December 2, 2018
Pastor Bryan Watson
Good morning. Before we begin our time together this morning, please bow your heads with me in prayer.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the privilege of bringing a message to Your church today. I pray with all my heart that the only words that would come out of my mouth today are the words that You have put there. If there is a thought that is not from You, help me to remain silent. But for the word that You have instructed me to bring, help me to proclaim Your message with my whole heart. And please open the ears and soften the hearts of Your congregation today, that they may be ready to hear Your Word proclaimed. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.
Before I read the scripture passage today, I want to give you a little recap from Daniel 12:1-3. In my last message, we looked at a prophecy that covered the most terrible time that the world will ever see. It is referred to as the Great Tribulation, and it is a time when the coming Antichrist, the most evil ruler that the world will ever see, turns his wrath upon the nation of Israel and Christians all over the world. The death and suffering that we saw in the 20th century with 2 World Wars, a Great Depression, and widespread famine, will be nothing compared to the horror that will be unleashed during this time. We saw that the prophecies contained in the Book of Daniel overlay quite incredibly with the Book of Revelation. We saw the utter hope and despair that comes at the end of all time for those who have rejected Christ, and we also saw the ultimate hope and victory that comes at the end of all time for believers in Jesus when Jesus Christ Himself returns in power and majesty, as the Unveiled Christ, to judge the world and reign forevermore. And so the prophecy that the angel gives to Daniel is finished, and the angel is about to give Daniel final instructions.
This brings us to our scripture passage for this morning: Daniel 12:4-13. I’ll be working through this passage verse by verse, and I invite you to follow along in your Bibles. I’ll be reading from the New King James Version.
4 But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
With the conclusion of the prophecy, the angel gives Daniel a direct command. Seal up the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Why would he say that? What does he mean? The angel is telling Daniel that the prophecy that he has been given, which he obviously recorded, needs to be preserved for the future generations at the time of the end. Why? Because God feels it’s important for the people who will be living in the end time to be able recognize God’s hand in world history through the fulfillment of prophecy, and there is no better way to do this than to give them a copy of Daniel.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that “16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” That’s why it is vital for us to be able to go through Daniel, that we may be taught, and equipped as servants of God. “All Scripture” includes all Scripture.
As for the part about “many will go here and there to increase knowledge”, I believe that this refers to the lengths that people will go to in order to try to understand why the world is the way it is. Horoscopes, palm-readers, Nostradamus… people are starving to know the purpose and meaning of life, and so Daniel’s vision, when correctly applies, points people to the answer.
Verses 5 and 6
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”
Even the angels want to know when this will happen, because even the angels are not given that knowledge. And by the way, if you recall from Chapter 10 when this major prophecy begins, the Man in linen is believed to be the pre-incarnate Christ, or the appearance of Christ in His perfect Deity, before He came to the earth in human form.
7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”
Here Christ swears an oath by God the Father. Usually, an oath is sworn by raising the right hand alone. But in this verse, Christ raises His left hand as well, doubly signifying the solemnness of His oath. This Great Tribulation that is being discussed will be for 3 ½ years, or a time, times, and half a time as we learned before. At the end of that time, when Israel finally accepts Christ as their Messiah, all these things will be completed. The Good Shepherd will have waited for the very last of His sheep to come to Him before the end of all things.
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”
Quite frankly, Daniel doesn’t get it. “What does it mean?” he asks.
9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end.
The point that Jesus is making is that the stuff that happens at the end isn’t going to be Daniel’s concern. God gave the vision to Daniel so that it would be recorded for those at the end… possibly even for us… and Daniel wasn’t going to have to deal with it. So he basically tells Daniel to go back to doing the tasks he was given in the here and now, and leave the fulfillment of the prophecies to God.
10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
Christ tells Daniel that through all the suffering that is foretold in the prophecies, many will come to faith and be saved. And we see that, don’t we? It’s the hardships that drive us to our knees. It when we don’t need anything that we don’t need God either, isn’t it? But Christ also says that in some cases, the wicked are just wicked. And it’s their loss.
Verses 11 & 12
11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.
So, from the beginning of the Great Tribulation, until the end of the judgment in the prophecy, there are 1290 days. However, 3 ½ years is only 1260 days. So, where do the extra 30 days come from? Some scholars speculate that the extra 30 days is the time required for the judgment to take place. And what about the 1335 days? That’s and extra 45 days past the extra 30 days? Again, some scholars speculate that this time will be spent setting up the structure of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom here on earth. But I want to emphasize the word “speculate”, because the only thing everybody really agrees on regarding this verse is that “we don’t know.” And that’s where I stand as well. I don’t know what those days mean, but when Christ says “Blessed are the ones who reach the end of the 1335 days,” that means that it must be pretty good, whatever it is!
