December 28, 2008

What Sonship Means - Dec 28, 2008


We just sang it in the hymn. We celebrate this fact every Christmas: Jesus is the Son of God. But what does it really mean that Jesus is the Son of God? Our readings for today focus on what His Sonship means, for Him and for us.


There is a unique bond between a child and his birth parents. Quite frequently you hear about children who were given up for adoption who later seek out their birth parents. These birth parents may have had nothing to do with the child’s upbringing and may live hundreds, even thousands of miles away, and yet their offspring seek to meet them.

There is an even more profound connection that exists between God the Father and God the Son. In our Old Testament reading for today God the Father describes the relationship that exists between Him and God the Son.

Old Testament.......................... Isaiah 42:1-9 (NIV)

1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen one in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him

and he will bring justice to the nations.

2 He will not shout or cry out,

or raise his voice in the streets.

3 A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

4 he will not falter or be discouraged

till he establishes justice on earth.

In his law the islands will put their hope.”

5 This is what God the LORD says—

he who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,

who gives breath to its people,

and life to those who walk on it:

6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;

I will take hold of your hand.

I will keep you and will make you

to be a covenant for the people

and a light for the Gentiles,

7 to open eyes that are blind,

to free captives from prison

and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

8 “I am the LORD; that is my name!

I will not give my glory to another

or my praise to idols.

9 See, the former things have taken place,

and new things I declare;

before they spring into being

I announce them to you.”

The Son of God has always been the Son of God. He is present with the Father and the Holy Spirit from eternity to eternity. But on the first Christmas day the Son of God was born, in a human body, as real human being. We know this. It is not something new. But it still amazes us when we take the time to consider it, for though we believe it, we do not truly understand how it can be.

May the Holy Spirit bless our study of His message here in Isaiah, so that our hearts may be filled with reverence for God, knowledge of Him, and great thankfulness for Jesus His Son. Amen.

As the true Son of God, the man Jesus had some amazing privileges. First of all, God the Father watched over Him with care. There were many enemies of this Child. Chief of them all was the powerful fallen angel known as Satan. But the Christ Child had other enemies as well. King Herod for one.

When the Wisemen came seeking the Christ Child, they came to Jerusalem to ask King Herod where the Child might be found. Herod was troubled. He saw this Baby as a threat to his kingship. When the wisemen didn’t return to Herod to give him directions to the child, Herod had all the children of Bethlehem who might possibly be the Child, murdered.

There were a number of other times throughout Jesus’ ministry when people wanted to kill Him. But no matter what the circumstances, or how big the crowd of haters was, the Father made sure the Son got away safely. There would come a day when evil would have its way with Jesus. But until that day, the Father would keep careful watch over His Son.

You and I have protection from God the Father too. We are not the offspring of God in the same way that Jesus is, but we are children of God, through faith in God’s Son.

To the Christians living in Galatia the apostle Paul wrote,

4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV).

The same Heavenly Father who kept the Christ Child safe also watches over you dear Christian. Death cannot take you till the time is right for you to enter the Father’s House forever. So do not fear when health problems arise. Look to God in faith, and speak to Him in prayer. He who planned out your deliverance from sin has also made arrangements concerning the physical diseases that afflict your body.

Apart from having the Father watching over His life, Jesus also could watch over His own life when He read the Scriptures. Jesus could read about Himself in the pages of the Old Testament Bible, for the Old Testament contains many prophesies about the birth, life, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of God’s Son. Jesus could read all about it.

God the Father could have these things about the life of Jesus written down hundreds of years beforehand because God the Father knew all that would happen to His Son before it happened.

It is a comforting thing to know that nothing surprises God. He is not a player on the great stage of life, He stands above all things and silently directs the events of this universe so that His great Name will be praised.

Not only did the Father know Jesus’ life ahead of time, He also knows yours.

To the Christians living in Ephesus the apostle Paul wrote,

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:3-6 NIV).

Doctors make guesses at how long their patients have to live. Weather men make forecasts telling us what to expect from the sky tomorrow. Frequently these predictions turn out wrong, and our plans, so carefully laid out, go off track.

