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Fruit of the Plowed Field
Science changes, the Bible doesn't -- Proof needed?

Luke 1:26-38 &  Isaiah 40:1-7

by Tom Weathers

Sunday December 16, 2001
Tuolumne UMC


Last week we started into the body of Luke's Gospel.  Thus began the details of Luke the investigative reporter who decided to put it all down from the beginning knowing the Apostles, being friend of Paul and speaking to eye witnesses and participants like Mary.

The Advent, as I like to say, The Adventure begins:  From the middle of last week's message.  Luke 1:5-26, Elizabeth and Zechariah have a child coming.  A miracle of God.  His name to be?  John.

John is announced by the Angel Gabriel and because of Zechariah's "what do you mean, and we're too old" questioning, he had his tongue tied until John is born.

From then, we follow Gabriel, a very busy Angel.  Here we are, six months after Elizabeth knew she was no longer a barren woman.  Six months after she was able to go out in public with her head held high.  She can go into the market, the Temple, any where in town and not be smirked at, talked about behind her back etc. Six months, and Gabriel once again is sent by God.  Think about Six months.

Isn't it nothing, even in our limited time span?  As we move along here, I want you think about living things, old living things, really old living things.  Not me, but really old. Now remember God's announcement through Gabriel, to Zechariah?  Zechariah the old priest whom Gabriel calmed by those simple words:  "Do not be afraid" (Luke 1:13)

It's interesting; the message we read as "Do not be afraid" is used at least 62 times in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.  God, either directly or through prophets and through the Angel Gabriel, tells selected people, NOW is the time to hear what God has to say!  These words bring peace, "Shalom," at the instant of concern, even times of fear which these words calm the hearts of those hearing them.

In most of these, the announcement "Do not be afraid," is followed by a special call.  A call upon someone to step forward in a tremendous act of faith.

From Genesis 15:1, God's covenant with Abram through Revelations 1:17 where Jesus is seen by John, and even eight times in the Apocryphal books, we hear God's call to many of our adopted ancestors to step out in faith as He begins the message with "Do not be afraid," when God abruptly stops the thoughts and hearts of someone. That by itself, should incite a clear message about how we should be faithful to God's calling upon us this very day should it not?  "Do not be afraid."

Let us continue in Luke 1:26-27.  Not in Samaria, just north of Judea where Jerusalem lies, but way up north in Galilee in the town of Nazareth, Gabriel makes a house call.

Luke 1:28-33, Gabriel, as Gods messenger, greets Mary:  "Greetings favored one.  The Lord God finds favor with you."

Mary, just as Zechariah only six months before, is perplexed, even scared.  Why would the Lord send an Angel with such a greeting to me?  Mary, a virgin yet to be married to Joseph?  Then Gabriel continues, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you are special in God's eyes."

"Do not be afraid, Mary."

"You will conceive and . . . His name shall be called Jesus"
"He will . . . be called the Son of The Most High . . ."
". . . and His Kingdom will be forever . . ." Mary says, how can this be?  I am a virgin and have known no man.

This very act or description of what is about to happen has become one of the biggest stumbling blocks for those who do not know Christ Jesus.

Have you been given the opportunity to respond to someone who asks how can this be?

Mary says I am a virgin, how can this be?  The world around us says "See how false all this must be!"  "See the Bible is just a bunch of stories -- science, reality makes us know better." We go through a daily swamp of acts from which children may be conceived, of how children are to be removed if unwanted.  Even of children having children because of their own physical lusts.  Lusts and acts of "love" for the moment have taken over our "society."

After all, we are a people of science and we know the facts of life.  This story of Mary can not have a valid basis, cannot be true.  Especially in those times being described so long ago.  Those primitive times when this story was made!  Right?

Or Can it?  I could do four maybe five more weeks just on the "science" of then and now, but understand, comparing science between then and now does not provide a logical end of this "story" as some would have you believe.  Or for that matter for any of the miracles of the Bible!

