Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 29 November 2015

For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

Counting Generations

 

The story of Jesus is an amazing story – full of suspense and breakthrough (and in modified form finds its way into the “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter”) – fantastic story – but would you begin the story like Matthew does in the Bible. I read to you from the book of Matthew:

 

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. [Do you want me to keep going or are your eyes already glazing over?]

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

After the exile to Babylon: [Enough!] Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

 

Matthew begins his book on Jesus by tracing forty-two generations of ancestors – one after the other – listed by name. Why? How many generations of your ancestors could you list on a piece of paper? [Australians like to trace their lineage to the first migrant to Australia but this is only four, five or six generations ago.] But would you begin a book about your life by spelling out the names of forty-two generations before you? Even in an obituary (at a funeral), we only give the names of the parents. Why did Matthew think that Jesus’ genealogy was so interesting?

There are a few lessons and encouragement in these names. (1) God thinks in bigger time frames than us. When God made Abraham the promise that he would become a father of nations and that all nations would be blessed through his descendants, he believed God and (if he was like us) he would have expected immediate results – at least a big family of his own right away. Instead he had to wait for most of his life to have even one child. And God prophesied to him a less than glorious destiny for his descendants which would last centuries – Genesis 15:13: “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.” Yet, God does not forget his promises and the promises to Abraham did play out over the generations – a nation was born, land was given, fortunes were lost and restored – and then – forty-two generations later – finally and most assuredly – God kept his most important promise and made Abraham a blessing to all nations through one of his descendants – Jesus the Messiah – Galatians 3:8: “God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’” For forty-two generations, people had been waiting for God to keep his promises and move and a breakthrough to come. They did not know precisely what would come but God would do something.

 

Hebrews 11:13-16:  All these people [the generations before Jesus, including Abraham and David and many of the others] were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

 

 Then Jesus came and Matthew recorded the time frame of the promises. When God makes you a promise, do not be surprised about delays. His time frame is not measured or limited by the few years of an individual life. He is faithful. He will keep his promises to you. (2) Therefore, think generations and live for generations.

 

Genesis 26:24: That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”

 

Psalm 132:10: For the sake of your servant David, do not reject the king you have anointed.

 

1 Kings 11:9-13: The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

 

2 Kings 8:16-19: In the fifth year of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat began his reign as king of Judah. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever.

 

 How cool will it be when God says to our children and children’s children: “For the sake of your parents – my people at Living Grace – I will be merciful to you and forgive you and lift you up high”? Our lives matter! Our walk with God matters! Some of what we do may look insignificant and even slightly ridiculous in the eyes of the world but God remembers all of our acts of obedience and he moves according to his promises and grace towards us. Nehemiah was a simple cupbearer in the service of a foreign king. He was no priest or elder of God’s people but he repented on behalf of the entire nation and God heard his prayers and sent him to rebuild Jerusalem. Jeremiah was a despised prophet – persecuted to the end – but he gave a word to one of his people, a prisoner of war, and he – small and insignificant from a worldly point of view – prophesied and enacted the destruction of Babylon as God’s vengeance and judgement on them.

 

Nehemiah 1: The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah … They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:

Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you … Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favour in the presence of this man.”

I was cupbearer to the king.

 

Jeremiah 51:59-64: This is the message Jeremiah the prophet gave to the staff officer Seraiah son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went to Babylon with Zedekiah king of Judah in the fourth year of his reign. Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon—all that had been recorded concerning Babylon. He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud. Then say, ‘Lord, you have said you will destroy this place, so that neither people nor animals will live in it; it will be desolate forever.’ When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall.’”

 

On YouTube you can watch now how we repented to the Pentecostals in Adelaide. And it is so obvious that we were a bunch of no-name Lutherans (no high-powered representatives of anything official) and the Pentecostals were the same (a small group of ordinary Christians) meeting in a rented school hall. But God doesn’t mind small beginnings. And he keeps his promises and be they slow in coming. Jeremiah was long dead when his people returned from Babylon but they did return. Every generation before Jesus mattered. And the Bible – God – remembers them all. And he will remember what we did for him. He remembers everything – every tear, every sacrifice. What grace!

