Abortion and the Law

January 21, 2018 in Abortion, Bible - OT - Exodus, Children, Confession

Exodus 21:22-25 (ESV)
22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, appointed such to mark the anniversary of the diabolical Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. For 45 years now our nation has given legal sanction to the murder and dismemberment of the unborn, the most vulnerable members of our society. The death toll has now topped 60 million in the United States alone and, through our influence on the rest of the world, many millions more than that. Our hands are covered with the blood of innocents and God is and will continue to exact vengeance upon us as a people for our evil.

In contrast with our law which does not recognize the personhood of the unborn child, the case law in Exodus 21 clearly identifies the unborn child as a person and affords that child protection under the law. Consider the opening admonition. Verse 22 declares: When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine.

Note, first, that this law recognizes the personhood of the unborn. The ESV accurately captures the Hebrew and identifies the baby or babies in the mother’s womb as her “children” – not her property, nor her bodily tissue, but her children.

Second, note that this legal protection fosters a culture that honors pregnant women and the life they carry. This law specifically addresses incidental or accidental injury to a pregnant woman or her child. If two people are striving with one another and, in their striving, hit a pregnant woman, then they are held guilty for their action. God so honors the life-giving woman that it is a crime to strike her incidentally and precipitate her delivery. Those who do so are culpably irresponsibile. And note that this is the case even if no harm happens to the woman or child – if they strike her so that her children come out but there is no harm, then they shall pay as the husband demands and the court allows. In other words, God demands that people honor a pregnant woman by restraining their rage in her presence.

Finally, note that the Scripture adds additional consequences in cases when harm does occur. Verse 23 declares, if there is harm, then you shall pay. If there is harm – harm to whom, we ask? The woman or the child? Yes. The ambiguity of the text indicates that both woman and child are protected by the law. And what shall be paid? The lex talionis is applied: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Biblical law protects the mother and her unborn child.

We see, therefore, how perverse our law has become. And because our law refuses to protect the unborn, our honor for life generally has regressed. As God’s people, our calling is to reverse this trend by loving pregnant women, loving the unborn, and loving little ones. So thank God for the baby showers, for the regular prayers, for the love of life. May these continue. And, children, we have many pregnant women in our midst. You need to exercise care when you are running around lest you accidentally hit them. And, parents, you need to train your children to recognize and honor those who are with child.

And so reminded this morning that God honors and protects the women who bear children and the children themselves, let us confess that we have betrayed the unborn and that we are guilty as a people. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord.

Why use leavened bread in the Supper?

April 2, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Luke, Bible - OT - Exodus, Bible - OT - Leviticus, Communion, Lord's Day, Meditations, Postmillennialism
Luke 13:20–21 (NKJV)
20 And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
For several weeks, we have been explaining some of the traditions that we include in our corporate worship. Last week we touched upon our practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly; this week let us consider our practice of using leavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. Why use yeast? Why leavened bread?
Given that the Lord’s Supper has parallels with the old covenant rite of Passover, some have argued that Christians should use unleavened bread in the Supper. Passover was the last day in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, given to celebrate the exodus from Egypt. Since the Lord’s Supper was inaugurated during that feast, some have argued that we should use unleavened bread in our celebration. What should we think of this?
Let us say, first, that there is nothing wrong with a church deciding to use unleavened bread in its celebration of the Supper. “The kingdom of God is not in eating and drinking but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). Further, Paul exhorts us in Corinthians, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:8). Unleavened bread can be used to convey such an exhortation and there is nothing wrong in its use.
That said, throughout Scripture both leavened and unleavened bread were used in sacred rites. While unleavened bread was used at Passover, leavened bread was used for the peace offerings (Lev 7:13) as well as for the celebration of Pentecost (Lev 23:16-17). Given that the Lord’s Supper is the new covenant feast that centers all these rites in Christ’s death and resurrection, it is important to recall why unleavened bread was used at Passover to determine if that rationale applies to the Lord’s Supper.

According to Exodus 12, unleavened bread highlighted the “haste” with which our fathers were to leave Egypt. God wanted them to leave quickly and so they didn’t have time for the yeast to rise. This sense of haste was confirmed by their dress – they were to eat the meal prepared to travel. “And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waste, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste” (Ex 12:11).
So does the Lord’s Supper commemorate this same sense of “haste”? I don’t think so. The only haste seen at the Last Supper is that of Judas who is told, “What you have to do, do quickly!” That is hardly the type of haste we want to imitate! So what does the bread of the Lord’s Supper commemorate? It commemorates the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and the commencement of His kingdom. At the Supper Jesus took bread and broke it; He then shared it among his disciples, saying, “Take, eat, this is My body.” The bread points not to haste but to Christ.
And this brings us back to the parable I read earlier. And again [Jesus] said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Jesus uses leaven to illustrate the pervasive influence of His kingdom, His rule. His kingdom shall operate in the world like leaven, slowly, organically permeating the world until the entire earth is leavened. And it is this characteristic of Christ’s rule that we are attempting to emphasize by using leavened bread: Jesus’ kingdom is like leaven. Slowly, organically the reality symbolized by this bread will become realized throughout the world. Jesus will spread His rule throughout the nations of the earth.

