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Six of the Reasons Why God Became Flesh December 11, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Christmas, Incarnation, Sermons.
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SIX REASONS GOD BECAME MAN

When Moody went to preach in Scotland he preached for an hour about Jesus one evening. One the way to where he was staying he lamented to the Scotchman with whom he was staying that he had not been able to say all that he wanted about Christ. The Scotchman turned to him after listening for a while to Moody complain and said, “You didn’t expect to tell it all in an hour did you. It would take all eternity to tell about Jesus!”

That explains my title. There are certainly more than six reasons but I only have a certain amount of time, so I want to suggest six reasons to you why God became man and leave the rest for you to search for in the Scriptures for yourself.

A. He became a man so that Israel could have a Messiah (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 4:16-22; Romans 15:7-12).

Mark Reed says “Eating lunch at a small café, I saw a sparrow hop through the open door and peck at the crumbs near my table. When the crumbs were gone, the sparrow hopped to the window ledge, spread its wings, and took flight. Brief flight. It crashed against the window pane and fell to the floor. The bird quickly recovered and tried again. Crash. And again. Crash. I got up and attempted to shoo the sparrow out the door but the closer I got the harder it threw itself against the pane. I nudged it with my hand. That sent the sparrow fluttering along the ledge, hammering its beak at the glass. Finally, I reached out and gently caught the bird, folding my fingers around its wings and body. It weighed almost nothing. I thought of how powerless and vulnerable the sparrow must have felt. At the door I released it, and the sparrow sailed away. As I did with the sparrow, God takes us captive only to set us free” (Leadership, Winter 1994).

B. He became a man so that He could declare (reveal) the Father to us (John 1:14-18).

John points out earlier that Jesus came to his own but his own did not receive him. The end of chapter 3 tells us why. Men were in darkness and loved being in darkness because their deeds were evil.

It is not unusual for people to misunderstand outsiders and Jesus was certainly an outsider. Hiebert in Anthropological Insights for Missionaries tells how “In another part of the world, the missionaries took along a cat as a pet for their children. Unknowingly, they went to a tribe where the only people to keep cats were witches. The locals believed that at night the witches left their bodies and entered the cats, in order to prowl through the huts stealing the souls of the villager. The next morning, those whose souls had been stolen felt lethargic and weak…When the people saw the family cat, they concluded that the missionaries were witches. It did not help when the missionary man got up to preach and said that they had come to gather souls! Nor did it help when the missionary woman washed her hair in the river, and the villagers saw the foam from her shampoo bubble out of her head. Since they had never see soap, they were certain the bubbles were the souls that the missionaries had stolen.”

C. He became a man in order to serve as our access to the Father (Hebrews 4:14-5:10).

Jesus not only came to bring the Father to us, he also came to give us access to the Father. We know that He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” Hebrews tells us that he had to become a man for that to happen. We needed a priest, someone who could go to God for us and provide a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus as man became our High Priest and provided the sacrifice that makes it possible for us to have access to God.

D. He became a man in order to show us how to live our life’s calling (1 Peter 2:21-25).

The liberals like Jesus as example but they think that by following his example we can become righteous. Popular Christianity tells us to ask ourselves WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do”) but this often means is be nice to one another and don’t condemn others. Peter gives us, however, a totality different concept. He says live in a wicked world without complaint against those who hate you. Live as Jesus died because He died so that you and I might live righteously in and before a wicked world.

E. He became a man in order to be exalted above all things (Philippians 2:5-11).

George Truett in his sermon “What If Christ Had Not Come” tells of Napoleon after “it looked like that amazingly brilliant soldier was finished. But in March 1815, barely a year later, he went back to France. He had kept close watch on events transpiring in Europe while he was away and… was aware…of his own personal power and influence over his follow-countrymen…The Emperor sent an army out to capture Napoleon, who alighted from his carriage and advanced toward the army without any army of his own…one lone man against whom an army was sent. He went toward the army quietly, confidently; and when he was near enough, he opened his coat that the bullets of the enemy might reach his heart if they chose to fire. Napoleon quietly said, ‘Frenchman, it is your emperor.’ And they went wild. They kissed his hand, they fell at his feet, they picked him up and carried him on their shoulders, and they shouted until the heavens were filled with shouts: ‘…Long lives the emperor!’

F. He became a man so that He could give His body for us (Luke 22:19; Hebrews 1:9; John 15:13; Romans 5:8). This is why we celebrate the Lord’s Table. God the Son did not pretend to have a body. He didn’t possess another being as demons sometimes do. He didn’t just influence a man through spiritual power. God became man and that included having a body, a body which he sacrificed and it was a sacrifice that made possible the fulfilling of all the purposes for which Jesus was born.

No Room in the Inn (A Christmas Morning Devotional 2011) December 25, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Christ, Christmas, Luke.
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NO ROOM FOR JESUS (Luke 2:7)

INTRODUCTION: In a few moments we will sing #127 in our hymnbook, “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne.” The first verse says, “Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown, when Thou camest to earth for me; but in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room for Thy holy nativity.” It is interesting that Emily Elliott used the word “home” rather than “inn” for that is most likely what Bethlehem’s inn was, a home. Most likely the inn was a one story, one room apartment in which the family shared its living quarters with strangers traveling the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. If the weather was warm then there may have been sleeping quarters available on the roof. In this apartment there were two levels, the living quarters in the back being a step above the quarters where the animals were kept and where the children played. In warmer weather, the animals might be kept outside. As we continue to read the Christmas story this morning, we will see that there were shepherds outside of Bethlehem watching their flocks in the fields. Although tradition has Jesus born in a cave, it is likely that Joseph and Mary came to the inn but it already had a half-dozen or so extra people there. The only place for the birth of Christ was the front room where they animals stayed and the children played and the manger in that room was where the baby was laid.

We sometimes think that there were dozens of people who kept Jesus from having room but most likely it was only a few people, who had priority over Jesus. Is that not true of our lives. It is not the dozens of the things in our lives that push Jesus out but rather just a few.

Later in this same gospel Jesus (Luke 9:57-58) a man told Jesus that he would follow Him wherever He went. Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” To have room for Jesus is costly. Most people want to give a room to Jesus at Christmas but they don’t want to give up all to follow Him. To have room for Jesus means to have no room for our selves.

It also means to have no room for our family. Another man said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (Luke 9:59). Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” To have room for Jesus not only means to have no room for our selves but to have no room for those we love most. This is a hard saying but it is the price. Most people want to have Jesus as a part of their family at Christmas but they don’t want to give up their family for Jesus. The price is not worth it.

Others recognize the price but are not yet willing to pay it. Luke 9:61-62 describes a man who says, “ ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” What a decision! Follow me and follow me now or go home to hell!

Frances Ridley Havergal wrote in the hymn “I Gave My Life for Thee”, “My Father’s house of light, My glory-circled throne, I left, for earthly night, for wand’rings sad and lone; I left, I left it all for thee, Hast thou left aught [anything] for Me?”

Henry Lyte seems to reply in another hymn, “Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee; destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence [from now own] my all shalt be: Perish every fond ambition, all I’ve sought, and hoped and known. Yet how rich is my condition, God and heav’n are still my own!”

Is that your Christmas prayer? Have you made room for Jesus? Have you forsaken houses and lands, family and friends, and your own life also to follow Jesus? This carol, “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne,” has four verses of commitment and one of hopeful praise. Does Jesus have a room or does he have you? That is what this Christmas carol is saying. Give Him, sinner and Christian, your all and follow Him.

