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178 - The Great Sunrise

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin
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December 23, 2023 1:00 pm

178 - The Great Sunrise

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin

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December 23, 2023 1:00 pm

Episode 178 - The Great Sunrise (23 Dec 2023) by A Production of Main Street Church of Brigham City

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Alistair Begg

You pick up your Bible and wonder, is there more here than meets the eye?

Is there anything here for me? I mean, it's just words printed on paper, right? Well, it may look like just print on a page, but it's more than ink. Join us for the next half hour as we explore God's Word together, as we learn how to explore it on our own, as we ask God to meet us there in its pages.

Welcome to More Than Ink. We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas.

Okay, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. This is Christmas, but why should we be merry? Well, Christmas, family, trees, lights, food.

Ah, yes. But from heaven's perspective, something much more important makes us merry about Christmas. Well, what does the Bible really say? We'll look at it today on More Than Ink. Well, a special good morning and welcome to you on this Christmas weekend. I'm Jim. And I'm Dorothy.

And this is More Than Ink. And today we're going to take a break in our passage in Matthew because Jesus was getting pretty confrontive with the Pharisees. So we're going to let that chill for a little bit. And since this is airing on the Saturday before Christmas of this year, we thought, well, let's do Christmas. We don't get to do Christmas much. And the following week, next week, we'll do a little bit of New Year's thinking as we look ahead to 2024. Yeah, kind of a New Year's preparedness.

Yeah, yeah. But right now, let's do Christmas. And so I don't know about you, but for me, the essence of the Christmas story isn't so much about shepherds and angels. It's about what's going to be said in today's passage. And I think as a child, I never understood the relationship of John the Baptist to Jesus. And so that's why we're going to kind of zero in on the birth of John the Baptist in this conversation. Yeah, we never really include him in our thinking about it.

But it's the process of John the Baptist coming. And if you remember from the Old Testament, he's the one who's supposed to make a way for Jesus. And he prepares people's hearts in a special kind of way. He was very famous in the Old Testament.

He was looked forward to. But we never think of him in the Christmas context. And because he's born, you know, what, six months before Jesus is. Well, you know, and you said he was very famous in the Old Testament in the way our Old Testament is arranged. The very last verses of our Old Testament talk about this one, the forerunner who will come before Messiah.

And so what we do is we focus today on John the Baptist's father. We'll call him Zachariah. Many times in your Bibles we'll say Zacharias.

It's the same guy. Zacharias is just the Greek version of the Hebrew Zachariah. So we'll say Zachariah. But we need to do a back story first, I guess, a little bit on what happens before we jump into it. If you want to start turning to where we're going to go, we're going to be in Luke 1 in the big numbers, 57.

But here's the back story. And we'll do this as quick as we can because we want to get to what he's going to say. But Zachariah is a priest. And he had the privilege because he had drawn by lot to go into the temple and to go into the temple and burn incense. And while he's there, he decides, man, I'm about as close to the Lord as I'm ever going to get. I'm going to pray about the most important thing on the heart of myself and my wife Elizabeth, which is we're old and we don't have any children.

We'd love to have children. So while he's there at the altar of incense, which by the way, pictures prayer. So he prays and as he prays then what happens? Well, the angel Gabriel appears.

Just like that. And says, I'm Gabriel who stands in the presence of God and I've come to tell you something. And I've heard your prayer and you're going to have a child. But now the problem is Zacharias doesn't completely believe this.

Well, and we know he doesn't believe it because Gabriel actually says to him, because you didn't believe me when I told you. Right. So Zacharias had said, well, how am I going to know for certain that this is going to be? Yeah.

Right. Because his wife was old and they had been one child for a long time. So the angel Gabriel tells him, so you're going to be silent and unable to speak until the baby is born. So I would encourage you listeners to go back and read that.

That's that whole story. The backstories in Luke one, verses five to 25, which come before it comes before the annunciation to marry. So Luke has woven these two stories together so beautifully. So the part we're going to read today picks up in verse 57 of chapter one after the annunciation story to marry. And we know that Mary then hustled and spent some time with her relative Elizabeth.

