In His Own Words: The Messiah’s Mission
His life began in a manger and ended on a cross. Why do we celebrate One of such humble birth and a shameful death? How is it that the Savior of the world and King of the Ages chose such a path? And how can it be “good tidings of great joy to all people”? Before the manger, He was with God and He was God, all things were made by Him. After the cross, He is risen, ascended, and exalted. In reality, neither the birth nor the death of Jesus Christ is out of keeping with Who He is and what He came to do. As you look at the manger and the cross, you find the key to understanding the nature of the Good News, and you find the doorway through which some will enter and others will refuse.
He spoke often about what He came to do. Now we look at one example that was early in His ministry. More than thirty years have passed since the angels announced His birth to shepherds near Bethlehem.
The setting is in the synagogue (Babylonian captivity), the place where Jews had gathered Sabbath after Sabbath ever since the Babylonian captivity. You remember that the temple was destroyed and for a time they had no temple at all. Now synagogues were scattered across the country, and this is where they worshiped. For decades Jesus had attended the synagogue. The Scripture tells us it was His custom as a boy and it was His custom as a man (imperfections notwithstanding). Now He was back as a grown-up who was famous for His preaching.
Interesting, I doubt if you could find a synagogue anywhere, particularly in Nazareth, that did everything right. Can you imagine what it would be like to be God sitting in the synagogue and hear men teach what you wrote week after week? Yet it was his custom to be there. When He talks to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 1-3), they were full of flaws, but they were His churches still, and He walked among them. We live in a time when if we don't particularly like every detail of what happens in a local gathering, we feel like we can just have our own religion that is more pure. Jesus Himself, the Son of God, made it His custom to be with the people of God when the Word of God was taught.
Any male could volunteer to read the Scripture in the synagogue and expound on it. As the time came for the Scripture reading, imagine how the congregation would feel as this famous preacher walks up and takes the scroll from the attendant, and reads the words of Isaiah that prophesy the coming servant of the Lord, the Messiah. I would imagine that all eyes were upon Him. You could probably hear a pin drop. What would He say? He must have some special way of explaining things, because crowds followed Him. Well, He did not say what anyone expected. His words were like a thunderebolt: "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Scripture that talks about the Servant of the Lord, Scripture that talks about the Messiah, Scripture that talks about the acceptance year of the Lord. He said that today this Scripture had been fulfilled. That is not all He said -- that is only the essence of what He said.
Think for moment how significant those words are. They are stunning. Not what those who saw Him grow up were prepared to hear or accept. Jesus had a way of driving home a point. He was not one to pander to the wishes of the audience. Truth. Truth that pulled off the masks and uncovered the soul. Piercing, blazing light exposing the human soul, used to careful concealment.
14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”
24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.
In His Own Words: The Messiah’s Mission
· Power of the Spirit (14-18a)
· Rescue for the Desperate (18b-19)
· Insult to the “Deserving” (22-30)
On this Sunday preceding Christmas we want to consider why Jesus came -- in His own words. Why did Jesus say He came? Who were those who would receive Him? Who would reject Him? In His own words, the Messiaih's mission. The power of the Spirit characterized the Messiah's mission. We really get down to the meaning of the word Messiah, the anointed one. It has everything to do with the power of the Spirit. We see it in Jesus' life and in His preaching. The Messiah's mission was the rescue of the desperate. Then in verses 22-30, the Messiah's Mission is an insult to the deserving. Two thousand years later it is easy to forget why Jesus came. It is easy to forget the nature of His mission. It is easy to forget the essence of what He came to say and to do. It is easy to practice a religion that is respectable, that is for the elite, and to lose our grasp of the kind of faith He called people to have. Today we will consider the Messiah's mission and if we are among those who will be rescued or not.
I. Empowered by the Spirit (Luke 4:14-18a)
18 The Spirit of the Lord (Yahweh—Isa. 61:1) is upon me, because he has anointed me.
Luke 2:10: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ (the Messiah), the Lord.” Cf. v. 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee
It was the power of the Spirit that characterized the Messiah's mission. It wasn't business as usual. It wasn't religion as usual. It was a ministry empowered by the Spirit. He quotes from Isaiah (v 18) that the Spirit of Yahweh is upon me because He has anointed me. He was the Anointed One, the Messiah. That's exactly what Messiah means -- the anointed one -- anointed by the Spirit of God for a particular mission, that of saving sinners as promised by the Lord. You recall that as the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds on the hillside, they said, "we bring you good tidings of great joy" -- the gospel (the good news that brings joy) "for unto you is born this day a Savior, which is the Christ (the Messiah, the anointed one, the Lord, a Savior). The very nature of the angels' announcement and the nature of what Christ says here is the same. We are told that this was the nature of Christ's ministry. As He came back from His temptation and the Spirit came upon Him at His baptism, He returned in the power of the Spirit. There is no mention of miracles, save for the proverb Jesus quotes to the people of Nazareth, "physician, heal yourself." The emphasis of the text is on the power of His words. It talks about Him speaking in the synagogues. His words are unlike the words of the average human being or any prophet even. Jesus spoke ex cathedra. He spoke as the voice of God. This distinguished Him from the teachers of the day who always had to back their opinions with the writings of others. His words carried the power of divine authority with the power of action (Think about creation. He spoke and it was.)
Christ's words are powerful words. They achieve whatever He commands. Paul writes about him, “He upholds all things by the word of His power.” The sun still rises and still sets because God assigned that task to the sun. Time rolls on week after week because God established that in the beginning with His Word. The stars shine. They are signs. They are miracles with a message. They show the times and seasons. They shine and give light in a time of darkness. Why? Because God established it with His words. "Your word is forever established in the heavens," the Psalmist writes.
The apostles were to wait until after the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them before they carried out their mission that had been assigned to them. Christ said, "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit has come upon you." And that is precisely what happened. Now millions upon millions have been brought from death to life through Spirit-empowered words. True Christianity is all about words, but they are words of power. "The words I speak," Christ said, "are spirit and they are life." We are born again through the Word of God. So as Jesus taught in their synagogues, being glorified (praised) by all, reports about Him went out through all the surrounding country. No one ever spoke like this man. People have their own versions of who Jesus is. They leave Him in the manger. They leave Him on the cross. They simplify Him into a children’s fable, full of generic goodness that is for everything and against nothing. If you want to understand Jesus, listen to what He says. His words have power. They are words that change the human heart.
