Saturday, 26 December 2015

Watch & Wait. ~ Ganeida.

This is the introductory sermon to next month’s theme on Drawing closer to God.

Most of the Christian world has once again celebrated the birth of a Jewish child born of a young Jewish woman into a country that had been invaded & over~run by one of the cruellest & most despotic empires to ever exist.

He lived as a Torah observant Jew for 30 years, preached about the Kingdom of God for just 3 years, & died as a criminal on a Roman crucifix for blasphemy & treason ~ depending on whether he was tried under Roman Law or as a Jew.

Nowhere in Scripture are we asked or commanded to remember Jesus birth.  We are asked to remember & celebrate is His death.  However, here is what I find fascinating: for over 2000 years the Jews lived with the expectation of the arrival of the coming Messiah.  Every major prophet foretold His coming yet when He arrived just about everyone missed it. Why? I will go back to some basic principles then move forward to explain our present predicament.

Most of what people have believed about Christ’s birth for 2000 years is wrong. This would not matter except for one thing: In the beginning of John’s gospel, chapter 4 Jesus has this to say: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.[a] If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?[b] When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
As Jesus came the first time so He will return.  As people missed it the first time, so they will miss it the 2nd time.

That’s not possible you will say.  Really?  There are 2 possible dates for Jesus birth ~ neither of which is December 25, both of which are worked out by counting the priestly courses serving in the Temple via Jesus uncle, Zachariah, according to the gospel of Luke. Johnathan Cahn gives a date as the 1st of March while most other scholars believe Jesus was born sometime in early fall during the festival of Sukkot.  This is the theory I hold to for a very simple reason. Luke 2:12 says: This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. The Hebrew word for manger is sukkot.  A sukkot is a temporary shelter.  The Festival of Sukkot is also known as the feast of Tabernacles & Jesus birth heralded in the advent of God tabernacling with Man as a man to show us how to keep God’s Law.

Now here is where it gets interesting.  Jesus says very clearly he has not come to abolish the Torah but to fulfil it.

Matthew 5:17 ~ 2017 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Abolish is
kataluo in the Greek & usually translated destroy.  We have a bad habit of misunderstanding the bible.  We take literal things figuratively & figurative things literally & get ourselves in a right muddle.  However if we look at Mark 2:23-28 we arrive at a better understanding of what Jesus meant. Here we see Jesus accused of breaking the Sabbath laws because his disciples were breaking off heads of grain as they walked through the fields, rubbing the grain in their hands to remove the outer husk, blowing the husk away & eating. Legally they were harvesting threshing & winnowing.  I know that sounds silly to us but that is how the Pharisees chose to interpret the Mosaic Law & Jesus was guilty for allowing what His disciples were doing & not reprimanding them.  

Now Jesus did not choose to address what the Pharisees were doing following Him about & finding fault ~ on the Sabbath too when they were not supposed to travel!  Rather he gave them 3 examples from their own scriptures to illustrate the real purpose of the Law because the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

The Greek word translated “fulfil” in Matthew 5:17 comes from the root word pleroo, which can mean “to make full, to fill, to fill up … to fill to the full” or “to render full, i.e. to complete” to fulfil, i.e. to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God's promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfilment.  In other words Jesus was saying that the Pharisees had got it wrong.  They were not fulfilling the Law as it was meant to be lived. This then makes far better sense of Hebrews
10:16 quoting Jeremiah:

"This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."
Still with me?  At Sukkot people were busy celebrating the festival & babies were born every day: one a minute.  What was one more? It happened all the time.  No~one noted Jesus birth.  The only people for whom it was important were Mary & Joseph.

Yet if we look at Luke 2 we find this:
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

A little further along we read of Anna, who also recognised the baby as the promised messiah. What made the difference?  How come they recognised him when so many others did not ~ even though He had been promised.  Even though there were prophecies about him.  Even though there were signs announcing His arrival.

They were expectant!  They were waiting.  They were watching.  And the Holy Spirit told them! They were not so caught up in their day to day lives that they missed it.  They were not blinded by the glitter & the baubles that Satan uses to distract us from the things of God.


25 “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids[a] who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’
“All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’
“But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked.11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’
12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’
13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.

The difference between the bridesmaids who went in & those who were left behind is simply a matter of expectation.  The 5 who went in were prepared.  They were ready & waiting & watching for the bridegroom.  They were not saying, the Groom tarries; He is not coming.  They were not distracted by other things.

God is very fair.  He always gives plenty of warning of His plans.  As he told the world the first time that He was sending a saviour, so He has warned us that His son will return. He warned of signs & wonders &  cautioned in Luke 21 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

So I say to you most solemnly: Do not be distracted by the things of this world.  Do not be blinded by the tinsel & the tree.  Do not look to what is past & which we were never told to focus on.  Instead allow the Holy Spirit to transform you into the likeness of Christ.  Let Him do that deep work of writing His Laws on your heart. Keep the oil in your lantern full & your eyes on Christ. The hour is late.  Even now Christ stands at the door. He is returning for those that are His.  He has promised & He always keeps His word.