed would come through the individual of Mary giving birth to the individual who was Jesus, the Savior. He saves us individually. We can not be saved because of our parents, or our children or our friends or whoever. We cannot save our children, our parents or anyone else. God saves each of us, is mindful of us individually.

God is mighty. He keeps his promises. He blesses the humble, the contrite. He takes down and he humbles the proud. This point is also a common refrain throughout the Gospel of Luke. A right heart and a right spirit are required for us to submit and turn our lives over to God.

IT takes a Mighty God to make that change in someone. Alistair Begg points out that nobody except someone who has had their heart changed by the Holy Spirit would want to know a Jesus who humbles you, who casts you down, who shows you you are blind before he opens your eyes.    A Mighty God changes those who encounter him and only God can change us that way.

A Mighty God is also a Merciful God. Because God is the one that changes us, it is his mercy through which he decides to change us. Gods mercy is powerful, it is mighty, it is worthy of our praise.

We are all recipients of that Mercy. Some people choose only to receive mercy in this world and this life. For them, Gods mercy runs out when the die and is not extended into eternity.

But, for everyone who enters in Jesus eternal kingdom, for everyone who worships God forever and ever, the story will be the same. Everyone who responds through faith, everyone we will meet in heaven every Christian, then, now, forever, we will all have the same story. Gods mercy was extended to me.

That’s what makes Christianity so different. It is Gods mercy, God’s grace that grants us salvation. Nothing we do. We live in a world full of pride, full of hubris. Look at all the politicians we see in the news on every side.  Look at the world leaders today and throughout history. All of them believe that either they don’t need any salvation, or that they can provide salvation. The truth is that God is Mightier that the Mighty and Greater than the Great.

Martin Lloyd Jones writes:

When the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords came into this world, he came into a stable. If you do not feel a sense of holy laughter within you, I do not see that you have the right to think that you are a Christian. Thank God, this is the Gospel, this is salvation. God turning upside down, reversing everything we have ever thought, everything we have taken pride in. The mighty? Why, he will pull them down from their seats. He has been doing so. He is still doing so. Let many arise and say he is going to govern, to be the god of the whole world; you need not be afraid- he will be put down. Every dictator has gone down; they all do. Finally, the devil and all that belongs to him will go down to the lake of fire and will be destroyed forever. The son of God has come into the world to do that.

 

 

It is easy to see the mercies and the grace of God when things are going smooth and easy. Its harder in times like we have seen in this country over the last 9 months or so. But his mercies are new every morning. And when we gather together for mutual edification, for the building up of each other’s faith, for God ordained fellowship, we are to sing those mercies.

 

I will sing of the mercy of the Lord forever.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

With my mouth will I make known,

thy faithfulness, thy faithfulness.

With my mouth will I make known,

thy faithfulness through all generations.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever,

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.[20]

 

 

Let’s Pray.

Luke 1:26-38 Jesus is the Son of God: Mary, Mother of Jesus

Luke 1:26-38

Jesus is the Son of God

Mary, Mother of Jesus

 

          Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke Chapter 1. If you do not have a Bible or do not own one, please let us give one to you as a gift from Bangor Community Church. You can grab one off the back table or see me after the service.

We are continuing with our series through Luke’s Gospel here and I want us to remember why Luke wrote this. We saw the very first week that Luke wrote his Gospel so that Theophilus and others, ourselves included, so that he and we could trust what was heard and that he and we could have a well grounded faith in Christ.

And to do so, Luke goes and does a whole lot of thorough research. We see this as he starts off his Gospel before the birth of Christ. We looked last time at Gabriel announcing to Zechariah that he and his barren wife would give birth to a son, John, who would be great, and we know now, pave the way for the coming Messiah. This morning we are going to see Gabriel go to a young virgin, Mary, and tell her that she would give birth to a son, Jesus, who would be greater than great and would save his people.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will see Luke continue this parallel, showing, first the birth of John the Baptist and then afterwards, the birth of Jesus Christ.  And part of this is to show the similarities between the two, but even more so, to show the disparities of the two. That Jesus is the greater and that God is in charge of the timing and the details of all of his grand plan.

So, again, last time we saw Gabriel appear to Zachariah, and tell him that he and Elizabeth would finally have a son, John. Joh would do great things. Zechariah doubted what Gabriel had said, doubted what God could and would do. Because of this, Zechariah was struck mute until after John would be born. Elizabeth did indeed become pregnant and that’s where we left off.

Interesting to me, as we read this, is that Mary would have had no idea about the events that we already looked at. She had no idea about Gabriel appearing to Zechariah and the pregnancy of Elizabeth. And that’s where we pick up this morning.

We are going to read and look at Luke 1, verses 26 through 38. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your Bible, read along with me in whatever your preferred translation is and see for yourself the very Words of God. Luke 1: 26-38, Luke writes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

 

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

 

So again, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and then, 6 months later, he appeared to Mary. And Mary and Zechariah could not have been more different. They could not have responded more different.

Mary was too young as opposed to too old. She was betrothed and not married. She was a virgin, not married. She was a woman, not a man. Mary could tell others what happened, Zechariah was struck mute. She asked out of not understanding, he asked out of unbelief and doubt.

Now, a couple of things that we pull out of who and where Mary is. First, she is betrothed. This is a hard concept for us to understand in the modern West. We tend to think of it like an engagement because its not quite married. Its being promised to your partner, but not finalizing the full covenant as of yet. But its so much more than an engagement. It was a legal agreement. This is why we see in the story that Joseph was able to give her a certificate of divorce. But a betrothal did not have all of the benefits, the partnerships of marriage. Mary and Joseph would not have known each other in any kind of relational or physical way.

Mary was from Nazareth. Nazareth was nowhere. It was nothing. It was a simple, small, rural town in the middle of nowhere in Israel. IT was, at most, a few hundred people. For sure smaller than Bangor here, which is saying something. It was likely less than 100 people. In John 1:46, Nathaniel sums up the prevailing view at the time of Nazareth, saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

          That’s what Nazareth was for them back then.

 

We also see that the House of David was mentioned. Joseph, legally Jesus father was shown to be from the kingly line of David. And Mary, being kin, being family, was shown to be from the priestly line of Aaron. I told you a while ago, we would be exploring the different titles, different offices of Jesus, Prophet, Priest and King. And Luke is going to show us a lot about the fulfillment by Jesus of those offices. Right here we see two ways that he will be able to fulfill them by his earthly ancestry.

 

 

And then we see Gabriel’s words to Mary, “Greetings oh favored one!” A clear misunderstanding of the words of Gabriel here can get us into a lot of trouble and can give us a very false impression of Mary.

This text can be and sometimes is used to elevate Mary to deity status. It is used to elevate Mary above who she is. She is not “full of Grace” in terms of being a source of grace for others. The term “full of grace” itself is an inaccurate translation.

Mary is not to be prayed to. Only God is to be prayed to. Mary is not more than a person. She is not a co-redemptrix along with Christ. She is a woman who is full of God’s grace poured out in her.

Despite some teachings out there, Mary was not virgin born. She was the result of an earthly mother and earthly father being married and having children in the way that God designed. Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus and gave birth to him. She did not stay a virgin after giving birth to Jesus. She and Joseph had more children after this, that scripture testifies to in numerous places.

Mary is not a part of the trinity, nor is she someone whom God just happened to decide “Hey, that girl right there will do.” God does not just work with what’s given to him. HE is not waiting for us to allow him to work. He is not standing outside our houses, our schools, our public buildings, or our country just waiting for us to invite him back in. God does what he decides to do, and he chose Mary before time began. He knew that Mary would be the one in Genesis 3:15 who would give birth to the offspring that crush the head of the serpent.  He had already chosen her and decided that she would be the mother of Jesus.

Mary is not to be deified. She is not to be worship. She is not to be prayed to. She is not on the level of angels. But, as Gabriel says right here, she is favored by God. She is looked upon with favor. She was chosen by God for one of the most important jobs in the history of the world.

And she did it believing. She did it with faith. She did it with dignity and honor. She did it with a heart for serving and obeying God. She did it because she was favored by God. IT show be clear as we look at the Gospels and see what Mary dealt with in her life that favored by God is not a life of unbroken happiness. IT is not a life without hardships, or a life without sickness. It is not a life with all the money, our all the possessions we want. But it means that we have God on our side.

Favored, the free bestowal of Gods grace. Undeserved. It was nothing about Mary that made God choose her. She didn’t earn it. She didn’t achieve it. God choose her because of his goodness and his grace. This is just like we don’t do anything to earn our salvation. We don’t do anything to achieve our salvation. Its not anything about us, but God choose us, because of his goodness and his grace to be saved from His wrath against our sins.

 

Now, Mary got this greeting from Gabriel and she was nervous. She didn’t know how to react to this. Gabriel tells her not to be afraid. Well that sounds familiar doesn’t it? Again, this is the normal reaction to an angel appearing before you. Not warm, fuzzy feelings, but awe, fear and trembling.

