The Vision of the Four Chariots

Zechariah 6:1-8 

Summary vision – pulls together threads from most of previous visions. Intended by God to “inspire” his people to renewed effort at continuing construction of Temple. Had effect God purposed – Haggai’s preaching motivated the people to restart construction, together Haggai and Zechariah used by God to help people stay on task:

Ezra 6:14  So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel…”

Situation / circumstances had in recent past led to great discouragement, stoppage of work. People and leaders both had little confidence to try again to rebuild something that would only be faint shadow of structure that formerly stood there. Were literally surrounded by opposition… from both “natives” and foreigners… including relocated “aliens” from distant parts of Assyrian and Babylonian empires. Had no obvious source of security: no law enforcement or military on their side, no wall with controlled access points (gates) to provide safety. Vulnerable enough many just trying to fly under the radar, not provoke any hostile reactions.

Tapestry of visions given to Zechariah in one night come to conclusion here. Both together and this one by itself give strong reminder to Jewish people not to always believe their eyes. Might appear like everything arranged against them, circumstances they were powerless to change; but… is more to picture than what could see with eyes. Needed to dust off glasses for eyes of faith, reevaluate situation from God’s perspective.

Had been at this process for twenty years, had not even completed basic structure. Not even close to ready for occupancy permit, nothing they could see had changed. Would they ever finish building their church? Would anybody come? Would enough people care about it to make it all worthwhile? Wait a minute, whose church was it to be? And what was he saying about it? And what did God intend to do about it?

A. Image  v. 1-3

four chariots

very first detail given speaks of war – something Jewish people readily understood, part of experience from time of Red Sea on

had been used by Israel’s latest enemies to great advantage – very little foot-soldiers could do to oppose advance of chariots with rider wearing coat of mail, perhaps even protection for horse

chariots are on the move, means battle already underway – will discover from explanation whose chariots they are, where are going

two mountains

numerous opinions of where mountains were, what represented – here’s what we know: concealed whatever was behind from view, pass between served as entrance/exit, appeared to be made of bronze

would seem chariots are not part of Babylonian army, unclear whether friend or foe, specifically who they were moving against

accompanying horses

four colors: red, black, white, dappled – no particular significance given to colors in explanation from interpreter angel; common ones

further description of them as “strong” – picture intended to get is one of perfect capability to carry out assigned task regardless of opposing forces – not easily overcome, distracted/disoriented, in it for long haul

B. Question   v. 4

what am I looking at

valid question for sure… nearly morning, prophet getting tired, brain full, wants to be sure of details – start with what he can see, then go from there to sort out the meaning

question behind the question: are horses/chariots/mountains really what they appear to be, or… do they have some other significance

what does it signify

what is the point God intends me to get from this vision – whose chariots are they, where are they coming from, where going, what does their commander intend to accomplish

perhaps… does this connect with 1:7ff

man among the myrtles, four horses of similar colors – riders had completed recon mission, discovered while God’s people were struggling, their enemies were resting confidently

God not happy when asked about delay in returning Israel to land, no apparent retribution against her enemies – God’s response: I know what is going on, I will deal with them

no more need for recon, now is time for action… at least it appears to be good possibility – interpreter-angel’s response seems to say “yes”

C. Explanation  v. 5-7

God answers from heaven

several indications the source of chariots: two bronze mountains, certainly puts in mind of Jachin and Boaz (1 Ki. 7:15-21) set up on either side of entrance to Temple

if, like Tabernacle, the Temple an earthly “copy” of heavenly reality – just b/c Jachin and Boaz broken up, taken to Babylon, what they represented still in place

heaven still there, not in captivity, God still “on duty” – aware of promises he made, needs of his people, demands of justice

God exercises his authority

“spirits of heaven”, angels of God not only ones under God’s authority – those who are objects of their actions under God’s authority, too

is really about the timing – not lack of anything on God’s part, perceived delay does not equal inaction or inattention – simply means not the right time yet

in this case, God’s people had some things to learn about priorities (God’s purposes vs. theirs), dependence and trust

