Righteous Nation by Pastor Abidan Shah

RIGHTEOUS NATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Many nations are known for that one thing or two that that they do really well. What comes to your mind when you think of Switzerland? Swiss army knives or swiss cheese. Egypt? Pyramids. Brazil? Amazon jungle. China? Population. Maybe India too. Afghanistan? War. Botswana? Safari or Diamonds. Italy? Food. How about our own nation, the United States? Freedom and Opportunity. Do you know of any nation that is known for “Righteousness?” Unfortunately, no. From God’s perspective, righteousness is the secret to success as a nation. The timeline of history is littered with nations and peoples that have ceased to be, not because of famine, earthquake, pollution, or deforestation, but, because of unrighteousness.

Proverbs 14:34“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sinisa reproach to anypeople.”

Question: Are we an unrighteousness nation? Are we doing all we can to make our nation a righteous nation? Will our children and grandchildren thank us or curse us for how we are leaving this nation? Righteousness comes through Christ. Are you saved?

Context:The passage we just read comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. Sometimes people treat this book as second class compared to Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Daniel, or any of the New Testament books. I’ve even heard people say something like – “The proverbs are not the promises of God but just general truths or observations about life.” Listen to Jeremiah 18:18 “… for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet…” In the context, this statement was being used negatively against Jeremiah but it gives us the breakdown of the word of God. We know what the law and prophecy are but what is the counsel of the wise? Again, God says in Ezekiel 7:26“Then they will seek a vision from a prophet; but the law will perish from the priest, and counsel from the elders.”Counsels are the proverbs, wise sayings. A proverb is a short saying that teaches us how to deal with practical, every day, ordinary issues in life. Someone said that the proverbs in the Bible are designed by God to fit into out mental pockets as we go through our day to day life.In his lifetime, Solomon spoke about 3000 proverbs. In this book we have only about 800 of them. He wrote most of them and collected the rest. Don’t read them as the wisdom of Solomon. Read them as the wisdom of Christ.Paul says in I Corinthians 1:24“to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”Colossians 2:3“in whom (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Each of these proverbs is coming through the treasury of Jesus.

Back to our scripture today – Proverbs 14:34“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sinisa reproach to anypeople.” Let’s take apart that statement and look at the meaning of each word carefully:

1. Righteousness – (tsedek) It refers to our subjection to the divine universal order of things that has existed since creation and will continue till the end of time. It pertains to every aspect of life – relationships, family, children, nature, government, commerce, justice, war, etc. It is not just “certain acts” but a “pattern of life” that is given by God, required by God, and guaranteed by God. I can give you tons of references, but here’s just onePsalm 45     6Your throne, O God, isforever and ever; A scepter of righteousnessisthe scepter of Your kingdom. You loverighteousnessand hate wickedness.” It is the recognition that God is in charge and we are to do things his way. But, it’s more than just an obligation. It comes from a willing heart. One very important reminder: It’s not popular with the world. To practice it, you have to be willing to go against the flow.

The opposite of righteousness is Sin. It’s the word “chatha” which literally means “miss the mark” or “fall short.” It means missing God’s standard of righteousness.

2. Exalts – (rwm) It has many different uses but in the present context, it means success, prosperity, goodness, and longevity. We find the same word used in Psalm 27:6where David says, “And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me.”

The opposite of righteousness is Reproach. It’s the word “Chesed” which can mean kindness or shame. The idea behind it is “eager desire.” It represents “active shame.” Several times it is used in the context of being killed because of a heinous sin.

Here’s the principle: Nations/kingdoms/peoples/societies that choose to live by God’s standards of righteousness will be blessed materially, physically, educationally, culturally, and perpetually. Those who choose to sin against God will find themselves in intense shame and utter oblivion.

Let’s put this to the test. Have there been nations/kingdoms/peoples/societies who chose to disobey God’s standards?

1. Nations before the Flood: Genesis 6     5Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of manwasgreat in the earth, and thatevery intent of the thoughts of his heartwasonly evil continually. 6And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7So 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.” Everyone on the face of the earth were destroyed except for those who were on the ark – Noah and his family and two of every kind of animals. God gave the rainbow as a sign that he will not destroy the whole earth by water again. Now it is used as a symbol of a promiscuous lifestyle! 

