The Woman at the Well

You can watch the video for this message here.

Last week, Pastor Mark told us about John trying to clear up the confusion surrounding his baptism. John seemingly spoke in riddles talking about one coming from above and one coming from earth. The one from above is over all and has the testimony of what He has seen and heard. We learned God sent Him and He speaks the words of God and gives the Holy Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and we were left with, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” This morning, we’ll take a look at the first part of a very critical story that gives us some insight into prejudice and how to deal with un-Christlike thinking.

Our passage today comes from John 4:1-14. I hope you take the time to read it.

I always find it interesting when people miss the point of a story and this is no different. John tells us, “Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria.” This is more than a geographical update. John typically links passages together. He’s creating a narrative that reminds his readers of the central theme of the book found in Jo. 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” John is providing clarification because there was a misunderstanding the Pharisees had about Jesus. The Pharisees heard something and ran with it. I’ve been on the receiving end of Pharisaical people. It’s not a lot of fun and sucks all the energy out of you. I’ve had things said about me that were not true, but it’s way easier to share the gossip then to find out if it’s true or not. I am still learning to ignore that kind of nonsense.

The Pharisees thought Jesus was baptizing more than John and I love how John casually says, “Although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were.” John is known as the Baptizer, and Jesus is not like John in that way. Remember back to the first chapter, the Pharisees sent Jews from Jerusalem to question John about baptism and what it meant. They wondered if John was the Christ. They asked if he was Elijah. The Pharisees were concerned from the beginning about who John was and who he represented. From the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, it seems they were bent on destroying or damaging the message of Christ regardless of the cost. The Pharisees were self-proclaimed keepers of the truth. They were not open for conversation: if you did not agree with them, they deemed you a blasphemer. It seems the only bright spot in their group was Nicodemus. Remember from a few weeks ago when Pastor Mark shared how Nicodemus went to Jesus under the cover of night to seek guidance from Jesus. Nicodemus left Jesus confused because the things Jesus said were so contrary to the way he was raised. Don’t give up on Nicodemus; we’ll see him again.

So, Jesus’ disciples were baptizing and even if the Pharisees didn’t get it exactly right, the growth of this movement was very concerning to them. Jesus was gaining followers through the work of His disciples. People were believing the message that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jo. 3:16) This reference to the disciples baptizing will be the last reference in John to baptism. I make this point to counter those that say baptism is required for salvation because it is not. Baptism is a demonstration or representation in our life of what Christ did in His life, His death, and His resurrection. It is a picture of our new life in Christ.

Jesus leaves, “Judea and went away again into Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria.” At first glance, you might think, “Why doesn’t He stay and fight? Why doesn’t he confront those that accuse him?” We know He is God, after all, and could smite down these troublesome, evil attackers. If you spend more time defending yourself than you do sharing the message, then it might be time to move on. Matt. 10:14 says, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust of your feet.” Jesus had work to do and it was not the time to hang out and waste time fighting. Jesus leaves, “Judea and went again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria.” Jesus is on a mission and His destination was Galilee. He had friends there, work there, and the area was presumably free of Pharisees that would hinder the work His Father sent Him to accomplish.

In order to get to Galilee from Judea, “He had to pass through Samaria.” The quickest way to get from Jerusalem in Judea to Galilee is the main ridge road that goes through Samaria. This route takes about three days walking. There is another route that many Jews would prefer to take because it avoids Samaria. The longer route takes you down the Jordan River and you get into Galilee at Beth Shan. The route could add a couple of extra days of travel, but you would avoid Samaria. Jews and Samaritans have a troubled past. About 700 years earlier, Assyria took the ten northern tribes of Israel captive. 2 Ki. 17:6 says, “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Harbor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.” It only got worse. For some history on the Jew – Samaritan issue, read 2 Ki. 17:24-41. Throughout the years, those Assyrians intermarried with the remaining Jews. Those exiled Jews lost their identity and became less Jewish with each generation. Ezra would enact policies that separated out the people of Samaritan descent. The Samaritans would enact their own measures including building a false temple on Mount Gerizim. The hatred for the Samaritans ran deeply even though centuries have passed. I’m reminded of what Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” In that incredible promise, Jesus included the very path He had taken to arrive in Samaria.

“He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.” This is the area near Shechem that Genesis tells us was given to Joseph by his father and where Joseph’s bones are buried. This is a very important area not only because Joseph’s bones were near there, but “Jacob’s well was there.” Wells were an important part of the day-to-day affairs of the people of that time just as they are important today. Not everyone can simply open the tap and get water. Even today, people rely on wells to provide their drinking water. This well has been reported to be 75 to 105 feet deep and nine or ten feet across with solid masonry walls. Even in our modern assessment, that is quite a well, but for back then, that is an extraordinary accomplishment. “So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.” Jesus has walked the road from Judea into Samaria. He was tired and needed a break from the hot dusty road and sat down by the well. It was the sixth hour and if John used Jewish time keeping, the sixth hour would make it noon. If the sixth hour is from Roman time, that would make it 6:00 am. It seems more likely the time is noon because of what follows in the story and it’s unlikely that Jesus and His disciples journeyed through the night to arrive at the crack of dawn.

The meeting at the well. Jesus is sitting on the edge of the well resting from His journey. The Word was in the beginning with God and the Word was God. Jesus, according to John, is the Word made flesh and John frequently points out the humanity of Jesus. God in the flesh is wearied from His journey – a human condition. God in the flesh is thirsty – a human condition. Jesus is thirsty following his journey. I want you to really get the idea of what’s happening here. Like many things in Scripture, it’s hard for us to place ourselves in the context of the story. If we’re tired, we take a break. If you go on a journey, you take water and snacks and activities for the kids. If you don’t prepare, you can simply pull off the road and go to one of the stores at the exit. Jesus and His disciples are not walking for pleasure or exercise; they’re walking for transportation. “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her. “Give me a drink.” The well here is like Walmart. Not only can you get what you need there, you can mix and mingle with people from the community. It would not be unusual for an encounter to take place at the town’s well. Jesus’, “disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.” It is certainly possible that John remained with Jesus and watched this whole scenario play out. It’s possible Jesus related this story to the disciples when they returned. We do know this story is included here because the Holy Spirit of God wants us to know it happened and learn from it.

Jesus is by the well and a woman of Samaria came to draw some water and we find ourselves in a dilemma. The woman says to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)” It is obvious to the woman that Jesus is a Jew. She knows the Jews hate her and her kind. She has done nothing that we know of that would generate such hatred for  her. But she does know the history between the Jews and the Samaritans. What she doesn’t know is who she is talking to. Just because there are other Jews that hate Samaritans doesn’t mean every Jew hates Samaritans. Just because despicable things have been done to Samaritans in the past doesn’t mean that Jesus will do despicable things to her. Will there be condemnation in the present for the actions in the past? This chance meeting for the woman of Samaria and Jesus is going to upend her previously held beliefs about Jews. Perhaps Jesus is all by Himself because you know His disciples would likely have something negative to say about Jesus talking to the woman. Why are you talking with her? Don’t you know where she’s from? You know she’s a Samaritan, right? Jesus was different. He saw beyond prejudices. He looked beyond previous actions. He understood how hatred in the past can influence hatred in the present. I’m glad the disciples were out getting food and not the other way around. The conversation that takes place next is incredible. Have you ever been in a conversation where you lead someone to a truth that you know like the back of your hand, but they miss the point altogether? Is the Jew she is talking to going to be like other Jewish men she has encountered? Even to have a conversation with a Samaritan would be culturally wrong.

Jesus answered her question with a question, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” For the Samaritan woman, this is a weird statement. How could she possibly know who she is talking to? She was going to the well to draw water and had to do it herself, she didn’t even have a servant in the house to do it so she was a woman of humble means. The conversation turns from physical need to spiritual need. “If you knew,” Jesus says. It’s a conditional clause. If she knew that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” If she knew the gift of God and understood who was speaking with her, she would not have asked the question that follows. “She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do you get this living water?” Water is essential to sustain life. But Jesus is no longer talking about drinking water. Just like the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, there are two meanings here: one is physical and one is spiritual.

“You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” The Samaritan woman knows some things. She knows about Jacob and the well they’re at and how they came to have that well. She knows the physical importance of the well and Jesus lays on the spiritual truth that will rock her world. “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Jesus talks of the need to continually satisfy one’s physical thirst. That’s the water the woman can provide, but that need for physical water will have to be repeated over and over again. The water Jesus provides is a spiritual water that bursts forth from within that satisfies the spiritual thirst. The living water Jesus provides is never ending: it is eternal.

The stage is now set. Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at the well where He wanted to satisfy His physical thirst. He broke the customs and traditions of the Jews by engaging with that Samaritan woman. How can living water satisfy spiritual thirst? What will happen to this woman? Will she drink from the never ending cup of living water? Join us in two weeks to find out.

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God’s Gift

You can watch the video for this message and the entire service here.

Last week, Pastor Mark told us of the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to see the Kingdom of God. Not understanding this concept of new birth, Jesus explained that there was a biological birth that everyone experiences, but there must be a spiritual birth to enter the Kingdom. Jesus told Nicodemus of the things they have seen and did not accept so how was it possible to believe in heavenly things? We were left with the reality that belief in Jesus leads to eternal life. This morning, we’ll look at the most recognizable verse of Scripture known to mankind.

Take the minute or so to read John 3:16-21 from your own Bible. It’s a great passage!

The fact of John 3:16. While Jo. 3:16 can be quoted by people all over the world, even unbelievers, it should be taken along with vs. 17-18 to give us the most accurate theological summary of the New testament. We’ll look at these three verses together to give us an understanding into the fact, purpose, and reality of God and His Son. While this is not the first time we read about God’s love, this verse gives us a deeper insight into that love. God’s love has been heralded as the preeminent and overruling quality of God. Modern people have attempted to justify their tolerance for sin based on God’s love. Modern society has elevated God’s love as the magical quality that erases morality, absolute truth, and behavioral expectations. The words “love” and “gave” in Jo. 3:16 convey what theologian Gerald Borchert says is, “The genuine self-giving nature of God in having sent his only Son on an unrepeatable mission into the world.” John does not provide a superficial idea of God’s love in salvation. When someone loses their life in the saving of another, we talk about the courage, bravery, and selflessness demonstrated by that individual. When someone is killed in action, news reporters speak of the cost of freedom and most people don’t even consider the sacrifices made. Now consider the cost of sending your only Son to pay the penalty of sin and still, many don’t consider the sacrifice made. Jo. 3:16 has been the source of different doctrinal positions and can be read from different theological perspectives.

I will endeavor to accurately convey what we believe about salvation to help you understand the depth and breadth of what God did and does in the process of knowing and believing. Calvinists emphasize the love of God in the giving His Son. Arminians emphasize the word “whosoever” indicating the responsibility of man. God is the main focus in salvation and we cannot ignore that fact. We also must recognize that God is indeed the initiator of salvation. 1 Jo. 4:9-10 says, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God has offered His Son, but humanity has the freedom to choose. Therefore, people are responsible for their believing. We hold to a traditional view of salvation that acknowledges the role of God and the role of man in salvation and both are found in Jo. 3:16. God’s love for what He created caused Him to give His Son. Love here is unconditional love. Give is from the word that means give something of value. The world that God so loved is the same world in Jo. 1:29 where the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world.