God doesn’t have this problem. His predictions are always right on, and His plan is being accomplished even as we speak. God’s plan is being done in the lives of Christians who walk in step with His will. It is accomplished even though people and great powers are struggling against His will. May God give us the wisdom to “let go and let God”. May God our Father give us the faith to seek His will first and foremost, and not merely seek to stuff Him in our pocket while we follow our own way.

Because Jesus is God made flesh, He shows us what God is like. In the letter to the Hebrew Christians it says,

3The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3 NIV).

God the Son, who was with God the Father from eternity, became human so that we might see exactly what the Father is like. One of Christ’s character traits described in our text is “gentleness”. In verses 2-3 God says,

2 He will not shout or cry out,

or raise his voice in the streets.

3 A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;” (Isaiah 42:2-3 NIV).

God’s Son would not come as the leader of a rebellious mob bent on kicking the Roman empire out of Israel. His voice would not be found shouting out and crying to the people for social justice and political equality. His mission was greater than that.

He would come as a gentle leader, not breaking those whose faith was weak, not snuffing out those whose faith was barely alive. He would come to rebuke the unrepentant hypocrites sharply, but the repentant sinners He would lift up on the wings of sure forgiveness. He would come to fan the faith of the weak into blazing bonfires of peace and trust.

The gentleness of Jesus shows us the tenderness of the Father who sent Him. The Father could not let sin go unpunished, but He would provide a way for sinners to escape eternal condemnation. The sinless Son would suffer and die in their place.

Once, when Jesus’ enemies wanted to make Jesus look bad they brought a woman before Him who had been caught in the act of adultery. In the book of John it says,

4they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

7So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more”” (John 8:4-11 NKJV).

So, was Jesus saying her sin of adultery was okay? Not at all. In mercy and gentleness He forgave her. Not long from that day He would suffer the punishment for her sin of adultery. Not long from that day He would suffer the punishment for all our sins of unfaithfulness to God. On the cross our sentence would be poured out on Him. No sin is to great to be forgiven, all were laid on Christ.

We should remember this well. It’s easier to hate the homosexual than to show them their sin and their Savior. It’s easier to speak behind backs of the people who slight us than to speak to them face to face in genuine, courageous love. It’s easier to be an unforgiving Pharisee than a gentle Jesus.

It is hard to learn how to be Christ-like. Stern when needed. Gentle where right. But that is our calling in Christ our Savior.

To the Christians living in Rome Paul wrote,

2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2-3 NIV). (See also Ephesians 4:22-24)

And we are being transformed by Christ, for through faith in Jesus we are sons and daughters of the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was the law that no one could keep. The New Covenant is forgiveness through Jesus that no one can do without.

In verse 6-7 of our sermon text, the Father speaks to the Son. He says,

6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;

I will take hold of your hand.

I will keep you and will make you

to be a covenant for the people

and a light for the Gentiles,

7 to open eyes that are blind,

to free captives from prison

and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6-7 NIV).

In sin we sit in spiritual darkness. In Christ we are bathed in spiritual light. In Christ we have been freed from certain punishment in hell. In Christ we have been released from guilt and condemnation to serve the Father in innocence and freedom. In Christ our sins every sin is forgiven.

Because of the Son of God, we have become children of God. Children under the guidance and protection of the Father. Children whom God knew before the world ever was. Children called to be molded into Christ’s image. Children who will inherit heaven because of our brother, Jesus.

In his first letter, John writes,

1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 1:3b NIV).

In this Christmas season we often reflect on the great gift that the Father has given us. He gave us His Son, born in a stable, to live as a human, to die as our stand-in, to rise as our Savior and to live on as our eternal King. Because of all that the Son did, God the Father now calls us His children. What a gift indeed. Cherish this treasure my fellow Christians, you are sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

This is what sonship means for Jesus: it means many sinful brothers and sisters cleansed by His blood. And for us His sonship means adoption into the Father’s house, through the work of our brother Jesus. Amen.

December 21, 2008

The Sun of Righteousness is about to Rise - Dec 21, 2008

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from the Christ Child, our Great Master and Gentle Savior.

Sunrises are almost always beautiful, but whether they are welcome or not depends on what we expect the day to bring. The school child LONGS to see the sun rise on the first day of Christmas vacation. The condemned criminal DOES NOT LONG for the sunrise which marks the day of his execution. As the first sign of a new day, the rising sun can be longed for, or dreaded.

