28 July 2019 – Silas Schreyack Preaching
Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3
Opening Hymn: 245 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
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: Psalm 86:12-15
Hymn of Preparation: 243 “How Firm a Foundation”
Old Covenant Reading: Jonah 3:1-10
New Covenant Reading: Romans 15:8-13
Sermon: The Goodness of God Leads to Repentance
Hymn of Response: Psalm 32B “How Blest Is He Whose Trespass”
Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 851)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 238 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee”
OT: 1 Kings 8:22-30
NT: Acts 7:44-50
Praying to the Most High God
Shorter Catechism Q/A # 101
Q. What do we pray for in the first petition?
A. In the first petition, which is, Hallowed be thy name, we pray that God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known; and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.
Monday (7/22) Read and discuss Jonah 3:1-10. It is frequently said that “repentance is a change of mind.” That is true, but it is incomplete. Biblical repentance involves a reorientation of our whole selves, so that we seek going our own way and are turned to God. When the king of Nineveh rises from his throne and puts on sackcloth, he is acknowledging that though he might be the king of Nineveh for a short period of time – he is not the Great King – and so he abases himself before the One who is truly in charge. Rosemary Nixon puts it like this:
There is something deliberately dramatic about the [the words of verse 6]. They are vividly pictorial. There is a beautiful symmetry in the way the actions of the king are set out. The action begins with him rising from his throne and ends with him sitting in ashes. Between these two resting places he has taken off his royal robe and covered, or ‘hidden,’ himself in sackcloth. Not even David’s repentance, after he had heard the words of Nathan the prophet, is so lucidly portrayed. In that story it is only after King David has been told that his child is dead that we are told, “Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his clothes. The story of Ahab shows he king adopting a similar response on hearing the words of the prophet Elijah: ‘he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about dejectedly.’ God’s response to Ahab was to delay judgment.
The response of these kings to the words of the prophets was unusual. Perhaps more common was the response of Jehoiakim, king in Jerusalem. On hearing the words of the prophet Jeremiah read to him by the scribe, ‘the king would cut them off with a penknife and throw them into the fire. … Yet neither the king, nor any of his servants who heard all these words, was afraid, nor did they rend their garments.’ Such brazen hostility towards God was all the more shocking coming from a descendant of David and a king of Jerusalem.
The pagan king of Nineveh, however, knew that fasting and the usual outward signs of repentance alone were insufficient. He added a totally new dimension to them by urging on the people the idea that the pattern of evil and violence had to be broken: ‘let every one turn from his evil way and from … violence’ (v. 8). It is not said of the men of Nineveh, “And God saw their sackcloth and their fasting,” but “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way.”
Read or sing Hymn 245 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Please lift up the young people of our congregation and ask that the LORD would protect them from the temptation towards materialism – and thinking that life consists in an abundance of things.
Tuesday (7/23) Read and discuss Romans 12:14-21. Verse 15 commands us to:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
John Stott helps us flesh this out. He writes:
Love never stands aloof from other people’s joys or pains. Love identifies with them, sings with them, and suffers with them. Love enters deeply into their experiences and their emotions, their laughter and their tears, and feels solidarity with them, whatever their mood.
Human nature being what it is, this has always required people to die to themselves in order to live for God. If you are honest with yourself, you will probably admit that this doesn’t come natural to any of us. Yes, we are happy to have your friends share their suffering – so long as we can be sympathetic in an efficient manner and then move on to something else. It is much more difficult to joyfully give up your plans for the next two or three hours to sit with someone in their grief. Remember Jobs friends. Astonishingly, they sat with Job for seven days without saying a word – because they saw that his suffering was very great. We frequently rush to criticizing Jobs friends – but let me confess – I have never done that, not even once in my entire life. But when the suffering didn’t end, Jobs friends lost their sympathy and they began to speak. Nevertheless, you have to give them this: At least they were there. Beloved, you can only truly weep with those who weep when, by the grace of God, you consider the needs of other people more important than your own – and when you are seeking the praise of God rather than the praise of man. For God cares so much about His children, that He – as it were – stores up all of our tears in a bottle.
