Daniel 049 – One Plus God is a Majority

Daniel 049 – One Plus God is a Majority
Daniel 11:31-32 • Dr. Andy Woods • January 14, 2018 • Daniel


Andy Woods

One Plus God is a Majority

1-14-18      Daniel 11:31-32         Lesson 49

As we open our Bibles this morning to the Book of Daniel, chapter 11 and verse 31, taking a look this morning, as time permits, verse 31-35 of Daniel 11.  You might, in your ministry, in your vocation, where God has you, you might feel outnumbered.  You might be working in an office, you might be saying to yourself I’m the only one in the whole office that believes the way I do about God’s Word. So I hope this morning’s message ministers to you because the title of it is One Plus God is a Majority.  I had a youth pastor years ago that said that.  So we find ourselves talking about that today because the  nation of Israel, according to Daniel’s prophecies in is one of its greatest struggles.  We’re going to be studying that struggle today and studying how Daniel saw this struggle 400 years in advance and how God, to help Israel in her darkest time did not work through a majority of the population; rather He worked through a faithful remnant.

God is not so much concerned about our ability as He’s concerned about our availability.  A lot of people view themselves as being unqualified to be used by God but the reality of the situation is God does not call the qualified, rather He qualifies the called.   And all you need is a relationship with God and it doesn’t matter who’s against you and who’s on your side you’re automatically on the winning team.

This issue that we’re looking at here in prophecy comes up in Daniel’s final vision.  You say well this final vision has been going on for a while and by “final vision” I mean chapters 10-12 and we will finish the Book of Daniel at some point, hopefully before the rapture itself happens.  But of course, as you know, the setting of this book is 536 B.C. not the setting of the book, the setting of this vision.  And that’s an important date just to memorize because the things that Daniel sees in this chapter happened 400 years after he died.  A messenger arrives from heaven to give Daniel the insight he had been looking for in terms of a vision; the messenger does some explaining what the vision is about, why it took the messenger so long to get to Daniel.   And it’s not until you get to Daniel 11:2 through the end of chapter 12 that you actually get the content of the vision.

Daniel, as  you remember, had some prophecies early on in the vision about Persia, we studied those.  And then prophecies related to Greece, we studied those, how there would arise a man that would come to power after Daniel left the scene, named Alexander the Great, who would die at an early age and his empire would be parceled out amongst his four generals.  Those four generals at that point then start dynasties and the two most important dynasties would be the Ptolemy’s in the south, or Egypt, and the Seleucids of Syria in the north.

And Daniel basically traces, as you move down to verses 5-20, warfare between those two dynasties in great detail.  And it’s a war that goes on about 150 years, and in that warfare the Seleucids of Syria get the upper hand.  And we have worked our way through all of these different players in this warfare; it’s a fascinating study.  It’s no history lesson, it’s history before it happened.  But the Holy Spirit wants us to focus on Syria, the Seleucid dynasty.  And the Holy Spirit wants us to ultimately focus on not just the Seleucid dynasty in general but a Seleucid, a member of that dynasty, a man named Antiochus IV.  His prophecies, or the prophecies about him, as we have studied, become a big deal because they prefigure the prophecies that will begin in verse 36 about the coming anti­christ.  You see, the antichrist, according to Daniel’s prophecies, has already been here in miniature form.

The antichrist has already done his thing in the form of a dress rehearsal that happened a couple of hundred years, a century and a half roughly or so before the time of Christ.  And God was faithful to His people in the midst of that crisis. What does that mean?  It means that God will be faithful to His people in the midst of the future crisis, because God’s character never changes.  You say well what does that mean to us today?  God is going to be faithful to you in the midst of your crisis because that’s God’s nature.  We sang about it, did we not, this morning, Great Is Thy Faithfulness. If it wasn’t for the faithfulness of God, believe me, we’d all be in a lot of trouble.  God is faithful from beginning to end.  It’s a great study in the character of God.

And as we moved into the prophecies related to Antiochus IV, verses 21-35, we saw his: Number 1, illegitimate rise to power.  Number 2, his initial success militarily, verses 22-24.  This guy came on the scene, he seemed to have all the answers; he seemed to be able to fix all of the problems.  And then the prophecies got more specific, we studied those last time, verses 25-28, his military activities concerning who?  The ancient enemies in the south, the Ptolemy’s of Egypt and sadly the land of Israel.  Antiochus IV vented his rage, as we saw last week, on the wrong people, and God kept a record of it; of course, the “wrong people” I’m speaking of here is the nation of Israel, God’s covenant nation.

