Hebrews 2:1-4 The More Earnest Heed

Hebrews 2:1-4            The More Earnest Heed                               WC McCarter
2012 in review: ups and downs, mostly ups; we now stand strong; we are alive and well.
            Giving, Activity, Team-work, Growth, Kids, Great Homecoming/Thanksgiving
I would not be doing my job if I did not allow the Word of God to warn us from time to time. We can become too settled and at ease in our faith if we do not listen to the whole of Scripture. The Scripture wants to direct our attention on Christ this morning. Because of the season, the question I want to ask is what will be your focus in the New Year?
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Lest We Drift Away (v1)
Chapter one established the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ. This passage, then, is a brief exhortation for Christians to not drift away based on the argument that has already been made. The first verse of our passage intends to strike an image in our minds. We are to picture a ship heading to port. These Greek words were actually used in nautical situations. The seaman navigating the ship would have to pay close attention to his route or he would end up drifting off course and would miss his desired port.
The same is true of us. We desire to arrive at a certain port: heaven, in the presence of the Lord. Yet, we will miss that port if we drift away. Are you paying attention? Are you on route or are you drifting? We will be reminded next that being on the route is not about living a perfect life. That is our goal in the long-run, but that is not what saves us. You do not have to clean yourself up. God will do that for you. Being on route is about setting your focus on Christ and trusting Him until the end. He will usher you into His port. If your eyes are set on anything else you will drift away.
As one person has said, life is not a lake, it is a river. That river constantly flows to Hell. If you’re not focused on your route you will inevitably end up there and not Heaven.
Spoken through Angels (v2)
The Old Testament Law that was mediated by Moses was said to be declared by angels. In Acts chapter seven, Stephen states that Moses spoke with an Angel on the mountain when he received the Law. He goes on to say again that Israel received the Law at the direction of angels. That word was proven valid, the author of Hebrews says, and it was taken seriously because of the penalties that it prescribed.
Spoken by the Lord (vv3-4)
The author is now going to argue from the lesser to the greater. If we were to take the Law seriously, how much more importance should we give to the Gospel? In chapter one of Hebrews, we were told how much greater the Son is than the angels. The Law was first spoken through angels, and the Gospel of salvation was first spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ. How much greater is the Gospel word of our salvation? READ Heb 1:1-3.
The author has established that the Lord Jesus is greater than the angels; the Gospel is greater than the Law of Moses; and now we learn that the penalty for neglecting the word of the New Revelation is greater than rejecting the word of the Old Revelation. If those under the Law were strictly punished for rejecting it, then those who neglect so great a salvation will be no means escape the wrath to come.
Conclusion and Application
Look with me at Hebrews 12:1-2 – Setting our eyes on Jesus
#1 The Christian life is not in the first place laboring for the Lord.
            In the first place, it is trusting in Him. It is looking unto the Lord
#2 You safeguard against drifting by paying attention to traditional Christian teaching.
            Devote time to Bible study personally and in groups as well as scriptural sermons.
            The Bible is where you meet the Lord Jesus Christ, it is where you see Him.
#3 To get back on track, all you have to do is set your eyes on Christ once again.
            This is a call to repent of your sins.