Fourth Advent Sermon on December 18, 2012 preached at Grace Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan December 19, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Angels, Christmas, Deuteronomy, Incarnation, Jesus, Matthew, Messiah, Prophecy, Virgin Birth.
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Do Not Be Afraid
Matthew 1:18-25

INTRODUCTION: Joseph is the third person involved in the Christmas story who has been told not to be afraid. Earlier Zacharias and Mary were told not to be afraid. Later, the shepherds are also told not to be afraid. In each case the command was connected with the appearance of an angel but in Joseph’s situation the command is connected to a difficult situation that he is facing, what to do about Mary. He has three choices.

I. He could make her a public example (verse 19). This would involve a public accusation and if she was found guilty death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Mary had no rights in the matter. Her pregnancy was proof of her sinfulness. Yet she was his wife. Joseph was a just man who kept the law. She was a criminal.

II. He could put her away privately (verse 19). This would involve divorce papers being given to her in the presence of two witnesses. She could perhaps, in spite of her sullied reputation find a husband. She was young. There was a chance that she would recover. Again, Mary had no choice in the matter. She was at Joseph’s mercy. Mercy is what he intended to show. He could not keep her as wife for then he would have to adopt the child. If the child was a boy, then any further son’s by her would lose any possible inheritance, whether in Nazareth or Bethlehem. As a just man, he took seriously the inheritance law for his oldest son. It was commanded by God. He felt that he had no other choice.

III. He could keep her as his wife (verse 20). This did not occur to him apparently or at least was not considered seriously until the angel told him, “Do not be afraid!”

A. Do not be afraid, she is not a criminal; she is not a sinful woman. She is a virgin. Her son is not from a man but a miracle of God.

B. Do not be afraid. Adopt Him. Give Him the legal inheritance that is His, the throne of David.

C. Do not be afraid. Call Him Jesus for He will save His people from their sin! Jesus means “Savior.”

This is the first of two names given to the child in this passage. The second name was actually given over seven hundred years before Christ was born. The name “Emmanuel” which means “God with us” was prophesied to an ungodly royal ancestor of Joseph’s, Ahaz. This name is mentioned by Matthew as proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

These two names have meaning for us also. Jesus is the Savior. He came to save His people from their sin. His people were the Jewish people but He did not come just to save His people. When Jesus as a thirty year old man came into the presence of John the Baptist, a prophet of God, John pointed his disciples to Him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Jesus Himself once said to the Jews in John 10, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” He was talking about us. In Ephesians 2, Paul writes about Jesus in His death tearing down the wall of partition that existed between Jews and Gentiles for the purpose of saving people out of both groups and integrating them together like a building where the blocks or the bricks interlock to become one.

What is it from which we are saved? There are many things one could be saved from? The name “Savior” comes from a medical word. When a patient recovers from a deadly illness because of the wisdom of the doctor, we say, “The doctor saved him.” When a medicine causes a miracle cure, we say, “The medicine saved her.” When a medic or a first responder’s actions rescue a person from death, we say, “That man saved their life.”

Jesus once said that He came to save the sick. He was speaking figuratively. You see, humankind is sick with sin. Most do not recognize their sickness but every person, born into the world is sick with sin and will die of that sickness unless they have a Savior. The name that Jesus was given to bear here on earth is a reminder that He is the one who came to save.

The second name, Emmanuel, tells us how it is that Jesus can save. He is “God with us.” When Jesus was laid by Mary into the manger, he was no ordinary baby. He was and is still the virgin born Son of God. The name Emmanuel is a sign from God that He Himself has entered the human race.

Ray Pritchard tells this story. “A young man sat in my office and listened as I explained the gospel to him. Finally he said, ‘I just can’t believe all that stuff.’

So I asked him, ‘What would it take for you to believe?’

‘I would believe if God came down and stood in front of me and told me himself,’ he said.

‘My friend, he already has come down,’ I replied. ‘He came down 2,000 years ago and lived among us. If you don’t believe that, then I have nothing better to offer you’” (from Ray Pritchard in When Did Christmas Begin?).

Savior and Emmanuel: these two names are brought together in a hymn by William Cowper that we rarely sing today. “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”

“Some 200+ years ago there was a man in England by the name of William Cowper. He is a man who was of nervous disposition. All the biographers talk about that. He struggled with nervous problems, depression. It looks from reading his story that he suffered from what we would call a form of manic depression, given to some great difficulty in his life. At one point in his life, by his own testimony, he was depressed, upset and fearful that he was under the wrath of God. He said, ‘I flung myself into a chair by the window and there saw the Bible on the table by the chair. I opened it up and my eyes fell on Romans 3:25, which says of Christ, ‘Whom God has made a propitiation through faith in his blood.’ William Cowper said, ‘Then and there, I realized what Christ’s blood had accomplished and I realized the effects of his atonement for me. I realized God was willing to justify me and then and there I trusted Jesus Christ and a great burden was lifted from my soul.’ Looking back on that day, William Cowper wrote a hymn several years later that is in our hymnbook today. ‘There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains…’” (from Ray Pritchard in Propitiation: God’s Not Angry With You).

As we pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the Virgin Born Son of God would you not trust Emmanuel, “God with us,” as your Savior from the stains of sin? He promises that He will save you through His blood if you trust Him and Him alone.

Second Advent Sermon 2011 Grace Bible Church December 15, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Angels, Christmas, Luke.
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BUT THEY HAD NO CHILD
Luke 1:5-25, 57-66

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable;
Got any mountains you cannot tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible;
And He can do what no other power can do.

A. Obstacles are common in our lives. Chuck Swindoll, commenting on this chorus wrote, “If things seem a little difficult today, just wait: they’ll soon be impossible! Uncrossable rivers, untunneled mountains, and impossible circumstances really aren’t unusual. How do you handle them?” (from Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back). This couple faced an uncrossable river. To make matters worse, it was a shameful situation in the minds of some. To have no children was in the mind of some more than a misfortune. It carried the implication that this was a Divine punishment for some secret sin.

i. We should do God’s will even if we see no way to overcome the obstacles (vs. 5-7). Is the situation impossible? Yes! Is the shame unbearable? Perhaps, but doing God’s will is not determined by our circumstances. How did this couple live in this situation?

a. They were righteous: Their righteousness was intended to please God and not men, which was in contrast to most of the religious leaders and many of the people of that day (and this as well).
b. Walking in the commandments and ordinances: This is the actual revealing of their righteous character. They might be accused of legalism today.
c. Blameless: This means that they not only were good in character and that they lived it out before men but also that there had never been an accusation made against them.

This righteous man’s attention was on a rare opportunity. It was probably only once in a lifetime that a priest obtained the lot of going into the sanctuary and burning incense on the golden altar. “It was the great moment of Zacharias’s life…” “Ascending the steps to the Holy Place, the priests spread the coals on the golden altar, and arranged the incense, and the chief operating priest was then left alone within the Holy Place to await the signal of the president to burn the incense. It was probably at this time that the angel appeared to Zacharias” (Vincent). Everyone else’s attention is on him (verse 21). The action of burning the incense should not have taken a long while but it was interrupted by the actions of a prayer answering God.

ii. We, like this couple, should turn to God in prayer because He can overcome the obstacles (vs. 8-13). This couple had probably prayed for years. Whether you feel Zacharias’ prayer was concerning a child or concerning the Messiah, God’s timing and purpose was different from theirs but God was now going to give them the desire of their hearts.

