Luke 6:46-49 Jesus is the Son of Man: What Wisdom Looks like

Luke 6:46-49

Jesus is the Son of Man

What Wisdom Looks like

 

All right! Let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 6. As always, if you don’t have a Bible or need to give one to someone, see me after the service and I will get one for you.

So, in the midst of this portion of teaching by Jesus, he has showed us a number of things.  He has shown us the need for right and biblical discernment. He has touched on the how to rightly and authentically love our enemies. He has shown us the right way to judge and confront sin.

All of the things that Jesus has been teaching us, they all have some things in common. They are all issues of the heart as opposed to issues of outward obedience. Most importantly, and tied to the rest, these are all issues of needing wisdom.

Jesus address wisdom much more blatantly and outright here at the end of his teaching passage, the passage we are looking at this morning. And it’s important to know that this is the undertone of all of Jesus teachings; wisdom, discernment, and making sure you have a right heart through all of it.

So, let’s go ahead and read the passage for this morning, the last few words that Jesus teaches on the Sermon on the Plain, Luke chapter 6, verses 46 through 49. I will, as usual, be reading out of the English Standard Version. I love that we have so many different translations here in the congregation, and I encourage you to read along with your preferred translation, so that you are reading for yourself what the Word of God says.

Luke 6:46-49, Luke records Jesus finishing his teaching, writing:

 

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.[c] 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

 

 

Jesus is nothing if not blunt and straightforward. When Jesus asks this question, he is calling out the blatant and complete hypocrisy that is in the crowd. He goes into greater detail and gives harsher warnings in the Sermon on the Mount. Listen to Matthews recording, chapter 7:21-23:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

 

See, Jesus is not talking to unbelievers. He is talking to those who claim to know him. And its in two parts really. See, we have an epidemic in this country. Not only in this country, but throughout the world, and it has been going on since the first century. Jesus is speaking to it right now. Why do you call me LORD, but not do what I say?

He is not talking about the type of thing that Paul talks about in Romans 7. Paul’s says that the things he wants to do, he doesn’t, and the things he doesn’t want to do, he does. Jesus isn’t referring to this here. Honest, faithful, honest to goodness Christians, who have been saved by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, will sin. That is an unfortunate fact of life. Jesus talks a lot about that, but right here and now he isn’t talking about that.

Jesus is addressing to groups of self-identified Christians here. First group are those who claim the name of Jesus, but that’s it. I’ve quoted these stats to you before, but 91 % of Americans believe in “a god.” 91% believer that there is something or someone out there that is bigger than us.

Something like 76% of Americans call themselves Christians. That’s a lot. And if that was true, that 76% of Americans actually were Christians, this country would look completely different. But we all know that number is not accurate. You can walk up and down the street and talk to everyone you meet, and most of them would say, Yes, I believe in Jesus. I believe I’m going to heaven. I’m a good person. Every president we have had in this country has called themselves a Christian. All I know is that the last number of them have not shown any fruit of that.

They say they believe in Jesus, but he is asking, why wont you do what I say? Because they don’t actually believe. They don’t believe that they need a savior. They don’t believe in anything supernatural. They don’t believe that Jesus is God clothed in flesh, they don’t believe that the Bible is the inerrant and inspired Word of God and they don’t believe thy have to live by what it says.  God is love and he has forgiven us all and I don’t need to let it affect my life in any way. And so, they don’t. There is no fear of the LORD, which is the beginning of wisdom.

But that’s not the only group Jesus is addressing here. RC Sproul points out that Jesus is also talking to those “who claim, not just a passing knowledge of Jesus, but a deep, intimate, sincere relationship with Christ.”

Not every gathering that calls themselves a church is actually a church. Not every leader who calls themselves a pastor is actually a pastor. Not everyone who says LORD, LORD knows the true and biblical Jesus Christ.

Make no mistake, the LORD will not be mocked. We see these so-called churches, and so-called pastors being exposed left and right. Churches that have been teaching false doctrines, and heresy for many years. Pastors who believe they are above Gods law and can do whatever they want to whomever they want. Sexual abuse, affairs, corruption, abuse of power, bullying, arrogance, and so much more.

People who are deceived by these churches and pastors into doing what they believe is the work of God, in Gods name. But in reality, they are being taught and fed and false God, a false Jesus, false teachings, false works and unfortunately, a false salvation.

It is so important for us to define our terms when teaching and talking and witnessing. Who is God? Is it who the Bible says he is? Or who we feel and thing he is? Who is Jesus Christ? Is he who the Bible says he is? God, Man, both. Incarnated, Perfect and sinless, crucified, resurrected, ascended. Or was he who humans say he is, a good teacher, God in heaven, but no on earth, an example that we can become, doing miracles and healings, just like he did? What is the Bible? Is it the Word of God himself? IS it, God breathed, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness? Or is its good rule book for life? A parable for living.

IF your understanding of the Bible, its authority and its inerrancy, is different than what the Bible says about itself, Your wrong. Your wrong about the Bible and you are going to be wrong about what it says. If your definition and your description of God differ from what the Bible says, you’re following a false god. If your definition and description of who Jesus is is different from who and what the Bible says he is, you’re following a false Jesus. And there is no forgiveness in a false Jesus. No salvation in a false Jesus.

Jesus has made it clear throughout our walk-through Luke’s Gospel who he is, his authority, his power and his deity. And so, after he questions those who are following him, he lays it out. Here is what it looks like to follow me, to be an actual and true follower of Christ.

Scripture is clear on what it is to be a follower of Christ. IN the context of what he is saying here, James tells us to be doers of the word, not hearers only. Jesus says elsewhere, if you love me, follow my commands.

Kent Hughes recounts a story of knowledge and action being more important than simple book learning. He writes:

A young Korean man traveled a great distance to the home of the missionary who led him to Christ, then announce the reason for his visit: “I have been memorizing some verses of the Bible, and I want to quote them to you.”

          The missionary listened as the young man recited, without error, the entire Sermon on the Mount. He commended the young man for the remarkable feat of memory. Then, being a good missionary, he cautioned the young man to not only say the Scriptures, but to practice them. The man responded, “Oh, that is the way I learned them. I tried to memorize them, but they wouldn’t stick, so I made a plan. First, I would memorize a verse. Then I would do it to a neighbor. After that, I found that I could remember it.”

 

          One of the morals of that story and of what Jesus is telling us is that anyone can say anything, whatever they want. What we say matters, but its not just about what we say. Our actions matched with our words are what matters most.

He speaks of the wise man, the one who hears what Jesus says, really hears him and then, gasp, does what he says. He builds his house digging deep down to the rock, building a firm foundation. That house will stand against the storms that come.

We all have a foundation upon which our life and our eternity are built on. Wisdom determines the foundation. Wisdom dictates that we build our foundation upon the strongest rock that there is.

Many of our best hymns speak to the fact that Jesus himself is our foundation. One we sing here often; Jesus is our firm foundation. I know I can stand secure. Another of my favorites, On Christ the Sold Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Jesus is the foundation we build our house upon. Specifically, we look at Ephesians 2:19-22, where Paul writes:

you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[e] the Spirit.

 

 

Scripture shows us that the foundation of the household of God is the Apostles and the Prophets, Jesus being the most important piece the corner stone, the piece that makes sure the rest line up, stay straight and do what they are supposed to do. The cornerstone anchors the foundation. He makes the foundation firm and stable and secure.

Revelation 21 shows us that the New Jerusalem is built on 12 foundations named for the Apostles and the prophets. We looked previously that the Apostles and Prophets ministry, the foundation that they built is the very Word of God. They went out and they shared the Word of God. That is the foundation of the church, of the household of God, the Word of God. And we know from John 1, that Jesus is the Word of God. The Word made flesh. It is equally true to say that Jesus is our foundation, and the Bible is our foundation because the Bible is the Word of God and Jesus is the Word.

 

I was talking to a former pastor this past week and one of the topics that came up was that the job of pastor can be incredibly discouraging at times. There are times, as one example, where pastors feel like what Jesus is saying here, you call him Lord, Lord but won’t do what he tells you to!

This week has been an especially powerful reminder of the times of discouragement and how the firm foundation of Christ will sustain you.

This week marks three years that Hope and I have been here in Bangor. Those three years have moved incredibly fast. The previous three years felt like a lifetime and were full of discouragement. At times, it felt like we were banging our heads against a brick wall. There were good times too and some great friends that we made and continue with, but the ministry where we were was a lot of discouragement.

The three years we have been here in Bangor have been the exact opposite. As with any ministry, and anytime time humans are involved, there are trials, there are disagreements, struggles, and so on. And don’t ask, because I’m not going to get into the specifics of any of those.

It hasn’t always been easy, but Jesus has been our firm foundation. God has confirmed time and time again that he has placed Hope and I here. This is where we are supposed to be, and we pray that it is permanent. That assurance, that foundation has allowed us to be content, to be settles, even through the storms that come.

With a firm foundation, with assurance, anything is bearable. Any storm is tolerable and able to be gotten through. No one, especially Jesus said that it is going to be easy and with out harm. But it is able to be gotten through. We know where our hope comes from, God above, the maker of Heaven and Earth, His Word, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ and his Gospel, it is the power of God to salvation, for all who believe.

Our hope is in Christ. It is not in the church, whether the gathering of believers or the building. It is not in, of course, our selves or our good works. It is not in pastors and preachers.

