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The Zeal of the Lord (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 27, 2021 3:00 am

The Zeal of the Lord (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 27, 2021 3:00 am

Many people desire a god of their own design—one whose purpose is to grant their every wish. But a man-made god offers little comfort when our circumstances become overwhelming. Learn who God really is when you join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


Truth for Life
Alistair Begg
Truth for Life
Alistair Begg
Running to Win
Erwin Lutzer
Running to Win
Erwin Lutzer
Truth for Life
Alistair Begg

It's not uncommon for people to create a God of their own design, a God whose purpose is to grant their every wish. But a man-made God like that offers little comfort when our circumstances are overwhelming. And today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg helps us see God for who He is as we continue our series, A Child Is Born.

Here's Alistair with part 1 of a message titled The Zeal of the Lord. Now, we're going to read from Isaiah chapter 9, and beginning at verse 1, we turn to Isaiah 9 for the seventh and, I think, the last time, at least within this present series. Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.

In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles by way of the sea along the Jordan. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy. They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian's defeat you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to as a child is born, to as a son is given. And the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Amen. When the angel came and visited Mary and made what was a quite startling announcement concerning the fact that she was going to give birth to a son, that his name was to be Jesus, concerning the fact that he would be great, would be called the Son of the Most High, that he would reign on the throne of his father David and over the house of Jacob forever, Mary displays her humility, her honesty, her intense practicality by answering what might be regarded as the obvious question, How will this be? How will this be? How is it possible that the things that you, angel, have said concerning what is conceived in me will be fulfilled in the way that you have described? In much the same way, as we come to the end of this prophetic passage in Isaiah chapter 9, and as we come to the final sentence of it, the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this, we are at the end of one of the more startling and dramatic messianic prophecies that Isaiah gives us. He's told us that a child is to be born, that this child will establish a kingdom, that unlike any other kingdom this one will never end. He will be the Prince of Peace, and his peace will prevail. He is to be the King who will end all kings.

No one will come after him. He's in need of no successor. No one is going to come along and say, I think we can improve on what has been done.

Because no improvement will be necessary, no improvement will be possible. And what is being prophesied here by Isaiah is propelling its way through the story of redemption history till finally we get to the place where Paul summarizes the expectation in the phraseology, and one day, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. It is that kind of deep-seated conviction which provides clarity in our proclamation, which gives to us a spirit of boldness, hopefully tempered by humility, so as to be able to speak into our generation words that are quite staggering to the ears of men and women. And when we feel enabled to do so, to speak to those who are in authority over us, to confront, as it were, the structures of our day—the political structures and the financial structures, all of the structures of our day—with news of this amazing Prince of Peace, then we find that we stand on the shoulders of those who've gone before.

Just this week, in receiving the gift of a new copy of the Calvin's Institutes, which were written in the seventeenth century as a theological, structured guide and as a devotional help, I read for the first time the letter that Calvin wrote to the king of France, Francis I, in 1636, providing him with a copy of this theological tome that he had written. And he wrote to him as follows, Your duty, most serene prince, is not to shut your ears or mind against a cause involving such mighty interests as these. And then he outlines the mighty interests. How the glory of God is to be maintained on the earth. How the truth of God is to preserve its dignity. How the kingdom of Christ is to continue among us, compact and secure.

The cause is worthy of your ear, worthy of your investigation, worthy of your throne. The characteristic of a true sovereign is to announce that, in the administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory acts not the part of a king but of a robber. Now, what possible conviction would possess Calvin as a theologian to write to the king of France in such a way, except that he recognizes the truth that is contained in the final sentence of the seventh verse of Isaiah chapter 9, the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this? Because when we stand back from Isaiah's portrait and we view something of its vastness, then I think that if we're honest, we find ourselves asking the question Mary asked—namely, how will this be? It's as though Isaiah anticipates that question in the mind of the reader, and so he answers it before there is further cause for alarm.

And he recognizes that these events that he has described will not transpire in the ordinary course of affairs. For all of this to take place, it will demand the Lord Almighty—variously translated, the Lord of hosts, this Almighty God who is the God of unbounded power, who is the God of unlimited resources—it will need him and his zeal to accomplish all of this. And that is exactly what Isaiah declares. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. If we might put it in common parlance, it's as though God, speaking through his prophets, says to his people, Don't worry, I will see to it.

