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

Luke 1:5-25

Jesus is the Son of Man:

Gabriel prophecies the birth of John the Baptist

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

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

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

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Amen! Let’s Pray!

 

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

Luke 1:1-4

Jesus is the Son of Man

The Purpose of Luke’s Gospel

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Daniel 11 & 12

God of All Nations

Daniels last vision

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be wise. Stand Firm. Take Action.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Let’s Pray

 

 

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

Daniel 10

God of All Nations

A Glimpse of Gods Glory

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Daniel 10:1-9, Daniel records:

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

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

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Did he see Jesus?

Did he see Gabriel?

Did he see Michael?

Did he see someone else entirely?

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Listen to Abraham Kuyper speak on these things:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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 7 God of All Nations: Gods Kingdom Forever

 

Daniel 7

 

God of All Nations

 

Gods Kingdom Forever

 

 

 

          Good Morning! Please Grab your Bibles and turn with me to Daniel chapter 7. If you do not own a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

 

We have been reading through the book of Daniel in a series we have been calling “God of all Nations.”  We are gong to see why again today. Chapter 7 of this book is both a transition chapter and a connective chapter. The historical part of the book is over. The story of Daniel and his friends time in Babylon is over.

 

Now, we are going to go start in the prophetic or the apocalyptic section. God shows Daniel a series of visions that both show some of the future and some of the behind the scenes things about the eternal, victorious Kingdom of God.

 

It is important to keep, at the front of our mind, that these visons and dreams are necessarily symbolic and utilize a lot of imagery that stands in for reality. We need to be careful to not interpret some of this symbolism and imagery into things that God never meant it to be.   One Bible teacher makes the point, “The text cannot mean what it never meant.”

 

Many commentators and theologians will make a lot of specific interpretations of these things in the visions and dreams. Some of them may be right. Most of them will be wrong, or at the very least, incomplete and out of context.

 

And don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to figure out the details and identify the real-world side of the symbolism. But it is to say a couple of things. First, be careful. Don’t read things into the text that are not in the text. Second, ask yourself, what is the Bible trying to communicate with this text? Third, and most important, is this bringing closer to and focusing more on Christ? Or is this distracting me and taking my focus off of Christ?

 

We will get more into some of those things during the sermon, but as we continue, there are some more tidbits we need to recognize as we continue on. Daniel chapter 7 is still being written in Aramaic. This is the last chapter that will be written in that language before switching back to Hebrew in chapter 8. This helps bridge the book instead of only being slit in to two different and distinct sections, almost like they were two different books.

 

There are also a number of correlations between Daniel chapters 2 and chapter 7. We will get into many of these, specifically and especially the four kingdoms that are mentioned and represented. 

 

Last thing before we jump into the text, our goal when reading the Bible is to figure out what God is saying to us. Not what we want him to say, or what we think he should say, but what he is and already did say. There is a reason that one of the first rules of theology, which simple means Study of God is that we don’t build our doctrines off the cloudy and the unclear. We build our doctrines off what the Bible says crystal clearly. We build our doctrine on what the Bible is most clear on.

 

Ok, so Daniel chapter 7. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Versions and I greatly encourage you to read along in your preferred translations as we read Gods Word. I’m going to start with verses 1-9 and we will walk through this chapter.

 

Daniel 7:1-9, Daniel records

 

 

 

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. Daniel declared,[a] “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.

 

 

 

 

 

          All right! So, we go back in time, back to between chapters 4 & 5, to the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. And God sent Daniel dreams and a vision. This vision starts with four winds from heaven blowing over the great seas. The sea, in the Bible, was often a symbol for great turmoil, chaos or of sinful nations.

 

Out of the seas, four beasts rose up, one after another. Each one was different from the last. These are snapshots of these beast coming out of the sea. And these four beasts are almost universally considered the same 4 kingdoms that were in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that Daniel interpreted back in Daniel chapter 2.

