God's promise to send a savior is the hope that sustained the Old Testament Christians. From the time that God told the serpent that a savior would crush his head until the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, God's Children have anticipated the arrival of the Messiah - Adam's Hope - Eve's Seed - Abraham's Descendant - Job's Redeemer - The one who is like Moses, only better - the Greater Son of David - Isaiah's Prince of Peace - Jeremiah's Righteousness.
The Holy Spirit worked through the prophet Malachi to tell of the incarnation of our LORD centuries before it happened. "The LORD whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple." The theme for our midweek services this year is based on these words.
The temple is the place where God reveals Himself to His people. It is the place where He shows that He is interested in His people. The temple of the True God is not there for His benefit, but for ours. As the Apostle Paul told the Athenians, [Acts 17:24] "The God who made the world and everything in it, being LORD of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything."
God has never needed such structures to dwell in. However, mankind does need the good and gracious God to come to us, that is to reveal Himself to us. Therefore, His revelation traveled with Israel in the Tent of Meeting, journeyed with them in the Exodus Tabernacle, and dwelt in the Temple that Solomon built. In this special way, God revealed Himself in history in order to preserve a people from whom the Messiah would come. The Messiah would be the promised Seed of the woman who would crush the serpent's head. He would be the Savior of the world, the LORD whose Advent into His creation would be part of God's Good News. The Incarnation of the Son of God would require that He come into this world and dwell here in full humanity.
As the LORD God took on human flesh, His first temple would be the womb of a Jewish virgin - the womb of the Virgin Mary. It is this coming to His temple that Malachi foretold. It is this coming into the flesh that all believers have longed for since the days of Adam and Eve.
For from the day that Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, all of creation has decayed in the curse of sin that ultimately leads to death. Sooner or later every tree, every animal, every human being will come to the end of death. While we live in this sinful world and wait for death, creation groans and we endure pain, trouble, and suffering. Some of this is due to the sinful world in which we live, but more of it is due to the sin we inherited from our father Adam and the sins we ourselves have committed. The commandments of God demand perfection and the wages of sin is death. Without a savior we are totally lost.
The dread and darkness only deepens as we consider the judgment that the Almighty God brings on this sin. Consider the visitation at the time of the Flood, or the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Thus even the promise of Emmanuel … that is, "God with us," … does not, in itself, give cause for gladness within us or joy to the world. For if God is with us in the form of the Flood of Noah or the fire of Sodom, what hope do we have?
But when God made His temple in the womb of the virgin, He revealed Himself in a new and wonderful way. For behold, when this world was ready, in the fullness of time, God sent the angel Gabriel to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the LORD is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. What does this mean? Was this visitation another manifestation of the Law of God? Was this another accusation against the old sinful nature that Mary had by virtue of being born in the likeness of Adam and after his image? No, this was a visitation of the Gospel, that is, the Good News of God that comforts the repentant soul that Mary had by virtue of her God-given trust in the LORD God her Savior?
And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the LORD God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
In this way, the eternal Son of God, begotten of the Father from eternity, is incarnate by the Holy Spirit, and dwells within the womb of Mary. Here is the first temple of the Incarnate LORD, God made flesh and dwelling among us first resides within the temple of the Jewish virgin's womb.
From the instant of the Incarnation, [Formula of Concord: 2, VIII, 24] Mary, the most blessed virgin, did not conceive a mere, ordinary human being, but a human being who is truly the Son of the most high God, as the angel testifies. He demonstrated his divine majesty even in his mother's womb in that he was born of a virgin without violating her virginity. Therefore she is truly the mother of God and yet remained a virgin. At the instant when Jesus was but a single cell, [Formula of Concord: 2, VIII, 26] He had this majesty immediately at his conception even in his mother's womb. This is the incarnation of God Almighty, God become flesh, in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
So it is that the Son of God Most High took up residence in the womb of the Virgin Mary and made it His temple. But why Has the LORD of this and every other universe taken up residence as one cell in this first temple, the small, damp temple of His mother's womb?
The Bible says, [Hebrews 4:15] "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." Our LORD came to take our place under the law. He took no short cuts. He experienced everything we experience, even the nine months of gestation in Mary's womb. He took our place completely in order to do what we cannot do. He kept the whole law. He will be human just as we are, yet without sin.
Our LORD came to take our place in another way. He not only took our place under the law, but He also took our place as the target of God's wrath against our sin. That single cell in Mary's womb will multiply and develop a head, arms, legs, and all the other parts of the human body. One day, the back that grew in the warm, damp temple of Mary's womb will feel the stripes whereby we are healed. His Head will be capped with a crown of thorns as man mocks His Maker. The legs will carry Jesus up to Golgotha. Crude nails will puncture His feet and hands as He is offered for the Life of the world and as the sufficient Ransom for all. That mouth of His will speak the Word of forgiveness and full atonement from the cross. His eyes will behold His mother and His lips will speak of love and comfort to this woman whose womb was His first temple. When it is finished; that is, when the sins of the world have been atoned for and when the wrath of God against sin has been vented, He will have been faithful unto death, even death on a cross. Jesus' heart will be stilled, pierced and silent until the third day.
Finally, the LORD who took our place under the law and its punishment will give us a special place to share with Him. For on the third day, the risen savior stood on the earth and spoke with His disciples. He extended His nail pierced hands and breathed His forgiving Spirit on His under shepherds. With this resurrection, He opened the way to eternal life so that we might one day ascend even as He ascended into heaven. There to live with Him forever. With His ascension and presence in Heaven, He is also present today with His church on earth as He promised.
But in order for you to hear the Good News that, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, you are forgiven of all your sins, it was necessary for the Son of God to become flesh and dwell among us. Thus, "the LORD comes to His temple" and for nine months He dwelt in His first temple, the Womb of the Virgin Mary. Amen.
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