“The Heart of the King”
December 20, 2015
(Fourth Sunday of Advent)
By John Partridge
Scripture: Micah 5:2-5a Hebrews 10:5-10 Luke 1:39-55
How many of you have ever watched a boxing match and actually listened to the commentators?
There is one comment that is often made when discussing boxers, or football players, or horse races or even music that is in common with all of those things. There is a song that came out in the early 80’s by Huey Lewis and the News that starts like this:
New York, New York, is everything they say
And no place that I’d rather be
Where else can you do a half a million things
All at a quarter to three
When they play their music, ooh that modern music
They like it with a lot of style
But it’s still that same old back beat rhythm
That really really drives ’em wild
They say the heart of rock and roll is still beating
And from what I’ve seen I believe ’em
Now the old boy may be barely breathingBut the heart of rock and roll, heart of rock and roll is still beating.
“The Heart Of Rock & Roll” (Huey Lewis and the News, 1983)
Huey Lewis goes on to say that the music they play in New York, L.A. and other parts of the country can be very different but it’s still rock and roll because it has the same heart. When we are trying to understand something, “heart” is important. A great boxer has “heart,” and football, soccer, baseball and sports figures, even horses, often stand out because they play with “heart.” We often trust people because we understand them and we say that we “know their heart.”
As we read our scripture lessons today, this idea of “heart” is critical to our understanding. We begin, first of all, with the writing of the prophet Micah. Micah lived about 700 – 750 years before the birth of Jesus and about the same time as the prophet Isaiah. And in his writing, Micah speaks about the Messiah that is to come saying… (Micah 5:2-5a)
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
5 And he will be our peace
Micah tells the world that even though Bethlehem is small and often considered to be unimportant, the Messiah and king of Israel will come from among her people. Although Micah warns that Israel’s unbelief and sinful behavior will bring judgement upon them all, and that Israel will be abandoned for a time, when the Messiah comes, he will lead his people from a position of strength. The Messiah will stand in the strength of God and his great strength will, finally, bring peace.
Here again, as we noted a few weeks ago, we see the prophetic idea of the “already and not yet.” The Messiah that Micah sees will come after Israel returns from her abandonment, which clearly was after the return from captivity in Babylon and which we see in the birth of Jesus. But Jesus’ rule and reign as king still lies in the future.
In Luke 1:39-55, we remember more.
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary’s speech has long been known as “Mary’s song” and it is written poetically as if she were singing. In her song we hear her describe God by making a list of his mighty acts. Mary describes God as having done great things, scattering the proud, bringing down rulers, but also as a God that lifts up the humble, fills the hungry, extends mercy, and as one who keeps his promises.
Mary’s God is more than just a god of strength and power, but a God with heart.
Mary’s God has a heart for his people and a heart that you can trust.
And in Hebrews 10:5-10, we see that Jesus is described in much the same way…
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Although God had instituted the entire sacrificial system and created its rules, it was not the sacrifices, nor the offerings, that God really wanted. It wasn’t the subservience of the people that God wanted. It wasn’t the money that God wanted.
What God really wants, are the hearts of his people.
And so when Jesus comes, he does not say, “I have come to follow all of the rules and to obey the traditions.” What Jesus says is, “I have come to do your will.”
Sacrifices and offerings were made “in accordance with the law.” They were done out of obedience to tradition and not out of love. But Jesus says that he has come to do the will of God, to do the things that God wanted. Jesus came to set aside rules and traditions, in order to establish a pattern of love.
The coming of Jesus signifies a change in the heart of God’s people.
The coming of Jesus represents a call of God.
The coming of Jesus calls us to obey, not out of tradition, but out of love.
The coming of Jesus announces to the world that God’s first priority isn’t about following the rules; his primary concern is about our hearts.
We know this is true, because we know the heart of our King.
And so, as we prepare for the arrival of the Messiah at Christmas we must ask ourselves this question:
“Do I have a heart like Jesus?”