THE TIME OF VISITATION – 22 Jan 2000

Lk 19:42-44 – judgment
1 Pet 2:11-12 – blessing

I am sure that if someone were to ask us, “Do we want more of Christ in our midst; do we want personal and congregational revival?”, most of us would quickly answer, “Yes!”  We would be like Peter, whose spirit was always willing to follow His Lord, but his flesh was weak in the face of the reality of doing that.

God sent Jesus into the world because He loves us.  He has good will towards us.  His thoughts about us are good and pleasant.  Jesus came and showed us that God is the perfect Father who loves His children and family.  The day of Jesus’ coming–the time of visitation–was in order to receive the fruits of His vineyard and to give peace to those who do the will of His Father in Heaven.

When did the Jesus come to see how things were and to give relief to whoever came to Him with fear and humility?  It is written that He came in the fullness of time, when God’s own people–not to mention all the others–were ungodly and without strength.  He came when His own people should have known the time had come but did not; when those who were poor in spirit knew their need of a Savior and Judge to redeem them from all enemies that prevented them from fulfilling God’s purposes for them.

Jesus Christ is the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel.  In our own generation we are eyewitnesses of the truth of this prophecy given at His dedication as the first-born son by His parents.  The Spirit of the LORD–of Messiah–is not what most of the rulers and the general public expected.  Yet Jesus is the Branch which the LORD chose.  There was–and remains–resistance by God’s people, whether Jews or Christians, to the Holy Spirit of God when God comes down from Heaven to visit His people.  There is war between the flesh and the Spirit.  We at best are often cautious and ask whether or not this is truly from God, or is it of men.

Despite signs and wonders which proved that Jesus was sent by God, there was unbelief, hardening of the heart, hatred without cause, attempts to trap God’s Son in His words or in His interpretations of the Law of God.  This opposition was evident particularly in those who had power and influence, and who wanted to maintain their own interests.  Even Jesus’ own disciples, who were given to see and to understand that their Master Teacher was the promised King Messiah, could not apprehend that, even so, He must suffer and die before entering into His glory.  Judas Ishcariot betrayed Him; the others scattered at His arrest.

The coming of Messiah brought a crisis into the society at all levels:  political, religious, social, intellectual.  Jesus disturbs the status quo.  Despite the expectations of many, not everything goes “smoothly” when Messiah comes on the scene.  Let’s consider just a few examples from Scripture:

–When Moses was first sent back to bring out the Israelis from bondage in Egypt to liberty in the LORD, this was in response to the cry of the people to the God of their fathers, who answered them.  But when Moses did what the LORD commanded him to do, the immediate consequence was that the status quo of the people of God changed for the worse.  Even Moses was not prepared for that.  Nonetheless, God was intervening to judge their enemies and His in righteousness, while, from His point of view, showing mercy and grace to His treasured people.

–Ever since God chose Isaac over Ishmael, and Jacob over Esau, rather than accepting the sovereignty and wisdom of God, the Arabs and the Israelis have been in conflict.  Also Abraham and Isaac found it difficult as fathers regarding their relationships and feelings towards their sons.

–When Jacob loved Joseph over his other children, strife and envy entered the family, yet we see that the LORD honored Joseph and required his brothers to honor him too, if only for their father’s sake.

How many children were killed in Bethlehem by order of King Herod–and how many mothers wept for years to come–because the true King of Israel was born?

–When Jesus began His public ministry, the devil began to attack Him personally and publicly.

–John the Baptist wondered–despite all that he already knew–whether Jesus was really the Promised One.  John was in prison, suffering for righteousness’ sake.  It was at this point that Jesus told everyone, “Blessed is he that is not offended in Me.”  Rather than delivering or setting John free, the Lord Jesus did not prevent him from being killed by a wicked and foolish king.

–Jesus did not solve the day-to-day problems of the people or of the society.  The Holy Spirit does not solve all of our personal difficulties or the ills of society.  Instead, He gives us power to overcome.

When God visits His people, He upsets the routine and stability of life.  He challenges traditions and customs.  He shines His pure light on His unchanging Word of Truth so that we may feel as if we have been living a lie in darkness.  For example the way Jesus acted on and interpreted the true character of the Sabbath, or the “hard sayings” of Jesus which caused even many of His own disciples to stop from associating with Him openly.  Jesus sometimes “offends the mind in order to touch the heart”.  He is still the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel. . . and in the Church.

He wants to fill us with new wine, but to do so we ourselves need to be renewed (Lk 5:33-39).  He wants to give us new wine, but we know that old wine tastes better.  We do not always want to deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily to follow the Lord Jesus to new pastures in the Kingdom of God.  Oh that we would so yield to the Word and the Spirit of God that we would die to ourselves so that God can bring forth the fruit of the vine that is the blessing in the cluster! (Is. 65:8)

God chooses the weak and the foolish in the eyes of the world and of the natural man in order to show Himself strong and wise.  We who know that we are among the weak and foolish in ourselves for what God calls us to do overcome by our faith in Him to fulfill His purposes.  The Holy Spirit is speaking to us that the time is upon us for a new thing in the congregation and in and around Beer Sheva.  He is preparing the way for His prophetic word spoken long ago by His prophets in Israel to come to pass (Is. 41:17-20; 43:18-21).  It is right and proper that we should pray for revival and for God to act on behalf of His Holy Name and the Name of His Son Yeshua the Nazarene, King of the Jews.  But know that not everything will go “smoothly”.  When God moves, so does the enemy.

We have the Bible to comfort us and to give us hope as we patiently endure for God to fulfill His promises.  When the storm comes–when the enemy attacks, whether from without or from within–let us remember to keep our eyes on Jesus who gives the victory.  There is calm in the eye of the storm. Let’s be good to each other so that when God visits us, He will receive the fruit which belong to Him, and we will receive the peace and the joy and the hope which He alone can give to us.  I think each of us knows in our own hearts where the struggle is between what I am and what I know that God wants me to be. 

We do want more of Messiah in our midst so that both we and the unbelievers will glorify God for our good works on the day of visitation.  Let this transitional year be one of renewal:  less of “Me” and more of Christ in me, so that we can see the glory beyond the cross that our God has prepared for us.

Let us go on to obey God’s will with faith, learning from the history that with the hardships, we become conformed to the image of God’s Son, and the reward is great as God reigns within us.

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