So, she is told not to be afraid, but she still doesn’t know why Gabriel has appeared before her. So, he proceeds to tell her. Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to get pregnant while still remaining a virgin. You are going to have a son. His name will be Jesus. He will be the Son of the Most High, he will reign over the house of Jacob. He will be given the throne of David. His kingdom will have no end.

What that all means is that Jesus is God. That he is and will be the fulfillment of and the King of Israel, the house of Jacob. He is and will be the king over all of creation for all time. Jesus is reigning. This is an important part to this. I want you to understand that we are not waiting for Jesus to reign. HE is doing that right here, right now.

Listen to how John Piper said this, albeit dated in its references because he said this in 1984, but really listen. He says:

Gabriel says, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Do you see what this promise means? It means that Jesus is alive and ruling over his people at 11:50 AM, Sunday, March 11, 1984. Do you believe that? Jesus, Savior, Son of God, King of the world, is governing just as realistically today as Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher or Helmut Kohl. If Gabriel has spoken the truth, THE ISSUE in 1984, no matter where you live on this planet, is: Will you bow before the kingship of Jesus and obey the rule of his kingdom?

 

Think about that. Today. Sunday, September 20, 2020. Jesus is reigning and governing just as realistically today as Donald Trump, as Vladimir Putin, as Justin Trudeau. They are ruling over America, Russia and Canada, but Jesus Christ rules over them all.

 

Now, free grace is hard to accept. We don’t understand how it works and it goes against all of our human instincts. And Mary doesn’t quite understand how this is all going to work. She asks that very question, How? She asks out if confusion, in a direct contrast to Zechariah, how asked “IF…” and did so out of disbelief. Mary says, how can this be, as I am a virgin. I believe you; I just don’t understand.

Now, a couple of good things come out of this question by Mary. First, you don’t have to have all the answers in order to believe. You don’t have to know all the nuances and the details and the theological intricacies in order to have faith. You don’t have to understand every aspect in order to become a Christian. Keep asking your questions. God will answer some of them.

Second, Gabriel answers her, saying that the Holy Spirit will conceive Jesus in Mary. The Holy Spirit is God. One third of the trinity. And each of the trinity fills a different role. The Holy Spirit is here to point to Jesus. The Holy Spirit only comes along with receiving and following Jesus.  We can’t have the Holy Spirit with out Jesus.

Pointing towards, building up and affirming Jesus Christ is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is to point towards and glorify and build up Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ comes to save sinners, but to do so so that God the Father may be testified towards, and glorified.

John Piper makes the point that the Holy Spirit is not to be look for as an end in and of Himself. He says:

in seeking to be filled and empowered by the Spirit we must pursue him indirectly—we must look to the wonder of Christ. If we look away from Jesus and seek the Spirit and his power directly, we will end up in the mire of our own subjective emotions. The Spirit does not reveal himself. The Spirit reveals Christ.

 

And he continues:

Devote yourselves to seeing and feeling the grandeur of the love of God in Jesus Christ and you will be so in harmony with the Holy Spirit that his power will flow mightily in your life. Christian spiritual experience is not a vague religious emotion. It is an emotion with objective content, and the content is Jesus Christ. The shy member of the Trinity does mighty work, but he never puts himself in the limelight. You might say he is the limelight that puts the attributes of God the Father and the person of Christ into sharp relief.

 

Mary was not looking for the Holy Spirit. She was looking to serve and obey and honor God and what she received was the Holy Spirit.

Now, the fact that it was the Holy Spirit that would conceive Jesus is vitally important to Christianity. Why? Because it means that Jesus was not born of man. He had no original sin to corrupt his nature. He was born of a woman, the Son of God. Because of this, he would fulfill all the temple requirements of the Old Testament. HE was the fulfillment of the temple itself. It means that through Jesus, because of Jesus, there will be no more need of a temple and there will be no more need of sacrifices and the sacrificial system.

The fact that Mary was a virgin and the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus means that something supernatural happened. Something literally physically impossible. If you do not buy into the virgin birth of Jesus, there is no reason to believe any of the miracles, any of the works, any of the promises of Jesus.  Just like creation and nature and the beginning of everything start with Genesis 1 through 3, the beginning of Jesus and all that he is starts with the virgin birth.

Gabriel then, essentially says, you have not asked for a sign, but I am going to give you one anyway. Your cousin Elizabeth, who was old and barren, she is in her 6 months of pregnancy.

God can do it! What is impossible for man, with God it is possible. Again, what is physically impossible, what is the definition of impossible, God speaks and makes it happen.

 

Now, I think that Mary’s response in v 38 may just be the biggest takeaway of this whole passage. And it definitely puts her question in v 34 in proper context. Mary responds to all that Gabriel has told her by faith. Remember that Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

          Mary could not yet see what Gabriel had promised her, but she responded in faith. “I am the LORDs servant. May it be according to your Word.” What God says, what he wills, what he calls me too, that I will do. I will serve and obey him.

And so, we need to ask ourselves, will we respond, as Mary did, with absolute faith? Will we submit to Gods call on our life? Will you go where he wants you to go? Will you do what he wants you to be doing? Will you do it with who he wants you to? Will you do it for how long he wants you to do it?

In order to do so, in order to follow and serve God in the way he deserves to be served, we need to be willing to give up everything we know and love. God comes first, above all else. He wont always take away from us everything we know and love, but I guarantee that the tighter we hold on something and keep it way from or above God, the more he will rip it right out of our hands.

When we respond to Gods call through faith, we will approach him with open hands, giving all of us, and all we have to him, knowing that he is in control, knowing that he is reigning above right now, forever and ever, we will see that we too, by the grace and choice of God are also highly favored.

 

Let’s Pray.

Luke 1:5-25 Jesus is the Son of Man: Gabriel prophecies the birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:5-25

Jesus is the Son of Man:

Gabriel prophecies the birth of John the Baptist

 

Good Moring! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the book of Luke. If you do not have or own a Bible, we would be happy to give you one as our gift to you.

Last time I was up here, we were introduced to Doctor Luke and his Gospel. We saw who Luke was, when he wrote this Gospel and why he wrote it. One of the things we learned about Luke is that he is a storyteller. He was a researcher. He was a historian and he was an investigator.

And in that, one of the things that makes Luke’s Gospel different is that he does go into more details and shares more stories and more of the stories than the other Gospels. We see that here in, basically all of Luke chapter 1, stories from before the birth of Christ.

Here, in his research and investigations, Luke recognizes that John the Baptist was vital, it was integral to the whole story of Jesus Christ. The story of the life and ministry of Jesus Christs starts with the birth and life of John the Baptist.

After the book of Malachi, after his prophecies, there was 400 years of silence from God. No prophecies, no nothing. Israel was waiting. It was a dark time. And though Jesus Christ would be the dawn, the light breaking through the darkness, John the Baptist was the one who told us, let us know that the light was coming.

And today, Luke is going to introduce the parents of John and show how the hand of God started moving again after waiting 400 years. In chapter 1 here, Luke would compare and contrast the coming of and the birth of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.

And he sees that this story is important to tell to Theophilus because he wants to show him that God is in control. He is sovereign and he ordains the timing of the births of those in this world. As one commentator points out, these are not just coincidences that God uses to achieve his plans, but he ordains and orchestrates and orders it all according to his will.

So, let’s go ahead and read this mornings passage, Luke chapter 1, verses 5-25. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your Bibles and follow along in your translation. Reading the Word for yourself is so very important. Luke 1:5-25, Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[a] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 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.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

Luke starts with some details that help add gravity and authenticity to his writings. In the day of Herod, King of Judah. That’s when this story takes place. This Herod, which is a title more than it is a name, ruled from 37 BC to 4 BC. He was under the Roman government, but he was nominally the King of the Jews. He was in authority over Judah at this time. We are going to hear more about him in the coming weeks as well.

In those days, a man named Zechariah was a priest. There were many, many priests in those days. The Old Testament divides up the priests into 24 divisions. Each division had many priests. I’ve seen numbers up to 8000 priests each. They would take turns and each division would serve at the temple for two, one-week periods each year. During that week, they would draw lots to see each day which priest would enter the holiest part of the temple, light incense and pray, one in the morning and one in the evening. Most priests would not have the opportunity to be picked for this job even once in their lifetime.

Zechariah was married to a woman named Elizabeth, also of the priestly line of Aaron, considered a double blessing in those days. They were both righteous and blameless in their walk with the LORD. This is of course, not the same as being sinless, but meaning that they were godly and upright, they were walking with the LORD.

So, we know that it was not because of something that they had done that God struck them childless. Children in those days were regarded as “Gods reward for faithful service.” And so, Zechariah and Elizabeth would have been looked at, whispered about, even gossiped about in their town. They look like they are living right, but God won’t give them a child so they must be sinning somehow…

As we see with Jobs friends as well, this is poor theology and poor assumptions. God chooses, not we earn. They were barren, like we often we see throughout scriptures. Abraham and Sarah. Hannah, whose prayer we heard this morning. So many more, and not barren as a punishment, but barren so Gods miraculous power could be shown and observed. They were not barren because they sinned, but barren to bring glory to God.