B. When God overcomes obstacles, we are expected to be ready. The attack on Longstop began on December 22 at 11:15 PM. Plans had been made for a big Christmas offensive in North Africa and all was set to go. Longstop, named by the British, was the hill where the attack would begin. The ridge was two miles long and 800 feet high. From its crest, nothing in the valley could move undetected – not a rabbit, not a man, certainly not a tank. It was so rocky, it seemed bony, with powdery soil that covered a climber as flour covers a baker. Although modest in height, the hill had hundreds of secret gullies and dips. The Allies viewed the hill from seven miles away through a telescope. They thought they knew what they were facing but there were two critical errors made. They underestimated the number of Germans on the hill. Instead of a company there was close to a battalion of Germans there, including some of the toughest troops in the whole German army. Worse than that, the hill was actually two hills. To capture one without the other would be deadly and disastrous. If they had looked at their maps or asked troops who had occupied the hill three weeks earlier, they would have known. Instead, the British and Americans attacked unprepared. After twice attacking and taking the lower hill and receiving reinforcements from the French, the Germans attacked on Christmas morning. The Allies fought hard but the battle was lost before the first shot had been fired because the knowledge needed had not been understood. The Germans renamed Longstop. They named it Christmas Hill. It was Easter before the hill was finally taken.

i. We should be ready to obey when God overcomes the obstacles (vs. 13b-15). God did not allow Zacharias to name his son after himself. God also did not allow him to pass on his family calling to John. John would be a Nazarite who never get to fulfill the lofty calling of the priesthood. Zacharias, however, obeyed (vs. 59-63)

ii. We should be ready to believe when God overcomes the obstacles (vs. 18-25).
God uses obstacles in our lives to accomplish His purpose. Although the attention of the people were on the burning of incense, God’s attention is on His plan for the world. God sent an angel and removed a voice to get Zacharias’ attention. It also got the attention of many others. Getting people’s attention is a vital part of God’s plan.

C. God’s purposes go beyond our obstacles and our lives (vs. 16-20).
i. Our worship should go beyond our immediate joy and thanksgiving (vs. 14, see also 67-79). In the book of Luke, rejoicing is often associated with forgiveness of sin. In this verse we find the word twice. Once associated with this couple’s pain and then with the expectations of salvation for the people.

1. Rejoicing is associated with pain. In this case their pain is erased but joy can co-exist with pain. George Matheson penned a hymn while in the throes of a bitter disappointment. He dearly loved a woman whom he wanted to marry. As the romance developed he knew he had to tell her that he was going blind before her love for him went any deeper. To his total surprise, she broke up the relationship. Although he felt something within him had died, the hymn that he wrote was then born in his soul: “I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice, rather than of working it out myself.” We know it as “O Love that wilt not let me go”. Listen to the third verse,
“O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.

b) Rejoicing is associated with the salvation of God’s people: Zacharias is speaking from a limited Jewish standpoint. This rejoicing, however, is for all people (Luke 2:10). You see, Christmas is not about solving our individual problems but rather about knowing that our individual problems matter in God’s purpose in saving the world.

You’ve heard the message and perhaps you have rejoiced that there is hope for you and forgiveness for your sin. Don’t stop there! Turn to God! Trust Christ! He died to forgive you but the forgiveness is only available if you turn to Him and to Him alone for salvation.

If you are facing an obstacle in your life, God may want to do more than just test your character. He may want to use that obstacle to reach someone else for Christ. This Christmas season, you will have opportunities to witness, that you won’t have the rest of the year. Some of those opportunities will be associated with painful obstacles. Yet, you will be able to get people to come to church with you, who normally would not come. Are you going to use those opportunities?

Isaiah 9: What the New King Brings (A Christmas Sermon) December 20, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Christ, Christmas, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, Faith, Gospel, Incarnation, Isaiah, Jesus, Joy, Light, Matthew, Millenial Kingdom, Peace, Religion, Sermons, World Peace.
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This week:
Tuesday: Links concerning the Manhattan Compact
Wednesday: Thoughts concerning the Manhattan Compact
Sunday: Beginning a new series on the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles.

WHAT THE NEW KING BRINGS
Isaiah 9:1-7

INTRODUCTION: This week when we celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will be celebrating the birthday of a king. The past three weeks we have looked at the prophecies of Isaiah about His coming to the earth as the baby in Bethlehem as well as His future coming to rule and reign on the earth. Today I want to again look at Isaiah and again look at what Jesus brought with Him at the first Christmas and what He will bring to this earth in the future.

A. The New King Brings Light to Those in Darkness (9:1-2).

1. There is hope in Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12; 9:5). Matthew 4:12-25 records the fulfillment of this prophecy that Christ would begin His ministry in Galilee. The King brings light to those in darkness beginning – not in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life; nor in Rome, the political capital of the Roman Empire; neither in Alexandria, the intellectual giant of Egypt; and not even in Athens, the home of Greek philosophy. It is in Galilee, specifically the city of Capernaum and the surrounding area in which the King brings light to men in darkness. It is not a center of importance. Does He ignore the others? No, but in Galilee is where He begins and He expands His light throughout a dark world.

Jesus being the Light of the World and bringing light to humankind is a very important part of the Christmas story. In Luke 1:76-79, Zacharias sang at the birth of his son, John the Baptist. He ended his song with, “You, my son are going to be the prophet of the Highest and you are going to prepare the way for the Messiah, the one who is going to rise like the sun in the east and bring mercy to the Jewish people, the one who is going “…(t)o give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

I am glad that light is not limited to the Jews. Repeatedly in Isaiah we have seen that He brings light to all humankind. Simeon, when Jesus was just eight days old in Luke 2:32, identifies Jesus as “(a) light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.” The Gentiles, because they did not know the God of Israel, lived in the land of the shadow of death. They lived there because they rejected the truth of God (Romans 1). They lived there because they have spiritually, even when going through tough times, shaken their fist in God’s face. They were in total darkness.

That was my situation and that was the situation of every person born, Jew and Gentile. There is, however, hope. The reality of eternal death, although certain, is not yet accomplished for you hearing this message this morning. Someone has already been executed for our sin. It is Jesus, the King and the Bringer of Light. It is through faith (John 1:4-8) in His death and resurrection that He proclaims light to the human race which is sitting in the shadow of death (Acts 26:22-23).

B. The New King Also Brings Joy to Those Oppressed (9:3-4). It is in these verses that we see not only the first coming of Christ as a man but also His second, future coming as the Prince of Peace. They are melded so closely to each other that one can hardly recognize where one begins and the other ends. That is so, even though there are at least 2000 years between the two comings.

1. What kind of joy does the King bring (9:3)?

The King brings multiplied and increased joy, exceeding joy. That is what Mary sang as she carried her Savior in her womb, “My spirit rejoices exceedingly in God my Savior.” Even before He was born, the King brought exceeding joy. The angels proclaimed to the shepherds tidings of great joy. The wise men saw the star and had exceedingly great joy.

This joy is multiplied and increased because it has been a long time coming. It is the joy of the harvest. The farmer plants in the spring. He works and waters the field through all kinds of weather. Heat and cold, sunshine and rain, all through the spring and summer and fall he works and waits and then the harvest comes. That is the type of rejoicing in this passage. Since Adam, humankind had been waiting for Jesus to be born. That is one reason why He was received with great joy. It has been two thousand years since Jesus returned to His Father’s throne. When He returns to earth again, it will again be a time of great joy for those who trust in Him.

This joy is also multiplied and increased because it is the joy that comes with victory. When the King comes He brings victory over His enemies and over the enemies of His oppressed people. In that there is great joy.