- Gospel—good news—words again.
- Born again by means of Spirit-empowered Word of God
- Sanctified by God’s truth—His Word is truth.
Understand that Jesus' Words are not like man’s word that are merely ideas and wishes. His words actually produce what they promise. Jesus has ascended to heaven and is coming back. He has not left us orphaned. He has left the Holy Spirit of God, the Comforter, and He has left us His words. The power and authority of the Words of the Anointed One through His apostles—His sent ones. How does a believer respond when we think about the mission of Christ and the power of His mission? If you would follow Jesus, you cannot neglect His words. If you would feel close to Him, you must keep and treasure His words, meditate on them. It is a universal reality that the more you distance yourself from His words, the more you will feel estranged from God. If you meditate on His words, and His Word is your delight, then you will sense the presence and direction of God. If you are a person of the Word, you know what it is like to be meditating on His Word and feel that He is speaking directly to you. Sometimes a passage reaches out and grabs you and seems to say, "This is yours today. Let my words direct your steps."
Jesus' mission was all about the power of the Spirit, and that power was funneled through His words. Even when He did His miracles and showed His compassion for suffering mankind, it was to awake in them a faith in the message that He brought. They were miracles with a message. The miracles that the apostles did were to authenticate that their message was from God. It was a message full of power and authority and the ability to change lives. If you would carry out the mission of Jesus, let His words be on your tongue. Let His words transform your life so that it preaches the truth to people who need light in darkness. This is the Messiah's mission in His own words.
II. Proclaimed to the Desperate (Luke 4:18b-19)
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim liberty to the captive, recovering of sight to the blind, and set at liberty those who are oppressed. Here are His words. They are a proclamation like a herald would read out the decree of the king. They are good news—news that brings joy, liberty, recovery of sight (opening of prison), and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, the year of jubilee (50th year), when slaves were freed and debts were forgiven. It was a year of God's grace. What a marvelous proclamation! These are words that would appeal to any generation. People like to hear liberty, freedom, good news, and good things poured out for free, but that is not all that He said. We note that this is good news for the poor, recovering of sight for the blind, liberty to the captives and those who are oppressed. The year of the Lord's favor meant that slaves went free and debtors were released. The poor is not just those who could not get their books to balance. These are those in abject poverty. They are broken beggars. Think about what it would be like that. These are exactly the words Christ used in contrasting the prevailing religion of the day, the religion of high standards, the religion of lots of rules, the religion of keeping yourself distant from the masses. The Sermon on the Mount starts off “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Blessed are the bankrupt; blessed are the beggars. Not blessed are the ones standing on the street corner and say, "I thank God I am not as other people are." No, not them, but those who are poor beggars toward God.
These descriptions capture Jesus’ view (Isaiah’s) of who we are as those bound in sin and condemned to death, destined for hell. Our best efforts at doing right are still like filthy rags. No matter how accomplished, we are utterly incapable of preventing being hauled off into captivity of sin and death. We are blinded by sin, oppressed by Satan, and condemned by God. That's who we are. People like that need God to rescue them if there’s going to be a rescue at all. We chafe under the trials; fret with the troubles, but they are designed to reveal our true state apart from God and to drive us to the security of His mighty arms. People like this are the object of Christ's mission. God brings us down to drive us to the security of His mighty arms, to help us see that we don't just need a teacher, we need a rescuer, a deliverer. We are helpless, hopeless people, destitute, but for Jesus Christ. That's all we have, and it is easy to forget that.
III. Rejected by the “Deserving” (Luke 4:22-30)
It is really shocking and a little bit hard to understand how people could respond to Jesus in this way. Outraged by His teaching—why? Think about it. The widow of Zarephath in Sidon where Jezebel was from! She gave what she thought would be her last meal to the prophet. She is abjectly poor living in a pagan land. Naaman the Syrian leper had to drown his pride in the muddy Jordan river, dipping 7 times. Both were helpless to fix their problem: a widow in abject poverty, fixing her last morsel of food for her and her son; a mighty warrior struck down with incurable leprosy. Both were Gentiles living in regions known for idolatry. Both were rescued by God through persons who worshiped the true God. There were many widows in Israel, but Elijah was sent to the widow in Zarepheth of Sidon. There were many lepers in Israel, but Naaman the Syrian was cleansed. What is the point? The point is this: Grace. Undeserved favor.
People that the townsfolk of Nazareth would consider unworthy received God’s rescue. It is the same way they would have felt about many people in Galilee or Capernaum. Here they are, Israelites, living in the town where Jesus, now famous, grew up. Surely they deserve to see some of His miracles—if the reports are actually true. It is hard to believe this one they saw grow up could be anyone special. “Familiarity breeds contempt.” When holy things become common things to us we lose our way. Unlike the widow, unlike even Naaman the Syrian, they were skeptical, they were dismissive, they were proud, they considered themselves worthy of Jesus doing something extraordinary. So they were denied. Jesus isn’t interested in impressing them. They have no real sense of need. They see themselves as judges of whether He passes muster.
Whenever we start to feel deserving, we have started to lose our grip on reality. We have started to put faith in religion instead of in God. The gospel is not for people like that. But it is for everyone everywhere who comes with a humble heart, hopeless and helpless apart from God’s gracious rescue. Isaiah 66:2: "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word."
Most of us are very familiar with holy, spectacular truths. Of all people we are in grave danger of feeling we deserve God’s blessing—unlike others with their messed-up lives.But if you find your life on the rocks, your heart broken, your hopes dashed, know this. The Messiah’s mission was to rescue people just like you. As you celebrate Christmas, remember why Christ came as He did. Take to heart who benefited from His coming and who did not.
In His Own Words: The Messiah’s Mission
· Power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14-18a)
· Rescue for the Desperate (Luke 4:18b-19)
· Insult to the “Deserving” (Luke 4:22-30)
1. Given that the custom of Jesus was to be at the synagogue each Sabbath, what makes it difficult for us to faithfully attend imperfect worship services with God’s imperfect people, and how could the emphasis of this passage impact our frustrations and attitudes?