Right. So now Jesus has not been born yet. And as we pick up the story today, John the Baptist will be born today. And as you recall from what Gabriel had told Zachariah, the moment this child is born and you name him, you'll get your tongue back. And it's what he says when he gets his tongue back that we want to look at closely today. So let's pick it up in 57 as the story proceeds. Take it away for us.

Okay. Verse 57 of chapter one. Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth and she bore a son and her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child and they would have called him Zachariah after his father. But his mother answered, no, he shall be called John. And they said to her, none of your relatives is called by this name. And they made signs to his father inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, his name is John. And they all wondered.

Okay. I want to stop there for just a second because sometimes we think that Zachariah only couldn't speak. This is evidence that that being in silence and unable to speak, he was both deaf and dumb. You know that Gabriel had given him the two signs or two of the many signs of Messiah that he would experience in his own body, right?

The deaf would hear and the dumb would speak. But he had had all these months during Elizabeth's pregnancy to be in silence. Only time to contemplate what God had promised through the prophets, which all comes into play in the song that he sings once he opens his mouth. Yeah. Cause we use as evidence in 62, they made signs to him. Right.

Well, if he could hear, they didn't need to make signs. Right. But they clearly were inquiring of him.

You know, your wife says, we're going to name him John. Do you agree with that? So he writes on the tablet in verse 63, his name is John and they all were wondering. Right. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed and he spoke blessing God. Well, there it is.

Isaiah 35 says that the deaf will hear, the tongue of the dumb will speak and all will praise God. Right. So it's like this very clear messianic sign. Yeah.

Oh yeah. Fulfilled in Zechariah. And verse 65, and fear came on all their neighbors and all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts saying, what then will this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him. So they're watching John the Baptist from the day of his birth. Right.

Yeah, exactly. So his tongue is loosed and after nine months of not being able to hear or speak, he decides to bless God, it says right there. And that's what starts in verse 67.

Oh, it's so beautiful. So let's take a close look at this because this is not just about John the Baptist. This is about the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist. And what's amazing to me is that Zechariah, after all these months of just being alone with his own thoughts and God's word to him, when he opens his mouth, he has thought this through and he has gathered up all the strings of Old Testament prophecy and just proclaims them all together in this beautiful song.

It's just really interesting, really insightful. Of course, it filled with the Holy Spirit. So we're seeing, okay, we're seeing a heavenly glimpse of this event at the birth of these two boys. Okay, so you want me to go on over 68? Absolutely. Here we go.

I'm excited. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David. As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham to grant us that we being delivered from the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. Let's take a break there. Because right after this, he mentions John the Baptist specifically, but he's talking about the big event.

He is. This is the big event that is the birth of the Messiah. And he hasn't even quite raised the whole issue of John the Baptist yet.

So when you think about Christmas, we think about Christmas trees, we think about holly, we think about all the trappings of Christmas, we think about family. But with Zachariah right here, we're gaining a glimpse into heaven's view of the birth of Jesus. Let's go back. Let's go back to verse 68. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.

That right there is a mouthful. He's visited and redeemed his people. God himself has visited. And I've always loved that word visited because when you look it up in the Greek, it literally transliterates into in on looked. So we have a way of saying that today someone looks in on somebody, that's exactly this. So the God of the universe in the birth of Jesus has looked in on humanity. I just love that. I love it too. You know, when you come to look in on somebody, you don't do it just to spy on them, right?

You look in on them to see how they're doing and how you can help them to show them mercy. Yeah, yeah. And he's going to use the same word again in verse 78. So hold on to your seats when he uses it again. He's visited us.

Well, for what reason? He's redeemed his people. And remember, we've talked about this word redeem, always means to purchase, right to pay ransom, or the fact that there's a debt. So in the just this little phrase, he says that God himself has looked in on humanity for the purpose of paying the ransom. Right there, that right there.

That's, that's Christmas right there. And do you notice that the verb he uses in the past, right? He says he's already done already done. Oh, wait, Jesus isn't going to be born for another couple of months. So you know, he really does have an eternal view here.