As I said earlier, many churches and pastors are falling, it is coming to light often, sometimes it feels like every day another one comes out, that churches and pastors who are keeping evil hidden and failing to follow the words of Christ are being revealed to the World. Hillsong, Bethel, Harvest, Willow Creek. Churches that either taught blatant false teachings, following a false Jesus, or covered up pastoral abuses and corruption, watering down the Word of God. Men like Bill Hybels, James McDonald, Mark Driscoll, Ravi Zacarias. Men who took advantage of their position, let it go to their heads and covered up and hid sin, some incredibly heinous sins.

But Jesus tells us our hope, our foundation is not in them. But on the Gospel. Mark Driscoll was one who hit me hard. When I first started going o church, I listened to him a lot. I heard the true Gospel loud and clear. I heard great teaching and it helped me grow in my faith to the point where I can honestly say that I probably would not be a pastor if not for the influence his ministry had on me.

But when he was disqualified from ministry, that did not negate my salvation, it did not cause my growth to be erased. For my hope and my salvation is not based on him, but the firm foundation of the Gospel that I heard preached over and over again.

Our house in the kingdom of heaven is built upon foundation that cannot be shaken. It is not built on our power and righteousness, but on Christs. Even when the storms come, if a wall gets knocked down, if the wind rips the roof off, if windows get broken, because of our sin. Even then, our foundation is still built on solid rock. We can rebuild and repair the house because of that foundation.

Without that foundation of Christ, we will fall, our hope and our house will fall. Without Christ, we have no hope at all. With out that foundation, we have no hope for eternity. With no foundation we will continually try harder and lean more on ourselves trying to keep a sinking house above ground, something we cannot hope to accomplish. So, we trust in our behavior more and more, our ability to follow the rules, like the pharisees we read about, but our heart hasn’t changed and does not abide in Christ.  It’s a vicious cycle that can only end when Jesus saves us.

Bruce Larson writes:

Watchman Nee talks about a new convert who came in deep distress to see him. “No matter how much I pray,” said the man, “no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot seem to be faithful to my LORD. I think I’m losing my salvation.” And Nee said, “DO you see this dog here? He is my dog. He is house trained; he never makes a mess; he is obedient; he is a pure delight to me. Out in the kitchen, I have a son, a baby son. He makes a mess, he throws his food around, he fouls his clothes, he is a total mess. But who is going to inherit my Kingdom? Not my dog; my son is my heir. You are Jesus Christs heir because it is for you that He died.” So, it is with us. We are Christs heirs, not through our perfection, but by means of his grace.

 

We are able to rest easy, to put all our burdens on Jesus Christ, for his yoke is easy, his burden is light. With Jesus as our foundation, we stake our hope on him, and rest easy, knowing that we are secure in his hands, by his grace.

 

Let’s Pray.

Luke 6:12-19 Jesus is the Son of Man Jesus’ Followers

Luke 6:12-19

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus’ Followers

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 6. If you do not have a Bible, please see me after the service so we can get one for you.

So, Luke has shown us the start of Jesus ministry, which so far has included, but has not been limited to healing and preaching the Word and calling a few new followers.

In this, Luke has been, since the start of Chapter 4, establishing Jesus authority for his readers. And his authority is All encompassing. We have seen his authority established over Satan, we have seen it over sickness and diseases, we have seen it over physical ailments. We have seen his authority established over sin, established with the ability to forgive those sins, authority established over the Sabbath and the authority to speak and interpret the Word of God.

This week we see some of his authority in who he then gives authority too. The first part is going to make official what had likely been know, at least in part, beforehand, who amongst his followers had authority. The second part is going to be an introduction to a section that will take up the rest of Chapter 6, a teaching section where Jesus shows us his authority to speak and interpret the scriptures and what they truly mean.

So, before we go any further, lets go ahead and read this week’s passage, Luke chapter 6, verses 12 through 19. As always, Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I greatly encourage you to read along and follow along with your preferred translation so that you can read and see for yourself what the Word of God says, instead of just talking my word for it.

So, Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, records the following, Luke 6:12-19:

 

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

Now, we already know that Jesus was a prayer warrior, but we see that reaffirmed right here from the beginning. He often went off to desolate places, places to be alone and to focus and to spend a large amount of time in direct prayer with God the Father. This is the third such time that Luke has shown us this in as many chapters. He would sometimes us this time to rest, sometimes to recharge, but always to seek and confirm the will of the Father.

In this case, Jesus likely spent over 10 hours of intensely focused prayer. He was specifically meditating and praying on the choices he was making. In the Greek it says that “all night he continued.”

Of course, one of the big takeaways for us is that whenever we have a big decision, whenever we have something important to determine or decide, we should always take significant time in prayer. If Jesus, of all people, needed this time, how much more do we?

In one of his poems, Hartley Coleridge writes the following:

He sought the mountains and the loneliest height,

For he would meet his father all alone,

And there, with many a tear and many a groan,

He strove in prayer throughout the long, long night.

Why crave in prayer what was his own by might?

Vain is the question- Christ was man indeed,

And being man, his duty was to pray.

 

A reminder to us all that, as Paul tells us as well, we are to be in constant prayer.

And in the morning, when Jesus is done praying and comes down, he names 12 of his followers to be his Apostles.

So, some things that we see, and we know here in this. First, we see in the Gospels, there are three levels, or maybe categories would be a better term, of followers of Jesus. The first was just that, followers. Jesus had many of them. They would follow him around; they would listen to his teachings and they would want to see healings and miracles that Jesus was quickly becoming famous for. However, for the most part, they were not particularly committed to Jesus.

Next were his disciples. We don’t know how many of these he had, but we know they were many. We will see one instance later in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus sends out 72 of his disciples to spread the word. These disciples were committed to following Jesus and believing his teachings and trying to get others to believe it as well.

The final category was the 12 names that Jesus listed here in Luke chapter 6. The Apostles. These are not just followers, but the Apostle means sent ones. They would be given the authority to act and speak on His behalf. Their very words would carry authority. This is why, when the canon of the New Testament was being confirmed, one of the requirements was that the Gospel or letter had to be, either written by one of them (later to include Paul as well) or to be told by one of them and written by one of their closest acquaintances.

These 12, the Apostles, would become Jesus inner circle. They would be the ones he would confide in. They would get the extra teaching and explanation. They would become his family during the next few years, during his earthly ministry. And they would act just like our families do today. They would be the ones that would believe in Him, and he them. They would be praying with and for each other. They would be holding each other accountable. Just like our families, there would be those who would disappoint and betray him, and he knew that from the beginning.

Here is something that I think we need to hear. Jesus chose these men to be his Apostles, just like he chose each of us who are called to become the children of God, each and everyone if us who are saved by Gods grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus chose each and every one of us. And he knew everything that would happen before hand.

He knew they would act. He knew how they would sin. He knew their failings and he still called them and chose them, in spite of all that. HE knew before he chose us. He knew how we would act. He knew how we would sin. He knew how we would fall.  He knew it all. And he chose you anyway. He chose me anyway. He chose each of us, despite knowing that we would fall and sin. He knew and he died and rose again in order to purchase our salvation and to forgive us of our sins.

I heard one pastor say, years ago, and the way he said it really hit me. God is the only who can forgive sins. And if he has chosen to forgive us, who do we think we are if we say we can’t forgive ourselves? We think we are above God. Pair that with, If God says that he has forgiven us, but we don’t believe that he has or could forgive our specific sins, then what are saying about the Word of God? We are saying that it can’t be trusted.

The Bible is clear. Jesus is clear. God the Father is clear. The Holy Spirit is clear. If you are a child of God, if you are in Christ, by grace, through faith, then your sins have been forgiven. You have been cleansed. You have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. You have been clothed in Christs righteousness. You have been justified, are being sanctified and will be glorified. All of that is Promised by God and its all true, whether you feel like it or not. Take comfort in that. Rejoice in that. Let that light shine in the dark corners of shame that comes om naturally when we sin and don’t feel worthy of the forgiveness that he has already said is ours.

Now, we see the names of the twelve that Jesus called to be his Apostles. Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Now, every time we see a list of the twelve in scriptures, the middle is in different order, but each list starts with Simon Peter and ends with Judas Iscariot, the traitor. That’s not a coincidence. It’s obvious that because he is a traitor and will end up being replaced in the book of Acts by Matthias, that’s why he is listed last. Peter is listed first because he would end up becoming the de facto leader, the first among equals of the Twelve.

Now, some of these twelve, we know some about based on the scriptures. Names like Simon Peter, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Thomas, Matthew who was Levi, and of course, Judas Iscariot. These guys, there are things written about them in the scriptures so we can get a sense of who they are.

The others, Andrew, Simons brother, Philip, Bartholomew, the other James, Simon the Zealot and the other Judas, them we don’t know much about. I’ve included in the back, some of you have it already, a printout on the twelve. This is what we know from scriptures about each of them. This was compiled by RC Sproul and I copied it out of his commentary on Luke’s Gospel. I think its an excellent resource and a great way to get to know the Apostles maybe better than we do now. If you haven’t grabbed a copy yet, please do so on your way out.

These twelve, Jesus chose them. The ordinary, the mostly uneducated, the poor. The everyday man. Just like you and me. With the authority and the responsibility to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ after his ascension. We read in Ephesians 2 this morning, the Apostles are a part of the foundation that the Kingdom of God is built on, with Christ as the chief cornerstone. Revelation 21:14 tells us that the New Jerusalem that the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Now, whether we see that imagery as symbolic, metaphorical, literal or whatever, I think we can all agree that it shows how important and how vital to the kingdom of God, these men were.