Matthew 2:1-23 Exceedingly Great Joy

Matthew 2:1-23          Exceedingly Great Joy                                              WC McCarter
In the first half of chapter one, Matthew told us that Mary’s Son is royalty, and in the second half of that first chapter, Matthew told us that the baby boy is divine. Now, in chapter two, the Scripture will tie these two streams of thought together. We will once again receive conformation that Jesus is the divine king, the Christ. We will see the extreme that the wise men went to worship the Christ child. We will also see the extreme to which Herod went to destroy the royal infant.
Before we read the Scripture this morning about Christ’s infancy, I need to tell you about Herod the king of Judea and about the wise men who showed up from the east.
Herod the King: Herod built his reputation by completing many building projects, chief among them being the Jerusalem Temple. His rule gave him the title of “Herod the Great.” Yet, in all that splendor, Herod was merciless. He was a brutal and nasty ruler. He was at first given the territory of Galilee to rule by his father. Then he was appointed tetrarch of Judea by Mark Antony. Lastly, he was given the title “King of Judea” by the Roman senate which in effect made him “King of the Jews.” In his old age he was a paranoid and murderous man. He went so far as to murder several of his sons and wives, including his most favorite wife. It will be no wonder as we read our passage today that he was troubled when he heard that a new king had been born.
Wise Men from the East: These “wise men” were literally “magi.” The word can really not be translated. They were a tribe of people who served as priests and king makers from the Babylonian Empire, through the Medo-Persian and then Greek Empires, and into the Roman age. It is said that there was not a Persian king who was not: first, trained in the law of the Magi and second, made king by the Magi. Much of their belief and practice mirrored that of Israel. They were, in fact, much like the Levitical priesthood. They believed in only one god. They performed animal sacrifice to god. Yet, that religion was false. They did not truly worship Yahweh. The Babylonians came into contact during the second exile which first took place about 586 B.C. Daniel and many others were very influential on the Babylonians and the Magi. These Magi who sought out Christ may have been worshipers of Yahweh and students of the Old Testament.
Will you open your heart to the Word of God this morning?
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Star ~ King of the Jews ~ Troubled ~ Bethlehem ~ Child ~ Gifts ~ Fulfilled ~ Death ~ Nazareth
Conclusion and Application
First, notice the obedience of Joseph throughout these narratives. He is not the main character. The spotlight does not shine brightly on him. He is seen in the shadows of the light that has shined on the Christ Child and His mother. Joseph takes the word of the Lord on faith even though it put him in tough situations. He was probably shamed because the woman pledged to him had become pregnant before their consummation. He went to Bethlehem for the census, but had to settle down there for a while because the Baby was born. He had to run for his life because Herod was searching for them. And then, when he thinks he can go back to Bethlehem where he had started a new life, he is forced to move back to Nazareth. Now these are real trials. Yet, the Scripture affirms that God is faithful and will not allow His people to be tempted beyond what they can bear. In another place the word says, “. . . the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.” It was Daniel who said, “. . . our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. . . .” Would you obey the word of the Lord like Joseph, without wavering in your faith, without second-guessing His commands?
Second, we cannot help but realize God’s sovereignty in the birth narratives of our Lord. From beginning to end, it is God at work sending His Messiah and then ensuring that His plan of redemption is accomplished. He went to grand and miraculous lengths to save you and me. How great is His love for us! And if He would give us His best, why would He not freely give us all things, even things that are far beyond what we could ever dream or hope for? Let me assure you, and I hope you will live out this Christmas season and the rest of your life with this knowledge: God is sovereignly orchestrated all things together for your good just as he did for Mary and Joseph. He does this for all who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Third, “Those we least expect to honor Jesus may worship him, and those we least expect to oppose him may seek his death. . . . The Magi worship Jesus; Herod seeks his death; Jerusalem's religious elite-forerunners of the opponents of Matthew's audience-take Jesus for granted. . . . this passage reminds us that we must preach the gospel to all people because we cannot always predict who will [receive] the message and who will not” (IVP Commentary).
Fourth, notice the two very different responses from both the wise men and Herod. Of the wise men, verse ten says, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” Of Herod, verse sixteen says, “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry. . . .” Maybe the worst of the responses was that of the chief priests and scribes of the people. They were basically indifferent. They knew that the Christ would come from Bethlehem, and they had good evidence that He had arrived, but what did they do? They did nothing. And where does indifference lead a person? Well, they were the ones who eventually cried out, “Crucify Him!” The coming of Christ commands a response. How will you respond this Christmas?