 

The first beast that came up was like, that’s a key word for us to remember, especially in prophecy and apocalyptic literature. But this beast was like a lion with the wings of an eagle.  This was represented Babylon as the greatest empire of the time. Babylon was often represented by lions in art from that time. And one of the things we see, starting with the first beast, with Babylon is that these empires and beast get their power and authority and success directly from God, not from within themselves.

 

The second beast is like a bear. This bear represented the Medo Persian Empire. Now, we don’t have much time to get into the historicity of this empire, if you like history, read up on them. Its fascinating. It really is.

 

Now, this bear like beast was raised up on one side. This has been said to mean anything from its up on two legs and ready to pounce, or it could be the difference in the power dynamic between the Meads and the Persians, to any number of other things.

 

The bear had three ribs in its mouth and was told to go and devour. Now, many try to attach special significance to these three ribs and what they represent. I tend to agree with the theologians who give no special significance to the number three, that there are no people, nations or whatever to be identified by these ribs. It looks to me like this is a sign that the bear is hungry and ready to go devour, to conquer many nations, to feast on power.

 

The third beast that rises up is a weird looking leopard with four wings and four faces. This would be the fast acting, fast moving Greek empire under Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world and was then dead at 33.

 

The fourth beast is one like no other. We don’t get an animal to compare it to. It was dreadful and terrifying. This is the Roman empire. It came up and assimilated all the other kingdoms. One Kingdom to rule them all.

 

Here we see the infamous 10 horns, with one little horn pushing out three of those 10 horns. A lot of people will look towards future or current fulfillment of this here. They will see end times and antichrist allusions here. And they are likely right, but many also insist on trying to identify every single one of the horns here and I think that’s a mistake.

 

As we are going to see later in this chapter, the identities of these horns are not vital to understanding what God is communicating through this vision. It can be useful to study and speculate, but more often, what I have seen is that it takes our eyes off if Christ and instead, puts too much trust and fear into todays current events.

 

What we have seen here is that this vision builds with four successive kingdoms building, conquering each other and ending with one kingdom ruling the known world. Iain Duguid simplifies this point, summarizing the begging part of the vision, saying, “The vision declares that our world is being run by a succession of fearsome monsters that will go from bad to worse, each one more frightening than the one before.”   

 

Daniel’s vision continues in verses 9-14:

 

“As I looked,

 

thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.

 

11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

 

13 “I saw in the night visions,

 

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

 

 

 

 

 

And here we are introduced to the Ancient of Days. Father God himself. Contrasted with the chaos and the energy of the four beasts coming up out of the sea, God is patiently sitting on his throne, waiting for the fullness of time. He is never surprised; He knows all that is happening and will happen. He is in control of all the world and all their kingdoms.

 

He is seated on a fiery throne and is surrounded by and worshipped by so many multitudes, reminding us of the scene is Revelation 5 and Revelation 7 which show all the saints surrounding the throne in heaven.

 

The fourth beast is struck down, showing that he too is under the sovereign control of the almighty God. Duguid again comforts us, saying, “The purpose if the passage is not to give us nightmares but to calm our nightmares.”

 

In this vision, after we see the Ancient of Days on his throne, we see one coming like the Son of Man. This is of course Jesus Christ. And he is presented by God with the throne and the keys to the kingdom of heaven. He comes down on clouds. This is important because in the Old Testament, only God is shown to come on the clouds. So fully God, and like the Son of Man, appearing as a man, Fully Man. This is Jesus Christ.

 

His humanness here is contrasted with the beasts we just saw. Jesus is the fulfillment of man, who man was supposed to be. Where Adam failed and severing our relationship with God and condemning us to a life of sin, Jesus succeeded. He lived a sinless life, earning our redemption, accessed through the Grace of God and through our faith in Christ. Jesus redeemed us, restored our relationship with God the Father and defeated death and sin.

