Tag Archives: Fright

The Fright of the Shepherds

12 Dec

shepherdCheck out the audio version here.

Last week we reviewed the journey that Mary and Joseph took to get from Galilee to Bethlehem and why they had to make the trip. We saw what must have been a difficult birth process with only Joseph attending to Mary and what did he know? This was his first child too. We left Jesus in the manger all wrapped up in the swaddling cloths. Let’s keep going and see how the other characters responded to the birth of Christ.

Read over Luke 2:6-20 to get an idea of the context of the birth of Christ.

Luke tells us that there were, “Some shepherd staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.” The shepherds are always part of the story. I want you to put yourself in the place of the shepherds. How would you respond if, “The angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them?” Have you ever suddenly appeared to your spouse? Your kids? They screamed. Do you think the shepherds would have done anything different? Of course not because the text tells us, “They were terribly frightened.” They were scared out of their wits. Frightened is the Greek word phobeo. What’s really interesting is the shepherds of that day were generally not the most well respected, wonderful folks in town. Why the shepherds? Why not merchants? Why not the elders of the city? The shepherds were generally dishonest, dirty, and smelly people. The shepherds were out in the fields watching their flocks. It was dark and likely very quiet when all of a sudden, the angel appears.

The angel says, “Do not be afraid.” It’s a little late for that! They’ve just had the fright of their life and they’re already scared, but don’t you do this with your kids? They’re in their dark bedroom and they tell you they’re afraid and you tell them, “Don’t be afraid” and they’re supposed to respond by saying okay. The appearance of the angel is different. Your kids are afraid of what might be in the dark. The shepherds were afraid of what suddenly appeared out of the dark. You’d be scared too. The angel told the shepherds something very specific. “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The angel speaks directly to the shepherds so make this personal. The angel told the shepherds that the good news was for all people. That phrase good news is from the Greek word euangelizo where we get our English word evangelize. The good news is not only of Christ’s birth, but that there has been born a Savior and He is named. Don’t miss the fact that the Savior has been born for all people. All is an interesting word that means all, not a select number, not a few chosen ones, but all. A Savior has been born. In Matt. 1:21 an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said, “She will bear a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus is the Savior, the long awaited Messiah, our Deliverer, our Redeemer, He is Lord.

In case the shepherds doubted the message, the angel of the Lord told them there was a sign. Really get this in your mind. An angel appears out of thin air and tells the shepherds that the Savior, the One that had been prophesied from the beginning of humanity, the Savior that has been talked about for thousands of years has been born and then the angel tells them how they can find Jesus. He’s in the City of David – Bethlehem, and He’s wrapped up tightly in swaddling cloths, laying in a manger. This is a very specific description to eliminate any confusion in case there was another new born baby in the town. They were given specific instructions on how to find the One. It’s no mistake that the angel appears to these lowly shepherds. Isn’t that the message of hope that we all need? Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous. After Jesus grew up, He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Lu. 5:32) The angel delivers the life changing news that had been prophesied about from the beginning of time and they get to be a part of it.

What is the collective response to this incredible announcement? “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.” Here’s the same “suddenly” that we saw earlier. Without warning, the angel of the Lord is joined by his heavenly colleagues. Multitude comes from the same word as plethora. It was the hallelujah chorus. Hallelujah means praise Ye Yahweh. Many people think of Handel’s Messiah. Handel was actually inspired by Rev. 19, but it still works here. Imagine for a moment that you are a heavenly being and you’ve also been waiting for the Messiah, not for yourself, but to see the plan they knew of in Gen. 3:15 come to fruition. There was a boat load of heavenly beings and they were, “Saying, glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” I think it’s important to define the words we so casually say and sing this time of year. Glory comes from the word doxa which means splendor which means magnificence. When the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest” they were expressing God’s incredibleness, His awesomeness, His uniqueness, His majesticness, His greatness, and every other accolade you can attribute to a perfect, holy, righteous, all powerful being. In all of eternity there is none like Him and no one will ever be like Him.

“And on earth peace among men.” The only way to have true peace is to embrace Jesus as Savior. With Him, we can know true peace and it passes all understanding. That word peace means completeness or wholeness. Don’t overlook the significance of this message! If you don’t know Jesus, you cannot have peace. What the world defines as peace is not peace. Jesus provides the opportunity to be complete, to be restored to the relationship God designed for humanity, but it can only come through the gift that was found in the manger. Later in 19:38, Luke says, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And in Acts 10:36, “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all).” When confronted with the reality of who God is and what He has done there is only one response and that is worship!

In this message, we focused on the shepherds and the angels and there’s a reason for that. The familiarity of this Christmas story shouldn’t prevent us from learning something new each time. The shepherds were scared out of their minds when the angel of the Lord appeared, but the angel told them something incredible: a Savior had been born. The angel even gave them a sign on how to find the One. That’s the good news of Jesus Christ. Stay tuned for the next installment as we’ll see how the shepherds went from frightened to fascinated.

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Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

21 Sep

FearYou can catch the podcast here.

Last week we answered the question about evil triumphing. It won’t. We saw that it’s more profitable to actually work than it is to talk about working. Just because to don’t get a paycheck for your work doesn’t mean that it is not beneficial or profitable. Telling the truth about Jesus Christ can save people from an eternity in hell. Take the opportunities God provides for you to share the love and truth of Jesus. This morning, Solomon issues a very ominous warning.

I hope you’ll grab your Bible and read our passage for today found in Pro. 14:26-31.

