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Dilemma of Belief

The Christmas Dilemma  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:06
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The Dilemma of Belief. Have you ever had those moments when you wondered, “Is this really true?”
Maybe life has gotten difficult. Maybe you have come to the Derailment of your hopes and dreams like Joseph, Mary’s husband, when he found out that his betrothed bride was pregnant after all his time and hard work preparing a place for them to finally come and live together as husband and wife. For whatever reason, you came to a place where you have heard what God has promised, but life is so hard you wonder, “Is God really there? Are His promises really true?”
Today, that is what we want to talk about, that Dilemma of Belief.
The passage we are going to look at today is Luke 2:1-7.
Luke 2:1–7 NIV
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Most translations say, more accurately, “there was no room in the Inn.”
Now, we do not have more details provided for us, but we may assume that if there was an inn, a place for travelers to stay, there my have been an innkeeper.
Here is a dramatization of what it may have been like for the innkeeper.
Innkeeper

Dilemma of Belief

When Jesus was born, the Jews had been waiting for more than 400 years to hear from the Lord since the last of the prophets.
While many of the people of Israel were waiting for the Lord to fufill His promises, and send the Messiah to deliver them, I wonder if some struggled with Belief? Did they face the Dilemma of Belief? If I believe the promises, why is God not at work? Why is life so hard? Why are we still under Roman rule? Yet, if I do not believe, then why would God ever help me?
I imagine many would have struggled with belief, like the Innkeeper as portrayed in the dramatization.
Why would they struggle when God gave so many prophecies, so many promises? Let’s consider why they may have struggled with the promises.
It had been around 1000 years since God promised to David that he would have a descendent that would reign forever.
2 Samuel 7:12–13 NIV
When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
1000 years. That is a long time. Where is this descendent of David?
It was over 700 years since the prophet Micah predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
Micah 5:2 NIV
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
It was over 650 years since the prophet Isaiah who foretold,
Isaiah 11:1–12 NIV
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.
Where was this descendent of David who would reign? Where was the peace He would bring? The Righteous judgment? Where was the gathering of Israel from the Nations? Why were the Nations not coming to Him in submission?
It had been over 600 years since Jeremiah prophesied that this descendent of David would be the LORD our righteousness.
Jeremiah 23:5–6 NIV
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.
Where was this Messiah that would do what is right and just, and provide safety? Where was the One who would be a righteous savior?
It was around 570 years since Ezekiel prophesied the One who would shepherd his people.
Ezekiel 34:11–16 NIV
“ ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
It had been over 500 years since the prophecies from Daniel, where the Lord foretold the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, and the Messiah’s, David’s Descendent’s Empire.
Daniel 2:44–45 NIV
“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”
It had been over 400 years since Malachi prophesied about the forerunner for the Messiah, and then the coming of the Messiah.
Malachi 3:1 NIV
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
Where was this messenger? Where was the Lord’s coming?
These were the prophecies on which they hung their hopes. However, it had been so long. And now, as an example of their bondage, they had this census. People had to travel to the homes of their ancestors to be registered. Another demand from the Romans. Another hardship for the people who were looking for relief as foretold, but still not seeing it in sight.
If God promised to send the Messiah, to gather his people, to punish the nations who persecuted them, to give His people peace and care for them like a shepherd cares for his sheep, why were they still suffering under Roman rule? Why was there so much injustice in the land?
How, in light of the difficulties of daily life, could they believe the promises when it seemed like God didn’t even know He promised to do something?

What Helps the Dilemma of Belief?

I think they were just like you and me. When we look at the pressures of the moment, when we look at the situations we are dealing with in the here and now, it is sometimes hard to believe the promises God has made to give us peace, to be with us, to never leave us, to cleanse our hearts from sin, to give us a new heart and a new mind, to give us strength for today, to give us hope for tomorrow.
What did they have to help them in their Dilemma of Belief? What would help this innkeeper?

The Past

Prophecies and promises Fulfilled in the Past
God told Noah it would rain and flood the world. - 120 years later, it happened
God promised Abraham he would have a descendent and a nation coming from him. - 25 years later, there was a son, 600 years later there is a nation.
God promised Abraham his descendents would be enslaved in another country for 400 years, and come out. About 600 years later this is fulfilled.
God told Joseph he would rule over even his own family, and he did 20 years later.
God foretold the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine, and it happened just as he said.
God promised Moses he would lead Israel out of Egypt, and he did.
God promised that the Israelites would be saved and they would never see the Egyptian army again at the Red Sea, and it happened!
God promised food from heaven while they were in the wilderness, and he provided for 42 years.
God promised that whoever would look on the Bronze serpent after being bitten by a poisonous snake would not die, and they lived!
God promised to deliver Jericho, and he did.
God told Gideon he would conquer the Midianites, and he did.
God foretold Saul being king, and he was.
God foretold David being king, and he was, years later.
God foretold the punishment Israel would face for leaving Him to worship idols, and it happened. They were taken into captivity.
God told Jeremiah they would be in captivity 70 years, and they were.
God foretold through Isaiah that Cyrus would allow the Israelites to return to Israel (long before Cyrus was on the horizon), and he did!
God did foretell the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires and they came about just as he said!
God foretold the famine for hearing the word of the Lord, and they were in it.
God has given prophecies of what would happen, and over half of those prophecies have already been fulfilled, just as he foretold! In fact, they were fulfilled literally as He said they would be.
Even when we are going through times of difficulty, we can look back through God’s word and see that He has always been faithful to carry out what He said He would do. Sometimes it is years, even hundreds of years before it happens, but it does happen, just as He says.
For the Innkeeper and the Jews of his day, they had all of these promises and prophecies fulfilled to which they could look back and believe.
For us, we also have the benefit of Christmas! All of the promises concerning Jesus’ coming which have been fulfilled!
Luke wrote his gospel, researching and giving historical details so we could know that these things did happen, and they happened just as God foretold!
The Lord came upon the virgin Mary so she would conceive, and give birth to the Son of God.
He sent the angel to tell Joseph that this child was to be Immanuel!
And now finally,
Luke 2:6 NIV
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
To us, sometimes it seems like God is moving so slowly, if at all. We live in the moment. We look for everything now.
God lives in eternity, and has a whole plan that will work out for His glory figured out. He knows the right time and place for all things. And so, as Paul wrote in Galatians,
Galatians 4:4 NIV
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
At just the right time, they were in Bethlehem, to give birth to Jesus, just as was prophesied!
Micah 5:2 NIV
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
And he was born to the virgin and called Immanuel, just as God prophesied through Isaiah.
Isaiah 7:14 NIV
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Because we can see how God has been at work, we can take hope in Him fulfilling the rest of His promises. Even when it seems there is no hope. It is then that we learn what faith is, like the faith of Abraham.
Romans 4:18–24 NIV
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
We find reason to believe when we see how God has been faithful in the past.
And, just like Abraham, in hope when there is no hope, we can believe, because we know that God is faithful, and has the power to do all He has promised.
Our faith in Him, then, is credited to us by God as righteousness! He blesses us for believing Him the One who is ever faithful!

The Present

Promises being fulfilled is certainly reason to believe. But there is also the present.
For the Innkeeper, it was the present of seeing a woman giving birth, and hearing that this Child is Jesus, Immanuel.
It was the present of having the Shepherds come and tell of what they heard and saw!
For us the present can be God’s provision for us. He does provide for us daily, doesn’t He?
We can also see how God is at work through others, like the Innkeeper saw through the shepherds.
God is at work in the present. Mabye He is not at work the way we would like, but if we look, we will see that He is working to provide for us.
Seeing God at work in the past and the present, can help us in those moments where we find ourselves in the Dilemma of Belief.

This week...

