Luke 2:21-24                        A Dedication of Great Value                     12/11/2016   ßà   

 

 

 

 

 

#1       Jesus Had to Be Circumcised (Luke 2:21,11, Gen 17:9-14, John 3:7, Eph 2:9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.      Jesus Had to Be Presented to the Lord (Luke 2:22-24, Lev 12:1-8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3.      Present Your Bodies a Living Sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2)

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Prophecy of Gen 3:15 (2X). We are continuing the story of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written down for us by God the Holy Spirit through the pen of Dr Luke in Luke chapters 1 and 2. The sermon of today is titled, A Dedication of Great Value (2X). However, it is so easy to get lost in the forest of information here in the first two chapters of Luke. And that is why I wanted you to turn first to Gen 3:15, because we may not forget the Big Story.

What is the Big Story that we should not loose out of sight? It is the promise, which God began to lay down in Gen 3:15. This was when God cursed Satan and God promised a deliverer from Satan.

Ge 3:15  And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He (your Bible says “it”, but the Heb word is “He”) shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Paraphrased God said, “I will cause perpetual enmity between thee, Satan, and the woman. There will be a continual war between you, Satan, and the woman”. The tenses indicate that this enmity is an unfinished action that is still going on today. Who does the woman represent? Eve thought that she was the woman God was speaking about. But this cannot be true. Because Eve had a finite lifespan, and when she died, her war against the devil also ceased. Some theologians believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was that woman. But this cannot be true either because Mary had a finite lifespan. The woman cannot represent all mankind, because not all mankind is at war against Satan. If we want to be consistent with the rest of the Bible we have to say that the woman represents the Body of Believers whom God elected out of the sea of mankind. This woman, also called the Bride of Christ, is that group of people who are continually at war against Satan, throughout time, because God has put in their heart the conviction that they are in the army of Christ, and are fighting the army of Satan.

And then God goes on to say in Gen 3:15, “and between thy seed and her seed”. It means enmity between Satan’s seed, which is a large group of people of whom Jesus said, “you are of your father the Devil”, and the Seed of the woman, which now refers to only one Person, “the Lord Jesus Christ”. How does this harmonize with the first part of this verse? When we belong to the Bride of Christ, and we do battle against Satan, we are actually no match for him. Satan is more powerful that all the rest of mankind combined. Therefore Christ is doing our battles in our place. That is why God says in Phil 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure”. On the surface we are doing battle with Satan, when he tempts us, but in reality it is Christ in us who is fighting all our battles. Therefore, it is only by grace that we can be faithful. Christ is our deliverer, promised in Gen 3.

And then God said in Gen 3:15, “He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”. It means that Christ shall bruise the head of Satan, who is represented by the serpent. And bruising the head of a serpent means that the serpent is going to die, which means spiritually that he will be cast into Hell. And Satan will be bruising the heel of Christ. This is the picture of a serpent biting the heel of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. If Satan is only able to bite the heel of Christ it means that he can only hurt Him in His humanity. But the atonement of the Lord Jesus on the cross is altogether spiritual. Christ’s substitution for us was not seen outwardly, but can only be seen by faith. Therefore, it was not Satan who nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross, but this was altogether God’s doing. God arranged all these things. It means that God orchestrated the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Satan was watching his defeat from a distance. Please turn now to Luke 2:21.

And so, when we read about the events in Luke chapters 1 and 2 it is so easy to get lost in the particular details, but we need to keep in mind what God has said in Gen 3:15. That is the Big Picture, and all these details in Luke 1 and 2 must be seen within that framework that God gave us in Gen 3:15. Last time we have seen how the shepherds glorified God by personally getting to know the Lord Jesus lying in The Manger. And this was a picture of how WE need to get to know the Lord Jesus personally by searching for Him on the pages of the Bible. And then we read in Luke 2:20-24,

Lu 2:20  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Lu 2:21 ¶  And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Lu 2:22  And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

Lu 2:23-24  (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)      And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Here we see two ceremonies wherein the Lord Jesus was being dedicated to God. But actually the two ceremonies are pointing to One Dedication of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is A Dedication of Great Value. Let us look now at these two ceremonies, which were two necessary ceremonies.

