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Mary's Little Lamb, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
January 24, 2023 7:05 am

Mary's Little Lamb, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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January 24, 2023 7:05 am

Growing Deep in the Christian Life: Returning to Our Roots

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Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll describes Mary's little lamb. Undiminished deity, true humanity, unmixed, yet forever in one body from conception throughout eternity. It's a gift that's too wonderful for words, too remarkable to to describe.

A gift precious beyond telling, priceless. Christmas has come and gone, but it's never out of season to relive the beautiful day when God took on the form of man and walked among us. It all started, of course, with the love story between a young Jewish woman and her fiancé.

Today, on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues his hallmark story series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. In today's study, originally delivered around Christmas, we discover the profound implications of Mary's miraculous conception. Before we begin, let's take time to reflect on the familiar passage where Luke describes Mary's little lamb. Let me read the first 20 verses of Luke chapter 2.

But if you'd like to just listen, you may do that. Or if you want to follow along, the scripture reading is in Luke chapter 2, the first 20 verses. Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken of all the inhabited earth.

This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was with child. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.

And she wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy, which shall be for all the people. For today, in the city of David, there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be a sign for you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, read this with me, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased. And it came about that when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, Well, then let us go straight to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph and the baby as he lay in the manger. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this child, and all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told. You're listening to Insight for Living.

To study the Bible with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to insight.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck titled Mary's Little Lamb. Dennis the Menace rushes into the room with his mother standing there with her mouth open, and he says, holding a big box in his hand, We better tell Santa Claus to forget about the train set I asked for. I just found one on the top shelf in dad's closet. At this moment, even as I speak, there are children all over the world surprising their parents by peeking a look.

You don't know it, but it's happening. I'll never forget the woman who told me a story that she had never told anybody else. She said for years, as a little girl, I did things that I have never to this day told my mother and dad. She said a few days before Christmas, after all the presents were wrapped and tagged, she said when they would go out that Christmas party that they always had away from the home, I would sneak under the tree and with nobody watching, I would unwrap all of my gifts. Never tear the paper and I would look at all the gifts and get all excited and then I would rewrap all the gifts exactly as they had been wrapped. And then she said on Christmas morning, I could have won an Oscar for the surprise look that I gave to the gifts.

I think it was my barber who told me several years ago what they used to do when their children were small. He said we're the most curious kids in the world and we knew no matter what we did, they would find the gifts. So we had to deal with the neighbors and we would keep all the neighbors' presents in our closet and we would give all of our gifts to the neighbors and we would let the kids go ahead and take a look if they wanted to, act like we didn't know about it. And then Christmas Eve when all the kids were asleep, we would swap and we would wrap all the gifts and he said you should have seen my kids when they looked out in the street and saw bicycles being ridden. They thought they were going to get for their Christmas.

I love that story. Gifts, especially surprise gifts, are absolutely delightful and as you're sitting there right now, some of you have surprises that somebody you love doesn't know they're going to be receiving and you can hardly wait. It is just one of the great things in the world. Let me tell you that the premier giver in all of time is God. And if you will allow me a little bit of a human touch on the Heavenly Father, I believe every day of the year he must smile as we stumble across one of his surprise gifts. And he gives them to us all the time. The surprise of an answered prayer, the surprise of a healed body after a lengthy sickness, the surprise of a romance, the surprise of some conception.

We're going to have a baby. And how God must take delight with those surprise gifts. James tells us every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no shadow of turning. I think it really is saying with whom there is no shadow cast upon him for our frequent turnings. We may turn away from him, we may run against him, we may even run from him, but down come the gifts.

That's grace. And he allows us to unwrap them on this earth in a hundred different ways and to find ourselves delightfully surprised, which makes it all the more interesting when you get to the last verse of 2 Corinthians chapter 9. Chapter 9 of 2 Corinthians, I'm looking at one sentence that ends with an exclamation point because here this brilliant scholarly Jew who has a magnificent vocabulary and a peerless grasp of the Greek comes to the best gift God ever gave and he is without a word. He has an adjective that he can use. So he uses indescribable, which is the only one that would fit.

Thanks be to God for his, there it is, indescribable gift. You don't know this, but it's a thrilling thing for me to tell you that this word translated indescribable appears nowhere else in all of scripture and hasn't even been in existence until Paul uses it. There is no record of this Greek word translated indescribable anywhere in literature until after this place. And there only rarely by a few ecclesiastical writers called the church fathers.

