Throughout the Advent season we’ve been focusing on the theme of Light. Today, we’re going to draw that all together and take one broad look at the light that God provides us as his children, from start to finish. We’ll start at the beginning, when light was new and perfect. We’ll see that light lost to sin. But then we’ll see God immediately light a candle of hope in the promise of a Savior. And then, throughout the centuries, that light will grow brighter as God expands on that promise, revealing more and more about the Savior, until at last we see him revealed in the flesh. Naturally we can’t possibly focus on every prophecy of Jesus today. But we’ll look at a select few and see the blessings the light brings for us today and always.
We begin at the beginning:
Light Destroyed: Genesis 3:1-8
It didn’t take long for man to ruin what God created. What they had was perfect. Not just the light that shone from the sun but the light that was in them. Adam and Eve did not know pain or suffering. They didn’t know want. They didn’t know anger or jealousy. And they knew their God. They were made in his image. Holy. It was paradise.
But the temptation was that it could be better. The temptation was that they could have even more. The temptation was that they could be like God himself. They did the one thing God told them not to do. “Love me, trust me enough not to do this.” was his command. But instead they loved themselves more. And light within them was destroyed.
Suddenly they did know evil. It was them. Suddenly they knew shame. Suddenly they knew fear. They ran from God. They hid from each other. Holiness was destroyed. Pain and suffering and death would be their lot from then on. God can only accept the holy, those in his image. Adam and Eve were not anymore. And their children were born in that image, not God’s. Down through the generations, everyone born naturally is not born in the image of God. We are born in the image of our fallen parents. That sinful nature meant Adam and Eve were cut off from God and his grace. It was a dark and dreary road ahead, one filled with nothing but misfortune that would end in eternal death.
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Light Focused: Genesis 15:4-7,15
We don’t know exactly how much later it was when God revealed more about the Messiah to a man named Abram. It was a long time. The great flood had come and gone, and the earth was once again being populated. The promise of a man, born of a woman, who would crush the serpent’s head was the gospel until that point. But now, much later, God focused the light of that promise in on one place, and one family.
Abram trusted God. God made him a number of promises. Not the least of which was that he would have a son, born of his wife, and through that son would come a nation’s worth of people. And through that line, all peoples on earth would be blessed. The new news was that the Savior promised would come from his family line. And what’s more, we now had a place. The land of Palestine, which would be known later as Israel, was where this would happen.
It was during a moment of doubt, needing reassurance that God showed Abram light. He brought him out and showed him the stars to reassure Abram of God grace, mercy, and faithfulness. And Abram’s trust in God’s promise of the Savior made him righteous and holy in God’s eyes, just like our own faith that brings salvation.
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
Light Brings Clarity: Numbers 24:15-19
God continued throughout the ages to illuminate the picture of the Savior. He used a prophet named Balaam to teach us what the work of this Savior would be like. He saw a bright star coming out of Jacob, one of the sons of Abram, shining its light on the world.
And then we learn here more about how the Savior would accomplish his task as the prophecy turns… aggressive. Yes, the first promise of the Savior said he would crush the serpent’s head. But here, it seems an even greater battle would be fought. Though the prophet uses the names of real nations at the time, the intent is clear. This Savior would fight as God’s chosen champion. He would wage a battle so fierce that none of his enemies could stand.
Sin itself. The Devil. Our own death that haunts each one of us. These are the greatest enemies we have. And through a fierce battle, God’s chosen would destroy these enemies for us and win our victory. You and I have the benefit of knowing this fight did not take place on a grassy plain with swords and shields but was fought on a cross for us. But the message is still the same. God’s champion will fight for us, and the victory will be ours through him.
15 Then he spoke his message:
“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
16 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
who has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:
17 “I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
the skulls of all the people of Sheth.
18 Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
but Israel will grow strong.
19 A ruler will come out of Jacob
and destroy the survivors of the city.”
Light Brings Healing: Isaiah 9:2-7
Having all our enemies defeated is a great thing. But it is not our only problem. Removing all the outside forces does not fix the wound within. It doesn’t fix the darkness we are born in and it doesn’t suddenly make us acceptable in God’s eyes. The devil could not exist, there could be no outside temptation and you and I would still break God’s law every day. We would still be broken inside, born in human image, not the holy image of God.
And so, the prophet Isaiah further reveals the work of the Savior to us. There’s more to his work that just crushing the devil and his enemies. He has something for us too. Isaiah proclaims a light dawning that heals us. The light itself brings us peace with God. It heals us from within. It makes us whole again. The burdens we have within ourselves will be shattered and we will be at war with God no more. Instead we will belong to his kingdom. We are not holy. But the light makes us holy. The Savior heals his people, ends their struggle, and brings them in to his kingdom.
