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Summary: Listen to the Lord and you can understand four of the most significant mysteries of God.

Understanding the Mysteries of God

Matthew 17:9-23

Sermon by Rick Crandall

McClendon Baptist Church - July 5, 2009

*When I was a senior in high school, I took a trip with some friends over to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We were headed east on the interstate, going up a long hill, when suddenly the cars started acting very strange on the other side. People were weaving, waving, yelling, flashing their lights and blowing their horns. We wondered what in the world was wrong with those people.

*Then we topped the hill and saw this man who was driving down the wrong side of the interstate. Thank the Lord, we happened to be in the right lane or we would have been killed for sure. That man had no idea he was on the wrong side of the road, so he was putting himself and other people in great danger.

*There are some things in life we simply must understand. And the most important things of all can only be explained by God. The most important things you will ever have to understand can only be explained by Jesus Christ. Listen to the Lord tonight, and you can understand four of the most significant mysteries of God.

1. First: Listen to the Lord and learn the mystery of God’s spokesman.

*Jesus explains this mystery to us in vs. 9-13:

9. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.’’

10. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’’

11. Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Elijah truly is coming first and will restore all things.

12. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.’’

13. Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.

*John the Baptist was a mystery to the disciples at first, because they had been confused by some misguided teaching from the scribes.

*We have to understand the background. God spoke through His Old Testament prophets until about 400 years before Jesus was born. Malachi’s short book was the last, and the Lord ended it with these words: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6)

*Now, over 400 years have gone by with no word from the Lord, and the people were waiting, looking not only for the Messiah, but for His prophet who would come to restore all things. So John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah to restore all things. In God’s mind this meant ushering in a new revelation of the Messiah. It also meant a new call to repentance and righteousness.

*But over that 400 year wait, the scribes had misunderstood God’s intent. William Barclay explains:

-The Jews were agreed that, before the Messiah came, Elijah would return to be his herald and his forerunner. Bit by bit this idea of the coming of Elijah gathered detail, until the Jews came to believe that not only would Elijah come, but he would restore all things before the Messiah came. That he would, we might put it, make the world fit for the Messiah to enter into. The idea was that Elijah would be a great and terrible reformer, who would walk throughout the world destroying all evil and setting things to rights. The result was that both the forerunner and the Messiah were thought of in terms of power. The Scribes said that Elijah will come like a blast of cleansing and avenging fire. (1)

*It’s easy to see how they could misunderstand this. In 2 Kings 1, the wicked king fell from an upper room and was seriously injured. Then the king sent messengers to the false god Baal-zebub to see if he would recover. But the Lord sent Elijah to meet the messengers on the way and say: “Why are you going to Baal-zebub to ask whether the king will get well? Is there no God in Israel? Now, therefore, this is what the Lord says: You will never leave the bed on which you are lying, but you will surely die.”

*When the king heard the bad news, he sent 50 men to arrest Elijah. They found him sitting on top of a hill. The captain said to him, "Man of God, the king has commanded you to come along with us." But Elijah replied to the captain, "If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and destroy you and your 50 men!" And it did. Then it happened again. And it would have happened a third time, but that captain fell on his knees and pleaded for their lives.

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