How about some more fear? Solomon says, “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge.” What kind of fear is he talking about? In his first inaugural address in 1933 FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” FDR was saying don’t live in what if land. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Although many folks remember that phrase, if you look at the whole sentence, it becomes even more applicable. “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Solomon has talked about fear before, and it’s not the same as FDR’s fear. In Pro. 3:7 he said, “Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” In 3:25 he said, “Do not be afraid with sudden fear.” We’ll see in 19:23 that, “The fear of the Lord leads to life.” Remember way back to 1:7 to set the whole book of wisdom up, Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Solomon is talking about reverence. Reverence means to stand in awe, or have a deep respect for someone or something. As a professing believer, he’s not telling us to be afraid like we’re always looking over our shoulder or we’re cowering in fear. It’s an incredible awe over who God is and what He has accomplished in all that He has done and continues to do in our life and in the lives of those around us. It’s a humbling awareness that He loves us and gave Himself for us, that He cares about us, that He wants to be a part of our lives, that He wants us to recognize Him for who He really is. In Matt. 10:28 Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” That reverence leads to strong confidence and trust in God and His Son.

It still amazes me that people of faith don’t have blind trust in Christ. They exercise blind trust in other facets of life, but with God, somehow conclusions are drawn that maybe He doesn’t know what’s going on or that He doesn’t care, or we think He won’t answer our prayers. We have trouble letting go and that’s the root cause. Many folks wouldn’t admit it, but they’re control freaks. What they can’t control freaks them out and frustrates them and leads to panic stricken confusion. I picture God saying, “Come on, I’m here, I haven’t left you, I know what’s going on, I love you, I have plans for you to prosper. Won’t you just trust me?” We must stand on the confession of who Jesus is. He is our protector, our provider, our redeemer, our hope, our passion, our purpose, our assurance, our strong tower, our comfort, our counselor, our righteousness, our healer. He is the Messiah, the Savior, the strong Son of the living God: He is Jesus!

That fear or reverence, “Is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.” Fountain gives us the idea of unending satisfaction for the soul. The fountain will never dry up. Jesus said, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (Jo. 7:37-38) The only way to have that everlasting fountain is to accept the well head that is Jesus Christ. Solomon is saying what he already said Pro. 13:14: “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death.” Jesus saves you from death. Likely not physical death, but spiritual death. We are spiritually alive in Jesus.

Next is a verse that needs little explanation. “In a multitude of people is a king’s glory, but in the dearth of people is a prince’s ruin.” If a king has a large kingdom, that generally means he rules well. People want to live in that kingdom and be afforded the protection, safety, and prosperity that comes along with it. The conquering of other lands was not Solomon’s highest priority. During Solomon’s reign, “Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance; they were eating and drinking and rejoicing.”  (1 Ki. 4:20) Without providing for the people, what good is a prince? That’s what he’s talking about here.

Our next set of verses could change your life. In 14:17 Solomon said, “A quick tempered man acts foolishly.” That’s the hot head kind of guy. Now he talks about the mellow guy, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding.” I’m thinking it’s because he actually listens to what’s going on and processes the information. The quick tempered guy just gets mad fast and that causes him to act foolishly. Solomon is now talking about someone that is slow to be offended. He knows how to excuse other people’s faults and he understands that he is not without faults. He is not easily provoked. It’s not that he can’t get riled up, it’s that his patience is great, his understanding is great, and his wisdom is great. That’s why he’s slow to anger. He can get mad, but he chooses to follow wisdom instead. Think about it this way: do you want to be around someone that is going to flip out, or someone that is going to maintain a steady demeanor regardless of the circumstances? Gal. 5:22 says that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit so as believers, we don’t get the luxury to say, “I can’t help it.”

The quick tempered guy? Solomon says he, “Exalts folly” Solomon goes on to say there is a physical benefit to remaining calm. “A tranquil heart is life to the body.” Tranquil means free from disturbance or calm. You want to see what someone is made out of, put them in a stressful or tense situation. When the heart is healthy both morally and physically, the benefit spreads throughout the body. It’s not that this person is stress free; it’s just that he’s learned how to respond and react to that stress. You’ve heard people that say they’re stressed out? It’s used as a justification for all kinds of behavior. “But passion is rottenness to the bones.” Rottenness means suffering from decay. This seems quite strange. I’m passionate about many things. Studying God’s Word. Discipleship. Passion here means envy or jealousy. Jealousy is like a disease that will destroy you from the inside out.

Here’s some random thoughts. Verse 31 says, He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.This is a little bit different than what he said in v. 20-21. Oppress means to keep in subjection and hardship. Being poor does not mean being evil or wicked any more than being wealthy means you have God’s blessing on you. Here Solomon says if you take advantage of, or wrong someone that is poor, watch out. How can we put this in a modern context? Remember a couple of weeks ago I said it’s difficult to define what poor really is. So are there people that prey upon people of lesser means? Think about rent to own places. Think about payday lenders. Think about title loan places. These types of establishments target people they can take advantage of. The rent to own places foster the mentality that you can have it all and they’re willing to let you have it . . . or at least rent it. A local rental center currently offers a 50 inch TV for $64.99 a month. When you read the fine print it says: “Total Monthly Payment: $64.99 + $6.49 (for ASP) = $71.48/month (plus tax) • Total Cost of Ownership: $71.48 x 24 Months = $1,715.52 (plus tax) which equals $1835.61. That same TV retails for $797.99. If you saved for it, you could buy it outright in just over a year. Solomon is warning those types of people to not take advantage of the poor or oppress them. “He who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” How can you be gracious to the needy? Take the time to read Matt. 25:34-40. When you help care for those in need, it honors God. It reflects God’s glory, His mercy, His compassion, and His provision.

Having a healthy fear or reverence for God is a result of understanding who God really is. We stand in awe at who He is and have a deep trust in Him because of His character, His love, and His qualities. We stand amazed in His presence simply because He is. Don’t be quick tempered; be slow to anger. Understand people’s faults and extend grace. Ps. 103:17 says, “But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children.”