Saturday, December 15, 2007

An unusual story

Matthew 2:1 – 12

An unusual story

Remember as a child the bedtime stories. They were filled with wonder and awe. Here we have a story that not only passes them in the wonder and awe department, it tells us about the circumstance around the birth of Jesus.


I.         The seekers were unlikely believers. [Magi – “Wisemen”]


            A.        The Jews of Jesus’ time did not take them seriously. (Herod did, but they didn’t.)


                        1.         “Goi” was the Hebrew word for Gentile.


                                    a.         When used it had a subhuman flavor behind it.


                                    b.         The word almost sounds like the Hebrew word for “dog” and was often deliberately mispronounced.


                        2.         Israel did not recognize Gentile’s spiritual rights.


                                    a.         (Ill.) Jonah’s attitude toward Nineveh was on example.


                                    b.         They forgot about Rahab, Ruth, and Caleb.


            B.        Who were the wisemen? (We don’t know for certain.)


                        1.         They may have been a Persian priestly class, who’s work involved interpreting special signs.


                                    a.         These priests were more scholar philosophers influenced by religion than actual priests.


                                    b.         They were known and respected by Greek philosophers.


                        2.         They may have been a variety of councilors to various Eastern kingdoms.


                                    a.         There are stories of high ranking ambassadors traveling from as far away as China during the Roman time.


                                    b.         Europe, Asia, and Africa were in an unprecedented time of peace.


                        3.         They may have been astrologers and interpreter of dreams.


                                    a.         Fairly common for Kings to collect such people (Pharaoh – Joseph, Babylon – Daniel and friends)


                                    b.         We know they were following a star.

***** The seekers were unlikely believers.


II.       The sign demonstrates that God never lacks a means to convey His message.


            A.        The star.


                        1.         The word indicates this was a constellation, something very unusual.


                        2.         Ancient belief that a star heralds the birth of a great King.


                        3.         When Balaam “blessed” Israel, part of that prophecy said: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.” [Numbers 24:17]


            B.        God had a method of communicating to the world.


                        1.         God spoke to His people through prophets (Scripture). God’s people were expected to pass that information on to the Gentiles.


                        2.         Somehow the Magi knew about the start, and the birth of a King.

***** The sign demonstrates that God never lacks a means to convey His message. The believer is the primary means God uses.


III.      The search demonstrates the earthly joy does not satisfy; only joy given by God can satisfy.


            A.        The search was earnest.


                        1.         It involved hardship. This might have been a 4 year trip for them.


                        2.         While there was peace, travel outside the Roman empire was fairly dangerous.


                        3.         There was discouragement. They looked in the wrong place.


                                    a.         Jerusalem was the natural (and human) choice.


                                    b.         Somehow they lost sight of the star...


            B.        The search depended on God’s guidance.


                        1.         They followed, only to go the wrong place.


                        2.         [v 10] “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed”

***** The search demonstrates that joy is found only in God’s guidance.


IV.      The success of the seekers following the star gave them the opportunity to give all they had to God.


            A.        Success was not found were expected.


                        1.         Success is never found were the world expects to find it.


                        2.         Notice they were looking for “King of the Jews” who they found was “King of Kings.”


            B.        The Magi came with treasures for a King.


                        1.         [v 11] “they bowed down and worshiped him.”


                        2.         What they really gave was themselves.


***** The seekers found success. They thought they were looking for a King but found a savior. They gave to Jesus what they held precious and offered to Him what He holds precious (their worship).


1.         What are you seeking?


2.         What is guiding you in the search?


3.         What are you prepared to give, when you find Jesus?

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Golden Age

Isaiah 11:1 – 10
“The Golden Age”

“... and His place of rest will be glorious.”  [v 10]

I.    Who is this Messiah?

    A.    He will come from the “stump of Jesse.”

        1.    A stump is what’s left when a tree is cut down.

            a.    At the time of Isaiah’s David’s line was strong.

            b.    By Jesus’ time, it was buried in infamy.

        2.    Notice, this is “the stump of Jesse” (not David)

            a.    There is only one Jesse.  He was considered “the least.”

            b.    David’s origins are “lowly” and reflected in Jesus’ birth.

    B.    He will demonstrate dependence on the Holy Spirit.

        1.    The human nature of Jesus required dependence on the Holy Spirit.

            a.    “But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” [Philippians 2:7]

                1.)    “Made himself nothing” – the Greek work literally means “emptied.”

                2.)    NLT “gave up His divine privileges.”

                3.    MSG “He set aside the privileges of deity.”

            b.    Necessary because our human nature is bent.

                1.)    Jesus demonstrated how to live.  He was the model and pattern.

                2.)    The template is to show us how to depend on the Holy Spirit.

        2.    There are three sets (couplets) that must be understood together.

            a.    Wisdom and understanding.

                1.)    Wisdom is the intellectual ability to perceive.

                2.)    Understanding is moral intelligence (the correct use of perception).

            b.    Council and might.

                1.)    Council is the ability to give direction.

                2.)    Might is the ability to build and have strength.

***** These two would indicate the ability to create a plan and make the though into action.

            c.    Knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

                1.)    Knowledge is acquainted with the true will of God.  (As opposed to wishful thinking or cultural induced/conditioned thinking.)

                2.)    The fear of the Lord is seen in the determination to carry out the will of God.

II.    How does He judge?

    A.    Different than the world.

John 7:24 “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”  Or as the NLT puts it, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”

        1.    Not by sight or appearance.

        2.    Not by hearing or hearsay.

    B.    Judge with:

        1.    Righteousness is what is right.

        2.    Equity means what is fair.

        3.    We see the contrast between the Messiah and human systems.

            a.    The poor/needy get justice.

            b.    The meek/exploited get things set right.

***** In Jesus there is not social class, no economic class, no racial distinctions, and nobody but Jesus gets any glory.  (He’s the only one worthy.)

III.    What will the Messiah’s kingdom look like.

    A.    Creation is restored to God’s original (and intended) order.

(Romans 8:19 – 25)

        1.    Romans 8:20 “the creation was subjected to frustration.”

            a.    The theological word for this is “cursed.”

            b.    The Curse is the consequences of the first sin (disobeying God).

        2.    Romans 8:21 “liberated from the bondage of decay”...”glorious freedom.”

            a.    Isaiah sees a “new heaven and a new earth”  [Revelation 21:1] where everything is back to its original design.

            b.    Isaiah 11:9 “neither will harm or destroy.”

    B.    We see the image of “perfect peace.”

        1.    The animal world is at peace.

            a.    There is no predatory behavior.

            b.    There is no need to eat each other.

            c.    There is no need to protect themselves.

        2.    There is peace between humans and animals.

            a.    This is not talking about domesticated animals.

            b.    Even the image/relationship between children (innocent) and animals ( by nature would hurt or kill) is one of peace.

    C.    Key: “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”

        1.    The knowledge of the Lord starts at the cross.

            a.    Jesus is “the lamb that was slain.” [Revelation 5:12]

            b.    Jesus is the “King of Kings.” [Revelation 19:16]

        2.    Jesus’ rest... His kingdom will be glorious!

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