God chooses! — 1 Samuel 16:1-13

God chooses! — 1 Samuel 16:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 19, 2020

It can be disconcerting when things we are used to in our life change. Moving, going to a new school, marriage, divorce, a birth, and or a death can all have consequences that can throw us for a loop in life. Most of us do not have obsessive compulsive disorder and do not require everything remain the same and we can accept change but change can still bring about circumstances we do not like.

Samuel was God’s chosen prophet and God had just gotten through telling Samuel that Saul, Israel’s mentally and spiritually unstable king, would not be king anymore. In fact God was now asking Samuel to announce to his nation, that mentally-ill king, and an unsuspecting family that God was choosing another king entirely! Needless to say he was not overjoyed at the prospect. In this case change could be life-threatening. In the process we discover God had chosen who would be his messenger and who would be the future king of Israel. Let’s see what happens as God chooses…

READ: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

God has already set aside the person he desires to lead his people and here we learn that…

I. God chooses those he anoints! (Vv. 1-5)

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

  1. Samuel had helped in the choosing of Saul and he did not like the prospect of God using him as he chose Israel’s future king. Samuel had gotten stuck thinking about how it would affect him and forgot how God was in the process. God therefore kind of gives Samuel a perspective kick in the pants by asking him, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?” A church can get frightened when they have to consider a new pastor but the best thing to do is focus on what God is doing. God tells Samuel, “Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” Like a lot of folks who do not like the situation God places them in, Samuel begins to make excuses: “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” Interestingly Saul had been the king the people had chosen and not God although God had been willing to work through Saul. Saul blew it. God goes on to tell Samuel, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” God did not want to expose Samuel to danger so he tells him to relate that he had come to sacrifice. Interestingly “When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, ‘Do you come in peace?’” Usually when God’s prophet unexpectedly came to a particular city he came to pronounce some kind of judgment. But Samuel calms their fears by relating “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” And it is in the process of sacrifice Samuel “consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.” Samuel did what the LORD said. We learn that God chooses those he anoints!

  EXAMPLE: David was the one that had already been identified as “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). David had been chosen from eternity past to be ruler of Israel. As I have related before out there somewhere is the man God has set aside for us as our leader. We do not want to make the same mistake the people of Israel did and chose someone for their looks, height, and standing but rather that we make sure we are relying on him that he has chosen someone special for us. We can rest assured that in choosing a future pastor for GBC God chooses those he anoints!

We want tall, dark, and handsome but we need to learn that…

II. God does not choose the way we choose! (Vv. 6-10)

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the LORD chosen this one.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.”

  1. Samuel begins the process God had set before him and starts to look at each of Jesse’s sons: “When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.’” Perhaps Samuel being older and really not wanting to be put into the situation of being the prophet to anoint Israel’s new king he thinks the very first man he is introduced to is the one God has chosen! He is in for a surprise because “the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” Herein is where many churches get confused or misdirected thinking that perhaps the very first man they consider should be the one God has chosen for them, but that does not need to be the case at all! God looks deeper than we often do! A good speaker or a man with lots of hair might be nice but perhaps God has someone who is wiser, who needs a loving church, or who matures as our church grows! “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” The father Jesse does not give up, he then “called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, ‘The LORD has not chosen this one either.’” Jesse is not deterred because he has a lot of boys and so he “then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, ‘Nor has the LORD chosen this one.’” We discover that “Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel”! It becomes a parade of young male testosterone! However none of the young men Jesse had on hand was the one God had chosen! By this time I believe Samuel is getting discouraged or perhaps a tad bit frustrated with God. Why was he here? Why was God putting him through this? Perhaps outwardly sighing, Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” Samuel just like we often have to do had to learn that God does not choose the way we choose!

  EXAMPLE: He was way too short, he was not particularly outstanding in his play, and he finally went in the fifth round of the draft that had a lot more talent than him. Yet when he was still available in the fifth round the Seattle Seahawks picked Russell Wilson to be their quarterback. He is now considered to be one of the premiere quarterbacks in the NFL! As Samuel looked at each young man who stood before him he thought to himself, “Surely this is the one” but it was not. God had a plan and he would not be swayed like we often are. Samuel is now down to the eighth round of the draft, so-to-speak! We learn that God does not choose the way we choose!

Finally, we discover that when we least expect it…

III. God often chooses those we least expect! (Vv. 11-13)

So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.

  1. In a Hebrew home the youngest and smallest would have been the last one chosen to do just about anything. He would have been good for cleanup duty, taking lunches to his older brothers or giving them a midday break but to choose the least for an important job was unthinkable! Jesse had seven fine strapping sons and then there was David! Not that David was a poor specimen of manhood but he was the youngest! So Samuel then asks Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” He is kind of asking, “Is this all there is?” And low and behold Jesse responds, “There is still the youngest.” However this last of the least is “tending the sheep”! Samuel is not stupid and if has learned anything from God it is that he often works in mysterious ways so Samuel kind of mutters, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” I have often said that if you cannot find the humor of the Lord within the pages of Scripture there is something wrong with you. It is almost as if God is smiling here at some inside joke because we see that Jesse “sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.” By now I am sure that Jesse’s boys have gotten the notion that something is a foot and God is in the mix. I can imagine them thinking, “David? You’ve got to be kidding me!” But God is in the details and is not dissuaded by us and our fancy idea of what we think is best and tells Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one!” Tada! It is kind of like voting in a President that no one thought could ever win in their wildest dreams! “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.” God chooses and uses the one he has chosen! I often wondered if Samuel didn’t kind of shake his head in wonder but whatever the case “Samuel then went to Ramah” back to where he waited on God to use him again if need be. We learn in the choosing of David as king of Israel that God often chooses those we least expect!

