Sunday, March 24, 2013

Luke 19:28-44 – Palm Sunday

Luke 19:28-44 – Palm Sunday
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 24, 2013 AM

I was wondering what you thought about peace. You know what I mean, not the peace the world tries to aspire to because that is impossible. I am referring to the peace that passes all understanding that only comes from intimately knowing the ruler of peace. Only He can give the human soul the peace it needs between the one who created us and ourselves. Perhaps you have realized peace does not come from people, places or things. Education, money, or power cannot give you the peace you need or seek. Only the one who died for you can give you peace when all else in life falters, fails, or falls apart. The absence of war, strife, or personal hurt is not the peace He gives. His peace comes by the sword of his truth that pierces the human soul right down to the spiritual bone marrow.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were searching for a worldly peace, a solution to their national and personal problems as a race and a people group. Just like much of the world today seeks. They had not learned from their history that going to war, throwing out the oppressor, or striving to have it all does not bring the peace God desires. Jesus had told His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) Many were of the same mindset as Judas and desired a manmade answer to their problems. Some saw or heard what Jesus had done at the tomb of Lazarus; certainly, He could throw out the Romans and establish the governmental utopia they desired. To show their trust in their own idea of peace they welcomed Jesus by throwing their cloaks and palm branches on the road, recognizing Him as their king. Let’s discover anew what happened on that Palm Sunday…

READ: Luke 19:28-44

Goals in life are important, if you do not have goals you will never achieve in life what you may expect or what God desires. Jesus was reaching the ultimate goal of His life. What would become known as Palm Sunday in the high-church arena, we see as His triumphal entry into Jerusalem for the last time. The world and its allies do not see this as much of an accomplishment. However…

I. We find Jesus making the proper preparations! (Vv. 28-35)

  1. Jesus had just given the crowd a parable concerning the fact that the kingdom of God had already come, but the ones He had chosen to take care of it, share it with the world, and invest their lives in it had done a pretty poor job. And now the one who would bring about the fulfillment of the kingdom was coming into the city of His temple, “he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” However, as “he approached Bethphage and Bethany, at the hill called the Mount of Olives” we discover that “he sent two of his disciples” on a particular mission. Interestingly, Jesus gives them very specific instructions. He tells them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’” (Luke 19:30-31 NIV) The wording for “Lord” some think simply means “master” as in Rabbi, while others see it as they knew who Jesus was. It could be that Jesus had already planned this with the owner, but I believe it is another example of His knowing what God desired of Him. God knew the colt would be there and probably had prepared the owner that Jesus would require it. In fact, Matthew relates that they would “find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her.” (Matthew 21:2 NIV) Luke tells us that, “Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’” I find this both fascinating and comforting. It teaches us that when God makes plans His preparations are always perfect! We learn that, “They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it.” We find Jesus making the proper preparations!

  EXAMPLE: Proper preparation in life is very important, but far too many neglect doing so. Whenever we find God active in our lives, it is always because of our willingness to prepare ourselves for His purpose. Preparation comes from our willingness to listen and immediately obey. The disciples did not argue with Jesus about who owned the colt, where it was tied up, or why they were chosen to do the task. Far too often, we want to make demands of God and then argue with Him when He does ask us to go and do something for Him. We need to be ready and willing, because God is always able to make the proper preparations when we are willing to obey!

People get excited about a lot of different things in life. We get excited naturally over the birth of a child, puppies, and the latest YouTube video. We find folks getting all shook up over media and movie stars as well. Isn’t it interesting that on this particular Palm Sunday…

II. We find the crowd getting carried away! (Vv. 36-40)

  1. Matthew’s gospel relates that, “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” (Matthew 21:8 NIV) Can you imagine folks using their best garments so Jesus’ donkey could step on them? Would you be willing to throw your Sunday best on the road for the Lord to step on? This is exactly what these folks did. Luke writes that, “As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.” Wow, can you imagine what a scene that would have been! “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.” What miracles was Luke referring? John tells us that, “Now the crowd that was with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that He had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet Him.” (John 12:17-18 NIV) They knew that only the Messiah could do such things and the crowd wanted to see the one who had raised the dead! And, perhaps, Jesus was the Messiah king they had longed for, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” they shouted. “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” The religious leaders however had a problem with this public display and “the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’” John remarks that they were fearful of their standing that the people liked Jesus better than them and whined, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:19 NIV) Jesus bluntly responds, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out”, we find the crowd getting carried away!

