Christmas- Comfort For The Comfortless 3
Christmas: Comfort For The Comfortless 3
Christmas is about the comfort of God that is revealed in the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet, there are many people, particularly in this country and particularly at Christmas time who don’t feel that there is any comfort for them. They are without comfort. They are without any hope of comfort. They are comfortless. They don’t believe that Jesus, or any one else; can comfort their saddened hearts. This is especially and still true, in the light of what happened on September 11th, 2001.
We see a similar situation in the Bible, in
Matthew 2:16-18, “Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.’”
The setting of the Christmas story is in the days of Herod. Herod is a type or picture of Satan. And just as Satan wanted to destroy the Christ-child, he also wants to destroy the Christ-child in us, so that there will be no Christmas.
Satan hate’s Christmas because of it’s potential, but he also hates it because it highlights his murderous spirit!!! We see here two competing spirits: the spirit of Herod against the spirit of heaven. The spirit of heaven is one of rejoicing, because of the birth of the Savior of the world. The spirit of Herod is one of excessive grief and sadness over the children that Herod murdered.
At Christmas time, there is a spirit of Satan that approximates the spirit of Herod that seeks to impose itself in our lives. Satan wants to kill our hopes, dreams, destiny, joy, etc. that our small children represent. Satan wants to kill our dreams and our destiny, so that his kingdom will seem to reign preeminent over Christ’s kingdom.
This is the third message in this series.
(Let us go back into this dark passage of Scripture and see if we can relate to the mothers of Bethlehem.)
Think of the pain and the sense of unfairness that the Israelite mothers must have felt. Nobody every promised that life would be fair, yet there seems to be something inside of every Human being that expects some level of fairness. It is probably a part of being made in the image and likeness of God. This expectation of fairness is often unfulfilled, for any number of reasons, but one reason is the difference between the fairness of Humanity and the justice and righteousness of God.
Our flesh skews our concept of fairness. We are not really seeking for godly justice, but for what we believe is personally right to us. Remember that God is not humanly fair, but divinely holy. Our God is a holy God and He manifests His holiness through justice and righteousness. Justice is the negative side of holiness, which brings accountability for offending His holiness. And righteousness is the positive side of His holiness that establishes standards that are in keeping with His personal holiness. So our fairness and God’s justice and righteousness are often a long ways apart. Yet, we still have our longing and expectation of fairness based upon our skewed, selfish perception of justice and righteousness, and there are many things that do not seem fair.
· What fairness can be seen or achieved in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent babies?
· What fairness can be seen or achieved in the thousands of people who were killed in the attacks upon America?
· What fairness can be seen or achieved in many situations in life.
The answer to us is, “None!” Thus we experience not only the pain of loss, but also the pain of the disillusionment of unfairness.
· Perceived unfairness leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths.
· Perceived unfairness galls us and riles us up to look for someone to blame.
· Perceived unfairness stabs our sense of hope in the heart.
· Perceived unfairness impacts us towards fatalism, i.e. the philosophy that life is already set and there is nothing that we can do to change our destinies.
· Perceived unfairness, in the long run, saps us of the energy to live a vibrant life and leaves us listless and limp like a wet noodle.
So, the pain of unfairness compounds the pain of loss and grief. Can you feel the pain yet? Can you taste the salty tears of these forlorn mothers?
Yet, there is a divine design behind all that is happening. God is working out ultimate justice and righteousness, which we cannot see right now and which are beyond our comprehension, until we experience it. You ask me, “What is that justice? What is that righteousness?” One commentator wrote, “O ye mothers of Bethlehem! methinks I hear you asking why your innocent babes should be the ram caught in the thicket, while Isaac escapes. I cannot tell you, but one thing I know, that ye shall, some of you, live to see a day when that Babe of Bethlehem shall be Himself the Ram, caught in another sort of thicket, in order that your babes may escape a worse doom than they now endure. And if these babes of yours be now in glory, through the dear power of that blessed Babe, will they not deem it their honor that the tyrant’s rage was exhausted upon themselves instead of their infant Lord?”
Let me explain. These babies were taken to glory that the baby Jesus might be spared to live and die for the sins of the world. These babies were the proverbial rams tied in the bush for Jesus. Even as the ram tied in the bush, became the sacrifice instead of Abraham’s only begotten son, Isaac, so these babies became the rams tied in the bush for God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. You say, “That’s so unfair!” Is it?
· Do you know who these babies were?
· Do you know how they would have grown up?