2. What kind of oppression does the King relieve (9:4)? This fourth verse refers to Gideon in the book of Judges. The Midianites were a great host of raiders, who would come and destroy the crops and plunder the Israelites and murder and wreak havoc. That is the type of oppression the Israelites were suffering. They labored, they worked hard, and they planted. As soon as they planted the Midianites came and destroyed the crops. The people started hiding food. One of those hiding food was a young man named Gideon. God told Gideon, “I want you to take an army.” Gideon did. God told Gideon, “Reduce your army to 300 men.” Gideon did. God told Gideon to attack at night with three companies surrounding the camp, to blow their trumpets in their right hand, to break the pitchers concealing torches in their left hands, and to cry out, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!” The Midianites woke up to the sound, saw the lights, panicked, and began to kill each other in the confusion. It was the largest case of friendly fire in history and God is the one who caused it. He is the one who delivered Israel from the oppression of the enemy. The resulting joy is the joy that only the victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords can bring.

C. Finally, The New King not only Brings Light and Joy but He brings Eternal Peace (9:5-7). Verse 5 describes for us how complete this peace will be. The market for army boots and uniforms will be depleted. There will be no use for them because through His victory the King brings peace.

1. This King’s Name is Wonderful Counselor — Isaiah clarifies what he means in 25:1 and 29:14. Isaiah 29:14a says, “Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder…” This King does things that no other can do. His works are past finding out. They are too great for us. When I think that the ruler of the universe came to die for me so that I might have light and joy and peace, it is too marvelous, too wonderful for me to understand. This King, Jesus Christ, is Wonderful.

2. This King’s Name is Counselor — It may be that “wonderful” and “counselor” are intended to be one name. Either way, the point is this. He has the wisdom to make and carry out a perfect plan of peace. If you return to Isaiah 29:14b, you will see why God felt that He had to intervene in His people’s affairs, “…For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” Before the creation of the universe, Christ had a perfect peace plan for this earth. That’s why we can turn to Him. “…Christ is a Counsellor to us and with us, because we can consult with him, and he… counsel(s) and advise(s) us as to the right way and the path of peace.” (Spurgeon)

3. This King’s Name is not only Wonderful Counselor but also the Mighty God — He makes the plans work because He is God. Yes, He became man and was tempted as you and I but as God He also came. If you are weak, go to Him for strength to carry out what He wants you to do. He is the Mighty God.

4. This King’s Name is also the Everlasting Father (or Father of Eternity) — His plans are good because He cares like a father and because they are eternal. Only an eternal God can guarantee eternal peace. If you are scared, depend on Him. If you are worried, turn to Him. He will never leave you holding the bag. In fact, He’ll hold the bag for you and stick around to see what you might be facing.

5. Finally, this King’s Name is the Prince of Peace — His plans are focused on peace. If you are disturbed, He has you in His sights and is unconcerned because He has you and all around you in His grip.

*In the past, His coming made peace with God
*In the present, right now, those who come to Him find peace in their heart when they put their faith in Christ and the Prince of Peace comes to live within them.
*In the future, His second coming will usher in an eternal kingdom of peace.

INVITATION: “The most important part of our verse (9:6) is the first three words….…‘For to us’. The gift of Christ is a personal gift from God to us, (to you). A gift requires a response. If I put a gift under your tree, you may acknowledge it, may admire it, may even thank me for it, but it isn’t yours until you open it and take it for your own.”
“God has a Christmas gift for you……..not wrapped in bright paper and fancy ribbon, but in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger…….It is the gift of His Son. It is for you. The gift is still there. It must be personally received.”
“You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look in the Father’s Face and tell Him you have received his Christmas gift. Have you done that?” (Pritchard)

One thing about a gift, you can only give something once. You can only receive a gift once. So it is with the salvation of God. When you turn to Christ in faith and receive the gift of salvation, you never have to ask again. That gift is yours for all eternity. Only Christ, the Eternal Father, the Father of eternity can give an eternal gift. You may not have been enjoying the gift as you should but it is still yours. Perhaps you’ve received the gift of eternal life. That is a Christmas gift that you can never receive again but you can take it off the shelf and enjoy it not only every Christmas but every day for the rest of eternity. Christ wants you to enjoy the light and the joy and the peace that He has provided for you. If you haven’t been living for Him as you should, then tell Him as we pray that you are sorry. He is faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Turn to Him and start living for Him today.

Going Beyond Saying “Merry Christmas” December 8, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Christ, Christmas, Evangelism, Messiah, Religion.
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The controversy during the past few years over stores not allowing their employees to wish their customers a “Merry Christmas” has evolved into a political speech issue in the minds of many on both sides of the issue. There is a campaign now that enlists churches to become promotional centers for saying Merry Christmas. This may be a good thing. I am not yet certain. I am afraid though that it is actually a commentary on our failure to present Christ.

Our pastors’ sermons against Santa Claus are sometimes stronger than our sermons presenting Christ.

Our members’ condemnation of the commercialization of a Christian holy day is weak in comparison to our fervor in laying up treasures and gifts for ourselves here on this earth.

Our families’ reservation of the holidays and Holy Days for themselves bears witness of our hesitancy to leave father and mother for Christ.

We rejoice more in the sentimentality of the season than in having our name written in heaven.

So what should we do? We should say more than “Merry Christmas.” These are pleasant words and there are occasions when circumstances or time allow nothing more to be said. We should, however, tell people about the Christ. Most people do not know what the title means. They do not know that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, who came to take away the sin of the world. They need to hear. We need to tell them.

Read the Christmas story from Matthew or Luke and emphasize the gospel elements of the Christmas story. Let people know that it is more to you than a tale but that Christ’s birth began the life of the One Man who could and did change history through His life, death, and resurrection.

Find those Christmas carols that tell the gospel and talk about them with people. Anything by Charles Wesley is good. He packs his carols full with the gospel. “Joy to the World” is especially good. “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” also. Tell people what it means that Christ was born to give men second birth or what the curse was that “Joy to the World” speaks about.

Talk about the Christ of Christmas. People need to respond to him and they need to know that. Let “Merry Christmas” be more than a greeting and more than a political statement of your religious and free speech freedoms. Make it an opportunity to tell the good news of Christ to your friends and neighbors and enlist them as disciples of Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Sermon on “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men” December 6, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Christmas, Isaiah, Jesus, Longfellow, Peace, Religion, Sermons, World Peace.
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This week on “Eternally Significant”
Tuesday: Going Beyond Saying “Merry Christmas”
Wednesday: Why Sport’s Commentators Condemn Tiger

THE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS OF PEACE ON EARTH
Isaiah 11:1-16

INTRODUCTION: One of the most obscure prophetic references of the New Testament is found in Matthew 2:23, where he writes of Joseph bringing his family back from exile in Egypt to the city of Nazareth. Matthew writes, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” He is referring to this first verse of Isaiah 11. The word “branch” is the Hebrew word, “netser”, which means a sprout or a shoot. Matthew was trying to emphasize the humble beginnings of Jesus.

A. The twig or sprout symbolizes for us the humble beginnings of Jesus Christ (verses 1-9). Compare verse 1 with Isaiah 53:2-3 to see another description of the humble beginning of Jesus Christ. In that chapter we see that Jesus was despised so that He could make peace with God for us. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we could come to God. Why then did it have to be Jesus? Why could it not have been some other descendant of the royal line that provides the peace Isaiah describes in this chapter? What makes Jesus different from the other descendants of Jesse? Isaiah goes on to tell us in this chapter (Isaiah 11).

