When Ministry Grows by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN MINISTRY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whenministrygrowsIntroduction: This is our second message in our new series – NO BENCHWARMERS and this one is called – “WHEN MINISTRY GROWS.”

Nehemiah 4   6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. 7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8 and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

Bridge: How many of you would agree with the statement – “Anytime something good begins to happen, the Devil always shows up”? It is true in our personal lives, in our families, in our workplaces as a Christian, and even in our church.

Nehemiah - Gustave DoreContext: The Book of Nehemiah is a perfect example of this. The Jewish people led by Nehemiah were trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 587 BC, destroyed the Temple, and the city walls. In 539 BC God had brought the people back into the land and commanded them to rebuild. They rebuilt the temple by 516 BC but the city walls lay in ruins. A city without walls is a city without security, stability, and identity. So God sent a man by the name of Nehemiah in 445 BC to bring the people of Jerusalem and Judah together to rebuild the city walls. If you do the math, that’s almost 100 years after they were back to the land! It’s easy to tear down a work but it’s very hard to rebuild one. By much prayer, Nehemiah rallied the people to begin the work but it wasn’t long before the opposition showed up. In today’s message, we’re going to see what happens when ministry grows and opposition shows up.

Question: Are you part of God’s rebuilding project at Clearview? Are you even aware of what God is doing here at Clearview? Can you see how God is rebuilding lives, homes, marriages, young people and our community? Have you asked Him where He wants you to be in His building project? Are you saved? Are you a citizen of the Heavenly City?

4 things we will learn about what to do when a ministry grows and opposition comes:

I. EXPECT OPPOSITION.

Nehemiah 4:1 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews.

Sanballat the HoroniteBackground: Literally it means – this man named Sanballat was hot and irritated when he saw the Jewish people rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and he began to mock and make fun of the people rebuilding the wall. Who was Sanballat? Archaeologists tell us that he was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. He was Nehemiah’s chief enemy. The wall was a threat to him. So what does he do? He begins to ridicule the Jewish people. Ridicule or mockery is Satan’s choice weapon to discourage and dishearten God’s people. Shakespeare called ridicule “paper bullets of the brain.” Scottish Philosopher Thomas Carlyle once called ridicule “the language of the devil.”

Tobiah the AmmoniteWhat did Sanballat say? 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? (He mocked them physically.) Will they fortify themselves? (He mocked their construction knowledge.) Will they offer sacrifices? (He mocked their faith) Will they complete it in a day? (He mocked their determination.) Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” (He mocked their resources) 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him…” Who was Tobiah? He was the governor of Ammon to the east of Jerusalem. He came from a family of very powerful Jewish aristocrats. He wasn’t happy either because the wall was also a threat to him. “And he said, ‘Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.’” Chuck Swindoll remarked – “Critics run with critics.”

Application: Have you ever had to deal with Satan’s mockery? I’ve had to. Sometimes he uses people who appear very close to you. You would think that it would be easy to brush it off but its not. Warren Wiersbe said, “Some people who can stand bravely when they are shot at will collapse when they are laughed at.” Have you abandoned some God-given dreams because someone ridiculed you? Let the Holy Spirit help you refocus and get back to the task God has called you to. As a church, we have to be aware of Satan’s opposition. Be aware of his ridicule through some Sanballat or some Tobiah.

II. REMEMBER TO PRAY.

4 “Hear, O our God, for we are despised…”

Background: Nehemiah could have become angry; he could have argued with Sanballat and Tobiah; he could have believed them and given up. Instead, he did what he did when the work first began. He turned towards God. Listen to his prayer: 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5 Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.

Nehemiah was a man of prayer. He prayed what is known as an imprecatory prayer, where he prayed for God’s judgment upon the enemy. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t they have prayed like Jesus – “Father forgive them for they not know what they do”? Keep in mind that Nehemiah was not praying for personal vengeance. He was reminding God that the enemy had dishonored Him. They were provoking Him. Nehemiah knew that ultimately this was God’s work. And did prayer work? 6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

Application: At Clearview we believe strongly in the power of prayer. Every Sunday morning we have the Sunday Morning Prayer Zone where men pray for the service. Every Tuesday morning the ladies come together for a time of prayer. Wednesday evening before Bible study we have a time of prayer. Then this weekend, Friday noon to Saturday noon we will be having our prayer vigil. If you haven’t signed up, go by the welcome room and sign up. Men – we need you to sign up for the night hour so the women can come in and pray during the day hour. The only way we as a church still have “a mind to work” is because God keeps giving us the strength to persevere in the face of opposition.