· Do you know what kind of lives they would have lived?
· Are you omniscient?
· Do you know all things?
· Can the pot say to the Potter, “Why are you making me like this?”
Just wait awhile, before you pass judgment. Wait and see what will happen, because in a short while the true Ram of God, Jesus Christ, will be caught in the bush of Calvary and return the favor for these babies. He will be born, live, and die on Calvary that they might be in heaven.
I believe that every child that dies before the age of accountability, i.e. before they know right from wrong is saved on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ and taken immediately to be in the presence of the Lord.
Some of you are thinking, “Okay so these precious babies are in the presence of the Lord. That still doesn’t seem very fair to me!” Well, think about this: “They probably aren’t precious babies anymore, but precious saints.” When the curtains of time and eternity are pulled back in the Bible and we see those saints who have already died, they always seem to be in the prime of life. So, these babies are in the prime of life, in the presence of Jesus Christ, probably happy that they could give their lives for the Babe from heaven!!!
These mothers may still refuse to be comforted, but their babes are no doubt experiencing great comfort!!!
If they could conceive of their babies being comforted, could they not possibly take some small comfort in the fact that they had given their babies so that the baby Jesus might be born? Although they had lost babes, there is comfort in the fact that another Babe would be born unto them.
Isaiah 9:6-7, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”
There is comfort in the birth of The Child!!! Simeon saw and proclaimed this in
Luke 2:28-32, “Then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for my eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
Simeon could depart in peace or comfort, because his eyes had seen God’s salvation, deliverance, and comfort in the person of the baby Jesus!!!
Perhaps these mothers could sense the joy of others. The pain of these mothers and children, in Bethlehem, would bring about joy to the world. The Bible announces in
Luke 2:8-11, “And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”
The good news of great joy, in the birth of the Savior of the world, should have brought joy to world, and that includes these forlorn mothers. But, perhaps they are like Americans. We are not so easily comforted. We think our own thoughts. We are individualists. We are not easily persuaded and we wonder about things that are not clear to us. We still wonder why little children must suffer disease and death and we refuse to accept the just and righteous words of Jesus Christ, written in His Word. But, have you considered the fact that the diseases and deaths of little children are proofs of original sin. Paul tells us in the fifth (5th) chapter of Romans that through one man, Adam, sin entered the world. And when sin entered the world, death also entered through sin and passed unto all of Humanity, because all sin. This is not fair, but it is just and righteous. It is not God’s will, but He allowed us a choice! God made us free moral agents and to maintain our freedom, He must allow us to sin and incur the consequences of our sins. This we do not clearly know or understand, so we consider these consequences as unfair.
But, if we would read these Scriptures and receive the revelation of the Holy Spirit, we would see that there is another side of this transaction. The first Adam brought sin and death, but God sent another Adam, Jesus Christ, to bring salvation and life!!! Paul said in
Romans 5:15, “But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.”
Because of the transgression or sin of Adam many died, and that includes little children. But, through the gift of grace of one Man, Jesus Christ on Calvary, the grace of God abounds to many, and that includes those precious babies!!!
(Paul continues his teaching in:)
Romans 5:17, “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
Through the sin of one, Adam, death reigned and that reign extended to those precious babies. But even as death reigned through Adam, and even more so, those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, through trust in Jesus Christ, will reign in life. Those babies will one day reign in life, through “the One,” the real “One,” Jesus Christ!
So, God arranged to give away the gift of righteousness through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and this all began with His conception and birth. Well, the devil understands this far better than we do and sought to destroy God’s gift of righteousness before it could be established, by killing the baby Jesus, but an army of martyrs stepped up to take the place of Jesus, in the crib. So that one day, He might take their place on the cross!!! These babies were martyrs and witnesses to the Lord, Jesus Christ.
They gave a passive testimony to Jesus Christ, even as John the Baptist gave testimony to Christ by leaping in his mother’s womb at the approach of Christ in the womb of Mary. If a baby in its mother womb can sense the approach of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, perhaps these babies from newborns to two (2) years old can sense their martyrdom? They shed their blood for him, who afterwards shed His on their behalf. These were the infantry of the noble army of martyrs. If these infants were thus baptized with blood, though it were their own, into the church triumphant, could it not be said but that, with what they got in heaven, they were abundantly recompensed for what they lost on earth. Out of the mouths of these babes and sucklings God did perfect his praise...
Did you get that, could Psalm 8:2 be Messianic?
