Fulfilled: Family of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: FAMILY OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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Introduction:  We are a Christmas loving family! We look forward to Christmas all year long! In our home, Nicole starts playing the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving! One year she actually started in October and by the time December rolled around, we were all sick of Christmas. We put our collective foot down and told her that she can’t do that anymore. She tries but we keep an eye on her. Christmas should be the most exciting time of the year! It was on God’s calendar ever since the beginning of time. Throughout the Old Testament God promised to his people that His Son was coming. In fact, the first two chapters of Matthew repeatedly use the word “fulfilled” to announce that he has come and that’s the title of our new series for Christmas: FULFILLED.

Matthew 1    22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Matthew 2   14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Matthew 2   17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Question: The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was not something out of the blue. It was not some unexpected, spontaneous, fortuitous, after the fact event. Ever since the beginning of time it was on God’s calendar and repeatedly he sent word through his prophets that “he was coming, he was coming, he was coming.” That’s why when Matthew wrote his gospel, he began with “it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled.” What does that mean for you and me? Jesus is God’s only promise of salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life. Has he fulfilled those promises in your life? Are you saved?

Context: Unlike the other gospels, Matthew began his gospel with Jesus’ genealogy. In ancient times, it was not unusual to begin the biography of a famous person with their genealogy. It was a matter of pride to be able to list one’s pedigree. But Matthew’s purpose was much deeper. He was not giving us just a pedigree of Jesus. Neither was he just trying to impress us with big names. In fact, listen carefully to how he began his gospel Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Both David and Abraham had been promised a son from God and Jesus was that Son.

How was Jesus the Son of David? 2 Samuel 7   12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, (We think Solomon. Yes and no.) and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (Solomon only ruled for 40 years.) 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. (Unfortunately, Solomon also messed up and God had to take it from him as well.) 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” This promise was made to David 1000 years before the coming of Jesus. Here’s another promise made to David after he was dead for 400 years. Jeremiah 23:5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.” This promised was made posthumously to David 600 years before the coming of Jesus. This is how Jesus was the true Son of David.

How was Jesus the Son of Abraham? Genesis 12   1 “Now the Lord had said to Abram: (When God called him, his name was just Abram, “Exalted Father,” but he and his wife Sarai couldn’t have any children.) Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As you know, Abram obeyed God and in time God changed his name to Abraham, “Father of many,” and at the age of 100 he and Sarah finally had Isaac. Did Isaac become a blessing to all the families of the earth? Unfortunately, he was more interested in eating wild game than being a blessing. This 2000-year-old promise to Abraham was actually about Jesus. This is how Jesus was the true Son of Abraham.

By the way, why did Matthew say “Son of David” before “Son of Abraham”? Because Salvation is of the Jews. You cannot get anymore Jewish than David. For e.g. Who is more American? John Smith or George Washington. But then, he went back to Abraham who would be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Never forget: Salvation was always for the whole world. Listen to Matthew 1:2 “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.” In this verse 2 names are mentioned that also received the promise that Jesus would be coming.

  1. Jacob: His older brother Esau despised his birthright but Jacob wanted it badly. So, he deceived his brother because he knew the significance of the promise. He even wrestled with God and had his name changed from Jacob to Israel. Listen to the promise God made to him in Numbers 24:17 “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” This promise was made about 1900 years before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is that Star in Jacob’s line and that Scepter (Rod or wand that signified royalty) in Israel’s (Jacob’s name given by God) line.
  2. Judah: He was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Listen to the promise God made to him through his father Jacob in Genesis 49 9 Judah is a lion’s whelp (cub); From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? Jesus is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5) 10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet…” Jesus is that Scepter and the lawgiver. “…until Shiloh comes; (Lit. Until he possesses that which belongs to him.) and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” This promise was made 1800 years before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is the Lion of Judah, the scepter and the lawgiver, and his final words to his disciples were “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

What does all this mean? The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was not something out of the blue. It was not some unexpected, spontaneous, fortuitous, after the fact event. It was all according to God’s Providence. He supernaturally engineered the coming of his Son into this world. Thank God for his providence!

Application: Do you understand what God has done for you in Jesus? He has been preparing the plan of salvation for you since the beginning of time. It’s his Providence. In our own life, we can also see the Providence of God guiding us and giving us good parents, education, and a great nation to live in!

But, unlike typical genealogies, Matthew does something very odd. He lists 4 women in the genealogy and, may I add, women with a questionable past. All of us want to claim some royalty in our past but none of us want to admit that we also have some nuts hanging on our family tree. Someone said – “I shook my family tree and a bunch of nuts fell out!” Who were these 4 undesirables? I’ve preached a whole series on them. Besides being women of questionable past, they each had a gentile connection.

Matthew 1:3 “Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar.”

  1. Tamar – She was a Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her because he had refused to let her marry his third son.

Matthew 1:5 “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab…”

  1. Rahab – She was an Amorite/Canaanite, a citizen of Jericho and a madam (rich prostitute) by trade. She had helped the spies and in exchange she asked for her family to be saved.

Matthew 1:5 “…Boaz begot Obed by Ruth.”

  1. Ruth – She was a Moabite (enemies of God’s people) whose husband was an Israelite. They lived in Moab until he died and then she followed her mother-in-law Naomi back into the land of Israel.

Matthew 1:6 “and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” Actual wording: “David the king begot the Solomon by the of the Uriah.” “Wife” has to be added and “the” has to be omitted twice.

