WHEN GOD SEEMS HELPLESS

 WHEN GOD SEEMS HELPLESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When God Seems HelplessIntroduction: It’s good to see all of you here this morning! Also, we want to welcome our radio audience! We are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in Matthew 2 for our message titled: “WHEN GOD SEEMS HELPLESS.” Most of us would not admit it but at some time in our life that thought has gone through our minds – “Is God helpless?” We may never say it out loud but we have wondered in our heart – “If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He stop the evil in this world, protect the innocent, the weak, and the children? Why doesn’t He even take care of His own?

Matthew 2 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 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.”

Overall Background: So far everything we have looked at in the birth of Jesus has been wonderful, joyful, and according to divine plan but now we come to a rather dark chapter in the Christmas narrative. The magi had been instructed by King Herod to inform him when they had found the baby – the King of the Jews. But that night they had a dream that they should not go back to Herod and they went home another way. When King Herod got the news that the Magi had deceived him, he was furious and Matthew 2:16 says “…he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” In some Christian traditions, this is referred to as the “Massacre of the Innocents.” Depending on which tradition you come from, either December 27 or 28 or 29 is considered “Holy Innocents Day.”

Can you imagine what that massacre was like when Herod’s soldiers descended upon the little town of Bethlehem and the surrounding area and began brutally killing little boys? Matthew 2 tells us in verse 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.’” You can almost hear the cries and the screams and the wails of the mothers and I’m sure the fathers too for their innocent children. I can’t help but remember Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were brutally killed just two years ago. We all remember the shock and the pain we felt.

Back to Matthew 2:13, God knew what Herod was about to do and what was His response? 13 Now when they (magi) had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” Have you ever stopped to examine this passage carefully? There are many problems here –

  • Is God telling his son to flee from a mere mortal?Massacre of the Innocents by Léon Cogniet
  • Is God too powerless to deal with King Herod? Can He not just kill him?
  • If not kill him, why not change his heart to receive Jesus as his Savior?
  • Forget about baby Jesus for a moment – how about the innocent children? Why didn’t God send His angels to protect the innocent children from the soldiers?
  • If not, why didn’t He just transform the soldiers’ hearts? Then no one had to die.

Have you ever thought of these questions? You may say – “not really.” Actually, you have. The question underlying all those questions is –

  • Where is God when bad things happen?
  • Where is God when evil people hurt the innocent, the weak, and the children?
  • Where is God when His own people suffer?
  • Where is God when it appears that His own grand plan is in jeopardy?

Bottom line: How can I trust a God who is Himself on the run?

When you raise questions like these, there are several different responses:

  • Some people are afraid of these questions because they feel that it may weaken their faith. “Just don’t question.”
  • Some people admit that they have these questions but they are trying to have faith. “I’m trying hard to have faith.”
  • Some people have already answered these questions with the conclusion that either God is not powerful or not good (doesn’t care) or doesn’t exist (Atheist).

Sadly, some of those people are here this morning. This morning we do not have the time to deal with every question on this topic but at least answer the ones that come from this passage. There is a reason why God allowed this tragedy to happen:

1. REMIND US OF THE REALITY OF SIN AND EVIL.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

Background: Herod questioned the Sanhedrin if what the Magi were saying was the truth. The Sanhedrin – the central Jewish authority – did not get along with Herod. But, in this situation they told him the truth. They quoted from two different Old Testament passages – 2 Samuel 5:2 and Micah 5:2. Listen to verse 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” Meaning: Both the Jewish leaders and King Herod knew the truth about Jesus. There was no confusion, doubt, or surprise. Nonetheless, they rejected it enough to try to kill it. Why? Because of sin and evil.

We love everything about Christmas – Buying gifts, decorating the tree, Santa Claus, and singing Christmas carols like “Joy to the World,” “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “Grandma got run over by a reindeer.” It’s wonderful but there’s another side we cannot forget. This side is evil and sinful and it did everything it could to sabotage, quench, and destroy the truth of God.

Christmas is not only a reminder of joy and peace and goodwill to all but it is also a reminder that there is real sin and evil in this world. Tragedies like the Newtown shooting, and September 11, and the killing of the innocent people in the Middle East as we speak reminds us that there is real evil and sin in this world. Let me go a step further – that same sin and evil that is in the convicts in prison and those out in the streets and those terrorists and those despots throughout history is also in you and is also in me. It does everything possible to quench and destroy the truth of God.

Tragedies in life remind us that Jesus did not come to die because he had nothing better to do. Jesus did not come to die because people are basically good and they just need to be better. Jesus came to die for a real world that has real evil because of real sin.

