Luke 2:21-38 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus is Dedicated

 

When I get them uploaded, this will be updated to included a video of the baptism that occurred after this sermon!

 

Luke 2:21-38

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus is Dedicated

 

 

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 2. If you do not have a Bible, please see me after the service so we can give you one as our gift to you.

Last week we saw God become man. God clothed in flesh. Jesus the Christ was born a human baby boy. And as a human baby boy, he did all the things that a baby does. He cried, despite what some Christmas songs tell you. He nursed and ate. He dirtied his diaper. He was a human baby boy and all that that entailed. ZI saw those things not to sound crass our irreverent. Instead, to remind us all that he was indeed a baby and a human being. He was also God, but He was fully both, not part one, part the other, or fully one instead of the other.

As a human baby boy, we read earlier this morning that Jesus was born under the law, meaning that he was required to keep the law that God handed down. Failure to keep the law would mean that Jesus sinned, fell short of the glory of God and would not be able to be our salvation.

And what we are going to see today is Mary & Joseph doing the things that they are supposed to do under the law after having a baby, and especially a son. And we will see two affirmations of Jesus being not just a baby boy, but also God himself.

Let’s go ahead and read this mornings passage, Luke chapter 2, verses 21 through 38. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. The important thing is not which translation you read, but that you read the Word of God for yourself, so please read along as I read the passage. Luke 2:21-28, Luke, inspired by the third part of the trinity, himself fully God, the Holy Spirit, records:

 

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant[e] depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.[f] She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

So, we start off with some more parallels that Luke makes between Jesus the Christ and John the Baptist. On the eighth day, his parents took him and had him circumcised according to the law of Moses. As was custom of the day, they also officially named him that day. Both Mary, back in Luke 1:31 and Joseph in Matthew 1:21 were told by angels to name the son Jesus. And that’s exactly what they did.

Sometime after that, likely 40 days after his birth, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to have him dedicated. For the timing of the dedication and the required sacrifice, we go all the way back to Leviticus 12. It reads:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation. And she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.

“And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons,[a] one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”

 

Mary and Joseph were observant, obedient and righteous. They went to the temple. They brough their sacrificial offering with them. From this we do see that Mary and Joseph were not well off. They were poor and working class and we know this because she brought a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Once again, this early in Luke, we see who Luke sees is important to God. God shows up and appears to and pursues those who are poor and lowly, especially, and specifically the poor in spirit. Kent Hughes notes: “Here we again see that Christianity began and always begins with a spirit of need- spiritual destitution.”

He continues later: “God did not and does not come to the self-sufficient. This is a truth we need to remind ourselves of again and again. Christianity wrongly understood gives some an illusive sense of personal spiritual adequacy. Even the born again can wrongly turn spiritual advances into prideful self-sufficiency- a sense that one has arrived. We must continually guard against this within ourselves. Our only adequacy is in Christ.”

 

Mary and Joseph were not the established. They were not rich and powerful. They were righteous, but they were nobody. They were not known by anybody outside their family and immediate neighbors. They were poor materially; they were poor in spirit. And they God sends an angel to tell them that they are going to miraculously give birth to the savior, the Messiah, the Christ. They do this, and yet she gives birth in a manger, the poorest of situations. Then the shepherds show up and tell them what they have seen! Now, they go to the temple and dedicate Jesus and we see two more examples of God affirming and confirming who Jesus really, truly is.

Luke likes his pairs and parallels. We saw that with Mary and Elizabeth. We see this with John and Jesus. We will see that often further on in Luke’s Gospel and we see this today with Simeon and Anna, two prophets, waiting at the temple, praying, and serving the LORD.

Simeon was waiting for the Messiah. It is presumed he is a very old man at this point, though that is inference. He was waiting for God to redeem his people and was filled with the Holy Spirit. God revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the LORDs Christ, the Messiah, the promised one from God.

What we pull from this is not that we won’t die before God does this or that we wont die before God does that, but as one commentator writes: Once he (Simeon) had this promise, Simeon patiently waited for its fulfillment. This is what it means to be a believer: it means waiting in faith for God to do what he has promised. How often Simeon must have walked the streets of the city, waiting for the salvation that God had promised to give.

 

And on this day, Simeon “just happened” to be at the temple, in the right place at the right time. We know of course that it was not coincidence, but that God directed this.

And you can just imagine Simeon, as he lays his eyes upon this baby being dedicated. He would have seen, probably hundreds or thousands of babies as he was waiting for this one.  But he saw Jesus and he just knew. He grabbed him, held him and let out praises to God.

He was so excited that God kept his word. He got to see the Messiah! He could go home now. He had been blessed by God and now got to see the blessing of God, for the rest of the World.

And what Simeon said here would have been either confusing or nearly blasphemous if many had overheard him in the temple. The first part would have been just confusing, as we have looked at in recent weeks. Simeon looks down at baby Jesus, born to these two poor people and declares him the LORDs salvation.

This was not how the savior was supposed to come. He was supposed to be a mighty warrior, coming down and freeing Israel from the captivity of what nation was oppressing them, which at this point in time was Rome. He was supposed to militarily defeat and drive them out, then physically take the seat of the throne of David in Jerusalem. That was what was expected, not this baby born to a couple of paupers.

And yet, Simeon says my eyes have seen your salvation. And he is not just a part od our salvation or a means to our salvation, but he is our whole salvation. Kent Hughes writes on this statement by Simeon: The Baby Jesus was and is God’s salvation. Moreover, he did not say, “My eyes have seen part of your salvation!” Christ is totally sufficient. He is all we need! True Peace comes only when we, like Simeon understand that salvation is Jesus Christ plus nothing- and rest our souls in him alone.

 

This baby Jesus would bring salvation to all Gods People. And this is where it would become controversial to those in the temple. Its controversial to some today. Simeon says:

for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

Wait? What did Simeon just say? He said salvation for your people Israel, I got that… But did he say just say something about the gentiles too? He must be getting a little bit too old, too much frankincense this morning or something.

Simeon shared the good news of the Gospel, that ALL people are able to receive salvation. This is a light for revelation to the Gentiles. And glory for Israel. God opened this up to the gentiles! This was unheard of. But God makes it clear in the scriptures that all who believe will be called Israel. Both believing Jews and believing Gentiles are what make up Gods people. And God sent his son to save all of his people.

Now, it seems likely that it may have only been Mary and Joseph who heard Simeons words. But they heard these things and as they were want to do, they marveled at them. We don’t see anything of Joseph after the childhood of Jesus, whether because he wasn’t part of the story or because he died or whatever. But Mary and Joseph struggled with who and what exactly Jesus was. They heard and believe the angels. The heard and pondered in their hearts what the shepherds said. They marveled here at what Simeon said. They believe this but they didn’t fully understand it. And there’s no indication that they ever really did. At least not until after his resurrection.