  EXAMPLE: I learned how to change the oil in a car at the age of ten. My father took me out on the back porch pointed to his tools, the cans of oil sitting nearby, and the car and related, “There is all you need to change the oil. Get to it.” He sat on the steps while I went about the task. Now you may find this kind of unusual but you see my dad had watched all of us kids and he learned that there was nothing I liked better than to not only to take stuff apart, I also liked to put it back together and fix it. I had the ability to critically think through tasks, find out which tool worked best, and then lay everything out in order and do it. I wasn’t good at sports or math but give me something mechanical, something to draw, or something to figure out and I was up to the task. No one else saw this in me but my Dad did. We learn here that God often chooses those we least expect!

Conclusion:

God chooses those he anoints! God does not choose the way we choose! God often chooses those we least expect!

This article is copyrighted © 2020 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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How God uses those who are willing! — Judges 7:1-9

How God uses those who are willing! — Judges 7:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 12, 2020

We all want God to do mighty things just like those described in the Scriptures but there are few of us that truly want God to do those mighty things through us! When the rubber meets the road in our spiritual walk with God the rubber often turns to gravel. The pavement comes up to meet us in the face, so-to-speak. But it is here where we discover the power and strength of God when we are willing to be used of God! And how he chooses to use us depends on how willing we are!

Gideon, that “Mighty Warrior” of God not only had to learn this lesson for himself but he had to try and teach it to an entire nation! As we begin the process of looking for our future pastor we must be willing to go where God leads us. It can be a scary prospect but it is also a rewarding one as well. Here in Judges we discover how God uses those who are willing…

READ: Judges 7:1-9

Letting go and allowing God to work in one’s life can be scary but also extremely rewarding. Here we learn that…

I. Willing people allow God to work! (Vv. 1-4)

Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. But the LORD said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

  1. I do not know about you but I do not want to speak with let alone be with other people in the morning until I have showered, shaved, brushed my teeth, and have had something to eat. Now do not get me wrong, I am a “morning person” (just ask my wife) because I usually wake up feeling happy and ready for the day but that does not mean I want to face others without first being prepared! Here we discover that it was “Early in the morning” and Gideon and “all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh.” Now realize that these guys were a citizen’s army of untrained men who had marched, camped out sleeping under makeshift shelters and cloaks, and were now expected to get up and get ready for battle. And before Gideon could collect his thoughts or even strategize God tells him: “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands.” Gideon probably thought: “What do you mean too many men? Didn’t God realize that they were going up against land pirates and thugs who made a living at terrorizing villages and towns for the spoils they could gain?” But Gideon did not realize what God was going to do! “In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” God did not want Weak Willies nor did he want Israel to think they could win without his help “So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.” Still a sizable respectable army and yet God tells Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” We can think we are the ones that are in control of what God desires but this isn’t the case at all. God desired that the Israelites renew their faith in him and learn that he can do anything if they were willing. In fact we learn from Gideon that willing people allow God to work!

  EXAMPLE: I find it comforting to realize that all the while Gideon grew up, learned to be a farmer at his father’s knee, and then on that fateful day when he went out to his winepress to hide while threshing wheat God was in control! God was maturing the one person who could lead Israel at that time just as he has been working in the life of the man he will chose for us as Pastor! And how he has worked right up until now to find just the right folks to use to help us discover the one he has chosen for us! Never forget that willing people allow God to work!

It’s more than the pithy phrase of “Let go and let God!” There is also an obedience factor involved and we learn that…

II. Willing people do what God asks! (Vv. 5-9)

So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. The LORD said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others. Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the LORD said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands.”

  1. In the next few verse we are surprised at what God asks Gideon and his army to do. What began as an army of 32,000 men was whittled down to 20,000 but God is not finished. “So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, ‘Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.’”  Now I’ve heard a lot of sermons that kind of stretch, skew, or manipulate the reasons why God separated the men from those who knelt down to drink and those who lapped the water up like a dog but none of them truly make any sense whatsoever. And no there is no good fighting or readiness reason to separate one from the other. In fact, stretching down to lap water up even out of one’s hand puts one in a position whereby the person is easily pushed over and cannot readily get up to confront danger. I know because I’ve knelt by a stream, bent down to drink from it, and nearly fell into the water when a deer bolted from the underbrush nearby and scared the living daylights out of me! I ended up on my bottom disoriented. Sure kneeling down does put you into a more dangerous position but I do not think this was God’s reasoning. The real reason is what we learn next: “Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. The LORD said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.’” God wasn’t going to use 32,000 men nor was he going to use 20,000 men, he was going to use a mere 300 men to win a tremendous victory! Gideon had to remain faithful, “So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.” Certainly 300 men can move a lot more quietly than 20,000 but God is in the details and he could have used as many men as he wanted! “Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the LORD said to Gideon, ‘Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands.’” Willing people do what God asks!

  EXAMPLE: When we continually say “I do not want to!” or “I refuse!” where the Lord is concerned, he will find others who are willing. And when he does those who refused do not receive the blessing that follows in submitting to him. I have learned that willing people do what God asks!

Conclusion:

Willing people allow God to work! Willing people do what God asks!

