Christ Has Entered into His ReignMay 13, 2018 in Ascension Sunday, Bible - OT - Psalms, Easter, King Jesus, Meditations
Psalm 110 (NKJV)
A Psalm of David. 1 The LORD said to my Lord,“Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 2 The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!
Today is Ascension Sunday. Forty days after rising from the dead, forty days after Easter, Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. So what is the significance of this?
Oft times in history, the coronation of kings was followed by a time of travel. The new king would journey throughout his kingdom and show himself to his people. This was an opportunity for the people to see the new king, pledge allegiance to him, and rejoice in his coronation. But eventually the circuit would come to an end. The king would return to his palace, take his seat on his throne, and begin to rule.
It is this narrative that ties Easter and Ascension together. In the NT, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is understood as coronation day. When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, he rose as God’s triumphant King; the ruler over all the kings of the earth. “You are my son,” God declares in Psalm 2, “Today I have begotten you.” That “today” is the day of Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Acts 2:36; 13:30-33), the day God crowned Jesus King.
For the next 40 days Jesus showed himself to his people. They saw the new King in his glory, pledged their allegiance to him, and rejoiced in his coronation. But eventually this time came to an end. Jesus took his seat on his throne and began to rule: He ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God Almighty, there to rule until all his enemies are subdued beneath his feet. The Father said to Jesus, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
And it is sitting on the throne of His father David, sitting at the right hand of God Almighty, that Jesus continues to reign even now and will continue until he has subdued all his enemies beneath his feet. The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Jesus is Lord! Jesus reigns! Let the earth be glad and the righteous rejoice! And so we are instructed to pray that God’s kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We are told to pray for the expansion of Jesus’ rule, the full manifestation of His kingship in human history. For as Jesus’ kingship becomes increasingly acknowledged, light and life come in ever greater degrees.
And because Jesus is Lord, because Jesus is God’s anointed king, the only way that we can come to God is by pledging our loyalty to Jesus. He who honors the Son, honors the Father; he who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him. This morning we have been summoned into the presence of God Almighty; as you are able, let us kneel as we enter his presence and pledge our allegiance to His Son Jesus.
Proverbs 10:16 (NKJV)
16 The labor of the righteous leads to life, The wages of the wicked to sin.
When God fashioned us in the beginning and placed us in the Garden of Eden, He immediately commissioned us. He gave us a duty to fulfill, a task to perform. Our role in the Garden was not to sit back and luxuriate; it was not to be in a perpetual state of leisure. God gave us a mission to accomplish, a work to complete. Six days we were to labor and do all our work; on one we were to rest and worship. So what was that labor? God placed us in the garden, we are told in Genesis 2:15, to tend and to keep it.
First, we were to tend the garden. We were to cultivate the ground and to make it even more fruitful than it already was. We were to extend the order of the Garden to the rest of the world and offer the fruit of that labor up to our Creator as our service of worship and adoration. Second, we were to keep the garden. We were to guard it and protect it from destruction – whether destruction from our own hands or from those of an intruder.
What this means is that work was part of the paradise of God. We were designed to tend and keep the earth to the glory of God. Work is a gift from God. Tragically, we rejected our twofold calling. We failed to protect the Garden from the serpent-intruder. We permitted him to lead us astray and we rebelled against God. Consequently, the blessing of work became twisted and tainted by the curse of toil. Thorns and thistles, death and destruction, came in the wake of our sin. Work and toil became intertwined.
But God did not abandon us to toil. He sent His Son Jesus to rescue us from our rebellion and to restore us to fellowship with Him. By faith in Jesus’ Name, He forgives our sin and gives us His Spirit so that we can once again tend and keep the earth to the glory of His Name. Solomon reminds us, “The labor of the righteous leads to life…” Those who fear God work to the glory of God and so bring life to the world. While still troubled by the effects of sin and required to wrestle against thorns and thistles, we do so as those who have been reconciled to God and restored to the glory of work. Because Christ has risen from the dead, Paul reminds us, “Our labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Teaching children, changing diapers, balancing accounts, building homes – every dimension of earthly labor can bring glory and honor to our Redeemer.
Nevertheless, there are those who still refuse to work for the glory of God. They violate the first and greatest commandment which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Consequently, all their labor remains intertwined with toil and is dishonoring to God. From digging ditches, to cleaning toilets, to painting landscapes, to healing the sick – “the wages of the wicked lead to sin.” Those who do not fear God sin even in the littlest things and, since sin leads to death, their toil leads to meaninglessness and death.
