Monday, June 17, 2019

Sermon on various OT passages for Trinity Sunday, "Tracing the Trinity in the Old Testament"


            In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today is Trinity Sunday. This Sunday is unique on the Christian calendar, because it doesn’t commemorate an event, miracle, or a person, but rather a doctrine. The teaching of the Trinity is central to the Christian faith. Attacked for centuries, but always defended as the orthodox or correct teaching of the Bible. From the earliest centuries the Creeds were confessed to defend against distortions of the Bible, especially about the Trinity. We could get stuck on the semantics of the word “Trinity”. The word itself is not found in the Bible, but that’s not the important question. The important question is whether the teaching is found in the Bible. We simply use “Trinity” to describe how God shows Himself in Scripture; as Three Persons, One God.
            I assume most or all of you already believe the teaching of the Trinity. You believe and confess that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three persons, but one being or essence, as revealed in the New Testament. But today we’ll examine how it’s consistent with and traces back through the Old Testament. This is important, because the OT is the first 80% or so of the Bible, and Jesus said these same OT Scriptures “testify of me” (John 5:39). He also taught His disciples all the OT said about Himself (Luke 24:27, 44).
            If we go searching for traces of the Trinity in the OT, we’re not expecting to find it laid out in full—that was only done by Jesus and the apostles in the NT. But we’ll find that God is regularly described in plural terms, or named multiple times in a single sentence. We’ll find God conversing “within Himself”. And we’ll find that OT or NT, the Bible everywhere confirms that there is only One True God—not two, three, or more gods.
            Believe it or not, there are so many verses to explore for hints of the Trinity in the OT, that we can’t cover them all here, but I want to jump directly into some examples. Let’s go to the first verses of the Bible: Genesis 1:1–3
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
God and the Spirit of God are both named at the creation. Where is the Son of God, Jesus? The Gospel of John echoes these words in John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” As God is speaking the world into existence, the Son is the spoken Word of God. As the creation story unfolds in Genesis, God says “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness” (Genesis 1:26). At the Flood and at the Tower of Babel, God also speaks in this way: “Let US…” in the plural. It shows that while God is One, He is a unity.
            The next example is when God speaks about Himself as one person to another person—another hint of the Trinity. For example, in Hosea 1:7, the LORD says, “I will save them by the LORD their God.” The Father will save them by the Son. Or Isaiah 42:1, God speaks of His Son the Messiah, and His Spirit is on Him(!): “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon Him”. Or in Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand…”. There is a conversation internal to the Trinity, Father speaking to Son. This shows that God is not a singular person.
            Sometimes we find God’s name repeated two or three times in the same sentence. Admittedly, this is harder to recognize, but it also hints at a distinction of persons. For example in Isaiah 33:22, “For the Lord (1) is our judge; the Lord (2) is our lawgiver; the Lord (3) is our king; he will save us.” Then, one of the most important verses in the Bible for affirming the oneness or unity of God, the Shema or the first Hebrew Creed, Deuteronomy 6:4,  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord (1) our God (2), the Lord(3) is one.  Or in Isaiah 6:3, the three-fold repetition of “Holy, Holy, Holy” to describe the Lord of hosts. Then in the familiar benediction at the end of worship, from Numbers 6:24–26, is also a threefold blessing:  “The Lord (1) bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord (2) make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord (3) lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” While no one expects you to see this pattern beforehand, after the revelation of the Trinity in the New Testament, it’s a familiar pattern hidden in plain sight.
            Then there are the passages that talk about the Name of LORD. The proper name of the Lord, by which He calls Himself in the OT, is “YHWH” (shown as LORD in English). YHWH is related to the word “I AM”, as God tells Moses: “I AM who I AM” when He reveals this name. What’s interesting is that in a limited number of situations, God gives His name YHWH to another person—such as the angel of YHWH (no ordinary angel!!) or to the Messiah. For example, Jeremiah 23:5–6 speaks of the Messiah as the coming King:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”

The promised Messiah and King is called The LORD (YHWH) is our righteousness. This is significant because God is sharing His Name and Title with the Messiah. This looks ahead to Jesus, God’s Son, our LORD and King. When Jesus would call Himself “I AM” in the NT, He was identifying Himself as YHWH.
            There are many other verses that I could go into. It would take more detail and explanation; but let’s examine one last verse that connects the Messiah to God, and also to the Jesus’ suffering on the cross. In Zechariah 12:10 God says:
And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