Perhaps surprisingly, as difficult as it can be to weep with those who weep, it can be even more difficult to rejoice with those who rejoice. Parents, if you doubt me on this, how much do you rejoice when one of your friends or co-workers tells you that his daughter just received a full-scholarship to Princeton? No, I don’t mean your instant polite response the first time he tells you this. I mean what are you thinking and feeling the 6th or 7th time he excitedly shares this “news” with you? Do you genuinely enter into the other person’s joy or are you secretly – and I hope that it is “secretly” – are you secretly thinking: “Yes – Yes – We all get it. Your daughter is really special. She received a full scholarship to Princeton. Can we move on to something else”? It can be quite challenging both to weep with those who weep, and to rejoice with those who rejoice. We can only do this when we fix our eyes on Jesus and live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Read or Sing Hymn 243 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Ask the LORD to work a genuine sympathy into your life for those who are around you.
Wednesday (7/24) Read and discuss Romans 15:8-13. N.T. Wright comments:
The great Finnish composer John Sibelius brought the art of writing symphonies to a new glory. His first six were each splendid in their own way, developing the form which previous composers had used and flooding it not only with new themes but with new ways of developing and combining them. But in his seventh symphony he moved into a different mode again. If we listen carefully, we can trace elements of the traditional four-movement structure. The music passes through different moods that correspond in some ways to the regular pattern. But Sibelius has woven the whole thing together into a single great movement, far more tightly knit together than anything he or anyone else had attempted previously. It remains one of the most sublime pieces of music ever written.
This great symphony begins and ends in the key which, for many composers, has been a kind of ‘home base,’ that of C Major. … This is part of the great appeal of Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony, providing a lasting sense of satisfaction at having worked through all the different moods and returned, full and grateful, to where we started. Something of the same sense is captured in T.S. Elliot’s famous lines, in ‘Little Gidding,’ the last of his Four Quartets, in which he speaks of arriving at last at the place where we began and knowing it for the first time.
Something of this same effect, I suggest, is what Paul achieves in the present passage. This is often overlooked, because many readers come to the letter with particular questions to which they find the answers in earlier chapters and then retire exhausted, like someone listening only to the first ten minutes of Sibelius’s seventh symphony and then, having heard a favorite tune, walking out of the concert. Romans, of course, like a great symphony, does have some obvious ‘movements,’ and we have noted them as we have gone through. Chapters 1-4, 5-8, 9-11 each form a single section with its own integrity, its own argument, its own great themes developed in their own way. So, too, does the section which runs from the beginning of chapter 12 to the end of the present passage (15:14 to the end of the letter function as a kind of personal conclusion). But Paul has clearly had the whole thing in mind all through, and the four main sections are stitched together with so many crisscrossing themes, so many tunes that echo previous material or anticipate what is to come, that the Sibelius analogy has considerable force at this point too.
The main thing to notice, though, is the ‘key’ in which Paul’s argument ends as it began. In 1.1-5, Paul sets out the gospel which he has been commissioned to announce among all the nations. Its main content is Jesus: Jesus as the son of David who is also the son of God, Jesus who has risen from the dead, Jesus who is now the Lord of the whole world. This is his ‘home base,’ the Christian equivalent of the musician’s key of C Major. Most of the great tunes of romans have been either in this key or in another closely related to it.
Prayer: Ask that the LORD would tune your life so that it radiates the major key of the true gospel.
Thursday (7/25) Read and discuss Acts 7:44-50. Eckhard J. Schnabel writes:
As Stephen is interrogated about his convictions, he responds with a long review of the history of Israel. This could be regarded as a response that fits the context, since Stephen stands before the Jewish leaders in the Sanhedrin. However, from the fact that the early Christians relied on the Old Testament as their Scriptures, and from the fact that many foundational terms, metaphors, and convictions are used in the New Testament to describe the transformative salvation that has become a reality through Jesus Christ, there is an obviously fundamental continuity between Israel and the church. When we relate this continuity to the history of Israel that Stephen summarizes in Acts 7, three basic points emerge [the first of these is]:
The revelation and salvation that characterized the history of God’s people since Abraham explain God’s revelation and salvation through Jesus and thus characterize the history of God’s people ever since. Stephen recounts Israel’s history in order to explain, among other things, the climatic fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus, the messianic Son of Man who is the Prophet-Redeemer like Moses. The life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus is the new foundation and center of the life of God’s people – since the promises given to Abraham have been fulfilled, since the redemption effected by his death supersedes the redemption that God provided at the time of Joseph and Moses, and since the function of the tabernacle and the temple as places of God’s presence has been absorbed by Jesus, the exalted Son of Man who works on behalf of his people from his position at the right hand of God.