(3) Many of Jesus’ ancestors had flaws but God is not hiding these people. But keeps naming them as trophies of grace. King David committed adultery which produced a baby out of wedlock but God kept the child inside the line of Jesus’ genealogy. And mentions the son by name. Genealogies were usually dominated by men but, in the genealogy of Jesus, three women are named and honoured.

 

This is the genealogy of Jesus … Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar … Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth … David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife

 

https://www.gty.org/resources/print/articles/A287: In a genealogy otherwise dominated by men, these women are exceptional illustrations of God's grace.

The first outcast was Tamar, the Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah. She gained notoriety in Genesis 38 by resorting to deception, prostitution, and incest when she couldn't get a child any other way. Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and tricked Judah into having sexual relations with her. From that illicit union were born twin sons, Perez and Zerah, and thus Tamar and her son Perez joined Judah in the Messianic line. Despite prostitution and incest, God's grace fell on all three of those undeserving persons, including a desperate and deceptive Gentile harlot.

The second outcast was also a woman and a Gentile, but she made prostitution her livelihood. Rahab was no paragon of virtue, but she put her faith in the God of Israel and demonstrated it by protecting the two men Joshua sent to spy out her city. God spared her life and the lives of her family when Jericho was besieged and destroyed (Joshua 2:1-21; 6:22-25), and, brought her into the Messianic line. She became the wife of Salmon and the mother of the godly Boaz—David's great-grandfather.

Ruth, the wife of Boaz, was the third outcast. Though she was a Moabitess and former pagan, having no right to marry an Israelite, God's grace brought Ruth into the family of Israel, and through Boaz, into the royal line. She became the grandmother of Israel's great King David.

The fourth outcast was Bathsheba. She entered the Messianic line through adultery with David. The son of their sinful union died in infancy, but the next son born to them was Solomon (2 Samuel 11:1-27; 12:14, 24), successor to David's throne and continuer of the Messianic line. Once again, by God's grace Bathsheba became the wife of David, the mother of Solomon, and an ancestor of the Messiah.

 

God is ashamed of no one that belongs to him – that responds to his call and turns his life around. Before we know it – coming in sideways as former outcasts – God joins us with his greatest plans on earth which lead to the birth and destiny of his Son Jesus Christ – his eternal son who was with him forever. This morning, you are invited to be of the lineage of Jesus Christ and belong to the family of God.

 

John 1:9-14: The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world … Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

Galatians 3:26-29: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

 

(4) Jesus is proud of his lineage – his human ancestors – and – in Matthew’s Gospel – is happy to be identified specifically as theson of Abrahamand theson of David” – Matthew 1: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of AbrahamJoseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.God is so humble and loving and forgiving that he is not ashamed to associate with us. On the contrary, he has such loving pride in our efforts to please him (human efforts empowered by his grace) – and Abraham and David did really well in having a heart of God and trusting him – that he honours us by acknowledging our history with God and placing himself within it – as a proud son of Abraham and David. What honour!

God is also not ashamed of us.

 

Hebrews 2:11: Jesus and the people he makes holy all belong to the same family. That is why he isn’t ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.

 

Hebrews 11:13-16: Every one of those people died. But they still had faith, even though they had not received what they had been promised. They were glad just to see these things from far away, and they agreed that they were only strangers and foreigners on this earth … But they were looking forward to a better home in heaven. That’s why God wasn't ashamed for them to call him their God

 

1 Corinthians 6:17: But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

 

1 Corinthians 6:19: … your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God …

 

What have we learned so far? Jesus’ genealogy is full of encouragement. (1) God thinks in bigger time frames but his promises are sure. He is faithful. (2) Our own lives matter beyond the here and now. We can think and live for generations – Psalm 132:10: “For the sake of your servant David [or you and I], do not reject the king you have anointed.” (3) Many of Jesus’ ancestors had flaws but God is not hiding them but names them as trophies of his grace. He is not ashamed of us but loves us deeply. (4) Jesus, the Son of God, is happy to be identified as belonging to us. He honours us all by not being ashamed of calling us his brothers and sisters. And he specifically honours some heroes of the faith by identifying himself as theson of Abrahamandson of David”.

