Preparing the Way for the Lord
How on earth do we do that? How do we prepare the way for the Lord?
Tonight is our final group meeting for our Fall Campaign of 2015. We’ve covered a lot of ground over the past 12 weeks in our study of God’s Plan for His People. This Fall took us from the Promised Land to Preparing for the Promised One, in a journey that stretches from Exodus to Malachi. Tonight our groups will look at Malachi 3-4 and discuss what God’s word says there about preparing the way for the Lord.
Speaking of being prepared, just think of our annual Thanksgiving and Christmas season preparations! Most of us know that you have to make lots of preparations to get ready for this season, don’t you?
I am so thankful for a wonderful wife who takes this all to heart and pours herself into this. I know our kids and grandkids are too. With our family having grown exponentially along with our traditions of huge meals, gathering and gift giving to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are lots of things to do and places to go and food to buy and cook and gifts to order and wrap and hide and lights and decorations to put up and a tree to purchase and set up in the house and obviously I don’t know what else to organize and administrate…
One year when we lived in New Hampshire we didn’t get a Christmas tree. As you can imagine, it was all my idea. Jenny reluctantly went along with it. Our three kids were sixth grade and under, and let me tell you, it took a special dose of courage to stand against the tide of emotions and contrary arguments, but I pulled it off. We went through Christmas without a tree. Instead we put a nativity scene up in the window sill and had a place for our gifts beneath it (which is, of course the deepest ingrained tradition of all). I dare anyone else with more than one child under the age of 12 to try this. Somehow we made it through and came out on the other side of Christmas knowing that we’d probably never again dare anything so foolish. Some traditions are hard to stop. Of all the traditions we keep, none take more preparation than the coming of Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, I know some people who start in right after Christmas buying gifts for the next year! It’s that ingrained in our systems!
The Old Testament ends with a call to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Malachi gives us 400 years to get ready. It’s that important! Israel will go through the rise and fall of the Greek Empire and the rise of the Roman Empire before the Messiah comes. The Greeks will bring a common language to the known world and the Romans will pave the roads that carry the gospel throughout it before the Christ is born. In fact, the Old Testament scriptures will be translated into Greek, the Septuagint because most of the Jews outside of Judea will speak Greek instead of Hebrew.
It takes a lot of preparation for the coming of the Lord, but God is patient and when He plans something, He gets it right. God sees the big picture and God has all the time and resources at hand to prepare perfectly the fulfillment of His plans. Look with me at some scriptures in the New Testament that address this: Romans 5:6-8, Galatians 4:4, and finally 2 Corinthians 6:2.
At Jesus birth, Luke records how the angels declared His coming to shepherds who were out in the fields with their sheep at night. First, an angel appeared to them and said, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all the people! Today, in the city of David, a Savior is born, He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11.
God had prepared Mary for this. He sent the angel Gabriel to tell her that she would bear a son and that she was to give him the name Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
God had prepared Joseph for this. Matthew tells us that when Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, he, being a righteous man and not wanting to expose Mary to public disgrace had in mind to put her away privately. They were engaged, no, stronger than that, Joseph and Mary were betrothed to be married. Mary’s pregnancy must have hit Joseph like a kick in the guts. She surely told him what the angel had said to her, but Joseph, who was a righteous man, could not believe it. Could you? He knew this was not his child. How could she do this? He must have had some sense that this was out of character for Mary. But how else does one explain a pregnancy? An angel? Son of the Most High? I wonder if Joseph thought Mary had lost her senses. He had to put her away. This word in Greek means divorce. This was more than breaking the engagement. Joseph was breaking the marriage betrothal, and that took a legal move. He decided to do this privately, try to spare her some public disgrace… but he was not prepared for this, until God sent him an angelic visit in a dream: The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give him the name, Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21.
Then Joseph obeyed what the angel commanded him and took Mary home as his wife, but he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Six months before Jesus was born, John the Baptist was born to Zachariah and Elizabeth. John grew up and began preaching and baptizing people in preparation for Jesus to enter His ministry. After John baptized Jesus, John was arrested by Herod and soon afterward beheaded. John had prepared the way for the coming of the Lord as a voice of one crying in the wilderness, just as the prophets had foretold.
Jesus entered his ministry preaching the same message as John, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Jesus fulfilled all that the prophets spoke of him. Isaiah had said it, and Jesus stood in his synagogue and read it: Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read,17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Today… God’s timing is perfect.
Jesus fulfilled all that God planned for him. God preserved this message of the gospel for us, so that we can be prepared to meet Him.
Jesus told his disciples the night of his betrayal, the night before he was crucified for our sins, Jesus said to them and to us:
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also.
Jesus came prepared to do His Father’s will and to prepare us to receive the blessing of forgiveness of sin, and redemption from death to life, and sanctification to holiness by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and eternal glory with Him at the right hand of Almighty God the Father where we will reign with Him forever.
Now that’s something we need to prepare for!
Someone said, “Heaven is a place prepared for those who are prepared.”
God’s word is true. His work for you is real. This is not theory or philosophy, but history and reality.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. Do you believe this gospel of Jesus the Christ?
Repentance is turning from darkness of sin to the light of God’s love and righteousness. Have you turned from your bondage in sin to the freedom from sin and righteousness of God in Christ?
Confession is declaring with your mouth the faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, that is the Son of God our Savior and ruler of our lives. Are you daily confessing your faith in Jesus Christ?
Baptism is being buried in water like Jesus was buried and raised up from it to be born again, for forgiveness of sins through Jesus blood and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Have you obeyed the gospel by being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins?
Newness of life is the Christian walk after baptism that reflects our commitment to following Jesus as Lord, joining with others of like faith to serve in His name. Jesus adds us to His church, His body, His bride, the saved, the saints, the born again. This is what we are here as a Church family.
Are you a committed part of the family of Christ involved and actively serving in His church?