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Infancy Hymns

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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December 21, 2023 12:01 am

Infancy Hymns

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 21, 2023 12:01 am

The gospel of Luke opens with three songs that celebrate the coming of the Messiah. Today, R.C. Sproul shows how these songs point back to the covenant promises that God gave to His people about Christ's arrival.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

The consolation that God had prepared for His people was the Messiah. And this is another title for Jesus, the consolation of Israel, the one who will bring peace, the one who will bring in His own work the tender mercy of God, that all of the hopes, all of the dreams, all of the promises that have been given to and through the prophets would meet in Him. As you and I rejoice and celebrate the coming of Christ at that first Christmas, our homes and our church services are filled with Christmas hymns. I'm sure you can think of some of your favorites, but did you know that there are hymns in the Gospels that celebrate the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of God's people? Welcome to the Thursday edition of Renewing Your Mind, as we've been spending this week considering the Incarnation, the Word made flesh during this Christmas season.

Each message is from a different series with R.C. Sproul, and you can learn how to request access to all five at So what is your favorite Christmas hymn? Well, after today, perhaps you'll have a new favorite, one from the New Testament.

Here's Dr. Sproul. What I want to look at today is a portion of the biblical record of Jesus' birth and aspects about it. We know that in Matthew's Gospel and in Luke's Gospel, we get an account of the birth of Jesus.

But before He was born, first of all, there is the record of what we call the Annunciation, that is, the announcement that the angel Gabriel makes to Mary of the pregnancy that she will undergo as she is being overshadowed by the power of the Holy Ghost. Now in Luke's Gospel, we have as part of the record the account of three songs that are given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and I think that's a very significant aspect that's often overlooked with respect to the work of Christ. For centuries in the Old Testament tradition, whenever God would perform a particularly significant work of deliverance or rescue of redemption, that action of God on behalf of His people would be celebrated in song, the song of Moses, the song of Miriam, the song of Deborah, and so on to the very end of the New Testament where in the book of Revelation we are told that at some point the Lord will give His people a new song as our redemption is completed. But Luke records for us three songs that are composed celebrating the incarnation. One is the song of Mary. One is the song of Zacharias to whom the angel appeared and announced the birth of John the Baptist. And the third song is the song of Simeon that occurs when the baby Jesus is brought for dedication into the temple. And I want to look briefly at these songs because their content reveals significant dimensions to us of the work of Jesus. Now let's start with the song of Mary, perhaps the most famous of the three.

And by the way, these songs in our tradition are known by the first word of the song in Latin. And so the first opening words of Mary's song in Latin are the words magnificat where she says, my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Savior. Now she's singing this song after she has contemplated the significance of the visitation that she experienced from Gabriel and also from her encounter with her cousin Elizabeth. Now why is she magnifying God? Well, the first thing she says is this, for He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant. You can sense how Mary is overwhelmed that of all of the women in the history of the world, this peasant girl has been selected by God to be the mother of the Messiah.

And it's like she's saying, I can't get over this. He's noticed me. He has regarded me in my low estate. This is the original Cinderella story where Cinderella is discovered finally as the one who so won the heart of the prince. And Mary sings this song under the Holy Spirit's guidance. She says, behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed, for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy and holy is His name. It's the Holy One who noticed me. It's the Holy One who has given me this unspeakable privilege.

It is the Holy One in all of His power and majesty. You remember when the angel told her that she was going to conceive this baby, and she said, how is this possible when I don't know a man? And the angel replied, Mary, with God all things are possible. The one who brings life and universes out of nothing, life out of death, can bring life in your womb just as the Spirit of God hovered over the waters in the early dawn of creation.

So that same Spirit will hover over you so that what you will conceive in your womb will be regarded as holy. So she's celebrating the breathtaking power of God. And His mercy is on those who fear Him, from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with His arm. He scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly.

I think of a table where all the weapons of the world are placed in opposition to God, and God with the strength of His right arm just simply sweeps them away with one gesture. That's the way Mary sees it. He's scattered the mighty. He's pulled down the mighty and the proud from their seats of power, stripped them of their power and exalted the lowly.