Oh, absolutely. Because heaven every time heaven speaks, it is from an eternal perspective. It's not a from a today or yesterday, tomorrow is like a forever. So in God's perception of the non timeline of heaven, it's already happened.

It's already happened. He has looked in on humanity and has paid the price for their redemption. And then 69 is a great phrase.

It's another one that I really, really love an awful lot. And we see this word horn. And that's often misunderstood when people when people read this, it literally just means something that projects out. It's like a horn on top of an animal's head, you know, so when an animal decides to pierce something when it's with his horn, you know, we're talking about a ton of animal behind a tiny little right, it's that focus, focused power, focused power. You see this a lot in Revelation when you talk about the various countries or entities that have power, the seven horns, 10 horns, those mean power, focused power. So when he says in 69, he's raised up a horn of salvation, he's saying that he has raised up a focused power for the purpose of our salvation. Wow, that is just awesome.

That is just awesome. And you know, and that idea of a horn of salvation, I was curious, it shows up in the Old Testament a couple of places. Most prominently, when David is finally gets out from under the attacks from Saul, he does a prayer that's also copied in Psalm 18. But in second Samuel 22, he says that very thing, you know, you're not only my refuge and my shield God, but you are the horn of my salvation, you are the protect, you are the projection of focused power to save me. So this is a really well known phrase in terms of Old Testament ideas as well. Well, so he's raised up a focused power for salvation, where in the house of his servant David. Now we're talking Old Testament prophecy coming to life.

I'm waiting for you to come up for air. Well, we know them, you know, the Messiah has got to come out of the house of David right in the blood of the actually the descendant of David. And that's that's really well known.

So sure enough, this baby is that very thing. That's why that's why Mary and Joseph are in Bethlehem, because they're registering them from the demon. So Zechariah says in verse 70, just like he said he would, right, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, he told us from the very beginning, that we should be saved from our enemies in the hand of all who hate us.

So initially, that message was interpreted as a political salvation, right? Because God had promised you're going to possess the gates of all your enemies, you're the people who are going to be my representatives on earth, you're going to reign. But look where Zechariah goes with it in verse 72.

I know. To show the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant and the oath he swore to our father, Abraham. Now I stopped there and thought, well, what did God promise? To Abraham. To Abraham.

Right, right. Well, he promised a number of things, but he promised that Abraham would become a blessing to all nations. And that through Abraham, God would make himself known, right?

And that God promised Abraham, I've heard you, you've believed me, I've reckoned you righteous because you believed me. That's in Genesis 15. So Paul builds a whole New Testament all in the book of Romans. All of Romans is that. It's built on that single verse from Genesis 15.

Yeah, exactly, exactly. But Zechariah here says this is an act of God's mercy that he promised. He's remembered what he's promised. He swore to Abraham to do this, to grant us, and here's his understanding of what the promise really means, that we being delivered from the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Now that's a mouthful right there. Well, you really have to take a big view of those Old Testament promises to gain that understanding. And where I went with that is back to Genesis 22, the story of Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him. If you go and read that story, what God says to Abraham in that context is, Abraham first says, God will provide the lamb because you remember Isaac says, well, we got everything, but where's the lamb? Where's the lamb? God will provide. God does provide the lamb. And in the next verse it says, Abraham then named that place in the mount of the Lord, it will be provided. It will be provided. Right.

Yeah. And God then says, because you believed me, I will greatly bless you and all nations will be blessed through you. So I think Zechariah has been thinking about that and that the lamb that God gave in Isaac's place is the one that was sacrificed substitutionally for Isaac, which is this huge model of what Christ will do for us. And because of that, he says, and holiness and righteousness come to us because of that substitutionary lamb.

And John the Baptist, when he grew up, he's the one who spotted Jesus coming and said, look, there's the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Right. Right. Right. So somehow Zechariah has gathered all of that together. Yeah.

Oh yeah. And I might point out in a simpler sense, he's talking about from a kingdom perspective. The idea was to live in God's kingdom. Right. And Israel was the early prototype of a more spiritual kingdom that includes all more than just the Jews, but a kingdom where in the king himself is God.

