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The Paradox, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
December 17, 2021 12:00 am

The Paradox, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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December 17, 2021 12:00 am

How is it that no man can see God's face and yet people saw Christ? This is the paradox of the incarnation. Although we can perceive the mystery, it will take all of eternity for us to understand it. LINKS: Visit our website: https://www.wisdomonline.org Make a donation: https://www.wisdomonline.org/donate Free ebook: https://www.wisdomonline.org/offer Free issue of our magazine: https://www.wisdomonline.org/magazine

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For Joseph and Anne for Mary, don't ever forget what the paradox of this narrative means for them. It will create the appearance of a contradiction of who they really are.

Listen, as long as they live, they will never have their reputations back again in the opinion of their world. And I wonder, I cannot help but wonder how many people will listen to me today who are unwilling to follow Jesus Christ because of primarily what it might do to your reputation, what people might think of you. Do you ever find it difficult to live for Christ because you're concerned about what others will think of you? I think this is a tendency and a temptation for all of us. As our culture moves in a direction away from God, those who remain faithful to Christ will be counter-cultural. That's a hard situation to be in.

Are you prepared for the difficulty and pressure that comes from living that way? Well, you're going to be better equipped by this message. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey looks at the coming of Christ and the implications for those of us who believe in him. Well, thus far in our Christmas series of studies, we've noted the prophecy of the coming Messiah.

And in our last session, we unpacked the pedigree of the coming Messiah. And today, I want to talk about the paradox of this setting here related to the Messiah. The word paradox simply means seemingly self-contradictory truths, statements that seem apparently contradictory of each other. It could also be used a little more broadly of something that might be contradictory to popular opinion or accepted opinion.

Christianity is certainly surrounded with paradox, isn't it? We are in the world but not what? Of it. While knowing our culture will not last, we are to serve to the betterment of our world around us. We serve with confidence and invisible God, yet our faith in him is the evidence of things not seen. We enter into a season marked by materialism and yet we consider none of it really worth anything. Right apart from the gift of God through this impoverished teenage girl who delivers the Savior in this makeshift barn. What a narrative of apparent contradictions. I wonder, in fact I did a little thinking about it this week, I wonder if celebrating Christmas is a contradiction of terms for the believer.

Is it something that we should even avoid? Isn't the history of this season sort of laced with unbelief and idolatry? Certainly the Romans decorated their temples and their pagan altars with greenery during this winter solstice time and candles. In fact, December 25th was part of a celebration of one of the Roman gods until Constantine kind of wrestled it away and declared it the day that we would celebrate the birth of our Lord.

So by the 5th century all of these icons, mistletoe and holly and evergreen trees have all become part of the church's Christmas tradition. The Puritans weren't all that happy about it. They tried to stamp out any observance of Christmas. In fact, they passed a law in England in 1644 outlawing any baking of mince pie or the making of plum pudding. They knew that if people were baking that pie and making that pudding on December 25th that they were more than likely celebrating it and so they sort of outlawed it. Of course, people got around it all by making those pies and puddings on Christmas Eve.

Even Great Britain's Parliament met for years on December 25th as a way to show their disdain for something so closely tied or at least in its past to the Romans. I think the Apostle Paul answers the question for us and he certainly answered the question for the Jewish nation that had a lot of issues in this regard when he said, you know, one man will regard one day above another. Another regards every day alike. But what I want you to do is let every man be fully convinced in his own mind so that he who observes a day any day observes it unto the Lord.

That's the point. In other words, no day is really any more special than another. But if you choose to make one day or you choose to make one season special, make sure, here's the point, that you make the most of it for the glory of God. Give it redemptive gospel meaning, which I believe we've done. In fact, like Martin Luther, the reformer who many believe was the first one to take the evergreen in his own home and attached to it globed candles to represent, yes, this pagan icon, but we're going to use it to represent the birth of that one who was and is the light of the world. He took something pagan and gave it redemptive purpose. The fact that we observe Christmas isn't really the issue.

How we observe it and why matters. That's why it's exciting to gather as a body of believers to give it that redemptive purpose. By the way, if you decide not to observe something because it has worldly associations or ties back into Roman idolatry, you really need to avoid studying history.

