Directions to the Resurrection

Directions to the Resurrection by David R. Denny Ph.D. April 21,2019. Drummondtown Baptist Church, Accomac Virginia

Introduction:  This morning I’m going to do something that men are not good at: I’m going to give directions.  I’m so used to getting lost when I drive places that I don’t even worry about it anymore.  I just enjoy wherever I end up.

*Joke—I heard of a tired hunter out in the wilds stumbled into a camp. “Am I glad to see you,” he said. “I’ve been lost for three days.” “Don’t get too excited, friend,” the other hunter replied. “I’ve been lost for three weeks.”

This morning I’m going to give us all directions to the resurrection.  The directions come from the Scriptures so I feel pretty safe about them.  And I hope that when it is all said and done all of us will gather there together and marvel at the wonder of Easter.

  1. Turn Left at the Via Dolorosa. Let us begin our journey to the Resurrection by turning left on the Via Dolorosa, the street of Sorrows and Sighs.  This ancient thoroughfare runs 2000 ft east to west beginning at the Fortress of Antonia near the Dome of the Rock.  Here Pilate condemned the Savior and cast Him aside as so much rubbish.  Once out upon the street, the cross was placed upon his shoulders and the death march began. The crown of thorns tore into his scalp and sent rivulets of blood into his eyes and down his sacred cheeks.  He stumbled blindly forward gasping for air, his legs trembling beneath the weight.  He only lasted several hundred yards before he collapsed at the third station of the cross.ViaDolorosa2.jpg

            If you want to find the resurrection you must walk with Jesus along the stations of the cross and study his features as he carries the sins of the world—your sins and mine.  Tradition says He fell three times on this memorable road before he reached Golgotha.

At station 4, he pauses and says farewell to his mother.  How sorrowful this moment must have been.  How does a mother say goodbye like this?  It is a moment beyond words.  Perhaps they spoke only with their eyes.  And then, prodded by the soldiers, he continued until He could go no further. Luke tells us (Luke 23:26) that the soldiers forced a man from the country named Simon to carry the cross for Jesus.

Perhaps you say at this moment that you will skip the stations of the cross and run straight for the empty tomb.  But I say you will never find it unless you first turn left at the Via Dolorosa and live the sorrow and pain of the long walk of shame.

 

  1. Turn right at Golgotha. But it is not enough to merely walk beside Him on the Via Dolorosa.  As I study my map I see clearly that you must turn at Golgotha if you intend to find the Resurrection.  Come with me.  Let us stay on track for we don’t’ want to get lost.  Let us stop beneath the cross and pay our respects to the only one who loved you and me fully. You cannot find the resurrection without first finding the cross.

As we take the graphic scene in we notice the coarse behavior of the soldiers who gamble for the garments of the Savior.  Listen to the crackle of the dice as it tumbles from the cup upon the ground.  Hear the raucous laughter of the one who won the cloak and the good-natured ribbing of the losers who lost a day’s pay.Golgotha.jpg

Listen to the sneers of the religious scribes who wonder out loud why this man can’t save himself like he did so many others. The sarcasm cuts through the wails of those who are devastated.

Hear the hollow challenge of the criminal to his side.  ‘If you’re a King, save yourself! You’re no king.  You can’t do it. You’re just a criminal like us’.

If you would find the resurrection you must turn left at Golgotha.  It is here you hear the golden words of the dying savior“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

It is here at the cross that we hear the final words the Savior uttered as a man“It is finished!” If you would find the resurrection, you must hear these last whispered gasps.  It is the only way to the resurrection.

*I looked up the value of decibels in everyday life.  Heavy street traffic is 90 decibels—The cabin of a jet cruising is 80 db.—Average conversation at three feet away is 60 db.—quiet auditorium is 40 db.—a recording studio is 30—db.—and rustling leaves are 20 db.

*And so it is at 25 dbs.—the muffled sounds of fading leaves in a fall orchard that we hear the final words of Jesus—It is finished.  Miss these words and you will likely get lost on your journey to the Resurrection.

  1. Head straight ahead to Garden Street. We now are at our final directional point.  We have turned left on the Via Dolorosa and experienced the sorrow of the lasts step of Jesus.  We turned right at Golgotha and stood like penitents beneath the cross.

