Wednesday, October 28, 2009

10/28 Luke 2:8-14 The Message of Good News Spreads

(Govert Flinck c. 1600)
Luke 2:8-14

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 of great joy that will be 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."

John Calvin Abridged: Christ’s birth in Bethlehem would have been purposeless if this event were not told to the world. But God’s method of proclaiming the birth appears unsuitable to human eyes. First Christ is revealed only to a few witnesses, and that in the midst darkness. Though God had available many honorable and distinguished witnesses, he passed over these and chose shepherds, poor people, and not highly regarded. This too was a part of Christ’s “emptying himself” (Phil. 2:6). This treasure (of the gospel) was deposited in earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). If we desire to follow Christ, then let us not be ashamed to follow those whom the Lord has taken from the dung heap to be our instructors. 9- “the glory of the Lord shone around them”- he angel appeared not in an ordinary form, or without majesty, but surrounded with the brightness of heavenly glory, to affect the minds of the shepherds powerfully. So the “fear” by which God humbles us helped them to receive his word with reverence. 10- “Do not be afraid”- though it is profitable to be struck with awe that we may give God the glory due his name, it is also important that they be consoled and not be overwhelmed with fear. The angel did not come to announce judgment but the mercy of God. “Great joy…a Savior is born”- Until people have peace with God, all the temporary joys they have in life are deceitful. The ungodly indulge in laughter and reveling and flatter themselves with luxurious indulgence, but their own lusts torment them. But there is a joy that gives peace of mind- the joy of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:7). We should not only rejoice in the salvation brought to us by Christ, but this blessing is so full in order to help us cope and compensate with the pains, distresses, and anxieties of the present life. “Shall be to all people” means that this salvation that the shepherds heard was not for their private joy, but was a joy common to all people and others should hear of it. This joy is indiscriminately offered to all. For God had promised Christ not to one person or to even one nation, but to the whole seed of Abraham- all those who would believe. If we are deprived from this joy, it is because of our unbelief. Now the middle wall of partition (Eph. 2:14) has been broken down opening up the gospel from one nation to all nations. Christ proclaims peace to those near and also to those far off (Eph. 2:17). 11- “This day is born to you in the town of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord”- “This day” means the day spoken of by the prophets and in the law. “Town of David” recalled the promises universally known among the people of God. “To you” personalized the birth emphatically. It would have given no delight if people didn’t think he was born for them. Isaiah likewise says, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given” (Is. 9:6); and Zechariah “Behold your King comes to you, lowly” (Zech 9:9). 12- “And this shall be a sign for you”- The angel meets the doubt of the shepherds which might naturally hinder their faith; for what a mockery it is that the King the only Savior, is seen lying in a manger. The Lord uses this method every day, though it may seem ridiculous among those who do not believe. He holds signs out to us though they are made of earthly and fading elements, to raise us to the glory of immortality. 13- “A multitude”- what God had made known by one angel was confirmed by many. Among us, the testimony of “two or three witnesses” (Mt. 18:16) is sufficient to remove all doubt. But here is a heavenly host, with one voice testifying to the Son of God. What stubbornness we have if we refuse to join with the choirs of the angels! The Lord intends for us to join in full harmony and unity in faith. “On earth peace- good will towards others”- The peace spoken of hear is not an outward peace, but an inward tranquility. We are born “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), and are by nature enemies with God, and must be distressed by fearful apprehensions as long as we feel that God is angry with us. But Christ’s peace alleviates the wrath of God and the dread of death. “Peace on earth” means that so long as we trust in the grace of Christ, no troubles (temptations, dangers, attacks, fears) can arise that will prevent us from enjoying composure and serenity of mind. “Good will” is not the good will of people toward each other, but God’s good will toward us. The One with whom we were at deadly variance has bestowed undeserved favor, and this is the source of our peace.

Thoughts: The angel and the shepherds were the first evangelists. The angels broke the darkness of the night, and the darkness of their humility with good, joyful news. The good news is that the Prince of Peace, the source of our joy and peace has come and broken into the fortress of darkness. We who were prisoners are being rescued, and the rescuer has arrived. Lowly shepherds would not be shocked at the news of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, being born in a sheep’s pen. To them, this message of relief is much more meaningful than kings (like Herod) who were jealously holding on to what they have in this world. In our day of abundance, many hold onto the world as if it will last forever. This severe recession is a reminder that we cannot have everything. Perhaps we need to let go of the world a bit in order to receive the peace of the gospel. We can do this by giving. God gave His only Son, and his example of giving everything for us, is a great example for us to follow.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for coming to earth for us. Help us to give to others in response to your greatest gift.

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