  EXAMPLE: How sad to realize that it was an unsaved crowd who got so excited about Jesus that they could not be silent but just had to sing the praises of God, ascribe glory to Him, and profess His Messiahship; and it was the religious leaders of the time who desired they not make this public acknowledgment of Him. Which crowd do you find yourself belonging to this morning? I am not talking about worship service; I am speaking about a public display of your devotion to the Lord? We live in a day and age where there are those who try and find offense at the least little thing. So we often remain silent about our faith, when we should be the ones to sing, shout, and praise the Lord publicly. We find the crowd getting carried away over Jesus, why don’t Christians?
  
We may forget that here in these few verses are some of the most startling contrasts of the world we live in. We have folks who even though they see, hear, and experienced Jesus, refusing to believe. We have others who perhaps had never see Jesus before or experienced anything He had done, believing. And then we discover the calling of God in the life of Jesus. We see some very personal moments from Jesus and discover that…

III. On that day, Jerusalem was condemned and cried over! (Vv. 41-44)

  1. There are a few times in the Bible that can give the reader pause and this is truly one of them. The dusty gravel strewn road slowly ascends and as the traveler makes his way to the top the ridge, there is a moment where you cannot see the Holy City ahead and then it rises to view as you gain the crest. It is at that moment we find Jesus, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” The poignancy of the moment is not lost. Touched with a tender concern for His people, Jesus’ natural passions are moved, and His tears fell readily from His eyes. This must be understood that here the Messiah is showing us His humanity. He was after all a human being like the rest of us at this time and shows His concern for those He came to die. But more than this, Jesus knows that the city will be destroyed and the temple razed within a few short years because of what its rulers will do to the one who weeps over them! He prays, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” How sad to realize that there are those even now who refuse to see with their eyes and listen with their hearts to the call of Jesus. Jesus pronounces judgment on the city and as such the entire nation, “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.” When the Jews rebel, in 66 AD, after Rome pulled some of its troops out of the country, they soon returned. Nero dispatched Vespasian to restore order. In 68 AD Nero died by his own hand, creating a power vacuum in Rome. In the resulting chaos, Vespasian was declared Emperor and returned to Rome. Jerusalem later fell to Vespasian’s son Titus in 70 AD. Jesus predicts, “They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.” And it came true. The Romans besiege Jerusalem for seven years building ramps against its walls and starving its citizens inside. On that day, little did the world know that Jerusalem was condemned and cried over!

  EXAMPLE: How would you respond to those who not only disdain you personally but also ignored you completely when you are trying to rescue them? Jesus’ whole nation is at risk of being destroyed because of their deliberate disobedience and spiritual blindness. The closest Israel came to being obliterated by God before was when it was busy molding golden calves to worship when God was personally giving them the Law on Mt. Sinai. Yes, they were sent into exile several times because of their disobedience, but this time there would be no rescue. Israel would be judged for its deliberate blindness and disobedience. They would be judged for murdering the Son of God when they knew He was innocent. Yet, through all of this, we find Jesus crying over His people who would so readily betray Him. On that day, Jerusalem was condemned and cried over!

Conclusion:

We find Jesus making the proper preparations! We find the crowd getting carried away! On that day, Jerusalem was condemned and cried over!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What’s so good about this Friday? – Matthew 27

What’s so good about this Friday? – Matthew 27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 17, 2013 AM

It was early in the morning on Yom Shishi of Passover, when all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Yeshua of Nazareth to death. We bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. That sad little follower of Yeshua, Yudas, who had betrayed him, when he saw that Yeshua was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to us. He actually wept in our presence and whined, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood.” We retorted, “What is that to us? That's your responsibility.” So Yudas actually threw the money into the temple and left! Can you imagine? Then he went away and hanged himself. Good riddance, no one likes a traitor! We picked up the coins and agreed that was against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money. So we decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

Those sly spiritual leaders wanted me to do their dirty work for them. They brought Jesus to me. He stood before me, and I asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus surprised me by responding, “Yes, it is as you say.” When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he actually gave no answer. He remained silent. So, I asked him, “Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” To my great amazement, Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge! Most of the accused before me plead for mercy or justice or make accusations themselves, but Jesus did not! Now it was my custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time, there was a notorious prisoner, an insurrectionist called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, I asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” I knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to me. I had heard the stories of Jesus and I heard their complaining concerning him before.  As I sat on the judge's seat, ready to make my judgment, my wife sent me a message. She wrote, “Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” I asked. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” I asked. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When I saw that my arguments were getting nowhere, but instead an uproar was starting, I took water and washed my hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man's blood,” I told them. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” So, I released Barabbas to them. I then had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Nasty piece of business, but the Jewish leaders hold a lot of power with Caesar.