2. Sodom and Gomorrah: Genesis 13     10“And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it waswell 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…13But the men of Sodomwereexceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” As you know, God himself came (pre-incarnate Christ) with two of his angels. God stood with Abraham while the angels went into Sodom to rescue Lot and his family before the destruction. Genesis 19      4Now before they laid down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know themcarnally.”Lot even tried to offer his two daughters but they wouldn’t have it. 24Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. 25So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

3. Egypt: God sent Moses to Egypt to rescue his people from slavery. Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let them go. God sent 10 plagues against Egypt – The Nile River turned into blood. This was followed by the plagues of the frogs, lice, death of the livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness over the land. Then came the final plague – the death of the first born, both humans and animals. Exodus 12:12“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I amthe LORD.” Can you imagine the apocalyptic look of the land of Egypt? If this weren’t enough, God drowned the entire Egyptian army with their horses and chariots into the Red Sea.

4. Babylon: God had raised up Nebuchadnezzar to discipline his people Judah. He had taken them into exile. After his death, his son Belshazzar took the throne. Daniel 5      1Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. 2While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had beenin Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had beenin Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. As this is going on, the fingers of a man’s hand appear opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the king’s palace and start writing. He was shaken up (literally) that his hip joints came loose and his knees knocked against each other. Daniel was called and he interpreted the writing “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” Mene: God has numbered your kingdom and finished it. Tekel: You have been weighed and found wanting. Upharsin: Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. That very night he was killed and Cyrus entered Babylon as the new king. 

5. Greece, Herod, Rome, European Nations, and others: The pattern is the same. When Nations/kingdoms/peoples/societies choose to live by God’s standards of righteousness, they are blessed materially, physically, educationally, culturally, and perpetually. When they choose to sin against God and defy his commandments, they find themselves in intense shame and utter oblivion.

Where are we as a nation? Are we choosing righteousness? It’s easy to blame Washington, Holly Wood, or Media but if we ourselves are unwilling to live by God’s standard of righteousness, what’s the difference? 2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Invitation: Are you living by God’s righteousness? Are you willing to stand up in the face of opposition? Are you willing to share the gospel? Are you willing to show compassion to those around you, especially the unfortunate? Are you saved?

TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS

TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUSWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all 4 gospels and this morning we are in Matthew chapter 2 for our message titled – “TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS.” Each year, the first couple of Sundays in November are designated as a day of prayer for the persecuted church all over the world. We in America take so much for granted but there are people all over the world who cannot do what you are doing right now – hold your Bible, pray, and meet as a church.

Matthew 2 19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 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.”

Arabic N 1Context – Back on July 19 of this year when people in America were deciding whether to go to the beach or to the mountains, something quite different was happening in the city of Mosul, Iraq and the surrounding areas near Nineveh. Christians were being given an ultimatum – leave the city or pay the tax (Jizya) or die by the sword. The very next day ISIS terrorists went around the city of Mosul and spray-painted the Arabic Arabic N 2letter N – looks like a smiley face with one eye – on the homes of every Assyrian Christian. It was just like when the Nazis marked the homes and businesses of the Jewish people with the Star of David. Why did they do that? The Arabic word for Christian is Nasrani and this was their way of marking the Christians. What did these Assyrian Christians do next? They began to change their profile pictures to the Arabic letter N. They began to make T-shirts with the Arabic letter N. They began to protest all over the world. Very soon even Arabic N 3Christians who were not Assyrians began changing their profile pictures to the Arabic N. I’m sure you saw that but probably didn’t know what was going on. Sadly, it did not stop the ISIS terrorists from killing Christians in northern Iraq and northern Syria. Men, women, and even children were brutally beheaded.

What does all this have to do with the passage we just read? Go back to verse 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.” In his earthly ministry, Jesus was called a Nazarene and His disciples were known as the followers of the Assyrian Christians Arabic N protestNazarene. When Paul was being accused before Governor Felix in Acts 24, listen to what they said in verse 5 “For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” In fact, through the centuries Nazarene became the designation for Christians, especially in the Middle East. Nasrani is just the Arabic form of Nazarene. When the terrorists spray-painted N on the doors, they were declaring war against all the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

Christians in America have blinders on. We think – “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s tragic but it’s not my problem. After all, what can I do? It’s for the politicians and the armed forces. In the process more and more of our brothers and sisters are being killed everyday. In the process we are losing the battle on the home front. In the process we are failing in the mission God has given us.

Application: Do we care about what’s happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world? What are we doing to ensure that what is happening in Mosul and Iraq and Syria and for that matter in Iran, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Kazakhstan won’t happen again? There’s a greater question – what are we doing to make sure that it will not happen in our own country? Are you a Christian? Then you are a Nazarene, follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Is there enough evidence for those terrorists to spray paint your house with an N? Do you know the cost for following Jesus of Nazareth?