Now we must study the map and go straight ahead to Garden street for it here that we hear the sound of a woman weeping.  She is distraught and continues to stoop down and look within an empty tomb where Jesus once lay.  And as I observe her pain I know she is near the resurrection but has not found it yet. She followed all the previous directions:  She walked the street of sorrows following Jesus as he struggled under the cross. She stood at Golgotha mesmerized by His sacrifice.  And now she stands in the garden beside the tomb but she has not found the resurrection yet.

It is only when she turns to the gardener that dramatic changes occur.  The gardener asks why she is crying.  She explains her story and begs him to take her to the body if he knows the way (John 20:15).  Just tell me where you have laid him, she asks in words laden with tears.  She has not found it yet.  She is near just like you may be near but she had not found it yet. She is so close.  She is only four letters from the resurrection.  And when you are this close you see its contours and your whole body begins to tremble.  And then He says  “Mary!”  And she found it.

 

 

 

Finding God in the Night Watches

Finding God in the Night Watches—Psalm 63:6-8—Dr. Denny—March 24, 2019

Introduction:  I would like to start this morning by asking a reasonable but difficult question:  Where is God?  Can you point the way?  Do you know?  Is there even an answer to this question?  Our Psalmist, King David, might have the answer.  In one of his most exquisite psalms, David tells us one of his favorite places where he always finds God—in the night watches (Ps 63:6). 

    *Several years ago a photographer named Pete McBride became worried about the health of the Grand Canyon. The canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world with rocks dating back 2 billion years and human artifacts going back 12,000 years.  With Teddy Roosevelt’s proclamation over congress’s disapproval, he declared it a national park 100 years ago.
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McBride decided to walk the 750-mile canyon taking photographs to spur interest in protecting the park. His first attempt nearly killed him.  He had to quit after 6 days and nearly died. But he tried again with a friend and writer, Kevin Fedarko.  There is no trail.  80% of the canyon is like a wilderness.  His main concern was just how to find water and stay alive.

Read his comments on the silence of the night…

Textual commentary:  David too finds god in the night watches. How many time, I wonder, did David pull his bed out to the verandah of his palace and drift off to sleep while gazing at the stars?  It was here beneath the river of stars that David put aside his worries and fears and let his mind play among the stars.  It was in the night watches that he found God.    You too can emulate David and drift off to sleep in the arms of God.

Here is David’s easy outline for finding God in this modern chaotic world in which we all live:

First, as he drifts off to sleep, he remembers and meditates on God (Isa 63:6).  Such a simple but profound solution for the frayed nerves of our time. And yet is it really that easy?  Look at the distractions that will keep us from this routine:     the sports game that has you on edge—especially if your team just lost.  Or the late night party with your rowdy friends that had you drinking and getting wild. Or the review of your bills and worry over the car payment you can’t make. Or the fight you just had with your husband or wife. Or the worrisome pain you feel in your leg or chest. Etc.  —–Let us all rise to the challenge David presents to us.  Let us find time to meditate and remember the wonders of our relationship with the Lord as we drift off to sleep.

 Second, David sings for joy.  Now I know that most of us can’t sing worth a lick, but that is not the issue.

Joke—Miranda likes to sing, and whenever she begins, her husband heads outside.   Hurt and a little dejected, she asked him, “Don’t you like my singing?”   “Of course, Dear,” he replied. “I just want to make sure the neighbors know I’m not beating you.”

Creating spiritual melodies in our hearts clears away the haze that often hides the face of God.  When we sing, He listens.

**The old church hymn book—Read the introductory text—“Be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

Here is David’s suggestion:  When you retire at night, clear your mind from all worries and concerns and sing a hymn to yourself.  Just hum a song you heard at church or one that your grandmother used to sing.  Sing to the Lord and in the singing, you will find Him!

Third, cling to the Lord(Ps 63:8. ”My soul clings to You).”  David’s final method for finding God in the night watches requires you to do something personal, something physical.  You must reach out and touch God.

Such a powerful act requires preparation.  This is why David begins with the act of meditation and remembrance.  Then he moves to quiet singing and then when his heart is fully prepared he reaches out to touch the Lord.  His soul clings to the Lord.

*One of the most emotional scenes in the Bible occurs in John 20.  Jesus is gone.  The crucifixion is now over and the tomb is empty.  The disciples are hiding in fear wondering how they will continue.  And in the midst of this overwhelming turbulence of heart, Mary Magdalene revisited the empty tomb.  At least she can get as close to the Savior as the tomb.  And so she stands there in meditation remembering (as David urges us to do each night).  Perhaps, I’m not sure, perhaps a gentle song rose within her broken heart, a song maybe Jesus used to sing.