God’s Son is the only begotten. We know His name is Jesus and He is the one and only Son who was in the beginning with God and who was God. We know that the Word became flesh and dwelt among John and they saw His glory full of grace and truth. The whoever or whosoever is the Greek word pas that means all or every or anyone. Believe is the Greek word pistis where we get the word faith.     It means to have confidence and belief to the extent of complete trust and reliance.

  • Faith is the conduit for our Christian walk.
  • We are saved by grace through faith. (Eph. 2:8)
  • We are justified by faith. (Rom. 3:28, Gal. 2:16)
  • The righteous live by faith. (Rom. 1:17, Gal. 2:20)
  • Faith rests on the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:5)
  • We must stand firm in our faith. (1 Cor. 16:13)
  • We walk by faith. (2 Cor. 5:7)
  • We have access to God by faith. (Eph. 3:12)
  • Our faith must be sincere. (1 Tim. 1:5)
  • We are to pursue faith. (1 Tim. 6:11)
  • Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of tings not seen. (Heb. 11:1)
  • By faith we understand the worlds were prepared by the word of God. (Heb. 11:3)
  • By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice. (Heb. 11:4)
  • By faith Enoch was taken up and would not see death. (Heb. 11:5)
  • By faith Noah built an ark. (Heb. 11:7)
  • By faith Abraham went to a place he did not know. (Heb. 11:8)
  • By faith Sarah conceived when she was old. (Heb. 11:11)
  • By faith Abraham offered Isaac. (Heb. 11:17)
  • By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau. (Heb. 11:20)
  • By faith Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph. (Heb. 11:21)
  • By faith Joseph told the sons of Israel what to do with his bones. (Heb. 11:22)
  • By faith Moses was hidden. (Heb. 11:23)
  • By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. (Heb. 11:24)
  • By faith Moses left Egypt, kept the Passover, and passed though the Red Sea. (Heb. 11:27ff)
  • By faith the walls of Jericho fell down. (Heb. 11:30)
  • By faith Rahab did not perish after hiding the spies. (Heb. 11:31)

You’ve got to look at Heb. 11:32-38. Faith is important. Without faith, you cannot please God. (Heb. 11:6) Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17) Faith in Christ causes spiritual redemption. It is inclusive and nondiscriminatory. It is a choice. There are some that will perish because they do not believe or don’t have faith in Jesus, but not because God caused or willed their unbelief.

We know the fact of Jo. 3:16 and now we need to look at the purpose found in Jo. 3:17. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” Notice the contrast. The purpose of sending His one and only Son was not for judgment. Send is from the same word that apostle comes from. We often picture God as an angry God that is waiting for us to mess up so he can give us a holy smackdown, but that is far from the truth. When you take the fullness and wholeness of God, the picture is quite different. When you go back to Genesis, you see His love and care in Gen. 3:15 when the promise of Messiah is first given. He has been trying to reconcile fallen man from the beginning. He knew the cost of disobedience, but still desired to see mankind reconciled to Himself. Jesus offers that path to reconciliation. God’s primary purpose in sending Jesus was not condemnation, but salvation through Christ. If you read the Bible, you cannot blame God for man’s hopelessness. He provided a way and even told mankind how it was going to happen. The curse of sin will be ever present, but God has made a way to atone for the human condition. God has made a way throughout the generations of mankind to see the truth of what He has done in Christ. He sent prophet after prophet to declare the way of God. He wants all mankind to come to the realization that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. (Jo. 14:6) Peter told us that God truly wants all people to be saved. (1 Pet. 3:9), but God knows that there are those that will not choose the truth of Jesus by faith.

There is a reality regarding unbelief. The incredible truth of the Gospel is joyous to those that do choose Christ, but there is a contrast that is devoid of joy and brings about the stark reality for believers. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Consider this verse carefully. A choice to follow Christ offers a pardon from judgment. But in contrast, not believing has already been judged. This isn’t some future judgment where we can dismiss it because it’s so far away. John is clear that judgment has already taken place and the unbeliever is condemned already. Humanity already has an eternal destination that is certain because of unbelief. Jesus offers the way of deliverance, the way of escape, the way of hope, the way of certainty: a bridge that connects us to God. The true follower of Christ understands, at least fundamentally, the reality of being lost. John conveys the reality and certainty of our spiritual death apart from Christ. We’ll see this again in Chapter 5. For the authentic follower, death is nothing to fear because we will be resurrected to life. In contrast, those who do not believe will suffer a resurrection of judgment. (Jo. 5:29)

John now goes back to the Light. In the opening verses of John, he mentioned that he was sent to testify about the Light. John purposed to make known the true nature of the Light, but acknowledged that there would be a lack of comprehension. Light and darkness are a common theme in John’s writing and we see it again here. John expounds on the judgment that is certain and characterizes that judgment by behavior. Look at vs. 19-21. Behavior is indicative of who one belongs to. You’ve heard the phrase, “You are your father’s son.” Or maybe, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” The idea is that your kids tend to act like you do. Their behavior is modeled after you. Good or bad, looking at your behavior is where they develop their standard of conduct. To be fair, we inherited a sin nature and there is always that battle. For John, there is a connection between human behavior and who we serve. Followers of darkness do evil. That’s how you know they love darkness. Darkness is in opposition to Light, darkness is evil, darkness brings condemnation, darkness brings judgment. Someone that practices evil is set against the Light and hates the Light. People love the darkness and that’s why their deeds are evil. The idea of simply making a profession of faith with no resulting change in behavior is ludicrous to John. People in darkness are afraid their deeds will be exposed.

Followers of Christ practice the truth and any good that is done is accomplished through what God has done in Christ. Light is akin to obedience; darkness to disobedience. There is an absolute correlation between faith and works. No faith produces evil deeds. Faith produces works. We are ready for and practice good works because of faith. Consider James’ writings about faith. Faith without works is dead. James says you cannot have true faith without resultant works. He reasons that works are the godly result of a life that follows Christ. Someone may boast of their works and we see that all the time on social media. Someone doing good things and wants to make sure all of his friends see him doing that good work. While good works are good, they do not result in salvation. Salvation that does not produce works is dead. You cannot work for your salvation and you cannot be saved without the corresponding works that demonstrate that salvation. We do good works not to get saved, but because it demonstrates that our salvation has been shaped by God.

Jo. 3:16 is the most famous verse in Scripture, but it needs to be looked at along with vs. 17 and 18 to get a complete picture of what God did through Jesus. Jesus is the Word that became flesh and dwelled among us. God did love humanity and that caused Him to give. God’s gift of Jesus cannot be replicated and was sufficient to pardon us from sin. God and man have roles to play in salvation. It’s not all God and it’s not all man. Each has responsibility in the process that is available for every and all men and women, boys and girls. Young and old, rich and poor. From every tribe and nation, from every cultural and ethnic group, and every political party. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Rom. 10:13) Yes, we are saved by grace through faith and we don’t boast about what we did, we boast about what God did and accomplished through His only begotten Son. That salvation must change our behavior that should be apparent to anyone around us.

Jesus’ First Miracle

You can watch the video of this message here.

Last week, Pastor Mark told us that Jesus found Phillip who then found Nathanael. Phillip told Nathanael how they found the One that Moses spoke of in the Law and the Prophets – Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael asked Phillip that very famous question, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” We saw the encounter between Phillip and Jesus with Phillip confirming that Jesus was the Son of God. This morning, we’ll see Jesus attend a wedding in which He performs the first of many signs or miracles, but the passage has incredible significance outside the miracle.

Take the time to read John 2:1-11 to get the story for our message today.

As we continue in our study into John, we need to be careful about time references. It’s easy to get hung up on references like the one we see here as the third day. Third day of Jesus’ public ministry? Third day of the week? Third day of John’s narrative? Third day after calling Phillip and Nathanael? Obviously the third day carries incredible significance for believers. It was the third day of traveling that Abraham and Isaac arrived at the destination God told them to go. (Gen. 22:4) It was the third day that Laban was told that Jacob had left. (Gen.31:22) It was the third day that Simeon and Levi killed all the men of Shechem as payback for what Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite did to Dinah. (Gen. 34:25) Joseph originally put his brothers in prison for three days. (Gen. 42:17) Esther called for a fast for three days and three nights. (Es. 4:16) Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. (Jon. 1:17) The three day time period is also important in the Gospel of John. It’s tied closely to the hour John mentions in today’s passage.

So when specifically are these three days? The truth is, we really can’t know exactly which day it is and critics will point to this lack of certainty to cast doubt on the truth of the message. It’s okay to say, “Any of those times could be correct, we just don’t know for sure.” John is not written as a reporter would write a story in the paper. Keep in mind the theme of John written in Jo. 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

There was a wedding in the town of Cana. Cana was a small town in the region of Galilee. Galilee is an area of about 108 square miles and was the region east of the Sea of Galilee bordered by the Jordan River to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, Samaria to the south, and Syria to the north. Jesus spent His childhood in the southern half, specifically in Nazareth. “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.” We know the mother of Jesus is Mary. At this point, Jesus has five disciples for sure: John, Andrew, Peter, Phillip, and Nathanael. Jesus and the five disciples were invited to the wedding. It seems that Mary had something to do with the wedding and therefore didn’t need an invitation. She was in some role of authority and could make things happen. Weddings back then were big, social events that could last from several days to a week with the whole village or town taking part. Jesus and the five must have known the bride or groom. Phillip, Andrew, and Peter were all from Bethsaida. It looks like Nathanael was from Cana. At the very least, the organizer of the wedding knew Mary. Jesus got an invitation by being her son or the hosts knew Jesus as well and perhaps extended an invitation to those that were with Jesus.

Weddings today are also a big deal. As the father of a bride, I am glad they do not last for seven days, but they’re no less important. People have used this passage to affirm the need to invite Jesus to be present at the wedding and the marriage. Others have used this passage as a proof text that the church should be involved in marriage and is mentioned in wedding ceremonies all over the world. Reverend Kenneth Newton mentioned it in Kari’s and my ceremony. Still others have affirmed that marriage must be between a man and a woman because of this story. “When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” For a wedding festival to last a week, that’s a lot of food and a lot of beverages that need to be on hand. This could be an embarrassing moment for the host. To run out of provisions for the guests was completely awkward. I’ve been to those weddings and parties where there’s not enough food. You have 70 people there and there’s a small bowl of peanuts and a small bowl of those little mints and the only thing to drink is water from a drinking fountain on the wall that doesn’t even cool the water. This turn of events could prove socially disastrous for the hosts and Mary does something about it.

The issue with wine. The point of this story is not the wine, but I think it’s as good a place as any to spend a moment or two to talk about it. As a believer, what should you do about this issue of alcohol? In the Old Testament, there are four Hebrew words used for wine.

  • Yayin is the general term for wine and is used 141 times.  This word always means fermented fruit juice, usually grape. It’s used in Gen. 9:21, Ex. 29:40, and Num. 15:5 and 10.
  • Tirosh is new wine. Because of the climate of the region, fermentation began as soon as six hours after making the juice so new wine was the freshly squeezed juice. They had no way to preserve the fruit juice. This word is used to refer to that new wine that is just squeezed or just beginning the fermentation process. It’s found in Deut. 12:17, 18:4, Isa. 62:8-9, and Hos. 4:11.
  • Asis is used in Joel 1:5 and Isa. 49:26 and it is show that it is clearly alcoholic.
  • Sekar is used for the strong drink. It has something added to it to make it more intoxicating. Drunk and drunkard come from the same Hebrew root word.