This is a very real struggle that so many couples deal with on a daily basis today. Knowing that God is in control can help, but it doesn’t fully take away the pain, the disappointment. If this is something you have struggled with, please don’t misunderstand me and think that is what I am saying. But Zechariah and Elizabeth did show that you can have that pain and disappointment and still be content with and faithful to the LORD.

And as we are going to see, they never stopped praying either. IF there is something you have been praying for and its been years, or longer, don’t stop praying. I’m not telling you that God definitively say Yes to the prayer, but throughout scripture we see God tell us to keep praying. No matter what, don’t stop praying. God will answer. It may be Yes; it may be No, or it may be Later. But he will answer.

 

Zechariah went for one of his weeks of service to the Temple in Jerusalem. This time God cause the lot to fall his way and Zechariah was chosen for one of, if not the greatest honor of his life. Definitely the greatest honor of his professional life. He was chosen to enter the temple and light the incense and pray. The rest of the priests waited outside and prayed while the priest was inside.

While Zechariah was inside, after he lit the incense and while he was praying, he got the surprise of his life. Gabriel, whom we just saw as we went through Daniel, had appeared and was standing in front of him. For those who are further interested, Kent Hughes, in his commentary on Luke, looks into the parallels of Gabriel and his appearances in both Luke and Daniel.

I want us to notice how Zechariah reacted upon seeing Gabriel. Fear. Awe. These are the appropriate responses to an encounter with an angel. This is what we see in Daniel. This is what we see here with Zechariah. This is what we see throughout scripture. And that’s how it should be. Angels are heavenly beings who serve and reflect the glory of God. The Glory of God is so great that it cannot help but cause us to fall down in awe and fear.

Gabriel tells him, do not be afraid Your prayers have been heard! What prayers is he referring to? Well, there are three options. First, it could be referring to the prayer that Zechariah and Elizabeth have been praying for years. The prayer for a baby, for a child. Or it was the prayer that Zechariah, as priest was likely praying in there, the prayer for Israel, for renewal, for restoration, for deliverance, for God to start speaking again, for the coming Messiah.

Both of those would be answered right here, leading me ( and many theologians) to believe that Zechariah was praying for both of those things there inside the holiest part of the temple and that Gabriel was referring to both of those prayers.

He tells Zechariah that he is going to have a boy, a son. Finally, a child! His name will be John. We get deeper into the life and ministry of John here in a few weeks. But Zechariah is to rejoice and be glad! John will play a major role in Gods plans. He will lead the way for the coming messiah. Gabriel tells Zechariah that John will be great before the LORD. God chose John for a very specific mission, for a very specific purpose, just like He has for each and every one of us. And John would not disappoint.

Gabriel told Zechariah that John was not to drink wine or strong drinks. This leads many commentators to believe that John was a Nazarite. This was the vow or the lifestyle or whatever that Samson had in Judges as well. Like John, an angel told Samson’s parents before birth that he would be born and be held to these standards. However, Samson was told clearly and along with no wine or strong drink, it was spelled out that he could not cut his hair or touch any dead bodies. We don’t see that with John, so while he very well may have been held to the Nazarite vow, we have no actual scriptural evidence for that.

Gabriel continues and says something quite remarkable and even more so for that time. John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even within the womb. John is the only person in scripture that we see this with. And he is the first person to receive the Holy Spirit in the New Testament manner. By the way, this is a great pro-life passage, as it shows Johns personhood in the womb, it shows him named, and it shows him holy spirit filled and already known by God.

 

You know, I was reading a lot this week about Zechariah and I’m also reflecting on the words and behaviors and attitudes of many Christians online and in real life as we ramp up another election season and in one of the sermons on Luke that I read I saw this line. “Sometimes, Gods people, they talk to much and the wait to little.” Zechariah absolutely should have heeded this. LORD knows I need to heed this at times!  I exhort each of you to look in yourselves and see if this is something that you need to work on as well. Is it true, is it edifying, is it holy and pure? No? Then don’t say it.

Zechariah says what he says though. How can this be? I’m old! Like really old! And so is my wife! Like Really old! He disbelieved the Supernatural power of God. He did not believe that God could do for he and his wife what he did for Abraham and Sarah. What he did for Hannah, what he does every day for countless couple.

I appreciate what the commentator pointed out, however, what we all need to remember and that’s grace for Zechariah and grace for those around us who say stupid things, who spout off, who dont think before they speak. We know that this event was preceded by and followed by a lifetime of walking with God, being blameless and upright. This was a slip. It was a stupid, fleeting moment and this moment should not define Zechariahs life and define who he was. Just like Peters three denials of Christ, this is a moment in their lives where the sanctification hits a snag, it happens to all of us. If you say it doesn’t, your lying.

Of course, as we see, to say that there should be grace does not mean that there will not be consequences and repercussions. Gabriel responds to Zechariah, telling him who he is and that he is speaking for God right now.  How dare Zechariah question him!

We know that there are right ways and wrong ways to question God. Examples such as Mary and Job were just fine in how they ask questions of God. Examples such as Sarah and Zechariah show how not to respond when God promises to do the impossible.

John Piper reminds us that its not wrong to want evidence, but it is wrong to demand signs beyond what a humble and open heart would require. Mary asked, “How can this be? She was asking for an explanation because she couldn’t understand. Zechariah asked, how can I know this? He was asking for evidence because he couldn’t believe. I believe That’s the difference.

And the consequence for not believing the words of God was that John would now be silent, he would now be mute until after John is born. John spoke when he shouldn’t have and said what he shouldn’t have, and this was the repercussions.

Now, while all this was going on, the other priests were outside waiting for Zechariah to come out and lead the closing prayer. But when he came out, he obviously couldn’t. All he could do was motion around and it was clear to the other priests that Zechariah had seen a vision. Once the week was over, and this division of priests were done with their service, Zechariah went home.

Elizabeth became pregnant and she kept away from everyone and everywhere for 5 months. After waiting that long to have a child, she was soaking up every possible moment, sensation and experience she could. And she may have been afraid to tell people because she wasn’t sure if her body would be able to keep the baby. Remember Zachariah couldn’t tell her what the angel said, so she didn’t have the promise that he was given.  As she prayed, she says that the LORD took away her reproach.

No one would be able to look down on them and wonder what hidden sin was in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth. No more whispers or glances. They were redeemed. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you have done, where you are from, God gives life where there otherwise would be no life. He did it by putting a baby in Elizabeth’s womb and he does it every time someone responds to him in faith, he brings them out of spiritual and everlasting death and in to spiritual and everlasting life.

God does that for us. He takes away our reproach, our shame. He takes our unrighteousness and replaces it with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Perfect God and Perfect man. John comes to tell of him, to make smooth the way of the LORD. To prepare Gods people to know God. Christ came to save sinners.

God gives salvation freely by his own grace which he pours out on us by the faith that he gives us in his Son, Jesus Christ. He gives it freely to those who respond to his calling and who do so by faith.

However momentary, Zechariah, when given the answer to his prayers, when faced with the miraculous and the supernatural, lacked faith. Don’t follow his example. Faith is the vehicle that God uses to pour out his saving grace. Jesus says in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” The one being sent, of course, is Jesus Christ.

I will close this sermon with an exhortation, in the words of Philip Graham Ryken, who closes his commentary on this passage with these words:

This is what God always wants from us: faith. He wants us to take him at his word. So whatever God says, believe it! He has said that Jesus died and rose again, so believe in the crucifixion and the resurrection. He has said that he will forgive anyone who comes to him trusting in Jesus; so, if you are a sinner, believe in Jesus and know that your sins are forgiven. God has said that he will never leave you or forsake you; so whatever troubles you are facing, believe that God will help you to the very end. He has also said that Jesus is coming again to judge the world. If this is what God has said, then we need to get ready by turning away from sin and trusting in Jesus.

 

Amen! Let’s Pray!

 

Luke 1:1-4 Jesus is the Son of Man: The Purpose of Luke’s Gospel

Luke 1:1-4

Jesus is the Son of Man

The Purpose of Luke’s Gospel

 

Good Morning Bangor! Let’s grab our Bibles and turn in them to the Gospel of Luke. If you don’t have a Bible, or don’t own a Bible, please grab one off our back table or come see me after the service so that you can have one as our gift to you.

We are starting a new Series this week through Luke’s Gospel. We finished up through Daniel last week and there is an interesting connection between Luke and Daniel. One of the ways that Daniel identifies the coming Christ, the coming Messiah is to call him the Son of Man. One of the most common ways that Luke refers to Jesus is as the Son of Man.

Today we are going to be introduced to both Luke himself and to his Gospel. We are going to answer at least three questions about this Gospel, Who, when and why. Who wrote it? When Did he write it? And Why did he write it?