This morning we will look at this passage and we will also look at what we need to do as followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

 I. GENERATIONAL HATE

19 Now when Herod was dead…

Background: Herod tried to kill the baby Jesus and in the process massacred every male child in Bethlehem and the surrounding districts 2 years old and younger. He died with hate in his heart. As you heard previously, he killed his own son just 5 days before his death. If I can make an important statement – “How you live is how you die.” If you don’t live a righteous life, don’t expect a righteous death. If you don’t live a Christ honoring life, don’t expect a Christ honoring death.

For e.g. Nicole’s dad was a caring pastor. I learned a lot from him. The last time I saw him, he said to me – “Call so and so (a very famous pastor). He is my good friend. Tell him I told you to. He’ll take care of you. I’m sorry I may not be able to help.” I never had to. God had other plans.

For e.g. I was on a hospital visitation one time and people were crying, this man was hooked up to all these machines but still alive enough to talk to his family. He was cursing, didn’t care I was there. His main concern – “get the lawnmower out of the rain.”

After Herod’s death, when Joseph thought that it was safe to head back, listen to verse 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.

Background: What’s the deal with Archelaus? After Herod died, his kingdom was divided between three of his sons – Judea/Samaria went to Archelaus; Galilee and Perea (east of the Jordan) went to Antipas; and the northern part of Herod’s kingdom went to Philip. Archelaus was just as unpopular as his father plus he didn’t have any political savvy and the people hated him. In fact, he began his reign by killing 3000 people who had gathered to celebrate Passover. Even Herod didn’t do something that drastic!

Let me make another statement – “what you as parents do in moderation, your children will do in excess.” If you have been mean, bitter, cantankerous, envious, angry, and busybody, your children will supersede you and every one of them. If you have denied Christ, your children will persecute others for claiming Christ. What’s happening in the Middle East is a product of generational disobedience.

Let me add another statement – “you don’t have to follow in the bad footsteps of your parents.” By the grace of God, you can break the chain. By the help of the Holy Spirit, you can chart a different course. There is no such thing as a generational curse.

For e.g. My father was a Muslim who became a Christian. He lost it all but he paid the price and today I’m serving Jesus Christ. He broke the generational cycle.

Application: Are you walking with Christ? Do your children and grandchildren see you walking with God? Are you breaking the cycle of generational hate for God. My job as a pastor is to help train you and especially your children and your grandchildren to make sure that Christians don’t become a minority in America. My desire is to see them capture politics and every important position that will chart the course of our nation. When Christianity leads, every person regardless of color and religion, has freedom. Are we doing enough? Are you doing enough?

 II. GENTLE KING

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth…

Background: Instead of going to Judea in the South, Joseph took Mary and the infant Jesus to Galilee in the north, to the town of Nazareth. It was a very small village with a population of 150 – 200 people. Like we would say today – “if you blink, you’ll miss it.”

But Matthew adds something else in verse 23 “…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” We have a problem – you can read the entire Old Testament and you will never find the prophecy “he shall be called a Nazarene.” Do you remember when Philip invited Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus? John 1 45 …“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Meaning: That worthless place?!! If it was in the Old Testament, Nathaniel would’ve said, “Oh really.”

Even though the prophets never used the name “Nazarene,” there was always the understanding that the Messiah would be GENTLE NOT FORCEFUL. Hence, He would be unrecognized, ridiculed, and rejected.

Zechariah 9:9 “…Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Psalm 22 6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me…”

Psalm 69 4 Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, Being my enemies wrongfully; Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it… 20 “…I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none…”

Isaiah 53 2 “…He has no form or comeliness; (from Old English ‘cymlic’ that means lovely or beautiful) And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

For e.g. When my father told his father that he was following Jesus Christ, he reminded him of the great family heritage we had – generation of rulers and kings and conquerors. Then he told him – “This Jesus was just a beggar. If you follow Him, you will end up a beggar and it will be up to me to receive you back or not.”

The world is offended at the Gentle King. Why did He not come with all the pomp and show? He came as the gentle Lamb of God to give His life for us. Hence some people have hated Him.

Application: What is your response to this Gentle King? Pride, Ridicule, Anger, or Humble submission.

III. GENUINE POWER

In the Book of Acts, the name “Jesus of Nazareth” was name of power.