God directs his resources

in this case, four horses/four winds/four directions not God’s intent – sends his messengers to do his bidding according to his plan

God intends to deal with immediate enemies of God’s people; time enough later to take care of the rest – this one a preemptive precision strike

God’s agents respond eagerly

horses eager / impatient to go about their task – like all God’s heavenly agents, willingly and eagerly obey directions they are given

so how does this description add meaning to line in the prayer – “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – and our responses

D. Encouragement  v.8

God remembered

when God heard recon report (1:11), his response, “I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease” – intended to deal with them

sent his army out to carry out justice / judgment on the nations threatening / harassing his people, and give them space to finish assignment he had given them

God rests… when his people rest

summary: charioteers must have succeeded, gave rest to his Spirit – source of great comfort and encouragement to God’s people

restate “if mama isn’t happy…” – if God’s people are not at rest, God is not at rest either… he will intervene on their behalf when his time is right

When we are about the work God has assigned to us of building his church, he put it as “go make disciples”, need to look away from circumstances. Focus attention on God’s character, God’s promises, God’s faithfulness, God’s power. He will never allow his eternal purpose to be derailed or thwarted in any way. He will never allow anything to come our way that is not for our good and his glory.

At same time, he expects us to stay the course in full dependence on God – for guidance, strength, wisdom, protection, courage, and whatever else we need to fulfill his purpose. God “knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”  (Psa. 103:14) He will not ask more of us than he will help us to achieve. And… God not only supplies all needed resources, he adds abundant blessings to those who love and eagerly serve him.

God Relates

Genesis 2:4-25 

God is Ruler (ch. 1); God is Relational (ch. 2); God is Redeemer (ch. 3). Rest of Bible has some bearing on one or more of those characteristics. Adds to evidence that God indeed does rule over all his creation – he established order of universe during creation process, maintains that order through his Son (Heb. 1:2-3). Our present text as well as every other page in some way bears witness to how God relates to his creatures. And after chapter 3, rest of record in some way bears on need for redemption, nature of redemption.

Since we bear image of our Creator, we have part in Ruling, subduing and making world around us productive. Intended to be Relational beings, in relationships of all kinds: with our Creator, our surroundings, our families, our neighbors. And… we have vital role in God’s plan of Redemption:

Rom. 10:13-15 “For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!””

Will hear more in coming weeks about relationships, what our responsibilities are toward others. Today, about what we learn from text about our relational God, who for reasons known only to him wants to have particular kind of relationships with people.

A. God is life-giver  v.4-7

YHWH Elohim – name change, balance of ch. 2 (v.4 on) and all of ch. 3

all of account up to this point emphasizes Elohim, creator God – eternal, self-existent, powerful, perhaps remote/distant from created things

potentially overwhelming, overpowering, frightening if have not been properly introduced – not kind of God could easily warm up to

especially true given how different Eden and surrounding area were compared to Sinai wilderness – something must have happened since then

certainly good place to start telling the story – make sure those who hear it grasp enough of God’s awesomeness to give respect he deserves

is not all he is, though… whole story something Hebrew children needed to hear, were still learning differences between pagan Egyptian worldview and the right one

Moses makes point here: this Elohim who brought everything into existence is YHWH who brought you out of Egypt

hands-on: formed, not spoken

LORD God was the one who, like potter with shapeless lump of clay, brought first man into existence by an intimate process

may have only taken an instant of time, yet transcendent Creator God detail by detail formed Adam into a being with God’s own image – God’s “fingerprints” all over him

Adam had perfect form, all necessary attributes but one… life – required divine CPR, not impersonal command for him to become living being

a few thousand years later, Louis Pasteur did his famous crook-neck flask experiment, disproved spontaneous generation, “proved” life only comes from life – Moses did get his facts right!

personal first-name relationship

acted as YHWH toward Adam and generations of others before Moses even though did not know by that name (Exod. 6:3)

God’s intention from beginning was to know and be known – went to great lengths revealing himself so that could happen

relationship designed to continue forever, would have done so had not sin reared its ugly head