2. In what ways could you demonstrate your confidence in the Spirit-empowered Words of Jesus?
3. How does Jesus’ (Isaiah’s) description of the ones to whom He brings the gospel affect your thinking about yourself and others—especially those who seem most troubled?
4. Do you think American congregations would respond to a message like Jesus preached to His hometown differently from those at the synagogue of Nazareth? Why or why not?
5. What dangers do those of us face who have long known the gospel? What do you think could help us escape the deserving mentality or skeptical mentality the people of Nazareth displayed?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
December 22, 2013
God’s Miraculous Message to Fearful Sinners
They were desperate days. The nation tottered on the brink of collapse with its borders threatened on all sides. The region was swarming with troops, armies mobilizing everywhere. The Edomites (Esau’s descendants) attacked from the southeast and took captives. From the west came the Philistines. From the north marched King Rezin of Syria and Pekah, king of the Northern Kingdom. They trounced Judah’s forces, killing 120,000 troops in one day, including one of the king’s sons and the second highest ranking leader in the nation. Worse, the Northern Kingdom took 200,000 men, women, and children as prisoners of war. Now the victorious enemy coalition bears down on the capital city of Jerusalem. They intend to replace King Ahaz with a puppet king, then band together to hold off the rising super power, Assyria.
Gripped with terror, the king, his counselors, and his people shake like leaves in the wind. They are at a total loss about what to do. Join with powerful Assyria? That may stave off the immediate threat but leaves them vulnerable to the rising empire known for its barbarian cruelty. Engage in another battle against the coalition? More deaths, more prisoners of war. Every move humanly possible has a horrible price attached to it.
Then Isaiah the prophet shows up. King Ahaz didn’t much care for him. The king’s father and grandfather had served the Lord, but Ahaz had chosen a pagan lifestyle and worship. And he was paying for it now. God was against him too.
Let’s let Isaiah tell us what happened:
1 In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. 2 When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind. 3 And the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer's Field. 4 And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. 5 Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, 6 “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” 7 thus says the Lord God: “‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. 8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. 9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’” 10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”
Cause for Fear—Deadly Crisis (1-2)
Call for Faith—Gracious Revelation (3-9)
Confirmation of Rescue—Miraculous Child (10-17)
I. Cause for Fear—Deadly Crisis (Isaiah 7:1-2)
- National decline
- Rampant idolatry, led by the king himself—he had burned his own children alive in sacrifice to the God of lust, Molech. Unspeakable evil.
- Pressing enemies on all sides—and looming behind them the rising tide of Assyrian aggression
- Tens of thousands of slain soldiers
- 200,000 prisoners of war—men, women, children
- A city coming under siege
The particulars have to do with Ahaz’s situation, but the nature of the crises are profoundly human. Sample any century of human existence and you find similar struggles. Even in a country that has enjoyed a long history of comparative stability and prosperity, we feel how vulnerable we are. Nations rise and fall. And so will ours. Leaders are often corrupt, and the good ones eventually pass off the scene. The masses chase their idols, drowning in their desires, paying with their children. War, instability, slaughter, refugees, oppression, injustice—disease, disfigurement, death. A deadly cocktail of sin and death that everybody has to drink down to the dregs. No series of sunny days, no collection of merry holiday celebrations, no resume of personal successes, no utopian plans for the future provide a lasting escape for us. Every life is shot through with trouble and inevitably ends in the grave. We try to shut out the pain and the fear with every kind of pleasure, entertainment, and sin—only to find ourselves faced with uncertainty, fear, grief, dread of the future. It is in such crises of life that God sends word to us, just as He did to Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah. We do not face the darkness alone. The question is whether we will listen when He speaks.
II. Call for Faith—Gracious Revelation (Isaiah 7:3-9)
God knows the future because God controls history. He says to Ahaz that these fierce and threatening kings he fears are two smoldering stumps of firebrands. Their plans to terrify and subdue the kingdom of Judah “shall not stand.” They will fail. The Assyrians would take the northern ten tribes of Israel captive in only 8 years, and in 65 years from the time of this prophecy of Isaiah’s, northern Israel would cease to exist as a nation. So stop fearing, and don’t make a foolish move to trust Assyria for protection. Trust the Lord instead.
9b If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.
When we trust anyone or anything less than God to solve our problems and meet our needs, at best we take care of only part of what threatens us. The worst remains. We tend to hang our hopes on much too little. We try to calm our fears with halfway remedies. Like Ahaz, we need to listen to what God has revealed through His prophets and apostles—to stop insisting on self-rule, idolatrous substitutes, and manmade solutions—and place our full reliance on Him and His provision for us.
Do you believe what God has revealed and promised? Do you give regular attention to His Word? Are you relying on Him—His wisdom, power, love?
III. Confirmation of Rescue—Miraculous Child (Isaiah 7:10-17)
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
What a gracious God!
Ask a sign—a miracle with the message—from the LORD your God. Your God?! God is appealing to Ahaz to reclaim the God of his fathers as his own. He is a descendant of king David, the man after God’s own heart. His dynasty is called the house of David. But will Ahaz turn away from his idols and trust the God of David? Demanding a sign when God has spoken proves wicked unbelief, but refusing to ask a sign when God offers it to you reveals not just that you don’t believe, but that you don’t even want to. To trust God for deliverance would mean to yield to His rightful authority—and Ahaz has no interest in that. He intones in the most pious-sounding voice he can that he would not want to put the Lord to the test. As if God can’t read his mind and his motives in precise detail. Ahaz has no problem worshiping idols alongside of Yahweh. He’s okay sacrificing his children to the flres of Molech, god of immorality. But he’s too conscientious about sin to dare ask a miracle from God even when God offers one. Sheer hypocrisy! Human nature. Isaiah rebukes Ahaz for wearying God with such foolishness—and shifts to calling Yahweh “my God.” But then he reveals how committed God is to saving us from our sin troubles. Salvation comes from the loving heart of God, not from the desires and designs of man.