This Christmas day we will rejoice in the rising of the sun. For it ushers in our celebration of Christ’s birth and the peace that comes to us through Him.

Our sermon reading for today directs our attention not to the day of Jesus’ birth, but to the next time He will appear.

Sermon Theme:

“The Sun of Righteousness is About to Rise”

1. His rays heal the God-fearing

2. With Him comes renewal and joy

Sermon:......................................... Malachi 4:1-3 (NASB)

1"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 3You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the LORD of hosts.

This is the word of God. May our hearts understand it rightly and accept it fully through the diligent working of God the Spirit. Amen.

The “Sun of Righteousness” that Malachi speaks about is Jesus.

We know this for a number of different reasons. First of all, this vision is all about the Judgment Day. The Bible tells us that God the Father has appointed His Son Jesus to serve as Judge on that day. A loud trumpet will sound and Jesus will be seen descending on the clouds, accompanied by all the angels of heaven to separate those who serve God, from those who do not (Matthew 25:31ff, John 5:24-27, Revelation 1:7-8).

Malachi’s description of the Judgment Day puts, the “Sun of Righteousness” is the focus of attention – so it must be Jesus.

Secondly, Jesus calls Himself the “Light of the World” (John 8:12). At least three different times

Jesus revealed His glory on this earth by letting it shine out for others to see visibly.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus went up onto a mountain with a handful of His disciples. There His appearance was changed. His clothing became like a flash of lightning, and his fact like the brightness of the sun (Matthew 17:2, Luke 9:29).

After His crucifixion, Jesus appeared to the future apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul was knocked down and describes a light surrounding him and his companions that was brighter than the sun. From that light Jesus spoke to Paul (Acts 26:12-15).

Years after that, when the apostle John received the visions recorded in the book of Revelation, Jesus appeared to Him also. John describes Jesus’ eyes as being like fire, and His face as being more brilliant than the sun shining at its brightest (Revelation 1:12-16).

And not only is Jesus described as appearing like the sun, the New Testament prophet Zechariah even calls the Christ Child the “Dayspring from on high”, or as we might say today, the “Rising Sun from heaven” (Luke 1:78).

There is no doubt. Malachi’s “Sun of Righteousness” is Jesus, the Son of God.

Malachi 4:2 “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”

In the Hebrew language, the word for “wing” just means the edge or extremity of something. We use the English word “wing” in the same way today when we speak of the “west wing” of the White House.

Here in Malachi’s prophesy, the “wings” of the Sun are its rays of light. When Jesus comes in the clouds on the day of Judgment, His glory will stream out around Him like the great wings of an eagle. Some will look up with joy to see their salvation coming to them at last! Others will see His wings of glory as the dreadful wings of a great bird of prey.

For Jesus is a light that burns the proud and wicked. They will feel the heat of His judgment even from far off.

In one of the visions of the Last Day in the book of Revelation, the wicked are described as crying out in terror at the sight of Jesus. They run from Him, desperately screaming for the rocks and the hills to crash down on them and hide them from the face of the Lamb of God (Revelation 6:16).

But for the God-fearing, Jesus is a light that heals.

Have you ever seen a little baby that has jaundice? Some newborns turn a yellowish color because their body can’t adequately process something in the blood called “bilirubin”. Jaundice isn’t usually a big deal. The doctors just put the newborn under a special light that helps break down the bilirubin until they can do it on their own.

That’s what the light of Jesus is like for those who trust in Him. His light doesn’t damage us like a burning desert sun, it heals us like a gentle bilirubin light.

The one difference is that jaundiced babies outgrow the need for a bilirubin light. We don’t ever outgrow the need to sit in the light of Jesus by hearing, learning and talking about Him. We need to continue to spend time in Jesus’ light so that our souls remain strong and healthy. So that our souls will continue to truly trust in Him alone as our salvation for sin.

Malachi 4:2 “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”

The Sun of Righteousness has already risen in the hearts of all who trust in Jesus as Master and Savior. Now we wait for Him to rise before our very eyes and bring our salvation to a glorious close.