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Light Arrives!: Luke 2:8-14
It took a long time by our standards. Not by God’s. Throughout history God taught his people more about what to expect from the Savior. And he worked history until the everything that he promised would happen exactly as he said. When the time was exactly right, the very event we celebrate today came to pass. Jesus was born. God made man, come here as one of us to fight our battle and heal us from within.
This is our good news, our great joy. We do not see him from afar anymore. We know him. All these prophecies would be meaningless if nothing came of them. The angels, God’s heralds, announced his arrival in glorious light to the shepherds. And they proclaimed peace. Peace between God and man because the Savior would restore the light that was lost at the beginning. He would defeat the enemies and bring us healing. The baby born contains every hope we have worth clinging to.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Light Forever: Revelation 22:21-27
That we know Jesus, that we see him and have watched his work for us does not mean there is nothing left to be revealed. The light continues to grow brighter. There is still more to come for us. Yes, we saw God fulfill his promises. We have seen Jesus grow and live as one of us but not like us. He kept the image of God. He did what his Father asked. He was obedient where we are not. And we have seen him march into battle with death and the devil. We watch the serpent strike him on the cross, but in vain. We’ve seen the empty tomb. We know that death did not hold him. We know the serpent’s head is crushed.
The battle is won. And Jesus took his perfect life, wove it into a brilliant garment for you to wear, and gave it to you. It covers all your wrong and makes you holy to God. The image is restored. The relationship with God is restored. And there is one more promised to be fulfilled: eternal life with him. Yes, our greatest problems are solved by Jesus, but the fact is – we’re still here. We may be healed by the light, but this world is still broken and decaying. And so, we won’t stay.
That is our goal, the city of light. Light better and brighter than even the sun. The light of the glory of God. Where everything will be the way God always meant for us to be, before the fall. The baby born, Christmas, it’s a great thing to celebrate, but today let’s finish by celebrating what that truly means for us. It means paradise restored.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
I have this app on my smartphone called "ToDoist." It keeps track of tasks that I am going to do each day of the week. Each time I finish a task, I swipe it off as complete.
This past week I didn’t get much done Monday-Wednesday. I was at a Pastor’s Conference in New Jersey. It turns out that 18 hours listening to corny jokes from 5 other pastors is not conducive to getting a lot of work done. So my Todoist list had stock piled. But, as I looked at it again and again Wednesday evening, I was confident that I had a good plan for getting all of my tasks done the next day.
Then, Thursday happened. An unexpected meeting here. A longer phone call there. A few conversations that lasted a little longer than I thought...and suddenly, my Thursday Todoist "to do list" looked the exact same as the Friday list...only with few more tasks than before.
I had such a good plan to get everything done, but it failed.
Ever happen to you? Ever plan to do something only to watch your plans fail?
Did you know that God plans too? In fact, while Jesus was on earth he told his disciples about God's plan. John 3:16 gives it to us in a nutshell: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
But then, Jesus died. Life happened. Death happened. The question is: Had God's plan failed? Can God’s plans fail?
I. When God's Plan Appears to Fail.
This appears to have been the basic premise of the disciple's conversation on the Road to Emmaus. Scripture tells us "They were talking with each other about everything that had happened." And later "That their faces were downcast." Their Messiah had died. God's plan had failed. They would never see him again.
Then, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.
But what's interesting is that Scripture says: They were kept from recognizing him. It isn't like Mary Magdalene whose grief and tears prevented her from recognizing her Savior. They were kept from recognizing him by God. By Jesus.
Why did Jesus do that? Presumably for two reasons:
1) He wanted to give them an opportunity to voice their faith. Think about Adam and Eve in the Garden. God asks, "Where are you?" Not because he didn't know, but because he wanted to give them a chance to fess up to their sins. At the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus had asked Philip, "How will we feed these people?" Not because he didn't know that he was about to perform a miracle, but because he wanted to Philip to voice his confidence in that miracle.
Jesus is doing the same thing with the Emmaus disciples. He wants them to have a chance to voice their faith in God's plan.
But just like all those other times, the Emmaus disciples don't voice faith. They only voice their disappointment with God and his plan.
They explain that they were talking about: “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
Isn't it interesting? They mention the third day, a part of God's plan to raise Jesus from the dead. They mention the women seeing an empty tomb. They mention that a few disciples had confirmed this. But they still did not believe God's plan had worked. Look at verse 21. It's most telling, "We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."
As in: "They didn't believe it anymore. The plan didn't work. They were still under Roman rule. Their lives still felt the same. In fact, they were probably crummier. They had wasted time and effort believing this Jesus was a part of God's plan, and now that plan wasn't working."