And ever so rarely then. It is an interesting word. Paul has coined a word and combined them by mixing them together like teeth and gears that fit. The main verb based on this word indescribable is the word that means to recount, to set forth in detail, to describe.

But he prefixes it with a little word that negates the action of the verb. But unable to recount, unable to set forth in great detail, unable to describe. So indescribable is the best English word we could use.

Some have tried others. Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift. Thanks be to God for his ineffable gift. One paraphrase, thanks be to God for his gift, too wonderful for words.

Precious beyond telling. Thanks be to God for this gift that he surprised us with, a gift that is precious beyond the human language to describe. Now you've gotten surprises and I have gotten surprises, but never one that we couldn't describe except Jesus.

I love that. You think, well, what's so indescribable about Jesus born in a place outside an inn in Bethlehem? Well, stop and think. Six, seven, eight pound human infant wrapped in a sheath of skin housing God and man. Undiminished deity, true humanity, unmixed, yet forever in one body from conception throughout eternity. It's a gift that's too wonderful for words. Too remarkable to describe. God gave himself.

He gave himself. And if you didn't know before now, let me inform you, the Lord Jesus is the only member of the Godhead who is visible and ever will be visible. The Father is spirit and will never be seen. The Holy Spirit is invisible and never will be seen.

But God the Son, thanks to the incarnation when deity became humanity, he is not only seen, but he is to be worshipped and adored. A gift precious beyond telling, priceless. Now, having said all of that about the indescribable nature of the gift. Here I stand expected to set forth in detail something Paul said couldn't be described.

Talk about a tough assignment. I'll give it my best shot, but I can't promise you that you will be left with all your questions answered. However, you will be left with a decision. And I don't apologize for that. Because your options are three, which I will give you at the close of this talk.

You really only have three options regarding whether or not you're going to take this gift that has been wrapped up for you in skin. Turn from 2 Corinthians chapter 9 back to Luke chapter 2. Who hasn't read the first few verses of Luke's story, the most famous Christmas story, more famous than Matthew's words, more familiar than any carol or any rhyme, any poem, any story that we could make up these words from Luke's pen. And who hasn't wondered why he didn't just start with verse 6?

It came about while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth, and she had this little baby. Why doesn't he start there? He goes back into details of decrees and names and places and events that really mean nothing to the 21st century reader. But wait, if you think that, you've forgotten Luke's purpose. Luke deliberately set out verses 1 through 4 to compile an account of the things that were accomplished, that his friend Theophilus, whoever he was, might understand in consecutive order the exact truth about the things that took place. So he doesn't apologize for beginning with a few historical details. And Theophilus, if he wanted to check the record, could go back to that census when taxation was being planned by the emperor, Augustus, and he could even check the record and find the name Joseph of Nazareth and wife Mary who registered in the chronicle at Bethlehem.

But that's a lot of stuff to throw at you. Understand it's a Roman world we're into in Luke chapter 2. Even though Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, a little hamlet in the hills of Galilee, 80 miles or so north of the city town of Bethlehem, they are still under Roman rule. And when you live under Roman rule, you are under the authority of Caesar.

You and I know nothing of such rule. You and I know nothing of a Caesar. But in those days, you were born not only to fear, but to worship Caesar. And in his palatial palace at Rome, he ruled the world. His world was running a little shy on money. And so the Caesar whose name was chosen to be Augustus, Auguste, deity, the Caesar decided that in order for there to be maximum taxation, he would have to have an accurate accounting of the people in his kingdom.

And so he set a plan out. In fact, he wrote a decree, according to verse 1, that all the world should be involved in this census, which required that people would return to what you and I would call the county seat, the place of their birth. That is, the birth of their family lineage. In Joseph's case, it was David whose birth took place in Bethlehem. Now, it sounds like a lot of gobbledygook I'm telling you here, but understand who's important in this scene. Micah, seven centuries before the birth of the Savior, Micah the prophet, unknown by Augustus, has written down in the record of the Holy Scriptures that it will be in Bethlehem, the most insignificant of all places, the Son of God would be born. Now, Augustus thinks it's a great idea for there to be a census taken and that people should go back to the county seat. What Augustus doesn't realize is that he is a piece of lint on the prophetic page.

That's all. He thinks he's ruling the world. But how else would you get that migrant couple, that teenage couple from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the birth of that baby? Unless the emperor decrees it. And so he does.

And Luke is careful to tell us the background. It was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And look, all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. It was like one huge Super Bowl crowd. People took up all the places to stay. You could no more get a place to lodge in Bethlehem than you could get a place to lodge in New Orleans when the Super Bowl is held there at that dome stadium or in Miami when it's there at that dome stadium.

It's the same kind of careless, crowded combustion that would fill a city when it is holding the Olympics, for example. Can you imagine how hard those paths were, those dirt paths that led from one city to another? Not everyone went to Bethlehem. Some came from Bethlehem to Nazareth. Some, of course, came to Jerusalem and many left Jerusalem to go to the little place of their country birth. So it was the hubbub of movement and activity and how powerful Augustus must have felt when he snaps his fingers.

People move and get involved in this census. But does he know that back behind the scenes, a sovereign God is moving on the events of this world to bring forth his precious, ineffable, unspeakable gift in Bethlehem exactly as he promised 700 and more years earlier? So thank you, Luke, for mentioning the detail of a decree and Caesar and Quirinius and a census. And now notice the zoom lens turns from politics and geography to a very personal interest in two people.

It's like picking out of a crowd with your camera two people and focusing in on them among thousands. Joseph went up from Galilee. You say, I thought you said Galilee was north and Bethlehem was south. I did, but they went up in elevation. Understand, he's speaking of the terrain, not so much the geography. They went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, that's where they lived, to the county, we would call it the county, the province of Judea, in which was found the city of David called Bethlehem.

Why? Because Joseph was of the family of David and that was what you did when you were participating in the census. Mary didn't have to go, or did she?

Well, it depends on how you look at it. She had a choice. Chances are good they waited until as late as they had to wait because they didn't want to have that baby away from each other and by the deadline time of the census, obviously, she couldn't remain when he went and again, just in perfect harmony with God's sovereign plan, she went alongside her husband to Bethlehem. He went to register with Mary who was engaged to him and was with child. Now, engaged, I thought we said they were married, we did. I have a feeling that Luke uses this word to remind us that he has not touched her sexually. There has been a marriage, but there has been a relationship of engagement. They are known as husband and wife and no one else knows the secret of their private life, but they know and God knows that Joseph hasn't touched her as a husband with a wife.

And so, though husband and wife, they are viewed in this case because of their relationship as only engaged. Now, if I may return for a moment to the little hidden gift, let me remind you of where God hid his surprise. Who would have ever thought to look? You and I looking for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would have found the finest palace in Jerusalem. We might have even taken a look into some lovely countryside village, into the home of a couple of dignitaries.

After all, he's to be the Lord of Lords. No one would have thought of a peasant couple, husband to carpenter, a wife who probably cleaned homes as a living. Who would have ever thought of them or her womb, a virgin womb? What an indescribable gift. You're listening to Insight for Living, and our teacher Chuck Swindoll is just getting started with his three-part presentation called Mary's Little Lamb. It's one part of a larger teaching series, a classic from Chuck called Growing Deep in the Christian Life.

For online study notes that complement his 22-part series, look for Searching the Scriptures at insightworld.org slash studies. Several years ago, Chuck said something in one of his messages that has become widely quoted. He was preaching about the virtue of developing a godly perspective. In his message about attitudes, Chuck said, I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react. Chuck went on to say that all of us are on a journey, but when it comes right down to it, we are the only ones who can choose how we will react to what life throws at us. Chuck's new book will help you determine your choice, and you can be among the first to own a copy by getting in touch with us today.

Chuck's book is called Life is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React. To purchase a copy right now, go to insight.org slash store. You can also purchase a copy by calling us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Bear in mind that Insight for Living is a nonprofit ministry solely supported by the voluntary contributions of listeners, and your gift, no matter the size, truly makes a difference in providing these daily visits with Chuck. To give a one-time donation today, just give us a call. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Or you can join our team of regular monthly givers. You can become one of our monthly companions right now by calling us. One of our ministry reps will walk you through the process. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Or you can become a monthly companion by following the simple instructions at insight.org slash monthly companion. I'm Bill Meyer, inviting you to join us next time when Chuck Swindoll continues his series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life, and we'll hear on Insight for Living. .
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