Did you catch that? It’s easy to miss. God says His people Israel “will look on me” that’s first person language (I, me), and then it switches to third person (he, him), “on him whom they have pierced.” It changes from “on me” referring to God, to “on him”–the one who is pierced. This is a prophecy of Jesus’ death on the cross, but it also shows that He is divine—true God.
            So we have seen how God sometimes speaks of Himself in the plural, “us”…we have seen how sometimes God speaks person to person within Himself, as God to God…we have seen God’s name repeated in twos or threes in the same sentence, and the pattern three being connected to God…and we’ve seen God switch from first to third person in the same sentence when speaking about Himself. All of this is balanced by the equally necessary truth that God is One, a Unity—there are not multiple gods. There are no other gods, only worthless idols (Ps. 96:5). We’re warned hundreds of times against worshipping any other God, and that all others gods are false and worthless. So the Bible consistently balances between describing God in His “persons” as plural, but as the One and only true God, singular. Neither math nor human reason can solve it—it’s simply to be received and confessed by faith. God’s mystery is beyond comprehending, yet He has purposefully chosen to reveal Himself to us in this way.
            And that leads to the “so what?” of all this. Why is it so important to believe this way about God, that “we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance”? Is it just an academic debate to amuse philosophers and theologians? The answer is no. It takes no special degrees to be able to state the plain truth from Scripture that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three Persons, but only one God. Preschoolers and kindergarteners can explain that to you. But neither a preschooler nor a doctoral student can unravel the mystery of the Godhead and explain what is unexplainable. The Trinity is a mystery, a marvel we wonder and worship. And God did not reveal Himself to us in a meaningless way, but as with the rest of Scripture, He reveals what is necessary for our faith, salvation, and encouragement. And it is a great and necessary thing to have true knowledge about God, not to believe falsely about Him.
            In the Creeds and Bible, God the Father is primarily known as the Creator, who made all things, including making humans in God’s image. Jesus the Son of God, is primarily known as the Redeemer, who saved us from our sins by dying on the cross and rising from the grave. He also is the Revealer of the Father—we know what the Father is like through Him. And the Holy Spirit is primarily known as the Sanctifier, or the One who makes us holy or set apart. We think of the Father in His providence and care; we think of the Son as God took on human form to teach, live, die, and rise for us; and we think of the Holy Spirit in the fruits of faith and spiritual gifts. And yet each person works in unison and support of the others in the Trinity. Only Jesus dies on the cross for our sins, but the Father sent Him and Jesus prayed to the Father in death and yielded up His Spirit. We can’t “divide the substance” of God—splitting Him apart, nor can we mix up Father, Son, and Holy Spirit either. True knowledge of God reinforces true faith.
            In short, God’s identity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is reflected in your baptismal identity—created by God, redeemed by His Son, and made holy by His Spirit. God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, placed His name on you at your Baptism. He claimed you and made you His own child. He presently works in you for your salvation, and through you to love and serve God and neighbor. You don’t have to have a doctorate in theology to confess the Trinity, you simply need to hear God’s Word, believe it, confess it, and fall down in worship before the mystery of our God, the 3 in 1. God is unchanged through time, but He clearly revealed Himself to us in time, so that we might believe and be saved in Jesus, His Son. Amen.

The Trinity: Hints and Allusions in the Old Testament

While the revelation of the Trinity is clear and unambiguous in the New Testament, the ancient Christians also gathered testimonies about the Trinity from the Old Testament, “even though they seemed somewhat obscure. They did this in order that they might use them against heretics and to show that from the very beginning God had thus revealed Himself and that the church of all ages had thus known God, invoked and worshiped Him” (Chemnitz, p. 66).

Several guidelines show where such clues or references to the Trinity occur:
  1. “When Scripture speaks of God in the plural:” Genesis 1:1-3; 1:26, yet at the same time the verbs used of God are in the singular, and Deuteronomy 6:4 stresses the unity and uniqueness of God, apart from all others. There is One God, but more than one person. See also Genesis 3:22; 6:3; 11:5-7
  2. “Whenever you read in Scripture that God is speaking about God, as a person about a person, there you are safe in affirming that the three persons of the Deity are indicated. For when two persons are named at the same time, the person of the Holy Spirit who is speaking in the Scripture is indicated, in accord with the statement in 2 Peter 1:21.” Cf. 2 Samuel 23:2. Examples: Hosea 1:7; Genesis 19:24; Isaiah 60:19; 42:1; 52:13.
  3. “When the name of God (Yahweh; LORD) is repeated two or three times in the same sentence, it is certain that a difference in persons is indicated even though obscurely, as in Psalm 67:6-7; Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 6:3; Numbers 6:23-27; Isaiah 33:22.
  4. Often the context indicates a difference in persons, while united in essence, for example Exodus 23:20-21, the angel of the LORD bears God’s name (Cf. Isaiah 42:8). Exodus 33:17-23. Also, see how God raises up a son, and gives Him the name Yahweh: Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16. The third person, the Holy Spirit, is indicated as the One speaking, for example Psalm 33:6 “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the Spirit of His mouth.”

Other significant passages: Daniel 9:19; Psalm 2:7; 110:1 (dialogue within the Trinity); Isaiah 48:16; Genesis 18:2, 16-22; Judges 13:15-25; Zechariah 12:10. Many more passages could be added to these, that follow the pattern of the rules above. Others refer to God as Father (ex. Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalm 89:26); still others refer to the Son (ex. Proverbs 30:4; Daniel 7:13-14) or make reference to appearances of the Son of God as the Angel of the LORD, not to mention prophecies of His future incarnation as Messiah. There are also many places that refer to the Spirit of the LORD (ex. Isaiah 11:1-2; 63:9-10).

While these passages in themselves would not present a fully articulated teaching of the Trinity as we find in the New Testament, they show that the NT teaching is entirely consistent with that of the OT, and that hints and clues run throughout the OT.
Bibliography
Chemnitz, M. (1989). Loci Theologici, Vol. 1. (J. Preus, Trans.) St. Louis: CPH.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sermon on Genesis 11:1-9 and Acts 2:1-21, Pentecost Sunday, "Languages, Unity and Disunity"


            Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. Today our two readings are both about languages, and unity or disunity. In the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, all the earth once spoke one language and had the same words. But because of what happened there, God confused their languages, dividing them, so they couldn’t understand each other. The story of Pentecost, in Acts, is about how people of many different languages united across language barriers to hear a singular, important message. Let’s look at each story in turn, and see how Pentecost starts to reverse the age-old division of languages at Babel, and create a new unity around Jesus Christ. In the words of the crowds on Pentecost: “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
            At the Tower of Babel humans unified in their defiance of God, so He scattered them. All through the Bible, God repeatedly humbles or brings low everyone who pridefully exalts or lifts themselves up against God. It’s no different today, as people unite in rebellion against God. He may permit human arrogance to climb higher and higher for a time, but it only makes for a greater fall. As the Bible warns: “let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed, lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Don’t let pride be your undoing. God saw what they were doing at the Tower of Babel, and He put an end to it. The Tower of Babel is the Biblical explanation for the origin of the different languages and people groups on earth. Many people scoff at it as a myth, even though it fits with what we know about languages today—and they don’t have a better explanation of how all of the languages came to exist.
            Do you know how difficult a problem it is to explain the origin of human languages? There are 6,000 to 8,000 languages across the world. Linguists group them into somewhere between 130-430 language families. And although some related words can be found in many different languages, these bigger language groups are very foreign from each other. There seems no way to connect them back to a single language. It’s a puzzle to linguists. But for all the diversity of spoken languages, the top 23 represent half the world’s population; and nearly half the 7,000 or so languages in the world are estimated to become extinct within 100 years.
            But if human pride and defiance of God were so great that God scattered and confused the languages at Babel, then why did God reverse that confusion at Pentecost? For one simple reason: so Jesus’ disciples could immediately bridge the language barrier to speak Jesus’ Good News to the crowds. The crowd was a diverse slice of Mediterranean cultures and languages, across the North coast of Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East and Arabia. But they had something in common: they were the ancestors of Jews scattered to distant lands, who assimilated to the language of their new homes. They made the long pilgrimage to Jerusalem, for Pentecost, a harvest festival at the Temple. It was one of three major Jewish holidays of the year. So this Old Testament holiday and international gathering, became the stage for what happened next.
            Pentecost means “Fiftieth”. 50 days after Passover, which also happened to be when Jesus died on the cross. Now on the 40th day after Jesus rose from the grave, He ascended into heaven. We call that “Ascension Day”, and it was ten days ago on a Thursday. Jesus’s parting words on that day were instructions for the disciples to stay in Jerusalem for the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit. He told them: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This special outpouring of the Holy Spirit was so they could be witnesses of Jesus’ mighty works to many peoples and languages. This was the stone cast into the pond; the epicenter of the ripples circling out to the world, with the Good News of Jesus Christ. 2,000 years later, we still celebrate Pentecost, thanking God that the Gospel ‘ripples’ have now circled the world many times over, and reaching each of us.
            Yet many have not yet heard. It’s estimated by Bible translators that 1 billion people still don’t have the Bible available in their “heart language” or “mother tongue.” Translations of the whole Bible exist for over 700 languages, and the New Testament in over 1,300. That number is growing all the time as translators work to bring God’s Word to more and more people in their “heart language.” On that 1st Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, God’s miracle was that He supernaturally broke down the language barrier and the disciples became His mouthpieces, to speak in the heart languages of all that gathered crowd. They were shocked and amazed that these Galilean fishermen were suddenly “telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” On that day, they didn’t have to wait for any translator, or for the disciples to first learn their language. The Gospel was told to them clearly and immediately, and they understood. Supporting Bible translators is very important, both with our prayers and gifts.
            Peter’s Pentecost sermon declares the “mighty works” of Jesus to the crowd. He tells how Jesus of Nazareth was “attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst….this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” What a wonderful message to conclude these past 50 days since Easter! Jesus was crucified for our sins, but the grave could not possibly hold Him! Jesus, a man of flesh and blood, died. His heart and breathing and brain waves ceased. Three days in the grave—but He rose to life again. This was no mere resuscitation, but a singular miracle never before seen. Jesus, the Son of God, shattered the power of the grave and broke its chains. His living, healed body, pulsated with new life—scars on His hands, feet and side, visible reminders of His love for us and what He endured. But in every way a living, breathing, human being, in His renewed and resurrected body that shall never die again! These are the mighty works of God that Peter and the disciples proclaimed.
            The crowds gathered at Pentecost urgently needed this Good News. They didn’t yet know their responsibility for sin; nor did they know their Savior. All that changed on Pentecost. This message had to pierce the language barrier, and by God’s hand, it did. Jesus calls us sinners out of our sin, rebellion, and gloom, and into His light, forgiveness, and joy, still today. Our need is as urgent as theirs. Sin is real and deadly, and exacts an awful price—seen in the wounds and death of Jesus. But God has torn through the barrier that divided us because of sin. Jesus speaks new life by His Word. Jesus’ Word unites people across language and cultural barriers, to begin to reverse the curse and disunity of Babel.
            At Babel God scrambled one language into many while men tried to lift up their own glory to the heavens. God scattered them to break apart their ungodly unity. But Pentecost shows this reversal: God brought people of many languages to understand one message. The glory of God’s mighty works was lifted up to the heavens and God drew scattered nations together in a new and godly unity. Unity in Jesus’ Name. All who call on that Name will be saved! The trajectory of the Tower of Babel story is towards disunity, scattering, and confusion—while the trajectory of Pentecost is towards unity, gathering, and understanding. The Tower of Babel was an attempt to lift up men’s names to the heavens in glory—Pentecost, on the other hand, raises up Jesus’ Name to the heavens in glory, for our salvation. In short, God gave a miraculous sign that He had begun to “reverse the curse” of Babel.
            Another key truth reflected in both readings is that all humans share the same ancestry. With all our diversity of languages, colors, and cultures, we still all come from one common human family. This flies against the evils of racism that would try to divide us, create hatred and suspicion, or cause us to treat others as less than ourselves. Racism ignores that we are all made in the same image of God, from one man and one woman. Racism pits our differences against us, instead of recognizing our common humanity, and finding the beauty in how God has made us different. The Bible presents the beautiful truth that we are one human race, united as one blood.
            But still we are in need of being called together into a common unity. God calls us to that higher unity in the Name of Jesus, given for the salvation of every tribe, every nation, every people and language on the earth. God began creating that godly unity on Pentecost with the miracle of languages, and He continues to create the unity of faith in all who hear the word of God and believe it. We see that unity in the Church of Christ, where people around the world, of every tribe and every nation gather in common purpose to glorify and lift up Jesus’ name to the heavens. This work of unity is the glory of God, not the glory of men. Today, and every day, may we be witnesses of the mighty works of God and pray for that day when we reach perfect unity in Him. Amen, Come Lord Jesus!