#1       Jesus Had to Be Circumcised (Luke 2:21,11, Gen 17:9-14, John 3:7, Eph 2:9)

Lu 2:21  And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

His name was called JESUS, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Jeshua, also called Joshua, which means Jehovah is Salvation. That is why JESUS is also called Savior, which we have already seen in Luke 2:11, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord”. But why was Jesus circumcised. Why was this ceremony necessary? Please turn again to the Prophecy of Genesis, this time to Gen 17:9 (2X). Jesus was circumcised because He was a descendant of Abraham. All the descendants of Abraham were circumcised, including the descendants of Ishmael, and of all the sons of Keturah, and of Esau, and all the Arab nations who descend from these children of Abraham through intermarriage, including the Moabites and the Ammonites. What was the reason why all these descendants of Abraham were circumcised? God commanded it to Abraham, and God commanded to keep doing it forever. Let us read this in Gen 17:9,

Ge 17:9-10  And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.               This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

Ge 17:11-12  And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.                    And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.

Ge 17:13  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

Ge 17:14  And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

You can see from verse 14 the extreme penalty for not being circumcised, “that soul shall be cut off from his people”, which means that this person shall not enjoy all the benefits of being a child of God. If all the children of God go to heaven, then this person shall go to Hell, because “he hath broken my covenant”. And so, there was in OT time a tremendous pressure to have all the children circumcised. God said in verse 10, “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep”, and then followed the command to circumcise every male in Abraham’s household. Is this then the covenant? Does this mean that if we are circumcised we have kept our part of the agreement between God and those of mankind whom He calls “His people”? This was what many of the Jews in Jesus’ days concluded. Well, if we take verses out of context, then this is the conclusion we arrive at. It is no wonder then that in the first century AD the churches of Galatia believed the Judaizers who taught them this doctrine. But the in the next verse God contradicts this conclusion. God said in verse 11, “it shall be a TOKEN of the covenant betwixt me and you”. Therefore circumcision was only a SIGN of the covenant between God and His people. Circumcision did not guarantee that they belonged to the children of God. It was only a sign that they belonged to a household where God’s covenant was being taught. Ishmael also received the sign of the covenant, but Ishmael was never saved. Today all kinds of churches have fallen into this trap again. Before the cross circumcision was the sign of the covenant. But circumcision was a bloody sign. Therefore, after the cross God established a new, non-bloody sign of the covenant, which is water baptism. Today all kinds of churches believe that if they have been baptized they have entered into the covenant between God and His people, and they are safe and secure on their way to heaven. The Roman Catholic Church and the United Church of Christ believe this. And there are many other churches which believe that water baptism is a sign and a seal of God’s covenant relationship with them. And so, they congratulate one another when they have submitted to the ceremony of water baptism, or when they have baptized one of their children. They fail to realize that Jesus said in John 3:7, “Ye must be born again”, or a better translation from the Greek is, “Ye must be born from above”. Can anyone of us make himself be born from above? Absolutely not! We cannot do anything to make ourselves be born from above. Only God has that power, and only God will choose whom He shall make “born again”. That is why God emphasizes in Eph 2:9, “Not of works, lest any man should boast”. Our actions, like circumcision, or like water baptism, are things that WE DO, and therefore they can never be a guarantee of our salvation. But let us now look closely at this sign of the covenant.