B. God is life-director  v.8-17

gave man a place

God didn’t give Adam a kit – some acreage, some seed, and some tools – and then tell him to go for it

prepared specific place for him, complete down to last detail – all would ever need in abundance to satisfy every good desire

place where Adam could fulfill his design – be fruitful and multiply – in setting of perfect fellowship with his Creator

gave man a purpose

the kind of place God prepared for Adam required regular attention… that was Adam’s assignment: tend and keep

even in original state, created order needed someone to keep it orderly and productive – if that was Adam’s job, must be able to do it with resources God supplied him

gave man a promise

blessing for carrying out his purpose, certain disaster for disobedience – no question who was in charge, setting boundaries

if declared consequence for disobedience was death, result of obedience would then be life… guaranteed by God

at this point, perfect man in perfect surroundings, promised life would be rewarding / pleasurable / abundant / nothing lacking

C. God is life-partner supplier  v.18-25

aloneness is not good

immediately prior to this point (v.18) in creation sequence, had God looked at all he had made, his conclusion would not have been “all very good” – something missing

parade of animals not for God’s benefit – no need for trial and error on God’s part — intended to reinforce in Adam’s understanding how he was to relate to the animals

could probably have figured out – for someone who bears image of God, closest most intimate relationships must be with those who share same image

image-bearers are relational

since God by his very nature is relational, those bearing his image will also be relational – one God, yes, but in three persons, eternally self-existent

intrusion of sin into Adam’s life would have devastating effect on all his relationships but… all those relationships would still exist

God has something to say in his word about all the different kinds of relationships we have – God has expectations of what those relationships should be like

clear from beginning God did not intend mankind to live in total or even partial isolation – true for both individuals and groups

only one kind of partner will do

second thing “parade of animals” made clear to Adam – after God, the one he was to relate to most closely not found anywhere among animals

two conditions needed to be met: suitable complement for Adam, satisfactory end result for God – “all very good”

“Marriage among human beings is here shown to be something very different from mating among the animals.” Dr. Albertus Pieters

was God who established family unit, marriage relationship, how mankind intended / designed to obey commands God had given… to be fruitful (productive) and grow to fill the earth

with wise use of resources God has entrusted to mankind, no reason to doubt creation’s ability to support life

If beginning point is correct, God is relational and does relate to his creatures, what kind of relationship has he demonstrated? Don’t find it stated until NT but has always been true of God… what apostle John wrote in first epistle:

1 John 4:8-10 “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God showed great love to man in how he prepared perfect place for him, gave him life and purpose and perfect partner. Then, after Fall, after man’s relationship with God profoundly changed, God’s love continued as he made provision for full reconciliation between sinful man and holy God.

If we are to bear image of God well, must relate to others as God does: loving them when they are sinful, showing them love of Christ, introducing them to God who sent his Son to save sinners, encouraging growth of Christ-likeness in others.

Praying for the City (and Nation)

Psalm 122:6-9 

 Psalm 122:6-9 and Jeremiah 29:4-14

Definition: shalom –

“peace, prosperity, well, health, completeness, safety” (TWOT).

“pray for the peace or shalom of the city. The Hebrew shalom means contentment, fulfillment, unity with one another, accord, prosperity, and a genuine commitment to each other’s good. …The idea encompasses the manifold relationships of daily life, symbolizing Israel’s ideal quality of life under the Law. Shalom is a state of wholeness and completeness possessed by a person or a group that includes good health, prosperity, security, justice, and deep spiritual contentment.” Linthicum

Shalom can also denote a setting of positive relations between friends, parties, or even nations. This word is used nearly 60x to refer to the absence of strife. Shalom …also speaks of completeness, wholeness, and harmony.” Mounce

Probably closest single word English synonym = well-being, applied to all spheres of life. Has relevance for all sorts of groupings of people: from individual, family, neighborhood, community, region, nation, nation-neighbors, world.

