Sermon: Instruction in the Morning
Given 30-Jun-12; 33 minutes
As we begin, please be turning to Lamentations 3. Nutritionists tell us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day; if you miss a meal, it should not be breakfast. So, today, I want to talk about breakfast. I want to talk about eggs, potatoes, cereals, and sausage, rolls, waffles, griddle cakes, and fruit, and, of course, coffee. Ah, okay, maybe not. Let us limit ourselves to our spiritual breakfast. We are talking about what we are taught with and learning from God in the mind.
Lamentations 3:22-23 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
Brethren, God does not simply dump grace on us one day in our lives and then forget about us. No, we stay squarely in the sight of God's, great sun every single day. And we will be as long as we are not rebellious.
We will not turn there, but here is another example of the grace from God that we receive in the morning.
Isaiah 33:2 O Lord, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be theirarm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.
Here, not only does the psalmist connect grace, strength in this case, with morning, but he connects it with each morning. God is faithful to strengthen us every single morning if we wait for Him; that is, if we get up to receive those blessings.
We have to show up for breakfast. Please turn to Isaiah 50. Today, I want to take a look at another manifestation of God's grace and it is not strength; in this case, it is instruction. Specifically, the instruction God provides to us during our morning prayers and our morning studies. Isaiah 50 is a key passage in my comments today. The topic is God calling.
Isaiah 50:2-3 Why, when I came, was there no man? Why, when I called, was there none to answer? Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Indeed with My rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink because there is no water, and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.
There was a time when God came, there was a time when He called, but no one was there when He came. No one was there when He called. Were they all sleeping? Was the lack of response because people thought that He lacked the strength to deliver? We know from Isaiah 59:1 that God's arm is not shortened so that it cannot save.
Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save . . .
Brethren, when does God come? When does God call? These are important questions. Of course, we know that He is always near but I want to address these questions of when here in terms of Isaiah 50.
Isaiah 50:4-5 The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away.
Of whom is Isaiah speaking? Verse 6 gives us a clue:
Isaiah 50:6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
This may be a reference to the prophet himself. You know Isaiah experienced all kinds of difficulties but it is certainly a reference to Christ. Let us go back to verses four and five and see what Christ is saying here.
He is saying that He was instructed by God every morning. The Hebrew word here is geminating or reduplicative: a repetition of two words, exactly as it appears in Isaiah 28:13, where the Hebrew is translated “morning after morning” or “morning by morning.”
What was the purpose of this daily instruction? Verse 4 answers that question:
Isaiah 50:4 (ESV) That I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.
Hold on to that word sustain. God instructed Christ with words that would sustain and encourage the weary.
In verse 5, Christ points out that He did not rebel when God taught Him. He says He did not turn back. He did not reject His Father’s words. It could, in the physical sense, mean He did not roll over and go back to sleep. Christ did not play the part of a truant school boy, but as He mentioned in John 2:17, was consumed with zeal.
If we take this scripture literally, it tells us that God awakened Christ and taught Him day after day; preparing Him for the work of that day. Whether before or during Christ’s ministry, His Father knew what Christ would face on any particular day. Especially during His ministry, God prepared Christ every day to face the anger and arguments of the religious leaders; the onslaught of demons; the attacks of Satan; the pleading for relief of those weary with labor, the cries for healing of those sick or diseased. God knew that Christ’s work was of vital importance. God prepared Him for it starting when He was very young; not a week before He started His ministry.
Please turn to Luke 2 where an important window to this classroom opens allowing us to get a glimpse inside.
Luke 2:41-47 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.
Now, let us look at this incident. Christ’s parents must have been frantic looking all over the place for Him. It appears that the Temple was the last place they thought of looking, but there He was. The passage suggests that Christ had been in the Temple for the entirety of those three days.
What was He discussing in the Temple? We can be sure that He was talking with the teachers about the law of God; that was the focus of the scribes. He was asking them penetrating questions and provoking a lot of thought on their part.
I really doubt if Joseph and Mary could have prepared Christ for this level of an encounter with the rabbis. Joseph and Mary were as dumbfounded by Christ's presence in the Temple as the audience at large. God had prepared His Son, who was not yet a teenager, for this experience. I am sure this was one of many experiences Christ had with His Father as a boy. What is vitally important to recognize is that Christ came to know He was walking through life with His Father, sharing experiences with Him. Christ knew that He was doing the work His Father had ordained for Him. Notice how He responded to His parents about this incident in verse 49.
Luke 2:49 (Phillips) And Jesus replied, “But why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Luke 2:49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
By the time He was 12, Christ was very much aware that He had work to do for His Father. As Christ experienced life with His Father, day by day, His fund of knowledge grew, Christ's relationship with His Father strengthened. Christ learned that He could trust God to take Him through every experience no matter what.