Simeon then turned his attention from God himself over to Mary. And he says two things of note here. First, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, Now, most people look at this and read it one of two ways.

RC Sproul sums them: If the “fall and rising” applies to one group, then it means that they must be humbled in repentance before they can rise into salvation. If it describes two groups, then it indicates that those who reject Jesus will fall eternally, but those who accept him will rise to be with God.

Now, the good news is that both of those statements are 100% biblically accurate, so it doesn’t matter which side you fall in in regard to which Simeon meant. But next we see him say to Mary that a sword will pierce through her soul.

This was going to cost Mary. She was going to see her son look crazy, teach things that most did not understand, be reject by nearly everyone and then, finally killed and crucified. This was not going to be easy for her. She did not have any of those indications yet of course. But we can clearly see that this is what Simeon was referring to.

Next, we meet Anna. Now, her, her we know that she is older and who she is and where she is from. We see she was married for 7 years before her husband passed. The next tidbit is hard to translate. Mine says that she lived as a widow until she was 84 years old. Some may say that she was widowed for 84 years, putting her age at over 100. It changes nothing either way. She was old and had been widow for the vast majority of her life. She used that time to be dedicated to serving the LORD. She went to the temple every day and worshipped and prayed and fasted.

Interestingly, she is a perfect model for what Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:5, saying: She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, Part of Paul’s context is that we are devote ourselves to the work of the LORD instead of opening up ourselves to idleness which allows the devils temptations to creep in.

Anna came up and saw who was in the temple that morning and she began to give thanks to God and speak of him to everyone.

Oh, that we would all continue to be that excited for Jesus and the work of God, even at possibly over 100 years old! What an example and what a testimony!

Anna responded as all those who truly encounter the living God will be called to respond. She gave thanks for Christ and the works he has done for us. And then she went out and told everyone about him.

 

Now, we have seen here this morning that Luke shows us two ways that we can see Jesus Christ as truly man. We see him circumcised as a baby, on the eighth day, as prescribed by law. We saw him brought to the temple and dedicated, with Mary and Joseph providing animal sacrifices for the cleansing of sins.

We also saw two witnesses testifying to the fact that Jesus is not just any baby, but is in fact, truly God. Simeon and Anna testified to this. And its funny to me that Mary and Joseph, taking part of the sacrificial system of the blood of animals temporarily atoning for ones sins, brought with them  a baby boy who would grow up, live the life and finish the sacrificial system once and for all, shedding his perfect blood and atoning for the sins of all who, through the grace of God giving us faith in Jesus Christ our LORD, respond to Christ in faith and repent of our sins.

 

 

Lets PRay

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 1:39-56 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 1:1-4 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 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 9, pt 2 God of all Nations: Eternal Jubilee

Daniel 9

God of all Nations

Eternal Jubilee

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel Chapter 9. If you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab on off our back table as our gift to you.

Last week, we look at the first 2/3 of Daniel chapter 9, specifically the prayer that Daniel prayed to God. What a prayer it was. Daniel confessed his sins and the sins of Israel and Judah. He recognized Gods glory, his sovereignty, his wrath, his justice and his mercy.

He recognized and placed his hope and faith in the covenant relationship with God and his people. We didn’t use that word too much last week, but we will touch on that some more this week.

Daniel knew that God had put Jerusalem into exile in Babylon. He knew that God had made a promise to restore his people out of Exile. He knew that that time was close, and he saw the beginnings of the fulfillment of that promise.

This sight, seeing the beginnings of the fulfillments of these promises did not let Daniel sit back and wait for God to finish his work. Instead, it sparked him to prayer more, harder and more fervently. It sparked him to action instead of passivity.

And we left off last week with the last recorded words of Daniels prayer as we pleads with God to hear his prayer, to act, to forgive and to fulfill his promises, not because of anything about Daniel or Gods people, but for Gods glory and His sake.

So that was in verse 19, so we will pick up this week in Daniel 9, starting in verse 20. We will start with verse 20-23. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 9:20-23, Daniel records:

 

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

 

 

May God Bless the reading of His Holy and Inspired Word.

 

What we see first, how most theologians and commentators read this passage is that before Daniel had even finished his prayer, Gabriel came flying in. Gabriel came down, sent by God, flying swiftly & interrupted his prayer.

And this is important. This is the context for all that we will be talking about this morning. The context for everything that Gabriel says and that Daniel records is in response to Daniels prayer. That is absolutely vital to understand if you want to have an accurate idea of what God is trying to communicate here at the end of Daniel chapter 9.

God hears and answers prayers. Gabriel is coming down and says that Your prayers for mercy were heard and this is an answer. I’m here to give you a vision about how your prayer will be answered.

Its important to see this. God hears our prayers immediately even when his answers are long in coming. He answers every prayer, even when we don’t see it, and even when it’s the opposite of what we prayed.

Now, this vision that we are about to read is universally cited as one of the most complex passages in scripture. Entire views on what is going to happen at the end times are built on this passage. But again, many of those are taking these verses out of context of the rest of the chapter, and specifically as an answer to Daniels prayer.

Here is what I want to say before we look at the next few verses. Many of us will disagree with each other. That’s ok. Your (and mine) Study Bible notes are written by human beings and are not inerrant. Commentaries and theologians are human beings and not inerrant. The pastors and preachers and teachers that taught you when you were learning the Bible are human beings, not inerrant. I am a human being and not inerrant.

I will touch on some of the things that some of you will think are the right view, but I will be sharing Gods Word and what I see as the most biblically consistent view of what these verses mean.

Now, lets read Daniel 9:24-27, the vision that Gabriel shared with Daniel:

 

“Seventy weeks[c] are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.[d] 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again[e] with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its[f] end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week,[g] and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

 

 

So, Jerusalem specifically, and Judah as a whole, had been in exile for coming up on 70 years. We looked last week at a few of the prophecies that led to Daniel knowing that 70 years were the time frame here, specifically in Jeremiah. And remember that this is the context of Daniels prayer, saving and delivering Jerusalem from this exile. Gabriel, speaking on Gods behalf, plays off of those 70 years and says that 70 weeks have been decreed. A time period is coming relating to those 70 years that just passed.

Before we get into what the 70 weeks are, and there are numerous possibilities, we need to ask What is Gods Purpose in those 70 weeks? And thankfully, that’s an easy answer. What the 70 weeks are, that is difficult to suss out, but what they accomplish and bring about, God answers clearly and directly in the text.

He lists 6 things that are coming, that will be accomplish with this vision. 6 things he lists in verse 24 for us to look for in the fulfillment of this vision. Those six things are:

To finish the transgression

To put an end to sin

To atone for iniquity

To bring in everlasting righteousness

To seal both vision and prophet

And Finally, to anoint a Most Holy Place.

 

Think on those for a moment. Rest in those for a moment. What, or more accurately, who does that make you think of?

