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Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
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May 25, 2021 12:00 am


Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 25, 2021 12:00 am

As the story of Jesus' birth unfolds, Luke’s gospel reveals some surprising men who were given the divine task to be the bearers of the first gospel, the first good news. How were a bunch of lowly shepherds chosen to herald the coming of the Messiah? Join Stephen and explore the announcement of Jesus' birth!

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We need to follow the example of these shepherds and keep singing about the glory of God.

We need to follow their example. They're telling everybody they can't keep it to themselves. You say, but I'm not trained in evangelism. Well, you don't need to go to medical school to tell somebody you found a good doctor.

You don't need to go to culinary school to tell somebody you found a good restaurant. You don't need to be formally trained in theology to tell somebody you found the Savior. If this group of unlettered, illiterate, poor shepherds can do this, so can we. When the king of the universe shows up, we would at least expect him to come to very important people, probably even to kings and queens.

But you know the story. As the account of Jesus' birth unfolds, Luke's gospel reveals some surprising men who were given the divine task to be the bearers of the first gospel, the first good news. It was a group of shepherds.

How were a bunch of lowly shepherds chosen to herald the coming of the Messiah? Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey explores the announcement of Jesus' birth in a message he's calling incarnation. Well, it didn't take very long for the news to literally reach around the world that a baby boy was born, a very special baby. He was heralded as the one who would bring peace. In fact, one document outside of Scripture that survived for more than 2,000 years announced that he was the savior of mankind. His birth marked the beginning of all good tidings for the world.

The problem is they weren't talking about the birthday of Jesus. They were celebrating the birth date and reign of Caesar Gaius Octavius, later named Caesar Augustus, which means supreme or divine ruler. Augustus had ascended the seat of power after his adoptive father Julius Caesar was assassinated. Augustus took over a rather disorganized association of regions fractured by division, tribes, and over the next 45 years he forged them into the Roman Empire that we think of today. He built magnificent buildings, temples, paved roads, built aqueducts, instituted the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome. He was indeed the deliverer of peace, or so it seemed.

He administrated financial, legal, religious reforms. Several years before the birth of Christ, Halley's Comet blazed across the night sky and a middle-aged Caesar Augustus proclaimed that it was the spirit of his adoptive father Julius Caesar being ascended to his glory in heaven. The superstitious Roman Empire believed him and Augustus jumped on the opportunity and had coins minted on one side the likeness of Julius Caesar and on the other side his own likeness along with the word Caesar son of God. And the gospel accounts seem to highlight this distinction as Luke in particular begins the narrative of the birth of Christ. The birth of Christ is going to take place 1,500 miles away from the seat of Rome's power on the other side of the Mediterranean. And it's as if Luke is highlighting here at the outset, you know, listen, if you think what's really happening in the world and if you really want to talk about headlines, don't look at Rome.

You need to look 1,500 miles away to this little obscure village and what's happening there. So let me invite you to open your Bible and let's go back as we are studying through Luke's gospel and rejoin our study. We're in chapter 2 and verse 1 and we'll go through it fairly quickly. Verse 1, in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered, that is, for the purpose of taxation. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. This is almost as if to imply, as far as Luke's concerned, this would be the perspective of the world that these guys are the ones in charge. These are the ones who control the lives of the citizens in their empire. You've got the national leader in Rome and you've got the regional leader, the governor here in Syria. I mean, these guys are the movers and the shakers of power.

They're the ones calling the shots in everybody's life. I find it interesting that with all of the edicts and decrees that Caesar Augustus sent out, this wasn't the first, this won't be the last. Of all the mandates he announced, of all the speeches he delivered, of all the buildings he dedicated, of all the reforms he initiated, none of it, none of it is mentioned except this one decree.

Why? As if to say, Luke is telling us who really happens to be in charge. A decree went out from Caesar Augustus, yeah, but what's God really doing here?