They were chosen, not because of anything about themselves, but because of Gods sovereignty and his omniscience. Nearly all the commentaries I’ve read this week on this passage reference the same quote by Oswald Chambers. He says:

God can achieve his purpose either through the absence of human power and resources or the abandonment of reliance on them. All through history God has chosen and used nobodies, because their unusual dependence on him made possible the unique display of his power and grace. He chose and used somebodies only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources.

 

 

Next, we come to Jesus descended with the Apostles and getting ready for a lengthy teaching session. There are a lot of similarities to the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew 5-7, but this is very clearly not on a mount, so some call this the Sermon on the Plain.

We see that there is a great crowd around him already, both his disciples, those committed to him and followers and curiosity seekers from all over the country.

Many came and looked to be healed. Those who had unclean spirits were cleaned. His power was on display as many were cured and healed. Jesus authority over the physical realm was established and his spiritual authority was about to be on display with the teaching that is coming.

In this, I think that Jesus is showing us a choice that we have to make. As I mentioned earlier, we see three categories of followers here and so, if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus, you have to look at which of these three that you fit into.

Are you partially committed? Looking for the healings and miracles, the emotional highs that can some with worship? Is your assurance in your church attendance and your moral life and is the church a social club where you here good teaching?

OR you could be fully committed to the worshipping and listening to Jesus. Knowing that he is Christ, that you saved by his grace and its not because you attend church and live right but that your worship and sanctification are fruit from that salvation. That’s great. I wish there were more that were that committed.

Lastly, are you completely and totally committed to doing and living the teachings of Jesus Christ. Listening and reading the Words of God. Putting them into practice in our every day lives. Committed to loving our neighbors and enemies with grace and forgiveness, making disciples, teaching them all that the LORD has commanded, not being perfect and sinless but walking in the fruit of the spirit, being that one that Oswald Chambers was speaking of, renouncing dependence on natural abilities and resources?

These are questions that we have to ask ourselves honestly and often.

 

Let’s Go ahead and pray.

Christmas 2020: Luke 2:1-20 How and Why Jesus Came

Christmas 2020
Luke 2:1-20
How and Why Jesus Came

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with and turn to Luke chapter 2. Yes, we are travelling backwards in time to October, which is when we recently looked at this text. Go ahead if your able and put your finger or a bookmark or whatever into Matthew chapter 1 as well.
You know, most pastors love doing their Christmas and Easter Sermons because its easy for them. It’s the same source material for each year, and its material they know intimately well. There are no more important days to Christianity than Christmas and Easter.
The stories and the verses in the Bible about Christmas are some of the most well know stories in the Bible by people in the congregation. We get so familiar with the texts and the themes.
But I’m going to be honest with you. These are the sermons that are really tough for me. Partly because we ARE so familiar with the stories of Christmas and Easter. Part of it is because these are the stories that you hear the most. We bring aspects of Jesus birth and incarnation and Jesus death and resurrection into, most if not all of the sermons we do on a weekly basis.
In this particular case, we add in that we just went through Luke chapter 2, and the birth of Jesus in October and this was a tough sermon to plan and prepare. So, here’s my thought, we are going to go back and camp in Luke chapter 2, reviewing his birth, with an emphasis on why Jesus came, for what purpose he was born.
We will bounce around into a lot of scriptures and let the Bible speak for itself in a lot of places. Because of this, and so that you’re not frantically trying to keep up and wasting time turning to pages that I am already moving on from, I’ve included in the bulletin a list of most, if not all of the scriptures that we will be reading during the sermon this morning, so please feel free to refer to that and turn ahead if needed.
So, let’s start first with the Christmas story itself, reading from Luke chapter 2, verse 1-20. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, please follow along in your Bible, with your preferred translation. The Word of God is inspired and inerrant and we believe in letting it speak for itself, so its absolutely important for you to read it for yourself and not just take anyone’s word for it.
Luke 2:1-20, the Holy Spirit inspires Luke to write:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.[c
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

That’s the story we all know. That’s the story we all grew up hearing. This is the Christmas story. This is where we see Jesus born and brought into this world, and the effects are immediate.
Jesus, from Nazareth, born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem, under the humblest and the lowliest of circumstances. This was all foretold, both in the recent past, to Mary and Joseph, and in the distant past, starting all the way back in Genesis 3.
And where I want to start is touching on just a few of the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies that God gave to the people of Israel that would lead to them waiting for the Messiah to arrive and that Jesus would fulfill.
Genesis 3 is where it starts. Setting the context, Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden, perfect, sinless and walking in perfect communion with God. The Serpent, or the devil, comes along and tempts Eve to go against the one command the God had given them. Adam, right there with Eve allows her to give in and gives in as well. Sin enters the world. Death enters the world. Sin has now infected mankind. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. God told Adam in Genesis 2:17 that if he would eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that he would surely die.
And so, now what? Adam and Eve are doomed, right? And so are any offspring coming from them. Except God. Except God already knew all about this> God knows and ordains the future and so he already had a plan for this before he even created Adam and Eve. So, after they sinned, God talks to Adam, Eve and the Serpent and says in Genesis 3:14 & 15:
The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[e] and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
God the Father knew before then and told us that he was going to send a solution, a savior to rescue us from our sins, to restore our broken relationship with him and to grant us forgiveness and everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And so, throughout the Old Testament, through Genesis with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph. Through Exodus and the rest of the Pentateuch with Moses and Joshua. Through the historical books with the judges, Ruth, King Saul, David, Solomon and the rest of the Kings. And through the prophets, God continued to foreshadow, to prophecy and to remind all people that there was one coming who was going to make everything right again, who was going to restore the peace and the rhythm of the world of which he created.
Real quick, two of the most famous prophecies we read in the Old Testament, two of those that are most common attached and used in the Christmas story; first, Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
One of the greatest Christmas songs there is is Oh Come, oh Come Immanuel. Read the Lyrics, seriously. Goosebumps. Immanuel means God with Us. That’s exactly what the messiah, the promised savior would be, God with us.
Second, Isaiah 9:6 & 7:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

This is who Jesus is and would be. This is what he would accomplish in many ways. He will reign from the throne of David, and his kingdom will be everlasting. It will be perfect, justice and righteous. We see the trinity hinted at in that passage as well. Counselor, Holy Spirit, Father, Son and Prince, Jesus Christ. All God.
So, everyone was waiting for this promise to be fulfilled. They were waiting for a few thousand years. We see God speaking to the prophet Malachi and then, nothing. Silence. For over 400 years. Not until we see the angel Gabriel show up to Zachariah and to Mary and Joseph prophesying the births of John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah.
Luke records Gabriel showing up and speaking to Mary in Luke 1:26-35:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God.

A virgin birth. The throne of David. Son of the Most High God. A Kingdom with no end. All things we saw prophesied about in the passages we just read. What they had been waiting for. And then, Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4&5: when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
God became man. God clothed in flesh. God with us. That’s How Jesus came to earth. How he was sent, by God the Father on a mission. That’s the how, now we let scripture tell us the why.
First, back to what the angels told the shepherds in the field the night that Jesus was born. Luke 2:10-14:
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

The Glory of God. Good News. Peace among Gods people. These are some of the reasons that Jesus Christ condescended from heaven, incarnated truly Go and truly man.
He came and he started preaching Good News, preaching the Word of God. He preached at the synagogue in Nazareth, recorded in Luke 4:17-21:
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Spiritual healing. Setting the captives free. Free from our bondage to that very sin we looked at moments ago that Adam cause to enter the world. Good news to those who are poor in spirit. Jesus says in Matthew 5:3, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And very importantly, Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the scriptures.
Now, Jesus is the cure for the disease that is sin. Sin is what separated us from God and what keeps us from pursuing him and reconciling with him. Because of sin, we are in rebellion, open war with God. Jesus brings peace.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

If this passage is ever used to pit people against each other, its being used wrongly and out of context. This is not the second group is better than the first group. The point of this is Jesus, the grace of God and the work that he did on our behalf. We are all born sinners and all live as sinners until God intervenes on our behalf. Jesus came into this world, intervening into history, on our behalf.
Why? Romans 5:8. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus being born a human man was not enough. Remember that that wages of sin is death? Death is the consequence of sin. It is required to atone for sin. To make things right from sin. Jesus, living a life free from sin had no sin to atone for. He did not need to die because of sin. But he did so on our behalf. Paying the price, we could not pay. Atoning for our sin. Bringing forgiveness where we deserved none. Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection are the whole of his mission, to bring us back to God.
Paul sums up this Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8:
Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Jesus fulfills the scriptures, the promises that were made thousands of years before hand. He fulfills a plan that was made before the creation of the world. Jesus is God become man. Jesus came to save sinners, one mediator between God and man.
Salvation, freedom from sin. Forgiveness. Eternal life with God. Citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. Christs righteousness. All these things are available to us because of what Jesus did 2000 years ago. Available to us by the grace of God alone. Gods grace poured out on us, the vehicle for which is faith alone, no works, no deeds, no nothing on our end. The object of that faith shall be Christ alone. Jesus and only Jesus saves. There is one path to God the Father, and it is Jesus. And all of this as we have seen is for Gods Glory alone.
Ephesians 2:1-10 speaks to this, with Paul writing:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This gift of God is free, though it is not what some would call Free Grace. Jesus doesn’t just save us so that we can stay as we are. Instead, he calls us to repent, to turn away from our sins, from our previous lives. The passage in 1 Corinthians 6 showed us that as well. There is a change in us if we meet Jesus and accept his gift by faith.

Lastly, God didn’t do any of this because he needs anything from us. He is trinity. Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Co eternal, Co-existence, One God. He wasn’t lonely or anything like that. But he does love us, his creations. And so that calm, starry night, 200 years, Jesus came down, in the fullness of time, to fulfill all prophecy and scripture to do something for us that we couldn’t do. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. That is what forget when we focus on anything other than the entire life and work and mission of Christ. Jesus born, but it didn’t end there, he lived and died and rose again and he is right now sitting on the throne of David, reigning and ruling over all of his creation.
So, we end with the most simple answer to the question: Why did Jesus come? WE let scripture answer, John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Let’s Pray

Luke 5:1-11 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus First Disciples

Luke 5:1-11

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus First Disciples

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 5. As we really start to get into Jesus ministry here on earth, we get to see how people respond to him and how people today respond to him in those very same ways.

So, a brief overview of where we have been, of Jesus public ministry so far in the Gospel of Luke. We started in Nazareth where Jesus preached the Word of God, announced that he was the fulfillment of the Word and was rejected out of hand by his hometown. They wanted to kill him, and he was run out of town.

He then went down to the region around the Sea of Galilee, to the town of Capernaum. Now, they reacted exactly the opposite of how Nazareth did. They propped him up and wanted him to stay there. Jesus continued to preach the Word and seemingly because of their willingness to listen and believe, Jesus also performed many healings and cast out many demons during his time in Capernaum.

Stories about Jesus spread throughout the region and he gained many followers, people listening to his teachings and wanting to see him perform more miracles. But today is going to be the first time we see committed followers, actual disciples of Jesus the Messiah.

This morning we are going to read from Luke chapter 5, verses 1-11. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation, always making sure to read for your self what the Word of God says.

Luke 5:1-11, Luke based off meticulous research and firsthand eyewitness interviews and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

 

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”[a] 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

 

 

Now, we see that the events of this passage take place during his time around Galilee. The lake of Gennesaret is another name for the Sea of Galilee. So, this week’s events take place during the time of the events we looked at last week. We know that it for sure takes place before v 39 when Jesus went into Simon, who was Peter’s house.

And that’s the first thing we will look at this morning. We know that each of the four Gospels are not written or put together strictly chronologically. So, we ask, why did Luke put both sections of chapter 4 before the events of chapter 5, some of which take place before some of the events of Chapter 4?”

Well, I’m glad you asked. The Gospel writes in general, and Luke here specifically will often group stories together because together, they make a point, or show a truth. It emphasizes something about Jesus that the Gospel writer, inspired by the Holy Spirit wants us to see and wants us to know.  In this case, Luke is showing the two different reactions and responses to Jesus and his teachings. One rejecting him completely and one accepting and continuing to listen to and follow his teachings.

 

Now, we see that on one occasion during his time in Capernaum, there were large crowds pushing up on Jesus. They were treating him like we see today with rock stars and celebrities. The crowds were pushing up on him like he was the Beatles or Elvis, and we know, despite John Lennon’s famous claim, that He is bigger than they are.

And they were doing so for good reasons actually. These people wanted to hear the Word of God preached by him. Scriptures says that. They were by the Sea of Galilee and pushing Jesus towards the sea.

There just happened to be two boats right by where he was being pushed up against the water. Of course, we know that nothing just happens, there is no “luckily,” God is sovereign over it all and he makes all things happen. These two boats were there for a reason. And we will see that reason.

There were two fishing boats there, they were in for the day. Fishermen would take their boats out during the night, bring them back in the morning, have breakfast and then work on whatever the boats needed, including washing and mending the nets they used. That’s what Peter and his partners were doing on the beach that morning.

Jesus commandeered Peters boat and had him push off the land into the water. Here he was able to sit, which again, was the custom when teaching in those days. The water also allowed there to be much better natural acoustics, not the last time we will see this be the case in Israel in Bible times. But remember this was a big crowd coming to listen to Jesus and he just made it so that they could all hear Him.

Now, we don’t get a report on what Jesus taught that morning. Sometimes we do because that’s the point of the passage that we are reading. This mornings passage is not about what Jesus was teaching but in the responses of people to the teachings of Jesus and therefore to Jesus himself.

So, after he was done teaching for the morning, he decides to show Simon, who was Peter, something. He tells him, go over here and put your nets out. Peter is often, if we are honest with ourselves, an example of how we all react, saying things that we all want to say, or that we all think but don’t say out loud.

What he says is that there is no reason to go put the nets down over there. They had been fishing all night and it was one of those nights where they just didn’t catch anything. Peters implication is “Jesus, your great at that preaching stuff! But now you’re encroaching on my turf. I’m the fisherman, I’m the expert here.”

And we do that often with Jesus. We come Sunday and whenever else and we give that time to him and we think we are doing such a good job. Then we get to wherever we go to, our job, our family, our school, our hobbies, whatever, and we act out “ok Jesus, I’ve got this now, I don’t need your help with this.”

But, to Peters credit, he does say, “Since you say so, Ill do it.” There is still obedience there. And he does this, in the middle of the day, when fish were known to avoid the waters where the nets might be, after being up all night on the boats, tossing the nets out, dragging them back in and being frustrated at them not catching anything, he still obeys.

And what Simon finds is that, quite simply, the LORD provides. The nets that Simon threw out there caught more fish than he could handle. It was going to break the nets. He had to call for his partners to help pull the fish in.

RC Sproul says that the record catch was a “Reward for obedience, not the result of skill or technique.” He was responding to the false idea that the fish were a result of anything that Simon did. It was a bona fide miracle from   Jesus. All Him, nothing of us. So, the second boat comes over and helps with the fish, but again, there are so many that the second boat begins to sink.

Now, notice the switch that happens with Simon at this point. Luke had been referring to him as Simon. Now he is listed as Simon Peter. This switch happens when Peter acknowledges and confess Jesus as LORD.

See when that happens, when we do that, our identity changes. We see it often in the Bible. We see it in this case with Simon, would have his name changed by Jesus to Peter.           His identity is changed, and Jesus gives name to that.

Now, we don’t have our names changed in these cases, but our identity still changes.

Our identity changes from sinner to saint.

Our identity changes from goat to sheep.

Our identity changes from child of the devil to a child of God.

Our identity changes from unrighteous to clothed in His righteousness.

Our identity changes from condemned to redeemed.

 

A prerequisite for our identity changing is what we see happen with Simon Peter. He recognizes his sinfulness. He recognizes that he is unworthy. He knows that God cannot be in the presence of sin. He was astonished at this fish miracle.

Simon Peter recognized and acknowledged who Jesus was. He was LORD. This was not just some great teacher they were listening to. He was so much more than that. He was God.

CS Lewis made a famous argument that Jesus, with all He said, had only three options. He was a Liar, making it all up to fool the people. Or he could have been a lunatic, truly believing that he was who he said he was but deluded in that belief. The last option was that he was in fact who he said he was. That he was God. That he was LORD. He was either a Liar, a Lunatic or LORD.

Simon Peter recognized which one he was. And not only he, but his partners as well. We know from Marks Gospel that Simons brother Andrew was there too and a part of this. We also see Luke specify here brothers James and John, the sons of Zebedee and they have probably the best nicknames in all of the Bible, the Sons of Thunder!

Faith is often contagious. It could have stopped with Simon Peter, but all four of them responded by faith. When one person comes to faith, often more people around them will as well, sometimes friends, sometimes family, whoever.

And we see no hesitation among those who consciously recognize Jesus as God. As soon as they knew, it was time to act. It was time to follow. This also shows that there is no time to hesitate in our decision to follow Christ. Death bed conversions do happen, but if you are banking on one, then you should be worried. You can’t bank on tomorrow; you never know if you will have tomorrow. But Jesus does promise eternity. Today is the day of salvation and salvation belongs to the LORD. Don’t out it off because you may not get another chance.

Jesus makes it clear to Simon Peter what he expects from him.   He was no longer going to be catching fish, but he would now be a fisher of men. He literally says that he will catch alive men, as if to rescue them from danger. In this case from eternal danger of Hellfire and brimstone.

As Philip Ryken relates, “People often say, ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for the day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ But Jesus shows us that if you teach a man to fish for men, the people he catches will live forever.”

Jesus gave them a call, a mission. He said to follow me. And they did. They dropped everything and left it all immediately. They left their businesses. They left comfort and knowledge of what tomorrow would bring. They left their livelihoods. You know I wonder if that might have had something to do with Simons mother-in-law being sick, wondering how this guy was going to take care of her daughter now that he was following this Jesus teacher guy…

Life in the church, a life of true faith is not a sectator sport. It is a life of action. It is a life of going and being fishers of men, casting our nets and letting God provide the catch. It is a life of actively pursuing God. It is a life of actively seeking to serve and obey him, of actively repenting of our sins. A life of faith is a life of action.

We see in this passage this morning the things that Jesus calls us to as disciples. He calls us to listen to his Word. He calls us t repent and grieve our sins. He calls us to tell others about Christ and who he is.
One commentator tells us about being fishers of men, writing: A fisherman never knows what he is going to catch. The catch is up to the sovereignty of God, as any fisherman can tell you.  But if a fisherman refuses to drag his net, he will never catch anything at all. The same is true in Christian evangelism. WE are called to cast a wide net by inviting our neighbors to Bible Study, bringing our friends to church, speaking to family members about spiritual things, supporting Christian broadcasting, sending out foreign missionaries, and sharing the Gospel in every way we can. This is our calling both as the church and as individual Christians.

As disciples of Christ, as disciples of Jesus, we are to show everyone we can who exactly Jesus is. He is the Messiah. He is God, the second member of the trinity. He is our savior. He is the one who died on the cross, shed his perfect blood, rose form the dead and is living and reigning right now in heaven. He is the King of Kings and the LORD of LORDs. He is the ultimate object of our love, affection and worship. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the creator of the universe.