Application: Do you believe that there is real sin and real evil in this world? Do you believe that Jesus had to come to set us free from the power of sin and death? Do you recognize the sin and evil that is in your own heart?

2. REMIND US OF THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS.

13 “…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word…”

Background: This passage is interesting to say the least. Why is Jesus unaware of Herod’s plot and why doesn’t He just zap him from the manger? Because of the Reality of the Incarnation. Jesus chose to restrict his divine attributes. He chose to hold back his omniscience and omnipotence. As Philippians 2:7 tells us, “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” In order to become just like us He refused to exercise His all knowledge and His all power. He didn’t lose them. He didn’t empty them. He didn’t leave them with the father. He always had them but chose to be like us. Why? Hebrews 2 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings…17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest…18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. He was fully God and yet as fully man He restricted himself but He never lost what He had as God. You may ask – “How does all that work together?” It worked for Him.

Application: The real question is do you know when Jesus went through for you? Do you know how much He had to restrict Himself to be like you? Do you also know that there is no suffering that you have been through or are going through or will go through that Jesus does not completely and totally understand? By becoming helpless He is able to help us.

3. REMIND US OF A DEEPER TRUTH.

14   When he (Joseph) 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.”

Eugene Alexis Girardet -Flight Into Egypt

Background: This event is known as the flight to Egypt or in some traditions as the second of the “Seven sorrows of Mary.” Matthew explains to us that this episode fulfilled the statement of the prophet Hosea. Egypt represented sin and depravity, not the land but a state. God led His people Israel out of bondage but they repeatedly longed for it and talked about it. They longed for the leeks and garlic and the pots of meat. Compared to them, Jesus came out of Egypt and He never went back (again not the land but the state).

When we are saved, we are in Christ. Because He came out of Egypt, we too have come out of Egypt. We don’t have to live in defeat and captivity. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Now all we have to do is keep our eyes on our Captain Jesus. Hebrews 12 1 “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? How are you handling your suffering?

GOD’S WAY AND GOD’S TIMING

GOD’S WAY AND GOD’S TIMING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

GOD'S WAY AND GOD'S TIMINGThis morning I’m preaching a message titled, “GOD’S WAY AND GOD’S TIMING” in our ongoing series on the life of Christ from all four gospels. Trials are part of life. That’s a given. How you handle trials depends on how you see God in your trials. Many people don’t wait upon God or his timing. They do whatever they want to do. Instead of waiting for supernatural solution, they find natural solutions to fix their problems. The prophecy of the Virgin birth or virginal conception was given to remind us that God’s way and God’s timing are always perfect.

Isaiah 7 10 Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!” 13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. 15 Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. 17 The LORD will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house—days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.”

Overall Background: The Book of Isaiah is often referred to as the fifth gospel. The Latin father Jerome (A.D. 342-420) said that Isaiah “should be called an evangelist rather than a prophet because he describes all the mysteries of Christ and the Church so clearly that you would think he is composing a history of what has already happened rather than prophesying about what is to come.” That is true. Isaiah gave the prophecy that a virgin will give birth to a child and he would be called Emmanuel. It was given at a time when God’s people were facing invasion from every direction – from the South, Edom was attacking; from the West, Philistia was attacking; and from the north and northeast, Ephraim and Syria were building a coalition against Judah. God was aware of all this and He sent Isaiah to King Ahaz to remind him that everything will be okay. God will take care of His people. Instead of trusting God’s way and God’s timing, Ahaz decided to do it his way. He decided to call upon the king of Assyria to come to his rescue. It was as one commentator said – “taking a tiger by the tail.” Assyria came and captured Syria, destroyed Ephraim/Samaria, sent the Northern tribe into exile, never to return, and almost wiped out the Southern kingdom of Judah. Only by the grace of God, they survived but for a short while longer.

Does all this sound familiar? Isn’t this how we do it? We face a crisis. God tells us to choose His way and to wait on His timing but we refuse to trust him and do it our way and the consequences are devastating. We make a total mess for ourselves and for those who are dependent on us. But God in his grace and goodness still works is greater plan for our lives. The prophecy of the virgin birth was given as a promise that even though everything will be destroyed that one day God will redeem his people.

This morning some of you are facing a crisis or facing the consequences of not trusting God in your crisis. Look to God. Wait upon him. Trust his way and his timing. Even if you’ve messed up, don’t lose hope. God has a plan. You may have to face some consequences of your decisions but God can still work his greater plan for your life.

So let’s walk through Isaiah 7 and understand God’s way and God’s timing.

