Transcript from WhisperAI
This sermon has about three introductions to it.
So introduction number one. Hi, I'm Anthony, and I am the worship leader here most often. If you can't see my short little body behind the piano, that's who I am.
Anyway, I'm a student at Bethel College. I'm a senior studying to be a pastor, and we're going through this series of Advent, Jesus, the final prophet of God.
In our planning of this a long time ago, they decided that not only would this be my last week of classes and my week of finals, but I'd also preach a sermon.
So I use that as an excuse if this seems really weak and you don't get anything out of there, but I also use it as, if you do get a lot out of it, well look how cool I am. This row here is a bunch of friends from Bethel. They came to visit me, and my fiancee too. They came to visit and say hi, both to you all and to me. So say hi to them back and pray for them as they do their finals. One of them in particular is graduating, so I have to say goodbye to him. Yeah. All right.
Introduction number two. Like I said, we're going through the series, the final prophet. Jesus is the final prophet of God. Two weeks ago, we talked about just that idea in general. Last week, we talked about the final prophet of God's power. And this week we are talking about the final prophet. Jesus is the final prophet of God's mercy. And that brings us to Luke chapter one, verses 57 and 80, through 80. So you can find that. We're gonna be taking a little bit of time to get there.
Before we do so, let's pray, since I don't know if we've even done that yet. And then we'll dive on in. Let's pray together.
Father, we first of all dedicate this gathering as your gathering, a gathering for your sake and for your glory. We pray, Father, that as a community of believers, we would dedicate ourselves to learning about you, learning from you, learning of you, and may we worship you as we even just sit and listen, as I stand and talk as we go home with our families and friends. Father, may we remember that your son, Jesus, is a prophet of your mercy, and that your mercy, Father, is a driving force in what you do in this world. Father, we pray for your mercy on this church, and the variety of needs represented here, ailments physical, ailments spiritual, God. May you be a father to us and wastefully pour your mercy onto us, Father. Now I pray that you would use me as your instrument, as a teacher, and that you would teach the hearts of your people to be closer to you. We pray in your name. Amen.
Introduction number three. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. The earth was void and without shape or form. And so the spirit of God hovered over the waters of the deep. And we know the story. There were those six wonderful days of creation. And there was land, and there was sun, and there was moon, and there were stars, and there were fish, and there were birds, and there were animals and mammals, and all these wonderful things. And finally, on that peak of the sixth day, God created in his image, according to his likeness, male and female. In the image of God, he created them.
And then we skip ahead a couple chapters into Genesis chapter 3. We find this tragic tale of a fruit and a woman and a snake and the fall of humanity.
Even though the Bible doesn't actually use that language, it's this fall from innocence into sin.
And so we go through the rest of Genesis and we try, we see these variety of ways that God in his mercy is trying to get back to humanity.
Not that, you know, God has somehow limited and can't get to us, but we keep on running away from him.
And so we see the story of the flood, which is not so much, yeah I guess it is, it's a story of destruction.
And even though we have our cute little children's books about two by two and zebras and cows and all this, it's really a story of blood and guts and gore and drowning.
Yeah, put that on a children's nursery.
But it's also the story of mercy and of this family going into an ark and being saved.
And they were the righteous and Noah was blameless in the eyes of God.
And they get outside the boat and humanity starts over again.
And then there's this tower, and God disperses them and gives them a variety of languages.
And then once upon a time, there was a man named Abram who lived in the city of Ur, which is a great name for any city, Ur.
And God says to Abram, I call you out and go west.
And to this land I will give you-- to your people I will give you this land, from Sinai to the Tigris to the north and to the west.
And Abram says, OK.
And so he goes.
And they end up in Egypt.
And they go back to Israel.
And then they go back to Egypt.
And Abram has a kid.
And God goes to Abram, who maybe at this point is named Abraham.
And he says, you're going to have a kid.
And Sarah, who's out back, starts laughing.
And God says, oh, you're going to laugh with a kid's name.
