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A Promise Made: A Promise Kept
04/23/2006
Scripture: Isaiah 7:14
Track 17 of 27 in the Transforming Story As God Gave It series
Running time: 23 minutes, 09 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


April 23, 2006 - A Promise Made, A Promise Kept

For four months now we've been camped out in this transforming story. We started back in Genesis with creation, we saw the fall, we heard the promise, we're making our way up to the fulfillment of that promise in the church, and ultimately to the new creation. Most of that story has been lived out in the forms of people, biography, Adam. You can't hardly get anywhere without thinking about that story of how Adam and Eve were those first two characters in the story and they also are the ones who triggered the fall. We watch that story unfold until we begin to hear names that are extremely familiar to us if we've been around the church for any time at all–Abraham and the story of a nation, a covenant people that comes into existence so that God has a family through whom to work. And from Abraham we make our way down to the prophet Moses, the law giver, the leader out of Egypt when he brought them out in redemptive fashion from slavery. We see the first glimpses of how God is going to go about redeeming his people. We walk through that story of the promised land and taking over this location, this piece of ground that was so important to Israel's history and we watch the transition from land into some kind of lineage when we hit David and the king. What we haven't done and, unfortunately won't have the time to do, is to walk down through the kingdoms and to talk about things like Assyria and captivity of Israel or Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem, or Persia and how God worked in all of those nations. That we'll have to save for another series of sermons sometime.

A couple of weeks ago we came to Matthew's genealogy and we looked in that genealogy at how God was in the process of fulfilling his promise that he made clear back in Genesis that there would be one who comes and that one would bring redemption to people. We would call him Jesus because he would provide forgiveness of sins. His name would be Emmanuel--God with us. The apostle Paul summarizes that whole story this way in Galatians, chapter 4: "When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the spirit who calls out Abba, Father. So you are no longer slaves, but sons, and since you are sons, God has made you heirs." It's a remarkable kind of story when you come to the New Testament and you see some interesting parallels between Israel's history and what God has been doing in the life of Jesus. When you think of the opening part of Matthew, for example, you're introduced to the miraculous birth of Jesus. It's there that we have the quotation from Isaiah, chapter 7, that a virgin will conceive and bring forth a son and you have this miraculous birth story. That miraculous birth story is immediately followed by the kind of trauma that comes in some people's lives and so, in order to escape the potential of being killed by Herod, they make their way to Egypt where they stay for apparently a couple of years. And then they are called back up out of Egypt, an experience that Matthew says is not unlike the redemptive experience of Israel. In fact, he quotes Hosea: "out of Egypt I have called my son." And then once Jesus comes back and you have this story unfolding in front of you, you watch him go through a baptismal experience at the hands of John the Baptist and moves from his baptismal experience immediately out into the desert where he is tempted for 40 days, only he doesn't fail–he succeeds. Moving from the wilderness you find him on the side of a mountain giving what we call the Sermon on the Mount, the New Testament's kind of opening salvo of the kind of righteousness God is looking for in his people.

I don't know if you've ever stopped to make the connections between Israel's story and Jesus' story, but they are so abundantly alike. There are so many similarities. Just as Jesus was born miraculously, so was Israel brought miraculously from nothing into something. A people who didn't exist become a people and they find themselves in Egypt in slavery just as Jesus found himself in Egypt, and they came out in what Paul calls a baptism in the cloud and in the sea when the crossed the Red Sea just as Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River and they spent, catch this, 40 years in the desert just as Jesus was 40 days in the wilderness in temptation. They failed. He did not. Immediately after leaving the desert, they received the law, just as the Sermon on the Mount was delivered after Jesus came out of his desert experience. It's a remarkable parallel. And what you're catching is a promise that was made in Deuteronomy, chapter 15, that God would produce a prophet like unto Moses. And Jesus comes as that perfect Moses and showing us what it means for people to be righteous before God. And so the church becomes the new Israel of God according to the apostle Paul. There are so many fascinating parallels in that story.

I want to come to just one rather unusual event in that and I want to camp there for just a little bit this morning. I want you to think about that story of the birth of Jesus in Isaiah, chapter 7, verse 14, that is then identified for you in Matthew, chapter 1, verse 22. In Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah says "a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son." Well, actually, technically it says a young woman will conceive. By the time we bring it around to the New Testament, they have chosen the word "virgin" in that place, and Matthew, chapter 1, verse 22 records that Jesus was, in fact, conceived by the holy spirit at the hand of God and he came forth from a young woman whose name was Mary, who had never known a man. It's a strange kind of story, I think. I mean, it's not the kind of story that you normally hear, let's at least put it that way. Matthew says that this is a fulfillment of that Old Testament story, that just as this happened in the Old Testament, it also happened in the days of Jesus. In fact, in Matthew's gospel, 13 different times he identifies an event in the life of Jesus or the teachings of Jesus that he identifies as a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesy. That just as it happened in the Old Testament this way, it happened in the life of Jesus this way. That this is an anticipation of what was to come. That prophetic word is such a powerful statement about the nature of God and who Jesus is.

I just want to give you some samples, now not all of these comes from Matthew's gospel, but here is just a sample of some of the things that are recorded about Jesus in the Old Testament: that he would be born to Abraham. Of all the people on the face of the earth God said the son, the Messiah, will come through one particular family, the family of Abraham. And then he says not only will he come through Abraham, but he's going to come through Abraham's son, Isaac. Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, but it wasn't going to be Ishmael, it was going to be specifically Isaac. It would come not only from Abraham and Isaac, but it would come from Jacob, not Esau, but from Jacob. It would come from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, not any of the other 11 sons, but this specific son, Judah. Not only would it come through Judah, but when you come further down the lineage, he would narrow this down and say this particular son will come through the family of Jesse. He narrows the field out of all the families on the face of the earth down to one specific line, each time narrowing the field and saying, not this one, not this one, but this one. It's a remarkable tale of how God brought this experience about. Then he's going to say in Micah, chapter 5, for example, that Jesus will be born in the town of Bethlehem, Ephrath. Of all the towns on the face of the earth, of all the children born that year, this one son is going to be born in that town. He's going to say things like he'll be born of a virgin. He will come while the temple is still standing. Now that's in and of itself a rather strange kind of thing in light of the fact that the temple only existed for a few hundred years. It wasn't built until the days of Solomon and then it didn't last because of the Babylonian captivity and then it was rebuilt by Zarubabel after being in rubble for a number of years and then it was destroyed again and then it was rebuilt by Herod and it was only in existence for about a hundred years during Herod's time. It was destroyed again in 70 A.D. and yet God says my son will be born while this temple stands, in that narrow slice of human history. He will perform miracles according to Isaiah 35. According to Malachi 3 and Isaiah 40 there will be a specific messenger who will precede his coming. Psalm 41 tells us that one of his friends will betray him. Zachariah 11 says that that friend will betray him for 30 pieces of silver. Zachariah 11 turns around and tells you that same 30 pieces of silver will be cast into the temple and picked up and used to buy a potter's field. He will be beaten and spit upon according to Isaiah, chapter 50. He will be numbered with criminals according Isaiah 53. His hands and his feet will be pierced according to Psalm 22. Not one of his bones will be broken according to Psalm 34 and people will stand around and gamble for his clothing according to Psalm 22. That's just a dozen or so of the maybe 300 prophesies about Jesus, every single one of which came true.

I suspect you already know this but I'm going to tell it to you any way. The odds of you winning the lottery are 80 million to one. Depending on whose figures you use, according to some web sites I looked at, they can actually help you. They can get the odds down to 18 million to one. Your chances of being struck by lightning are only one in 250 million today. But over the course of your average lifetime your chances of getting struck by lightning are one in 9,170. So you might want to look out when the storm's brewing. The longer you live, the greater the odds are you're going to get it. If you lived in Washington, D.C. for a year, the chances are one in1,681 that you'd be mugged. You might was to avoid staying there more than 11 months. The odds of you finding a pearl in an oyster are one in 12,000, so if you eat a lot of oysters, chances are you might find one. By the way, you're probably more apt to get rich eating oysters than you are playing the lottery.

Odds are a weird thing, aren't they? Back in the 1950's there was a mathematician by the name of Peter Stoner. He taught at a university in California and in his probabililty class they decided to select eight prophesies in the life of Jesus and try to figure out what the odds were of Jesus fulfilling just eight of the prophesies that had been promised about him. One of the prophesies that they used, for example, was that he would be born in Bethlehem. And so they took as best they could tell from the records the number of people who might have lived in Bethlehem out of all the people on the face of the earth that particular time frame and they calculated the odds of how many children might have been born in Bethlehem that particular year out of all of those people. That's the way they went about trying to calculate this. They ended up looking at those eight different prophesies and this is what they said. The chance of Jesus fulfilling those eight prophesies is one in 10 to the 17th power. Now I'm trying to figure out what that means. I know it's more money than I have in my bank account. It's actually a one following by 17 zeroes. A million is one followed by nine zeroes. So I'll let you try to figure out how to push those zeroes out there and get some kind of a gazillion chance out of that. But in order to try to make that a little different, I did some calculations just to see if I could verify Peter Stoner's kind of stuff. There's actually a slide I'd like for you to look at while we're doing this. That's the State of Texas and those are silver dollars and that will start to make sense maybe in a minute. A silver dollar back in the 1950's by the way, was 38.1 millimeters in diameter. I didn't measure one. I trusted the Internet source. That means pi r squared--I know you make your pies round–but in math pi r squared and pi r squared, diameter, etc. 38.1 There's 1,139 square millimeters on the surface of a dollar. Are you following me so far? I know you mathematicians are eating this up. One times 10 to the 17th power times 1139.5 square millimeters plugged into an internet calculator, because I don't know how to do this, in order to convert it to square miles is 43,996,341 square miles of surface on that many silver dollars. Alright, are you with me so far? The State of Texas is 268,601 square miles. Now if it will help you, that's, let's see, Illinois is 56,000 square miles so Texas is somewhere in the ballpark of four times as large as we are. In order to cover the State of Texas in silver dollars, you'd actually have to have 164 layers of silver dollars to use up that many silver dollars. So I'm just going to ballpark it and say if I'm wrong in the calculations and Peter Stoner is wrong in the calculations, we can cut that number in half and say, okay, cover the State of Texas in silver dollars only 82 layers thick. Well, on second thought, cover the State of Texas in silver dollars only 20 layers thick. Now here are the odds of Jesus fulfilling just eight of the many prophesies that were prophesied in his name. We're going to take Mike Seaver, we're going to plant him in Dallas, we're going to blindfold him, we're going to spin him in a litter circle, we're going to give him one chance to find the red silver dollar in Texas. The odds of him finding that one silver dollar are the odds of Jesus fulfilling eight of the 300 prophesies that he fulfilled. And I want to say, and you're questioning whether or not the bible is true? And you're questioning whether or not he is the son of God?

God could not have made it any more clear who his son was than to have announced hundreds of years ahead of time 300 different things that you could use to identify his son out of all the boys born on the face of the earth. And every single one of them came true. So what? Well, so God's word is absolutely reliable. You can trust it and you can trust what he says. He said he would send his son to redeem the world and he did, and you can trust that. In fact, I find it utterly fascinating that when Jesus' birth is announced, here's the language that is used: you will call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted means God with us. Do you know how the book of Matthew closes? Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you and lo, I am with you always. Matthew starts and stops on the same words: God is with us. So what? You can believe that Jesus is the one and you can place your trust in him. Just as God has faithfully kept every promise he has ever made about Jesus, he will keep every promise he makes to you. When he promises that if you will come to him he will receive you, he means it. He will. When he promises that you cannot do anything that will keep him from loving you, that's correct. There's not a single thing you can do to keep him from loving you. When he says if you will receive me I will give you the power to become a son of God, he means exactly that–that if you'll receive my son, I will enable you, I will empower you to become one of my children. When he says to you to repent and be baptized in the name Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins you will receive the holy spirit, he means exactly that. God can be trusted. Jesus is who he says he is. And he says come to me, give me your heart, and I will guard it and protect it and honor it in every way. I know that some of you have given your heart to people and you've had it stomped on and smashed. I know that, because people aren't nearly as trustworthy as we'd like them to be with that which is precious to us. But I want you to know something. You can give God your heart and he will never ever tromp on it. He will guard it and protect it and honor it because all God ever wanted from the beginning of creation until now–this is the story–all God ever wanted was for you to be in a relationship with him. So we're inviting you to trust him, to trust his word, to come to him, to give him your heart, to let him have all of you. We're going to stand and we're going to sing. If you've got a decision you need to make, you're welcome to come. If you need someone to pray with you, you come. If you're ready to give your heart to the Lord, you come. If coming is a hard thing for you to do, then wait and come and see me later. But don't leave here today without giving Christ a chance at your life.