Back when I was a young preacher at my first church in Oklahoma City, I got a little book in the mail one day, from Edgar Whisenant: “88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988.” Whisenant was a NASA engineer, and Bible student, and many people took him seriously. His book sold over 4.5 million copies! Of course, when the rapture didn’t happen in 1988, he wrote another book in 1989 …” (you can make this stuff up!)
More recently it has been the “blood moons” that sold thousands of books, and prophesied some “earth-changing event” to take place after Fall, 2015 — but again, nothing happened. Which is a good reminder to us as God’s people, not to get caught up in these “fads.”
However, there were legitimate prophets, through whom God spoke, and to whom we do well to still pay close attention to, today. These are the Old Testament prophets who prophesied about the coming of Christ. We see them referred to in our passage this morning, I Peter 1:10-12:
“As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.”
We just looked last week at I Peter 1:8-9, how God gives us salvation by faith, and what saving faith really is. Now Peter continues that thought, saying, “As to this salvation …” and he begins to speak of the prophets who predicted the salvation that was to come to us through Jesus. These verses encourage us to do several things as we read about those prophets:
I. Listen To The Witness of the Prophets
Peter begins these verses by speaking of: “the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you …”
This fact is one of the most unique and vital regarding Christianity: that the salvation we talked about last week, that comes to us by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, did not just appear “out of nowhere.” It was prophesied, hundreds and sometimes even thousands of years in advance, in the scriptures of the Old Testament. “Prophets (did) prophesy of the grace that would come.” It says “(God) predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”
This is a unique and powerful fact regarding Christianity: that what happened through Jesus was prophesied way in advance. He didn’t just “appear” and decide that He was the Messiah. No, there were hundreds prophecies which were given regarding who He would be, and what He would do when He came.
Let me give you an example:
— Micah 5:2 says: “And you, Bethlehem … from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.” This tells us that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, a small town in Judea. The thing about it is, Micah was a prophet who lived in Moresheth, Israel, 700 years B.C! So 700 years before Mary & Joseph went to Bethlehem; 700 years before Jesus was laid in a manger; 700 before the angels sang and celebrated His birth, Micah had already predicted that the Messiah would be born in the “little town of Bethlehem”!
In fact, this prophecy was so well-known, that in Matthew 2, when the magi came to King Herod and asked him “where is He who has been born King of the Jews,” and Herod asked the priests and scribes where He was to be born, they were able to tell him immediately: “In Bethlehem of Judah, for this is what has been written by the prophet” — and they quoted this very verse, Micah 5:2!
This is powerful stuff! Just because some of us have heard it all of our lives, should not lessen its impact on us. 700 years beforehand, God spoke to Micah of Moresheth, who predicted exactly where the Messiah was going to be born. Everyone knew this prophecy — and Bethlehem is precisely where Jesus was indeed born 700 years later! This prophecy is a powerful witness to the authenticity of Jesus as the Messiah.
But it is not the ONLY witness. Bible students have identified over 300 prophecies from the Old Testament that were fulfilled in Jesus:
— Isaiah 7:14 predicted that Jesus wold be born of a virgin, and Matthew 1 tells us that miraculously, He was!
— Zechariah 9:9 predicted that the king would come mounted on a donkey, and Matthew 21:8-11 describes that Jesus entered Jerusalem this very way.
— Psalm 22:1 says He would call out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” — the very words of Jesus on the cross.
— Psalm 16 says God would not abandon His body to Sheol but raise Him up to eternal life — and that is exactly what He did.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We could literally spend the whole service this morning just reading prophecies from the Old Testament and how they were fulfilled by Jesus. There are hundreds of these prophecies, powerfully witnessing to whoever has an open mind, and who has ears to hear, that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.
Isaiah 53 is perhaps one of THE strongest prophecies regarding Jesus. Many of you are familiar with that great chapter, which describes how Jesus would bear our sins in His body:
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried …
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging, we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
Isaiah, like Micah, was written about 700 years before Jesus was ever born — and yet it portrays so dramatically how He would bear our sins to make us right with God.
One man was so taken with this amazing picture of Jesus in Isaiah 53, so he decided to try something: he typed out Isaiah 53 on a piece of paper, but he left off where it was from (it didn’t say “Isaiah 53” at the top of the page.) He took it to his office, and passed it around. He asked each person to read it, and tell him who they thought this was describing. Every single person who read it, said: “This is about Jesus Christ.” But this chapter was written 700 years before Jesus ever came to earth!
In fact, this man gave this paper to one man in his office who was Jewish. The man looked at it and said: “This is obviously from your New Testament, and it is describing Jesus Christ.” The first man said, No; it is from YOUR Old Testament, written 700 years before Jesus was born — but even YOU clearly recognize that Jesus fulfilled these words!
The Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled are some of the strongest witnesses to the credibility of Christianity, and to who Jesus really is. When you follow Jesus, you are not just putting your faith in “some guy” who up and decided one day that He was the Messiah. You’re putting your trust in someone who fulfilled prophecy after prophecy with His life in an amazing way that could NOT just be a “coincidence.”