It's going to be Laughter, which is Isaac.
And so Isaac, he has two kids.
And they're named Jacob and Esau.
And Jacob and Esau, they struggle in their fight.
and they're like typical siblings.
And Jacob has a kid, and actually, they have 12 kids.
And one of them is named Joseph.
And he goes down to Egypt, and he saves Egypt, and he saves the west of the ancient Near East.
And everybody comes down to Egypt.
And the family of Israel is kind of growing and growing.
And 70 becomes 140, and 140 becomes 280, and finally becomes this massive number of people.
So finally, Pharaoh's in Egypt, and he says, oppression for you.
No, this might remind you of what I did back in May when I first became your worship leader.
This narrative story, the story of the Bible.
And this is what we're talking about right now.
And so we have this people oppressed in the land of Egypt, and so we turn the page to the book of Exodus.
And God calls up a leader named Moses who has a kind of checkered history of murder and running away and shepherding, and he's a strange character.
And he shows up on this mountain and sees this burning bush.
And God speaks to him and says, you go and tell Pharaoh, let my people go so that they may worship me.
And so we read this other grandiose story of plagues and frogs and hail and bad things happening.
And Pharaoh finally says, you're right.
OK, I can't fight this.
So he lets the people go.
And so finally, after a long amount of stories-- and we probably skipped through Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy.
We end up in Joshua.
And they're there, they got to the promised land.
And they start setting up their judges.
And they get tired of the judges.
And they start setting up their kings.
And so we know the kings.
We meet Saul, who at first is a big, powerful, grandiose man.
But he ends up getting a little haughty and prideful.
And so, oh, Saul, you're going to pass away.
And we'll raise up David.
And David is a man who seeks after the heart of God.
But he has a problem with women and lying.
And he does some kind of wacky things, too.
And after David, then we come to King Solomon.
Solomon says, "I will raise up a temple for God," and he raises up a temple for God.
And they worship God, and they celebrate God, and the son of Solomon comes around to be king.
And they say, "Well, you know, Solomon pushed us pretty hard.
What are you going to do?
" And he says, "He whipped you with whips.
I will whip you with scorpions.
" And so Israel and Judah are like, "Well, posh with that.
" And so they divide.
And now we have two kingdoms, two separate stories, this united kingdom of God that he meant to put together, that he called out of Egypt, that he called out of the Ark, that he called out of Eden, now they're separated.
And so there's two different stories, which gets really confusing to try to figure out as you're reading 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, but you can.
And so Israel, they are pretty bad and most of their kings are bad and finally God says, "Well, you know what?
It's time for you to learn a lesson.
" And so Assyria, old kingdom, comes and takes them over.
Judah lasted for a little bit longer because they had a couple good kings and they were kind of better and they every once in a while had a couple revivals and Billy Graham would come and talk to them and they lasted for a little while.
But then finally they ended up being pretty bad people too and God says, "Well, it's time for Babylon to come in and take you over.
" And so everybody's taken out of Israel, everybody's taken out of the kingdom of Judah and they're put into captivity, which reminds them a lot of what they came out of in the first place called Egypt.
And so then we come into the prophets.
The prophets come about and they start saying real interesting things.
Jeremiah says, "Well, you know what?
This is where you are.
Be good people.
Worship Yahweh and eventually God will get you back into your land.
" But they really don't like that.
They're in captivity and so they pray and they strive and then we start to see these hints of prophecies come about about something called Messiah.
Now Messiah was a kind of typical term in the Old Testament.
It simply meant one that was anointed.
David, the king, or Solomon, or Saul, all would have been anointed at some point.
All would have had some messianic kind of thing happen to them.
When they put oil on the head and God through a prophet would say, "You are going to be the king of Israel.
" But these tales start coming about and these prophets start telling stories about a Messiah, about somebody from the line of David that would be bigger than David, that would sit on his throne, but do things that really don't even make sense, that his kingdom would last forever, as far as you could think of, that because of Israel, because of that nation, all nations would be able to praise Yahweh, that they would come together, and that their oppression would end.
