30 December 2018 – The Rev. Gary Moore Preaching
Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3
Opening Hymn: 234 “The God of Abraham Praise”
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: Hebrews 4:14-16
Hymn of Preparation: 232 “O Righteous in the LORD Rejoice”
Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 7:1-8:8
New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 11
Sermon: Firm in Faith
Hymn of Response: Psalm 3
Confession of Faith: Q/A 1 Heidelberg Catechism (p. 872)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 471 “The Sands of Time are Sinking”
OT: Isaiah 12
NT: Revelation 5
The LORD is My Song
Shorter Catechism Q/A #72
Q. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words and actions.
Monday (12/24) Read and discuss Isaiah 7:1-14. One time, C.S. Lewis was talking with a colleague in his study at Oxford when a group of students began singing Christmas carols outside his window. His colleague condescendingly said something like, “These are Oxford University students. Don’t they realize that virgins don’t give birth?” To which Lewis dryly replied, “Don’t you think they already know that?” Odd, isn’t it, that, having heard the Christmas story so often, people sometimes forget what a spectacular miracle the virgin conception was? Indeed, it was nothing less than a new creation of the Second Adam. Over the past two centuries many have attempted to strip the miraculous from Scripture. One place where such “scholars” seem to have gained traction is with respect to Isaiah 7:14. At first this may seem odd. Since Matthew and Luke clearly and repeatedly declare that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her womb, what is the point of arguing that Isaiah 7:14 merely speaks of a young woman giving birth and not a virgin? The answer is that it is extremely embarrassing to liberals that God would promise the virgin concept seven centuries before it happened. Oddly, many conservatives have tended to take the liberals at their word and have become very tentative at suggesting that Isaiah 7:14 speaks of the virgin conception of Christ. Nevertheless, there are really strong (even compelling) reasons for holding to the traditional understanding:
- Although liberals have repeatedly asserted that the Hebrew word ‘alma simply means “young woman” no one has ever produced a single example in either biblical or extra-biblical Hebrew where the person referred to was not a virgin. As the Old Testament scholar J. Alec Motyer observes: “Wherever the context allows a judgment, ‘alma is not a general term meaning ‘young woman’ but a specific one meaning ‘virgin’.”
- The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek (done in the two centuries prior to Christ) translates ‘alma with the Greek term parthenon which everyone recognizes means virgin. This is the same term used by Matthew and Luke in the New Testament to record Christ’s virgin conception.
- Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 as being about the birth of Jesus.
- Consider how dramatic a sign the LORD promises to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” As Homer Hailey put it, what is in view is “a sign so momentous that only Jehovah could give it.” Then ask yourself this question: “How dramatic a sign is it that a young woman would bear a son?” The fact is, not only would a young woman bearing a son not be a particularly dramatic sign – it wouldn’t be a sign at all. Young woman have children the natural way all the time.
- If we keep reading from Isaiah 7 through chapter 9 we can trace some interesting details about the child that will be born to this woman: (1) He will be called Immanuel – meaning “God with us” (7:14); (2) In 8:8 he is called Immanuel again and the Land is described as His (3) It is impossible to separate this child from the description in Isaiah 9:6-7 where the child is also described Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. There simply is no way that an ordinary child in Isaiah’s time could have fulfilled all of this – even as a type of the Christ who was to come.
“Following these pointers, we have a sign that lives up to its promise. Heaven and earth will be truly moved. Isaiah foresaw the birth of the divine son of David and also laid the foundation for understanding the unique nature of his birth (Motyer).” Read or sing 234 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Give thanks for the amazing gift of Immanuel – God with us!
Tuesday (12/25) Read and discuss John 1:14-18. John tells us that “The Word became flesh and he pitched His tent (i.e. Tabernacled) amongst us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” What exactly is “glory.” The Old Testament word for glory carries the idea of weightiness or great significance. This weightiness can make other things fade into insignificance by comparison. We sing this truth when we sing:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
That is what the weightiness of glory does to us. I trust that you have all had experiences like that. As you contemplate the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ – other matters that once seemed so urgent or significant suddenly seem far less so. But is that all there is to “glory”? Is that what John meant when he wrote: “We beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”? If we didn’t know anything about the life of Jesus, we might imagine that the revelation of God’s glory in the Messiah would be something like what Isaiah saw in the Temple when the LORD called him to be a prophet. Isaiah writes:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Isn’t that what you think about when you think of the Glory of God? Yet, apart from the brief exception of the Mount of Transfiguration, which only three Disciples witnessed, this is NOT how Jesus revealed the Father’s glory. Instead, Jesus reveals God as being meek and lowly of heart. He chose to be born in a manger. He worked in a carpenter’s shop as a boy. It was said of Jesus: “A bruised reed He would not break and a smoldering wick He would not put out.” The paradox is that Jesus displayed God’s glory by displaying strength and weightiness through humility and even what appeared to be weakness. Jesus, Himself, will speak of the Son of Man being lifted up – that is exalted – on the cross. The cross, which superficially looked like a display of weakness, was actually a great demonstration of the glory of God – as the Son of God trampled Satan, sin, and death under foot. The glory that Christ reveals in the Gospel of John is the glory of God’s grace and truth – and the fullest manifestation of that glory comes at the cross. Read or Sing Hymn 232 “O Righteous in the LORD Rejoice” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you the right perspective that His glory as it is revealed in Jesus Christ would be the weightiest thing in your life.