But then she heard a voice break the reverie.  “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?” said the unknown man.  She thought it was the gardener.  “Oh sir if you have taken the body of my Lord please tell me where you laid him and I will go to him and take him away.”

But then the stranger utters one word—one word that shook her to the core—He said, “Mary!” And that was all it took.  For the intonation, the quality of the voice, the accent that had become so familiar to her was enough.  She knew it was Jesus.  She said back “Rabboni.” And then she clung to him.

Conclusion:  David tells us three ways to find God in the night watches;  Remember and meditate on your bed as you drift off to sleep.   Then sing a lullaby, some spiritual song that will make the Savior smile.  And then reach out and cling to him.

The Path to Citizenship

The Path to Citizenship–Phil. 3:17-4:1. DBC—March 15, 2017—David R Denny
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Introduction:  We live in a political world and as you know politics is a messy road.  But our text today drives us right into the fray and we can’t avoid it.  In fact, Paul uses a Greek word from which we derive our word for politics.  His word is politeuma.     πολίτευμα, ατος, τό.       It means CITIZENSHIP. I don’t think Paul liked politics too much since this is the only recorded time he ever used this word. But he did use it and so we will follow him this morning.

*Citizenship Test:  If you go to the web site: U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services you can get the 10 test questions an immigrant must know to become a citizen. I thought I would give you this test this morning.  I think we have time.  This is an oral test administered by an immigration officer.  He can ask any 10 of the 100 questions.  You must answer 6 out of the 10 correctly.  So if you have a pen right down your answers and then we will grade them.  —

1. What is the supreme law of the land? (Constitution).
2.  What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution? (the Bill of Rights).                   3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution.  What are these three words?  (We the People).

Textual study: In our text, Paul says that if you are a believer then you have a unique citizenship.  It is different than the citizenship of the USA. A Christian is a citizen of heaven (Phil 3:20.  “For our citizenship is in heaven…”.  This thought sent chills down Paul’s spine.  He knew there was more to life than this world’s pains or sorrows or meaningless daily routines.  There was another word and that was where his citizenship was.  And so for us as well.  Our home is Heaven and it is for that home that we eagerly await.

*Mutiny at the Hyphasis.  One of the greatest stories in all of ancient history is when Alexander the Great’s troops mutinied against him.  For over a decade his Macedonian brothers had followed him all over the known world fighting his battles, claiming more and more territory. They conquered Europe and Palestine and Egypt and Babylon and Persia and now Alexander wanted to conquer India. But it was here on the banks of the Hyphasis River that the men said no.  No more.  The year was 326 and the men were weary of battle.

 

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Mutiny at the Hyphasis–Alexander the Great

They were already filthy rich from the spoils of war.  They missed home.  They missed their wives and children who had grown up without them.  They wanted to go home. Their citizenship was not here on the edge of the world.  Their home was Macedonia.   When they told him no, he couldn’t believe it.  He was so upset he stormed off into his tent and didn’t come out for three days. But the soldiers held firm.  And so suddenly Alexander saw that it was over. And he told them perhaps it was time to go home after all.  When he said this, the soldiers shouted for joy and wept. They all called for blessings on Alexander who though undefeated in all his battles had let himself be defeated by the.

 

What is it they wanted?  They wanted to go home.  It is the same thing Paul wanted and it is our supreme goal as well.  We have citizenship in America for which we give thanks daily.  But it is not our home.  —

*I’ve been a tumbleweed all my life.  My dad moved every two years in the military and so I’ve moved and lived everywhere. But I feel like the Eastern Shore will be my last port of call.  This is it for me.  No more wandering. BUT IT IS NOT MY HOME.  For my citizenship—my home—is in heaven.

* Green, green grass of homegrass of home.jpgThere is a song I hear every once in a while on the radio.  When it starts to play, I usually stop what I am doing and just listen.  It’s a sad song about home.——Read lyrics.

 

Textual thought:  Paul too became very emotional when he spoke of home.  In Phil. 3:18. He said that although he wished everyone was walking with him to his heavenly home, he knew that many were not with him.  There were those he said who cared more about this world. “Their minds are set on earthly things”. He said.  And when he thought of these things the text says he wept. (3:18).

*This reminds me of the Prodigal son.  He left home and his loving family preferring the baubles of this world.  And every day the father wept just as Paul did for those he knew that had sold out.            But what a happy day it was when the son came home again.