But there is one other part about this verse that I want to focus on for a moment. Here, Christ refers to the “abomination that causes desolation.”
We saw the “abomination that causes desolation” in Chapter 9, verse 27, in an earlier prophecy about the Antichrist, when he will declare himself to be god in the temple.
We saw the “abomination that causes desolation” again in Chapter 11, verse 31, referring to Antiochus Epiphanes, when he tried to wipe out Judaism by defiling the temple and slaughtering pigs on the altar.
And we see it again here in Chapter 12. Now let me ask you this. If God says something through scripture over and over and over again, do you think it’s something you should pay attention to? Listen to the words of Jesus in the New Testament, in Matthew 24:15. “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—”
Let the reader understand! This is a direct commandment of Jesus Christ Himself to be aware of, and watch for, the signs that are written about in the Book of Daniel. How is the reader going to understand what Jesus is talking about unless they have an awareness of what Daniel has written? It’s pretty simple. They won’t.
13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”
Live your life, Daniel. Do what you were put here to do! Know these things. Preserve these things. But don’t focus on them so much that you stop living your life among the people. How else are you going to be My witness? But with the last sentence of this book, Christ gives Daniel the blessed assurance that Daniel will experience a resurrection and receive his inheritance as a child of God. What a way to end a book! And they lived happily ever after!
Since it’s taken an entire year to preach through Daniel, let me do a quick recap of the book in under 10 minutes. Watch God’s hand move through history.
Before I began preaching through the text, I gave a sermon where I defended the legitimacy of the Book of Daniel. I did this because the prophecies in Daniel are so accurate that some people consider the book a fraud. We learned through the historic evidence of The Dead Sea Scrolls, Ancient Witnesses, and Linguistics, that Daniel was written just when it was claimed to be written, and that Daniel was a real person from history, and we can believe The Book of Daniel as it is presented to us in scripture.
Chapter 1 – The Food Test
In Chapter 1, we began to see God fulfill the prophecies that were made about the punishment of hundreds of years of Israel’s disobedience and apostasy and idolatry, through the use of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. Though Nebuchadnezzar didn’t realize it, he was merely the rod that God used to discipline and refine His people, Israel. Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, along with other notable people like the priest, Ezekiel, were taken captive. Daniel and his friends were given new names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and were enrolled in training to become Nebuchadnezzar’s advisors. After refusing the king’s delicacies, they experienced the food test, where they were granted a 10-day test eating only their own “clean” foods, and God rewarded their faithfulness by showing them to be superior to their peers in every way. God was strategically placing them in Nebuchadnezzar’s inner circle.
Chapter 2 – Nebuchadnezzar’s 1st Dream
In Chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a giant image with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, feet of iron, and toes of iron and clay. A giant heavenly stone came along and destroyed the statue. That stone then became a mountain. Nebuchadnezzar’s advisor’s were unable to tell him what he dreamed, but God gave Daniel the answer. The dream was a prophecy about the future of the world, right to the very end of time. Daniel described Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and a future Roman Empire, as well as Christ’s kingdom. As a reward for being able to solve the king’s dilemma, Daniel and his friends were promoted, gaining even more influence with Nebuchadnezzar.
Chapter 3 – The Fiery Furnace
In Chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar, urged on by jealous officials who didn’t like Hebrews in positions of authority, builds a giant image for his own glory and orders everybody to worship it, with no exceptions. Those who disobey would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refuse to bow down to the statue, and are brought before Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar gives them another chance, but they reply to the king with their famous “Even If” speech. Verses 17 and 18: “17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” They are thrown into the furnace, and are met there by the pre-incarnate Christ. After surviving the fire, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges God and orders that He be worshiped in Babylon. God is preserving a remnant and causing the heart of the captor king to be favorable towards God’s people.
Chapter 4 – Nebuchadnezzar is Humbled.
In Chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar has another dream, this time about a magnificent tree that is cut down. Daniel explains that the tree is, in fact, Nebuchadnezzar himself. At the height of his arrogance, Nebuchadnezzar is struck with a mental illness and forced to live like a wild animal. That is, until he acknowledges Yahweh as God Most High, which he does, 7 years later. Again, worship of God is reinforced in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar pens a letter to us in his own hand, which makes up the bulk of Chapter 4. I believe that I will see Nebuchadnezzar in heaven one day.