So the prophets start telling these stories.
And then the Israelites, they start going back to their homes and to the lands, and we get to Nehemiah, and there's a story about building a wall and building a city.
And we get to these stories about they're there, they're getting happy, they're getting better.
And we get to Malachi, the final book in the Old Testament, final prophet of the Old Testament.
And he, again, is telling these stories of a messiah, of a coming savior, someone who would come to redeem and then silence.
For 400 years, we have this gap between OT, Old Testament, and New Testament.
Now, all of this may seem a little foreign to you, or maybe Sunday school, or maybe it was just a lot of information to take in.
So let's bring it closer to home.
Past-- we could talk about the history of the United States for the past 200 some years, but let's just talk about the past eight.
There's been a lot of really nasty things happen to us.
So I decided to print off a bunch of covers from Time magazine, a couple from New York Times.
Anybody remember this?
Time magazine, September 11, 2001.
And this image in itself speaks volumes.
Two planes crashing into two buildings and eventually crumble to the ground, not to mention the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, not to mention the plane that crashed into the ground in Pennsylvania.
This image alone puts fear, puts all sorts of kind of bad emotions into our hearts.
This is the Time magazines.
This is the New York Times.
US attacked, hijacked jets, destroyed twin towers, and hit Pentagon in day of terror.
And so then the story continues that a manhunt begins for a certain man named Bin Laden, who we Christians have kind of had a, we've had a bad time with this guy.
We see this man's image and ideas of hate and anger come up, which I'm really not sure if Jesus meant to happen, but it happens.
And so we see this image and we get upset and the manhunt begins.
And then September 16, 2002, Time prints out a special report.
Are we ready for war?
So this lovely man's face comes out onto the press.
Certain dictator named Saddam Hussein also brings up emotions.
But then more terrible things started to happen.
New York Times, Wednesday, August-- I can't read that-- 31st.
New Orleans is inundated as two levees fail.
Much of the Gulf Coast is crippled and toll rises.
a certain Hurricane Katrina, which Bethel was still putting out task teams to help deal with the devastation of a hurricane a long time ago.
Here's one you might have forgotten about.
January 10, 2005, tsunami, the Indian Ocean earthquake.
Literally over 100,000 lives lost.
Quite frankly, when I was searching through this, oh yeah, I forgot about that.
That was a long time ago, and it really didn't affect America.
but it affected our world.
And I could have continued to print out Time and New York Time Magazine covers and front page of a certain financial crisis.
Maybe I could have picked the 2004 Person of the Year, George W.
Bush, and some of you would think, well, he was the worst thing that happened.
Or I could print out one of the eight covers that Time printed of Obama's face, and well, maybe that was one of the worst things that happened, and I could continue on about all these things that have happened over the past eight years.
And so imagine that, that little microcosm of us.
And imagine Israel's feeling over hundreds of years of being taken over by Assyria, being taken over by Babylon, then being taken over by Greece, then being taken over by Rome.
They just don't get a break.
And I think we kind of feel the same way.
Well, first we're attacked by these terrorists.
And then we go to war in Afghanistan.
Then we go to war in Iraq.
And in the meanwhile, there's a hurricane that hits us.
And in the meanwhile, there's a financial crisis that hits us.
If you really want to bring it close to home, we could go to the history of Cedar Road Church.
Ooh, I feel nerves tingling.
You know, a couple pastors voted out because of no confidence.
A worship leader who's brought his share of controversy.
Divorces, people losing jobs from welders to college professors.
We have our share of pain too.
Introduction number four.
So we turn to the book of Luke, chapter one.
And we find this story, collection of stories that Luke has brought us.
And let me remind you of the structure that Pastor David brought to us a couple Sundays ago.
First, we have the birth of John the Baptist foretold and Zachariah's response, which was bad.
Not the response that we should be copying, you know.
What are you thinking?
I'm not going to have a baby.
She's old, I'm old.