The use of leavened bread, therefore, summons us to be like leaven, to be instruments of God’s work in our families, communities, and workplaces. We are so to live and labor that the entire loaf becomes leavened. Reminded that God has called us to be leaven; to live so that through our witness Christ’s rule on earth is established; let us confess that we often fail to live in this leavening fashion. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Baptism speaks about us and about God

March 6, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Luke, Bible - OT - Exodus, Children, Ecclesiology, Sin
Exodus 20:4–6 (NKJV)
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
This morning we have the privilege of baptizing Carly Bryan. Permit me to say a few words before we do so.
Baptism says something about us and baptism says something about God. First, baptism says something about us. Baptism declares, in no uncertain terms, that we are sinners in need of salvation by Christ. And the baptism of infants announces the sober reality of original sin. Even this child, not yet old enough to know her right hand from her left, has been born in sin. By nature, she is a child of wrath, even as the rest. Christian parents don’t have magic sperm and eggs that prevent the transmission of corruption – would that it were so! Baptism reveals that we are sinners in need of salvation by Christ – only He can save us, we cannot save ourselves.
Second, baptism says something about God. It announces that God has graciously provided a way of salvation, a way to be cleansed of our sin, cleansed of our corruption – both the original sin with which we are born and the actual sin that we ourselves begin to practice. God has provided a sacrifice to cover the guilt of our sin in the Person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism reveals God’s grace.
And the baptism of infants declares something further about God’s grace. The baptism of infants reveals something remarkable about God – His grace is not confined to atomistic individuals but extends itself from one generation to the next. In this baptism, God promises Carly that He will be her God and the God of her children after her – for He has been her parents’, grandparents’, and great-grandparents’ God before her. Notice our text today:
For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

And so Mary, the mother of our Lord, sings in her Magnificat: “For God’s mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation” (Lk 1:50). Baptism reveals something about us – our sin; but it also reveals something about God – His abounding grace. And praise God for that!

Raising Hands in Worship?

February 13, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Timothy, Bible - NT - Luke, Bible - OT - Exodus, Bible - OT - Leviticus, Bible - OT - Nehemiah, Bible - OT - Psalms, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Worship
1 Timothy 2:8 (NKJV)
8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;
In the last few weeks we have explored various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship – singing the psalms, publicly reading Scripture, reciting the creeds, kneeling for confession, etc. Every church has such traditions and it is important that we regularly evaluate them to make sure that they reflect, not undermine, biblical principles.
Today I want us to consider the practice of raising hands in worship. I raise my hands to assure the congregation of forgiveness and to pronounce the blessing of the Lord; we all raise our hands to sing at the end of the service. Why do such things? Why raise hands at all?
The answer to this question is supplied by the Apostle Paul in our text today: Paul wants us to raise hands. Paul writes to Timothy, I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands… (1 Tim 2:8). If Paul wants holy hands to be lifted up in prayer, then we need to come up with ways to obey him.
So what are the circumstances in which Scripture records the raising of hands by the people of God? First, God’s leaders often raise their hands to bless the people of God. In Leviticus 9:22, Aaron “lifted his hand toward the people [and] blessed them….” Aaron’s action was later imitated by the priests as they blessed Israel. Most significantly, Luke records that after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, Jesus “led the [disciples] out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them” (24:50). The lifting of hands in blessing communicates visibly to God’s people the reality of the blessing that is being pronounced. In our service of worship, this action corresponds to the assurance of forgiveness following confession and to the benediction at the end of service.
Second, God’s people often raise hands to worship or bless God. The psalmist declares, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name” (Ps 63:3-4). In Nehemiah 8:6 we are told that “Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands.” So as we prepare to leave the sanctuary each week, having renewed covenant with God, the entire congregation lifts up holy hands to praise the Lord. Indeed, at certain times of the year, we summon one another to raise hands as we sing in Psalm 134:2, “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord.”
Finally, God’s people, especially the men, often raise hands to lift their prayers into God’s presence. David prays in Psalm 28:2, “Hear the voice of my supplications When I cry to You, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.”Similarly, the psalmist prays in 141:2, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” One of the most memorable stories associated with the raising of hands and prayer is Israel’s battle against the Amalekites. So long as Moses’ hands were lifted in prayer the Israelites had success; but whenever his hands wavered, Israel began to be defeated. So Aaron and Hur got on either side of Moses and held up his hands until Israel achieved a complete victory (Ex 17:8-16).
It would appear, therefore, that lifting hands in worship is pleasing to God. However, while it is a good and lawful action, it is possible to do it wrongly; we can perform a faithful action unfaithfully. For example, our elders would argue that raising hands haphazardly in corporate worship rather than decently and in good order is problematic. And Paul, in our text today, wants men to lift up holyhands without wrath and doubting… He wants us to raise our hands in a particular way. So what does this mean? Consider that by lifting our hands to God we declare two things: first, we declare that our hands are clean, that they are holy, free from wrath; second, we declare that we trust Him, without doubting. “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Ps 24:3-4a). If we lift up hands that are covered with filth, then this is not pleasing to God; likewise, if we lift up our hands but our hearts are far from the Lord, then this is not pleasing to God. We are to lift up holy hands without wrath or doubting.