Chapter 5 – The Handwriting on the Wall
In Chapter 5, Belshazzar is the new King of Babylon. A foolish king, he has a drunken party to show off his invincibility while the Persian army is encamped outside. Belshazzar calls for the artifacts that were looted from God’s temple in Jerusalem to be brought to the party so that his wives and concubines can drink from them. Suddenly, a mysterious hand appears and writes a message on the wall. Nobody can interpret it, so Belshazzar summons Daniel, who lectures Belshazzar on his refusal to acknowledge God. Daniel tells Belshazzar that the message says he will lose his kingdom to the Medo-Persians. Later that night, Darius the Mede enters Babylon and puts Belshazzar to death. The Babylonian empire dies with him, and the Medo-Persians now reign, just like God said they would in visions to both Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel.
Chapter 6 – Daniel In the Lions’ Den
In Chapter 6, Daniel has been shown great favor by King Darius as a result of his faithfulness and skill. More jealous officials convince Darius to sign a law that says that anybody who prays to anything except Darius himself should be thrown into the lions’ den. Immediately, they catch Daniel praying to God, because Daniel has determined in his heart that he would remain faithful. As a result, Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den, but God shuts the mouths of the lions, thus rescuing Daniel. The next morning, the scheming officials are forced to trade places with Daniel. Suddenly, the lions’ mouths are no longer shut… God continues to show favor to Daniel by having him high up in the king’s circle of influence, for the sake of the Hebrew captives.
Chapter 7 – Daniel’s Vision of Four Beasts
Chapter 7 brought us a vision that was given directly to Daniel. Daniel saw 4 beasts. Like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, each of these four beasts represented world empires to the end of time. Daniel saw a lion, which represented Babylon; a bear, which was the Medo-Persians; a leopard with wings, which was Greece, and a terrible, indescribable beast with iron teeth and 10 horns. This was the Roman Empire and future Revived Roman Empire. Daniel saw this beast destroyed and thrown into the lake of fire. Daniel was also given a vision God’s judgment seat, and the Kingdom being given to Christ. This vision overlays well with the prophecy in Daniel 11 & 12, and Revelation, with the hope of eternal life in Christ for those who believe.
Chapter 8 – Daniel’s Vision of the Ram and the He-Goat
In Chapter 8, we are given a close-up of the Greek Empire taking over from the Medo-Persian empire. A powerful ram, which represents the Medo-Persians, gets destroyed by a he-goat, representing the Greeks. We are given a glimpse of the future Greek Empire with Alexander the Great, and Antiochus Epiphanes and his persecution of the Jews. We saw how this prophecy related to Antiochus Epiphanes’ defilement of the Jewish temple, and the effort of the Maccabees to push back against Antiochus Epiphanes, reclaim the temple for God, and cleanse it. This was our first introduction to the Feast of Dedication for the cleansing of the temple, otherwise known as Hanukkah. In addition to marking the cleansing of the temple, Hanukkah represents the Jewish longing for the coming of the Messiah to reign in the temple. As such, there are a lot of similarities to the Christian season of Advent. It is very fitting that we are talking about this, considering that today is the First Sunday in Advent. Not only that, but Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown!
Chapter 9 – Seventy Weeks for Israel
In Chapter 9, Daniel is fervently praying for his people. The Persian leader Cyrus the Great is currently in charge. We learn that the prophet Jeremiah had prophesied that Israel would be captive for 70 years, one year for each Sabbath year that Israel did not honor in the previous 490 years. Daniel recognizes that the time to return is near. Furthermore, Daniel knows that Isaiah had prophesied about Cyrus the Great by name over a hundred years earlier. An angel appears to Daniel and gives him a prophecy of the next 70 weeks, or 70 groups of 7 years. The angel prophesies, basically down to the day, exactly when the coming Messiah would ride into Jerusalem at Passion week. Yes, Palm Sunday, and the Crucifixion, are both prophesied in this passage, as is the future Antichrist, the “abomination that causes desolation.”
Chapter 10 – The Spiritual Realm
Chapter 10 gives us the beginning of one of the longest, and most important, prophecies in all of Scripture. Again, we find Daniel praying for his people. He is very distressed because only a handful of people actually returned to Jerusalem after Cyrus had set them free. After 3 weeks, and angel appears to Daniel, about to give him the prophecy. But, as we learn from the angel, there is a spiritual battle going on that most of us are oblivious to. You see, the Prince of Persia, a demonic entity that influences the kingdom of Persian, blocked the angel from reaching Daniel until more angelic help came in the form of the Archangel Michael.