Science really just opens the door which strengthens a believer's faith.  And that same science can be your key to opening the door for others to come to know Christ as Savior and Lord.

Maybe a story about the reality of God's power and control over the entire blessing we call life here on planet earth might help create a little wisdom connection.  What do you think?  Remember I asked you to think of something really old?

How many of you have heard of the Bristlecone Pine?  The Bristlecone Pine is the oldest yet discovered form of life on the planet.

The oldest known Bristlecone, as of now, is over 4,900 years old -- five millennia.  They stand in forests or by themselves in almost every state from Colorado west.  Not just here in California but every state of the west.  They are probably in all of western Canada and Alaska also.

Older than Moses, Older than Abraham. Two and a half times the passage since Jesus Birth, the Methuselah tree has lived.  God placed these tough pines upon the earth in places that are very difficult.  Places which have changed over the millennia, but places in which even we with all our toys of technology and supreme knowledge would have great difficulty surviving for even a few days yet alone years, decades, centuries or millennia.  Yet they have been around forever.  Over 4,900 years of life.

How does the Bristlecone Pine bridge us to Mary -- a virgin who science thinks it can prove could not have become pregnant without a man?

I don't even need to tell the modern, news headline part of that story, do I?

Science is working; science is cracking the code; science is digging into the structure of the very thing that gives us life, controls life and drives our very core of existence in these times. Science is exposing the structure and beginning to manipulate the very DNA which makes us have blue or brown eyes, etc.

Did Luke the physician know about DNA, about chromosomes, about the internal structure of life?  Was he on a par with a Dr. or Geneticist of today?  Nope.

But Luke had a hand to the past.  One we don't have today.  Luke knew, talked too, worked with, was part of the story we call the annunciation.  A lot closer than we will be until we meet Jesus that is.  And Luke the Doctor wrote down that miracle knowing full well it was more that believable except through Faith even in his own time.  Why would this physician, a learned man do such a thing just for the ridicule?

Now what about that Bristlecone Pine?  4,900 years ago, the Methuselah tree was planted.  Planted by the same God who sent Gabriel to Mary.  Planted by the same God who talked to Moses and Abraham.  Planted that three before any of these things recorded by Luke happened.

The tree was planted with a very special DNA -- A DNA that has no life-ending gene.

Every other life form that we know of has a life span.  It's life span is programmed in to it's DNA.  But the Bristlecone Pine does not have that life ending DNA clip.  In other words, any or all Bristlecone Pine trees may live forever if we don't cut it down for fire wood, or to make picture frames, or put them in museums.

The Bristlecone Pinecone seeds, yield 90-95% sprouting seedlings when collected and sprouted in nurseries today.  About twice the yield of other "modern" evergreens.

Science has discovered within existing life that which God created which violates all the rules we know and base our understanding of life upon.

Is it a leap of faith today, knowing all that we know from what is really "the religion of science," to read God's message exactly as written?

To believe the God who created the very order and chaos that we seek so diligently to understand and control such as DNA or structure of the universe or the complexity of the human mind.  To believe that God would, just as Gabriel tells Mary, "come over her through the Holy Spirit?  That the power of the Most High would over shadow her?  That God would as described, create in her this child?" Does it require a huge leap of faith, something beyond reason -- as some claim faith to be -- to hear the words as Gabriel tells Mary that His name is to be called Jesus and that He will be born Holy.  Does it make sense that Gabriel would right then tell her that her barren cousin Elizabeth is going to have a baby also? Gabriel says "For nothing will be impossible with God."  God the creator of that Bristlecone Pine surviving so long in a waste land that destroys all else around it says:  this is how I will begin my new covenant.

Mary hearing this tells Gabriel "Here I am, servant of the Lord, let it be."

