Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Deliverer

Years ago Charles Spurgeon wrote the following of Psalm 100:4 - “Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name”:

Our Lord would have all His people rich in high and happy thoughts about Him.  It is His pleasure that His espoused ones should be delighted with His beauty.  We are not to regard Him as a bare necessity like bread or water, but as a luxurious delicacy, as a rare and ravishing delight.  To this end He has revealed Himself as the “pearl of great price” in its peerless beauty, as the “bundle of myrrh” in its refreshing fragrance, or the “rose of Sharon” in its lasting perfume, as the “lily” in its spotless purity.

As a help to high thoughts of Christ, remember that beyond the skies, where things are measured by the right standard, Christ is held in the highest estimation.  Think how God esteems the Only Begotten, His unspeakable gift to us.  Consider what the angels think of Him, as they count it their highest honor to veil their faces at His feet.  Consider what the blood-washed think of Him, as day without night they sing His well deserved praises.  The more loftily we see Christ enthroned the more lowly we are when bowing before the foot of the throne, the more truly will we be prepared to act our part towards Him.  High thoughts of Him increase our love.  Therefore, think much of your Master’s excellencies.  Study Him in His primeval glory, before He took your nature on Himself!  Think of the mighty love which drew Him from His throne to die on the cross!  Admire Him as He conquers all the power of hell!  See Him risen, crowned, glorified!  Bow before Him as the wonderful, the counselor, the mighty God; for only thus your love to Him be what it should.

This Christmas Sunday morning we will be actively engaged in just such an enterprise as we look at the fourth descriptive name of Jesus that Matthew gives us – the Deliverer (Mt. 2:13-15). Drawing upon his knowledge of God’s word and the audience to whom he was writing, Matthew sets forth in three verses a principle feature of Jesus’ glory.

As many of you know, Matthew writes his gospel using the template of the Pentateuch – the books of Moses.  Indeed, the similarities between the five books of Moses and the 29 chapters of Matthew are impressive.  But nowhere is the parallel more clearly seen than in Matthew’s presentation of the aftermath of Jesus’ birth.  Immediately following the announcement of Jesus’ birth to Joseph in a dream, Matthew launches into the story of Herod’s depravity, the visit of the Magi, and the flight of Joseph and his family into Egypt.  And it’s here in verses 13 through 15 that we see a fascinating picture of Jesus as God’s greatest Deliverer.

It’s a serious and shortsighted mistake to limit Jesus’ deliverance to one’s conversion experience.  While being born again by the Spirit of God is essential, it is only the beginning of the full scope of the deliverance offered to us in Christ.  A fuller vision of His deliverance is our aim this week.
In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to review the last three Sunday’s messages on Jesus’ identity in Matthew – “Immanuel” (Mt. 1:18-23), “Shepherd” (Mt. 2:1-6), and “Comforter” (Mt. 2:7-12; 16-18).  In addition you may wish to consider the following:
1.      The significance of Moses to Israel.

2.      What similarities can you identify between Moses and Jesus?

3.      Without Moses where would Israel be?

4.      Why does the angel come to Joseph in three dreams in Matthew and to Mary in a vision in Luke?

5.      What is the significance of the timing of this second angelic nocturnal encounter?

6.      What is the significance of Egypt in the life of God’s people?

7.      What was God’s purpose in delivering Moses from the Nile?  Whose idea was it?

8.      The Hebrew word for Deliverer is “Moshia” stemming from “Yasha”.  Can you find the meaning and connection of these words?

9.      What is the significance of the unusual order of the angel’s words in verse 14?

10.  What is the significance of the timing of the angelic announcement and the escape into Egypt?

11.  Why does Matthew only quote the second half of Hosea 11 in verse 15?  What problem has this posed through the years?

12.  What role do the hands of the deliverer (Moses and Jesus) play in their deliverance?

13.  How is the deliverance of Jesus greater than the deliverance of Moses?

See you Sunday – Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Comforter

An Honest Gospel.

Let’s face it.  Sometimes it seems impossible to have ourselves “a holly-jolly Christmas.” 