A. Pray for the economy of the city

pray for the economy of the city – “Prosperity to your houses!” (6b)

pray for the “common wealth” of the city

ask God to bring justice and prosperity for everyone within the economic systems of the city

compare Rich Young Ruler and Zacchaeus; also Prov 26.10 

pray that we would each do our part to contribute to the prosperity of the city

pray for the economy of the nation

pray for the “common wealth” of the nation

ask God to bring justice and prosperity for everyone within the economic systems of the nation

pray that those overseeing the national economy would act prudently and ethically

B. Pray for the safety of the city

pray for the safety of the city- “Peace inside your city walls!” (7a)

pray that citizens will be kept safe from harm and violence on the street

pray that criminals themselves will be transformed by the love of Christ

pray that we would each do our part to make the city safer

pray for the safety of the nation

pray that citizens will be kept safe from harm and violence in places under federal supervision

pray that the justice department would carry out its God-given mandate well

C. Pray for the politics of the city

pray for the politics of the city – “Prosperity to your palaces!” (7b)

ask the Lord to grant wisdom and integrity to the authorities who govern the city

pray for the restoration of virtue to public office

pray for the politics of the nation

ask the Lord to grant wisdom and integrity to the authorities who govern the nation

pray for the restoration of virtue to public office in all branches and levels of government

pray that those committed to righteousness would seek federal, state and local office

pray that voters (including each of us) would make wise choices in the election

pray also that support staff of those elected to office would act wisely and give sound counsel

D. Pray for the people of the city

pray for the people of the city – “Peace be with you!” (8)

pray for the Lord’s blessing on all people and all people groups

pray neighborhood by neighborhood, church by church, business by business, and house by house for the welfare of the city

pray God’s people would be good neighbors, seek ways to show Christ’s love in the context of personal relationships

pray for the people of the nation

pray for the Lord’s blessing on all people and all people groups

pray those attempting to enter the country for the purpose of doing harm would not gain entrance

pray all who seek to live in peace would be welcomed

pray that racial and social strife would be overcome by the Gospel

E. Pray for the city for the sake of the church

pray for the city for the sake of the church (8-9)

God will bless his church as his church seeks to bless the city – pray God will show the church how to best bless the city

pray for the church corporately and as individual citizens, that God’s blessing on the city would strengthen the church and speed the spread of the Gospel

pray all God’s people would be actively involved in the spread of the Gospel in one or more ways: as Pray-ers, Bring-ers, Tell-ers

pray for the nation for the sake of the church

God will bless his church as his church seeks to bless the nation – pray God will show the church how to best bless the city

pray for the church corporately and her individual citizens, that God’s blessing on the nation would invigorate the church and speed the spread of the Gospel

Prayer is absolutely essential for Christ’s church to prosper. But… it is not the only essential. Two things are necessary for combustion (a fire) – fuel and oxygen. Remove either one and the fire goes out. So, too, with the church – prayer is the instrument, the conduit through which God puts his power to work… through his people.

Example of the early church: Acts 4:23ff. Peter and John arrested, taken into custody, then forbidden to speak “or teach in the name of Jesus.” Were released, went to the church, prayed “that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” Then notice what happened, v.31: “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”

If we want / expect God to work, to answer our prayers, we must be willing to do our part… beginning with the things we already know to do – pray for the city and love your neighbor!

God Rested

Genesis 2:1-3 

So if God was perfectly content to fellowship with himself for an incomprehensible amount of time, why did he “create all things out of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good”? (WSC Q9) Certainly not because the Father was lonely – had Son and Spirit in perfect relationship. At times, seems like all God made have caused him more trouble than anything else. Didn’t make a universe because he was bored or even just because…, God as he is revealed to us in his Word the Bible always acts with purpose.

Lets us know everything God made in those six days intended to serve particular purpose in his eternal plan. Some of that purpose we can figure out from other parts of Bible – e.g., Psa. 19:1-2

“The heavens declare God’s glory; the sky displays his handiwork. Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness.”

Doesn’t say features of creation can attest to God’s handiwork, it says that is what they do! Day after day, night after night, declaring God’s glory and revealing his greatness. What about mankind’s purpose, reason for being? Portion revealed in Creation Mandate, God’s initial instruction that covered being fruitful, filling the earth and subduing it. Yet we can’t find the complete answer for that in “six days of creation”. Need to look at what came next, what God did after he was done doing.

