Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Advent 3- Sermon Notes

3rd Sunday of Advent
The Lord Remembers Grace
Luke 1:57-80
Lynchburg, Virginia

         This is the third Sunday in Advent and we continue to look forward to Christmas, remembering the birth of our Savior Jesus. It is at the birth of Jesus that we realize the great grace of God has come to us. He remembered His promises of old and came to man as man to redeem us from our sins.
         We have looked at two great women, Elizabeth and Mary, as examples of the sort of faith we need to have in God. They did not doubt or waver in unbelief and God was faithful to them.
         Today, we look at the birth of John Baptist. His father, Zacharias, was a righteous man but he wavered at the word of the angel and the angel struck him dumb as a punishment. But God remembered Zacharias and Elizabeth and grants them the desire of their heart, a son who took away not only the reproach of Elizabeth but also of all of Israel. John Baptist comes as the herald of the grace of God that would do more than restore Israel to a former state of glory.
         Zacharias speaks of the one from whom all blessings flow, the Highest One, God in the flesh, who will bring the light, not only to Israel, but will, in fact, be the light of the whole Earth. These are even greater glories than Israel anticipated and reveal the grace of God in an incomprehensible way.
         Zacharias speaks of the prophets of old, even from the beginning, and connects what is going on with John Baptist and his cousin Jesus with the old, old story. That story is completely dependent upon God calling himself to remembrance and repeatedly showering His people with grace out of His tender mercy.
         For all of our teaching and preaching on the Fatherhood of God, we still need continual reminders that God is tender and merciful. It is true that God is holy and righteous and that His holiness requires justice. That is not at all inconsistent with His revealed character as patient, long-suffering, tender, merciful and quick to forgive. For those in high rebellion, it makes their rebellion that much worse, for they refuse the hand of such a kind and gentle Father. But for those who come to Him for grace, knowing that He is tender and merciful should give us confidence that He always remembers His promises to us.
         We can know these things in our minds, in our brains but the only way to feel them in our hearts, such that our soul magnifies the Lord, is for the Holy Spirit to make these things alive and real for us. So, we call upon God to pour out His Spirit upon us and when we do this, we remember that God remembers and is gracious to those who call upon Him and we believe that He will do what He said He would and fill us with His Spirit.

Luke 1:57   Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.  58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. 
Some may have been tempted to be envious. Perhaps they figured that Elizabeth was barren because of her own or her husband’s sin? But the neighbors rejoice with Elizabeth. They were well liked by friends and family.

59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.  60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.  61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.  62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.  63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 

Zacharias prophecies on the eighth day. The eighth day is the Lord’s Day!
Zacharias- Yahweh has remembered
Zacharias’s job was to pray in temple. He had an important role to play in the coming of the Messiah. Yahweh had not forgotten Zacharias and Elizabeth and blessed them in their advanced age.
John- from Jochanan, Yahweh is gracious. John was a preacher of repentance. In one sense, you might see him as a fire and brimstone preacher, warning people of the wrath to come. But that is not what he represents. His call for the people to repent was a means of God’s grace upon them.
No one in Zacharias’s family was called Yahweh is gracious. This is something new that is falling on Israel. It is true that was gracious in the Old Testament. He has always been long suffering with sinners and quick to forgive when they repent. But the grace of God was poured out in abundance with Jesus and John is the herald of that abundant grace.

64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. 
Zacharias doubted the voice of the angel and was stuck dumb but once he is faithful in naming him John as the angel told him to, then the Lord remembers Zacharias and opens his mouth. The grace of God to Zacharias is revealed as his tongue is loosed.
Zacharias was righteous man so it is not surprising that as soon as he can speak he begins to praise God.

65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. 
One of the tell tale signs of the movement of God is that fear falls upon people. This is super common in Scripture but we might find it odd in our prevalent culture. We find that we have to repeatedly qualify what it means to fear. In most instances, it simply means that they were afraid. Afraid in the presence of angel; afraid in the presence of the Lord; afraid at the outpouring of the Spirit. 
But this kind of fear is a healthy emotion. It causes us to be humble submitting ourselves to the Lord. And after we are afraid, the Lord always comforts. He tells us to not be afraid. We should learn this lesson. No doubt, we are still going to fear when we find ourselves in the presence of real holiness and power but we will also listen and be comforted when the Lord tells us not to be afraid.
We need a healthy dose of both of these things: the right kind of fear and real comfort in Christ. It seems that our evangelical culture at large may need more of a reminder of God’s holiness, thus causing us to be afraid in His presence. But once we begin to understand His holiness and find ourselves afraid, we need to receive God’s provision for our fear. We must trust in Jesus and find peace with God through Him.
The fear brought great testimony of the work of the Lord. Because the people feared, they spread the word of what God had done. If our words and deeds inspire little fear then the word of God will spread little distance.