I was the Centurion in charge on Venerdì or hêméra Aphrodítês of Passover. As the Governor’s own guard, we were in charge of prisoners. So, we took the criminal Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. In order to humiliate the prisoner, we stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. It was great sport! We found an old rod, put it in his right hand and knelt in front of him, and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” we remarked. Some of the men spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. I made them quit. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put the prisoner’s own clothes back on his bloody body. We led him away to crucify him.

As we were going out, we grabbed a pilgrim, a man from Cyrene named Simon, and we forced him to carry the prisoner’s cross. As we came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull), we offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall to numb his pain; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. We laid the beam down and nailed his hands to the wood. We then pulled him onto the upright and nailed his feet to the hypopodium.  When we finished crucifying him, we divided his clothes by casting lots. We sat down on the hill and kept watch over him there. Above his head, Pilate had us place a wooden placard with the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified along with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'“ Even the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on Jesus.

We noticed that from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, darkness came over all the land. Then about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” Which we later learned means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the Jews standing there heard this, they said, “He's calling Elijah.” Immediately one of my men ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. Some say that at that very moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. I know that the earth shook and the rocks split. They even said that tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life! They came out of the tombs, and it was said that after this Jesus resurrected, some went into the holy city and appeared too many people! Those of us who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, we were terrified, and I confess, I exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

I, Yoseph from Arimathea, noticed that many women were there, watching from a distance. They evidently had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. I learned that among them were Maria Magdalene, Maria the mother of James and Yoses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons. As evening approached, I went to Pilate, and asked for Yeshua's body. Pilate ordered that it be given to me. No one knew I had become a disciple secretly of Yeshua. I therefore took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in my own new tomb that I had cut out of the rock nearby. We rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. (Matthew 27:1-60 NIV)

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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Luke 22:1-23 – The Last Passover!

Luke 22:1-23 – The Last Passover!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 10, 2013 AM

People came into Jerusalem the same as they always had for the Passover. They hurried to their favorite places to stay, to celebrate, and to purchase foods for the meal to come. They had heard the rumors of Jesus being in the city. They had heard the stories or had participated in His triumphal entry. Perhaps He was the One they had been waiting for who would reign over them and throw off the yoke of Roman rule and their national humiliation. They could not understand that this would be the last Passover they would need to celebrate under the bondage of the old law. A new way had come. This indeed was the last Passover.

The chief priests and teachers of the Law were wondering how they could thwart this perceived threat from Jesus. The people loved Him and people’s emotions always ran high during this holy time of Passover. They religiously clung to their old greedy ways and wanted the Romans to continue to make them wealthy. And now a way had presented itself by way of one of this heretic’s followers, Judas by name. He wanted them to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the king of the Jews. He was willing to force his reluctant master to take a political stand by betraying Him. They did not care they were willing to murder an innocent man, and they could care less that this would be their last Passover under the Law. Let’s remind ourselves what occurred and why…

READ Luke 22:1-23

Judas hurried as fast as he could so he would not be missed by the others. He was headlong into…

I. The Passover plot! (Vv. 1-7)

  1. We discover that “the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching” which lasted seven days during which the Jews ate their bread without yeast. It was a remembrance of the haste in which they left Egypt, showing that they did not even have the time to allow their dough to rise, but took it with their kneading boards! Yet, while everyone else in Israel was preparing to celebrate God’s deliverance, we find “the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus.” They did this in secret because “they were afraid of the people.” Large crowds had been following Jesus and they had just recently hailed Him with hosannas and praises as He rode into Jerusalem by throwing their cloaks and palm branches on the road. In fact, it was upon the advice of Caiaphas (John 11:49), to put Jesus to death, and very likely they had already decided what kind of death Jesus should suffer. However, just as Satan had already been working in the lives of the religious leaders, we find “Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.” Inside the ranks of Jesus’ followers was one who wanted his own way instead of what God desired. Sin loves corrupt company and finds solace in sin with likeminded folks, “Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.” How horrendous to learn that these religious men “were delighted” in their sin “and agreed to give him money.” How awful to learn one of Jesus’ own would willingly betray Him. The choice was made, the die was cast, and “He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.” The opportunity presented itself on “the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.” When the Passover lamb was slain, the Lamb of God was betrayed. It was a Passover plot!