A. the peak of God’s work  v.1-2a

what if creation account ended with v.1

would have basic idea of what God had made, would probably assume God saved best for last, creation of man and woman

life as modeled for man and described by God would be one of continual activity, day after day w/little change

mankind the high point

to restrict the story to six days of creation raises man to position of most important / significant of God’s creative handiwork

objective consideration of all we know about universe would seem to bear that out – the most complex and capable of all the creatures

given his ability and responsibility, has a massive task – maintaining order of things on the earth, making it productive, always on duty

center of the universe

clearly this planet we call home different from all others we can observe – is ideally suited to support life… including ours

even if earth not the center of our solar system, perhaps it is center of universe… all designed to revolve around mankind and his needs

would be easy conclusion to reach if we look only at account of what God made and completed in six days

and if that is true, God probably off to another adventure leaving man as highest authority in the universe

NOTE: there’s more to the story, will get there in a minute; but… mankind does have great significance and value – not because of order of his creation, not solely because of mandate following his creation

mankind, men and women, boys and girls, regardless of age or ability or appearance or anything else are significant because each one bears the image of God our Creator – yet it is a derived significance, stemming from who God is and that it is his image we bear

B. the peak of God’s week  v.2b-3

it has seven days

account of Creation doesn’t end with v.1 and morning and evening being the sixth day – story keeps going

God’s work of making things may have ended on Day 6 but God was not done being active and involved with his creation

God’s week just like ours had 7 days, not 6 – that pattern of 7 days making a week not random choice, one that is built into fabric of many created things

the seventh one is different

this day received special treatment from God himself – not simply what God did / did not do on that day, God gave seventh day special characteristics not given to other six

on seventh day: God finished his work, rested from his work, blessed the day, made the day different (holy, set apart)

a day of celebration for God: could take full pleasure in completion of his perfect works of creation – was all very good

on that first day of rest, everything man could observe and God survey was declaring the glory of God in perfect tune and harmony – no sour notes / missed words anywhere

Adam and Eve’s first full day of existence not devoted to work but worship and praise of their awesome God and Creator

the final step of order from chaos

God’s final action during Creation week was to define that week as having seven days, following pattern he acted out as example of six given to work and one to rest and celebration

while man may be the most significant of all things God made, our focus must not stop with man but continue on to God

God graciously as part of order of daily life gives regular reminder of need to rest from labors and devote time / energy to praise and worship of the Creator

C. the purpose of man’s life  (Heb. 4)

enjoy a rest

something Jesus got exercised about during his ministry – regulations imposed by religious leaders that had turned day of rest into a burden

no question, God’s plan from beginning included work – just as certain, plan included rest… and rest by definition requires action: cannot rest from labor if no labor!

rest the people of God are to enjoy far more than simple cessation of work – is a resting in as well as resting from

writer of Hebrews reminds readers that God had linked idea of rest with Promised Land, declaring those who rebelled would all die in wilderness and not enter His rest

enter into His rest

same author also reminds NT readers that promise of entering His rest still remains, a rest for the people of God

even for those who did believe and were brought into Canaan under Joshua’s leadership, Promised Land only a down-payment on ultimate future rest

resting we enjoy on Lord’s Day much like Canaan, a dim picture of what is yet to come in next life

now: a rest from normal labors of other six days, resting in fellowship with other believers in presence of God

day when we can rest from labor and celebrate God’s great work of re-creation, recharge spiritual batteries

the One who leads into that rest

writer of Hebrews makes something else clear:

For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest…”

if we are to enter into that rest pictured on seventh day of Creation, Gospel must be mixed with faith in us who hear it

is only our “great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God” who can lead us into our rest

People we encounter on daily basis who are tired – tired of frustrations of hopelessness, tired of day after day after day more of the same, tired of the weight of sin. Need to hear the message of hope, need to hear the Gospel proclaimed as we have heard it, need to see it lived out faithfully day by day. Need to be introduced to the one who is worthy “to receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”.

39. Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?

39. Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?

Mark 2:8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?

Read: Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26

 

Setting:

during first year of ministry, at his “home base” in Capernaum… perhaps Peter’s home — house full of people, plus crowded around within earshot outside listening to Jesus teach

crowd included Pharisees and scribes/teachers of the law – some had traveled several days’ journey: 85 miles Jerusalem to Capernaum

4 men brought disabled friend wanting him to be healed; had to let him down through the roof; instead of healing miracle (first) Jesus declared his sins forgiven

Person(s) being questioned:

religious leaders, scribes and Pharisees – seem to have come with preconceived ideas / bias / prejudice – quickly reached their conclusion

Jesus, reading thoughts (perhaps and body language/expression) “knew” what they were saying to themselves… and challenged them

Question behind the question:

know what they were thinking… in part: “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” – but toward whom were their hearts evil?

at least 2 possibilities – Jesus, the disabled man – perhaps both, since evil (πονηρα, ponera) is plural

why do you think this man deserves his disability – see John 9:2 “Rabbi, who sinned…?” – and, where is your compassion?

shouldn’t you be asking different questions rather than leading/loaded ones like these? – assumed they knew certain things about Jesus, reached (wrong) conclusions based on assumptions

Expected response:

perhaps wanting to draw them out, expose their thinking in front of witnesses – go ahead, say it out loud, let them know what you really think… about me… about him

refusal to engage could rightly be viewed as sign of uncertainty, fear of being wrong – if religious leaders were really convinced / solid in their position, why not defend it

actual response: angry embarrassed silence – wondering how this guy knew what they were thinking, how brave enough to challenge

Jesus’ point:

both the way and the what of their thinking was wrong – thought they had all right answers, could make accurate observations, reason to right conclusions… beginning with human wisdom

assumptions about the disabled man may or may not have been correct; conclusions about Jesus definitely not correct, failed to account for readily available evidence

should have already begun to figure out who he was – see John 2:11; 3:10; Acts 2:22 – had previously performed 8 miracles, enough to have a reputation and be able to draw a crowd

they, along with rest of crowd, probably had mixed up understanding of priorities – needed to learn spiritual need is greater than physical

but… the two often go hand in hand – need to relate to people holistically, addressing needs of the whole person in proper order

that order not always the same – physical can come first: e.g., Exod. 6:9 – need to bring physical relief/hope before can respond to spiritual truth

Modern Application:

Matt. 10:16 – wise as serpents, harmless as doves

conclusions need sound foundation – observe, ask questions, watch and listen and empathize

don’t lose sight of all the needs, don’t neglect one or more in favor of another – remember, don’t have to start with the Gospel to end up there

is not an all or nothing situation – Jesus in same setting with same individual addressed both spiritual and physical needs

God Said

Genesis 1:3-31 

Need to keep in mind Genesis does not tell us all we want to know about origins and creation. However… it does tell all we need to know. If there is more that we can comprehend, if it will be good and profitable for us to know, God will reveal / explain it someday.

Also know from later in the story that our frame of reference does not apply exactly to how the universe was at the beginning. The Fall changed things profoundly, Flood further altered landscape and climate. Then and now is comparable, similar, but not the same.

And… as we delve deeper into account of beginnings, must keep in mind primary purpose of these chapters: like all of scripture, to reveal God, his nature / character / actions. Not intended to explain how God performs his mighty acts of creation and providence, rather teach us who to praise and worship for doing them.

What do we see here of God? What was he doing and why is that important? Verse 2 lets us know original universe was dark and empty, without distinct shape or form. As God spoke, he brought initial order to his creation, then filled it with all manner of things. Even in original condition, God did not expect created order to run itself; he appointed managers to be productive and make the earth productive. When all done complete, God was pleased with his creation.