The Gospel of Luke is an interesting book. It is, by far, the longest of the Gospels. It has stories, parables, teachings that none of the other Gospels have. It is also one of the synoptic Gospels. What that means is that it is paired with Matthew and Mark and the three of them all seem to share a common source, as some describe it, the share much of the same stories and content. So, we will look at many of the parable passages as we go through Luke.

This series will take us quite a long time to go through, and I do encourage you to read and study it for yourself as well as we go through it.

We are going to start with the introduction of Luke, the first four verse of the book. We will read those and then answer the Who When and Why questions w just mentioned. Luke chapter 1, verses 1 through 4. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Let’s read the text. Luke 1:1-4, Luke writes:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

What a beautiful sentence. All one sentence by the way, and it’s the same in the Greek. It is also a classic literary introduction, showing us that Luke was a learned man, a well-educated man. And that makes sense, as we find out in Colossians 4:14, Paul refers to him as a physician, a doctor. So, you may, on occasion, or more than on occasion, refer to him as Doctor Luke.

We know that he was a close friend of Paul’s and very loyal. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul is imprisoned and getting close to being put to death. Paul writes that everyone has left his side, that he is alone, except for Luke.

Doctor Luke traveled with Paul for much of Paul’s travels. Some believe he also was Paul’s personal doctor. In Acts, which Luke wrote, we see many passages where it is written that “we” went and did this or went there. That “we” refers to Luke, the author being with Paul during this time, not just writing what Paul told him.

Luke was very thorough in his investigations, in his research. He held accuracy in detail very high. All of his material was well documented. Many of the commentators I’ve been reading have made bid deals out of Luke’s accuracy, pointing out that if we can not trust some of the minor details or historical details, then how can we trust the actual Gospel that Luke is presenting. Every commentator I’ve read has included a quote from Sir William Ramsey where he says: Luke was a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history; and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident

 

          Luke was a prolific writer. Luke wrote this Gospel and Luke wrote the book of Acts. He wrote more of the New Testament than anyone. He wrote more than Paul did. When you count the words, when you look at the volume, Luke’s writing is more than Paul’s, even if you include Hebrews in with Paul’s writings, which is unclear at best.

Lastly, Luke was humble. He doesn’t mention himself or bring attention to himself as he writes through Acts. He just says “we.” The only reason we know many of these things about him is because of what Paul says. Some come to the conclusion that Luke started out as a hard-core skeptic. They say that this is why he is so thorough in his research and presentation, trying to eliminate any doubt from the mind of the readers.

So, that who Luke is, that’s what we know about him. Next, we ask, when did he write this. Now, its very likely that The Gospel and Acts were written at the same time. Rabbit trail moment: I have always wondered why the Gospels are not laid out Matthew, Mark, John and Luke. Then Luke would end and flow right into Acts… I know it’s because Matthew, Mark and Luke are the synoptics and John is the outlier, but still, c’mon!

So, there tend to be a few different ideas and thoughts about when Luke and Acts was written. I’m really only going to focus on the only one that makes sense to me. The book of Acts ends with Paul being imprisoned in Rome in about 62 AD. Now we know that Paul was released from this imprisonment and was arrested at least one more time, and ultimately was put to death as the result of one of his later imprisonments. If Acts was written later on, it would make sense that Luke would have included more of Paul’s story. So, I believe that it was written very shortly after the book of Acts ends, likely around 63 AD or so.

 

And now we get to the big question; Why did Luke write this book, the Gospel according to Luke?

Well known atheist, Sam Harris has said, “I don’t want to pretend to be certain about anything I’m not certain about.” To me, this sounds like exactly the person that Luke was writing for.

Now, Luke was not an eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He is the only Gospel writer who wasn’t. But Luke did his researched. He spoke to many eyewitnesses who were still around and were willing to testify to the truth and life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

There were still many eyewitnesses around, this was less than 30 years after the death of Christ. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:5 & 6, after Christ rose from the dead: that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 

Paul even testifies that many were still alive, and he is telling people, “Go ask them for yourself if you don’t believe, or if you have doubts or if you’re not sure.” And that’s just what Luke did. And What he heard form them is what he is relaying to us in this Gospel.

Again, Luke is a historian. And Christianity is not irrational. Christianity is not illogical. It is not without evidence and historical legitimacy.  It is in fact, rooted in and grounded in history. IT is rational and it is reasonable and there is lots of evidence for the truth that is right here in our hands.

I was having an online conversation this week with someone, and they made the comment that the Gospel has everything to offer to any who are willing to consider it honestly.

Most of you know at least part of the story of Lee Strobel. He was a courtroom journalist. He knew the importance of eyewitnesses and their testimony. His wife came to know Christ and he saw a change in her. He went out to use his investigative talents that he developed as a journalist and he went out to prove Christianity false. Over the course of his investigations, talking to scholars and theologians, hearing about the eyewitness testimony of the Bible, how the Apostles personally witnessed these things and wrote them down, even under the threat of death. In the end, it was too much and instead of proving Christianity false, he turned in faith to Jesus Christ, being certain in what he was taught.

Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, wrote, what I think is truer than even he knew when he wrote: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

And that’s what Luke did. He eliminated the impossible. He eliminated the questions, the doubts. He researched and opened himself up to the truth and went where it led him. What remained, what he wrote down in this Gospel, was the truth.

Known truth, not blind faith, but learned faith are the foundation of Christianity. Faith is the evidence of things unseen. I’m not saying that there isn’t a leap of faith. I’m not saying that you have to intellectually know all the details, all the nuances of the faith before you can trust in Christ. But I am saying that you can know that your faith is grounded in reality. Its not arbitrary. It is something that has a firm foundation and the trust that you put in Christ, the faith that you have will not disappoint, it will not crumble and I will not be proven wrong.

 

Now, Luke was writing this to the most excellent Theophilus. Theophilus is either a name or a title given to this person. Theophilus means “friend of God.” Most likely, based on Luke’s other uses of the term “most excellent,” he was a fairly prominent member of the Roman government.

And someone, sometime had a chance to share the truth of Jesus Christ with Theophilus. Maybe Luke, maybe not. To be honest, we can’t even be sure that Luke was a Christian at the time he started this mission. But Luke was sent out and was going to make sure that Theophilus could be certain about what he had been taught. My guess is that he was, but again, there is no indication about whether Theophilus was a Christian at this point, or was a curious person, looking to learn more about what had been shared with him. Luke was going to make sure he received the complete and total truth.

Something that I share with you guys often, don’t take everything you were taught as Gospel fact. I remember being taught that Luke worked for Theophilus. Maybe he was Theophilus’ doctor. But I was taught that Luke was commissioned by Theophilus to go out and investigate and research and verify the Gospel. Yet, there is nothing in the text that indicates this. We can read a lot into the text, and some or much of it may be true, but we need to discern what the text says from what we read into the text.

Let us also notice as we read and study this book that Luke is a storyteller. Luke investigates, learns the details, and tells the story. This is opposed to Johns spirituality and philosophy. This is opposed to Marks action packed Gospel. This is opposed to Matthews focus on prophecy fulfillment. Luke researches and tells the stories with details.

Luke is writing to a universal audience. He is writing so that all may hear. Again, this is opposed to Matthews Jewish audience. This is opposed to Marks specifically Roman audience and this is opposed to Johns church audience.

One of the key messages of Luke’s Gospel is that the offer of salvation, brought by the Son of Man, is an offer to all. Every person has the opportunity to respond to the Gospel. I read this and I am reminded of something Charles Spurgeon said, He said:

If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect, I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn’t, I must preach “whosoever will” and when “whatsoever” believes I know that he is one of the elects.

 

Luke is writing this to a universal audience, but he is also writing it personally to Theophilus. Relationships play a big role in Luke’s stories. And in his stories, we see where Luke’s heart lies. We will see his heart for the lonely, the poor, the beaten down, the oppressed, and, as a doctor, his heart for the sick and the suffering.

Jesus came to save even them. Jesus came to say even us. Jesus came to offer salvation to all, not just the powerful. Not just the popular. Not just the put together. Not the sinless. It is in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 5, verse 31 that Jesus says: It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

          The last thing that Luke says in this introduction, V4:  that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

          Luke wants you to believe. And he wants you to know what you believe. That Jesus Christ is the Son of Man. That Jesus Christ is the Messiah. That we are sinful, broken, spiritually dead. Jesus Christ came and offered his life in place of ours, to give us the forgiveness of sins. By Gods Grace, poured out through our faith in Jesus Christ. All of this done to glorify God and God alone. Jesus first words in Marks Gospel, he says repent and believe the Gospel. In order to have eternal life with Christ, eternal citizenship in the kingdom of God we must believe. Not just intellectually, though that is important, but to believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Christ is LORD.

If you haven’t, today is the day. Salvation belongs to the LORD and today is the day of salvation. There are no second chances and life on this earth can end in a flash. Jesus Christ is the means to salvation and eternal life.

