The servant King

THE SERVANT KING

Isaiah 42v1-9

 

INTRODUCTION.

We have followed the history of the Kingdom of Israel from the time of their first earthly king, Saul, up until the fall of Jerusalem and the exile. It doesn’t make very glamourous reading. Even the successful rulers like David and Solomon and Josiah made grave errors. The majority of Israel’s kings were evil and unjust and corrupt.

 

Instead of helping the people they became a burden to them. Some started well but their power went to their heads. They became domineering and authoritarian – they ruled by fear and by force. They passed rules and decrees that favoured themselves and discriminated against the poor and the powerless.

 

ILLUS.: Power game – different badges and different value cards – could trade – after a few rounds divided into top, middle and lower groups – top group could make one rule. As game proceeded the top group could make more rules as it gained more power. Usually in favour of self. Lower groups either rebelled or tried to infiltrate top group to change it (often become like top group or forced out)

 

This was just a game of pretend power but even in reality those with power often only have pretend power – they play on the fears of the powerless. Their power is a perceived power rather than a real power. The more powerful they become very often the more corrupt they become – In the words of the famous cliché – “Power corrupts and Absolute power corrupts absolutely”

 

God is not, however, impressed by this strutting nor by the gods they worship.

In 41v21-24 we have a court scene in which God challenges the idols and the idolaters. He challenges them to predict the future [v.22] He challenges them to act – full of irony v23:

… tell us what the future holds so

that we may know that you are gods

Do something, whether good or bad,

so that we may be dismayed and

filled with fear.

 

 

If your idols are gods then they should be able to do something even if it is bad!!

Instead of being able to do something they can do nothing – in fact they are nothing.

But you are less than nothing and

your works are utterly worthless

 

Kings, rulers, people and gods may parade themselves as being in power but God laughs at them. Their power is a joke in comparison to his.

 

See they are all false!

Their deeds amount to nothing;

their images are but wind and confusion [v29]

 

What is God’s answer to this confusion and meaninglessness. The kings of Israel have failed – they have followed after other gods. [end ch.41 –  God says “LOOK” at these idol-gods! “LOOK” at these idolaters! NOW in 42v1 ” LOOK / BEHOLD MY SERVANT” ] (NIV “Here is …”)

 

This servant is God’s answer to the world’s problems and plight!! It is he who will bring justice to the nations. The confusion and injustice of the world will be put to right by him.

 

We are not told at this point who this servant will be. His identity unfolds in the next chapters but we are told what he will do and how God will establish him.

 

1. THE SERVANT’S MISSION FROM GOD. [God speaks about his servant] [42v1-4].

 

It is clear from the ch. 49 and 52/53 and then from the NT that this servant is Jesus Christ.

 

First thing about the servant’s mission is that:-

1.1 – it is by divine appointment.

 

Many people in OT were called the servants of God – Moses, David – even Neduchadnezzar. But here we do not have a name attached to the title – just “MY SERVANT”  The implication being that the others were also servants but this one is THE servant. This is the supreme one. The embodiment of true servanthood.

 

This is not just any servant – he is choosen by God. He is special to God and God upholds him [see v1]. BUT more than that God delights in Him. But isn’t that obvious – if you choose someone you delight in them. NO!!

 

ILLUS.: If you are the coach of a sports team you may choose someone for the team without necessarily liking them – you choose them to fulfill a particular task.

 

God chose many people to fulfill certain functions [Cyrus, Nebuchabnezzar, Balaam’s donkey, etc…..] that did not mean that he approved of them and the things they had done. BUT with this servant God’s heart is filled with delight and love.

Later in NT a voice from Heaven would say about this servant:-

This is my beloved son

in whom I am well pleased / delighted.

 

So this servnat is THE servant of God by divine appointment.

 

The second thing about the servant’s mission:-

1.2. – it is true and faithful

he will bring justice to the nations.

in faithfulness he will bring justice.

 

Justice is one of the main themes of this passage. We have had the courtroom scene at the end of the previous chapter. So there is carried along the idea of legal judgement. The verdict of the court scene between God and the idol-gods is that there is only one Lord. He is the true God. His authority is without question and his law is true.

 

There is also the aspect that he not only is just but will establish justice. He will right wrongs. He will expose and rectify miscarriages of justice.

 

ILLUS.: The British leagl system has been rocked by many alledged miscarriages of justice in recent years. The legal arguments are very involved and its difficult to know the truth.

 

 

There have always been miscarriages of justice in the world – there still are. Christians are not immune from that. Christians throughout history have been victims of injustice. We live in a society that is corrupt and sinful. Where people will lie and cheat and distort the truth for their own ends. Its hard to swallow and we don’t always get justice.

 

The servant will not try to find out the truth but will establish it – He knows what is just. If Jesus has come why do we still have all this injustice. Why does it happen to Christians. Isn’t God there to protect us???

 

We need to remember that this passage as many in the OT is taking a distant view of Christ’s comings – the first as saviour {Suffering servant} the second as judge {conquering King}.  In the mean time the Lord is not unaware. Justice will be established and those who think they can live dishonestly and abuse others will one day stand before this Servant as Judge and the record will be put straight.

 

Unlike the corrupt kings and rulers whom Israel had known, this Servant would be true and just and faithful.

 

The third thing about the servant’s mission:-

1.3. – it is directed toward people.

 

This servant is not a hard unfeeling judge. He is kind, compassionate and caring.

 

A bruised reed he will not break,

a smouldering wick he will not snuff out [v3a]

 

His gentleness and compassion is shown in his concern for those whom the world would cast aside. No one’s life is too damaged so that Jesus can not restore it. No one life has gone so far towards extinction that he cannot revive the flame. He is in the business of mending people’s lives. It does not matter what you have done or what has been done to you, Jesus can renewed your life.

 

He comes alongside in a quiet, unagressive and unthreatening way.

He will not shout or cry out,

or raise his voice in the streets. [v2]

His ministry is not ostentatious or self-advertising. It is not done on the stage or in front of TV cameras. How often did Jesus go away from the crowds. He gets on with the job of restoring peoples lives.

 

He is the example that we are to follow – for all who would serve the Lord must serve him this way by serving others this way. Caring, helping, supporting – doing for others.

The Son of Man cam not to be served but to serve

and to give his life as a ransom for mant.

If you want to be great on God’s kingdom

learn to be the servant of all {SONG}

Yes in the process you too might get bruised and burn low but that is what Jesus went through.

He was despised and reject

a man of sorrows and familiar

with suffering [Isa. 53v ]

 

BUT even in the midst of being bruised and broken he did not lose sight of his task.

v4 He will not falter or be discouraged.

 

Many pressures will be brought to bear on the servant to dissuade him from his task BUT he will not be detered. His task was to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

 

The fourth thing about the servant’s mission:-

1.4 – it is world wide in scope.

justice to the nations [v1]

justice on earth.

In his law the islands will put their hope.[v4]

 

This servant of the Lord was not going to be for Israel alone. If God was the only God and all the idol-gods were not gods at all then it makes sense that this God was not only God of Israel but also God of the whole world.

 

“ISLANDS”  is significant because it indicates that the remotest parts of the world are included. There is a global significance to the servant’s ministry.

 

As a result of this servant’s ministry that the remotest islands can have hope. They will stake their future on what he reveals to them, when he has won their allegiance.

 

Does he have your alliegiance? Is your hope in him? Has his concern for people and the nations of the world become your concern?  Do you believe that Jesus is the only Hope for this world? How is that affecting your life – your prayer life and your pocket and your time?   “BUT I don’t have time?” If we don’t have time for God’s priorities then there is something wrong?

 

I know it is not easy. It never will be. It is no good saying “Oh. tomorrow when I have more time!

 

ILLUS.: Often we make the mistake of thinking that it will be easier if life was different. When I finish school. When I finish university. When I am married. When I am a little better off. When I retire.

 

We as God’s servants are to reflect the character of HIS chosen servant>

 

2. THE SERVANT’S CONFIRMATION BY GOD. [God speaks to his servant] [v5-9]

 

Israel had often made the mistake of thinking that Yahweh was their God as if they possessed him like the other nations possessed their gods. As if Yahweh was simply a tribal deity.

NO!  Listen to the discrption in verse 5:- Who is this God who confirms his servant?

READ v5

He creates the world and he holds it all together. He gives it life and breath.

 

Productivity was not the work of the Canaanite fertility gods but of the God of Israel. Productivity is not the invention of scientific agriculture it is the blessing of GOD. Agricultural science simply discovers the secrets that God has built into his creation.

 

Life {Breath} is not the result of evolutionary processes but something we enjoy courtesy of God’s sustaining grace.

 

God now addresses his servant:

READ v6-7

 

God doesn’t simply call his servant and then leave him alone. NO! “… I will take hold of your hand…”

 

ILLUS.: When you take hold o someone’s hand it means that you go with them wherever they go.

 

God’s promise of his presence. If he has called us then he is with us – he is holding our hand!

 

“And I will keep you” – I will safeguard you – He will not allow you to be broken or stuffed out. You might get bruised or burn low BUT you have eternal life which can never be taken away.

in Christ we have ..”an inheritance

that can never perish, spoil or fade –

kept in heaven for you…[1 Peter 1v4]

 

How can we be sure of this??

Because of what God did through his servant.v6:-

I will make you a covenant for the people,

and a light for the Gentiles.

 

What does it mean “The servant will be a covenant??

He will be the means through whom people will come into a covenant relationship with the Lord. It is in and through Jesus Christ that God can and does save people. This is the new covenant – And again notice the world-wide scope of the covenant.

 

This servant is in the process of transforming people spiritually, physically and emotionally. And he will continue to do that until he has for himself a perfect people in a perfect society in a perfect enviroment. That he will finally accomplish when he returns NOT as the suffering servant but as the conquering KING.

 

 

When Isaiah prophesied, Israel and the nations were in turmoil – nothing has changed!

A world system where God is not acknowledge will always be in one mess after another. And there will be corruption, and injustice and life will not always treat us fairly BUT that is what Jesus came to change.

 

He was appointed by God to be true and faithful – his ministry was to be directed towards people and it was to be world-wide in its scope.

 

He was a King but he came as a servant. He came to establish his kingdom and that is what he is doing. He is establishing his kingship in the hearts of men and women and boys and girls.

 

He wants us to be out there,in the midst of a hostile world, as his servants passing on the message that he is KING.

 

This is our God- the servant King

he calls us now to follow him,

to bring our lives as a daily offering

of worship to the servant King.

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The shepherd King

THE SHEPHERD KING

[Christmas Family Service – 18th December 1994]

[A king who rules by shepherding]

 

Luke 2 v1-20; Matthew 2v1-12.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Many characters in the Christmas story – let’s name some.

Mary and Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds, the angels, the inn-keeper, King Herod, the religious leaders, Zerariah and Elizabeth and John the Baptist,………

 

This morning lets look at the shepherds!

 

1. THE SHEPHERD IN THE FIELDS.

 

We know about how the angels announced the good news to the shepherds. They were very frightened – who wouldn’t be? They hurried to the stable to see Jesus.

 

WHAT DO SHEPHERDS DO?

Easy – look after sheep.  How??

 

CARES –  enough food – where is the best grass – Where is there enough water. That is not so difficult in England but in Israel it is very dry. In the cold and wind must find shelter. If they get sick he must know how to make them better.

 

PROTECTS – there are many dangers out in the country. Shepherd must know the dangerous places – cliffs etc.

Also wild animals – wolves, foxes, lions, bears ….

What did Shepherds also carry? – a crook, staff, stick … & sling, catapult, gun,…

 

Illus.: David – sling – killed a lion and a bear…

 

Also protects from other people – sheepstealers – in places where sheep are very important and worth lots of money shepherds can get killed while trying to protect their sheep.

 

 

 

KNOWS – by name –

Illus.: farm – all cows had names . name place over each stall. cows would go to their own stall – no they could not read !!!

 

WORKS HARD – [Sacrifices]

Illus.: In France – mountain village – sheep and goats every morning return from the fields by 8:00am. – very early start. Evening back up the mountains again.

 

Must be out in hot sun, rain, wind, cold — with NO day off. Sheep are hungry even on Sundays or holidays.

 

2. THE SHEPHERD IN THE MANGER.

 

There were shepherd in the field – there was another shepherd in the story – where was he? – in the manger.

 

Past 5 weeks we have been looking at the Kingdom of God – last week the King who was a servant.  We know Jesus was a King – the wise men came looking for the “King of the Jews”

Jesus is a King and a servant but he is also a Shepherd.

 

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah

are by no means least among the RULERS of Judah;

for out of you will come a RULER who will be

the SHEPHERD of my people Israel. [Matt.2v6 cf.Micah 5v2]

 

CARES – like the other shepherds –

The lord is my shepherd I shall not want

He makes me lie down in green pastures

he leads me beside still waters… [Ps.23]

 

Jesus cares for his sheep – Christians, those who belong to him – he knows what is good for us – he leads us into places that he knows are best for us –

 

Illus.: Sometimes sheep have to go by a difficult road to get to the best grass

 

Sometimes life can be very hard but Jesus cares deeply for us and he will always do for us what is best. He knows where the green pastures are BUT we often only see the dusty road.