In Preaching – Acts 2:22   “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—

In Miracles – Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

In Saving Souls – Acts 22 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 So I answered, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’

This is the name that will save our world and our nation and our community today.

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?

NEAR AND YET SO FAR FROM THE TRUTH

NEAR AND YET SO FAR FROM THE TRUTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR FROM THE TRUTHWe are in our series from the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in Matthew 2 for our message titled – “NEAR AND YET SO FAR FROM THE TRUTH.” We live in what is known as The Bible Belt, where we are surrounded by churches, Christian bookstores/schools/colleges, and Christian voices. But here’s the danger: Truth can be staring you in the face and you can still fail to recognize it.

Matthew 2 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 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. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet…

Overall Background: In the passage we just read, we see two different reactions to the coming of Jesus Christ. The first is the reaction of the magi from the east. If you remember from last week, they were nothing like what we have made them out to be. They were stargazers, astronomers, astrologers, dream interpreters, and sorcerers. If tradition is correct, they travelled from the city of Saveh in modern day Iran, which was 430 miles northeast of Bethlehem. That’s as far as from here to Atlanta. They had to cross the boundary of the Parthian kingdom and enter into the Roman territory, which was very dangerous. Not only that but they had to come into Palestine where the Jewish people didn’t like them much. But these magi were relentless. They were not going to stop until they found the King of the Jews – the Messiah!

The second reaction came only 6 miles northeast of Bethlehem from Herod the King. When the magi came to Jerusalem asking where is the King of Herod and magithe Jews, listen to his response in verse 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 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. One – he didn’t even know that Jesus was going to be born. Second – he didn’t rejoice but he was troubled. The magi found Jesus but Herod missed him – 430 miles vs. 6 miles, living in pagan Persia vs. living in biblical Palestine. Listen carefully – Nearness to the truth is no guarantee of reception of truth. Exposure to the truth does help but it will not guarantee that you will get saved. You may be living 5 minutes from church but it will not guarantee that you will come to Jesus.

What makes the difference? Jeremiah 29:13 “you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Application: Are you seeking God with all your heart this morning? What is keeping you from finding Jesus this morning? If you have found Him, then wonderful but what is keeping your friend, family, and neighbors from finding Him? Are you praying they will find Him? Are you reaching out to them so they will find Him?

This morning we will see what kept King Herod from finding Jesus. Much of the information that I will be sharing comes from the first century Jewish historian Josephus. Basically three things blocked his view of Jesus: Work Problems, Family Problems, and Church Problems.

  1. WORK PROBLEMS

Herod WorkBackground: Herod’s grandfather had worked his way up and became the governor of Idumea. Herod’s father also followed in his footsteps and became even more successful. Sadly, some people were envious of his success and poisoned him. Now it was Herod’s turn. He was hard working. He had unending energy. He was not the type who just made his soldiers fight. He was unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat, a very good horseman, and also a good hunter. He did have a bad temper. He had all the Hasmoneans killed. He had one of his brother-in-laws – Aristobulus, the High Priest – killed. He had 300 of his military leaders killed. Yeah – he was ruthless in killing people but it was all for a good cause. Overall, he was generous. When there was drought, he used his own resources to help the people. He built up a strong military. He protected his people against bandits and tried to make his region safer and peaceful. He was an amazing architect. He built forts, public buildings, streets, water systems, supported the Olympic games and on and on.

Did the people love him for all this? Not really. His people didn’t appreciate him. The Jewish people didn’t accept him because he wasn’t Jewish. His enemies tried to bring him to trial. The supporters of the opposition group tried to attack his family. He had to fight off the Parthians. He had to constantly keep Rome happy. I feel sorry for the guy. Don’t you? Yes – He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth but he still had to work for every bit of what he had and people didn’t appreciate him.

Do you know people like that? They’ve worked hard all their lives. They’ve had to deal with junk. Yeah they made some bad choices but who doesn’t. They’ve tried to help people but they were not appreciated. Work is good but it still won’t earn you heaven.

Matthew 16:26 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Meaning: You can have the whole world and still lose your soul.

Application: Are you relying on your hard work to get to heaven? Are you relying on your career to get you into heaven? Do you feel that God will just give you heaven because of all that you’ve had to deal with from Monday to Friday? Do you think the good you’ve done for people trumps the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross?