 

 

 

He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Luke’s Gospel records the Last Supper and he writes of Jesus telling his disciples in chapter 22, verses 19& 20: He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after super, he took the cup, saying, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Daniel 11 &12 God of All Nations Daniels Last Vision pt. 2

Daniel 11 &12

God of All Nations

Daniels Last Vision pt. 2

 

          Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 12. IF you do not have a Bible or do not own a Bible from our table or come see me afterwards and we will give you one as our gift to you.

Today, our journey through the book of Daniel comes to an end. And fittingly, in the last chapter, we see visions, we see symbolism, we see prophecy and we see the unknown.

It starts with the continuation, the end of the vision that was set up in chapter 10 and revealed in Chapter 11. At the point that this last vision started, Daniel would have been around 85 years old. He had lived a lifetime of trusting in the LORD and seeing him come through with his promises and seeing visions and prophecies revealed to him.

He had faith in Gods promises, but he didn’t always see how they were being fulfilled. And so, after the Jews were allowed to go back to Jerusalem from the exile they were in in Babylon, at first, everything seemed to be looking up. But then those who were there to rebuild the temple ran into a whole lot of trouble. The rebuild stopped. Daniel was discouraged.

He started praying and fasting and was visited by a messenger who pulled back the curtain and showed Daniel a glimpse of the spiritual warfare going on around us, every minute of every day. Gods Angels and Satan’s fallen Angels battling over the events of this world.

In the visions that started chapter 11, we see a prophecy of how some of history would play out, history that would, by context, be affected by this spiritual warfare. It went through the rulers of Persia and then Greece. It made much focus of Antiochus IV who persecuted the Jewish people very greatly. And then it gave some prophecies regarding how all these things look towards the end antichrist and the spiritual warfare going on with that.

During all of this, we see the prophecies laced with phrases and statement that continue to remind us and confirm that God is in complete control. Despite the invisible spiritual battles going on and affecting this world, God is completely sovereign, and his will will be done. We see specifically with the antichrist that “He shall come to an end. This is, up to the current time, 2500 years before the end that God promises, prophecies and tells us this.

Now the first few verses of chapter 12 continue and finish the vision of Chapter 11 and that’s where we will start this morning. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation, whatever that may be.

Daniel 12:1-4, the messenger of the visions continues to speak to Daniel, saying:

“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above;[a] and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”

 

 

          May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

So, we see that Michael is involved in the battles at the end. Very little is actually, for sure known about Michael. We know he is an archangel. WE know he is a warrior angel. He is a commander of Holy Angels. And in the context of Chapters 10 & 11, he may be the prince angel of Israel. We know that he will be heavily involved in the spiritual battles going on, especially getting closer to the end.

And we see that those battles, that spiritual warfare, the powers and principalities that are at work, these things will only get more intense and they will continue to have a stronger impact on the world around it. This impact will play out in ever increasing tribulation, in ever increasing rebellion and in ever increasing depravity.

One of the roles we do see Angels filling is that of ministering to and protecting those who belong to God. The messenger here tells Daniel that many of Gods people shall be delivered. This is not deliverance from troubles, not deliverance from pain, and certainly not deliverance from death. But this is deliverance from Satan’s Grip, this is deliverance from unbelief. This is deliverance from Hell, from what we truly and fully deserve.

God is faithful that, if we, in the words of Jesus, repent and believe the Gospel, he is faithful to forgive, to justify, to sanctify and to glorify. He is faithful to deliver us from his own justice and wrath.

And we get a testimony of the one and only resurrection of the dead to take place at the end. Hebrews 9:27 tells us: it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

          It is at that time that the wheat will be separated from the chaff. It is then that the goats will be separated from the sheep. This is when the righteous will be separated form the unrighteous for all eternity. And it won’t happen until then unfortunately.

This is where some Christians have a different view on what is going to happen as we move ahead into the future. Some see the world becoming more and more Christianized and the church growing strong. I don’t see this any where in scriptures. Some see the world going down the drain and the church following close behind. I don’t think this is entirely accurate either, though I can see why some believe this. I see the world going down the drain, and some who think they are a part of the church, but who are truly part of the world going with the world. But the church will continue on and grow strong. Gods people will stand firm in perseverance, they will rise to the occasion and they will be a great witness to this broken world about the good ness, the faithfulness, the forgiveness and the holiness of God.

One commentator reminds us, despite what we see around us, God has got this, writing:

The apocalyptic parts of the Bible, like the book of Daniel, remind us that we live in a world that cannot simply be fixed. It needs to be recreated. To be sure, God will eliminate all evil in the end, but sin and sickness will be defeated according to his timetable, not ours. In the end, the broken shall be made whole and all tears will be wiped away. But until the coming of Gods kingdom, brokenness and suffering, pain and persecution will continue to be the normal state for believers. We live in a world that is profoundly broken.

 

          The messenger tells Daniel to shut these words up, to seal the book. Not to keep it unopened, but to keep it unaltered as it awaits fulfillment. We are to make sure that Gods Word stays as Gods Word. We treat it as Gods Word. We believe it as Gods Word. We preach it and proclaim it as Gods Word.

And many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase. Very similar wording to our scripture reading this morning, from Amos 8. There he says, they shall seek the Word of the LORD, but they shall not find it. Here we see that knowledge shall increase. Some may not understand how both can be true. Knowledge isn’t wisdom. Intellectual knowledge is good. It should be strived for. But knowledge of things without the knowledge of the God is vanity.

Proverbs says that fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Ans so we can have knowledge outside of God, but any knowledge worth having is based on and started with God.

Think of it like this. If someone is studying biology, geology, and the like. If they study these things without knowledge of the LORD, where does it lead them? Down the road to Evolution, Darwin, and the like. But to study it with a foundation of the Word of God, to study these things already having a knowledge of the LORD, you get to see the beauty of Gods handiwork through the Earth, through the animal kingdom and throughout all of Creation.

The Messenger has finished the vision he is relaying to Daniel. We pick up the last part of this chapter, as we read the follow up to the vision, Chapter 12, verses 5-13:

 

Then I, Daniel, looked, and behold, two others stood, one on this bank of the stream and one on that bank of the stream. And someone said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream,[b] “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. 11 And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days. 13 But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

 

The scene shifts back to Daniel on the banks of the river with the angels and what not. Some one asks the messenger, When? When will all this take place? That’s is an interesting question, isn’t it? Its an answer we all want to know. But Jesus tells us, when the disciples asked this very same question. He said that not even the angels in heaven know the time. Angels are powerful and the know a lot, but they are not omnipotent, and they are not omniscient. They too are curious to the events that are going to take place. They too want to be witnesses to these events.

I think that’s an important context to this. Mark 13:32, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

          To be clear, the angels are answering this question with limited, unclear knowledge. And so, this messenger answers, but first he swears with two hands, by the holy God.

          Again, we see this time frame, a time, times and a half a time. Some will see a specific frame of time here, maybe three and a half years. Some will see and general view of a long time. Most will at least agree that this is a period of time that is shortened because God intervenes. God has a decreed when all things will take place and those times will be adhered to.

The messenger also says, when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. There could be a lot of things that this means. In my studies, I don’t think I came across too many of the same thoughts.

I like best what Iain Duguid says, as he writes: Was there ever a greater display of brokenness than what we see at the cross? At the cross we see the brokenness of this fallen world that would take its own creator and crucify him.  On the cross we see the brokenness of Gods True Israel: there Jesus Christ personified the holy people of God, and there his true power was thoroughly broken. In fact, it was so broken that he needed a stranger to help carry his cross up to Golgatha, and then someone else to carry his lifeless corpse down again. Was there ever a greater display of weakness and brokenness than the cross?

 

Now, we know of course that that power was restored after his death, with his resurrection. Sinclair Ferguson reminds us: When the powers of darkness have done their worst against the kingdom of God, and the truth of God has been set at a final devaluation, God will act.

         

          We don’t know when the end will be, but God does. And he tells us that’s enough. And here’s the thing, What Does Daniel say in response to this? He says, I heard but did not understand. We are going to live with unanswered questions. God tells us in Deuteronomy 29:29 that the secret things belong to the LORD.  We can’t and we won’t know everything we want to. God gives us enough to trust in Him and to act in his will.

The messenger tells Daniel, hey now. Go your way. Stay in your lane. Focus on Gods purpose for you. Don’t worry about the things he doesn’t have for you. Worry about the things he does have for you. Think about. There is so much sin and so much brokenness, so much injustice in this world, we can’t fight every fight there is to fight. We can’t campaign against every single wrong there is. But God brings some causes, some injustices, some sins to our attention. Those are the ones that we can fight against.

In this way, the wicked and the righteous will each make themselves known and in the end all will become clear. The messenger mentions an amount of days that no one can quite sure what they mean. The numbers don’t quite add up to any specific amount of time. So, are they literal days? Are the symbolic for years? There are any number of options and nobody knows. What we do now is that this is an unknown but very specific amount of time. Again, God knows his timetable, even if we don’t.