So here’s what Solomon would have you remember: God the Creator has put you in the world to labor for His glory. He has sent His Son to redeem the world that you might be reconciled to Him and do all your work motivated by a desire to glorify His Name. So do you? First, do you love work or do you love leisure? Do you value the tasks that God has given you to perform or are you constantly endeavoring to avoid them? Second, what motivates your labor? Are you working just to make money? Working just to make your payments? Or are you working for the glory and honor of the Lord?
Solomon reminds us to labor faithfully to the glory of God – this is the pathway to life. But often we shirk our responsibilities, often we fail to offer our work up as worship to the Lord, often we fail to protect our workplaces from those who would destroy them; we have need to confess our sins to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.
Storing up wealth or living hand to mouth?April 30, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Wealth
Proverbs 10:15 (NKJV)
15 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; The destruction of the poor is their poverty.
In the text before us today, Solomon highlights the blessing of wealth and the danger of poverty. On the one hand is the blessing of wealth. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city… In the ancient world, a strong city was a place of refuge and protection from the ravages of warfare. Walled cities, or strong cities as Solomon calls them, were havens of security in an insecure world. Like the walls of these strong cities is the wealth of the rich man. His wealth enables him to hide himself, his family, and his friends in times of hardship or difficulty. His wealth is a source of security and protection. It is a blessing from God.
On the other hand is the danger of poverty. The destruction of the poor is their poverty. Whereas marauders, thieves, and foreign armies often left strong cities alone, they frequently laid waste small villages and unwalled cities, plundering property, slaying the populace, and sometimes devastating the surrounding countryside. These unwalled cities were constantly exposed to danger and oppression. Likewise, the poor man. When hardship arrives, the poor man has no resources upon which to draw to sustain himself or his family. His poverty is his destruction.
Solomon’s words remind us, first, of the blessing of wealth and the value of saving. Living hand to mouth is sometimes necessary but never wise. Always better to save for a rainy day, to build one’s wealth, so that in times of hardship you have a strong city to which you can flee. In Scripture, it is not sinful to acquire wealth; it is sinful to have a lust for wealth, it is sinful to use your wealth to promote wickedness, it is sinful to steal from others in order to gain wealth; but it is not sinful to acquire wealth. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city… and is, therefore, a blessing from God.
Solomon’s words also remind us, second, of the blessings of spiritual wealth. It is the man or woman who knows the character and promises of his God who will be able to endure times of hardship and suffering. And this type of wealth, spiritual wealth, is a wealth that any child of God can acquire whether he be rich or poor. On the one hand, Paul writes of the rich: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim 6:17-19). On the other hand, James writes of the poor, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (2:5) Spiritual wealth is a strong city which any child of God may acquire by the grace of God.
So what of you? Are you endeavoring to store up wealth in order that you may have a strong city in times of trouble? Are you avoiding debt and endeavoring to save or are you just living hand to mouth? Are you growing in your knowledge of God’s character and promises so that you may be able to weather the tribulations that will come your way in this life or are you spiritually poor? Remember the words of Solomon: The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; The destruction of the poor is their poverty.
Reminded of our calling to think of tomorrow and to store up wealth for times of trouble, let us acknowledge that we often fail to do so. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.
John Calvin commenting on John 9:14 – Now it was the Sabbath…
“Christ purposely chose a sabbath day, which would give cause of offence to the Jews. He had already found, in regard to the paralytic, that even this work was open to misrepresentation. Why then does He not avoid the offence, as He could easily have done, save because the malignant reaction of His enemies would magnify the power of God? The sabbath day is like a whet-stone that sharpens them to inquire more eagerly into the whole affair. And yet what good does a careful and earnest examination of the question do, but that the truth of the miracle shines more brightly? Moreover, we are taught by this example that if we want to follow Christ, we have to exasperate the enemies of the Gospel, and that those who compromise between the world and Christ, so as to condemn every kind of scandal, are utterly mad, since Christ, on the contrary, knowingly and deliberately provoked the ungodly. So we should pay heed to the rule that He lays down elsewhere, that the blind and the leaders of the blind are to be disregarded (Matt. 15.14).”
John Calvin, The Gospel According to St. John: Part One, 1-10, Trans. by T.H.L. Parker, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988) p. 245.
“[King Zedekiah] did evil in the sight of Yahweh His God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of Yahweh. And [the king] also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God; but he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to Yahweh the God of Israel.
2 Chronicles 36:12-13
The text before us today speaks of the sad legacy of King Zedekiah, last of the kings of Judah. Heir to a broken kingdom, Zedekiah hastened its slide into oblivion. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, had conquered Judah in fulfillment of God’s just judgment. Rather than submit to God’s hand, however, Zedekiah sought escape by soliciting the help of Egypt. The result was disastrous. Zedekiah watched his own sons slain before his eyes before being blinded and forced to end his days in chains and slavery.