What's God really doing? Well, if you're old enough in the faith, you already know. You got a young couple expecting a baby and they're living in the wrong city. They're living in Nazareth. They're not where they're going to need to be in order to fulfill the prophecy of Micah delivered 800 years earlier that the birth of the ruler of Israel, the Messiah, will take place 90 miles away in Bethlehem.

So how do you get this couple from Nazareth to Bethlehem 90 miles away at the worst possible moment of their lives? Well, God ordains the means. He controls the hearts of kings. They seem to be in control, but they are only indirectly. God is controlling history. History, as you've probably heard, is his story. And we're given here sort of an inside peek at how God is working behind the scenes. And I think this is great. God moves the heart of this Caesar to make him all of a sudden hungry for a little more tax revenue.

And he wakes up with a bright idea. I think I'll tax the whole world. And 600 senators evidently agreed and probably wholeheartedly because that's what rulers and senators do. They tax people. But for Joseph and Mary, this is the worst of times.

They among the Jewish nation hated the oppression of Ram. This would have been the talk of the town. Look what Caesar's done. He's messing up our lives. We got to leave everything and take this trip for the purpose of taxation. Where is God in all of this?

That's what they would have been asking. Maybe you felt like that in these days lately. Maybe you feel like your life's been upset and changed and maybe you feel like your life's been bounced around like a pinball and all of it's outside your control.

You've adapted from one decree to the next, from one mandate to the other, from one confusing report to the next. And maybe you've wondered where is God in all of this. Well, we may not have all the answers, but we do know that God is at work. And this opening line reminds us.

In fact, the psalmist says in Psalm 121, verse 4, our God never slumbers or sleeps. You know what that means? That means that you can. You can sleep. Not now. At night.

Or whenever you get the chance. Beloved, don't get too distraught or distracted or caught up in the decrees and mandates and decisions of emperors and senators and governors. God is ultimately doing something and we usually don't catch on until later. But if the people in Joseph and Mary's world were looking to Rome now, which they were, and grumbling about Rome, which they were now, and upset with Rome, which they were now, they're looking in the wrong direction. What's really happening is God's setting this up for something that's going to happen 1500 miles away.

They're misdirected. Caesar Augustus here, no doubt, thinks he's in charge. No, no. God is in charge of Caesar Augustus. Yes, his trip came at the worst time, made their lives uncomfortable.

Trip was difficult, even dangerous. But get your perspective right. It's easy for us to say that about them. What about us?

But get it right about them. Joseph and Mary are not pawns in the hand of Caesar Augustus. Caesar Augustus is the pawn in the hand of God. God's purposes are being fulfilled through this imperial decree. Verse three tells us that all the empire is scattering back to their hometown origins.

They've got to obey this imperial decree. Now we know from history that wives would not have been required to accompany their husbands, certainly not a betrothed or an engaged, expecting woman. The original construction of verses four and five indicate that Joseph is registering and Mary is with him. Not to register, she is simply accompanying him as he registers.

It's a little tricky in the English language. And frankly, you've got to wonder why is she along? We're not told why, although my guess would be that she welcomed the opportunity to get out of town. The shame she has experienced by her pregnancy would've been extremely painful. Nobody's believing her story. Even Joseph needed an angel to confirm that she was still a virgin. He didn't believe it.

You wouldn't have believed it, nor would I. We're not even told why she's there or how difficult their journey was, how long they took from Nazareth to Bethlehem. We're not told if they traveled alone or with others. We're not even sure to this day if Jesus was born in a hollowed out cave or in an open courtyard where animals were tied down for the night or in an animal enclosure connected to somebody's house. In fact, we don't even know the date. By the second century, they'd forgotten it. They didn't even celebrate it for several hundred years. We are told here in verse seven that Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths by herself, which implies a midwife was not there or involved.

That would've been the customary role of the midwife. More than likely, at this point, they're alone, but there's a lot we don't know. See, Luke is not writing to satisfy our curiosity. He's keeping the account simple.

