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Summary: What a great promise… FOR US …even when we sin… even when He has to punish… GOD STILL LOVES US and God will still forgive us.

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Promise and Plan

Matthew 3:1-6

Blackness… cold silent darkness… hopeless and lifeless darkness

That is the only way to describe the condition of Palestine… the Holy Land… as the calendar changed from BC to AD.

It was a “period of silence” … God had turned away… withdrawn His messengers and did not send any revelation for 400 years.

Why? SIN! The people of God had turned a deaf ear on Him and had turned to idolatry and spiritual adultery. God had warned and warned and now God decided to stop warning.

So for 400 years… 13 generations… God’s people had cried out to God for a word, a sign, for Him to shine His face on them. And God had not.

To say it was a time of silence, that God did not speak does not mean it was an insignificant period. Many very important things happened during this time to prepare for the New Testament.

MINI HISTORY LESSON:

One nation under Saul, David and Solomon

After Solomon died, divided kingdom: Israel and Judah

Up and down spiritually, series of good and bad kings

Israel, more sinful, defeated by Assyrians in 733 BC

Judah, eventually judged, defeated by Babylonians in 587 BC

Babylon defeated by Medio-Persians

Persia defeated by Alexander the Great in 332 BC

With Alexander the Great's acquisition of the Holy Land, a new and more insidious threat to Israel emerged.

Alexander was committed to the creation of a world united by Greek language and culture, a policy followed by his successors. This policy, called Hellenization, had a dramatic impact on the Jews.

Tried to take away the Jewishness and make them like cookie-cutter clones

One language, one government, one overarching philosophy, one currency, etc

In 175 BC, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (whose title means "God made manifest") changed that when he instituted a policy of radical Hellenization.

He passed laws that made it illegal to

1 observe the Sabbath day,

2 the act of circumcision and

3 to own or possess the scripture

They were Capital Crimes… for which they could be put to death

And if that were not bad enough, around 167 B.C., he overthrew the rightful line of the priesthood and desecrated the temple, defiling it by offering a pig as a sacrifice and erecting a pagan altar to himself.

This was the religious equivalent of rape… scripture calls it the “desolation of desecration.”

The Jewish distinctives… temple worship, circumcision of the flesh, The Torah, and animal sacrifice were all taken away and Hellenistic (Greek) thinking, philosophy, education, were being forced on the Jews and they were losing their faith.

Through a revolt led by the Macabees and Roman governors courting Jewish favor… Israel got back many of the things it had lost… some political power to rule itself and a new temple in which to worship.

So the 400 year, intertestamental period, ends with the temple rebuilt and animal sacrifice restored but Judaism is watered down, politicized, and Hellenized.

The problems of Malachi’s day are still present… the people are offering polluted sacrifices.

But into that blackness and hopelessness and lost-ness God sends a Promise…

21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Did you hear that? God is with us… He has not forsaken us… he has not given up on us. Despite the 400 years of silence… God is still WITH us. AND God is going to save us from our sin and restore us to right relationship.

What a great promise… FOR US …even when we sin… even when He has to punish… GOD STILL LOVES US and God will still forgive us.

BUT… yes I have to mess up a good thing.

It is not my intention to mess it up… I just have to give you the other side of the coin.

In 3:1-2 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

First God gave us His great promise… God loves you and wants to save you from your sins.

Now God reveals His plan for forgiving us… REPENTANCE

Now, you already know that the word repent means to turn around and go in a different direction.

Essentially: to do a spiritual U-Turn

BUT we know from other scriptures

like: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved

and 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

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