 

PROTECTS – Jesus said in John 10v7 ”   ….. I am the gate ….”

 

Illus.: Sheep fold – walled in with stones or sticks – sometimes no gate – Shepherd would sleep across the entrance to keep sheep in and keep danger out.

 

Jesus knows what dangers there are for us, his sheep – Sometimes we ask Him for something and we don’t get it – he knows best Or he brings things into our lives we don’t want BUT he knows best. Sometimes we don’t understand and it doesn’t make sense to us. We only see our life in the here and now BUT Jesus sees all of life from and eternal perspective.

 

 

He is the Good shepherd – he knows his sheep and his sheep know him –

 

KNOWS – to me a bunch of sheep is a bunch of sheep – a crowd of people is a crowd of people BUT to Jesus we are not just a bunch of people – he knows everyone by name and every detail about them.

 

He knows what you had for breakfast – he knows what you say – what you think – when you are kind or unkind – when you lie or tell the truth – how many hairs on your head [he has an easier job with some of us regarding the number of hairs]

 

There is nothing Jesus doesn’t know about you –

He knows every person in the world BUT sadly, not every person knows him – only those who hear his voice.

Can’t everyone hears his voice??  Proverb -“None so deaf as those who will not hear”

Illus.: Radio – can’t receive signal if switched off!!

 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.

He will come in and go out and find pasture.

They thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy but

I have come tat you might have life and have it to

the full [John 10v9 – 10]

SACRIFICES [works hard]

 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd

lays down his life for the sheep. [Jn10v11]

 

The OT tell us that we are all like sheep who have gone astray [got lost] gone our own way [done our own thing].

Sheep need a shepherd – with no shepherd they are lost and in danger. That is what we are all like until we come to Christ.

He came to die on the cross to make it possible for us to be found – to become part of God’s flock.

 

He came as a King to rule his people but he did that by being a shepherd – a good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep. So the manger without the cross has no meaning.

 

How do I stop being lost? – you enter into God’s kingdom through Jesus Christ –

 

I am the gate for the sheep whoever enters through me will be saved.

 

There is no other way – only one gate – Jesus.

 

How do you know Jesus? As a baby in a manger on a Christmas card? OR as the Shepherd King who knows you and whom you know and love!!

 

 

THE SHEPHERD’S TASK

 

 

CARES                ” … green pastures …”

                                  ” … still waters …

 

 

PROTECTS        ” I am the gate … “

 

 

KNOWS              ” I know my sheep and my

                                     sheep know me.”

 

 

WORKS              ” I lay down my life for the

   [Sacrifices]           sheep.”

 

Christ the King

Christ the King!

[What makes a King?]

 

Isaiah 9v1-7; Matthew 2v1-12.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

We read in Isaiah 9 that the coming Messiah would be a prince and have a throne.

We read in Matthew 2 that the Wise men came looking for the King of the Jews.

 

Many of the carols refer to Christ the King – “Glory to the new-born king”

 

We talk about Jesus as KING. We talk about the king / Queen of England.

What is a king or queen?  Why is EIIR Queen of England?!!

Is she the best person in England?

Is she the cleverest?

Is she the prettiest?

What makes a person a King or Queen??

 

Let’s compare an earthly King of Queen to King Jesus!!

 

1. SIMILARITIES.

1.1 Parentage:

Elizabeth II is Queen because she was the first in line of succession to the throne. Her father was the King. She did not choose to be Queen – she could have choosen not to be.

I could not choose to be king nor could any of you – because it is not our right to choose.

 

Jesus had the right perantage on two counts – His earthly parentage can be traced back to King David. That was the promised  –  that he would reign on the throne of his father David. That is why He was born in Bethlehem – because Joseph and Mary had gone there register as they were from the line of David.

BUT he is also KING because his Father in Heaven is King.

Ps.2v7 “You are my son

today I have begotten you.”

 

 

Jesus was not only King of the Jews BUT also King of the whole universe:-

God has placed all things under His feet

and appointed him Head (King) over everything [Eph.1v22]

 

1.2 Willingness to fulfill responsibility.

 

Being Queen of England is not all glitz and glamour – she has lots of privileges but she also has lots of responsibilities. She cannot do as she pleases. She cannot put on a pair or jeans and a T-shirt and walk down Oxford street.

She could have abdicated but she did not.

 

Jesus, in a similar way, did not abdicate any responsiblity – He knew who he was, he knew why he had come to earth and he willingly fulfilled all that was required of him.

He was born to be the Saviour of the world and he fulfilled his task perfectly.

 

1.3 A realm over which to reign.

 

Every King or Queen has a territory or people to rule over. If some people don’t acknowledge their rule that doesn’t lessen the position of the sovereign.

 

ILLUS.: If I am an anti-royalist and think that there should not be a Queen. And there are people in England who would be happier if there was no Queen – that doesn’t for one minute change the fact that Elizabeth II is Queen.

 

In a similar way if people don’t recognise Jesus Christ and Lord and King  – if some deny his existence or the existence of God that doesn’t for a minute change that fact that He is KING.

 

ILLUS.: 500 years ago people believed the earth was flat – was it? NO! Has it ever been?  NO!!

 

Believing the earth to be flat doesn’t make it flat.  Simply because people don’t believe in Jesus as Lord and King doesn’t mean that he isn’t!

 

 

2. DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AN EARTHLY KING AND KING JESUS.

 

 

 

2.1. Is the sovereign dependent on the people?

EIIR is dependent on the people to remain Queen. Her government is dependent on the people to remain in office.  If in the future the people of Great Britian decided that they didn’t want a king or queen there would be very little the monarch could do to retain that position.

 

The POWER of the Queen is limited. Her power is dependeant on her supporters and subjects and advisers. Even in the days when the King/Queen of England had more power it was still true.

 

Not so with Jesus – his kingly power is not dependent upon us or any other creature. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.

If people deny who Jesus is OR if they reject him OR ridicule him, that will not cause him to fall from power. He will not cease to be king because people don’t acknowledge him as such.

 

Millions throughout the world will be celebrating Christmas today. Thousands of stuffed turkeys, Christmas cakes, minces pies and bottles of wine with no thought for whose birth we are celebrating. Simply because millions of people ignore Jesus doesn’t in the slightest change who is and the power he has.

If the people reject and earthly king the king will eventually fall.

But if people reject the heavenly King – Jesus – ultimately they will fall.

 

Peter likens Jesus to a cornerstone or capstone of a building: [1Peter2v7-8]

“The stone the builders rejeted has

become the capstone”,

AND “A stone that causes men to stumble and

a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the message.

 

Christmas is not just about shepherds and wisemen and a baby born in a stable.

It’s about God sending his Son into the world to bring salvation through him.

Rejecting him and his salvation results in the ultimate downfall of those who do so!!      HIS POWER IS UNLIMITED!!

 

The Queen is dependent on her subjects in another way – for RESOURCES.

Her majesty’s government needs the resources of the people – taxes and skills – without us (the people) they and the queen would have little.

Jesus, on the other hand, does not need us or any other creature for his resources.

John, the Apostle, begins his gospel, not with a baby in Betlehem but with another view of Jesus who he refers to as the WORD.

In the beginning was the Word [Christ]

and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

Through Him all things were made;

without Him nothing was made that has been made.

In him was life…… [Jn.1v1-4a]

 

HIS RESOURCES ARE UNLIMITED.

 

Another limit of an earthly King or Queen is TIME. Elizabeth II has had a long reign and she could go on for another 20 years BUT it will end. And in terms of history what is 50 – 60 years –  very little.  In terms of eternity it’s nothing.

 

With Jesus it is different – what have we read time and again in the Christmas story.

.. he will reign over the house of Israel forever,

his kingdom will never end! [Luke 1v33]

 

Why do we get so caught up in giving our lives to building little kingdoms for ourselves – being preoccupied with earthly things when earthly kingdoms and nations are here today and gone tomorrow.

 

ILLUS.: Manufacturers are always trying to convince us to buy their products – better quality – longer lasting – guarantees.

 

Jesus offers us something that is unrivalled in quality, 100% guaranteed and will last for ever. It is not something that is distant and unattainable.

 

 

 

2.1. Is the sovereign knowable?

 

With EIIR  I know her in the sense that I know what she looks like. I know where she lives. I know who her family are BUT I do not know her and she certainly doesn’t know me.

 

ILLUS.: I can’t walk into the Queen’s bedroom and have a chat to her

 

She is in a different class – royalty and riches create social classes. Thus we talk about royals and commoners. We have different levels of royalty:- Kings and Queens, Dukes and Duchesses, Lords and Ladies, ……

 

ILLUS.: I said a momnt ago that I could not walk into the Queen’s bedromm and have a chat!! There are some people who can – they walk in and say “Hi! Mum!!”.

Her children and grand-children.

 

Jesus is not the kind of King that you can never get close to.

WHY??

Because he became like us.

The Word [Christ] became flesh

and made his dwelling among us.

We have seen his glory, the glory

of the one and only who came from

God the father, full of grace and truth.

[John 1v14]

 

Lit.  “…. he came and pitched his tent among us …. ” He didn’t come and build a palace among us BUT he came and lived among us and was like us.

 

Thus being part of the kingdom of God is knowing Christ the King. Not as a distant sovereign but as a loving friend and Saviour. One whom we can know intimately and you knows us intimately. like a child knows her parents.We can’t know  EIIR  and she doesn’t know us BUT we can know the King of kings and he knows us.

… to ALL who receive him, to those who believe in his name

he gave the right to become children of God. [John 1v12]

 

Presupposes that we are not naturally children of God but have to become such by receiving and believing Jesus Christ.  He came as a Baby to Bethlehem and later died on a cross so that you and I could know God and become part of his Kingdom. The king became like us so that we could become children of the King. That is the Christmas message!!

The parable of the wheat and the weeds

THE PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND THE WEEDS.

Matthew 13v24-30 & 36-43.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Within Matt13 there are seven parables relating to the kingdom of Heaven. We saw in the first one [the parable of the sower] that the KoG is established, not by military might or by political manuvouring BUT by the Word of God taking root in the hearts and minds of people as they come into a relationship with the King of the Kingdom.

 

We saw in the parable of the sower that there was a farmer, a field, seed and finally a crop yield. In the parable of the weeds we have a similar scenario.

 

 

 

 

 

Parable of the Sower

 

Parable of the Weeds

 

Farmer

Field

Seed (good)

         (bad)

Harvest

Enemy

 

Son of Man

World (people’s hearts)

Word of God

—————-

30x, 60x, 100x.

Evil One

 

Son of Man

World (Communities)

Sons of the Kingdom

sons of the Evil One

separating good from bad

Evil one

 

 

The farmer has sown good seed in his field and then the enemy comes and sows weeds.

 

The field is the world. And as we consider the world in which we live we have to acknowledge that it is a wonderful place –

 

ILLUS.: I have been watching David Attenbourgh’s series on “The private life of plants” . It is intriging to see how plants reproduce and how animals and insects are used to carry pollen etc. from one plant to another.

 

 What is not so interesting but rather sad is that all this wonder is considered to be the product of chance and natural selection. – BUT yes the world is a wonderful place!!

 

YET it is also the place where indescribable evil occurs.

 

ILLUS.: This past Friday [27 Jan 1995] marked the 50th anniverary of the liberation of the German death camp, Auschwitz, by the Russians. 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, murdered. Many of those who went back to remember told the Media that we need to remember so that it will never happen again – we need to remember – not just Auschwitz and Belsen – but the fact that it has happened since then and is still happening. Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda ….

 

The field is the world. And this field belongs to the one who sows the good seed – the Son of Man. The field is rightfully his but the enemy has encroached on his territory and sown bad seed amongst the good seed.

 

The world belongs properly to God as king and he is in the process of restoring his  rule. It might seem that the field is wild and uncultivated and could not possiblby produce a crop of any worth BUT the farmer knows that the good seed will produce a harvest even though at times it seems as though the bad seed has taken over.

 

Even though the field is full of weeds the farmer does not rush in and rip them all out. The kingdom of God is not established in the world by God destroying all evil now. The time will come when that will happen but not yet. BUT in the meantime God’s kingdom takes root in this world in the same way as seed planted in good ground takes root and ultimately produces a harvest.

 

Sometimes its growth is imperceptible – sometimes it seems as if nothing is happening. We can’t see what is happening below the soil – BUT there is growth.

 

1. The sons of the kingdom are sovereignly placed in the world by the King.

“The kingdom of Heaven is like a man who

sowed good seed in his field” [v24] …….

 ” The field is the world and the good seed

stands for the sons of the kingdom.” [v38]

 

A good farmer knows his field and he knows where to plant the seed. He doesn’t waste the seed but rather plants it in the place where it will growth best.

 

This should be a great encouragement to us. God’s concern is that his kingdom is established and the way that happens is to plant the seed of his word into the hearts of people as we saw in the parable of the sower. BUT ALSO the way the kingdom is established is to take those in whose hearts the word of God is rooted and to plant them into the field of the world so that there they may bear fruit.

 

Not only is the seed of the word planted into our hearts BUT we [as seed] are then planted into the world. So you are here today – not by chance but by God’s sovereign will. God knows where he has placed you in the world. He knows who your family is, where you work, who lives next door to you;  he knows all the circumstances of your life – after all he put you there.