14 Therefore the Lord (the Master of nations and destiny) himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
The word translated virgin occurs only 7 times in the Old Testament. It never refers to a married woman or an impure woman. The Septuagint, the standard Greek translation of the Old Testament, uses the same term Matthew uses when he quotes Isaiah 7:14—parthenos, virgin—and there is no other meaning of the term. That’s what makes the event promised a sign—a miracle. When the angel announced to Mary that though she was a virgin, she would bear a child, the Savior of the World, he reminded her, “nothing is impossible with God.” The virgin birth is not just a quaint legend for Christmas carols. It is a miracle with a message. A message that God will save His people through a person, born as a child—the God-man. Immanuel—With us, God!
Isaiah 7:15-16 refers to a contemporary child, possibly Isaiah’s son (Isaiah 8:3, 8, 18)
“For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”
Before the child was three years old, Rezin and Pekah were dead. Just as the local prophecy found fulfillment according to God’s word, so would the far-reaching prophecy. No person but the Messiah fulfills the distant prophecy—no one is named Immanuel.
Isaiah’s presentation of the coming Messiah grows to a vast doctrine:
- Judge among the nations
- Government upon the shoulders of this child to be born to us.
- Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
- Spirit of the LORD will rest upon the Branch of Jesse
- Shall reign in righteousness
- Mighty Servant of Jehovah
- Will establish justice in all the earth
- Wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities
- Will justify many by bearing their sins and dying in their place to pay the just penalty of their sin
- Universal rule
Immanuel appears only twice in Old Testament, here and in Isaiah 8:8, 10-17: "The enemies of Judah will be defeated because God is with his people; this is Immanuel’s land."
Name never used again until the angel refers to it in Joseph’s dream, as recorded by Matthew." God’s answer to fearful sinners, facing destructive enemies, full of personal guilt is ultimately the revelation of a person—the God-man Christ Jesus, Savior, King, God. He is the Word—God’s miraculous message to mankind. Coming into this troubled world to fearful sinners. Born a helpless child to save all who believe, ruling an everlasting kingdom with infinite wisdom, power, and love. In man there is no rescue from humanity’s greatest foes and fears, but “God with us” changes everything. Fearful sinners like Ahaz—like you and like me—need such a Savior from our sin and death and doom.
Till God in human flesh I see,
My thoughts no comfort find;
The holy, just, and sacred Three,
Are terrors to my mind.
But if Immanuel’s face appear,
My hope, my joy begins;
His name forbids my slavish fear;
His grace removes my sins.
While some on their own works rely
And some of wisdom boast,
I love the Incarnate Mystery,
And there I fix my trust.
1. Why do you think it is important for us to recognize that God’s Word does not sugar coat the deadly crises we face as human beings?
2. What significance do you see in God’s revealing the future to a wicked king like Ahaz and calling for him to stop fearing, but to believe?
3. What circumstances have you found can make it hard for you to rely completely on God?
4. The prophecy God sent through Isaiah to Ahaz addressed not just the immediate threat but a far greater event—the miraculous birth of Immanuel. Why do you think God connected the birth of the Messiah to the crisis Ahaz was fearing at the time?
5. In what ways does “God with us” capture the purpose of the gospel and thus solve your greatest troubles?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
Greenville, SC 29609
December 15, 2013
Living in the Sight of God
1 Timothy 5:21-25
Jesus talked to His disciples about His identity and asked them who He is and they answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." His response to them was that on this Rock He would build His church and the gates of Hell would not stand up against it. When you look at that kind of language, it is sometimes difficult to take that image and put it beside the churches that you know. We are regular folks who know other's strengths and weaknesses. It is hard for us to get a heavenly perspective on what we're doing on earth, even when it comes to our church life and our worship. Our text reminds us once again of the heavenly significance and importance of what we do as the people of God. While there are a lot of practical matters we must tend to, we must never forget the spiritual significance of what we do, which gives us the drive to keep honoring the Lord.
The last time we were in 1 Timothy we looked at "Commending and Confronting Spiritual Leaders." We saw that those who rule well were worthy of honor, and there is a reason for remuneration for their work and not receiving accusations on little evidence. At the same time there was accountability, and in exercising that accountability there was to be fairness because heaven is watching.
We will begin where we ended—in 1 Timothy 5:21. It reminds us of the heavenly jurisdiction over what we do on earth. It is especially important when dealing with ordaining or restoring elders to leadership because of the impact leaders have on so many people. There is in context a specific application to church leadership, but since elders are mature examples to the flock and because the accountability they have applies to every believer, all that we look at now has to do with living in the sight of God. Follow as we read 1 Timothy 5:21-15:
21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) 24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.
I. Maturity: Take Your Time. (1 Timothy 5:22a)
22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others;
Laying on of hands is language we use sometimes for arresting someone, but here it is talking about ordination. At the beginning of the year we will ordain deacons who have never served before. Men who want to be in vocational ministry go through a vetting process. After they have been through an ordination council and observed for a time, then a body of men who are already ordained to the gospel ministry will lay their hands on that individual. It is similar to the anointing in the Old Testament and symbolizes the enabling for service and a conferring of responsibility. It shows a public recognition by others of one’s appointment to office, not by men, but by God. When we ordain somebody to the preaching ministry, we are not choosing them as elders. The Holy Spirit chooses men for overseers. Rather the church is acknowledging that these men show they have the qualifications and the call for this type of work.
Paul says to Timothy, who has been sent to Ephesus to clean up what had become a mess in terms of teaching that deviated from the Gospel, not to be in a rush to ordain the new elders. Some of the men who were teaching were not qualified, perhaps were ordained prematurely. As multiple churches sprang up in the New Testament, the need for leaders made it easy to appoint men to leadership prematurely. This danger seems to be the primary emphasis here. The doctrinal deviation Timothy was having to correct is more likely with those who are not seasoned men of the Word yet. They are more easily led astray and as leaders could contaminate the whole flock. Every generation of men devoted to the Word spends years correcting the mis-teaching of the previous generation. It is one of the things that anyone who is called to teach or preach has to take very seriously: how am I binding the consciences of people? Am I really giving them the Word of God or just my take on it? Because we are fallible men, we make our mistakes, but we pray that God will help us to be really careful that what we teach is actually from the Word, that we are not adding to or taking away from the Word of God, because it takes a really long time to root that kind of teaching out.