 

This is not referring to the Second Coming of Christ. This is referring to his first coming. His entrance into this world. This is referring to him getting the keys to the kingdom. Jesus himself said, in his earthly ministry, that the kingdom of heaven is here. And he earned those keys with his life, death and resurrection. Then with his ascension, he went back up to heaven and was seated on the thrones and is ruling over the kingdom at this very moment, as we speak.

 

This is an everlasting kingdom. A kingdom that rules over all other kingdoms. This kingdom will never be destroyed and none who are citizens of this kingdom will be left behind.

 

Babylon rose and fell.

 

Persians rose and fell.

 

Greeks rose and fell.

 

The Romans rose and fell

 

But the Kingdom of God will rise and will not fall/ Gods kingdom remain forever.

 

 

 

We finish up this chapter with Daniel 7, verses 15-28, where he writes:

 

 

 

“As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me[b] was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So, he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

 

19 “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20 and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.

 

23 “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,

 

there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24 As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
and his dominion shall be taken away,
to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’[
c]

 

28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”

 

 

 

These visions understandably make Daniel nervous. He wants to know what all these details mean. See? Daniel is a man, just like us! We are not alone. I know that’s the interesting part to many people of these stories, these visions. And so, Daniel walks up to an angel that is standing there and asks him to interpret this vision.

 

Notice that the angel is not concern with identifying the kingdoms, who all the horns were or who the beast is/will be. Instead his focus is on what God has made clear. To me, verses 17 & 18 are the key points to the entire chapter, maybe even book.

 

Everything else is interesting, but this is the main point. Christ became man to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. The general gist of this vision is what’s ultimately important and we all have to agree in.

 

Then we also that the saints of the Most High will also receive their portion of the kingdom. Paul tells us in Romans that we will be Co heirs with Christ.

 

Daniel essentially says, I don’t care about that! Yeah sure, I know the general stuff. I know that things are going to end up working out in the end. That the other kingdoms are going to be knocked down by you and will end up pointing towards you as the ultimate ruler. But I want to know the all the intricate, unknowable, cloudy, unclear minutia and details.

 

This is what we often do. James made sure to point out that Elijah was a man, just like us. The same holds true for Daniel as we see in this section, making him much more relatable.

 

 

 

The angel answered Daniel and essentially told him what we already knew. He says that the fourth kingdom will be widespread and super powerful. He mentions the 10 horns and the three horns and says they are rulers of kingdoms. I read this and I see these numbers being used as specific, symbolic numbers like scripture often does. 10 being a number for completeness. Three being a significant portion of that 10 and one coming out of them to be the ultimate leader and ultimate representative of sin. This one will blaspheme God; he will persecute believers and he will change laws of the land.

 

Many try too hard in my opinion to make specific correlations to these 10 horns. A specific example is a number of years ago, when England joined the European Union, this made it so that 10 countries were a part of it. Many saw that this was triggering end times events.  

 

But we need to be careful to not be too literal in places where God does not mean or the text to be literal. Sinclair Ferguson makes this point, saying:

 

Such anticipations of fulfillment of the details of visionary teaching may be fundamentally mistaken. It would be like looking for exact doctrinal equivalents to the Fathers kiss, the robe, the ring, and the fatted calf in the Parable of the Prodigal Son., or the donkey, innkeeper and the coins in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is to fail to grasp the genre of the passage whose details do not have on to one equivalent. Where details of the symbolism of the vision are not given further weight, the symbolism probably has general significance. Where that symbolism is underscored and elaborated, then it is fitting that we pursue the matter further.

 

 

 

And so we see that there are details in these visons that God does want to us to think on and investigate, but he, nor the angel interrupting this vision give any indication of the identities of the leaders that these horns represent, nor does he give any indication that they are specific individuals, or specific kingdoms either.