 

It is no good wishing that we were somewhere else or that our circumstances were different and if that were so then we would be more effective for him or we would be more spiritual. It is so easy to think that we will be more spiritual tommorow, when we have more time, when we are older, when the children are grown up, when we have finished school or colloege, if our job was not so demanding ……….

 

Sometimes you maybe tempted to think that if you were in “full-time Christian service” – like a pastor of missionary then it would be easier to serve God. Well there are no part-time Christians – only full-time ones – and let me tell you it is not easier to be more spiritual if your are a pastor or missionary.

 

God has put us where we are and he wants us to grow and  become mature where we are. If you feel that God is calling you to go to another place to serve him – then you have to start here.

 

The good seed represents the sons of the kingdom. And if you are a Christian then you are the seed that the farmer is planting in his field of the world.

Life would be so easy and pleasant and enjoyable if only ALL the seed in the field was good seed.

 

BUT there is an enemy.

 

2. The sons of the kingdom must, for a time, live in the same world as the sons

     of the evil one.

 

But while everyone was sleeping, his emeny came

and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.

[v25]

 

There is a plant that grows in Israel, still today, commonly called “Darnel“. In the early stages of growth looks like wheat BUT it is host to a fungus that if eaten is poisionous to both humans and animals.

What this enemy has done by sowing weeds amongst the wheat is mean cruel, cowardly and sadistic. This is not an unfortuante error but a deliberate act agricultural sabotage.

 

The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy

who sows them is the devil [v38b-39a]

 

It is clear from this parable and from the rest of scripture that Satan does everything in his power to disrupt, hinder and counterfeit the work of the Kingdom of God. You can be sure that wherever God’s children are, then Satan’s children are their too. Satan’s purpose is not to bring forth a good harvest but a harvest of corruption.

 

While we need to be careful not to give Satan too much credit or indeed to blame him for our weaknesses. Some Christians are prone to do that – If they sin then it is Satan’s fault. On the other hand we must also be careful not to downplay his power and to under-estimate his cunning and craftiness.

 

To call those who are NOT sons of the kingdom, sons of the evil one may sound like very strong language to our modern ears. In an age when tolerance is a virtue and everyone’s opinion is valid no matter how contradictory, to refer to someone as a child of the devil seems a bit over-the-top.

 

Remember what Jesus said to those who rejected him:

 

You belong to your father the devil… [Jn.8v44]

 

Listen to what Paul says when commenting about those who do not understand the gospel:

The god of this world [the devil] has blinded

the minds of the unbelievers, so that

they cannot see the light of the

gospel of the glory of God….. [2 Co.4v3-4]

 

These verses emphasise the seriousness of belief and unbelief as well as the power of evil. Unbelief is not a respectable option – it is under the power of the devil. The problem is that we don’t always recognise and that is not surprising because Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light [2 Co.11v14]

 

The demands of God on those who are the sons of the kingdom are that they be righteous. It is the righteous who enter the kingdom of heaven.

in v43:

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father [v43]

This righteousness is firstly relational – i.e. it is that righteousness which is given to those who by virtue of their relationship to Jesus are declared righteous. It is a gift of God – we are declared to be righteous on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And after repentence and confession we are brought to salvation.

As a result of having been declared righteous we are required to live holy and godly lives in this present age.

 

Set over against righteousness is what the Bible calls Lawlessness.

 

The son of man will send out his angels,

and they will weed out of his kingdom everything

that causes sin, and all who do evil

[ALL WHO ARE DOING LAWLESSNESS] [v41]

This “lawlessness” does not refer exclusively to those in our world who are criminals and anarchists. It refers to all who are opposed to or simply indifferent to the laws of God. Not primarily the 10 Commandments but the law of love as shown in Christ. So a person might be a perfectly respectable – an upstanding citizen – but still be lawless in relation to God’s Holy law.

 

Every individual is in this situation until God by his grace changes the individual’s heart. When that happens then you are good seed planted in the field – a child of the king and of his kingdom.

 

BUT remember that you are planted in the midst of a field in which weeds are also growing. The two will grow together until the end of the age. Then the farmer and his harvesters will separate the wheat and the weeds.

 

[The sons of the evil one] will be thrown

into the fiery furnace, where there will be

weeping and gnashing of teeth. [v42]

 

It is not popular any more to talk about hell but the references to it in the Bible are so numerous that, if we are going to treat the Bible seriously then, it is impossible to ignore.

The words that are used to describe eternal life are the same words that are used to describe eternal punishment – so if you deny the one then you must deny the other.

 

“How can a good loving God send anyone to hell?

God is love and he is also just and holy and will not tolerate evil of any kind.

The question we should ask is not “How can a good loving God send anyone to hell?‘ BUT “How could a holy, righteous God save a sinful wretch like me?’

Why should God save anyone?? When all deserve eternal punishment!!

 

Hell is a fearful place and is reserved for the devil and for all who reject God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. I urge you, if you are not a child of God turn to him, cry to him for salvation.

 

3. The sons of the kingdom will be known by their fruit.

 

Let both grow together until the harvest ….

 

It seems clear from this parable that there is a mixture of good and bad seed within the world and indeed within the church. The two must grow side by side in the same field – they are not planted in separate fields.

 

It has always been the case in the church right from the beginning that God allows the true and the merely nominal Christian to live side by side. This is difficult to understand and even more difficult to know the difference between true and nominal.

 

We see the outward – the behaviour – God sees the heart. He knows who are his.

Sometimes a person true character is shown and we are able to decern the “weed” in the field.

 

ILLUS.: The man who was instrumental in my conversion – he was a great preacher BUT it turned out that he was a homosexual and turn his back on God and to my knowledge is still far from God.

 

Is doesn’t mean that he is beyond salvation – homosexual practice is not  unforgivable.

 

He pretended to be a Christian – we all know people who we thought were Christians and yet turned out not to be so.

 

Knowing that there is this mixture within the Kingdom of God does not mean that we go on a “Witch-hunt” to try and discover the weeds and throw them out The is precisely what Jesus said we must not do because of the damage it will do to the wheat.

 

Jesus is not suggesting that we should ignore evil and that it does not matter: It is the work of the enemy and it will one day be judged. We are to resist evil – Jesus urged drastic action against evil –1) the person within the fellowship who refuses to listen to reason and act in a Christian way is to be expelled from the fellowship.

2) on and individual level Jesus graphically spoke of getting rid of an eye or hand that might lead into sin.

While church and personal discipline are important this parable warns of the danger of expecting perfection this side of Judgement Day. So don’t expect this Church to be perfect because you will be disappointed – and don’t go looking for a perfect Church because if you find one and join then it won’t be perfect anymore – you’ll be there!!!!

 

BUT on the other hand, this parable is an encouragement not to loss heart when experiencing failure and opposition. That is to be expected – we live in a community comtaminated by sin. BUT there will be a harvest. God will bring fruit.

We are part of that – He wants us to co-operate with him. It is God’s work – all of it and yet in a mysterious way it is our work also.

 

For good seed to grow in needs to fall into the ground and die – that is what Jesus said of himself – that is what he expects from us.

When Jesus said:  ….. Take up your cross daily….    What did he mean?

 

ILLUS.: Well I have a difficult wife and that’s my cross..    I have a problem child and that’s my cross…

 

Your husband or wife maybe difficult BUT was talking about something quite different.

Any one who does not take his cross and follow me

is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it

but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. [Matt. 10v38-39]

 

The cross was an instrument of death – if we want to grow as children of the kingdom of God then we must die to self – to those natural desires that are in opposition to the way of life in God’s kingdom. What things are important in life? What am I living for? What drives you???  YOUR job? Having a clean house?? Financial security?  The desire to be recognised and praise by others?  The desire to just be … and not being bother with anyone else….  Just “You in your small corner and I in mine

 

Listen !!! Jesus wants us to follow him. To grow as good seed and produce a harvest. He has planted you and me here – in Binscombe  – and he wants us to grow here and produce a harvest here. Yes there are difficulties! Yes there will be oppostion because Satan is never happy when Christians are endeavouring to grow – in numbers and in maturity – but that is God’s agenda for us.

 

And the reward is this:

The righteous will shine like the sun

in the kingdom of their father. [v43]

The parable of the sower

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER

[How the Kingdom of God grows]

 

Matthew 13v1-23.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

We saw last week that as Jesus began his public ministry when he was 30 years old – he started out annoucing “The kingdom of God in Near. Repent and believe the good news” [Mark 1v15]

 

The crowds of people had high hopes of what this young teacher from Nazareth would do for them. He had perfromed many mircales – he spoke with authority – they came from every town and village to here him teach. News of him had spread like wild fire. He was on the front page of the “Nazareth News” and “The Capernaum Chronicle”

 

We would expect the people who heard Jesus to accept his teaching with unbridled enthusiasm but we find that some were sceptical, others half-hearted and some openly antagonistic.

 

If you were Jesus trying to usher in the Kingdom of God. – How would you do it?

I expect most of us would resort to great displayed of might and power!

Certainly many in Jesus day expected the Messiah to establish the Kingdom by force.

 

What does Jesus do?? Does he have a message they want to hear? Not a bit of it!!

NO! He tells them stories – parables – The words of the stories are simple enough – stories about everyday things BUT the meaning of his stories is a riddle at best! What on earth does he mean?

 

1. THE PURPOSE OF PARABLES [V10 – 14]

 

The idea  that parables are nice simple stories with an underlying moral point is nonsense! They are not simply stories with a moral.

Jesus did not use parables to make it easier to understand but to make it harder.

 

READ v11-14

 

Many people heard Jesus – but few understood. They came because they were curious! They came because they wanted to be entertained! They came becuse they wanted to see more miraculous signs and wonders! BUT Jesus is not impressed with crowds as we usually are!! We are prone to judge success by the standards the world sets. The big Church is the successful Church !! — Is it? Is it safe to assume that because a Church is successful it is pleasing to God and following his agenda??

 

Why do you come to Church?? Out of habit? Out of duty? Curiousity? Do you have nothing better to do? Do you like the music? Why do you come??

If these are your motives for coming then the secrets of the kingdom of God are going to remain a secret BUT if you are prepared to come with and openness to follow Christ and to know him personally THEN secrets will be revealed secrets and you will understand and enjoy the blessing of God.

 

Those who want to be genuine disciples are the one’s to whom the secrets of the kingdom are revealed.

The idea that parables are easy to understand – and the suggestion that Jesus used this method of teaching to make things simple for these 1st century hearers is unsubstantiated. If it was so easy to understand this parable of the sower why was it necessary for Jesus to explain the meaning to his disciples.

 

The parables then are for those who have open hearts and minds – who by God’s grace have had the “eyes of their understanding opened”.

 

But what are these secrets / mysteries of the kingdom about which Jesus is speaking??

 

A mystery is something that would remain unknown had it not been revealed. One of the mysteries that the disciples were now being let in on was the fact the Jesus’ appearance on earth was the start of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Another mystery whauch Jesus was revealing to his followers was that this presence kingdom was was mixed in with the prsent earthly kingdom and would only at a future stage be consummated in beauty and purity.

 

All these matters are mysteries / secrets and cannot be understood by unaided human reasoning. The bottom line in the understanding of the things of the kingdom of God is a matter of grace.

These are revealed mysteries!! We do not discover them!! Unless God in his grace and mercy reveals himself and his ways to us we could  never comprehend the matter pertaining to the kingdom of God.

 

Do you realise how privileged we are to live this side of the cross!!

To have the understanding that we have! While our understanding id still very limited we still known far more than the OT saints.

 

READ v17

 

So what of this parable in front of us.

 

There are 3 main elements within this parable

– The seed

          – The Sower

          – The Soils

 

2. THE SEED [God’s word is essential for the establishment of His Kingdom]

 

v18  seed is ” … the message of the Kingdom…” In the parallel passage in Mark 4 Jesus says “The farmer sows the word.”

 

“The seed is the word of God.”

When we consider the expectations of the 1st Century Jew it probably is not surprising that this was difficult to understand – they expected a glorious conqueroring Messiah.

He had already performed many great signs and wonders so we can’t blame them for thinking that he would usher in the kingdom is a very dramamtic fashion.

 

It that not how many today stiil want God to work – they get very exited about signs and wonders – they chase after the spectacular. If only God would do these things then the people would flock to church. Yes! Just like they flocked to see Jesus’ miracles in his day BUT how genuine would be their faith in him.

 

ILLUS.: I watched, with a certain amount of emotion,  in April last year [1994] the inaugaration of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa. There was a sense of history and a new begin for my country.  It was a great occassion and was done with much pomp and ceremony.  The new society had arrived. That for which the majority had waited long. Had prayed for and even fought for.

 

So too the coming of the Messiah had been longed for. Prayed for and even fought for.  BUT unlike president Mandela’s inaugaration it didn’t get Worldwide TV coverage. The kingdom of God was not to be established in one single event.

 

First there was to be a time of planting / sowing. [the word into the hearts of people]

Second there was to be a time of growth [where the farmer leaves the field – he does not neglect it but the seed must grow}

Third a time of harvest.  [Christ will return – the whole world will know – and he will gather to himself those who are his]

 

The preaching of the gospel – the word of God – is what will establish the kingdom of God in the world.