With whom does God enter into an everlasting covenant relationship? God says in Gen 17:7,

Ge 17:7 ¶  And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

To whom was God speaking? God was speaking to Abraham. Did God promise here that He will have a covenant relationship with all the physical descendants of Abraham? This cannot be true. We read in Heb 3 that the children of Israel coming out of Egypt died in the wilderness because of unbelief. They were on the way to Hell. We read in 2Chron 36 that the children of Israel worshipped idols and “polluted the house of the Lord, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy”. They too were on the way to Hell. We read in the NT that Judas Iscariot was on the way to Hell. We read that many of the priests, and scribes, and Pharisees remained in unbelief. They too were on the way to Hell. But all these people were physical descendants of Abraham. Moreover, all the Arab nations are physical descendants of Abraham. But God does not lie in Gen 17:7. It means we have misunderstood what God said in that verse. We must have misunderstood who the seed of Abraham is, according to God. Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Galatians 3:7 (2X). You find the Epistle to the Galatians right after the long letters of 1st and 2nd Corinthians. God emphasizes here that we are justified by grace, through faith, rather than by obeying the Law of God, “For by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal 2:16). Then we read in Gal 3:7, “know ye, then, that those of faith—these are sons of Abraham”. In other words, believers of Jesus Christ are called the sons of Abraham. This conclusion is enforced in Gal 3:29, where God says, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”. Now we can understand Gen 17:7 where God says that He will establish a covenant with all those on whom God will bestow faith, who are the remnant chosen by grace, and who also are named “the seed of Abraham”.

But we also realize that God laid down the Law of circumcision in Gen 17, and since the Lord Jesus Christ was a descendant of Abraham, He had to be circumcised. Circumcision is the cutting off of flesh from the reproductive organ, which pointed to the cutting off of sins from those who become saved. Spiritually it pointed to the act of God, who circumcises the foreskin of the hearts of those who become saved. But the Lord Jesus Christ was born as a perfectly sinless person. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, but He did not inherit Adam’s original sin. He was made like unto His brethren, except for sin. So, why does He need to be circumcised if He did not have any sin? The first part of the answer comes from man’s perspective, and is found in the next chapter of Galatians. We read in Gal 4:4-5, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons”. Christ was made under the Law, which means that He was subject to all the requirements of the Law. This was one reason why He had to be circumcised. But the second part of the answer comes from God’s perspective. Remember the Big Picture from Gen 3:15. Did God know, when He laid down the Law in Gen 17, that Jesus also would have to be circumcised? Of course God knew that, and it seems that God’s purpose in doing this was to indicate that the Lord Jesus was already bearing the guilt for our sins when He was a baby. The Big Picture of Gen 3:15 was that God would send the Lord Jesus Christ, and that He would deliver His people from their enslavement to Sin and Satan. In order to do this, the Lord Jesus had to pay the penalty for the sins of all His people. And thus, at some point in His earthly life, God the Father would impute the guilt of all the sins of all His people on the account of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When did this occur? Was the guilt of all our sins imputed on Christ just before He went to the cross? There is no indication of this in the narrative gospels. But here, in the circumcision of Christ, there is an indication that He was already bearing the guilt of all our sins, and therefore He had to be circumcised. Ceremonially those sins had to be cut off. And therefore this ceremony was pointing to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Can you see, the Lord Jesus Christ was presenting His own body to this ceremony, a necessary ceremony, to show us the great value of this dedication whereby He was circumcised? And as this circumcision of Christ was pointing to His atoning work on the cross, so His circumcision was also pointing to our circumcision of the heart that would be guaranteed when Christ suffered and died for us on the cross. That is why God wrote in Col 2:11, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by (in) the circumcision of Christ”. And so we see that this dedication of Christ to be circumcised was of great value to Him and to us. In it God was glorified, as it was pointing to the ultimate glory of the cross. Let us now look at the 2nd ceremony written here in Luke 2:22-23 (2X)

#2.      Jesus Had to Be Presented to the Lord (Luke 2:22-24, Lev 12:1-8)