1. He has the Spirit of God continually on Him (verse 2). Now Jesus, as far as we know, was not born with the Spirit of God upon Him. He was God who became man but when it came time to begin His ministry, He went to be baptized publicly by John the Baptist. When He came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove and rested on Him, anointing Him as the Messiah. I do not understand how God the Spirit who is one with God the Son can do that but that is what happened. The reason it happened was to identify Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Sent One, the Christ of God. (That is why the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was such a serious crime, an unpardonable sin. The underlying foundation of that sin was a total rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and of the proof of the Holy Spirit in His life.) When Peter first preached the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles in Acts 10:38, he pointed out that this anointing of Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and the works that followed were what set Him apart from every other man. These works by the Holy Spirit proved His Messiahship.

Four times in the book of Revelation, Jesus is identified as having the seven Spirits of God. This is a reference to verse 2 of our text. Here is proof again that this not just another royal descendant but that this little sprout of which Isaiah writes, this little shoot is the Holy One of God, the Messiah.

2. Not only does He have the Spirit of God continually on Him but also He judges righteously and faithfully (verses 3-5). Our Lord Jesus Christ judges so righteously and so faithfully that His name is called in Jeremiah 23:6 and 33:16, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” In other words, this is not some unknowable, untouchable King who will rule the earth but a Lord who becomes righteousness for His people. We are unrighteous and unfaithful by nature but He changes that for those who believe in Him. He comes as the gentle, loving healer and counselor of men and He comes also as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He comes as the hope of this world, the Prince of Peace, and as the Man that men cannot forget. Most precious of all to me though is that He comes as the LORD our righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

As we continue to look at Isaiah’s description of Jesus as the righteous and faithful judge, we see, in the middle of verse four, another of those transitions that take us from the past when Jesus came, meek but Spirit-filled ministering to those who are weak, into the future, when He establishes His kingdom on this earth. There is a change and this change is identified by the destruction of Christ’s earthly enemy.

Who is His enemy? Of course, all those who reject Him, the earth, but the end of verse four singles out a particular person. He is called “the wicked” or “the Wicked One”.

“…(W)ho is this individual here called the ‘Wicked One’?… The apostle Paul quotes this very scripture in 2 Thess. 2:8: ‘And then shall that Wicked One be revealed’”; (Jennings). This is directly talking about the Antichrist. This little sprout, this little shoot is different because of the character and the power of His justice. He will judge His enemy, the Wicked One.

3. He brings peace to all of creation (verses 6-9). These are amazing verses. Could this literally happen? Could the predator and its prey become playmates? Is it possible that we need never fear danger to our children from the wildlife around us? According to Hosea 2:18 God will make it possible. “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.”

That passage as well as Ezekiel 34:25 teach us that God will make a covenant with the animals of nature that will make the world safe for His people, Israel. When God makes peace in the Middle East and throughout the world, it will be world peace. Both nuclear bombs and rabies will be eliminated. There will be no more need for satellites to watch other nations and no need for protection from wild animals. How will it happen? This sprout, this shoot, will make it happen.

B. Isaiah not only presents Jesus as a sprout but also as “the root of Jesse.” This shows us the eternal establishment of peace on earth through Jesus Christ, who was of the house and lineage of David (Compare Revelation 5:5-6 and 22:16 with verses 10-16 to see that these verses are talking about Jesus Christ). Yes, Jesus started as a sprout, as a shoot coming up out of the decaying stump of the royal house of David but He will take root, He will become a tree. When He does, a new day will dawn on the earth. Verse 10 uses the phrase “in that day.” Verse 11 states, “It shall come to pass in that day…” The question now is this. What will happen that will reveal Jesus in His power and His glory?

1. He will rescue His people, Israel (verses 11-16). The beginning of verse 11 shows that God will bring Israel for the second time into the land. The first was when he called them out of Egypt. They are in the land now but Christ has not yet called them there. They still have not accepted Christ as their Messiah. There is coming a day, though, when they will accept Christ as their personal and national Savior. That is the second time that God is talking about in this verse. This little sprout, this little shoot that was despised and rejected in Isaiah 53 will come back in strength and in power and will rescue His people Israel.

Notice that the root of Jesse brings change to the landscape of the Middle East (verses 14-16). I am not talking about the political landscape although that will also be true. Christ is going to change the geological landscape of the Middle East when He returns. I do not understand exactly why or how but it will be another proof to the nations of who He is. He is no longer the little sprout, the shoot but a mighty, all-powerful root, which changes the landscape of the world if it should suit His purposes.

2. Not only will He rescue His people Israel but He will be worshiped by the Gentiles (verses 10 and 12). Verse 10 says they will seek Him. Romans 15:12 translates this phrase, “In Him the Gentiles will hope.”

Let me clarify what a Gentile is for our young people. Before Christ came, God divided the world into two groups: his people, the Jews and the rest, the Gentiles. When Christ came and died He tore down the ethnic dividing wall and took from the Jews and from the Gentiles and made a new people, the Church. This is what is meant by “the Gentiles will hope.” We have hope in and through Jesus Christ. We were not Jews. We were not of His people but God made a way of hope for us through Jesus Christ. He sent a little sprout, a little shoot to die for us and become the root on which we can stand and draw strength.

The Gentiles will not only seek Him but they will also rally to Him (verse 12). The wicked are destroyed, the Jews are restored but there are those who are not Jews who have turned to Christ. He was a despised, overlooked sprout but now He is the rally flag for all who serve Christ both now and in the future and forevermore. At that time peace on earth will be complete.

“Tragedy struck both the nation and the Longfellow family in 1861. Confederate Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard fired the opening salvos of the American Civil War on April 12th, and Fanny Longfellow was fatally burned in an accident in the library of Craigie House on July 10th. The day before the accident, Fanny Longfellow recorded in her journal: ‘We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight.’ After trimming some of seven year old Edith’s beautiful curls, Fanny decided to preserve the clippings in sealing wax. Melting a bar of sealing wax with a candle, a few drops fell unnoticed upon her dress. The longed for sea breeze gusted through the window, igniting the light material of Fanny’s dress– immediately wrapping her in flames. In her attempt to protect Edith and Allegra, she ran to Henry’s study in the next room, where Henry frantically attempted to extinguish the flames with a nearby, but undersized throw rug. Failing to stop the fire with the rug, he tried to smother the flames by throwing his arms around Frances– severely burning his face, arms, and hands. Fanny Longfellow died the next morning. Too ill from his burns and grief, Henry did not attend her funeral. (Incidentally, the trademark full beard of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow arose from his inability to shave after this tragedy.)”
“The first Christmas after Fanny’s death, Longfellow wrote, ‘How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.’ A year after the incident, he wrote, ‘I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.’ Longfellow’s journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: ‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.’ Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and taking off one of the spinal processes. (Charles did not die but it was a serious wound.) (T)he Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow’s journal. Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, “Christmas Bells.” We have part of this poem in our hymnbook. We call it, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Christmas Bells
1. I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

2. And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

3. Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

4. Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

5. And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

6. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’

If you are a believer, you have peace with God. Do you have the peace of God? Philippians tells us in 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing but in prayer and thanksgiving let your request be make known unto God; and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” Christmas can be a troubling time. We saw in Longfellow’s the difficulties sorrow brings. Eighteen years later he wrote in a poem that he still suffered from sorrow. In your sorrow, in your troubles, in your worries and difficulties you can have peace. The peace of God. He began as a little sprout, a little shoot in Nazareth but He can be a root of strength and nourishment in your life. Go to Him, throw yourself on Him for strength and insight and direction and help in the time of need.

