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Theology of the Womb

 

Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

 

As we have already mentioned Advent is a time of preparation. Therefore, this morning I want to continue our observance of Advent by looking at the way God prepared His people for the Virgin Birth.

 

You see, while the Virgin Birth is a singular event in the history of mankind, it was not something that simply came from out of the blue. God did not just drop the Virgin Birth in our laps nor did merely announce that it would occur. Instead, over and again, throughout the entire history of the Old Testament, God was preparing His people to understand both the meaning and the significance of the Virgin Birth.

 

This morning I want to look at one of the major ways that God prepared His people for the importance of the Virgin Birth.

 

However, before we begin it is essential for us as we enter into our study to have in mind God’s promise that the Messiah would come through the specific line of His people- through the line of Abraham and by way of the household of David.

Matthew 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Jer 33:25-26)

 

However there is a problem and this problem will be the focus of our study this morning.

 

You see over and over again the women through whom the line of the Messiah is to continue are found to be barren. Now remember, throughout the Old Testament barrenness was seen to represent man’s inability and his loss of a future (Isa 49:21)

 

Importance: When we find God repeating a theme over and over again- especially at key points in the History of salvation- we need to stop and take note because God is teaching us something of vital importance that He wants to make sure we understand.

 

This morning I want us to look at this theme of barrenness in order to see what it is that God is showing us about the savior and the salvation He has given us.

 

I. Sarah: The First example of barrenness that we encounter in the account of salvation is Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Importance: it is through Abraham and his descendants that God promises to send the Messiah into the world.

Promise Gen 15:5 And the LORD took Abram outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."

However, there is a problem Genesis 16:1 Now Sarai, Abram's wife had borne him no children,

18:11 And Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing.

Notice at once Sarah and Abraham’s response: they try to fix the problem themselves Genesis 16:1 Now Sara had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, "Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; 15 And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called his name Ishmael.

However, God had something else in mind. Notice then the Gospel of the Womb Genesis 17:18 And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!"19 But God said, "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

Gen 18:13 And the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?'14 "Is anything too difficult for the LORD? Sarah shall have a son."

The first great theme/lesson- Salvation is not a product of human ability. Rather, it is the work of God alone

Zechariah 4:6 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts.

 

II. Rebekah: The next example of barrenness is Rebekah, Isaac’s wife. Importance: It is through Isaac that God’s promise to Abraham continues. Again notice the problem:

Dilemma Gen 25:21 And Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife Rebekah, because she was barren;

Notice then the Gospel of the Womb Gen 25:21b and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her; So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23 And the LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body; And the older shall serve the younger."

Notice then the point

Romans 9:11 for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, 13 Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." (Mal 1:2-3; Isa 44:1-22)

The second great theme/lesson- Salvation is not by human design/convention. Rather, salvation proceeds according to God’s plan and God’s purpose

John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit,

 

III. Other key examples of barrenness not covered

·      Jacob’s wife Rachel (Remember, Jacob is Isaac’s son)- Genesis 29:31 FN#1

·      Samuel’s mother Hannah (remember Samuel anointed David as King and Mary echoes Hannah’s song in the Magnificant)- 1 Samuel 1:5 FN#2

 

IV. Samson: The next example of barrenness we encounter comes in the account of Samson. Importance: throughout the book of Judges, God shows His people that they cannot keep the covenant He has given them. Instead, they need a deliverance that is more than just situational. Notice then the twofold dilemma:

Dilemma Judges 13:1 Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, so that the LORD gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years. 2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children.

Notice then the Gospel of the womb 13:3 Then the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman, and said to her, "Behold, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. 4 "Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. 5 and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines."

 

The third great theme/lesson- Salvation is not a human solution or outward fix. Rather, it is God’s power to deliver His people comprehensively, once and for all, inside and out.

John 10:28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.

 

V. John: The next example of barrenness we encounter comes in the account of John the Baptist. Importance: remember, John embodies and is the culmination of the Old Testament mission and message (both John and O.T. prepare the way for the Lord). As such, in John the great themes of Old Testament preparation come to their highest expression. The theme of barrenness is no exception. Notice the Dilemma

Dilemma Luke 1:5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a certain priest named Zacharias, and he had a wife whose name was Elizabeth. 7 And they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

Notice the Gospel of the Womb

Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb. 17 "And it is he who will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." FN#3

Importance: on the eve of the Messiah’s arrival, God once again uses the theme of bareness to prepare His people for the savior and salvation He is sending

 

VI. Jesus: the final example we come to is the virgin birth of Jesus. Importance: all the themes we have studied thus far point to and find their culmination in this birth.

·      Notice then, in Mary we find the theme of human inability in its fullest sense. As a virgin, Mary is incapable on her own and is unassisted by man.

Luke 1:26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; 30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 "And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 34 And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

·      In Mary we see the theme of God’s grace and power to save fulfilled.

35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God. 36 "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 "For nothing will be impossible with God."

 

Bottom Line: over and again, God has prepared us to see that the salvation He provides is not a product of

·      Human ability

·      Human design

·      Nor is it a human solution

Rather, it is God’s power and design to save His people comprehensively, inside and out, once and for all

 

 

Footnotes:

1] Notice three times (back, to back, to back) in the account of God’s Covenant with Abraham and his descendants we find God driving home the theme of bareness

·       Abraham- salvation will not come from man but God

·       Isaac- salvation will not be by man’s design but by God’s

·       Jacob- man cannot complete what God has started. God must provide the whole of salvation (remember, without Rachel there would not be 12 tribes, Thus, the people through whom the promise is to come would be incomplete)

 

2] Remember, Samuel anoints David as king. Thus the story of Samuel’s mother Hannah and his birth comes at a key point in the unfolding of God’s plan to save. The Messiah will come through the descendants of Abraham by way of the house of David. Thus at this key point we once again find the theme of barrenness. In fact Hanna’s song summarizes and reiterates the great themes taught through barrenness thus far (I Sam 2:1-10). It is no surprise then to hear Mary drawing on this very song as she sings her own song, praising God for the fulfillment of all that Hannah’s hymn promised.

 

3] When the Angel said, “Your petition has been heard” I doubt very seriously that Zachariah had any idea what the Angel was talking about. And even if he thought he knew, he probably was wrong. Think about it: first, Zachariah was in the midst of lighting the incense at the hour of prayer when the Angel appeared. The whole incense service was a prayer service (Luke 1:9-10). Second, the prayer the Angel is talking about is a young man’s prayer, one that Zachariah and his wife would have poured out before God in their younger days. However, they are both old and advanced in years and have probably become resigned to the fact that a child was just not in God’s plan for them. In fact, I think you can hear the deep sorrow that God’s seeming answer has brought to Zachariah in his response to the Angel’s announcement.

Luke 1:18 And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years."

It is almost as if Zachariah said, “A lot of good that will do me now. Where were you when I was 20”. Zachariah was so set on his own plan that he could not imagine how God’s plan could do anything for him now. The time for kids has passed him by. As a result of his response and the heart from which it came, Zachariah is struck dumb. We will hear no more of Zachariah’s plan. Instead, he will be made to sit back and watch the glorious purpose that God is unfolding until he gets it.

            That said, the point of this footnote is simply to point out how cherished our prayers are to God. Even when they are prayers from years gone by, even when we have forgotten them, or think the answer is already given, God has not forgotten them. And even when God does say “no”, He still weaves those prayers into the tapestry of our lives and through them brings about His glorious purpose for us.

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