  1. Bathsheba – She was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David forced her into committing adultery, had her husband killed, and got her pregnant. The punishment the child died.

Why did Matthew include the illustrious and the not so illustrious in the genealogy of Jesus? To show us that in the birth of Jesus we find both God’s Providence and God’s Grace working together. Jesus truly came to bring God’s salvation to the least of the least. No one can ever say that Jesus is just for the elite few. He’s for all.

Invitation: Has Jesus fulfilled the promises of God in your life? Are you saved? You feel undeserving. Jesus is for you as well.

Keeping Your Kids Out of Hell by Pastor Abidan Shah

KEEPING YOUR KIDS OUT OF HELL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Keeping Your Kids Out of HellIntroduction: Two years ago I preached a revival at Mt. Olivet UMC in Manteo, same church where Andy Griffith was a member. After the last night of revival, I decided to head back home. The pastor of the church tried to talk me out of leaving because there was snow in the forecast but I thought that I could beat it. I bought a large cup of coffee. The boys were with me and I set them up with their movies. It would be 12-1 at night when we got home, no big deal. Five minutes into the trip I realized – Big deal! Sleet, heavy snow, and my truck started skidding on that icy bridge. I couldn’t see past 5 feet in front of me. The bad part was that I was on a 3-mile long narrow bridge called the Alligator River Bridge! I’m sure there’s a reason why they call it that! I was so angry at my self – “What were you thinking?! Why didn’t you listen?!” I remember telling the boys, “I am so sorry” and I asked them to start praying. We finally made it off the bridge but it got worse. Now I was on the most desolate stretch of Highway 64 with swampland on either side and I couldn’t pull over. Also, I remember seeing a sign coming in like “Don’t disturb or feed the bears.” Some of you might say – “Oh bears are usually hibernating in the winter.” Not if you run into them with a truck! Have you seen “Open Season”?! By the way, isn’t it amazing that when you really need cellphone, there’s no service. Finally, I was able to call the pastor and he was able to get in touch with one of his pastor friends in Columbia or this could have gone really badly. The point is this – the fault was with me, not my boys. I led them into a situation that could have ended very badly. As bad as that was, it is much worse when parents lead their children towards hell. Today’s sermon on the family is titled – “KEEPING YOUR KIDS OUT OF HELL.”

Genesis 19   12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! 13 For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law…and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.

Few questions: If you are a parent or a grandparent, how are you leading your children? Or how have you led your children? Are you serious about their eternal future? Are you doing all you can lead them to Christ? Do you know Christ as Savior? Are you saved?

As you know, we’re studying the family of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis and in this message we’re going to learn how they kept their kids out of hell. In order to get the right perspective, we’ll have to begin with Genesis 12:4 “So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him.” Lot was Abraham’s nephew. As I mentioned in the previous messages, I believe that Lot attached himself to Abraham in Haran, maybe because his own father had died earlier. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, unlike Abraham who got a call from God, there’s no mention of such a call in Lot’s life. This does not mean that he wasn’t saved. It only means that he was not ready to go further with God. But when he saw his uncle breaking camp, he decided to join the caravan. Everywhere Abraham went, Lot went with him and, every time God blessed Abraham, Lot managed to get in on the blessing. Bottom line: Lot was a coattail hanger. Who is a coattail hanger? This is a person who comes into your life and attaches himself or herself to you. They go where you go but they’re not where you are. They talk like you talk but they’re only copying you. They may even show some external improvements but they don’t have the same internal values and convictions. They simply hang on to your proverbial coattails.

Principle: Beware of coattail hangers. They have the potential to get you off course. You won’t see their true colors until you face some crisis together.

Question: Do you have a coattail hanger in your life? Are you a coattail hanger?

Let’s return to our account: Both Abraham and Lot’s livestock kept growing and there was a conflict between their herdsmen. So Abraham approached Lot and reminded him that they were family and there was no need to fight. Instead, he told Lot to pick the land he wanted first. Why did Abraham do that? Was it because he was a humble, peace loving, or generous man? It was much more than that. Listen to Hebrews 11   9 “By faith he (Abraham) dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents…10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Don’t misunderstand this. It does not mean that Abraham was a nomad, a Bedouin, who was content with wandering from place to place. It does not mean that Abraham was an idealist, who was looking for some magical city in the sky. What it means is that he wanted to be the citizen of a city of which God was the Founder and the Mayor. It means that he wanted to build his home and raise his children in a city whose vision and values were directed by God. Until he found that city, he was willing to live in tents. Again, please don’t misunderstand this. This does not mean that Abraham had the bumper sticker “Tent Life” on the backside of all his camels. What it means is that Abraham refused to submit to the sinful culture in which he lived.

Let me clarify: In this life, you’ll have to live in a city and buy or build a home. You will have to be involved in the world around you. You may have to send your kids to schools and colleges where you live. Nothing is wrong with that. Sometime people think that to follow God you need to get into communes or get into some time warp from 200-300 years ago. Not only is that odd but it goes directly against Jesus’ command to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We’re not to isolate ourselves from the world but to influence the world with the gospel. But there is a third category of people – they are those who instead of influencing the world get assimilated into the world. They are sucked into the temptations and lures of the world.

Question: Which one are you? Are you isolated from the world? Are you influencing the world? Are you assimilating or assimilated into the world?