In the New Testament, there are just two words for wine.

  • Oinos is the Greek word that means the same as the Hebrew yayin meaning fermented fruit juice.
  • Gleukos is the unfermented juice of grapes used in Acts 2:13 and is referred to as sweet wine. Remember that fruit juice takes about six hours to begin the fermentation process. The initial process of fermentation is complete after a day. Full fermentation takes about 40 days and that is called aged wine.

So how can we apply biblical truth regarding wine to modern day culture? Drunkenness is always condemned in the Bible. We can talk about Gen. 9:21 when Noah got drunk and took off his clothes. We can talk about Lot’s daughters in Gen. 19 that got their father drunk then slept with him to preserve their family line. Matt. 24:49 talks about the evil slave that grows tired of waiting for the master to return and beats his fellow slave and drinks with the drunkards. In speaking of the Kingdom of God, Jesus warned His disciples to, “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation, and drunkenness and the worries of life.” (Lu. 21:34) Paul told the church at Corinth not to associate with a drunkard. (1 Cor. 5:11) Paul went on to say that drunks would not inherit the Kingdom of God in 1 Cor. 6:10. He told the Galatians the same thing in Gal. 5:21. Peter equates drunkenness with the desire of the Gentiles. (1 Pet. 4:3) There are other verses that also support this condemnation of drunkenness. Some will quote Eph. 5:18, “Do not get drunk with wine,” to justify getting drunk on other alcohol. Now that one is just pure nonsense.

So, the obvious conclusion for many people is that drinking is okay as long as you don’t get drunk. I will not disagree with that with the following wisdom applied. People talk about the liberty they have in Christ and I would wholeheartedly agree with that principle. But liberty comes with responsibility. Paul warned the Corinthians that using liberty could be a stumbling block to another. Jude talked about using grace as license. Drunkenness is always wrong and I think everyone would agree. You have the liberty to drink alcohol as long as it doesn’t lead to drunkenness. How do you know when you cross the line to drunkenness? Do we follow the Georgia law for DUI which is .08 blood alcohol content? Do we carry a portable breath tester so we can drink, but not get drunk? According to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Significant impairment in steering ability may begin as low as approximately 0.035 percent BAC and rises as BAC increases. Alcohol impairs nearly every aspect of information processing by the brain.” You only drink for the health benefits? The Mayo Clinic says, “Some research studies suggest that red and purple grape juices may provide some of the same heart benefits of red wine.” There are other sources of those polyphenols that red wine has including beans, nuts, vegetables, and dark chocolate.

In referring to our Christian walk, Paul says we may have the liberty to eat or drink as we want, but not all things are profitable or edify the body. For me, it comes down to the new creature I have become in Christ. Drinking for me, it reminiscent of my life before I chose to follow Christ. For me, alcohol is a reminder of what I was, not who I am. I have witnessed alcohol destroy careers, families, and finances. I know you are different and that it cannot happen to you. If I can give you a suggestion, please don’t post pictures of yourself with alcohol on social media. One final thought before we leave this topic, how will your life be negatively impacted by abstaining from alcohol?

Back to our wedding celebration and an awkward situation has arisen. Mary tells Jesus, “They have no wine.” Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation. You might think, “What’s that got to do with me?” For whatever reason, the person telling you believes you are the one that possesses the ability, knowledge, or wisdom to correct the issue. Listen to Jesus’ response to Mary, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” Early in our marriage, I often referred to Kari as Woman. It was always in a loving, joking context. About 27 years ago, and I remember it like yesterday, we were living in Groton, CT and Seth was about four years old. Kari instructed Seth to accomplish something that required him to go upstairs. On his way up the stairs, he stopped and looked back at Kari and said, “Woman . . .” What happened after that is kind of a blur as I’ve tried to block that part out of my memory, but I think the gist of it was that I had created this in my son.

When Jesus used the term, “Woman,” you may be thinking how disrespectful, rude, and unloving that comment was. In our society, you use that phrase, you might get a verbal smack down for being disrespectful. The term woman in those days was a term of respect. It was a warm, endearing term. Jesus will call Mary “woman” again in Chapter 19. Jesus asks her the question, “What does that have to do with us?” At first glance, this exchange could be quite rude if we use a modern context. Men, your wife tells you, “The garbage can is full.” Your response of, “What’s that got to do with me?” might be considered disrespectful and could get you in a world of trouble. You can insert any other statement here too. The grass needs cutting. There’re dirty clothes on the floor. There are dishes in the dishwasher. You’ve all heard those statements and maybe you’ve said those things. The goal is to elicit a response, a call to action. You aren’t simply stating a fact.

Mary’s statement to Jesus, “They have no wine,” was meant to elicit a response and it’s probably not the response Mary was going for. Their problem of having no wine has nothing to do with us, Jesus tells her and the reason is because, “My hour has not yet come.” As we continue in our study, we’ll learn that Jesus’ primary mission is to do the will of His Father. Jesus’ mother is speaking to Him and in all likelihood, Joseph has died because there is no mention of him. There’s a difference in being in the home and being in public. You can say things in the privacy of the home, but would not be appropriate in public. Jesus’ hour or time had not come. Let me give you the picture. Jesus and His disciples are at a wedding festival in Cana. Amidst all the celebration in this potentially days long party, the hosts have run out of wine. Mary has some form of authority or responsibility in the event and takes the lead to get more wine. Mary tells Jesus there is no wine expecting Jesus to fix the problem.

Think about Mary for a second. Does she know who she is talking to? Does she know that Jesus is God? Does she understand the implications of that truth? How is this potentially disastrous social issue going to be resolved? “His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Mary who seemed to be responsible for solving the problem, now passes the baton of responsibility to Jesus with the idea that He will fix it. Mary now disappears from the rest of the story. The focus is not on the wedding, the wine, or the woman, the focus is on Jesus. The stage is set for something incredible to happen.

“Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.” This is a Jewish wedding celebration. The waterpots were made of stone and not clay. According to Levitical law, anything put in an earthenware vessel would become unclean. It’s tough to have purification with unclean water. These were big pots holding 20 to 30 gallons. Jesus told the servants to, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim.” Remember that Mary was in some position of authority and transferred that authority to Jesus so the servants do what Jesus tells them to. They fill the waterpots and put as much water in them as possible. Once filled up, Jesus tells the servants, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” The headwaiter is likely someone that was responsible for ensuring the guests had what they needed to enjoy the festivities including food and drink. “When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom.” At some point between drawing the water and the headwaiter tasting it, the water miraculously became wine. After tasting the wine, the headwaiter searched out the bridegroom. The headwaiter finds the groom and says, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” It makes sense to provide the best wine at first. As people begin to feel the effects of the wine, the standard practice would be to bring out a poorer quality. The response of the bridegroom is not recorded here.

The point of this story is not the wedding or the wine. It’s not that the social awkwardness that may have been felt by the host for running out of wine. The focus of the story is not that Jesus should be a part of every marriage. This story is not an endorsement of social drinking. Verse 11 says, “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” Jesus understood His disciple’s need to have reasons for believing.

Here Comes the Lamb

You can watch the video for this message here.

Last week, Pastor Mark told us how John testified about Christ. We learned that grace and truth were realized in Jesus. John told the Jews that he was not the Christ, not Elijah, and not the Prophet. John quoted Is. 40:3 and said he was a voice crying in the wilderness telling people to make straight the way of the Lord. Up to this point, John has been setting up his readers for what is about to happen. This morning, we’ll see an encounter between John the Baptizer and the Lamb of God.

Our passage today is found in John 1:29-34. I hope you take the time to read it.

As he is speaking with the group of Jews sent by the Pharisees, John sees Jesus coming toward him. This is the first of three encounters that occur over the three days following the initial encounter with the Jews. As John sees Jesus coming, he exclaims, “Behold.” His exclamation was designed to get people’s attention. This encounter occurs the days after the Jews met with him. We don’t know who’s there with John, but John wants those people to see who he sees. John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This is the first time John uses the phrase Lamb of God. It’s not used in any of the other gospels.

What is the significance of the Lamb? The first appearance of a lamb, biblically speaking, occurs back in Gen. 22. If you’re not familiar with that story, it gives us the narrative of Abraham and Isaac. God spoke to Abraham and said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you.” (Gen. 22:2) Abraham follows God’s direction. He got up the next morning and gathered everything that was needed for the burnt offering. Abraham, Isaac, and his servants travelled three days to get to where he needed to go. Isaac noticed that there was something missing. Abraham had the wood and the fire, but there was no lamb for the burnt offering. When Isaac asked his father where the lamb was, Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” (Ge. 22:8)

Lambs were very important in the system of sacrificial atonement in the Old Testament. Exodus 12 gives us the details of the Passover. God gave direction to Moses and Aaron to tell the Israelites to prepare a Passover lamb. The lamb was to be sacrificed at twilight. The blood from the lamb was to be placed on the two doorposts and on the lintel. Then the lamb was to be roasted over the fire and eaten with unleavened bread. The blood from the sacrifice would protect them as the Lord swept through Egypt killing the first born of all life. The Lord would pass over those houses where He saw the blood of the lamb. Lev. 14 speaks of the lamb as a guilt offering. The term, “Lamb of God” is found only in Jo. 1:29 and 1:36. The principle of substitutionary atonement is woven throughout Scripture. Theologian Kenneth Gangel wrote, “The emphasis on substitutionary atonement and the universal offering of salvation and forgiveness of sin form the heart and core of the gospel.”

We speak of sacrifice in our culture quite a bit, especially in the church. We’ve been told to give sacrificially to the church. We’ve been told to sacrifice our comfort by going on a short-term mission trip. Parents make sacrifices in their lives to ensure their children are able to go to a certain school or play sports.        A person may sacrifice their personal goals so their spouse can achieve theirs. You may sacrifice your time to help someone else. We understand the idea of a sacrifice, but that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of a substitutionary sacrifice. John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Ex. 29:38 speaks of offering a lamb each morning and evening every single day. The Passover sacrifice prevented the Israelites from suffering the plague of the death of the first born. The Old Testament sacrifices offered temporary relief from sin. What John speaks of is different.

We’re going to jump back and read Is. 53:1-6. Isaiah does not mention the name of the One that was despised and forsaken. He doesn’t mention the name of the One that was pierced for our transgressions. He doesn’t say who was crushed for our iniquities. We have to continually remind ourselves the Bible was not written to us per se. The readers of Isaiah’s prophecy would know who he is talking about. While it may seem mysterious to us, it wasn’t to them. We’re forced to read other passages, cross reference cultural references, and try and find the meaning of words we don’t understand. All of this would have been quite simple for the people of Isaiah’s day. John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John is clearly referring to Jesus because he’s looking at Him as He walks toward him. John knows Jesus is the Lamb of God and he knows what that means for humanity. Takes” literally means to lift up and carry away. John does not speak of temporary relief from sin. The Passover lamb released the Israelites from the curse of the firstborn in Egypt, but Jesus releases us from the curse of sin. As Jesus walked toward John, I wonder if He was thinking ahead. Is. 53:7 says, “Like a lamb that is led to slaughter.” As He approached John, Jesus was already on a journey to slaughter. From eternities past, Jesus has been walking this path knowing how it would end. John must surely see all of this as He exclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Other New Testament evangelists, prophets, and missionaries knew the same thing John knew. Isaiah’s prophecy is mentioned in Matthew, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 Peter, and Revelation.