  EXAMPLE: People love to scheme where Jesus is concerned. They try to do exactly what Judas was guilty of, trying to mold Jesus into a character they desire rather who He truly is. They sell their souls for worthless relationships, fleeting fame, or a few coins. They may think they are doing the right thing, but often what we think is the right thing is not the righteous thing. When Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable to God, the Lord warned him, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7 NIV) Satan seeks to devour us, like a roaring lion. (1 Peter 5:8) Satan had sold the chief priests and the teachers of the law on their self-righteousness. He had entered Judas’ heart and controlled his rational mind with irrational emotions of greed and power. How ironic that when the Passover lamb was slain, the Lamb of God was betrayed. It was a Passover plot!

While Judas was neck deep into his plot, some of the other disciples were given the task to make…

II. The Passover preparations! (Vv. 8-13)

  1. Meanwhile, Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” While the schemers and plotters were trying to figure a way to murder Jesus, He was finding a way to celebrate the gospel, the new covenant with His disciples. Jesus who was born under the old law, observed its ordinances, especially the Passover. By Jesus’ willingness to observe it, He was also teaching us to observe His new gospel tradition, particularly the Lord's Supper. “‘Where do you want us to prepare for it?’ they asked.” Preparation is everything and perhaps Jesus’ cryptic instructions were to keep Judas from informing his accomplices where they were to celebrate. God’s plan would not be denied. “He replied, ‘As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.’” Even during these final preparations for His death, Jesus was doing miraculous things. He told Peter and John exactly what they would find, how to find it, and what they were to do about the preparations for the Passover. Jesus was preparing them for their last supper they would celebrate together. A tradition says the house that was chosen was where John Mark lived as a young man with his parents. Whatever the reason and whatever the place, “They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.”

  EXAMPLE: I had to laugh the other night when watching American Idol, a fifteen-year-old declared, “I have worked my whole life for this!” It reminded me of the humorous VW commercial where the family is leaving the hospital with a newborn. They almost crash but are saved because of the Jetta they are driving. The baby’s entire existence of just a few days flashes before his eyes! Here we find Jesus, who’s entire existence, since the creation of all things, has been leading up to this one meal! I believe the preparations were cosmically important. Of course they had no idea at the time, but I betcha for the rest of their natural lives they often pondered how even with these simple preparations, Jesus was preparing them also! Everything had to be just so, and God made sure it was.

Right now at this time being with His friends, Jesus could not be happier. His whole life had led to this moment in time. He was looking forward to…

III. The Passover party! (Vv. 14-23)

  1. Jesus enjoyed the fellowship of those men who had believed His message of the kingdom. They were the ones who had followed Him, knowing that He was truly the Messiah. They were the ones who had left friends, family, and fishing in order to follow Him. They had been called to a radical form of discipleship and now Jesus gives them a radically new Passover! And so, “When the hour came, Jesus and His apostles reclined at the table.” He begins to teach them what the final meal was all about. He tells them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Jesus knew He would soon finish His work. His church body would be established, His sacrifice would be over, and He would only eat with them again when He saw them in His heavenly kingdom, “For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Four cups of wine were drunk at the Passover, which the poorest man in Israel was obliged to drink. A blessing was pronounced and so it seems to be the first cup of the meal. “After taking the cup, He gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Jesus meant the entire meal and not just the wine. We discover that shortly “In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’” It was the fourth cup. Mark, the one whose house where they enjoyed this meal, relates Jesus told them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mark 14:24 NIV) Jesus also “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” Jesus gives new meaning to the wine and the bread. They would not become His actual body or blood but rather both would symbolize His sacrifice for our sins. Jesus became the sacrificial lamb. And yet, Jesus knew that “the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.” More occurs, but we will leave that for another time as “They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.” We think we would not betray Jesus, be we all would if given the opportunity during our weakest moments. That is when Satan schemes are most successful. He is the ultimate party crasher.