That'll ruin everything. In fact, in a few weeks, make sure you don't reference the New Year or even write out the month January. That January comes from Janus, a Roman god with two faces, one looking back at the old year and one looking ahead at the new year. In fact, the writing of New Year's resolutions has pagan roots.

You know, the more I thought about it, there are so many different things in our Western culture. While you're at it, don't drive a car made by Mazda. That name, Mazda, was one of Persia's chief gods. Anybody here driving a Mazda?

Well, you know, eBay. While you're at it, take the fish symbol off your bumper. That symbol was in use long before the church adapted it to, among other things, mark their secret places of worship.

In fact, the reason it worked so well is that nobody thought anything about it. It was a symbol associated with the mother goddess. Sideways, looked like a fish. Standing upright, it represented the womb of the goddess. You track all the way to China, the goddess Kuan Yin is often portrayed in the likeness of a fish. In Egypt, Issus or Isis, the mother goddess was called, among other things, the great fish of the abyss. In Greece, the fish goddess Aphrodite, Silesia, was worshiped by her followers. And oh, by the way, they worshiped her on the day they designated, which was Friday. And they commemorated her on that Friday by eating fish. So if you want to avoid pagan roots entirely, don't eat fish on Friday. In fact, don't even mention the name Friday, because that's a transliteration of Freyidae, another goddess. So how tied up are we? I mean, there you are in your Mazda, with the new fish symbol on your bumper, and the drive-through Burger King to pick up your fish combo. And it's Friday, and you're going to go home and hang mistletoe.

You're in deep trouble. Well, the Christmas story, frankly, the narrative is filled with one paradox after another that would contradict what we truly believe and who we truly are. I mean, think about it. First and foremost, God becomes a man. God, baby. Coming of God in the form of a newborn baby. The God, man.

What a paradox. The lyrics to a wonderful song that's usually rolled out in this season kind of bundle it all up. I love some of the lyrics they read. Mary, did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you've delivered will soon deliver you.

I love that phrase. Mary, did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little baby, you've kissed the face of God. Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations? Mary, did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect lamb? This sleeping child you're holding is the great what?

I am. What a paradox. Imagine this paradox.

A virgin who conceives. Those are self-contradictory terms. Let's take a look at that particular paradox. We'll just pull a few things out of the narrative. Go back to Matthew one more time in chapter one.

And I want you to notice the rather startling news and it will be tragic news to at least one individual. Matthew chapter one verse 18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. In other words, this is how it happened. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

Now let's read that again a little slower. When his mother Mary had been betrothed, you remember from our former study, we talked about the Kirushin, the betrothal period, the second part of this three-part Jewish wedding tradition. In this Kirushin, they have declared their vows in the eyes of their country. Men, they are legally wed in their law. They're not to the third stage, which is the consummation where they will literally live together.

That's a year away. But they are wed, considered husband and wife. During a normal Jewish betrothal, the man was typically building onto his father's house while the bride was preparing her trousseau, getting the linens, household items that they would need in their new home. You need to understand that a Jewish betrothal was a great deal more binding than our Western engagement period. They were actually pledged in marriage. In fact, according to Jewish law, the only way a betrothal could be broken was by a writ of divorce in the presence of witnesses. In fact, should the man die before the marriage is consummated, the woman will be referred to as the virgin widow. So they've been betrothed, pledged, now they're preparing. Notice what Matthew clarifies as he writes in verse 18, when his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph. Notice, before they came together, that is before they consummated in that final stage with that wonderful and grand ceremony, she was found to be with child, you can literally understand that to read, she was found out. That's the idea. She was found out.

This is devastating news. Let me try to get you to pause the rest of the story more than likely. But imagine, all you know, if you're reading this for the first time, is they've been pledged and now she's found out to be carrying somebody's baby, and Joseph knows it isn't his. Now to those around them, it would be really obvious or easy to jump to the conclusion that Joseph and Mary more than likely just couldn't wait out the year of betrothal and they consummated their vows before the ceremony.

But what happens next will prove that they have not intended to jump the gun here. In fact, instead of hurrying the ceremony forward like David and Bathsheba to cover up her pregnancy so that nobody could do the easy math, Joseph makes a decision and it isn't to move up the ceremony, he's going to keep following Jewish law. He's a righteous man. Notice verse 19. And her husband, note that, her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. In other words, he's going to break off the betrothal, give her a writ of divorcement with a few witnesses. See, it's easy to skip over the astonishment of Mary, which we haven't looked at and won't, because the angels already informed her that she has supernaturally conceived with the Messiah by means of the Holy Spirit who has touched one of her eggs and brought it to life.

Try understanding that one. That's the story that she more than likely personally will tell Joseph and he isn't buying it. It's easy to skip over her amazement. It's even easier to skip over Joseph and his agony.

What an absolutely gut-wrenching, heartbreaking tragedy this is and what a disgrace to his name. First century Jewish law virtually left him with no option to recover his credibility, then expose her publicly and her infidelity, and then divorce her. Keep in mind, as one New Testament scholar pointed out in a wonderful new study, an expository series through the book of Matthew, that Jewish society, he pointed out, allowed little privacy in these arranged marriages. Joseph had probably never gotten to know Mary very well at all. He would have had little reason to believe her protestations of innocence. In fact, if we slipped into his sandals, what Joseph is more than likely thinking is, I really didn't know her very well.

Who is she? And he would have been terrified to marry her and take her through the extension of the kiddushin and the best sermon. He would have been terrified to do that given the fact that this girl he thought he knew didn't know very well has evidently risked her own future, her own security, her own reputation and name by willingly, evidently, obviously seeing another man. He doesn't know who she is.

Notice his kindness though. He is going to avoid the public shame and the text tells us he's going to divorce her quietly and then he's going to pick up his shattered life and his broken heart and his mind that is still reeling and he's going to move on and he's going to do the best he can. The last thing that Joseph, a righteous man would do, would fear doing would be to keep Mary and then as she begins to show, allow people to assume that he was the father and that he had not kept the law and that he had disgraced God and his betrothed. Which is why the angel comes to Joseph in a dream that night in verse 20 and his first words are, Joseph, don't be afraid. Now most often when angels say that is because people are terrified at the sight of him.

I don't think that was the point with him. It's a night vision dream. I think it's don't be afraid to take her to that ceremony and to consummate. Of course he won't as he's instructed until nine months later.

But at least bring her in, legally finish this three-fold ceremony or these stages, make her publicly your wife. So what happens is he's being asked, in fact look at verse 20, Joseph do not fear, that is don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife. Oh and by the way, it really was the Holy Spirit. You know it would have taken a dream to convince him.

It would have taken revelation and God graciously gave it to him. Joseph is now being asked to take Mary through the betrothal period and then Mary and obviously expectant woman and probably a private ceremony now, that public ceremony where all the village turns out with noisemakers and merriment, that's all scuttled, that's all over with. The very beginnings of their early days are marked with such heartbreak. In fact they're both going to live with the accusation of immorality for the rest of their lives. I'm always struck by the fact that when Jesus Christ was 30, involved in his ministry, the Jewish leaders accused him. John 8, 41 of being born as a result of sexual immorality. They throw that in his face, effectively saying we know what your mother did. And also the implication is you are illegitimate. You probably don't even know who your father is. You're not the Messiah. You're the son of an ungodly woman.

Don't rush forward because we've got to get somehow to that stable scene. For Joseph and for Mary, don't ever forget what the paradox of this narrative means for them. It will create the appearance of a contradiction of who they really are. Mary loves God. She'll burst into song filled with Old Testament scripture and love for God. Joseph loves God. He's known as a man who follows after him.

What does it look like? They could care less about God and his word. Listen, as long as they live they will never have their reputations back again in the opinion of their world. I cannot help but wonder how many people will listen to me today who are unwilling to follow Jesus Christ because of primarily what it might do to your reputation, what people might think of you. The last thing I'm going to do is follow that stuff and that person. In fact, as the church becomes more and more marginalized, as it's viewed as more and more odd and out of step with culture, we are going to see people drop off because we will not ruin our reputation by following Jesus Christ. Here's the message from Joseph and Mary to you and to me. Don't worry about what will happen to your reputation.

Don't worry about what will happen to your business, your future. Just follow Jesus Christ. Let him take care of that. In fact, some of the most wonderful words in this narrative and the biography of this man are found in verse 24 where we're told the very next morning Joseph woke from sleep. He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took his wife but knew her not until she had given birth to a son and he called his name Jesus.

