((Dear Reader – I preached this basic sermon two days ago (12/11/22) in our church. I worked off the notes below, though said lots that was not in my notes. Here’s the link if you want to watch it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFLIR-9XCJY).
INTRODUCTION - - Some years ago, I was in a church service wherein a man who had been appointed to serve in a certain way took a moment to testify about his worthiness or lack of. He reminded us all of the bush that burned but didn’t burn in Exodus chapter 3 with Moses. In his mind it was just a bush – any old bush - - and his lesson from that was – when it comes to serving the Lord – “any old bush will do”.
In other words, God can use anyone as long as they are available and willing to be used.
I suppose there is some truth to that. But when it comes to God doing things on the earth that bring about transformation that eventually impacts cities and nations and generations, I can promise you – “any old bush will not do”.
When the living Triune God decided before the foundations or creation of the world – that He Himself would come to our sin stained planet and provide the one and only possible solution for the misery and corruption and desolation that our sins for many generations had caused; He chose and sent His Son.
And when this same God decided He would come in the form of a baby in the womb of a young mother, who would need to be eventually married to a young man, who would help care for the two of them - - what kind of woman and what kind of man was He looking for? Did it matter? Why did He choose the two that He chose?
This morning I want to share a few thoughts about the woman God chose, the man God chose to be joined with this woman, and the baby they were chosen to bear and raise, and what any of that might have to do with you.
In Luke’s gospel we are first introduced to Mary, so let’s start with her.
Luke 1:26-38 - - “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,
27 – to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 – And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
29 – But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
30 – The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.
31 – And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.
32 – He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;
33 – and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end,”
34 – Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 – The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”
36 – “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.
37 – For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 – And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Five or so observations about this Mary – soon to be married to Joseph and soon to be impregnated with the Son of God.
First, from vs. 27 - Mary was a virgin. She had kept herself for the man God would someday bring her. She somehow saw the value of living for the future and not just for the moment. She was a virtuous woman, who accepted God’s design and will for her body and for some day being able to secure a husband.
Second, from vs. 27 - she was a woman who saw the value of marriage to one man. While it might have been more exciting to float around and have some experiences with a variety of young men; perhaps as the world would encourage to see who she was compatible with - - she waited for God’s choice and devoted herself to him alone.
Third, from vs. 27 - she chose to be engaged or betrothed to a man who was a descendant of or who was of the line of David. Mary herself appears to have no significant lineage to speak of. But Joseph did and I’m sure she wasn’t unaware of that. This again speaks to one who has more of an eternal perspective than a temporary or temporal one. Mary knew somehow that spiritual heritage is far more valuable than material or financial heritage.
Fourth, from vs. 28 she was for whatever reasons, greatly favored or blessed or graced by God. This was both a sovereign choosing from the foundations of the world, and a response or reward from God to Mary’s fear of the Lord and devotion to the Lord all her days up to that point.
Fifth, from vs. 38 - she was a woman who trusted God. She believed His word even though her assignment was unlike anything the world had ever seen before. Never in the history of the universe had God the Creator impregnated a woman. And therefore try explaining that to those who began to notice her bulging tummy. But Mary didn’t flinch - once God explained how she would become pregnant since she was a virgin and according to the expectations of engagement in her culture – she would be a virgin for a while longer – usually a year after the engagement started. Elizabeth – her cousin and the mother of John the Baptist noted this faith in Mary by saying, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Vs. 45
So what about Joseph? Some think he must not have ended well or definitely married way up with Mary, and thus not much more to say about him. Some think he died early. I think that’s more likely. Was he just any old bush? Let’s read the passage: Matt. 1:18-25 - - 18 - “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
19 – And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.
20 – But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
21 – “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
22 – Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 – “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”
24 – And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,
25 – but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.”
A few observations
First of all – of all the marryable women out there, Joseph chose Mary. Obviously when he chose her and began to pursue her he had no clue she would bear the long awaited Messiah in her womb. But he did know she was a woman who feared God and had favor with God and that was a high value to him. She was evidently the kind of woman he longed for and wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
Second – while the Bible says in Galatians 4:4 “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son…”- that in no way means Jesus came at a time when Israel was spiritually alert and receptive. The Jewish religious system that Jesus grew up in and had to worship the Father in was absolutely corrupt. It was the top religious leaders of that system – generally referred to as Pharisees and Scribes who came to Jesus one day testing Him and trying to find a way to justify their hard heartedness towards women and their evil practice of divorcing them whenever they wanted probably for a newer and younger model.
