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.


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