Chapter 11 – The Kings of the North and the South
In Chapter 11, the angel gives Daniel an incredibly detailed prophecy about the future of Israel, and how the ongoing battle between warring factions in the Greek empire, specifically the Kings of the North and South, would take place. We saw that Satan is trying to use these warring factions to strategically eliminate the Messianic line from Israel. What better way to disrupt God’s plan of salvation?
The detail in these prophecies would be so astounding that skeptics try to say that the Book of Daniel was written after the fact. More detail is given about Antiochus Epiphanes, the Maccabean revolt and resulting celebration of Hanukkah, and the future Antichrist, Great Tribulation, and ultimate Great White Throne Judgement. While much of the prophecy is now history to us here in 2018, it is also the future events that line up with the Book of Revelation that we need to watch for, as God’s redemptive plan continues to unfold.
Chapter 12 – Judgment and The End
In Chapter 12, we saw the end of the prophecy, culminating in God’s triumphant victory forever and ever. Daniel is given final instructions, and we are left with the impression that this information is really intended for us today, not just for Daniel.
Throughout the entire Book of Daniel, we saw the theme of “waiting and anticipating”. Sin and disobedience plunged the Jews into captivity, and Daniel waited for their release. We saw prophecies of persecution and rescue, with the cleansing of the temple in anticipation of a coming Messiah, and the resulting feast of Hanukkah. We saw direct and detailed prophecies of the first coming of Christ, His birth, and His atoning sacrifice. And we saw prophecies of God’s ultimate plan to end suffering and death once and for all in a final victory over the beast, at the end of all time, with believers in Christ going to a heavenly destination, and those who rejected Him going to eternal punishment.
For us today, the Book of Daniel is both backward looking and forward looking. We recognize that many prophecies have been fulfilled, as written in the history books, and also as seen in the Manger and at the Cross. Yet it is also forward looking, as some prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. Today, as we recognize the significance of Hanukkah, and begin our observance of Advent, we continue to wait and anticipate, as we look for Christ’s return.
Christ’s return is a dreadful thing for those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, but it is a glorious thing that believers in Christ look forward to. If you would like to be part of the group who look forward to Christ’s return and the ultimate victory over sin and death, then you can make that decision today. Come and speak with me, or Pastor Dennis, after the service, or anytime, or pray right where you are and ask God for forgiveness and give yourself to Christ today.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.
Amen. Let’s pray.
December 16, 2018
Tidings of Comfort and Joy
Pastor Bryan Watson
If I’m honest, I have a love-hate relationship with the Christmas season. Every year when it shows up, I have this fantastic expectation of a month of getting together with friends, and Christmas carols, and hot chocolate on frosty evenings, watching Hallmark movies with an unlimited supply of popcorn. The end of November rolls around and I have visions of buttertarts dancing in my head. But somewhere between then and January 2, the Grinch of Real Life sashays in like he owns the place, mixes in the stress of work problems along with the joys of lineups and supermarket parking lots, fills up our calendars with obligations so that we can’t get together with anybody, and turns my buttertarts into mincemeat! Take Friday night, for example. I’m in a hurry to get home after work because it’s Friday night, and so it’s “date night” for Lori and I. But I have to pick up some groceries at Superstore. After discovering all that they don’t have available, I head over to Save On Foods to pick up a few items. I’m at the self check-out, and I scan my item and put it in the bagging area. All of a sudden, the check-out machine, with an overly friendly female voice, says, “Unexpected item in bagging area. Remove item from bagging area.” <sigh>. Fine. I remove the item from the bagging area. The friendly voice comes back on: “Item removed from bagging area. Please place item in bagging area.” I put the item back. “Unexpected item in bagging area. Remove item from bagging area.” I’d probably still be there today if I hadn’t gone for help. Amidst the stress of shopping and the tyranny of the clock, it would have been very easy to lose my patience.
Be honest with me. How many of you have had to fix broken plumbing or broken stoves and ovens on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? And just when you think it can’t get any worse, a string of lights quits working while it’s on the tree. That drives me insane!
And then we see these perfect family dinners like in movies, with not even so much as a drop of gravy spilled on a white shirt anywhere, and we wonder, “why can’t that happen for us?” And the bar of unrealistic expectations rises even higher. The perfect turkey. The perfect children. The perfect snowfall that shovels itself.