Conclusion:   Where is your citizenship?  The path to citizenship comes through the cross.  When you place your faith in Christ and call upon him to be your Savior, then you too will be handed the keys to home.  Heaven will be yours.

 

Desert Storm

Desert Storm—Luke 4:1-13/Ps 91. DBC. March 10—Dr. Denny

Introduction:
        What were you doing on January 1991?  What was America doing on January 1991?  Let me jog your memory.  This was the year that we entered into a 60 billion dollar war.  That’s what it cost to conquer Saddam Hussein.  35 nations followed George Bush and the USA into battle to save Kuwait and conquer Iraq.  The war took 5 weeks.  There were 262 coalition casualties.  It was called Desert Storm.

Background:
         Now let’s step into another desert storm, the one mentioned with such gravitas in the book of Luke.  Here we find the Savior still dripping with the baptismal waters of the Jordan being led by the Spirit into the wilderness of Judeato face trials and temptations of the Devil.  And as we step onto the hot sands of the desert, we realize a truth all too common to people of all ages.  We are all prone to trials, testing, and temptations in our lives.  We must be prepared and we must guard ourselves against the certain attacks of the enemy.
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The wilderness of Judea into which Jesus walked is a place of majestic, silent beauty.  It begins near the city of Jerusalem and tumbles thousands of feet down to the Dead Sea. Moses stared humbly at this wilderness from the mountains of Moabto the east of the Dead Sea.  God, however, would not allow him to enter. But Jesus did venture into the wilderness, led by the Spirit and you and I must also enter daily for the life of a Christian is not void of trials.  We, like the Savior, must expect the devil to attack us daily, seeking our weaknesses, exploiting our frailties, striving to weaken our resolve to follow Jesus to the end.

The Judean wilderness where Jesus walked for 40 days is the home of one of the world’s oldest monasteries—Mar Saba.  If you could look down from the air you would see it perched precariously on the edge of the Kidron Valley midway between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.  Built in the year 483 it houses today about 20 monks and is considered to be one of the world’s oldest monasteries.  It still maintains many of its ancient traditions. Mar Saba.jpg

It was into this rugged wilderness, the desert of Mar Saba, that Jesus wandered without food or water for 40 days fending off attacks by the Devil.  He studied the Savior and searched for weaknesses.

According to Luke, the devil knew Jesus was hungry and so he challenged him to turn the rocks into bread.  But Jesus said no.  Then the devil tempted him with power and fame.  ‘I will give you all the kingdoms of the world.’  But Jesus said no.  Then the devil tempted him to leap off the temple wall knowing the angels would come to his rescue.  But Jesus said no.

And so we too must learn to say NO! to the daily temptations that come our way.  And we can do this God’s help.

  *When was your last big test?  How did you handle it?  Did you fall apart?  Did you find your way through to success?

*The biggest test of my life did not come at my doctoral defense even though my best friend Phil Walker had gone into the room where the professors waited to grill all candidates for the doctor’s degree. And when he came out he was in tears. They had flunked his dissertation.  After many years of seminary work, he left without a degree. And as he passed me in shaking his head in utter disbelief, the door swung open and a boney hand from the lead professor summoned me in next.

No, the biggest trial of my life came at a much earlier time in my life.  I was just entering the second grade.  I had left Ms. White, my first-grade teacher behind in Sumpter South Carolina where I used to live in peace and tranquility.  And now I was in Japan and this was my first day in second grade with anew teacher I did not know or trust.  Her name was Ms. Mud and I think it was an appropriate name.

I sat near the back. I did not know anybody. I had no friends.  And then Ms. Mud made a declaration.  “All right, Class get out a sheet of paper.  We’re going to have a test.  I looked at her with my eyes blinking.  Ms. White didn’t give tests.  What is a test?  I squirmed uneasily.  “Number you page from 1-20.  I sighed with relief.  I did know my numbers.  I could probably count to 30.  I had this.

But then she started with something I did not understand.  She called out a word.  She said “our first word today is tree.  I noticed all the kids writing but I didn’t know what to write.  What did she want to know about trees?  I did like trees.  I had fallen out of one once.  I panicked. I didn’t know what to do.  So I just wrote YES!because I knew I did like trees.  But she kept going.  Our next word is DOG.  Everybody began writing.  I did like dogs.  I had a dog named Fluffy.  “YES! Our next word is GIRL.  By now I had it down.  Of course, I had no use for girls.  That was easy.  I wrote boldly the word NO.