III. GUARD THE MISSION. 

Nehemiah's enemies7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, Keep in mind that the Enemy never gives up. God is blessing Clearview. Lives are being transformed. Do you think the Enemy is happy? Absolutely not. Once he knows that we’re not going to respond to his ridicule, he will return with another weapon. 8 “and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.” Another of the Enemy’s choice weapons is confusion. He likes to come in and get the people all confused about their roles and the direction“I don’t know what I am doing…” “I don’t know where we are going…” What happens when people are confused about those two things? They turn on each other and before you know it the work is over.

What did Nehemiah and the Jewish people do? 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. Meaning: They prayed and actively began to guard the work against any confusion from the enemy. They were clear about who they were and what they were doing.

Today we had our first annual praise team retreat. The one thing they discussed more than anything else was the mission of Clearview. Do you know the mission of Clearview? Our mission is to “lead all people into a life-changing and ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” Our slogan is “Making Christ Visible.”

Application: Do you guard yourself against the Enemy? Do you reject his attempt to bring confusion into our church family? Do you know what is the mission of our church? Do you know what your role is in the body?

IV. DIVIDE THE WORK.

Nehemiah guards vision10 Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” Who is Judah? It is another designation for the Jewish people. It was a way of saying that all the Jewish people began to lose their momentum. The task seemed too big. Plus, verse 11 And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” The Enemy is relentless, especially when people are tired.

Can this happen at church? Oh yes! The 20% gets tired and wants to quit. They start hearing a negative comment here and an attitude there and they want to give up. What was Nehemiah’s reaction to all this? 13 Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. Nehemiah is dividing up the work and every family is involved in doing their part. But, there’s something more – 14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” Nehemiah does not tell them to build the wall. He tells them to see the big picture. Fight for your loved ones.

Application: How do you see your role at Clearview? Is it “I got to teach Sunday School. I have to keep nursery. I have practice tonight. Is it Kindle again this week?” Or do you look at what you do as fighting for your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, and husbands?

16 So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. 17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Nehemiah continues to divide the work and guard the vision.

Application: Have you been praying and asking God where He wants you to work? The title of the series is “No Benchwarmers.” Are you a benchwarmer?

Just so we don’t walk away thinking that Nehemiah was a very skillful project manager, listen to these verses – 19 Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

In the end Nehemiah reminded them that God was going to give them victory. In the end God will work everything together for good at Clearview. Our best days are here and even better days are coming ahead.

Are you trusting God to fight for you? Do you know the Living and True God? Are you saved

JERUSALEM – THREE LESSONS, ONE GRAND VIEW (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah,

JERUSALEM – THREE LESSONS, ONE GRAND VIEW – Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 6, 2016)

Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel

Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

I’m standing atop Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. The view is mind blowing! Before me lies the city whose history goes back to over 4000 years. Jerusalem has bewitched both conquerors and pilgrims through the centuries. Even today, it is the most contended ground on the face of the earth. Someone called it – “the hottest piece of real estate on the planet.” But my view is different. I don’t find any magical lure or spiritual power in her presence, just lessons of deep significance. Three such landmarks stand out for me:

  1. The Temple Mount – the gleam of the golden Dome of the Rock immediately draws my attention. It’s the site of Mount Moriah, where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed as a test of his faith. God accepted his willingness and gave him the glimpse of His Son
    The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel

    The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    to come. Later David purchased the site from the Jebusites and Solomon built the temple on the very ground. On the third day I actually visited the Temple Mount for the first time. Although it was breathtaking, I could also sense the tension all around. As much as I loved the experience, I’m grateful that through Christ no longer is my access to God limited by a plot of land but we can come “boldly to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16)

  2. The City of David – between the Tyropoeon Valley on the west and Kidron valley to the east is the place that David chose to be his
    City of David, Jerusalem, Israel