This article is copyrighted © 2020 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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How we can overthink God! – Judges 6:11-17

How we can overthink God! – Judges 6:11-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 5, 2020

Amy Morin on the Inc.com website writes that “Whether you beat yourself up for a mistake you made last week, or you fret about how you’re going to succeed tomorrow, overthinking everything can be debilitating. Your inability to get out of your head will leave you in a constant state of anguish. Of course, everyone overthinks a situation occasionally. But if you’re a true overthinker, you’ll struggle to quiet the constant barrage of thoughts. Overthinking is more than just a nuisance–studies show thinking too much can take a serious toll on your well-being.” Not to mention your spiritual well-being.

Sadly, Christians can try and overthink God and then suffer the consequences of doing so. And Scripture is filled with folks who tried to overthink God. One such person was Gideon. It is here in today’s verses that we discover how Gideon gives us an example of what happens when God’s people overthink God. Let’s discover how we can overthink God…

READ: Judges 6:11-17

Overthinking can drag you down. I knew a young man who was so caught up in overthinking his life in Christ he had a hard time deciding what to do whether it was where he should eat, what he should wear, or if he should spend money to go on a retreat when there were “starving people in the world”. It paralyzed him for any kind of ministry not to mention his entire life. We discover that…
 
I. We overthink God when we do not listen to him! (Vv. 11-13)

The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”

  1. What would you do if God sent you one of his messengers? Now before you answer to hastily you should consider how many responded in the Scriptures. From Balaam to Mary we find God sending his angels to tell folks what he is going to do and some believe and some do not. Gideon is one of the latter who doubts. We discover that “The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.” Do not fail to notice what is happening here. Gideon and his family live in territory that is overrun with Midianites, the pirates or marauding thugs of his day and age. And we find our “hero” Gideon hiding in a wine press threshing his wheat in secret so as to keep it from the Midianites! “When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’” The irony should not be lost on you. Gideon is focused on his task at hand, trying his mightiest to hide from the Midianites when God’s angel shows up! Notice that he calls Gideon a “mighty warrior”. I can imagine Gideon looking around and wondering “Who in the world is this guy talking to?”! Certainly not a frightened man hiding in a hole in the ground and it is right here that Gideon begins to overthink God. “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” God knows what he is doing and who he will do it through, but Gideon doesn’t and Gideon overthinks the situation. In fact it seems as if he is questioning not only the messenger’s message but if God truly understood the situation! Gideon was so busy hiding and making excuses as to why it could not be God that he over thought God! We overthink God when we do not listen to him!

  EXAMPLE: As our church begins to formulate a strategy to find another pastor we can fall into the trap of overthinking God in the process. We can have a fantastic functioning Search Team and a congregation that is in prayer but if we get caught up in overthinking God in the process we will make poor choices as individuals serving on the Search Team or as a congregation. We want to make sure we are sensitive to God being at work, the history of our church, and the future God desires for us. It depends upon how well we are willing to listen to God because we can overthink God when we do not listen to him!

Overanalyzing everything interferes with problem-solving. It will cause you to dwell on the problem rather than look for solutions. Here we discover that God had provided everything Gideon needed but Gideon did not listen. We learn that…

II. We overthink God when we do not trust him to provide! (Vv. 14-15)

The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

  1. God is often more patient than we deserve. There are times I know in my own life that I am sure God has just rolled his eyes, shaken his head and wondered if I will ever get it. I believe that with Gideon this was such a time. Here the angelic messenger has a special pronouncement and tells Gideon that God sees him as more than he sees himself. And like we often do Gideon just can’t quite seem to wrap his mind around the notion that God is going to use him for his purposes. “The LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.’” Now I believe the angel could tell that Gideon still wasn’t totally grasping the situation and this is why he tells Gideon to “Go in the strength you have”. That strength wasn’t what Gideon could muster, it was the strength he had in God alone! When God is for you, who can be against you? It would be God using Gideon that would “save Israel out of Midian’s hand”. It is here I believe Gideon’s mouth dropped open in disbelief so the angel declares, “Am I not sending you?” The meaning is clear that it was God who was doing the sending and it is not lost on the incredulous young man, “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel?” And of course he couldn’t but God could! God had everything already planned out and he would provide everything Gideon needed. Not even the rather lame excuse of frail Gideon could deter the Lord when he kind of mumbles back, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Isn’t that always our human reasoning? How can you do it God because I am such a doofus? Yet in doing so we forget that God already knows the outcome before we do. We often worry about things we have absolutely no control over whatsoever. We overthink God when we do not trust him to provide!

  EXAMPLE: The mantra our church should take on as we are looking for a new pastor is: “No matter how I feel, God is in control and I will trust God!” Our personal planning, our frustrated worrying, or our thinking if we just wait little bit longer and pick the most perfect person for our pastor we will be blessed forgets the fact that God is in control! God was in control when he chose your current pastor, he will be in control no matter how much we try to outthink the situation, and he will be in control as we choose our future pastor. Trust God! We can overthink God when we do not trust him to provide!

We often forget that God never leaves us nor forsakes us. God does not leave us as orphans to problem solve for ourselves. The conflict comes because we have not taken the time to establish a personal relationship with him! Here we discover that…

III. We overthink God when we continually question his ability! (Vv. 16-17)

The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.” Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.”