Abraham was not an isolationist but an influencer but how about Lot? 10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan…” That statement reminds me of Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” So also 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” What did Lot see? 10 (He) saw all the plain of Jordan that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar.” Keep in mind that much more than the foliage and terrain is in view here. When Lot had followed Abraham into Egypt, he was so impressed and dazzled by the land and the culture that he never got over it. He longed to be in a place like Egypt! 11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. What Lot didn’t realize is that by journeying towards Jordan he was exing himself out of God’s promise.

Principle: As a pastor for about 18 years I have seen people choose the greener grass, thinking that it would make them happy. They think it would be so much better for their children and their future. What they don’t realize is in the process they ex themselves out of God’s promise of protection and direction.

But that’s not the worst. 12 “…and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. I think Lot saw in Sodom what he had seen in Egypt. It was a perfect place to be except for one problem – 13 “But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” What was so bad about Sodom? Later you will see that this city became synonymous with homosexuality. Sometimes people say that homosexuality is a sin like any other sin. What’s the big deal? It’s a big deal to God. Romans 1 warns us that it is the last step on the way down. It’s the point at which God finally gives people over to their debased minds to destroy themselves completely. Why? We are made in the image of God. We are a copy of God. For a man to say he is a woman or for a woman to say she is a man is to say that the copy is faulty which implies that the original is faulty.

What’s the result? By the next chapter Genesis 14:12 Lot has become a citizen of Sodom. In Genesis 18 & 19 we hear that God himself came down (the pre-incarnate Christ) with two of his angels. It’s time for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But because of Abraham’s pleading with God, He instructed his angels to go in and rescue Lot and his family from Sodom. It is so bad in Sodom that the men of the city even came to gang rape the angels. After striking those evil men with blindness, listen to what they told Lot in Genesis 19   12 “…Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! 13 For we will destroy this place…” What was the response? His son-in-laws laughed at him. They thought he was joking. Their wives (his daughters) probably laughed as well. As to sons, I believe that they were too far-gone. The only ones he could rescue were his wife and his two virgin (unmarried) daughters. Listen to verse 16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. I wish I could say, “then they lived happily ever after.” Lot begged the angels not to make him escape into the mountains but to stay in a small city nearby. But because he didn’t go far enough, he even lost his wife because she looked behind him and turned into a pillar of salt. Then you know how his daughters got him drunk and slept with him, giving birth to the Moabites and the Ammonites who were a thorn in the side of the people of God.

Principle: Many times people make decisions based on their material eyesight. They see something alluring and exciting and they go for it without any regard to what this would mean for the future of their marriage and children.

You want to keep your kids out of hell?

  • Stop being a coattail hanger
  • Lead them to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God
  • Do whatever you can to keep them from Sodom
  • Be warned that there will be a fight
  • Stop lingering and negotiating with God

I knew of a family growing up who did the very same thing and lost it all.

Are you saved? Are you doing all you can to keep your kids out of hell

Skeletons in the Family Closet by Pastor Abidan Shah

SKELETONS IN THE FAMILY CLOSET by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Skeletons in the Family ClosetIntroduction: Several years ago Nicole was really into doing her family history. She scoured the libraries, checked the Internet, and visited all the graveyards she could. She would stay up late at night, have all her notes scattered over the dining room table, and try to connect the genealogical dots. She made a lot of progress but then she hit a dead-end. It seemed as if after a certain point, some of the people just disappeared into thin air. She took all her notes down to her grandmother in South Georgia at Christmas. She told her about the problem she was running into. Her grandmother, who is still living, said with a smirk, “Have you ever thought that maybe the reason you cannot find them is because they didn’t want to be found!” By the way, her name is Granny Outlaw. I tell people that I have outlaws for in-laws! The point is “Everyone has some Skeletons in their Family Closet.” In this message we will learn how to deal with those embarrassing moments and situations in our family’s past.

Genesis 12   10   Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, “This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”

There are no perfect families. We all have some skeletons in our family closet. To use the metaphor of a family tree, we all have some rotten fruits hanging on our family tree. In this message we will learn how to deal with those skeletons and those rotten fruits.

Question: Do you have some family secrets? How are you handling them? Do you try to embellish them to make yourself look better? Do you blame all your failures on those shameful memories? Do you wear them as a badge of honor? Here’s a deeper question: If you are saved, do you realize that you are part of a whole new family? John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Does your life demonstrate your new family traits? Or are you still living with the old family habits and tendencies? Are you saved?

As you know, we are studying the family of Abraham and Sarah. They had some skeletons in their closet. Let’s start looking at them:

Skeleton #1 – Genesis 12:10-20 (We just read this passage.) There was a famine in the land of Canaan and so Abraham took Sarah his wife and headed down to Egypt. But before he entered Egypt, he had a talk with her. It began with “You are such a pretty woman!” Sound familiar, ladies? Translated: “I need a favor.” Here it comes. Hold on to your hats! “When the Egyptians notice you, they will say: ‘She is his wife.’ They will kill me but spare you. So, please say that you are my sister and it will be okay for me because of you and they won’t kill me.” Really?! Just in case you are wondering – This is the same Abraham who stepped out on faith to follow God to a land that he had never seen. By the way, they’re not some newly married couple. He’s 75 and she’s 65 years old!

Principle: Age does not equal maturity. You’re never too old to do something stupid. If I may add, God is not looking for perfect people, just those willing to be used by him.