You do not mess with the nation of Israel.  I cannot think of a single empire in world history where things have gone well for that empire the moment they turned against the nation of Israel because Israel, Zechariah 2:8, is the pupil or the apple of God’s eye.  [Zechariah 2:8, “For thus says the LORD of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.”]

The moment you come against Israel in an unjustified way, it’s almost like taking your finger and sticking it right into God’s eyeball.  And that, in essence, is what Antiochus of the past did and it’s what antichrist of the future will do.   You see, because this man, Antiochus, when he could not get his second victory against the Ptolemies in the south he vented his rage against the Jewish nation.  He committed, as we studied last time, all sorts of horrific acts against them.  And the verse that the entire chapter has been pushing us toward is really right there in verse 31, which is where we pick it up today.

Notice, if you will, verse 31, describing Antiochus IV.  It says, “Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation.”  What did this man, Antiochus, do when he became frustrated over his lack of military success against Egypt?  He took it out on somebody; he took it out on the Jewish people.  He is pursuing, as did the originator of the Grecian Empire, Alexander the Great, he is pursuing a policy of Hellenism.  He wants to create a monolithic culture; he wants everybody to think the same way, worship the same deities, speak the same language.

And today, as I speak, that is the name of the game.  The whole point of the coming world government, world religion of the future is everybody has to be tolerant of everybody else.  You can believe whatever you want in the tapestry of one-world religion, but here’s something you cannot say—you cannot say your way is the only way.  And here is the nation of Israel in the midst of this new world order experiment by Antiochus IV holding to monotheism, their own God, holding to the revelation of God, the Hebrews Scriptures, holding to their own language, holding to their own culture, and the nation of Israel was right in the way of Hellenization.

And so what Antiochus did, verse 31, is he essentially outlawed Judaism; this time period really beginning around 171 B.C.  Remember when Daniel had these prophecies?  536 B.C. a good roughly 400 years in advance; 400 years is a long time, the United States of America has only been here a little over 200 years.  Think of the United States of America times two and that’s how far in advance Daniel saw these things happening.  Antiochus IV outlawed Judaism; this represents some of the darkest days in the history of the nation of Israel.  How was it fulfilled?  You can read all about it in not the canonical book but the historical book of 1 Maccabees, chapter 1, verses 37-64.  That’s a big chunk, isn’t it, and it’s not even in our Bible.

So I’m going to just rely on somebody to kind of summarize what happened.  These are the words of Charles Pfeiffer in his very famous book, Between The Testaments, recording what happened in this warfare.  He writes this:  “A systematic attempt was made to Hellenize the country by force.  An edict demanded diffusion of all nationalities of the Seleucid Empire into one people.  Greek deities were to be worshipped by all.  An elderly Athenian philosopher was sent to Jerusalem to supervise the enforcement of the order.  He identified the God of Israel with the god of Jupiter and ordered a bearded image of the pagan deity, perhaps in the likeness of Antiochus, to be set up in the Jewish temple and altar.  Greek soldiers and their paramours performed licentious heathen rites in the very temple courts.  Swine were sacrificed on the altar; the drunken ogre associated with the worship of Bacchus was made compulsory.”  I mean, this sounds like the public schools in a way today, doesn’t it?

“Conversely the Jews were forbidden under the penalty of death to practice circumcision; sabbath observances, or the observances of the feasts of the Jewish year.  Copies of the Hebrew Scriptures were ordered destroyed.  These laws promulgating Hellenism and prescribing Judaism were enforced with the utmost cruelty.”  That’s how Daniel’s prophecies began to be fulfilled that we’re reading about here in verse 31.

You’ll notice right there in the midst of verse 31 it says, “do away with the regular sacrifice.”  The nation of Israel had returned from the Babylonian captivity, as you know.  They had, as recorded in the book of Ezra, rebuilt their temple, started the animal sacrificial system all over again that existed in the very temple that Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed.  And the animal sacrificial system was alive, it was well, it was functioning, and then came Antiochus IV who sought to illegalize the whole thing and to shut the whole thing down.