Right. And this king provides protection from our enemies. That is the people who are set out to destroy us and in a larger, more real sense, it's a spiritual battle that's going on, the ones who are committed to destroying us. And sure enough, they go down when Jesus is crucified. But the transformation of us as citizens is what blows me away in 74 and 75 because to live in this kingdom, we are now free to not worry about our enemies, worry about Satan and all.

I want to take this down. We can actually serve God without fear. We can serve God in this kingdom in holiness and righteousness.

That's a brand new kind of thing. In holiness, holiness always implies being set apart. That is set apart from that old way of living in the fleshly world and righteousness is doing it in such a way that it perfectly aligns with the character of God and goodness. So that's who we are as transformed citizens in this kingdom. We've been relieved from the fear of our enemies. We've been equipped to actually serve Him all our days.

Wow. And how do we get there? Because that's when Zechariah now turns his attention to speak to the baby, right? And you, child, verse 76, will be called the prophet of the Most High.

But don't go there yet. Going for the forgiveness part. Oh, I see. I see. And yet to be able to live in holiness and righteousness, the knowledge of salvation that comes through the forgiveness of sin. Yes, yes.

Not by earning it in any kind of way. I was going to mention that Paul himself uses this phrase about holiness and righteousness in Ephesians 4. He says, put off the old self. But he says, put on the new self. This is the new self created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. That's Ephesians 4.24. Paul is saying, this is happening like right now. This isn't at the end of the age. You have been made citizens of the king of the universe because of what Christ has done for you.

Yeah. But as you said, this is all possible. The transformation that comes to us is through our repentance and God's forgiveness. And that's what John the Baptist had to come and change people's thinking about because Jesus would come saying, I'm your savior. And John the Baptist would come in a simplistic way saying, you need a savior. You need to say repent. You need to repent. That's how that was the preparation for the message of Messiah. You are full of sin and you must change your mind and go a different direction because the king is coming and he's going to demand your attention and your allegiance.

Yeah. And there was this presumption by the Jews that they were already born into the kingdom of God because they were Jews. They had the right blood, all that kind of stuff. And you remember it was John the Baptist as he was out there baptizing when he saw the Pharisees come and say, look, if you think that that's going to gain you entry into the kingdom, you're wrong because God can look at these stones and turn them into sons of Abraham. So don't think that you're in just because you got the right blood.

Yeah. It's about faith. It's about repentance. It's about something that Christ sings to this baby. You will go before the Lord to prepare his ways to give the knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins. Forgiveness of their sins.

Because of the tender mercy of our God whereby the sunrise shall visit us on high to give light to those who sit in darkness in the shadow of death to guide our feet into the way of peace. Wow, this is something else. Talk about condensing the entire gospel message.

It's true. And from a heavenly perspective. And it's because of God's mercy that he fulfills his promises to us. It's his mercy.

Not because of anything we do. Yeah. So John the Baptist goes, he says in 77, to give us understanding, this knowledge that salvation is through the forgiveness of sins. And it's not, you can't earn it because in 78 it's because of the tender mercy of God.

By his mercy he decided to do this. And then he switches his language in 78 into something that's almost cosmic. It's so beautiful. Well, it is. It is cosmic. Whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high.

There's that word. The light dawn. What's a sunrise? It's the beginning of a new day. It's the light shining. The shadows are banished away to give light to those who sit in darkness in the shadow of death. Well, that harkens back to Isaiah nine.

Those who sit in darkness will see a great light. Yeah. And it's the whole metaphor is just so great. We don't get it until we're camping, you know?

Right. And you get up too early in the morning, it's still dark and you wait for the sun in a way to come to you. And so when you're in darkness, you can't see the way things are. You're kind of stubbing your toe on everything. And he says, darkness here is darkness in the shadow of death.