Skeleton #2 – Genesis 20 It’s been 25 years since the Egypt incident. Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90 years old. You’d think that they have matured. 2 Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. God warned Abimelech in a dream that Sarah was Abraham’s wife and he’s a dead man. 10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What possessed you to do this?” Translated: What’s wrong with you? 11 And Abraham said, “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife. 12 But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.” This just gets better and better! 13 “And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your agreement that you should make with me: in every place, wherever we go, say about me, ‘He is my brother.’” So, you decided this 50 years ago and you haven’t revised it?!

Principle: Be careful of agreements that have been made out of fear and selfishness instead of prayer and faith. If I may add, a half-truth is still a full lie in the sight of God.

Skeleton #3 – Genesis 26 This time the spotlight shifts from Abraham to his son Isaac. Listen to verse 7 And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “She is my wife,” because he thought, “lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold.” Like father, like son! In a moment of fear and weakness, he resorts to his dad’s tactic of claiming that his wife is his sister. One little problem here, while Abraham and Sarah were half-brother and sister, Isaac and Rebecca were not. Isaac told an out and out lie.

Principle: Whatever you do in moderation, your children will do in excess.

Application: Do you have such an unflattering past in your family history? Are there some scandalous moments in your parents and grandparents life? Take hope. Even those as prominent as Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Rebekah messed up. If God can use them, he can use you too.

Now let’s go a little deeper. Why did Abraham and later Isaac really do what they did? We’ll have to play the detective here and look for the real motive behind the crime. I have a possible theory – Abraham did not lie just to save his skin. I believe that he misunderstood what God had told him in Genesis 12   1 “…Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” I wonder if Abraham mistakenly thought that God intended to bring his blessing into the world only through him. I wonder if he mistakenly thought that God’s plan only involved him and not Sarah. Hence, his plan was to protect himself, not because he was a coward but because he thought that he alone was crucial in God’s plan of redemption. He was trying to stay alive so that God’s plan would not fail.

Some of ya’ll are thinking that is too much. Have you read these 3 incidents carefully? God never condemned Abraham or Isaac for their actions. For e.g. When Cain killed his brother, God cursed him from the earth. (Genesis 4:10-11) When David committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband murdered, it says, “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” (II Samuel 11:27) I can give many more examples. The point is that in each of these incidents, God actually cursed and even punished the Egyptians and the Canaanites! In the first incident, Genesis 12:17 “the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” In the second incident, Genesis 20:18 “…the LORD had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” In the third incident, listen to Abimelech’s reaction in Genesis 26   10 “…What is this you have done to us? One of the people might soon have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us.” 11 So Abimelech charged all his people, saying, “He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” What’s more is that after each of these incidents, God blessed Abraham and Sarah and then Isaac and Rebecca with more than they had before they made their poor choices!

Principle: God sees the heart and he is far more gracious than we are. So should we.

Let me add: What neither Abraham nor Isaac realized until later is that in God’s sovereign plan, Sarah was just as crucial as him. This is why he kept rescuing her. By the way, Sarah misunderstood this as well. What did she do when she couldn’t provide a child for Abraham? She offered her own maidservant Hagar to her husband. We often look down on Sarah when in reality it was a tremendous sacrifice on her part. How many women would be willing to make that sacrifice for God’s plan of redemption?

Principle: In God’s plan none of us are expendable. We all have a part to play. Husbands – don’t underestimate what God has for your wife. Wives – Don’t underestimate what God can do through your husband. Parents – Your kids are not beyond hope. Kids – God is not through with your parents.

One more thing: Don’t use this as a justification for making more bad decisions. Think about the Egyptians and the Canaanites. God had called Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Because of what they did, they became a curse instead.

Principle: The ends don’t justify the means. Obedience is the only way to life.

Let me close by giving you the following suggestions in how to deal with the skeletons in your family closet:

  • Be honest. Be humble. Don’t forget where you came from. Stop bragging.
  • Don’t copy the wrong actions but accept the humanity of your parents and grandparents.
  • Don’t be too quick to judge. Only God sees the heart. Offer grace. Give them a break. You never know what they had to endure.
  • When you follow God, know that he will always work all things together for good.

I think about the genealogy of Christ in Matthew. 4 women are mentioned by name: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. The first one deceived her father-in-law into sleeping with her, the second was a Canaanite prostitute, the third was a Moabite (descendant of the incestual relationship between Lot and his daughter), and Bathsheba, married to a Hittite and then committed adultery with King David. If God can use that to bring his Son into this world, he can bring something good through any of our family.

Are you saved? Have you received God’s grace into your life?

Becoming a Chain Breaker by Pastor Abidan Shah

BECOMING A CHAIN BREAKER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

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Introduction: Many years ago Nicole and I decided to take our 3 kids at the time to our old stomping grounds in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. There is a place there called Helen, kind of a tourist town, built like an Alpine village. The Chattahoochee River winds through the town and people can go tubing. It’s beautiful. We arrived that evening and went for a walk and saw the people floating around in ankle deep water. Nicole and I had done that before and we decided to take the kids tubing the next day. We didn’t pay attention to the weather but all night it rained and rained. The next day we got to the tubing place and it was no longer a lazy river but looked like some white water rapids. Against our better judgment we decided to go for it. Nicole kept Nicholas with her, I kept Abigail, and Rebecca was by herself. It wasn’t 30 seconds into the river that I realized that this was a huge mistake. The ankle-deep river was now about chest high in places and we were being hurled through as if we were on the Colorado River. I hung on to Rebecca’s tube until a big boulder knocked her out of my hands. Before I could react she had slipped a few meters and then a few yards away. People on the banks were watching us in shock. Rebecca went around a bend and I couldn’t see her anymore. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life. We could see slippers and tubes that were abandoned by people but we didn’t want to get out because Rebecca was somewhere out there. Finally, we got to the end and she was there waiting for us. The point is this – when I made the decision to go tubing, I never anticipated what would happen. In fact, after the first 10 minutes, I lost sight of our daughter. So also in life, we make decisions but we don’t realize the consequences that follow. Most of the time we will never see what may happen in the future. The series we’re starting today is called “THE FAMILY: SOME DO’S, SOME DON’T’S, AND SOME WHO KNOWS.” People have asked me to teach on marriage, family, and parenting and I’m always reluctant because there’s so much I don’t know. But I had to remind myself that it’s not about my opinion but about the Word of God. So, we will be studying the family of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis. The advantage of this series is that we’ll be able to track the consequences of their good and bad decisions to the third, fourth, and even later generations. Today’s message is called “BECOMING A CHAIN BREAKER.”