He's keeping it uncluttered. He's giving us enough details to allow us to see the humility of Christ's incarnation, the unusual fulfillment of how God orchestrated events and turned the heart of the king so that they'd end up in Bethlehem, the perfection of his timing, that God is in control. Luke also lets us know how some of the most unlikely people become, really, the first human evangelists. They're introduced to us in verse eight, notice there, and in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night, and an angel of the Lord appeared to them. He's unnamed. It could've been Gabriel.

He's been busy during the season, but we're not told. And the glory, doxa, the Shekinah glory of the Lord shown around them, which is unique in its expression. There's so much here. I'm flying through it, but think about the fact that the Lord is lying in a manger, feed trough, but now here the glory of the Lord is shining around these shepherds. If there's anything that would indicate at least two persons of the Godhead, it would be this. You've got a baby, the Lord, and you have the glory of the Lord shining here. But the glory of the Lord is shining around them, and of course, they do what we do.

They shake with fear. The angel said to them, fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. By the way, this phrase you ought to underline, I bring you good news, is one verb. It gives us our English word evangelism. That's what evangelism is. We've got some good news to tell you.

We want to tell you some great news. This is what evangelism is. In fact, in the first century, this one verb would be used for a messenger delivering a message from a king. It would be used to announce the birth of a royal heir. It would also be used to announce some victory. Isn't that the gospel?

Isn't that what we're informing people? We're delivering a message from the king. We're telling them the royal heir to the throne of David has been born, the Messiah, and he's going to win.

That's it. That's true because this isn't just any baby. Look at verse 11. Friend of you is born this day, today, in the city of David, a savior, a savior that's deliverer, rescuer from danger typically used, who is Christ. That means the anointed one. Only the Messiah could claim that title. He's also noticed the Lord.

Kurios is the word. It's used a thousand times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for Yahweh, Jehovah, Jehovah. This is Jehovah.

This is God in the flesh. Here's the sign. Notice, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, feed trough. That's the sign. How could that be a sign? There might be more than one baby born in Bethlehem among all these travelers, but he'll be the only baby lying in a feed trough, which highlights his humiliation.

Back up just a minute. The angel is delivering this rather stunning incarnation news to shepherds, which is fascinating. If you're older in the faith, you're aware that shepherds in these days weren't allowed to testify in court.

Why choose them to testify of Christ's birth? They were ceremonially unclean. They weren't able to keep all the regulations. They had to work on the Sabbath. They worked seven days a week.

Evidently, the sheep wouldn't take a day off. And so because of that, they're in trouble. According to the Mishnah, a collection of Jewish codified law, they're considered perpetually unclean.

They're just an inch or two above lepers. Why announce this to them? Ever wondered what happened to the Sanhedrin, Israel's Supreme Court, with these Jewish scholars and attorneys? What happened to the leading rabbis of the day? What happened to the chief priest in Jerusalem?

What happened to Augustus? I'd love to send an angel over to that guy and tell him, hold on, big boy, you're not the savior of the world. You'd think the angel got the wrong address. In fact, to this day, shepherds are not the movers and shakers of society, especially in third world countries. They're hired to do labor nobody else wants to do. Timothy Elaniak, in his journal he published a few years ago, I pulled it off my shelf again this week, he recorded his insights gleaned from a year of field research living among Bedouin shepherds in the Middle East as he worked on his PhD. He literally lived with them, traveled with them. In his introduction to his book, he records what happened when he told them he wanted to live with them and study them and research them. Here's their response to him, quote, what is there to research about us? We spend our lives running after sheep and goats. We don't have a home, nor an address. We sleep under the open sky in winter, summer, in the rain, year after year carrying cooking utensils on camels and mules. We can't even rest in one place for a week. Why will you waste your time?

We are nothing. Isn't it interesting how the gospel begins in this manner? In fact, elevating this humble role to stand to this day as a metaphor for biblical leadership. In Ephesians 4-11, the term for pastors comes from this term for shepherds. The apostle Peter will call Jesus Christ the chief shepherd of the church. The writer of Hebrews will call him the great shepherd. In fact, the Lord himself adopts this term as he refers to himself as the good shepherd. You may be aware that today is our first Sunday to assemble under a new name.