When I was all down with the 20 words I turned in my test paper and waited for the verdict. Finally, she curled her finger at me like my doctoral professors and summoned me forward.  I came with high hopes. She stared at me hard with dark eyes and then scribbled a huge E on the paper.  I looked at the verdict and then smiled with such pride.  An Excellent on my fist test.  (It wasn’t until I got home that realized that than an E was a flunking grade).

Conclusion:
Tests and temptations come in all shapes and sizes.  None of us are immune to life’s trials.  Even Jesus faced them as we see so clearly in His Judean Wilderness experience.

Let’s close with the wondrous words of Ps 91, a Psalm for those under attack from the devil, for those of us in the midst of a desert storm.

In this amazing Psalm, we learn that God is our refuge and fortress in times of testing and temptation.  He builds an impenetrable wall about us.  He protects us.  He shelters us with His wings.   And he sends his angels to guard us in times of duress of temptation.

Each of these thoughts is a sermon in itself. God is our fortress—He shelters us with His wings—He sends His angels to watch over us.  Such powerful truths to help you and me through our wilderness wanderings, when we are under attack.

 

The Necessity of Daily Ascents

The Necessity of Daily Ascents—Luke 9:28-36- March 3, 2019—DBC—Dr. Denny

Introduction:  This morning we are going to take an exhilarating hike up one of the most iconic mountains in Palestine.  It will be a sacred ascent in the tradition of Jesus our Savior who made this very trek before us.  And in this journey, we will see the value of daily ascents.  I believe every Christian should make a daily ascent, a daily spiritual journey. Spiritual ascents help us to rediscover our purpose in life and they also recharge our spirits as we absorb the power and grace of the Savior.

Anyone who has the physical strength and mental determination can walk the Appalachian Trail in our country created in 1921. It runs 2200 miles and passes through 14 states from Georgia to Maine.

However, if you go to Israel they too have such a trail—TheIsrael National Trail–that runs across the entire country of Israel from the north to the south—636 miles.  It takes about 60 days to walk the entire trail.  It is listed in National Geographic’s 20 most “epic trails.”  It is said, “to delve into the grade scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of the modern Israeli.”

This trail passes by our mountain this morning—Mt. Tabor—located in the world that Jesus knew just 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.  It rises nearly 2000 ft out of the Jezreel Valley. It is a strange place because it is not a part of a mountain chain.  It is an island all to itself, a majestic respite from the lowlands around it.

Our Ascent up Mt. Tabor

As we follow the Savior up the mountain we will remember that 8 days before this trek up Mt. Tabor, Jesus fed the 5000 down by the Sea of Galilee.  And now Jesus needs to find some quiet time with God.  And so he gathers his closest disciples—Peter, James, and John- and invites them to join him in prayer on the Mt. Tabor.  (The mountain’s name is not mentioned in the Bible, but Origin, a luminary of the ancient church fathers of the 3rdcentury tells us that he believes Mt. Tabor to be the mountain).

The climb to the top is a beautiful one.  Mt. Tabor is covered with vegetation including oak trees and over 400 varieties of plants including the large yellow crocuses, the Persian lily that stands several feet tall dressed in royal purple flowers and black-eyes red tulips that take your breath.

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Chromolithographic card 1870-1880 by Helga Von Cramm

 

As Peter, James, and John followed Jesus up the long trail to the summit, they felt the presence of God in the beauty of the mountainside.  Finally, they all stopped at the top and each found a place to kneel and pray. But it wasn’t long before all of the disciples were fast asleep and Jesus was left alone to reflect on His life—its purpose and plan, just as we must do daily in our ascents, our moments alone with God.

But then a most remarkable thing happened, missed entirely by the sleeping disciples—Jesus was transformed.  The Greek text tells us his face changed much like that of Moses when he too climbed ancient Mt Horeb and received the law. Moses’ face glowed so brightly with the presence of the divine upon it that he had to cover it with a veil when he descended to talk with the people below.

And here the same thing happened-  Jesus’ face brimmed with a heavenly light and his garments sparkled with the dazzling brightness of lightning (a Greek word used only one time n the NT-ἐξαστράπτων).  If only we had not fallen asleep!  The disciples missed this at first.  Can you imagine?  But that was not all they missed.  For as Jesus prayed two men joined Him.  Moses and Elijah appeared upon the mountain and they all conversed.  This was predicted in the final verses of the OT. If you turn to the last page of the OT you will read in Malachi 4:5-6 that Moses and Elijah would come in the final days and this prediction is now happening on Mt Tabor while the disciples sleep.