It’s interesting to me that Daniel talks about this prophetically, not just in chapter 11 but also in chapter 8.  Daniel 8:9-14, we were in that chapter what, three years ago, something like that, those of you that have good memories might remember that, this whole thing is being rehearsed for us now in greater detail.  It’s almost like God wants us to  understand this.  I mean, if God says something once that’s enough!  Amen.  But God, two times in a fairly short book, believe it or not, calls our attention to this two times.  And of course this becomes a very big deal because it’s a prefigurement of the future antichrist and what he will do.  We have already studied the final seven years of human history, haven’t we, before the return of Messiah.  It says, “He” Daniel 9:27, yet future of the antichrist, “he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering;”

The future antichrist will illegalize, outlaw the animal sacrificial system, just as Antiochus did, which means what?  Well it means should prior the rapture of the church we see the temple come back, and they’re already talking about that today in the land of Israel, by the way, and the animal sacrificial system be reinstituted, what does that mean?  I would say you’ve got to get your bags packed, we’re going home really fast.  I don’t know if these things will be fully in operation prior to the rapture of the church; I only know this, from the prophetic Word of God, that they have to be functioning midway through the tribulation period for the antichrist to replicate what Antiochus did.

And you see, this is what is the shock to the system that wakes Israel up finally to her need for Jesus.  There has to be a replication of what one her ancient villains did.  When the nation of Israel sees the antichrist, who they think is their Messiah, replicating what one of the villains of Jewish history already did, that’s the shock to the system that God uses to wake up Israel because God knocks us down so that we look up.

I would say this: in miniature form that’s God’s plan for all of us.  We are so inflated with pride and self-sufficiency that we have to literally be brought to the end of ourselves to see our need for God.  And yet being brought to the end of yourself oftentimes requires pain and frustration and setbacks and failures, and yet that’s all part of the process that God uses to awaken us to our need to trust Him for salvation.

And you say well, pastor, I’ve been a Christian for a long time and I’m still running into failures and frustrations and difficulties.  Well guess what?  That’s part of the plan too because now God has to teach us that we’re not only saved by grace but we what? Live by grace.  I go into my Christian life trying to do great things for God through human power and God says it’s not going to work that way, I know it but you don’t know it so I have to send you through some reeducation, I have to bring you to the end of yourself where you see your need completely upon Me.  And that’s not something that happens through book learning; I wish it was that easy.  This is something that happens through life experience and yet it all the design of God because once we see our need for God, because of our attempts to do things for God have failed we depend upon Him.  And now God says I’m ready to work.

That’s what’s coming for Israel.  This is the shock that is coming to their system.  It’s interesting that when I read the account by Charles Pfeiffer and Antiochus set up a pagan image in the temple, some would say that pagan image was Zeus, some would say it’s Jupiter, but it is interesting to me that what has been will be again.  In the rebuilt Jewish temple of the future that the antichrist will desecrate he will set up an actual image.  Revelation 13:15 describes that image.  It says, “And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”  The noun “image” there is singular; he’s not going to set up images, he’s going to set up an image.  Apparently this image will have some kind of miraculous power to speak.  Gosh, I can go to Disneyland and see that kind of stuff.  We’re already being prepared for these kind of things, aren’t we?

How is it able to speak?  It’s demonic!  The realm of Satan and the realm of the demons have miraculous working, miracle working powers.  They don’t have as much miracle working powers as God but they clearly can perform miracles.  And Paul warns the Corinthians about going into the pagan temple of their day and worshipping idols because Paul says do you not know that those idols are empowered by demons?

1 Corinthians 10:19-21, Paul says, “What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? [20] No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. [21] You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”

Why would you, Paul says to the Corinthians, as a Christian, go back into the…in this case it was the pagan temple, perhaps of Aphrodite, why would you go back into that system when the whole system is energized by the satanic and demonic realm itself.  Well, Paul, because that system makes me feel better, that system gives me power.  That system allows me to demand things and those things come into existence.  And Paul says so what?  You’re talking to the devil himself who’s doing those things for you.  You mean it’s Satan doing those things and not God?  Exactly right, Paul says.  Satan will do whatever he has to do in terms of giving people power needs, meeting their power needs, tantalizing their curiosity, whatever it takes, just get your eyes off Jesus Christ.  And that’s the demonic manifestation Paul is talking about; it’s the demonic manifestation of the last days temple and the speaking image and it’s the sort of thing that Antiochus forced into the land of Israel in his day.

