Sunday, January 31st, 2021 (Epiphany 4)
(Denise Gelder - Diocesan Reader)
Four Ordinary People
(Related Bible readings can be found here)
As we listen to your word, please give us the spiritual understanding of it for your glory. Amen
Today were looking at four ordinary people, who surrendered their all to God and for God.
So- are you sitting comfortably?.. then I'll begin!
Speak to our heart Lord (our spirit and soul) and help us to hear you speaking to us please.
The presentation of Baby Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem,
the purification of Mary his mother and Candlemas are three important events
taking place at the same time which we look at today.
Mary and Joseph were keen observers of the Torah, the law. Jesus had been circumcised at 8 days old and now they were on their way to Jerusalem for two more important occasions,
First, the presentation of Baby Jesus, the Christ, in the Temple.
Numbers 18 verse 16 tells us the first born son, a month old,
should be redeemed for the sum of five shekels.
This goes back to the time when the first born son and male animals belonging to the Egyptians were killed due to Pharaoh breaking his word and not letting the Israelites leave Egypt.
This killing of the first born was the last of ten plagues sent against the Egyptians folks.
(There are consequences for us, our families and land when we go against God,
his laws, people and land.)
The Israelites however were spared because they obeyed God
and painted their door posts with the blood of the sacrificial lamb.
So God 'passed over' them, they were safe, saved from death.
(Similarly for us, when we accept the shed blood of Jesus, the sacrificial lamb of God.
We are saved from death, physical and spiritual!)
As a result God said that all their first born animals and sons belong to him
and were obliged to be his full time servants and priests.
For several years after their departure from Egypt each firstborn son of the Israelites
served as the priesthood of the Jewish nation.
Eventually, God chose the tribe of Levi for this role.
So what happened to all the first born sons?
They were redeemed for service instead of full time priesthood.
This was written in the Torah, Numbers 18 versus 15 and 16.
Obedient to the law, Joseph and Mary entered the temple
and were met by Simeon, a devout and righteous man,
a priest who took the Babe from the parents and the price for his redemption,
the buying back price ... 2 pigeons or turtle doves, a sign of poverty.
He would say two benedictions, one for the law of redemption
and and the other for the gift of a firstborn son and all the privileges
that went with the firstborn son (Leviticus 12 and Exodus 13).
Simeon was a godly kohen or priest,
who 'just happened' to be on duty in the temple that day... a God appointed incident!
Simeon means, 'the God receiver' ..and he was!
He received God the Baby into his arms, fulfilling a word given to him some years earlier,
that he wouldn't die before he had seen God's Messiah! wow!
He had faithfully waited for the fulfillment of this word, by faith,
not losing hope that he had heard from God.
He lived a devout and 'right before God' life.. righteous,
spending his time studying the Torah and the Tanakh and in prayer.
As a result, the Holy Spirit was upon him.
He knew this Baby wasn't just one of the many precious babies brought into the temple to be redeemed. This was God's Messiah, the One he had been patiently hoping and waiting for!
Filled by the Holy Spirit, he uttered the prayer we know is the Nunc Dimittis.
He was fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah 42 and 49 and Malachi.
Not only would this Child be for the praise, honour and glory of his own people Israel,
but would also be for our salvation as Gentiles.
Chapter 3 of Malachi says: 'He will suddenly come to His temple'
This was one of His visits to His temple.
Simeon went on to prophesy to Mary, telling and preparing her for great sadnesses
which would pierce her heart, alluding to her Son's rejection, hatred, torture and the cross.
This Child, God, came from Heaven, leaving his Father to save the world
from the punishment we all deserve as sinners. Paul says (Romans 3:5)
'No-one is good, no one is holy. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'
An ordinary young woman, willing to be shunned, even stoned to death.
Willing to obey God and be chosen by Him to bear His Son, Messiah, in her womb.
What courage, what trust and what faith!
And Joseph, a builder/carpenter, willing to trust the angel's words and believe his young fiancee, ultimately putting his trust and faith in God.