 

We can’t organise the KoG – the modern church has sometimes fallen into the trap of thinking that if we are well structured and follow the latest marketing techniques then we will be successful. The church need to be more “user friendly”

Well- of course there is place for being relavant to the society in which we live – but making God’s word relavant not using gimmicks.

 

Some have tried to use the gospel as a crutch for their political ends – liberation theology – esp. in South America and Africa has been very popular. The terrorists and freedom-fighters have preached this message for years. There were those like that in Jesus day – the zealots – BUT Jesus rejected that method of bringing in the KoG.
Again this does not mean that the Church has nothing to say about political issues – all too often Christians – evangelicals esp. – have not wanted to get involved in politics. We need to be concerned about these things.

On Thursday evening we saw the CARE Trust video – they deal with exactly these issues and rightly so!!

BUT social action is not the means of establishing the KoG.

 

There are many areas in which Christians should be involved – BUT “The seed is the word of God” It is this word of God and this alone that has the power to changes the hearts and minds of people. When people’s hearts are transformed by the power of God’s word then social structures changes.

 

ILLUS.: What was it that save England from disaster in the 18 C – was it social action or education???   NO!! It was the preaching of the word of God by John Wesley and George Whitfield and others …

 

Seed might seem insignificant and vulnerable but without it there will be no harvest.

 

3. THE SOWER [Jesus – and by extention those who are his]

 

“The sower is the Son of Man”  – It is clear that the establishment of the kingdom of God is God’s work from beginning to end.

BUT  Jesus have committed to us the Gospel –

 

… He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,

as though God were making his appeal through us [2 Co.5v19-20]

 

We are also sower – we have a responsibility to be distributing the word of God.

Two things are very obvious if this is what we are going to do – Firstly, we need to have the seed and secondly we need to be sowing it in the field. That is preety plain isn’t it??

 

Do you have the word of God – do you know it? Do you study it? Do you consider it to be the only means by which the kingdom of God is going to take root in this

world.

 

What is my most important function as the pastor of this church. Organising the running of the church? Visiting? Counselling? weddings and funerals ?

ALL necessary BUT the my main task is teaching and preaching the word of God.

That is why I ask not to be disturbed in the morning between 9 am. and 1 pm. not because I think your phone calls and visits are unimportant but because the Word of God is most important and if I don’t study in the week I’ll have nothing to say on a Sunday / Home groups/ etc…

 

It is not my eloquence or lack of it – it is not the techniques of preaching – it is not the style of worship – it is not using and OHP – it is not having interesting illustraion or telling tear-jerking stories. It is none of these BUT it is the WORD.

 

That doesn’t mean there is any excuse for slap-dash, anything-will-do approach to preaching and teaching.  We are responsible to Gof to present the message of the gospel in the best possibly way. Form the Pulpit, in small groups, 1-2-1. We will all answer to God for the way we use our talents.

 

And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation – the secrets of the kingdom.

 

4. THE SOILS [The failure and success of spreading God’s word]

 

These soils are the four responses of people to the message of the KoG.

 

THE SEED SOWN ALONG THE PATH.

There were many in the crowd who heard Jesus that day who reject his words.

The sceptical “No! I don’t buy this

The self-righteous “Me! a sinner?

The “Tolerant” “Hey! Live and let live! There is more than one way to God.

We can all worship God in our own way – we don’t have to come this way

 

These are the one’s who are hard-hearted. BUT notice who is responsible for snatching away the seed. The evil one. [v19]

Unlike many people, Satan knows the power of the Word of God. He was beaten by it in the wilderness when he tried to tempt Jesus.

Satan will use every possible trick to snatch the word away. And wherever the word of God is being taught he is there to grab it away.

Where is the Devil?? He is right here trying to hinder the word of God getting into some hearts and minds.

He knows the power of the Word – do you?

The pathway represents the unresponsive, insensitive and callous!

 

THE SEED THAT FELL ON ROCKY PLACES. [v20]

This characterises those who start well!

BUT the song is right “It’s not how you start but how you finish

 

There is an initial enthusiasm. An excitement. Often people like this start with a great flurry. They are into Baptismal classes, Bible studies….    the enjoy the worship and are carried along on the newness of it all. They thought it would be all wonderful – never any problems. Always happy.  BUT when the realities of life are still there. When youe old friends are not excited about your new beliefs and start to mock. When testing comes.

 

Well, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all”  “Maybe I was just going through a phase”  “It was just a flash in the pan” “I don’t think I’ll carry on being a Christian

 

The seed has taken root and strouted quickly BUT when the heat of trouble and persecution comes it withers and dies. We have all seen it and it is very sad — but true.

 

The rocky ground represents the inplusive with no staying power!!

 

THE SEED THAT FELL AMONG THE THORNS [v22]

These are those who appear to commit themselves to Christ – who may even go to church regularly. BUT the have become estranged from Christ. Just like a bad marriage. They live in the same house but live separate lives.

Other things are more inportant…

….. the children’s education, advancement at work, maintain the house and garden, finacial difficulties, sporting achievements, PLEASURE, material possession, …..

 

These call themselves “Christian” – but their lives belie the fact.

Let me ask you this morning – are you like that?? Do you come to church week after week and warm that seat and yet Christ really makes no differnce to your life!! Who are you fooling?? You can fool me!! That easy! You can fool others!!

Even yourself but not God.

 

Just because a person at some stage in life has made a profession of faith does not mean that he has a ticket to heaven.

Jesus warn that not everyone to says Lord! Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven

The letter of jude warns against apostasy and falling away.

 

I pray to God the he would save us from this kind of mediocrity and nominalism.

The thorny ground represents those who are preoccupied and distracted by other things.

 

There have been many interpretation of these differnt soils BUT these first three I believe are not true recipients of the word at all.

These first three also teach us that there is disappointment and discouragement in the work of evangelism and that we should not be surprised that people reject the message of Christ. The rejected it from his own lips.

 

BUT there is encouragement and sowing the word of God is not in vain.

 

THE GOOD SOIL [well-prepared] [v23]

This is the soil that actually produces a crop.  What is the point of sowing if you don’t expect a harvest. What good is wheat if it grows half way and dies either because its roots are shallow or because its life it choked out by weeds.

 

I don’t think we should make too much of the 30, 60 and 100x. The point is that a crop is produced. There is fruit. What did Jesus say about the branch that didn’t bear fruit “It will be cut off and thrown into the fire”

 

Good soil receives the word and fruit results – conversion, love joy peace ….

 

When the word of God is received and takes root in a life it is not a temporary thing.  It is not a faith that is here today and gone tomorrow. It is not a nominal nod of the head as you recite the creed. It is not paying lip-service to God by coming to church on a Sunday and forgetting him te rest of the week.

It is not saying  “I made a decision for Christ when I was 14 so I’m alright

 

Unless there is fruit that endures – long lasting growth – a faith that perserves under trials and difficult circumstances. A faith that says “I will follow Christ no matter what”  That is committed to making Christ known in this world. Unless there is this kind of fruit we are not good soil.

I am not saying that Christians can’t have set backs and that sometimes our faith wavers and is weak. BUT only those who endure to the end will be saved.

 

See to it, brothers, that none of you

has a sinful unbelieving heart that

turns away from the living God…

… We have come to share in Christ IF

we hold firmly to the end the

confidence we have at first [Heb.3v12,14]

 

The kingdom of God is established when the seed [the word] is roots in the lives of people who are fully committed to Christ.

 

How have you heard the word of God this morning??

Hear but not listened – the seed on the path.

Have your emotions been stirred but by tomorrow the pressure of life will have caused it to wither and die.

Is what you have heard going to be killed off by the weeds of worry in the coming week.

OR  have tyou responded with and unconditional commitment to receive and obey the word. Then as the word take root in your life it will bring glory to God.

The roots of the Kingdom of God

THE ROOTS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

Mark 1v1-15: Psalm 105.

INTRODUCTION:

Jesus’ ministry begins in Mark’s Gospel with the proclamation of the good news of God;

“The time has come”, Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is near.

Repent and believe the good news.”

The burden of Jesus’ preaching was concerning the Kingdom of God. It was central to his teaching.

What is it like? Its like a sower who goes out to sow. Its like a treasure hidden in a field. It is like a mustard seed.

How do you enter this Kingdom? You sell everything and give it to the poor. You become like a little child.

The Jewish nation at the time was waiting for the Messiah. They longed for the Kingdom of God. BUT was it the kind of Kingdom that Jesus spoke about?

The Kingdom of God is not a very common expression within the NT – it is used mainly in the first three Gospels [Matthew uses Kingdom of Heaven but essentially the same meaning].

In the OT it is not used at all. Does that mean that Jesus is introducing an entirely new concept? The idea of the Kingdom of God does not begin in the gospels.

It involves the whole notion of the RULE OF GOD over his people. In other words God is King!! A King rules!

God rules! God acts!

The Bible is a book of history. Ancient history at that! Many people today think that it is simply a collection of old stories that are probably myth and which have little or no relevance for us today.

But the Bible is real history, events that took place at specific times and places, but what is more important is that God taught his people about himself and his care for them. The Bible is not simply the haphazard reporting of history but a record of God’s dealings with his people and with the nations in relation to his plans and will.

So we have many instances of God’s people being up against it and in those circumstances God acts. The Bible teaches us about living experiences of a real God who acts and is in all kinds of experiences both past and present.  There is thus much to learn from God’s acts in history.

An overview of God’s development of a people for himself:-

Creation        flood          Babel                                                           David/

Solomon

Abraham                                                                                   exile

God doesn’t deal with us in a vacuum. God is a God of history – he always deals with people in concrete situation. The Bible is an account of God’s dealings with people.

God created mankind to worship and glorify him freely. BUT Adam and Eve sinned and that close relationship was broken  – since then God has had a plan to re-create a people for himself who would love and glorify him freely.

People were set on a course opposite to the will of God thus he destroyed the world by flood and then confused all the languages at Babel. THEN God choose Abraham – thus began the process of God calling out a people for himself. Abraham become the father of the physical Jewish Race and more importantly the spiritual father of all who by faith believe God.

So what happened 4000 years ago with Abraham still has implications for us today. By faith ALL believers are children of Abraham.

So long before there was the hope of a Messianic kingdom – Christ’s kingdom – there was the kingdom of Israel. The high point of that Kingdom was under David and Solomon but the idea of God ruling over his people was there long before that.

The relationship of God to the kingdom of Israel teaches us much about who God is and his plans for His people and the nations.

THE BIRTH OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL.

 

It is difficult to know exactly when Israel began life as a nation. It developed during the 430 years in Egypt and then after the Exodus during the 40 years of wanderings in the desert under the leadership of Moses. But all those years she was a nation without a country. In the latter half of 13c BC began her life as a people in the Promised land – Canaan [Later Palestine and Israel]

Nations have always conquered other nations and Israel’s conquest of Canaan is just one of many throughout ancient history BUT they brought with them a faith that was nothing like anything else.

1. Israel believed in one supreme God.

You shall have no other gods beside me [Ex.20]

It was this belief in one Supreme God that set Israel’s faith apart from the nations around them.

They believed in many gods and many idols and if one god was superior to other he or she had a pantheon of lesser gods around him/her.

He stands unique as the creator of the universe and above it. This God of Israel is totally distinct from his creation unlike the gods of the nations which were often personifications of nature.

ILLUST:  Asheroth was a Canaanite goddess of fertility, love and war. Her worshipper would perform all manner of ritual [ some very perverse ] in order to manipulate the goddess into giving tangible benefits like good crops etc...

Are there not those today who treat God in the same way. God is there to be used for our own benefit. He must be there to christen our babies, bless our marriages and bury our dead.  He must bail us out of sticky situations – He must keep us healthy and our Bank account in the black. If he does not do that then he is a cruel and unloving God.  However he must not interfer with our lives. He must be there when we want him but the rest of the time he must take a back seat and only come when we call him.

But this God of Israel was invisible – He is not like the gods of the nations – you could not carry him about in your pocket or put him on a high place.

BUT we don’t have graven images – we are not so primitive! BUT we can be just as guilty of creating a God in our own image.

It is very easy to say “God will be satisfied with my lifestyle. I go to church. I give money every month. I am involved in this or that …”  It is all too easy to have built up a set of criteria that we think God will be happy with and that we are comfortable with and we don’t want that to be disturbed.

But If God is King then he must have free reign in my life.

He is not an idol-god who we can cut down to size – he is the sovereign creator who is above and beyond his creation but still in control of his creation.

2. Israel believed in a God of the nations.

The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble;

he sits enthroned between the cherubim,

Let the earth shake.

Great is the Lord in Zion,

he is exalted over all the nations.

The nations could probably have stomached the fact the Israel believed that God was supreme over Israel BUT not that he was supreme over all the nations. In fact that the gods of the nations were in fact no gods at all – they were nonentities.

Israel believed that God was not one God among many nor even that he was supreme among lesser God but that he was the one and only God.