The transgressions of Zedekiah stand as warnings to all of us. Consider three admonitions which we can gather from this text.
First, Zedekiah failed to humble himself before the Word of God. He did evil in the sight of Yahweh His God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of Yahweh. When challenged by Jeremiah, when confronted with the Word of God spoken, Zedekiah chose to follow his own path instead. He rejected the Word of the Lord. So what of you? How do you respond to the Word of God preached and applied? Do you listen and give heed? Or do you harden your heart or conveniently forget? Beware the fate of Zedekiah.
Second, Zedekiah violated his oath. He rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God. He swore to remain loyal to King Nebuchadnezzar. However, when Egypt made an offer of help, when a more attractive deal came along, he forsook that oath. So what of you? Are you faithful to your oaths? Do you keep your word even when you swear to your own hurt? Or do you look for paths of escape when the going gets tough? Baptismal oaths, marriage oaths, membership oaths, service oaths – each demands faithfulness and loyalty but we are often tempted to excuse our unfaithfulness. Beware the fate of Zedekiah.
Third, Zedekiah’s refused to turn to Yahweh. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to Yahweh the God of Israel. When he entered upon the great responsibility of kingship, even when he reached the end of his own resources, he refused to turn to God and seek wisdom from Him. Instead he turned to foreign gods and relied upon his own wisdom and strength. So what of you? To whom are you turning in your difficulties? Perhaps there are new pressures at work or at home? The children are not behaving as you had hoped? A friendship is under strain? To whom are you turning? Have you turned to God, prayed to Him, asked Him to intercede on Your behalf? Or have you hardened your heart? Beware the fate of Zedekiah.
These warnings serve as a reminder that as we come before the Lord to worship, we must confess our sins and transgressions to Him, beseeching Him to forgive us for the sake of Christ. We must not stiffen our necks but humble ourselves in His sight. So as we humble ourselves before Him, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.
Proverbs 25:11–12 (NKJV)
11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. 12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.
Last week we celebrated Easter. But lest we think we can exhaust the glory of Easter with one day of worship, the Church has historically celebrated this period of time as Eastertide – today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ resurrection is far too significant an event to be celebrated only one day – it inaugurates a season for rejoicing! Jesus has risen from the dead! And this means that all those who believe in Him shall likewise rise from the dead and that even now, by the power of the Spirit, we can walk in newness of life, empowered by Christ to live in such a way that we please our Heavenly Father.
Two areas where we are most in need of Christ’s resurrection power are our tongue and our ears. James exhorts us, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (1:19). Our ears are to be open and our tongues are to be circumspect. We are to listen attentively and speak carefully.
In our study of John’s Gospel two weeks ago, Jesus condemned the Jewish leaders for their failure to listen to what He was saying. “If I speak the truth,” He had said to them, “why do you not listen to what I say? He who is of God hears the words of God; therefore, you do not listen, because you are not of God.” Jesus’ words remind us that the child of God cultivates an ear for the truth. He wants to hear the truth even if it is uncomfortable and even if it comes in an inglorious package. As I said at the time, better to receive a diamond wrapped in cow dung than cubic zirconia on a shiny band.
When we consider our calling as listeners, therefore, it is to cultivate a willingness to listen even when others are speaking unclearly or unkindly. We want the truth. Solomon urges us, “Buy the truth and do not sell it” (Prov 23:23).
Corresponding to this duty as listeners is our duty as speakers. While the godly listener does his best to overlook style and to grasp the substance of what another has said, the godly speaker is to do his best to communicate clearly. Better to present the diamond on a shiny band than wrapped in cow dung. And it is this calling that Solomon highlights in our text today:
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.
While the duty of the listener is, in our text, to have “an obedient ear,” the duty of the speaker is to be a “wise rebuker” and to utter “a word fitly spoken.” The calling of the speaker, in other words, is to display the truth in all its glory – to make it like an apple of gold, an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold such that it is easy for a listening ear to accept it, that it is displayed in settings of silver.
Solomon’s words remind us that effective communication takes hard work. It takes skill to craft golden apples, earrings and ornaments – and learning to speak clearly requires no less skill. It takes years for silversmiths to learn their craft – and developing a listening ear takes no less time. So what of you? Are you learning to communicate more clearly and to listen more carefully? Husbands, are you studying your wife so that you can live with her according to knowledge? Wives, are you studying to communicate clearly and listen obediently to your husbands? Parents and children, do you regularly evaluate your tongues and your ears to make sure that you are communicating well? Singles, do you place a higher value on others than on yourself and study to understand them well and communicate to them lucidly?