 

Now, it is commonly understood that the little horn that supplants the three other horns symbolizes the end, ultimate antichrist that will rise up. God will give him power and authority for a time, times and a ½ a time. We saw the same phrasing with Ol Nebbys mental issues, when he was made to be like the beasts of the field for 7 times. Many assume that a time equals 1 year, though we have no biblical evidence for this. If this happened to be true, the little horn would be in power for three and ½ years.

 

We know from 1 John especially that there have been, are and will be many antichrists in the world, who will come against God and his people. Gods people spend a lot of time trying to identify them and dig them out. This little horn will be the apex of evil in the world. He will be the culmination of all that is being built to in the world today. He will be what brings the world to that point where it was right before the Flood, where God has determined the time for his coming back and when he will put an end to all these things. As Ferguson says, “The Ancient of Days will bring all this activity to a halt with his righteous decree.”

 

Again, the important aspect of this, Gods rule reigns. His Kingdom prevails. His saints will rule. His kingdom will rule forever over all other kingdoms. Eventually every earthly kingdom will fall away. When that happens now, another one rises up to take its place as a world superpower. Eventually, there will be no more and only Gods kingdom will stand.

 

 

 

Daniel says in verse 28 that this vision and the thoughts associated with it alarmed him and his color changed. He was concerned for what the future holds for Gods people. This vision is a picture of Gods church through history and it is a warning that we would know that hard times and persecution would be coming. But it is also an encouragement that God will bring us through it and will and is in fact already victorious over sin and death. Sinclair Ferguson wraps things up well, regarding the ultimate purpose of this vision and this chapter of the book of Daniel.

 

The overarching concern of this chapter is to focus our attention on the age-long conflict between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. Just when Daniel is anticipating the deliverance of the kingdom of God from its oppression in the form of the return from exile, he learns an important lesson: This conflict is endemic to world history until the end. Rather than decrease, it will be perpetuated until it reaches its zenith in the ferocious blasphemies of the Little horn.

 

 

 

And yet, and yet in all this, we go back again to verse 18, But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

 

The affect this had on Daniel was to pray for the future saints and what they will be going through. So too should we. We look and see what fellow believers are going through around the world. And we need to occasionally focus on that, instead of always focusing on how that persecution will be coming for us. Pray for fellow believers and future believers and what they will have to go through. Pray boldly and powerfully, knowing that the end is already achieved and determined by the power and sovereignty of God. Look beyond our present situation, look at church history, look at the church’s future and look at the good and bad for both. The good infinitely outweighs the bad, because God himself is pure good.

 

Things can and will be tough. This is not meant to downplay that. But the cure for the disease has already been administered. Now we wait for the symptoms to cease. God is God. God is powerful. God is sovereign. And God wins in the end. What an encouragement to not eliminate the tough times, but to help get us through them.

 

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.

 

THis is where I get yelled at by both sides

There are a lot of subjects where I don’t say anything. This is especially true in an online public context, where nuance and discussion are mostly frowned upon. The real reason I mostly don’t comment on various subjects is because I find myself caught in what is considered the middle, not fully on one side or the other.

 

Picture found here

To many, this sounds like flip-flopping, or not being able to make my mind. This isnt true either. The truth is that, often, both sides have right and true points. The other truth is that both sides often will not acknowledge that the other side has any right and true points. And often, both sides don’t see that if they would listen and incorporate the right points of the other side, it would make their own position stronger.

 

In one such current context, If I make a comment that shows I agree with a point on one side, the other side calls me a racist and evil and unloving and ignorant. IF I make a comment that shows I agree with a point on the other side, I am told that I am a cultural Marxist, that I don’t believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ changes hearts and lives and probably not even really a Christian.

 

The truth is that Jesus does in fact change hearts and lives. The truth is that racism is a lie from the pits of hell. (What racism is, the view that one race is superior than another, or one is inferior to another)  The truth is that, at the end, there will be people from every tongue, every tribe and every nation bowing at the throne of Jesus Christ. The truth is that the cross is color blind.