(5) Then, the lineage of Jesus also clearly demonstrates that evil – dark times and absolute depravity among his people, especially among his leaders – cannot cancel his promises and purposes of salvation. Jesus had some shocking human ancestors. There was Manasseh and Amon – to name only two:

 

2 Kings 21: Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem … And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger …

… Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols …

Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD … And Manasseh slept with his fathers and was buried in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza, and Amon his son reigned in his place. Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem … And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done …

 

Yet, as much as these leaders did damage in their time and provoked God’s judgement which banished his people in exile for decades, God did not allow evil to speak the last word. Grace would triumph and Jesus be born.

(6) In his book, Matthew also includes this observation – Matthew 1:17: “Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.” What does it mean? This verse seems to suggest that there is bigger blueprint of history which is precise and full of mathematical beauty. God prescribes seasons and the precise number of generations from one point of history to another. Prophetic people love this and God makes them read the signs of God-ordained time periods:

 

http://www.gotquestions.org/number-7-seven.html: Question: “What is the biblical significance of the number seven/7?”

Answer: Throughout the Bible, God often gives symbolic significance to mundane items or concepts. For example, in Genesis 9:12–16, God makes the rainbow the sign of His promise to Noah (and, by extension, to all mankind) that He will not flood the whole earth again. God uses bread as a representation of His presence with His people (Numbers 4:7); of the gift of eternal life (John 6:35); and of the broken body of Christ, sacrificed for our sins (Matthew 26:26). The rainbow and the bread are obvious symbols in Scripture. Less obvious meanings seem to be attached to some numbers in the Bible, especially the number 7, which at times provides a special emphasis in the text.

The first use of the number 7 in the Bible relates to the creation week in Genesis 1. God spends six days creating the heavens and the earth, and then rests on the seventh day. This is our template for the seven-day week, observed around the world to this day. The seventh day was to be “set apart” for Israel; the Sabbath was a holy day of rest (Deuteronomy 5:12).

Thus, right at the start of the Bible, the number 7 is identified with something being “finished” or “complete.” From then on, that association continues, as 7 is often found in contexts involving completeness or divine perfection. So we see the command for animals to be at least seven days old before being used for sacrifice (Exodus 22:30), the command for leprous Naaman to bathe in the Jordan River seven times to effect complete cleansing (2 Kings 5:10), and the command for Joshua to march around Jericho for seven days (and on the seventh day to make seven circuits) and for seven priests blow seven trumpets outside the city walls (Joshua 6:3–4). In these instances, 7 signifies a completion of some kind: a divine mandate is fulfilled.

Interestingly, man was created on the sixth day of creation. In some passages of the Bible, the number 6 is associated with mankind. In Revelation “the number of the beast“ is called “the number of a man. That number is 666” (Revelation 13:18). If God’s number is 7, then man’s is 6. Six always falls short of seven, just like “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Man is not God, just as 6 is not 7.

Series of seven things crop up often in the Bible. For example, we find seven pairs of each clean animal on the ark (Genesis 7:2); seven stems on the tabernacle’s lampstand (Exodus 25:37); seven qualities of the Messiah in Isaiah 11:2; seven signs in John’s Gospel; seven things the Lord hates in Proverbs 6:16; seven parables in Matthew 13; and seven woes in Matthew 23.

Multiples of 7 also figure into the biblical narrative: the “seventy weeks” prophecy in Daniel 9:24 concerns 490 years (7 times 7 times 10). Jeremiah 29:10 predicted the Babylonian Captivity would last for seventy years (7 times 10). According to Leviticus 25:8, the Year of Jubilee was to begin after the passing of every forty-ninth year (7 times 7).

Sometimes, the symbolism of 7 is a great comfort to us: Jesus is the seven-fold “I AM” in the Gospel of John. Other times, it challenges us: Jesus told Peter to forgive a wrongdoer “seventy times seven” times (Matthew 18:22, NKJV). And then there are passages in which the number 7 is associated with God’s judgment: the seven bowls of the Great Tribulation, for example (Revelation 16:1), or God’s warning to Israel in Leviticus 26:18.