The last verse, Daniel is told, Go your way. Stand Firm. BE strong. Persevere to the end. Stay faithful. Do this, do what you are told to do. Trust in God and believe the Gospel and you will spend eternity in your allotted place.

We see the world as it is. We see the world as it will be. We eagerly live for that world to come. But we live in this world and are to act accordingly.

Ferguson again, says: In Every epoch of revelation, Gods people have been encouraged to live in the light of what God has promised for the future.

 

2 Peter 3:11-13, Peter writes:

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

 

 

The way we live today, is because of what we know about in the future. IF we are consistent in how we see this world, it is because of our faith and because of our beliefs that we do good for those around us. That we take care of the widows and orphans. That we treat all people equally, as created in the image of God. That we desire to see all come to repentance and faith in Christ and spared eternity if wrath and justice.

Duguid reminds us: We must remember that the primary biblical image for the saints is not that of crusaders but martyrs. It is not our task to come along on a white horse and save the world. That job belongs to some one else.

 

          This world is our temporary home, but our citizenship is in Gods Kingdom. We work for the welfare of where we live, but ultimately our allegiance is to God. And so, we live for him, and him alone. We should make a difference in this world, but the results are out of our hands. Our faithfulness is what is in our hands. Faithfulness to a Holy God and his Holy decrees.

This has been an incredibly eye-opening journey for me as we have walked through Daniel. A lot of resources for how to act, how to live, how to react to what’s going on in the world today. As we continue to try to make the world a better place and reflect the glory and holiness of God, I leave you with one last passage from Duguid before I close us in prayer. He writes:

 

The Day is coming when Jesus Christ will ride out to conquer and to recreate, a day when the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. In the meantime, our task as martyrs is simply to testify to the LORDS greatness and grace by our words and by our sufferings. As we cling to God in the midst of trials that we do not understand, we testify of God’s grace to a watching world and to the heavenly beings. Like Jacob, who wrestled on with God at the fords of the Jabbok even after he had been crippled by the encounter, we testify not by our strength and might but simply by our persistence in clinging on to God in the midst of our brokenness.

And when the final triumph sounds for us, bringing to an end our earthly conflict, then at last we too will hear our redeemer say to us: “As for you, Go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” We will rise with Daniel- the same Daniel who endured the trials of the lions den and the challenges of living in an alien land, who prayed daily for the consummation of Gods kingdom and who prospered throughout the exile- and with all the saints, to receive our final reward in Christ.

 

Amen, Lets Pray.  

Daniel 11 & 12 pt 1 God of All Nations: Daniels last vision

Daniel 11 & 12

God of All Nations

Daniels last vision

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 11. If you do not own a Bible, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

We are in the stretch run of our series through Daniel that we have titled, God of All Nations. Chapters 10, 11 and 12 are on last episode in Daniels life. One last vision that God is sharing with Daniel, and through Daniel, sharing with us.

As we come into chapter 11 and look at the vision that God is presenting to Daniel, we remember that the context of this vision includes what we looked at last week in chapter 10.

In chapter 10, we saw Daniel upset and discouraged at the vents that were getting in the way of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. He was praying and fasting over the situation and he had a vision, an appearance by one who had an appearance like a man. That messenger who appeared, pulled back the curtain and gave Daniel a glimpse at the unseen spiritual warfare going on between Gods Angels and Satan’s Fallen Angels, or Demons. We saw how prayer affects those battles and how those battles affect the things of this world.

And today we will see some of the things of this world that will be affected by this spiritual warfare. We will see history predicted and prophesied from the other end. We will see quite a bit about Antiochus IV, otherwise known as Antiochus Epiphanes, who we also saw and talked about in Chapter 8. In short, we are going to look at 400 years of history before it happens.

Before we read our first section of this morning, what we are going to see is a long list of kings and rulers and conflicts and history being prophesied. And if we just read through it, it can easily be read in the same way as the genealogies throughout scriptures or the lists of kings in the Old Testament, where we just read, or skim through it until we get into the narrative further along.

We want to avoid that because it is scripture and it is included in this vision for a reason. So, lets go ahead and read Daniel chapter 11. We will start with verses 1-20. As always, I will read out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation, whichever that may be.

Daniel continues to record, as the messenger continues to speak from chapter 10:

And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.

“And now I will show you the truth. Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia, and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them. And when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece. Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do as he wills. And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these.

“Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and shall rule, and his authority shall be a great authority. After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement. But she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his arm shall not endure, but she shall be given up, and her attendants, he who fathered her, and he who supported[a] her in those times.

“And from a branch from her roots one shall arise in his place. He shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail. He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold, and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north. Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return to his own land.

10 “His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall keep coming and overflow and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress. 11 Then the king of the south, moved with rage, shall come out and fight against the king of the north. And he shall raise a great multitude, but it shall be given into his hand. 12 And when the multitude is taken away, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. 13 For the king of the north shall again raise a multitude, greater than the first. And after some years[b] he shall come on with a great army and abundant supplies.

14 “In those times many shall rise against the king of the south, and the violent among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they shall fail. 15 Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siegeworks and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the south shall not stand, or even his best troops, for there shall be no strength to stand. 16 But he who comes against him shall do as he wills, and none shall stand before him. And he shall stand in the glorious land, with destruction in his hand. 17 He shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of an agreement and perform them. He shall give him the daughter of women to destroy the kingdom,[c] but it shall not stand or be to his advantage. 18 Afterward he shall turn his face to the coastlands and shall capture many of them, but a commander shall put an end to his insolence. Indeed,[d] he shall turn his insolence back upon him. 19 Then he shall turn his face back toward the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.

20 “Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an exactor of tribute for the glory of the kingdom. But within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle.

 

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

So, all of that was entirely crystal-clear right? No questions?

 

In all seriousness, all of what we just read, can be and is verified and confirmed by the historical records we have. We have the names, the years these events happened, and we have the details about what these prophecy’s mean. WE are not going to get into all the minute details this morning. One of example of doing so in a commentary, John Calvin filled over 40 pages going through this section. If you are interested in point by point breakdowns, I can recommend a number of commentaries or, once we are done in Daniel, I can lend some out.

That being said, there are some things we will point out and some things we should know. It starts off with telling Daniel that there will be three more Persian kings and then one will come along with great wealth and then great power. This fourth king would be who we know as Xerxes from the book of Esther.

With his wealth and his power, around 480 BC, he would start a military campaign against Greece that would start the ball rolling to the Greeks conquering Persia after we skip ahead in v3 and see, once again, Alexander the Great. Remember Alex reigned and conquered from 336 to 323 BC.

We see and we know from previous visions that Alexander only ruled a short time, he conquered everything there was to conquer and then he died. His Kingdom was not given to his children, they were murdered. Instead it was divided amongst four of his generals.  One of the things we see is that the world sees this man as “great” and he was incredibly powerful in this world. And yet, the scriptures see him and describe him as a broken horn, like we saw in Daniel 8:22.

What you achieve in this world is nothing compared to what God can do. Alexander found out, Donald Trump and Joe Biden will find out, each and every one of us will find out what Isaiah says in chapter 40, verses 22 & 23:

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

 

 

Alexander was a great military leader, but once he died, as we all do, his kingdom was not what it was supposed to be or what he wanted it to be. IT was divided into four pieces and for the purposes of this vision, we are going to see the North Kingdom, the Seleucids, and the South, the Ptolemies.

It is through their families and through the leaders of these two kingdoms that go down through the major events in the region, in the known world at the time, of the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. We see all sorts of political intrigue, family drama and all sorts of betrayal and conflict.

God knew all these things ahead of time.  He knew how all the conflicts and drama would play out.  Throughout history, in the bog and in the little, God knows who will win and who will lose. He knows who will betray who and who will cross who. He shows that he knows by showing us hundreds of years before it happens. Major moments in history and minor moments in history, none is out of the control and the sight of God.

Long story short, this is the history of the rulers of the North and the south Greek empires. They are the North and South because they are north and south of Jerusalem. The geography here is why it was included in the scriptures, why it matters to the vision. We start to see in this section, but we will really see with Antiochus Epiphanes the affect this has on Jerusalem and Gods people.

But what about us? If its in the scriptures, if its part of Gods Word, it has to have some meaning for us as well. I will give you the words of Iain Duguid as he expounds on the application of this passage. He writes:

This is an important lesson for us to learn from this history. The kingdoms of this world often seem overwhelming in their power to accomplish great things, a power that can easily either cow Christians into a state of depressed submission or, alternatively, seduce them into trying to use the worlds power to do Gods work. Some Christians seem to believe that they can hasten the coming of Gods kingdom by achieving certain political goals. Yet at the end of the story, and for all their vaunted power, the kingdoms of this world can neither destroy Gods work, nor establish it. They are merely tools in the hand of a sovereign God who is able to declare the end from the beginning because he alone ultimately controls the affairs in men and nations.

