Today’s message summary of September 30, 2018 from Pastor Gus Brown:
The change that was going to take place began with John the Baptist. It was a radical change, indeed.
Many thought John was the Messiah, but he was the forerunner of what was to come.
Keeping yourself in your position, or learning to run in your own lane, is important. There is no doubt that John heard the voices of others, but it was most necessary for him to hear the voice of God in his life.
Prior to John’s arrival, there had been four hundred years of silent, religious guidance in the hands of the rabbis and scribes who made void the law of God by their own traditions. God chose to break this tradition, and ultimately the disobedience of the people, through John.
Judas, a leader of Israel during this four hundred year period, set the stage for the change by devoting himself to God and moving to rededicate the temple.
1 Maccabees 4:42-43 (NRSV)
He chose blameless priests devoted to the law, and they cleansed the sanctuary and removed the defiled stones to an unclean place.
2 Maccabees 6:4 (NRSV)
For the temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with prostitutes and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts, and besides brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit.
Judas Maccabee defeated the Syrians, but later the Romans came–General Pompey, along with King Herod the Great. After the conflict, Herod the Great started the project of rebuilding the temple.
Out of this time period came the groups that we did not hear of in the Old Testament. These groups all formed after the Maccabean War: Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and the Essenes.
The Essenes wrote in their “Community Rule” that they had separated from the habitation of unjust men and gone into the desert to prepare the Way of Him as it is written. This began 100 years before John started his ministry.
The Essenes were known as people of The Way.
The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians and the Essenes were all political parties and social movements, but they were also more of schools of thought.
All of these groups had three elements to them:
1. Priests – service
2. Scribes – readers and writers (not all priests could read)
3. Lawyers – experts in the law of Moses
After the Maccabean War, the High Priest had to be approved by Romans. It was no longer exclusively held by the Jews.
The Pharisees believed in the resurrection. One of their key teachings was in God sending the Jewish Messiah, who would bring peace to the world and rule from Jerusalem.
The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. They accepted only the five books of Moses (Acts 23:6-10).
In Acts 23:6-10, the Pharisees and Sadducees were less concerned about Paul and wound up arguing about their own philosophies.
John the Baptist, when he originally appeared, was opposed to both of these groups, because God had deemed that both of these groups were wrong. God removed him from the temple and the teachings of the Pharisees because God declared that they had lost their vision of the coming Messiah.
The Herodians were strong supporters of Rome and the Herod family.
Mark 3:6 (CSB)
Immediately the Pharisees went out and started plotting with the Herodians against him (Jesus), how they might kill him.
Matthew 22:16 (CSB)
So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You don’t care what anyone thinks nor do you show partiality.
In the book of Luke, John was a priest by birth because of his parents.
Luke 1:5-6 (CSB)
In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord.
Zechariah and Elizabeth, in spite of their difficulty with the political climate, were both devoted to the Lord. This was also instilled within their son, John. He kept his eyes focused on the One who was to come.
John left what was, in a sense, a guaranteed position of priesthood. He lived outside Jerusalem in the desert region. He would return to Jerusalem and serve a couple of times a year.
Zechariah, in one of his services, was chosen to handle the incense (you might be chosen once in a lifetime to preside over this area of the service). It symbolized the prayers of the whole nation.
Luke 1:8-11 (CSB)
When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.
God, after four hundred years of silence, finally speaks to the nation. He captures the attention of the nation with their focus on Zechariah and his wife. His wife became pregnant (Luke 1:24-25), and later, after becoming mute during his encounter with Gabriel, his mouth was opened (Luke 1:64-65).
God left the people with no other explanation as to what was happening was ‘it could be no one else but God.’
John was being talked about here before he was even born.
Luke 1:66 (CSB)
All who heard about him took it to heart, saying, “What then will this child become?” For indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him.
Let me ask you…what are you going to be?
You are far more than being just a Christian. You are an ambassador of God. You are a child of God. You are a priest of God. You are sons and daughters of the living God.
By the way you live and show yourself, do you cause people to talk about who you are and what you represent?