This peace on earth, good-will to men began as a little sprout, a little shoot. It still is not fully grown. Christ is yet to be revealed as the Root. That will happen when He returns. Yes, hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men. The thunder of our weapons drown the sound of peace on earth, good-will to men. But God is not dead, He neither slumbers nor sleeps. Wrong shall fail and right shall prevail with peace on earth, good-will to men.

How is it possible to have this peace? According to Romans 5:1, “…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is only possible through faith in Him. He died for you, so you could have peace with God.

Will you trust Him today? Will you let Christ make your peace with God for you by becoming your righteousness.

The Hope of Christmas (A Sermon for First Advent from Isaiah 8:1-22) November 29, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Christmas, Faith, Hope, Incarnation, Isaiah, Jesus, Messiah, Religion, Sermons, Signs and Wonders, Virgin Birth.
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THE HOPE OF CHRISTMAS
Isaiah 8:1-22

INTRODUCTION: This advent season we are looking at “Christmas According to Isaiah”. Chapters 7-11 of the book of Isaiah all come from the same time period of Isaiah’s ministry. It is about 700 years before Jesus Christ would be born. Ahaz, king of Judah is looking to Assyria for help against his two enemies to the north: (1) his relatives, the northern kingdom of Israel and (2) their ally, Syria. Isaiah’s message to Ahaz and to Judah is depend on God not man for help. You will be judged, in fact, God will use your ally, Assyria, to judge you. However, God will not forsake His people. There is hope but only for those of His people who turn to God.

This is the hope of Christmas. These are tough days for many but there is hope for a glorious future for those who turn to Christ.

I. God confirms this hope through a child (vs. 1-4). Now this is not the first sign that is given to Ahaz and the people of Judah. In Isaiah 7:13-17, Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign and Ahaz refuses. God, however, through Isaiah gives him a sign anyway. It is the sign of a child. We know that this prophecy is referred to in Matthew as the prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. However, as is not uncommon in Old Testament prophecy, there is a double fulfillment: a near fulfillment and a far off fulfillment. The fulfillment through the virgin born Christ is still at this time 700 years in the future but God also gave another child, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, to be born and the purpose of His birth was to confirm the prophecy and to confirm the hope that would be connected to that prophecy.

a. How the prophecy concerning the child is given is described in verses 1-2. Now there are several important things that we need to notice.

i. First, this prophecy was intended to be public. It was written on a large scroll so that it could be easily and readily read. Witnesses were named who would be able at the fulfillment of the prophecy to confirm that the prophecy had been given before the fulfillment.

It is very important to God that people have good reason to believe His message of hope. When God speaks of hope, He speaks of a certainty, a guarantee. If you purchased something this past Black Friday, you undoubtedly saved your receipts. If you decide to return an item, the receipt tells you whether your hope of getting your money back is a wish or a certainty. In the same way, God gave the sign of this child as a confirmation, an assurance that He would not forsake His people but would save them in the end.

Is this not one reason why the virgin birth of Christ is important? That Christ was born of a virgin confirms for us that we have hope in eternity. If it were to be proven that Jesus was not the far future fulfillment of this prophecy, then our hope in Him would be based on the lies of Matthew and Luke. He was, however, born of a virgin. Both Matthew and Luke point to verifiable eyewitnesses who could verify that Jesus truly was born of a virgin.

Once I spoke with an evangelical pastor who felt that it did not really matter if Jesus was born of a virgin. What was important was that one believes in Jesus. Why then did God give the prophecy? Faith in Christ must be based on the certainty that Jesus alone fits the prophecy of the Scriptures. Anything less is like going to the store without a receipt and wishing for an exchange.

ii. Let’s look now at the prophecy (verses 3-4). Isaiah and his wife, the prophetess, would have a son named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. His name was actually the prophecy: “hurry to the loot, swift to the prey.” (verses 3-4). According to the prophecy, before this baby would speak his first words, the meaning of his name would come to pass.

b. The prophecy concerning the child is fulfilled. The beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy is found in 2 Kings 16:9, “So the king of Assyria heeded [Ahaz’s call for help]; for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and took it, carried its people captive to Kir, and killed Rezin.” Chapter 17 then describes the fall of Israel to the Assyrians.

II. So what is the message of hope that is found in this prophecy? It is this, “God protects His people even in judgment” (vs. 5-10).

a. This judgment comes because of lack of faith in God (vs. 5-7). The northern kingdom depended on man rather than God as represented by their rejection of the waters of Shiloah and because of their rejection, the Assyrians came like a flood and wiped out their armies and took their people captive.

b. Mercy, however, is available to God’s people (verse 8a). We see this in that the flood of judgment would not overwhelm them but rather come up to their neck. This is exactly what happened. The Assyrians who defeated Syria and Israel were not able to overcome Judah. Judah suffered much because of the Assyrians but God delivered Judah from destruction.

c. Why? Because God is with them (verses 8b-10). Isaiah reminds them in these verses that Immanuel, “God with us,” will deliver them from their enemies. Because God is with His people, they can have hope. Their future, even in the day of judgment, is certain and victorious because “God is with us.”

“No wonder when John Wesley lay dying in 1791, he roused from his sleep long [enough] to open his eyes and exclaim, “The best of all is, God is with us!” Then he closed his eyes and died” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Overcoming Loneliness”).

III. With this message of hope, God warns of the danger of rejecting His confirmed Word (vs. 11-15).

a. He tells Isaiah, “Do not fear those who reject Me” (vs. 11-12).

“Isaiah’s message must have seemed crazy: ‘Don’t fear the mighty army you see arrayed against you. Though they have far more soldiers, you have something they don’t. You have Immanuel on your side.’” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Are You Prepared to Suffer for Christ?“). For that reason, many accused Isaiah and other prophets of the LORD of collusion with the enemy. This is similar to what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 10:28 when He said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

b. “Do not fear those who reject Me but rather fear the One who is to be hallowed (vs. 13-14a).” To hallow God is to set Him above all others. No one can veto His Word. He is the LORD and there is none else.

c. Destruction is the end of His rejecters (v. 14b-15). It is not just that those who reject God, who reject Christ, will stumble and be offended. The picture in these verses is that they will be destroyed by the very one they stumbled over. The one who they found so offensive will be their judge.

IV. God gives hope only to those who trust His Word (vs. 16-22), that is, believe in His confirming signs. In those days it concerned Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz but today the sign in whom we must believe is the virgin born Son of God, Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us. The apostle Paul in Romans 9:33 took part of verse 14 and another portion from Isaiah to make this very point, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”*

a. Our hope is confirmed by His works (vs. 16-18). The signs that God gives confirm His word and give us the ability to wait, to hope. The difficult part of the certain hope of the Christian is the waiting. The first verse of one of the carols we sang today, written by John Wesley’s brother, Charles, describes very well the difficulty of waiting, of hoping.

“Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.”

Isaiah and his two sons (Shear-Jashub is mentioned in Isaiah 7:3 and means “the remnant shall return”) were signs of hope in their day but men had to wait 700 years before Immanuel was born. Immanuel, God with us, Jesus lived and died and rose again and returned to His Father’s side at the right hand of the throne of God 2000 years ago and we wait, we hope, we sing…

“Come, Thou long-expected Jesus…
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now (can you not hear the longing in this carol?) Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.”

That is the hope of Christmas!

b. Our insight, our ability to see the truth, to wait, to hope is conditioned by faith in His Word (vs. 19-22).

There were those who offered an alternative to God’s Word, God’s law, God’s signs. They said, “Go to those who can speak with the dead and find out what God is doing!”

