Monday, March 9, 2015

“Numbers of Hope-70” (Luke 2:42)

S-1481 3MIL/3B 3/04/2015 Hymns: (O) #140 vv 2, 4; (S) #370; (C) #157

Texts: Psalm 42, Exodus 1:1-7; Luke 2:41-51

Theme: “Numbers of Hope-70 (Luke 2:42)

3rd sermon in sermon series on “Numbers of Hope

You who are numbered among the saints, I am so thankful that the gracious Lord and Giver of numbers has brought you to His house of hope this evening. I am praying that you have brought with you the needed tools for this long journey. A journey that will take us from Egypt to Galilee, from the desert to the mountains, from crossing valleys to crossing rivers and ultimately standing on a small but very significant mountain—Golgotha. The tools you need are these: good boots for walking, binocular to see, and stamina to jump from one place to another as we will look deeply into the gold mine of God’s promises, and search faithfully in His life-giving Word that gives hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless and heaven to the heaven-less.

Beloved in Christ, tonight, I beg you to dust the lenses of your binoculars and come along with me, to see with eyes of faith more that meets the eye as we continue with: the Numbers of Hope! These numbers, like all the revelation in the Bible are given for the sake of the gospel and for our good. They are given by the Holy Spirit to lead us to see more intimately the goodness of God in Jesus Christ—who is the Lord of lords!

Jesus IS the hope of history. Before His incarnation the world overwhelmingly could be summed up in one word: DESPAIR! In Roman literature, before the time of Christ, the poets wrote that the best thing that could happen to a person after birth is that a person would die and go back to the place where he or she came.

Gloom and doom, despair and death, pessimism and hopelessness shrouded the world, draped over a barbaric planet, much like it is today in the Middle East.

How crucial and pivotal hope is. As we have said before, a person can live 60 days without food, 8 days without water, a few minutes without air, but not a second without hope. The hope we examine tonight is a lively hope, resting on... the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!

Tonight we probe the number of seventy and see how it leads to the king of Kings, who dwells in our hearts, and brings to us the 70 times 7, forgiveness we daily need—indeed. Seventy is a sacred number. It is a Jesus’ number. Within this number we have the multiplication of two perfect numbers. There is ten—the number of completeness and seven the number of perfect. For us, Jesus completed all that was necessary for our salvation perfectly through His death and glorious resurrection!

It was Jesus—the Giver of numbers who arranged Joseph in the Old Testament to rise in power in Egypt. He took all the bad breaks that occurred in Joseph’s life—being betrayed for 20 pieces of silver, being falsely imprisoned—and worked them together for good. How good? After the reunion, Jacob learned that his “resurrected” son was alive and well and functionally the most powerful person in the world. Jacob and his family are reunited to live in Egypt. Guess how many were part of Jacob’s family including Joseph, his wife, and two children? If you said seventy members you are correct. PAUSE.

Precious children of the heavenly Father know this truth. That is not by accident or chance that God would advance the Kingdom of God in this fashion. The God who wrestled with Jacob—Jesus, was posting the number seventy all the way throughout the story of redemption at crucial moments. For the sake of our salvation God unfolds this numerical pattern.

As we continue to journey across the desert, valleys, mountains and oceans, we see another sweet seventy at work. For example, after the Lord saved His people by water and the Word through the splitting of the Red Sea, He led them to Mount Sinai. On Mount Sinai God took Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel (Exodus 24) they climbed this mountain AND “saw the God of Israel. He was standing on a pavement of something like sapphires—pure, clear sky-blue. He didn’t hurt these pillar-leaders of the Israelites. They saw God; they ate, and they drank!” (24:9--11), how awesome was that moment in the lives of these men. (Are you getting tired)

Later in Israel’s journey there was a need for more elders to be spiritually lifted by the Holy Spirit to help Moses lead these great numbers. So God told Moses in Numbers 11:16 to gather seventy respected men to receive a pre-Pentecost outpouring of the Spirit to proclaim the Word of God.

This seventy would be a foreshadowing of how Jesus would in His ministry call seventy men to serve as disciples to teach and preach, grow and sow, and help and heal as helpers of hope! These seventy were not only to heal the sick and suffering, but tell people that the Kingdom of God was on their doorstep in the person of Jesus—the Messenger of Hope. And again, it was Jesus whom the seventy saw on the Mount with Moses. In both instances Jesus was the hinge of hope for the Kingdom of God to advance—the same Jesus who dwells in our hearts even today!

One of the most unlikely persons to be a hero in the Old Testament was a man named Gideon. He has been dubbed by one of our professors as the Barney Fife of the Old Testament. His credentials were minimal. He was a nervous, shaky sort of a fellow. However, Jesus appears to him as the Messenger of the Lord and tells Gideon that he was going to lead the children of Israel over those miserable, monstrous, Midianites—ISIS like people in BC times. Gideon has, guess how many, sons? Seventy. What an amazing God we have.

At the end of the year we often read the Psalm of Moses that speaks of how if a person lives seventy years—back then as well as today, that is a good life span. If you live eighty years...that is even more mercy and grace. Once again, seventy is an interesting marker.

Certainly in the Old Testament when we think of seventy we cannot forget how the children of Israel, after rank unbelief and terrible cruelty were taken into Babylonian Captivity for seventy years. In a way God had to send His treasured possessions into captivity to protect them from themselves. After seventy years people woke up and saw what they were missing—what they had taken for granted—the grace of God and His unconditional love for His treasured possession not only Israel, but you too. PAUSE.

Am hoping that the binoculars are not getting heavy on your shoulders and the boots are not worn out, for we have much to travel yet. Oh, the beauty of this number. On Monday I was visiting with Saint Judy (who made the banner), about it and asked, “What is the banner number”? She responds #70! No, not what I am preaching on, but the book number? With a smile she said, #70! How ironic is that? 70 is the number of hope given to us by Jesus. But there is still more.

This seventy times seven number is so intriguing. Multiplied, it adds up to 490. From the time the angel appeared to Zacharias to tell of the miracle birth of John the Baptizer and the time of Gabriel appeared to Mary to the time of Jesus’ birth and then 40 days later the presentation we have a seventy times seven moment. From the annunciation of John to the presentation of Jesus that is 490 days.

In the Gospel of Matthew our Lord Jesus Christ enlists the number seventy to get to the heart of the gospel. The gospel is the good news of forgiveness of sins that Jesus brings. Where this gift goes life and salvation flows. It is the most towering, therapeutic, restorative gift to us from the Father through His Son.

In Matthew 18 Peter musters up the nerve to ask Jesus, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.”

Seventy times seven is code language for googolplexes! God wants us to forgive again and again and again just as we have been forgiven again and again and again and again and again and again and again! After all, “the blood of Jesus Christ constantly, continually forgives us all our sins.” (1 John 1:7) [present tense]

From the cross on Good Friday Jesus spoke these words: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” They are the sweet melody by which He forgave the whole world seventy times seven (Luke 23:34). That seventy times seven perfect and complete absolution stunned one of the thieves on a cross next to Jesus. This man confessed through the power of that absolution from Christ, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” To that man Jesus said, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise!” Another message of hope!

That is where the seventy times seven gift of forgiveness brings us in the end—paradise, heaven, a right relationship with God, the knowledge that we are loved, and so much more. Tonight, as we have been privileged by the Holy Spirit, to travel from east to west, north to south, we have reasons to celebrate how God has forgiven us seventy times seven and we are heirs of heaven and now wholesome leaven here on earth. Seventy times seven breathes into our hearts heavenly hope knowing that the loving Lord who hung on the cross to pay for our sins—all of them, is the One eternal Lord who dwells within us and intercedes for us—having accomplished for us the complete work of salvation (10) times the perfect work of salvation (7)! Amen.

Now the peace of God...


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