  1. God is never deterred in what he purposes to do and he was not with Gideon either. Rather than listen to Gideon fairly lame excuses, God continues on with his plan. In fact he kind of ignores Gideon. I am so glad God works this way because if he often waited for us to get on board we would be in a huge pickle by now! Covered in wheat chaff and hiding in a hole in the ground displaying disbelief on his face and in his words, God responds to Gideon by promising him, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.” Just as Moses and Joshua stood before the Hebrew nation and reminded the Israelite nation of the promise of God when he declared to them to “‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:6-8 NIV)’” Just as God had been with Moses and Joshua so he was with Gideon, and now with us! Gideon finally begins to realize the truth of the situation. “Gideon replied, ‘If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.’” And of course God does give him several signs just as he does us! We have the sign of the cross of Christ, the sign of the empty tomb, and the sign of the presence and power of God in us through his Spirit! Like Gideon did we can overthink God when we continually question his ability!

  EXAMPLE: We as human beings can get caught up in the “What If Game”. What if this happens, what if we choose incorrectly, what if we do not find the best pastor we can? While David isn’t always the perfect example to follow he is when it concerns following the Lord and not outthinking him. He remained steadfast in the face of a madman King who desired to murder him. He trusted God to follow through on his promises. David knew he could and sings, “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ (Psalms 31:14 NIV)” And later he would declare, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. (Psalms 31:24 NIV)” We overthink God when we continually question his ability!

Conclusion:

We overthink God when we do not listen to him! We overthink God when we do not trust him to provide! We overthink God when we continually question his ability!


This article is copyrighted © 2020 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The unrepentant will suffer! – Matthew 11:20-24

The unrepentant will suffer! – Matthew 11:20-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 29, 2019

With the New Year coming there will be those who celebrate it by getting drunk, making silly resolutions that they cannot keep, or by thinking that it will give them a magical reboot on life. None of these make any sense nor do they solve any problems until one addresses what the real root of their personal problems are they will continue to rely on getting high, making faulty promises, and hoping for change that will not come.

Jesus had just gotten through declaring that the unrepentant Jews would not listen to God’s prophets, John the Baptist, or the Messiah who was standing right in front of them! He now gives them the example of unrepentant cities that faced God’s wrath and how they would also face similar judgment unless they repented. Jesus tells them that unrepentant cities will suffer, let’s discover what he meant…

READ: Matthew 11:20-24

Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the Day of Judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11:20-24 NIV)

Though it was not Jesus’ primary thrust in his First Advent to pronounce judgment, Jesus did denounce sin. Here he specifically pronounced condemnation against the cities in which some of his most significant miracles had occurred and all three near the Sea of Galilee’s northwest shore: Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.

The first two cities Jesus mentions are Korazin and Bethsaida Jewish cities known for their commerce and the final one we will look at is Capernaum.

      Korazin is located on the side of a large hill about two and a half miles north of Capernaum. This city is remembered as one of the three key cities in which Jesus spent much of his ministry. It was a prominent ancient city, although during the third century AD the city became uninhabited and today its archaeological remains are identified. A synagogue was discovered in the 19th century. The majority of the ruins are black basalt and one of the most interesting findings was the Seat of Moses which was carved out of a single block of stone with an Aramaic inscription. More evidence includes images of Medusa carved onto stones, something that wasn’t common to Jewish Synagogues. Some legends later claimed that the Antichrist would be born in Korazin.
      Bethsaida, which means “the house of fishing”, and is aptly named since it is on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was an important fishing town for the area and exported its fish to the surrounding cities. Bethsaida was the hometown of the apostles Peter, Andrew, and Philip. Jesus had healed a blind man there and fed the five thousand near the town. Some believe it is located where the Jordan River enters the Lake. During the time of Jesus it was renamed Julias by Herod Phillip II to honor Augustus’ wife but the locals continued to refer to it as Bethsaida.
      The final city mentioned by Jesus is Capernaum. It too was a fishing village established during the time of the Hasmoneans, a Jewish/Greek empire, and was located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Peter’s home that he lived in during his ministry with Jesus was there. It was reported to have been the hometown of the tax collector Matthew, and located not far from Bethsaida. Jesus spent a lot of time there, healed a man with an unclean spirit there, taught in its synagogue, where he healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and the Centurion’s servant. Capernaum is also the location of the healing of the paralytic lowered by friends through the roof to reach Jesus, as reported in Mark 2:1-12. In fact some suggest that the wording in Matthew 9:1 “Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town” refers to Capernaum. It became significant because it was Jesus’ headquarters during his ministry. So each of these cities was significant in receiving the ministry and attention of the Messiah but they had refused to acknowledge him just as many do today! So “Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.”
      EXAMPLE: Korazin and Capernaum were Hebrew cities that knew about God. They understood their history and how important it was to repent of their sins. They also knew about the promised Messiah to come but they did not repent of their sins. How could people who were supposed to be God’s witnesses in the world, who understood their history, and yet they could not or would not repent of their sins?

Now we come to the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Why are they significant?