He's filled the hungry with good things, but the rich He has sent away empty, and He has helped His servant Israel. Now notice that at the end of this song, she ties together what she has heard from the angel and from Elizabeth with the nation of Israel. She understands that this baby that has been conceived in her womb is not for an isolated purpose in history but is tied to the whole of the Old Testament, to the whole expectation of the nation of Israel. And she mentions at the very end, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His seed forever. When the New Testament speaks of Jesus' birth, it speaks of His being born in the Pleroma. And that is a Greek word that, excuse the pun, is filled with meaning. The Pleroma refers and is translated by the statement, the fullness of time. That the incarnation of Christ into this world was not an afterthought or an impulse that God had and had Him born de nova like Athena out of the head of Zeus.

No. This was God's plan, and He had promised His people a redemption all tied up together with the covenant that He made with the patriarch Abraham. And the Pleroma suggests that Jesus was born in the fullness of time. And when we see people in our lives who become pregnant, women who become pregnant, and they count down the months and the weeks and the days until that time is reached for the baby to be delivered.

I remember our firstborn child was ten days past the delivery date given to us by her doctor, and I was about to lose my mind because I was ready for that time to be finished and to see our child. But there's a sense in which the whole of history has been waiting and groaning and looking for the birth of this child so that when this child comes, the child comes when time has been filled to its capacity. The idea of Pleroma, I like to think of a glass, and you try to fill a glass with water, and you don't fill it to the total tip of the glass because then you can't lift it or carry it because you'll spill it. And so we always leave a little empty space at the top of the glass. But that's not Pleroma. Pleroma is not is not even when the glass is completely full. I like to think of putting the glass under the spigot and turning the spigot on, and you fill the glass.

And as the water reaches the top, it begins to flow over because the glass cannot contain another drop of it. And that's the idea here, that history has been so prepared by God that at the exact moment that He has decreed, the perfect moment, the Pleroma, the fullness of time, Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary. There are similar themes found in the prophecy of Zacharias, who was the father of John the Baptist, when he was filled with the Holy Spirit and sang the Benedictus. Listen to the words of the Benedictus. Blessed is 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 who have been since the world began.

Now let me just pause at that point. Here the focal point of this celebration in song by Zacharias and the Benedictus focuses on the visitation, the visitation of God. And if you look at the language of that, it is based upon a verb from which we get the noun that is the Greek word for bishop, episkopos.

We heard the Episcopalian church, it's called that because its government involves the rule by bishops. But in the ancient world, what the bishop was, was the episkopos. Now the root word, scopos, is the word we get the English word scope from, telescope, microscope, cystoscope, all kinds of scopes that we have. And the scope is something that you look through to see something which you normally would not be able to see with the naked eye.

The microscope looks at tiny things that you can't see through the naked eye. The telescope looks far into the distance to see the stars in the sky and so on. And so the scope is something that you look through.

Now when you put that prefix epi, E-P-I on it, what that does is it intensifies the meaning of the root. And so an episcope is something that looks intently, forcibly, and fully at what is being examined. In the ancient Greek world, the episkopos was the general of the armies who would come to the military bases and review the troops. He would inspect them to see if they were battle ready, if they had been adequately prepared to carry on warfare. And if the troops were not ready, then there would be punishments imposed.

If they were ready during the review, then praise and benefits would be given to the troops by the episkopos. The New Testament later refers to Jesus as the Bishop of our souls, that He is our supervisor. He looks or envisions in a super way at all that is taking place in the midst of His people. And so the Jews longed for the day of the Lord when the Lord Himself would visit this planet.

They feared that the visit could be a day of darkness if He came and His people weren't ready and the time of crisis and a time of judgment. But there was also the hope of the visit of God to His people to redeem them. And here in the language of Zacharias, he says, He has visited and redeemed His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David. So now he's celebrating not the bad news of impending judgment, but the great news of a redeeming visit by God.

