Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Prophets and Jesus Christ

Intro.: Take out a pen or pencil.

  1. Not long ago, a professor of psychology in one of our great universities gave a word suggestion test to his class of 40 students. He instructed them to write the word “Christmas,” and all the class did so. “Now,” said the professor, “right after the word ‘Christmas’ write the first thought that flashes through your mind regarding that day.” When the papers were turned in, such answers were given as “tree,” “holly,” “mistletoe,” “presents,” “turkey,” “holiday,” “carols,” and “Santa Claus,” but not one had written, “the birthday of Jesus.” As there was no room for the baby Jesus in the inn, there is no room for Him today in the celebration of Christmas.1

  2. During the next few minutes we want to look at how the prophets described the coming Messiah.


Trans: Too often we think of a prophet as being someone who tells the future.

  1. But scripture presents a different picture of a prophet.

  2. Rather than being a "foreteller", the scriptural prophet is a "forthteller".

  3. Though much of our time this Advent has been spent looking at how the scripture, and today the prophets, looked ahead to the coming Messiah.

  4. But, we have only done this because we are in Advent – the vast majority of the Old Testament has the prophets delivering God's word – and that dealt with the hearers present.

  5. Don't read the prophets so much for details about the future, but to prepared for living the life of a believer.

T.S. During the next few minutes I want to look at four facts that the prophets give about the coming Messiah.

  1. The prophets tell us the place of Christ's birth.

    1. I have three sons – but at this point I have no grand kids. I have no idea when they will come, but I suspect they will.

    2. But if any of you know when and where my first grandson will be born, I would really like to know. I mean, I could plan ahead. None of this six or seven months warning. I could even buy my plane tickets so Sandra and I could be there to hold our son and daughter-in-law's hand as they waited for that momentous event.

    3. But none of you can help me – can you? I mean none of you can even give me a two or three year notice so I can plan. I wife would say it is time for crocodile tears.

    4. It would really be amazing to get that information in advance.

    5. And it was amazing when 700 years before Christ was born, Micah told the world that he would be born in Bethlehem:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

though you are small among the clans of Judah,

out of you will come for me

one who will be ruler over Israel,

whose origins are from of old,

from ancient times.”

Therefore Israel will be abandoned

until the time

when she who is in labor

gives birth

and the rest of his brothers return

to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock

in the strength of the Lord,

in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

And they will live securely,

for then his greatness

will reach to the ends of the earth.

And he will be their peace. (Micah 5:2-5a NIV)

    1. I doubt that Mary and Joseph had put it all together, but sitting here in the 20th century, it is amazing.

    2. And Micah was able to speak the truth because he was a forthteller – he was willing to speak God's words to broken people.

  1. The prophets tell us the means of Christ's birth

    1. I suspect that if someone were to say that a baby would be born in Bethlehem, we would not be surprised. There were probably lots of babies born in Bethlehem.

    2. But Isaiah says something even more amazing – he tells us that the messiah will be born of a virgin:

      Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, andd will call him Immanuel - that is God with us. (Isaiah 7:22 NIV)

    3. I sometimes put God into a box – I expect him to work like I would. I mean, I expect him to work by the same rules that I do.

    4. But that is exactly what those who do not believe in miracles think. Miracles are not possible when we limit God to our rules – but God is god. That is what a miracle is – God working outside the rules.

(Ill.) Someone has noted, 'Miracles happen today. They are history-making, earth-shaking events, which change whole courses of history and the fates of nations. Arnold Toynbee says that believing in miracles is a basic necessity of mankind: “The fundamental need of our world today is a rebirth of belief in the supernatural. If this rebirth is not forthcoming from the more progressive creators of our mechanical culture, it may come from the “backward” peoples like the natives of Africa and Asia, to those who have not yet become victims of the proud materialism of the Great Powers.”'2

    1. The virgin birth was a miracle – a miracle that confirms that Jesus was the Son of God

  1. The prophets tell us the effects of Christ's birth

    1. Isaiah writes,

      "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
      and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
      Then will the lame leap like a deer,
      and the mute tongue shout for joy.
      Water will gush forth in the wilderness
      and streams in the desert. "
      (Isaiah 35:5-6 NIV)

    2. Do you remember what Jesus said to John's disciples when they came to find out whether Jesus was the messiah in Luke 7. Jesus does not give a direct answer, but tells John's disciples, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor."