Silence, dumb, mute.
Zachariah stops talking.
He doesn't have much of a choice.
We have the birth of Jesus foretold and Mary is the response that we want to copy, the response that we want to emulate as Christians.
"I am your servant, let it be done as you say.
" John foretold bad response.
Jesus foretold good response.
A story about Mary, and this was last week, we have the song of Mary, the Magnificat.
"My soul magnifies the Lord.
" This story about Zachariah, which is where we are today in his song.
Now we already see hints of this theme of mercy being weaven in and out of the book of Luke.
In the Magnificat, chapter 1, verse 50, his mercy is upon generation after generation.
Verse 53, he's filled the hungry with good things, sent away the rich empty-handed.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, and remembrance of his mercy.
So we come to verse 57.
I'm just gonna read this first chunk, 57 through 66, and then we'll talk about it.
The next chunk, 67 through 80, and we'll talk about that.
Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed his great mercy toward her, and they were rejoicing with her.
It happened that on the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias after his father.
But his mother answered and said, "No, indeed, but he shall be called John.
" And they said to her, "There's no one among your relatives "who's called by that name.
" We're kind of going through this in my family right now.
My brother is about, not my brother, my sister-in-law, is about to give birth to a child on Friday, and so we just had a little gathering yesterday, and he's joking about the name, and we're making up names that would be terrible for any baby, and you know, and he's, "Well, there's no one by that name.
Why would we name him that?
" And then he gives us this warning.
"But if you don't like it, you can't say anything.
" "Oh, well, okay, we'll see.
" And he asked for a tablet, and they made signs to his father, Zachariah, as to what this child should be called.
And Zacharias asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, "His name is John," which isn't that typical of a man.
The mother's like, "Well, he's gonna be called John," you know, and they give him this tablet for Zacharias to write on.
And he's like, "No, his name is John.
It's over, it's done.
" And at once, Zechariah's mouth was opened and his tongue loose, and he began to speak in praise of God, which will be the song that we're about to study.
Fear came on all those living around them, their neighbors, and these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea.
All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, "What then will this child turn out to be?
" For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.
If you take your bulletins, you will find a little fill-in-the-blank outline.
Well, this has the answers.
Don't look at it too closely.
There's a fill-in-the-blank outline, pens and pencils, and fill-in-the-blanks.
What we just talked about was the need for mercy.
Israel needed mercy.
We as a country and as a world need mercy, and this church needs mercy.
Now in the story that we just read, the story of this birth and circumcision and naming of John, what we're seeing here is a couple symbols of God's mercy, which this song is about to explain.
First of all, we see mercy to Elizabeth, which is implicit in the first couple of verses.
They come to celebrate with her because of, I don't know why I closed my Bible, that was a bad idea, because of the child that she'd been given.
She's old, he's old.
There was no reason for him to have a son.
But they did.
Now this kind of reminds us of a couple of things a while back, which was Abram and his wife Sarah, Sarah, which they got renamed, and they had a son.
They weren't expecting it.
They were old, there was no reason to, but they had a son named Isaac, would then lead to the rest of Israel.
And so now we see this act of mercy, this John, this son of basically mercy being given.
The second symbol of mercy that we see is what I talked about that was 400 years of silence.
Israel finally gets back to their homeland and they hear all these rumblings and stories and tales of a Messiah, a king who is to come, and then there's nothing.
Now, there is something, there's some wars that go on, and there's some people who pretend like they're the Messiah, and there's some people who pretend like they're prophets, but in the end what we're left with is the book of Malachi, and that's it.
And then from there, 400 years of no word from God, at least in a broad, general sense to all of Israel, to all of the world.
And so we see Zacharias, and because of his lack of faith in what God was about to do, he is struck dumb and mute.
And then he does the right thing.
His name is John, referring to what the angel said was going to be the case.
This was him showing faith.
Okay, I have not been able to say or hear anything for the past nine months.
I think it's time for me to believe.
Probably a good idea.