Psalm 8:2 (NLT), “You have taught children and nursing infants to give you praise. They silence your enemies who were seeking revenge.”
These babies were not only witnesses to the birth of Christ, but also to the nature of the kingdom, which is warfare, violence, and death. Jesus Himself said in
Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
And He said in
Matthew 11:12, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”
This is the nature of life, in this world, until the final manifestation of the kingdom comes and His will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven!!! Be remember, we are not talking about joy in the midst of sorrow.
· We see sorrow in the midst of joy.
· We see tragedy, in the midst of promise.
· We see unrest, in the midst of supernatural rest.
· We see despair in the midst of hope.
· We see discomfort in the midst of Comfort.
Let me touch on one more thing that makes things seem inconceivable and unfair: it is the perspective that God brings about evil; that God killed these babies; that God caused the disaster at the World Trade Towers. I like what C. S. Lewis said in the Problem Of Pain, “In the fallen and partially redeemed universe, we may distinguish (1) the simple good descending from God, (2) the simple evil produced by rebellious creatures, and (3) the exploitation of that evil by God for His redemptive purpose, which produces (4) the complex good to which accepted suffering and repented sin contribute.” The murder of these babies was produced by the simple evil of rebellious creatures, but God exploited that evil for His redemptive purposes and brought about the complex good of the birth of Jesus Christ and the ultimate redemption of these babies.
Therefore, we should accept suffering and repent of sin, because this contributes to the redemptive purpose of Almighty God!!!
At the end of each one of these messages, I am going to be answering the question, “What specifically does the Comforter give to those who mourn?” I am going to answer that question from the resources that are listed in:
Isaiah 61:1-3, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
In this passage of Scripture, which Jesus used, in the Temple, to announce the inauguration of His ministry, we see that God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and appointed Him to comfort all who mourn or grieve. In comforting all who mourn, Jesus grants or gives three special gifts. We have already covered the first special gift, which was a garland instead of ashes (this was not clear in the first service last week), i.e. a crown of victory and life as opposed to a crown of heaviness and death. So, I hope you can see this divine exchange now.
(Let us move on to the second special gift.)
The next gift is the oil of gladness instead of mourning. The use of olive oil is well documented in the Bible. Oil is used in a variety of ways and had a variety of meanings. One of the typological uses of oil was as a symbol of joy and gladness (Holman Bible Dictionary). The Bible says in
Psalm 45:7, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Thy God, has anointed Thee with the oil of joy above Thy fellows.”
The Psalm probably referred to Solomon, but was Messianic in that it ultimately referred to Jesus Christ. Jesus was anointed with a special, supernatural joy above everyone that walked with Him.
In the New Testament, oil was also used to anoint a body in preparation for burial (Matt. 26:12; Mark 14:8) (Holman Bible Dictionary).
Jesus came, and I have come, to proclaim and begin to effect joy instead of grief, life instead of death! Joy is supernatural gladness or emotional buoyancy that is not tied to circumstances.
· Joy instead of grief!
· Supernatural gladness instead of sadness.
· Supernatural lightness instead of heaviness.
· Spiritual gladness instead of soulical mourning.
· A heavenly high instead of an earthly low.
This oil of gladness, instead of the oil mourning, also denotes life instead of death!!! Real life is more than existence in this world. Real life is a product of the Holy Ghost. Strong defines this Greek word as “life that is real and genuine, life that is active and vigorous, life that is devoted to God, life that is blessed, life that is portion of those who put their trust in Christ, even in this world, life that will be consummated, after the resurrection, by new accessions or positions (among them a more perfect body), and to last for ever.”
God is offering you a divine exchange:
· Real and genuine life for that which has been counterfeit and fake;
· Active and vigorous life for that which been sedentary and lazy;
· Life that is devoted to God for that which has been devoted to other things;
· Life that is blessed as opposed to that which has been ordinary or cursed;
· Life that is our portion here and now as opposed to later;
· Life that leads to resurrection as opposed to the grave;
· Life that will be consummated in new, spiritual positions, as opposed to earthly temporal positions.
· Life that will last forever instead of ending in death!!!
For those of us who refuse to be comforted, God wants to give you the gift of joy, instead of grief and the gift of life, instead of death. Will you accept His gift?
(Now is the Day of Salvation! Come to Jesus, Now!)
Call to Discipleship
 Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A.R.; and Brown, David, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1998.
 Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.
 Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.
 C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, New York, 1940, 1996, 2001, p. 111.
 Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.