This is a difficult period for the nation of Israel and one of the things I love about the God of the Bible is as things get darker spiritually the light gets brighter.  I mean this is just the kind of climate and environment that God desires whereby His power can now be manifested.  And we start to see His power manifested there in verses 32-35 as we look at the reaction of the remnant to what Antiochus IV was doing.

As we move into verses 32-35 what you have to see here is there are two groups of people.  The majority is sort of throwing in the towel, they’re capitulating, they’re playing what I used to call matador defense, where you just let your man score.  A lot of people in the land of Israel were doing that; they didn’t want to stomach the warfare they didn’t want to stomach the battle and so they just gave in to Hellenism.  But there was a remnant, a smaller group, that said no!  We’re going to stand with God.

The reality of the situation is your mind as a Christian right now as I speak is under assault.  How do I know that?  I know that because Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, [so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.]”  If my mind was not under assault it would not need to be renewed daily, Romans 12:2.  There are so many thoughts, whether it’s through media, even sometimes sadly through theologians and pulpits in churches, television, news, being around the wrong kind of people, that they just bombard you over and over again with one unbiblical idea after another.   And we sort of get tired of it and we just sort of give in sometimes.  We play matador defense, we kind of throw in the towel, we start to say things like well, you know, this idea that God created the world 6,000 years ago, I mean, I just can’t believe that so I’ll just sort of mix the Bible with evolution and we’ll just say God caused evolution.  What is that?  That’s surrender, that’s what just happened.  That’s matador defense.

And I’m tired of all of these people saying that the Bible is insufficient, I know that the doctrines of Freud and Young and Skinner are really enough to counsel people so I’ll just combine pagan philosophers, like Freud, Young and Skinner with the Bible and use that to council people.  What did you just do?  You just compromised.  And after all, all this stuff about chastity until marriage, that’s just too much of a burden because after all, you need to look under the hood before you buy the automobile, I’ll just go ahead and tamper with premarital sex because that’s the way everybody does it today.  Or I’ll just look at a little bit of pornography, what’s the big deal?

What is that?  That’s compromise; it’s matador defense, it’s giving in.  And under pressure we can be the type of people in our fallenness that want to give in.  That’s the pressure that Antiochus IV  used because he knew that if he applied enough pressure there would be those that would relinquish.  So there were those that resisted Hellenism and those that embraced Hellenism and as the world system is crowding in on your life and your mind, which category are you in this morning?   Are you the resister allowing your mind to be renewed, taking every thought captive to our Lord Jesus Christ as 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us.  [2 Corinthians 10:5, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”]

Or have you allowed the birds not just to fly over your head but to build a nest in your hair?  What parts of my mind, what parts of your mind, what parts of our mind have been given over to compromise?  And yet the blessing of God is not upon the compromisers, it’s on the resisters.  God didn’t need a lot of people to work through in this precarious situation.  He just needed a few that were sold out to His cause.

As you look at verse 32 you can see how this man, Antiochus IV, operates.  It says, “By smooth  words” wow, I can think of some Presidents in recent history that had some “smooth words.”  “By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant….”  How did he get so many people within the land of Israel on his side in the blasphemous things he was doing here, in terms of persecution and the temple.  The guy spoke well; he talked well.  He actually operated through flattery.  What is flattery?  It’s telling someone what their itching ears want to hear instead of telling them what they need to hear.  It’s interesting that when you go through the Word of God how frequently we are warned against flattering lips of outsiders.

Proverbs 7:5 says, “That they may keep you from an adulteress, From the foreigner who flatters with her words.”  Proverbs 7:21 says, “With her many persuasions she entices him with her flattering lips she seduces him.”  Proverbs 26:28, “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, And a flattering mouth works ruin.”  Proverbs 29:5, “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.”  Wow!

One of my favorite names that I’ve heard Bible teachers use to identify the coming antichrist is Mr. Big Mouth.  And the reason I like that description is many times in the Bible when you receive a description of the coming antichrist attention is drawn to his mouth, his oratory, the things that he says.  Daniel 7:25 of the coming antichrist, the little horn, it says, “He will speak” that’s with the mouth, “He will speak out against the Most High.”   Daniel 7:8 of the coming antichrist, the little horn, it says, “A mouth uttering great boasts.”  Revelation 13:5, the beast, talking to the same character says, “There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies.”  It’s interesting how frequently the Bible is calling attention to this man’s mouth.