Reminded that Christ rose from the dead to empower us to be faithful speakers and listeners, let us confess that we are often lazy and sin regularly with our tongues and our ears. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.
Romans 1:1-4 (NKJV)
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
Today is Easter – the most significant of the various holy days in the Church calendar. More pivotal than Christmas, more central than Pentecost, more crucial than Epiphany – Easter celebrates the most world transforming event in all human history. Because of the resurrection, we have the Gospel. Because of the resurrection, we have cathedrals. Because of the resurrection, we have new life, forgiveness, and peace with God – all because of the resurrection.
It is this world transformation that Paul highlights in the introduction to his letter to the Romans. After assuring us that Christ’s coming was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets and that he came as was foretold a son of David, Paul goes on to declare that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead. What does he mean by this clause?
While many have supposed that Paul is here outlining the two natures of Christ – according to his human nature he was of the seed of David but he was also the Son of God – the text does not support this notion. For how could Jesus’ status as the eternal Son of God undergo a transformation as a result of the resurrection? He has and ever will be the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. This is not what Paul is addressing.
What is Paul saying then? He is telling us about the transformation that has occurred in the ministry of our Lord Jesus as a result of the resurrection. He was born of the seed of David – in other words, he had the natural right to rule as God’s King. But simply having the natural right to rule does not establish that one does in fact rule. Bonnie Prince Charlie may have had a rightful claim to the throne of England; but a mere claim does not make one king in fact. And it is this that Paul addresses with the next phrase. Not only was Jesus born to be King – not only did he have a rightful claim to the throne – by the resurrection from the dead He was declared to be the Son of God, the King of Israel, with power – that is, in the resurrection Jesus was crowned as God’s King. He not only has the right to the throne, He is now seated upon His throne, ruling as God’s King.
What is the significance of Easter then? On this day we celebrate the coronation of our King. Nearly two thousand years ago he was crowned King of the Universe, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him and this includes, because He conquered death, authority over death itself. He has the keys of death and hell. He opens and no one shuts. So death is conquered; death is destroyed. Christ is risen and those in Him shall arise as well. Death is no more the final word.
Is this not good news? Brethren, Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!) Let us shout Alleluia! (Alleluia!) So give heed to the exhortation in Psalm 2, the coronation psalm of our King:
10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
And so reminded that Jesus is Lord, let us kneel as we are able and acknowledge our rightful King, asking His forgiveness for our sins against Him. (Our confession this morning is an acknowledgement of the ways we have broken each of the Ten Commandments.)
Luke 9:51–56 (NKJV)
51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for [Jesus] to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, it was the culmination of intentional planning on his part. From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus understood that one day He would be called upon to enter into Jerusalem only to be rejected and killed. And it is this fixed purpose of Jesus to die for His people which Luke highlights for us in our text today.
Luke tells us that when the time had come for Jesus to be received up – in other words, when the time had come for Jesus to be crucified, the time when He would be delivered over to the scribes and chief priests, and rejected, and put to death – when that time had arrived, Jesus steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. He knew it was in that city that the final contest would be waged. So He did not shrink back in fear or waver in unbelief but steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. He went to His death willingly and courageously.
As Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem, they come to a Samaritan village, but the village rejects Him and refuses to grant him and his disciples shelter. Why? Listen to Luke’s words: But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. The villagers rejected Jesus as a foretaste of the destiny that awaited him in Jerusalem. He goes to Jerusalem to suffer and be rejected.
Why? Jesus’ rebuke of James’ and John’s vindictiveness gives the answer. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. Jesus is going to Jerusalem so that He might save men, women, and children from sin and death, save them from the ravages of the Evil One. He is going to Jerusalem to give His life a sacrifice for others, to give His life so that the just penalty of the law might be paid by Him so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem to die. He went to Jerusalem willingly, courageously, and sacrificially.
It is fitting, therefore, on Palm Sunday – this day that we celebrate the entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem – that our color changes to red – for red is the color of blood and it was to shed His blood that Jesus entered into the city. While Jesus was acclaimed today, He knew that this acclamation would not continue and that the end of the story would be bloody. He had set His face to go to Jerusalem.
This morning we are reminded that Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem for our sins. There is forgiveness with the Lord, that He may be feared. If He hated sin so much that He was willing to send His own Son to die for it, then ought not we to hate sin as well? As we enter into the presence of the Lord, therefore, let us confess our sins in the Name of Christ and seek the Lord’s forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus our Savior. As we do so, and as you are able, let us kneel. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.