We live in a society that is very tolerant – or at least that is the impression that is given – “Live and let live” is the philosophy of our day. You can believe what you like as long as what you believe doesn’t infer with what I believe. You can be a Christian as long as you don’t make moral judgements. Don’t say materialism is sinful idolatry, Don’t say homosexuality is wrong, not even for Churchmen. Don’t say affairs and pre-marital sex is wrong. But you see God says it is!! AND IF GOD is king then his values are right and those opposed to him are wrong and the only thing to do is to come to him for forgiveness to find that he is

Slow to anger and abounding in love [Ex.34v6]

This is what Israel had learned about their God. Through the years in the deserts and then later when they had entered the Promised Land they found God to be long suffering and compassionate.

3. Israel believed in a God who had chosen her.

 

Israel did not simply believe that God existed but that this God had chosen them to be his special people.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,

the people he chose for his inheritance [Ps.33v12]

Entrenched within the Jewish mind was the fact that God had chosen them. Their is an unconditional covenant between God and his people – an agreement that cannot be broken because God has sworn by himself to call out from among the nations a people for himself.

God’s kingship is shown in this – that he sovereignly chooses and appoints those who are to be his. Israel often took this for granted and in the end it was their undoing.

The fact that God has chosen us is no reason for complacency.

John writes in his gospel:-

Jesus speaking to his disciples:-

You did not choose me but I chose you

and appointed you to bear fruit – fruit that will last [Jn.15v16]

Our relationship with God now is upon the same basis as the relationship Israel had with God – grace pure grace- Israel had done nothing to earn God’s favour. The Christian Faith is on the same basis. You can’t read the NT or OT without coming to the conclusion that it is God’s work from beginning to end.

The people of Israel did not always grasp this thinking they could appease God with their sacrifices and offerings but God was not impressed.

Today God is not impressed with of religiosity or good work or social respectability. He wants us to respond to him by faith and then produce fruit that will last.

When God chose Israel, he had a purpose in mind.

I will bless you … and you will be a blessing to the whole world [Gen. 12.]

you are to be a kingdom of priests and a Holy nation [Ex.12]

They belonged exclusively to God and were to witness to the world that they did and that all peoples could also belong to God if they came to him by faith and obeyed his commands. BUT even in the early stages of the life of Israel as a nation they turned away from God, The book of Judges is a catalogue of them turning their backs on God and chasing after other gods. Then God would punish them by using the nations around them and they would repent and God would raise up a deliverer or judges who would lead his people to victory, freedom and back to worshipping him. [E.G. – Deborah, Gideon and Samson]  These Judges were in no sense kings.  Later that changed with king Saul and king David but still their kingship was limited as we shall see next week.

Sadly we see Israel many times, in the Book of Judges and all through their history, allowing the nations to influence them and lead them astray rather than being a positive witness to their God.

We face the same danger – the influence of society – its standards and morals and goals often become ours and the distinctiveness between Christian and non-Christian is blurred.

The God we worship is over all people even if they don’t acknowledge it now that doesn’t make him any less the King.

ILLUST: There are many in Britain who oppose the monarchy – [anti -royalists] and even more who are simply indifferent to the Queen. But that doesn’t make her any less Queen of England.

Just because people do not acknowledge God as king that does not make him ant less King.

4. Israel believed in a God of Hope.

From the embryonic days of the nation of Israel there had been instilled into them the fact that God would fulfill his promises.

There would be a good land “flowing with milk and honey”  They would be a great nation and God would defend them and provide for them that they would live in unimagined peace and plenty.

One day there will come a divinely appointed leader whom all nations will serve.

Gen. 49v10 “The septre will not depart from Judah,

nor the ruler staff from between his feet,

until he comes to whom it belongs

and the obedience of nations is his

Num24v17 “I see him, but not now,

I behold him but not near,

A star will come out of Jacob,

a septre will rise out of Israel

These were the promises that Israel clung to. God always had hid people, the faithful, even when the nation turn away from him their was always a remnant who trusted and hoped. They were a people with a destiny. Even later in their history when the nation was destroyed and carried into exile they still had hope because they believed in a God of Hope.

God fulfilled his promises and the Promised one came – The Messiah King came – 2000 years after Abraham a King was born in Bethlehem – Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God and he is in the process of building his kingdom from among all the nations of the world. The final consummation of the Kingdom is yet to be but one day he will return not as a baby in a crib but as the Conquering King to establish his rule and authority.

For us today, no matter what circumstances we are in, we can have this hope – God is King – he is in control and will fulfill all his promises, Sometimes life is very pressured, sometimes painful, sometimes it seems there is no end to the situation you are “Is there any HOPE?”   YES!!! God is King. Trust him he is in control and he knows what he is doing.

He is not like and earthly King or Queen who you can never get near to

ILLUST: You can’t walk into the Queen bedroom and have a chat

But you can come to God at any time – He loves you. He is king – he does demand our absolute allegiance and he give a sure hope that he will fulfill all his promises to us. Why be content with the short-lived, unsure things of this life when he has promised us and inheritance in his kingdom forever.

The remnant of the Kingdom

THE REMNANT OF THE KINGDOM.

[Where is God’s Kingdom when your whole world falls apart]

 

Ezekiel 11v16-21; 18v1-4, 17b-20, 25-32; 37v1-14.

 

INTRODUCTION:

We have seen how the kingdom of Israel peaked under the rule of David and Solomon. Then its split into North and South followed by decline in both. The North was destroyed by the Assyrians and the South now under threat of immanent defeat and destruction by the Babylonians.

The Prophets had warned the Southern Kingdom of Judah that they would be exiled if they continued to disobey God. Isaiah had told of this coming exile. Then  as the time approached Jeremiah continued to warn of impending doom but they did not want to hear him. Ezekiel’s prophetic voice was joined to Jeremiah’s but the people could not OR would not believe that God would allow His City and His Temple to be destroyed.

Israel had this false hope that God would always protect her – what they often failed to see was that the Kingdom of God was not synonymous with the Kingdom of Israel and its Temple. The survival of God’s Kingdom did not depend on the Temple.

Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel laid great stress on the inner and individual character of religion. No prophets laid greater stress on the inward nature of repentence, the change of heart than did these. Jeremiah particularly called for individuals to decide for the kingdom of God against the kingdom of Jehoiakim.

Jeremiah’s life was an illustration of the immense cost of that decision. He was ridiculed and persecuted. They did not want to hear him – they followed the crowd. Jeremiah had to make a choice to go against popular opinion and to follow God.

Today we are faced with the same choice that faced Jeremiah. We have to make individual choices. Often we hear people being very critical of society – we ourselves are – or critical of the church often forgetting that we are part of that group. The pressures of Society or of the group is never an excuse for the individual’s sin. The strength of the group is only as strong as each individual.

So like Jeremiah we have to make choices – only those who hear God’s Word and obey his will are his people – these are part of his kingdom.

So even if the Nation  be destroyed and the Temple lie in ruins – those who hear and obey can meet God anywhere. So amidst the impending doom is God’s promise of a remnant that are his – Out of this bitterest trial God will create a pure people for himself.

This is what the lord says:

“When 70 years are completed for Babylon,

I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promises

to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I

have for you,” declares the Lord,

plans to prosper you and not harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future.

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me,

and I will listen to you.

You will seek me and you will find me

when you seek for me with all your heart.

I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,

“and will bring you back from captivity.

[Jeremiah29v10-14a]

So it was that Jerusalem finally was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. The house of Judah fell never again to rise. It was never again a sovereign independent State but always under a foreign power.

So what happened to the faith of Israel.

1. Faith is not dependent upon circumstances, ritual nor geographical place.

 

With the fall of Jerusalem many were killed but many were also deported to Babylon – esp. those who were educated and skilled. When they arrived in Babylon they were not held in prison camps but allowed to settle and in many respects continue with life as normal.

The exile created a crisis in their faith. Israel’s religion could no longer continue as a sort of national Church, supported by the State and existing to foster the well-being of state and society.

Their popular prophets had said it could never happen – can you imagine how devastated and disillusioned the people felt. Their worst fears had become reality.

Instead of God’s invention to establish his kingdom there had come humiliation at the hands of a pagan army. Was this not a victory for paganism? Many Israelites probably felt that the Babylonian gods were mightier that Yahweh.

Some may have been tempted to turn to pagan worship.

Some may have whinged that “It’s unfair! Why is God punishing us??

Some may have concluded that God’s covenant was broken and they were doomed “Our bones are dreid up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.” [Ezek.37v11]

It was a great temptaion for the Jews to sink into paganism – God had let them down.

Listen to them in Ps.137:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept

when we remembered Zion.

There on the populars we hung our harps,

for their our captors asked us for songs,

our tormentors demanded songs of Joy;

they said: “Sing us one of the songs of Zion”.

How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

All the externals of their faith had been stripped away – everything had changed. How can we worship God under such circumstances.

How much of our faith and our trust in God depends on our circumstances. Many have “Strange Land” experiences.

ILLUS.: Often we think life will always be good to us. That God will not allow us to suffer. It will never happen to me.  How will my faith stand up to the “Strange Land Test” When God allows the things that make us feel secure to be taken away. Will we cry “Its not Fair!!!”  “Why me??”  When people we love let us down. When finacial crisis hits. When Children rebel and break our hearts. When loved ones die!!!

God wants our trust without trappings – he wants our worship without ritual. It was not that Israel’s religious ritual was wrong but that their ritual had lost its meaning.

ILLUS.: Think of all the energy and effort and expense of celebrating Christmas in our society – how much is real worship of the king.

Israel had been stripped of all extenal ritual – what they thought was the heart of their worship – the Temple – was not essential at all. The essential of worship is obedience and righteousness, without which external worship becomes a great sin.

I am sure that many thought that the exile was the graveyard of Israel’s faith – paradoxically it was a time of great spiritual vitality.

 

2. Faith searches its own hearts [doesn’t blame God or sink into despair].

In Ezekiel we read that God’s message to Israel was that if the righteous person committed sin he would be judged and if the wicked repented he would live. In the midst of judgement there was grace. God takes no pleasure in the judgement of the wicked.

In the midst of this national calamity there were no doubt many who blamed God or simply descended into despair.

It is so easy when trouble comes  – when life is hard  – to lash out, to blame God or anyone else. That is our natural response. It is easy to become bitter and disillusioned and to turn our backs on God. To be angry with him. It is natural and understandable BUT it is not right.

Maybe you have had a bad experience in the past – or are having one now – maybe you were let down by those you trusted. Maybe you had a difficult home life as a child [broken home]. Maybe you haven’t been given recognition for your work and or abilities. You don’t feel appreciated or loved. Maybe …….many things.

Maybe as a result you carry a grudge – It is everybody else’s fault. As a Christian suffering and hardship doesn’t always make us stronger in the faith – it is possible to go through hardship and end up worse because of how we respond to it. The result is that we end up as spiritual cripples.

BUT not all the Jews blamed God – those with a sincere faith and a desire to know God were driven to search their own hearts. They heard the prophet’s message “REPENT AND LIVE”

They understood what the apostle John would write years later:

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just

and will forgive us our sins  and cleanse us

from all unrighteousness [1 John 1v9]

ILLUS.: Norain van Kim – Cambodian lady – lost husband and three children [two died one lost] she had to repent of her bitterness and hatred of the Khmer R..

 

Resentment and bitterness eats us up and hinders our spiritual life. We need God’s help to repent.

There came at this time in the history of Israel a realisation more than ever before that it was the individuals standing before God that was important. That being part of the Kingdom of Israel was not the same as being part of the Kingdom of God. In order to part of God’s kingdom one had to be in a right relationship with God. This would become much clearer in the NT. Although it had always been so.

The OT Jew could not rely on his ancestry for salvation – no more can you or I.

You can have a good Christian pedigree and go through all the motions BUT if your heart is far from God you are no better the the OT Jew who thought he could rely on the Temple.

God’s message to the Jews then and his message to people of today is the same “REPENT AND LIVE”

“Rid yourselves of all offences you have committed,

 and get a new heart and a new spirit” [Ezek.18v31]

[1. Faith is not dependent upon circumstances, ritual nor geographical place.]

[2. Faith searches its own hearts [doesn’t blame God or sink into despair].]

3. Faith trusts and hopes even when the odds are stacked against it.

In the Ancient Near East at the time of Nebuchadnezzar Israel was a small nation in a backwater of the empire. Now that nation was destroyed and only a remnant survived 1000’s of mile from home. And of that remnant only a few were faithful  in following God. They were the minority of the minority.

What hope could they have – They were exile who were outnumbered and had no power and no influence in this world. Who was going to be concerned about their needs and their desire to worship this God of theirs.

As a Christian don’t you sometimes feel like that – who am I in the midst of a world that couldn’t care less about God.

BUT this small band of God’s people in exile had a vision – they had God’s promise. He had said he would restore them. They had a vision that Isaiah had left them of a God who was in control of the nations. With savage irony Isaiah had taunted the nations gods with their nonexistence – had shown the stupidity of anyone who would carve a god out of a tree and then use the same tree to cook his supper!! [Isa.44]. They had a firm belief in only one God besides whom no other gods exist.

If God was the one and only then he was in absolute control of the histroy of the nations. And this God had embarked on a plan and called out for himself Abraham and Jacob and it was simply inconceivable that he would abandon his plan.

Israel’s calamity was not God’s defeat – it was his doing, he was in control. Something Jeremiah and Ezekiel had stressed endlessly!!

