Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 18
Thesis: How shall we respond to the actions of God?
Introduction: This week we have witnessed what is being called the greatest natural disaster to have ever occurred in the United States. But it was not a natural disaster. That terminology is specifically designed to remove us from having to deal with the more painful issues that are involved. The most painful issue that is involved is the realization within the innermost part of us that "nature" is a figment of imagination and "God" is the reality. And, to think that God rules from heaven without also thinking that disaster comes under that rule is beyond foolish. So, since God is involved at the very least "permissively" and at the very most "determinatively", what shall we say? The mayor of New Orleans was recorded as saying that what has happened was an act of God in judgment upon the entire region affected by hurricane Katrina. Of course, his words were much like those of Caiaphas in John 11:50 -- an unwitting statement that meant far more than he could have ever realized in his wicked heart. Caiaphas unwittingly said that it was expedient for one man to die for the people so the entire nation would not perish; the mayor of New Orleans said that Katrina was the worst God-damned disaster to ever hit the U.S. In the wickedness of his own heart, he acknowledged the truth. He only said what many insurance companies in this country openly acknowledge in their policies: disasters are "acts of God". So, beneath all of the "public-speak", "politically correct" outpouring of the politicians' "sympathy" there is the haunting fact that all men already know: Katrina was an act of God...and no one who has been watching the national news can gainsay what He has done -- for the reactions of men have not been either repentant or humble. Instead they have been wicked and filled with rage. This fact stands clearly before us: God acts and men react. The question we face is this: how should men react when God acts?
Interestingly, the paragraph before us this morning in Luke 2 is specifically about this very issue: responding to the action of God.
September 4, 2005
- I. Luke's Record is a Record of "Reaction".
- A. When Luke pulled "Grace" ("Anna" means "Grace") into the picture, he did it so that he might address her response to an "act of God".
- 1. All that Luke said of "Grace" was stage-setting to get to 2:38.
- a. His report of her identity, character, and activities were all preliminary to what he wished to report of her reaction to Jesus' presence in the Temple.
- b. His choice of words in 2:38 was the result of Spirit-guided deliberation.
- c. The word the translators translated as "began giving thanks" is a word that typically means "responding with agreement".
- 1) The typical word for "giving thanks" is the grace-formed word eucharisteo.
- 2) The word Luke chose by the Spirit is a combination word -- anti plus homo-logeomai -- that means "to confess agreement as a response to the thing agreed upon".
- d. The point is this: Luke wished to record the characteristic reaction of a woman acquainted with the grace of God.
- 1) For us to see it as "characteristic", he had to include all of the preliminary information because that information enables us to see what this woman's "character" was like.
- 2) For us to see it as a reaction of one steeped in a grace-orientation, he had to deliberately set her forth as "Grace"; a woman formed by God over long years and many difficulties into one who could see His hand in the routine actions of life and know Who was at work.
- a) There was absolutely nothing unusual about a woman bringing her six-week old first-born son into the Temple to present him to Yahweh.
- b) But it was extraordinarily unusual for the Spirit of God to identify this baby boy as the Messiah of God, the Redeemer of Jerusalem.
- c) Luke says that "Grace" only addressed a certain segment of those in Temple that day: those whose hearts were capable of accepting a declaration of what God was doing in a very behind-the-scenes way.
- B. When Luke pulled "Grace" into the picture, he deliberately did so because of the backdrop of human depravity wherein there is no hope whatsoever.
- 1. As we have repeatedly said, "Grace" was not blind to Israel's antagonism toward Yahweh, nor to what was going on every day in a Temple designed for prayer and twisted into an economic powerhouse for the greedy.
- 2. Luke's point stands: human depravity did not "put God off" for one reason -- He is infinitely gracious.
- II. Luke's Record is a Record of Human Agreement.
- A. When Luke told Theophilus that Grace's reaction was "confession in agreement", he was telling every reader of his record that there are certain prerequisites to having insight into the works of God.
- 1. One can only "honestly agree" with what God does if one has been in a mode of valuing what He values and believing what He says over a long enough period of time to have become used to seeing things through His eyes.
- 2. This means that no one can "confess in agreement with God" when one's heart and mind are so corrupt by self-absorption that all "interpretation" of what He does is determined by the central thesis of all self-absorbed people: how is this affecting my pleasure, my security, and my status?
- B. When Luke told Theophilus that Grace saw in Jesus the fulfillment of the hope of redemption, he was telling us two major things...
- 1. That Yahweh invariably acts according to His words given before the time of His action.
- a. According to Luke 1:68, "redemption" was the foundation of Zacharias' praise and prophecy at the birth of the son he had longed for all his days.
- b. Redemption has been a major biblical theme ever since Genesis 3:15 and was the major emphasis of all of the Old Testament sacrificial system.
- c. The coming of Jesus as the Redeemer was the fulfillment of the promises of Yahweh and nothing was permitted to keep that fulfillment from coming to pass (this is the thesis of Gabriel's words to Mary).
- 2. That Yahweh invariably acts in grace even when He is acting in judgment.
- a. Clearly it was Luke's intention to present Jesus in the positive light of the promises of redemption.
- b. But, not as clearly, it was also Luke's intention to limit the recognition of this hugely positive thesis to those in whom the hope of redemption existed.
- 1) The vast majority of Israel; the vast majority of the people in the Temple on that day; the vast majority of all of humanity have rejected, and do reject, both the record of their depravity and God's grace so that there is no hope of redemption within their hearts.
- 2) The limitation of the recognition of what God is doing is a "judgment of God" upon the wickedness of humanity.
- c. The point is this: Yahweh often acts in Justice; but, even when He is doing that, there is an equal and opposite activity of Grace going on that often goes unseen by the self-righteous, self-absorbed.
- III. Luke's Record is a Record of Human Explanation.
- A. "Grace" not only "responded to the activity of God with agreement"; she also uttered words concerning what God was doing.
- B. This utterance of words concerning God almost had to be some form of explanation to the hopeful of what God had in mind and was doing.
- IV. Luke's Point for Our Consideration.
- A. God always does what He said He would do.
- 1. The action of God in our day is precisely in harmony with what He has been warning people about for thousands of years: Psalm 2.
- 2. The visitation of great judgment upon certain segments of the humanity of earth is not a statement for the self-righteous to take any smug satisfaction from...
- 3. The visitation of great judgment needs to be seen from a non-self-absorbed point of view. Tsunami victims, Bangladeshies, the residents of Mumbai -- none of these caused the residents of New Orleans to rage against the federal government for its response. It is only the arrogance of the self-absorbed that causes rage when what has happened to others happens to oneself. Why is America so arrogant that it thinks itself to be exempt from the wrath of God?
- B. God always acts in grace even when He is acting in judgment.
- 1. We will not see national news coverage of the witness of the children of God in the midst of the chaos -- the depravity of news organizations compels them to major on the rage and the feel-goodism of the manifestation of human kindness without any acknowledgement of God at all except in wrath-filled curses.
- 2. That we do not see or hear about it means nothing at all in respect to what God is doing in grace. There already are those whose eternal destinies have been abruptly altered so that the loss of all things including physical life is only an introduction into unspeakable glory; and, there will be more as the days go by.