Sunday, December 2, 2018

Why study "shadows"?

“God gave the prophecies, not to gratify men’s curiosity by enabling them to foreknow things, but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event, and His own providence, not the interpreters, be thereby manifested to the world.” Sir Isaac Newton

Periodically, I’ll be in a store and see a Mom shopping with several young children and my mind will flood with a thousand memories. As a child, I remember being dragged along by my mother with my two older sisters to go shopping. I’m not sure that I’d even heard the word, but I know I felt it – B-O-R-I-N-G! Soon I’d be distracted, find something more intriguing than dresses or other feminine paraphernalia and wander off.
  Though my Mom wasn’t very tall, just a bit over five feet, I could almost always find her. Back then many women wore a hairstyle known as the beehive. I think my Mom had one that was nearly a foot high. I’d peer over racks looking for that familiar beehive. But sometimes I’d wander too far, couldn’t find her and would go into panic mode. I remember on at least one occasion having a kind store employee help me find her.
  Suppose though, that happened and in terror, I’d run to the end of an aisle. Just before full panic hits, I saw a shadow on the floor at the end of the aisle that looked like my Mom. There’d be a sense of relief and hope. Yet, which is better? The happiness of seeing the shadow, or having my Mom step around the corner and it’s really her?
  Did you know that’s what Christmas is? It’s the replacement of shadows with the real thing. In the Old Testament, God gave us shadows, lots of them. When Jesus came the shadow of prophecy was fulfilled with the coming of the Christ Child. Yet, most Christians are unfamiliar with the Old Testament. For most, it’s less than 10% of their Bible reading. If you remove Psalms and Proverbs, it might drop to less than 5%. But the Old Testament makes up 60% of our Bibles. We will never understand the New Testament and miss many of the blessings of Christ’s first coming, if we’re unfamiliar with the prophetic promises of His incarnation.
  Today we begin a new series, Christmas in the Old Testament. The Old Testament promises about Christ’s incarnation are a source of great blessing and encouragement for us. Here are a few reasons this Christmas Season we’re studying some Old Testament incarnation promises.  
  God planned for Jesus to come because of God the Father’s patient,  tenacious love. The Old Testament unfolds over thousands of years. The New Testament spans less than 100 years. In the Old Testament we encounter people much like us: sinful, stubborn, prone to blow off God and make dumb choices. And yet, we continually see a loving God who chooses to stick it out with this messed-up group of people. Reading through God’s interactions with people in the Old Testament helps us remember how amazingly steadfast God’s love is.
  The Old Testament reveals Christ. It doesn’t just “point forward” to Christ; it reveals Him. It’s not just a series of signposts to Christ; Jesus’ revealing shadow falls on virtually every page, cultivating faith and love in believing hearts. But why linger in Old Testament shadows when we have New Testament sunlight? Because there’s refreshment in the shade. Without the shadows of the Old, we’d never appreciate the sunshine of the incarnation. The dawn is beautiful, but the sunrise is absolutely stunning!
  The Bible is incomplete without the Old Testament. Both the Old and New Testaments make up the Scriptures. The New Testament wasn’t to replace the Old but to complete its story. The first book, Genesis, records how a curse came on humanity because of sin. The last, Revelation, completes the story by recording how God, through the sacrifice of Jesus, removed the curse of sin. The story of redemption is incomplete without both Testaments revealing the beginning and end of the curse.
  The Old Testament provides the historical setting out of which Christianity emerged. Christianity didn’t materialize out of a vacuum. God was moving to bring forth the Messiah who would provide pardon from the judgment that came on us because of sin. Early New Testament preachers like Stephen (Acts 7) and Paul (Acts 13:16-41) made frequent use of the Old Testament to share God’s love and plan for salvation.
  The Old Testament lays the foundation for biblical prophecy. It’s there that we find God’s covenant promises. In the Abrahamic Covenant, God promises a land, a nation, and a blessing that will extend from Israel to all the nations of the earth (Gen. 12:2-3). In the Davidic Covenant, He promises that King David will have a descendant who will sit on his throne and rule and reign forever (2 Sam. 7:12-16). The Prophets reveal how the blessing promised to Abraham and his descendants will be ultimately realized through the Lord Jesus (Jer. 31:31-34, Ezek. 36:25-28).
  Take Jesus out and the Bible makes no sense. The Old Testament gives us expectations about the promised Messiah. His birth, death, resurrection, return and Kingdom are all revealed in the Old Testament (Luke 24:44-46). If you truly want to know Jesus, you can’t disregard the Old Testament.
  The Old Testament demonstrates that God ALWAYS keeps His promises. From Genesis to Malachi, God promised again and again that He would send a Messiah, One who would save His people from their sins …and He did. Most people have a hard time trusting others. We’ve had many break their promises to us or simply lied. God always keeps His promises! As He kept His promises about Jesus’ first coming, He’ll keep all of His promises about the future. Christmas in the Old Testament reminds us that when God promises a “gift card,” we can count on cashing it in. Join us each Sunday to see anew that God always keeps His promises!

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