People say things like: “If there is a God, then He should speak to us.” Well, God HAS spoken to us; He has spoken to us in His word through these prophets; and as Hebrews 1 says, “He has spoken to us in His Son,” who fulfilled those prophecies that were made hundreds of years beforehand. When you follow Jesus you’re not putting your faith in a “fly by night” religious practitioner. You’re putting your faith in the One who has proven Himself to be the genuine Son of God, in a way that no other religious leader in all of history EVER has! Listen to the witness of the prophets!
II. Imitate The Selflessness of the Prophets
But then notice this. Having talked about “the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,” Peter than describes what these prophets DID when the prophecies had been given through them:
He says they “made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.” See, these men didn’t even know Who they were prophesying about. God’s Spirit just spoke to them, through them, but they didn’t know Who it was about. They were just vessels, through whom God’s message came. But as curious human beings, of course they wanted to know who it was about; when was it going to happen; who wouldn’t? But look at what it says God told them when they looked into it:
It says: “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit.”
God said to them, basically, “This is not for you.” This is for a people who will come long after you, so that they will benefit from these prophecies.
When God gave Daniel his prophecies about the coming Messiah, and the events that were going to happen, in :4 of the last chapter God’s angel told him: “But as for YOU Daniel, conceal these words and seal them up in a book until the end of time …”. In other words, this isn’t going to happen right now; this isn’t going to impact you directly in this age. This is for the future; this is for other people, who have yet to come, to witness and minister to them as they read it.
So the point is, what Daniel, and these other Old Testament prophets, were given, WAS NOT FOR THEM. It was for OTHERS who would come after them. I don’t want us to miss this, because I think this teaches us one of the most important lessons that any of us can learn in the Christian life. Putting it very simply, the lesson is: “IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU”!
We need to hear that, don’t we? Because as people born with a sin nature, we tend to be very selfish, very self-centered, and even as Christians, we tend to see things very “ego-centrically;” we want to think that everything should be about us. We think that the things God is doing, He is doing for US. But we need to learn that just like these prophets, often what God is doing is not for our benefit, but for other people, in other times. And we need to be willing, just like those prophets, for things not to be about us.
Often things that happen in our lives, and in our days, are not for us, but for those who come after us. A number of weeks ago, I shared my testimony of how I got sick in 2012, and I lost my job, and as a family we lost so much. But we knew that God was working, and in that time, we tried to keep the perspective: “What is the reason behind this? God is always up to something, so there is a reason for it. What is He doing?” And I think that whenever we are going through some trial, we should look for God’s purposes. And as I looked, I could see a number of things God was doing: testing our faith, purifying our lives and motives, shaping us for better ministry, giving us more empathy for people in similar circumstances in the future. But I also remember talking with Cheryl, and saying something like, “You know, the biggest thing God does through this may not even be for us; it may be what He’s doing in our son Michael. He’s going through all this; he’s watching; he’s learning.” Michael has some God-given gifts and abilities, and it may be that the ultimate purpose may not be anything that God does in US, but what He does through Michael. And we will see. We don’t know. Michael’s still in school, he’s still seeking God’s direction for his life. But for OUR part, we need to be willing for God to do things that are not all about US. He has a bigger plan, and He has more people than just us. And we need to be willing endure some hardship, and make some sacrifices, and have some things happen, that are not about US, but about others, and God’s bigger, kingdom plan.
And that’s true for all of us. God has times other than just now; God has other people than just you and me; and God has plans that are bigger than ours. And sometimes we need to be willing to trust that God is doing something other than just what is good for US, right now. He’s doing something that fits into a bigger plan than just our personal, immediate good. Just like Daniel and those prophets, what God is doing is going to minister to many more people, who are coming after us.
This can be hard for us to accept, in this “self-centered” generation. Surely it is all about ME?!! Surely it’s all about how I’M doing, and what I get, and how I feel — but it isn’t. And this perspective applies in SO many of our situations:
— This is especially true in marriage and family situations. Many of the problems we have in our marriages and families arise because one individual doesn’t think things are good for THEM right now. And maybe it isn’t. But we have to remember that marriage is not just about you. It is about the other person. It is about your kids. It is about your grandkids and extended family. It’s about your ministry in the church, and your witness in the community and in the world. What happens in “your marriage” isn’t just about YOU. It impacts TONS of other people. It’s not just about you. You need to be willing to put up with some temporary hardship or sacrifice, for the sake of what God wants to do in and for others. It’s not just about you!
— Many of us as God’s people need to understand this in the church, too. The church is not all about you! This certainly applies to our worship, doesn’t it? In this consumer-driven society, we often say things like: “I don’t like the music …” or “I don’t like that hymn”, or whatever. Well, we have to realize, everything in the church isn’t for you. That hymn might not be for you; it might be for that senior adult who hasn’t heard that hymn for years, but it ministers to them in a special way.