If Timothy rushed appointing new elders, he ran the risk of facilitating the sins against the flock that unqualified elders would commit. Timothy was sent to correct what was wrong in the church of Ephesus. He had the credentials of Paul. He is Paul's man. If he rushed to ordain a man and that man ended up leading people astray, folks would wonder why Paul's man could give this man that kind of credence. The problem still exists today, not only with those new to the pastoral ministry, but those perhaps who have been confronted for sins. Sometimes these are sins that have not even been corrected, and all they do is move to the next town and are put back into the position. When that happens we end up aiding and abetting sins against the flock of God.
That is why the apostle John admonishes us not to bid godspeed to false teachers. Don't let them in your house, don't eat with them, don't do anything that would give credence to those teaching contrary to the Word of God. When we exercise church discipline--when someone is flagrantly teaching or living contrary to the gospel, we are to mark those persons and have nothing to do with them, not even eat with them. Our effort is to bring them to be restored to fellowship, but part of that restoration process is to create a sense of alarm that they have given up a normal relationship with the rest of the church because of their flagrant, unbiblical kind of lifestyle. It is those flagrant sins that deny the Gospel that deserve church discipline. If we don't exercise that discipline, if we don't distance ourselves, if we don't obey the Scripture in the matter, we actually become a party to that kind of sin or condoning it.
It is the same with ordaining men to the ministry too rapidly. There needs to be time to examine the life, reputation and character of a man. Look at the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3: the way he runs his household, his relation with his wife, the kinds of community relationship he has. You can't figure that out that rapidly--it must take place over time. Paul warns in 1 Timothy 3 that a recent convert elevated to leadership faced the danger of pride and would become an easy target for the devil to slander. The devil is looking for those that are vulnerable or naive to the battleground they are on. The same caution would apply to restoring an elder to leadership after being confronted about some sin.
As we look toward including both paid and unpaid pastors, this verse applies. We have to make sure that the men elected by the congregation to serve in this role are men that have had time to prove themselves qualified for the role. There has to be a vetting process.
The term "elder" would teach us this. In its common sense it refers to an older man. Spiritually, to those who are spiritually mature. A number of the apostles were men in their early twenties. A man can be mature beyond his years, but caution and patience about putting a man into this leadership role is the biblical way.
When we are younger, we tend to be more ambitious to lead. Position is attractive. Telling others what to do rather than having to submit to the direction of others appeals to us. As we mature, we become more intent on serving others and setting an example. That's what the most common term in the Bible for pastoral leadership conveys. Here is a man who is spiritually mature, who has weathered the test, who is setting an example for the flock and not lording it over the Lord's heritage. Beware the man who covets position and is reluctant to serve the needs of others until he has one. If you have to have a position to serve, you are not ready to lead yet. However long we have been in ministry, we should think of it not so much as a position or a profession, but simply as a shepherd serving the needs of the sheep. It really is the mindset that every believer is to have -- equipping all the saints for the work of the ministry. It is more about loving God, loving others, and how can I serve. There are all kinds of services you can engage in without an actual position. There are a host of things that need to be done. But sometimes what needs to be done is a word fitly spoken to the person sitting in the pew beside you. Sometimes it is noting the downcast countenance of a fellow believer and asking them if there is something you can pray with them about. It might be bringing a meal to a family or visiting a shut-in. None of these involve position. They are simply serving the Lord, showing the love of God, being an example to the flock.
II. Purity: Guard Your Heart. (1 Timothy 5:22b-23)
keep yourself pure. 23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)
Galatians 6 warns that we must restore fallen brothers with a spirit of meekness, considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted. Every time we try to help someone who is caught in a sin we have to recognize that that could be us, and very likely will be us at some point. We have to have the mindset that we are not helping because we are better, but because we care. Keeping oneself pure is a challenge no matter what kind of ministry you are carrying out.
Here we have Timothy serving as an emissary from Paul to correct teachers in Ephesus. That does not make Timothy immune to personal sin. Think about this theologically. You and I will grow over time spiritually. We change in ways we never thought we could change. Do you recognize that your flesh does not change? The flesh cannot please God, it cannot bring itself into conformity to God's will. Until we are in our glorified bodies we have this part of us that wants to rebel and it is always bad. It doesn't improve. That's why a man after God's own heart like David at age 52 can fall to the sin of adultery and commit murder. It gives us an index to what the human nature is all about. We have to guard our hearts. If we yield to the flesh we take the path of death. Just because we are a believer and spiritually mature, it does not save us from the impact of that on our lives.
Timothy is called to keep himself pure. The Old Testament saints had to guard their ceremonial cleanness so that they were not barred from worship. The point of such care was symbolic—to keep pure before God was critical to non-hypocritical worship. Worship can't be hypocritical and still remain worship. If we are just pretending it becomes a blasphemy. Worship is not play-acting. It’s the real thing. Those who lead in worship, those who lead other elders, those who carry out various ministry responsibilities must be careful to guard their hearts from impurity. It is a battle every one of us has to face. We need to keep short accounts of our sins and make sure we are pure before God.
Sometimes if your dishwasher is not working properly you may have some residue on glasses. If the residue is on the outside, it is not as bad as if it were on the inside. This is exactly what Christ warned about in His day. There were men who were the religious leaders who said they believed the Bible, were very conservative, and they tried not to be worldly like the Greek culture around them. Jesus said they were like those that would clean the outside of the cup but leave the inside dirty. We need to have that same kind of care about our lives. It is one thing to have a fine reputation on the outside. It is another thing to actually be clean. God intends for all of us, especially leaders, to fight the battle to be clean on the inside because that is what heaven sees. Keeping yourself pure is absolutely critical. Thankfully we come to a Savior who, when we confess our sins is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9), and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The beauty of coming to Christ and confessing our sin is that not only does God forgive us for that sin we know about, but that God cleans us all the way through. The most wonderful thing about coming to the Lord and asking for forgiveness is the cleanness that you feel when you are restored to fellowship with God.