Don't worry, I will see to it. And in the sense that those of us who have enjoyed earthly fathers who were able to pronounce such things and then to come good on their promises, we've had just a little inkling of God's fatherhood and ability to make sure he sees things through. So, for example, maybe your dad, like my dad, would always tell me, Don't worry, I will wake you up. There is no need for you to set your alarm. I will be up before you, and I will wake you.

And for all the years I had him, I never, ever had to set an alarm, because he always did what he promised to do. He would see to all kinds of things in my life, and earthly fathers and mothers have done the same as is represented in this congregation. And in a far greater way, God, the Almighty God, the Lord of hosts, the one who comes in the passionate commitment to the exercise of his purposes, speaks through his prophet, and he says, Don't worry, I will see to it. Now, what remains for us is not a study in 3D, as in the artistic world, but a study in 3Ds.

And I have 3Ds for you in relationship to the zeal of the Lord Almighty. First of all, that zeal defined, then that zeal displayed, and then that zeal discovered. First of all, then, let's try and define our terms. It is important to define things because, without definition, we can pour into words any kind of meaning we want at all.

I know that that is contemporary, a sort of philosophical speculation, and it works fairly well when people are just engaging in late-night philosophical ramblings, but it doesn't really work when you're trying to pinpoint your place on a map in terms of coordinates, nor in terms of transatlantic flight, nor in terms of microsurgery. And it certainly doesn't work in terms of theology. What, then, is the zeal? Well, we need to understand that zeal and jealousy in God are two sides of the same concept. God is both zealous and jealous. Indeed, we might say that God is zealous because he is jealous. And the reason he is jealous is because he is love. And both his zeal and his jealousy emerge from a heart that is compassionate and devoted. This kind of love is a love that will brook no rivals, and it's the love that is provoked by disloyalty. We will immediately go wrong if we start to think of jealousy in the terms of our human pettiness, the kind of envy that resents what another has and wants it just because we don't have it.

Nothing could be further from that which is revealed here. The jealousy of God, the zeal of God, is that which displays a desire to protect and to provide—to protect and provide for those who are the objects of his love. If we want to argue from the lesser to the greater or try and descend to get a picture of what we're referencing, we might think in terms of the unwillingness of a wife to share her husband's affection with another. It couldn't possibly be a mark of fatality and monogamy to be prepared to share the affections of your spouse with someone else. Any wife or husband worth their salt wants to guard zealously and jealously the affection of the one who has become the object of their love. There's no surprise in that. It is a corrupt and unstable mind.

It is an immoral posture that deviates from that in any dimension at all. If we don't go there, perhaps we can go to the protective love of a father for his daughter, who protects with a zeal and a right jealousy the honor of his daughter in every place and amongst all people. This is my daughter. You may not say that of her. This is my daughter.

You may not treat her that way. I am absolutely passionately committed to her, to her protection, to her provision, and to her honor. Every father worthy of the word father understands that. And when we go from the lesser to the greater and then we look to God, who is the epitome of fatherhood, who is, if you like, the great bridegroom, preparing his people as a bride for himself, then you realize the extent of his zeal and his love. And he is zealous for his own honor and for his own glory. And he is allowed to be because he's God. The reason that many of us have trouble with the idea that God protects his own honor and glory and provides for it is because we want to be God, and there is only one God. And that is why the chief end of man, as the Shorter Catechism tells us, the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Now, it is in this realm that zeal is, if you like, then a component of true love and certainly a component of God's covenant love. Because God loves unreservedly those who are the object of his affection, he is zealous in his provision and protection of them.

He is jealous in the way in which he guards them, because ultimately through them he gets glory to his name, and he is concerned ultimately for his own glory. Secondly, let's go on and see how this then is displayed. How should we view this as being displayed? Well, let me suggest to you in two simple ways. First of all, that we see the zeal of the Lord Almighty displayed in God's plan or in his purpose or in his will.

We can use those words interchangeably. The zeal of the Lord Almighty displayed in his plan or in his will. Ephesians chapter 1, Paul reaches back before the creation of the world when he thinks in terms of God's will or his purpose or plan. And he speaks about the eternal counsels of his will. You can actually see that if you turn to Ephesians chapter 1 in verse 4, for he chose us in him before the creation of the world. Now, the reason this is important is because it makes it very clear to us that this plan of God in redemption is not something that he executed in time in order to correct a defect in the system. It's not as though he was the CEO of a vast corporation, and the stock took a dramatic dip late on a Friday afternoon, and he fired a few people on early Monday morning and rearranged the various departments in order that he could go on the phone to Wall Street and tell them that really the object of the next few months was very, very clear and defined, and the changes that have been introduced to correct what has been a very faulty problem will now unfold in a way that will restore the stock to its place of honor and significance. No.