 

That’s right, Jesus Christ. This vision, this prophecy is about the one who would come and rescue true Israel from their spiritual bondage. This is the context of what is being said. One is coming, and just like we see with types and shadows in the Old Testament, we see God delivering national Israel our of their physical exile and bondage here after 70 years. We see that pointing to God sending Jesus Christ to deliver Spiritual Israel from their bondage to sin and their exile in this land after 70 weeks.

All of these things were accomplished with the Birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is also a reminder that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. He is the Word. All of the scriptures are about him. And so, we interpret Old Testament prophecies in light of what the New Testament teaches. This is easy when the New Testament says, like it does often in Matthews Gospel, “This was to fulfill the prophecy…”

But even outside of that, The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. And so, with this vision that Gabriel reveals to Daniel, the New Testament fulfills that in Jesus Christ.

And what’s important to see is that we may not see the ultimate completion of all these things yet, but they are already accomplish. Jesus death on the cross and resurrection from the dead show that he has defeated death and sin. Some will say, but death and sin are still in this world. That’s true. And there will be until Jesus comes back. That doesn’t mean that he won’t accomplish ending sin then. What Jesus accomplished with his first coming, he will consummate with his second coming. One commentator says that what Jesus achieved in principal, is still awaiting its final consummation.

So, when Jesus returns, the victory over sin that he accomplished on the cross will be fully consummated. We see partial fulfillments today. We see in those who have given their life to Christ, that the Holy Spirit has changed their hearts from one of stone to one of flesh. We have been freed from our bondage to sin and are now slaves of Christ. The change in our lives, the sanctification over the life of a believer is that process of death already being defeated, but not yet being fully consummated.

Next, we see that the 70 weeks were decreed to atone for iniquity, or to atone for sins. We know that Jesus death on the cross was done to atone for the sins of many. He paid the penalty for sins that we couldn’t pay. He paid it permanently where the sacrificial system of the Old Testament made temporary atonement.

But Christ came to pay a permanent substitute for our sins. Isaiah prophesied in that He would “pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:21, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:24:  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

And a few verses later, 1 Peter 3:18, For Christ also suffered[b] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

Simply put, Jesus Christ made atonement for sin and was our substitute in doing so. He fulfilled the prophecy with his death on the cross.

In doing so, He brought in everlasting righteousness. He did this and does this in two ways. First, by God’s grace, through our faith in Jesus Christ and the work that he did, we are now clothed in Christs righteousness and we will be forever. His righteousness ins everlasting. Once we are clothed in it, we cannot and will not have his righteousness taken away. It is an everlasting righteousness.

And second, a battle that was fought on the cross and won with the resurrection, will be consummated and fully fulfilled when Jesus comes for the second and last time and wipes out all sin and death, all unrighteousness and established his Kingdom, a kingdom of everlasting righteousness.

Next, we are told that the 70 weeks are decreed to seal up both vision and prophet. Jesus sealed up the age of prophecy and sealed up visions as Gods last word. He sealed up visions and prophecy by vindicating them through fulfillment.

Sam Storms say it very well, writing:

The fifth purpose, ‘to seal up vision and prophecy, means that ‘the period of preparation and type, characterized by the visions which the prophets received and proclaimed, will be sealed up, because its purpose has been completed. It will no longer be needed, since the Messianic age has come, and its work is finished.”

 

The last of the purposes of the 70 weeks is that anoint a most holy place. During the temple times, the Holy of Holies was the inner chamber of the temple, it was the part of the temple where God dwelt. It was where his presence resided here on Earth.

The physical temple building is no more. It was destroyed for the final time in 70 AD when Rome sieged Jerusalem. But we see, through the things that Jesus said during his earthly ministry, that he is now the fulfillment of the temple. He is the Holy of Holies. And at his baptism we see in Acts 10:38, God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.

Jesus Christ in his birth, life, death and resurrection fulfilled and accomplished each of those 6 things that Gabriel told Daniel would be accomplished.

And it is in that context, with the New Testament interpreting the Old Testament that we look at the rest of this passage. The Messiah is coming. Jerusalem will be return from exile. And that’s just the start.

Jerusalem’s exile would end, but their rebellious hearts would continue. And their continued rebellion would demand a final fulfillment as well. Jesus the Messiah came. Jesus the Messiah fulfilled all of verse 24. Jesus the Messiah was rejected and put to death. That rejection, the murder and execution of Gods son will come back in the last verse also.

Gabriel, speaking for God, uses the language and imagery that Daniel would at least partially be able to understand and uses the context of Daniels prayer when we decree 70 weeks.

Some believer that there is very precise mathematical and calendrical fulfillment and meaning to these 70 weeks. That some of the weeks are past and one of the years is still in the future. There is thought to be an indefinite gap between the 69th week and the 70th week. That the last week will start with the secret rapture and will be the Great Tribulation, ending with the 3rd coming of Christ, with the rapture being the second numerical coming, and the third being what scripture refers to s the second coming.

Through that lens of scripture, the last two verses of this chapter are seen to be about the anti-Christ and the war against the Jews and a 3 and ½ year pact with Israel.

I believe that this is not the case. I think that this throws out the context of the chapter, Daniels prayer, what Gabriel has already said.

First, I don’t see any biblical evidence for an indefinite gap between the 69th and 70th weeks, especially if there is not one between the first 7 and the middle 62. And no one argues that that gap does exist.

The number 7 is so often a symbolic number, standing for completion. 70 is that completion but amplified and perfected. IN Matthew 18:21 & 22, we read:

 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

The ESV says 77 times, many versions, including the New King James, say 70 times 7. Peter knew that Jesus wasn’t saying that he only had to forgive 77 times. It was the number for ultimate completeness. When Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness, his perspective was too small. God had a much grander view, on a much bigger scale.

In the same way, Daniels perspective here in this prayer, while valid and good and understandable, was much smaller than what God had in store. Gods plans include, not immediate gratification, but gradually coming to fruition, on a much grander scale that we can think or see.

The 70 weeks is almost universally understood to mean 490 years, with each week being 7 years. The original wording is not weeks, but seventy sevens. Just like the 70 years of Jerusalem’s exile has a problem figuring out the exact starting and ending yeas if its taken literally, there is no agreement on when the 70 weeks starts exactly or whether it’s literally exactly 490 years or rounded to 490 to fit the symbolism of perfect completion.

God gave the immediate and physical answer to Daniels prayer when, in 538, the year of or the year after this takes place, King Cyrus decreed that the Jews be allowed to return to Jerusalem. This makes the most sense to me about the start of the 70 weeks.

After 69 weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. Of this verse, Sinclair Ferguson writes: This event, mysterious to Daniel, becomes clear in the light of the Gospels. During this same period of sevens, Jerusalem and the rebuilt temple will be destroyed. The entail will be desolations.”