For the wicked the Sun of Righteousness is described as a burning thing that will light them on fire. For the God-fearing the Sun of Righteousness is like the intense Amazonian sun which shines down on the well watered jungle, causing it to grow lush a full of life.

Or look at it like a metalworker might. The fire burns away all the impurities, but the gold is not harmed in the least. In fact, gold which has passed through the fire is more brilliant and reflective than before. Because of Jesus, you have become the gold, and He promises to purify you fully from your sins.

Years ago, my wife and I got to go to the Caribbean. We got to lay on beaches that were just a few miles away from the equator. The sun was so powerful there. I still remember laying on a beach chair reading a book. The sand baked me from below and the sun from above. I felt like I was being warmed through all the way to my bones.

And that’s nothing compared to what it will feel like to kneel in the presence of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. Intense, but painless purification will take place when Jesus makes us perfect on the Last Day. Amazing renewal and joy will be ours.

Malachi 4:2 “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”

Injuries put shackles on us. A runner with a broken foot might as well have a ball and chain around his ankle. Physical injuries prevent us from doing things we want to do.

But spiritual injuries are worse. Spiritual wounds shackle us in ways that we can’t even see. Our sins prevent our souls from enjoying life and they prevent us from serving God.

The sin of impatience prevents us from enjoying the moment because we’re too busy moving on to the next thing. Impatience also causes us to skip over the things that we aught to do in God’s service.

Sinful anger focuses our attention on what someone else has done instead of on what we can do. When we respond to others in anger, we are really being slaves to them. We let their actions determine what ours will be.

It doesn’t matter what sin you pick. They all injure and shackle us in some way.

But, in the light of Christ, these shackles fall away. When we confess our sins to Jesus, He forgives us. He promises to help us avoid and resist the sins that dog our every step.

And on the Last Day Jesus will remove all shackles of sin from us forever. On that day the healing rays of the Sun of Righteousness will set us completely free from sin and from the deterioration and pain that come because of it. Finally we will be free to be the people that God always intended us to be. Finally we will be sinless servants who live in His presence. Him enjoying us. We enjoying Him.

Can you imagine being more truly yourself than you have ever been? You will be, when Christ comes back. And this will result in true, deep, brilliant joy.

Malachi 4:2 “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”

The last image in verse two is a description of a young calf that has been pent up in a stall all night long. Finally when the sun rises, the rancher opens the gate and the calf is free to go into the green pasture to feed and play. The calf doesn’t slowly amble out – he skips out! He is filled with life and happiness!

This is a picture of what the Sun of Righteousness brings to us now, and on the great day of the LORD.

When the Ark of the Covenant was carried up to Jerusalem, King David went before it and danced because he was so full of joy. The crippled man whom the apostle Peter healed went running and leaping and praising God through the Temple grounds. And Malachi’s little calf went out skipping with joy.

Let this spirit take you this Christmas as you look in the manger. In the manger we see the first dawning of the Sun of Righteousness.

In the first chapter of his Gospel, the apostle John says

…The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:9 NIV).

Then He says,

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NIV).

Though He did not burn with the visible light of the sun then, He will.

As you hear the account of the Savior’s birth again imagine Malachi’s joyful young calf set free to frolic. That’s you! That’s me! We’ve been released by this Manger Child. Through Jesus our sins have been forgiven, and our relationship with God our Creator has been restored.

In the Sun of Righteousness there is healing for the darkest of sins. So we bring them to His light. Come to His light. Be forgiven, healed, renewed, invigorated by Christ this Christmas. Let His gentle light of love prepare you for His final dawning. Amen.

The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

December 14, 2008

A House of Prayer for All Nations - Dec 14, 2008


The Good News of sins forgiven through Jesus Christ came to the Jews first. But this message of salvation was also for non-Jews. Ethnicity does not attach us to God, trust in His promises does.

In Romans the apostle Paul writes:

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16 NKJV).

Our readings for today emphasize the fact that the Christ Child was born for all nations.


The first half of Psalm 22 describes the sufferings that God’s Son would endure on the cross. The second half if Psalm 22 describes the great praise which God would receive because of the forgiveness that Jesus won for sinners there.