A. God ordered creation  v.3-10

light and dark / day and night

God’s first step to bring creation to its completed form – divide / distinguish light from darkness: makes sense, “God is light” (1Jo 1:5)

demonstrates his creative authority by commanding light to appear – then shows his governing authority by naming

language used throughout story taken in plain sense: these creative acts had instantaneous results, not outcome of long involved process

evening – morning – day

by this command God began process of establishing increments of time: light/dark, day/night, evening/morning, 1 day

this time unit pattern will later be impressed on countless living things in something we call a circadian rhythm, ~24 hours

wet and dry

two different objects of God’s commands here – water above the earth, water on the earth, distinguishes between them

don’t know exactly what needed to happen, do understand the outcome: a breathable atmosphere, dry land distinguished from bodies of water

throughout these first three days, are given completely opposite view of reality from what science claims: a God who could display this kind of power, to simply speak universe into existence is infinitely larger and wiser and more powerful than anything we can imagine

God dwarfs the universe, not the other way round; God is self-existent, not the cosmos; God is clearly the absolute ultimate Sovereign

B. God filled creation  v.11-25

plant life / sea life and birds / land creatures

earth/sea/air by God’s design able to support life, but did not begin doing so on their own – required God’s command

continuation of order: things to grow on the land, to live in the waters, to inhabit the sky… in abundance… and reproducing, according to their own kind

lights

had created light, then made sources and reflectors of light, each for their particular purpose according to plan

further distinctions and divisions of time marked off by movement of lights relative to earth and each other – day, month, season, year

even though light/darkness and day/night, night would have its own light… a lesser one, along with stars and planets

laws

we speak so easily of laws of nature, Newton’s laws of thermodynamics, law of gravity – certainly ok to call them that

but natural world did not produce those laws randomly or even of necessity – those laws every bit as much God’s doing as “let there be…”

and those laws present and governing from the beginning… according to God’s design and decree… for his glory and our good

C. God appointed managers of his creation  v.26-30

made them

universe, cosmos not self-existent, not self-sustaining or self-governing either – ultimately sustained and governed by God

but… one aspect of God’s comprehensive creative plan saved for the last – the only creature made in God’s image

made by God’s “hands-on” action, not spoken into existence – made with only two distinct genders… with significance… and purpose, distinct from all other creatures

blessed them

see first blessing God gave to mankind: blessing of ability to produce things by working – be fruitful, put creative juices to work

second blessing, fertility: ability to reproduce, to make others in our own image – not to be a chore or burden, but blessing

third blessing, dominion: governing, managing, subduing the earth to make it as productive as possible

are to reflect image of God not only in who we are but also in what we do, mirroring God’s works of creation and providence in our own God-given sphere

instructed / appointed them

God didn’t leave first man and woman to figure all out on their own – gave specific direction how they could actually receive his blessing

appointed them as his vice-regents, his deputies to have significant part in God’s work of making created order fulfill his design

not hard to see something else implied in Creation mandate: are at risk of losing out on God’s blessing when we fail to carry out his instructions

and… here’s one more blessing: in original world as created, nothing had to give its life to sustain another – mankind and all living creatures at the beginning were vegetarian

D. God approved his creation  v.31

incrementally good

six times throughout course of creation account are told God saw outcome of his command “and God saw that it was good”

each step along the way was good by itself – nothing in original creation that was not good, inherently evil

totally very good

at end of six days, God surveyed all he had made and pronounced his judgment on it – it was all very good

what existed at the end of creation that made up heavens and earth accurately displayed character and nature of its Creator

and God was satisfied

nothing needed tweaking, redoing, adding or subtracting – created order was complete and completely satisfactory to God

Is obvious from this creation account who is really in charge – an infinitely good and wise God who both made and governs all his creation. What a great comfort that is, to know human leaders not ultimately in control, nor is arch-enemy Satan. Is same God who keeps it in order (Heb. 1:3)

Is also really obvious universe we inhabit now not like it was in first chapter of Genesis… something awful happened. More on that another week. At same time, God’s grace is equally obvious – he rules the world for sure, yet he does so with truth and grace. And because our God cares about his creation, Bible even says God loves the world… and he loves sinners, sent his only Son “full of grace and truth” to be Savior of the world.