Wednesday (12/26) 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. Prayer: Ask the LORD to use you, in your weakness, to do something positive in the world this week.
Thursday (12/27) Read and discuss Revelation 5:1-14. In the first century, important legal scrolls were normally sealed with wax and stamped with an official seal that only authorized persons could open. The opening of such seals on a will was where the concept of “probate” originated. A very important scroll, such as the will of the Emperor, would be sealed with seven seals. The book of Revelation is using this imagery, which would have been well known to its original audience, to dramatically present the plans of God both to bless and to bring judgment upon the world. The only problem is that no-one is found worthy to open the scrolls. Don’t skip too quickly over John’s loud weeping in verse 4. If God’s plans to execute justice are never carried out – then the universe would be a fundamentally immoral and meaningless. As the Apostle Paul put it, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die (1 Corinthians 15:32).” But the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David has conquered – and was able to open the seals. Turning to see the Lion, John meets the striking image of a Lamb as though slain. This juxtaposition of images, with the Lamb as though slain being on the throne, vividly portrays how Christ’s victory came through His own death. It is as though Jesus opens the seals of His own will and the blessings which His people inherit in Him are announced – principally that we have been made a kingdom and priests to our God. Yet, this is done in such a way that the focus is not shifted from Christ to us – but to His eternal glory. Salvation is for our good, but it is for His glory. Read or sing Psalm 3 Prayer: Lift up someone close to you, who has not yet come to saving faith, and pray that the LORD would lead him or her to truly embrace Jesus Christ.
Friday (12/28) Read and discuss Isaiah 12:1-6: Alec Motyer writes:
The Bible speaks with one voice: sixty-six books, many authors known and unknown, spread over thousands of years of time, yet a coherent, consistent revelation of one God, one revealed truth, one people of God, one way of salvation. Another ground for awe and wonder before such a unique book: It is that last matter of ‘one way of salvation’ that emerges in today’s reading. What did our early brothers and sisters in the family of Abraham believe in this vital matter? First, not only that salvation arises from God but that He is Himself ‘salvation;’ it is one way of defining what He is. When we stand before Him, we stand before salvation. This is our supreme ground of assurance: God, who in other circumstances would be our judge, unapproachable in holiness, is himself our salvation. Secondly, we need salvation because of the wrath of God against sin and sinners (Rom. 1:18) – not because sin damagers or mars us (though it does) but because it enrages and alienates Him. But, thirdly, Isaiah saw this exasperated anger fade away and be replaced by comfort (v. 2). … In the fourth place, salvation is, on our side, by faith: when we ‘trust,’ all fear and apprehension disappear. Fifthly, the salvation into which we enter once for all by faith is constantly available, never exhausted: we enjoy free access to the fountains of fresh supply. And finally, the same wondrous God who is ‘salvation’ is also our strength for the road and the joy which transforms. Salvation from God; salvation by faith; salvation in endless freshness; salvation ministering strength and delight!
Read or sing Hymn 471 “The Sands of Time are Sinking” Prayer: Please lift up our mission work in Uruguay.
Saturday (12/29) Read and discuss Isaiah 7:1-8:8. Alec Motyer writes:
Decisions are made by those at the top of life’s heap; consequences fall on those at the bottom. King Ahaz and his cabinet called in Assyrian aid, and as a result the land was reduced to subsistence farming and the monotonous struggle for survival. Two centuries earlier (1 Kings 12) Jeroboam the son of Nebat decided to rebel against the house of David, and the ten northern tribes (Israel/Ephraim) followed him. They spurned, says Isaiah, the gently flowing Shiloah (Jerusalem’s water supply) and in the long run, happy with ‘Remaliah’s lad’, brought on themselves the flood waters of Euphrates. It’s all very well that Yahweh is totally in command, but the felt reality is like submitting to an enforced razor, like your seeing your home under six feet of water. And – thank you Ahaz! – the flood swamps Judah too, leaving the impoverished poor just about nose above water, fighting for survival. And this is no ‘might have been’; it is all only too factual. Isaiah foresaw it, and so it happened – exactly so! Therefore we say – and, oh may we mean it and tremble! – the judgements of God are both inevitable and inescapable. Nations cannot turn their backs on Him, or choose the way of self-pleasing or self-salvation – or, as they may call it, collective security – with impunity. God is not mocked. Or again, because the Sovereign remains fully in charge of the historical process, we who believe may indeed rest securely in his care: ‘God is still on the Throne.’ But in its way the most obvious lesson to learn from Isaiah’s analysis of the political process is how concerned we should be to make our elections of our leaders a much more prolonged and committed matter of prayer than we usually do, and to be constant and earnest in our prayers for those who are in positions of leadership and influence. It is an apostolic injunction to pray ‘for kings and all who are in authority’ that we may lead an undisturbed and quiet life in all godliness and seriousness (1 Tim. 2:1-2). It is an easy injunction to overlook, but one we neglect at our peril.
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.