December 3, 2017
If you’ve ever read any standard business leadership books, like Jim Collins’, “Good to Great,” then you know that the analogy that is often used is that of getting the right people into the right roles in your business based on their skills and abilities…in Collins’ case, the idea of getting the right people strategically into the right seats on the bus. So, if a person is serving poorly, it may not be the right call to fire them, but you might find that the organization or the business is better served by shifting the person into a different position. For the 14 years that I either owned my own business or ran businesses for others, that was pretty consistently the approach.
Football coaches are intentional about doing the same thing. Get the right athletes into the proper position, based on their strengths…pretty much any team sport can fit into this analogy. Chess, too, if you think of the pieces as individual players on the field, is also designed this way, putting the right pieces into the right places based on your opponent’s tactics. Perhaps for our younger members, Clash Royale, also is played much like that as one counters one’s opponent’s Giant with a Minion Hoard. It is basically “Rock — Paper — Scissors.”
That’s how business works, sports works, etc… The skill of the person defines where a person will be the best asset to the organization. But that typically does not apply in the life of the Church. Have you ever paid attention to the kind of person whom God calls?
— a ruddy shepherd-boy, the runt of the lot, to be the greatest king over ancient Israel
— a rascal shepherd with two wives and who was sleeping with their handmaidens
— a prophet that was so fearful of the Nineties that he would sooner run from his calling
— a faithful housewife who also happened to be good with a hammer and a tent stake
— a man who was a murderer and who’s speech was poor to be the greatest Old Testament prophet of all times
— an idolatrous priest who would become the prophet who tells us more about the character of Christ than any other prophet before or after him
— two pagan women in the Messiah’s own line
And then in the New Testament as well…
— a tax collector and a thief called to be Apostles of the Lord
— a highly educated Pharisee and a Greek physician
— two brothers of Jesus who refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection.
— an elderly coupe — barren through child-bearing years, who received a miracle that the forerunner to Christ might appear…one who would be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom
— and now, a young peasant girl, engaged to be married in the back-woods town of Nazareth…not the most illustrious of places
And so, as the old saying goes… “God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.”
Or, perhaps we can word it this way…when God chooses to work in the life of his own, he does not do so on the basis of anything in us, nor does he ask our opinion first.
That does not mean that qualifications are not important. You should strive to do the best at everything you do and always seek to be learning more and stretching yourself to meet and fulfill your calling. And, as I have often said, education is part of your sanctification.
At the same time, God will use your qualifications, your education, your skills, but God will not use you because of those things, he will use those things because he is using you. If you begin to think otherwise, that is where pride starts to trickle in.
Now, this as a principle, I expect, is pretty straight-forward to you as a church, but isn’t it interesting at how many people can understand this when applied to themselves, but who reject this notion when it comes to God’s choice to use Mary.
It is true that Mary is called “Blessed amongst women…,” but so is Jael in the Old Testament (Judges 5:24). Why is Mary blessed? It is not because of anything she has done or that is in her character. God chose to bless her with the privilege of carrying his Son.
She is called “favored one,” but the Greek can just as naturally be translated in verse 28 as “one who has received grace,” but again this is not because she earned it, but because God is giving it.
It is just the same as we find of Noah in Genesis 6:8… “Noah found favor…” as is translated in many of our Bibles can just as easily be translated as “Noah was given grace.” He wasn’t special; but God would do something special through him.
So, let’s make this clear up front because we all have Roman Catholic friends, family, and acquaintances…
First, Mary was a sinner in need of the Savior, just like you and me. That means she was not immaculately conceived, that is a myth that has its original roots 600 years after the death of Jesus and wasn’t made official doctrine of that church until 1854.
Second, Mary died, she was not assumed bodily into heaven. Again, this is a 6th century myth that has crept into Roman theology, this time the Pope did not make it dogma until 1950.
Third, Mary is not a co-mediatrix. That again has its roots in the 6th and 7th centuries AD and grew into regular practice and is widely held within Roman circles…along with prayers to the saints.
None of these ideas, folks, are Biblical, all of these ideas are myths, and all lead one into idolatry and the worship of Mary. And so, whether wittingly or unwittingly, those who even enter into the practice of the rosary are embracing at least one form of idolatry.
So, is Mary special to us? Yes, but in the same way that Joseph is special. God chose this couple to be the human agents who would protect and raise his Son in the fear and admonition of the Lord as well as in the obedience to the Law. That’s a very good thing, but let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that they had earned that privilege…instead, it was a work of God’s grace.
And so, in the sixth month — that is the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy — we are told that the Angel Gabriel came to Mary of Nazareth and revealed to her the plan of God.
We can say much on these words, but I want to focus on verses 32 and 33 of the text this morning:
“He will be great an due called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give to him the Throne of David, his Father, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will have no end.”
These are some of the most profound words in all of the Bible.
