4 February 2018
Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5
Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”
Confession of Sin
Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done. And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us. But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent; According to Your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father; For His sake; That we may hereby live a godly, righteous, and sober life; To the glory of Your holy name. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Zechariah 3:1-5
Hymn of Preparation: 558 “That Man Is Blest Who, Fearing God”
Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 14:1-12
New Covenant Reading: John 19:1-15
Sermon: We Have No King but Caesar!
Hymn of Response: 585 “Take My Life and Let it Be”
Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!”
OT: 2 Samuel 3:1-19
NT: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
For the LORD Has Promised
Shorter Catechism Q/A #25
Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.
Monday (1/29) Read and discuss John 19:1-15. N.T. Wright comments:
Jesus warns Pilate that, though he holds delegated authority, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t real evil afoot. But this is a million miles away from the view that the chief priests have painted themselves into. The real sting in this passage comes at the end. In order to reject the claim of Jesus to be the true reflection of their one true God, they find themselves driven back into the arms of pagan empire. ‘We have no king but Caesar!’
It’s a devastating thing to hear, coming from the lips of the official representatives of Judaism. The scriptures, songs and revolutionary slogans of Judaism had spoken for a thousand years of its God as the true king, of the coming Messiah as God’s true king, and of pagan rulers as a sham, a pretense, a bunch of trumped-up idolaters. What would Isaiah have said to the chief priests? How would they feel, next time they heard the psalms sung in the Temple? What would they say to the crowds, many of whom had supported Jesus precisely because they hope he would be the king who would free them from Caesar?
The questions haven’t gone away. They still float in the air in our puzzled world. Who is the world’s true lord? What authority have governments, and how does that relate to the authority of God? Sometimes, when people don’t want Jesus as Lord, they find themselves driven, like the chief priests, into some form of pagan empire.
Pagan empires come in various forms. It may appear as the totalitarianism which claims divinity, and hence absolute allegiance, for itself. Or it may appear as the liberal democracy which banishes ‘God’ from its system altogether, and then regards itself as free to carve up the world to its own advantage without moral restraint. Either way, the choice becomes stark. Are we with Pilate – nervously allowing himself to be maneuvered into dangerous compromise? Are we with the chief priests – pressing home a political advantage without realizing that we are pushing ourselves backwards towards complete capitulation? Or are we with Jesus – silent in the middle, continuing to reflect the love of God into his muddled and tragic world?
Read or sing 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you a courageous disciple who will stand for Christ no matter what.
Tuesday (1/30) Read and discuss Read John 18:28-40. In verses 31 and 32 we read:
Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
Pilate must have thought: “Wow. I’ve known for a long time how corrupt Annas and his family are – but I never imagined that they would be asking me to have someone executed – without even the pretense of a legal charge.” Yet, John focuses our attention not on Pilate but on Jesus:
This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
Have you ever wondered why the New Testament writers make such a big deal out of the fact that Jesus was crucified? One obvious point is that it was a very public and very brutal way to die – but there is more to it than that. In Galatians 3:13, the Apostle Paul writes:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
The point Paul is making is that Christ didn’t simply die – as astonishing as it would be for a perfectly sinless man to die. Christ died under the curse of God. Paul is appealing back to the Torah, specifically to Deuteronomy 21:23. The idea of hanging someone on a tree went something like this: Suppose that a man murders someone else. Then justice is done by executing the murder. There is a certain balance to the punishment – a life for a life. But what do you do with the Hitlers of this world? The most we can do here on earth is to put them to death – that is to carry out capital punishment. But nobody can look at the millions of Jews who were executed, and the tens of millions who lost their lives through World War II, and then say: “Well Hitler is dead – I guess everything is balanced out.” So, under Old Testament law, someone who committed such a ghastly set of crimes would be hung up on a tree until nightfall. It was a way of saying, “LORD, we have done everything we can to establish justice – but we lack the power to bring true justice about – so we are turning this particularly heinous sinner over to your Almighty wrath.” That leaves us with two profound paradoxes:
- First, any faithful Jew who considered the crucifixion of Christ would have immediately thought of Deuteronomy 21:23 and concluded that Jesus was not only cursed by Pontius Pilate – He was in fact under the curse of God. And that faithful Jew would have been right. But the remarkable part of this paradox is that Jesus wasn’t being cursed for His own crimes – for as Isaiah 53 puts it: “He had done no violence neither was any deceit found in His mouth.” Jesus was cursed by God – not for His sins – but for ours.
- Second, the fact that Jesus foretold this reminds us of who is really in charge. Anyone looking upon the back and forth conflict between Pilate and the Chief Priests would have wondered about who was ultimately going to win the power struggle – but it turns out that the unassuming Jewish carpenter whom they were fighting over was actually the One who was in charge of all their destinies. Pilate is the Governor – but Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords – and if Pilate would only recognize who Jesus was – he would have fallen on his face and worshipped Him.
Read or sing Hymn: 558 “That Man Is Blest Who, Fearing God” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make our elected officials in Congress faithful and wise in how they carry out the responsibilities of their offices.
