16 September 2018
Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3
Opening Hymn: 236 “To God Be the Glory”
Confession of Sin
O eternal God and merciful Father, we humble ourselves before your great majesty, against which we have frequently and grievously sinned. We acknowledge that we deserve nothing less than eternal death, that we are unclean before you and children of wrath. We continually transgress your commandments, failing to do what you have commanded, and doing that which you have expressly forbidden. We acknowledge our waywardness, and are heartily sorry for all our sins. We are not worthy to be called your children, nor to lift up our eyes heavenward to you in prayer. Nevertheless, O Lord God and gracious Father, we know that your mercy toward those who turn to you is infinite; and so we take courage to call upon you, trusting in our Mediator Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Forgive all our sins for Christ’s sake. Cover us with his innocence and righteousness, for the glory of your name. Deliver our understanding from all blindness, and our hearts from all willfulness and rebellion, we pray through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen
Assurance of Pardon: Galatians 2:20
Hymn of Preparation: 404 “The Church’s One Foundation”
Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 72:1-20
New Covenant Reading: Romans 4:13-15
Sermon: Who Will Inherit the Earth?
Hymn of Response: 411 “Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns”
Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 421 “Christ Shall Have Dominion”
OT: 2 Samuel 21:15-22
NT: 2 Corinthians 5:1-10
Mighty Men and the Lamp of Israel
Shorter Catechism Q/A #57
Q. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Monday (9/10) Read and discuss Romans 4:13-15. R.C. Sproul writes:
If God had not set any standards or imposed obligations on us, then we would be autonomous. We would be free to do whatever we want to do. As Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky said “If there is no God, all things are permissible.” We live in a society that seeks to banish the very concept of sin from human consciousness, but in order to do that we must first banish God from the equation.
In setting forth the shorter catechism, the Westminster divines provided a simple definition of sin. The question in the catechism asks, “What is sin?” The answer given is, “Sin is any want of conformity there unto or transgression of the law of God.” That gets at it succinctly. The somewhat archaic language in the phrase simply means “a lack of conformity to the law of God.” If God imposes a law or a rule for our behavior, saying, “You shall do this” or “You shall not do that,” we fail to conform to his standard of righteousness if we don’t conform to the law or if we disobey that commandment. In one sense, this failure to conform calls attention (not always but sometimes) to what we call “sins of omission.” We commit sins of omission when we fail to do those things that we ought to have done, things that God commands us to do. Not only are there negative failures or omissions, but there are also sins of commission, actual transgressions of the law of God. …
Paul will labor this point a little more fully in chapter 5, and it is one that needs to be labored. Our culture lives in such a spirit of lawlessness that even Christians do not spend much time thinking about the law of God, sometimes going so far as to think that even having laws is beneath the dignity of God’s love or his goodness. He is the one who made us, the one who rules us, and the one who is sovereign over us, and there is nothing more perfectly rational than that a just and holy God should declare what is his will. There is nothing at all unjust or irrational about a God who imposes standards and obligations upon his creatures. That is what we learn in the law – what God requires of us.
Read or sing Hymn 236 “To God Be the Glory” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has given us His Torah as a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths.
Tuesday (9/11) Read and discuss Romans 4:9-12. Many Jews in Paul’s day, including apparently a number of Jewish-Christians, were treating circumcision as an act of obedience. As you read through Romans and Galatians you will notice that Paul uses the expression “works of the law” in a number of critical places. For example, back in chapter 3, Paul wrote:
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
And again …
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
It turns out then when the Jews of Paul’s day spoke about the works of the law, at the very top of their list was circumcision. That is, they saw circumcision as something that marked out the man who was circumcised as being better than the man who was not circumcised. That is, as Paul makes clear in Galatians, they were boasting in their flesh. But that is the very opposite of what circumcision was intended to do. Not to be too graphic, but circumcision is a ceremonial cutting off of the flesh which points to the inadequacy of fallen human flesh to be pleasing to God. To the degree that circumcision points at all to the boy or man who has been circumcised – it shouts that this person is unable to be vindicated in God’s courtroom based on his own performance. Do you realize that baptism proclaims this very same truth? Baptism is a symbolic washing with water. What does that say about the person being baptized? It says that left to him or herself – that person is unclean. Thankfully, the ceremonial cutting off of the flesh in circumcision doesn’t merely point to the inadequacy of the person being circumcised – it points outside of the person to the cutting off of Jesus Christ on the cross. While the ceremonial cutting off of a tiny bit of sinful flesh doesn’t justify anyone, it points forward to the actual cutting off of the spotless Lamb of God – whose life-giving death is the ground of justification for everyone who believes. Read or Sing Hymn 404 “The Church’s One Foundation” Prayer: Please lift up the Muslims who are being placed in re-education camps in China. Pray also for the peace of the Christian Church in China.
Wednesday (9/12) Read and discuss Psalm 72:1-20. Allen P. Ross writes:
Here a psalm has been included that looks to the future of the monarchy. The petitions in this prayer reflect the needs of the nation, for the nation never had a king that did these things. In fact, there has never been a truly righteous king or a righteous government in the history of the world. And the world needs a righteous king.