Or you didn’t like that new song. But that song wasn’t for you; that was for that young person that it DOES minister to, and it will help keep them in church. See, we have to realize that everything in the church isn’t about us, and often we need to be willing to sacrifice in order to reach and minister to others, not just ourselves.
I remember hearing the testimony of a grandparent, who said they listen to these Disney music DVD’s at their house all day. They said they don’t like the music, but they play it because their grandkids like it — and they want to have their grandkids around. Well a lot of us at church would do well to have that mindset. If we want our kids and grandkids with us in church, maybe we should put up with the music that will encourage them to be there.
And, honestly, it ought to work in reverse, too. We should all tolerate different music styles in the church, that minister to different people, because that’s part of loving each other as a church family. This is why I’ve never really been for having a separate “contemporary service” or “traditional service” in the church. Because this whole idea of separate services ROBS us of the opportunity to love each other, and sacrifice for each other, and to remember that it is not all about US! In fact, it does the opposite, it makes us think it is all about us and that we should get whatever style we want. Listen: us getting whatever we want is not Christianity! Christianity is sacrifice. That’s what Jesus did: Jesus came to sacrifice for us; that is what Christianity is about. And if we are to follow in His footsteps, then we are going to sacrifice for the sake of others. See, when we are all together, and we have some music we like, and some we don’t particularly like, but we tolerate it because we love others in our church family, that in that small way we are imitating what Jesus did for us. And it reminds us that just like those Old Testament prophets “we are not serving ourselves but (others).”
This is true for our new building as well. (By the way, the construction plans are finished, and we will be reviewing them this week. Things are moving forward!) Now someone may say, “But I don’t need the new building.” Maybe you don’t think you’ll even be around that much longer. But again, we have to think like Jesus did; like those prophets did: this is not just for us — this is for the people in our community that we will be able to reach through this strategic location on the highway; this is for the parents of children and youth who want top-notch facilities for their kids. Maybe you don’t need it so much — but as God’s people, we aren’t called to do just what’s good for us, but what is best for OTHERS. So like the old man who planted a oak tree that he will never sit under the shade of, let us invest in a building that we ourselves may not inhabit that long, but we’re planting the seed of something that it is going to minister to others, and not just ourselves.
It’s one of the most important lessons there is; and it applies to SO many different areas of our lives. We need to learn to imitate the selflessness of the prophets.
III. Respond to the Message of the Prophets
Verse 12 says “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but YOU, in these things which now have been announced to YOU through those who preached the gospel to YOU by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven …”
We just saw that everything is not about you, and for you. This is central in understanding our place in God’s ministry. But, Peter says, THIS grace, this salvation that these prophets predicted in Jesus — this IS for you!
God anointed and inspired these men to predict these things about Jesus who was coming, to bear our sins like Isaiah 53 said; and to rise from the dead like Psalm 16 said. And all that was happening, he said, for YOU!
In Acts 2 Peter preached the first Christian message on the Day of Pentecost, and he talked about what Jesus did, in dying on the cross, and rising again, and how it fulfilled all these prophecies, and when Peter had finished and he was giving the “invitation,” he said in :39, “For the promise is for YOU …”! He was saying, listen, all this happened for YOU! You need to make sure that you hear this, and that you have personally received it into your life!
Martin Luther was the great Reformer of the early 1500’s, who brought the concept of salvation by faith back to the forefront. He once wrote:
“Read with great emphasis these words, ‘me,’ ‘for me,’ and accustom yourself to accept and apply to yourself this ‘me’ with certain faith. The words OUR, US, FOR US, ought to be written in golden letters — the man who does not believe them is not a Christian.” (Luther’s Works, 26.179).
Luther is saying: you’ve got to apply these words to YOUR OWN LIFE if you are going to be saved.
See, that was the problem with those Jewish priests and scribes in Matthew 2. When Herod asked them, “Where is the Christ to be born?”, they could tell him: “In Bethlehem.” They “knew” the “right answer.” But there is no record that they themselves ever DID anything about it whatsoever. They didn’t go to Bethlehem; they didn’t worship Jesus; they didn’t bring Him gifts; they never responded personally. They just “knew all about it,” but they didn’t DO anything personally to respond to Jesus.
And don’t you see that is exactly the problem with so many of us in America today? Virtually everyone in our country today knows Who Jesus is. If I were to ask YOU that same question: “Where was the Christ to be born?” YOU could answer it, couldn’t you? You could say “Bethlehem.” You know all the answers. You “know” about Bethlehem; you “know” about Jesus; you “know” John 3:16; you “know” “you must be born again” — but Jesus isn’t going to ask you what you “know.” The demons “know” who Jesus is. No, He’s going to ask you what you DID:
— DID you believe the message?
— DID you repent and turn away from your sins?
— DID you make Him the Lord & Savior of YOUR own life?
Jesus said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you DO them!”
This gospel, Peter said, came for YOU! It’s a package with your name on it. But like any gift, you have to receive it. You have to believe it’s there; you have to open it; and you have to take it.
If you never have, why don’t you personally respond to the message of the prophets, right now?