Wednesday (1/31) Read and discuss Exodus 14:1-14. How good is God as a strategist? That may seem like an odd question, but it relates directly to many of the disappointments we have in life. We want to get to A. From our standpoint it is quite obvious that we need to do B and C in order to get to A. Yet, doing B and C seems impossible. In fact, the harder we try to do B and C the more events seem to conspire against us. Still, A seems like a really good goal. Then we remember that God is working all things according to the counsel of His will and wonder what in the world He is doing. Today’s passage is a reminder that God sees things far more clearly than we do. From a human point of view, the LORD’s first command makes no sense at all. He maneuvers the people of Israel into a place where they will be easily trapped and slaughtered by the Egyptian army. So when Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides pursue his recently released slaves, the Jewish people rebel against Moses:
Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, “Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!”
When you are longing for the good old days of being a slave you should know that something has gone horribly wrong. More fundamentally, the Jewish people were confusing their inability to do anything about their circumstances with God’s inability. In fact, their focus on Moses reveals that they were not thinking about God at all. Yet, the LORD had arranged events precisely so that He would be glorified in the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt and so that the Israelites wouldn’t need to lift as much as a finger in their own defense. While we shouldn’t expect God to miraculously part the sea in our lives – the principle remains the same. A wonderful illustration of this can be found in the remarkable work of the China Inland Mission. After the mission had born extraordinary fruit, and had become famous, a man asked Hudson Taylor why he thought God had chosen him to begin this work. Taylor responded, “I imagine that God looked through all the earth searching for someone so insignificant that no one would think the success of the mission was dependent upon him. When he came to me He said, ‘he’s insignificant enough – he’ll do.’” As you think about your life this week, perhaps you need to spend some time contemplating not where you can use your strengths to glorify God but where God is using your weakness to glorify Himself. The LORD knows what He is doing and He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we might ask or even think. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would teach you to be content with where He has placed you while you learn to boast in Him.
Thursday (2/1) Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1. The theme of today’s passage is summed up in chapter 7 verse 1: “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Starting at 6:14 we have a particular application of this theme: “Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Christians are not merely like non-Christians except that we happen to go to church on Sunday. Christians are set apart to the LORD. For a Christian to become yoked with non-Christians, of necessity, creates a relationship that tugs at our devotion to God. If the question was: “How can someone go from being a committed disciple of Jesus to being lukewarm in his or her faith?” A good answer would be: “Become unequally yoked.” This teaching naturally applies directly to our most important relationship – marriage. Yet, we should realize that the application is broader. We ought to be careful about entering into any binding long-term relationships with non-believers where our identities are wrapped up in that relationship. This doesn’t mean that a Christian attorney couldn’t join a law firm made up of hundreds of attorneys with diverse religious commitments – but it should caution that same attorney about starting a partnership with just one other non-Christian. The nature and demands of starting a new business, along with the very close relationship that two partners must have to make such a venture successful, may lead a Christian to minimize those areas where their beliefs are different from one another – namely their commitment to Christ. Prayer: Thank the Holy Spirit for His work of progressive sanctification in your life.
Friday (2/2) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 3:1-19. Dale Ralph Davis writes:
[The Abners of this world] don’t disappear. We meet more of them in Scripture. Not bearing Abner’s name – only his disposition. For example, Simon the magician in Acts 8 was the premier convert in Samaria under Philip’s ministry. Went the whole nine yards – profession of faith and baptism. Then, when Peer and John came, he flew his flag, offering to pay them well if they would give him the power to bestow the fifth of the Holy Spirit when he would lay his hands on someone (Acts 8:18-19). True, the coming of the gospel under Philip had eclipsed Simon’s popularity, but here was a chance for Simon to work within the gospel establishment and win his reputation back.
Whether 2 Samuel 3 or Acts 8, Christian workers must be alert to their own Abner-mentality. Our orthodox line about supporting Christ’s kingdom may only be a cover for using it. As we sing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’, we realize there are many mercenaries in the ranks. And even faithful preachers for example, who desire to proclaim and make plain God’s truth, know there are times when they seem more concerned with whether God’s people will be impressed with them, like them, congratulate and dote over them. Abner is not far away from any of us.
Read or sing Hymn 585 “Take My Life and Let it Be” Prayer: Lift up our Sunday school teachers and pray that the LORD would cause their efforts to be effective in the lives of our covenant children.
Saturday (2/3) Read and discuss John 19:1-15. Commenting on verses 4 and 5, R.C. Sproul writes:
After Jesus had endured this mockery and mistreatment, He was taken back to Pilate. John writes:
Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”
Jesus was taken before the crowd with all the trappings of the soldiers’ mockery still in place, and Pilate proclaimed that phrase that has come down through church history loaded with weighty theological import: “Ecce Homo,” which means, “Behold the Man!” Obviously, we can’t pry into Pilate’s mind and extract the precise intent of that famous phrase. It may be that Pilate was saying to those who were watching this spectacle: “Look at His humiliation. How can anyone perceive this man as a threat?” If that is what Pilate had in mind, he could not escape the invisible hand of Providence that was working in that moment. In a supreme irony, the One who was standing in the costume of a fool was not only the incarnation of God but portrait of perfect humanity. This was what man was created to be. This was the second Adam standing in front of this crowd. When Pilate said, “Behold the Man,” the people in the crowd should have looked on Him and said, “Yes, here is man as God intended him to be, as God designed him to be, man with no fault in him.”
Read or sing Hymn: 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.