Summary: God wants to be your sanctuary this Christmas...
Pictures of God This Christmas Part 2
There are news accounts of illegal immigrants trying to use churches and/or cities as “sanctuaries.” They stay in these cities or churches in order to avoid deportation to their native country, or worse, jail. While it is a very hot topic in politics, there are places in the Old Testament where cities of refuge were available. Sanctuaries are sacred places of protection. Sanctuaries are holy places where God is honored.
When someone thinks of a sanctuary, it can generally have two meanings:
1. Protection from an enemy because one feels safe.
2. Place where one devotes their life to someone.
You are to regard only the LORD of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe. He will be a sanctuary; but for the two houses of Israel, He will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
(Isaiah 8:13-14 HCSB)
This is the main point in this passage for the people of Israel. They are at a crossroads. Isaiah was told by God that there would be a son born, and that the Assyrian army would invade Israel. But God promised protection to His people.
Either God will be a place of protection for those who place their trust in Him.
God will be a stone over which people would stumble, falling into destruction.
So the picture we get here is a God who can protect you or destroy you. Either He is a refuge of protection, a sanctuary, or He is a stone over which you could hurt yourself. So there are two distinct images or pictures of Jesus in this passage. To those who trust Him, He will be a sanctuary. To those who do not trust Him, He is a stone over which you will fall and destroy yourself.
SLIDES 5 and 6
PLACE TWO SLIDES ABOUT SANCTUARIES AND STONES.
We know that the Lord of Hosts is Jesus, because this verse is quoted by Peter and Paul.
That is why Scripture says, "I am laying a chosen and precious cornerstone in Zion, and the person who believes in him will never be ashamed." This honor belongs to those who believe. But to those who don't believe: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, a stone that people trip over, a large rock that people find offensive." The people tripped over the word because they refused to believe it. Therefore, this is how they ended up.
(1 Peter 2:6-8 GW)
As Scripture says, "I am placing a rock in Zion that people trip over, a large rock that people find offensive. Whoever believes in him will not be ashamed."
(Romans 9:33 GW)
So both Peter and Paul, quoting part of Isaiah 8:14, say that Jesus is the person that people will either find offensive, stumble and fall to their destruction, or He will be a person in Whom they will put their trust.
Simeon the prophet says essentially the same thing to the parents of Jesus, just after His birth.
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, "This child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to many others. Thus, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed...
(Luke 2:34-35 NLT)
So, Christmas can be a time in which we find sanctuary, or a time in which we will be stumbling all over ourselves trying to get through it all.
It is all about ATTITUDE:
The imagery in verse fourteen is a man fleeing the coming judgment. If the man is a believer and fleeing in time of trouble the altar will be a sanctuary, the place where he meets God in salvation and security. However, if he is an unbeliever who has no time for God, then the altar is only a heap of stones to strike and stumble over. Look how Isaiah reinforced the thought of salvation and judgment in verses 13-15.
It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your dread.
However, for those who refuse to trust in Yahweh He will be a stone of stumbling that will crush them in judgment. Verse fifteen says God will set for the people not only a rock to crush them but a spring loaded bird trap to snare them. Because of the stone many will stumble, fall and be crushed. They will be completely destroyed.
The purpose of the "stone, a tried stone, a precious corner–stone" is a foundation that gives stability and security to the believer. How can the chief corner stone become the stumbling stone and rock of offense? "They stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they are also appointed," writes Peter (1 Peter 2:8).