      The names Tyre and Sidon were famous in the ancient Near East. They are also important cities in the Old and New Testaments. Both are now located in Lebanon, with Tyre 20 miles south of Sidon and only 12 miles north of the Israel/Lebanon border. Today each is just a shadow of their former selves. Sidon, called Saida today (Arabic for “fishing”), was named after the firstborn son of Canaan (Genesis 10:15) and probably settled by his descendants.
      Twenty miles south of Sidon, in the middle of a coastal plain, Tyre was constructed on a rock island a few hundred yards out into the Mediterranean. In fact, the city took its name from this rock island. Tyre comes from the Semitic sr (Hebrew Sor) meaning rock. Apparently the island was fortified first and called Tyre, while the coastal city was settled later. Beginning with David, the Tyrian connection became prominent; Hiram, king of Tyre, offered cedar trees, carpenters and masons to build David’s palace and later for Solomon. In the days of Ezra and Zerubbabel, the Jews returning from captivity also sent to the men of Sidon and Tyre for cedars to build the Second Temple.
      During Jesus’ ministry Tyre and Sidon were prosperous Roman port cities. Yet there was great spiritual hunger in the region. Early in Jesus’ ministry, people from Sidon and Tyre heard about the things he did. They came to see him (Mark 3:8) and be healed by him (Luke 6:17). Later in Jesus’ ministry, he visited the region of Sidon and Tyre. There he healed the Canaanite (Syrophoenician) woman’s daughter (Matthew 15:21–28). Therefore Jesus’ pronounced judgment on Korazin and Bethsaida suggests that if the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon had experienced what Korazin and Bethsaida did, they would have long ago repented in sackcloth and ashes. The pagans of the region recognized him for who he was and his own people did not!
      Sidon was the scene of heavy fighting during Lebanon’s civil war and its situation only deteriorated. Today Tyre is a depressed city that has suffered greatly during Lebanon’s civil war and Israel’s subsequent occupation of southern Lebanon. The modern isthmus that joins the island to the mainland holds streets of houses and shops. Tyre has a number of unplanned squatter settlements.
      EXAMPLE: Prosperity does not mean spirituality, in fact often quite the opposite. Just look at the Hollywood elite or the politically powerful. Far too often those who find financial success forget who gave them life in the first place. Tyre and Sidon were prosperous but needed a Savior and it seems that unlike many today some were willing to listen to Jesus and repent.
     
      Conclusion: How do you recognize Jesus today? Are you ungrateful for what he has done by sacrificing himself for your sins? Today’s world needs a Savior, today’s world needs Jesus if not the unrepentant will suffer!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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4th Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled – Luke 2:1-20

4th Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled – Luke 2:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 22, 2019

There are certain dates in life that stand out. I remember my parents and grandparents talking about what they were doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I remember watching the first American go into space and when we landed on the moon. I also remember when terrorists flew passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. On a happier note, I also remember the day I was married, when we brought our daughter home, and when my grandchildren were born. Is it any wonder then that as believers we should remember the birth of Jesus?

On the fourth Sunday of Advent we pause as Christians remembering the day Jesus was born. Before we pass out presents, drink the hot cider, or eat the first candy canes of Christmas perhaps we would do well to stop and remember why there is Christmas. It’s the day the love of God was fulfilled! Let’s see how…

READ: Luke 2:1-20

We discover that the love of God was fulfilled when…

I. God’s timing was just right! (Vv. 1-7)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

  1. We often mark important events by what occurs in the world around us and Luke does this also, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The Savior’s birth is marked by what occurred in the world at that time, a government census. We know that Caesar Augustus was made the ruler of the Roman Empire in 27 BC and ruled to 14 AD and because Herod the Great’s reign ended in 4 BC, Jesus was probably born before that time. In fact, “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” However, the word translated “first” should be more correctly translated “before”. Therefore Quirinius was governor before the census which fits the timeline. During these kinds of tax censuses, “everyone went to his own town to register.” And, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Bethlehem was Joseph’s ancestral home because he was a descendent of King David. “He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Both Joseph and Mary knew the importance of her pregnancy. And so Mary accompanied Joseph for several reasons. The couple knew she would have her child during the time Joseph was gone and they most likely did not want to be separated during the event. And, since they knew that the baby was the Messiah, they would have known the prophecy of Micah that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. While unsuspecting Caesars and government officials had no clue about how their edicts would affect the lives of the most important couple in the world, God used them for his perfect plan. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

  EXAMPLE: Timing is everything, or so they say. Paul writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV) History reveals that the coming of Christ was at just the right time. Alexander the Great had conquered most of the known world, bringing with him the Greek culture and language. The Roman Empire picked up where Alexander left off. It was under Roman rule that the crucifixion took place, where the blood of Christ was shed for us. It was under the rule of Rome that conditions were made ready for the spread of the gospel across three continents: good roads, territorial boundaries and a unifying language. God had put all the pieces in place at the perfect time to send his Son. The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

Luke shares that the love of God was fulfilled when…

II. God’s announcement was given! (Vv. 8-14)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

  1. What kings, Caesars, and governors cared about most was of no concern for God. In fact, God often uses the small things and the insignificant people to declare his ways and purposes. And here we discover “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Those who were considered the outcasts from their own society, because they worked with animals by touching them, feeding them, and caring for them, the shepherds are the common folk God announces the birth of his son to. God goes to these “least in the kingdom” first to proclaim the birth of Jesus. Imagine being one of these lowly folks, tending your flock, and suddenly God’s messenger out of the blue comes to where you are in the fields. Luke writes that, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Isn’t it interesting that God chooses to go to these who raised the lambs to be sacrificed in the temple to disclose the birth of the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for the sins of the world? The first words of God’s messenger would be the words his Son would often use: “Do not be afraid.” God’s angel brings them “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news of great joy was not just for the Hebrew nation but also for all people everywhere! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” The Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God! The shepherds would know what the angel declared to be true because they are given specific instructions on what they will find and how they will find him, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” An animal’s feeding trough would be the bed of the Savior and the simple dressings of a newborn would be his regal robe! Before the shepherds could completely digest what they have been told, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

  EXAMPLE: During Boy Scouts we used to sing the Announcements Song, it was to the tunes of Row Row Your Boat, What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor, Frères Jacques’, Have You Ever Seen a Lassie, and London Bridge. The ending was “Announcements, announcements, announcements! We’ve got a silly cheer, which you’ve just got to hear! It makes no sense we’re sure you know; the announcements have to GO!” However, not all announcements are bad or boring. Wedding announcements, birth announcements, and announcements of achievement are ones that tell us of joyous occasions that we should celebrate! The announcement given to shepherds long ago certainly wasn’t boring or bad; it was good news of great joy! The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

We finally learn that the love of God was fulfilled when…

III. God’s good news was shared! (Vv. 15-20)

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.