    City of David, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    capital. It is actually outside the walls of Jerusalem. I couldn’t help but visualize David walking on the terrace of his palace while his army had gone into battle. Down below he saw Bathsheba bathing. Instead of walking away, this “man after God’s own heart” gave into the sin of adultery. But he didn’t stop there. He even had her husband brutally murdered. Although David had to suffer the consequence of his sins, God still showed him mercy and grace. It reminded me that no one was immune to the temptation of sin and I resolved to God – “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

  3. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Unfortunately, this structure does not outshine the surrounding buildings. In fact, one really has to search for the most important site in Christianity – the place where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. Inside, it is
    Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel

    Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    gaudy and stale and I never cease to be amazed at the blind devotions of the tourists, kissing the ground and attempting to gain some divine favor. If that’s not enough, it’s always fascinating and revolting to watch the different groups trying to control their piece of the shrine. It’s tragic…but a great illustration of human nature. We cling to our blind rituals. We remain divided over trivial stuff. We lose sight of the heart of the gospel. To me, the ground is historical not sacred. Only Christ and His work for us deserve our utmost devotion. Peter offers a stark warning, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.’” (1 Peter 2:7)

As I’m about to walk back to our van, I turn to catch one last glimpse of the gorgeous panorama of the capital of the world and I’m reminded that one day all of it will be remade. Revelation 21 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” What a glorious hope!

No Turning Back

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here.

NO TURNING BACK – by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

noturningbackToday we are celebrating what is known as Palm Sunday. It commemorates the start of the final week in the life of Jesus. The time had come for Him to do what He had come to do – go to the cross. With that in mind, I am preaching a message titled “NO TURNING BACK.”

Isaiah 50 5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away. 6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. 7 “For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.

Luke 9 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

Overall Background: The two passages we just read are about 800 years apart but they are both describing the same final stage in the life of Jesus. They are both talking about His final journey to Jerusalem – the journey that would take Him to the cross. This was why He had come. He was God’s Lamb slain before the foundation of the world and the time had come for Him to give His life on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins and save us from the wrath of God. All we would have to do is believe on Him and we would be safe.

What is interesting at this point is that both Isaiah and Luke talk about His face. Isaiah 50:6 says, “I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” and again in 7 “Therefore I have set My face like a flint.” Then in Luke 9:51 – “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” and 52 “and sent messengers before His face” and 53 His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

Our face says a lot about how we are feeling inside. There are all kinds of faces: happy, sad, content, angry, defeated, confused, tired but here it says that His face was like a flint, which is a hard sedimentary rock used to make tools, sharpen knives, and start fires. Meaning: It was an intense, determined, resolute, unafraid, unflinching, unwavering, unshakeable face. In our contemporary language we would say – “He had His game face on” but it really doesn’t do justice to it.

What’s the point? There was a seriousness, intensity, and urgency to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that we have lost. Somehow we have turned this “battle imagery” into a walk in the park or a Sunday afternoon drive or a little window-shopping at the mall. No wonder that we have watered down the gospel to this casual, non-essential and non-urgent option. Jesus didn’t see it like that.

Application: Do you realize the seriousness of the cross? Have you considered the battle Jesus went through for your soul 200 years ago? What’s keeping you from getting saved? If you are saved, how are you following Him? Have you set your face like a flint towards God’s purpose? Why do you keep turning back?

Two major things we will see in this final journey of Jesus to Jerusalem: Destination and Distractions. Let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to your spiritual condition and the spiritual condition of those around you.

I. DESTINATION 

Luke 9 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,

Jerusalem

Jerusalem (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Jesus did not set His face to go to Galilee or Rome or Memphis but to Jerusalem. As you know, we were in Jerusalem just two months ago. I’ve seen many cities in my life – Bombay, London, and New York but none of them can compare to Jerusalem. The first thing that gets you are the walls of the city. They are big but they are not intimidating. As one writer put it – “the city is not a fortress and its walls are not a barrier but a veil.” (Jerome Murphy-O’Connor) The next thing that gets you is that everything is limestone, even the newer structure. When the British controlled Jerusalem between 1917-1947, they made a law that all buildings had to be faced with the Jerusalem stone. It was to maintain its ancient look and it’s heavenly glow.