Remember, Jesus is given the name is given the name Immanuel, God with us. And so this hymn celebrates the visitation of God in the incarnation. And he goes on to say that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which 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 the days of our life. Do you see again how just as in the Magnificat, the Benedictus ties the coming of Christ to the covenant that God made with Abraham?

The people waited century after century after century, and Mary recognized that, and she said, That wait is over. God has remembered. He didn't forget it. He never forgets His promises. He never forgets His covenants. That's the basis upon which we live is the basis of God's making promises to us. He never forgets them.

We forget them, but He doesn't. And so both of these hymns celebrate the fulfillment of that covenant that was made to Abraham. And then he speaks of John the Baptist, a new child will be called the prophet of the highest. You will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins. Now we're getting a clue as to how this work of salvation is going to be accomplished, that whatever else it involves, it will include a remission of sins, a sending of our sins away from us, a removing our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. And it's done through the tender mercy of our God, with which the day spring from on high has visited us. This is another title for Jesus. The day spring from on high, the star that brightens the dawn, He has visited us in Christ.

To give light to those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death, and to the guide our feet into the way of peace. One more hymn I want to look at before we close today, and that is the very brief hymn that we find by Simeon. When Simeon sees Joseph and Mary bring the baby Jesus into the temple for consecration. According to the text, this venerable man, Simeon, had been promised by the Holy Ghost that he would not die until he saw the Lord's anointed. He would not die until he personally viewed the Christ who would come. And we don't know how he lived out his days in and about the temple, but I suspect that he came every day looking for the Messiah.

The promise was unfulfilled day in, day out, week in, week out, month, year by year. Every day, Simeon's there. He doesn't see the Messiah. But God had promised that he wouldn't die until he saw the Lord's anointed.

He's getting older and older and feebler and feebler. And then finally, he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms.

Simeon lifted up the baby. You can imagine Joseph and Mary coming into the temple, and they see Simeon, this old man, and he comes over and takes their baby out of their hands. And he starts to sing under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the noctemides. Now let thy servant depart in peace according to your Word. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. He is seeing with his own eyes, as we're told in verse 25, the one who is described as the consolation of Israel. Israel had grown in pain and in war and in strife and subjection, and they looked to God for their consolation. And the consolation that God had prepared for His people was the Messiah. And this is another title for Jesus, the consolation of Israel, the one who will bring peace, the one who will bring in His own work the tender mercy of God, that all of the hopes, all of the dreams, all of the promises that have been given to and through the prophets would meet in Him.

It's a tremendous celebration, but it has a foreboding footnote attached to it because also that day there was the prophetess Anna. And when Simeon was busy blessing the child and Joseph, it was said to Mary, to Mary, behold, this child is destined for the fallen rising of many in Israel and for a sign that will be spoken against. Yea, a sword will pierce through your own soul that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And so together with Anna and Simeon, this mixed message is given that this child has been set for the rising and the falling of many in Israel. But to Mary, it was said, but a sword will pierce your own soul. And it's said that Mary contemplated these things.

I'm sure many times in her life she would look at her son, what did they mean? How is it that He's going to be the Redeemer, the Messiah, but that my soul will be pierced? You just heard a message from R.C. Sproul on what he referred to as the Infancy Hymns. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind. I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. Today's message is from a series titled What Did Jesus Do?, a series in which Dr. Sproul walks us through the life and ministry of Jesus, beginning with the Incarnation and ending with a message on the future return of Christ. You can request this wonderful overview of the work of Christ, along with access to four other teaching series when you give a gift of any amount at When you do, we'll also send you the Advent of Glory, a new Christmas devotional with 24 readings and prayers. So give your year-end gift in support of this free discipleship podcast and broadcast that is serving countless Christians around the world by calling 800 435 4343 or at You'll gain access to five series with R.C. Sproul and receive the new book, The Advent of Glory.

Jesus has many titles given to him in the Bible, but what does it mean that he is called the Son of Man? That's what R.C. Sproul will consider tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-21 02:32:23 / 2023-12-21 02:40:22 / 8

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