It was the Scribes and Pharisees who dragged a woman caught in adultery to Him testing Him to see if He would read her the riot act and have her stoned, when in fact many of them were adulterers themselves based on Jesus’s discussion back in Matthew 19 about their hard hearted practice of discarding one wife to only turn around and marry another.
It was a man’s world when Jesus began His ministry. Everywhere He turned He found unbridled lust, hard heartedness, scorn and contempt towards women to be the rule of the day.
And this was the world Joseph was surrounded by when he found out from his wife that she was pregnant and obviously not impregnated by him. Most men in that day and in that culture would have blown a fuse and certainly would not have bought the line that “God made me pregnant”. Kind of like “the devil made me do it” copout. If ever there was a reason – completely legitimate in the eyes of most of the Jewish religious men in that day – to cast this woman out, break the engagement and shake the dust off your feet at her – Joseph had that reason. But look what he did in vs. 19.
Joseph was a righteous man in the midst of an unrighteous nation. And because he valued thinking and saying and doing what was right in the sight of God, he refused to scorn her, but instead planned to send her away secretly.
Third – Joseph was willing to be corrected. Joseph had a plan, it was a sincere plan, and he was seriously considering carrying it out, but that night while sleeping he had a dream in which a real angel really appeared to him. The angel of the Lord explained what was going on, who the Father of this baby was, and affirmed that his decision of a while back to marry Mary was the right decision.
Vs. 24 tells us that Joseph awoke from his sleep and did exactly as the angel commanded him.
Joseph was correctable. He was willing to admit he had misread the situation. And he was willing to stick with Mary even though her pregnancy would raise lots of eyebrows and lots of questions and lots of criticisms.
I’m not sure what access Joseph had to the Proverbs. I’m sure at least the teachers in the temple and in the synagogues had access to them. But he appears to be a man who heeded verses like Proverbs 19:20, 21, “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days. Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.” Because Joseph feared God and sought to walk in righteousness, God was not going to let him go down the wrong path. And Joseph was humble enough to know one can be zealous and wrong at the same time.
So what about their baby?
Well first from Matthew 1:18, 20 we find He was:
- Conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph accepted responsibility to care for Him as his own, but He was not conceived by Joseph. Joseph was not his Father. God was.
By the way – can I ask, How long were you a baby? Right, a year or two. So while we are thrilled Jesus was willing to be conceived in a woman’s womb, birthed by her and nursed at her breasts, etc., please realize He was only a baby for a year or two. Somehow at Christmas time we sometimes give too much attention to that I fear.
- Second, His name was to be Jesus. This was not negotiable.
The name Jesus, announced to Joseph and Mary through the angels (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31), means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” Jesus came to do a number of things such as to explain God per John chapter 1 and destroy the works of the devil per I John 3. But fundamentally He came to save, rescue and deliver us from our sins and the wrath of God and the estrangement we had with God because of our sins. He came to rescue us from ourselves! Praise God!!
- The primary and the first thing mentioned that this Jesus would do for the world is that He would save us from our sins (vs. 21).
- Another name given to Him prophetically foretold by Isaiah is Emmanuel, which means God with us (vs. 23). Not only would He save us from our sins, but He - God would dwell among us for 33 years. This was huge to think that the holy creator God of the Universe who hates sin and who daily watched as many in His world that he created for His glory and pleasure were worshipping the creation rather than the Creator - - it was huge that He would be willing to live for so long among such sinners. But He did.
Now from Luke 1:26-38
- First again His name shall be Jesus – vs. 31
- “He will be great and His greatness will be seen in two ways from vs. 32. First He will be called the Son of the Most High – that is – He will be known for His never before seen intimacy and oneness with the Father. And because of that intimacy and oneness, His Father will give Him the throne of His father David.
- And unlike all human rulers who have ever lived or ever will, His rule and reign over all will never end (vs. 33). Putin’s days are numbered. Biden’s days are numbered. But Jesus’s sovereign rule over all the earth will never end.
