Friday, February 07, 2014

Sermon Outline - Breaking the Silence

Just prior to the first Advent of Christ...

The time between the testaments was one of great ferment and upheaval - a time of the realignment of the traditional power blocs and the passing of a cultural tradition that had been dominant for almost 3,000 years.

(Not unlike TODAY)

· In biblical history, this span of 400 or so years; separates the time of Nehemiah from the birth of Christ and is known as the intertestamental period (432 - 5BC). It is sometimes referred to as the 'Silent Years'.

(Do you sense the Lord about to speak?)

· God had not spoken or moved in any significant fashion for over 400 years.

(Creating a spiritual hunger among his people)

· These were years of great oppression and internal strife.

(The Lord was disciplining, refining and preparing his people for a monumental turn of events)

· Many powerful groups had arisen and were predominant during the period just prior to the birth of Christ.

(Take a look around today!)

· The time was ripe for Heaven to speak!

(Need convincing?!)

Ruling Groups

· Sadducee's - represented money and political power and controlled the high priesthood ... they fought to preserve the 'status quo'.

· Pharisees - strove to reinterpret the law, stressed strict legal observance and enjoyed great (and disproportionate) influence over popular opinion.

· Essenes - A small separatist group that sprung up out of the many religious and political conflicts. They considered the Temple priesthood to be corrupt and rejected much of the temple practices.

· The Returning Exiles - brought with them a new form of worship based on personal piety and relationship with God. They actually prepared the way for the Christian gospel!

(Recognise any of the above in today’s institutional Church in the West?)

During this dark and silent period, God however was working in the hearts of his people preparing the way for a NEW DAY!

TASK: Imagine all the above and how these groups might appear in Christendom in the West today!

(Background reading Rev 2-3)

THE HIDDEN THINGS - What man discards … God often uses

Zechariah and Elizabeth

Both were descendents of the priestly line of Aaron, and both upright in the sight of God, but they had no descendants.

· Elizabeth was barren - (considered by many … a disgrace)
· Remained in seclusion for 5 months - (often the way with The Lord)
· BOTH Elizabeth and Zechariah were old! - (Past their prime … of no value … sound familiar?)

Mary - a young virgin

· Unwed - (a disgrace)
· Promised to Joseph – (but bringing dishonour …?)
· Too young to be used of God
· Questionable morality – not to mention sanity?!

Could it be that the Lord was/is preparing both the old and the young as well as those considered outcasts (or worse) ... to play a significant part in what he is preparing for his church in our day?

(Note again, how God often uses the foolish things to confound the wise!)

God's servants are often prepared in isolation - e.g.

· O/T: Moses (the very old, who had 'fallen from favour with man', languished in obscurity before encountering his divine call); David (the very young, derided for his youth, eventually anointed but endangered by the 'old guard' who desired to kill off the new thing God had in mind) etc.

· N/T: John the Baptist (descendant of the priesthood who from youth, chose radical odedience to God rather than institutional service (his right by inheritance); Jesus (of doubtfull parentage (?), chose to await the Father's timing, risked all, even provoking the religious and political powers of the day; Paul (denied his theological training, for unwavering obediance to a heavenly vision.

Been feeling isolated lately and wondering if you have anything to offer the Lord?

* Eighty years of age is NOT too old – just ask Moses!
* A young teenage ‘disappointment' (Mary) is not beyond God’s amazing grace!
* Denied the 'priesthood' ... a much better Way awaits!
* In fact NO circumstance can remain an obstacle for God's chosen vessel!

The angel of the Lord spoke! A barren womb (Elizabeth) was opened! (He still opens up the 'barren places' to birth new things)!

The angel Gabriel spoke and a virgin (Mary) conceived! (There are no limitations for our Supernatural God)!

An angel of the Lord spoke and the glory of the Lord shone all around! (Even the lower [working] class [shepherds] saw, heard AND obeyed)!

An old prophet (Simeon) spoke and declared the purpose of the incarnation! (Some among the old [Saul (fleshly) kingdom] will see and respond accordingly)

A (very old) prophetess (Anna) spoke and declared the role of redemption that the child was to play. (No gender confusion with the Lord or his faithful servants)

Many today are scattered, having been exiled [set apart, preserved and renewed in isolation] and the Lord is preparing them for the renewal of the Church – the restoring of New Testament authenticity, integrity and authority - as the Church returns the life and message of the Lord Jesus Christ and the centrality of the CROSS!

Is the Lord speaking to YOU … if so what is your response? What better time than the present to dedicate ourselves afresh to serving the living God and His purposes?!!

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