Sunday, May 30, 2010

God’s Gracious Dealings with Remnants

Throughout the Bible, we see that God deals frequently with remnants.  What is a remnant?  The dictionary definition is “that which is left over”, “residue”, or “remainder”.

We see God dealing with a small portion and rejecting another portion throughout Old Testament history.  God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain, dividing humanity in half.  In the Flood, God saved only eight people out of the mass of humanity at that time.  In the case of Abraham, God chose one man out of Ur of the Chaldees to be the patriarch of His particular people.  He continued to reveal Himself exclusively through that small nation.  Or take the example of Gideon.  God whittled down his strong army to just 300 men, and used them in winning a great victory.

Sometimes we might see the corruption and lack of reality in mainstream denominations and feel as though we are all alone, the only ones truly following God.  Elijah, after killing the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel, fled to a cave and twice came before God claiming that “he alone” was left.  God responded that there were 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal.  Romans 11:5 reminds us that there is a similar remnant today.  Whenever we follow God completely, we are not alone – we are part of His remnant in the world.

Although we may seem like a part of a tiny group of believers today, at the end of the world (Rev 7:9), God’s people through the ages will amass as a great multitude, too vast for any man to count.  Therefore, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Luke, Part 3: Mary Visits Elizabeth

Text: Luke 1:39-45

In the previous section of Luke, the angel came to Mary and told her she would bear the Messiah.  Although she did ask, “How can (literally “shall”) this be?” she – unlike Zacharias – had faith in the word that God had sent her and believed the angel, understanding that “nothing is impossible with God.”

In this section, Mary came to visit Elizabeth.  Mary wanted to get together with someone else who had experienced God.  This is natural – people who have experienced God want to be together.

In verse 40, we see that Mary entered the house and “greeted” Elizabeth.  What was this greeting?  It was probably more than just a “hello”.  Mary must have been telling Elizabeth about the news the angel had given her because, in verse 41, we see that the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb.

When the baby leaped, Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit”.  Much could be said about the filling of the Holy Spirit.  We remember that Elizabeth had “kept herself in seclusion” for five months.  She was thinking of the Lord and walking circumspectly.  Walking with the Lord allows us to be filled with the Spirit.  Ephesians 5:15-20 describes how we are to walk carefully and use our time wisely, and to give ourselves over to the Holy Spirit, in comparison to how one who is ruled by drink gives himself over to wine.

It is interesting to note that Elizabeth was already regenerate, what we today would call “a Christian” before this filling of the ?Holy Spirit occurred.

The filling of the Holy Spirit caused Elizabeth to “cry out”.  She is excited, emotionally engaged.  She had been told that her baby would grow up to be the forerunner of the Messiah, but she did not know when the Messiah would come, until this point.

In the following verses, Elizabeth encouraged Mary, showing great humility (v.43) even though she was older than Mary.  She encouraged Mary by telling her what God had done.

She proclaimed Mary to be blessed in v. 44.  Mary was blessed in the same way as we are – she was saved through the work of Christ.  She also had a special blessing, in the service she performed in carrying Jesus.  For her, as well as us, blessedness is obtained through service.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Luke, Part 2: The angel visits Zacharias

Text: Luke 1: 5-25

The first incident that Luke relates is the angel’s visitation of Zacharias and the subsequent birth of John the Baptist.  This section demonstrates Luke’s inclination to describe events in careful detail and the emphasis he places on people as individuals.

Zacharias, we see, was a priest who was married to the daughter of a priest.  From this, he would expect to be the recipient of a double blessing, according to the Jewish tradition.  Zacharias and his wife were both faithful and righteous before God.  Although they had no children, they continued on faithfully worshipping and loving God.  They had no idea what blessings He had in store for them, but they pressed on regardless.

Judea had fallen into a state of deep decline, as had been detailed in the book of Malachi, written 400 years before Christ.  In the silent years after Malachi, the decline surely became deeper.  Judea was being ruled by a horrible, evil king, Herod.  Things couldn’t seem to get any darker for those who followed God truly.  Yet it was in this dark time that God sent His Redeemer.  Likewise, we today should not be discouraged by the state of the world around us – God is able to break through in any situation!

Zacharias had been chosen, by lot, to enter the temple and burn incense.  This was the highest position of service that a regular priest could perform.  He stood next to the Holy of Holies and offered incense that flowed over the whole temple – and into the Holy of Holies as well.  The position of presenting the incense was so highly regarded that each priest was allowed to perform it only once in his life.  It was during this service that the angel came to Zacharias.

The angel came to Zacharias and spoke ten different things to him:

  1. Their prayer had been answered!  What prayer?  Both their prayer for a Redeemer, who was to come, and…
  2. They would have a son.
  3. His name would be “John” (a gift from God), meaning he was to be the gift of God and filled with the grace of God.
  4. He would be greatly used by God.
  5. He would drink no strong drink.
  6. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth.
  7. He would turn many to God.
  8. This son was the one prophesied who would be coming in the spirit of Elijah.
  9. He would reconcile families.
  10. He would prepare a people for the Lord.

John’s ministry would be like ours – we cannot save anyone, but we can lead men to  Him who can.  We can cry out against sin in the world and point to the Redeemer.

Sadly, Zacharias’s response was one of unbelief.  He was hearing a word directly from an angel, but it was not sufficient for him.  He was staggered by the thought that God would use him and his wife to bring this great prophet.  But God, then as today, does use ordinary people to do his work.  Why do we doubt that God will use us to work out His promises?

Because Zacharias spoke his unbelief, he was struck dumb for a time.  Yet God was merciful and later restored his ability to speak.  May God forgive us for doubting His ability to use us to accomplish all He has for us to do!