The destruction of the temple is what is being referred to when it says the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. Physically on earth, this is the Roman General Tacitus. Spiritually, ultimately, we know this refers to the prince of this world, Satan himself.

Some see verse 27 referring to the antichrist making a covenant, a pact with Israel, then breaking it and waging war with them. I believe the context says the exact opposite. The he referred to here is still and always Jesus Christ. Jesus died and rose from the dead, he shed his body and blood to bring to us a New Covenant. The Old covenant was one that was continually ratified and confirmed through sacrifice. The New Covenant was confirmed through one sacrifice, to end all sacrifices. Jesus Christ came as a ransom for many. He gave his life; he sacrificed his life so that many would live and have eternal life.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the temple and he is the final sacrifice. There will not be another temple and there will not be a restoration of the sacrificial offerings. This New Covenant is what has been instituted and accomplished through Jesus Christ and it will be finally, completely and perfectly fulfilled in his Second Coming.

Daniel, having read, as we saw last week, Jeremiahs writings, would have surely been aware of and have read Jeremiah. Jeremiah 31:31-34 shows us a beautiful prophecy about the New Covenant:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

 

Iain Duguid writes about the covenant mentioned here in verse 27, being the New Covenant as well. He says:

It seems to me, therefore, most natural to see the covenant that is mentioned without further description in verse 27 as the new covenant, which will be confirmed in the final, climatic seven of world history. The seventieth seven is a kind of “jubilee” week, in which God restores all things to their proper state.

He continues:

IF that is correct, then clearly it is the Messiah who confirms the covenant with many and brings an end to sacrifice and offering. With the coming of Jesus into the world, and especially with his death and resurrection, the seventieth week has dawned. In Christ our jubilee trumpet has sounded, and the victory over sin and transgression has been won.

We are running long, but there is so much more that we can look at in these verses, I haven’t even barely touched upon the idea of the jubilee year that was the subject of our Scripture reading this morning and I think is the basis and foundation of the perfect completion of the 70 weeks and the 490 years.

If you have read and studied this passage and come to different conclusions than I, that’s ok. I hope you extend the same courtesy. I will finish up by sharing a story of one of the church fathers trying to figure out this passage. Duguid writes:

In 400 AD, one of the most brilliant scholars and linguists in the ancient church, the church father Jerome, wrote: “Because it is unsafe to pass judgment on the opinions of the great teachers of the church and to set one above another, I shall simply repeat the view of each and leave it to the reader’s judgment as to whose explanation ought to be followed.” He then listed nine conflicting opinions on the meaning of the passage, declaring himself unable to decide which one (if any) was right.

 

 

Regardless on where each of us come down on this, we do know that Jesus Christ died come and die for our sins, that his death and resurrection did institute the New covenant because he said so.

Paul writes it most clearly in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

That is what we celebrate every month, usually on the first Sunday of the month. Because I know the subject this week, I decided to wait till this week. We come to together to remember. Communion doesn’t save us. It’s not magical. It doesn’t wipe our sins away and it does not make us righteous. It is done in remembrance of what Christ did for us. IT is Gods grace through our faith in Christ that puts righteousness on us. It puts Christs righteousness onto us.

Like we did last month, we are going to do things a little bit different, due to taking some precautions for COVID-19. 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 8 God of All Nations: Knowing the Future in Advance

Daniel 8
God of All Nations
Knowing the Future in Advance

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel Chapter 8. As usual, if you do not own a bible or do not have a bible, please grab one from our table in the back as our gift to you.
This morning we are looking at Daniels second vision as recorded in his book. This vision is going to be different from the first in that this is going to much more historical, more specific and have a more speck and given interpretation.
Because this is going to be more focused on what, for us, is contained in the past, and it may seem to have less practical application. But it was all taking place in the future for Daniel and so we will see two major points that we can take from today. These two points are two major points that we have been looking at over the past number of weeks. There is not anything new in these two points that we haven’t been seeing.
First, God knows the future. He reveals the future in many instances in the Bible, one of the reasons He reveals the future is to show that He is indeed God. And God knows the future because he determines the future. And that leads to our second point. God is in control of all Nations. This is why we have named this sermon series “God of All Nations.” God is not just the God of Israel. He is not the God of only those who believe in Him. He is the God of everyone, everything and every nation. He is behind the rise and the fall of all nations. He orchestrates the rise and fall of all nations until, His Kingdom will be the only Kingdom left and will reign forever.
But back to the first point for a moment. God often in the scriptures “predicts” or prophecies the future, or he unveils specific details of the future that will come to pass in history hundreds or sometimes thousands of years in the advance.
He does this with the Israelite Exile that Daniel is in the midst of here in the book of Daniel. He does this with the birth of Christ. He does this with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. And what we will see this morning, he does it with the Greek empire and Alexander the great and another ruler, a type, or foreshadowing of the antichrist.
This vision is going to take a look at this morning in chapter 8 will fill in some of the gaps that were left in the 2 and 3 kingdoms of last chapters vision.

So, let’s go ahead and read the first part of Daniel chapter 8, we will look at the vison first, verses 1-14. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 8:1-14, Daniel records:

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some[a] of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression,[b] and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me,[c] “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy and inspired Word.

So, we are moving around in time again, as we pick up 2 years after the vision in chapter 7, before the events of chapter 5 take place. Remember that unless it is specified otherwise, rarely do the events of the Bible take place chronologically. We can get ourselves into trouble when we read through certain sections and try to take them chronologically. The other keynote is that Chapter 8, starting with this vision, is where Daniel switches back to Hebrew from Aramaic. There are some ideas as to why, though no consensus, but on surface level investigation, it seems to have to do with whether Daniel is addressing Israel or the nations as a whole.