Matthew 1:18-25 The Birth of Jesus Christ

Matthew 1:18-25        The Birth of Jesus Christ                              WC McCarter
Jesus could legitimately be king based on 1:1-17, but He could not save mankind if that is all that could be said about Him. Yet, Matthew goes on to tell his readers, in 1:18-25, that Jesus Christ was/is the God-man. He will show us that the Holy Spirit conceived the Child in Mary and that prophecy was fulfilled in Him.
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Mary was Betrothed to Joseph (vv18-19)
We do not know anything much about Joseph. We know that he was a carpenter, and verse nineteen tells us he was a righteous man. We know that Mary was highly favored by God and was submissive to His word. These two, who were likely both teenagers, were humble, righteous, obedient, favored Jews. They were young and poor, but they were an outstanding couple.
The word “betrothal” refers to the official engagement of the couple. First, the families of the two young people would arrange the marriage; the father would choose a wife for his son. Second, the families would throw a party, when the two became of age, to make the betrothal official. Formal (and legal) arrangements would be made at that time. The couple was legally married at that time (husband and wife), but didn’t live together or have physical relations for sometime around a year when the wedding took place. For an entire year the two would have to go on about their lives knowing that they were married, but not living like it. If the two split, they would have to legally file for divorce. If one was found to have had intimate relations with another, they would be guilty of adultery.
Now, it is during that engagement period that Mary was found to be with Child. It was during that period that Joseph was considering the real possibility of a divorce. It is important to hear that Joseph was a just man. That is what caused him to consider divorcing Mary secretly. Apparently, Joseph already loved and respected Mary. He knew that he did not want to make her a public example.
An Angel of the Lord Appeared (vv20-21)
There is no telling how long Joseph considered these things in his mind or how much stress was placed on his heart. While Joseph was still considering these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. Luke tells us that an angel appeared to Mary, but Matthew gives us another story. He tells us that an angel appeared to Joseph. Let’s be clear, this particular dream that Joseph had is unlike any dream we have ever had. The word of the Lord was delivered to him by an angel. We know that throughout the Old Testament God caused a deep sleep to fall on many individuals and He spoke to them in dreams. Joseph is an Old Testament saint.
Listen to what he was told. First, he is called by name, Joseph, and he is called, “Son of David.” I think that is to reinforce what Matthew has already told us: Jesus is a legitimate descendant of David. Second, he is told to do the exact opposite of what he had been doing: “Do not be afraid. . . .” Notice how Mary is already referred to as Joseph’s wife, although they have not been together. Third, it is important to realize that the angel is clear about the Child who had been conceived in Mary. That conception took place without Joseph or any other man, it happened by the power of the Holy Spirit. To reiterate that point, the angel says, “And she will bring forth a Son. . . .” Lastly, Joseph is told to name the Child Jesus. Why this name? “He will save His people from their sins.” The name literally means, “Yahweh saves.”
That It Might be Fulfilled (vv22-23)
In the next two verses, Matthew adds an annotation. This was all done so that Scripture may be fulfilled, Scripture that had spoken by the prophet Isaiah some 700 years earlier. What is the point of the inclusion of this prophecy? First, it is fulfilled in the Son of Mary; but, second, it climaxes with the promise that the Child would be Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” This is exactly why the little phrase “of the Holy Spirit” appears in verse eighteen. This Child is like no other. This is God in the flesh, entering humanity, and changing history forever. This is God coming to dwell among His people, His creation. This is God coming to save His people from their sins. This was God coming to save you from your sins, to save you from the present wicked age, to save you from the wrath to come. This is the Word become flesh. This is our God. He is real. He is not far. He is “with us.”
You see, only God could do something about our sin problem. Psalm 49 says, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him— for the redemption of their souls is costly. . . .” Only a perfect, sinless sacrifice would do. Only God Himself would do.
Took to Him His Wife (vv24-25)
What did Joseph do in response to the word of the Lord? He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. Matthew wants us to be sure of one thing: Joseph would be the legal guardian of this Child, but the conception and birth had nothing at all to do with him. Joseph took Mary as his wife, but he did not have physical relations with her until after she had brought forth the Boy, and Joseph then called Him Jesus.

Doesn’t this story give you chills? You haven’t heard it so many times that you are numb to the truth, have you? Does it still resonate in your soul? Does it still spark interest, faith, and joy in your heart?

In chapter one, Matthew wants to demonstrate how Jesus is the Son of David, the rightful heir to the throne. He wants to establish that Jesus is a legitimate Jew, a Son of Abraham. He wants to show how Scripture is fulfilled from the very beginning of Jesus’ story. He wants to exhibit how miraculous that story is. BUT. . . . First and foremost, Matthew wants to tell us that God is with us (Immanuel). What does that mean?
            First, God is a promise-keeping God. He is faithful to His word.

