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About this series
The Great Rescue
A successful rescue brings everyone involved great joy and maybe even new life! Of all the rescue plans ever pulled off, God's great rescue is the greatest of all because in human terms it was absolutely impossible. Not like, really steep odds, His rescue provided perfectly divine intervention when there were no odds at all. Join Chip as he lays out God's Great Rescue - His amazing plan, the most unlikely people, and a most unlikely Savior. This Christmas series will bring you great hope and encouragement.More from this series
And then, next is the town where it all happens, Bethlehem. It’s a no name little dinky town, seven miles outside of Jerusalem and about the only claim to fame is that that was where David was brought up.
And as they go there, what we learn is there’s no room. So God uses a Roman governor who decides to have a census. So, are you starting to see this unlikely arrangement? This isn’t like a special ops of the most holy, the greatest, the smartest, the best, the elite followers of God. This is like a collage of unlikely people.
And so they go to Bethlehem. And when they go to Bethlehem, you know the story, then there’s the manger. Luke, chapter 2. And so this baby is born in a manger with animals. Think of how unlikely the King of the universe coming and being born in a manger.
Well, then the next group that we find is the shepherds. Luke chapter 2, verse 8. You need to understand, shepherds are like the lowest on the socioeconomic scale of the day.
In fact, it’s not just the lowest class of people, but if you get the night shift, you are the lowest class of the lowest. Right?
And so God chooses the lowest class people, and of the lowest class people, those who get the night shift. And angels fill the sky. And they go and they worship Jesus, and they become the first evangelists. If you read the text carefully, they went and shared the wonder of what the angels had said.
Finally, it’s been eight days and Mary and Joseph are good and devout Jews. And so they’re going to obey the law. And on the eighth day, the law says that you need to
circumcise your child. And in Luke 2, verse 25, it’s the eighth day, and they go into the Temple.
Now, can you please try and get in your mind what it would be like? I don’t care how mature you are. Let’s just really exaggerate. Let’s say Joseph is twenty or twenty-one, and let’s just push the envelope beyond the scholars and say Mary is, like, eighteen. Can you imagine being a twenty, twenty-one-year-old, and maybe a seventeen or eighteen-year-old, you’ve had never been with a man and you have a baby, you’ve got these weird guys coming from far away, bowing down and worshipping your little baby.
These shepherds out of the blue are talking about angels singing in the sky and they worship and bow down, and then you take this baby and are going, “Man, what in the world? Okay.” What are we going to do with all this? And then, “We’ll, we’ll take the next step. Right? Let’s just obey.”
So we go into the Temple. And as they go into the Temple, can you imagine the fears and the uncertainties? I don’t know about you, but sometimes God speaks so clearly to me. This is it. I’m absolutely clear. Man, and I start going and I start going, start going. About four days later, or three weeks later or two months later, I have these overwhelming doubts. Did I really hear God? Does that happen to anyone else? And you know what God does? He graciously reaffirms it in ways and often through people.
So they’re in the Temple and there’s some old guy. Is there any room for really old people? This is a really old guy. He’s not famous. We only get his first name. All we know is he walks very closely to God. And the text says that he’s sensitive to the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is revealed to him.
And on that certain day, the Holy Spirit prompted him to go to the Temple. And he goes to the Temple because God had made a promise to him. In his spirit, He had spoken to him and says, You are not going to die. You’re one of my choice people. You walk with Me. What really matter is you walk closely with Me. And you won’t die until you get to see the Savior of the world.
And that day he’s doing whatever a really, really old guy does, whose name is Simeon and the Holy Spirit goes, Temple. Go to the Temple. And he goes to Temple and he sees the child. He goes, “This is it.” And he picks up the child. And Mary and Joseph, “Who’s this old guy?” And he begins to prophesy over this child and pray. And he begins to declare, “He’s the Messiah, the Savior of the world,” and quoting all these Old Testament passages. And then he stops and he prays for Mary and Joseph, and they’re going, “Wow, maybe we’re not nuts.”