 

The truth is the racism exists and is a sin and it will not be completely eradicated because human beings are inherently sinful. The truth is that black families have never, in this country, been built up and supported. The truth is that, partly because of this, partly because of past racism, partly because of surviving negative stereotypes, and partly because of a whole host of other reasons, black children start off life behind where others start off.

 

The truth is that inequalities do exist and they are not going to be solved overnight. The truth is that attacks against the family unit have disproportionately devastated mostly black communities. Fatherlessness specifically is an incredibly huge factor in poor communities across all races and is an epidemic in poor, mostly black communities. This is statistically one of the heaviest weights in keeping people held down in our country.

 

The truth is that these negative stereotypes continue on for many races and ethnicities, and while the racism is not overt, in fact I hesitate to even call it actual racism, the stereotypes do affect how we see each other. Rare is the person today who thinks that one race is inferior or superior to any others. Common is the person who will believe and spread stereotypes.

 

The truth is that generalities are of no use and will not bring us together. The truth is that many generalities are not true to specific people. This is true of the negative stereotypes thought of regarding minorities and this is true of the “white privilege” and assumed guilt across the board. The truth is that specific people have been the victims and on the receiving end of overt racism, of negative stereotypes believed to be true and of what appears to be systemic racism. The truth is that many people have no part in this and that we should mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who have been beaten down.

 

The truth is that Black Lives Do Matter. The truth is that many (not nearly all) that are using that slogan believe in things and partner with organizations that could care less about Black Lives (Im looking straight at you Planned Parenthood, as just the most egregious example). The truth is that All Lives Matter. The truth is that many (not nearly all) of those who use that slogan truly desire in their hearts for all races to be treated equally.

 

There are genuine issues that this country and human beings need to work towards fixing. The truth is that most people that I know, that I have spoken to and that I have heard speak truly want everyone to be treated on equal footing and that racism is despicable and disgusting.

 

The truth is that it is incurable, in entirety, for mankind, without the Second Coming of Christ, and for individuals, without the Gospel of Jesus Christ changing lives. The Bible, however, is very clear that we are to work and fight against sin in all its forms.

 

We do not say that because we will never eliminate adultery, we should not fight against it. We do not say that because the Bible is crystal clear that adultery is a sin, that all we need to do is preach the Gospel and it will go away.

 

We do preach the Gospel, so that people know intellectually that it is a sin. We preach the Gospel so that the Holy Spirit changes hearts and minds. But we also disciple so that we learn what these things look like played out in everyday life. We also confront people who are guilty of the sin and we call for repentance.

Speaking in the generalities that I warned against earlier, but thinking of specific people on both sides, This will get ignored at best and slammed from both sides in all likelihood because I don’t fall lock step into party ranks (I phrase it that way as both a figure of speech, but also in regards to these things often dividing somewhat along political party lines)

 

The truth is in neither extreme. The truth is black and white and yet often in the middle.

 

Don’t be blind. Don’t simply follow what you are told by those around you. Don’t simply follow what your told by those that often agree with you. Dont be blind to the fact that there are problems, ones that we don’t want to see or admit.

There’s more to it than that. The Bible is the standard of Truth. Read your Bible, trust in Jesus, repent of your sins (Your Sins) and go out and live the Bible (what it actually says, not what you want it to say).

That’s the only way for us to have any hope of coming together and healing the division that the enemy is sowing among us.

 

Pastor Casey

Acts 17:26

 

I encourage discussion and comments but will not approve any comments that seem to me disrespectful or argumentative.

 

Daniel 1:1-21 God of all Nations: Daniels Character Established

Daniel 1:1-21

God of all Nations

Daniels Character Established

 

          Good Morning. Please go ahead and grab your Bibles with me and turn to the book of Daniel. Daniel, despite being a largely historical book, because of the prophecies in the second half of the book, is placed as the last of the Major prophets in our Bible.