  EXAMPLE: Events had come full circle. It began with Judas already deciding to betray Jesus, and it ends with Jesus telling them and Judas of his treachery. Judas was the original party pooper. How sad for Jesus to know that one of them He had personally chosen, who had been with Him from the beginning, and who had gone out and performed miracles in His name was now going to commit the ultimate act of treason. Each of the disciples knew they were capable of the same disloyalty and this is why they begin to question each other! As sad, as this is, we cannot forget the beauty of the meal that just took place. As wonderful as the Passover had been for the Jews to remember, the new meal, the new covenant, would be so much more wonderful! One final sacrifice would finish all that God had promised and planned. Now the bread and the wine would be remembered as the Messiah’s body and blood given freely for our sins. A Passover feast would become a Passover party!

Conclusion:
What does the Passover mean to you, what about the Lord’s Supper, or the whole moment of Jesus and His disciples celebrating this last Passover? Today we have looked at: The Passover plot! The Passover preparations! The Passover party!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Isaiah 58:1-11 – Fasting for the Lord!

Isaiah 58:1-11 – Fasting for the Lord!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 3, 2013 AM

I can remember my mother telling us, “How many times do I have to repeat myself in order to get you to listen?” Then she would admonish, “Do not make me repeat myself!” We knew were supposed to listen the first time and do what she had told us to do. Why is it that we often do the very same thing in our relationship with the Lord? We are supposed to listen to the words of the Lord and then do what He has told us to do. We forget that this is part of our lives of fasting for the Lord.

Fasting for the Lord is more than about not eating or drinking. Fasting for God was and is about personal sacrifice. The Israelites of Isaiah’s day were a lot like many in our nation today. They had enjoyed success and years of religious and financial growth. So much so that many thought that they were blessed of God because of their success rather than the relationship they were to have with Him. God had been trying to get their attention but they were not listening. They needed to listen they needed to fast for the Lord. Let’s discover what this means for us this morning…

READ: Isaiah 58:1-11

The other day as my four-year-old grandson and I were out and about, he broke away from me and I had to yell at the top of my lungs in order to get his attention. Have you ever had to do that or have you ever experienced someone yelling at the top of their lungs, in order to get people’s attention? Isaiah did. In fact, he was told by God to shout as loud as he could in order for the Israelites to hear what God was trying to tell them.

I. Fasting is not religious phoniness! (Vv. 1-4)

  1. Immediately, God tells Isaiah, “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.” God desired to get the attention of His wayward people. Like a trumpet call to arms or a sounding an alarm, God is telling Isaiah to scream as loud as he can, to give full throttle to his voice! He wanted Isaiah to yell like a screamo band! They were not listening, they were not doing what He had asked of them, and they were not being the people He desired. The people needed something to rouse them to a sense of their guilt. The hypocrisy of it all was that “day after day” they sought God and “they seem[ed] eager to know [God’s] ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and [had] not forsaken the commands of its God.” They were going through the motions, but their faith was phony! In fact, they were spiritually clueless! They continually asked God “for just decisions” and they seemed “eager for God to come near them.” But was it true? Hypocrites love to profess their interest in God and to delight in religion but their delight is misplaced. We should not focus so much on what we get out of worship that we miss what God desires to do through our worship. In fact, we discover that “day after day” they seemed to seek God they had forgotten His commands. They wanted “just decisions” and were “eager for God to come near them” but they were far from God! This should sound frighteningly familiar. The Israelites loved their worship and they fasted daily. But their deceit had shown through. They retorted, “Why have we fasted and You have not seen it, why have we humbled ourselves, and You have not noticed?” God responds, “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.” God cannot do what He desires if we are continually in sin. “Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.” Fasting is not religious phoniness!

  EXAMPLE: We all say we hate phony people, but do we actually hate those who are counterfeit? Some of the phoniest folks I know think they are the most tolerant of others, when in fact they are not. I have discovered that those who resoundingly profess tolerance are often the most intolerant! Especially, if it comes to defining what your theological beliefs are. If you disagree with their irrational emotional behavior, you are branded as “intolerant” or “hateful.” Perhaps this is why some view God as intolerant: “Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” I have discovered that you cannot regulate another person’s acceptance. The same is true for trying to regulate God’s view of you, as the Israelites tried. Fasting is not our way of trying to gain God’s attention, when in fact we could care less about our walk. One cannot deprive oneself of something in order to gain the attention of God whom they do not truly follow! Fasting is not religious phoniness!