Could we pause here and just gaze at the wonder of it all?  It is a heavenly scene like none other.  Thomas Aquinas called this the greatest of all Jesus’ miracles.  It is here that we get a glimpse behind the veil of time.  Here we see what one day we will all experience. Heavenly beings shining like lightning, speaking of heavenly things.

Would you like to know what they spoke of specifically?  We know what the conversation was about because Luke records it just as the disciples told him later.  What did they talk about?—They talked about the Cross and the impending departure of Jesus after the resurrection (Luke 9:31).

But now comes the part of the story I love.  Peter awakens and steps into a living dream.  Only it’s not really a dream.  For heaven is not a dream.  He witnessed the realities of heaven and could scarcely speak.  When his voice did come to him he could only stutter something silly like let me set up a tent for each of you so you can stay awhile.  The Bible tells us that he didn’t even know what he was saying!

Why do we need daily ascents?

  1. First of because they clarify our purpose for living.

When we pause in each day and step aside from our busy lives and venture up the mountain with Jesus we begin to rethink our purpose in life.  Why are we here?  What has God called us to do with our lives?  We need this time of reflection for without it we merely get lost in the world of endless activities.

  1. Secondly, we need to recharge our spirits. We need our faces to glow again.  We need to absorb the power and glory of God into our lives.  We need this daily and thus we need ascents daily.

Conclusion:

Last year one of the most amazing physical feats anyone has every accomplished happened in Yosemite National Park.  Alex Honnold, 33- climbed El Capitan, a 3000 vertical cliff face without any ropes or assistance. He planned this climb for 10 years and when he finally decided it was time to climb, on June 3, 2017, he had flutters in his stomach looking up at the peak in the clouds.  And then he took the first step up and for four hours he climbed straight up a cliff that all the experts said was impossible to conquer. When he finally scrambled up on the top, he posed for a selfie holding all of his gear: shoes and a bag of chalk.

As amazing as this was, it pales in comparison with the transfigured Jesus on little Mt. Tabor.  Maybe you can’t solo up El Capitan, but you can climb Mt. Tabor with Jesus and renew your purpose in life and recharge your spirit with the presence of God.

The Power of New Beginnings

The Power of New BeginningsIsaiah 6:1-8. –DBC– February 10, 2019—David Denny

Introduction:  This morning I’m going to take you on a roller coaster ride plunging from the heights of amazing accomplishment to the depths of despair and then back up with a spectacular new beginning.  This dramatic circuit often parallels our own lives of boom and bust.  Sometimes we’re riding high and then at other times were on the edge of disaster.  But through it all, God is there and He can infuse the life and inspiration you need to undertake a new beginning.

*Grapes of Wrath—One of the great novels of the world shows us the power of new beginnings.  Written in 1939 in the midst of the great depression, this uniquely American adventure tells the story of one family that hit bottom and decided to start anew by going west.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was published in 1939 and won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and led to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.
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Tom Joad had just been released from prison for killing a man.  When he got home, he found his farm abandoned.  The dust bowl and swallowed up the farm and the crops and the banks had foreclosed and all the family knew to do was start over. They would go west and live the American Dream in California…

  1. Uzziah’s Descent. Let’s step into the text now and discover another tale of woe than inspires our young prophet Isaiah to launch into a dynamic new beginning.  But first, we must follow the sad path of Uzziah who started off in life so well and then plummeted into despair.  He was 16 years old when he joined his father—Amaziah- in ruling the  Kingdom of Judah.

He did so well at the beginning.  He was a brilliant leader with so much talent.  He invented some powerful weapons that made the city of Jerusalem invincible.  He crafted some ingenious machines that would fire off arrows from the towers on the wall. And he invented a machine that would hurl massive stones over the wall at the enemy. —But he also loved simple things like farming and gardening.  He served the Lord and his reputation spread through the world. Tragedy struck in his thirties—His father was murdered which left Uzziah as the sole king/ruler.  At first, things continued on well but Uzziah began to change.  Dressing in the robes of the king swelled his sense of pride and before long he walked with a swagger and saw himself as all-powerful.
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Then one day he did something so horrible he never recovered from it. He decided one day that he would stroll down to the temple and enter the holy place and burn incense on the altar.  This was a sacred ritual assigned by God to the priests, the sons of Aaron.  No one else could it.  But Uzziah didn’t care.  And so he prepared the incense and marched off to the temple.  The high priest discovered the plot and gathered 80 of the temple’s priests to stand as a barrier to the holy place.  Uzziah shoved his way into the temple and faced off with the priest Azariah backed by his army of priests.  2 Chronicles 2618 tells us what the high priest said to him.   “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated burn incense.  Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the Lord God.”

The Bible tells us that Uzziah was enraged.  He was king. How dare they attempt to stop him. And then what happened next was truly incredible!  The Bible says that while he stood enraged and shouting abusively to the priests his face began to change before their eyes.  The text says specifically that the changes were first visible on his forehead. And then it spread, a bubbling, boiling putrid series of scabs and sores erupted on his face.  God Himself struck the king with leprously.  And when he read the faces of the priest who surrounded him and saw their stares of disbelief, he ran his hands over the scabby eruptions and dropped the incense tray and ran out of the temple screaming. From this time on he was banned from the city and forced to live in a small hut away from the people he ruled.

*Now 800 years later Josephus, the first-century historian tells us more details. He said in his histories that at the very moment of brazen assault on the holy place violent earthquake struck the city and as the walls of the temple cracked a brilliant ray of sunshine fell upon the king’s face and then leprosy struck.

*Modern geologists think they have discovered proof of this earthquake that had a magnitude of 8.2.  Masonry walls and debris from six of the Judean cities show clear signs of this earthquake and the date of the fallen rocks and walls date to this middle of the 8thcentury BC, the exact time of Uzziah’s reign.

And so Uzziah’s world crumbled into ashes as he lived out his life in horrible isolation locked away in a tiny house on the outskirts of the city and buried in a lonely tomb.

  1. Isaiah’s Vision and New Beginnings. But now let’s pick up the inspiring trail of Isaiah’s call to serve. Out text begins with these haunting words:  “In the year of King Uzziah’s death…”.   What does this mean?  Now we understand it all so much more clearly.  In the year of King Uzziah’s death—Now we know the tale of woe this suggests and now we see the big picture.  The city is overwhelmed with sadness and fear.  For the Assyrians have just conquered the region and now the people of Judah and Jerusalem must pay annual taxes and tribute to a foreign power.

And in the midst of these dark clouds that now hang over the city, a young man named Isaiah makes his way to the temple to pray and prepare for his day. And as he worshipped silently seeing the sacred smoke from the morning’s incense rising in the air and hearing the chants of the priests, his mind began to drift toward heavenly things.  And he saw in his mind a most wonderful vision of God Himself as He hovered over the mercy seat in the holy of holies.  (Read Isaiah 6:1-4).
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Paul had a similar experience.  IN the book of Acts (22:17) Paul says that he went into the temple and began to meditate and pray and there against the backdrop of the sights and sounds of the temple, he fell into a trance.

And here in our Isaiah text, we see the young prophet, a man in his twenties, living in the worst of times searching for hope and meaning. And then He sees God hovering over the mercy seat with the seraphim hovering about. Him.  And God speaks to him and asks the question of questions—“Whom shall I send and who will go for Us?”  And then Isaiah rises up with the hope a new beginning for his life and shouts out, “Here am I.  Send me!”

Conclusion:

When your life hits its nadir, when your life plummets to some unknown despair, remember Uzziah and remember Isaiah.  One abandoned the Lord and one surrendered to the Lord. One lost his way while the other found a new beginning.

 

 

Living with Confidence

Living with Confidence– (Overcoming Life’s Fears)–Jeremiah 1:4-10—DBC—February 3, 2019– David R.Denny. Ph.D.

  Introduction:  What are you most afraid of in life?  (Men, don’t say your wife).  Living with fear and being unable to overcome a steady stream of challenges that are destined to confront you in life can lead to a form of paralysis.  Fear can actually keep you from advancing and living well.
One typical fear that can cripple the average person is the fear of public speaking.

*Mark Twain said, “There are two types of speakers in the world:  1.  The nervous and 2. Liars.”

public speaking.jpeg        *A Braintracey.com researcher said that “the average person ranks the fear of public speaking (also known as glossophobia) higher than the fear of death.
        *At Forbes.com a lady who owns an apparel brand said she had to give talks to business groups and she was terrified until she learned to picture everyone in the front wearing fruit baskets on their head.