It’s interesting how much of the Bible deals with the subject of speaking.  James 3, I dare you to read that sometime.  It’s a great condemnation of the misuse of the tongue within the church itself, the assembly of God.  The Book of Proverbs, Ephesians 4, talks about we ought not to be people of earthy speech, corrupt speech.  Peter tells us that when we speak we ought to speak the oracles of God.  And it think it was Adrian Rogers that put it this way—what comes up in the bucket was down in the well. The mouth, all it is is a window to the heart.  If fear and anxiety or bitterness or sarcasm are constantly coming out of our mouths then that’s a window of what’s actually happening in the heart.  Sometimes you get into meetings with church leaders and someone will pray, Lord, give us tongue control.  Well, the tongue is not the problem, the heart is the problem.

Conversely, if words of courage, if words of love, if words of love, if words of hope, words of praise, gratitude, frequently come out of my mouth then that’s simply a window of what is happening in the heart, for Jesus said in Matthew 12 that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  [Matthew 12:34, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”]  Antiochus and the coming antichrist are wicked to the core.  That’s why there is an attention drawn to their speech, their perverse yet flattering, wonderful to hear words.

As you move into the second half of verse 32 notice what it says here: “but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”  This, I believe, is talking about the Maccabean Revolt.  Let me read to you a little excerpt if I could, from Steven Ger, a Hebrew Christian who has a ministry called Sojourners Ministries, and I like his description of what exactly  happened in the Maccabean Revolt.

He says this:  “In the Judean village of Modi’in soldiers assembled all the people in the town square.  They built an altar and ordered the old priest, Mattathias, to sacrifice a pig for the people to eat.  Mattathias refused to defile himself or his people.”  In other words, this guy, Mattathias, this priest, is what we would call today a stubborn old man.  And isn’t it interesting how God will use people that we write off as stubborn.  I’m not for stubbornness just to be obnoxious but I am for stubbornness when it comes to the fidelity to the Word of God.  That’s who this man, Matthias, was.  “The soldiers insisted offering great financial incentive.  Finally another man in the village volunteered to collaborate with the Syrian Greek soldiers.  As the man approached the pig Matthias refused, rushed forward and assassinated the collaborator.  The five sons of priest Mattathias drew their weapons, struck down the soldiers, and headed for the hills. Many fellow revolutionaries joined them and so began a lopsided revolt against the mighty Syrian Greek Empire.  Soon after the leadership of the ragtag Jewish army passed to Mattathias’ son, nicknamed the Hammer, or in Hebrew, the Maccabee. Thereafter, the revolutionaries were known as The Maccabees.

After three years of Jewish guerilla warfare, the rebels achieved victory.  On the 25 of Kislev, 164 BC, exactly three years from Antiochus’ abomination of desolation the Maccabees triumphantly entered the defiled and half-demolished Temple.  And they began the process or rededication.

The undying, eternal flame of the Temple, Menorah, the great seven-branched candelabra so central to the worship of Israel, had been extinguished. The Greeks had desecrated nearly all of the sacred oil used for the Temple Menorah. Only a small container remained, containing a one day supply. And yet it would take eight days for the priests to consecrate more oil. Nevertheless, the Maccabees lit the Menorah.  It burned for one day, then a miracle occurred.  The Menorah kept burning for eight full days.

Judah Maccabee declared the event would be commemorated by an annual holiday, Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, understandably the people also called it Haggai ha Urim, The Feast of Lights.  As the holiday became popular a tradition of lighting a miniature Menorah began with Jewish homes during the eight day celebration.  These Menorahs had eight branches, one candle for each evening of the holiday, with an additional ninth candle elevated in the center; the center candle is known as the shamash, Hebrew for servant, which is used to light the other candles as they are added each evening.

You probably didn’t know all this, did you, about Hanukkah, Feast of Lights, this strange peculiar holiday that the Jews commemorate.  We know it kind of roughly associates with our Christmas season, Christmas time. We know they’re over there doing something.  And yet isn’t interesting how the whole background was predicted by Daniel.  It’s all there in those words.  The people who know their Bible display strength and take action.  What I’ve just explained is sort of there on that PowerPoint for you to download from our website and study if you’re interested in that.  You say well, I thought this was a Protestant church, why are you going into all this Jewish stuff for?