Genesis 12   1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”…5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan.

Question: Before we begin the first message, let me ask you a few questions. Do you feel that you have a good understanding regarding marriage, family, and parenting? How is your marriage? How is parenting working out for you? Where did you get your understanding on those subjects? Was it from a parent, grandparent, celebrity, friend, or church leader? Were those individuals truly successful in their marriage, family, and parenting? Do you have Christ in your life? Without him, you’ll never have what you truly need to be successful. Why don’t you invite him into your life right now?

In this first message we’re going to learn what it means to be a chain breaker. As we go further it’ll become clear what I am referring to.

  1. The first Chain Breaker.

When we thing about the beginning of the people of Israel, we only think about Abraham and Sarah but truly we need to go a few steps back and read the preceding verses. Listen to Genesis 11:31 “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.” We mistakenly think that Abraham (Abram) was the first and only one to get the call to follow God out of the Ur of the Chaldeans. Not really. In fact, the first one to step out was Abraham’s father Terah.

Who was Terah? When we do a careful study of the genealogies in the Book of Genesis, we find that Terah is located at the end of the first age and the beginning of the second. The first age begins with Adam and Eve, goes through Noah and his three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), zooms in on the line of Shem, and ends with Terah in Genesis 11:24. The second age begins with Terah in verse 27 “This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” The point is this – Terah is the transitional figure between the first and second age and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur of the Chaldeans. He was the first chain breaker. The Bible doesn’t talk about it but I can imagine the struggle he must have faced in leaving Ur. Archaeological evidence tells us that it was a large city. Being near the Persian Gulf, people from everywhere came there for business. Also, Ur was a center for moon worship. There is evidence to this day of a ziggurat dedicated to the god Nanna or Sin. He was the god of the cowherders, cattle breeders, and orchardmen. Basically, he was the god of fertility (keep that in mind), along with his consort or wife, Ningal, the goddess of reeds. Terah had to leave all this behind to follow God to Canaan.

Principle: When you see a successful person, don’t immediately give them all the credit. Look for whose shoulders they’re standing on. Someone had to step out and be the pioneer in their life. This is especially true in the Christian life. Remember Paul telling Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5 that he is filled with joy every time “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”

For e.g. You’ve heard me give my dad’s testimony and how he was the pioneer to follow Christ in his family but this was also true in my mom’s side of the family. It was my grandmother’s dad (my great-grandfather) who practiced medicine back in the late 1800s-early 1900s. I remember my grandmother telling me that he was the first one to follow Christ through the work of some Reformed Presbyterian missionaries from England. He became a lay preacher. He was the pioneer on that side of the family.

Question: Who has been the chain breaker and pioneer in your life? A father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, schoolteacher, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend, etc. Give them thanks if they’re still living. It is their sacrifice that brought blessing into your life. Sometimes, there’s no one in the past that you can thank and you have to be your own pioneer. In my early years as a pastor I used to hear, “we used to go to church as a little kid.” Now, it is, “no, our family never went to church…”

Application: Are you the pioneer in your family? It’s not easy to do what you’re doing. No one has set any pattern for you. There’s no one to look up to in your life. You have to step out of the comfort zone. You have to break the chain. You have to choose to follow God. Just like the pioneers in our nation’s history, you have to make the tough sacrifices. But if you’re willing, God will give you more than enough grace to be the pioneer.

  1. The reason for the move.

Why did Terah decide to move out of Ur? We have no indication in the text that God called Terah the same way he called Abraham. Maybe it was because of the losses in his life. First, there’s no mention of his wife, which means she must have died in Ur. Second, verse 28 says, “And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.” We don’t have any details on Haran’s death but you can imagine what effect this must have made on Terah. Maybe this was a catalyst for him to move out of Ur.

Principle: All pioneers have to go through pain to move out of their comfort zone. God doesn’t cause the pain but he uses the pain to bring something good into our lives.

For e.g. Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States is one of my favorites. February 14th, 1884 was an awful day for him. He was in the NY state legislature trying to get a bill passed when he was called home. His mother had died due to typhoid fever. Few hours later, his wife of 4 years also died due to some kidney problems. She had just given birth to their daughter. Teddy Roosevelt left everything and went into the badlands for a couple of years and worked as a rancher and a local sheriff. When he returned, he was a different man who made a big impact in America and the world. Teddy Roosevelt came from a Christian home and he knew that God had used his pain to mature him.

Question: Have you been through pain in your life? You can do one of two things. Either you can sit and blame the people or situation that has brought pain into your life or you can ask God to use that pain in your to push you out of your comfort zone.

  1. The warning to the Chain Breaker.

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.

I don’t want to deal too much in speculation, hypothesis, and theory. I like to stick to the facts. But just for a brief moment, I wonder if God called Terah before he called Abraham. Terah obeyed but only partially. He could not move past the ancestral gods. Terah came out of the old country but the old country did not come out of Terah.

What was the result? Listen to what Stephen said in his sermon before the high priest in Acts 7   2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

While Terah staggered at his call, Abraham continued the journey with God. Unfortunately, he had to wait till Terah died. If I may add, because of his delay, Abraham was stuck with Lot, which was very costly. Also, it delayed the coming of Isaac and caused the birth of Ishmael, which was also very costly.

Principle: If you’re stuck in your ways and your ways are from the Bible, that’s great. But, if you’re stuck in your ways but your ways are not from the Bible, someone else may have to finish your journey.

In order to be a chain breaker:

  • Be willing to leave your comfort zone.
  • Be willing to let God use your pain for your growth.
  • Be careful about hanging on to old gods.
  • Be aware of who will be following you and what your disobedience may cost them.

For e.g. Nicole’s grandfather was a chain breaker on that side of the family.

For e.g. Kid who followed his dad to the bar by placing his little feet in the imprint of his dad’s feet in the snow.

Are you a Terah or an Abraham? Whom are you following? Do you see the significance of your disobedience? Are you still hanging on to the old gods? Are you saved?

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? – 5

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? – 5 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whose in your family treeThis morning I’m in the last message of our miniseries “WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE?” So far we have been studying the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, looking at all those four women who were undeserving but found grace in the sight of God. In this message we will look at the genealogy of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. It’s different, unique, and has a powerful message for us, our nation, and our world.

Luke 1 23 Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli…31 the son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David,… 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor…36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech…38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Overall Background: Throughout this week I struggled over whether or not I should preach on this genealogy. I had many reasons for why I should skip over this passage but the Holy Spirit did not allow me to do that. Because, in this genealogy, we understand God’s master plan of redemption for the whole world. The gist of the message is this – We have one problem. We are one family. We received one promise. We have one response. Bottom Line: “Jesus is the focus of history.”

Application: This morning as we go through this message ask yourself this question –Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If you are lost, you need to be saved. If you are saved, are you sharing Jesus with others? He is our only hope.

Let’s look at Luke’s genealogy of Jesus. We will go from the top to the bottom, from Adam to Jesus.

1. WE HAVE ONE PROBLEM.

Listen to Luke 3:38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Background: Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ only goes to Abraham. His purpose was to show the Jewish people that Jesus was indeed the Messiah who was promised to Israel. Luke wrote his gospel to the Gentiles. His purpose was to show that Jesus was indeed the Savior who was promised to the whole world. Hence, his genealogy goes all the way to Adam because the problem began with Adam when he chose to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. God had specifically warned him not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but the temptation got the best of him. Disregarding the commandment of God and disregarding the consequences of sin, Adam did what he wanted to do. As a result, sin came into the world and with sin came death. Listen to Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Now we all belong to the family of sin and death.

Application: Think of all the problems facing us today – marital problems, youth problems, drug abuse problems, alcohol problems, race problems, terrorism problems, war problems, and the list goes on and on and on.

2.  WE ARE ONE FAMILY.

Listen to verse 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,

Background: It didn’t take thousands of years for things to go downhill. The effect of sin was immediate. Adam blamed his wife for his sin, right there was the first marital conflict. The next big sin was murder, where Cain killed his brother Abel. From there the ball started rolling and in Genesis 6 5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Noah was the only individual who obeyed God and God preserved Him and his family in the Ark. He didn’t have to. He could have destroyed it all but He didn’t. That’s His grace.

After the flood, the world began again with the three sons of Noah and their wives. All of us in this place come from one of those three brothers. I often imagine what the scene was like when those three brothers with their three wives decided to go their separate ways. I can picture them hugging each other for a long time, wiping away their tears, and as they are walking in their separate directions, they stop and look back at each other. Somehow they know that one day their children and their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren will kill one another. How sad!

Application: We can look at what happened in Iraq with the beheading or Russia with sending troops into Ukraine or Ferguson with the riots as their problem. Or, if we truly believe that we are connected, then it’s our problem. In other words, there are problems in the family. We belong to one family – the human family and we have one problem – the sin problem. Sadly, sometimes the lost world seems to understand that principle better than the church. The message to the church today is – “Do you believe that we are one family? If so, what are you doing about it?”

Illustration: At Clearview, we are doing something through Kindle. Last Monday we had kids from the inner-city in our Bible program. In three weeks we will be hosting a community event in the inner-city, with food, music, gospel, and fellowship. Are you involved? You should be.

3.  WE RECEIVED ONE PROMISE.

34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,

Background: In Genesis 12 God had called Abraham to leave his father’s house and step out in faith. Listen to verse 1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. This was God’s promise of the coming of Jesus Christ. Abraham’s descendants would become the carriers of the Son of God. Abraham trusted God and went out. He was almost 100 years old before he had a child with his wife Sarah, who was 90.