And while this is happening as it’s happening, there’s this like really – are you ready? For those of you who think that, My days are past. I’m not sure God can really use me. I’ve retired from service and ministry. I’ve done my part, well wait, this is Anna. Anna is eighty-four, and in that culture the average person only lived to about forty.
So it’d be like a hundred sixty now. She’s old, old, old, and she’s had a tough life. She got married. Only married seven years, her husband dies. She’s been a widow. But she had this heart for God, and so she fasted and prayed in the Temple for decades, God is speaking to her, supporting people. She wasn’t up front, she didn’t preach messages, she didn’t have money to give, she wasn’t famous, but she prayed, and she was a prayer warrior. And she was doing the battle behind the scenes. And as she did that, as Simeon is blessing this baby, she walks in and bam! Then she begins to get in on the act.
And I just want you to pause and think of the greatest rescue of all humanity starts with pagan, astrologer, wise men, sorcerers, studying the sky. A priest with a cursed wife who doesn’t believe God; a teenage girl who does believe God, who’s poor and your least likely person to save the world, with a husband who believes God. He’s not a Pharisee, he’s not educated. He just is devout and righteous. And then you have some shepherds.
They’re nobodies. They’re nobodies in the world’s eyes. They’re somebodies to God. And then God finances a project that we think it all has to happen at once. All of this happens and then the clock starts. The birth of the rescue starts and for thirty years everything has to get into place. You ever feel like that you’ve been searching and following God and you don’t see how it all fits and – you know why?
Either you’re not ready or things aren’t ready or neither are ready. And then at thirty, it goes into phase two. Ministry phase. And thirty-three years later, the rescue, the death happens, humanity forgiven, death defeated, Satan defeated, resurrection, eternal life offered to whosoever will.
I would just venture to say that God’s special ops team is a little bit different than ours. Wouldn’t you? And here’s the lesson from Isaiah 55. “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” I want you to think about that.
And then the Magi show up. They come into Jerusalem and they said, “We’ve been following the star, following the star. Can you tell us where the King of the Jews is going to be born? We’d really like to know.” The assumption is that the nation of Israel would be more concerned about: is there a King coming? – than we are but we’ve seen the star, it’s been prophesied in your own books. So the chief priest went, “Just a second man. We’re going to check our computer. Micah. Micah 5:2. Bethlehem.” And these Magi come and they worship. They worship the King of the Jews, a baby. And then, right? Then they give gold, myrrh, frankincense.
How did God finance His special ops team? He finances it through foreign, Gentile, wise men, stargazers. Well, in a dream, Joseph learns very quickly, You need to get out of town because Herod’s going to come. So he’s a refugee. And he ends up a refugee in Egypt waiting for Herod to die. Well, what’s it like to go to a country, you don’t speak the language, you can’t get a job? How do you support yourself? Are you beginning to see how unlikely these people are?
How He works and how He orchestrates – part of all of that is this is that we think that there’s some special, special ops type of people that God really uses to change the world. I think our journey through God’s special ops team would just bring that one crashing down. True?
There are three specific observations I have from this story for us, and maybe for me personally. Number one, truths to treasure and apply. As I read this story, intelligence and ability are overrated. Wisdom and availability are underrated. Fair?
Intelligence and ability. Right? You’ve got to get the smartest people, the most gifted, the most talented. Our special ops team, that’s who we’re looking for. The strongest mentally that can do anything in the power of...yeah, I want our special ops teams to be that. But when God is about accomplishing His will in your life and through your life, and in your friends, and around the nation, and around the world, we tend to evaluate and say, “We want really smart people and really gifted people.” This story doesn’t play that out. Does it?
God’s looking for wise people. Wise isn’t about smart. Wise – you know what wisdom is? Definition of wisdom is understanding how God has designed life to work and following that design. That’s the whole book of Proverbs.
God says, This is how relationships work. Okay, this is how money works. This is how forgiveness works. This is how you respond when people betray you. This is how life works under pressure. This is how you respond with your anger. There’s a way to do it.