  1. Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those simple shepherds? Surprise, yes, shock, certainly, and perhaps some incredulity or astonished skepticism! What’s a shepherd supposed to do with this kind of news? Luke relates, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Being the down-to-earth men they were known to be, they decide to go and see for themselves if what the angelic messengers spoke and sang about was true or not! “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Isn’t it interesting that neither the people’s chief priests, the teachers of the law, nor the great King Herod himself had enough faith to go themselves, but these men do! I can just imagine that when they came to where the child and his parents were, they were even more humbled. They find everything exactly as the angel said it would be. And so, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” And in the midst of this wonderful story of simple shepherds is a precious truth of a mother’s heart, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” While potentates schemed, Wisemen wondered, and shepherds saw for themselves; a mother ponders what it all means for the future of her child. Of all the mothers of Israel, she was the one who gave birth to the Messiah and here he was in her arms! Meanwhile, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever watched YouTube flash mob videos? There is one of people in a mall food court where suddenly someone stands up and boldly begins singing the Hallelujah Chorus. To the surprise of everyone, another person gets up and joins in, then another, and another; soon the food court is resounding with the harmonies of Handel’s masterpiece. A local opera company had planted their singers in strategic places so that they could joyfully interject the glory of God into the everyday lives of lunching shoppers. “Think of intentionally interjecting God’s grace into a situation where some undeserving soul needs a second chance; of sharing the love of Christ with someone who is needy; of being the hands of Jesus that lift up a weary friend; or of bringing peace to a confusing and chaotic situation.” The same is true for those shepherds so long ago, for them the love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

Conclusion:

The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right, when God’s announcement was given, and when God’s good news was shared!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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3rd Sunday of Advent – The Joy of our worship – Matthew 2:1-12

3rd Sunday of Advent – The Joy of our worship – Matthew 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 15, 2019

Though not everyone agrees on the timing of the arrival of the Magi from the East, they apparently came sometime after the birth of Jesus. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, though still in Bethlehem, were now in a house (oikia) or residence. Matthew could have simply been describing where Mary and Joseph were staying. Jesus was also called a child (paidion) rather than infant. The focus is the Magi’s joyous worship.

When Denise and I first began to date, I would drive hundreds of miles, often times during very bad weather just to see her. I wrote her letters where I painstakingly drew cartoon characters just to make her smile. I was and am willing to sacrifice anything for her happiness and contentment. Why would I do this? I did it because I love her. She is the joy of my life. And isn’t that the way believers should respond to the joy of their worship as well? Let’s discover just what the joy of our worship should be…

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

In the musical The Sound of Music the song “Climb Every Mountain” states that we should “Climb every mountain, search high and low; Follow every byway, every path you know. Climb every mountain, Ford every stream; Follow every rainbow, till you find your dream.” Here in Matthew’s gospel we discover the Magi were willing to do just that. They teach us that the Joy of our worship…

I. Inspires us to overcome any obstacle! (Vv. 1-2)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

  1. The exact identity of the Magi is impossible to establish, though several ideas have been floated over the years; everything from a secret society, magicians, wizards, or simple wealthy truth seekers. They have been given traditional names of Gaspar, Melchior and; Balthazar; and identified as representatives of the three groups of peoples that descended from Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. None of this is true. This notion is from about the 7th century. More likely they were pagan Gentiles of high position from a country, probably Persia, northeast of Babylon. Maybe they were given a special revelation by God of the birth of the King of the Jews. This may simply have been revealed in the sky, as indicated by their title “Magi” (specialists in astronomy) and by the fact they referred to a star which they saw. Or this revelation could have come through some contact with Jewish scholars who had migrated to the East. Those who wanted to learn more about the world around them often read the manuscripts of differing religions, histories, or literature of other nations. Some think the Magi’s comments reflect knowledge of Balaam’s prophecy concerning the “star” that would “come out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). Whatever the source, they came “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod.” And we discover the main reason is stated in their question, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” These men had to travel a long distance (between 550 to 600 miles), mostly walking or perhaps riding, and endured the hardships of thieves and robbers, weather and dirt, and weeks if not months of travel. They left the safety of hearth and home in search of a child and for the mere chance “to worship him”! The Joy of their worship inspires us to overcome any obstacle!

  EXAMPLE: There are many who search for truth, but some never recognize it. Some give their lives serving others, like Mother Teresa who constantly agonized over whether she truly had done enough “good things” for Jesus to love her! There are those who live a lifelong journey of bellybutton introspection focusing on self and emptying themselves of all worldly desires to find a sense of wholeness. Some think happiness is only found in the moment. Here we find traveling Wisemen following a heavenly star hoping to kneel before a child on the chance that he might be the One they sought. That’s what the Joy of worship does; it inspires us to overcome any obstacle in order to worship Jesus!

