Uncomfortable Obedience by Dr. Abidan Shah (2021)

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE (2021)

Introduction: Once again, we want to welcome you to our Christmas Eve Service. For the past 3 Christmas Eves, we have been talking about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, and using our gifts in his service. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our limits. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable? In 2018, we focused on how Joseph had to practice uncomfortable obedience in taking Mary to be his wife even though she was with a child that wasn’t his own. In 2019, we focused on how Mary had to practice uncomfortable obedience in being willing to carry a baby that had a supernatural origin. In 2020, we focused on how the magi had to practice uncomfortable obedience in following the star in the east and seeking the king of the Jews. Tonight, for the next few moments, we will focus on how the shepherds had to practice uncomfortable obedience in receiving the message from the angels and going into the town of Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus.

Luke 2      8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Context: Typically, the reason given for the shepherds to be included in the Christmas narrative is either “They represented untrustworthy sinners that Jesus came to save” or “They represented poor common folk that Jesus came to lift up.” (See Sarah Harris’s dissertation) When we study ancient history carefully, we find that neither are totally true. In fact, the shepherd imagery was commonly used as a designation for gods and kings among the Sumerians and Mesopotamians. Even the Egyptians depicted their Pharaohs with a flail and a shepherd’s crook. So also, the Greeks.

When we come to the Bible, the Old Testament, God is repeatedly described as a shepherd to his people Israel:

  • In Genesis 49:24, listen to how Jacob blesses Joseph – “. . . the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel).”
  • In Exodus 15:13, Moses describes God as a shepherd setting his people free from Egypt – “You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation.”
  • In Isaiah 40:11, listen to Isaiah’s prophecy about God’s future care of his people – “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carrythem in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.
  • In Jeremiah 13:17, listen to Jeremiah’s sorrow over the sins of his people – . . . My eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, Because the LORD’S flock has been taken captive.”
  • In Micah 7:14, listen to Micah’s prayer to God – “Shepherd Your people with Your staff, the flock of Your heritage, who dwell solitarily in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel; Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in days of old.”
  • Then the psalms are full of the shepherd imageries – Psalm 78:52 “But He made His own people go forth like sheep, And guided them in the wilderness like a flock.” Psalm 80:1 “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock. . .”

By the way, God’s greatest leaders have also been shepherds: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. Of course, who can forget Psalm 23     1 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

The point is that contrary to what we have assumed, shepherds were not always looked upon as the worst and the lowest of society. Instead, many times, God was depicted as a shepherd who guided, provided, and protected his people.

In fact, 800 years before the coming of Jesus, the prophet Micah gave a word of comfort to the Southern Kingdom of Judah as they were facing enemies from all sides.Listen to Micah’s prophecy to wait for their Shepherd King who would come to rescue them – Micah 5     2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the One to be Ruler in Israel, (Meaning: A King is coming from the City of the great king David. He is the rightful King.) whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (A better translation is “whose origins are from of old.” In other words, “although he will be born yet he has no beginning.” He is no ordinary King.) 4 And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the LORD, (Meaning: He will be a Shepherd King to his people unlike the unfaithful King Ahaz of Judah. He will be like his earthly ancestor David, who was the good shepherd king. Wait on Him!) In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; And they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 And this One shall be peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land. . .” I know what you are thinking. Why would God send someone 800 years later to save them from a problem they are facing right now? The time to put a band aid on their wound was over, it was time to schedule a major surgery.

Why were the local shepherds invited? Listen again to verse 8 “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Some people have claimed that they were temple shepherds. That may be but we don’t have any solid evidence for it. I believe that they were symbolic of the faithful, brave, and good shepherds who were simply under shepherds waiting on the Chief Shepherd to come and take over his flock. Luke tell us that they came with haste and found the baby Jesus. What was their response? 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. . . 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”

Here’s the point:

  1. The shepherds had to overcome their fear of the angels.
  2. The shepherds had to overcome their fear of going into the town at night.
  3. The shepherds had to overcome their fear of the people and share the story with others.

So also, when it comes to following Christ, it’s not easy. There will be uncomfortable obedience. Even coming here this evening may not have been easy for some of you. You were willing to obey God than to fear human beings or anything else.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others’ opinions, and personal fears.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

Uncomfortable Obedience (2020) by Dr. Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE (2020) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2020)

Introduction: Once again, we want to welcome you to our Christmas Eve Service. For the past 2 Christmas Eves, we have been talking about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, and using our gifts in his service. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our limits. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable? In 2018, we focused on how Joseph had to practice uncomfortable obedience in taking Mary to be his wife even though she was with a child that wasn’t his own. In 2019, we focused on how Mary had to practice uncomfortable obedience in being willing to carry a baby that she had no part in bringing into the world. Today, we will focus on how the magi had to practice uncomfortable obedience in following the star in the east and seek the king of the Jews.

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.”