Last week, we look briefly at the first few verses and generally looked at the background and introduction of the Book of Daniel. This week we will look at the whole of the first chapter and we will see the character of Daniel established. This is really the foundation for the rest of the book, and an introduction to Daniel and his friends, as well as an example of his dealings, interactions, and work that they would have with Babylon.

One of the things we will see clearly in this chapter, as well as, I think the main theme of this entire book, is Gods sovereignty over anything, anyone, and everything. God is in control. Everything that happens, happens because God allows it and decrees it. And we see that starting right at the very beginning of chapter 1.

This morning we are going to read and look at Daniel chapter 1. That is a bit of materiel to cover, and so there will be a lot of scripture being read. I am going to attempt to do this throughout the book. I have found that many of the Old Testament books are best broken down into those chapter segments. The New Testament can be broken down into smaller chunks and some of the Old Testament can as well, but especially with Old Testament books with historical narratives, I find it keeps its context best and keeps the flow best by breaking it down by chapter.

So, Daniel chapter 1, verses 1 through 21. I will be reading out of the ESV, and I greatly encourage you to read along at home in the translation of your preference. Daniel writes, according to the Holy Spirit:

 

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.  And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.

They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.  Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

 

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.

So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.  At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.

And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

 

 

May God bless the reading of his holy and inspired word.

 

So, as I was saying, we see right from the beginning, that God gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, over to Nebuchadnezzar. This is why we have titled this series, “God of all Nations.” God raised up Babylon, made them a world power, brought them into a fight with Judah and handed Judah over to them. We looked last week at the reasons why, about Israel and Judah and their constant apostasy, or turning away from God, that God prophesied that he would turn them over to other nations as punishment and as judgment. And for Judah, the southern Kingdom, that time was now.

God handed them over to Babylon. They were told this was coming, all the way from Moses, through to the prophets, including but not limited to Jeremiah and Habakkuk. God not only knew ahead of time, he orchestrated it all ahead of time.

Nebuchadnezzar not only besieged Jerusalem and defeated Judah, but we took many treasures and vessels from the house of God, artifacts from the temple. This will come into play in a few chapters especially.

And just like the vessels and treasures of the house of God were carried away from Jerusalem, so too were vessels and treasures of God himself. Gods people were captured and carried away and brought out of their homeland of Judah to be exiled into a foreign and hostile land in Babylon. And not just to any foreign and hostile land, but to the land of Shinar. This was the place of the tower of Babel. Stephan Miller, in his commentary on Daniel, says that Shinar is “a symbol of rebellion against God.” And so, it is apt that Nebuchadnezzar brings the vessels and treasures of God including the vessels of God, his people, and takes them to the place of his gods, the physical location that most represents in that day, rebellion against God.

And again, we see that God is in control of all of this, as he is in control over everything. Not just the big picture stuff, like this is what the outcome will be, but everything that happens is under Gods complete control. Jesus tells us about the sparrows in Matthew 10, that if even a tiny sparrow falling to the ground is not out of his control.

We even see in the scriptures that the death of Jesus Christ was permitted, determined, and orchestrated by God far ahead of time. The reason that death exists in this world is because of sin. Adam and Eve brought it into this world in Genesis 3. Paul tells us the wages of sin is death. That means that our sin makes us deserve of death. Death is the penalty or the payment of sin. And we all sin, we are all guilty of sin the moment we become alive. That is our fallen sin nature.

Jesus, being himself God, God the Son, never had that sin nature. He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, all One and all God, the trinity. They, before time began, figure out this plan to rescue and save those who would become his children.

Jesus was God, came down from Heaven, was born a man, lived a perfect and sinless life, therefore, having no need to die, no penalty to pay. His death on the cross was unmerited and therefore was big enough to cover our sins and he died in our place. By the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to Him and the penalty for our sins are paid. Jesus then was risen from the dead, by god the Father. In order to defeat death so that we may have eternal life with Him. All of this was planned, orchestrated, and fulfilled because God said so. Because he willed it. Because he is sovereign overall, even life and death.