Eastern Gate

Eastern Gate (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

We’re not sure exactly what the city looked like when Jesus came to Jerusalem but He wasn’t admiring the walls or the Jerusalem stone like us. He was seeing something else. In fact, he saw 3 views of Jerusalem:

  1. HOSTILE view of Jerusalem – He saw the faces of the Pharisees and the scribes, the Sadducees, the high priests, and the religious leaders. He saw the faces of the people who were waiting to killing Him. He saw the face of Pilate and Herod, archenemies but would become friends over Him. He saw the faces of the multitudes gnashing their teeth at Him and shouting, “crucify Him.” He had preached them and did signs and wonders and healed their sick but it did not matter.

Luke 13 34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ”

Application: Have you ever been in a hostile environment? Have you ever been in a place where you knew that you were not wanted? Some of us are afraid to step out and speak out for the gospel. We are afraid of hostility. If you are lost, do you realize that you are hostile to Jesus? Do you see the end of people who keep refusing Jesus?

  1. DESTROYED view of Jerusalem – He not only saw the present of Jerusalem but also the future. He saw the impending judgment that was going to come over Jerusalem.
Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts

Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts

Luke 19 41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez

The fulfillment of this prophecy began in AD 66 when the taxes were running low and the Roman procurator Gessius Florus decided to steal the silver from the temple. The Jewish people were obviously angry and revolted. So he sent his troops and killed about 3,600 citizens. The Jewish people reacted by stopping their sacrifices to Caesar and killed some Romans. So Nero sent General Vespasian against them. Nero died and Vespasian became the emperor and appointed his son Titus to continue the fight. After a siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, his soldiers broke through the walls of Jerusalem and killed over a million people and captured and enslaved 97,000 more. Josephus, the Jewish historian wrote that, “The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.” The Roman soldiers were so angry that (some say in spite of Titus’ orders) they burned down the temple of Jerusalem. Josephus writes again, “Jerusalem … was so thoroughly razed to the ground…that nothing was left that could ever persuade visitors that it had once been a place of habitation.” In fact, in AD 131 the Roman emperor Hadrian turned the Roman colony into a city by the name of Aelia Capitolina.

Is it any wonder that Jesus wept when He saw Jerusalem? He saw what was coming. How? He was fully God as well as fully man and as fully God He was not bound by time but as fully man He was living out the drama of the cross.

Application: Do you see the destruction of people who reject Christ? Can you visualize what happens to people (men, women, boys, and girls) who reject the gospel? Does that move you to tears?

  1. GLORIFIED view of Jerusalem – He not only saw the present rejection and the future destruction of Jerusalem but also the ultimate glorification.

Revelation 21 1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel…22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light…”

We don’t have time to deal with all the details of prophecy here but this much is clear – God is not through with Jerusalem. There is a day coming when He will build a city with His own hands. He Himself will lay the foundations. He Himself will erect the walls. He Himself will build homes for us. But, the name will still be Jerusalem – New Jerusalem.

Application: What a promise of hope! What a promise that He will make all things new! Have you received that promise in your life? Are you saved? Do you see that hope for others? Do you see that hope for our community? Do you see that hope for our nation?

II. DISTRACTIONS

Background: As Jesus headed to Jerusalem, several distractions stood in His path but He did not lose His focus. Isaiah helps us to see these distractions.

  1. FAME AND FRIENDS

Isaiah 50 5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away.

The multitude wanted to take Him by force and make Him their King but He did not consent to them. It would have been so much easier but that wasn’t God’s plan. Neither did He let His only disciples talk Him out of it, like Peter.

Application: Are you letting fame and friends keep you from following God’s will?

  1. PAIN AND SHAME

6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.

He knew that His back would be torn to shreds. He knew that He would be falsely accused, mocked, and spit upon.

Application: Are you letting the fear of pain and shame keep you from following God’s will?

  1. SIN AND SEPARATION

7 “For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.

The biggest distraction was the fame or shame or pain. It was the burden of sin being put upon Him. It was the separation from the Father that He experienced. You hear that when He cried from the cross – “My God My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

Application: What is keeping you from following Christ? Why do you keep turning back? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Receive Him and follow Him today.

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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