So this is a prayer that God will so bless the future king that his reign will be a righteous reign. But since the descriptions used in the petitions are found throughout the prophets and the psalms as descriptions of the coming messianic age, this prayer becomes eschatological. That is, it is a legitimate prayer expressing a legitimate need, but it will only be fulfilled in the Messiah. The Messiah will reign over a kingdom on earth in which righteousness and justice will thrive, the land will produce its bounty in abundance, and all the nations of the earth will submit to his authority and be blessed through him. The prayer of this psalm draws in some of the great prophesies of the reign of the Messiah on earth, which the New Testament confirms will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ when he returns to earth at his second coming. While he now sits enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on High, as Scripture depicts it, he has not yet put all things under submission, righteousness does not fill the earth, and the whole world groans, waiting for the day of redemption. The petitions of this psalm, for one, will be fulfilled in the coming messianic kingdom.
Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus will come again to fully establish His Kingdom on earth.
Thursday (9/13) Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! That’s easier to say than to do. Yet, we are not only called but commanded to be courageous. One suspects that many Christians are surprised the first time they read Revelation 21:8 to discover which sin heads the list of those whose destiny is the lake that burns with unquenchable fire:
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
So, where do we get the courage we need to remain faithful? Murray Harris helpfully summarizes the three sources of such courage that Paul reveals to us in this passage:
Paul mentions three sources of divine comfort: assurance that he would become a possessor of a superior form of habitation (v. 1), an awareness that in giving the Spirit as the pledge of transformation God had committed himself to complete the good work of renewal he had begun (v. 5), and knowledge that death involves departure to Christ and leads to ‘walking in the realm of sight (vv. 7-8). The tone of 5:1-10 is not one of cringing fear arising from human uncertainties but of buoyant assurance born of divine certainties.
All three of these sources of courage are important and belong together. What Paul is calling Christians to have is a truly eternal perspective on our present circumstances. As he had told the Corinthians in the previous chapter: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Read or sing Hymn 411 “Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns” Prayer: Ask the LORD to help you live today in light of eternity.
Friday (9/14) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 21:15-22. Andrew Steinmann writes:
We are told that David became fatigued. Perhaps this was a combination of his more advanced age – he was no longer the young David who led Saul’s troops against the Philistines – and the Philistines’ targeting of David as the key person to slay. We are told that Ishbibenob attacked David, intending to kill him. The author emphasizes this Philistine’s weapons, especially his bronze spear, which weighted three hundred shekels or about seven and a half pounds. This was a heavy weapon, but it still weighed only half as much as Goliath’s spear (1 Sam 21:17). Yet this time David needed help, and Abishai provided it.
This apparently was too much of a risk for David’s troops to tolerate, and their oath reinforced their determination that the king was not to lead his troops into battle any longer. They mentioned that David’s death would be the extinguishing of “Israel’s lamp.” This is a reference to David as the bearer of the messianic promise. The “lamp” of David would continue to be Israel’s hope until Christ, the light of the world, would be born to provide Israel’s eternal “light” and to be the “lamp” of the new Jerusalem.
Read or sing Hymn 421 “Christ Shall Have Dominion” Prayer: Please lift up the OPC mission in Uganda.
Saturday (9/15) Read and discuss Romans 4:13-15. N.T. Wright comments:
I had an angry email today from a Jewish Christian who objected strongly to something I had said, very cautiously, about the current problems in the Middle East. (I lived and worked in Jerusalem some years ago, and I still have friends in various parts of the bewildering mixture of ethnic and religious groups.) The main point my correspondent was making was that God gave the land to Israel, and that the promise had been reaffirmed in our own day. Nothing should therefore stand in the way of Israel’s security and, by implication, the expansion of its territory to include all the occupied West Bank of the Jordan.
This is obviously a hot topic, and it looks to continue that way (alas) for some time. But I raise it here because it relates directly to what Paul is doing in verse 13 (to which I directed my correspondent in reply). The promise to Abraham and his family, Paul says, was that he would inherit – the world! This is breathtaking. Again and again in Genesis the writer declares that God promised Abraham the piece of territory then known as the land of Canaan, roughly the ‘holy land’ as we know it now. Later writings sometimes expanded this to include everything between the Red Sea and the River Euphrates, far away to the north-east; but Canaan remained the focus. Even when writers much nearer Paul’s time expanded the idea of a ‘holy land’ still further, it was still centered on the original promised territory.
For Paul, however, and indeed for the whole New Testament, the idea of a holy land, in terms of one strip of territory over against all others, has simply vanished. In its place are the beginnings of a completely transformed idea of land: that the whole world – in Romans 8 the entire creation – is claimed by God as ‘holy land,’ and is promised to Abraham and his family as their ‘inheritance.’ This is one of the most breathtaking revisions of standard Jewish thinking we can imagine. It is certainly as important as the decision not to require circumcision for Gentile converts. It is of course closely cognate with that dramatic revision of Jewish expectations. The privilege of geography, as of birth, counts for nothing in the new world ruled over by the crucified and risen Messiah.
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.