Well the last time I checked wasn’t Jesus, our leader, Jewish?  Did you know that in … not the Old Testament, in the New Testament Jesus Himself traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Hanukkah or the Feast of Lights.  It says in John 10:22-24, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem;” that’s what I’m talking about here.  Why is it called “the Feast of Dedication”?  Because they rededicated the temple to the use of God after Seleucid desecration of that temple.  [23, “it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.   [24, “The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”]

This is such a tremendous event that of Israel’s seven feasts, which ae given in Leviticus 23, another feast is added, called Hanukkah, Feast of Lights.  And to that list of seven in the days of Esther another feast has been added, called Purim, celebrating how God showed up when Israel was outnumbered, and rescued Israel from extermination through the diabolical plot of Haman who cast lots to determine when Israel would be eradicated.  And from that miraculous occurrence and divine protection a Jewish feast starts called Purim and then the whole cycle of persecution occurs again in Daniel’s prophecies, in the intertestamental period a bit later in history, and God shows up again and rescues the Jewish people against all odds in what we call Hanukkah.

It is so interesting to me to study that when Israel gets attacked, not only do they survive but they get a holiday out of it.  Pharaoh, did he not, try to drown all the Jewish people?  God rescued them and God said start celebrating what?  Passover.  The days of Esther, as I’ve just explained, came to Purim, Feast of Lots.  The days of Antiochus IV came forth Hanukkah.  You see what we’re studying here in the Bible?  The faithfulness of God.  It’s not a matter that God is trying to be faithful, His character IS faithfulness, that’s who He is.  In other words, if we were to say God, stop being faithful we’d have to say well, stop being holy, stop being pure, stop being loving.

The fact of the matter, as Malachi 3:6, God says, “I change not,” I was faithful in the past, I’ll be faithful in the future and if that’s true then what are you so worried about  your circumstances for?  Do we not understand the faithfulness of God?  Do we not understand that God can’t help Himself but show up in the midst of your crisis and just as real a way as He showed up in Jewish past and Jewish future?  I think this is something to praise God about.  This is why studying these events of history are so important.

Did you catch Steven Garrett’s description of what happened; it was just a ragtag Jewish army that pulled this off.  One plus God is a majority.  God does not need much to work with, praise God for that, amen!  He’s just looking for some people that are available, some people that have not succumbed to Hellenization, some people that have not succumbed to worldliness.  He’s just looking for a handful that want to stand with Him.

You know, God actually has a problem.  Do you  know that?  Here’s God’s problem: God uses an instrument, a human instrument in such a beautiful way that the human instrument gets credit for what God did.  That’s called human idolatry.  And so what does God do?  God says I’m going to counter that human tendency by selecting the least qualified person, the least talented, the least qualified, and I’ll work through them; that way there can’t be any confusion who pulled this off.

I mean, you think of the spread of Christianity over the last 2,000 years, how we’re on a different continent 2,000 years later worshipping Jesus Christ, and you look at how the whole thing started with these twelve guys.  In fact, one of them bailed out so God worked with eleven. What are they talking about amongst themselves?  Who’s going to be the greatest! What a pathetic group of people to pick and yet God, by design, intentionally chose individuals because that way those individuals could never get credit for anything.  It had to be God.  You say well is this a pattern in the Bible?  You bet your bottom dollar it’s a pattern in the Bible.  Take the calling of Moses that God had to put on the backside of the desert for forty years, working a minimum wage job at McDonalds, tending sheep, a totally obscure person, Egypt had probably forgotten about Moses by this time, forty years had passed.

Exodus 3:11, “Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, or that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’”  God, you need someone qualified, you need someone educated, you need someone talented, you certainly need someone that can talk; I can’t even get my words out correctly.  Yet God says to Moses you’re the guy.  How about Gideon, have you studied the Book of Judges lately, with Gideon?  God called Gideon, “He said to him, ‘O LORD, how shall I” (that’s Gideon) “deliver Israel, behold, my family is the least in Manasseh and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”  You’re coming after me to do this?