Psalm 22:22-31 (NIV)

P: I will declare your name to my brothers;

in the congregation I will praise you.

You who fear the LORD, praise him!

All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!

Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

C: For he has not despised or disdained

the suffering of the afflicted one;

he has not hidden his face from him

but has listened to his cry for help.

P: From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied;

C: they who seek the LORD will praise him—

P: may your hearts live forever!

C: All the ends of the earth

will remember and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations

will bow down before him,

for dominion belongs to the LORD

and he rules over the nations.

P: All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;

all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—

those who cannot keep themselves alive.

C: Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord.

P: They will proclaim his righteousness

to a people yet unborn—

C: for he has done it.


If you read the first part of this chapter you find two accounts of Jesus healing people. In the first, Jesus heals the servant of a Gentile centurion. In the second, Jesus raises a Jew from the dead in the city of Nain. Jesus focused His ministry on the Jewish people, but he certainly also came to bless and save the Gentiles.

Luke 7:18-27 (NIV)

18John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

20When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

21At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22So he replied to the messengers, “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. 23Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

24After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way before you.’

Some look at this account and see John the Baptizer troubled by doubt. Was Jesus really the promised Savior, or not? Others think John couldn’t have doubted. He must have sent his disciples to ask Jesus this question in order that that they would be convinced that Jesus was the Savior.

Either way, there is a lesson to be learned. The antidote for doubt is to hear the Savior speak. When we have question and fear and doubt all wrapped around our thoughts like a black hurricane, we need to seek the eye of the storm. We need to go to Jesus where the light shines and the winds are calm. We need to hear the Words of God’s own Son. At His side our doubts are dispersed, our fears are calmed and our questions are answered.


These words were written by the apostle Paul to the young pastor Timothy. They show us once again that God’s people are connected to God through trust in His Son. If we separate ourselves from the Christ Child, we separate ourselves from God. If we cling to Jesus as our Savior from sin - even to death, then we will live.

2 Timothy 2:3-15 (NIV)

3Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 5Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

11Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,

we will also live with him;

12 if we endure,

we will also reign with him.

If we disown him,

he will also disown us;

13 if we are faithless,

he will remain faithful,

for he cannot disown himself.

14Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.


Acts 8:26-40 (NIV)

26Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,

and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.

Who can speak of his descendants?

For his life was taken from the earth.”

34The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

In the Name of God the Father and in the Name of the Christ Child – our flesh and blood Savior, grace and peace be to you.

He came from over a thousand miles away. By chariot he had travelled along the dirt paths and Roman roads all the way from Ethiopia to the City of the LORD. To Jerusalem.

He came because He was a proselyte. A convert. Though he was not Jewish by birth, he had come to trust in the God of the Jews. The God of the Bible. And so, he wanted to worship at the LORD’s Temple. He wanted to bring his sacrifices there at that one Temple which stood dedicated for the worshiping of Jehovah God.

But the Ethiopian eunuch was not allowed to enter the Temple when he arrived at Jerusalem. The Word of the LORD was very clear on this matter. Non-Jews and eunuchs could not go wherever they pleased in the LORD’s Temple. Gentiles were relegated to the outer courts. Eunuchs were not allowed to enter the LORD’s assembly at all (Deuteronomy 23:1).

The Ethiopian eunuch went up to Jerusalem to worship, but his worship was done at distance. Perhaps he was permitted to send a Jewish envoy to present his offerings at the LORD’s Temple. I do not know. How hard it must have been for this man to not to be allowed to offer his praise within the Temple of His God.

These worship laws had been established by God Himself. They did not mean that the LORD rejected all Gentiles and eunuchs. All who trust in the promises of the LORD are accepted by Him. And trust in the LORD this man did.

When Philip approached the Ethiopian eunuch , he found him studying the Bible. He was reading the Isaiah scroll. And praise be to the Holy Spirit he was reading in that part where Isaiah describes the crucifixion of Jesus, hundreds of years before it would happen. The eunuch was reading Isaiah chapter 53.

Our Old Testament reading for today comes from just a few chapters later in that same Isaiah scroll. It has special relevance to our sermon reading so we read it here.