His name is John and then the mouth of Zacharias is open.
And what I think Luke is trying to tell us is this is the beginning of something good.
And the mouths of the prophets are about to be opened again.
And that's, who's that going to be?
That's going to be John the Baptist, who kind of straddles both testaments.
He's the final Old Testament prophet and he's the first New Testament prophet.
And so by Zacharias' mouth being opened once again, God is saying to all of those, all these neighbors, who all of a sudden start fearing, what is happening?
He's telling them, this is the beginning of something new, something good, something merciful.
So then we turn to the song.
And this song, verse 67, "And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying and This is song basically serves as the history of mercy what we just talked about and the coming of mercy.
What's about to happen?
The song is called Benedictus For the first Latin word of the song which is blessed, you know benediction I mean when I when I tell you guys to go I'm gonna bless you and send you out It goes like this "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, "for he has visited us "and accomplished redemption for his people, "and has raised up a horn of salvation for us.
" Some of your translations might just say savior.
That word horn is kind of a, it's a word that basically, a horn of salvation was basically a person of salvation, something strong, something mighty.
"And has raised up a horn of salvation for us "in the house of David his servant.
"As he, God, spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, aka this happened way too long ago, salvation from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us, to show mercy toward our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to Abraham our father, to grant us that we being rescued from the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear and holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most Holy.
" The tone of this poem switches.
Now he's talking straight to John, little baby John.
"And you shall be called the prophet of the Most High.
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, of the tender mercy of our God, with which the sunrise or the dawn spring or the coming of light, your translations might say, from on high will visit us to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
The poem closes.
And the child, John, continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
The first few verses of this song, verses 68 onward to 75, actually really 68 and 69 are really the history of mercy.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel.
This is Zacharias's main point.
May God be blessed, be praised.
One, he's visited us.
He had come before to the people of God.
But the thing that's interesting about this song is even though it serves as a reminder of that which has been, of history, of that which was, at the same time the Bible says he prophesied.
He's talking about that which is about to happen.
Blessed be God because he visited us.
Two, he accomplished redemption for us.
In 3, he raised up a horn of salvation, or a savior, a mighty savior for us, in the house of David his servant.
Which again is referring to these prophecies, somebody will come from the line of David to bring mercy.
That's the history of mercy.
And then he gives the reasons for mercy.
To show mercy.
Mercy is a reason in and of itself.
That's the point of it.
Mercy is not given for a reason.
I don't start showing mercy to my friends, to my parents, to my kids, which I'll have someday because they've proven themselves worthy of it, because they've done the right thing, because they've paid their bills, they've paid their dues.
I'm giving them mercy simply because they are my friends, my family, my children.
Mercy is a reason of itself.
To show mercy toward our fathers, that's the first reason.
Second reason, to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore.
God is a God that keeps his promises.
He's not a God that all of a sudden is going to turn your back on you, which is this is what the Israelites are thinking.
They've gone through hell and back in their minds.
Syria, Babylon, Babylon, Babylon, Babylon.
Syria and Babylon and Greece and Persia and Rome and all the little fights and wars in between.
They're sick of it.
And so by the time that we come to 6 BC, the birth of Christ, though they don't know it yet, they are sick and tired of being oppressed.
What would you feel like if all of a sudden Iraq decided, "Well, we're gonna take over the US," and they did it.
And then Iran's like, "Well, we're gonna take over Iraq and therefore the US," and they did it.
And then North Korea is like, "Well, we're going to take over Iran, Iraq, and the U.
" Wouldn't you kind of get tired of that happening over and over again?
And then some no-name nation, you know, Canada invades or something.
Something like that.
You'd get tired.
You'd get sick and grumpy, too.
And so this poem is sort of as a reminder, God is not a God who's turned your back on you.
God is not a God that's turned his back on this world, not a God that's turned his back on this nation, not a God that's turned us back on this church.
Third of all, third reason, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve in three ways.
Without fear, in holiness and in righteousness.