Between buying all the gifts, and writing all the cards, and getting involved in every activity to be had, we allow the devil to rob from us the joy of fellowship and the wonder of the Christ. It’s true that he comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy, isn’t it? Put your hand up if you’ve wanted to have somebody over for supper but you haven’t been able to because there’s no time. Look at this.
You know, every year the anticipation and joy of Christmas is offset by the anxiety that we’re going to miss it. And it happens every year because every year on this side of heaven we are dealing with real life in a fallen world. That is why I’ve chosen John 16:33 as our scripture passage for today. John 16:33. In this verse, Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
We all have our own junk that we are dealing with every year. Some of it we have brought on ourselves. Some of it we have not. I’ve had an uncle pass away on Christmas Day. I’ve had to work on Christmas day. I know what it feels like to go through that first Christmas after losing a loved one. I know what it feels like to be too sick to eat Christmas dinner. I know what it feels like to have the furnace stop working when it’s 40 below on Christmas Eve. I know.
So this year, in spite of the inevitable tribulation, I am determined to be of good cheer. And I know I can, because the beautiful thing is that there is nothing I can do to “wreck” Christmas. I can’t stop Christmas! Christmas is coming whether I am ready for it or not, and thank God for that, because that means that God’s plan of salvation is not dependent upon my attitude or my circumstances!
But you know, I’m not the only one to go through imperfect Christmases.
An Imperfect Family
Christ Himself had an imperfect earthly family. Considering Matthew’s genealogy of Christ’s royal lineage, listen to some of the people on this family tree. This is not an exhaustive list:
Abraham lied about his wife being his sister, not once, but TWICE. (And yes, technically she was his half-sister, so yes, technically he was telling the truth, but let’s not split hairs. Abraham didn’t just “misspeak” when he intentionally withheld this little piece of information that they were MARRIED.) (Genesis 12:10-20, Genesis 20)
Jacob was a deceiver. He tricked his own brother out of his inheritance and lied to his father Isaac about his identity. (Genesis 25:29-24, Genesis 27)
Judah – Sold his brother into slavery. He cheated his widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar, then conceived children with her when she tricked him into thinking that she was a prostitute. (Genesis 37, Genesis 38)
Rahab was a Gentile prostitute. (Joshua 2:1)
Ruth was a Moabite woman. Her ancestor, Moab, and therefore one of Christ’s earthly ancestors as well, was conceived in incest between Lot and his daughter. (Ruth 1:4, Genesis 19:30-38)
David committed adultery and then had his mistress’ husband, one of his most faithful mighty men, murdered in order to hide the resulting pregnancy. (2 Samuel 11)
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, turned his back on God and followed the pagan gods of his hundreds of foreign wives. (1 Kings 11:4)
Rehoboam oppressed the people and provided the straw that broke the camel’s back that resulted in the divided kingdom. (1 Kings 12:1-24)
Manasseh was one of the vilest kings in Israel’s history. (2 Kings 21:1-18)
How’s that for a family get-together? Yet, what an example of God’s redemptive plan in that His own Son came from this line of fallen people for His earthy heritage.
An Imperfect Birth
But it wasn’t just an imperfect family tree that I want to talk about. Let’s consider some of the main characters in the Christmas story and whether or not the first Christmas was inconvenient for them:
Zechariah and Elizabeth
Zechariah was a priest at the time of the birth of Christ. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were well advanced in years. In fact, they were too old to have children. As such, they would have come to a point of acceptance that they were not going to have children.
While going about his duties in the Holy of Holies, an angel announces to Zechariah that he and Elizabeth would have a son. Because of their age, and probably the assumption that God was not going to answer their prayers for a child, Zechariah scoffs at the angel’s announcement, and the angel strikes him mute until the child is born. So now, the poor guy really has something important to say, but can’t speak for at least another 9 months.
As for Elizabeth, she bore a child as a senior citizen. That can’t be very easy. And she did it with a husband who couldn’t speak a word.
Yes, the first Christmas was inconvenient for Zechariah and Elizabeth, but they were part of the fulfillment of God’s plan for the Messiah, in the birth of the one who would prepare the way for Christ: John the Baptist.
Mary was a teenage girl who was betrothed to be married to a man named Joseph. Being betrothed means that there was a formal agreement between Joseph and Mary’s family that Mary would be wed to Joseph. It is more than an engagement in that it requires a formal divorce in order to terminate it. However, it is less than a full marriage in that the intimacy of marriage is not to be practiced. The bride remains living with her parents until the actual wedding ceremony, which could be up to a year later.
