2nd Sunday in Advent – Sermon 23

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thought of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ AMEN


This week we light the second candle of our Advent wreath – and we focus especially on the prophets – to help us look again at the way in which Jesus’ coming was foretold

prophets and prophecy – are unique to Judaism and Christianity – the prophets emerged as God’s messengers – and heralds of His Kingdom – assuring the survivors – of God’s continuing love – and through their preaching

The people realised that the living God is not limited to geographical boundaries – but Lord of all the world – They realized too – that His judgment had fallen on them – because their private and public lives had been an affront to His Holiness –

Our readings focus on two prophets Elijah and John the Baptist – who lived almost 900 years apart – yet were considered by some to be so similar – that they were thought to be one in the same person – We are going to look at each one – to see what they are saying and what their message means for us today

Point 1

Elijah was one of the greatest of the OT prophets – he came from Gilead – at the edge of the desert in the east of the country – his clothes were rough – and he preferred the desert life-style – he was symbolised by many as Moses’ successor – but unlike Moses who interceded on the peoples behalf – Elijah’s calling was to act as a covenant prosecutor – to accuse the people of breaking God’s covenant

Elijah was at the peak of his activity – when the kingdom of Israel was in sad decline – He was called by God to speak out about the spiritual condition of his people – and although his miracles produced the desired response from them – his main message was directed firmly towards the King

in verse 18 – he says to King Ahab:

"I have not made trouble for Israel – but you and your father and your family have – you have abandoned the Lord’s commands –

A hundred years previous the Jews had experienced a golden age of peace and prosperity – but since then the peoples focus moved away from God – towards the king – and when he went into decline – so did the people – civil war followed and the country was split in two –

In the northern kingdom – an all time low was reached during the 22 year reign of King Ahab – no king of Israel had received so many warnings – and yet no King fell so deeply into sin – his crimes were not political – but that – influenced by his Tyrian wife Jezebel – he lived a life of compromise with the Canaanite culture around him – he failed to stop the worshipping of Baal – a Canaanite weather God – who was supposed to ensure a constant supply of rain.

After 3 years in which Jezebel had done her best to eliminate the worship of God in Israel – Elijah faced Ahab and the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel – he convinced them – that if Baal was a God he should be able to produce fire as readily as rain –

He gave out a challenge to the people –

"How long will you sit on the fence? – if the Lord is God follow Him – if Baal is God follow Him"

the issue placed before them was " who is the God who lives?"

the fanatical ravings of the Baal worshippers were all to no avail – but Elijah eventually won them over when he asked them to help him construction the altar – and to soak it with water – They expected him to fail – so when the fire did fall from heaven – the people realized who the true God is – and responded positively with a confession of faith –

"The Lord He is God – The Lord He is God "

God’s effectiveness was not hindered by the uneven sides – in fact this all the more – dramatically displayed His power and faith at work

The miracles of Elijah called many in Israel back to faith in God – he showed them that the God of Israel is not a God of the past – but a God that is present with them and who cares for and has an understanding of what was important in their lives

Elijah’s call to confront wickedness was an example of a lone minister standing against the power of hundreds of opponents supported by the state – and how the public faithfulness of one man can be a catalyst to enable others to make their faith public

Elijah was the beginning of a long line of prophets who confronted God’s people because of their failure to conform to His expectations – his message of judgement was picked up by the prophets that followed him – Elisha, Hosea and Amos – In the southern kingdom his warnings were carried by such figures as Isaiah – and the very last of the writing prophets Malachi – who promised that Elijah would return – to hold out hope of repentance before judgment –

Point 2

In the NT this prophesy is remembered in part with the coming of John the Baptist – also a loner – and a man of the desert – who went all over the Jordan Valley proclaiming – a Baptism by water – as a token of repentance for the forgiveness of sins

To many Jews John was a prominent prophet – as great as Moses or Elijah – even Jesus likened his ministry to that of Elijah – as one sent to those outside Israel –

John left behind him many admiring disciples – who continued his work – often in rivalry with the disciples of Jesus – but as we see in our reading – when questioned by the Levites sent by the temple officials – John denies all claims to any special status or authority – he refuses identification – and calls himself – "a voice crying in the wilderness" –

here we see a true account of John’s humility – he deflects away the honour which the Jews were ready to put on him – and claims honour only for Christ –

in verse 26

"Among you, though you do not know Him, stands one who is to come after me – I am not worthy to untie His sandals" –

John’s mission was to exalt and point to Jesus -as the true word of God – through Jesus God speaks to us in a way we can understand – He become one of us

In an act of pure love – God sent His only Son – to experience our way of life – to show us that He understands and cares about our individual needs and difficulties – He sent His Son to die for us on the cross – so that our sins can be forgiven – and we can be washed clean – and reconciled back to Him –

John the Baptist was more than a pointer – he was a first witness and believer in Jesus as the Son of God – a light that testifies to the true light – now appearing – after him in time – but existing before Him in all eternity

through Jesus the promises made by God have all come true – through Jesus the witness of the OT and NT prophets have found their focus – through Jesus the Father will complete His plan of redemption and the salvation of mankind –

Point 3

If you go to Mount Carmel or the Jordan river today you will see thriving communities dependent on farming and tourism – to some what happened thousands of years ago is a matter of history – but to the Christian – reading and learning about the Prophets in our Bibles is a glimpse into a living faith that is still growing –

Jesus Himself said that "everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses and the prophets" – through the prophets we see the power of God showing itself in different ways – and we see a faith that demands everything we have to give

When God takes action to change the world He starts with individuals – He starts with us – His church –

Each one of us is called to be a prophet of our time – to proclaim the Gospel message – whether through word or deed – and by the way we live our lives –

What we believe about God is the most important thing about us – it determines the overall direction of or lives – it affects our every actions – many claim to believe and trust God – but in reality their lives are geared towards their own survival and security – they believe He exists but – they don’t allow Him to engage or change their lives –

We need to encourage others to make that important step towards Jesus – by showing them how we love and serve Him – and how He lives in us –

We need to be strong is our faith – when others around us are persuaded to compromise when faced with worldly pressures – we need to hold firm – like Elijah – and follow God’s ways –

We need to be committed to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ – to pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us with His power and strength – so that like John the Baptist – we too may be a pointer and a witness to Jesus –


The prophets were God’s appointed covenant prosecutors – they were called to
act – to announce the need for repentance – and the imminence of God’s judgement – but above all they did not stop praying for the people – that they might return to the Lord and be transformed by His Spirit – In this we all have a part to play –

So we too as prophets in Lymm must always be willing to act – to play our part in Jesus’ plan – and to pray for the salvation of those around us –

Let’s finish with a prayer:

Lord God eternal creator of light and darkness – In this season of Advent – we pray that you will reveal to all the splendour of your Glory made visible in Jesus Christ your only Son – Through the Prophets you teach us to hope for His reign of peace – Through the outpouring of your Spirit you open our blindness to the Glory of His presence – Help us as we prepare to celebrate His birth – to be your prophets of today – to share with those around us the good news of your power and love – through Jesus Christ our Lord –