When CS Lewis was setting out the three options, we have for our response to who Jesus claims to be, he ends it with this quote, which Ill close with us and then Ill pray. He sums up that section, writing:

You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

 

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 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.

 

Daniel 5:1-31 God of All Nations: The Night Babylon Fell

Daniel 5:1-31

God of All Nations

The Night Babylon Fell

 

Good Morning Bangor Community Church! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Daniel chapter 5. As you are turning there, as you have all hopefully heard, this is my last week of online only sermons. We are opening back up, next Sunday, June 7 at our regular time of 10 Am. Finally, we get to come back together and worship the LORD together as a church family.

But in the meantime, Daniel chapter 5. The era of Nebuchadnezzar, Ol Nebby, is over. We start off here seeing his grandson, Belshazzar is in charge. And we are going to see the continuation of the main theme that we see in this book, That God is sovereign.

He controls kingdoms. He raises up rulers and he tears them down. Romans 13 tells us that all rulers in government were put there specifically and purposefully by God. Nebuchadnezzar was not unique. God has his hand in the reign of all rulers and kingdoms.

And we don’t know the eternal destination of Nebuchadnezzar. I myself am doubtful that he trusted in the God of Daniel, the one True God and his God. But he was teachable. And he did acknowledge Gods power and sovereignty. We look today at someone who was not teachable.

This chapter takes place, we know, in 539 BC. Historically we know this because 539 is the year that the Babylonian empire fell to the Meads and Persians. The city was, in all likelihood, already under siege at the point this chapter takes place, making the decisions made by Belshazzar all the more curious.

So, before we go any further, we will go ahead and read the first section of the Daniel chapter 5, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to grab your own Bible, in your preferred translation and follow along as we read Gods Holy Word.

Daniel chapter 5:1-9, Daniel records:

 

King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father[a] had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared[b] to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

The first thing we see, in the midst of the Persian siege against the last stronghold of the Babylonian empire, is that Belshazzar throws a massive feast, a great party. WE see in him shades of the rich young ruler in Luke chapter 12. Nothing else matters to him expect his riches, his persona, what others think of him. Belshazzar is going to be the perfect epitome of when Jesus warns us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

And he does sell his soul, while blinding himself to the reality around him. His city was falling. His empire was crumbling, and he was eating, drinking and being merry. And that was not enough for him either.

In verse 2, Belshazzar decided to take his rebellion against the Most High God up another notch. He called for the golden vessels that were taken, by Nebby from the temple in Jerusalem and he called for them to be brought to him as drinking vessels.

They were symbols of the Jewish religion and they were symbols of God himself. And anyone that thinks that Belshazzar didn’t know what he was doing, Paul tells us in Romans 1,  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

          This act by Belshazzar, using these vessels as regular china, getting drunk out of them, and toasting and praising a variety of false gods, this was the ultimate act of sacrilege, of disrespect and of blasphemy. This is the kind of thing that you would expect God to act against. This is the kind of thing that you want to step a few steps away from him because you just know God is going to smite him with a lightning bolt any second know.

 

 

And God does act. In a way we might not have expected. In a way that is so uniquely Him. A human hand appears and writes on the wall in front of everyone. Belshazzar has failed the test. He has, as we will see coming up, weighed in the balance and found wanting. As Iain DuGuid points out, the Babylonian gods failed here too.

HE writes:

Belshazzar praised his gods of wood and stone and gold and silver, ascribing to them glory and honor, yet his gods couldn’t keep the LORD’s messenger from disturbing the peace of his feast. Nor could they keep him safe from the Medes and the Persians. It may have seemed to the Babylonians that when they defeated Judah and destroyed the temple, they were thereby triumphing over Israel’s god as well. However, as the book of Daniel unfolded, it became clear that the reality was that Israel’s God could effectively defend the honor of his sacred vessels and the lives of his faithful servants, while Babylon’s gods were impotent.

 

Belshazzar did not know what the words said that were written on the wall, but he knew that his gods did not do it. He knew that they were judgment against him. We see how scared he became. His color and his face changed. Some of the original language seems to imply that he lost control of his bodily functions. He was shaking. Because he knew that it was a judgment against him, he needed to know the exact meaning of what was written.

And this was as close as he came to channeling Nebuchadnezzar. We something happens and scares you, who you gonna call? Chaldeans! Wisemen! Enchanters! Astrologers! Ghostbusters! Oh, wait…

Anyway, they came quickly, and they were, once again, offered high status and riches, possibly even becoming the third in line for the throne, to the one who could interpret these words for the Belshazzar.

Now, this part is completely just my imagination, but this is how I picture this playing out. Between the fact that the city was under siege and the fact that Belshazzar was not being as brutal and was not as respected as Belshazzar, the wisemen may not have taken him too seriously. I picture responding something like, “Sorry, don’t know, can’t help.” Maybe sounding bored with the whole situation. That’s probably not how it happened, but that’s how it played out in my imagination.

 

 

However, they responded, it reinforced his fear, as we see again, his color changing, he was shaking and showing all signs of being afraid. What is he going to do now?

We will continue with verses 10-16:

 

The queen,[c] because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.[d] In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods[e] is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

 

 

So, right when Belshazzar is at his wits end and doesn’t know what to do, the Queen comes in. Now, we know that this is not Belshazzar’s wife. WE saw in verses 2 & 3 that the wives and concubines were there at the feast as well. This would have been the Queen Mother, a woman of High power, high standing and with authority in the kingdom. I speculate that this was likely either Belshazzar’s mom, or his grandmother, who would have been Nebuchadnezzar’s wife.

She is quick to compare and contrast Belshazzar with Nebuchadnezzar and not in a positive light on Belshazzar either. She quickly reminds him of what he would have already known. See, there’s this guy, named Daniel… or Belteshazzar if you prefer, and he is the spirits of the holy gods. He kind of has a history with interpreting messages from the Most High God. Why Don’t you give him a call…?

 

We see that Daniels reputation preceded him. He would have been in his 70s or 80s at this point. He epitomized what Paul would later put down as one of the requirements for an elder in 1 Timothy 3:7, where” he must be thought well of by outsiders.” We are going to see that Daniel not only has a good reputation going into this, but he is going to live up to it as well. That should be a challenge to each of us. Do outsiders and those that are around us think well of us? And do they have good reason to? Do we live up to that view they have to us?

Belshazzar brought Daniel in and kind of gave a combination of flattery and skepticism when he welcomed him. Or maybe it was skepticism trying to masquerade as flattery. I’ve heard this about you…If you prove it, I will give you riches, power and status. He offered Daniel the same rewards he offered to the wisemen before him.

 

 

Daniel responds and interprets the writing on the wall in our last section, verses 17-31:

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son,[f] Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered[g] the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed[h] in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”[i]

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 [j] And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Maybe I’m reading onto this, but it seems that Daniel has no use for Belshazzar. He says, keep your gifts and keep your rewards. I don’t want them. But I will interpret what’s going on here.

Now, Daniel has accepted the rewards that Nebby, for example, has offered to him. And yet, he dismissed what Belshazzar is offering. We have lots of theories, but no for sure answers.

Was the difference the person offering.

Was the difference the scenario? That Daniel knew Babylon was falling?

Was it to show that the gifts of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit cannot be bought? We see this with Simon the magician in Acts chapter 8 as well.

I suspect that the first is the biggest factor here. There doesn’t seem to be much honor within Belshazzar and there doesn’t seem to be much respect for him from the people around him. This is a big difference between how people treated and respected Nebuchadnezzar and how they did with Belshazzar.

As we have seen in the last number of chapters, Nebuchadnezzar was not a perfect man. Not even close. He had to learn lessons the hard way. He had to learn the hard way who God was. He had to learn the hard way about Gods sovereignty, his power. He had to learn the hard way that God was the Most High God. He was humbled severely as we saw last chapter, and this was a man a King who had, from man’s perspective, a lot to be proud of.

Daniel says, You, Belshazzar, on the other hand, you already should have known. You already should have remembered the lessons that Ol Nebby had to learn the hard way. You have not humbled yourself and there is nothing for you to be proud of. And tonight, tonight was the last straw.

The words written on the wall are Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. Literally, numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.

 

Mene; God has decided to bring your kingdom to an end. God has numbered the days of every kingdom that raises up in this world both in the past and in the future. God has numbered the days of the Babylonian kingdom and those numbered days are over.

 

Tekel; You have been weighed in the balance and you have been found wanting. You don’t measure up. All those things that you thought would balance the cosmic scales, they don’t add up to a hill of beans in Gods eyes.

Belshazzar and so many of us, we trust in ourselves. We have an elevated sense of self worth and pride. We think that we are good enough to rebel against and thumb our nose at the Most High and holy God and to get away with it. We think that Gods holiness demands nothing of us. That we can live it up today, that we can do whatever we want, that we can do our own thing, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, that we can do it all ourselves.

We think if we do enough good, be nice to enough people, live moral enough lives, protest against bad things, follow the rules of society, give to enough charities, that we can outweigh the sin in our lives on those cosmic scales. And there is no truth to any of that. It is a lie that sends people to hell.

 

 

Parsin; Your kingdom is divided. It is now out of your hands. It is being given to the Meads and Persians. God decides who is in control and he decides who takes over and who gains power and who loses power. God decided that it is time for the Medo Persian empire to rise and tonight is that night.

 

Well, none of that, obviously was what Belshazzar wanted to hear. But he knew, he could tell Daniel was telling him the truth. He gave the rewards that he promised to Daniel, whether he wanted them or not.