John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Some people have had difficulty with the word world which is the Greek word kosmos. It can mean different things depending on the context. This is the same world in Jo. 1:10, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” This is the world in which Jesus was born into by a human mother. (Jo. 11:27) This is the same world that Jesus referred to when He said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26) It was the kingdoms of the world that the devil offered Jesus in the wilderness in Matt. 4:8-9. It was this world that God loved so much, He sent His one and only Son to atone for their sins. (Jo. 3:16) It is this world that was created for God’s pleasure to reflect His divine glory that is now living in disobedience and rebellion to the Creator. Following its own wisdom, this world is not for God. 1 Jo. 2:16 sums it up, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” When John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” there is so much more depth to that statement than meets the eye.

In the verses leading up to today’s passage, the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to find John and question him as to his identity. John readily admitted he was not the Christ; he wasn’t Elijah or the Prophet. He had been telling those people about someone greater than he and now here comes the Lamb of God, the very One that John was talking about. Of the Lamb of God John says He, “Is a Man who has a higher rank than I for He existed before me.” That’s what he told them back in v. 15 too. In history, we speak of people who have done great things. We speak of presidents like Washington and Lincoln and what they contributed to the nation. We can talk about great military leaders like Eisenhower and Patton. We can talk about people like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and what they did for civil rights. We can talk about Martin Luther, John Wesley, Jim Elliott, and Billy Graham. These are people in history that did great things. But John is telling these people that the Lamb of God comes after him. Even though historically, John is before Him, the Lamb of God is greater. The Lamb of God ranks higher in position than John.

The next verse is quite intriguing. John says, “I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” Recognize is better translated know and that is the way it is in KJV, ESV, and many other translations. Know is a very important theme in John’s writings that we will see over and over again. There are those that espouse a secret knowledge that gives them exclusive insight into salvation. To address this, Paul said, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according the elementary principles of the world rather than according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8) When John says he didn’t know the Lamb of God, that’s not unreasonable. Luke 1:80 tells us that John lived in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance. John baptized in water so that people would recognize, or know the Lamb of God.

To know something means to act upon that knowledge. What good is knowledge if it does not affect change? Paul said that kind of knowledge puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1) Knowledge gives power to become children of God according to Jo. 1:10. The believer has power over sin according to Rom. 6. Knowledge in and of itself is not a bad thing, but if that is the end goal, what’s the point?  John himself did not know God until something extraordinary happened. “John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’” It’s now revealed how John came to know the Lamb of God. After baptizing Jesus in water, “The heavens opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting upon Him, and behold a voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17) John’s personal testimony is that he saw. He witnessed this with his own eyes and he is speaking the truth. This is how he came to know the Word that became flesh. That sight compelled him to act and that’s why he is telling the Jews about Jesus.      Jesus is the One that the Jews have been looking for since Gen. 3:15.

Jesus is the One that has fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. John baptized with water, but Jesus baptizes in the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is significant in the life of a believer. It is a profession of faith symbolizing what Jesus did. It should be the commissioning, if you will, of a new believer into a life of devotion and service to the Lord. Although we rejoice in the life that is born again, the focus of baptism is not one the individual, but on Jesus Christ who enabled that one to receive forgiveness for sin and become reconciled to a holy, perfect, and just God. John’s baptism is one of repentance, while Jesus’ baptism provides the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. A parallel can be drawn between water baptism, signifying a beginning of a life of ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit and the baptism of Jesus signifying His beginning of public, recorded ministry. John concludes with the very powerful statement, “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” Remember the theme of John written in Jo. 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” That is John’s main purpose in writing. He wants you to know who Jesus is. Knowledge should result in understanding. Understanding should result in belief. Belief should result in confession. Confession should result in repentance. Repentance should result in action and action can be manifested in many, many ways.

In today’s passage we looked at four very important truths. Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the one that has no beginning as John said at the beginning of the chapter. He baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And He is the Son of God. You have this knowledge. Do you understand its implications? Has that understanding resulted in belief, confession, and repentance? What actions are you taking to proclaim that truth?

The Beginning

You can watch the video here.

We begin a new series this morning into a book that is familiar to many people. It contains the most famous verse in all of Scripture. It is a book that I recommend to people seeking to know who God and Jesus are. It’s a book I encourage new believers to dig into for the same reason. This morning, we’ll begin our adventure into the Gospel of John.

Before we dive into our text for today, I wanted to give a little background into this book to provide the context for the rest of the study. The term gospel is familiar to most people in the church today. It comes from the Greek word euangelion which comes from the word angelos meaning messenger. The prefix eu means good. As a noun when you put it together, the word gospel, foundationally, means good news. As a verb, it carries the meaning of announcing the good news. The noun form is used in the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well as in Acts, the writings of Paul and Peter. The verb form is used in those same writings except in Mark. Neither form of the word is used in John. The noun form of the word carried the idea that a messenger would receive a reward for bringing good news such as a victory in battle to people eager to hear such news like kings. Messengers were very happy to carry such news. But messengers also had to carry news announcing defeat and sometimes that messenger, if he arrived at the destination, would not convey an accurate message to guarantee their own safety. You’ve heard the phrase, don’t shoot the messenger? As a result, messengers were often treated with suspicion. Truthfulness and accuracy were very important if one was to be a reliable messenger. Would a messenger be willing to risk his life for his message? When used in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, gospel generally refers to the message of Jesus. Those three books are written from different perspectives to different people with wide applicability. The Synoptic Gospels contain a synopsis or general view from the author. Mark is considered the oldest of the writings.

The Gospel of John is different. In Bible study, you always want to determine the purpose the author had to write what you are reading. That’s one of the beauties of this book. The theme is found in Jo. 20:30-31: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” This book is not just another Bible book to read and check off on your annual Bible reading plan. John wanted the reader to believe: to have a firm conviction that something is true. Believe is the Greek work pisteuo (pisteewo) which comes from the root pistis where we get our English word faith. John wanted his readers to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Then he says the result of that faith is life in His name. So, who is the author? The author of this gospel is not named in Scripture, but we get an idea who he is. The author is referred to as the, “disciple whom Jesus loved.” He was the brother of James according to Matt. 17:1 and a son of Zebedee according to Mark 1:19-20. According to Jo. 21:24, the author was an eyewitness to the events recorded which would make him a disciple and an apostle. He was in the inner circle with Peter and James because Mary told them first of the resurrection in John 20. This all points to John the beloved as the author, but there are those that disagree. This book was written toward the end of the first century

I hope you ‘ll take the time to read Jo. 1:1-5, 14 for yourself.

You’ll notice in the very first phrase, John is setting up three foundationally critical aspects of Christian theology that is seen in the three phrases of verse one. First, “In the beginning.” John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, began his gospel differently than Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Matthew starts with the genealogy of Jesus on the paternal side. Mark begins with John the Baptizer. Luke begins with birth narrative that we looked at during our Christmas series. John goes back before the birth narrative and blood lines of Jesus and goes all the way back to the beginning. He goes back prior to Gen. 1:1 that tells us, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” John goes back before the beginning of what we call time and creation. What was in the beginning? “In the beginning was the Word.” I know everyone is skipping over to v. 14, but let’s stay here for just a moment. We know who the Word is, but at this point, let’s see for ourselves the truth of what John is saying. Word is the Greek word logos. Some pronounce is loh-gahs. It means word or message. Word is a noun: a person, place, or thing. Word is singular meaning it refers to one. And it is in the masculine gender. The other genders are feminine and neuter. So, for right now, we know the Word is a single, male person, place or thing. You can’t have gender assigned to an inanimate object, so the word must be a male person. I know a ship is commonly referred to as a her, but it’s still an inanimate object. The church is commonly referred to a her, but this is because the Bible refers to the church as the bride of Christ. No matter what our culture says, you cannot be a male bride. This male person existed in the beginning. This is the beginning prior to creation.

The second phrase is, “And the Word was with God.” This is the Greek phrase, pros ton theon which literally means towards God, but it’s difficult to translate into English. KJV, NIV, ESV, and NASB all translate that phrase the same way. It wasn’t just that the Word was with God before the beginning. The Greek phrase gives us a richer meaning than mere presence with God. The idea here is that there is an interactive reciprocity between the Word and God. In 1 Jo. 1:2, John uses a similar expression to personalize eternal life being toward God. The Word and God are different.

The third phrase is, “And the Word was God.” That little word “was” is a predicate noun. If you’re wondering why we’re doing a grammar lesson, it’s because a lot is lost translating between Greek and English that provides the theological foundation that we need to understand. A predicate noun is the part of the sentence containing a verb and stating something about the subject. It affirms or denies the argument of the phrase. As John Stott put it, “This phrase unambiguously affirms the deity” of the Word. If you ever had the opportunity to discuss this verse with a Jehovah’s Witness, they change the verse to mean something it does not and their foundation crumbles. They will argue that the Word was not actually God, that Logos was some entity lesser than God. Their argument surrounds the presence of the article “the” when used with Word that is not present with God. In other words, they say, “and the Word was a god.” This is called polytheism and that is not consistent with a biblical view of God. Foundationally, Logos predates creation, has an identity separate from God, and is part of the unity of God. Verse 2 says, “He was in the beginning with God.” John strengthens his assertion as who the Word is. Just to make sure his readers are paying attention; John rewords what he just said. He refers to the Word who was there with God and was God in the beginning.

Confident in his ability to affirm who the Word is, John shifts to creation. Verse 3 says, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” “Came into being” is also translated, were made. Him is still referring to the Word. “All things” does not mean all things in the sense we know it now. The Word did not create rocket ships, or cars, or computers, the internet, or the smart phone. That is not the meaning here. John’s talking about the created order of things. This would necessarily exclude the Word and God since they were there before the beginning. Col. 1:16 tells us, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.” That’s what John is saying. Everything that came into being, heavenly beings, earthly beings, visible and invisible were done through the Word. Without the Word’s direct involvement, nothing would have been created. John is debunking the idea that was tossed around in the first century that in creation, God started with some form of primordial ooze or preexisting material that He fashioned into the universe and earth and everything in it. John emphatically states, “all things came into being through Him,” through the Word. This also debunks the idea that God is in the world since He existed before the world. The Word and God exist apart and distinct from the world which disproves pantheism which says God is in the world and panentheism which says the world is in God. John is affirming what is true: the Word was instrumental in the creation, but is separate and distinct from that which was created.

He takes the time to go through that because of what comes next. “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John moves from the act or process of creation to the sustaining nature of the Word in the world. Notice John’s transition from past tense to present tense. Logos is the life giver. All life comes from the Word. We see the Word being referred to as the, “Light of men.” John gives us three very important truths about Logos – the Word. “The life was the Light of men.” Logos offers illumination to all men. “The Light shines in the darkness.” The Light penetrates darkness. “The darkness did not comprehend it.” Comprehend may be translated overcome in your Bible. Turn on a light in a dark room, and the room is no longer dark. Darkness cannot overcome the Light. No matter the level of darkness, you strike a match and the darkness disappears. Extinguish the light and the darkness returns. Take the Light out of the world and darkness rules. We’ll see light pitted against darkness as a theme in this book and we’ll see these two concepts used as metaphors for good and evil.