 

 

And so, the defeat of Jerusalem and the exile of many of the Israelites who were in Jerusalem and the placement of Daniel and his friends, all was orchestrated and planned out by God.

And Nebuchadnezzer wanted the cream of the crop from Jerusalem. He wanted to incorporate those he was bringing back from Judah to Babylon into the culture. He wanted to win them over as opposed to having to keep them all under guard or under lock and key. One of the ways to do that is to get the young generation and make them committed to you. Look around us today. If you win those who have influence, you will win those whom they influence. So, he called for young men, cream of the crop, from royal and noble blood. They were to be good looking, in good shape, they were wanted to be to be a good face for the regime. They were to be smart and wise, “to be competent to stand in the Kings palace.”

And as part of their re-education, they were to spend three years learning the ways, the language, the wisdom and the writings of the Chaldeans, the Chaldeans being the controlling culture within the Babylonian empire. This is what Iain DeGuid calls in his commentary, “Spiritual reprogramming.” We are not going to spend too much time on this because we spent some time on it last week as well, but this is what the world around us is trying to do.

All religions are good and valid. None are THE one. Even redefining Christianity to the point that Christ is not God, or the Bible is not the Word of God or Christ comes below our nation or political affiliation. That is exactly what Babylon was doing. Sure, Christ is fine, as long as He comes below Nebuchadnezzar. That’s what Rome did. You can believe in Jesus, as long as you call Caesar LORD.

Remember I quoted a number of weeks ago, Voddie Baucham. He said, “There is an easy way to avoid persecution. All you have to do is compromise.” And that’s what we constantly see the world around us, the cultures throughout history, including America and both sides of the current political climate are trying to do to us.

Yes, Yes, believe in Jesus, but make sure that you put America first. Make sure that you put these social issues first. Make sure that you vote for us first.

 

Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah. These are all names that have an el or a yah sound in them, showing that they are names that give credit and tribute to God. The true, God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Yahweh and Elohim.

In Babylon, their names were changed to names that gave credit and tribute to the Babylonian god, Marduk. Their new Babylonian names were Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego.

 

One of the things that we see through the book of Daniel is that he was willing to serve the King and to work for the good of the Babylonian Kingdom. He was not willing to go against his strong foundation of his faith in the true God. Part of that is that, though they answered to and responded to their new, Babylonian names, they did not fully embrace them. They still went by and answered to their Hebrew names as well.

Second, we have the words of the prophet, Jeremiah. Jeremiah 29:4-7 says:

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.

Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

 

And that’s what Daniel and his friends would do. They worked for the good of their new community. We know that Paul tells us that all that we do, do it to the glory of God. Seemingly, Daniel knew that God was orchestrating all that was happening to he and his friends. So, he knew that God had placed him right there in the Kings court. He was going to bring God credit and glory by do what he was called to do to the best of his God given abilities.

And yet we see in verse 8, that he would not allow himself to be defiled by eating the king’s food and drinking the kings wine. Now, the Bible does not tell us how he would have been defiled or why that was the line that he would not cross. Of all the theories I have read, the one that makes the most sense to me specifically, is the fact that the king’s food would have gone against the Jewish dietary laws that were laid out in Leviticus. However, again I must say that all speculation into why that is exactly, speculation.

Miller, in his commentary makes the point: It would have been completely natural to argue that since God had not protected them from captivity- this horrible situation- they did not have to be careful to obey his commands. They could have become bitter toward God during this time. Sometimes believers fall into this trap. All these factors could have caused some people to compromise, but Daniel and his friends remained faithful to their God.

 

Daniel was not going to allow himself to be defiled. But notice how we acted. He did not fight. He did not protest. He did not do whatever he wanted, and the King and his servants would just have to deal with it. This wasn’t a hunger strike, and this certainly is not a recipe for a godly diet today, no mater how many books that would sell. I was reminded this week of a quote by Oswald Chambers, when he says, the only right a Christian has is the right to give up his rights.

