Thus far in our “Ways in the Manger” series, we have considered the births of Isaac and Benjamin. (You can listen to the sermons here.) The Isaac birth-narrative reminded us that God graciously moves his people from a place of cynicism to complete joy in Him. In the words of Jude’s benediction:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy . . . (Jude 24)
Despite their failures (Abraham and Sarah were far from perfect!) and despite all ours, if we know Christ, He will keep us from falling and bring us to His presence with mega joy! (Read more on exuberant joy here).
Last Sunday, we saw that history gives perspective on the sad story of Rachel’s death while delivering Benjamin. Benjamin, the father of a key tribe of Israel, was worth dying for. And babies in general are worth dying for! (Would you pray that abortions would stop?)
Despite the pain we face in a fallen world, be assured that God is working out His plan of salvation in history and Benjamin was an intricate part of that plan. The Apostle Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin! When we see how God has unfolded his plan over thousands of years, our confidence in what God is doing should grow.
One of my central concerns in preaching is always to relate particular segments of God’s Word to the over-arching whole of Scripture. In the case of the births of Isaac and Benjamin, we should recall that this is about the beginning of God’s people.
As for the big picture of Scripture, this quote from D.A. Carson is a beautiful summary. This quote will come up again in the 1 Timothy series. Carson explains what history and the Bible are all about.
God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.
But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.
In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16;2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).
For Sunday’s sermon, the text is 1 Samuel 1-3 and the central question is this: “How does God bring His people through times of spiritual chaos?” For a major hint, see 1 Samuel 3:1 or Proverbs 29:18 (see this post)! If this question is not kept central in the sermon, we may easily begin to think this is merely a story about infertility and miss the main point.