For continuity, we’ll jump to v. 14. Pastor Zane will cover the witness of John next week. V. 14 is the conclusion of the prologue of John in vs. 1-5 and says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   The Word is the same Logos from v. 1. The eternal Logos that was before the beginning with God and participated hand in hand with God in creation has become Logos in the flesh. Flesh  here means human – really and actually human. This is theologically referred to as the incarnation and commonly referred to as God incorporated in flesh. The eternal Logos lived among John. John was able to talk with Logos, fellowship with Logos, minister with Logos, experience Logos. Logos is Jesus Christ, Immanuel – God with us. The incarnate God is fundamental in our faith. It is an essential doctrine for all that would profess to be true Christians. You cannot separate Jesus Christ from God. You cannot hold God to be the one true God and deny the reality of the Word becoming flesh. Take a quick look at 1 Jo. 4:1-3. A common trait among false religions and cults is denying that Jesus was and is God. John goes on to say, “we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” He doesn’t say he heard about it or read it in a book. He has first hand knowledge of Jesus in the flesh. John experienced Jesus’ glory – what theologian C. H. Dodd referred to as, “a manifestation of God’s presence and power.” You’ll see grace and truth used frequently in relation to Christ. In Jo. 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Christianity is not syncretistic: all roads do not lead to heaven.

God entered humanity through the Word, the Light of men, through His only begotten: Jesus Christ. John experienced that first hand; can you imagine that? It’s important to note that John is writing these words after Jesus’ resurrection so he knows how the story ends, and so do we. We can have the assurance, the confidence that these words are true. These are truths to live by. Throughout this study in John, we’re going to learn who Jesus really is. We’ll gain insight and understanding about what He expects from us. This is going to be a tremendous study into the incarnate God.

Good News for 2021

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Pro. 15:30 says, “Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones.”

Pro. 25:25 says, “Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.”

As is customary for my New Year’s message, I like to look back to review the top news stories of the past year. The AP has yet to publish a year in review so I had to cobble together what I believe were the top stories of 2020.

Here is my 2020 Year in Review:

1. Covid-19 declared a pandemic in March: believed to originate from a lab in Wuhan, China, the Coronavirus or Covid-19 originally was predicted to kill millions worldwide causing mass hysteria throughout the globe. Governments restricted travel and closed borders while ordering massive lockdowns and quarantines that caused many small businesses to permanently close unable to withstand the lack of business. The pandemic led to widespread criticism of President Trump and how he handled the crisis. The pandemic created mask shaming between those that opposed and supported masks. Numerous lawsuits were filed over inconsistent closures violating constitutionally guaranteed rights.

2. 2020 Election: an election that saw record voter turnout was marred by evidence of voter fraud particularly in the battleground states of PA, WI, MI, and AZ. Texas Attorney General filed lawsuits against GA, MI, PA, and WI claiming unconstitutional election changes were made. Numerous lawsuits were filed by the GOP as well as individuals and have largely been dismissed by the courts. Added to the abnormality of the election, not a single Republican lost a House seat while picking up an additional six seats with two more still being counted. The polls projected a blue wave that never materialized.

3. Hurricanes: It was such a historically busy hurricane season that forecasters had to turn to the Greek alphabet after running out of assigned names. In the U.S., Louisiana took the brunt of the onslaught: three hurricanes and two tropical storms. The worst to hit the state was Hurricane Laura, which swept ashore in August. In November, several Central American countries were ravaged by two Category 4 hurricanes. In Tennessee, an outbreak of tornadoes in March killed 25 people.

4. Wildfires: Thousands of wildfires raged throughout the western U.S., claiming dozens of lives, destroying thousands of homes, and bringing apocalyptic scenes of orange skies and hazardous air. Months before the usual start of the wildfire season, drought, extreme warm temperatures and winds gusting up to 100 mph fueled some of the most destructive blazes in the region’s history. Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and frequent extreme events such as storms, droughts, flooding and wildfires — including massive brush fires that raged for months in Australia.

5. George Floyd: On May 25, George Floyd dies while in police custody leading to global protests and riots many led by BLM and Antifa. This led to the creation of CHAZ in Seattle. Screams of defund the police were shouted far and wide. Minneapolis cut the police’s budget by 8 million dollars shifting that money to

6. Social and mainstream media censorship: In 1983, 90% of the nation’s media was controlled by 50 companies. In 2020 that same share of the market is controlled by five companies. The effect of that ownership was seen throughout the year, but was particularly evident as the mainstream media portrayed the protests over George Floyd’s death as peaceful even though rioters burned and destroyed numerous urban areas. In the most egregious example of censorship, The Boston Globe asked, “When is a story not a story? When Facebook and Twitter say so.” Facebook and Twitter censored a New York Post story alleging that Hunter Biden introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to a key exec at a Ukrainian energy firm less than a year before the VP pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor investigating the firm. The Post cites emails as its source, allegedly obtained as part of data recovered from a laptop left at a repair shop in Delaware. After the Post published their piece, Facebook said it had decided to limit the distribution of the story on its platform so it could fact-check the claims. Facebook would be sued by 48 states and the Federal Trade Commission citing illegal monopolization of social media.

7. Ruth Bader Ginsberg died in September. Democrats cited her deathbed wish for a nomination to wait until after the election. Amy Coney Barret was nominated and confirmed by the Senate amid threats by Democrats that there would be court packing should former VP Biden be elected.

8. Basketball great Kobe Bryant and eight others, including his 13 year old daughter, were killed in helicopter crash in January just north of Los Angeles on their way to a basketball tournament at his sports academy in Thousand Oaks, CA. Fog was cited as the reason for the crash.

9. Nova Scotia shooter: a 51 year old dental technician went on a killing spree that began in Portapique when he shot multiple people and set homes on fire. Dressed in a police uniform and driving a fake police car, he evaded RCMP and murdered four more people in Wentworth before heading toward Halifax, killing several more along the way. By the time Mounties shot him dead April 19 at the Enfield Big Stop, he had killed 22 people. His partner, later charged with providing ammunition to the killer, said the killer was obsessed with Covid-19 and feared the end of the world.

10. Hong Kong: Normally stable Hong Kong was wracked by months of massive and sometimes violent protests. The initial provocation was an extradition bill that many viewed as a sign of creeping Chinese control. But demands multiplied as residents sought to safeguard Hong Kong’s freedoms. During months of clashes, riot police fired 26,000 tear-gas and rubber-baton rounds and arrested more than 6,100 people.

In other news, Trump was acquitted by the Senate in January and the 2020 Summer Olympics were postponed. In this last one, a vaccine for the Coronavirus has been developed, but the news on it’s effect remain unproven.

Those are just the top stories and I would offer that from a biblical worldview, there was no good news.

As followers of the King of kings and Lord of lords, we have news that is eternally good regardless of the circumstances around us. We have good news that is timeless.

If you’re a follower of Christ, you have been changed and redeemed by this good news.

In Rom. 1:16, Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

The long awaited Messiah, that we just celebrated during the Christmas season, made it possible for us to be justified before a holy and perfect God. As we move into 2020, there will be challenges, problems, crises, and tragedies. My challenge to you is to respond to the circumstances in life from a biblical perspective. As I look forward to the coming year, there are a few things I’d like to see happen:

I’d like to see people genuinely commit their life to Christ. It’s clear that this is what God wants: 1 Tim. 2:4 says God, “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” I used to say sin had become relative, but I am now beginning to think sin is non-existent. We now call evil good and normal and we call good evil and have spiraled down a moral abyss where those that speak truth are vilified, but the Bible hasn’t changed and we still have a sin problem. Rom. 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Is. 64:6 says, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Even in that hopeless state, God has not given up on us. God draws us to Him through the power of the Spirit. Jo. 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” God made a way through Christ. 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We have been justified in Christ: we are declared righteous based on the merits of Jesus. We have been sanctified: Christ’s righteousness is applied to each of us every single day. It’s our responsibility and our privilege to tell everyone that they’re welcome at the foot of the cross. Jo. 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Pet. 3:9) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  (Jo. 3:16) You don’t have to be a certain way to get Christ, come as you are.

I’d like to see God’s people passionate about their personal faith and ministry. 2 Cor. 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Nowhere in Scripture is this more evident than in the life of the Apostle Paul. Acts 9 records his conversion experience. The same Holy Spirit that transformed that murderer into an apostle lives in us so why do we have such low expectations from Christians today? Saul was lost, recognized where he was without Christ, made a decision to follow Him and immediately began preaching. The people of the day were confused at this miraculous transformation, but that didn’t deter Saul from telling others what had happened. Acts 9:22says, “But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” We need a renewed passion for Christ. A general commitment to Christ substitutes for repentance. We’re satisfied with mediocrity; we’re satisfied being halfway committed to Christ and His church. Committed means to be wholeheartedly dedicated. You’ve heard me say I wish people would be half as committed to their walk of faith as they are their favorite sports team. Faithfulness has been replaced by happenstance. We spend time and energy engaged in things that don’t really matter when you consider eternity. We have a tendency to take things for granted. We think God will always be there and we’ll start really serving Him when we’re ready or when we have time. Remember Saul persecuted the church and then met God and his life was never the same. Today we have people meet this same God and their lives are no different. What’s really disturbing about that is many people in the church are okay with it.

In 2021, I’d love to see people get passionate about God. I’d like to see people take Bible study with us, get involved in Sunday School or in a small group. What I have observed over the last 22 years I’ve been in ministry is that people who consistently study and apply the Bible to their lives grow stronger and more steadfast in their faith. When the challenges of life occur, you’re better equipped to handle it. Other people see this and ask you how you did it. You use that as a springboard to tell people about the power of God that is available to them. I’ve seen the things of God become so routine that our screen driven brains look for what is new and improved and what can hold our attention. We have an attitude of what’s in it for me. Some people, even in the church, would have you believe that God exists to glorify man instead of the other way around. God becomes this great provider in the sky rather than the One who is worthy of our worship. We are looking for God to serve us rather than for us to serve Him.

We tend to be complacent.  Matt. 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” To put anything above the Lord is foolish, but we do it all the time. I think few people would admit that, but our actions speak louder than our words. I’d like to see people get more involved in the opportunities we have here.

Sunday School. Student ministries. Bible study. Nursery. Children’s church. Community Group. Greeters. AWANA. Annual Easter egg hunt. Exploring God’s creation summer camp. Back Stage Kids. Coastal Assisted Living.

We tend to be impatient which further separates us from God. Fewer and fewer people are willing to work hard. Fewer and fewer people make themselves available to do the hard, stressful, and emotionally draining work of the ministry. Fewer and fewer people are willing to persevere. More and more people say no to serving in the church What have you said yes to?

I’d like to see people really make connections with others. There are people very casual about participation in the things of the church. We have people that miss one, two, three, four weeks and no one seems to notice and if they do notice, nothing comes of it. I’d like to see people participate in intentional ministry.

 I’d like God’s people resist Satan. James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  (Ja. 4:7) We cannot resist the devil in our own strength. We must first submit ourselves to God. Then we can stand against Satan in the strength and power of the Lord. Resist his destructive plans. Satan is a destroyer. He will try to destroy your home, your church relationship, your testimony, etc. Once you say yes to Satan, it becomes easier the next time, and easier. Satan’s way is never good, but unfortunately, even Christians are too ignorant to recognize this.

Finally, I’d like to see Jesus come back in 2021. Jesus promised in John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” We’re too attached to this temporary home. We work to have things that will pass away. We spend the majority of our time on things that have no bearing on eternity.