There are those who say they have found the object of their worship, but when one takes a closer look all you see is them! We can mouth Christian platitudes, wave our hands in the air, sing all the choruses we know, and even quote Scripture verbatim but not know why we are to worship because we truly do not know Jesus whom we are to worship! The Joy of our worship…

II. Is more than counterfeit comprehension! (Vv. 3-8)

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

  1. King Herod knew what he worshipped and this is why, “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod was shaken to his core. It was said that it was better to be a pig in Herod’s household than to be one of his children! Herod in his paranoia had two of his sons and a wife murdered. Herod was not the rightful king from the line of David. In fact, he was not even a descendant of Jacob, but was descended from Esau and was an Edomite. This is why the Jews hated their king! Herod however was crafty and in fact did a lot to build up his nation militarily, financially, and physically. “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ (Messiah) was to be born.” Herod in his paranoia wanted to know who this threat to his throne was. They give him the answer gleaned from Micah, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” Both Herod and his advisors had a counterfeit response and reason for their belief. The people’s chief priests and teachers of the law wanted to show off their knowledge to their King and Herod wanted to thwart any opposition to his reign! What he learned was soon related to the Magi, “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.” He was already planning his infanticidal response whereby “he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity (that) were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” (Matthew 2:16 NIV) So, Herod sends them to Bethlehem and tells them, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” He only wanted to “worship” him at the end of a sword. The Joy of worship is more than counterfeit comprehension!

  EXAMPLE: There is an atheist group who has paid for giant billboards with the message, “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody.” Interestingly, American Atheists President David Silverman, whose heritage is Jewish, says they are trying to focus only on the “fun” parts of Christmas. And sadly, this is what many folks, including Christians, do as well. They focus only on the “fun” parts forgetting that worship of Christ is more than head knowledge or showing up once a year. Some view worship as a country club experience where they pay their dues for the benefits or grand show; it is more about receiving than giving, rights instead of responsibilities, entitlements instead of sacrifice, and being served instead of serving. They might as well be atheists asking, “Who needs Christ during worship? Nobody!” The Joy of worship is more than counterfeit comprehension!

Author Greig Beck in his thriller novel “Dark Rising” writes, “Without sacrifice, there is no freedom. Without freedom, there is no life. God bless them who give their all for us.” He wasn’t writing about missionaries, instead he was writing about those in the military who sacrifice themselves for the cause of freedom. Should this not be said of the believer? In the story of the Magi and this third Sunday of Advent, we discover that the Joy of our worship…

III. Makes us enthusiastically sacrifice! (Vv. 9-12)

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

  1. Simple trust is an amazing thing. We discover it in children and are often silenced by it. We discover it here with the Magi and it should cause us to pause, because, “After they had heard the king, they went on their way.” At this time, they did not know Herod’s intent they only wanted to continue their journey. They followed the star they have seen earlier and wonder of wonders, “the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was!” Stars, like planets, usually go from east to west because of the earth’s rotation, not north to south! Could it be therefore that “the star” which the Magi saw and which led them to a specific house was the Shekinah glory of God or one of his angelic messengers? — Possibly. But “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” They knew what it meant! It was showing them the way to the One they sought! The same God who had lead the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, now lead these Wiseman. “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” They did not pause to worship or recognize Mary nor Joseph. The mother and father are of little importance to those who seek the Messiah. They immediately went to the object of their search! “Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Some believe the gifts signified the character of Jesus’ life. Gold might represent his deity or purity, incense the fragrance of his life, and myrrh his sacrifice and death. Scripture does not say and therefore it is speculation. However, it speaks volumes on how these men were willing to enthusiastically sacrifice their time, talents, and treasures in order to worship Jesus! “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” The joy of our worship makes us enthusiastically sacrifice all that we have for Him!

  EXAMPLE: How about you? What do you sacrifice for Jesus? Maybe you are more like the four blind men in the Asian myth who come across an elephant for the first time. One grasps the trunk and thinks it’s a snake; another, touches the elephant’s leg and says it’s a tree. A third finds the elephant’s tail and concludes it’s a rope. The fourth blind man finds the elephant’s side and assumes it’s a wall. It is not as some think differing religions describing the same thing in radically differing ways. The truth is that spiritually blind folks cannot make sense from that which they are blind to! Jesus correctly asked, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39 NIV) and of course the answer is “yes”! Stop being blind, the Joy of your worship should make you enthusiastically sacrifice all that you have for Jesus!

Conclusion:

The Joy of our worship inspires us to overcome any obstacle; it is more than counterfeit comprehension and it makes us enthusiastically sacrifice! Just like the Wisemen.

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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2nd Sunday of Advent – The peace of God – Isaiah 52:6-10

2nd Sunday of Advent – The peace of God – Isaiah 52:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 8, 2019

Last week we spoke of how the Messiah would be called by the names of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. There were those who incorrectly thought that the Messiah would bring about the end of war or that everyone would find bliss. Interestingly, there are those in our day who still have misconceptions of who the Messiah is and the peace he brings.

Isaiah introduces us to a Messiah who would bring peace to all mankind. He begins these verses by calling the nation of Israel to “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised (ungodly) and defiled will not enter you again.” Jerusalem’s pagan conquerors — the uncircumcised and defiled — would never again invade and pollute the holy city after the Messiah came. This is part of the peace he would bring when he came. Let’s discover this morning of the Second Advent, the peace of God!

READ: Isaiah 52:6-10

The world today thinks that peace comes from the absence of conflict that it can be obtained through gain or government, but Isaiah teaches us that…

I. The peace of God comes from Him alone! (v. 6)

Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.