But Jesus’ significance cannot be properly understood if we do not understand God’s promises to Abraham, God’s intervention at the time of Joseph, God’s redemption at the time of Moses through the exodus from Egypt, God’s revelation at Mount Sinai, and God’s worship in the tabernacle and in the temple. Since Jesus has a dramatically increasing number of people who follow him and who constitute the “congregation” of God’s people in the present time (both in the first century and today), they claim Israel’s history as their own history. Paul’s arguments in Romans 4 indicate that this is true even for Gentile Christians – Abraham is their “father” also, and God’s promises to Abraham and his redemption in the exodus inform their self-understanding as the people of God just as in the case of Jewish Christians.
Read or Sing Psalm 32B “How Blest Is He Whose Trespass” Prayer: Give thanks, that by faith you have become a child of Abraham and therefore a child of the Living God.
Friday (7/26) Read and discuss 1 Kings 8:22-30. Phil Ryken writes:
The first three parts of Solomon’s prayer are his praise, his petition, and his invocation. The king opens his prayer by praising God for who he is: “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day.”
The king thus began his prayer with God, who is the beginning of everything. He addressed God as the LORD, acknowledging his sovereignty over heaven and earth. He also identified his LORD as the “God of Israel.” God is not some abstract or impersonal deity, but someone who has a personal relationship with his people. He is their God, and this is the starting point for everything else in prayer.
To say that the LORD is the God of Israel is not to say that he is merely a tribal deity, as if he were only one among many gods, on a par with the idols of other nations. On the contrary, Solomon praises God for his uniqueness, his incomparability. There is no one else like him. He is the only true deity. No other so-called god even belongs in the same category with God the one and only. There is no other god like him “on earth beneath” – no one else we can trust to satisfy our souls or take care of our physical needs. There is no other god like him “in heaven above” – no other being who deserves our worship. In other words, there is no other god like him at all. He alone is the one true God.
When Solomon prayed this way, he was following an ancient tradition for worship. The prophet Moses said, “Lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Deut. 4:39). The Israelites acknowledged this truth every morning in their daily prayers, when they said, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4). In making this confession of their faith, they were declaring the incomparability of God. Solomon’s father David believed the same doctrine. Thus he prayed, “There is none like you among the gods, O LORD …; you alone are God” (Ps. 86:8, 10).
Read or sing Hymn 238 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee” Prayer: Please lift up Grace Presbyterian Church in Laconia, NH as they become a member congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church this evening.
Saturday (7/27) Read and discuss Jonah 3:1-10. Kevin Youngblood writes:
Jonah’s oracle, despite its brevity, sparks a remarkable movement of contrition and repentance that can only be attributed to God’s mercy. The immediacy and thoroughness of the citizens’ response stresses the power of God’s word to inspire reform even on such a large scale as the great metropolis of Nineveh.
Furthermore, the fact that this narrative applies similar terminology to God’s relenting from disaster as it does to human repentance from moral wrong suggest a significant connection between the two. God is responsive to human repentance because of His mercy.
At the same time, the narrative carefully avoids compromising divine freedom in any way. Though God’s change of course from judgment to mercy was motivated by Nineveh’s repentance, it was in no way necessitated by that repentance (3:9). God is presented as free both with regard to human repentance and with regard to the prophetic word. Neither human repentance nor the prophetic word forces God into a course of action. Thus, Jonah 3 provides a clear illustration of the principle expressed in Jeremiah 18:7-10:
If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be build up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had threatened to do for it.
One should not, however, interpret God’s freedom with regard to the divine word as implying any inefficacy with regard to that word or caprice on God’s part. Whether Nineveh repents and is spared, or does not and is destroyed, the divine word is effective and vindicated. This is evident in two ways in the narrative. First, the narrative refuses to give any credit for Nineveh’s repentance to secondary causes. While the curious reader may wish to know what providential circumstances inclined the proud and wicked Assyrians to respond so readily, the narrative keeps the reader’s attention firmly fixed on the divine word as the only cause. Nineveh’s remarkably repentance is therefore attributable to nothing but the power of God’s word.
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.