20/20 Vision for 2020

Jesus Came to Save Sinners

Chuck Norris is a famous movie and television star, especially known for his show Walker, Texas Ranger. He is also a world-champion black-belt martial artist. Because of his character being unstoppable with insane near superpowers and skill there is a whole genre of Chuck Norris jokes, which are referred to as Chuck Norris facts. Chuck Norris jokes/facts. Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas. When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris. When Chuck Norris gets pulled over, he lets the cop off with a warning. When Chuck Norris steps on a Lego, the Lego cries. Chuck Norris counted to infinity, twice. Chuck Norris was born in a log cabin he build with his own hands. That one got me to thinking there is someone about whom statements like that are actually true. Jesus was born in a manger that He created. Jesus rode on a donkey He created. Jesus was born to parents He created. Jesus walked on an earth He created. Jesus died on a cross made from a tree He made. At the time of the incarnation, Jesus who is infinite became a day old. Jesus who has power to create galaxies is now so weak He has to be carried. Jesus who’s hands can hold the oceans, now has fingers too small to hold Mary’s finger. Jesus who’s words spoke creation into existence, how has to be taught how to say words. Jesus who never hungered or thirsted, now cries when He is hungry and thirsty. He who the universe couldn’t contain, is now contained in a manger.

Merry Christmas and let’s talk about three guys being thrown into a fiery furnace. What does this story told 500 years from the birth of Jesus have to do with Christmas? Who spiked the pastor’s eggnog? This advent we have been talking about theophanies, events in the OT where heaven and earth meet, where the divine encounters the human. Theophanies are unique, visible appearances of God, when something completely out of the ordinary happens and we get a glimpse of the nature and character of God. There is an irony in this theophany. The theophanies of God in the OT often involve fire, the pillar of fire, lightning, fire coming down to consume sacrifices, the burning bush, etc. God is the author of those fires. But in this story a pagan king sets a fire, and God comes into that fire and renders it harmless. Let’s get the background of the story in mind so we can understand its meaning and relevance.

The theme of the book of Judges could be summed up in the phrase, déjà vu all over again. It is one cycle after another of rebellion, judgment and oppression, repentance (sort of), and rescue. So Judges 6 begins the same way previous chapters did. Judges 6:1, 6 The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. … 6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord. For seven years the Midianites swept over the land and took all the harvest of grain and fruit. Seven years, year in and year out, no sustenance. Seven years of being poor, hungry, tired. For seven years all they had to eat was whatever fell to the ground or was missed or left behind.

Advent is a season of waiting. In this season we are reminded of how the Jews were waiting for a Messiah, or in the words of Anna in the temple, waiting for the consolation or redemption of Israel (Luke 2:28). We reflect this waiting when we sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel. In a similar way now, Christians are waiting for the second advent/coming of Jesus. Advent is a good time to talk about the second advent of Jesus. It is also appropriate to talk about the second advent of Jesus at advent because the first advent set in motion all the events that lead to the second advent. The two are closely connected. You can’t have one without the other. The first advent will be completed at the second advent. At the first advent Satan poured all His energy into trying to defeat Jesus. Killing the babies in Bethlehem, trying to trip Jesus up at His temptation, the betrayal of Judas, killing Jesus on the cross. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Satan is focusing all his energy on the body of Christ, the church. But know this, Satan is bound and defeated and doomed. Jesus promised that though there would be trials and afflictions the gates of hell would not and will never prevail. By bound we understand Scripture to mean he is limited, it is as if he is on a leash.

The Christmas season is a time of the year when Hollywood likes to release some blockbuster movies. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” comes out December 20. It’s being touted as one of the most eagerly-anticipated movies in history. The anticipation is being stirred up by a string of commercials and movie trailers. Teasers, appetizers, glimpses. One of the most anticipated events in all of human history was the coming of the Messiah. In anticipation of that event there were numerous predictions, prophecies, and cameo appearances, glimpses of the Christ, glimpses of His presence and power, character and nature. We learned last week these are referred to as theophanies. A theophanies is a manifestation or appearance of God in some visible form. It can be like a pillar of cloud or fire, a burning bush, or thunder and lightning, some display of God’s great power and glory. But more specifically it can take the form of a human being, a temporary, visible, audible appearance of the Son of God. The theme for our advent series this year is, “When Heaven and Earth Meet: The Theophanies of Jesus in the OT.” We are looking at four appearances of Jesus that foreshadow His incarnation. All the many and varied OT manifestations were to prepare God’s people for a greater coming. They create a longing for that day when in the fullness of time He would come once and for all. And for us we they should also stir a longing for His appearing again, for His second coming, the nature of which will be the subject of this evening’s sermon. Let’s consider this strange and mysterious encounter between Joshua and a general.

Our Father

This Western culture we inhabit is increasingly referred to as post-modern and post-Christian. We are becoming a people of doubt, like Pilate questioning “What is truth?” We are wondering out loud, “Does God exist and if He does, where is He and how can we find Him?” According to the Word of God, not only does God exist, but God has made Himself known and has come down to meet us, again and again. We live in an open universe and we live on a visited planet. Heaven and earth have met here. In the OT there are many glimpses of God, when God came down from heaven to earth, when human beings experienced the invisible becoming visible. These glimpses of glory anticipate a day when a fuller revelation would come. Scholars have given a fancy name to describe these visible appearances of God in the OT. They are called theophanies. It is a word made from two Greek words. You recognize theo or theos as the Greek word for God. Phaino is the Greek word for appearing, so theophany is an appearance of God. This word is used sometimes broadly for any kind of divine human encounter like in a cloud, or for the more clear instances of God taking on the appearance of human form and flesh sometimes referred to as the angel of the Lord. They are not always angels, but sometimes Christ. Jesus is not absent from the OT. He is not sitting on the bench waiting to come in in the fourth quarter to save the game and get the victory. He is the very much present player-coach-manager directing everything that’s happening on the field. He is leading all things toward His incarnation which is the ultimate theophany when Christ becomes a permanent theophany of God, taking on our nature, our flesh. All the OT appearances are temporary theophanies, pointing to the ultimate theophany. The theme for our advent series this year is, “When Heaven and Earth Meet, The Theophanies of God/Jesus in the OT.”