            Second, God has not abandoned us in our sins. He has interceded to save us.
            Third, He is not far from any of us.

Matthew 1:1-17 The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Matthew 1:1-17         The Genealogy of Jesus Christ                    WC McCarter
When the Christmas season comes every year, Luke’s account of the Savior’s birth is most often quoted and read. We will read selections from Luke during this month, but we will take a deeper look at what Matthew has to say. Today, we will look at the genealogy that Matthew offers us at the very beginning of his book. He will give us Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph and will demonstrate Jesus’ legal ancestry which will establish Him as a legitimate heir to the throne of David. One thing is certain, if Jesus is King, then He must come from a royal line. Matthew will verify that in today’s text.
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Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham
The opening verse of Matthew’s Gospel account states the main character. The subject of the book will be the person and work of Jesus Christ. Matthew gives Him three titles from the very beginning, three very Jewish titles. He is called Christ, the Son of David, and the Son of Abraham.
“Christ” is the Greek word for Messiah which means “Anointed One.” Jews during the first century had all sorts of ideas about who the Christ would be and what He would do when He appeared. One of the primary views was that He would physically conquer all of Israel’s enemies.
“Son of David” refers to Jesus’ messianic and royal lineage. Do you remember why Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census? He was of the house and lineage of David.
“Son of Abraham” refers back to Jesus’ Hebrew/Jewish heritage. Yet, we must also add that any Jewish reader of Matthew’s Gospel would have had thoughts of God’s promises to Abraham. The verses to remember are Genesis 12:1, 2, and 3 which say, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
“The book of the genealogy” refers to the origin of all we know about Christ. Matthew is setting out to tell how the plan of redemption was enacted during Jesus’ life and ministry. This is the beginning of a marvelous story of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice. Human history will be changed from this point on. All of Israel’s hopes and dreams, all of the prophecies and Scriptures are fulfilled in this One individual.
Fourteen Generations
It is clear that Matthew omits some names in order to maintain his literary symmetry, yet all of these names are listed in order to validate Matthew’s very first claim, that Jesus is the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Thus, we see three divisions in Matthew’s record: the times of Abraham, the times of David, and the times of the Babylonian captivity which were all leading to the appearance of the Christ.
1) Five references are significant in this record: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. What do they all have in common? They are all women. To include women was “both unnecessary and unusual in Jewish genealogies” (Blomberg, 55). Yet, we can take this further. All five of the women have a common theme of suspicions of illegitimacy surrounding their childbearing. This will be a spring board for Matthew to argue that Mary’s conception is not suspicious at all, but profoundly miraculous. What is my point?

First, women have always been an important part of God’s plan. Women, never think that you have nothing to offer in service to God. We have been wonderfully created male and female. Each of us has a distinct set of abilities to use in His service.

Second, in each woman’s case, the scandal that surrounded them never hindered their spiritual characters. We have seen that Jesus consistently ministered to the outcast, scandalous, and disreputable sinners of the region. Jesus ministered to them, and Matthew has honored them simply by their inclusion in the record.
2) Jesus is Savior and King. You must submit to His Lordship. There is no such thing as having a Savior who is not Lord. The New Testament shows that the two go hand-in-hand. He first accomplished His plan of redemption and then was given the name which is above every name. How does this play out? Do not go on doing what is right in your own eyes. Do not follow your own selfish, sinful desires. Seek the truth which is found in Him. Obey His word and teach others to do the same.
3) There are a lot of sinners in Christ’s genealogy, and those are the people He came to save. I can say a few more things about this:

First, those who are in Christ must sin no more. He humbled Himself and became like a man. He put on flesh and blood and lived a sinless life. He then humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. We should strive to live a holy life in response to His love and grace.

Second, we should not pick and choose who we are going to minister to. Christ came to save sinners, and we should do the same.
            Third, do not allow your history to keep you from God. Whether you have a
             prestigious background or a poor background, either could keep you from God if you allow.
            God doesn’t care, and I don’t care, if your family was terrific or terrible. You are who you
             are, and you are safe and special in Christ.