66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
The words that were told of Zacharias and Elizabeth and John caused people to seriously think about what God was doing. They laid these words up in their hearts. They stored them there for future use.

Luke 1:67   And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 
The Spirit fills a man to speak the Word and it fills him with power.
Zacharias prayer is also very similar to the prayer of Hannah, as is Mary’s prayer. They harken back to the promises made to Hannah a thousand years before Christ. They have been waiting a long time but Yahweh remembers His promises.

68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 
Yahweh visits and redeems. A visitation of Yahweh could be a frightful thing, especially as there was certainly enough sin around to bring the wrath of God. But that is not what happens. His visitation is for grace and peace. Mary was a handmaiden of the Lord, his slave. And Israel is presented as a slave that has been lost, forsaken. But Yahweh comes and buys her back, he redeems her and take her for His own.
Matthew Henry- Christ redeems them by price out of the hands of God’s justice, and redeems them by power out of the hands of Satan’s tyranny, as Israel out of Egypt.
69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;  70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 
The covenantal story flowing down through Eve and the faithful women of old. Follow the line when the line is in doubt. Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Elizabeth, Mary.
The eternal Davidic King is coming. God has not forgotten his promises. Zacharias is reminding us that Yahweh remembers. We need to think about this. We get impatient if God delays His promises for a few days, months or a really long time, a few years. But we have several examples in Scripture where the delayed promise was hundreds of years. In referring to David’s line, the promise harkens all the way back to King David, the first and greatest king. But a greater King than David was supposed to arise and he never did. They had been waiting for 1000 years. We may think that Yahweh had forgotten but Zacharias reminds us that God has remembered what He spoke by the prophets for a 1000 years!

71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;  72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 
Israel had great success in King David. David conquered all the near enemies of Israel and set up the kingdom of Yahweh. Solomon inherited this peaceful kingdom but it fell apart with his children, never to arise again in such glory. The salvation from enemies promised way before David in Abraham, slipped away and never returned.

73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,  74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,  75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 
Zacharias reaches back even further. Yahweh remembers all the way back to David but even back much further to Abraham, another 1000 years.

76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,  78 Through the tender mercy of our God;
Both Jesus and John have a similar ministry. They give knowledge of salvation. This salvation is through the remission of sins and comes by the tender mercy of God.
But what is the message? The message of both John and Jesus was “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
We tend to think this is a harsh message. Repent you sinner. Some call it judgmental. We should just speak of God’s comfort and mercy. But this passage tells us that the knowledge of salvation comes by the remission of sins and is brought to us because God has tender mercy upon us.  And then John and Jesus go out and preach against sin, calling upon men to repent of their many sins.
We should keep this in mind. It is our desire to reveal God’s tender mercy to men. But we cannot do this without preaching repentance from sins. We do not preach repentance because we aim to mock the sinner or set ourselves above him. We do get accused of this. And if we preach with the wrong attitude, we may be doing just that, gloating that we do not act that way and that God is going to judge such rebellion. This is all wrong on our part. Our preaching of repentance is so that the tender mercies of God would fall upon those who hear and repent. Our desire is for the grace of God to fall upon those who hear and repent.
This was John’s message. John’s name means Yahweh is gracious. John was revealing the graciousness of God as men heard about their sins, repented and were baptized, symbolizing the washing away of their sins, the remission of sins, through the tender mercy of God.

whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,  79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 
Is. 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Zacharias has been prophesying about the ministry of John. He now prophesies the coming of the Messiah. The light is going to shine in the darkness. This is also a prophesy of the light that will shine on the Gentiles.

80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

         What has God said to us over and over? That He will remember His promises of old and that He would be gracious to us. We believe this to be true. There is no reason to doubt God’s love for us. There is no reason to doubt that He will accomplish the salvation of the world as He promised. There is no reason to doubt His particular mercy and grace towards each one of us, personally. His promises are broad and they are also particular. God really does watch over each of His saints and such are you.
         So, call upon God who remembers. Call Him to remembrance and when He acts in His tender mercy and grace towards you, then receive Him gladly.


No comments: