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The Christmas Gift And God's House

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Christmas In God’s House

The Christmas Gift And God’s House

John 7:37-39

        In my study for the sermon series “The Houses of God,” it dawned on me, or The Holy Spirit revealed to me the following thought:  “Christmas actually began at The House of the Lord, i.e. in Herod’s Temple.”  Since we are suspending the series on “The Houses of God” to do four Christmas messages.  It seemed expedient to me to continue to talk about Christmas as it relates to the House of God.

        In our first message, we talked about how the first Christmas was tied up with God’s House.  Zacharias received the revelation concerning John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, while carrying out his priestly duties, in Herod’s Temple.  John the Baptizer, being the forerunner of Jesus Christ, is actually the forerunner of the first Christmas.

        In the second message, we talked about the prophecies of Simeon and Anna and where they took place:  in God’s house.  Christmas is a season that is inextricably bound to prophecy, joy, goodwill, promise, and potential.  And two of the greatest prophecies with respect to Christmas occur in God’s House.

(That brings us to what I want to talk about in this message.)

        I want to talk about God’s Christmas gift to us.  Of course God’s foremost Christmas gift was His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  But, there is another gift that is prophesied about and talked about for thousands of years.  Yet, unfortunately, it easily overlooked and missed.  What is this gift?

        Well, what is Christmas all about?  In one manner of speaking, it is about the promise of the Father.  God gave us His Son and the Son gave His life, so that the Father might be able to give us the promise of the Father.  What is the promise of the Father?  Well, Christ announces the promise of the Father, in the vicinity of Herod’s Temple, in John 7:37-39.  Would you turn there with me please?

        Once again, without understanding the culture, festivals, and rituals of the Jewish people, there is much that will be missed here.  I will read John 7:37-39 aloud for us, as you follow along.

        The action of this narrative takes place on the last day, the great day of the feast.  The questions that immediately come to my mind are, “What feast?” and “What last great day of the feast?”


        There were seven feasts or festivals that were prescribed by God, in Leviticus 23.  “These one-day feasts all point to certain acts of Jehovah’s hand, certain definite transactions of God, perfect and complete in themselves.”[1]  The particular feast that Jesus is referring to is The Feast of Tabernacles.  We must understand this feast, if we are to understand the setting of the action that takes place here.

“This Feast (of Tabernacles) is primarily agricultural in its character.  It is a joyous occasion.  The harvest has been brought in from the fields, the groves, and the orchards.  Barns and sheds are full.  Hearts, too, are full of praise and thanksgiving for God’s bounties.”[2]  “This was the last of Jehovah’s feasts, a season of great joy and rejoicing, a kind of harvest-home, after the harvest had been gathered in.”[3]

        “The Feast of Tabernacles is the equivalent of the American or the Canadian ‘Thanksgiving Day’ when the harvest is brought in and the people rejoice at the goodness of the Lord.”[4]

        “So the Jewish people could look back and be thankful for God’s provision, protection, and direction.”  “The Feast of Tabernacles was a reminder to the Jewish people that everything they had came from God.”[5]  It is for this reason that I love Thanksgiving and lead a concert of prayer on its eve.  At least once a year, we need a reminder that everything that we have comes from God!!!

(But the Feast of Tabernacles entails even more than that.)

        “Apart from its agricultural character, the Feast of Tabernacles also commemorates God’s mighty deliverance of His people from Egypt and their 40 years of wilderness wandering, when they dwelt in tents and tabernacles.

        Israel must never forget that for 40 years they were led by the hand of God; that they were pilgrims traveling to a better land where God dwelled.”[6]

·        “They once lived in booths--now they were living in houses.

·        They once had to wander in the wilderness--now they were settled down.

·        They once had to ask Him for water--now they had plenty of water.

·        They could rejoice over past and present mercies from the generous hand of God (1 Timothy 6:17).”[7]

        The ritual of this festival would remind them of their former dwelling places.  For seven days all the residents of Israel left their homes in order to dwell in temporary booths.  The purpose of this was that the people should have constant reminder of the forty years when the nation dwelt in tents¾wandering in the wilderness with no home.  Oh, how the Lord had provided them with every good thing, dwelled in their midst and led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  There was a reminder of their past wandering in those temporary booths.  They were not to forget the difficult times, when God sustained them.

        Let us not forget the difficult times when God sustained us!!!

Thru many dangers, toils and snares I have already come;

‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home!!!

(That is the background of the feast.  Now we can return to the statement concerning the last day of feast.)