But there was something else that God had promised Abraham. Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Illustration: I was reading an article yesterday on what is happening in Gaza. This article was in a Christian magazine and the writer was interviewing people, Christian people, about the destruction because of the bombings in Gaza. And this person said, (I’m paraphrasing) “It’s horrible what Israel is doing and how innocent people are dying. They need to try some other way like sit down and talk.” As I read that article, I remembered visiting this one family and the younger child kept beating on the older brother. When the older brother decided to defend himself, his parents got on to him and said to him, “He is smaller than you and you are bigger than him. He doesn’t know any better. You know better.” Isn’t that how it always goes? We expect the older to be understanding and patient and the younger can do whatever he wants to do. Here’s the problem with that logic: It’s unfair. Once that child is done beating on his older brother, he will go after the outsiders. Israel has the right to defend itself. Those same terrorists who are shooting rockets on Israel will one day shoot rockets on us.

But there’s more in Genesis 12, it’s un-biblical for people to mistreat God’s people. Jesus Himself said, “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).

Application: As a nation we are to stand with Israel, not only as a member of the free world but also as God’s people. Now someone might say – “Is God against the Arab people?” Absolutely not! God is for all people because we are connected. That is the point of Luke’s genealogy.

4.  WE HAVE ONE RESPONSE.

31 the son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David,

Background: If you remember, Matthew’s genealogy mentions Solomon as the son of David. But in Luke’s genealogy, Nathan is mentioned as the son of David. Some people have pointed to this as a problem in the Bible. They’ve said that either Matthew made a mistake or Luke made a mistake. Nothing can be further from the truth. The Bible is the word of God without any errors. So what is going on here?

Even though Solomon was the rightful heir to the throne of David, he lived in a way that was displeasing to God. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He trusted more in His wealth and power and pleasure than in God. I Kings 11 4 For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. In verse 9 So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel…11 Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. The Kings that followed Solomon were just as wicked. One of his descendant, Jeconiah, even had a curse pronounced on him.

Nathan, on the other hand, was Solomon’s older brother through Bathsheba. Just like his namesake Nathan the prophet, he represented a godly line. Listen to the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah during the Babylonian exile – Zechariah 12   10 “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. 11 In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14 all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.

What happened to the house of Solomon by itself and their wives by themselves? Too many wives! Solomon led his descendants in the wrong direction. Even though on paper his descendants are listed and Matthew uses it, Luke chooses to use the descendants of Nathan. By the way, both Matthew’s genealogy and Luke’s genealogy go to Joseph not Mary. I know some people try to claim that Luke is giving Jesus’s genealogy through Mary but the Bible never says that. Both Matthew’s genealogy and Luke’s genealogy are through Joseph. That’s what the text says. Matthew is through Joseph’s mom’s side and Luke is through Joseph’s dad’s side. Joseph was a royalty through and through but Jesus was not His son. In other words, Jesus was not Joseph’s problem. Now, Joseph had a choice to make. Is he going to listen to what the crowd is saying or is he going to listen to the angel?

23 Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli…

By faith, Joseph accepted Mary’s son Jesus as his own and lent him his lineage.

So also you, by faith, have to decide what you will do with Jesus.

THERE IS ONLY ONE PLAN OF SALVATION

THERE’S ONLY ONE PLAN OF SALVATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

There is Only One Plan of SalvationNehemiah 9:3-8  3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one–fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God….this is what they said 5 “Stand up and bless the Lord your God
Forever and ever! “Blessed be Your glorious name,
Which is exalted above all blessing and praise! 6 You alone are the Lord;
You have made heaven,
The heaven of heavens, with all their host,
The earth and everything on it,
The seas and all that is in them,
And You preserve them all.
The host of heaven worships You. 7 “You are the Lord God,
Who chose Abram,
And brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans,
And gave him the name Abraham; 8 You found his heart faithful before You,
And made a covenant with him
To give the land of the Canaanites,
The Hittites, the Amorites,
The Perizzites, the Jebusites,
And the Girgashites—
To give it to his descendants.
You have performed Your words,
For You are righteous.

Overall Background: Nehemiah 9 is the record of the confession that the Jewish people made after they were saved. God had called them to influence the world but they had allowed the world to influence them. Now that they had come back to God, they were repenting of all the wrong beliefs they had learned from their Gentile neighbors and affirming all the right beliefs from God’s Word—

–       The first right belief: You alone are the Lord = “There is Only One True God.”

–       The second right belief: You made everything = “There is Only One Creator.”

–       Now we come to the third right belief in verse 7, “You are the Lord God,
Who chose Abram,
And brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans,
And gave him the name Abraham; 8 You found his heart faithful before You, And made a covenant with him
To give the land.” Meaning: Of all the ancient Peoples, God chose a man named Abram, called him to leave his home and go to a new land, changed his name to Abraham, and made a covenant with him and his descendants. Why? Because his heart was faithful before God. In others words, Abram faithfully held on to God’s one and only plan of salvation. So God not only blessed him but also made him a channel to bring His plan of salvation into this world.

Application: This message is critical for all of us. In our world today people think that there are many ways to heaven/God—as long as you are a good person and help others, according to your religion be the best you can be, then God will let you into heaven. Even some well-meaning Christians think that there is no “one” plan of salvation but several based on where you grew up. Nothing could be further from the truth. The question for us this morning: Do you believe that Jesus is the Only Way, the Truth, and the Life? Do you believe that the only plan of salvation is the cross of Jesus, where His blood dripped for our sins? If you believe that, are you telling everyone about Him?