This truth is of great practical value to each of our lives. We all experience times when our existence seems caught up in a larger conflict that is completely out of our control. Perhaps our job is threatened when a manufacturing plant is closed by corporate authorities located thousands of miles away. Perhaps political decisions or terrorist acts that are beyond our power to influence threaten our freedoms and lifestyle. Our health, or the health of someone we love, may be threatened by a disease against which we have no ability to guard. We live in a great big world and we are ever so small.

 

Next, we see the rule of the northern Kingdom delivered into the hands of a familiar face, one that we spent some time looking at in Daniel 8: 9-14. Let’s read Daniel 11:21-35:

In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. 22 Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, even the prince of the covenant. 23 And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully, and he shall become strong with a small people. 24 Without warning he shall come into the richest parts[e] of the province, and he shall do what neither his fathers nor his fathers’ fathers have done, scattering among them plunder, spoil, and goods. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time. 25 And he shall stir up his power and his heart against the king of the south with a great army. And the king of the south shall wage war with an exceedingly great and mighty army, but he shall not stand, for plots shall be devised against him. 26 Even those who eat his food shall break him. His army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain. 27 And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed. 28 And he shall return to his land with great wealth, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. And he shall work his will and return to his own land.

29 “At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but it shall not be this time as it was before. 30 For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay attention to those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. 33 And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. 34 When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, 35 and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.

 

 

Antiochus IV, also referred to as Antiochus Epiphanes (a name given to himself, which means The Illustrious God) would rise up and become king. He was not the legitimate heir, but ascended to the throne through cunning, plotting and intrigue. And Scripture tells us that he was contemptable. He was cunning, he was ruthless, he was evil. He was, as we saw in Daniel 8 and we see here in Daniel 11, a foreshadowing, a type looking towards the end antichrist.

Antiochus would kill the high priest in Jerusalem and replace him with someone more politically pliant. He continued the battle between the Northern and Southern Greek kingdoms, sometimes doing well, but ended up having Rome start siding with the Southern kingdom, out manning his northern kingdom. He made deals and then broke them. He plundered the temple and was determined to exterminate the Jewish religion. When he was on one of his military campaigns in the south, there was a rumor that went around in Jerusalem that he had died. There was great rejoicing and a revolt and when he got back, he went ballistic on the Jews.

Antiochus is a great example of history repeating itself. Again, he is a type, a foreshadow of the antichrist. He has the heart of the antichrist. Very specifically and fully historically, this passage is talking about Antiochus IV. But we see rulers throughout history that could easily fit into this imagery.

In verses 31-35, we see again, some of what Antoichus did in Jerusalem and in the temple. He ordered all ceremonial observances of Yahweh forbidden. He murdered and butchered untold thousands of Jewish men, women and children, many mighty men and saints.

In December of 167 BC, he performed what we would come to know as the Abomination of Desolation. He erected an altar to Zeus on the sacrificial altar in the Temple of God and sacrificed a pig on top of it.

He was God in his own eyes. But when you go against God, there is only one outcome. You will lose. 3 years after desecrating the temple, Antiochus would die. He was not killed by man. He did not die in battle. He died, tradition tells us, from some sort of combination of a physical malady and mental issues.

More detailed, but non inspired by God, non-scriptural, accounts of Antiochus’ reign can be found in 1 & 2 Maccabees. This is the time and the events that led to the creation of Hanukah. As the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee fought back against the persecution from Antiochus, they were able to reclaim the temple and 3 years to the day after the desecration, the temple was rededicated with a new altar for burnt offerings.   At the rededication, as they lit the menorah, there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for 1 day. Through God’s grace and miraculous intervention, it burned for 8 days while they found a new supply of oil.

The Maccabees where those who, in verse 32, were “those who knew God,” and they were to stand firm and take action. We looked at 1 Corinthians 15 this week during prayer meeting and the last verse of that chapter reads Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

We are called both to stand firm and to take action. WE also see in verse 33, a mention of those who are wise. The wisdom is how we determine when and how to stand firm and when and how to take action. By being wise, we are to be prudent and understanding.

We use wisdom to know what to say. We use wisdom to know what not to say. We use wisdom to know how loud to say what we say. WE use wisdom to make sure that we share truth and not false. We share our wisdom with others.

Be wise. Stand Firm. Take Action.

 

Let’s finish up this chapter of Daniel, reading verses 36 through 45:

“And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. 37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.[f]

40 “At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack[g] him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through. 41 He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites. 42 He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train. 44 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction. 45 And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.

 

Now, all previous events, all of chapter 11 til this point, are able to be historically verified and, as I said, we know who all the people and what all the events are. Starting with v 36, we don’t have historical verification of who this applies to and we know from other things we know about Antiochus that these verses cannot fully apply to him. Some will argue that v 36-39 still applies to Antiochus. But most will read into this that there is a major time gap between verse 35 & verse 36.

For those who see the time gap in these verses, the rest of this chapter is looked as talking about the end time Antichrist. One of the things I appreciate is in verse 36 when we see “what is decreed shall be done.”

We see throughout this chapter that bad things only happen until its time is over, until the time is determined, that what is decreed shall be done. It helps us see that even the immense persecution of Gods people is subject to Gods timing, to Gods control, to Gods allowance, and Gods sovereignty.

Verses 37-39 we see that all deception regarding false gods will melt away. There will be no more pretenses. We will be face to face with two clear and disparate choices. Either we will believe in, trust and choose the God of the Bible, the one true God. Or we will decide that we will reject God and side with Satan, with the antichrist, with the god of self and whatever else we think we might gain from this choice.

Verses 40-45 finish up the chapter and we see that it is bracketed with the terms time of the end and he shall come to his end. And the battles that are described here are hard to fit into history. I think that, if we look at them in context, especially in the context of Chapter 11 being inextricably tied to chapter 10, that we see that this battles are a part of the spiritual battles that we caught a glimpse of last week, with the Gabriel, Michael and who knows who else battling the Princes of Persia, the prince of Greece, and who knows how many other fallen angels or demons.

And then, he shall come to his end, referring to the antichrist. And we see that to remember that no matter how bad things get here. God will end it. No matter how elections play out, no matter what our governors and our presidents say. No matter what, God is in control. And those who go against God and his work, those who make the wrong choice mentioned a few moments ago, their time will be brought to an end.

And so, I am going to finish up, I read a passage from Iain Duguid earlier and I want to leave us with the very next paragraph following that passage.

In such times of personal uncertainty, we need to cling firmly onto the knowledge that all the worlds events , from the greatest to the least, are not only known ahead of time to God, but are under his sovereign power to control. Even those actions that are initiated by godless men and women in pursuit of their own wicked purposes will ultimately achieve the LORD’s holy purposes (Acts 4:27-28). He is the first and the last; apart from him there is no God. He alone can foretell what the future holds because He holds it in his sovereign hand.

 

 

Let’s Pray

 

 

Daniel 10 God of All Nations: A Glimpse of Gods Glory

Daniel 10

God of All Nations

A Glimpse of Gods Glory

 

          Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 10. IF you do not have a Bible, if you do not own a Bible, please grab one from our table in the back as our gift to you.

Well, we have entered the endgame now. Chapter 10 through the end of chapter 12, which is the end of the book, are all telling about one vision that Daniel would receive.

As we get into this mornings text, we wont actually be getting into the vision yet, that will start next week as we get into chapter 11. This week we will set the scene and we will be introduced to some angels and possibly more. We will see a lot of behind the scenes ideas and revelations regarding spiritual warfare and prayer. One commentator says that this chapter shows that life is hard, and it shows why it is hard, and it shows us that we are not alone in this battle.

Sinclair Ferguson writes, “As we shall see, chapter 10 contains vital biblical insight into the nature of reality. It emphasizes that human causes and effects are not the only forces or influences operative in the history of the world.

 

          So, with that being said, lets go ahead and take a look at the start of our scripture this morning. WE will be looking at all of Daniel chapter 10, but we will be starting with verses 1-9. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to read along in your Bible, whether that’s the same translation, or another one that you prefer.

Daniel 10:1-9, Daniel records:

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict.[a] And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.

In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed,[b] and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

So, we see from the beginning that this chapter and the rest of the book takes place two years after the events of Chapter 9. I don’t know if it has any theological or practical application, but one thing I did find interesting is the pattern with the visions over the last few chapters. We had visions taking place in the first and the third year of Belshazzar, and now we see the visions taking place in the first and third years of King Cyrus.

Now, we do know that the timing of this does have some importance. See, in Ezra 1, taking place in the same year as Daniel chapter 9, we see this in verses 1-3:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.

 

So, some had already made their way back to Jerusalem from Babylon. They would have gone and been back in their home city and their home country. Now, we also see that they would have troubles back home as they attempted to rebuild the temple.