As much as I love Christmas and its entire festive atmosphere, eventually reality sets in.  I don’t consider myself a Scrooge or a Grinch, yet how quickly I am reminded that the life doesn’t always parallel the cheery Christmas glee spoken of in so many carols.  From the mundane things—like kids fighting over who gets to hang which Christmas tree ornament; or to the permanent—this being the first Christmas in which we have to remember the life of my beloved Grandmother.  At some point this Christmas, you and I will feel the weight and squeeze of a real world.  Although the eggnog by the fireside might bring some temporary comfort, the aches and pains of our real lives won’t go away.

This week’s text is sobering.  I am still wrestling with it as I write this.  It’s part of the Christmas story, no doubt.  Yet, it’s brutally honest.  Matthew points us to the world into which Jesus Christ was born.  It was not a holly-jolly atmosphere.  Rather, it was a world filled with suffering and sin.  Matthew 2:16-18 describes the massacre of young boys by King Herod.  In an attempt to squelch any threat, Herod embarks in evil. 

I’m not finished with the sermon, and am praying through what Matthew has in store for us.  What I can say is that I am glad that Matthew is honest.   He shows us the core dilemma of our human situation: suffering and sin.  This is real life.  This is where we need a real savior to show up and rescue us.

As we prepare for this week's sermon, I encourage us to read Jeremiah 30-31.  These two chapters are referred to as the “Book of Comfort.”  Amazingly, this seemingly horrific text in Matthew’s Gospel comes from a part of the Old Testament that rings of great and amazing hope!  There are wonderful promises—promises of the forgiveness of sin and the conquest of evil.

1.      How do you react to suffering?  What is the suffering you might be facing right now?

2.      What comforts you?  What brings you relief?  Be honest—no Sunday School answers. 

3.      Where does God meet you in those trials and afflictions?   

4.      When you read Jeremiah 30-31, what promises do you hear from God about you?  Your sin?  Your suffering?  The evil in the world? 

5.      What is your only hope?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Shepherd

"While Shepherds watched their flocks by night" is a Christmas Carol echoing Luke 2:8. That's what shepherds do...watch over their flocks. They give them direction, provision, protection and seek the strays. How precious is Psalm 23:1a "The Lord is my shepherd."  HE cares for us as a shepherd cares for his flock. How often have we prayed for the Good Lord to take care or watch over others or ourselves. We can relate to the old song "Someone to Watch over Me" by George Gershwin that even speaks of a lost lamb needing a shepherd.

In our text, Matthew writes of Jesus as a ruler who will shepherd God's people. This is taken from a prophecy in Micah 5:2-4. The New Testament will then go on to describe Jesus as a shepherd in several ways.

1. HE is the Good Shepherd - John 10:11. Good here is not about doing the right thing but rather about doing the gracious and kind thing. He laid down HIS life for us - talk about caring!!

2. HE is the Chief Shepherd - 1 Peter 5:4. Here Jesus is the model shepherd who all other spiritual shepherds are to emulate. We are to exhibit Christ to those we are responsible for in our churches, homes, workplaces, etc. We are to provide them with loving direction and concern, not abuse or neglect.

3. HE is the Great Shepherd - Hebrews 13:20. We debate who is the greatest president, ballplayer or artist but there is no debate about the greatest caregiver ever...the shepherd, Jesus Christ! Also, Matthew notes that Jesus is a ruler who shepherds. In other words, this is a King who really cares for those HE rules.

4. HE is the One Shepherd - John 10:16. While the sheep (followers) of Jesus may have different denominational preferences and theological leanings we ALL have the same shepherd=our Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, it is interesting that the birth of Jesus was first announced to...shepherds!  See you Sunday.

1. Finish the verse "The Lord is my shepherd, I ___ __ ___." Psalm 23:1

2. Some of God's greatest leaders were shepherds. Name two - Exodus 3:1: 1Samuel 16:11-13.

3. Note the biblical description of God's people. Psalm 77:20; Luke 12:32; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2,3.

4. Ezekiel 34 is a fascinating chapter about spiritual shepherding.

     A. Describe bad shepherding. - v.8

     B. Who is a good shepherd? - v.23

     C. How does our God describe HIMSELF? - v.31

5. Note the personal relationship between our Shepherd, Jesus, and ourselves, HIS sheep. John 10:27,28

* For more on the Lord as our Shepherd read "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23" by Phillip Keller.