And you can kind of put the two together, holiness and righteousness.
But without fear.
And this will become a theme of the New Testament.
Not to say that we shouldn't fear God, not to say that we shouldn't respect him.
But the reason that we come into church, the reason that we pray to him, the reason that we become friends, become children of God, is not because he's simply got bigger muscles than we do.
Not simply because, well, we can't fight this.
But because of mercy.
So we see the history of mercy, visitation, redemption, salvation.
We see the reasons for mercy.
Mercy itself, the covenant that he promised, and service without fear and with righteousness and holiness.
Then we move to verse 76.
We see the purpose of John.
A new child will be called the prophet of the Most High.
These are blessed words to them.
A prophet has finally come to Israel.
What are you going to do?
"For you will go on before the Lord, first of all, to prepare His ways.
" And how will he do this?
Second of all, to give his people the knowledge of salvation.
And so we see in John this two-fold purpose.
He's going to prepare the way of the Lord.
And basically what Zechariah is doing, he's quoting a verse from the old prophets that say, "Somebody will come and prepare the way for this Messiah, this Savior, this Anointed One.
" They're going to prepare the way.
By saying salvation is available.
Now, side note.
Israelites thought very different things about what salvation meant.
And quite literally, salvation in the Greek, what this book was written in, at least the second part of it, salvation could mean a variety of things.
It could mean saved from a physical illness.
It could mean saved from an enemy.
Zacharias means neither of those, but a salvation deeper and grander than that.
A salvation from our sins to serve him how?
Without fear and with holiness and righteousness.
And so our salvation is not brought about so we can gloat over those that we just defeated in battle.
Our salvation is not given to us so we can look at the pictures of Osama bin Laden and get angry and hope that we catch him soon that he will serve his punishment.
That's not the salvation he's talking about.
The salvation is something that has to do with our souls, something that has to do with the redemption of mankind, the redemption of the world, not just a battle to be won.
Because that's what the Israelites wanted.
Let's get rid of Rome.
Let's get rid of all these oppressors.
Let's finally be on our own again.
And that's why Jesus is kind of secretive about this whole being Jesus thing.
Because as soon as he says, "Well, I'm the Messiah," what are they going to try to do?
Make him king, give him an army, let him go fight.
Jesus wasn't out there to start fighting battles of that sort, but of a very different sort.
So we see the purpose of John, verses 76 and 77.
In verse 78, we see the purpose of Messiah.
Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the sunrise from on high will visit us.
That's why we light candles.
Messiah was shown to be a light.
To do two things.
To shine upon those who sit on darkness, sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
And second of all, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
And again, this is not peace of merely some militaristic kind of peace, but a peace that we are finally serving God without fear and with righteousness.
Now, how do we tie this all together?
As any good sermon should end, what does that have to do about me?
In other words, what do we do about mercy?
First of all, I think we need to remember our history.
Our history as families, as friends, as a worship team.
Our history as a church, as a community of believers, as somebody a long time ago decided, let's build a church with a wooden roof and multicolored windows.
Yeah, that's our history.
That's part of who we are.
And so we'd begin to grumble and get grumpy about, well, you know, preacher wasn't very good, and well, the children, you know, they sang out a key, and well, this isn't happening the way I want it to go, which I'm guilty of, you're guilty of, we're all guilty of.
We have a history.
This church, this physical building, and you physical people have a purpose, have a history that we get to remember.
Remember our history as a people of God, as Christians, as the church universal.
The Messiah has a purpose for us, which we'll get to.
Remember our history that's in this.
God is constantly getting into the world to work out salvation.
Because of his mercy.
That's the first what to do about mercy.
Second of all, serve God without fear, with righteousness and holiness.
I pray that when you come to church each Sunday, and when you go out of these churches each Sunday, that you're not doing it just because, well, it seems like the thing to do.
That you're not doing it just because you wonder what people would think about if you didn't.
That you're not just doing it because you think this is what God, all that God requires of you.
Not that you would serve him with fear, but without.