Now, onto to the vision itself. Daniel saw himself, not aside some general sea, as he did before, but in a very specific location. This helps show that the vision is not in general about the future, but about specific events to come.
Daniel saw two animals. The first was a ram with two horns, the second horn being bigger than the other. This, we will find out, represents the Meado-Persian empire that was conquered Babylon and that Daniel was serving at the end of the historical section of the book. This was the empire symbolized by the bear in the vision in chapter 7.
One of the things we see with the two horns is that the horn that came second was bigger and stronger. Historically, this is quite accurate for the Meads and the Persians. The Persians came along second but were much bigger and much stronger than the other part of the alliance. This is also possibly alluded to in the bear where it says that he was raised up on one side.
The Meads and the Persians would come from the east and they would be all powerful. None, not even the all-powerful Babylon could end up standing against the powerful Ram with two horns.
Then, we see a goat coming from the west. He is not touching the ground, a reference to his great speed and striking power. Out of the goat was a great horn, representing a great leader. And they demolished the Ram with two horns.
In reality, this big horn would become Alexander the Great, whom he mentioned briefly last week. He became exceedingly great and he conquered the know world at the time. He only ruled for 10 years, dying young. And it only took him 4 years to crush the great and mighty Persian empire. But His empire did not last long. The Great horn was broken, to be replaced by four little horns. Out of one of those 4 horns, a little horn grew that is what much of our focus will be on this morning.
This horn, out of the four horns that had come up would be an evil and powerful, a cunning and ungodly ruler. He would wag ware on God and terrorize the Jews. WE will get into more specifics in a little bit, but he would deface and make unclean the Temple and he would put an end to the sacrifices for 2300 days.
Now, there is a lot of unknows about this number, including whether its literal or symbolic. There are no exact matchups in terms of time frames and dates matching, that we know of. Iain Duguid suggests that is a significant but limited period of suffering. I concluded that it is either symbolic or God has not revealed to us the exact fulfillment.
We see in verse 12 that it will be because of transgression that this ruler will be able to do the things that he does. Some see this as the ruler himself is transgressing by doing what he is doing. More likely this is the transgressions of Gods people that cause him to raise up this ruler and allow him to do his evil, for a time.
So, a lot of what we see here, a lot of the details that Daniel sees we will touch on after we read the next section, the interpretation of this vision, verses 15-27. Daniel continues:
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”
18 And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the goat[d] is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his[e] nation, but not with his power. 23 And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”
27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

All right, so we see again that Daniel doesn’t understand what he just saw! Now, yes, he understands some of it, and he will understand the big points. But this should be a big neon sign reminder that most often, WE WON’T UNDERSTAND PROPHECY AHEAD OF TIME! Please, let’s all remember that.

But the arch angel Gabriel comes along. Gabriel, who is only named here in Daniel and in Luke chapter 1, is going to interpret this vison for Daniel.
First, when is this vision for? Verse 17 tells us this is for the time of the end. This means the end of a time. This does not mean the end of time or the “end times.” This is the end of the time that is prophesied about in this chapter.
The Bible has a lot to say about the end times and the end of time. But just because it says a lot about that doesn’t mean that we should think that everything is about then. What happens is that Christians often end up looking like kids on a long car ride, continually asking God, “Are we there yet?” We will get there, there is no question about that, but we are not there yet, and only God knows when we will be.
This vision is not looking a few thousand years into the future. It is looking a few hundred years into the future. This vision is looking to the end of the Greek empire and the reign of Antiochus IV and there should be no less amazement at that just because the timing is different.
Gabriel identifies the ram with two horns as the Meads and Persians as we already looked at a few moments ago. Then he identifies the Goat as Greece. It has the great horn, which breaks. Then four horns grow out of it. Four kingdoms come out of the Greek kingdom.
The Greek kingdom is divided between 4 of Alexanders generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy. It is out of the Seleucid line that this other little horn will grow. None of these will be as powerful as the first, as Alexanders rule.
But at the end of the time of the Greek empire a King arises who would become a type, a foreshadowing of the antichrist. Antiochus IV, also referred to as Antiochus Epiphanes (given to himself, which means The Illustrious God) would rise up and become king. His power and his authority would not be his own we see in scripture.
Sam Storms comments on this, saying, “is an allusion either to God’s providential role in putting him in place or a reference to Satan’s energizing presence in his oppressive rule.”
It could also be both. Either way, he gets a glimpse of the spiritual warfare going throughout history. Satan was using this ruler to wage war on the people of God, and through them God himself. God ultimately is on control of all these things and allowed it to happen for a season and for a purpose.
The Jewish people have faced a lot of persecution over the years. When the persecution under Antiochus took place, it was by far the worst they had seen yet. I mentioned earlier that he ended the sacrifices in the temple for 2300 days. HE replaced the high priest with one of his own and then later had the real one assassinated. 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 Gods grace and miraculous intervention, it burned for 8 days while they found a new supply of oil.

As Gabriel finished up the interpretation of the vision, he told Daniel to seal it up, for it refers to many days from now. Duguid points out that to sela up is not to keep it a secret, but instead Daniel is to keep it safe during turbulent and troublesome times.
And this vision does take place many days from then. The time that Daniel received this vision was somewhere in the 550 BC range. Alexander the Great reigned and conquered from 333-323 BC. Antiochus IV ruled from roughly 171 BC till his death in 163.
Daniel obviously would not live to see the fulfillment of these visions and prophecies. Daniel, as we all are, are in time. We are a part of time. We go along in our lives in a chronological time flow and we can’t do anything in regard to that. God however is outside of time.
He created time. He is in the future, he is with us here today and he is with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and everywhere and every time in between, all at the same time. Time is more like a movie film, the actual film itself, spread out in front of him where he can see all the scenes all at once. So, these prophecies and visions where he “predicts” events hundreds and thousands of years in advance should not surprise us. It isn’t surprising him after all.

In the last verse if the chapter, we see that Daniel was sick over what he saw in these visions and that he didn’t fully understand it. Remember this is the guy who understood and interpreted two dreams by Nebuchadnezzar and the Handwriting on the wall (though that event would not have happened yet when Daniel got this vision). My point is that if anyone would understand this vision, we would expect Daniel to. Again, we are not going to understand all of or even much of the prophecies that we are looking at in Gods Word.

But Daniel wasn’t going to harp on and get down on himself based on what he saw. He had work to do. He had his life to live. He had to get up and continue on about the Kings business. I love the dual meaning here. First, Daniel was working in service of the King of Babylon, who was Belshazzar. That was his job and he had served three kings up till this point with at least one more to come. But this also alludes to out going about Gods business. He is our King and we serve him above all and any others.
God has put us here and now for a reason. For such a time as this, as Esther is told. One commentator says that to go about the business of our king is to “serve the culture with all the Ability that God gave us.”
And this is my big takeaway from Daniel chapter 8. We learn and we read, and we see these things going on around us and going to happen in the future and much of it is terrible and terrifying. And the end result will be glorious and will be worth it all. As Paul says in Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And those are super important things because they will help answer the big question. What does that mean for us here and today?

Sinclair Ferguson says this: Daniels attitude illustrates an important biblical principle: In view of what the future holds, we must live holy lives now. He caught a glimpse of realities that would take place centuries later. These events were shadows of the last conflict between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world.
He continues: How then shall we live? Passage after passage gives the same answer: Do the Kings business, walk in obedience, live in holiness, purify yourselves as He is pure.