There's nothing like that at all. It is not that we're introduced to a plan that is executed in a moment in time to correct something that has gone wrong, but rather, we're told that it is a plan that is established in eternity to achieve a purpose which cannot be gainsaid—not in time to fix a defect, but in eternity to achieve a purpose. I don't want to belabor this, but I want to show you three verses, if your Bible is open, and it should be. In verse 5, first of all, you will notice that he says that he's doing this in accordance with his pleasure and will—God's pleasure and his will, interwoven. The purpose there in verse 6, you will see, is to the praise of his glorious grace. In verse 9, and he made known to us the mystery of his will.

Notice again, according to his good pleasure. Notice again, which he purposed in Christ. And he was going to put that into effect, he says, in verse 10, when the times have reached their fulfillment. And then in verse 11, in him we were also chosen, having been predestined according, again notice, to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. In other words, God's covenant love is at the epicenter of his plan for the world. God's covenant love is at the very center of his plan for the world. That, I think, is why so many of us love to read John 3.16, isn't it? For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. That's at the very heart of the plan and purpose of God. And God's design and his zealous commitment, his passionate commitment, if you like—for zeal is ardor, zeal is passion—his passionate commitment to his people is such that even when things seem most wrong, he remains absolutely, inevitably, unquenchingly committed to fulfill what he has purposed. The hymn writer puts it, Ill that he blesses is our good, And unblessed good is ill, And all is right that seems most wrong, If it be his sweet will. You see, we have to always revert to, I'll see to it.

I'll see to it. And the journey of the Christian is essentially the journey of discovering increasingly the reliability, the trustworthiness of the Father's promises. So much so that we're able, then, to encounter that which runs in the crosshairs, as it were, to what would seem best.

And if you doubt that, you need only to read the Bible. You can go back and start from the beginning and read it all the way through, and you discover that the unfolding plan of God is an expression of his zeal. So let's take just one illustration—you can read about it in Genesis 45 as homework—when Joseph's brothers are finally made aware of the fact that the encounter that they've been having with this individual, the representative of the Pharaohs, is none other than an encounter with their own brother. You'll remember that their reaction is one of fear, lest he punishes them. It's one of sadness in relationship to their guilt, because after all, they were the ones who'd conceived of the plan to put him in the pit.

They were the ones who connived the notion so that they could take the deceitful story back to his dad. And now they stand before this individual, and he says to them, Ego, I me. It is me. It is Joseph. I'm Joseph. And as they weep and are troubled, what does he say to them? It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.

Don't be troubled. What was Joseph doing? Joseph was recognizing, in the most dire circumstances, the fact of God's plan.

In the sixties, J. B. Phillips, who paraphrased for us the New Testament, wrote a book entitled Your God is Too Small. And he wrote it to the church. And he wrote it to the church in the sixties to say, you know, our conception of God is so limited, he could never have conceived of how small the God is in contemporary evangelicalism—a God who exists to meet our needs, a God who exists to fix our finances, a God who exists to do all these things for us, as if somehow or another he were a genie, and all we had to do was rub his tummy. And it is not out in the environment of paganism that we see so much the disfigurement of the God of the Bible.

It is within the contemporary ranks of the church that is so patently obvious. Because as soon as anything goes counter to our desires, as soon as something doesn't fit the way we plan it, we're immediately up in arms, because our God is too small. God's love is at the very core of his eternal purpose for our lives, even when our plans go drastically wrong.

You're listening to Alistair Begg, and this is Truth for Life. Having a limited view of God actually cripples our faith. That's one of the reasons why our mission at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible every single day. Our goal is to keep our messages clear, to show how the Bible's instruction is relevant to life today, and our prayer is that God will use Alistair's teaching to reach people who don't know Jesus, to build up believers in their faith, and to strengthen local churches. When you donate to Truth for Life, this is the mission you're supporting.

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It's written so you can use these prayers as part of your own personal devotion time. Request your copy of Piercing Heaven when you sign up to become a Truth partner or when you make a one-time donation at slash donate. And if you'd prefer, you can always call us. Our number is 888-588-7884.

I'm Bob Lapine. Be sure to join us tomorrow for the conclusion of today's message. We'll find out how the zeal of the Lord gives life to the dead. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-04 17:35:32 / 2023-07-04 17:44:02 / 9

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