    3. Christ came to offer us salvation – but to show his world and ours, he did and does much more. And that is what the prophets tell us will happen.

    4. We all have times when we hurt, we all have times when we struggle – do you know what I mean. And Christ wants to meet those needs.

  2. The prophets tell us the reason for Christ's birth

    1. I want to conclude with a familiar passage – a passage that we normally read during Lent. But it reminds us why Christ came.

    2. Read Isaiah 53:1-12 NIV

    3. Christ did many things during his three years of ministry, but the one with the greatest impact, the one with eternal consequences, was his death on the cross.

    4. Isaiah saw it coming, we know it happened.

    5. Today, if you have not placed your faith in Christ, do so today.



1AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

2Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Writings That Point To Christ

Intro.: Over the years I have dabbled in poetry.

  1. In the fall of 1997 I was driving back from church. As I drove along, a leaf crossed my path. It looked as if it were a small animal creeping along the ground. A couple of days later I wrote the following:

    The Leaf

Today a leaf danced across my path.

It did a little jig as it moved upon the ground,

urged along by unseen hands.

Dry and tender, it waltzed in step with the trees

who clapped their hands to the tune of some

silent melody.

I moved on, perhaps never again to see that sight,

though leaves will dance and waltz tomorrow.1

  1. I can appreciate the dilemma that a writer faces – between writing a simple statement and then communicating what is coming from the heart.

  2. Over the past two weeks, we have looked at the picture of the Messiah in the Law and the historical books of the Old Testament

  3. Today we turn to those books that are grouped together under the title "The Writings".


Trans: The writing cover a broad period of time.

  1. Job is considered one of the earliest pieces of writing

  2. Though David is writing most of the Psalms in about 1000 BC, some of the Psalms date three or four hundred years later. Some would date them several hundred years earlier.

  3. But regardless of when they are writing, the authors of these books, kept their eyes on God.

T.S. This morning, I would like to look at two passages from the writings that focus our attention on the coming Christ.

  1. Job shows a man of great faith in the midst of great trouble.

    1. The author of the Word Biblical Commentary on Job that he makes no pretensions to understand what the book of Job is all about. Even given unlimited time – it would be an impossible task.2

    2. Here is a man who lost it all. He lost his health, he lost his wealth, and he lost his family – he had nothing.

    3. Even his friends seem to betray him – even seeking to get him to curse God.

    4. I would not want to be Job.

    5. Yet in the midst of all of his problems, Job keeps his faith. Not just once or twice or three times, but four times Job testifies to God's goodness even in the midst of crisis.

    6. Turn with me to Job 19:25-27. We are at the end of Job's story – yet he continues to praise God.

    7. Job know that a redeemer is available. Various translators have chosen different words to describe the word "redeemer" – defender, champion, but the vast majority of translators use the word with which we are familiar – "redeemer."

(Ill.) Those of you who went through the book of Ruth with me in Bible Study have seen this word before. It is the same word used to describe Boaz's responsibility to Ruth – where he is called the "kinsman redeemer". Just as Boaz offers to let Ruth join his family after his cousin, her husband, dies, Christ invites us to join his family.

    1. And Job knows that he, in spite of his miserable circumstances, is a part of the family of God.

(Ill.) "I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God" – a Bill Gaither song actually had its roots in a similar circumstance in their church in Anderson, IN. They heard of a young man in the community who had been severely burned when an explosion demolished the garage where he worked. Doctors did not expect him to live through the night.

A church prayer chain was activated, and church members prayed all night for the young man. When church members gathered to celebrate Easter the next day, they received word that the young man was recover­ing. The pastor reported that he had just spoken to the doctor, who told him the young man had a good chance of pulling through. They rejoiced in the answer to prayer.

As Bill and Gloria Gaither went home after the church service, they talked about what a wonderful thing it is to be a part of a family of believ­ers and to be able to pray together to our Father in heaven. Before long, a new gospel song was born: "The Family of God."3 I am so glad I am a part of the family of God.2

I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God

I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!

Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,

For I'm part of the family, the family of God.

  1. Psalms show a man of great insight who tells of one that brings us great delight.

    1. The biggest book included in what both ancient writers and modern writers call "the writings" is the book of Psalms. 15 Psalms have been identified as Messianic Psalms – Psalms that direct the readers attention to a coming Messiah.

    2. Though the Psalms are the work of multiple authors, many come from the pen the David the King. David can be dated from 1000 years before Christ.

    3. And writing 1000 years before Christ, David had some amazing things to say. Listen to what he wrote in Psalm 22:1-8, 16b-18

    4. I suppose that it would be simple to claim that Jesus merely memorized Psalm 22 and quoted it from the cross. But I see two problems with that.

      1. First, if I were in as much pain as Jesus had on the cross, I would not be able to quote the scripture I had memorized. It is much easier to assume that the words that came from the cross were truly the words of a man in pain and David was painting a picture of those moments 1000 years before they happened.19

      2. Secondly, though Jesus may have quoted the words that David wrote 1000 years before, there is no way in which he could have planned for the soldiers guarding the cross that day to follow the plan laid out in in verses 16-18. David could not know that death would come by crucifixion and putting nails into the hands and feet of the one being crucified. Jesus could not have arranged for the soldiers to cast lots for his clothing.

(Ill.) You see, the Messianic Psalms point to a coming King, a coming leader. Next week we shall see that the prophets point to a baby being born in Bethlehem.

Handel wrote his famous work The Messiah in 24 days – several months before traveling to Ireland. Finally, after spending five months in Ireland, it was performed – not is a church, not in a wonderful concert hall, but in a theater – where it would attract the common people in order to benefit people in debtor's prison.

And it was because it was performed in a rather common theater, that was not initially well received. In fact it would be ten years before it would begin achieve the critical success that it enjoys today. Yet, during those first years, a contemporary wrote, that "Messiah 'fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and fostered the orphan.'"4

    1. The Messiah is still in the business of helping those most in need.

Conclusion: We can think of the Messiah in three ways:

  1. He was promised in the Old Testament

  2. He lived in the New Testament

  3. But He thrives in the lives and hearts of those who believe in Him today.


1Copyright Floyd H. Johnson, 2006.

2Clines, D. J. A. (2002). Vol. 17: Word Biblical Commentary : Job 1-20. Word Biblical Commentary (xiv). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

3Petersen, W. J. and Petersen, A. (2006). The Complete Book of Hymns: Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

God: Past, Present, and Future

Intro.: There will come times when the place of God in our lives is not as obvious.

  1. Oh, I would like to think that I will exhibit perfect faith.

  2. I would really like to think that I am the epitome of a faithful believer – which of course I am.

  3. NOT!

  4. You see, like every believer, there are dry times in my Christian walk, times when it difficult for me to find a place to put my faithful feel.

  5. And there are times when, though I may be faithful, it may not be obvious to others.

  6. It is such a time as this that I will be exploring during our few minutes together today.

Read: Joshua 24:14-27


Trans: This week I want to spend some time looking at what have come to be known as the "Historical Books" of the Old Testament

  1. Last week we looked at the Pentateuch or the Law – Gen, Ex, Lev, Num, Deut.

  2. The historical books begin with the book of Judges and continue through the book of Esther – interestingly, the book of Esther is the only book of the Bible with no explicit mention of God.

  3. In Jesus' time the OT was divided into the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings – with the books that we call the "historical books" being included in the prophets because they give a picture of a number of prophets who did not write books.