What do you want to hear and see by the end of next year? How many will you share Christ with? How will you serve the Lord by serving others? Will you live the life of holiness God has called you to live? How authentic will you be?

What Child is This?

Check out the video for this message here.

Last week, Pastor Mark taught us the great message in Silent Night. That incredible silent and holy night led to the birth of the most incredible, perfect human being ever born. All indeed is calm and all is bright at the prospect of what this tiny little newborn would accomplish. This morning, we’ll ask the question, what child is this?

Is. 9:6-7 says, “For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of armies will accomplish this.”

Let’s start with some history. William Chatterton Dix was born to John Dix, a surgeon, in Bristol, England on June 14, 1837. He was educated at the Bristol Grammar School and grew up to become an insurance company manager in Glasgow, Scotland. During that time, he suffered with a critical illness. As he lay recovering, he experienced his own spiritual revival. Little more is known about those events, but it led him to write the words to several hymns including this one. He originally wrote a poem called The Manger Throne that he modified to become, What Child is This? This well-known Christmas Carol is typically set to the tune of Greensleeves. Greensleeves is an English folk song that was registered at the London Stationer’s Company in September 1580 Some say that King Henry VIII wrote it for Anne Boleyn who initially rejected his advances. They would later marry, but it is unlikely this tune was written to her given that it didn’t reach England until after Henry’s death, but it makes a good story. Dix would write 64 hymns and responsive texts over his lifetime. There are three verses to this very popular Christmas Carol written in 1865 that has been published in 183 hymnals and recorded by secular and Christian artists including Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, Johnny Mathis, Charlotte Church, Lauren Daigle, Michael W. Smith, Fernando Ortega, Francesca Battistelli, and Third Day.

The first verse comprises a rhetorical question. “What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?” Lu. 2:7 tells us that Mary, “Gave birth to her firstborn son: and she wrapped Him in cloths.” You know the story. Can you imagine walking into the scene at this moment without the knowledge that we have? All these angels are greeting this little baby with a sweet anthem. This is really curious. What is an anthem? We’re familiar with the national anthem, but is this the same thing the angels are singing? It’s similar, but this anthem is known by the old-fashioned term antiphon. An antiphon is a response to something seen or experienced. Lu. 2:13 says, “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army of angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased.” And in Rev. 4:8, “The four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” These are antiphons. What other response is possible when you stand before perfection, when you are in the presence of pure holiness and love and righteousness? Remember in Luke what the shepherds were doing. They were keeping watch over their flocks by night. After the angels appeared to the shepherds, they went back to heaven leaving the shepherds to take action. The shepherds began to seek what the angels told them about. The chorus provides the answer to the question posed in verse 1. What child is this? This, this is Christ, the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing: haste, haste to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary! This little baby is Christ the King. Hurry to bring Him praise for He alone is worthy of praise.

Now this is truly strange given that Jesus is just a little newborn baby. Jesus is given the title King, a term that would never be attributed to a baby. Isaiah tells us, “The government will rest on His shoulders.” How in the world will this little baby hold up a government? You have to know the context of Isaiah 9. Isaiah is speaking to Ahaz who is the king of the southern kingdom of Judah. Please take the time to read Is. 7:1-9. Ahaz is afraid that Assyria and Israel are going to conquer them. Ahaz is considering forming an alliance with Assyria in order to stave off the advances of Israel. Isaiah encourages Ahaz by telling him that Assyria and Israel are, “two stubs of smoldering firebrands.”  Ahaz doesn’t need to take matters into his own hands; Isaiah is encouraging him to trust God. These two evil factions will not prevail. Isaiah encourages Ahaz to ask for a sign that this will come to pass. This is the often quoted Is. 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.” What child is this? This child is God with us.

Verse 2. “Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear: for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.” The first sentence is a question and a great encouragement. Dix is asking why the King is in such a place. Where do ox and ass feed? It’s probably not the place you’re thinking. Back in those days, it was not unusual to have animals on the ground floor of the house. The idea of a separate barn or stable was not done, but the idea is the same. This was an area that was fine for animals, but is it a place fit for a King? That’s what he is asking. In another version of the carol that we typically do not sing and is not found in many hymnals is the different chorus after the second and third verses. This alternate chorus was written in 1871. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you. Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary. It brings you from salvation to the cross.

Verse 3. “So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh, come, peasant, king to own Him. The King of kings salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone Him.” I am sure you caught the Scripture reference to Matt. 2:11, “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” These are gifts worthy of a king and we see this done today between world leaders when visiting one another. Our presidents have received gifts including saddles, artifacts, sculptures, boots, clocks, watches, jewels, and sports gear. When you visit the King of all kings, you bring gifts worthy of His royalty and that’s what the magi did. Remember this carol was written in England in 1865 and the country was ruled by Queen Victoria. That’s the reference to peasant and king. England was a monarchy, and still is but not quite the same as it was back then. That fact makes this contextually very interesting. Lowly peasants need to come to Jesus. Earthly kings need to come to Jesus. Everyone in between needs to come to Jesus. The King of all kings brings salvation. This carol implores you to make Jesus your King, to crown Him as your King. This is a decision that must be made by everyone and everyone is responsible. This would be understood by the people of Dix’s time. They were accustomed to living in a monarchy.

How can you make Christ your own? What does it mean to make Christ your King? I know you’re preparing gifts for your family and friends. You’ll put great thought into the gift and make the purchase. You’ll wrap it carefully and place it under the tree. That gift is prepared for you, but until you decide to receive it, it’s not yours even though your name is on it. The magi brought gifts to the King of kings. This child, Immanuel has brought a gift to mankind. It has been carefully thought out and prepared in eternities past. It’s not a universal gift, but one that is especially for you. The gift of salvation is available to all that believe in the finished work of Christ. He invites you to make Him Lord of your life. The Ruler of your decisions. Making Jesus Lord means yielding your will to His. It means yielding your authority to His. Perhaps you’ve heard people say Jesus needs to move from being your Savior to being the Lord of your life. But that’s not true salvation. We don’t see people in Scripture that are believers in Christ without the results of salvation. You’re probably familiar with the often quoted verse from Paul that says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) When you have a true faith in Christ, He makes a difference in your actions, your thoughts, your desires, your goals, your outlook on life. This professed faith that you have is the catalyst for change.

Look at 2 Cor. 6:1-10. Did you notice v. 1? “We also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” This is someone that claims a salvation without results. This is someone that says they’re saved and lives a life of excuses and exceptions. We don’t see that example portrayed in Scripture. Here’s some examples of what we do see. We see a man that lived surrounded by wickedness and evil that did not allow that to influence him or his family. We see a man afflicted by Satan to the point where he lost all of his kids, all that he had and was encouraged to curse God and die by his wife and friends. We see the work being accomplished through a disciple named Stephen only to learn that there were some jealous of that work who formulated a plan to kill him and as the stones began to hit his body, he cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) We see a murderous, Christian hating man named Saul encounter the Lord on the road to Damascus that forever changed his life. We see a man that grew up with Jesus that did not place his faith in Christ until after the resurrection become a leader in the church that penned, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Ja. 1:2-3) “Let loving hearts enthrone Him” places Christ at His proper place and that is the throne of Glory. The alternate chorus says: “Raise, raise a song on high, the Virgin sings her lullaby. Joy, joy for Christ is born, the Babe, the Son of Mary.” That anthem of praise, the song of adoration and praise at the fulfilled prophecy of Christ. As Mary sings a lullaby to soothe the Savior, humanity is overcome by joy at the birth of Christ. What mankind has been waiting for has arrived. Jesus, “Christ is born, the Babe, the Son of Mary.”

This little baby, this helpless child all wrapped up in swaddling clothes, is the hope for mankind. He is the answer to our problems, the fulfillment of the promises of Scripture.

Isaiah said, “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.”

This is what we must remember when we ask the question, what child is this?

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

You can watch the video for this message here.

Last week, Jon taught us about O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. We’re in lonely exile until the Son of God appears, yet we rejoice in knowing that He will appear. That hymn mentions the cloud guiding the children of Israel and beseeches the branch of Jesse’s stem to come and rescue people from the depths of hell. This morning, we’ll see the Wisdom from on high, the stem of Jesse, the Key of David, the bright and morning star who is the King of nations and is the long-expected Jesus.

Is. 9:7 says, “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.”

This very traditional hymn was written in 1744 by Charles Wesley. Charles was born Dec. 18, 1707 and was the 18th child born to Samuel and Susanna Wesley in Epworth, Linconshire, England. He was the younger brother to John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church. Charles was educated at the Westminster School in London and Christ Church which was a constituent school of the University of Oxford. He was ordained at Christ Church in 1735 and traveled with his brother John to the great state of Georgia. Charles was appointed Secretary of Indian Affairs by Governor Oglethorpe and John remained in Savannah. In March 1736, Charles would go on to become Chaplain to the garrison at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island. His message was not widely received by the settlers and he sailed from Charleston, SC back to England never to return to the colonies. In a fascinating turn of events, Charles experienced a conversion on May 21, 1738 that transformed his ministry. It was then that Charles began his prolific poetry career that would see him writing over 6000 poems. He and his brother began their field preaching in 1739 bringing the Gospel message to the common people under the influence of George Whitfield. In 1749, Charles married Sarah Gwynne and they both traveled with John on evangelistic crusades until at least 1753. After 1756, Charles stopped traveling far and wide and would remain close to his home in Bristol traveling only to London. He wrote a number of hymns that remain popular today including Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, and the song we will look at today called Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.

This carol has four verses. The first and fourth were written in 1744 by Charles Wesley. The second and third verses were written in 1978 by Mark E. Hunt of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. This song was printed in Wesley’s Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord published in 1744. Verse 1 says, “Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.” Wesley wove the prophecy of Christ’s coming with the expectation of His return. Through our study in Genesis, we know the Messiah was first prophesied in Gen. 3:15. The prophecy was proclaimed immediately after sin entered the world. Humanity shifted from perfect fellowship with the Creator to consequence for sin. I cannot imagine the heartbreak felt by God. Yes, God knew what would happen. That did not change His desire to create beings that would freely and willingly worship Him for who He is. Instead of being in union with God, Adam and Eve chose to follow their own path. Because of the curse, mankind was eternally separated from God. The hopelessness of sin is countered with the hope of the One that would pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, was born out of God’s great love for mankind. Could Adam and Eve have known what the results of their choice would be? Did they anticipate the coming of the One that would set them free?

Of Jesus, Wesley wrote He was, “Born to set Thy people free.” This is a concept that is difficult for people today to understand. We live in a free country; a free society. Do we understand what that freedom means? There are five countries where the freedom is severely restricted. North Korea, China, Laos, Vietnam, and Cuba are the only communist countries. It’s interesting that these countries have been communist for a relatively short time. The oldest being N. Korea in 1948 and China in 1949. Cuba in 1961, Laos in 1975, and Vietnam in 1976. Our founding fathers declared their independence, they’re freedom from Great Britain in 1776. Jesus was, “Born to set Thy people free.” The United States of America is a free country, but are we really free? We might have the freedom to work a job we want to, or go to the school we want to, but we live with restrictions in all facets of life. We have rules and regulations, laws and policies that govern our lives. Jesus was not born to set us free to live as we please although we can to a certain extent. Jesus was born to set us free from the penalty of sin. The curse left us separated from God, but Jesus was born to set us free from that penalty.

