God’s Reasonable Expectation
Text: Luke 2: 21-38
Proposition: Our reasonable response to what God has done and is about to do is to serve Him simply, passionately and perseveringly.
Introduction: ‘Reasonable Expectation’, it’s a term used in law documents and insurance clauses. It refers to actions that were done in good faith that had an expectation of response. We all use it in more practical ways like when you put coins in a parking meter and have a reasonable expectation that you are free from penalty while there is time remaining. From the way we are paid for work done to how we stand in line at the supermarket reasonable expectation is evident. So if we have reasonable expectations of one another does God also have reasonable expectation? Consider what Romans 12:1 says, “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.” In other words it’s only reasonable that our response to God would be a whole hearted, all of who we are, presented as holy and acceptable in all we do. I’d like to look at the lives of four people this morning, just tiny glimpses into what they considered what reasonable responses might look like. Turn with me to Luke 2: 21-38.
I. For Joseph and Mary, A Reasonable Response Was Simple.
How can something as profound as the will of God for our lives be simple? It’s simple because it is plainly spoken to us, it is a reasonable response and it is something we are able to do. When your mother told you to be home by 9, did you wonder what she meant by that, did you grasp her logic for why she said this, was it within your will to comply…then it was simple!
It’s about a week after the birth of Jesus, eight days to be precise. For seven days, after giving birth, Mary was considered to be unclean. On the evening of the eighth day she and Joseph would have officially named Jesus and then would have circumcised him. This cutting of His flesh marked Jesus as being under the covenant or agreement that God had made with all Israel. It both identified Him with Israel and it marked Him as being under the Law of Moses, which demanded that there be sacrifice for sin. They then waited another 33 days for the time of her purification to be complete before they took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the first time. So when Jesus was just 40 days old they went to the temple to offer sacrifice. The first born male child is presented in thanksgiving in the Temple as a reminder of what God did in delivering the people of Israel from Egypt by the death of the first born of that land. That’s what Joseph and Mary did, it was not considered to be extraordinary, just a reasonable service of worship. Two doves were given as a sin offering. They were responding to what the Word of God prescribed, they were being obedient to the revealed will of God. They heard what it said, they understood the reasonable expectation behind it and it was within their will to do…it was simple. As we ready ourselves each day for what lay ahead our reasonable response to God is also simple. How you will give, how you will commit, how you will pray, how you will love…is simple. It is just your reasonable response.
II. For Simeon, A Reasonable Response Was to Search.
Though he is described as being righteous and devout, these words descr9be not just his character but also how he searched for God. In other words he did not set out to act devoutly or righteously, he set out to know God with all his heart, mind and soul and to search for what had been promised in His word. Specifically, he searched for the consolation or comforting of Israel. He searched with a passion for the Messiah. Is there anything in your life that you are searching for with such passion? Is it possible that God would desire that level of passion from us as part of our reasonable response to God? It’s been said that where the desire of your heart is there is your treasure. Be careful that the desire of your heart does not turn out to be ‘nothing’, for God may give you the desire of your heart.
It says Simeon, was in the Spirit, that means he was filled with a passion to see what God sees … and he sees Jesus. He sees what he has been searching for, God’s salvation, prepared in the presence of all peoples. Many do not believe in sin, many do not believe in hell, many do not even believe in the person of God but that does not alter the reality at all. If you are standing on the road you may not believe in the capacity of a ten ton truck traveling at 100K to utterly un do you but your belief doesn’t affect the outcome. The salvation of God has been prepared in the presence of all peoples so that you would know there is sin in humanity, there is a hell for those who remain in the sentence of sin, there is a God, who although He is loving is also holy and absolutely sinless. This is the light of revelation to the Gentiles because they weren’t raised with such an awareness as the Jews had been in their generations. This salvation in Jesus Christ is the glory of Israel, it is what Israel was designed for in the first place. They were designed to glorify God and now Jesus Christ is the pinnacle and fulfillment of all that Israel was created for. In Simeon’s closing words to Mary he sets her upon a search. This child, he tells Mary, will cause many in Israel to stumble, they will oppose Him. The sword that will pierce her own soul will be His rejection and death. In Romans 11 Paul says, “You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefor consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” It is this belief that God indeed searches for, it is what Simeon’s last comment refers to, “to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Is there a search, a passionate search, going on within your own soul, a search that fires belief and ever seeks like armor to guard you from unbelief out of which sin will arise? It too is your reasonable response to God.
III. For Anna, A Reasonable Response Was to Stand Firm.
Likely Anna was about 17 when she married, her husband died 7 years later and for the next 60 years or so she remained single and served God in the richness of being single. Night and day she served, with fastings and prayer she served. It was to her only a reasonable response, it was not extraordinary. She is described as being a ‘prophetess’, a woman whom God used to proclaim His word and revealed will. Sir Edwyn Clement Hoskyns has this quote attributed to him, “The Truth which is being spoken to you most clearly in the Scriptures is your only protection against cynicism and skepticism, just as it is your only protection against that false romanticism which is the modern cruel substitute for faith in God.” How will you stand firm against these same corrosive forces in your life? Whenever you are assailed by cynicism or skepticism that seeks to replace your faith, how will you stand firm? You see, Anna, like Simeon, was also searching for the redemption of Israel, she longed to see His salvation come. She fasted to that end, she prayed and served to that end. She didn’t quit, she didn’t take a break, she didn’t pull back, she stood firm. It was to her a reasonable response to God. In God’s timing, Anna perfectly intersected with Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Jesus. She beheld Christ, she saw Jesus and all that she had persevered for was fulfilled.
As you and I stand firm in belief and action and motivation and thought, our eyes too are fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. If you will stand firm you will be filled with thanksgiving and you will overflow in your desire to speak of Him.
In this year to come may we too respond in simplicity, with a passion to search that we also would persevere and stand firm…it is only our reasonable service of worship, our response to the reasonable expectations of God in all of what He has done and is about to do in Christ Jesus.