Sermon on Revelation 22, for the 7th Sunday of Easter, "Tree of Life"


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The book of Revelation is like a bookend to the Bible, together with the book of Genesis. The first and last books of the Bible, have some important links. The creation of the world is described in Genesis 1 & 2, and the highlight is Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with the Tree of Life at its center. They could eat from Tree of Life and other trees, but one tree was off-limits—the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Tragically, they took what was off-limits instead of what was permitted. The first sin was disobeying God. Ever since, through all 66 books of the Bible—no one has access to the Tree of Life. An angel barred the way back for Adam and Eve. Humanity fell under the consequences of sin and evil—from Adam and Eve till us now—and our choices haven’t been any different from theirs. We have all followed in their first sin, continuing to disobey God. Looking across human history, the Bible delivers this stark judgment: “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12). That measures up you, me, and every other human being that’s ever lived. This judgment flattens all of us—levels the playing field—and we’re all equally under the judgment of God’s good law.
So if access to the Tree of Life was lost in the first chapters of the Bible, and so on through all 66 books to the very end, how is access to the Tree of Life returned in this last chapter of the Bible? This time the Tree appears in a garden in the middle of the heavenly city New Jerusalem and access has been restored for some people. This shows first of all, that God restores the perfect paradise that was destroyed by sin. God renews and restores His creation, into an even more glorious future. So these opening words of our reading echo back to the beginning of creation:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God an of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship him.
This is an amazing contrast to all the evil and human misery caused through sin, portrayed in the Bible. It’s a remarkable scene of peace and healing.
In this last chapter of the Bible, the final traces of sin, death, anything accursed, filthy, or evil, is banished out of God’s new creation. There will be no trace of unholiness inside God’s New Jerusalem because the New Creation will once again be free of any sin or evil. It will only be pure goodness, life, light, and perfection. As vs. 15 says: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” All who cling to these things, to sin and old rebellion against God, have no share in the Tree of Life and the Holy City. But on the other hand, vs. 14 says: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the Tree of Life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Here God explicitly grants access back to the Tree of Life for the “blessed.”
So how do we get from the Bible’s judgment that there’s not one righteous person on earth, to this division of the wicked from the righteous; one group forever barred from the Tree of Life, and the other that has access? We all started in the same place: again the Scripture says, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” but it continues: “and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24). The movement out of that place of sin and death, and into life, comes completely as a free gift, by the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
Our access to the Tree of Life has everything to do with what Jesus suffered when He died on the dead-wood tree of the cross. The death of Jesus on the cross is the climax of all the story of salvation, the center of the 66 books of the Bible, and the hinge on which everything else swings. The last chapter of the Bible returns us to the Tree of Life again; and we owe it all to Jesus. Those who come to the tree are described as “blessed are those who wash their robes.” We have no power to wash or cleanse ourselves from sin by anything that we have done. This takes away any gloating or boasting that we’ve entered God’s kingdom because we were so much better than everyone else. We were all just as much under God’s judgment before Christ redeemed us. The blood of Jesus is the only cleansing that washes away our sins—that gives us clean, washed robes to stand before God. In Revelation 7:14, John watches a countless multitude gathered around God’s throne, dressed in white. The angel tells him they have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Jesus shed His blood on the tree of the cross to make open to us the way to the Tree of Life, and restore the Paradise Lost through sin.
How will we know if we can be among the saints who gather in the New Jerusalem, or among the wicked who are shut outside in misery? Those outside “love and practice(s) falsehood.” Are we going to cling to evil? Then God will let us have our own way, and we can earn whatever  sin brings us. But if we regret our sin—however great our sins are—if we cry out to God that we are unworthy, but plead for His mercy, He forgives us and washes us clean. Those washed robes are ours in Him. So how do we face our sins? As our “pet sins” that we love and want to keep—or as the chains we want broken? For only God can break them. In v. 17, it says: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’, and let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Do you hear what that is? It’s an invitation! Water for the thirsty and life for those who desire it—without cost! Free! The Good News of Jesus is the only promise of salvation that is free; not a system of religious works for us to earn our way up the ladder. Jesus gives salvation freely.
Who is inviting in that verse? The Spirit and the Bride. That is the Holy Spirit, third person of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)—and the Bride is the Church of Jesus. His fellowship of believers throughout all the world and throughout time—those who are joined to Him by faith. The church is pictured as the Bride of Christ, because one of the other great themes in the book of Revelation is the joy of heaven will be a great wedding feast, Christ united with all His followers, the church. So the Spirit and the Bride call with this open invitation to whoever would receive it—“Come…take the water of life without price!”
All who hear this invitation come from the same level playing field of sin and death we mentioned before. None is privileged or closer to God on account of something they have done. We are all completely dependent on the free drink of that water of life. Once in Jesus’s ministry, He met a woman at a well. It comes out in the conversation that He knows of her sinful past—a history of sexual immorality that led right up into her present. Jesus knew of her spiritual thirst and of her chains, even before she recognized them. But He offered to her the living water without price. He told her that the gift of God was to drink His spring of water that wells up to eternal life. Jesus alone can cleanse us from our sins, and set our feet on a new path to life, away from the deadness, thirst, and chains of sin, and into the newness, life, and freedom of His kingdom. He opens the gates of heaven to us, and He grants us access to the Tree of Life, by His  death on the tree of the cross.
The book of Revelation, and the Bible, ends with a solemn warning not to add to or subtract from God’s Word. God’s Word, the Bible, is to be taken with the greatest seriousness, and not tampered with or changed. We are not free to cut and paste it to our own liking, as many have tried. We’re not free to pick and choose—but God’s Word remains whole and intact. When we read it and hear it, it examines our lives and our hearts—exposing our sin, and creating in us a thirst for God, for the Living God. He is the only One who can quench or satisfy that thirst. The warning here is that if we add to or take away from the words of the prophecy of this book, God will add to us the plagues found in the book, and take away our share in the tree of life and of the holy city. Instead, if we faithfully hear the words of prophecy and take them to heart—we will find great blessing, even eternal life as God’s free gift to us. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3). The believer in Christ, who is blessed, hears Jesus call us, “Surely I am coming soon”—and replies with joy, hope, and expectation—“Amen, Come Lord Jesus!” The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Sermon on John 16:23-33, 6th Sunday after Easter, "In My Name"