Isaiah 56:1-7 (NIV)

1 This is what the LORD says:

“Maintain justice

and do what is right,

for my salvation is close at hand

and my righteousness will soon be revealed.

2 Blessed is the man who does this,

the man who holds it fast,

who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,

and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say,

“The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.”

And let not any eunuch complain,

“I am only a dry tree.”

4For this is what the LORD says:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,

who choose what pleases me

and hold fast to my covenant—

5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls

a memorial and a name

better than sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name

that will not be cut off.

6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD

to serve him,

to love the name of the LORD,

and to worship him,

all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it

and who hold fast to my covenant—

7 these I will bring to my holy mountain

and give them joy in my house of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices

will be accepted on my altar;

for my house will be called

a house of prayer for all nations.”

The LORD says, “Just because you can not enter this outward house of stone where I am worshipped does not mean that I do not accept you. Those that trust in Me for salvation ARE MY PEOPLE.”

Furthermore He declares to all the foreigners and eunuchs who trust in Him, “…I will bring [you] to my Holy Mountain…” (Isaiah 56:7). God declares that all who trust in His name and show it by seeking to walk in His ways, they will be brought to place where God lives.”

So what does this message about ancient eunuchs and foreigners have to do with you and me?

If this was the Temple of Isaiah’s time, I could not serve here. I am not a descendant of Levi. I would not be permitted by God’s worship laws to stand before you and lead our worship.

If this was Isaiah’s time, you would not be permitted to sit in this inner court of the LORD’s sanctuary. You are foreigners. You are not descendants of Abraham. I would guess that few if any of us could find Abraham in our family trees.

Yet, because of Jesus we have been given the privilege of worshipping the true God in this place. Greater than that we have been accepted into God’s family even though we were born sinners. We have been made spiritual descendants of Abraham through faith in Abraham’s Savior. We are acceptable to God because our faith connects us to His Son.

In first John it is written,

1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:1-2 NIV).

In His Word, God says, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” That’s what we want our church to be. A house of prayer for all nations. Not a house where people can bring in whatever religion they want and pretend like they’re worshipping the true God. No. We want this house of worship to be one that opens its doors to people of every culture, and nationality and personality so that they can know the true God, and the complete forgiveness of sins that comes through His Son Jesus.

If we were to pick one word to describe what we do during Advent I think it would be, “prepare”. We prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate the Savior’s arrival on earth. His birth.

We prepare our hearts for his coming by searching our hearts for sin. And when we find sin, we bring it to Him in prayer and receive His forgiveness. When we look to Jesus for forgiveness, that’s when we’re prepared for Him to come to us. Faith is what makes us prepared. Faith in Him.

And shouldn’t we also prepare for others to come to us? Shouldn’t we think about ways to welcome those who don’t know Christ into this place of worship? I think so. What things about ourselves must we change so that we can better welcome others? What things might we do to lead more people of the world to hear the voice of the LORD?

Ponder these things as you prepare for Christ’s birth. Remember, “I was a foreigner, now I am a child of God. God has adopted me into His family by Christ. Now what can I do so that others may become sons and daughters of the King?

May the Holy Spirit be with you and give you insight into His will for your life, and for the purpose of our fellowship. Amen.


Father in Heaven, thank you for making us acceptable through Jesus’ suffering and death. Thank you for making our spirits alive with Jesus at His resurrection. We will praise you loud and long in this life and in heaven.

Help us to see the chances we have to talk of your love for us, with others. Help us to speak with courage and with ease. Let us be confident in your Good News, that it is the power to change hearts, not our clumsy words.

Dearest Christ Jesus, prepare our hearts to meet you this year. Help us to understand what your birth means. Help us to see the lessons behind each and every detail. Don’t let the busyness of the holiday season steal our joy. Don’t let the preparations for celebrations make us grumpy and thankless. Draw us to your manger bed and charge our souls to shine with happiness.

Bless all our brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe. Continue to reach out through them to the nations of the world. Help us to do the same here. Let us not live our lives for ourselves, but to you Lord Jesus. Give us peace. Give us power. Give us joy. Help us to remember that we have been saved, to serve. Our salvation is secure, we are accepted and dearly loved by the Father. Now, Lord Jesus, please make our service acceptable too.