That very night Belshazzar died at the hands of the Meads and Persians. Babylon fell. Gods words were proven true. Darius the Mead, whom we will look at next chapter takes over.

Now, If Belshazzar had praised and trusted in the True God instead of his Babylonian gods, he likely would not have died that night. Now, don’t get me wrong, God does not play the Quid Pro Quo game. He does not give because he got. We don’t earn anything. We do not work enough to earn anything. But God does take care of and have mercy on those who believe in him, who trust him and him alone and who offer their full praise up to him and him alone.

God showed mercy to Nebuchadnezzar. He gave no mercy to Belshazzar. And his reason is simply because he said so. OF course, there’s more to it than that, but there doesn’t need to be more than that. God knows what he is doing and why and he is in control of all of it.

God shows the ultimate mercy on those who trust in him and his Son Jesus Christ. Many stories in the Old Testament point towards Jesus with the people we see. Daniel is of course one of them. Moses, Joseph, David, so many more have attributes that are partials of the ones that Jesus has in perfection. But we also see Jesus clearly in the opposites of some of the people we see, including Belshazzar.

Iain Duguid lays out Belshazzar as an anti-type of Jesus. Writing:

 

In contrast to the Kingdom of Belshazzar, which is weighed in the balance and found insubstantial and wanting to be divided among the enemies, there is the kingdom which God has established in Jesus Christ. Ironically, Jesus had none of the outward glitz and glitter for which the world clamors so loudly. He had virtually no possessions and relatively few followers. He had no outward beauty or majesty to commend him, appearing on earth as a humble carpenter, not as a mighty emperor. Jesus never had the resources to throw a star-studded party for a thousand of his closest friends, though he did brighten up a banquet that he attended by turning water into rich wine. His kingdom is not of this world.

          Yet when Jesus life was weighed in gods balance, it was found to be perfect and complete, able to satisfy fully the demands of Gods holiness, not just for himself but for all those who come to God through him. His great banquet awaits us in the future, at the end of time; on that day, in place of Belshazzar’s nobles, there will be thousands of Christs saints in attendance upon him- all those who have washed their robes and made them clean in the blood of the Lamb. At that banquet there will be no place for our pride or for toasting our achievements: rather, every single person who is there will confess freely that they have been saved by God’s grace and purified by God’s mercy. On that day, there will be no unseemly interruptions of the banquet: God’s rule will be established forever and ever. His kingdom will not be divided and given to his enemies: on the contrary, it is formed of a people who are made one in Christ.

 

Powerful and encouraging words of the reality to come. IF you don’t know Jesus Christ, if you have not repented of your sins and believed the Gospel, if you are trusting in your goodness instead of Christs perfect righteousness, now is the time to turn to him and to move from eternal death to eternal life. Salvation belongs to the LORD and today is the day of salvation.

If you do know Christ, if you are washed by His blood, if you have submitted your life to His Word, His commands and His will, if you have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, then rejoice, that banquet that Duguid mentioned is waiting for us, as one in Christ, as one family in Christ, co heirs of the eternal kingdom of heaven where God will be praised and worship for all of perfect eternity.

 

Let’s Pray.

Daniel 3:1-30 God of All Nations: 3 men and a Furnace

Daniel 3:1-30
God of All Nations
3 men and a Furnace

Good Morning Bangor Community Church and anyone else that may be listening. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 3. In the book of Daniel, especially the first 6 chapters, there are a lot of stories that we are at least partially familiar with, and we may think that we are intimately aware of. These tend to be classic Sunday School Lessons.
Today, the story we will look at in Chapter 3 is a prime example. We are going to look at the story of Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego (Babylonian names) getting thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar. And I think that we are going to see a lot of things that we assume were part of the story, or that we assumed we understood that we just didn’t see before now. I know that’s at least what happened with me.
Before we get into that, however, let’s look at what’s already happened n Daniel, that led to this point. Ol Nebby had, in chapter 2, had a dream revolving around a huge statue where he was the golden head. When Daniel was able to tell him what his dream was and to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream for him, The King acknowledged Daniel’s God as “God of gods and Lord of Kings.”
What the King did NOT do, however, was turn to and acknowledge Yahweh as exclusively God. He still ruled over, lived in and believed in a pluralistic community. There were many gods, over many things, each nation had their own god, and all were valid and powerful.
In this, Daniel was put as, essentially, the Kings right hand man, he was given authority over all the magi and wisemen. Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego were appointed as governors over the province of Babylon.
As we move forward into chapter 3, we see that the theme of this chapter and the theme of the entire book as a whole is that God is not just a god among gods but is God over all. He is the God of all Nations. He is the God of all Kingdoms. He is the God over all other so-called gods. He is the God of all people. That is why I have titled this series, God of all Nations.
So, with all that being said, let’s go ahead and start reading Daniel chapter 3. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your Bibles, with your preferred translation. So, Daniel chapter 3, we will start with verses 1-7, though we will cover the entire chapter 3 this morning.
Daniel 3:1-7, Daniel writes:
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits[a] and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

May God Bless the Reading of His Word
So, we see from the beginning a couple of questions that pop up to me, but that we won’t find answers for in the text. First, we don’t know how long after chapter 2, that this chapter takes place. It could have been very shortly afterwards, when the dream was still fresh in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind, or it could have been much later on, as the impact of the interpretation has faded just a bit. We also don’t know where Daniel is during this story. He may have been left behind to tend to business while all the other officials were at the statue. He could have been alongside Nebby during this, and just exempt from the command and punishments. The truth is we just don’t know.
But we start this chapter off with very clear connections to Nebbys dream. He builds a statue made of gold, and he builds it 90 feet tall. This is a huge statue for the day, but it’s also not unheard of, meaning it’s incredibly impressive, but not unbelievable. To give an example of the scale, the Sphinx in Egypt is 66 feet tall.
I want us to look at one possible motivation here as well. Nebuchadnezzar built this statue out of Gold. Now it was likely Gold plated, but it was still, the entire thing was Gold. It is likely and it seems obvious to me that Nebby was trying to ignore or to undo the interpretation of his dream. Daniel was clear that, while Nebby was the golden head of the four kingdoms and that the ones who came after him would be progressively inferior. Nebby was a narcissistic sociopath. He would have greatly accepted that he was the golden head. He may have, though probably not have accepted that strong and superior kingdoms would have defeated him. But he most certainly would not have been willing to accept that inferior kingdoms would replace him. And so, in the imagery of his statue, he eliminated them and made it all about him.
So, he builds this monstrous monument to himself. And all the movers and shakers, all the government officials, all the influencers, all of them came to stand before the statue, came for the event of the dedication and the unveiling. They all came to pay homage to Ol’ Nebby.
Nebuchadnezzar tells them how. When the signal hits, in this case the orchestra playing, when you hear this, you will bow down and worship this golden image of me!
Now, for me, when I usually think of this story, I think of it as, every time you hear music you have to bow down. But that’s not what we see here. This is not an ongoing thing, this is a onetime event, a show, or maybe a test of loyalty.
And here is the law. If you do not keep this command, you will be thrown into a fiery furnace and burned alive. This was not an uncommon punishment for those days. And there would have been a giant furnace, or a kiln may be a better way for us to think about it, right there. It would have been used to forge and smelt the metals and the gold used in the construction of the statue.
And yes, it seems odd to us today that people would bow down and worship a statue of their king, or that Nebby would build a 90 foot statue of himself in order for people to worship, but it’s not that odd. It is that days manifestation of Romans 1:25, where Paul writes: they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,
Today we see it in our practical worship of our jobs, our schooling, our sports teams, our politicians, our favorite celebrities, even our families, husbands, wives, kids and their activities. John Calvin wrote that the “human heart is an idol factory.” It can even be our way of life, our comfort, or our nation that we make an idol in these days.
We are rarely called to literally bow down before our idols, though in some places and to some idols that still happens today. But we sacrifice for them. We put them first. We put them above God himself, even if we believe in God.
Our politician says something, no matter what, no matter what the Bible says, and we agree with it and we manipulate the bible to make it fit. We forget that the Bible is more important and more applicable to a Christians life than the Constitution is. We have kids who have activities Sunday mornings and so we justify ignoring church to worship at the altar of our kids, or our own hobbies and interests. These idols are still out there, and we are still bowing down before them, even today.
In verse 7, the music played. The band struck up a tune and the people all bowed down to the statue. All bowed down. All nations, all languages, all tribes. False gods don’t discriminate.
Music can be very powerful. That’s why we like to have music when we sing our songs of worship and praise at church. That’s one of the things, outside of fellowship, that I miss the most in this time of not meeting together.
But music can be used to manipulate as well. Many of the false teachers today use music to manipulate their congregation into emotional experiences. When you can make worship an experience, you can focus and steer that experience towards the desired object of worship.
You may often hear of these places where during the worship was a spectacle, it is described as an environment, people get caught up in the moment of that worship.
Sinclair Ferguson has some good things to say about this in his commentary on Daniel. He writes about this story: there was an aesthetic effect in abundance on the plain of Dura. A person would have had to be extremely narrow-minded not to share on the sheer magnificence of the occasion and the splendor of the music.
He continues: The sad reality is “all that glitters is not gold.” The important thing about worship is its object. Do we worship God or ourselves? The test of whether worship is God centered or centered on ourselves will be found in the question: Do we worship God according to His revelation or according to our own disposition? In worship, the statement, “How I like to worship is…” is irrelevant. All that matter is how God chooses to be worshipped.
And of course, worshipping and bowing down to a 90-foot statue in the image of Nebuchadnezzar is not how he chooses to be worshipped. Songs more about our feelings and emotions are not how he chooses to be worshiped. But worship these people did.
Let’s continue on with Daniel 3:8-18, as he writes:
Therefore, at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared[b] to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.[c] But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