Ever felt disappointed with God? Ever felt like God's plan has failed you? Maybe it sounds like this:
"I was supposed to have a career! I was supposed to climb up the corporate ladder. Instead, I'm stuck in my first job at a pay rate much lower than I expected and I don't have any hope of climbing out of it. God, your plan, must have failed!"
"God, I thought, you "knew the plans you have me, plans to prosper and not to harm me..." Then, why can't I find the right guy? Why am I still single? Why are all the people I date 'Sleazeballs?" God! Your plan is not prospering, but harming me!
"My marriage isn't happy all the time. There is tough stuff we go through. God. That can't be your plan. Which must mean that your plan has failed!"
"My relative is super sick. They are suffering. God is love. He doesn't like suffering. Which can only mean that he can't stop the suffering and his plan is failing!"
Now. Stop and think with me. Is God that bad at planning? Is the ruler of all eternity that poor at future planning? Of course not.
Listen to this carefully. God’s plan’s don’t fail, we simply fail to see God’s plans.
II. We Simply Fail to See God's Plan
This is exactly the problem that the Emmaus disciples had. They expected God's plan to be that Jesus would rid them of Roman rule, they themselves would become officials in his kingdom, and life on earth would become 'awesome.'
When Jesus died and this didn't happen, they felt terrible.
But listen to Jesus' assessment: 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
If you wanted to build a house, an architect makes a blueprint for the contractor and everyone he works with to follow. If they want to know where the support beams are supposed to be, they look at the blueprint. If the electrician is wondering how many outlets to run in the living room, they look at the blueprint. If the homeowner has a complaint about the window sill being placed too low on the wall, they look at the blueprint to see if it's valid.
A second reason that Jesus didn't show himself to these disciples right away is that he wanted to teach them where to look for God's plan. He wanted to show them the Almighty's Divine blueprint. It showed them, at that time, the Old Testament Scriptures which contained a detailed explanation of God's plan.
Through the prophets God gave his people details about the coming Savior so that they wouldn’t miss his coming. Malachi said where Jesus would be born. Zechariah foretold how Jesus would be betrayed for 30 silver pieces. Psalm 22 detailed how he would be crucified, how they would cast lots for his clothes.
Various scriptures talk about God's son had to die. Which in reality as it happened, must have seemed awful. But it needed to happen. It was God's plan. Isaiah 53 explains it beautifully. Memorize this passage. Commit it to memory. He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
This is God’s greatest plan. He desires to save you from hell. He wants you in heaven. So, no wonder, he doesn’t always take care to make sure that you have the roomiest house, the fanciest car, and the big scholarship to school. When push comes to shove, God wants you in heaven! That’s his goal. It’s his plan. It’s his desire!
When the disciples realized that Jesus’ death was a part of this plan, do you know what the result was? Verse 32 reports that the disciples confessed: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
What had changed? The Romans were still rotten. The taxes were oppressive. The Jewish leaders were corrupt. What changed was that the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures had opened their minds. They understood God's plan. They understood that it had worked. They understood that God's plan was way better than anything they had imagined. It didn't just involved a perfect marriage, a good job, and the latest electronic always in your possession.
It involved eternity. It involved forgiveness. It involved escape from eternal hell. It involved the promise of heaven.
III. God's Plan is Alive and Well
Now the disciples understood something. They understood that God's plan was alive and well. But they didn't grasp exactly how alive and well God's plan was until later that night: 30 When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Brothers and sisters, recognize that God's plan for you is alive and well. He lives! Because he lives, so does God's plan for you. It doesn't matter what happens in our lives. It doesn't matter how sin gets the best of us. It doesn't matter what evil can do to us! The LORD lives! Our divine planner lives AND he is still in control. And I'll tell you what...that takes trust! It takes trust cause you aren't in control.
Ever been to a financial planner? That's hard to do. You know lots about your money. You know lots about what you want to do with it. Nobody likes to be told how to plan their future.
But...I recommend you see one. Planning finances is their job. They understand economy. They understand stocks, investments, and bond value. They're professionals at planning money. It's what they do. Trust them.
God's a professional at what he does too. He's a professional at planning for your eternal well being. It involved sending his Son to die and giving him power to rise again. He knew what he was doing then and he knows what he is doing no.
I know it's hard to give up control of your life and to totally trust God. It’s your life! But consider this: He's smarter than you. He's more powerful than you. He's been around longer than you. He loves more than you. He loves you more than you.
Trust Him. His plans don’t fail. His plans are good. His plans are alive and well. Amen.