2. FAMILY PROBLEMS 

Background: Herod’s family life was a mess, partly because he had ten wives and each of them wanted their son(s) to be the next king. His second Nativitywife deserves to mentioned in particular. He dismissed his first wife and son to marry Mariamme, a woman from a Hasmonean (prominent Jewish) family. Initially he did it to help his position, which it didn’t, but then he really loved her and had 5 children with her. She knew what he was like and she didn’t love him. As Josephus the historian said, “her hatred of him was as great as was his love for her.” Herod’s sister started a rumor that Mariamme was cheating on him and in a fit of rage he had her killed. Then, he realized what he had done and began to grieve over her and even refused to believe that she was dead. He loved the two oldest sons he had with her and even sent them to Rome for their education, hoping to turn the kingdom over to them. When they returned they were arrogant and Herod couldn’t stand that. He even heard rumors that they wanted to avenge their mother’s death. After much back and forth, he had them strangled. Then he made a will (4th one to be exact) to give the kingdom to his son from his first wife but 5 days before he died he had him executed for plotting against him. Altogether, he changed his will 6 times before he died! By the way, I’m only dealing with the issues with his sons. I don’t have time to go into all the problems with other family members.

In his final years Herod became terribly sick. Some scholars believe that he had syphilis. He had tried to get some relief in some healing baths near Jordan River but it didn’t help. When he realized that he was dying, he gave orders to his sister Salome to gather the prominent Jewish people at the hippodrome near Jericho and kill them when he died so people would actually cry when he was gone. He knew his own family wouldn’t cry for him. Thank goodness that after he died his sister did not follow the orders. I feel sorry for the guy. Don’t you? He was trying to help his family but it never worked out.

Do you know some people like that? They’ve had a bad home life. They’ve been let down in your marriage. They’ve tried to be good to their family but it never worked out. Their kids don’t appreciate them. It’s very sad. But it still won’t get you into heaven.

Matthew 10 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

Application: Where does God come in your list of priorities? Do you feel that God will judge you based on what you’ve done for your family? Do you think that your family responsibilities trump the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross?

3. CHURCH PROBLEMS

Background: Herod’s family was Idumean, not Jewish. Idumea was the region to the east and the south of the Dead Sea. Although originally they were descendants of Esau (brother of Jacob) but now they were a mixture of Edomites, Jewish people, Arabs, Phoenicians, and Greeks. They had been forcibly converted to Judaism by a Jewish ruler named John Hyrcanus. Herod’s grandfather was one of them. By the way, that never works. You can never force anyone to become a Christian. You can witness to them, pray for them, and invite them to church. In the end, they have to make their own decision.

Herod TempleHerod did not know God but he tried every way to earn his way to God. According to Josephus, Herod’s most important achievement was the building of the temple in Jerusalem. Solomon built the first temple and it was beautiful but it was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 587 BC. It was rebuilt under Zerubbabel the governor of Jerusalem in 515 BC but it was damaged through the years. Herod decided to tear down and rebuilt the temple in 20/19 BC at his own expense. When we see Jewish people praying at the Western Wall (Wailing wall), it is Herod’s construction. It took ten years to build. He doubled the foundation of Solomon’s temple. He literally reshaped the layout of Jerusalem. Josephus tells us that the entire façade of the temple was covered with gold plates. When the son rose, it was blinding to look at it! The upper parts were probably marble. He even took care to have the priests trained as masons and carpenters so there would be no disruption of services. He even made sure that no one family would control the priesthood. I can go on and on. The bottom line – all his religious work did not change one bit of his behavior because his heart was still the same.

Do you know people like that? They are doing things for God and in the name of God but they don’t know God. They are faithful and committed but they missed Jesus.

Application: Have you met Jesus? I’m not asking if you met denominations, churches, and preachers. I’m asking – have you met Jesus?

Matthew 24 1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

With all his religious work, Herod still failed to see Jesus. He could have gone with the magi or sent an escort with them. But he didn’t! But there’s more – after he sent away the magi to look for Jesus in Bethlehem and they did not return back to inform Herod where Jesus was, listen to Matthew 2:13 “…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; 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…”

Sure enough, when Herod found out that the magi had deceived him, he killed all male children two years and younger, in and around Bethlehem. HerodHis heart was hardened.

Do you think God hated Herod? No! He sent Jesus to be born 6 miles from where He lived. He sent magi from 430 miles to tell him about His birth. He even had all the chief and scribes at his disposal to tell him about the location of Jesus’ birth. Ultimately, it was his own wicked heart.

Application: How is your heart this morning? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If you know Him, are you sharing Him with others? Are you willing to step out of your hiding and follow Him boldly?

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