Saturday, December 19, 2015

WHEN GOD SPEAKS, THE UNIVERSE LISTENS

This message is the final one of the four Advent sermons that I gave in our church. It really is a continuation of the three previous.

All of these four sermons of Advent  are on this blog site and are:

1 - Words Without Voices

2 - I AM and I WILL

3 - When God Fell Silent

4 - When God Speaks, the Universe Listens
 
*****************************
WHEN GOD SPEAKS, THE UNIVERSE LISTENS
(WHY DON'T WE ?)
 
In the centuries following the messages of the Old Testament prophet Malachi, there probably was not one person that was living in the vicinity of Judah and Jerusalem, or in all of Israel, who was not looking for the Messiah. At least none who was of a Jewish background.

What is a Messiah? The word actually means “The anointed one.” The Messiah was the promised one who had been anointed by God to come and set the world right. Many prophets in the history of Israel had foretold of the promised Messiah.

Isaiah did:

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD… He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist. (Isaiah 11:2-5 NAS) 

Jeremiah did:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land… In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15 NAS) 

The Final Words

Several other prophets also told of the Messiah who was to come. Many of the prophecies mention that this Messiah would be from the lineage of King David, Judah and Israel’s greatest king.

Then the final prophet, Malachi, said something else concerning the promised Messiah. Not only was Malachi the last prophet whose writings are in the Old Testament, but these are his final words. Speaking for God, he writes: 

 Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6 NAS) 

After Malachi

After Malachi closed his ministry, after he wrote his last words, several things happened to the nation of Israel. Not many of these were good things. Even as Malachi wrote his final words, the Persians were already in control of the Holy Land, and the people were living under their occupation. This situation continued until the Greeks displaced Persians, then the Greeks by the Egyptians, and then they by the Syrians.

During the occupation of the Syrians, the family of an aged priest Mattathias, along with his son Judas Maccabeus, led a revolt and gained independence. However, in the succeeding generations of the family, the family itself became so corrupt and immoral that other Jewish leaders finally asked the Roman ruler Pompey to come in and restore order. This he did in the year 63 BC. However, along with the restoration of order, Pompey also established Roman rule in Jerusalem and all of the land.

In short, for almost the entire time between the last words of Malachi to the first words of the New Testament, the Israelite people were an oppressed people. They were looking for someone to rescue them out of their misery. The Romans were still in control of the land of Israel as the New Testament opens. The Jewish people were waiting for the promised Messiah.




The Prophet Elijah


The people seemed especially to put a lot of significance on the words of Malachi that spoke of the coming of the prophet Elijah. These last words of Malachi had been left ringing in their ears.


Just as David had been their greatest king in history, many considered Elijah to be their greatest prophet. The Elijah of their earlier history, as you remember, never did really die. The way that his departure from this earth is described to us is that he disappeared into the sky in a “chariot of fire” in the midst of a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11).


Another thing about Elijah is that he had also done many dramatic and fantastic miracles in the days of his ministry. He challenged 850 false prophets of Baal and Asheroth to a contest on Mt Carmel, where he called fire down from heaven to consume the offering that he had presented to God. After this demonstration, he had all 850 of the false prophets put to death, then outran the chariot of King Ahab before the rain came to end the three-year drought that he had predicted just before the beginning of the drought (1 Kings 18).


He raised a widow’s son from the dead. He was sustained in the wilderness by ravens bringing him food (1 Kings 17). Twice, when the king sent a detachment of soldiers to Elijah to capture him, fire again came down to heaven to consume the soldiers (2 Kings 1:9-17).


In fact, everything about the life of Elijah was fantastic and amazing. He lived mostly out in the wilderness, sometimes in caves (I Kings 17:3, 19:9), went one period of staying in the wilderness for 40 days and nights without eating any food, and is described as “a hairy man who wore a heavy leather belt around his loins (2 Kings 1:8). 


John the Baptist


The Jews who lived after the prophecy of Malachi considered all of these factors when they were looking for the Messiah. That is why, when John the Baptist appeared on the scene some 400 years after Malachi’s prophecy, they associated him with the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist was similar to Elijah in many ways, both in his preaching and in his appearance. (Matthew 11:7-8; Luke 7:24-28). Some even thought that he indeed was Elijah, who had returned from heaven (Matthew 16:14; Luke 9:8).