  • Last week we read the verses just before this passage, where Jesus spoke of the divine joy that He gives, that the world cannot take away. This teaches us the truth that, even when the world is crumbling around us we can still find joy and peace in Him.
  • As only Jesus gives the joy that the world cannot take away, these next verses connect that unconquerable joy with the peace from His victory over the world. Jesus also teaches about prayer here, and I want to explore that a little deeper with you, because many people have felt at some time that “my prayers are not working”. They may recall Jesus’ words here: “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” So someone thinks they have not gotten “whatever they asked”, even though they attached the words “In Jesus’ Name” to their prayers; expecting that whatever they asked would be granted.
  •  But Jesus isn’t giving us a “blank check” in His name, to get anything we want. God is not the “vending machine in the sky”—push the right buttons and get whatever you want. Prayer is not a way to manipulate God’s will toward our will. But many who think that they have “tried prayer” have never really understood it. Prayer is not how we conform God’s will to ours, but a way for God to conform our will to His. What do I mean? In the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done”. Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Not my will, but your will be done. He was committed to the most difficult course of action (COA) that lead to the cross.
  • How many of our prayers are “my will be done” prayers? Of course we naturally think that we know best. But why must we pray “thy will be done”? Because God wants to shape us to His will, His plans and purposes. We can’t usually see the outcome of His will, or the steps that lead there. Often, even with hindsight, we just don’t know the reasons why some things happen. But here Jesus says that asking the Father in His name and receiving, will bring us fullness of joy. How do we get to this joy, from asking and receiving? The key is not in the phrase “whatever you ask” but “in my name.”
  • In the military you know you can’t spend money without authorization. It would be very unwise. It’s similar to praying in Jesus’ name. If the commander authorizes and sends you to pick up a certain item from supply, you are going “in his name” and with his authority if you get that item. But you wouldn’t go in and say “commander has authorized me to draw anything I need from supply.” That request wouldn’t truly be ‘in his name.’ To pray in Jesus’ name is to submit our prayers to God’s will—to have them be found ‘in His name’—in the same way as praying “Thy will be done.” We give up our needs and desires to God’s good judgment and His love. It is to have faith—living in a trusting relationship, following God, even if we don’t know the outcome. And this is joy!
  • The joy that Jesus gives holds deeper than our changing circumstances, but rides through highs and lows, suffering and crosses. Jesus’ joy flows from the promise that nothing, not even death can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. It’s the joy of letting God lead us through trials and through blessings, confident that in good or bad, He is working good for us in Christ. And notice how Jesus uses this lesson on prayer and asking God in His name, to reaffirm the Father’s own love for us—not just that Jesus asks for us. This breaks down any mistaken notion that the Father and Jesus His Son look at us differently—as if the Father were the angry or hard to please one, and that Jesus has to “soften Him up” for us. Rather, the Father’s love for us is one and the same as the Son’s love—the love that jointly sent Jesus on this rescue mission for our sake, to die on the cross and rise from the grave. And likewise, the Father, the Son (and Holy Spirit) have the same anger and disapproval of sin—it is not in God’s nature to welcome, tolerate, or wink at sin—rather He took full measure of sin’s deadly cost, and rather than turning that cost against us, He turned it against Himself on the cross. God’s mercy and love for us is not ignoring sin, but taking the rightful penalty of sin upon Himself and granting us freedom, amnesty instead, when we trust in His Son. We love Jesus and believe in Him, and so the Father loves us.
  • In v. 32, Jesus talks about the coming hour, when the disciples will be scattered, alluding to the cross, when Jesus’ disciples would all flee as Jesus was betrayed and arrested. But Jesus would not be alone because the Father is with Him. Remember that Peter and the other disciples swore that they would never turn away from Jesus, even till death—but it didn’t take long to change.
  • And that stands as a reminder to us that our faith too will face time of great trial and testing. There will be times when your faith is attacked by doubt, despair, guilt, or suffering. When you feel like giving up or walking away. “In the world”, Jesus says, “you will have tribulation.” Trials, difficulties, persecutions, illness. Anything that would undermine or weaken your faith. Most of all to doubt Jesus and God’s love for you. But when the world brings us tribulation, Jesus says, “I have said these things that in me you may have peace.” In me you may have peace. Jesus is the refuge, the safety and calm amidst the storm. Around us the storms of life may gather, but in Him is our peace. The peace of sins forgiven. The peace of a certain future and hope. The peace of perfect communion with God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son. The peace of being right with God, and having nothing to fear.
  • In our prayers in Jesus’ name, we lift up to Him all our thanks and praise, our worries, fears, and needs, and we commit them to His good and gracious will, confident that however He answers, it will be ultimately for our good and that He can work even in the midst of dark times, suffering and loss, as seen in His own death on the cross.
  • Finally Jesus says: “These things I have spoken to you in order that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but take heart, I have overcome the world.” Whatever might shake or frighten or weaken our faith, Jesus declares His peace to us. Peace proclaimed by His victory at the cross. The victory Jesus won over sin, death, and the devil at the cross towers over time. Take heart, I have overcome the world, Jesus says. You know what else that means? It means that resistance is futile. Opposition against God and His rescue plan of salvation is futile—it doesn’t mean that the devil won’t war and rage against God, but the outcome is clear—he loses, God wins. The world continues to be a place of trouble and suffering until Jesus’ second return and the final judgment. But we don’t need to fear or worry about any of those troubles. Christ’s victory is ours by faith. The victory belongs to Christ, plain and simple! This is the heavenly source of our peace and joy in His Name, Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Sermon for Palm Sunday on Luke 23:23-25, "Voices, Demand, Will"