Your Light Has Come

1 John 1:1-7 

The prophet spoke of “those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death”. True once again in US in ways not seen before and a trend not experienced in last 100 years. Shaping up to be third year in a row that life expectancy declines. Here we are celebrating a miraculous birth… while surrounded by death, expected and unexpected, often violent, always final. World has been growing progressively darker since “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

Would it be possible for God who in beginning made heaven and earth to permit earth to descend into darkness and remain there? Especially since his words on first day of creation were “Let there be light”. If God brought physical light into existence before filling the new universe with anything else, makes perfect sense bringing spiritual light to a sin-darkened creation would be part of his eternal plan.

Promises read to us this evening were made first to God’s ancient people the children of Israel, least among the nations. But blessings and benefits of promises by no means limited to that particular people group. From beginning God’s plan included people from every people group and language. That, too, included in ancient promises:

“It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

The promised one who would bring light to this old world would bring his light of salvation to the ends of the earth. He was too great a Savior to limit his work to children of Israel only. In typical fashion, as time passed God gave further detail about his plan and how he would work it out, until we come to that word from old priest Zechariah, father of John the Baptist. John would be the forerunner, preparing the way for the one who would “give light to those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death”.

Another John, beloved disciple of Jesus, moved by Holy Spirit to write at length about one for whom John the Baptist prepared the way. In fourth Gospel, John tells us about the Word who was in the beginning, the one who was with God and who was God. Goes on to say:

John 1:4-9  In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Years later, wrote more about same person in his first letter, the text we will consider for a few moments. Is on page          in the pew Bibles. John wrote 40 or more years after experiences he described, and his wonder had increased throughout his life. Nothing humdrum, run-of-the-mill here, still filled with awe at what took place when was a young disciple of Lord Jesus. Read… 

So who was this person of whom John wrote? What was his purpose in life? And how will you respond to him?

A. his identity

from the beginning (1a)

the one born in such lowly and humble circumstances to young maid engaged to poor carpenter was eternal God and Creator

God “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” wrapped up in real live human baby lying swaddled in a manger

yet touchable (1b)

God that was heard, seen, and touched because he became one of us, yet without sin – not a hologram, not a dream, God in flesh

in old days, couldn’t even touch mountain without risk of death where Moses met with God – God not content to reach out finger and touch mankind… he wrapped himself in humanity… yet never stopped being everything that made him God

B. his purpose

to bring life (2)

this one who was already there in the beginning, the one who was everything, entered time and space in Jesus… to bring life

not just any kind of life… not the kind that stinks and then you die – came bringing life without end, life that takes away fear & despair while giving hope & joy

to bring light (John 1:4-5,9)

John knew about that light, had seen it firsthand on Mount of Transfiguration – yet not only kind of light that baby, Emmanuel, came to bring

is kind of light that pushes back darkness of sin – light of truth, of understanding, shows us who we are, why we are here, where we are going, how we can get there

relieves from frustration of stumbling around in the dark, not knowing what to do, where to go, how to find true contentment

to enable fellowship (3)

what Jesus accomplished by both his life and his death removes obstacles to fellowship with God the Father, Lord Jesus, one another

talk about, long for opportunity to just be one big happy family – not just a dream, wishful thinking: will be reality for all who have through faith in Christ received gift of eternal life

C. your response

have you seen the light (5)

God is light, he came into the world  in the person of his Son the Lord Jesus so as to give light and life to all who would come to the light

Then Evangelist gave Christian a parchment roll, and there was written within, Flee from the wrath to come. The man therefore read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, Whither must I fly? Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder wicket-gate? The man said, No. Then said the other, Do you see yonder shining light? He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto. So shalt thou see the gate; at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do. So I saw in my dream that the man began to run.”

where will you walk (6-7)

if we have seen the light and have run to the light, we must continue to walk in the light – live according to Jesus’ example, what he taught his followers

what will you say (3-4)

implied in John’s statement: his joy is full, desires that others have fullness of joy also – is our task also, to join the angels and shepherds and make it widely known what really happened 2000 years ago on that cold night in small village of Bethlehem