In some ways, they were correct in their thinking, but in other ways, they did not understand. Just as people today take prophetic portions of Scripture and misinterpret or misapply them, so did they. That is why John the Baptist had to make it clear to the people who he was.


“I am not the Christ,” he immediately said (John 1:20). With all the teachings of Elijah, some people apparently believed that it would be Elijah himself who would be the long awaited Messiah, and that John the Baptist was he.


There was also a teaching of the day in association with the Messiah, that a great prophet would arise at this time. This belief came from the writings of Moses where he said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen. You must listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15).


“I am not the Christ…I am not Elijah…and I am not the Prophet,” John told the people. 


Anointed for What Purpose?


This misunderstanding of these prophecies was not the biggest mistake that the people made, however. The greater error was that they misunderstood the very purpose of the Messiah. They were looking for a Messiah who would overthrow the nations that had oppressed them, the present nation being that of Rome. They wanted independence, and they hoped for a Messiah who would save them from their foreign oppressors.


But this was not to be the purpose of the Messiah. He was not to save the people from any foreign oppressor. Rather, he was to save the people from what was enslaving them from within. As the angel had told Joseph, the husband of Mary, she would give birth to a son “who would save the people from their sin.” That was the real source of oppression for the people. It was their own sin. The people misunderstood what the real problem was.

Your Own Situation or Your Own Sin



We now look back on those days of 2000 years ago. At this point in our history, we have the advantage to be able to read all of the writings concerning the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles regarding what the true purpose of Jesus coming to us. As we study the times and the conditions of the people back then, along with what Jesus did on their behalf, it should be a rather simple matter for us to see how most of the people were mistaken in those days. They were looking for salvation from their situation, while Jesus was instead offering them salvation from their sin.


However, even if we are able to see their misplaced priorities, it seems that we have not learned a great deal from their mistake. What the people were looking for in a Messiah in those days is also exactly what most people are looking for today! We want salvation from our own situations.


We want a Jesus who will answer our prayers for health – that is true. We also want a Jesus who will supply the money that we need to make our monthly payments – that also is true. We may even want a Jesus who will answer our prayer to win the lottery, because after all, unlike those other people, we will do good things with the money and not just spend it on ourselves. That is the kind of Jesus we want – nothing more than this.


We are not greatly concerned about the sin in our lives. We just want salvation from our situation! We want a savior who will make our lives easy. Do you not see that we are making the very same error as the people in Jesus’ own day were making? We want a champion for our own cause, not a Savior who will give us the power and ability to join his cause.


And just like the people of the first century, we take Scriptures and use them to support what we think that we need instead of using the Scriptures to see what God intends for us to learn from them. We misinterpret the Scriptures and misapply them to support our own personal agendas and desires. We are just like the first century Jews.


We are self-centered and self-seeking in our motivations. Jesus came to be our King, but most people do not want that. They want to remain king of their own lives and simply have Jesus to be their main ally and supporter.


If this is your idea of a savior, then you are missing the whole point. Jesus did not come to save you from your present situation; he came to save you from yourself! 


When God Speaks, the Universe Listens


It is probably difficult for you to remember, but four weeks ago, I began this series of lessons by referring to the opening lines of the book of Hebrews. Here is what it says: 


Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. But in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, who he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of his power. (Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV) 


After four hundred years of silence, God came to his people with his greatest Word. He spoke to us through his Son. The Apostle John writes: 


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him, mothering came into being…In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.


There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory; glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-4, 9, 14 NAS) 


The Apostle Paul tells us that within the body of Jesus Christ when he was walking on this earth, dwelt the entire fullness of the Deity. (Colossians 1:19; 2:9). Do you believe this? 


What kind of Savior are you looking for in this Christmas? Is it one who will give you some relief from your present circumstances and, in fact, fulfill all your own desires for yourself?


Or is it one who will save you from yourself – one who will save you from your sins?


Let your delight be in a Savior, not in your own aspirations.


God said, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)


 

 

No comments:

Post a Comment