Take a quick look at Rom. 6:1-7. You can be in chains and be free from sin. You can be in prison and be free from sin. You can live in a communist country and be free from sin. Jesus was, “Born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee.” Jesus has also released us from fear. I think this is something that many of us get hung up on. Many people are afraid of what may or may not happen, especially during these times of uncertainty. Not only has Jesus freed us from sin, but He freed us from fear. There are a couple of words used for fear in the Bible depending on the context. Pro. 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This is a reverential fear. A respect. The other fear is what Wesley mentions here. This is the paralyzing irrational fear that is the Greek word phobos where we get our English word phobia. There is nearly an infinite number of recognized phobias that are fairly common. Arachnophobia: fear of spiders. Ophidiophobia: fear of snakes. Agoraphobia; fear of open spaces or crowds. There are some phobias that aren’t so common. Arachibutyrophobia; the fear of having peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth. Barophobia: fear of gravity. Ephebiphobia: fear of teenagers Porphyrophobia: fear of the color purple. Jesus has set us free from even that which seems to paralyze us. Don’t be confused today when people tell you that you are xenophobic because you want people to immigrate to the U.S. legally. Don’t worry when you are called homophobic or transphobic because you stand on the truth of God’s design for human beings.

Verse 1 goes on to say, let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s strength and consolation.” In today’s culture, rest is something that seems to be out of balance. It’s either a single focused pursuit or completely neglected. We are consumed with the busyness of life that pushes out God’s desires for us. If you’re around my age, we experienced this shift as we began having activities on Sundays that were not Christ centered. From ballgames, to chores around the house, to homework and secular work, we have turned Sundays into a day to catch up or we use it as a family day. Life used to be centered around Christ and His church and now it is centered around life and we “try” to squeeze Christ into our busyness. Today, we take a break from church because we’re tired and worn out, but not from church, from life. Today, we call attending church once a month regular. Bible study doesn’t really happen and prayer is something that is done before a meal. We have products designed to make our lives more manageable. Dishwashers, washing machines, microwaves, and refrigerators that will tell you what is inside. We have automatic vacuum cleaners. We have Alexa and Siri because we can’t be bothered to take the time to type on the keyboard on the phone attached to our hand.

When Wesley speaks of rest, he’s speaking about the burdens of life and the responsibilities that pull at us. Jesus knew what life was like and that’s why He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) Of course, in those days, life was far more challenging in many ways and far simpler too. If we really think about it, our busyness is a result of our own decisions. We don’t have to plant crops and tend to them to eat. We don’t have to milk the cows to get our non-fat, non-dairy, organic pseudo milk. We don’t even have to go to the store to get food anymore, we tell them what we want and they’ll bring it to us. In fact, you can even go out to eat and yet stay at home. Think about all you have to do this holiday season. School parties, work parties, neighborhood parties, family parties. Gift shopping even if it’s online. School programs. Decorate the house. Is this the year we will rest in Christ or will we shift that to next year?

Jesus is our strength and our consolation. In Luke 2:25, Simeon was looking for the consolation of Israel. Anna the prophetess was looking for the redemption of Israel in v. 38. Consolation means comfort in the specific sense of help or rescue. Simeon was waiting for Israel to be delivered by the Messiah. The Holy Spirit of God revealed to him that he would not see death until he laid eyes on the Christ. Can you imagine holding an infant that you knew was your hope? This is our hope in the long-expected Jesus. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. The hope is not just for Believers. The only hope for humanity, for all the earth that Wesley wrote about in this carol, is Jesus Christ. This is the, “dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart,” that closes the first verse. Wesley knew about Rom. 1:18-23. God put the desire to know Him into every human He has or will create. Our longing, our desire is to know Him because He put that desire in us.

While this hymn is not particularly well used today in church, the meaning behind it should still be at the forefront of our minds. We covered just the first verse, but the rest are just as rich and deep. In virtually every phrase of this carol, Wesley points to one or more verses of Scripture. He points to the advent of Christ and also to His return. We remember how Jesus came to earth and we eagerly anticipate His return. The rest of the carol goes like this.

Verse 2:

Joy to those who long to see thee, Dayspring from on high, appear; come, thou promised Rod of Jesse, of thy birth we long to hear! O’er the hills the angels singing news, glad tidings of a birth; “Go to him, your praises bringing; Christ the Lord has come to earth.”

Verse 3:

Come to earth to taste our sadness, he whose glories knew no end; by his life he brings us gladness, our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend. Leaving riches without number, born within a cattle stall; this the everlasting wonder, Christ was born the Lord of all.

Verse 4:

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring. By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by Thine own sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Wesley did not leave Jesus in a manger like many other hymns. He wanted you to understand the Christmas story and apply it to your life. Jesus was born and infant so He could rule over as King. This is why John Wesley wrote Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.

The End of an Era

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Last week, we saw Israel gather his sons together to speak with them. Israel has an excellent memory and gives each son the highlights and lowlights of their life to that point. In the end, Israel blessed his sons and died. He requested to be buried in the same cave as Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah. This morning, we’ll close out our study in Genesis that began on Feb. 18, 2019 as we look at the final days of Joseph.

Take the time to read the final chapter in Gen. 50:1-26.

First things first. Following Israel’s death, “Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him and kissed him,” This demonstrates the depth of love Joseph had for his father. I have seen this type of response many times. Loved ones are overcome by grief at the news of death. Joseph throws himself on Israel and weeps. Joseph kisses Israel and then issues an order. Israel’s body needs to be prepared for burial. “Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. Now forty days were required for it, for such is the period required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.” Embalming was used widely in Egypt in those days. It involved preparing the body in such a way to prevent or minimize decay. The Egyptians believed that this preserved the identity of the deceased in the afterworld. When embalming was complete, they body was wrapped in bandages. Now the picture is complete and is the subject of many a horror movie. 65 films feature mummies including the Mummy, the Mummy Returns, Curse of the Mummy, and one of my favorites, Abbott and Costello meet the Mummy. Embalming took 40 days and the Egyptians wept for Israel for 70 days. The 70 days of mourning likely included the 40 days for embalming.

Look at vs. 4-5. Joseph relates the promise he made to Israel following his death. He doesn’t speak to Pharaoh, but to his household. There is some speculation about why Joseph did not go to Pharaoh himself. Some think it has to do with Joseph’s impurity since he handled Israel’s body. Israel wanted to be buried in the grave he dug for himself back in Canaan. There is no mention earlier in Genesis about Israel digging a grave for himself, but it seems likely that when he buried Leah, he prepared a grave for himself. It’s a family  type plot. You see this in cemeteries today. Entire families buried in the same tomb or buried close together. Joseph promises to return to Egypt following Israel’s burial. Remember Joseph was a very important figure in Egypt so not surprisingly, “Pharaoh said. “Go and bury your father, as he made you swear.”

Check out vs. 7-9. This is quite the funeral procession. Basically, if you were able to go to Canaan, you went. The entourage included Pharaoh’s servants, elders of his household, and elders from Egypt. All of Joseph’s brothers and their families went. They also brought chariots and horsemen. The only thing left behind were the little kids, the flocks, and the herds. Obviously, there had to be some others that stayed behind to care for the children and the animals. Of course, the plan was to return to Egypt or else they wouldn’t have left all that behind. All in all, it was a, “very great company.”

“When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed seven days mourning for his father.” The threshing floor was a circular area. It was large and open. Oxen would trample corn there so this made a good place for all of Joseph’s people to stop and mourn. We would call this a funeral. “They lamented there with very great and sorrowful lamentations.” They mourned – an expression of deep sorrow. They were grieved. They were sad at the passing of Jacob. They mourned for seven days. Their funeral service made such an impact on the Canaanites, “They said, “This is a grievous mourning for the Egyptians.” Therefore it was named Abel-mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.” Remember, the people that were mourning were mostly Egyptians. The native people took notice of this. It was probably strange for the Canaanites to see such a sorrowful demonstration for a Hebrew. They call the place Abel-mizraim which means mourning of the Egyptians.

And in vs. 12-14, we see Jacob’s dying wish has been fulfilled as he is laid to rest in Canaan in the same cave that Abraham and Sarah were buried in. Isaac and Rebekah were there and so was Leah. Jacob is buried and Joseph and his brothers and the entire entourage return to Egypt.

But there’s uneasiness in the family. “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!” Joseph’s brothers have got to be some of the most paranoid people in Scripture. We know their character and we know Joseph’s character yet they think there will be some kind of retribution. They think Joseph might hold a grudge. That grudge, they fear, could bring full payback. There has been ample opportunity to make them pay for their wrong-doing yet Joseph has only shown them love and compassion and kindness. The brother’s fear of retribution is another example of how they knew they did wrong to Joseph. The wrong they did to Joseph could not be attributed to youthful ignorance or simple sibling angst. Even though Joseph has demonstrated his godly character, the brothers concoct a scheme to protect themselves. In their mind, Jacob was the only reason that Joseph had not retaliated against their wrong-doing toward Joseph. Since Jacob is dead, the protective hand of the father is no more.

Read vs. 16-17. Notice the brothers say, “Your father.” They didn’t say, dad or our father. It seems they are exerting the authority of the father, just like when one sibling says to another, “Dad says . . .” in order for the sibling to do what they want them to do. This seems like what is going on here. The brothers are fearful that some type of retribution will happen so they tell Joseph that dad says to forgive them for all their sin against Joseph.

What we don’t know is if this message truly came from Jacob. Did they fabricate this message? If Jacob truly wanted Joseph to forgive the brothers, why didn’t he ask Joseph just a couple of months ago? Was Jacob aware of all the things the brothers had done to Joseph? It says the brothers sent a message to Joseph. Maybe they were afraid to face him in person. The message of forgiveness was given to Joseph with a plea of humility, “Please” and, “I beg you.” Were they truly sorry for what they did or were they sorry they got caught? They add, “And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” “The God of your father” is the same phrase used when God spoke to Jacob in a dream in 46:3 telling him to go to Egypt. This is an appeal to Joseph’s desire to serve God faithfully. We know that when Joseph heard the humble request from what is supposed to be his father, v. 17 says, “And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.” They refers to the messengers.

“Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” I am sure this verse is not lost on you. When Joseph told the dreams he had to his brothers in 37:7, the brothers said, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?” And about 22 years later, the dreams Joseph had are fulfilled. His brothers fell down before him and declared their servitude, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph could have done a number of things: thrown them in jail, send them back to Canaan, have them killed, refuse to provide grain so they would starve to death: he could have said, “I told you so.” There are many things Joseph could have done to demonstrate his power, but he says something else in vs. 19-21. These verses have become some of the most often quoted verses of God’s sovereignty. Some speak with certainty about what God’s will is and claim the superiority and finality of God’s sovereignty. The problem with that view is that is depends upon a wrong definition of sovereignty. There are those that even elevate His sovereignty as His ultimate power. But that ultimate power would require others to exercise control over things so before creation, the idea of sovereignty could not have existed.