Amazing. There are a couple of other people I'll point out here, ungodly people, to whom the incarnation of God in Christ is going to really, really present a contradiction of terms for them and they're not going to settle with it. Luke's Gospel account, in fact, if you hold your finger in Matthew and turn over to Luke, Luke chapter 2, he kind of fills in the blanks and he tells us what happens nine months later. Familiar text. In fact, I remember growing up as a boy, Dad would gather the four sons in the living room in front of the tree in the presence and he said, before we do anything we're going to read Luke chapter 2 and we would say under our breath, hurry.

Don't stop to expound on anything please, Dad. Just read it. In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed or registered. The political leader effectively then wants to make sure everybody's registered, back at the place of their chief descendant. Of course, David comes from Bethlehem, so Joseph and Mary have to trek back to Bethlehem. Bethlehem means house of bread. They're going back there to register.

Caesar wants to make sure everybody's on the roll so that everybody pays their taxes. What's fascinating here is that you consider Bethlehem, this is where they're going to go. In fact, verse 4 tells us that they take off for that area.

They're more than likely going to travel 60 or 70 miles. This is where David kept his sheep as he was then apprenticed to become king. This is where earlier one of his forefathers by the name of Boaz farmed where he would meet his bride, Ruth. And now God providentially arranges what Joseph and Mary, don't miss this, they would never volunteer to do this. They had to be made. You don't embark on a 60-mile journey plus expecting your first baby. And there's nothing in the Christmas story, by the way, that says they had a donkey.

Nothing. They either walked, they probably were too poor to own one. Maybe they hitched a ride with the others who are traveling back to the house of bread. They may not even know that Micah had prophesied centuries earlier that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. God's got to get them to Bethlehem. Caesar's idea?

No, no, no, this is God's idea. The bread of life would be born in the house of bread. I have a fascinating book in my library entitled The Twelve Caesars and I often pull it out to reactivate myself to the world into which Jesus was born and also the early church later. I pulled that book out again because I had never really studied much on Caesar Augustus and so I read that fascinating chapter. And by the way, Caesar is simply the word Kaiser or Tsar. It could also be Pharaoh if he were in Egypt.

It simply means the supreme ruler. And they believe the Caesars, especially along with the Pharaohs, that their lineage tracked back to the gods. They claimed divine parentage. In fact, just a few years before Jesus is born, this particular Caesar from Luke chapter 2 verse 1, Caesar Augustus mints brand new coinage and on one side he has Julius Caesar, his predecessor, marking him as divine. And on the other side of the coin it has his image, Caesar Augustus, and he's captioned as the son of a god. So what you have here is you have Caesar Augustus inheriting the throne of his predecessor. In fact, it's further interesting that Caesar inherited the throne from Julius Caesar. And when he did, not long after Julius Caesar died, a comet was observed in the sky for several days. The empire, filled with its superstitions, much like our world is today, believed that it was some kind of omen, that it somehow delivered the truth that the soul of Julius Caesar was now received among the immortal gods. And Caesar Augustus sort of jumped at that opportunity to further establish his own divine parentage. So he had a star chiseled into a brand new statue of Julius Caesar, his adopted father, and he had it placed in the forum. So here you have God incarnate, little g, incarnate, supposedly, testified by a star in the heavens, and now his son is claiming the throne.

Sounds only slightly familiar, doesn't it? As Satan, who well knows the Old Testament prophecies, counterfeits and prepares the world to believe his own false gospel. Can you imagine? If I can wrap it up, I would say it this way, the birth of Jesus Christ created scandal that would never die. And the true gospel is as scandalous today as it was then. The reason the birth of Jesus and his gospel are scandalous is because the human tendency is to worship ourselves and worship the work of our hands. It's not just true of the Caesars that Stephen was talking about in this message. It's just as true today.

People may like the idea of Christmas and even the baby Jesus, but the implication that Jesus is the rightful king over their heart and life, well, for most people, that's unacceptable and unbelievable. Thanks for joining us today. This is Wisdom for the Heart, the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. If you're new to Wisdom for the Heart, I encourage you to spend some time browsing our website. This month we have a free resource. It's actually this current series, an indescribable gift as a free e-book. Our website is wisdomonline.org. Have a great weekend and then join us Monday right here on Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-08 12:27:17 / 2023-07-08 12:36:58 / 10

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