This week, I encourage you to take time to look through the promises God made hundreds of years before Jesus came, and how they were fulfilled.
Find in God’s fulfillment of those promises His faithfulness.
Look also for how God is providing for you day by day. See His faithfulness in the present.
Faith is as good as the one you are trusting… God is truly worthy of all our trust!
As we see His Faithfulness, we can see our faith bolstered. Because belief, or faith, is truly as good as the one you are trusting.
God is trustworthy. He is faithful. Let us turn to Him and find faith in our times of Dilemma of Belief.
Homework
Messianic Prophecies (Old Testament Prophecy, followed by New Testament Fulfillment)
Seed of the woman
Genesis 3:15—Galatians 4:4
Seed of Abraham
Genesis 12:2; 18:18—Matthew 1:1; Luke 3:34; Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:16
Tribe of Judah
Genesis 49:10—Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:33
Seed of Jacob
Numbers 24:17, 19—Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:34
Seed of David
Psalm 132:11; Isaiah 11:10; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15—Matthew 1:6; Luke 1:32–33; Acts 2:30; Romans 1:3
Prophet like Moses
Deuteronomy 18:15, 19—Matthew 21:11; John 1:45; 6:14; Acts 3:22–23
The Son of God
Psalm 2:7 (Proverbs 30:4) —Matthew 3:17; Luke 1:32
Raised from the dead
Psalm 16:10—Acts 13:35–37
Crucifixion experience
Psalm 22; Psalm 69:21—Matthew 27:34–50; John 19:28–30
Betrayed by a friend
Psalm 41:9—John 13:18, 21
Ascends to heaven
Psalm 68:18—Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9
Great kings pay homage
Psalm 72:10–11Matthew 2:1–11
A Priest like Melchizedek
Psalm 110:4—Hebrews 5:6–10
Sits at the right hand of God
Psalm 110:1—Matthew 27:64; Hebrews 1:3
The Stone Rejected becomes the Head Cornerstone
Psalm 118:22–23; Isaiah 8:14–15; Isaiah 28:16Matthew 21:42–43; Acts 4:11; Romans 9:32–33; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6–8
Born of a virgin
Isaiah 7:14—Matthew 1:18–25; Luke 1:26–35
Ministers in Galilee
Isaiah 9:1–8Matthew 4:12–16
Meek and mild
Isaiah 42:2–3; Isaiah 53:7—Matthew 12:18–20; 26:62–63
Ministers to the Gentiles
Isaiah 42:1; 49:1–8Matthew 12:21
Smitten
Isaiah 50:6—Matthew 26:67; 27:26, 30
The suffering Messiah
Isaiah 52:13–53:12—The four gospels
The New and Everlasting Covenant
Isaiah 55:3–4; Jeremiah 31:31–33Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8:6–13
The right arm of God
Isaiah 59:16; 53:1—John 12:38
An Intercessor
Isaiah 59:16—Hebrews 9:15
The twofold mission
Isaiah 61:1–11Luke 4:16–21
Performs miracles
Isaiah 35:5–6Matthew 11:3–6; John 11:47
Called “The Lord”
Jeremiah 23:5–6Acts 2:36
Time of His coming prophesied
Daniel 9:24–26Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10
Born in Bethlehem
Micah 5:2—Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4–6
Enters the Temple with authority
Malachi 3:1—Matthew 21:12
Enters Jerusalem on a donkey
Zechariah 9:9—Matthew 21:1–10
Pierced
Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 22:16—John 19:34, 37
Forsaken by disciples
Zechariah 13:7—Matthew 26:31, 56
The coming of the Holy Spirit
Joel 2:28—Acts 2:16–18
Opposition of the nations
Psalm 2:2—Revelation 19:19
Victory over death
Isaiah 25:8—1 Corinthians 15:54; Revelation 7:17; 21:4
Glorious Messiah
Isaiah 63:1—Revelation 19:11–16
Messiah as King
Psalm 2:6–9Revelation 19:15–16
All nations submit to Messiah’s rule
Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:1–4Revelation 12:5
Gentiles seek Messiah of Israel
Isaiah 11:10—Romans 11:25
Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible: New International Version, Expanded ed. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1994). Page . Exported from Logos Bible Software, 7:35 AM December 09, 2018.
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