Paul makes a side comment about wine for two possible reasons: 1) Those that taught that denying yourself various legitimate food and drink was the essence of true religion, but a lost person can do that. Timothy is not likely caught up in Jewish asceticism, but it was possible that Paul was thinking of those who were because it was one of the false teachings that were available at the time. The explanation I lean toward is this: 2) Timothy evidently followed Paul’s example of abstaining from wine because of its potential to cause others to fall to the sin of drunkenness (1 Corinthians 9; Romans 14). The water in the region was not always safe to drink, and mixing one part wine to 3-4 parts water was the common way of purifying water and drinking wine. On the one hand Timothy was saying he did not want to be a stumbling block to anyone so he was going to lay off of this. Paul said to Timothy to keep himself pure, but it did not mean not to take care of his health needs. Timothy would need to put some wine in the water to take care of the germs.
This verse has nothing to do with social drinking, but with medicinal/health drinking. It does show that “purity” is not bound up in abstinence from alcohol. There are times when it is necessary. How many have practiced total abstinence for years? How many of you that raised your hand have ever taken Nyquil or a cough medicine that had alcohol in it? For health reasons you have used something that had alcohol in it. Point made. The point is not the alcohol per se. Timothy did not drink wine because he did not want to cause a problem. Paul himself sets that example. Indulgence is not what a Christian lives for. Paul makes the point that he does need to take care of his health and he sets it in this context of purity.
III. Clarity: Truth Will Out. (1 Timothy 5:24-25)
24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.
“Conspicuous” means clear or obvious. This is another reason not to be in a rush to ordain a man to the position of pastor/elder/overseer. Sins that could interfere with effectively serving as shepherds of the flock may not at first be apparent but in time may show. God knows they are there. Sometimes people’s sins are exposed early on, and they suffer for them. When sins are exposed be careful about not piling on. Sometimes people are embarrassed to go to someone for help and are afraid to admit the problem, but I can guarantee there are many others battling the same sin and who also need the help. The church ought to be a place where we can be honest about where we really are and where we can get the help we need instead of burying it deep where it gets hold of our lives.
Other sins stay hidden for now, but will one day be exposed, if not here on earth, at the judgment. It's actually a blessing from God if He confronts you on your sin now, rather than letting it have its full force on your life. Keep a close watch on yourself, so that what you appear to be is what you are. It’s great to have a good reputation. It is even better to have genuinely good character.
Spurgeon says: “Be more concerned about your ability that your opportunity, and more earnest about your walk with God than about either.”
What is true of sins is also true of good works. By good we mean works that are fit, beautiful, appropriate, and beneficial. Such works shine, and even those that are hidden for a time cannot remain so. You may feel that the benefit or service you are rendering is not noticed, but God sees and you are living in the sight of God. Those that you serve see. “Good and evil are both ultimately self-revealing.” (John Kitchen, The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors, 244) Truth will out. Not even a cup of water given in Christ’s name will lose its reward. God is not unjust to ignore our labors of love and faithful deeds.
One of the most striking revelations of this fact was in the life of Dennis Pegram, who served as financial administrator at Hampton Park for 25 years. What was so striking were all the deeds of kindness he carried out toward hundreds of people over the years. They had nothing to do with his job or position, but had everything to do with his character and his love for God and for others. His investment in the lives of others was unforgettable and a great inspiration to those of us that still serve on earth to be faithful to serve others day to day.
We were created in Christ Jesus unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). That is how God gets glory. We show the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into light with the everyday deeds, the cheerful service, the loving word, the sacrificial deed. We need to give ourselves to living that way. Heaven is watching and we are living in the sight of God. Because of that we take our time in ordaining men to leadership, waiting for maturity. We guard our hearts for the sake of real purity, not just the outward appearance of it. Then we rest knowing that in time the truth will out and there will be absolute clarity on our sins and the good deeds that we have done in Jesus' name. May God help us to live according to the Word of God this week for His glory.
1. What qualities should the church family look for in those available to serve as one of the pastor/elder/overseers of the church?
2. What problems can arise from putting a man in the pastor/elder/overseer role prematurely, and how can a church and its leaders avoid doing so?
3. Why would Paul admonish Timothy to keep himself pure when he had sent Timothy to clean up the problems with the teachers in the church at Ephesus? What does his command teach you about your own vulnerabilities?
4. How does knowing that both your sins and your good deeds will become clear in time help you live for Jesus?
5. How does 1 Timothy 5:17-25 help our church as we look toward possibly choosing unpaid pastors to work alongside of paid pastors sometime in the future. What other parts of 1 Timothy would we want to consider for such decisions?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
Greenville, SC 29609
December 8, 2013
The Priceless Security of Loyal Love
1 Samuel 20
Consider all the promises of God over the centuries of a coming One who would crush the serpent's head -- the offspring of woman, the seed of David and the seed of Abraham, the One who would suffer in our place. Then you have this 400 years of silence between Malachi and the writing of Matthew. As you contemplate all of that you realize that when God makes promises He makes good on them. You realize that God's loyal love is a love that never quits. You realize that He has love for people who don't deserve it, so that despite how badly they might do, He never forgets His promises and will fulfill them no matter what. His loyal love is the reason that Christmas is so joyful. God has not forgotten us or left us to die in our sins. God has not rejected us with His good news for all people -- news that brings joy. The reason Christmas is so joyful and magical is not because of the parties and the gifts. We may enjoy them to some degree, but as we become adults and have the responsibility for buying the gifts and planning the parties, it gets wearisome. The reality of what makes Christmas joyful is the message of it, the Person at the center of it, and knowing that God would be willing to be contracted to a span -- God reduced to 18 inches of helpless humanity, live a perfect life, and then lay down His life helplessly and willingly on a cross to die for our sins. There is a deliverance worth singing about. It is joyful by its very nature, and it displays the loving loyalty of God.
We've been seeing that loving loyalty of God to David. He was anointed to be the future king, and yet the moment he is anointed, it was as if his life turns on its head. He became a national figure, but a hated one full of wars and battles. Saul was out to get him. We traced the chronicle through 1 Samuel 19, seeing how God used various means to protect David. The ultimate means of protection was the spirit of God himself who came upon the men who were sent to arrest David and to kill him. The last time we were in the David series we were looking at the Psalm David wrote to commemorate that event, the song of deliverance where he cried out for deliverance and made a plea for divine accountability and expected a secure refuge in God. He appealed to His sovereign justice, and it finally ended with a commitment to thankful song. It was not that the problems ended or the dangers had ceased, but it was that his God had once again proven himself faithful. For that reason, he sings to the Lord, too.