Or what about David, arguably perhaps the greatest king in Israel.  Yes, he did fail but he demonstrated that he was a man after God’s own heart; he was the man that was given the Davidic Covenant, he is the man that wrote a good portion of the Psalms that we have in the Psalter.  Where would we be with our understanding of God were it not for David?  Do you remember when the man of God, the prophet came to David’s father and said bring out the kids.  So Jesse brought out the kids.  The prophet said well, it’s not any of these guys, are you sure you don’t have some other one around here somewhere.  Well, yeah, there’s this little mangy bratty kid here in the back. Well bring him out?  And sure enough, that was the guy, because God doesn’t assess things the way man does.

Man, 1 Samuel 16:7, looks at the outer.  [1 Samuel 16:7, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”]

Where is God looking?  He’s looking at the heart.

Saul was tall and handsome, probably looked like he came out of fashion magazine, and yet look at what a debacle he was.  It was David that God chose, not Saul.  Or take this ragtag group of disciples, ignorant and unlearned fisherman.  I mean, what seminary did you guys graduate from?  What gives you the right to stand up and talk about the things of God the way you are?  Acts 4:13 says, “Now as they observe the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”  Jesus got the glory, not these guys.

Paul, the apostle, writing to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 says, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; [27] but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, [28] and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,” why is that?  Verse 29, 1 Corinthians 1, “so that no man may boast before God.”

Or you take the church at Philadelphia in the Book of Revelation, the missionary church, the church that had the biggest doorway open to them, I mean, God surely gave them that door because of their talent and abilities, right?  Wrong!  Revelation 3:7-8, it says, ““And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:  [8] ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, [and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.]”  Are you telling me that the greatest doorway was open to the people who were the least talented and had the least strength?  That’s exactly what this is saying.

The reality of the situation is if you find yourself today feeling insecure, feeling unqualified, feeling uncalled, you’re just the person God wants.  Maybe you don’t have as much talent as the church down the street or the person you’re sitting next to or the person you see on TV.  That never matters with God.  What matters with God is His glorification.  Are you in a stand in the way of the glory of God when God does the work, because God, Isaiah 42:8, is not interested in sharing His glory with another.  [Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD, that is My name, I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.”]  So He picks people where you look at it and say well, they couldn’t have done that, it had to be God.  That’s what happened here in the intertestamental period.  The people least likely to have pulled this off… I mean, are you kidding me, driving back the Seleucid Empire, taking control of the temple, rededicating the temple to God’s service, you mean the people that pulled this off were some ragtag group?  That’s exactly what this text is saying; that’s exactly what your Bible is saying.  That’s exactly what the Holy Spirit is saying to you.

Notice verse 32, it’s very interesting, it says, “the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”  It’s not the people that are out of a relationship with God that display strength and take action, it’s the people that know their God.  What does “know” mean?  It means academic knowledge for sure but it’s far deeper than that.  The word “know” in the Bible, when you study it out is relational.  God works through people who are saved but who are walking in moment by moment fellowship with Him and dependence upon Him.  That’s who God uses.

Now being used by God is never the goal.  The ultimate goal is knowing God but when a person, a man or a woman knows God the byproduct of that is eternal fruit.  It’s usability.  Recall Acts 4:13, it says, “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”  That’s the secret, they were with Christ, they knew Christ, they were in a relationship with Christ and so God turned the world upside down with these guys.  And He’s still blessing planet earth today with the Christian movement because of these unqualified people who just hung around with Christ.

New Year’s resolutions—I don’t like New Year’s resolutions because when it comes to February I’ve usually broken them all anyway.  New Year’s resolutions are so self-defeating sometimes.  Amen.  Well, let me give you a New Year’s resolution that will work for you, something you’re going to try new in 2018; what are you going to do?  You’re going to hang around with Jesus.  You’re just going to go where He goes, stay where He stays, value the same that He values.  You’re going to talk to Him, and He’s going to talk to you, primarily He’s going to speak to you through His Word.  You’re just around Him, you’re not really have any great ambitions to turn the world upside down, you’re just going to be with Jesus.  That to me seems like a fairly easy New Year’s resolution to keep, isn’t it.  I mean, there’s no goal here, there’s no timetable, there’s no plan of action, there’s no marketing strategy, you did all that in 2017, look where that got you.

This year’s going to be different.  I’m just going to be with Christ. If that becomes a priority you’re going to have a very different year this  year.  You’re going to find yourself used by God in ways that you really never thought possible.  You look back and say how in the world did that happen.  God says you don’t need to know how it happened, I did it, and I just chose to use you as My instrument.