Daniel did not appeal to his rights, Daniel simply asked. The man that was in charge of him and his friends, was in charge of feeding and providing for these young men. God worked on Daniels behalf and gave him favor in the head Eunuchs eyes. This guy did not want to stick his neck out. The King wanted Daniel and his friends to be in their tip physical shape. If they weren’t, it could cost the chief eunuch his head. He liked Daniel, but not enough to die for him.

Scientifically and nutritionally, Daniels diet was terrible. IF you compare it to someone eating a full complete diet, vs eating vegetables and drinking water, you see no protein, no fat, no calories, etc. One of them would be in much better physical shape.

That’s why the king didn’t want to agree to this. But Daniel offered a 10-day free trial. Let him and his friends try it for 10 days and if it doesn’t work out, they would rescind their request and the king would not hear another word about it.

Again, the point is not that Daniels diet was better, or even good. The point of it is that God took care of Daniel. He rewarded Daniels faithfulness and his hunger for righteousness. God caused Daniels diet to make him big and strong and then he was brought before the King. And we see in verse 19:

And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 

Again, using their Hebrew names at this juncture.

 

We see again, in verse 17, the phrase, “God gave…” God gave these four youths knowledge and wisdom and understanding and all the things, the skills and the talents they needed to stand before the king and serve him. They impressed the king and they were 10 times better than all the other of the king’s magicians and enchanters. In a bit of foreshadowing, though not too far into the future, we also see that Daniel was given by God the ability to interpret dreams.

 

 

Now, the moral of the stories of Daniel and especially of this first chapter of Daniel is not, repeat, not Be like Daniel. The moral of this story of Daniel and this first chapter especially is Gods sovereignty and his faithfulness.

I am going to finish us off with an excerpt from Iain DeGuid’s commentary on this first chapter of Daniel. He writes:

 

There is one final note that we must not miss in all of this. The reality for most of us is that when we look at our own lives, we find that we are not like Daniel and his three friends. We are far more like the nameless multitude who were deported along with Daniel, who adopted foreign names, ate the king’s food, and all together became like the Babylonians. In many respects, we are assimilated to the world system in which we live, and our futures are mortgaged to it. So, if the message of this book is simply, “Be like Daniel and all will be well,” then we might as well stop reading now. The more we get to know Daniel, the more we come to realize that we are not Daniel.

The Good News of the Gospel, however, is not simply that God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him. It is that a savior has come to deliver faithless and compromised saints like us. Our salvation rests not on our ability to remain undefiled by the world, but rather on the pure and undefiled that Jesus has provided in our place. Jesus Christ came voluntarily into this world, with all of its pains and trials. He suffered far great temptations and sufferings than Daniel did, or than he ever will (Heb 4:15). Yet he remained entirely faithful and pure until the very end, without spot or blemish, and grants the perfection of his obedience to all who trust in him by faith (1 Peter 1:19). What is more, Jesus has already returned from his time of exile ad now sits at his Father’s right hand in Heaven. He has prepared our places there, and his presence there already is our guarantee that one day we will be with him there as his people. The cross is the means by which Gods faithfulness redeems the unfaithful; the resurrection and ascension are the surety of our inheritance in heaven.

Remind yourself often of this Gospel. Fix your eyes on Jesus Christ crucified, raised, and exalted. He has not only pioneered the route home; He is the route home. Trust in him and ask him to work in you a true faithfulness. Ask him to put you in places where you can be a blessing to your community. Be a breath of heavenly wisdom in your home, your school, your workplace. Be constantly dependent on his sanctifying work, looking to him to keep you faithful, not your best efforts to “Be a Daniel.” Finally, long for the day when his heavenly kingdom will invade this earth and bring the fullness of your inheritance.

 

Let us Pray