What does without fear mean?
that you would serve him with holiness and righteousness.
Holiness is a word that means set apart, separate, sanctified.
If you wanna get really, really down to earth, simply means weird, okay?
God is holy, God is weird.
What does that mean?
It means that God is set apart.
He's different from everything that we know.
When we go out to the world and we see the death and the destruction and the twin towers falling and the Osama bin Laden's fighting we see all this, God calls us to be distinct from that.
Now he doesn't call us to go hide in the basement of our churches hoping for the rapture to happen in a minute now.
That's not what holiness means.
Because the point of holiness, as we see throughout Scripture, is not just to be different for the sake of being different.
It's to be holy, it's to be different so that everybody else can join along.
That's why Israel was set not in some little forest side off the beaten path place.
The land of Israel was a major trade route for a bunch of different nations.
If you ever wondered why there were so many wars over Israel, that's why.
They're next to the Mediterranean Sea.
They're in between Egypt and everything that the routes that go up to Europe.
I don't think that's coincidence.
I think God placed them there for the purpose to be holy, not so they can go hide out, but to be holy so everybody else can join in the party.
Serve God without fear, with righteousness and holiness.
Third, what to do.
Prepare the way for the second coming.
As we think about Advent, the first coming of Christ, we also have to remember the coming that's yet to come, the second coming.
And honestly, what you believe about how that works, the rapture and the tribulation and the millennium, is really not ever what anybody in the Bible ever taught us to care about.
What we were taught to care about was preparing the way for that second coming.
We pray it in a prayer called the Lord's Prayer.
"Thy kingdom come," how?
"By thy will being done, "Where?
On earth as it is in heaven.
" This is not a passive prayer.
This is not a prayer that we simply sit back and watch happen.
This is a prayer that we get to be a part of.
"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
" By who?
Prepare the way of the second coming by giving that knowledge of salvation.
Now, this does not simply mean going out on street corners and yelling, "Jesus is coming, turn or burn.
" This knowledge of salvation, like I said, is much deeper than that.
It's about the redemption of mankind.
Obviously, there must be choices made.
Obviously, people can't just keep on worshiping whatever or whoever they decide to worship and hope that salvation applies to them too.
And that's where we come in.
That's where that holiness factor comes in.
Be distinct so everybody else can join along.
Fourth of all, allow Messiah to shine in our darkness and guide us to light.
Israel already was the called people of God.
They already were distinct by their very nature, by the covenant that God made with them.
And yet Messiah is coming to shine in their darkness and to guide them to light.
The verse says, "To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
" Without Jesus, that's where we sit, in darkness and the shadow of death.
And salvation is more than just sitting in salvation.
Messiah came to guide our feet into the way, the traveling path of peace.
Salvation is not simply a one-time, long time ago decision that we now sit in our salvation pew and again await for the rapture to come.
Messiah came to guide us.
That means a continual path, something that goes further up and further in.
And so we need to allow Messiah, the final prophet of God's mercy, this is why he did all this in the first place.
We need to allow Messiah to guide us, to shine in our darkness, to shine and seal those dark crevices that we'd rather let no one see.
We need to let Messiah in there.
We need to let him shine and guide our way into peace.
A peace beyond just our pocketbooks and our armies, but a peace that says, "I'm gonna serve God without fear.
Would you please join along?
Let's pray together.
Blessed Heavenly Father, You are a God of mercy and you sent your Son as a prophet of that mercy.
But Father we don't just want to sit in pews or stand behind music stands and talk about it and listen about it.
Father you call us to be your servants of mercy.
And so as we leave today May we remember where we came from.
May we serve you without fear.
May we prepare the way for your coming.
May we allow you to shine and to guide us.
Thank you for the song of Zacharias that has lasted all these years.
Throughout this week, may we meditate on it and what it means for us.
And may you guide us into deeper truth, deeper love, and deeper knowledge of you.
We pray this in your name.
Thank you guys so much.
You guys are dismissed.