God has called us for here and now and he has promised that he is coming, and he has won. But he has warned us that our focus should be on Him and today.
The other question I ask as I read this chapter is What was the purpose and reason for God sharing this vision he had given to Daniel?
Sone, I believe is to show the true nature of good vs evil. We see this vision, including some of the behind the scenes parts so that we would take spiritual warfare seriously. We remember that Paul writes that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but powers and principalities. Sinclair Ferguson says that this vision gives insight to the nature and causes of the conflict. We see the true nature of evil and how far it will go to try to win. As one theologian says, evil Finds attractive what is offensive to God precisely because it is offensive to God.
The other thing I think we see here is the consistent pattern of opposition that comes against the work of God. We see Antiochus trying to eliminate the sacrifices made to God. And he did for a stretch. We see that Satan was doing everything he could to eliminate the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
We see the desecration of the Temple of God by Antiochus. Today, we look around and what do we see, desecration of the temple in every sense of the word. Our bodies, giving in to every lust, ever temptation, every desire. Houses of God slandering the character of God, dismissing his word, deceiving and preaching as true what is false and evil. And Jesus Christ himself, dismissed as a fairy tale, as a good moral teacher instead of God, instead of the Messiah and the savior that he is.
We see lastly, the weakness of even the greatest and strongest of men. None can do anything, none can rule anything, none can live, without God. We have seen throughout this book that Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius all ruled their kingdoms because God allowed them too and set them up to rule. We see today the rule and reign of Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes are allowed, determined and set up by God, well ahead of time.
This isn’t just our physical lives either. Spiritually we are born dead into sin. Spiritually we are born dead and will remain dead unless and until God intervenes. And our God is a good and loving God who of course knew this ahead of time and God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit put into effect their rescue plan. The Messiah coming and redeeming us. Saving us by Gods grace, from the wrath of God. His blood shed, the penalty of sin, paid. Death defeated. We are then saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
And that salvation is what allows us to live the life that God has called us to live as we wait on the coming of Christ. We focus on and find our fulfillment, not in waiting, but in doing what God has called us to do, serve him and his kingdom. To use our gifts for his glory and the glory if the kingdom. To love our neighbors as our selves and to spread the good news of the Gospel.
Todd Friel has a Christian radio program called Wretched Radio and I’m going to steal his sign off call this morning before praying. Every day at the end of his show, without fail, you hear him say, Now, Go Serve Your King!
Let’s Pray

Daniel 6 God of All Nations: Daniel Ends Well

Daniel 6

God of All Nations

Daniel Ends Well

 

          Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel, chapter 6. So, During the whole shutdown thing, we started a series through the book of Daniel that we are calling God of All Nations. This was the overall theme of the book, that God is the God of all nations. He is sovereign over everything single thing in this universe. He is King over all people and nations even if they don’t believe so.

The first half of the book of Daniel, which we finish up today, is key parts of the life of Daniel and three of his friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. Even more than that, we are seeing parts of their lives in exile, away from their home in Jerusalem, captured and put into service in the kingdom of Babylon, and now, as of the last verse of chapter 5, the Medo-Persian Empire.

Babylon defeated Jerusalem and brought Daniel and his friends over to Babylon when he was roughly 15 years old or so. He served and gained the confidence of Nebuchadnezzar, probably his son, and then Belshazzar briefly, again, as we saw in Chapter 5. He is in his eighties at the point where the events of chapter 6 are going to take place.

We have seen over those almost 70 years, God work some amazing miracles to the rulers of these empires, and we have seen him prove that he is the Most High God. These unbelieving rulers have even declared that the God of Israel, the God of Daniel is a god above the other gods. You can obviously see there that there is not necessarily a saving faith, that God is not the exclusive God, but one of many gods. But it is saying something that they would see him as the greatest of the gods.

So, in Chapter 5, we saw the Babylonian empire fall and be taken over by the Medo-Persian empire and Darius the Mead was installed as ruler of Babylon.

I think that is all the pertinent information we need to jump back into the book of Daniel, and we will read and look at chapter 6 this morning. We are going to start with Daniel 6, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation as we read Gods Holy Word.

Daniel 6:1-9:

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement[a] to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

 

May God Bless the reading of His Word.

 

So, Darius becomes the ruler of Babylon and he starts to set up his government. He sets up different regional leaders called Satraps and he installs 3 vice presidents, or governors, three supervisors above the regional leaders, under only Darius himself. Daniel was one of those three supervisors.

Daniel’s reputation preceded him, and he continued to live up to that reputation of working hard, being completely honest and incorruptible. HE quickly rose above even the other two of the supervisors and made quite the name for himself. The text shows exactly what we have already seen Daniel do time and time again, and that is that the credit for all the Daniel was able to do was all because of God. The text gives credit to an “excellent spirit” in Daniel.

Daniel was doing such an impeccable job that Darius was going to set him up over the entire kingdom. All signs point to this being very similar to Joseph in Egypt, where he was technically not the King, but he was in charge of everything, answerable only to the King himself.

Now, of course, the other supervisors were totally jealous of Daniel. They wanted to get rid of Daniel. They didn’t do as good of work. They were typical of most politicians, both then and today. They didn’t want to put in the work. They wanted to get more out of the job, with the perks and the benefits, than they put in. Daniel wasn’t like that and it made them look bad.

So, they attempted a smear campaign against Daniel. Only there wasn’t anything about him to smear. They couldn’t find any transgressions. They couldn’t find any legal reasons to get rid of him. He was, in the words of 1 Timothy 3, above reproach.

And so, because they weren’t able to find any reasons to get rid of him, they had to make them up. They knew that the only thing that would cause Daniel to break a law of the kingdom is if it meant breaking a law of God. His loyalty to the King was under only his loyalty to God.

SO, they concocted this idea. Hey king, we all agreed. Let’s make it so that, for thirty days, no one may pray to or make petitions of the gods from anyone but you.

What they were doing was sinister. They were implying that Daniel was aware of and approved of the plan. They were appealing to the Kings pride and King and politician’s natural nervousness about their power base. This was not a religious law being passed, not in intent anyway. This was a way for King Darius to solidify his standing as the new King over Babylon. It was a way for him to consolidate his power. He would be the sole mediator between the people and the Gods. Of course we know what Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5,  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, But the satraps were tempting Darius with the very thing the serpent said to Eve in Genesis 3:15, saying, you too will be able to be like God.

 

          And of course, the punishment for anyone who betrays the King and doesn’t recognize his power and authority will be thrown to the lions. As was common in those days, in many of the cultures, once the king made a law, it was nearly impossible for that law to be changed or revoked. And so, Darius signed the decree and made the law into effect.

I want you to notice something about these satraps that plotted against Daniel. These were men who portrayed outward holiness and godliness. They acted as if they were serving the King and being public servants. But inside they were bitter, grumpy, their hearts were cold. The King didn’t see through it right away. When we encounter people like this, we can often not see through the outer façade right away. But eventually we do. When we look to see who people truly are, we can eventually see through the mask that people put on. These men, and so many today, even inside our churches are wearing a mask of godliness and yet they are mean spirited, they are deceitful, they are passive aggressive, and they take offense very easily.