So the first question I have for each of you this morning, is: has He saved you, are you experiencing Him daily as your Savior and Deliverer over all things evil and sinful, and is He ruling over you? Are you walking with Him as your Savior and Lord? If not, what in the world are you waiting for? The Bible says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” This is not a call or prayer you want to put off. If you haven’t responded to this gracious invitation – do it now!
Second, if you are a young man, and not married yet – perhaps you are engaged, perhaps there is no potential wife in sight - - your focus needs not to be – finding that young woman; rather it needs to be becoming the kind of man that God through whatever means can direct and correct if need be. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matt. 5:6. When becoming righteous in your thoughts and words and actions becomes your passion, you not only will begin to experience that righteousness, but you will receive the satisfaction that comes from being found pleasing to God and being able to be used in His hands. You will begin to experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from being moldable in His hands. And you will be the kind of man that can be the kind of husband your future wife will need when God brings her to you.
Third, if you are a young woman, and you want to be used by God like Mary was – may the Lord give you the same tenacity Mary had to understand and heed God’s word. So many people today give up, and get offended when God’s word in the scriptures or God’s spoken word to them seems to not make sense or seems to not be coming true or seems to be unreasonable or out of reach. Mary for sure was perplexed at the angel Gabriel’s initial greeting. But the scripture says in Luke 1:29, “she kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.” And by the end of the conversation, she said with faith and determination, “….may it be done to me according to your word.” Vs. 38
Jesus said once, “Blessed is he (or she) who does not take offense at Me.” Matthew 11:6. Jesus went on to say two chapters later in Matthew 13:19, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his (or her) heart.” There is a holy resolve that the Holy Spirit wants to pour out this morning that refuses to throw in the towel and give into the skepticism of the age. If there is something in the scriptures or something you feel He has spoken to you, that doesn’t make sense or seems contradictory or confusing, or perhaps it is something no one else around you seems to value or be pursuing - - ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding and peace and rest until you do see things more clearly and He will be so glad to do that.
“How Not To Read the Bible” book if unfamiliar or shaken by all the Bible’s mostly online criticisms
Pray – one parent get kids next door so the other can hear the end .
Now I have a final word from Luke 1:26 ((dear readers – I had minimal notes re: this final word, so I’m typing the gist of what I said though I will provide a little more clarity to what I was after herein))
Have you ever noticed who or what God first sent Gabriel to? Most would say Mary. But notice what vs. 26 says, “…sent from God to a city … called Nazareth”……
Phillip soon after starting to follow Jesus told a guy named Nathanael one day that they might have found the Messiah – “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45)
When Nathanael and Jesus connected, Jesus said of him, “Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no deceit.” (John 1:47 And thus we can know Nathanael was an upright, non devious or deceitful man. And yet when Phillip spoke of Jesus as “of Nazareth” Nathanael responded, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). People tend to develop attitudes and opinions towards neighboring towns or cities or even our own. And Nathanael definitely had one about Nazareth, which by the way produced Mary, Joseph and Jesus. A few “good things” I would say.
And yet Mark in his gospel said this about Nazareth as an entity at about that time – “And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief.” Mark 6:5,6
Jesus and the gospel writers often spoke of cities because every city’s ultimate divine destiny is to be a place where the kingdom of God can be fully manifested; and because every city is going to be judged for how they respond to Jesus and His kingdom (or present rule and reign). One of the real challenges we disciples of Jesus have is to first fight for God’s highest destiny and calling for our own city and then not to judge other surrounding cities.
Our church is based in the unincorporated town called Los Osos. While we have wonderful folks involved with us from at least four other cities, most of our members live in Los Osos. Some of our members who do not live in Los Osos sometimes work in Los Osos. Both of our pastors live in Los Osos. So we are quite concerned about this town’s responsiveness toward Jesus and His kingdom. And one thing I’ve felt quite burdened for in prayer as I’ve thought about this angel Gabriel being “sent to …Nazareth” is the stronghold in our town of “fear of lack” or a “spirit of poverty”. We cannot fulfill our responsibility as a town or city of hosting The Well – Los Osos, not to mention the other Christ honoring/proclaiming congregations unless we overcome this stronghold.
Whenever God finally moves in power and revives His church and awakens the lost in this town our participation in that will require absolute confidence in His commitment to provide for our needs and to fund His work in and through us. So much more I would like to say about this, but our time is up so let’s just commit it to prayer for now.