            In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. A spiritual storm was launched on Jesus at the cross. All the anger, confusion, discord, and hatred boiling on the surface, was stirred up from Satan and all his demons below. A fury of false accusations, vehement cries, urgent shouts—a rising crescendo; away with this man! This Jesus! How did His own people treat the Son of God? Not with the worship due God’s Son, nor with the honor due the King who rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, nor with the attention due to the pure Teacher of God’s Truth. Instead, like a thorn in their side, a criminal to be crucified, a false prophet and a blasphemer to denounce. They saw Jesus as their enemy, not their Deliverer. See how resolute He is in the midst of the spiritual tornado of lies, death and dishonor; how strong, calm, and even merciful and forgiving. Your rock and refuge in the storms of life. When you are struck down, cling to Him.
            Zoom into verses 23-25. The mob circles Pilate, crying out against Jesus. And “their voices prevailed.” Pilate grants “their demand”, and finally, He delivers Jesus over to “their will.” Their voices, their demand, and their will. He gave them what they wanted, and they got it; or so they thought. We all know it can be dangerous to get what we want. But compare their voices, their demand, and their will, to the voice, the demand, and the will of God. Whose voice and demands are we listening to? Whose will do we choose to obey—our own, or God’s?
            They spoke and did evil against Jesus, but what was His response? Let’s start with His voice. God the Father speaks aloud only a few times where His words are recorded for us. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17) and again at His Transfiguration in almost the same words: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5). The Father’s ultimate love, satisfaction, and joy are found in Jeus. So can you imagine how horrible in the Father’s ears, it was to hear His beloved Son slandered, mocked and accused? What if it were your child? What depth of God’s love!
            And in the midst of that hell storm of evil, how did Jesus voice His Father’s heart and words? At first it was all silence. Absorbing every venomous word. But then, when women wept over His suffering, He warned them to weep for themselves and their children. Destruction was headed for Jerusalem. He was worried for them, not Himself. And His word turned from compassion and concern to forgiveness for His enemies. What selfless love and compassion! The One who suffers gives comfort, and the One who is wronged forgives.
            How will we use our voices? Scripture says they were made for prayer, praising, and blessing—not for cursing, lying, or evil. Not only is Jesus a marvelous example, but His Words  and Spirit give us life and produce in us this forgiving spirit and enlarge our heart to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. By baptism you are joined to Christ Jesus and His life is now hidden in you, transforming your life after Him. May God employ our tongues and voices for good and for blessing! May we speak concern, compassion and forgiveness into the lives of those around us—even those who harm us.
            As sinful humans, we seek our best interest—and it typically steers toward selfishness, pride, power, or fleshly security. But contrast God’s demands and will. At the Transfiguration God says: “Listen to Him.” He wants our ears tuned carefully into His beloved Son. Don’t miss the words from His mouth. Central to Jesus’s words are how He summed up God’s two greatest demands: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39). God’s ten holy demands are summed up in the single word love—but they spread out in three dimensions in the fullest and highest love toward God and love toward neighbor. If our sinful nature bends inward to selfishness and smallness, then God’s holy commands steer us outward into the awesomeness, the greatness, and magnificence of who God is. And outward to loving care and generosity for our neighbor—concern for others, not only ourselves.
            Your bulletin has a long list of Bible verses that speak about God’s will. We can’t cover them all here, but a few examples contrast God’s good will and that of sinful men. Amazingly, 7 centuries before Jesus’ birth, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah what would happen on the cross. Isaiah 53:10–11 reads: (ESV)
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

It’s painfully stark, but this says it was the Father’s will for the Son to crush Him, put Him to grief, and become an offering for guilt. But it also speaks of the hope of Jesus’ resurrection, how  He will live to see His offspring, and it speaks of how Jesus, even in his anguish of soul, would be satisfied, as He made many righteous. To get to the blessings and goodness of what He had to do, He first had to undergo evil and suffering at the hands of wicked men, so that we could be counted righteous, and He could bear our sins. He did this all willingly—no one took His life from Him, which means that despite the appearances, it was not truly their voices that prevailed, and their will—but God’s will prevailed. God had the final word when Jesus said “It is finished!” God’s will can never be overwhelmed by our evil sinful will—He will accomplish His good purposes no matter what. Often He does allow us to suffer and struggle, but He puts even these experiences into service of His greater plan and will.
            The New Testament tells more about God’s will. Jesus says that only those who do the will of the Father will enter heaven. He says that it’s not His will for little ones to perish. Jesus said it was His delight to do the Father’s will. In another key passage Jesus explains precisely what the Father’s will is: John 6:38–40 (ESV),
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