It is during this period that the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces to her that she is going to be the mother of the Messiah. To her credit, Mary doesn’t respond with scoffing, but she IS curious about one little wrinkle in the details… she is a virgin, and virgins typically don’t have children!
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
Mary submitted to God’s will, and so began her most inconvenient Christmas. You see, getting pregnant out of wedlock in those days wasn’t just an opportunity for scandal; it was punishable by death! Mary would be seen as an adulteress. Her family would have to endure much scorn. How would Joseph react? Mary chooses this time to go and see Elizabeth, leaving her home and her family for about 3 months in the process. Luke 1:39 says that she “went with haste”. I think you can understand why.
Now, what about Joseph? Here’s a man, we’re not told exactly how old he is, but he’s got dreams and plans for a wife and a family. All of sudden, the girl that he is to be married to is pregnant, and he’s not the father! I can only imagine the agony that he went through with thoughts of betrayal and unfaithfulness in his head. And what’s he supposed to do? If he says the child is his, he’d be lying and facing a stigma that he doesn’t deserve. And yet if he accuses Mary of committing adultery, which the evidence points to, he’s condemning both her AND the child to death. So, Joseph makes the agonizing decision to “divorce her quietly,” putting his own dreams and plans in limbo.
Beginning in Matthew 1:20, we read, “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
You know, I bet Joseph knew about that prophecy, because he was a just and righteous man, and he would have known these scriptures. That probably went a long way to him believing the angel and doing what he was told. But, I also suspect that a lot of his family and community weren’t so understanding, so the pressure on Joseph and Mary must have been enormous.
But there was a part of the prophecy that still needed to be worked out. Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth. The Messiah was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem. How was this going to be resolved?
Well, just what Joseph wanted to hear: a census required for some new tax scheme by the government. Great. And he had to show up in person. In Bethlehem. With his very pregnant wife. Leaving his home. Leaving his business. So, off they go, in their Dodge Colt (Joseph couldn’t afford a Mustang) to Bethlehem.
And what happens when they get to Bethlehem after this long journey with a wife who is about to give birth? They check in at the Super 8 and go for a nice relaxing soak in the hot tub. Right? No, of course not! Luke 2:7 says And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Without any place to stay, the Saviour of the World is born in a barn and is using a feeding trough for a crib. Dust. Mice. The stuff of barn animals. I bet Joseph is really feeling like a great provider for his family right now! Alone, away from home, his wife without her mother who would have been her midwife, tired, taxed, and living in a barn with a newborn that he was charged with protecting and providing for. I bet he thinks it just can’t get any worse than this. But it can, and it will.
But what about the innkeeper? What is he feeling right about now? Business is probably good, but he didn’t ask for all the craziness of the overcrowding caused by this census. His door is probably banging off the hinges, and it’s lucky for him that phones haven’t been invented yet. Now, this poor fellow shows up with a wife who is about to give birth, and what can the innkeeper do about it? There is no room. NO ROOM! Anywhere! The innkeeper isn’t cruel, or heartless. But he is in an impossible dilemma here.
You know who else probably had a rough Christmas that first Christmas? Mary’s parents, that’s who. They are an honorable, righteous family living in a time when honor and righteousness are vital to their community standing. Now their unmarried daughter is pregnant, and she claims that an angel told her that this would be God’s Son. We have the luxury of the Bible to give us this information, but they didn’t. The New Testament hadn’t been written yet because it was going to be all about their unborn Grandson who, according to their pregnant daughter, was conceived by the Holy Spirit! Try talking about THAT to your friends on coffee row. You may as well, because it’s guaranteed that your FRIENDS are talking about it!
And now, all set to deliver this baby, she’s on a journey without her mother, without a cell phone. They don’t know if Mary is safe. They don’t know if she’s had the Baby. They don’t know ANYTHING. Agonizing to not know.
There’s another group of people who had an inconvenient Christmas. The Shepherds. We read this familiar passage in Luke 2:8-10. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Do you know why the angel told the shepherds to fear not? BECAUSE THEY FEARED! They were minding their business on another routine night in the hills when suddenly a host of angels appears. I don’t know about you, but I’d be squealing like a little girl. My wife knows… she’s heard me do it!!! Yes, they were the first recipients of the greatest news ever told! But don’t tell me that it wasn’t without a little anxiety.
Now, let me tell you about another group of people who had an inconvenient Christmas. The Magi. Matthew 2:1 gives us this bit of information. Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship Him.”