Lu 2:22-24  And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;      (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)                  And to offer a sacrifice

according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

This speaks of a ceremony of purification of Mary 40 days after giving birth, and simultaneously a ceremony of dedication of Jesus when He was 40 days old. Where did these ceremonies come from? Please turn to the Prophecy of Leviticus 12:1 (2X). You find Leviticus right after Gen and Ex. Here in Lev 12 God spoke about the purification of the woman. After giving birth the woman was declared unclean. Yes, God stated here in Luke 2:22 that Mary was ceremonially unclean for 40 days. In that sense Mary was not different from other women. The state of uncleanness has to do with defilement by sin. A person who is unclean is not fit to stand before the throne of Almighty God. This is not a passage in favor with people who believe in Mary as the Immaculate Conception. But we read in Lev 12:1,

Le 12:1  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

Le 12:2  Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.

Le 12:3  And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

Le 12:4  And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.

Le 12:5  But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.

Le 12:6 ¶  And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest:

Le 12:7  Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female.

Le 12:8  And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles (= two turtledoves), or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.

This describes the uncleanness of Mary, who was declared unclean for 40 days. The sacrifice for her cleansing was determined to be one lamb for a burnt offering and one young pigeon for a sin offering. But since Joseph and Mary were very poor they were allowed to substitute another young pigeon for the lamb. So they offered two young pigeons. Now we come to the dedication of the Lord Jesus, which also took place 40 days after His birth. The Lord Jesus Christ was made under the Law and thus He had to submit to the Dedication of the Firstborn, according to the Law given to Moses. Please turn a few pages back to the Prophecy of Exodus 13:2 (2X).

In Ex 13 God speaks about the Law of the Firstborn. God declared this Law right after the children of Israel were delivered out of Egypt. Perhaps you remember that all the firstborn in Egypt died, but the firstborn of Israel were spared this condemnation, because the Passover Lamb was killed in their place. And then God commanded in Ex 13:2, 

Ex 13:2, Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.

Sanctify means “set apart”. Paraphrased God said, “Set apart for Me all the firstborn, both of man and of beast, for they are mine”. This was the command to dedicate the firstborn. And HOW must they dedicate their firstborn? They had to do it in two ways: First, in the following 8 verses God indicated that they had to remember the day of Passover, and their Exodus out of Egypt, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread for 7 days, year after year. This was their first dedication of the firstborn, because this is how the Lord saved the lives of the firstborn of Israel. Secondly, God said in verses 11-15,

Ex 13:11 ¶  And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee,

Ex 13:12  That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD’S.

Ex 13:13-14  And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem. And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage:

Ex 13:15  And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.

To sum it up, all the firstborn from the animals were sacrificed to the Lord, except the firstborn of donkeys and all the firstborn of man were redeemed with the sacrifice of a lamb. This was the second part of the dedication of the firstborn, to commemorate that the Lord killed all the firstborn in Egypt. The Now, Lord Jesus Christ was the firstborn of Mary. And so Jesus had to be redeemed with a lamb. Is it not remarkable that there is no record in the narrative Gospels of such a sacrificial animal? Please turn again to the Gospel according to Luke 2:22 (2X). And what do we see there? We see only the sacrifice for the cleansing of Mary, two turtledoves or two young pigeons, but the lamb sacrifice for the firstborn is conspicuously absent. Where is the lamb? We read in Luke 2:22-24,

Lu 2:22-24  And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;      (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)                  And to offer a sacrifice