Even the mighty Cyrus, who had eventually succeeded Nebuchadnezzar, as the world’s leader was an agent of God’s purpose. So from the ruins of Israel – from what seemed to be a hopeless situation – God would restore his people.

You can’t be more hopeless that a dry, dusty heap of bones. But even from that mass of dead bones God could raise up an army for himself. [Ezekiel 37].

God comes and by His Spirit gives life and purpose – that which is dead he makes alive – He takes the hopeless and gives them hope. That is what he promises all who come to him. Paul reminds the Ephesians of God’s work in their lives:-

As for you, you were dead in your

 transgressions and sins,

in which you used to live when

you followed the ways of this world

…………….

But because of his great love for us,

God who is rich in mercy,

made us alive in Christ,

even when we were dead in sin ….

[Eph.2v1-2; 4-5]

Sometimes when we look at our situation – our own country and our world – life can seem pretty hopeless. Who am I??? pretty insignificant – a nobody in the affairs of  world power and influence. BUT I have a Father who loves me and who in all powerful. One who is still taking the dry bones of peoples lives and breathing spiritual life into them – giving hope and meaning.

A God who is King – who has a plan for this world and is working out that plan. And politicians and industrialist might strut about the world stage thinking that they are making things happen. BUT God laughs at them – because he is in the process of establishing his kingship and we as the church are part of that.

Jesus promised:-  “I will build my Church and not even the gates of hell will stand in the way” [Matt.16v18]

As Christians we are involved in something that cannot fail – that will not fail. Life might sometimes be difficult as I am sure it was for the Jewish exiles. BUT we have a hope – the kingdom of God will be established among the nations of the world. There will be a mighty army just as Ezekiel saw in his vision of dry bones.

John writes in Revelation 7v9:-

After this I looked and there before me was a freat multitude

that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and

language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.

They were wearing white robes and holding palm branches in

 their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne

and to the lamb”.

So we need God’s help to have a faith that is not dependent on our circumstances.

a faith that searches our hearts

a faith that trusts and hopes

Because in spite of what the world thinks we know that:

The kingdom of this world has become

the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,

and he will reign forever and ever [Rev.11v15]

Jesus Shall reign where’er the sun

does his successive journey run;

his kingdom stretch from shore to shore

till moons shall rise and set no more.

The parables of the mustard seed, the hidden treasure and the pearl; the net

PARABLES OF THE MUSTARD SEED AND YEAST; THE HIDDEN TREASURE AND THE PEARL; THE NET.

 

Matthew 13v31-35; 44-46; 47-50.

 

THEME: The growth and triumph of the Kingdom of God is inevitable; Inclusion in the Kingdom brings joy and pleaure and is worth “giving up” everything for; Exclusion from the Kingdom brings anguish and punishment.

 

INTRODUCTION.

ILLUS.: In 1886 John S Pemberton, a Pharmacist from Atlanta, USA, developed a syrup. His book-keeper, one Frank Robinson, named the syrup and designed the label. It was sold as a medicinal tonic. In 1891 [5 years later] the business was bought out by Asa Griggs Chandler for the sum total of $2300. Today that business is a multi-billion dollar international company, selling its product in almost every country of the world. John S pemberton had no idea that Coca-Cola would become so popular.

Who could have guessed that such humble beginnings could result in such success!

Who could have guessed that from a motley band of 12 disciples led by a poor carpenter from the backwater of Nazareth would come body of millions of people from every nation on earth – A following that has lasted for 2000 years and is still growing, and at a faster rate than ever before.

But that is exactly how Jesus predicted the kingdom of God would grow.

1. THE PATTERN OF GROWTH OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

    [the parable of the mustard seed and the yeast] [v31-33]

 

These two parables are a pair and Jesus is conveying a truth about the KoG and each one has a slightly different emphasis. Both are about the growth of the Kingdom – the mustard seed about the outward growth and the yeast about the inward growth.

 

a. The mustard seed.

The mustard seed is not the smallest seed in the world but is it smallest proverbial /common seed of Palestine. So if a Jew of the time wanted to express smallness he would say “as small as a mustard seed”.  [1mm in diameter or 4/100ths /inch]

But even though this seed is so minute and seems insignificant it nevertheless grows into large, substantial bush or tree – averaging between 5 – 10 foot high sometimes even 15 foot. Within a season it would become sturdy enough to provide shelter for birds and shade from the heat of the sun.

Why did Jesus tell this parable? It seems probable that Jesus was, at least in part, addressing some of the doubts that were in the minds of his hearers. They had expected the KoG to come in a very powerful and dramatic way and yet when they looked at his ministry and the things he did and taught, these did not meet their expectations. Jesus said the Kingdom of God had come – had come!!! If it had, it was very small and inconsequential.

That small band of loyal followers must have thought many times how insignificant and weak they were – compared to the Jewish leaders, compared to Rome – they must have almost been in despair at times.

Where was this cosmic influence of God’s people that the prophets had talked about.

Haven’t you ever felt like that – when we look at the work we are endeavouring to do for God in this place. What significance can we have in the world. How can what we are doing have world wide implications. It just seems so ridiculous!!

Yet we, like the disciples, have the promise of Jesus in Luke 12v32:-

Do not be afraid little flock, for

your Father has been pleased

to give you the kingdom.

If what we are trying to do is Christ’s work, it does not matter how seemingly insignificant it is at first, it is bound to go forward.

Our problem is the same as the disciples – we must learn the lessons they had to learn – the kingdom of God does not come with a fanfare but is likened to the slow but sure and steady growth of a seed planted in good soil.

ILLUS.: When Wm Carey went to India in 1792 he saw litte growth in the church – But today there are 1000″s of christians in India.

When Hudson Taylor went to China in the latter part of the 19th Century it was hard work  and he saw little fruit for his labour but today the are 10’s of 1000’s of Christians in China despite Communist oppression.

 

When the kingship of Christ takes root in a person’s life the result is “change”. And that life not only changes that one life but changes and influences  the life of the family, the community etc..  and so the effects of God’s kingdom begin to be felt far and wide as more and more people are affected by God’s people. The influence is felt in all departments of human endeavour — art, science, literature, business, industry, commerce and government.

And to drive home the point about how the kingdom of God grows and how its influence is felt far and wide, Jesus tells another parable about the yeast or leaven.

b. The yeast.

 

Bread was the staple food of that time as it is still in many parts of the world. The dough was leavened not with fresh yeast but with fermented dough from the previous baking. Most people, esp. the poor, would bake their own bread at home and so the process of leaven at work and dough bubbling and rising would be well known.

The large amount [v33] was 3 satas (Gk) was equivalent to 50 lbs. – indeed a huge amount, about enough to feed 100 people.

Leaven in the Bible is usually used to speak of the influence of sin and there are are those commentators who hold that that is the meaning here. However symbols can be used to illustrate different things at different times.

EXAMPLE: “serpent”  is used to refer to Satan – in the Garden of Eden and other places. And generally throughout scripture the “serpent” symbolises or is associated with evil.  BUT in John3v14 the serpent clearly represents the son of Man – and in Matt. 10v16 we are admonished to be “as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves”

Thus leaven does not have to always mean evil and the meaning needs to be determined by the context. The whole thrust of Matt. 13 is the growth and spread of the Kingdom of God and so I hold that this is the meaning of “leaven” here.

In order for leaven to be effective it must be mixed in with the new batch of dough. There must be contact. And unless the people of God are in contact with the world in which they live they will remain ineffective.

The point of the parable is that once yeast is inserted into the dough it continues its process of fermentation until the whole batch is risen. So too, the citizen of the kingdom is to effect the whole society. Not that the world will become perfect before the return of Christ – the Bible shows clearly that that will never be, but nevertheless the goal of the believer is the full realisation of the rule of God over all.

So our purpose is not merely to get to heaven, nor is it to get others there BUT also to bring whatever thought and word and deed of whatever kind into submission to Christ and into conformity to his will.

Therefore as a member of the Kingdom of God we to actively promote causes like the abolition of slavery, human rights, the alleviation of poverty, to stand against abortion, pornography, prostitution etc…. To set examples of honesty in government, industry and commerce.

Being in these things is not non-spiritual but these are part and parcel of world evangelisation – this is not a social gospel – these are not in place of the gospel BUT part of it.

There are thousands of ways in which Christian can influence the society.

We need Christians in clubs, and schools, in sport and local authorities – we need them on the factory floor and in the board-room.

You might think “Who am I? What can I do? Who will listen to me?”   If you are where God wants you to be — doing what God wants you to do — being what God wants you to be —- then you can have a positive influence for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.

The mustard seed and the leaven is an encouragement to any one who is involved in a work that seems small and insignificant. The mustard seed becomes a large tree and yeast permeate the entire batch of dough. You can make a difference.

 

2. THE PRIZE FOR ENTRY INTO THE KINGDOM

[The parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl]

a. The treasure.

 

A man in a field features many times in the parables in this chapter [Matt.13] This time, however, it is not a man who is sowing seed but a man who finds a treasure. It was quite normal in those days for people to bury there valuables, wrapped in a cloth in a secret place in the ground. Even the wealthy would do this during times of war or political uncertainty.

It is inevitable that from time to time the owner would die without telling anyone the whereabouts of his treasure. People would die suddenly or be killed when the land was overrun by invading armies. The land would change hands and this , of course, happened many times in the history of Palestine.

In the parable Jesus is talking about a man, possibly a hired labourer, who is working in the fielsd and finds such a treasure. He can claim it because the land is not his BUT he goes and sells everything he owns in order to buy the field and thus secure the treasure.

Can you imagine the sheer joy and excitement this man must have felt in discovering this treasure.

This parable portrays the KoG as something exciting and valuable. Something that brings great joy and blessing.

It is not something that is gloomy and impoverishes people. On the contrary it brings happiness and it enriches – on earth and in heaven.

I hope that this is the experience of of every Christian – sadly some Christians are protray the opposite of this. You would think that being a Christian was the most miserable existence on earth. They carry the world on their shoulders and their bottom lip is always dragging on the floor. {miserably!} I am SO happy to be a Christian!!

I am not suggesting an artificial hilarity – where we all walk about grinning like Cheshire cats.

The other important thing about this parable is that it shows that this man place on the treasure. He knew that what he possessed was well-worth giving-up in view of the surpassing value of what he had found.

Paul’s testimnoy in Philippians 3v8-9 is a classic commentry on this parable:-

… I consider everything a loss in comparison

to the surpassing greatness of knowing

Christ Jesus my Lord, for who sake I have

lost all things. I consider them rubbish

 that I might gain Christ and be found in Him…

We are faced here with the fact that to enter the Kingdom we must give up everything. Unlike the rich young rule who was unwilling to sell evreything and follow Christ. The KoG is the treasure to give everything for.

Is there anything that you will not give up for the sake of the Kingdom???

Joining the kingdom of God, while it make demands, is not something negative, BUT positive. Do you think the man who found the treasure grudgingly sold his meagre possessions??  NO! NO! He could not wait to give them up in order to gain this wonderful treasure.

Why is it that we so often hold on to the things of this world.?? We become preoccupied with our own comforts and our needs and our homes and our families and our ambitions. And we place a veneer of Christianity over it and hope that God will be satisfied. Well he won’t be!!

God doesn’t want half-baked Christians!  He wants disciples who are prepared to give up everything to follow him!

But what are we giving up incomparison to what we receive.

Jim Elliott “He is no fool who give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose

Don’t store up for yourselves treasure on earth!!

We tend to look at the great missionaries of the past – Jim Elliott, Amy Carmichael, Wm Carey, Hudson Taylor, Samuel Zwemer, Mary Slessor,  and we say “Well those were the fanatical, romantic days of missionary endeavour, we have settled down and become more balanced.”

Yes we certainly have settled down —  AND become complaciant – we have lost that zeal to share the gospel with those who have never heard. We have lost that willingness to give everything for the blessing of knowing Christ and making him known.

The treasure in the field was found suddenly and unexpectedly – the man was not looking for treasure. Paul came upon this treasure suddenly – God arrested him in his steps and opened his heart to understand that Jesus Christ was the Lord.

b. the pearl.

 

The treasure was found unexpectedly! The pearl was found after diligent searching.  Pearls are of great value, more so in those days than today – way beyond the purchasing power of the average person.

This story is of a businessman who is actively looking for  good pearls. Then one day he finds one that surpasses anything he could have ever dreamed of. A pearl that is beyond his wildest dreams. And like the man who finds the treasure he sells everything he had in order to obtain this one pearl.

The first parable is about a poor man suddenly finding. The second about a rich man who is rewarded by a find almost beyond price.

We must not make too much of the methods of finding these valuables – as if there are only two ways to come to Christ. NO, people come in many and varied ways.

The significance of both parables is in the finding of something that is of infinite value and the second thing is in the selling of everthing to get it.

Jesus brought first to people good news of great joy – the promise of God’s liberating salvation. We must not consider the buying in these parables as if salvation can be bought – other parables make it quite clear that that is impossible.

What is given up  {sold} is of no real value in comprison to what is obtained.

What is clear from these parables is that Jesus is calling people to give up themselves their money and their old lives for the kingdom — And he is calling them to incalcuable gain and great joy.