Speaking of the book of Revelation, the number 7 is used there more than fifty times in a variety of contexts: there are seven letters to seven churches in Asia and seven spirits before God’s throne (Revelation 1:4), seven golden lampstands (1:12), seven stars in Christ’s right hand (1:16), seven seals of God’s judgment (5:1), seven angels with seven trumpets (8:2), etc. In all likelihood, the number 7 again represents completeness or totality: the seven churches represent the completeness of the body of Christ, the seven seals on the scroll represent the fullness of God’s punishment of a sinful earth, and so on. And, of course, the book of Revelation itself, with all its 7’s, is the capstone of God’s Word to man. With the book of Revelation, the Word was complete (Revelation 22:18).

In all, the number 7 is used in the Bible more than seven hundred times. If we also count the words related to seven (terms like sevenfold or seventy or seven hundred), the count is still higher. Of course, not every instance of the number 7 in the Bible carries a deeper significance. Sometimes, a 7 is just a 7, and we must be cautious about attaching symbolic meanings to any text, especially when Scripture is not explicit about such meanings. However, there are times when it seems that God is communicating the idea of divine completeness, perfection, and wholeness by means of the number 7.

 

http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/the%20significance%20of%20numbers%20in%20scripture.htm: FORTY-TWO: The number forty-two is the product of six times seven.  Seven is one of the “perfect” numbers, signifying fullness and perfection, especially spiritual perfection.  However, six is the number of man and of man’s opposition to God’s plan for mankind’s salvation.  In Scripture the number forty-two appears to symbolize a connection to or a conflict between man and the Spirit of God.  Examples of the symbolic nature of the number forty-two can be applied to these passages:

 

(a)     It is the number of the sum of the knobs, flowers, and branches of the golden Menorah, ordained by God but fashioned by a human craftsman [Exodus 25:31-40].

(b)     Balaam offered three sets of sacrifices on seven altars each with two animals sacrificed on each altar for three sets of fourteen sacrifices totaling forty-two animal sacrifices prior to God providing the prophetic oracle [Numbers 23:2, 14, 29].

(c)     The deliberately structured forty-two stages of the Israelites’ from Sinai to the Plains of Moab - it was a journey marking their conflict with the will of God for Israel’s future [Numbers 33:1-49].

(d)     The forty-two young men who mocked God’s choice after the ascension of Elijah and the transfer of his authority to Elisha [2 Kings 2:23-24]. 

(e)     St. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is a deliberately structured list of forty-two names ending with Jesus’ name and reveling that He is both man and God [Matthew 1:1-17].

(f)      In the Book of Revelation the number forty-two signifies the conflict of the Beast together with his offspring, “the seed of the serpent” [Genesis 3:15], that stand in opposition to Christ and His Church for a symbolic forty-two months [Revelation 11:2; 13:5]. 

This number is connected with “the Beast” in the book of Revelation.  An important part of his career is to last forty-two months [Revelation 11:2; 12:5] or three and ˝ years.  In Scripture the number forty-two, or the relationship between forty-two (months) and three and ˝ (years/ days or days of years), seems to be associated with God’s Divine plan, especially climaxing in a short but intense period of tribulation/judgment as the numbers are used in the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation [see Daniel 7:25 & 12:7, and Revelation 11:2, 11; 12:14; 13:5].  This number is also associated with the number 1,260: 3 ˝ years = 42 months = 1,260 days, in Revelation 11:3 & 12:6.  In the book of Revelation there is a chiastic pattern formed with these numbers:

 

A. 42 months = Revelation 11:2

            B. 1260 days = Revelation 11:3

                        C. 3 ˝ days = Revelation 11:9

                        C* 3 ˝ days = Revelation 11:11

            B* 1260 days = Revelation 12:6

A* 42 months = Revelation 13:5

 

I also find interesting how the length of years in exile – 70 years – was tied to the prescribed Sabbath rest for the land which God’s people never kept:

 

http://www.markbeast.com/70jubilees/norest.htm: God told the children of Israel that if they did not keep the sabbaticals and Jubilees they would be taken out of their land so the land could enjoy its Sabbath rest.