God’s omnipotence is an eternal attribute that is not dependent on anything. God is in control, but he is not controlling. Rightly defined, sovereignty means supreme power or authority. We should then understand God’s sovereignty to mean that He has the right to rule over his creation. We speak of sovereign nations; nations that have the right to rule over themselves. It would be non-sensical to think that since the United States is a sovereign nation, that everything that occurs here is because the government is in control. At the same time, it is non-sensical to think that because God is sovereign, He controls everything that happens on earth. Unfortunately, there are those that equate God’s sovereignty to His control and that’s just not true. We only need to look at a few verses to disprove that. Ps. 115:3 says, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” Ps. 115:16 says, “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to the sons of men.” God has given man a level of independence to choose what he will or will not do. That’s why Jesus told His disciples to pray to God that, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) If everything that happens is carefully orchestrated by God, then prayer is useless. God’s will can sometimes be a very mysterious thing. Joseph’s character shines brightly through all the adversity that God allowed in his life. Joseph’s brothers intended to hurt him; to do evil to him, to make life miserable for him. But Joseph focused on what was good, and holy, and pure. Sometimes you have to walk through the fire to get to the place where God wants you. Sometimes we must blindly trust in the One who knows all the variables, knows the circumstances, knows the true motives, and knows the hidden agendas being set forth. It’s just like you can walk through the dark house without tripping because you know the path. So, it is with our walk of faith: we don’t walk by sight. It’s the complete trust and confidence in God’s desire for you. It doesn’t mean you won’t be required to walk through the fire, it means that God is there walking with you.

Joseph’s faithfulness to God allowed him to be in a position to save the world from starvation. There is no possible way for Joseph to have orchestrated what occurred in Canaan and Egypt. Had it not been for Joseph’s obedience to God, what would have become of the inhabitants of that area? What would have become of Joseph’s father and brothers? Joseph promises to take care of his brothers and their little ones. I love how this section ends: “So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” This is the real-life demonstration of a heart devoted to God. This is the kind of love that can only come as a result of God’s love inside. The evil that was done to Joseph at the hands of his own brothers is unspeakable, but God has overcome that evil.

We find the end of the story in vs. 22-25. Joseph has been in Egypt some 80 years. He’s experienced so much during that time. He saw the third generation of his son Ephraim so that’s his great-great grandchildren. Joseph breaks the news to his brothers that he is about to die. He assures them that God will take care of them. He reminds them of the promise to take them out of Egypt and return them to the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob which is the first time this phrase is used to identify the patriarchs of Israel. He makes the brothers promise to carry his bones up from Egypt. Genesis ends by saying, “So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.” Like Jacob, Joseph is embalmed – the only two biblical characters to undergo the process. One day, he will make the journey back to Egypt, but you will have to read about that on your own.

We have come to the end of the beginning. We walked through the creation of all that we know including the stars, planets, the birds, the animals, and all things including the first humans. We met Adam and Eve and we saw sin enter the world. We learned of the curse of sin and the promise of One that would be sent to redeem humanity. We saw humanity descend into evil except for a man named Noah. Noah and his family endured the judgment of mankind in the form of a flood that destroyed all things living outside of the sea. Noah was delivered by an ark and we saw the waters recede and Noah’s off spring repopulate the earth. We see the great scattering of the people. Abraham and Isaac come onto the scene. Then Jacob and Joseph. Twists and turns; scheming and conniving, tragedy and triumph. We find it all in this incredible book of beginnings.

Joseph’s Business Plan

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The last time we were in Genesis, we saw God give Israel instruction to go to Egypt where he would become a great nation. Israel’s direct descendants numbered 66 not including wives. They packed up their stuff and made the journey to Egypt. Joseph met Israel in Goshen and there was a very tearful reunion. Israel concluded he could now die because he saw Joseph with his own eyes. Joseph spoke to Israel and told him what to say to Pharaoh to ensure his family could work as shepherds in Goshen. This morning, we’ll see the business aspect of Joseph’s mind as he ensures his family is taken care of and expands Egypt at the same time.

Take the time to read our passage found in Gen. 47:1-26.

In a very exciting turn of events, the brothers get an audience with Pharaoh. Remember that Joseph is second only to Pharaoh in Egypt. This has been a long time coming and the family is finally together and it looks like they have put the past behind them. Joseph knows Pharaoh and knows what the conversation will go like so he prepares them on their answers. Joseph selects five brothers to go in and meet with Pharaoh. Joseph had 11 brothers and there is some speculation on why only five went in. Some believe that five represents the years of famine that still remain. Others think it was not to overwhelm Pharaoh with the size of the family. The brothers go in to meet with Pharaoh and the question of occupation comes up first. This is something we see today all the time. It should be taken for granted that people do something. There must be something that is done to earn money to support themselves lest there be a burden to society. There’s no place in Egypt for people to be idle. If they’re not willing to work, then they would not be able to eat. Those that don’t need to work have to have something that keeps them occupied. In sharing with the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul reminded them of his example of hard work. Timothy and Silvanus were with him and he said they never ate bread without paying for it. They didn’t expect a handout. They worked night and day so they wouldn’t be a burden to this church. Paul concluded by saying, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat either.” (2 Thes. 3:10)

Today is different though. Somehow, it’s un-American to expect someone to earn their own way. We have people demanding more money for the work they do. If you can’t make it on your own with one job, get a second job. Do something to change the situation. Learn a trade, get a third job, get a better job. All too often, we don’t like the answer to the problem. We don’t want to work more because that might cut into our free time. We don’t want to get that better job because we might have to move away from our parents or our kids. Unless you want to live off the grid in Alaska or in some remote area, your kids will leave you and move on. Parents should raise their children to be self-sufficient, to be productive members of society, and to contribute to the overall well-being of our community. This applies to everyone and particularly to followers of Christ.

Joseph wants Pharaoh to know that his family is going to work and not be a burden. They would only be in Egypt for a while – to sojourn. They were not going to permanently stay there. They were seeking the Egyptian dream – to be able to sustain life because of the famine in Canaan. They asked if they could stay in Goshen to allow their flocks to eat in the pastureland. Pharaoh’s response was predicted by Joseph, but Pharaoh added a bonus. “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.” Not only do they get to stay in Goshen, but Pharaoh tells Joseph to let the brothers take care of his own flock as long as they are capable. It couldn’t have turned out any better. It’s important to know that the reason for Pharaoh’s kindness is because of Joseph. Pharaoh had great fondness for Joseph. The family gained favor in Egypt because of Joseph. Joseph was well respected in Egypt and in Pharaoh’s court and it’s because of this that the family is treated well. Sometimes we can be treated well because of who we know. The opposite is sometimes true as well.

It’s time to introduce Jacob to Pharaoh. Have you ever introduced your parents to your boss? Joseph presents Jacob to Pharaoh. Presented here means a formal audience. Pharaoh is likely in his royal robes and looks all kingly. The first thing Jacob does is bless Pharaoh. We do this today as well. We meet our kid’s boss and say things like, “I appreciate you giving them the opportunity,” or “They sure enjoy working here.” In a strange bit of conversation, Pharaoh asks Jacob, “How many years have you lived?” Jacob is a bit dramatic here and says, “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.” He’s 130 and says his life has been pretty short and pretty rotten. His father Isaac lived to be 180. His grandfather Abraham lived to be 175. That society valued older people. In Hebrew culture, the assumption was the older you lived, the more favor you held with God. Lev 19:32 tells us to, “honor the aged.” Zech. 8:4 says, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age.’” Gen. 25:8 says Abraham died at a ripe old age and in 35:29, Isaac also died at a ripe old age. Jacob felt like he hadn’t lived as long or as well as his ancestors. His days were few and unpleasant. Unpleasant here means evil. He doesn’t elaborate on the specifics, but concludes his life of sojourning was not as pleasant as the years of Abraham or Isaac. After that conversation, “Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence.”

The meeting with Pharaoh was over and, “Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to their little ones.” Joseph gets everything together and takes his family to the best area of Egypt. The land was provided by Pharaoh to honor Joseph. Joseph gave his family the supplies they needed to live in the land. Joseph provided for everyone in the family including the little ones – the children. This provision was especially important to Judah. Remember back in 43:8, Judah urged Jacob to allow him to bring Benjamin back to the ruler of Egypt, “that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones.” Judah wanted security for his kids and the kids of his brothers.

The famine continues and Joseph enacts the next phase of his plan. Look at vs. 13-14. This famine isn’t just a shortage of some items like we saw during the pandemic. There is no food in Canaan or Egypt. The people languished because of the very severe famine. Languished means faint, starve, or waste away. The people were suffering because they were hungry. You know who had food? Pharaoh had food because of Joseph’s plan. The food was collected as a tax over a period of seven years. When the people themselves ran out of food, they went to the government to purchase food. Stockpiling resources is something that is still done today with very good reason. The US currently has stockpiles of crude oil, helium, heating oil, wheat, rice, corn, sorghum, antibiotics, vaccines, and a variety or emergency medical supplies. You likely have stockpiles of your own. The people in the region flocked to Egypt to get the resources they needed to live. They still had money so they were able to buy grain. But then the money ran out. V. 15 says, “When the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food, for why should we die in your presence? For our money is gone.” We are somewhat familiar with this in the church. Someone gets to the point that their money has run out. In desperation, they go to the church for help. What I have experienced is that people that do not follow the Lord think the church is the answer to meet their physical needs. We have regulars that come to us seeking financial handouts and if giving money was the answer, we’d do it. The people have reached a point that all the money is gone and they go to Joseph seeking food so they won’t die.

What happens in the next few verses is quite overwhelming to me. Look at vs. 16-17. Their money is gone, but they still have assets. I have used this strategy with people. They are seemingly destitute. In order to live, what can you sell? If you’re not willing to part with your earthly treasure, then there are other problems. Right after I retired from the Navy in 2006, we had a plan. I was working as a contractor doing odd jobs, remodeling, and handyman type things as I continued looking for a job in ministry. the days looking turned into weeks and turned into months. Kari and I talked about what monthly expenditures could we eliminate, what could we sell as we continued pursuing God’s call. It even included selling our house and moving somewhere else. What are you willing to do to make it? The people were in a desperate place and Joseph was in a position to trade with them.      Joseph traded them grain for their, “horses and the flocks and the herds and the donkeys; and he fed them with food in exchange for all their livestock.” That trade provided food for a year and then that food ran out.

Once again, the people go to Joseph, the one that has provided for them during this famine. Look at vs. 18-19. The money is gone and the animals have been traded. The people have just two things remaining: themselves and their land. This final deal includes selling the people seed so they could work the land in hopes of gaining a harvest in the future. Check out vs. 20-23. The people are given seed to plant and can work the land. There is still another facet to Joseph’s plan. V. 24 says, “At the harvest you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own for seed of the field and for your food and for those of your households and as food for your little ones.” In order to preserve Pharaoh’s economy and provide for the good of the people, Joseph enacts a 20% tax. How do the people respond? “So they said, “You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s slaves.” The people are taxed and they cry out to Joseph in thanksgiving at saving their lives. Our final verse today says, “Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt valid to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests did not become Pharaoh’s.” This was not a land grab to expand Joseph’s personal wealth. This was done in the name of Pharaoh and his wealth increased. “Valid to this day” refers to the time of the writing of this passage.

If you think that Joseph is rubbing his hands together in excitement at what is to come, I think you’d be wrong. I think Joseph’s character has been proven time and time again. God revealed to him what was to happen and Joseph came up with a plan. He worked the plan and the people loved him for it. The man who was a slave has become ruler over people that willingly sold themselves so as not to die. So, what about Joseph’s father and his brothers? Join us next week to find out.