11 November 2018
Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3
Opening Hymn: 224 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”
Confession of Sin
Almighty God, Who are rich in mercy to all those who call upon You; Hear us as we humbly come to You confessing our sins; And imploring Your mercy and forgiveness. We have broken Your holy laws by our deeds and by our words; And by the sinful affections of our hearts. We confess before You our disobedience and ingratitude, our pride and willfulness; And all our failures and shortcomings toward You and toward fellow men. Have mercy upon us, Most merciful Father; And of Your great goodness grant that we may hereafter serve and please You in newness of life; Through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:19-12
Hymn of Preparation: 223 “O Father, You Are Sovereign”
Old Covenant Reading: Hosea 1:1-11
New Covenant Reading: Romans 5:18-21
Sermon: The Reign of Grace
Hymn of Response: Psalm 97B
Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 851)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 393 “Spirit of God, Dwell Thou within My Heart”
OT: 2 Samuel 23:8-39
NT: Hebrews 11:32-40
David’s Mighty Men
Shorter Catechism Q/A #65
Q. What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honor and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations.
Monday (11/5) Read and discuss Romans 5:18-21. R.C. Sproul writes:
One of Paul’s favorite contrasts in his writing is he suffering and pain we experience as not being worthy of comparison to the glory that awaits us when we pass from this world. Our destiny is not to become citizens in the realm of sin under the power of death. The power of that enemy has been vanquished, and by God’s grace he has much more poured upon us the gift of righteousness, which gives us the ultimate benefit of justification – eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We can see now why the gospel is so important, why the doctrine of justification by faith alone can never be negotiated. In it the glory of the grace of God is made manifest. While we were still sinners Christ took upon himself the curse of that reigning death and defeated the grave by his righteousness, which is imputed to us by faith if indeed we put our trust in him. Sin reigns in death, but Christ triumphs over death. Death is but a moment; the triumph lasts forever.
Read or sing Hymn 224 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in China as they deal with a government that has become increasingly hostile to Christianity.
Tuesday (11/6) Read and discuss Romans 5:12-17. Why does every human being – including at times infants in their mother’s womb – die? Why does death reign on earth? Let’s go back to verse 12 and look at Paul’s logic again. Verse 12:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned …
If “all sinned” doesn’t refer to the individual sins of every person who ever lived, what can it refer to? The short answer is, that when Adam sinned the guilt of his sin was imputed to all of his posterity. That is, Adam was not simply the first man he was the representative man. When the LORD constituted humanity, He created us in such a way that we would be connected to one another – so that one person can act legally on another person’s behalf. We are actually quite familiar with this reality. This coming Tuesday is election day in the United States. It is a day on which we will be electing individuals to represent us in civil government. Whether you vote for particular Congressmen or not, those elected to serve as our representatives have the legal right to make decisions that will impact our lives – perhaps for years to come. They have the authority to write the tax law and to borrow money to pay for things above and beyond the revenues that come in through taxes. Do you know who owes the debt that they vote to borrow? We do. All of us do – even though none of us personally made the decisions which resulted in the U.S. government borrowing more than twenty trillion dollars. Or to use a more dramatic example, when the Japanese Emperor ordered his Navy to attack Pearl Harbor – the resultant war wasn’t between the Japanese Emperor and the President of the United States, nor was it between Japanese and American navies. Japan had declared war on the United States and the two nations were at war. This is because the Emperor in Japan, and the President and Congress in the United States, legally represent their respective countries so that they had the authority to make legal decisions that dramatically impacted the citizens of both countries. Paul is saying that the LORD did something like this with Adam. The LORD constituted humanity so that Adam was our legal representative. When Adam was put on probation, he was put on probation for the entire human race. If he had remained faithful to God, Adam and all of his posterity would have been confirmed in that righteousness. But because Adam rebelled against God, not simply as an individual but as our representative, Adam and every human being born through a human father became guilty in Adam and therefore all of us were conceived under the reign of sin and death. Now some of you might be saying to yourself: “That’s not fair! How can I be held responsible for the decisions of a representative that I didn’t choose – who acted long before I was born.” If you are thinking like that, you had better be careful. Actually, you had better repent.
[For] who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will the creature say to its Creator “Why have you made me like this?”
And, if you cut off the possibility representative whom you didn’t choose acting on your behalf before you were born – don’t you see that you have cut off the only way in which you can be saved? Before we insist on being treated entirely on the basis of your own actions, let’s remember that “he who stands alone stands condemned.” Read or Sing Hymn 223 “O Father, You Are Sovereign” Prayer: Please pray for our Session as it meets this evening.
Wednesday (11/7) Read and discuss Hosea 1:1-11. Hosea served as a prophet primarily during the last half of the eighth century B.C. This is approximately one century after Elisha’s ministry which we are looking at during our morning worship services. Regretfully, the people have Israel have not turned back to their God in the interim. In fact a central theme of Hosea’s ministry is the spiritual adultery which Israel is committing by running after Baal. The first three chapters of the book of Hosea are what the entire book tends to be known for: Hosea is called by God to take a wife of harlotry. Hosea is to act out the part of God who is married to an unfaithful wife. Many people, including John Calvin, have recoiled at the terrible position that this puts Hosea into. Nevertheless, while it is true that the prophets generally suffered terribly, we should remember that Hosea was simply revealing the way that the LORD Himself was being mistreated and abused by the people whom He had redeemed from Egypt and to whom He had given the Promised Land. The history of Hosea and Gomer begins with the naming of three children which symbolizes the future of the nation of Israel:
- First there is Jezreel: “And the LORD said to him, ‘Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.’”