You know the mistake that people in my profession, occupation, pastoral ministries, make all the time as they rely on their spiritual gifts, they rely on their education, they rely on their degrees and I am not against any of those things.  But what are those things at the end of the day?  You know what they are?  They fish and loaves, that’s all they are.  Remember the little boy came and just gave Jesus his fish and loaves; that’s all he did.  He had no power to multiply it, he had no power to facilitate it, he had no power to meet needs with it, it’s just a little provision that he had and he took it and he gave it to Jesus.  What is a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew?  It’s fish and loaves.  What is a knowledge of the Bible?  It’s fish and loaves.  What is an ability to speak well in public speech?  It’s fish and loaves.  What is a church budget?  It’s fish and loaves.  They have no power in and of themselves to do anything.  What is a personality?  Fish and loaves.  What is human intelligence?  Fish and loaves.  That’s all it is.

And we think that somehow we can pull this off through these petty things that are in our hands and the only thing the Lord is saying is just give those things to Me.  What are some fish and loaves in your hand that you haven’t relinquished because they’re yours.  Let me let you in on a little secret; you wouldn’t even have the next breath if it wasn’t for God.  Those things are not yours; those things aren’t going to have any power, those things aren’t going to help you.

You say well what can I do?  You just give them up, Lord, they’re not much but You take them and You do what You want with them and look at what God did!  Look at how He fed 5,000 people plus women and children with this little tiny provision someone very unqualified, a little boy, gave to Jesus Christ.  Wow!

You want 2018 to be different?  Here’s what you do;  you hang around Jesus and  you just give Him what you have.  You don’t horde it, you don’t be selfish with it, you don’t call is yours, your just give it to Him.  Give Him what you have, hang around Him, what else do we do?  That’s it, He does everything else.  And you’re just going to be shocked at what God will do and how He will use you.  Knowing precedes doing.  That’s why with those sisters, one was busy, busy for God, doing all this stuff, juggling, keeping the balls in the air, meeting the deadline, meeting the schedule.  What was the other sister doing?  Just sitting at His feet listening.  And of course the busy sister says tell the other sister to help me.  Remember what Jesus said?  No, she has… what’s the word?  Chosen, it’s a choice. Whether you’re going to know Christ or not in 2018, whether you’re going to hang around Christ or not in the year 2018, whether you’re going to give to Christ your petty fish and loaves is a choice.  Being too busy for God is a choice.  She has chosen the better way and it will not be taken from her.  This message is so simple.  How do we complicate it?

And beyond that, the plan of salvation is so simple, how do we get so confused on this.  The plan of salvation is trust in what He has done.  The story of the Bible is not man reaching his way up to God; it’s God reaching down to man in the person of Jesus Christ and simply telling us to receive as a free gift what He has done in our stead and in our place.  How complicated is that?  That’s so easy a child can  understand it.  And that’s the design of God because when you receive what someone else has done who gets the credit?  Certainly I don’t, nor do you, because I wasn’t dying on that cross 2,000 years ago; neither were  you.  He gets the credit.  And when you receive salvation He is executing His  purpose in history which is to glorify Himself.  See that?

But man says well let me add a few things, let me give some money, let me walk an aisle, let me raise my hand, let me fill out a card, let me make a commitment to God, let me do something.  What is that?  It’s pride.  We want a little bit of the glory, don’t we, in the end.   You know, people that say well salvation can’t be that simple, what they’re really saying is I want a little bit of the limelight.  And yet God has designed things so He receives the glory, including salvation.

You aren’t going to get to heaven any other way other than simply trusting in what Jesus has done.  As I am speaking it’s something you can do right now in the quietness of your own heart, no human fanfare, no self-adulation, just a simple child-like faith, a look in confidence at the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.  You can do that right now as I’m speaking.  If it’s something that you need some prayer and some greater understanding of I’m available after the service although I’ll disappoint you because I don’t have anything else to add.  It’s a simple message where you enter the grace of God by faith alone.  And then as you come into your relationship with God  you just start hanging around Jesus and you give Him what you have and now the grace of God that saves is the grace of God that will use you.  Wow!  What a deal.  Shall we pray.

Father, we’re grateful for the simplicity of Your Word and Your truth.  The fact is You want to use us more than we want to be used but sometimes our worst enemy is ourselves.  So help us, Father, this week to walk with You in grace and be qualified for fruit bearing.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen.