Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Son of Man

Part 3 of A Thrill of Hope

Text: Psalm 8; Hebrews 2:9



When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Ps. 8:3-4).


Star Gazing

I have preached on Psalm 8 in the past—but never at Christmastime. The author of Hebrews makes a connection between Psalm 8 and the coming of the Christ into the world. Of course, we who are Christians believe that the Christ (i.e., the Messiah) is Jesus—Jesus Christ.

Psalm 8 is a hymn of praise written by David. In the psalm, David mentions looking up at the stars. In his younger days, David was a shepherd. And I’m sure there were many nights when David would lie on his back and gaze at the stars.

Today we know much more about the stars than David ever did. How many stars do you think there are? There are many more stars that the naked eye can see. In our galaxy alone, there are about 400 billion stars. And according to one recent estimate, there are at least 2 trillion galaxies.

We live in an immense universe. It’s not surprising that David begins and end Psalm 8 the same way: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (vv. 1a, 9).


God's Awesomeness and Our Insignificance

Verse 1 goes on to say, “You have set your glory above the heavens” (v. 1b). Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” The apostle Paul writes, “[God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20). The heavens are glorious, but God is more glorious.

Listen to Isaiah 40:25-26: “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and see: who created these [the stars]? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.”

David writes, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (vv. 3-4). God is big; we are little. We are nothing in comparison to God.

Psalm 8 was written to encourage God’s people to praise God. Why should we praise God? Here’s one reason: We are so little, but God has done big things for us! The God who made the stars is the same God who cares about us! But how much does God care about us?


We See Jesus

Psalm 8:5 says, “You have made him [the son of man] a little lower than the heavenly beings [i.e., the angels].” In Hebrews 2, the author quotes Psalm 8. He sees “the son of man” as the Son of Man: “We see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus” (v. 9). In the Gospels, Jesus often refers to himself as “the Son of Man.” What does this title mean?

In Daniel 7, the prophet Daniel describes a vision in which he sees “one like a son of man” (v. 13). In other words, he sees a person who looks like a man. But the “one like a son of man” is obviously more than just a man. In Daniel’s vision, the “one like a son of man” comes “with the clouds of heaven.” In the OT, God is the one who rides on the clouds. “[The LORD] makes the clouds his chariot” (Ps. 104:3). “Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud” (Isa. 19:1). “The clouds are the dust of [the LORD’s] feet” (Nah. 1:3).

When Jesus questioned by Caiaphas the high priest regarding his true identity, Jesus declares, “From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). Jesus was saying, “I am the Son of Man in Daniel’s vision!” What was the high priest’s reaction? He accuses Jesus of blasphemy (v. 65). By calling himself the Son of Man, Jesus was claiming to be both man (“one like a son of man”) and God (“with the clouds of heaven”).

“We see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). Ponder what this means! Think about who that baby lying in a manger really was! Think about God's humility and love! And then ponder our own lack of humility and love.

The God-man died for us! That’s how much God cares about us!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Hope's Peace

Part of A Thrill of Hope

Text: Micah 5:1-5a; 7:18-20




But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days…. And he shall be their peace. (Micah 5:2, 5a). 


What We Really Need

It’s not uncommon to receive a Christmas gift that we don’t really need—or that we don’t even want. 

There’s something that we all need this Christmas. We all need hope. What happens if we have no hope? If we have no hope, we are filled with despair. We have no reason to live. We need to have good things to look forward to. If we are going through a difficult time, we need the expectation that things are going to get better.


Israel's Great Hope

The people of Judah need hope because they’re about to be attacked by the Assyrian army. So God, through the prophet Micah, gives them a message of hope: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel” (5:2).

The interpretation of both Christianity and Judaism is that Micah 5:2 is about the Messiah (i.e., the Christ). When Herod asks the chief priest and scribes “where the Christ was to be born,” they answer, “In Bethlehem of Judea,” and then they quote Micah 5:2: “ (cf. John 7:42).

The great hope of Israel was the coming of the Messiah. And God says it’s going to happen, and he’ll be born in Bethlehem.


God Keeps His Promises

The prophecy of Micah 5:2 was given in 701 B.C. Centuries pass, and the Messiah still hasn’t arrived. Is the Messiah ever going to come?

When waiting, if you wait long enough, you begin to wonder if what you’re waiting for will ever happen.

Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem until 700 years after the prophecy of Micah 5:2 was given—but he was born! “The hopes and dreams of all the years are met in thee [Bethlehem] tonight.” God keeps his promises. And believing God’s promises produces hope.

Micah 5:2 says that the Messiah’s “coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” “From ancient times” probably points back to the ancient line of David. (Micah 5:2 and 4 certainly make us think of David: he was from Bethlehem—“the city of David,” Luke 2:4—and he was a shepherd.)

God kept the promise he made to David: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:12-13; cf. Luke 1:32-33).

Micah 7:20 says, “You have shown faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.”

We too are waiting for the coming of the Christ. We’re waiting for his second advent. It’s been 2,700 years, and we’re waiting for the day when “he shall be great to the ends of the earth” (5:3). Is Jesus ever going to return?

God always keeps his promises, but the when and how of their fulfillment often don’t meet our expectations (e.g., small and insignificant Bethlehem).


Hope and Peace

Micah 5:5 says, “And he [the Messiah] shall be their peace.” There’s a connection between hope and peace. If we have hope that things will get better, we can have peace—even during extremely difficult times. Hope gives us peace. 

We all need hope. What is your hope in?

There are little hopes—good things we look forward to. But is life nothing more than looking forward to a few good things before we die? There are little hopes, and there is ultimate hope.

The people of Judah were waiting for a Messiah to trample their enemies underfoot. But what does Micah 7:19 say? “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot.” God’s plan was to trample their sins underfoot. How would he accomplish this? By allowing his Son to be trampled underfoot, to be crucified. “He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5).

We can have ultimate hope because of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Do you have hope—ultimate hope, hope that extends beyond this life? Is your hope in Jesus? Do you have the peace of hope?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Offspring of the Woman

Part 1 of A Thrill of Hope

Text: Genesis 3:15



“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).


What Do We Really Need?

We’re counting down the days until Christmas.

We call Christmas “the most wonderful time of the year,” but Christmas always leaves us wanting more. We look forward to the gifts, the music, the food—all the Christmas traditions—but they’re never enough.

We long for something more because we were made for something more.

What do we really need? We need hope—not a finger crossing type of hope, but a confident expectation of good things to come.


Protoevangelium

Genesis 3:15 is often called the protoevangelium, which means “first gospel.” This verse contains the first hint about the gospel.

God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity [i.e., hostility] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” This prophecy could merely be foretelling the natural hostility between humans and snakes.

But God is saying much more that that. “Offspring” is a collective noun (cf. Gal. 3:16). It can refer to one person or many people (i.e., one descendant or many descendants). I believe that the “offspring” of the woman points forward to one particular descendant of Eve: Jesus, who is described as “born of woman” (Gal. 4:4), “offspring of the Virgin’s womb” (Hark! the Herald Angels Sing).

Mary’s baby boy was born to put a thrill of hope in our hearts. 


More Than Just a Baby Boy

Mary’s baby boy—the baby lying in a manger—was more than just a baby boy.

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). 
  • “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). 
  • “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). 
  • “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; / Hail th’incarnate Deity” (Hark! the Herald Angels Sing).

The Serpent's Defeat

The serpent’s true identity is revealed in the NT. In Revelation 12, the apostle John is given a vision of “a great red dragon” (v. 3). And the dragon is identified as “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (v. 9).

Satan would like to extinguish humanity’s hope. In John’s vision, the dragon is seen waiting for the child to be born so that “he might devour it” (v. 4). Satan made many attempts to kill Jesus (e.g., Herod, religious leaders of the Jews, etc.).

Finally, Satan succeeds. Jesus is crucified. But what he didn’t realize is that he would be defeated by the blood of Jesus. The serpent had bruised the heel of Jesus, but Jesus had crushed the head of the serpent. Satan is an accuser. He accuses God of not being good (e.g., his temptation of Eve). He accuses us of sin (cf. Rom. 8:33). But “the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul writes, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20).


Hope

Think about the excitement and magic of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

But it doesn’t last long. Soon we’re thinking, “What’s next?”

People sometimes say, “I wish every day could be just like Christmas.” I’m convinced that eternity for the child of God will be like one continuous Christmas day—but even better!