- Second there is Lo-Ruhamah which means “No Mercy”: “And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.” The LORD’s mercy is so abundant that it is hard to imagine what it would mean if He simply stopped forgiving us. This dreadful thought was about to become a reality for rebellious Israel.
- Third there is Lo-Ammi which means “Not My People”: “And the LORD said, ‘Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.’” God was divorcing His people because of their spiritual adultery and abandoning them to the care of their false gods which were no gods at all.
As bleak as this is, and it is bleak, those familiar with the New Testament will recognize hope in that last name even before reading further in Hosea. God’s plan to redeem a people to Himself was not thwarted by the rebellion of sinful men. The Jews of the Northern tribes will be made like Gentiles, but a multitude of their descendents would ultimately be grafted back into Christ’s Church. As Paul writes in Romans 9:25-26:
As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD reversed the judgment His people deserved so that “where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there [we are now] called ‘sons of the living God.’”
Thursday (11/8) Read and discuss Hebrews 11:32-40. Verses 32 through the first half of verse 35 emphasize great exploits done in faith – but, even here, there is a remarkable diversity. This reminds us that the LORD is not looking for cookie-cutter Christians. Walking by faith is not about one-size-fits-all or each of us being engaged in exactly the same choices. Walking by faith is about us expressing our distinctive personalities and using our own unique gifts as we unite in trusting the only Savior of the world. We are not surprised to find David and Samuel placed amongst the heroes of the faith, but I’m struck by the fact that the first four men named are Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah. I doubt if anyone will ever sing “Dare to be a Jephthah.” And nobody hopes that their daughters will grow up and marry a man like Samson. So why choose these particular men? I suspect that the all too human frailties and failings of these four men are exactly why they were chosen. They show us ordinary people who, by faith, accomplish extraordinary things.
- Gideon protested his own insignificance and then asked the LORD for repeated signs before doing what he was called to do.
- Barak wasn’t courageous enough to go out into battle without Deborah.
- Samson’s sexual indiscretions are well known. But we should also note that he wanted to marry a Philistine woman, outside of God’s chosen people, and he trifled with the extraordinary power the LORD had given to him – telling the secret of his strength to God’s enemies – at the cost of his very own eyes.
- Jephthah rashly vowed to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house – and he seems to have carried out this vow even though this would have involved sacrificing his very own daughter. This wicked act has made Jephthah better known for rashness and evil than for the victory the LORD gave him in battle.
Yet all these men are given as examples of living by faith. What are we to make of these men? As John Owen points out …
There is something very consoling about recognizing their fallibility: their success depended not on their own abilities but “on God’s ordinance and grace; for they were men subject to the like passions as we are.”
The fact that these men so obviously share in our weakness is what makes them such an encouragement to us. But the LORD used each of these men as instruments to deliver Israel from her enemies. If He could use such people – He can use people like you and me too – if we will simply trust Him. You are not too insignificant, flawed, or weak to be used greatly by God. Read or sing Psalm 97B Prayer: Ask the LORD to use you, in your weakness, to do something positive in the world this week.
Friday (11/9) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 23:8-39. Commenting on the inclusion of Uriah in the list of David’s “mighty men,” John Woodhouse writes:
The last name in the list of “the thirty” cannot fail to catch our attention: “Uriah the Hittite.” This sketch of David’s kingdom and the strength it enjoyed through David’s “mighty men” ends on a somber note. All of the mighty men in our passage may have been devoted, courageous, faithful, and great servants of David. David, however, murdered one of them. Furthermore verse 34 mentions Eliam the father of Bathsheba, and his father Ahithophel. This reminder of David’s adultery and the unraveling of his family and kingdom that ensued points to the greatest weakness of David’s kingdom – David himself.
The mighty kingdom of David with his “mighty men” and their heroic deeds contains much that should cause us to appreciate the kingdom ruled by the Prince of Peace. Let us pray daily, “Your kingdom come!”
Read or sing Hymn 393 “Spirit of God, Dwell Thou within My Heart” Prayer: Lift up the young people in our church that they would set their hearts on eternal things rather than on the passing pleasures of sin.
Saturday (11/10) Read and discuss Romans 5:18-21. Michael Bird writes:
People can only know who they are in Christ if they first know that they are really and truly in Christ. They need to be reminded that by putting their faith in Christ, they have, metaphorically speaking, changed their location and gone from the swamp to the oasis, from quicksand to the snowfield, from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee, and exchanged a rat-infested shack for a luxurious apartment. Clearly knowing that one is in Christ has all sorts of applications as Paul will soon explain in Romans 6. It had big implications for Paul’s Gentile readers when it came to their relationship to the Torah and to the Jewish communities in Rome since they no longer had to look to the Torah for the security of their salvation and identity. For contemporary readers, knowing that one is in Christ becomes the basis for appreciating the supremacy of grace, and it grounds the moral imperatives that flow from God’s saving work in us.
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.