What a sweet image. That's what we hope to present of our Lord in his leadership and care. We want to be known above all the other titles and identifiers and terms and names as simply a church that belongs to him. We are the shepherd's church. Verse 13, suddenly we're told this one angel is now joined by a host, a multitude.

It's actually a military term. They begin saying or singing the word ineo is often used to replace halel in the Old Testament. This is more like chanting. You don't have the big angel singing bass and the little angel singing tenor. This is really more of a chant.

It would have shook the earth. You can imagine John in his tour will see a hundred million angels. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased. Jewish couples would typically hire local musicians to help them celebrate the birth of a child. Joseph and Mary are alone. They certainly can't afford musicians and they're far from home. God the Father sends the musicians directly from heaven. When the concert is finished the shepherds take off, verse 16, and they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the baby in a manger. It indicates they're alone at this point. When they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning a child and all who heard it wondered. It's clear others are showing up now. The news is spreading. Everyone's mystified. They're marveling at the tale of these shepherds about angels appearing in the sky and singing of a savior. No, no, no. The savior is over there in Rome. Oh, really? Some of the people probably walked away shaking their heads thinking those shepherds have been out in the open way too long.

They've been doing seven days a week too long. Others no doubt asked questions. We're told here in verse 19 that Mary treasured it all up. She pondered it. It means she tried to put the pieces together.

She can't quite figure it out. Notice the shepherds returned glorifying, praising God. Same verbs used for the angels.

They're not doing what the angels were doing. It implies they're now singing what the angels were singing. They're now chanting on their way back the lyrics to the song they just learned. It stuck with them.

In fact, I'm sure they never, ever forgot it. This becomes the first hymn, so to speak, the first chorus after the birth of Christ. We need to follow the example of these shepherds and keep singing about the glory of God and the gospel of God. We need to follow their example. They're telling everybody they can't keep it to themselves. They're giving, they're delivering the gospel, the good news.

Let's pray that God will allow us to do that in this year. You say, but I'm not trained in evangelism. Well, you don't need to go to medical school to tell somebody you found a good doctor. You don't need to go to culinary school to tell somebody you found a good restaurant. You don't need to be formally trained in theology to tell somebody you found the Savior.

If this group of unlettered, illiterate, poor shepherds can do this, so can we. Well, several years after this scene here in Luke 2, Caesar Augustus, ironically in the month of August, caught a chill on a night journey by ship, developed into pneumonia and this 76-year-old son of a god, worshiped as deity, called the savior of the world, the deliverer of peace. Those were all his titles. He passed away. And three days later, he did not rise again.

Jesus would have been around 18 years of age. I spent time just wondering, when he heard the news, if he quietly reflected on the tragedy that this Caesar had adopted titles, that Jesus knew by now belonged only to the Messiah, to him, that he was the divine ruler of a kingdom to come, that he was the son of God, that he was the savior, that he was the prince of peace. Who is he to you? I hope that the example we've seen in this band of shepherds has challenged you today.

You've tuned in to Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen Davy is in a series from Luke 1-3 called Good News of Great Joy. We have a free resource that will help you as we continue through this passage. We have a companion study guide that goes along with this series. It contains the complete manuscript of Stephen's message, but even further, there's a few discussion questions to help you apply this message to your life. It's a great tool for personal reflection. They've been used by small groups who are studying God's Word together.

There are families who use these guides around the dinner table. If you go to our website, you'll find that we post each day's lesson there. Of course, you can listen to the message again, but you can also download the manuscript and discussion guide and follow along. It's absolutely free and available for you to access anytime. Our website is If you have the Wisdom International app on your phone or tablet, you can access these there as well. While you're at the website, be sure and look around. We have many resources available to you. All of them are designed to teach you God's Word and help you apply the truth to your life. Thanks for being with us for this message. Stephen will continue through this series next time. So join us then right here on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-14 13:34:53 / 2023-11-14 13:44:00 / 9

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