The wisdom of God. “There is a way which seems right to a man but ends in death.” God says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” It’s like, I want to do life Your way. When God finds a woman, Mary, or a young man, Joseph, who just says, “Be it unto me according to Your will,” you know what that is? That’s the fear of God. Joseph, you talk, his reputation. Mary’s future. I don’t know what she was thinking, but it wasn’t this. Wisdom and availability are what God’s looking for. Just – are you willing?
He’s just looking for someone not with a literal hand, but maybe in your heart, you’re like, My hand’s up. God, You want to use me? I don’t think I’m smart enough. I don’t think talented enough. I don’t think I know enough.
God’s saying, Great. You’re in. Because the people that think they’re talented enough, think they know enough, they’re really hard to use. Now, if they’re dependent, it’s great to use, but they’re really tough to use because what we can accomplish is just what they can do. See, when I get people that are available, then I can do things that are really supernatural and they will realize that it wasn’t them. And I’m pretty particular about who gets credit for things. It’s called My glory.
Second truth is that power and position are overrated and humility and faith are underrated. Right? Herod, powerful. Pharisees, powerful. Chief priests, powerful. Position. Isn’t it interesting that these fellows probably had the first five books of the Bible memorized, then they had all the stuff they learned.
Herod, he’s a king, he has power, he has wealth. If someone came and said, “The Savior of the world is coming, could you...?” Don’t you think you would at least go check it out, positively or negatively? Oh, yeah. Micah 5:2, “Why don’t you pagans go see if it’s true?” “We’re not going.” “Why?” “We got our position. Life works for me. We’ve got our power. We’ve got our status.” And so, God finds people with humility.
I would encourage you to read the story of Zechariah, Mary’s response, Joseph’s response, Simeon’s response, what you’re going to find is over and over they just keep quoting passages that God is opposed to the proud. That He’s lifted up your humble bondservant. “Be it unto me according to Your Word, Your bondservant,” Mary would say. When God finds humble people, “I’ll do whatever You want. I don’t think I’m better than anyone, I’m available and I’m humble.”
And then did you notice? Faith. Zechariah has been in the ministry for probably almost fifty years. He’s got all this knowledge, and an angel speaks to him the very thing he’s been praying all of his life and he goes, “Ppffhh! I know you’re an angel but I don’t think you can pull that one off.”
And He got a little fifteen-year-old girl, no theological training, formally, a girl couldn’t even get it. Faith. Joseph, faith. Simeon, “I’m old.” Anna, “I’m old. I’m not worth anything.” No status. No value. Shepherds. It’s like this whole story goes out of its way to say, “Guess what, I don’t do the things you do.”
The world and its system, man, ability, smarts, power, position. Let me ask you something. In your own thinking, what do you value? What do you value in other people? In your personal ambition – right? For all of us. We all have it. What are your goals? If we were really honest, and if I said, “Are you trying to improve all your ability and get smarter and smarter or do you want to be more wise and more available to God? Are you looking for more power and more position?” Versus, “Wow, I’m really, I’m on track to be more humble and have more faith,” which would it be?
Final lesson here is that knowledge about God is overrated. Knowledge of God is underrated. The people who seem to know more about God than anyone else, they don’t trust Him. It’s not an either/or.
But knowing a lot about God, knowing a lot about the Bible, being morally faithful and doing things you ought to do just because you think it’s right, is overrated. A knowledge of God, a personal, intimate, listening to His voice: Simeon. A fasting and praying: Anna. Boy.
Paul would write to a group of Christians and make this very point. He says, “Where is the wise man according to the world? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolishness of the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world in its wisdom did not know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message,” the preaching of the cross, “to save those who believe. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
And then I love this application to that church, and I think it would apply to us. “For consider your calling, brethren, that not many of you were wise according to the flesh, not many were mighty, not many were noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God. “But by His doing,” I love this. This is us. “By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us the wisdom of God, and the righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Just as it is written, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”