I suggest that the Father had been working to prepare Christ for the Temple encounter for years. Please, understand that I am not at all suggesting that the Father rehearsed Christ in every detail of the upcoming day. The Father probably did not tell Christ that Joe Pharisee would ask Him such and such a question at three in the afternoon, and give Christ a specific answer. The training was probably not that scripted.
Also, it goes without saying that God provided Christ with age-appropriate training. He did not give Christ spiritual "meat" when He was two weeks old. He started with “milk” (Paul refers to that concept in Hebrews 5:13) but the instruction progressed to "meat" and Christ was able to astound learned adults by the time He was twelve years old.
What do we not see in this passage? We do not see Christ lecturing the scribes, as He did twenty years later in Matthew 23:13-36. In Luke 2, we do not even see Christ actually teaching. Rather, He is sitting with the teachers, listening, and asking questions. Without any doubt, adults of the day would have found it highly presumptuous on the part of a 12 year old to teach. Christ understood that lecturing the scribes at that point in His life would have been out of place if not actually unlawful. We do read that He answered their questions with understanding; He replied to them. There was a dialogue.
Notice again: He asked questions. A teacher often teaches in the way he was taught. I suspect that the Father taught Christ by asking Him questions as in a dialog. Employing this dynamic, the Father and Son could talk through a particular topic of the law in the morning. The Scriptures show that Christ grew up to be a master at asking questions. We cannot take the time here to go through the many examples, but Matthew 21:23-27 illustrates Christ's expertise at asking questions.
Matthew 21:23a Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching.
Notice, as an adult He was teaching, not just listening as He did as a boy. Isaiah 50:4 says He had been given the tongue of a teacher.
Matthew 21:23b-27 And said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
It must have been galling for those adults, those learned, intellectually arrogant people to be put on the spot like that! And all they had to say was, "We do not know." And Christ said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
All this is to say that Christ taught the way He was taught by His Father. If Christ asked questions, if He used parables, so did His Father. Behind all this teaching lies a very important principle: When it comes to training for tomorrow, God’s focus is on today.
The analogy is that of climbing a ladder. You get to the top by climbing one step at a time. God prepared Christ one day at a time. But, it is like compound interest: There is a cumulative effect. God built on the training of the previous days. Much like a math teacher starts with simple addition and moves, eventually, to the quadratic equation.
Christ mentions this one-day-at-a-time principle in Matthew 6. I will quote it from the Phillips Translation, where Christ tells us:
Matthew 6:34 (Phillips) Don’t worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day’s trouble is enough for one day.
God prepared Christ one day at a time. Luke 2:40 probably summarizes the results of this training.
Luke 2:40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Part of that favor, that grace, was that God instructed Christ. Because He did not rebel, did not go back to sleep either physically or spiritually. Christ grew stronger and stronger in spirit, becoming “filled with wisdom.” That is why He could do what He did in the Temple when He was only twelve years old. God had prepared Him for tomorrow—for the Temple incident—by training Him today; by training Christ every morning from the time He was very young.
Now, let us shift gears and begin to plug ourselves into this scenario. Remember, Isaiah 50:4 tells us that God awakened Christ every morning and the gift that Christ received was the tongue of a teacher. What did Christ do with that gift? He taught; there was a flow or stream of teaching. In fact, one of the principle Hebrew words for the verb teach is yarah; Strong’s number 3384. Yarah is related to the verb "flow" as water or rain flows. Like rain, God’s instruction and revelation comes from above and sustains; providing the basis of growth. It all starts with the Father, flowing like a river of water from His throne, goes to Christ, and then travels from Christ to us.
Psalm 119:102 I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me.
To see a bit more about this, remember that word "sustaining", mentioned in Isaiah 50:4. Christ revealed to us in Deuteronomy 8 that:
Deuteronomy 8:3 Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.
God’s Word is sustaining. Like food, we need it every day. Christ, day after day, was sustained through God’s words. It was His spiritual breakfast and He passes on the instruction He received to us. To see this, let us string a few scriptures together from the gospel of John.
John 7:16: My doctrine is not Mine but His who sent Me.
John 14:24 The word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.
Remember in Isaiah 50:4 where Christ said His tongue was like that of one who had been instructed. Not His ear but His tongue. What Christ heard from the Father He verbally passed on to others. He did not just absorb. He also gave.
In John 8 we get a pretty good view of the dynamics of this stream of teaching. At the beginning of the chapter, we see Christ in the Temple at dawn. Christ was certainly a morning person! When He was awakened by God, He got up to receive instruction so He could strengthen others as part of His ministry.
John 8:2 (NIV) At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.
