Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 1
Thesis: When God magnifies His mercy, it is time to rejoice.
Introduction: We begin a consideration of a new paragraph in Luke's perspective of Jesus this morning. We have seen Luke put individual words together into sentences that became paragraphs that took on the form of a two-fold presentation of "pregnancy announcements" made by the angel Gabriel to two women who lived 2,000 years ago. These announcements were followed by their fulfillments, and both women became pregnant. Who would have ever dreamed that Elizabeth and Mary were going to take a place on the stage of God's history that turned out to be so critical and crucial in the plan of God for a Kingdom of Righteousness? Mary had it right when she said that the dream had begun thousands of years before when God revealed His plan to return man to Eden...just as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his seed. But, before she quit, she added "eis ton aiona", which is translated literally "unto the age", and is rendered in our Bibles "forever".
This morning I want to draw out a reality that is all around us, but is often overlooked, that is connected to both the phrase "eis ton aiona" and to Luke's fifth paragraph; this record of the birth of John.
July 18, 2004
- I. The Parallels Between the Word Spoken Unto the Age and the Completion of Elizabeth's Pregnancy.
- A. The Word Spoken Unto the Age.
- 1. The Bible presents God's words as being uttered "unto an objective".
- a. God does not speak unto vanity [Isaiah 55:10-11].
- b. God only speaks to accomplish His objective.
- c. The "big picture" objective of God is the production of the Kingdom of Servants unto Life.
- d. This "big picture" objective is presented in the Bible as the Coming Age.
- 2. The Bible presents both the words of God and the objective of God as being inter-connected so that the individual words, spoken unto individual objectives, are links in the grand chain that brings us to the culmination of the revealed program: the revelation of the glory that is unto the sons of God.
- a. Just as books are made of chapters, and chapters are made of paragraphs, and paragraphs are made of sentences, and sentences are made of words, and words are made of letters, and letters are made of individual marks, so also is the "Objective" of God made of countless millions of "bits and pieces" of lesser objectives, none of which are without their own significance.
- 1) Jesus taught this reality in His comment about how "not one jot or tittle would pass away until all was fulfilled".
- 2) All of the biblical writers insist that those who "believe" the "jots and tittles" are to "hold onto the hope of the Age to Come"...thus emphasizing that though there may be billions, if not trillions, of "bits and pieces", we are not to despair that perhaps the "big picture" will never come into focus.
- b. Just as Luke began to put individual marks down on a scroll to send off to Theophilus that formed individual letters, that formed individual words, that formed sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and an entire message that was, in turn, designed to penetrate the mind and heart of Theophilus a bit at a time to effect a small change here and another small change there until the whole was transformed into a "friend of God", so also is the historical outworking of the plan of God according to those words accomplished in bits and pieces.
- 3. The point is this: God's words add up to His Word, and His Word is about the Coming Age when all of the words will be seen to have made their individual contribution to the development of the culmination of the Word.
- B. The Completion of Elizabeth's Pregnancy.
- 1. Luke casts his record in terms of "Now, to this Elizabeth, was fulfilled the time...".
- a. The "connection" between Elizabeth's experience and the words of God is found in her name: "Yahweh has Promised"...promise is always fulfilled in experience.
- b. The "connection" between Elizabeth's experience and "the time" is found in the reality that all experience is both an end result of an innumerable host of other, previous, experiences and simply another contributing part of the bigger picture...all depends upon "focus".
- 1) The culmination of Elizabeth's pregnancy is easily seen as the culmination of a host of intervening "bits and pieces" -- such as the sperm of Zacharias piercing the egg in Elizabeth's womb which was followed by the incredibly complex processes of cell division and multiplication unto a host of diverse body parts that all came together to make a body in which dwelt a baby boy.
- 2) But, in another light, the birth of the baby was only the barest beginning of the life of John in terms of his instrumentality as one filled with God's Spirit from the womb.
- c. The issue of "focus" is raised in our text by the words "the Lord has magnified His mercy".
- 1) This issue of "magnification" included some difficult details.
- a) In order for mercy to be elevated in focus, the sense of need had to be allowed to develop to critical proportions...Zacharias and Elizabeth were allowed to move beyond all human hope...the slough of despond was on the verge of suffocating them in the filthy waters of despair.
- b) In order for mercy to be elevated in focus, the sense of hopelessness had to be allowed to develop in the eyes of the "neighbors" and "relatives"...they were not participants in the hopeless despair, but they were witnesses to it.
- 2) This issue of "magnification" also addressed some difficult issues.
- a) We know that Zacharias, for instance, was flawed in the direction of cynicism.
- b) We also know that Zacharias' "flaw" was significantly addressed by the culmination of Elizabeth's pregnancy.
- c) If God had not restrained His mercy beforehand, this "flaw" would have never come to light and it would never have been dealt the blow it required for the rejoicing of life.
- 2. Luke continues his record in terms of Elizabeth "bringing forth a son".
- a. The term "brought forth" is a word that is used extensively in the New Testament.
- b. It is used of men, and is translated "begat".
- c. It is used of women and is translated "bring forth".
- d. It seems to have the idea that a person is 'depositing an active agent within a setting where that agent will 'generate' changes that will carry their impact on and on'.
- 1) A man's sperm is deposited within proximity to an egg and, by vigorous action, it penetrates that egg to produce an on-going cellular reproduction that eventuates in an entire life of activities.
- 2) A woman 'deposits' her 'child' into the world and, by its vigorous action, it actively alters the world into which it has been deposited. In John 18:37, Jesus develops this idea by saying "...to this end I was born...". He meant that His being deposited into this world had a divine objective and that objective was to be the result of all manner of individual actions in this cause/effect universe.
- II. The Result of This "Stage" of the Overall Plan.
- A. The "neighbors" [those who were responsible for calling her "barren"] heard of the Lord's magnification of His mercy.
- B. The "relatives" [those who were in the loop of the "bringing forth" into the world unto individual ends] heard of the Lord's magnification of His mercy.
- C. These "rejoiced" together with Elizabeth (not to mention Zacharias, the former cynic).
- 1. This is to say that "joy" comes from recognizing "mercy".
- 2. The "mercy" of the "birth" was, however, just one "mercy" in a whole string of mercies that had slipped by unnoticed because of the setting of the slough of despond.
- D. What is at issue here is this: His mercy is according to His words unto the Age.
- 1. Who can "rejoice" that this molecule just bounced off of that one?
- 2. Who can refrain from "rejoicing" who understands the mercy in the bounce?