There is Only One Plan of Salvation – 3 questions come to mind:

I. WHY DID THEY MAKE THIS CONFESSION?

 once again to the confession in verse 7 “You are the Lord God,
Who chose Abram,
And brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans,
And gave him the name Abraham;

Abraham StarsBackground: In that statement, they were looking back to the birth of their nation. God chose a Chaldean named Abram to leave his homeland of Ur and go toa new land of Promise. Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God even changed his name Abram, which meant “Father-Exalted” or “Father-Departed” to Abraham, which meant “Father of Many.”

All throughout their history, the Jewish people knew that they were God’s special chosen people. They knew that they were different. They knew that they were the “apple of His eye.” Every time things got difficult, God came through for them and protected them.

–       When there was a famine in the land, God sent Joseph before them.

–       When they were in slavery, God sent Moses to rescue them.

–       When they were facing the Midianites and the Philistines, God sent men like Gideon and Sampson, and women like Deborah to deliver them.

–       When they were facing a giant like Goliath, God sent David with a slingshot and a few pebbles.

–       And the list goes on and on.

Bottom line: God was always there for them. They were His people. But recently, things had not been so great for them. The Northern tribes had been taken into exile by Assyria and lost forever. The Southern tribe of Judah had been taken into exile by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon—who destroyed Jerusalem, the temple, and everything. Unlike earlier times, God did not seem to have come through for them. Needless to say, this was a very low point in the history of the Jewish people. They felt abandoned by God; they even questioned if God had ever called Abraham.

For e.g. It was kind of like after the Holocaust (the Shoah) when six million Jewish people were systematically executed. Many Jewish people who survived questioned the existence of God and His call upon the Jewish people. Elie Wiesel in his book titled Night talks about the hanging of three Jewish people, one of them was a young boy. He writes, “One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call. SS all around us; machine guns trained: the traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains—and one of them, the little servant, the sad-eyed angel….All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips….The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses….“Where is God? Where is He?” someone behind me asked….The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged but the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive…For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed. Behind me, I heard the same man asking: “Where is God now?” And I heard a voice within me answer him: “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows.”

Atheistic Jewish theologian Richard Rubenstein said: “More than the bodies of my people went up in smoke at Auschwitz. The God of the covenant died there.” – Auschwitz and Covenant Theology,” The Christian Century 86 (May 21, 1969)

Application: When people go through difficult times in life (like child abuse and loss of loved ones), they lose all faith in God. They tend to think that God has forsaken them; that there is no master plan; and that all is chance and circumstance. Even Christians go through such times. If I can tell you anything this morning it’s this – don’t forget in the dark what God has taught you in the light.

These Jewish people in Nehemiah’s time were now saved and they were coming back to the truth that God was still there and that they were still His chosen ones. The plan of salvation was still on schedule.

II. HOW ABOUT THE OTHER PLANS?

Background: When we talk about God calling Abraham and choosing the Jewish people, the question comes up – “How about the other peoples?” “Why did God reject them?” What about the other people in Ur of the Chaldeans and those peoples mentioned in verse 8—“the Canaanites,
The Hittites, the Amorites,
The Perizzites, the Jebusites,
And the Girgashites”? The answer to that question is found in verse 8You found his heart faithful before You.” Abram was faithful to God’s one and only plan of salvation—the promise that He was going to send a Seed. God was going to send a Savior who would give His life for the sins of the whole world. The rest of the world had either forgotten that promise or decided to create their own version of the promise.

Tower of Babel

In other words, human beings decided to build their own way to heaven. To understand this, you’re going to have to discard the evolutionary “monkey to caveman” idea of ancient people. We have been programmed to think that human beings evolved slowly out of slime. Instead, we need to look at the first human beings as created in the image of God—not brutes but highly intelligent people, with a great capacity to learn and retain knowledge.

After the Flood (More than 270 flood legends; Every ancient culture knows about it.), God told Noah and his sons, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:8) Instead, they decided to build a city, a tower, and a name. The city was Babylon and the tower was the Tower of Babel. This was a human attempt to get to God. It was a sun temple. Again, every ancient culture talks about this tower. Even some remote Pyramids WorldAfrican tribes talk about a tower built to reach the sun god. The Bible tells us that God dispersed them through confusion of speech. But wherever the people went, they took with them the idea of building ziggurats, pyramids, and mounds. You can find these structures all over the world from Egypt, China, Africa, and even America. When I was in Mexico, I saw one in the Yucatan, that hasn’t even been explored.

Abraham stood in the line of the faithful who chose to wait upon God’s promise of salvation.

Application: There is only one plan of salvation. You can’t get to God. God has to come down to you and save you. Those who are humble enough, like Abraham, receive the plan and are saved. Those who are proud reject the plan or do it themselves and are lost. It doesn’t matter how sincere or passionate or nice you are. Which category do you fall in this morning?

III. HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME?

Because we believe that there is Only One Plan of Salvation:

The last line of verse 8 says—To give it to his descendants.
You have performed Your words,
For You are righteous.

–       The only true plan is the one that has come down through Abraham and his line through Isaac, Jacob, the Jewish people all the way to Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said in John 4:22 “Salvation is of the Jews.” God is not biased against the Arab nations, or the Palestinians, or anyone else. God loves every nation, and every tribe, and every family. The gospel is to be preached unto all nations, and all peoples, races, and cultures. He has offered even the enemies of Israel his love.

–       There is only way our loved ones, friends, neighbours, and co-workers will get to heaven. It does not matter how sincere or passionate or nice you are. No one can earn their way into heaven. You have to humble yourself and reach out and take hold of the hand of Jesus Christ reaching down to you.

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