As in those days, many “In our relativistic age… are offended by any suggestion that there is only one way of salvation. But that is precisely what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Those words must be taken at face value. We have no right to water them down. Sometimes people speak of Jesus as if he were some kind of great moral teacher. The people who say that generally don’t like John 14:6. It doesn’t fit the concept of a great moral teacher. If Jesus isn’t the way, the truth, and the life–if there really is another way to the Father–then Jesus isn’t a great moral teacher. He’s either the most self-deceived man in all history or he is a liar. In either case, he’s not a great teacher. You can’t pick and choose with Jesus. Either take what he says at face value or reject him altogether. Those are the only two choices you have.” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Stumbling Stone or Cornerstone?“).

That is what Isaiah is saying in this prophecy. Believe God and His Word and you will know the truth. You will not be plunged deeper and deeper into darkness but will be enlightened and will have hope even in a dark world.

CONCLUSION: Our Future is Absolutely Certain.
 There are many fulfilled prophecies related to Jesus Christ in Isaiah (that Jesus will be born of a virgin), in Micah (that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem), in the Psalms (that Jesus would suffer, die, and rise from the dead), in Daniel and Hosea and elsewhere. When we look at those prophecies we know that we can expect that our hope for the future will also be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

INVITATION: Would you bow your heads and close your eyes for a few moments? This is good news. Perhaps you have heard this good news before, perhaps many times. Is it not time that you believed it? Is it not time for you to say, I am going to trust Christ alone as my salvation. Would you do that today? Would anyone like to do that at this moment?

Perhaps you are here and you are interested but are not yet ready to make a commitment to Christ but would like me to pray for you today, that God would help you to know the truth. My prayer for you is nothing magical but the God who hears and answers prayer wants to bring you to Himself. If you would like prayer today, would you raise your hand?

If you raised your hand, you need to talk to someone you can trust. I would be glad to speak with you. There are others who would be glad to speak with you. Perhaps you would like to speak to the person you came with and ask them to show you how to trust Christ as Savior. Do it today!

Maybe you have a lot of questions. We can help you to get connected with someone who will take the time to meet with you weekly and answer your questions. Please let us know today, if we can help you in this way.

(Thanks to Ray Pritchard for the quotations from his sermons.)

Unto Us a Child is Born and the Government Will be on His Shoulder (Christmas Sermon from Genesis 49) December 21, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Christmas, Genesis, Isaiah, Religion, Sermons.
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THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE ON THIS CHILD’S SHOULDER

(Genesis 49:8-12 with Isaiah 9:6-7)

 

Jacob has lived many years. He has twelve sons. As the head of his clan, he has the responsibility and opportunity to give the prophetic blessing (Genesis 49:1. He calls his sons to him and they gather around him. There is Reuben, the oldest, the first of Leah‘s sons. It is he, who should have the much coveted birthright, but lost it to the sons of Joseph because he committed incest with one of his father’s concubines (1 Chronicles 5:1-2).

 

Then there is Levi and Simeon, vengeful murderers of the men of a whole city, who then with their brothers plundered the city, probably selling the women and children of the city into slavery and keeping their goods for themselves.

 

Next is Judah. A failure as a father and as prone to the temporary pleasures of sin as his older brother and his uncle, Esau. It was his idea to sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt.

 

Leah’s fifth and sixth sons, Zebulon and Issachar. Overshadowed by their older brothers, insignificant.

 

Then the four sons of Jacob’s two concubines: Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. It is their wickedness that Joseph reported to his father, that started to ball of dissension and hate among his brothers.

 

The youngest is Benjamin, Joseph’s younger brother, the baby of the family.

 

Then finally there is Joseph. Prime minister of Egypt. Until Solomon, no Israelite would ever wield as much world power as this man. He has learned to be used by God. Jacob has given his sons the birthright.

 

These twelve men are gathered together to receive the blessing. There is every expectation that Joseph, through his youngest son, Ephraim‘s descendant, will receive the permanent position of head of the clan.

 

Jacob begins. Reuben receives no blessing but rather condemnation. For Simeon and Levi it is even worse. Their descendants are cursed because of their murderous anger.

Then God unexpectedly through Jacob chooses Judah over Joseph (Compare Genesis 49:3-4, 8-11, and 22-26 with 1 Chronicles 5:1-2). This is a shock (Hebrews 7:14). That the three oldest sons would be bypassed was no surprise. Why Judah? His sin of passion differed from Reuben’s only in that he did not know with whom he had sinned. He was no spiritual leader. God had killed his two oldest sons because of their wickedness. Joseph was the righteous one. He had delivered his family from starvation. His sons had the birthright but Jacob gave the ultimate blessing, the head of the nation, to Judah (Psalm 78:67-68). Eventually there was a boy named David. He is the first of the line of Judah to sit on the throne but the promise and the blessing goes beyond David and Solomon and their descendants…

…the child, Jesus, is the fulfillment of the blessing on Judah.

He will be worshiped in victory (verse 8-9). His brothers shall praise Him because He has His enemies by the throat. The victory has been won. All that remains is the deathblow. This baby is named Jesus, for he will deliver His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). His people will bow themselves before Him. They will worship Him. This Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). There is no one who dares to rouse Him when He is resting. This is the victorious Jesus Christ, the one who will bring everlasting peace on earth, when He comes to establish His kingdom. This baby will be worshiped, when He returns as the victor over Satan, sin, and death.

He will rule throughout eternity (Read verse 10). This is the core of the blessing. Moses won great victories. Joshua was a conqueror. Under the judges like Gideon and Samson, the enemies of God were defeated. Saul became king and fought many successful battles. David’s victories were so complete that there was peace, not only at the end of his reign but well into that of Solomon. Moses, however, is dead. The victories of Joshua and the judges after him are forgotten. Saul eventually went down in defeat. Solomon’s sin resulted in the kingdom being divided. The line of Judah no longer sits on David’s throne. In Bethlehem, one was born who should be the king of the Jews. They rejected Him but He is still their king and one day He will come and they will recognize Him as the political and spiritual ruler. Their hearts will be transformed and He will rule throughout eternity over the whole universe.

In Isaiah 9:5-7 we have both a further prophecy concerning this child, Jesus, and a description of the eternal peace that His kingdom will bring to the world. Then Isaiah describes the Child through the names with which He will be called. This Child’s Name is Wonderful — this Child does things that no other can do. His peace is beyond understanding. It is too great for us. When I think that the ruler of the universe came as a baby in order to die for me, that is too marvelous, too wonderful for me to understand. This Child, this King, Jesus Christ, is Wonderful.

This Child’s Name is Counselor — He makes the Plans. Before the creation of the universe, Christ had a perfect peace plan for this earth. If there is anything that we should learn from the book of Genesis, it is this. That’s why, if you are confused, you can go to Him to find out what to do.

This Child’s Name is the Mighty God — He makes the plans work, because He is God. Yes, He became man and was tempted as you and I but as God He also came. If you are weak, you can go to Him for strength to carry out what He wants you to do. He is the eternal, Mighty God.

This Child’s Name is the Everlasting Father (or Father of Eternity) — only an eternal God can guarantee eternal peace. If you are scared, depend on Him. If you are worried, turn to Him. He will never leave you nor forsake you, that is His promise to those who serve Him.

This Child’s Name is the Prince of Peace — His plans are focused on peace, not peace like the world gives but a peace that is free from the potential for war. If you are disturbed, He has you in His sights and He has you and everything around you in His power.