T.S. During the next few minutes, I want to look at how the Israelites looked at God's role in their past, present and future

  1. The Jews knew God was in their past

    1. The past played a key role in the thought life of the Israelite nation.

    2. They knew the history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. They knew how Moses had taken the people from Egypt to the edge of the promised land. They knew how Joshua had taken the people over the Jordan River into the promised land. They knew how Rahab, the great-great-grandmother of David had relied on Joshua for safety. They knew that Ruth was David's great-grandmother. And they knew that God had chosen David to be their king. We continue to see God at work in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The lessor prophets, otherwise known as the non-writing prophets, and the writing prophets all testify that God had worked in their nations past. They would not forget what God had done.

(Ill.) Most of us will remember the actor Tom Selleck. Of course his most famous role was as Thomas Magnum of Magnum, P.I. Almost continuously since 1969 he has been active in TV and movie roles – he already has two movies ready to be seen in 2007. Here is a successful man – and but when seen in interviews he seems very down to earth. Some have raised the question as whether it was all a charade. But when one looks deeper by getting the truth from his family and friends, we find that he really is as modest and unassuming as he seems. You see Tom Selleck remembered where he came from. He remembered the rejection that came early in his career. In fact he couldn't even get a date on that infamous TV show Dating Game. He knew that his accomplishments were as much the result of grace as it was his talent.

(Appl.) Just as Tom Selleck recognized that more was involved in his success, just as the Israelites remembered that God had been involved in their past, so we must remember that God has been there for us. Take time this week to remember how God has worked in your life.1

  1. The Jews knew God was working in their present

    1. Life sometimes gets so busy that we forget that God is there. We start running from one place to another and God gets dropped along the way.

    2. The Israelites fell into this pattern – they began doing rather than believing. For some it was more important to be offering the sacrifices than remembering than remembering the God to whom they were offered.

    3. It seems to me that Christmas does one of two things. First, it easily can become the perfect time to forget about God. We want to find the perfect gift, we go from store to store, we have second thoughts about that gift. And we forget about God.

    4. Ironically, Christmas is also the perfect time to recognize that God is working today. Christmas is not primarily about shopping. Christmas is not primarily about going from place to place. Christmas is not primarily about buying or giving gifts. Christmas is primarily about Jesus. It is about his being born in a manger located somewhere near Bethlehem.

(Ill.) Every one of us needs to keep the Christmas Prayer

Let every heart keep Christmas within—

Christ’s pity for sorrow,

Christ’s hatred for sin,

Christ’s care for the weakest,

Christ’s courage for right.

Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!2

    1. So, how will you remember this Christmas – as one that went too fast to remember Christ or as one that put Christ at its center?

  1. I am not sure that the Jews knew God would work in the future

    1. Now I know that this not true – the historical books cover the same period as the writings and prophetic books. The Psalms and the prophets are full of references to a coming Messiah.

    2. But, interestingly, there is very little reference to a coming Messiah in the historical books themselves.

    3. I wonder what could be written about me. Would I be noted for my faith or for my doing? Would I noted for my faith or my going? Would I be noted for my faith or for my spending?

    4. Someone once said, "Faith and works are as inseparable as sun and sunlight. Faith is the sun; good works are its rays."3

    5. Because I believe this is true, I hope that I am remembered for both my faith and for my works. 24:

    6. I suppose that if I am willing to ask this question of myself, I can also ask it of you – What will you be remembered for: your faith, your works, or both. I do not expect you to answer me, I do expect you to answer God.


1Hurley, V. (2000, c1995). Speaker's sourcebook of new illustrations (electronic ed.) (170). Dallas: Word Publishers.

2AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

3Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Bilical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file.). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Jesus in the Law

Intro.: I remember when I was a Boy Scout many years ago.

One of the skills that we had to learn was to follow tracking details left by our scout leader.

  1. The three of us on our team got lost.

  2. Actually we got set up – because the team that went before us had taken the clues and changed them just enough that we could get lost. It was no fun at all.

  3. But Scripture is different. We know that what is says can be trusted.

  4. During the four weeks of advent, I want to focus on some clues that God left for his people. I want to move through the OT and examine how God prepared his people for the coming messiah.

  5. The OT is traditionally divided into four parts:
    the Pentateuch or The Law
    the Writings
    the Prophets

  6. Over the next four weeks we will look at each division of the OT and examine how they each pointed the Jewish faithful toward the coming Messiah.