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on the magi:

  • The magi were nothing like what we have made them out to be. For starters, they were not the “three wise men” or “the three kings.” The actual words are “magi from the east.”
  • The magi were one of the 6 tribes of Media or Ancient Persia (modern day Iran).
  • They were referred to as the “fire priests of Median.”
  • They were stargazers, astronomers, astrologers, dream interpreters and sorcerers. Our English word “magic” actually comes from the word magi.
  • They did not have the best reputation. Jewish people looked down on them with suspicion and disdain. Even the Romans did not like them and many times they were kicked out of Rome and Italy.
  • According to tradition, they came 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. To make this journey, 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!
  • As the fire priests and king makers, they also brought some very special gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The big question is how did they find out about the coming of Jesus? We don’t know for sure but it could have been through Daniel. In Daniel we hear about the “magi” several times. Listen to Daniel 2     1 “Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him. 2 Then the king gave the command to call the magicians (magous in the LXX), the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams…” Again, Daniel 5:15 “Now the wise men (magoi in the LXX), the astrologers, have been brought in before me (Belshazzar), that they should read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not give the interpretation of the thing.” Daniel not only distinguished himself under both the Babylonian empire but also in the Medo-Persian Empire. In fact, he was appointed the head of all the wise men of Babylon and later the Chaldeans.

In Daniel 9, the prophet Daniel actually gave a prophecy regarding the time of the coming of the Messiah. Daniel 9     24 “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. 25 ‘Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. 26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself…”

Where am I going with this? More than likely the magis had converted the information in Daniel 9 to correspond with the movements of the stars. Generation after generation since Daniel they were waiting for the star to appear that would signal the birth of Jesus. At the right time when the star appeared, they left their homes in the east and set out to locate the king of the Jews!

This week everyone was talking about the Christmas Star in the planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the Southwestern horizon. The last time these two planets were this close was about 400 years ago and the last time this happened at night, when people could actually see it, was about 800 years ago! Next time it will be in 2080.

Here’s the point:

  1. The magi had to faithfully study the prophecy of Daniel.
  2. Generation after generation they had to pass down the knowledge of the prophecy to their descendants
  3. When God added the “star in the east,” they had to set out from their comfortable homes across 400 miles of rugged and dangerous lands to look for the promised one.
  4. They had to be willing to face the ridicule and threat of Herod and Jerusalem in asking where the Savior of the world was born.
  5. Once they saw him with Mary and Joseph, they had to be willing to humble themselves and worship him with their gifts.

So also, when it comes to following Christ, it’s not easy. There will be uncomfortable obedience. Even coming here this evening may not have been easy for some of you. You were willing to obey God than to fear human beings or anything else.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others’ opinions, and personal fears.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

Uncomfortable Obedience (2019) by Dr. Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE (2019) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2019)

Introduction: Once again, we want to welcome you to our Christmas Eve Service. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, and using our gifts in his service. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our limits. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Luke 1    26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were teenagers or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal (kiddushin) was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then, under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Mary today (last Christmas Eve, if you remember, we focused on Joseph). Just like Joseph, Mary was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary had a choice. Keep in mind that everything that the angel said was in the future tense. She was going to be pregnant and it was not going to be Joseph’s child. In fact, she would be a virgin when she became pregnant through the Holy Spirit. I can imagine Mary wondering how people would laugh at her. I can imagine Mary thinking how her friends and family would treat her. What a scandal! What a shame…Mary must have gone through a range of emotions: shock, unbelief, anxiety, helplessness, isolation, frustration, and even anger.

By the way, God sends his people in our path to help us during such difficult moments in our life. Mary went to the home of her cousin Elizabeth. Through her, the Holy Spirit encouraged Mary and confirmed to her that this was from God. This is when Mary sang her famous song starting in Luke 1    46 “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed…54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.” This song is traditionally known as the “Magnificat.” It comes from “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” which is the Latin translation of “my soul magnifies the Lord,” the first line of Mary’s hymn.

  1. Mary had to carry the child for the next 9 months. This was not some one point in time decision. Can you imagine the trauma she had to go through every single day of those 9 months! Keep in mind that she would not be claiming that she had made a mistake or she was raped. She would be claiming to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. I can imagine people telling her to fess up. I can imagine friends and family telling her to admit that she messed up or was raped. She couldn’t do that. Again, imagine the emotions she must have felt: anger, helplessness, embarrassment, and unbelief. Nonetheless, she stayed the course.

How could she do all this? If you read the Magnificat carefully, its Mary’s love prayer to God. She loved God unconditionally. God would not have sent his Son to her if she wasn’t a loving person. Would you!

The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally. I John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Mary loved God.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others’ opinions, and even common sense.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

Uncomfortable Obedience by Pastor Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2018)

Manger NativityIntroduction: Thank you once again for being here this evening. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, using our gifts in his service, and leading someone to Christ. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our comfort zones. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Matthew 1     18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a justman,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So 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.” 24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were in their teenage years or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Joseph today (next Christmas Eve, we may focus on Mary). He was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary was pregnant and it was not his child.What a shock. Furthermore, she was not claiming that she was raped. She was not admitting to any guilt. What a shame. What a scandal. What’s even worse is that the word on the street was that she was claiming to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Joseph must have gone through a range of emotions: Shock, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, and even hate.
  2. They were still in the betrothal period and he was not officially married to her. Even though she was his wife technically, he still had the option to walk away from her. He was not the bad guy in this. No one was blaming him. They knew him better. In fact, they were expecting him to divorce her. Not to do so would be admitting to personal guilt.

Joseph gets a visit from the Angel of the Lord telling him that what Mary is saying is true. Plus, he had to stick around and name that child. Joseph chose to obey God instead of his emotions, his culture, or his family and friends. What would you have done?

How could he do that? The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally.I John 5:3“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Joseph loved God.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others opinions, and even common sense.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?