1. A BIG PROBLEM – WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it.

Background: The historical account we just read took place around 734 BC. The people of Israel were divided into the northern kingdomSyro-Ephraimite Invasion and the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom were the 10 tribes in the northern part of Israel, led by the tribe of Ephraim and the southern kingdom were the two tribes in the southern part of Israel (Judah and Benjamin) led by the tribe of Judah. It all began after Solomon died and the tribes to the north chose their own king against the tribe of Judah in the South. The Northern Kingdom became known as Israel and the southern kingdom became known as Judah.

Let’s read again verse 1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it.

What a sad sight! Pekah, King of Israel, had made an alliance with Rezin, king of Syria, to fight against Ahaz, king of Judah. Both Pekah and Ahaz were sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but Pekah had turned to their enemies in the north to fight against their brothers in the South.

It is shameful, disgraceful, and sinful when God’s people fight against their own brothers and sisters. Church conflicts break the heart of God. Church conflicts stifle the work of God. Church conflicts give the enemy a stronghold among the people of God.

The first invasion was not successful and in verse 2 And it was told to the house of David, saying, “Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim.” So his heart and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind.

What a powerful imagery! Have you ever seen trees blowing in the wind during a storm? They bend and sway and even break. They are unpredictable. The people of Judah along with their King were in a great crisis.

Jeremiah 17 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Application: How do you respond to crisis in your life? Is your hope in the Lord? Are you planted in him?

2. A WISE PLEA – DON’T WORRY. GOD HAS THIS.

3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son…” Why did God say take your son? Shear-jashub means “a remnant will return.” Children are a sign of hope. They are a reminder that life will go on. We have a lot of children at Clearview. It’s not accidental. It is intentional. They are not in the way. They are the way. When we start caring for our children in our church and in our nation, then we have hope for the future.

“…at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field,

Why is the King hanging out at the aqueduct? He is concerned about the water supply in Jerusalem. He wants to make sure that if there is a siege that his people have water to survive. He is taking every precaution possible to be ready for the coming invasion. Nothing wrong with that.

4 and say to him: “Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah.

What a wonderful word of comfort from God! What a powerful imagery! In other words – they are blowing smoke. Don’t worry about them. Instead, be careful and stay calm.

Some of you need to hear that – be careful and stay calm. Don’t start scheming. Don’t start screaming. Just stand back and watch the salvation of the Lord. Just like God told their forefathers when they left Egypt and came to the Red SeaExodus 14 13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

Just like Jesus with his disciples during the storm – Mark 4 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39   Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

Then it goes on in verse 5 Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah have plotted evil against you, saying, 6 “Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and let us make a gap in its wall for ourselves, and set a king over them, the son of Tabel” (There’s a play on words here. Tabiel means “my God is good” but Tabeel means “good for nothing.”) 7 thus says the Lord GOD: “It shall not stand, Nor shall it come to pass… (In 65 years Ephraim ceased to exist.) 9 “…If you will not believe, Surely you shall not be established.” ’ ”

Application: Are you in need of encouragement today? God’s word to you is – be careful and stay calm. You’ll be okay. Are you willing to see the salvation of the Lord?

3. A FOOLISH PRESUMPTION – NAH, I GOT THIS.

10   Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!”

Background: Now God does not like people who test Him but here the situation was different. God was asking Ahaz to ask Him for a sign. But Ahaz was trying to sound spiritual but he really wasn’t. More than likely, he had already sent off his envoy/ambassadors to King Pul.

These are the type of people when you tell them that you’ll be praying for them. They say – “Uh huh nothing wrong with praying.” They want to do it their way. They write off God’s way as being naive.

Application: Are you a superficial Christian? Are you one of those who already have their minds made up? Are you the type who looks at Christians as being naïve and stupid?

4. A MUCH GREATER PROMISE – NO YOU DON’T HAVE THIS; BUT I WILL DO WHAT I HAVE TO DO TO HELP YOU.

Is. 7:13   Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Background: The Bible does not give much information to us on who the virgin was that Isaiah was referring to. She could have been a young woman, probably in Ahaz’s palace/harem, who was pregnant at the time.

Tiglath-pileser III15 Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. 17 The LORD will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house—days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.” 18 And it shall come to pass in that day That the LORD will whistle for the fly That is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt, And for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.

Meaning: When the prophecy of the virgin birth was first given, it was a promise of judgment. But in God’s divine plan, there is mercy in judgment. There was an underlying promise that another virgin will conceive of the Holy Spirit and give birth. His name shall be called Jesus because Matthew 1 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 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.”

God always has a plan, a much greater plan. Even when we disobey and go our own way, He still brings the message of salvation to us. He brings Jesus to us. Do you know Him?

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