“The Feast’s seventh and last day was its greatest (cf. Lev. 23:36).”[8]  It was a Sabbath, the last feast day of the year, and distinguished by very remarkable ceremonies and rituals.  “The generally joyous character of this feast broke out on this day into loud jubilation, particularly at the solemn moment when the priest, as was done on every day of this festival, brought forth, in golden vessels, water from the stream of Siloah, which flowed under the temple-mountain, and solemnly poured it upon the altar.  Then the words of Isaiah 12:3 were sung, With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of Salvation, and thus the symbolical reference of this act, intimated in John 7:39, was expressed” [Olshausen].  So ecstatic was the joy with which this ceremony was performed—accompanied with sound of trumpets—that it used to be said, “Whoever had not witnessed it had never seen rejoicing at all” [Lightfoot].[9]

(This gives us the backdrop of Christ’s actions.)

        First, Jesus stood up!  “On this high occasion, then, He who had already drawn all eyes upon Him by His supernatural power and unrivalled teaching—‘Jesus stood,’ probably in some elevated position.”[10]  “Jesus stood, in contrast with the Rabbis’ usual position of being seated while teaching.”[11]  The stage was now set for a dramatic announcement.

        So, Jesus spoke in a loud voice, as “a way of introducing a solemn announcement.”[12]  He literally cried “as if making proclamation in the audience of all the people.”[13]

        What makes this backdrop even more exciting is where Jesus is standing to make this announcement.  He is standing somewhere in the vicinity of the Temple and probably in the court of the Gentiles.  This is highly instructive.  He didn’t make the announcement in the inner courts of the Temple where only the proud and legalistic Jews would hear it and appropriate it strictly unto themselves, but in the court of the Gentiles, because it was for Gentiles, Jews, and all of the peoples of the world.  Remember that the Gentiles were not allowed beyond the Court of the Gentiles.  To go beyond this court would eventuate in their death.

(Now the words of Christ’s announcement are about the promise of the Father, and the promise of the Father is what Christmas is all about.)

        “If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”  Jesus invites a certain class of people to come to him and drink.  That class of people is all those who are aware of their thirst.

·        To come to Jesus you must be aware of your thirst.

·        To come to Jesus you must deeply long for Him.

·        To come to Jesus you must feel the pain of disconnection.

·        To come to Jesus you must passionately pursue Him.

Thirst is actually a pain, like hunger is a pain!!!  We don’t like to think about it and we don’t want to experience it, but Christmas often highlights a thirst or pain.

·        It is Christmas that highlights our losses and brings our griefs to our attention.

·        It is Christmas that highlights deficient relationships and the emptiness of materialism.

·        It is Christmas that highlights the spirit of Herod that the enemy releases to kill the seed of life.  And

·        It is Christmas that sometimes underscores the truth that there is still a thirst that is not fulfilled through all the glitz and hype of the commercialization of Christmas.


        Now I’m going to say something very strange, “We should thank God for the pain of thirst.”  Why?  Because:

·        It is the pain of thirst that alerts us to our need.

·        It is the pain of thirst that drives us toward fulfilling that need.

·        It is the pain of thirst that provides an opportunity for the pleasure and joy of satisfaction.

Oh, “Yes!”  It is true:  “No pain—no gain!!!”  This is highlighted in

Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

The word “blessed” literally means “happy.”  Blessed or happy are all those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Why?  The most obvious reason is that they shall one day be satisfied.  Out of all of the thirsts that we have as human beings, the “thirst for righteousness” is the only one that has a direct statement concerning its satisfaction.

        The point is:  “The invitation is given to those who are aware of their thirst.”  Jesus does not bless or satisfy sanctified denial, but the owning of pain!!!

(Jesus doesn’t stop with the invitation, but elaborates on the outcome for those who accept His invitation.)

        Jesus actually defines how one comes to Him and takes a drink.  The definition is captured in the words, “He who believes in me, as the Scriptures said.”  There is no specific Scripture quoted, although one church father (Chrysostom) confines it to Isaiah 28:16 (A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures In The Greek New Testament).  This is not the easy believism of modern Christianity, but a genuine trust in Jesus Christ that is in keeping with the truth of the Old Testament.  One must believe in Jesus, i.e. believe that He is the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God and divinely appointed Author of eternal salvation, in keeping with the prophetic teaching of the Scriptures or Old Testament.

        The Greek construction of the next phrase is very difficult and scholars are divided over the meaning.  It seems that Jesus is saying that rivers of living water shall flow from Him, i.e. from His wounded side, and those who believe in Him, as the Scriptures state, would drink from the miraculous rivers of living water.  Others believe that the rivers of living water will flow from those who drink from the Eternal Fountain of Jesus Christ.  This is not really a tremendous problem, because those who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation do drink from the rivers of living water that flow from Jesus Christ.  But, once they drink from the rivers of living water, Jesus becomes in them a well of living water that overflows and becomes rivers of living water to all around them!!!