But Daniel didn’t go back to Jerusalem. There is no indication as to why. Likely he was too old. Certainly, God still had work for him to do here in Babylon. As we see through this chapter, God needed someone, Daniel, who would do, as one commentator says, “The hidden and strategic work of prayer for the defense AND the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”

Daniel knew about the troubles that they were having in Jerusalem. He had, at this time, dedicated himself to three weeks of mourning and prayer and fasting. The way that he says it, it seems Daniel is adhering to the same diet he spoke of and held to in Chapter 1. My guess is that he didn’t just randomly remember this event from 70 years ago, but this was a regular or semi-regular thing, too fast in this way.

Ezra 4:4 tells us:  Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build.

 

          We know that in this world, in our spiritual walk, we will have ups and downs. We will have spiritual highs and lows. Daniel was excited to see the fulfillment of Gods promise. He would have been overjoyed to see those in Exile return to their homeland. And he would have likely been heartbroken and for sure disappointed to see and hear about the struggles going on in Jerusalem.

But what Daniel took from all of this was not a lose of faith, or to doubt God, but all of what happened, highs and lows, good and bad, all of it drove him to prayer. And Daniel knew a truth that St John of Chrysostom put into words about 8 centuries later when he said, “God is everywhere. You decide whether you are close to him or not.”

          Daniel knew that God was still at work. He knew that God would continue and finish keeping his promises.  He knew a spiritual principle that one commentator says this way: Knowledge of Gods work of grace in the past encourages us to trust Him and seek His blessing in the present and for the future.

 

          V4 gives us the exact location and date of Daniel when all this happens. He was on the banks of the Tigris river, possibly only 20 miles from Babylon. Still well within the Persian empire. We can figure out through the date that the three weeks that Daniels was fasting and praying included the Passover. That’s how serious he was, that he did not observe and celebrate the Passover. Again, the Passover was to celebrate God leading his people out of slavery and a foreign land and leading them back to their homeland, the promised land.

 

As Daniel is there by the river, he lifted his eyes up and saw an appearance. He looks up and sees one described like we saw in the scripture reading this morning in Ezekiel 1 and like described in Revelation 2.

Did he see Jesus?

Did he see Gabriel?

Did he see Michael?

Did he see someone else entirely?

None of the answers are satisfactory, they all have reasons why not. Michael is mentioned separately in v 13. Gabriel has been mentioned before and not described like that. I lean towards it being Jesus. The reasons being, the description Daniel gives, the clothing and the appearances, give the impression of Jesus threefold office of prophet, priest and king. We haven’t talked much about this before and we don’t have much time today, but we see each of these offices from God in the Old Testament and Jesus is the fulfillment of these offices. He is the better prophet, the better priest and the better King. Also, the type of reverence, the reaction to seeing the person that Daniel saw is usually reserved for an appearance of Jesus.

Ferguson says about this, “More important than identifying the figure- it was, aside from that indefinable reality, a vision- is recognizing the impression the vision is intended to create. Even if the figure is not divine, Daniels vision is still essentially theophonic in nature because it communicated to him a sense of the omnipotence and all-gloriousness of God.

          And Daniel was the only one who could see him. This is very similar to Acts chapter 9, where Saul was on his way to Damascus and Jesus appeared to him. Those who were with Paul heard and knew something was going on, but only Paul could see Him. Daniel was the only one who could see this vision, this appearance. The rest of those with Him turned and ran away.

 

We see in scripture that the typical response to seeing an appearance by an angel or a heavenly body is usually the same. We see fear and trembling. We see Awe and shock. Daniel says here that he had no strength and that his appearance was fearfully changed. And he heard the sound of words, which along with what we will read in verse 11, seems to imply that he was not understanding the words being spoken at that point.

 

Let’s go ahead and read the rest of the chapter and continue our journey through the text. Daniel 10:10-21, he continues:

 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”

15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. 16 And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. 17 How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”

18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

 

          The touch makes Daniel fall to his knees and tremble. But he tells Daniel, you are greatly loved, now understand the words that I am saying. Your prayers have been heard from the very beginning. He is saying, your prayers worked, they were heard. I am here because of your prayers.

I’ve always lived what EM Bounds has to say about prayer:

What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.”

 

And from this, we see the curtain pulled back a little bit. We get a glimpse of the spiritual warfare going on between angels and demons. We see behind the scenes, into the unseen world that is not flesh and blood, but powers and principalities.

This is why it took three weeks for this appearance, for this vision to come to Daniel. OITs not that Heaven is three weeks from Earth, but rather that there were obstacles and diversions that needed to be dealt with.

We know, from scripture, Job 1, etc., that fallen angels, demons, have real power, but their power is limited by God. They could not stop Gods plans or his message, all they could do is delay it a bit. And even that is because God, in his complete sovereignty, allowed it to be so. We don’t know why, we probably never will, but we know it to be so.

There is a lot that we see from scripture that we know to be true, even when we don’t have any idea how it works or why it works. How our prayer affects this unseen spiritual battle is one of those things. But we are told it does. Daniel has been praying. HE is a prayer warrior. He knows and has seen time and time again the evidence of Gods Sovereignty and control over everything. But I don’t think even he could have had any notion of the reality of angles and demons locked in perpetual battle and the role prayer would play in it.

Listen to Abraham Kuyper speak on these things:

If once the curtain were pulled back, and the spiritual world behind it came to view, it would expose to our spiritual vision a struggle so intense, so convulsive, sweeping everything within its range, that the fiercest battle ever fought on earth would seem, by comparison, a mere game. Not here, but up there- that is where the real conflict is waged. Our earthly struggle drones in its backlash.

 

          This is not something we often like to think about. That Satan and his fallen angles are real, and they are active. Our two reflexes are to either credit him too much power or to not give him not enough. HE either give him too much credit by blaming him for everything that goes wrong in this world.

“The Devil made me do it.” That’s the common refrain. The reality is that we are sinful people. We did it because we wanted to. We did it because we did not resist temptation. We did it because of our sinful nature. He does not have the power to make us sin. Especially if we have been set free from sin, we are not bound to sin, we are not bound to give in to temptation. We still, in our earthly, fleshly bodies, still have our sin nature, but we are not bound by that sin.

On the other side, there is a great quote, from somewhere earlier, but I know it from a movie. The Greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he didn’t exist.  People today don’t believe. If they can’t see it, touch it, feel it, study it, test it, they don’t believe it. And if they don’t believe, then they are not on guard against it and they definitely won’t pray against it.

When Paul writes in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare and putting on the spiritual armor, He ends with two things. First is to wield the only offensive weapon listed, the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. Knowing the Word of God and using it. Second, to pray at all times, in the Spirit.

Sinclair Ferguson gives us one warning about how we think of the power of prayer, saying: The power does not belong to the praying or to the prayer, but to God. Prayer has no power in and of itself; prayer is wholehearted dependence on God. It is a confession that we can do nothing, and that God alone can work.

IF we forget this, scripture is clear. God alone has the power. Again, as I said before, sometimes it can be hard to see how the truths of scripture work our mechanically or practically, but the truth of Scripture is that prayer matters and makes a difference and, at the same time, without contradicting, that God and God alone has the power to do anything.

After getting a glimpse of the spiritual world, Daniel again says that he has no strength in him. The vision and message have drained him of his strength. But he was told to be strengthened and he was.

Once we encounter the glory of God, we cannot be unchanged by it. Once we have encountered Jesus Christ, He will change us. And that’s a good thing. That encounter, Gods grace poured out on us, delivered to us by the faith that is given to us in Jesus Christ is what changes us from sinners deserving of Hell, to saints, given mercy and forgiveness by God.

As the messenger gets ready to tell Daniel the vision, he also lets him know that he will have to return soon to continue the battle, first against the prince of Persia, then later against the prince of Greece.

Now, of course we know these are spiritual opponents primarily, but I believe also, based on the vision coming up, a hint as to what’s to come at this point in history. We have already seen numerous visions referring to the kingdom of Greece coming up, and that’s what we will see in the vision that Daniel is about to get.

But the messenger ends by telling Daniel that he is going to tell him truth. Only Michael is by his side as he fights these enemies. This is two angels, or something like that. Two entities doing Gods will, fighting against a whole host of Gods enemies and they are enough. One of the would be enough if God wanted it done, truth be told. But again, God is allowing some power, for a time and for a purpose that we don’t ultimately know. We also don’t know the affect our prayers have on these battles, only that they do have an effect.

And so, prayer is the biggest takeaway today. Praying as if the future and Gods Kingdom depend on it. IT doesn’t, not quite. But God gave us a mission. Going back to the beginning of this sermon. God needs someone to do ““The hidden and strategic work of prayer for the defense AND the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”

If this is scary or overwhelming, I get it. Prayer is not my spiritual gift. But it doesn’t have to be. Be encouraged by Romans 8:26:  Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words

 

          It doesn’t matter where you start, just start. Let God do the work, you be faithful to him. Pray what you see in scriptures. Pray for his will to be done. Pray for those spiritual battles going on that we have no idea about. Just pray. With the right heart, the right motivation, God will hear, and God will answer.

Speaking of, let’s go ahead and end in prayer.