God’s will is not to lose anyone, but that we would believe in Jesus and so have eternal life! If our ways lead to Jesus’ death, what does the voice, the demand, and will of God lead to? It leads to life! God wills that we believe in Jesus and have eternal life!
            Jesus’ death show us that when these two wills collide, that God’s voice, demands and will prevails. It shows that God gives life, even in the midst of darkness and death. God speaks life into the most confused, bitter, and angry lives, and gives forgiveness, life, and peace, to all who will receive it. Even those most hatefully bent against Him at the cross, He pleaded for their forgiveness. None of us could have carried out God’s good and perfect demands on our own—not even the simple demand—to Love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to  love our neighbor as ourselves. Even these simple commands escape our best efforts—when our minds are not fully devoted to God; when our hearts are not fully in our worship; when jealousy or greed or anger or lust keep us from loving and respecting our neighbor as we ought. But Jesus fully pursued all God’s demands and will. He never turned astray from the path, and obeyed God’s entire good and gracious will. When we are buried and raised with Jesus in baptism, His life washes over and fills ours, so that we can begin to pursue God’s good and gracious will. We begin to learn life lived God’s way, attentive to His voice, His demands, and will. He has given us life in Him!
            He rode into Jerusalem in full knowledge of the storm that faced Him. But Jesus’ voice carries above the storm. His voice calls for life, long after the storm has passed and wreaked its destruction. Jesus’ voice was silenced for three days, but called out in familiar tones again after His resurrection. Would we have joy in this life? Would we have eternal life and peace? Then look to God’s beloved Son and listen to Him. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Amen.
















Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen: search your podcast app for “The Joshua Victor Theory” or
listen online at http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

  1. Read Isaiah 53:10-11; Matthew 7:21; 12:50; 18:14; John 1:13; 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-40; Romans 8:27; 12:2; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 6:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 5:18; 1 Peter 2:15; 4:2; 1 John 2:17. What do these passages tell us about God’s will? How does God the Father speak in Matthew 3:17; 17:5? How does Jesus sum up God’s good demands? Matthew 22:36-40.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Sermon on Matthew 2:1-12, for the Epiphany of Our Lord, "We have come to worship Him"


Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. A blessed Epiphany! January 6 is the traditional celebration of Epiphany, which may be the second oldest celebration in the Christian church year after Easter. It seems to have been celebrated as early as the 2nd century, celebrating Jesus’ birth and baptism. Later, the visit of the Wise Men came to be emphasized in Western churches. Epiphany means “manifestation” or revealing, and focuses on miracles that showed Jesus is the Son of God.
Our love for the Wise Men at Christmas and Epiphany, is seen on Christmas cards and in nativity sets and children’s programs. Like the rest of the Christmas story, over time, there are lots of details that got “added in”, but aren’t actually in Matthew’s telling of their visit. For example, we’re not told they came on camels, or even that there were three of them—could have been more or less. They are not called wise, nor are they called kings. The word Matthew uses is “Magi”, found only in one other place in the Greek Old Testament, in Daniel, where King Nebuchadnezzar’s magi, or court advisors and wizards and sorcerers are unable to use their pagan arts to interpret his dream. Since the Bible explicitly condemns magic, sorcery, interpretation of omens, divination, etc—(Deut. 18:9-14), it’s clear that neither Matthew nor other apostles and prophets would have praised the astrology of the Magi, or called it “wise.” However, the point of the story is not their wisdom, but their response to what God did reveal to them, and their reverence to come worship the child born King of the Jews.
How could they have known? We are not told. From the Old Testament scriptures we can only say what is plausible. We can even find what made it plausible that Christians later associated the Magi with camels and kings. The most plausible connection to the Magi’s knowledge of a star is the prophecy in Numbers 24:17. Well over 1,000 years earlier, Balaam, a pagan oracle or seer, was compelled by God to bless the nation of Israel, even though he was hired to curse them. God used the mouth of a pagan oracle to deliver these true words: “I see him, but not now, I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” In the distant future, Balaam sees a star and a scepter. A connection between the star of Jacob and kingly rule. Did the Magi have a copy of the Jewish Torah, the first five books of the Bible? Had they studied this passage in Numbers, because of their interest in all things astrological? Had they acquired the Jewish Scriptures while the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, or Persia? All plausible, but we can’t be certain. But we know they didn’t know the birth location of this ruler. The Jewish priests and scribes had to point them to Micah 5:2, for Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Christ. Even wicked King Herod knew something of the Jewish prophecies of the Christ, though apparently not much.
But through all these murky questions and with all that they didn’t know, the Magi pursued this course and responded to what God showed and revealed to them, about the star, and then about Micah’s prophecy. They responded and followed their mission, which they described to Herod: “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Herod, being both paranoid and maniacal, plots to discover if this child has actually been born, so that he might destroy Him. Later, when they return, the Magi again are given new information, through a dream, at just the right time, to turn away from Herod, so God kept Jesus safe. God has no problem orchestrating events in both miraculous and in subtle ways, to even work through people who are partly or even completely oblivious to His purposes, to accomplish His will. God led the Magi from their darkness into the light of Jesus’ rising, as Isaiah foretold. It’s fair to say that they were unlikely and unexpected visitors.
The Old Testament prophecies also show other themes that begin to unfold in the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi. Rule would belong to the tribe of Judah, that rule would narrow down to the line of King David (Genesis 49:10; 2 Sam. 7:13, 16). Tribute and obedience would flow to this ruler of Judah (Gen. 49:10; Ps. 72). The King from David’s line would be a Forever-King, ruling over an eternal kingdom. Also that the Christ would be the light of salvation to the ends of the earth, not only for Jews, but for all peoples. When Isaiah 60:6 describes tribute coming to them in this way: “A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD. We can see where the images of kings and camels comes from. All these prophecies reverberate and ring around the coming of Christ.
It’s too much to say that all of these prophecies are fulfilled in the Magi alone. But it’s a significant beginning, no less, of the coming of tribute to the child who would come to bear the titles of the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” and the “Morning Star” and the one who would bear the scepter of Jacob. The Magi are a significant beginning of Gentiles worshipping the light of salvation in Jesus Christ. Worshipping the king whose rule truly would be from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth. Jesus’ kingdom surpasses all earthly nations and boundaries, and upon His resurrection, Jesus was given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). But these prophecies do point to the reality that Christ’s rule would surpass all earthly kings, and that tribute and obedience would be paid to Him from all corners of the earth, and that kings, princes, and all peoples would bow down and worship Jesus Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All the prophecies are fulfilled in Christ!
Just like the Magi, the star poses intriguing questions. Skeptics, scientists, and believers alike have pursued an explanation. Natural? A comet, a conjunction of planets, or a supernova? Or supernatural? A miraculous heavenly phenomenon that God created specifically for this purpose? Or some combination of the two? Again, we don’t know enough to say, except to point out that the behavior of the star—appears, then disappears, and reappears again, and then moves to rest over the home where Jesus was—seems to defy any natural explanation from the movement of any heavenly bodies we know about. But again, that’s not the point, but only that the star was given by God to direct them to the Christ child, and it did that. It’s a small thing for the God who made the heavens and put the stars in their place (Psalm 8:3) to use His creation to point back to Him, and spotlight our Creator’s birth. Again we are left to marvel and wonder at God’s wisdom, power, and love to call these foreigners to young Jesus, that they might also know and worship Him.
Martin Luther wrote about the virtues of Christian discipleship, and one virtue he named was responsiveness. Consider the responsiveness of the Magi. Following God’s lead on a journey to an unknown destination, that began with incomplete information, met a wicked and deceptive tyrant, continued forward with new revelation from the Scriptures, culminated in the worship of the Christ child, and warned from final disaster by a dream. At multiple points along their way, they were steered by God in the right way, and they responded. Our lives also need responsiveness—to hear and follow God’s call, and to trust His leading. We won’t start our journey with all the information that we’ll have at the end, but that doesn’t matter—only that we trust and follow God’s lead, and that we trust that God has the answers we don’t have.
It’s enough to know that God knows, and we can be content to respond, and to follow. Opposite of responsiveness is stubbornness or self-determination, that hard-headed runs against God’s direction. Balaam, that unlikely oracle we mentioned before, had his experience of trying to outwit God, or defy God’s people, and that didn’t work out too well. Herod didn’t succeed either.  Nor did the three or four generations after who bore his family name. God grant that we would be responsive to His calling on our lives, and that no matter where our individual journeys take us, that they would also culminate in the worship of Christ. We can be content to take life one day at a time, obediently following Christ, not with all the future information we could wish to know, but enough for today. We don’t have to hesitate or be uncertain, but to confidently trust that God is leading us. I have a real sense of that as I’m preparing to leave you for an extended period of time, to pursue God’s calling in this chapter of my life. There are many things I would like to know about what will happen 3-4 months from now, or a year from now. But those answers aren’t afforded to me yet, nor are they absolutely needed yet. But Lord willing, I go forward trusting that He’s got it all under control.
And the same is true for you all here. There is no eventuality in life that catches God by surprise, nor situation for which He has not provided a solution. Even if we are waiting till the last moment for His will to become clear, God does not abandon His people or His purpose. Many things could have gone wrong for the Magi—and after they left, tragically, Herod lashed out in his rage and blind ignorance, and killed many young boys of Bethlehem, in a vain effort to kill Jesus, whom he perceived as a threat. That God does not abandon His people or promise doesn’t mean that we won’t ever come to harm in this life—but they won’t be able to thwart God’s ultimate purposes. God is ready for it all, even when we are not.
No earthly ruler at the time could understand Jesus’ kingship; that He came to liberate us from the power of sin and death. Not Herod, or his wicked son, nor Pontius Pilate or the chief priests and scribes—none at His birth, and none at His death—could grasp the true nature of His kingdom and power. A shepherd for His people Israel, the Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep. Not even Jesus’ death on the cross, caught God by surprise, but was used to accomplish our salvation. God worked all things together for good. God’s will and purpose came through intact, even through death and resurrection. That’s proof enough! Confident every day that God will so love us and provide for us, and in response to all Jesus has done for us, may we with joy declare our purpose: “we have come to worship Him!” In His Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen: search your podcast app for “The Joshua Victor Theory” or
listen online at http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

  1. Did you know that Epiphany is second only to Easter, as the earliest festival to be celebrated on the Christian church calendar?
  2. What “extra details” often accumulate around the story of the Wise Men (or better, Magi), that are not found in Matthew 2, the account of their visit? Does the passage indicate that they were wise? What does Deuteronomy 18:9-14 show about God’s command about all things magical and occult? It is nonetheless marvelous and exciting that despite their ignorance, they are the first Gentiles called to worship Jesus!
  3. What prophecy could have pointed them to the star? Numbers 24:17. What were the unique circumstances of that prophecy? What missing information did the Magi inquire of the priests and scribes in Jerusalem? Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6.
  4. What other prophecies tell about the coming ruler to be born, associated with this star? Genesis 49:8-12; 2 Samuel 7:12-17; Psalm 72:8-15; Isaiah 49:5-7; 60:1-6.
  5. How would Jesus’ rule and kingdom extend over all the earth? Matthew 28:18. Who will bow down to Him? Philippians 2:9-11.
  6. Is it any trouble for God to use a star to proclaim His birth? Psalm 8:3
  7. How did the Magi display the Christian virtue of responsiveness? What would that virtue look like and mean in your life? How does our knowledge come and change along our journey? What is true about God’s knowledge and purposes?