*When I lived in Japan my dad wanted to rise in the ranks.  He was an Air-Force text sergeant and he longed for a promotion.  So he decided to overcome his fear and live with confidence. He decided to learn how to do public speaking.  He joined Toastmasters and every week he would leave our little base apartment and head off to face his fears and deliver some speech.  At first, he would come home dejected because he hadn’t done well. But he didn’t quit.  In time, it was common to hear him burst through the door at home shouting out a victory chant and displaying his new trophy.

 

  1. The Life of Jeremiah—Jeremiah was a young man laden with fears. He was a stay behind the scenes type of guy. The quiet type.  But one day God tapped him on the shoulder and said that he was to become a prophet to the nations.  And when he said this Jeremiah’s fears kicked in big time.  He knew he couldn’t and wouldn’t do it.  And it is in this response that I can relate so well to him.  He was afraid. He lacked confidence.  He is so like so many of us in our daily lives.

    A. The political times.—Jeremiah lived in a time of raging politics.   Babylon was the emerging power while Assyrian and Egypt were waning in strength. When Jeremiah, born in 655 BC) was a young teenager, Josiah became king of Judah.  He was only 8 years old!  His father had been murdered and he took the throne.  He was one of history’s best kings.  Jerusalem in his reign was mired in paganism.  Horrible and disgusting rituals of human sacrifice took place then.  The holy temple had images of pagan gods and the people had turned totally away from the God of Moses and Abraham.—But it was Josiah who ordered the temple to be cleansed.  And in the cleaning of the temple, the priests found the sacred books that had been long ago abandoned.   This led to a revival in the land and Jeremiah was in the middle of it all.  

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    The death of King Josiah at Megiddo 608 BC

         B.  Jeremiah’s Resistance—Into this maelstrom, God ordered the shy and uncertain Jeremiah to go.  He was in his twenties still learning how to be a quiet and humble man.  Jeremiah lacked confidence.  He refused to obey God.  He had all his reasons lined up in his debate with God.  (We do the same thing when we are faced with tough  challenges).

  2. The Excuses of Jeremiah

 I can’t do public speaking (Jer. 1:6)
so, therefore, I cannot be a prophet.

    *There was a time when I couldn’t speak before people. Right after my dad was transferred back to the states we settled in Jacksonville Ark.  I was in the 5thgrade.  And one day my teacher handed me a book and said read it and give a report in front of the class in a week.  (I read this week that our brains record every experience we have in life.  There is an impression in the brain for every event. If you were to crack open my head right now you would see a huge X on the spot where I had to give that report).  I have never experienced so much fear in my life before or after.  I remember sitting in the back of the class waiting for the summons forward.  And when I came I could barely walk to the podium. Sweat poured off my brow and plashed upon my handwritten speech.  My legs wobbled like Elvis when he gyrated on stage and words were stuck in thick molasses.

Jeremiah said Lord, I can’t speak.  God grabbed him by the collar, pulled him up real close and touched his mouth (Jer. 1:9). And then he grabbed a handful of words and stuffed them down his throat.  “Now you’re ready,” he said.  “I’ve put my words into your mouth.”

I’m too young (Jer. 1:6).

    Still, Jeremiah wasn’t ready.  So he said, ”I can’t go, Lord, I’m too young” (Jer. 1:6).  That’s funny because Josiah was only 8 when he became King, and Jeremiah was only a few years older than him.  And said to Jeremiah, “I don’t want to hear about your age.  Wherever I send you I will go with you”(Jer. 1:8).

I am afraid (Jer. 1:8).

But still, Jeremiah wasn’t convinced.  He said to God, But I am afraid.  And God looked at him and said  “Well you have no need to be afraid.  Don’t be afraid.  I’ will deliver you in every circumstance”.
*One of our readings today was Luke 4:30.  “But passing through their midst, He went His way.”  This took incredible confidence but this was how Jesus lived His life. And you too can live with confidence and overcome your fears.

A Final Promise from God

Each time Jeremiah whined, God stepped in with reassurance.  But Jeremiah still needed more.  So God said to him, Let me give you a visual—a promise you can see and hold onto as you go forth:    I promise—to make you like a fortified city (Jer. 1:18-19). Your walls will be of bronze so nothing can pierce or burn them.  And the pillars of your city will be of iron. Nothing will be able to break them.  And when people fight you they will not prevail. You are a fortified city!

Conclusion—You can learn to overcome your fears and live with confidence like Jeremiah.  God has a plan for your life.  He has called you to a task.  He will see you through to the end.