Psalm 59: Song of Deliverance
· Cry for Safe Deliverance (1-3a)
· Plea for Divine Accountability (3b-8)
· Expectation of Secure Refuge (9-10)
· Appeal to Sovereign Justice (11-15)
· Commitment to Thankful Song (16-17)
We pick up the story of David's life in Psalm 20.
Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah and came and said before Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” 2 And he said to him, “Far from it! You shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. And why should my father hide this from me? It is not so.” 3 But David vowed again, saying, “Your father knows well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he thinks, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.’ But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.” 4 Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” 5 David said to Jonathan, “Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit at table with the king. But let me go, that I may hide myself in the field till the third day at evening. 6 If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the clan.’ 7 If he says, ‘Good!’ it will be well with your servant, but if he is angry, then know that harm is determined by him. 8 Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?” 9 And Jonathan said, “Far be it from you! If I knew that it was determined by my father that harm should come to you, would I not tell you?”
10 Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you roughly?” 11 And Jonathan said to David, “Come, let us go out into the field.” So they both went out into the field.
12 And Jonathan said to David, “The Lord, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? 13 But should it please my father to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan and more also if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father. 14 If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the Lord, that I may not die; 15 and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” 16 And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord take vengeance on David's enemies.” 17 And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul. 18 Then Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty. 19 On the third day go down quickly to the place where you hid yourself when the matter was in hand, and remain beside the stone heap. 20 And I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. 21 And behold, I will send the boy, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you, take them,’ then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. 22 But if I say to the youth, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then go, for the Lord has sent you away. 23 And as for the matter of which you and I have spoken, behold, the Lord is between you and me forever.”
(Comment: As this story unfolds they are going to get to talk to one another face to face, but they don't know it at this time. What do we do with the fact that David asked Jonathan to make up a ruse as to where David would be? We could debate that, but it is not the point of the passage. We will put that aside for later debate. I will just say that saving someone's life does rank higher than letting the would-be murderer know what is going on. There is a hierarchy of principles here. The Scripture neither condones nor condemns in this passage what was done here. We will just set it aside for debate at another time.)
24 So David hid himself in the field. And when the new moon came, the king sat down to eat food. 25 The king sat on his seat, as at other times, on the seat by the wall. Jonathan sat opposite, and Abner sat by Saul's side, but David's place was empty. 26 Yet Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, “Something has happened to him. He is not clean; surely he is not clean.” 27 But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David's place was empty. And Saul said to Jonathan his son, “Why has not the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?” 28 Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go, for our clan holds a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers.’ For this reason he has not come to the king's table.” 30 Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” 32 Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. (That was odd behavior -- when he was concerned that his son would be deprived of his kingdom by David.)So Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death. 34 And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him. 35 In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him a little boy. 36 And he said to his boy, “Run and find the arrows that I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 And when the boy came to the place of the arrow that Jonathan had shot, Jonathan called after the boy and said, “Is not the arrow beyond you?” 38 And Jonathan called after the boy, “Hurry! Be quick! Do not stay!” So Jonathan's boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. 39 But the boy knew nothing. Only Jonathan and David knew the matter. 40 And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, “Go and carry them to the city.” 41 And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. 42 Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.
This is a lengthy passage with a highly significant theme, not only for this passage but for the entire Word of God: steadfast love (chesed) between Jonathan and David. The context is dark. There is, as David puts it, but a step between him and death. He is caught between desiring to fulfill his duty to the king as one of his servants and facing the alarming reality that the king is out to kill him. A loyal friend at such a time is priceless. The priceless security of loyal love.
Steadfast love is necessary to every significant relationship: not only between tight-knit friends, but husband and wife, leader and those he leads, among family members, and chiefly between God and man. It is the Psalms’ most frequent description of God’s character. “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Today we want to see what such loyal love looks like from the relationship between Jonathan and David. But the passage repeatedly underscores a greater truth: the covenant of loyal love between Jonathan and David had everything to do with their view of God Himself. The same will be true for us.
I. Ready Service (I Samuel 20:44)
4 Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.”
Let's look at the obvious portrait of loyal love that David and Jonathan have for one another. Loyal love is characterized by ready service. Reluctance to roll up your sleeves and help is not the language of loyal love. Whatever needs to be done, I want to rise to the occasion. My heart and spirit need to be, "What can I do for you? How can I serve you? What are the needs you have that I may not be seeing?” You set the calibration of your life and thinking this way. Imagine that if every day you got up thinking in all your relationships: "What can I do for you? What are your needs?" How would that change the interaction you have with every person you know? And even people maybe you have never met before? If your spirit were clearly just flowing out with "What can I do for you?", what a light would shine into the darkness! One of the biggest take-aways from our last men's retreat was John Barnett's statement that God gave men their strength to serve. A lot of times we use our strength to dominate or intimidate or to have our own way. Those who have the greatest strength have the greatest opportunities to serve the needs of others.
II. Selfless Humility (I Samuel 20:13)
We see in Jonathan a selfless humility. Jonathan loved David, and he does not have a problem with serving.
13 But should it please my father to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan and more also if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father.
Saul’s main issue with Jonathan’s friendship with David was that it jeopardized Jonathan’s rise to throne to continue Saul’s dynasty.
31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.”
Jonathan saw David as the next appointed king. He had a loyalty to David that didn't interfere with his own plans. He has the same mindset as David -- the battle is the Lord's. The reason he is attracted to David is that they look at life the same way. They see life through the lens of a God-consciousness. You look at Jonathan as a warrior and in terms of his character and you say, "This man would make an awesome king." Even as David thought about it, it is not that he is superior to Jonathan. It is that God has revealed His will about who will be the next king. Jonathan is willing to give up his own goals and his own future out of his loyal love for David and his submission to God.
