Jesus at Nazareth (Part Eight)

Luke 4:28-30

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way (Luke 4:28-30 NIV).

Jesus spoke gracious words (4:22) to the people of his hometown of Nazareth. He read them the Scriptures (4:18-19), announcing the good news of freedom and the Lord’s favor. The hometown folks liked that. But when he spoke to their hearts about their rebellion against God’s ways and the sovereignty of God in the giving of his grace, they didn’t like his message anymore. That is an understatement.

People who are strangers to God and his grace do not like to hear about either for very long. They grow restless, then agitated, and then violent. They willingly forget that the Sovereign God once destroyed a world that was given over to evil (Genesis 6:5-6; 2 Peter 3:6). They refuse to consider that this present world is ready for judgment by God. By the same word, the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly (2 Peter 3:7 CSB). 

Let’s consider three outcomes of Jesus’ brief ministry at Nazareth, which includes his refusal to perform signs and wonders for them. We ought to see the last, because his refusal, though according to his Father’s will, definitely stirred them up against him. We need to look at all the scene when we talk about human behavior. Many factors stir everyone. Hopefully, love for God and delight in his grace motivate ours.

First outcome: they were furious and tried to kill Jesus. Though they did not know, and I doubt they cared, their action pictured human hatred for God and the Messiah. Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed One (Psalm 2:1-2 CSB). They hated the message that God was sovereign in his grace. They hated Jesus, the Prophet who had told them the truth, just as their ancestors had hated the prophets who came before Jesus. Follower of Christ, do not be surprised if the world hates you, because it will.

Second outcome: Jesus escaped from them. Every day during Jesus’ life was scheduled by the sovereign God. This was not the time or place or the way for Jesus to die to save his people. He had much to do for God his Father, many words of life to declare, and apostles to choose and to train to carry God’s message of salvation by grace to the nations. We are not told how Jesus was able to escape through the violent crowd, but he did. Later in Jerusalem, Jesus will escape from an angry crowd after he preached God’s sovereign grace to them (John 8:58-59). God had also protected Elijah and Elisha from harm (2 Kings 1:1-15; 6:8-24). The Lord would later deliver the apostles (Acts 5:17-20) and Peter (Acts 12:1-19). As no bird falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father in heaven, so our lives are safe in God’s hands.  

Third outcome: Nazareth, except as part of Jesus’ name (Jesus of Nazareth) disappears from the Biblical narrative. This town gained nothing from its opposition to the Lord. Instead of hatred, they should have fallen on their faces and begged for mercy. But no, they foolishly despised and rejected the God of hope and fell into eternal hopelessness. If you understand, weep!

There are many antichrists in the world today, stirring up hatred against Jesus and his people. They appear to offer hope to people in despair. But the only hope is when people humble themselves, repent, and trust God for his mercy in the Lord Jesus Christ. Is your only hope for the future in Jesus, the Son of God?Grace and peace,

The Glorious Acts of the Lord

dscn31252 Chronicles 20:22-25

As we think about the walk of faith, we want to see continual improvement in a person like Jehoshaphat. We expect people to have some struggles of faith early on in their spiritual life or during a time of crisis. We also expect them to finish well. When I think of finishing well, I seem to hear the voice of my high school cross-country coach yelling to us, “Kick it in! Kick it in!” However, like cross-country races, we do not always kick it in. We want to rest before the race is over. We want to think that because we have climbed one mountain, the journey is complete. The story of Jehoshaphat urges us to persevere in obedient faith to the end of our journey. When the cross-country race was occurring, the only thing our coach could do was to encourage us to run faster. In this section, we see that the Lord did much more than offer encouragement. He acted to provide clear evidence of his protection and provision for his people.

The Lord defeated the enemy (20:22-24). God used an unexplained method. Whatever to “set ambushes” means, it was some action by God to turn the invaders against themselves. The Lord has many weapons in his arsenal to use against his enemies. At times, he might use angels, and at other times, victory might come through environmental means. In this case, the Lord somehow threw them into a panic, and they began to kill each other until everyone was dead.

God doesn’t need our wisdom or strength for victory. He simply calls us to depend on him to bring the victory as he wills.

The Lord achieved total victory. He delivered the remnant of the southern kingdom of Judah when all seemed hopeless. This was part of his plan of salvation, leading up to the time that Jesus the Messiah would come. So, it was important in the history of salvation, just like the exodus from Egypt, the conquest of the Promised Land, and similar victories through Gideon, Samson, Samuel and David. God achieved our salvation in real history. Without acts like this, Jesus would not have come, because the line of the Messiah would have perished.

The victory serves a signpost, pointing from that time to other victories by the Lord. We can think of the victory at the cross (Colossians 2:13-15). We should also think of another future victory when King Jesus comes again (Revelation 19:11-21).

The Lord provided great riches. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it (20:25 NIV)

The plunder left by the defeated army was of three kinds: equipment, clothing, and valuables (gold, silver, copper and jewelry). Besides the loss of the enemy army, which crushed those other nations, Judah was strengthened by gaining the weapons of war, which are only produced at great cost. Think of the billions we spend yearly on our military. It would take years for those nations to overcome such economic loss. The clothing and the valuables would create a tremendous economic upturn for Judah. The Lord lifted them up above their neighbors. Used wisely, it would have made Judah dominant economically for a long time. They also should have remembered the underlying covenant relationship with the utterly wealthy God, who gives people wealth (Deuteronomy 18:11-20).

Has the Lord Jesus provided for us in his victory at the cross? Yes, he has (Ephesians 4:7-16). Then we should make wise investments of the gifts he has given to the church for its growth. The question is not, “Are you attending church?” Simply attending church and going your own merry way squanders the wealth of the cross. Are you involved with a group of believers, of gospel partners, to see others become worshipers of the Lord God? Please read the passage from Ephesians just referenced and think about the contributions you are supposed to make to the cause of God and truth. More on that Ephesians passage another time.

Grace and peace, David