Now, in all fairness, their inconvenience was by choice. They came because they WANTED to. They were searching for something that they knew was coming ever since Daniel taught them about it in Babylon when he was chief over the Magi there. But you know, I’ve gone on trips before as well where I had a specific mission in mind, and it would have just been easier to stay home. It’s inevitable that long journeys come with their own problems, right? <pause>
These men, however many there were, left their homes, and traveled for who knows how long, having a general idea of where they were headed, but not a specific address. There was uncertainty in their travels, and probably very few KOA campgrounds along the way.
But I can tell you for sure that if I thought the Magi had an inconvenient Christmas, they caused King Herod to have an absolute meltdown. You see, these Magi have appeared asking a very uncomfortable question: “Where is he who has been born the King of the Jews?” Matthew 2:3 tells us that “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;” He was more than troubled, he was terrified. He had already executed a wife and two sons over a rumor of their disloyalty. He was the incumbent King of the Jews, and had no intent of stepping aside for anyone, EVER. And this bit about being “born” the King of the Jews was really disturbing, because Herod was APPOINTED the King of the Jews by Rome. HE WAS NOT JEWISH BY BLOOD. He wasn’t even born a Jew, let alone born a King. He was an Edomite whose family was forced to convert to Judaism. So this talk about a baby born to be the King of the Jews. This had to be stopped. Now!
And how did he go about doing this? Well, for starters, he made the Magi uncomfortable enough that they made the decision to defy Herod’s orders and go home by another route, an act probably punishable by some form of cruelty if they got caught.
The Baby Boys of Bethlehem
And you know who had the worst Christmas of them all? Herod made it the LAST Christmas for all the baby boys in Bethlehem aged 2 and under, as he executed them in his crazy attempt to extinguish this perceived threat to his throne. Matthew 2:17-18 says, Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”
That’s more than inconvenient. That’s a tragedy of unimaginable pain and sorrow.
And it also affected Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, in that they had to flee to Egypt in the middle of the night in order to save Jesus’ life.
Finally, Jesus Christ Himself had an inconvenient Christmas. The Son of God. The Second Person of the Trinity. The Creator of the world who leaves His place in Heaven to join with humanity in this broken world that suffers under the curse of Sin. As we read in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law…” He becomes one of us, putting on flesh and skin, knowing full well that it was going to lead to torture and execution to take what I deserve, so that He could give me what I don’t deserve. Grace. Forgiveness. Everlasting life.
What Does This Mean?
So, what does this mean to us? I want you to take only 3 simple things away from this message today:
Stop the craziness. Let’s stop being so busy that we don’t have time for each other. We are a fellowship. We are a community. We are a family in Christ. Let’s stop having the word Fellowship as just something in our church name, and let’s make it a description of what we do. Together. Let’s make time for each other to build each other up and worship Christ as our Lord.
And #2. I want you to not get hung up on all the things that don’t go right as we try to prepare for Christmas. Preparing for Christmas isn’t about baking cookies or buying gifts. It’s about considering the Christ and the gift that God gave to us and preparing our hearts to receive Him.
And that brings us to #3. If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, there’s no greater time than right now. This is the greatest gift exchange of all. You can bring Him your sin in exchange for His Righteousness. You can bring him your guilt in exchange for His Grace and Pardon. You can bring Him your earthly life in exchange for your eternal life. And if you want to do that today, there will be people here to pray with you and answer your questions. But if you would rather do that in the privacy of your own heart, you can pray to God right now and ask for forgiveness for your sins, and accept Christ’s death in place of the punishment that you deserve, and His rising again from the dead in victory over death.
This may be an inconvenient Christmas, but it can still be the greatest Christmas ever.
God rest ye merry, gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day.
O, Tidings of Comfort and Joy. Amen.
December 23, 2018
What Kind of King?
Pastor Bryan Watson
Good morning. Let’s take a moment to pray.
I’ve chosen for our text this morning Galatians 4:4-5. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
As I was putting together this message, I decided to go to that all-knowing bastion of wisdom, Google, to do a search on famous kings from history. I ended up finding this list of the supposed “top 20” kings in history, as decided by some guy whose name I can’t remember and couldn’t pronounce even if I could remember. But, the names on his list were interesting.
Spots 1-5 belonged to: Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, King Tamerlane of Mongolia, Alexander the Great, and King Louis XIV of France. 4 brutal warriors and 1 who was famous for his vanity.
Other kings in the top 20 included Henry VIII of England, Cyrus the Great of Persia, Augustus Caesar of Rome, and King Tut of Egypt. Notably absent from this fellow’s list is King David and King Solomon of Israel, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Elvis Presley, who the culture called “The King”, and Canada’s very own King of Kensington.
Some of these kings were kindhearted and revered by their subjects. Others were cruel and known for their brutality. Some were born into royalty, and others took it by force. But they all have one thing in common: they’re all dead… Well, most of them anyway.
But today, with only 2 days to go before Christmas, I want to look at the characteristics of another king, and remind ourselves of who it is that forms the central theme of Christmas.
What Kind of King Has Such a Humble Birth?
What kind of King has such a humble birth? Kings are usually born in palaces to queens or princesses. They are not born in stables to peasant girls, unless they grow up to conduct a military coup. But in Jesus’ case, he was born a king. We read in Isaiah 9:6-7, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
And again, in Matthew 2:2, the Magi, speaking to King Herod, ask, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?”
Yet this King was born in the most lowly of circumstances, in a stable. Luke 2:6-7 says, “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
Why would God do this? I believe it is so that the wealthy and privileged wouldn’t assume that they had exclusive rights to God’s favor, and the lowly and underprivileged wouldn’t assume that God had left them out of His kindness. Romans 2:11 says, “For there is no partiality with God.”
I want to know this kind of king.
What Kind of King Would Be Born To a Virgin?
What kind of King would be born to a virgin?
Kings are typically the sons of other kings. Often a bride is carefully chosen for a king or a crown prince in order to produce an heir of sufficient blood lines for the throne. Kings aren’t typically born of virgins. Neither is anybody else, for that matter. Yet, in Isaiah 7:14, we read, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
This was prophesied all the way back in the Garden of Eden, in Genesis 3:15. After sin had entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by giving in to Satan’s deceit, God says to Satan, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
Notice that God didn’t call this offspring “his” seed, but “her” seed. Why? I think it’s because this “seed” would have no earthly father, and so from a human biological perspective, would have to be “her” seed.
So when the angel told Mary that she was going to have a son, she wanted to know how this could be, since she was a virgin. The Bible says in Luke 1:35, “And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.””
And so Christ was fully human, in that He was born of a woman, and yet He was fully Divine, in that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
I want to know this kind of king.
What Kind of King Has a Star to Proclaim His Birth?
What kind of King has a star to proclaim His birth? And not just any star, but a star that pinpoints a specific house! Only a King whose majesty goes beyond mortal power. Way back in Numbers 24:17, Balaam uttered this prophecy: “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob;”.
We see this prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 2:2, when the Magi tell Herod, “…we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” And the Bible tells us in Matthew 2:9, “behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.”
I want to know this kind of king.
What kind of King has a Heavenly Choir?
What kind of King has a Heavenly choir to announce His birth?
We have heard over and over these famous words from Luke 2:8-14. But listen to them again with renewed awe of the way that God would announce the birth of the Christ child: Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
What other king has EVER had their birth announced in such a way? I want to know this kind of king!
What Kind of King Trades a Royal Robe for Rags?
What kind of king trades a royal robe for rags and wears a crown of thorns?
We’re getting to the heart of the matter now. In March of this year, Pastor Dennis preached two sermons about the Unveiled Christ. In those messages, he proclaimed the terrifying magnificence of Christ in His Glory. I could find no picture for a slide that adequately captures this vision, so listen to this description from Revelation 1:13-16 – “and in the midst of the seven lamp-stands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”
And even before the birth of Jesus, we get a glimpse of the glory of Christ in His heavenly state before He came to the earth as a baby. Reading from Daniel 10:5-6, “I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.”
And yet Christ set aside His indescribable glory to come to this broken world to save us, trading His royal robe for rags in a world that had no room for Him. Luke 2:7 – “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
And not only this, but He traded his Heavenly glory to wear a crown of thorns. Matthew 27:29 says, “When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!””
He traded His glory to wear a crown made of thorns… for me. I want to know this kind of King!
What Kind of King Carries a Cross?
Finally, what kind of King carries a cross, and gives His life for His subjects.
The Bible says in Matthew 27:35-37, Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet:
“They divided My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.”
Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him:
THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Jesus was not just a man. He was not just a prophet or a good teacher or a wise philosopher.
Galatians 4:4-5 tells us that “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
And John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
If you would like to make Jesus the King and Lord of your life, you can do that today. You can have a fresh start with God because Christ the King has already taken all your junk to the Cross, and all you have to do is accept it.
Come and speak with me afterward, or come and speak with Pastor Dennis, or another Christian about what to do next. And then take your place beside the manger, worshiping the newborn king, who came to save His people from their sins.
I want to know this kind of King! Do you want to know this kind of King? You can, today.