For some this is the season of Lent, a period of approximately six weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the supposed preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus. During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence. However, we discover here in Isaiah that…

II. Fasting is more than deprivation! (Vv. 5-7)

  1. God bluntly asks, “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?” Of course, the answer is “No.” Perhaps in our day God would ask, “Is this the kind of sacrifice I want, only one day for you to worship me? You wave your hands like a reed being blown in the wind and ask me for forgiveness, but you do not change? Is this what you call worship and acceptable?” The Israelites thought they could get away with their “fasting” by seeming to do what the law required. God was more interested in their obedience than their phony rituals. Fasting was more than the act of depriving oneself of sustenance. It was to be an outward act of showing one’s willingness to sacrifice everything to God. In a society where the gathering of food was a daily concern, we cannot truly relate to it in our day and age. When a person who is daily dependent upon what he will eat and where he will get it, and then deliberately deprives himself – that is sacrifice! What are you willing to sacrifice in your life for another? God desires His people to be involved and concerned for one another. He remarks, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” They wanted God to respond to their hypocritical acts of religion, but they were unconcerned for their own! How concerned are you for the lost in sin in your family, neighborhood, job, community, or world? God continues by telling them, “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Wow! Jesus remarked, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV) Fasting is more about self-discipline and the heartfelt desire to share what God has given us, than a means to garner God’s attention for our own selfish concerns. Fasting is more than deprivation!

  EXAMPLE: There are those who try to beat themselves with rods, do acts of contrition, or even have themselves nailed to cross beams in order to gain some kind of grace. Then there are those who spend their time helping the poor, feeding the homeless, and witnessing to the lost because they love God and see these as acts of worship. Which do you think God desires? Our faith should make us respond to the conditions of the world, not the conditions of the world make us respond out of guilt. Nor should we try to garner God’s grace by self-indulgence. Fasting is to be the way of life for the believer. Jesus related something very startling, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:23-25 NIV) Fasting is more than deprivation!

Fasting for the believers is to be a way of life. I am not talking about making sure you set aside a certain amount of your daily sustenance, but rather set aside anything that hinders your daily walk with God. We forget we are to live our lives for Him alone. Jesus said something that many of us struggle with at best and many of us truly do not understand; He related this attitude of fasting: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV) What “measure” do you use? Isaiah teaches us that…

III. Fasting fills us to the fullest! (Vv. 8-11)


  1. Paul reminded the Ephesians of Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NIV) Here, Isaiah is reminded that if God’s people truly fast, they will reap the benefits. God tells them, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.” Today’s believer often wonders why God is not as evident in the lives of His people as He was in bygone days. My reproof is the fact that He is! The problem is not with the Lord but rather with us. We expect God to be our own cosmic genie in a tiny little confined space we create. God is the Creator of all things and is not confined by our emotional desires. Our “light” is the Lord and our wounds are healed by His sacrificial bandages. His righteousness goes before us in battle and protects our rear! Our fasting does not insure God’s pleasure, but rather increases our willingness to be His completely. When we fast, when we are in the true sacrificial mode we are supposed to be in our lives, “Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” Wow! Barnes related, “The sense is, that if we go before God renouncing all our sins, and desirous of doing our duty, then we have a right to expect that He will hear us. But if we go indulging still in sin; if we are false and hollow and hypocritical in our worship; or if, while we keep up the regular forms of devotion, we are nevertheless guilty of oppression, cruelty, and dishonesty, we have no right to expect that He will hear us!” Herein is the key: “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.” In other words, fasting should make us forget about ourselves, magnify the Lord and worship Him! This is how “The LORD will guide you always!” When we sacrifice ourselves, fast, God “will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” The idea here is that fasting fills us to the fullest!

  EXAMPLE: We live in a physically and spiritually transient nation. We leave home as fast as we can, go and live wherever we desire, and take comfort in our independence from our family. It is only later we may realize that our choices have restricted our cohesiveness. The same is true of our spirituality. We think we can cast off our core theological beliefs whenever it suits us in order to allow ourselves the emotional fulfillment of the moment. Abortion, homosexuality, adultery, or promiscuity becomes more acceptable when a family member falls into its clutches. Yet, Jesus teaches us that our faith is to transcend such notions. Our lives are to be one of sacrifice, of fasting. “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37-38 NIV) And then Jesus goes on to relate how we find fulfillment, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (v. 39) Fasting fills us to the fullest!

Conclusion:

Fasting is not religious phoniness! Fasting is more than deprivation! Fasting fills us to the fullest!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.