  1. God’s people would be freed from their chains, never to be enslaved again! Isaiah prophesied, “For this is what the LORD says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.’” (v.3) No amount of money could pay the debt they owed! The Israelites did not fully understand that the enslavement God saw his people under was the rebellion of sin and that they could never buy themselves back without the blood of a sacrifice! No amount of ransom could buy them back from their enslavement to sin, only the blood of a perfect Lamb could! This is why the writer of Hebrews would later write, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and in offerings, you were not pleased… Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:3-7 NIV) God would ask them, “And now what do I have here?” He answers his question by relating, “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, and all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” (v. 5) while we may be shortsighted, God’s view is much longer. The Israelites willingly sold themselves into slavery for a pittance and those who enslaved them mocked God as a result! They refused to listen and repent. Yet, God’s plan all along was to redeem all people and his desire was that they would know how it occurred and who was responsible when it happened! Isaiah was told by God, “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore, in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” When the peace of God came, all people everywhere would know who brought it about. This is why the angels rejoiced singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) The peace of God comes from him alone!

  EXAMPLE: Daily Bread’s Les Lamborn writes, “During the Christmas season, we wait. We wait in traffic. We wait in checkout lines to purchase gifts. We wait for family to arrive. We wait to gather around a table filled with our favorite foods. We wait to open presents lovingly chosen. All of this waiting can be a reminder to Christians that Christmas is a celebration of waiting for something much more important than holiday traditions. Like the ancient Israelites, many are waiting for Jesus” the peace of God. Isaiah teaches us that the peace of God comes from him alone!

God made the first move when he came as a baby. A star would appear marking the way, angels would proclaim him, and shepherds would witness to what they saw. Isaiah teaches us that…

II. The peace of God would be proclaimed! (Vv. 7-8)

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.

  1. Here is a wonderful picture of rescue. The enemy has surrounded the city, they are encamped around the walls and there is no escape and it seems as if no one is coming to their rescue. Thousands upon thousands of the enemy’s troops are assembled and just when they are ready to step forward to fight, there comes a cry from one of the watchmen on the wall of the besieged, “Look! Look to the mountains there is where our help comes from!” And all eyes strain to see a lone runner from the foothills headed to the besieged and the enemy parts for him like the waters of the Red Sea for Moses. Isaiah declares, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Notice that the deliverance is not brought about by a larger army, more advanced weaponry, or a master general but by the beautiful “feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation”! And what is this message of salvation they would proclaim to those waiting for rescue and to the camp of the surrounding enemy? “Your God reigns!” As wonderful as the return of Israel from their Babylonian captivity, what utter joy will there be when the Messiah finally comes to Zion and proclaims, “Your God reigns!” Now, dear child of the King, you are the messenger of the Messiah in our besieged city, our occupied territory, and surrounded nation. You are the one with beautiful feet to proclaim the peace of God, you are the one running from the mountains bringing good news that that he alone reigns! “Listen!” Isaiah commands. “Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.” Those entrapped can rejoice, because “When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” Israel would see their Messiah coming to them, but some would not care or would refuse to hear him when he came. But whether they wanted to believe it or not he would come. And, they would see it with their own eyes. The peace of God would be proclaimed!

  EXAMPLE: Isaiah was a watchman; Nahum was a watchman and various men in various ways prophesized announcing the coming of the Messiah, the light of the world. John the Baptist was the last “who was sent from God… He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” John knew that “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” In fact it was Jesus who “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:6-11 NIV) And, now the last command the Messiah has given his watchmen on the wall who look to the mountains is, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”! The peace of God is to be proclaimed!

What joyous news, what a wonderful truth to proclaim, those enslaved and those surrounded by the enemy can be freed forever! Isaiah teaches us that…

III. The peace of God brings salvation! (Vv. 9-10)

Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

  1. Over and over we find Isaiah telling the people to “burst into song” to “rejoice” because God would hear their cries for help. Isaiah tells them, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” In the midst of standing in the ruin of their lives and the rubble of their city, the embattled and surrounded Israelites were to “Burst into songs of joy together”! How could they do such a thing? God has already “comforted his people.” In fact, the important message is that God has already “redeemed” bought back Jerusalem, meaning all of Israel. This is why John the Baptist’s papa, Zachariah, would break his silence by singing, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people!” (Luke 1:68 NIV) Isaiah wrote, “All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing.” (Isaiah 14:7 NIV) Matthew would understand and reiterate Isaiah’s words by reminding us, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 4:16-17 NIV) The promise Isaiah proclaimed is the fact that God Himself would “lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” God would show the entire world his power and ability to bring salvation through his Messiah. It is summed up in the majestic wonderful words of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus would say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) The peace of God brings salvation!

  EXAMPLE: There are folks who read the last chapter first when they start a new thriller. They may think that it takes the anxiety out of reading. So it is with Christians because we know the end of the story, we can be messengers of peace in the midst of utter chaos, calm in the face of disaster. We are to experience peace under pressure. Kingdoms may fall, friends may falter, churches may fold, oceans may rise, and mountains may crumble, but we can be at peace. How do we maintain such composure? By remembering that the “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). In fact, just as Isaiah wanted the Israelites to be comforted that the Messiah would come, Jesus reminds us, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelations 22:20 NIV) Today could be the day! The peace of God brings salvation!

Conclusion:
The peace of God comes from Him alone!
The peace of God would be proclaimed!
The peace of God brings salvation!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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