First of all, “Son of the Most High”…
“Most High” or hupsisos in Greek, when used as a title, is always, always used of God and never of a man. Even Caesar is not referred to in this way.
I also do not know how many of you are familiar with the Michael Card song, “El Shaddai,” which covers a number of Hebrew names for God…one of those names is El Elyon — God Most High — which is the Hebrew equivalent of hupsisos.
Why is this so important? It is important because right here you have an angel making a clear claim that Jesus is no mere man, but is the very and eternal Son of God.
Mormons and Muslims claim that Jesus was a man who earned a right to be revered by a perfect life. Jews say that Jesus was merely a good teacher. Many Liberals teach that Jesus was only a man and the church added the idea of divinity much later (hence you have things like “The Search for the Historical Jesus” floating about). But here is a messenger from heaven pronouncing Jesus to be the Son of God — fully human and fully divine.
But we cannot stop there. The text continues and tells us that God will give him the throne of his father, David and that he will reign forever.
I want you to wrap your heads around this for two reasons.
First, this is a reference back to 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and God’s promise to David about the covenantal king to follow. This prophesy consists of seven things about the next king.
1. I will raise up one of your off spring to be king after you
2. He will build me a house (the Temple)
3. His throne will be established forever
4. I will be a Father to him
5. when he sins, I will punish him with the rod of men
6. my covenantal faithfulness will be with him always
7. the throne will be established forever.
We can say that there was a partial fulfillment in Solomon, but only really for points one and two. Points 3-7 were left unfulfilled, leaving many Jewish scholars to look for the fullillment of these words in the Messiah. And indeed, Jesus did.
Even the language of “when he sins, I will punish him with the rod of men” applies to Jesus. How is that possible if Jesus had no sin? Hear Paul’s language in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
So, while Jesus had no sin of his own, he took onto himself the sin of the elect and thus, God chose to punish him by the hand of Pilate…the rods fo men…
You hear me say this a lot, but a knowledge of the Old Testament is fundamental to your understanding of the New Testament.
To the Jewish mind, if the person claiming to be the Messiah did not or could not fulfill every prophetic statement about the Messiah in the Scriptures, they were not the Messiah…and we should be that intentional as well, recognizing that Jesus did fulfill each of these statements.
Loved ones, faith is not blind; neither is assurance that the things we have believed are true — they are built upon clear and rational evidence of God’s hand at work.
The Second reason that I want you to tackle this statement of Gabriel is that the promised reign that will have no end will be over the house of Jacob.
Who constitutes the house of Jacob? There is a line of promise that runs from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob. And, as Paul writes in Romans 9:7, “Not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring” — in stead he goes on to say that it is the children of promise who are offspring of Abraham. Who are these? Galatians 3:29: “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring; heirs according to the promise.” This is something that comes to us baby faith (Galatians 3:14).
So, who are the children of Jacob that the Christ will rule over? The Church of Jesus Christ. You and me…and Christ is reigning over us. One of the problems in our culture is that many Christians think of Christ’s reign as something is still far off. But Hebrews 1:3 and 10:12 affirm that after Jesus completed his sacrificial work, he sat down (reigned) at the right hand of God. Which means, he rules here and now. This world may see to be ruled by the wicked and evil, but such is not the case. Christ is enthroned and thus he gives gifts to men through his church (Ephesians 4:8-16).
In other words, we need not wait until some future millennial kingdom to make things right in the world. We are in the millennial reign of Christ and it is our job to labor and to make things right in the world. It is a call to action, not a passive existence as Christ’s people struggling to survive.
Here’s a piece of trivia for you along those lines…you cannot win a defensive war. If you are under siege, you will always lose unless one of two things takes place…
1. reinforcements come from outside
2. you mount an aggressive offense out of your gates.
For far too long the church has chosen option 1, hoping just to hold their ground until Christ comes.
But I’m telling you that while Jesus may return tomorrow, to be Biblical about it, we need to take option 2 and engage the culture with an organized and effective offensive. We need to right the wrongs, do justice, and tear down the strongholds of hell in our midst.
We do this through evangelism, through apologetics, through changing immoral laws, through caring for the poor, orphans and widows, through using our positions of influence in such a way to bless the world while we serve God (see the lives of Joseph, Esther, and Daniel as an example of this).
Before I close, I would like to make two more observations from the text.
1. Notice that Mary is told that the Most High would overshadow her — the basis for the theology of a virgin birth and the language of overshadowing is also the same language found in the beginning of creation, when the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep (Genesis 1:2). Both are in the context of the Spirit caring for and nurturing the creative acts of God.
2. Finally, and in close, Mary’s words to the Angel are instructive to us: “Let it be to me according to your word.”
In other words, Mary is saying what the prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 6:8…: “Here I am, send me.”
Though we give them, God does not want our excuses. If he calls us to serve him, God expects our willingness to serve. And how do we know if God is calling us to step out? Ask the Elders of the church to give you a Biblical and prayerful understanding of what God is calling you to do.