“My reigning passion is not to make my way, my living, or my mark; not to gain my place or to get ahead. . . . Life does not consist in achieving your goals but in fulfilling your promises.” (Dale Ralph Davis, Looking on the Heart, Vol. 2, p. 70)
True steadfast love puts self under the interests of others. Jonathan yields to the providence and purpose of God. He is more suited to be king than his father. He has the same godly character as David, a warrior, familiar with royal duties. But he knew God had chosen David to be the next king. The kingdom is God’s, not Jonathan’s—nor for that matter David’s, or Saul’s. The kingdom is God's to give. There is not a thing that you have that ultimately belongs to you. Everything we have -- every advantage, every relationship, comes from God. It is His to give and to take. We submit to the One whose loyal love is everlasting. We see this throughout the Scripture. Ruth gave up her hope of remarrying in order to help her mother-in-law Naomi. God rewarded her for it. Boaz redeems Ruth a Moabitess when the next of kin would not do so lest it ruin his inheritance. Paul says to the Philippian believers, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).
Ephesians 5:21: Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Husband toward wife
Parents toward their children
The world is enamored with winners, with those who make their mark and get ahead, whatever it cost to get there. God is not looking for winners but for disciples -- those who will learn from Christ and follow Him whatever the cost.
III. Protective Love (1 Samuel 20:14, 15, 17)
14 If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the Lord, that I may not die; 15 and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever . . . .
17 And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul.
Davis, 68: “When a new regime or dynasty came to power, the name of the game was purge. . . . It was conventional policy: solidification by liquidation. Everybody knew it, everybody believed it; everybody practiced it. Well, almost. David wouldn’t.” (Mephibosheth)
What you do when others are vulnerable reveals whether you have this God-prized quality of loyal love. David is the fugitive now, but in time the roles would reverse and Jonathan’s family would be the ones at risk.
Remember that the tables do turn. God rewards loyal love.
IV. Loyal Courage (1 Samuel 20:27-34)
30 Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” 32 Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death. 34 And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him.
How do you respond to gossip, slander, and attempted destruction of the reputation of other believers? Jonathan’s righteous loyalty to David and faith in God’s plan exposed him to abuse from his father—cursing, belittling, and violence. Loyal love for a person means that you will find yourself at odds with those who desire his harm. Jonathan demonstrates that it takes courage to stand up against the unjust treatment of the one to whom you are loyal, to confront the gossip and slander, to impede the effort to destroy (wife, husband, friend). But steadfast love is stronger than self—preservation and gives the courage to endure abuse. Following Jesus requires loving him more even than family—“whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37)—sometimes family rejects you if you receive Him. All that desire to live godly will suffer persecution. The world in rebellion against God will hate the believer who loves and serves God. Loving Christ means taking up a cross.
V. Parting Grief (I Samuel 20:41)
41 And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most.
Believers love being together. Fellowship is sweet. Parting is hard. But thankfully, temporary.
VI. Divine Awareness ("the LORD" - 13 times in this chapter)
8 Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you.
42 Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord.”
Section on Saul—no references to the LORD.
God had already revealed that the kingdom had been torn from Saul and his line to be given to a man after God’s own heart. Saul was not fighting David as much as he was fighting God Himself. It is a fool’s war, and it leads to a tragic end.
The oath formulas that mark this covenant between Jonathan and David reveal a view of God that empowers loving loyalty.
3 . . . But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.”
21 . . . . If I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you, take them,’ then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger.
They serve a living God — not a dead idol or a ceremony or a code. They serve an almighty Person who is alive and well. Personal. Powerful. Real.
12 And Jonathan said to David, “The Lord, the God of Israel, be witness!
Hebrews 4:13 No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. A comfort and a warning!
- Yahweh takes action. (13a)
13 But should it please my father to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan and more also if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety.
God does not sit on His hands. He is not just history’s spectator. We think we are getting away with wrong when God does not appear to respond. Unlike humans, He’s not worried about missing His opportunity to get it done.
- Yahweh stays close. (13b)
13 . . . May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father.
Matthew 28:20 Behold, I am with you all the days, even to the consummation of the age.
Practice the presence of God.
- Yahweh shows loyal love. (14)
14 If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the Lord.
Jonathan and David’s loyal love is but an extension and reflection of the loyal love of God that endures forever. Nothing can separate us from His love. The more godly a person actually is, the more loyal love he displays.
- Yahweh cuts off enemies. (15-16)
15 and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” 16 And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord take vengeance on David's enemies.”
Jonathan was completely sure that God would fulfill His promises to David. That meant David’s enemies, including the present king, could not stand in the way.
Romans 12: Vengeance belongs to God. He is perfectly capable of settling the score. He protects His own. You mistreat one of His children and He will hold you accountable.
No one is so smart or so strong that he can outfox or outrun the Almighty. Even death, the last enemy, will be destroyed.
- Yahweh directs our path. (22)
22 But if I say to the youth, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then go, for the Lord has sent you away.
With all this scheme Jonathan and David worked out, they were looking to the Lord and depending on Him to work things out.
Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
We make our plans but He directs our path.
23 And as for the matter of which you and I have spoken, behold, the Lord is between you and me forever.”
42 . . . ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’”
Ephesians 4:3: Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Few find a person with the loyal love of a Jonathan, and even if you do, it is not enough. Jonathan and David will see each other again only one more time. And before David makes it to the throne, Jonathan will die in battle against the Philistines. In times of alarm and trouble, you seek the security of a loyal love that will never fail. The only place to find that is in the arms of Jesus.
Davis, 72: “The Christian . . . does not have peace because things are peaceful. He has peace because a greater one than Jonathan has pledged his friendship to him. If you doubt that, you have not been listening at the Lord’s Supper: ‘This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood.’ It is the covenant bond of that unforsaking Friend that speaks peace in our disappointments, dangers, and even disasters.”
His loyal love is priceless and everlastingly secure.
Prince of Peace
1. How can you show your willingness to serve the needs of those near you? What needs do you already know you could meet?
2. Why is selfless humility so critical to showing steadfast love in practical ways? What personal goals have you found sometimes get in the way of showing love to someone else?
3. What expressions of loyal love have you found require courage and why?
4. Share how knowing that the Lord lives, sees, and takes action has helped you do what is right toward others with loyal love.
5. How does it help you to recognize that the Lord takes care of your enemies in His way in His time and that He directs your path through whatever happens?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
Greenville, SC 29609
December 8, 2013