We also must be careful not to be this ourselves. Things that are obviously easier said than done but start with not taking offense when others say something or do something that hurts or goes against you. We were discussing part of this Wednesday morning, but we are all human beings and none of us is perfect. Over the course of our lives, everyone in here will do something to everyone else in this room that will hurt, or will say something they shouldn’t have, or in whatever way sin against them. Our ability, through Christ and our duty is to forgive and move on. If someone sins against us, guess what, its entirely likely we also just accidently (or even more rarely, on purpose) sinned against Someone else.

Guard your hearts, not against others in this room, but against growing cold, bitter and distrustful. Guard your heart against taking easy offense and against shutting itself off from those around us.

 

 

Let’s continue with verses 10-18:

 

 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared[b] to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him

 

So, of course Daniel is put into a tough situation here. And what we are seeing is wave after wave of spiritual attacks coming against Daniel. Attacks from the enemy on his faithfulness and his perseverance. This is spiritual warfare, against powers and principalities. And Daniel has been putting on his armor of God. In Ephesians 6, where Paul lists out the Armor, he ends it in verse 18, saying praying always in the Spirit.

Daniel has been fighting these battles for almost 70 years now. We see another battle here. But one battle does not the war make. One thing we see often in scripture is that the temptations that the enemy slings at us grow stronger over the course of our life walking with Christ.

We see for example Jesus, who was tempted in the dessert right after his baptism. He was able to refute those temptations with scripture and go on. He faced a more ultimate temptation when he was faced with his impeding death. He prayed the night before, Father, if there is any other way, please take this cup from me.

The stronger our faith grows as we walk with Christ longer, the stronger the temptations need to be. The same temptation you get right after you respond in faith to Christ is nothing after you grow. The temptations grow and change as well. One commentator wrote: past faithfulness was not meant to be compensation for present unfaithfulness, it was preparation for more faithfulness.

When Daniel found out about the Kings decree, there was likely to be a temptation. We see Daniels normal routine. He went up to his open-air room, where he faced Jerusalem and he prayed to God three times a day. It likely was tempting to at least pray inside, where no one could see. It may have been tempting to adhere to the temporary law so as not to cause any trouble.

Daniel knew that the exiled Jews in Babylon time was coming near to an end. Jeremiah prophesied that the exile would last 70 years. Daniel knew that time was coming, and he clearly would love to go back and see his earthly home once again. But he clearly also had the same heart and attitude as Paul, who wrote in Philippians, to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Daniel did what Daniel does. He went straight home and started praying and he prayed just as he always prayed. Now, we all know how easy it is to get distracted when getting ready to pray. It could have been quite all day, but suddenly, the phone starts ringing off the hook. You could have been bored all afternoon, but you start praying and your To-do list starts flowing through your head. There’s a knock at the door. All the kids decide to jump off furniture and kill themselves all at the same time. Whatever it is, it always happens.

Daniel is showing us that we should focus on and surround ourselves with the things that drown out those distractions and help us to focus on God. One of those things in his case was his home city of Jerusalem. There is no way to think that this is a mandate or that his prayers were better or better received because he was facing this city, but he was able to focus on God and to focus his prayers better by doing so. Find those things that work for you.

Now Daniel wasn’t trying to hide, but neither was he trying to virtue signal. He was doing exactly what he had always done. And he started by praying thanksgivings to God. Its easy to pray our requests to God. Its easy to pray our questions. But especially in our tough situations, it can be hard to pray thanksgivings. And yet, that’s exactly what we should be doing.

I saw this JC Ryle quote this week. He said: Faith is to the soul what life is to the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to life. How a man can live and not breathe is past my comprehension. How a man can believe and not pray is past my comprehension too.

Again, Daniel was nothing if not predictable. He went and prayed just like he always did. The satraps knew he would and made sure they witnessed him praying. They went straight to the King and again, in their holy language, straight ratted Daniel out to Darius.

The king was greatly distressed at this. He did not want to throw Daniel in with the lions. He knew Daniel. He could trust Daniel. And know he realized that he had been tricked. He saw that the true purpose of this decree was to get rid of Daniel, not to honor or serve him. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to not throw Daniel in with the lions. But ultimately, he had no choice.

Daniel was thrown in with the lions. One of the things we see throughout the book of Daniel is that God does not save us from trials, but instead he saves us through our trials.

Darius regretfully sentenced Daniel AS he put him in, he prayed that Daniels God would save him from this death. Darius genuinely hoped God could do it, and I think genuinely thought God could do it. Its hard to see if he thought God would save Daniel. But that is at least a kernel of what might develop into faith.

Darius went right to his room and spent the night pacing, worrying, waiting. Let’s read the rest of the chapter, verses 19-28:

Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So, Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

As soon as the day broke, Darius ran down, moved the rock from the cave and yelled, Daniel? Has your God saved you? And He had! Daniel was just chilling down there; I picture him lying against one the lions.

Now, notice this. Darius was the King. He had every possible earthly luxury. Anything he wanted was at his disposal. But he was going against God and he had a miserable night. He was uncomfortable, irritable and had no peace. Daniel on the other hand was operating in Gods Will. He was thrown in a cold, dark, damp cave with a bunch of meat-eating lions, likely kept hungry for times just as this. But Daniel spent the night in Peace. He was much more comfortable and had a much better night than Darius Did. This is the power of the Hoy Spirit.

Daniel responded to Darius that he was indeed alive, and that God had sent an angel down to close the mouths of the lions. Hebrews 11 also says that is was the faith of Daniel that closed the mouths of the lions. Daniel was declared righteous in front of God and he had not done anything bad against the king.

The King was exceedingly glad and brought Daniel up out of the pit. The King was not glad about the satraps and those who conspired against Daniel, however. He threw them and their families down in the pit and the lions reacted quite differently, pouncing on them before they even hit the ground. Justice was swift and severe. And of course, we know that Darius was not able to control the lions. He didn’t decide that they would eat the officials and not eat Daniel. God decides what happens, not us here on earth. God is in control. He is supreme and sovereign overall things, even whether the lions do what lions do.

Darius then follows in the footsteps of Ol Nebby where he decrees that all his people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel and he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

 

And isn’t that what we have been hearing all book long? Especially and specifically that his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall. Darius and the Medo-Persians had just risen above and watched and caused the fall of the Babylonian kingdom. But the Kingdom of God will last forever.

We don’t see here a clear profession of saving faith by Darius here, we see that he acknowledges God as, in the words of Nebby, the Most High God, but not as the exclusive and only God. But we also don’t see the hedging that was apparent in Nebbys praises. So, we are left to wonder about the eternal destination of King Darius.

Daniel however finished well. He stayed faithful until the end. He was faithful in his work, his service, his living in his life regardless of the administration that was in charge and regardless of what was going on around him.

Daniel was the epitome of Matthew 5:16, where we are called to let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. We are to be salt and light to our world around us.