according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

We do not know what actually happened historically. But God wrote it in the Bible in this way to let us remember that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Lamb. The purpose of all sacrificial lambs in the ceremonial law was to point to Christ as the Lamb of God. But when Christ came on the scene there could not be another lamb pointing to Christ. He was the Lamb to whom all the sacrificial lambs were pointing. And so, when “they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord”, the baby Jesus was dedicated to the Lord, but in actuality He dedicated Himself. The Lord Jesus presented Himself to the Father as the Passover Lamb to redeem His people out of the house of bondage. The Passover Lamb had to be killed before His people could be delivered out of the house of bondage. That is indeed how the Lord Jesus Christ redeemed us out of the house of Satan. When He died on the cross, the ransom for all His people was in principle paid in full. This was the meaning of the dedication when He was 40 days old. And thus, it was A Dedication of Great Value. It was a necessary dedication, because the Lord Jesus Christ was made under the Law, and thus He had to be subject to all the laws God had laid down in the OT. And thus it became Him to fulfill all righteousness. And so we see that both His circumcision and His dedication were actually one and the same Dedication of Great Value. In it God was glorified, as it was pointing to the ultimate glory of the cross. This is the BIG STORY we must remember when we study the details of His circumcision and His dedication.

We have seen what the Lord Jesus Christ had to sacrifice in order to redeem us from our sins. In order to be our Redeemer He first had to become our Kinsman. He had to be made in our likeness. Thus He had to empty Himself of His glory, and be born in the poorest of families, and submit Himself to an earthly stepfather, and be obedient to all the stipulations of the Law, even the Law that declares, “The wages of sin is death”. And so He became obedient to even the death of the cross. He gave all that He had for us, who really did not deserve such a great honor. But He did it for the glory of God.

Now the question is: What are we doing for the glory of God? We have heard all this, but what is our response? I am saying this as if it depended on us. It does not depend on us. If God has passed us by, then we will remain in the hardness of our hearts, and we will remain spiritually blind and deaf. But if God has opened our spiritual eyes and ears, we will respond with great love and admiration for Christ and we will sit up and listen when God says in Rom 12:1,

#3.      Present Your Bodies a Living Sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans 12:1 (2X). The Apostle has just concluded Romans chapter 11 with the words, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen”. In other words, “of Him are all things” because Christ is the creator of all things from the beginning of time, “through Him are all things” because Christ is the sustainer of all things and all processes and all movements of mankind, and “to Him are all things”, because all things move toward the end goal that Christ has determined all things and all people to go. The Lord Jesus Christ is Almighty God. He is the absolutely sovereign Lord. Knowing this the Apostle pleads with us,

Ro 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Ro 12:2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Verse 1 says, “by the mercies of God”. It is only by God’s mercy that we are made willing to do this that is described here in verse 1 and following. Therefore, knowing that we are constantly under the watchful eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ, how shall we respond to the good news that He has saved us from our slippery slide into Hell? If we really believe the Gospel, and we believe because God has put that faith in our heart, then our actions will reflect what we believe. It will then be our second nature that we present our bodies a living sacrifice unto God. What does this mean? It means that we make our bodies available in order that many others also might know the love of Christ. If we have been saved, then “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost”. What is that “love of God”? It is a love to save unworthy sinners from sliding into Hell. If the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts, then we will have the same desires that Christ had when He came to earth to save us. Does it show? Is there any evidence that we desire to be used by God to save some of His elect? Of course the elect will be saved. But do we desire to be the instruments that God will use to save them? This then is the real test of our gratitude. And without gratitude no one will be saved. But this action, of serving as the ambassadors of Christ, is “acceptable unto God”, or better it is “well pleasing unto God”. Why is it well pleasing to Him? It is because we would be glorifying God in word and deed, and this is well pleasing to God. When we have been saved we have an urgent desire, or better an urgent need to do those things that are pleasing in God’s sight. We stop focusing on the Law, and we stop counting our sins, and instead we have an urgent need to do those things that are pleasing in His sight. The same word appears in verse 2. “What is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”? The word “acceptable” may be better translated “well pleasing”. What is the well pleasing will of God? It is that will and purpose which He ordained from before the foundation of the world. It is His will to save those whom He chose from before the foundation of the world. And it is to us a great privilege to be used by God to accomplish what He had planned to do. Just like it was a privilege for Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross of Jesus, so we should feel honored to serve Him in any way.

AMEN.                  Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.