Now John tells us, in an editorial comment, what or whom Jesus was talking about.  He was talking about the Holy Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were yet to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  But, the glorification was coming soon.  After being seen for forty days in Jerusalem, Jesus then ascended to the right hand of Majesty and was glorified.  In so doing, He poured out the Holy Spirit and left gifts for men.  This obviously refers to Pentecost and the baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit.

        Now we know what the promise of the Father is all about, the baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit.  I use the euphemism of baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit, because I am beginning to believe that the terms “baptism” and “filling” are synonyms for the same experience.  It is clear that Christ’s prophecy of the baptism with the Holy Spirit was fulfilled on the Great Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2.  Yet, the Bible does not specifically mention the baptism with the Holy Spirit, but the filling of the Holy Spirit.  Now keep in mind that there were many names for what happened on The Great Day Of Pentecost:

·        The promise of the Father;

·        Being clothed with power from on high;

·        The baptism in the Holy Spirit;

·        The coming of the Holy Spirit upon one;

·        The filling of the Holy Spirit;

·        The pouring forth of the Holy Spirit;

·        The promise of the Spirit; and

·        The gift of the Holy Spirit.

Although it ought to be clear that the promise of the Father is about the baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit, let me give you a few Scriptures:

Luke 24:49, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

This is graphically and obviously about what happened in Acts 2, on the Great Day of Pentecost.

Acts 1:4, “And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me.’”

They waited until the coming of the Holy Spirit in a new way, in Acts 2, on the Great Day of Pentecost, when they were all baptized/filled with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:33, “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”

After His resurrection, Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God.  His work on earth was done and He had received the promise of the Father, i.e. the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This was the basis of Jesus pouring forth that which they both saw and heard, in Acts 2, on the Great Day of Pentecost.  They saw cloven tongues of fire set on the heads of those who received the baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit.  They heard them praise God, as the Spirit gave utterance, in languages that they did not know.  All of this flows from the promise of the Father!!!

(Now what does this have to do with Christmas?)

The invitation is about the promise of the Father; the invitation is concerning the Holy Spirit; and the invitation is attached to Christmas, because Jesus was born that He might deliver the promise of the Father.  On Christmas God gave us Jesus Christ and Christ came that He might give us the promise of the Father.  So, in one manner of thinking, Christmas is about the baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit.

Christmas ought to be a great feast of rejoicing, where we look for the fulfillment of Christ’s announcement concerning the baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit.

Now, remember, this all took place either in the Court of the Gentiles or, at least, in the vicinity of the Temple.  In the vicinity of the Temple, with the Temple as a backdrop, Jesus talked about another Temple, not made with hands, a spiritual Temple of the Church of the living God, the body of Jesus Christ.  This Temple would be baptized and filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This is the gift that God left for us and this is the gift that we want to receive at Christmas.

(Before we close, let me point out one more important point.)

The giving of a gift and the receiving of a gift is not the same thing.  We want to graciously take up and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We want to pick it up and put it on as a garment!!!  This also intimates

·        Great joy in considering where He brought us from.

·        Great joy that we no longer dwell in tents.

·        Great joy that we have a permanent home in heaven.

·        Great joy concerning His divine providence.

·        Great joy at the coming of the harvest of Pentecost.

·        Great joy at the gift of the Holy Spirit.

·        Great joy during this season of Christmas!!!

·        Celebration adds vibrancy to life!

·        Celebration adds meaning to life!!

·        Celebration adds dignity to life!!!

O come and magnify the Lord with me during the Christmas holidays!!!

(Now is the Day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, Now!)

Invitation

Call to Discipleship


----

[1] John Ritchie, Feasts Of Jehovah, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982, pp. 33-34.

[2] Victor Buksbazen, The Gospel In The Feasts Of Israel, The Friends of Israel, W. Collingswood, New Jersey, 1954, pp. 46-47.

[3] John Ritchie, Feasts Of Jehovah, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982, p. 67.

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, pp. 88-89.

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 90.

[6] Victor Buksbazen, The Gospel In The Feasts Of Israel, The Friends of Israel, W. Collingswood, New Jersey, 1954, pp. 46-47.

[7] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 91.

[8] Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[9] Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A.R.; and Brown, David, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1998.

[10] Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A.R.; and Brown, David, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1998.

[11] Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[12] Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[13] Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A.R.; and Brown, David, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1998.

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