He will bring prosperity with Him (verse 11-12). These two verses are an amazing description of plenty. There crops will be so good that the donkey can be tied up in front of the grape vine and no one will worry about him devouring the vine, even the choice vine. Wine, the drink of the wealthy will be used to wash clothes in. The point here is not that wine is a good choice for washing clothes but that the prosperity of God’s kingdom will be beyond our comprehension. The most expensive wines and cheeses and caviars and truffles and golden chocolate leaves will be regular dollar store items. Maple syrup will be as plentiful and as cheap as the sugary imitations that most of the world uses on their pancakes. The earth will be a land truly flowing with milk and honey.

 

I know that this hard to believe but this is the promise we have in the Christ Child. Isaiah 55:1 calls those who have nothing to come to Him and buy milk and wine without money. Jesus Christ offers a prosperity that the world cannot offer.

 

In verses 6-7 he says, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.”

 

How can God have mercy on the wicked? Do they not deserve to be punished? Oh, yes! They do. But this Child not only brings eternal prosperity and peace through His rule but He has won the victory over sin. Not just future sin or past sin but all sin. This Child died so that we can seek Him. Will you seek Him today? Put your faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation and you can be saved?

 

 

 

 

Christmas is of the Jews (Christmas Foundations in Genesis) December 14, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Christmas, Genesis, Isaac, Jacob, Religion, Sermons.
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CHRISTMAS IS OF THE JEWS

Genesis 28:10-22

As we continue to look at the foundations of Christmas found in Genesis, we should remind ourselves that if there had been no Jewish nation, there would be no Christmas. Our Scriptures today explore some of the characters who played a major role in the founding of the Jewish nation and how God’s promises to them led to the Christ of Christmas.

 

God chose the Jews according to His mercy. It was God who decided that Jacob would continue the promised seed instead of the older brother, Esau, as was the custom of that day (Compare Genesis 25:19-28 with Romans 9:10-15). One thing should be made clear about this passage. It does not say that God chose Esau to go to hell and Jacob to go to heaven. The choosing here involved the promises of God to Abraham and His descendants. In fact, there is evidence that Esau may have eventually reconciled himself with his rejection by God (Genesis 33:1-16 and 35:29).

 

Jacob and not Esau valued the promises to Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 25:29-34 with Hebrews 12:16).

 

Everyone in this family knew about the promises. Everyone also knew of the promise that God had made to Rebekah while these two boys were still in her womb. Not everyone, however, valued these promises. Esau came in from hunting but he had no success and was hungry. Jacob his brother had something akin to a thin oatmeal soup cooking. Esau asked for some and Jacob, knowing his brother, offered a trade. “Give me your birthright as the oldest son and I will let you have something to eat.”

 

The sin of Esau was valuing the temporary benefits of the physical over the eternal benefits of the spiritual. There is nothing wrong with oatmeal. There is nothing specifically wrong with spontaneity. There is nothing wrong with many types of momentary pleasure. The writer of Hebrews, however, identifies those, who exalt the physical over the spiritual in the same way that Esau did, as fornicators and profane persons, that is, ungodly.

 

Jacob made a lot of foolish decisions in his life. What made him different from Esau was not that he made fewer foolish decisions than Esau but rather that he valued the promises of God above the things of this world (Genesis 32:24-32).

 

God showed mercy to Jacob and justice to Esau (Genesis 27).

Isaac intended to bless Esau (Genesis 27:1-4). We know from Genesis 25 that Isaac loved Esau more than he did Jacob and we also know why. Esau was a skilled hunter and there was nothing that Isaac liked more than fresh game to eat. This father and son shared a special bond. Then there was Jacob. Jacob preferred to stay home instead of spending days on a hunt. He was satisfied with milk and cheese and yogurt and maybe roasted lamb on holidays. That was what his father, Isaac, had known all his life. There was no excitement there. No spontaneity. There is nothing wrong with being a homebody but that quality did not endear Jacob to his father. Jacob was a mild man. He was a good boy, we might would say today. He was not a troublemaker. Although we know Jacob as a conniver, it does not appear he began that way. He might have been boring but he was a good son. That was not good enough for Isaac.

Isaac is now getting old. He knows that the time of his death could come at any moment. He also knows that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob. Now the birthright, generally speaking, was the property of the father passing down to the oldest son but in Isaac’s case, he got a lot more than just cattle and sheep and slaves. His birthright was the promise that God made to Abraham (Compare Genesis 17:18-21). Jacob has bought the birthright but Isaac wants to take the privilege of giving the family blessing and bestow on Esau the promises of God, which he had sold for meal (Compare Genesis 27:28-29).

 

Rebekah wanted the blessing for Jacob (Genesis 27:5-10). Rebekah was not unfamiliar with the value of the blessing. In Genesis 24:58-61 we find that Rebekah herself had also received a blessing amazingly similar to that received by Abraham and Isaac and which she obviously wanted for her son, Jacob. Although it was not her right to give the blessing further to Jacob, she decided that he was the one who should have it. This does not justify her deception but it does emphasize for us the importance of that blessing in her estimation.

 

God wanted the blessing for Jacob. He did not allow Isaac to reverse himself (Genesis 27:27-41 with Hebrews 12:17 and Malachi 1:2-5). In the midst of all of this family conflict, it is God’s will that was set forth. Esau wanted Isaac to change his mind. It is likely that Isaac wanted to change his mind. Esau begged his father for a blessing but what he received was as much a curse as anything. God not only did not allow Isaac to reverse himself but underlined clearly to the whole family that God had made His choice and that no matter how they might manipulate one another, God’s choice is the one that would be selected.

He confirmed the blessing to Jacob Himself (Genesis 28:1-4, 13-15 with John 1:51). The confirmation of Isaac brought with it responsibility, assurance, and clarity. Jacob was responsible to marry someone who served the same God that he served. Then he was assured that the LORD God would be with him. Finally, Isaac made it clear that the blessing of Abraham was Jacob’s and Jacob’s alone and that the reason Jacob had this blessing was because God had given it to him. That is exactly what happened in Genesis 28:13-15. God came and assured Jacob that he was the one to receive the promises of Abraham. It is interesting that Jacob’s first reaction was very similar to that of Abraham. He set up an altar before the LORD (28:16-22). He then promised that he would return to Canaan and that he would serve the LORD.

 

Three years ago in the Middle School Sunday School Class, Pat and I studied these chapters with the young people and at the end of the class, we asked our young people three questions. These questions are also appropriate for us as adults.

 

If God is the one who decides things and not you, what should you do? Submit to God’s will.

What if you don’t understand or don’t agree with what God has decided? Believe God’s promises and live a life that is not focused on this world but rather on the world to come.

What will happen if you fight against God’s chosen ways (Esau would be a good example)? You will live your life alienated from God.

 

The blessing is fulfilled in the Jewish Messiah: You see, the story of Jacob is vital to the Christmas story. God had a plan. It was greater than Adam and Eve and Satan. It was greater than Abraham and Sarah. It was greater than Isaac and Rebekah and Esau and Jacob. It was even greater than the Jewish nation through whom Jesus came. But all of these were necessary that we might have the Christ of Christmas. This blessing was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:8,16; Romans 9:4-5; and John 4:19-26).

Christmas is about submitting yourself to God’s will.

Christmas is about believing God’s promises.

Christmas is about focusing on eternal things.

If you celebrate Christmas without submitting yourself to God’s will, without believing God’s promises, without focusing on the eternal things of God; you may be surrounded by family and friends and loved ones but you will remain isolated and alienated from God. Perhaps you need to change your Christmas plans and focus on things eternal.

Next Week: THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE ON THIS CHILD’S SHOULDER (Genesis 49:8-12)

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