It's a bad situation. And then in the midst of all these people sitting in this darkness, this sunrise starts to encroach on their darkness and gives them a whole change of perspective in how life is meant to be lived. So he's been thinking about the prophet Malachi because Malachi has said in chapter four, verse two, but for you who fear my name, the son of righteousness, S-U-N, right? The sunrise. The light that lights living. The son of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, right? That's that the beautiful rays of sun that come, that shine out. Those were known as the wings of the sunrise. With healing in its wings and you'll go forth and skip about like calves from the stall, right?

You're going to jump with joy and celebrate because you've been set free. Yep. Yep. It's such a great picture. It's such a beautiful picture. Well, and you know, the picture of sitting in darkness, the shadow of death, that comes straight out of Psalm 107.

It's mentioned a couple of times. And I use that a lot when I talk about people who don't know the Lord, because I think about the fact that they're sitting, they're passive. They don't, they don't like life. You know, things look dark. They don't know how to fix life. They have no source of life.

Everything feels oppressive to them. And all they are is waiting for death. That's the shadow of death. They know that death is coming in its shadows encroaching on them. It's really a very depressing view of what life without God is like, but God's saying here, you don't have to live like that.

The sunrise is coming and that summarize is the birth of Jesus himself. Wow. And so you can walk in the light. Right. And you can see how to guide your feet into the way of peace. Yes. So what kind of peace is that?

Because we all get Christmas cards, even from people who don't believe in God. Peace on earth and good will toward men. Right. Well, you can interpret that just if you take that little fragment of verses, just people being at peace with one another at the end of war.

Not hitting each other. But God is not talking about that. He's not just talking about the absence of hostility. He's talking about the presence of well-being in relationship with God.

Right. As Paul says in Romans 5, 1, we have peace with God. We've been introduced into this relationship of peace with God, not just the absence of anger and hostility because of our sin, but the presence of Shalom, of well-being, the fullness of the blessedness of being in God. Which also outflows into your relationship with other people.

Exactly. That's the source of peace among mankind. That's the source of peace among men. Peace with God.

Yeah. And it'll be evidenced among those who know God by those who show peace in the midst of their relationships. There'll always be friction between people, but there's peace there. I looked up Isaiah 59, a very famous chapter, and he says, these people who sit in this darkness, the way of peace they do not know, he says.

This is 59, 8. The way of peace they do not know. There is no justice in their paths. They've made their roads crooked and no one who treads on them knows peace. So here the coming of Jesus, the birth of Jesus is really the sunrise that illumines the path to the way of peace, which mankind has always waited for. And he's called the Prince of Peace. Yeah. And Paul says in Colossians 1, 20, that he has made peace, God has made peace through the blood of the cross of Jesus. Right. Right. And so we cannot separate the peace that's spoken of here from the blood of the lamb who was sacrificed to forgive our sin.

Right. Cause he was born to die. That was his purpose.

That was his purpose. So, you know, often we just our focus on the sweet little coming of the baby at Christmas time, but this is a baby who was destined to die for us and who's shed blood is what purchases our peace with God because the ransom, what we owe God from our sin has been paid. Has been paid. Yep. As he says in the past tense, he has visited us and has redeemed us. Has redeemed us.

The ransom has been paid. Yeah. So the birth of Jesus is, it's like a brand new day in the darkness of humanity.

That's what, this is how revolutionary this is. A brand new day in the darkness of humanity and this one has come. Let's read verse 80 and quit. What do you say?

Sure. And the child grew, this is John, the child grew and became strong in spirit and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel. Talking about the one who has come and when he comes, this is the lamb of God. So preparing the forerunner, he lived a holy separated life in preparation for this.

Exactly. Short period of time when he would point out the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Well, this is a fantastic passage. We hope it changes your Christmas and your perspective on Christmas because this is indeed heaven's perspective on Christmas itself.

So I'm Jim and I'm Dorothy. Have a great Christmas and draw near to the one who loves you. Bye. There are many more episodes of this broadcast to be found at our website, And while you are there, take a moment to drop us a note. Remember, the Bible is God's love letter to you.

Pick it up and read it for yourself and you will discover that the words printed there are indeed more than ink. We're good? Excellent. Okay. This has been a production of Main Street Church of Britain Street.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-23 14:17:15 / 2023-12-23 14:28:55 / 12

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