Have you found this treasure yet? Do you know the Joy of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus?

The final parable in this chapter gives a picture of the end of time. A picture similar to the harvest in the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

3. THE PRICE OF EXCLUSION FROM THE KINGDOM.

[The parable of the net]

 

The picture is of a trawling net gathering in a harvest of fish. When the fishermen get the catch to the shaore they sort out the bad fish and throw them away and the good fish are gathered into baskets to be sold in the market.

The parable speaks of all kinds of fish – a possible hint at the international scope of the Church. But it is also a mixed catch! With the scope of the Chruch before the end of time are those who are not true believers – i.e. wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The Gospels made clear that not all those attracted to Jesus were indeed true believers.

Jesus warned:-

Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord”

will enter the kingdom of God.

Like with the parable of the weeds and the wheat we need to be patient until the harvest – There is no point pretending that you are a Christian. You are not fooling God.

But God is faithful and when we cry to him for salvation he hears us –

He is not willing that any should perish BUT that all should come to a                  knowledge of the truth.

The price for reject Jesus Christ is exclusion from God’s kingdom and eternal punishment.

The prize for following Christ is infinitely valuable – it brings great joy and contentment in this life and eternal reward in the hereafter.

Don’t become impatient or frustrated when things seem slow or you you feel that as a Christian you are insignificant – God is building His Church and the Devil and all his forces cannot stop it.

The success of God’s  Kingdom is not in doubt – and no matter how small our part it is significant in God’s scheme of things.

The parable of the two debtors

THE PARABLE OF THE TWO DEBTORS.

[Jesus the forgiver; the self-righteous pharisee and the repentant prostitute]

 

Luke 7v36 – 50.

 

THEME: The Kingdom of God is for the needy, the disadvantaged & the outcast as well as for the rich, the privileged & the elite. There is no social class structure within the Kingdom of God.

 

 

INTRODUCTION: [Setting the scene]

 

There is a banquet at the house of a pharisee, named Simon, and Jesus is invited. We generally get the impression from the NT that the pharisees did not want to have too much to do with Jesus. Why then did this particular man invite Jesus to his house for a banquet  — and why, if the pharisees were so obsessed with ritual righteousness, was there a prostitute present. Jesus criticized the pharisees many times so why did he accepted the invitation?

 

Without an understanding of the customs and practices of Palestine at that time much of the meaning this story will be lost to us.

 

It would seem that Jesus had preached in the town and the pharisee having heard him wanted further discussion OR Jesus’ reputation had preceeded him and the pharisee had invited him to a meeting at his house.

This was not uncommon – a travelling teacher or sage would be invited to dine and a lecture would preceed the meal and then discussion would continue over the meal and long into the night.

 

This is probably how Jesus came to be at the pharisee’s house.  V36 says that  He went to the pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. To speak of reclining at table implied a formal banquet.

 

ILLUS.: Today there is a difference in formality if you say “We are going out to supper” or “We are dining out

 

These meal were not held behind closed doors – the gate to the courtyard and the door would stand open. Long low tables would be placed down the centre of the room. The guest would be placed around the table in order of rank.

The guests would lean on there left arm and their feet would be behind them away from the table. The sandals would be removed on entry and servants would wash the guests’ feet. To omit to wash the feet was to indicate that the guest was of a very low rank.

 

Behind the servants the villagers would be free to crowd in and observe the proceedings – this was not considered intrusive – it was quite acceptable.

 

This would explain how the woman, a prostitute, was able to get into the house.

 

So the scene is set – Jesus who is known in the community is invited to the banquet for futher discussion. At such settings in the ME the doors are open and the uninvited are free to wander in and listen.

 

The host had failed to treat Jesus as he should have – he had failed to have his feet washed – he had failed to kiss him [either on both cheeks or on the had as a teacher/Rabbi would be] — he had failed to anoint him with oil [olive oil was usually used as it was very cheap]  By treating Jesus this way Simon, the Pharisee had shown contempt for Jesus and considered him to be of inferior social position.

 

In every culture their are ways of making people feel welcome:

 

ILLUS.: In English society – A welcome at the door and an invitation to come in. – taking coats etc .. – Extending an invitation to sit down.  – offering a cup of tea.

 

To deliberately ignore these conventions as Jesus’ host had done was an unmistakable insult. Something which Jesus in his graciousness chooses to pass over.

 

Who is this sinful woman of the city [town]?  She is clearly someone who is well-known in the town – and she is known because she plies her trade of prostitution – she is part of the community yet an outcast from the religious aspect of life. She is an undesirable, sinful, ritually unclean woman.

 

When you consider the pharisee’s fanatical obcession with ritual cleanliness we can gauge something of the discomfort of Simon the pharisee.

 

Jesus, the pharisee and this prostitute are the main characters in the story.

 

1. UNBRIDLED DEVOTION IS THE PROPER RESPONSE TO CHRIST’S        LOVE.

 

READ v37-38.

 

This sinful woman has heard Jesus – either she has heard him in the town or having heard about him has come to the banquet and hovered in the background listening to this teacher proclaim the good news of God’s Kingdom. She has understood that inspite of her sinful life she can be forgiven and enter into the Kingdom.

 

She is so overwhelmed with love and gratitude for this gift of forgiveness that she falls at Jesus’ feet and her tears of repentance and joy flood over his feet.  This was probably a spontaneous action as she is unprepared, not having a towel, so uses her hair to dry his feet.

 

For a woman to let down her hair in public was most improper  —  to expose her hair was considered on a par with exposing her breasts  – it was unthinkable – according to some rabbis this would have been grounds for divorce – and to do it in the house of a pharisee was adding insult to injury. The guests at this banquet would have found this action highly offensive.

She cannot greet him with a kiss – that would be inappropriate and surely misunderstood  —  so she kisses his feet. She kisses them again and again – smothers them with kisses.

 

She then pours perfume over his feet – A small flask of perfume was often worn around a woman’s neck  — this was used to sweeten the breath and perfume the body — it doesn’t take much imagination to see how important such a flask would be to a prostitute.  She pours it out on his feet – she doesn’t need it any longer.

 

Here is a deep act of devotion – she is unconcerned about what people will think of her. Her focus is on Jesus and what he has done for her.

 

How have you responded to Christ’s love and forgiveness. Is your response one of unashamed devotion. Have you ever been in a situation when you could have expressed your faith in Jesus BUT have been too embarassed – too ashamed. What will every one think of me. I’ll be a laughing-stock!! The opportunity is gone – and you have failed your Lord! I am guilty – So often we allow what people think to over-ride what Jesus thinks of us.

 

But when we do express our devotion to Christ – and praise him that he does enable us to be bold! We can be sure that there will always be those who misunderstand – and we end up being mocked and ridiculed or simply ignored.

 

The actions of this woman in the story got a reaction –

 

2. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS MISJUDGES.

 

READ v39 – 40.

 

It is clear that the woman has been deeply touched by Jesus – the whole orientation of her life has been redirected. There seems little doubt that she is truly repentant.

It is also clear that Simon who lives in the same city is known to her and she to him.

 

The whole drama of what has just happened in front of him has passed him by. He has clearly misjudged the situation.

 

Jesus does know who this woman is and what kind of woman she is. But Simon is so blinded by his self-righteous prejudice that he can’t see that here is true repentance and here too is the one who has the authority to forgive sin. In Simon’s eyes this woman is still a sinner and he still rejects her. She doesn’t measure up to his legalistic righteousness.

 

Jesus’ response to Simon’s reaction comes in the form of a parable. The parable of the two debtors.

 

 

3. TRUE FORGIVENESS IS COMPLETE NO MATTER HOW GREAT   THE DEBT.

 

READ v41-42.

 

500 denarii was about a years wages. The one’s debt is 10x greater than the other. The point of the parable is abundantly clear.  Both debtors are reduced to common ground in their inability to pay. They are both indebted to the moneylender and they are both in need of grace.

 

Is this not where we all stand as sinners, in relation to God – you see, while we need to live respectable lives and be good citizens, when it come to our standing before God, we are all on level ground. We are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. Until we come to that point of recognising our sinful state and our unacceptability to God in that state, we remain outside the Kingdom of God.

 

Simon in his self-righteous law-keeping considers himself to owe God very little. He considers that he needs minimal forgiveness and consequently feels minimal gratitude.

 

There may be a lesson here for those of us who have grown up in Christian homes and have always gone to church and never committed any, what we might consider, serious sins  – maybe the lesson is that we need to recognise that we all need the same forgiveness. Maybe our expression of gratitude to God is lacking because we have failed to grasp the seriousness of our own sinfulness.

 

What Simon failed to see was that this woman’s actions were a response to God’s unmerited grace to her in forgiveness and that he was in need of the same forgiveness.

 

4. CHRIST’S VIEW OF THE PHARISEE AND THE PROSTITUTE

          – [a comparison]

 

READ 44-47.

 

The focus has been on Jesus “How could he allow this sinful woman to touch him. Doesn’t he know who she is? If he was really a prophet as he claims he would not allow her to come near him!!

 

We need to understand the cultural expectations of hospitality to understand how powerful Jesus’s words are.

 

Simon should have made sure that all Jesus’ needs as his guest were met. He had failed to do that.

Jesus is not bound by the culture of his time. It was normal for the guest to praise his host. To compliment him on the trouble he had taken!

For Jesus to attack the quality of Simon’s hospitality – esp. in such a direct way – would certainly arrested the attention of the listeners.

 

Jesus faces the woman BUT addresses Simon.

 

“Do you see this woman?”

 

This woman who you despire!! Consider what she has done. Consider her kindness in comparison to your bad manners.

Remember that women were not held in very high esteem – it was a male dominated society. Yet Jesus compares the two – inspite of what the men in the house think of her she is a noble woman – and inspite of the high opinion this pharisee has of himself he is a man of ignoble character.

 

There are three things that this woman does compared to three things that Simon, the host, has failed to do.

 

FOOT WASHING –

Simon had failed to give Jesus water to wash his feet. Jesus was his guest and Simon did not even show common coutesy by giving him water to wash let alne actually wash his feet for him.

This woman by contrast, has herself washed Jesus’ feet, not with water but with tears and what is more she has used her hair, the crown and glory of a woman to dry them.

She has magnificently compensated for Simon’s failure.

 

KISSING –

Simon did not kiss Jesus when he arrived. What Simon was meant to kiss is not mentioned. Equals kissed on the cheek. Students kissed their teacher’s / Rabbi’s hand. Simon had greeted Jesus as Teacher / Rabbi so he should have kissed his hand. He acknowledges that Jesus is there but fails to treat him with the honour he deserves.

 

There are many who still treat Christ the same way. They may acknowledge that he existed but there is no confession of who he really is.

 

By contrast the woman “covered his feet with kisses” Simon had not given one kiss but this woman had given many  — And on his feet which was the supreme gesture of devotion.

 

Christian, how deeply do you express your devotion to Christ?? It is so easy to become blasé about our faith and to take Jesus Christ for granted.

ANOINTING WITH OIL — olive oil was commonly used to anoint the head of a guest. It was cheap and plentiful. They anointed the head because being the crown of the person it was considered worthy of anointing.

This Simon had failed to do.

By contrast the woman had anointed, not Jesus’ head, but his feet — and not with olive oil but with very expensive perfume.

 

ILLUS.: Many there may have considered the pouring out of this expensive purfume on Jesus’ feet wasteful.  Sometimes as Christians we can be guilty of the same attitude. God will be happy with second best. No he won’t!!

Once I was preaching at a church – preached on missions – had challenged people to be prepared to give their lives in mission work abroad if God called them. After the service a father said to me in conversation “I don’t want my son to waste his life on the mission field.”

What are your ambitions for your children.

Nothing given to God with the right motives is wasteful.

 

On all three counts the superiority of the woman over Simon is glaringly obvious.

 

5. LOVE: THE ONLY APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO FORGIVENESS

 

READ v47

 

The impression that you could get from the NIV translation is that she is forgiven because she loved so much. That is not so. The parable sets the scene and forgiveness of the debts comes before responsive love.  Also “the one who is forgiven little, loves little…”  The context and the original text are clear that the love is a response to forgiveness.

 

The Jerusalem Bible translates this verse very well:-

For this reason I tell you that her sins,

her many sins, must have been forgiven her,

or she would not have shown such great love. [v47]

 

Her out burst of unashamed love is because she has already been forgiven — she has heard Jesus’ mesage of Gods’ forgiveness and she has responded to it!!

HAVE YOU?

 

What Jesus is making plain in this passage is that this woman is not a defiling sinner who is contaminating him by her touching his feet — she is forgiven and has a full appreciation of her evil ways but also now something of the grace of God in her life. She has been freely forgiven.

 

Simon, on the other hand, considers himself to be righteous as far as the law goes and thus thinks he needs little forgiveness  – consequently his love for God in minimal. He has little awareness of his sin and has therefore not repented.

 

YET his very actions and attitudes belie his belief about himself. His failures [debts] are obvious. There is in his heart a deep level of pride and arrogance and hostility — He has a very judgemental spirit, he is hard-hearted, he has little understanding of what really defiles a person’s life — he is insensitive and guilty of sexism  and most of all he does not understand the nature of God’s forgiveness.