King Nebby didn’t discriminate. He didn’t care what nation you were from. He didn’t care what language you spoke. He didn’t care which gods you chose to worship. As long as you worshipped him. Again, same thing we saw in Rome. You can worship Jesus, as long as you call Caesar LORD. We see it today. You can believe in Jesus, as long as you worship science, inclusivity, tolerance, self-reliance, America, comfort, social justice, celebrity culture, communism, capitalism, achievements, worth health, Obama or Trump. As long as you bow down and worship at least one of those, go right on ahead and believe in Jesus.
And we see that the Chaldeans came to Ol Nebby and told him of three men who would not bow down to hum and his statue. They were very pointed in their accusations as well. It says they, “maliciously accused the Jews.” Some see some anti-Semitism in this, in how they singled out that they were Jews. That’s definitely possible. Some see this as personal jealousy that these three guys had such privileged positions after so short a time. That’s definitely possible. Some say it was a combination of the two. That seems most likely.
The fact is that all the people in attendance were told to bow or they would be punished by law. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t. Sinclair Ferguson uses them as an example to point out that we are not to make big shows of ourselves when we take stands like this. The three men didn’t make a big deal. They didn’t protest the statue. They didn’t sit down and so a hunger strike. They didn’t boycott. They just stood quietly and off to the side. They didn’t hide obviously, but they didn’t draw any undue attention to themselves.
We have a tendency, as human beings, to think like this,” Did you see me not doing that thing that everyone else was doing? Yup, I’m pretty holy. Did you see me doing that thing that nobody else was doing? Yup my faith in God is strong and uncompromising.”
We have seen this in the last two months, where churches have decided not to listen to the various state at home orders by the governors and the opened up anyway and various things have come if those situations. But most of them are not quietly meeting, not making a big deal of it, many of them are flaunting their disobedience in the name of religious liberty.
But Shad, Mac and Abe didn’t do that. They just stood to the side and refused to bow down. The Chaldeans kind of come across as annoyed children. I know I see in my house, “Daaaaaaad! They’re not doing what they are supposed to be! They are not listening to you!”
And if course, Ol Nebby was furious, to put it mildly. He brings the 3 guys in to give them a chance to make things right. It may be that he couldn’t believe it because he trusted. It could be he didn’t believe it because he could believe that anyone would dare disobey him.
Either way, it is surprising what happens. He gives them a second chance. He says, “They told me you wouldn’t listen, well here’s your chance. Ill strike up the band again, and if you bow now, we can put thus whole scenario behind us. If you don’t, well… you know the consequences…”
In fact, he says, who is the god that can save you. Essentially, he is saying that he is the one with ultimate power and authority and their god has none and cannot save them. Part of this seems to be that the furnace, or the kiln, is right there. There is no transportation. There is no waiting or delay. So, there is no time for another god to step in and help them.
Of course, the decline the invitation. They make their point; No matter what God can save them. He may choose not to, but even if that’s the case, we will still choose to worship Him, and we will never bow down to you.
Stephan Miller writes: although no doubt existed in the minds if Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-ego about the ability of their God to deliver them, they humbly accepted the fact that God does not always choose to intervene miraculously in human circumstances, even on behalf of his servants.

The early church father and historian Jerome, also says this: Thereby they indicate that it will not be a matter of Gods inability but rather of his sovereign will if they do perish.”

In addition to Gods ability to deliver and save regardless of whether he chooses to, here’s I, I think, the biggest point that I can take away from this. Yes, we are to obey Gods laws over man’s laws. Yes, they were right to take their stand and not bow to the statue. But man’s laws still stand. God puts every leader into authority, and he has granted governments their power and authority. So, if we decide that a situation or a law goes against Gods law, we may be right in choosing to not obey or submit to the situation or the law, but, and here is the kicker, You need to be willing to, and expect to face the consequences of your choices.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were right to obey God instead of man, and not bow down. But they were also willing to submit to the punishment and consequences of their decision. This is one spot where, here in America, I think, Christians are soft. We want the right to disobey the laws and rules that we think are unbiblical and wrong, but we also want immunity from doing so.
We saw a crystal-clear example a few years ago, after the supreme decided that same sex marriage was legal. There was a county clerk in Kentucky. Her job was to sign the marriage licenses to make them legal. She decided that she was not going to sign the licenses for same sex couples. That was her conviction regarding obey Gods laws instead of mans. But then there was a whole uproar after she was arrested for not complying with the law. She was well within her rights to refuse to do so, but that doesn’t mean she should not have been punished for it. Christians, brothers, sisters, there are times and circumstances when it is right and good to reject man’s laws because they go against Gods laws. As Martin Luther famously said as he came before the synod at Dort, as he was told to recant of his 95 Thesis, he said he would not recant, he would not back down. He said, and I quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
But we have to remember that there are consequences that come with it and we may not like them. We may be harmed, we may be imprisoned and killed for these stances. We need to know that ahead of time and we need to be willing to go through with that if and when we choose to stand for God against man’s laws.
Ok, so let’s read the next chunk of verses, Daniel 3:19-23:
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics,[e] their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
Now, their response, as you would imagine, did not go over well with Ol Nebby. In fact, his fury raged. He was incensed. He ordered the furnace to be heated up to 7 times hotter than normal. It seems obvious with eh number 7 being used that this is an expression meaning to get it as hot as possible. He ordered that the 3 men would be thrown into the furnace immediately.
The guards tied them up, still in their clothes and took them to throw them in the firs. The furnace had gotten so hot that the guards throwing them in where overwhelmed by the heat and died. Many suspect that this was either because of the urgency of Nebuchadnezzar’s command, that they didn’t have time to prepare themselves, protect themselves from the heat. Or that there was a sudden shift of the wind direction right as they were throwing the guys in. I personally like the second one, because if that’s what happened, it speaks to God acting in the situation regardless of if he decides to save the 3 men in the furnace.
Let us read the last chunk of verses, Daniel 3:24-30:
4 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Highest God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
What a scene that must have been for Ol Nebby. He had the three of them thrown in, tied up, into a fiery furnace that was made as hot as it could possibly be, so hot that it killed the guards who threw them in. And Nebuchadnezzar looks in and is shocked and amazed. He says, not three, but four men! Unbound! Walking around! He couldn’t believe it! He had to show others as well to make sure he wasn’t seeing things!
And the fourth had the appearance as a son of the gods. Now, there has been a lot of speculation about this. Whether this was a physical appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus, otherwise known as a Christophany. I believe that it is. Some believe, as many of the Jewish scholars did, that this was the archangel Gabriel. It isn’t explicit in the text, but here is what we do know. Nebby didn’t know who it was either, but from his appearance, it was clear that this fourth person was divine. He was more than a man. He would not have had any idea who Jesus was or that this was Jesus, but he knew that this was a divine being in there protecting Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.
Nebby was so amazed that he called for the three to come out, along with the “Most High God.” Now, to the Jews and to Christians now, this title refers to the one and only, living God. But to the unbelievers, especially of the day, to those in a polytheistic, pluralistic society, this would have meant the highest of many Gods.
So, the boys came out and everyone around saw that they were unburned, unsinged and that they did not even smell like fire.
Nebuchadnezzar is so amazed, and he declares that their God is a god. That he sent an angel to save them. Their god saved them because they wouldn’t bow down to any other gods.
He then, for this particular instance, reverses his course and his decree. He says that anyone who says anything bad against their god will be punished. By not saying anything about it, he says that they no longer need to bow before his statue.
To be clear, there is no evidence that Nebuchadnezzar repented of his idolatry or his blasphemy. There is no evidence that he tore down his statue. There is no evidence that he trusted in the one true God, the God of Israel, the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. The god of the Jews was a great god, a god to be feared and respected and a god of which nothing may be said against, but he was not the god of Nebuchadnezzar.
In the end, Nebuchadnezzar restored the boys to their positions over the province of Babylon and even gave them a promotion of sorts.
This is the biblical story of 3 men in the furnace. This is not the typical Sunday School story. This is not the veggie tales’ story. This is what happened. The more I preach on stories in the Bible, that are supposedly well known, the more I see that God is incredible and he puts so much more into these stories than we see on the surface. It inspires me to try to look deeper and I hip it does the same for you.
Again, the main point of all this is that God is over and above all. He is over and above everything else. He is not one of many. He is not the greatest of many. He is the only and the highest. He is the all holy, all knowing God of all tongues, tribes and nations. As the only God, he sends only one means of salvation.
By his grace and his grace alone, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, truly man, and truly God. ON that note, I will leave you with a passage from the Gospel of John. John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Let’s Pray

Daniel 1:1-8 God of all Nations: Introduction and Background

Daniel 1:1-8

God of all Nations

Introduction and Background

 

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to the Book of Daniel. We finished up our series through 1 & 2 Timothy, called Life in the Local Church, right before Easter. Today we are starting a new series through the book of Daniel that I am calling God of All Nations.

As you all know, my philosophy in preaching is to go through a book of the Bible, line by line, verse by verse and look at both the immediate context and the bigger picture. I do try to alternate between Old Testament and New Testament books, and I do that, partly so that I don’t just end up going through Paul’s letters and a Gospel every once in a while.