What did He teach them? He taught what He had heard from the Father. Notice what Christ says at the end of verse 28:
John 8:28 (NIV) So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
The word "just" can have many meanings; I will suggest three:
It can be a reference to time. “Just after I heard it, I passed it along to you.” There was no delay. It does not have to mean that, but it can mean that.
It can be a reference to method. “I am using just the same method to teach you that the Father used to teach Me.” If God used a parable, Christ used the same parable. In this sense, the Parable of the Sower was directly from the Father, through Christ.
It can be a reference to content. “I have only told you just what God told Me and nothing more.” I have added nothing to it.
That word "just" probably carries all three meanings in this context. I get the feeling that God did not teach Christ the things contained in John 8 years earlier. I strongly suspect that the Father taught those things that very morning, having laid the background, of course, over a long period of time. Christ, instructed by the Father, passed sustaining words, words of encouragement, consoling words to the weary, as we saw in Isaiah 50:4.
Bottom line: God does not change as we learn from Malachi 3:6. The pattern of His teaching us is the same pattern He has always used. It is the same pattern the Father used when He taught Christ. In summary, I will mention those four points:
First, while Christ of course can (and does) teach at any time, He certainly teaches us in the morning; if we do not roll over and go back to sleep.
Second, Christ prepares us for our work in tomorrow’s Kingdom by preparing us for today.
Third, He still moves from milk to meat, teaching us what we can understand at any given point in our lives.
Fourth, He uses the same teaching tools as His Father. For instance, through His written Word, He still uses parables.
Well, what does this mean to us in a practical sense? I have two points:
Psalm 127:2 reveals the first point. There, we read that God gives sleep to His beloved. Its no great leap of logic to figure that, if the sovereign God cares enough about us to ensure that we get sleep, He also cares enough about us to wake us up when He knows we need spiritual sustenance.
Now, of course I understand that sleeping habits, health needs, and work and school schedules are all as numerous and varied as the number of people listening today. So, you understand, I can only speak broadly in wide swaths. Usually, God does not want us to get up to study three hours after we have gone to bed. He knows we need sleep. We need it if we are going to serve our employer as we should. For that reason, if we do wake up during the night, say at one or two in the morning, for any number of reasons, we do not need to assume that He has awaked us so that we can study or pray right then. But, what about those times when we wake up 10, 20, 30, or 40 minutes before we were planning to get up? Is God awaking us then for breakfast with Him? Well, obviously, you need to make that decision for yourself. I will briefly share my own experience:
For a decade or so now, I have noticed that I awaken within an hour of the time I was already planning to get up. Not every day but frequently. And, when I do, my mind is racing; I cannot go back to sleep. Reflecting on this, I have come to recognize that God has in fact awakened me. Some of you may have heard of the book and later the film, God Is My Co-Pilot. Similarly, I have come to think of God as my alarm clock.
My general point harkens back to Isaiah 50:5 where Christ did not rebel or turn back in those morning teaching sessions. It is easy to “turn backward,” to lie in bed trying to catch a few extra winks but Christ did not do that.
When it happens to us, it might be a good idea to get up to devote a little extra time to study and prayer and enjoy a little extra spiritual breakfast with God. Sleeping when God wants to teach us is not good. In the morning, our prayers are more vibrant, our study more perceptive. God wants to exploit that opportunity.
The second point is explained by two comments Herbert W. Armstrong made. Remember, he said that parents are God to their own children. That is how young children look at their parents, how they relate to them. Well, if God awakens us so He can teach us, should we as parents not be awakening our children for the same purpose? Now, I understand that parents are to instruct their children at all times but one of those times is in the early morning. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses writes that parents are to teach their children about God’s Laws repetitiously.
Deuteronomy 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
We all understand that such training should be age-appropriate. It is not at all fitting to awaken a 6 year old at four in the morning for a two hour Bible study before he goes off to school. That goes without saying.
Paraphrasing again a comment by Mr. Armstrong: If parents do not teach their children, Satan will. Indeed, Satan has constructed a major institution just for that purpose: the public school system. Age-appropriate instruction before children trek off to that institution is one of the best ways parents can prepare their children for the “evils” of the day, to steel their children against the trials and temptations which will surely come their way in Satan’s schools. Such training is, after all, among the most important services, if not the most important service, which parents can provide their offspring. Train your children, today, for the Kingdom, tomorrow.
I will conclude with yet another well-known passage in John 6. Verses 44-45 have a sequence that we often pass over.
John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, "And they will all be taught by God."
Eventually, everyone will be taught by the God family. However, right now, God’s instruction is not so widespread.
John 6:45 Therefore, everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.
Today, those God has called receive His instruction which is, as Jeremiah said, “. . . new every morning.” Let us not go back to sleep but wake up ready to receive the spiritual breakfast, this most important meal, God has prepared for us as He works today to give us the tongue of teachers—tongues we will put to use in tomorrow’s world.