An ordinary man, used by God, to be the guardian of Elohim's son.
What a privilege for him!
Joseph heard God speak to him and heard prophecy fulfilled (Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6)
By the way, the 'Angel of the Lord' often means God himself!
Some one else recognised that this was no ordinary Baby.
An elderly widow, who loved God and spent much time, day and night,
in prayer and praise in the Temple.
She had been given the role of a prophet due to her love and devotion to God.
Her faithfulness was rewarded!
She was present when God entered the Temple with His mother and guardian.
She immediately knew that this was their Messiah and bursting with joy
she spread the Good News to all she met!
This Babe had come to save them (and us) from our sins so we can be with Him in Heaven,
if we take advantage of what He's done for us at the cross.
Two ordinary people in the Temple that day, two witnesses to God's Son
being presented to His Father and Mary's purification after child birth.
She came to be purified after his birth, of the One who actually came to purify the whole world! From the time of His birth to His second coming, Mary fulfilled a long purification
forty days after his birth, being the period thought that both baby and mother
were now safe from any danger.
Prayer would be given for the health of both of them and for Mary's physical strength,
but also for her spiritual safety, to ward off what we now call postnatal depression.
Another name for this feast is Candlemas.. a name given in memory of the Roman custom of lighting candles, recalling the light in the Temple of Jerusalem.
Some churches today bless their candles, possibly to remind them that the Baby
that came to the Temple was the Light of the World.
Light.. meaning Salvation.
He had come to save us from our sins. One study book says:
'We come into the world wearing the stench of Adam's sin, which we layer over with sin of our own, but the Good News is that because of Jesus, this little Baby, it can be removed'
Our reading from the book of Hebrews explains that the Babe, Messiah,
whom Simeon and Anna recognised with their spiritual eyes,
had to become human in order to identify with God's redeemed people,
who are flesh and blood.
As a result, He could deal without our two great problems.. sin and death!
As the High Priest, Jesus could save people from the guilt of sin, the power of temptation,
leading to both physical and spiritual death, under which the devil has us.
Faithful and obedient to his father,
Jesus has done all that God requires for our sins to be forgiven.
His sacrificial death has paid the penalty for our sin, our separation from a holy God,
thus satisfying the righteous wrath of God against sin.
It is His amazing, awesome sacrificial love,
not our merits, self, good deeds, that saves us.. that get us to Heaven!
No!.. God has done it in the Babe that was presented in the temple, to his Father.
He came to die, to offer his sinless blood, as a sacrifice for us.
I don't know about you, but I am forever grateful that His holy, set apart life
has paid the costly price for me to be with Him forever.
Four ordinary people.. Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Anna,
who were chosen for a very special role because God saw their heart.
He needs people who are totally surrendered to Him and His ways,
totally set apart from the wordly way of doing things,
willing to sacrifice all for Jesus.
To be set apart, to daily surrender our lives to Christ, obeying his gentle call to follow him
and serve Him, wherever He places us.
But, we won't be popular, not even with many other born again believers,
but hang in there, because the King wants unconditional surrender
and the rewards in this life and in His world to come will be awesome
and more than well worth it I can assure you!
So I challenge each one of you who desires to take up this set apart life,
to bravely ask our Heavenly Father if we are doing anything that displeases Him
and ask for the courage to give it up.
He stripped me of everything I was doing,
so I was able to give my all to His plan and purpose for me.
I was asked to surrender all, to be set apart, to be able to fulfill His plans for my life.
I struggled I can tell you!
especially when well meaning people thought I'd got it all wrong!
A big struggle was when He called me out of a well paid job
into a role without pay and with high travel costs... mmm!
But God won and the blessings have been incredible... awesome at times, so be encouraged.
If God is calling you to lay down your life for Him, He will do it.
We just have to be obedient, humble and teachable and.. an ordinary person!
You see the heart of each one of us and You know the plan You have for us.
Work in us, by your Holy Spirit, so Your purposes are achieved for Your glory.