 

Leviticus 25:1-12: The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the Sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.

Count off seven Sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven Sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.

 

Leviticus 26:27-35: … I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. Then the land will enjoy its Sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the Sabbaths you lived in it.

 

The children of Israel neglected the sabbaticals and Jubilees for 430 years. During this time the land missed 70 Sabbath years (Ezekiel 4:1-6).

 

The children of Israel were taken into captivity to Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:8-12).

 

Jerusalem was burned and ruined, many people were killed, many people were taken captive to Babylon, and God’s beautiful temple was destroyed. Then the land was allowed to lay desolate for 70 years to enjoy her Sabbath rest.

 

2 Chronicles 36:15-21: The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.

He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.

 

I find this intriguing. I don’t want to place too great an importance of this but, for a while now, I have identified a series in our own history:

 

Seven years from my first day as a Lutheran pastor in Toowoomba (1 January 1996) to the outpouring of the Spirit in the worship service with Pastor Gemechis Desta Buba (1 January 2003).

 

Seven years from the outpouring of the Spirit in the worship service with Pastor Gemechis Desta Buba (1 January 2003) to God confirming his glory at Living Grace through the miracle of gold sparkles on people’s skin (27 December 2009).

 

We only have one more year to go in the current seven-year cycle. My feeling is that the completion of this cycle will mark the final breaking through and opening of doors to renewal and revival. The first seven-year cycle was our journey to receiving the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The second seven-year cycle was about growing and embracing the baptism with the Holy Spirit and abiding in his glorious presence. The third seven-year cycle has been about refinement, testing and sifting. I cannot wait for what lies ahead. [Next year is also the 50th anniversary of the LCA and the number fifty in the Bible can represent the Holy Spirit and Pentecost.]

 

It is also interesting that there are seven years between two significant prophetic words which both come from the book and chapter in the Bible – Revelation 3. In 2008, God said that we were the “church of Laodicea” and, in 2015, he said that we are the “church of Philadelphia”. In 2008, God warned us about lukewarmness and encouraged us to open the door because Jesus was standing there and knocking. In 2015, God commended us and finally declared that there was an open door for us. Both words seem to prepare the completion of the relevant seven-year cycle. In 2008, many of us did open the door for Jesus and his glory was able to rest on us and the gold sparkles came at the end of 2009. In 2015, we do break through this open door with the launching of Lutheran Renewal, a national renewal movement among Lutherans and beyond. We publish a national newsletter, just had a national renewal conference here at Living Grace, and are ready to go out and be sent. There is still resistance but God opened this door and we will be astonished how wide this door will open.

 

[There is also a seven year period from my installation service as pastor of the new congregation, Living Grace Lutheran Church, at Concordia College on Sunday 22 June 2002 and – after having suffered a breakaway from our congregation and “crossing the Jordan” – our first Sunday in the new worship centre, 90 Jellicoe St, on Sunday 7 June 2009.  On the 7th of June and 14th of June I finished a series which I had started at Concordia College Chapel (a foundation series on the Christian faith based on Acts 10) but, on Sunday 21 June, I felt led to preach on suffering that comes with the call to mission and revival.

I may quote from the sermon:

 

This is the third Sunday in our new worship centre at 90 Jellicoe St and looking back over the last two Sundays we have much reason for rejoicing. God confirmed his call on Living Grace. (At least this is my discernment.) It just so happened that the sermon series for new Christians concluded with the last two messages being preached here and these two messages – also just so happened – to pick up on the mission statement of Living Grace. None of this was my planning but I became rather excited when I seemed to recognize God’s hand in shaping the preaching agenda. The first message was on the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the second was on the power of God’s word. Both Sundays we prayed for the congregation and both Sundays we were rejoicing over people being filled with the Holy Spirit, receiving spiritual gifts, encouragement and healing. God confirmed our mission statement which reads: “One citywide people of God – operating in the power of the Word and the Spirit – to disciple nations – for the praise of His glory.” With the city as our focus – and then even nations – we do have faith – and long – for the power of the Word and the Spirit to “explode” in our midst. We believe for something big. Small as we are there is in our congregation the hunger for a move of God – an outpouring of divine glory – which is going to turn the entire Toowoomba region upside down for God. As Jesus taught us to pray: “His kingdom come – as it is in heaven so on earth” – even on the Darling Downs!

Looking back over the first two Sundays here at 90 Jellicoe St there is much reason for rejoicing. God confirmed our sense of call – also not forgetting his provision of $182,000 in pledges last Sunday. God is stirring us. With that in mind – what then should be the preaching topic – today – on the third Sunday in our new worship centre? What do you expect to hear next from God?

We may be in for a surprise. In the Bible – when God called the person of Saul into something big – to become the most important missionary to the nations – God also surprised him with some additional information. Here is what happened. At first Saul was not a Christian but a most passionate enemy of any believers and he acted on his hate. I read from the Bible – Acts 9:1-2: “. Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”

Then the Lord Jesus Christ called him and – today – with what is in our hearts – we will also learn from the nature of his call. I read from the Bible – the entire account – Acts 9:3-19a: “As Saul neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heave flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered. The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’ ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”

This Bible account contains many “fun” themes for preaching and teaching – electrifying themes – such as: the possibility of Jesus appearing to us in a flash of glorious light and then speaking to us (as it happened to Paul – Acts 9:3: “ … suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him … ”), the richness of God’s communications with us (God gave Saul a vision of a man and told him the name of the man – Ananias – who would place his hands on him and in this way heal him; meanwhile God told Ananias the vision which he gave Paul and then further instructed him – even telling him the precise address of Saul in Damascus; Acts 9:11-12: “ … The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight … ”), the frequent importance of the laying on of hands for healing and the infilling with the Holy Spirit (as practiced by Ananias on Saul), then – last but not least – the influence one person can have in reaching the world with the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:15: “ … This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel … ”).

These are great themes which make for great Sunday celebrations but not this Sunday. As much as Saul would become the greatest missionary, God also said – Acts 9:16: “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” These words of God spell out another truth – what we may not want to hear. The more God asks you to do in his name, the more suffering and persecution will come your way.

There it is – the message for the third Sunday in our new worship centre. We want a mighty outpouring of God’s Spirit on our region but are we prepared to have him also say to us: “I will show you how much you must suffer for my name.” Have you come to Living Grace – or are you thinking about joining this church – because you are ready to share in our suffering?]

 

[On Sunday 2 March 2008, we repented “by accident” of opposing Pentecostals and the “Toronto Blessing”. On Sunday 9 November 2015, we repented deliberately (on behalf of the denomination) of opposing Pentecostals and the “Toronto Blessing”.]

 

I do not want to make too much of this but sometimes God is quite deliberate with periods of time – Matthew 1:17: “Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.”

 

1 Timothy 1:3-4: As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.

 

Titus 3:9: But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.

 

I make one final point. The Bible takes time to introduce us to Jesus’ human genealogy. He is theson of Abrahamand theson of David”. All of his human ancestors are important and he belongs to their history with God and is the fulfillment of this history. But Jesus cannot be quite contained in this genealogy. He is always bigger and a little more mysterious than our human minds can handle. There is always something wondrous about God that makes us go wowand praise him.

Immediately after listing all his human ancestors, the Bible makes it quite clear that he does not physically descend from Abraham or David. He does not share their human DNA but transcends all of his forefathers by being their creator and now being born through the Holy Spirit by a virgin:

 

Matthew 1:18-21: This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

 

The story of Jesus is an amazing story – full of suspense and breakthrough – including his genealogy and the circumstances around his birth. Maybe, this morning, it is time for you to get ready for him. Christmas – the celebration of his birth – is coming. He comes as the fulfillment of old promises and to do something very new – offer salvation to you (peace with God and the forgiveness of your sins). He loves you. And he will prove it to you – just read how his story in the book of Matthew continues. Become part of his lineage. Believe in him and God calls you family. Amen.