Friday, October 16, 2009

10/16- John's Glory and Peace Come From God Luke 1:14-17

(John the Baptist in the wilderness Il Bachiacca 1521-23)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Luke 1:14-17

14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Calvin abridged: “He will be a joy” This is a greater joy than what Zechariah would derive from the birth of an ordinary child, and the joy would not be confined to him alone- but even strangers would rejoice in his message. 15- “He shall be great”- is a confirmation of what he said about joy. John was great because of his great and extraordinary purpose. Jesus declared that “among those born of women there was not one greater than John the Baptist” (Mt. 11:11). “never to take wine or fermented drink” – this was the vow of the Nazarite who would abstain until their vow was fulfilled (Nbrs. 6:3). Priests also were to abstain while they were performing their duties (Lev. 10:9). But John was to be a Nazarite for his whole life (similar to Samson Jdg. 13:3,4). But we must not assume that worship of God consists in abstinence of wine. We all should practice temperance- so that those who think it is harmful to drink should abstain on their own, and those who don’t have wine not to envy others. The word for “wine” here is any sort of manufactured wine. “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.” The meaning is that the power and grace of the Spirit will appear in him not only in public, but with special and abundant gifts of the Spirit and attention would be brought to him even before he was born. Christ alone was given the Spirit without measure (Jn. 3:34; 1:16). Those who are given grace that exceeds the ordinary capacity are said to be filled with the Holy Ghost. 16-“Many people he will bring back”- This shows how corrupt the church of the time was- with corrupt doctrine, depraved morals, and disorderly government- so that it was almost a miracle that a few continued in godliness. If this happened to the ancient church, the church of our time should not think it is impossible to err. Much power is attributed to John, and we should learn from this that whenever Scripture applauds the efficacy in the ministry of people, we should learn to attribute this to the grace of the Spirit. For without the Spirit, the human voice would be spent speaking uselessly into the air. So when Paul boats that he is a minister of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6) he makes no claims for his own abilities apart from God as if his own voice penetrated peoples’ hearts. Scripture reminds us that ministers are nothing in themselves, but the glory goes undivided to God. 17- “And he will go on before the Lord”- This was John’s office to before Christ as a herald before a king (Mal. 3:1). “With the spirit and power of Elijah”- This does not mean that Elijah’s soul passed into the body of John, but the same Spirit of God, who acted efficaciously in Elijah also acted well in the Baptist. As Elijah restored the decayed worship of God, so John also was an agent in the restoration of worship in his day. He would bring back people to each other in a restored unity of faith (Mal. 4:5). As in Elijah’s day, so in John’s the scripture had degenerated through countless imaginations and ideas, the worship of God was corrupted by gross superstition, religion was divided into various sects, priests were openly wicked, and the people indulged in every sort of wickedness. The covenant had been broken with the faith of the fathers. There is a false peace (often promoted by the religious) in which men agree with each other in their disobedience apart from God. This is a false peace that ends in ultimate vanity and destruction. To have peace with each other, we should seek peace with God.

Thoughts: John the Baptists glory was found in God alone. His peace also was found through God alone. Here was a man who wore camel skins and ate wild locusts. This is a symbol that his glory was not found in looks or fashion, but in the Spirit within Him. So we should seek to honor God more than seek our own fashion. There is a temporary peace that is found in being just like everyone else. The thought is if we are just as wicked as the other people, then we will not stand out, nor convict them, and everyone will like us. But there is no peace for the wicked- there is only restlessness- an itch that cannot be scratched except by coming to God. John didn’t mind standing out, nor did he mind calling out those who had messed up (“repent!” is an unsettling call). We can learn a lesson from John in his willingness in a very concrete way to point to an ultimate peace. John and Elijah ministered in a day when morals, religion, politics, and abilty to get along were decaying rapidly. We need people like them today- perhaps our young adults to show us the way back to God- and turning our hearts to each other.

Prayer: Lord, raise up someone who wouldn’t say “peace, peace” to the wicked, but someone who will point to you. Help us, O God, to turn to you with our whole hearts.

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