  7. Today we start with the Pentateuch – I suppose I could read all of it, but then we would be sitting for a long time. Let me read just a short portion.

Read: Genesis 3:1-19


T.S. In the Pentateuch we see three key pictures of Jesus

  1. He will be human

    1. It is important to remember that Jesus is God.

    2. But in Genesis 3, the focus is on his humanity.

    3. The serpent had tempted Eve, who had tempted Adam – and both had sinned.

    4. Both also tried to blame someone else – Eve tried to blame the serpent and Adam tried to blame Eve. But it didn't work.

    5. And there would be consequences – for all three.

    6. Look at the words given to the serpent. There will be a human offspring that will one day challenge the very life of that serpent.

    7. Though we know that Jesus is God, this passage says nothing about His diety – rather it makes very clear that he will come as a human.

(Ill.) Doctrinally, it is put this way, "We believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, truly God and truly man."1

    1. Somehow, it is easy to think of Jesus as being God – but it is more difficult to think of Him as being human. He did cry as a child, he was hungry, he was tempted. I can see him hitting his thumb in his father's carpentry shop. We must never forget that christ was a human as we are – with one big exception – he neve sinned.

(Appl.) The next time you start to think that God just doesn't understand, remember that he was here too, and suffered with the same hurts and the same temptations that are ours. He understands because he was here. He is not some God who is merely out there. But he is the only kind of God who can understand – why, because he is human.

  1. He will be Jewish

    1. That Jesus would be Jewish is not evident from Genesis 3 – but we find the promise a Jewish messiah throughout much of the pentateuch.

    2. For example, turn to Genesis 22:15-18. Abraham had just sacrificed the ram as a substitute for his own son. But because of his obedience God was ready to bless him. Listen - "The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.

    3. Abraham was the beginning – but we see similar promises being made to Isaac, Jacob (the father of the Jewish nation). Later, we shall see the promise being passed to David and confirmed by the prophets.

    4. What really amazes me, is not the fact that this prophesy was given to Abraham, but that it was given to Abraham more than 2000 years before Christ was born. Scholars sometimes disagree about when God spoke these words to Abraham – but we are talking about a difference of 100 years – so whether it is 1900 or 2000 years before Christ, it is an amazing prediction of God was going to do through Christ.

(Appl.) If you ever get to the point in your life when God seems distant, if you ever begin to wonder whether God can do what he says, you only need to come back to these prophesies – you only need to come back to these prophesies looking forward to the coming of Jesus. Abraham was written 2000 years before Christ, David was writing 1000 years before Christ, the prophets are dated 700 to 500 years before Christ. And they provide the proof that God does what he ways he will do.

    1. God tells Abraham that the messiah will descend from him, and we should not be surprised that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham.

  1. He will have victory over sin

    1. The Pentateuch begins by telling us something about Jesus' ancestry.

    2. But it gives us one more picture of Jesus as well. It tells us His relationship to Satan. Look at verse 15:
      And I will put enmity
      between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;
      he will crush your head,
      and you will strike his heel.

    3. Of course, the serpent is really Satan – and he will have a chance to strike the heel of man. For some that is deadly – after all "the wages of sin is death."

    4. But there is also a promise for the messiah – he will strike the head of the serpent.

    5. Now I don't know about you, but I would rather get my heel hurt than have my head crushed – and that is exactly the point God is making. Satan may have some small impact on us, but the Messiah will have total victory over whatever Satan may throw our way.

    6. We are in a battle – and it look at times as if Satan is winning, but in the end, we know who will end.

(Ill.) John Wesley said, “Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the world. I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; and such alone will overthrow the kingdom of Satan and build up the Kingdom of God on earth.”2

    1. Satan will challenge you – temptations come in many forms: people, ideas, things, they can all distract us. But in the end it is God who will win.

Conclusion: The Old Testament points us to the New. The Old Testament points us to the messiah.

  1. He iis human.

  2. He is Jewish

  3. He is our victory over sin.



2Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.