We don’t know anything about Daniels life after this. Did he make it back to Jerusalem? It seems unlikely. But the early church recognized the same truth we know today that Daniel himself and the book of Daniel are all types and foreshadowing the coming Christ. Just as Daniel was an exile, looking back to his true home, and Hebrews 13:14 tells us, for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

In all this, in all scripture, it is to be used to look forward towards Jesus. HE is the fulfillment of all things Bible. There are so many things that we see clearly are types and prophecies of Jesus, but there are so many more that we don’t realize. Iain Duguid writes on this regarding Daniel 6, saying:

Like Daniel, Jesus was falsely accused by his enemies and brought before a ruler, Pontius Pilate, who sought unsuccessfully to deliver him from his fate, before handing him over to a violent death. Like Daniel, Jesus was condemned to die, and his body was placed in a sealed pit so that his situation could not be changed by human intervention. Jesus trial went even deeper than Daniels, however. He did not merely suffer the threat of death. He went down into death itself. Although Jesus was innocent, he suffered the fate of the guilty ones. There was no angel to comfort him in the presence of God in his pit. On the contrary, he was left in the blackness, utterly alone and abandoned by God, suffering the fate that we, the guilty ones, deserved.

 

In the end, our ultimate verdict, whether ourselves or Daniel, is not based on our actions, our goodness or our obedience. Our verdict is based solely on the grace of God, given through our faith in Jesus Christ, all to Gods glory, above and everything else. Amen. If you have not repented and believed the Gospel, if you have not trusted and turned to Jesus Christ as your salvation, now is the time. IF you have, you, like Daniel are a citizen of an eternal kingdom that is to come as we live and serve as exiles in this kingdom today. May our lives, actions and faithfulness be salt and light to the lost world around us.

 

Let’s Pray.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Ambassadors for Christ

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Ambassadors for Christ

 

 

 

          Good Morning everybody! If you would, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 5. We are just going to take a few minutes today to look at some scripture. This is intended to be more of a short devotion or maybe a sermonette, than a full sermon.

What I want to do is show you one of things that I’ve seen over the past 2 plus months. I have seen a lot of Christians fighting and tearing each other apart over what’s right, over what’s wrong, and over how they think we should respond and react to the wrongs going on in the world around us.

And my point is not going to be that one way is clearly right or that one way is clearly wrong. I’m not here to say that one method or one decision or one reaction is clearly right or clearly wrong. I think there is a lot of leeway for Christian Liberty here.

But with the passage I’m going to share this morning, what we will see is that in all times, in all circumstances, in all situations, that we are to model Christlikeness to all people.

Its easy to forget that, as Christians, we are held to a higher standard than this world adheres to. Actually, kind of the point is that we are all held to the standard, but we acknowledge the eternal truth and reality of that standards, whereas no Christians do not recognize the authority of God to set that standard.

We are not held to the standard of the world. We are not held to the standard of society and culture. We are not held to the standard of America and the Constitution even. We are held to higher standards than that. We are held to harder standards. WE are called to die to our selves daily. We are called to bear our cross.

We are called not to respond to people and groups in the same way that they talk to us, how they act to us, or how they treat us. We are called to the standard of Christs righteousness.

This is a foreign concept to much of the world. This is a concept born of the flesh. The prevailing instinct is to treat others how they treat you, or worse, and often, before they get a chance to.

 

 

Every single life, every single human being is born in the image and likeness of Christ. This goes for Americans and non-Americans. This goes for Democrats and Republicans. This goes for Christians, Muslims, and Atheists. This goes for liberals and conservatives. This goes for black, white, brown, red, yellow, purple, green, polka dot and chartreuse.

Every single human life on earth is created in Gods image and likeness. This is the entire basis and the entire and full foundation of our pro-life position. If we do not believe this, we have no right to say anything is regards to the whole sale slaughter of millions of unborn babies.

Now, born in the image and likeness does not equal a child of God. It does not mean that all are saved. That is reserved for those who have repented of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

But we are not called to only be nice and to only treat well other Christians. We are called to treat every single human being in this world with the same dignity and respect that we want others to treat us with and the Bible does not give us any exceptions. We are to remember that our battle, our war is not with flesh and blood, but in the spiritual realm, against powers and principalities.

That brings us to our text this morning. 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 16-21. In this passage, Paul writes:

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

 

So, we start with Paul showing us that our duty is t treat others around us with Christs Spiritual standards, as opposed to the worlds physical, fleshly standards. We used to live, believe in and act according to those standards. We are born into those actions and beliefs.

But God… Remember, what I considered one of the greatest truths of the Bible. But God, through his grace alone, delivered through our faith alone in his Son Jesus Christ alone changes us. It brings us out from death to life. It changes us from the inside out. It changes our heart. It changes our identity and it changes our nature.

We are then New Creations. We are now reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ. Once we are reconciled to him, we are new creations, the old identity is gone, though habits, temptations and actions will remain.

Charles Spurgeon, in one of his devotions says: In every believer’s heart there is a constant struggle between the old nature and the new. The old nature is very active and loses no opportunity of employing all the weapons in its deadly arsenal against newborn grace: while on the other hand, the new nature is always on the lookout to resist and destroy its enemy.

 

          When we are new creations in Christ, the change in us should be clear and noticeable. And when that happens, we have one single job to do. We are to be Ambassadors for Christ, Ambassadors on the behalf of the Kingdom of God.

We speak and share the official position and official view of the kingdom of Heaven. Now what we want the official view to be. Not what we think it might be or should be. But we are a conduit. We are to funnel the Word of God to the people who need to hear it.

We present and announce what our King has already decreed. We do not make laws. We do not determine official positions. We share Christ and he crucified. We Preach the Word and We Love the People. We fulfill the Great commission, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the Christ has commanded.

Jesus Christ is our King. He is reigning today, here and now. He is not waiting to reign. He reigns now and forever. There is no waiting for tomorrow. Christ is King. And he will be our savior if, by Gods grace we put our faith in his son.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus,

Jesus says, repent and believe in the gospel.”

So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

These are the Words of Christ, written down in the Bible you hold in your hand, that is accessible to so many, so many more than ever in history. He is our King; He is our savior. We literally owe our eternal life to him. He does this free and clear, nothing we can do to earn it or to influence it or to cause it or to bring it to bear.

Jesus does, however, tell us, after we are saved, we have certain responsibilities. Top of that list and I think summing up all the others is that we are to be Ambassadors of Christ and all that this means. I encourage you to reflect on this. To think about what it means to be an Ambassador.

How are we supposed to act? IS it how we have always been taught? Or is it more complex and nuanced. How influenced are we by our family, our society, our culture, our nation, our history, our morality, our nation? Or are we influenced by the Bible, the written and inerrant and inspired and sufficient word of our King, of God himself, creator of Heaven and Earth, creator of the universe and the ultimate authority of all that is?

 

 

Now, Speaking of Jesus as our King, He was more than that as well. 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.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

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 and no matter when our first week back was going to be, we were going to celebrate communion as a church family.

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

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

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.