And so, going through some of these other books challenges me and I hope, they will challenge you too. Now, Daniel is unique. It is part Historical, that is where we are going to spend the first long chunk of our series. And It then is part prophecy, that is why, in the Christian Bible, it is placed in the prophets. Because of the prophecies and because of the lens that we view those prophecies in, Daniel can be a very divisive book if we let it be. But we are not going to let it be. Suffice it to say, that we wont all agree on what the prophecies say and what they mean, especially in todays world and with todays current events.

Daniel is also unique in that it is written in two different languages. Daniel 1:1 through chapter 2, verse 3 is written in Hebrew, as is Chapters 8 through 12. The middle section there, chapter 2, verse 4, through chapter 7 is written in Aramaic. Now, Hebrew was the language of the Jews, the language of Israel. Aramaic was the official and the common language if the Babylonian empire.

That leads us to some historical context regarding the book of Daniel. Now, this book was written, despite recent scholarly suggestions to the contrary, in the neighborhood of 530 BC. So that’s 500 years before the birth of Christ. It starts however, back in 605 BC. So, the book of Daniel spans about 70 years.

To understand what happens in 605 BC, we need to go back even further in Israel’s history. Under the Kingship of David and then, his son Solomon, 400 years prior, Israel was more united and more powerful than ever. Then, shortly after the death of Solomon, Israel split into to countries. The kingdom of Israel in the North, comprising of 10 of the 12 tribes. Then there was the Kingdom of Judah in the south, comprising of Benjamin and Judah.

Both kingdoms fell into apostasy, idolatry and general unrepentant sin and divided, they were both weaker militarily and because of the sin, they were subject to the wrath and judgment from God. Israel fell first, to the Assyrian army roughly around 730 BC. Judah lasted another 130 plus years, though they too fell, this time to the Babylonians with various levels of conquership happening between 605 BC and 587 BC.

Daniel was presumed to be around 15 years old in 605 BC when he and his friends, which we will get to in a moment, where captured in Jerusalem and hauled off to Babylon. So, he spoke Hebrew there. And as he lived for 70 plus years in Babylon, serving the courts and the king, he learned Aramaic pretty fluently. Now, there is no consensus, no across the board agreement as to why Daniel was written in both languages.

But the one that makes the most sense to me, that seems to have a lot of traction amongst those who study these sorts of things is that the parts written in Hebrew were specifically being written to the Jews. This would be the introduction, what happened to Daniel and his friends and so forth. This would also include the prophecies in the last half of the book. Obviously, prophecies regarding the coming Jewish Messiah and the coming Kingdom of Heaven, would be much more applicable and interesting to the Jews than to the Babylonians. The middles section, the history of the exiles in Babylon, the dealings of with the various kings and the history during that time would be more interesting to those who spoke Aramaic.

One thing that does not hold merit is the view that because there are two languages in Daniel, that it was written by two or more different people, or at two different times. There has been a lot of skepticism that Daniel was written during the time of the Maccabees and/or by multiple authors, but there is no credibility to these theories. Jesus himself credits Daniel as a specific, historical person who wrote this book in Matthew 24:15. IT just means that there were multiple audiences in view when Daniel wrote it down.

 

 

So, 605 BC rolls around. Babylon has grown big and powerful. Nebuchadnezzar was either co-regent with his father, or all prepped to take over for him when he would soon pass. He defeats Jerusalem and takes many Jews captive and back to Babylon.

That is where the book of Daniel starts, and this is where I want us to start reading. Daniel chapter 1, verses 1-8. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along at home with your preferred translation as well. Daniel 1:1-8, Daniel opens his book, writing:

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 delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

 

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

 

 

 

Now, one of the first things we see in this book is that Daniel, and his friends, will essentially in modern language, go into Government service. They will be working for the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Christians today tend to have one of two views on situations like this. First, we need to avoid stuff like this and politics and culture are so very toxic that we need to avoid ourselves from it as fully and as completely as possible, so that they can see that we are separated, we are set apart. Second, they say that we need to be a part of they culture and bring ourselves into the culture and politics because its so toxic, and the more we conform to that culture, the more difference we will make.

And yet, Jesus prays to the Father for us that we are to be in the world but not of it. Both of those positions miss a part of what we are called to be and what we are called to do in this world. The truth is that there is a right and a wrong way for Christians to participate in politics. There is a right and a wrong way for Christians to fight for rights, to fight for religious liberties and to participate in civil disobedience. The problem is when we decide on which ways are right and wrong based on our national identities, or our moral beliefs or what we expect to be the practical outcomes of our actions. But the truth is that the only way for us to decided what ways or methods are right and wrong based only on the scriptures, solely on what Jesus, the Word of God says. We are going to see Daniel show us some of the right ways to do this very thing.

But there is a right way and wrong way to read and to approach the scriptures as well. We remember that we are to approach the scriptures just like the Apostles did, and the early church leaders did, and that is to let the New Testament interpret the Old Testament. We don’t insert things into the text. And we rarely can lift the Old Testament up, full block and drop it on to our current context and situations. As Ron Sallee says in our Contenders classes, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.”

We cannot try to affirm our believes by opening the Bibles and reading passages. We do need to let the text speak for itself. We do need to let what we read form our beliefs, not let our beliefs form what we read.

And because of how we read the book, because of what we have been taught, from our parents, from pastors and Bible Study leaders, and from books we have read, from friends around us, and yes, even from the society and the culture around us, whether we recognize it or not, because of how we read the book, we have differences of opinion in what certain parts mean, and we can think that our opinion is not opinion, but fact and is the only biblical thing that it can mean.

Daniel can be divisive. If we let it. But we are not going to let it. Especially when we get to the prophecy section of Daniel. Daniel does speak to the future and to the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. That is unavoidable in the book of Daniel. But that’s not going to be a main focus of this series.

The main focus that we are going to see in Daniel is that, as we see in all the Old Testament books, that all these Old Testament scriptures will be about and point directly to Jesus Christ, the looked for and promised Messiah, the Savior. What does Daniel teach us about Jesus? How does Daniel point to the coming Jesus? What does Daniel teach us about the Kingdom of God and especially how it relates to the kingdoms of men? Those are the main points we will be looking at.

Part of that, but secondary to that, how can we apply Daniel to today and what we are going through in these times. How do we spend our days today living in and serving a kingdom that is not ours? How do we live in and serve a kingdom that is openly and actively hostile to the kingdom that we do belong to? And how do we do so, while continuing to serve the Kingdom of God here and now and continue to do so first and foremost. How do we balance those things, both of which we are called to?

Daniel was taken into exile. He was brought out of his homeland and his home Kingdom and was brought forcibly to serve the Kingdom of Babylon, and he did so faithfully and admirably.

 

If we are in Christ, if we belong to Him, if we can rightly call ourselves Christians, then we are not citizens of this world. Peter calls us sojourners and exiles. We are travelers here, temporarily living in this kingdom, in this world. We are to love, to care for, and to serve this world while we are here, and to do so in the name of Jesus, by the Word of Jesus.

Paul writes in Romans 13:1 & 2,

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Daniel shows us that we can do this while still maintaining our loyalty to Christ and his commands. We can do this while fulfilling our purposes of serving, worshipping, and working for the one in whom we are true citizens of. Christ is our King and we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

That balance is not easy. That loyalty is not easy. Daniels home has been destroyed. His friends and he are conscripted into government service and their names are changed from ones that honor the One true God, to ones that honored the Babylonian Gods. They were taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans.

Daniel and his friends were even given new names, supposed by many to assert ownership and possession over them, to attempt to change their identity from those of Gods children to those who belong to the gods of Babylon.

And yet, if our identity is in Christ, nothing can change that. Our identity used to be that of rebel, sinner, and damned. But in Christ, our identity is changed by the one who we belong to. Our identity is changed so that we are now Christs beloved. We are now children of God. We are now saints, citizens of Heaven. Babylon tried to change their identity, to make them forget their true identity, but their foundation in God kept them faithful.

This world will try to change our identity. It will try to make you forget your identity. Try to get you to put any other identity above Child of God, above Saint. They will say that all are children of God. Or they will say that you are still a sinner. They will tell you that your other identities are more important than your identity in Christ. They will tell you that you are American first, Christian second. That was a hard one for me to come to grips with. The world will try to tell us that our political identity is first and foremost. Only Republicans can be Christians or Democrats are loving like Jesus. OR worse yet, when we go against our Christian conscience and vote for someone just because they happen to be our party’s nominee. Remember something, voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil.

 

Daniel and his friends were immersed in the foreign culture and they would show us how to stay true and faithful to God in spite of that.

That’s one thing for us to remember. Yes, the culture and society around us may be toxic. It may be actively against what God wants, what He says and what He stands for. It may actively try to corrupt us and bring us over to their side. But there is some redeeming value in some of the culture around us.

We are not called to bunker down, separate from everything except this building and eschew everything around us. We are not called to separate ourselves so far as we don’t have a witness. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to bring the Gospel to the ends of the world, making disciples and teaching them to follows Gods commands. Showing them that We are sinners, that we are not able to be good enough, that there is only one God and that He has perfect wrath and perfect grace. That we are saved by his grace, through our faith in the one and only Jesus Christ, God become man to save us sinners. We have a job and a duty while we are here in this earth and it is to serve and worship our King.

Now, the way that Daniel and his friends were able to be part of this culture and to study their teachings and still stay faithful to God is that they had a strong foundation in their faith.

Studying all of Gods Word is crucial to having that strong foundation. Knowing that Gods Word is inspired and without error is crucial to our studying of it. The more we know of it, the more we can discern. The more we can discern, the more we can discern what is truth and what is not. The more we can discern, the more we can fix our eyes straight upon Jesus, who is our foundation and our stronghold and our sabbath.

 

Let’s go ahead and Pray.