 

The great defiled and unrepentant sinner in the story is not the prostitue, it is Simon the pharisee. The tables are turned and he is exposed.

 

We asked at the beginning why Jesus went to Simon’s house in the first place. He is the friend of sinners, that’s why!! And Simon was as much in need of God’s forgiveness as was the prostitute.

 

The story ends without us being told what Simon’s response was! Maybe that is deliberate because the offer of God’s forgiveness is still available!

 

Whether you are a sinner like this prostitute who has committed some of the grossest immorality OR you are a respectable member of the community like Simon — you are still in need of God’s forgiveness.  Simon could respond by accepting forgiveness and responding in love or he could be offended by what Jesus said.

 

So today there are only two possible responses to Christ — accept or reject , there is no middle ground.

 

Sometimes it is hardest for those who consider themselves to be righteous to accept that they are sinners but until you reach that place God’s forgiveness will not come.

 

Jesus showed in this story that before God we are all equal, men and woman, socially respectables and social outcasts – God is no respector of persons.

 

It is only through Christ that forgiveness is possible because it is in his death and resurrection that sin is dealt with and forgiveness is made possible.

 

If you are a Christian, as most here are, what is your love response to Him. Are you responding in humble and costly devotion to him??

 

How far will you go in your devotion to Jesus?  Are you prepared to stand against the crowd? Are you prepared to endure embarassment for Christ’s sake?  Are you prepared to be misunderstood, criticized and written off as a weird religious person?

 

OR have you drawn a line in the sand – you have developed a workable compromise in your life – you go to church, you do your religious bit but basically it is not God’s kingdom that you live for BUT your secular lifestyle with a religious comparment.

 

Forgiveness is not just a gift available at salvation – it’s availability is ongoing and when we fail Christ, which we do, he is always willing to forgive a repentant sinner. Don’t be satisfied with second best!!

 

The kingdom of God is mercy and grace;

the captives are freed and sinners find place,

the outcast are welcomed God’s banquet to share;

and hope is awakened in place of despair.

[Let’s Praise #194] [Bryn Rees]

The parable of the rich fool

THE PARABLE OF THE RICH FOOL.

 

LUKE 12v13-21 [22-34 for context]

 

THEME: Christ. our Redeemer, [a reconciler not a divider] wants us to use our God-given resources for his kingdom and not store them for the sake of selfish greed.

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

ILLUS.: Consider this scenerio – a wealthy man with a number of children has recently died – he has left a substantial estate – his wife had died before him and so the inheritance is to be divided amongst the children.  There is a dispute as to who should receive what. Imagine you are one of those children and you know – or as least think you know – that you have a right to a certain amount. Your brothers and sisters dispute your claim – you are a Christian and they are not!!

If you go to court you will probably win BUT your relationship with your brothers and sisters will be irreconcilable.

 

What would you do??

Have you ever been faced with a situation where you know you are right – or where you are the injured party and yet standing up for your rights would cause personal harm to others?

 

The cry for justice is a cry heard in every part of the world. It starts with the toddler who cries out when deprived of a toy by another toddler – it continues through human life and history – there are cries from individuals and cries from communities and nations.

 

In a world where everyone is demanding their rights – how are we as Christians supposed to live?

 

How are we to deal with all these demands? Criminals want their rights! Victim’s of crime want theirs! The rights of the worker! the rights of the customer! The rights of the patients and the rights of the medical staff. The rights of the students and the rights of the teachers! Sometimes it appears that these rights contradict each other and then whose rights are right?!!

 

1. MY RIGHTS : DEMANDED OR WAIVED?

 

READ v13

 

What prompts this outburst from a man in the crowd? And why does he come to Jesus?

 

The background to such a request would have been well known. The father has died and has left the inheritance as a unit to his sons.

The one brother has already decided what he wants and he tries to use Jesus to pressurize his brother into dividing the inheritance.

Notice that he doesn’t say ” Teacher, my brother and I are quarreling over our inheritance will you mediate?” NO he has already decided and he is almost ordering Jesus to ratify his conclusions!!

 

The reason the man comes to Jesus is that the Rabbis generally stated that if one heir wanted a division of the inheritance then it should be granted.

In the mind of this man he is saying ” Everyone knows that my brother should divide this inheritamce with me. You Rabbi Jesus. tell him so!!”

 

The inheritance in those days was usually land!

 

ILLUS.: The cry for justice over the division of land in the M E is still a sensitive problem today!!

 

The cry of this man is “Give me my rights!”

 

BUT we are left with the feeling that he is unwilling to consider his problem from any perspective other than his own. HE has decided what his rights are and he wants Jesus to pressurize his brother into granting those rights.

 

Isn’t this typical of human nature? It is always me first! It is easy to demand our rights – and we tend to over-estimate what is due to us as compared to what is due to our neighbour. So what we really need is someone to judge our rights and our interpretation of justice!!

 

Jesus’ response to this man’s request is a sharp rebuke. — READ v14 —The term “O man” use in this way carries with it a note of disapproval. The two words “Judge and Arbiter / divider”  indicate the sense of Jesus’ disapproval.

It is obvious that there is a broken relationship between this man and his brother and what this man wants is for Jesus to act as the one who brings this broken relationship to a finalized and total separation. It is to this that Jesus objects.

 

He is a judge and a divider in the sense that he will finally judge all people and divide the sheep from the goats – [those who are his from those who reject him] – but he has not come to take sides and divide brother against brother or to intrench selfish, stubborn antagonism.

 

RATHER Jesus has come to be a “RECONCILER” – he wants to bring people together not finalized divisions between them.

 

Does Jesus’ response to this man mean that he is indifferent to the legal rights of the man. NO!! BUT the next verse makes it clear that Jesus is making the point that there are greater gains than receiving an inheritance and greater losses than losing an inheritance.

 

READ v15

 

Alt. Translation “Take heed and beware of every kind of insatiable desire. For life for a person does not consist in the surpluses of his possessions.”

Jerusalem Bible ” … a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns even when he has more than he needs.”

 

Was this written 2000 years ago or today??!

Our society is obsessesed with material security. Life Assurance, Pension Plans, more and more possessions. Our society is very affluent. Even the poor in our society are rich incomparison to the majority in the World.

 

ILLUS.: I remember going into a squatter camp in RSA and seeing people living in cardboard boxes – in the dirt – no sewerage, no NHS, no DSS, no water ONE well for 40 000 people, no privacy, no meals-on-wheels …. NO hope!!

 

Yet in our western society we are never satisfied with what we have!  We are under the impression that if we have an abundance of material possessions then we will have abundant life!!

 

It is true that a certain minimum of material things is necessary for life BUT it is not true that if we have a greater number of material possesions then we will enjoy a better and fuller life.

 

Jesus is not saying that it is wrong to have possessions but rather that LIFE does not consist of having MORE than enough / in excess of needs.

 

This applies not just to individuals but to communities and nations: The gap between rich and poor within our own country and around the world is ever-widening. BUT the pressure on dwindling natural resources is intensifying and people scamble to possess more and more.

 

ILLUS.: When big companies can make profit at a rate of £40 per second – and the top management who are already on 6 figure incomes award themselves 50 % / 75% increases while the workers get 1-3% or are made redundant then something is sadly wrong with our society.

 

When the developed world can dump food in the sea and pay farmer’s not to grow food while millions starve to death – we live in a sick society!!

 

2. MY RESOURCES: STOCK-PILED OR SHARED-OUT.

 

In order to illustrate and emphasize his point Jesus now tells a parable:

The parable is simple . A man has too much so he stores it away thinking that he will then be secure The problem is that he dies before he can use it and it all goes to someone else.

 

a. What he has has been given to him!

 

This man is rich – we are not told how he became rich and nor does Jesus criticise him for being rich. On top of his riches he has a bumper harvest which increase his wealth considerable.

BUT notice the text ” …. the ground of a certain rich man produced a crop …”

There is no extra effort on his part. He is given this bumper crop in the providence of God – he hasn’t worked extra hard for this suplus.

 

There are millions of people who work very hard and are never rich – BUT this man has not work extra hard he has simply acquired these possessions.

The problem is what to do with this extra crop!!

b. He wants to store, for himself,  what he doesn’t need.

 

The man has a dilemma – And he has a discussion with himself about what to do with this extra wealth!

 

There is no thought about whether or not he really needs it that in fact he has enough already. There is no thought about the fact that this has been given to him by God. RATHER the reference throughout the monolgue with himself  is to “my crops”, “My barns”, “My grain and my goods”, MYSELF”

 

The question that preoccupies him is “How can I preserve these things for myself

 

As Ambrose, the early Church father, put it, “This man has ample storage in the mouths of the hungry” But such a thought never enters his head.

 

This text has so much to say to our modern Capitalist society with its excess profits and surpluses.

 

The Bible gives us two basic reasons why we should work;

1) so that we won’t be a burden to others [1 Thess. 2v7-12]

2) so that we can help those in need [Eph.4v28]

 

So having considered his dilemma the man decides that he will tear down his barns and build bigger ones in which to store the surpluses.

 

This man has received in abundance from God yet he doesn’t recognise that it is from God. He also has no one to share his gifts with.

 

The Father in the prodigal son has a party and rejoices with his friends and neighbours. The shepherd and the woman call their friends and neighbours when to rejoice with them when they find their sheep and coin. BUT this man has no-one with whom to share his good fortune.

 

“I will say to my soul “Soul you …. ” [v19]

 

He thinks that his needs can be met by himself and his material possessions.

 

 

ILLUS.: How many people do you know like that – people who live for themselves acquiring more and more possessions in the false hope that in them they will find happiness and security.  And very often those people withdraw from friends and family because they are afraid of what they will lose.

 

Usually it is much easier to see the faults in others than it is to see them in ourselves. Maybe you do not have much by way of material possessions – maybe life is a struggle BUT has that made you bitter – are you angry at God for not giving you more. Are you jealous of others you have more than you do?

“You shall not covet….”

 

You see the problem with this man in the parable was not that he was rich but that he was rich but that he was selfish and self-seeking.

All he was concerned about was securing his future  by hoarding far more than he could ever use.

 

c. Death on the day of retirement!

 

ILLUS.: It is sad, but true , that sometimes people who have worked all thier lives to build up their resouces – and looked forward to living their retirement years in ease and comfort often die shortly after retirement and never enjoy what they have striven for.  It is esp. sad if this is what they have live for!!

 

There is no point waiting to live your life tomorrow – tomorrow may never come!

 

This man thought that he could now ‘..Take life easy; eat drink and be merry”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool. This night your life will be demanded of you'”

 

FOOL – in scripture has a number of meanings but here it means sheer stupidity!

The word “demanded” [required of] is a term used for the repayment of a loan.

What this man had failed to grasp was that not only were his material possessions on loan from God  [his crops God-given]  BUT so also was his very life.

 

God’s accusation is not only that he has ignored God BUT on top of that he hasn’t lived for others.

“…. Who is going to get what you have prepared for yourself!”

 It would appear that the man does know who his heirs will be. He had lived selfishly for himself – he was lonely and friendless in the midst of his wealth. BUT he doen’t know who will gain control over his carefully secured wealth.

Most impotantly as far as he is concerned he has left it ALL behind!

 

ILLUS.: It was after one of the Rockafellers or Wrathchilds died in USA a reporter asked the solicitor “How much did he leave?” to which the reporter ryely replied, “He left everything!”

 

3. MY REWARD: RICH OR WRETCHED.

 

God has denounced the stupidity of this man! What was his response? We are not told.

 

BUT Jesus concludes:

This is how it will be with everyone who stores up

things for himself but is not rich towards God.

 

When people pursue material things as end in themselves that is the height of foolishness. Material goods are given not merely to maintain our lives in this world but they are given so that we might use them to become rich towards God. It is investing them in God’s interests.

 

These things are gifts from God in the first place – in fact they are on loan – everything we have, including life itself, comes from God and belongs rightfully to God.

 

The only way to have your riches in heaven is to send them on in advance – “Store up for YOURSELVES treasure in heaven” [Matt 6v27].

These riches are a gift from God BUT in a myterious way they are also a gift FOR God.

 

This parable about the rich fool is followed by Jesus’ warning to his disciples not to worry about food, drink and clothing and he urges them to be concerned with the Kingdom of God because it is the KINGDOM and only the kingdom that is the ultimate and lasting reality. Living for the kingdom is the exact opposite of living selfishly and for the here and now only.

 

This parable does not imply that material possessions are wrong in themselves but they are wrong when they become the focus and goal of life. The parable is criticising all kinds of greed which is idolatry.

 

When our goal is this world and its material things we will ultimately lose everything. BUT if our goal is the kingdom of God and that is what we are living for and praying for and working for then HE will give us what we need in order to fulfill that kingdom goal.

In fact he has already given it to us:

v32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your father

HAS BEEN pleased to give you the kingdom”

 

This parable teaches us that the desire for material things is insatiable. It also teaches that the dreams of an abundant fulfilled and happy life will never be achieved through the accumulation of more than we need.

 

It also teaches us that Jesus is more concerned about our relationships with people that he is about our what we consider to be our personal rights.

 

Finally that our life and everything we have is on loan from God and the best we can do is seek first his Kingdom and so be rich towards God.