What an amazing step in faith.  A step of faith begun with "Do not be afraid,"

Just to let you know if you didn't already, abortion was common and readily available in the time of Jesus just as it is today.  The child to be, not the son of Joseph and so if unwanted by them, could have been destroyed if faith was not the act Mary shows here in Luke and in the other Gospels.

Now remember Elizabeth from last week?  Mary being told by the Angel Gabriel that Elizabeth was also to bear a child, decided she might just go check that out.

Luke 1:30-40, So from the north country of Galilee she, probably by herself without Joseph, headed south toward the town where Elizabeth lived and Zechariah served in the temple at Jerusalem.  About 65 air miles.  Maybe 100-150 or so by land?

Many days.  A lot slower trip than Gabriel had going the other direction.

Luke 1:41-45,  As Mary enters the house of Zechariah and greets Elizabeth, another part of the prophetic words of Gabriel to Zechariah is fulfilled.  As Mary arrives and says hello, in Elizabeth's womb, John leaps, and Elizabeth is also filled with the Holy Spirit.  From Luke 1:15, Where Zechariah is told that John will be filled with The Holy Spirit.

Both Mary and Elizabeth right then and there, know that what is about to happen is of God and Mary delivers her song of Praise:

Luke 1:46-56  "Which we read as our responsive reading."  The promise of the New covenant which is about to begin to cover the entire earth as the gift of God through Jesus Christ His only Son is on it's way.  The Adventure is on it's way.

Have you ever wondered why there are so many who cannot believe in God's whole word?  In the message of Salvation through Christ?  Is it the fear?  The missing personal proof?  The lack of their own special message before their awakening?  The lack of a few small words like, "Do not be afraid, my child."

Is that which keeps them from accepting the simple truths:  God does what He says.  God is able to do all that He wishes.  God can bring the Salvation we all seek so longingly, and bring it close to our hearts through His own son, Jesus Christ.

As a side note:

In Isaiah 40:1-5 we hear how God's people will see the coming of Jesus.  Verses 1 and 2 tells of the punishment the Lord has allowed, even dealt for the unfaithfulness of the Hebrew people. How about us?  Verses 3 and 4 announces the preparation, making the "way of the Lord" as Zechariah prophesies in Luke 1:76-79 about his own son John to become The Baptist.  Are we so unbelieving that we question the messenger who prepares the soil?  Verse 4 also places all things of this world into plain flat nothingness by comparison.  Are we so tied up in things and must do's that we make mountains and valleys which must be  laid low before we can hear?  Verse 5 tells us of the coming of the Lord without question so that ALL can see.  So that all can see unless they choose to blind themselves to God's message of Salvation.  Do we blind ourselves or others so that none can see the light?

Take the time this season to read all of Isaiah 40 with Luke 1.  Look closely.  Then look at all that is being revealed by "science" around you today.

Do a simple exercise in your daily walk, daily reading, your daily prayer time.  Ask which is plainer, which is truer, which remains unchanged each year?  Which remains more complete?  Which requires less removal of the old wisdom and re-grasping of today's new wisdom?  Which is built each year, stronger and stronger as science discovers newness telling about the world God created?

Does the Biblical Word of God become weaker or more real as science, which is ever changing, finds more and more information about all that is around us.  Or, is it the other way around?

God clears away the brush and the thorns, prepares the soil, plants the seeds, brings the rain and showers to the world.  Then through His Son, the harvest comes in His time.  Just as He brought life in a son of the barren Elizabeth who would prepare the way for Jesus the Christ.  he brought life to Mary so that our own ground could be prepared, planted and harvested as Jesus died on the cross to carry our brush and the thorns of our own field away.  Jesus who caries our sins so that we don't need to.

What a beautiful message:  "Do not be afraid."  God making something out of so little so that He could do so much. Amazing.  Amazing, the grace of God moving from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Jerusalem to the Cross of Calvary with a few stops along the way, calling others to prepare the fields so that Jesus can be my Savior.

"Do not be afraid," of His Amazing Grace.

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