So reminded of why we lift hands in worship, let us confess that our hands are often not holy but polluted with guilt and in need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. And as we are able let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the 

Revilers and the Kingdom of God

September 14, 2015 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Acts, Bible - NT - Jude, Bible - OT - Exodus, Meditations, Sanctification
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
For the last several weeks we have taken a hiatus from our analysis of this text where Paul’s catalogues sins from which God in His grace and mercy has determined to free us through Christ. If we have truly believed in Christ and the Spirit has been poured out upon us, then these pernicious fruits will be uprooted and in their place the Spirit will begin to bear His fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Thus far we have considered the sins of fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, thievery, covetousness, and drunkenness. Today we speak of reviling. Revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God.
To revile is to reproach, to insult, or even to blaspheme. Moses commands us in Exodus 22:28, “You shall not revile God nor curse a ruler of your people.” Reviling, therefore, has particular reference to the authorities which God has placed in our lives – including, especially, God Himself. We are to treat our authorities with respect; in other words, we are not to revile them or treat them lightly.
When the Apostle Paul was on trial before the Sanhedrin, he began by protesting his innocence but the high priest ordered him to be struck on the mouth. Not knowing who had given the order, Paul reponded in anger, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?” One the bystanders then demanded, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” Paul immediately corrected himself, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” Note that Paul shows respect for the high priest’s office even though the high priest was acting unjustly.
Paul’s conduct reminds us that God takes authority seriously – authority in the home, in the church, and in civil society. Why? Because these authorities represent Him as the ultimate authority. Consequently, those who revile the authorities that God Himself has established in the world ultimately revile God.
God is no egalitarian – He is Himself the Ruler over the world. Hence, the world that He made reflects these layers of authority and we are called upon to respect them. We are to give honor to whom honor is due. Jude warns us that it is false teachers who “defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries” (8).
So what of you? Have you given due honor to the authorities God has placed in your life? Children, are you honoring your parents? Wives, are you honoring your husbands? Employees, are you honoring your employers? Christians, are you honoring your local elders and deacons? Citizens, are you honoring the civil authorities that God has placed over you? This is our calling.

Reminded that revilers shall not inherit the kingdom of God, let us confess that we often despise and insult the authorities He has placed in our lives. As you are able, let us kneel as we seek the Lord’s forgiveness.

Pentecost and the Ten Commandments

May 24, 2015 in Bible - OT - Exodus, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Pentecost, Ten Commandments
One of the ancient associations of Pentecost is with the giving of God’s Law on Mt. Sinai. While the feast of Passover was associated with the deliverance from Egypt, Pentecost 50 days later came to be associated with the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. As Christians, it is important, as we celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, that we not drive a wedge between God’s Law and His Spirit. For the Spirit who has been poured out upon us is the Spirit of holiness who enables us, by His grace, to live lives that fulfill God’s law. The Spirit teaches us to cry out with David, “O how I love your law! It is my meditation day and night.” So this morning we mark our celebration of Pentecost with a responsive reading of God’s law – I will be reading each of the Ten Commandments and you will respond with passages from the New Testament that parallel these commandments.
Responsive Reading of the Law of God (Exodus 20:1-17)
Minister: Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
People: For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
M: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
P: Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)
M: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
P: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.’” (Matthew 6:9)
M: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
P: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.(Hebrews 10:24-25)

M: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
P: Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)
M: “You shall not murder.”
P: Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:8, 9)
M: “You shall not commit adultery.”
P: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)
M: “You shall not steal.”
P: Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
M: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
P: Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25)
M: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
P: Do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints. (Ephesians 5:3)

All: Amen!

Covetousness and the Heart of the Law

April 6, 2014 in Bible - OT - Exodus, Covenantal Living, Heart, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Regeneration, Ten Commandments
Exodus 20:17 (NKJV)
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
It is in this 10th commandment that the true force of the other nine commandments is revealed. Had we simply the other commandments, we might console ourselves, like the Pharisees before us, with a mere external observance of God’s laws. I’ve never murdered another; I’ve never committed adultery; I’ve never stolen from my neighbor; I’ve never borne false witness in a court of law. But when we come to the 10th commandment, all such externalism is obliterated. For here we reach the true heart of the law – commandments which do not merely regulate our external actions but which govern our internal attitudes and desires.
Here we find the inspiration for Jesus’ insistence that the 6thcommandment forbids not merely murder but the hatred and spite that give birth to it. Here we find the inspiration for Jesus’ insistence that the 7thcommandment forbids not merely the acting out of sexual deviancy but the lust that gives rise to it. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, idolatries, and every other thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. The law reveals that our fundamental problem as human beings is not that we do the wrong things but that we want, we desire the wrong things. Our problem is a problem of the heart, a problem of allegiance. We do not want to acknowledge that God is the Lord. Evil actions are merely the fruit of that idolatry.
Because the law, particularly the 10th commandment, highlight our sin, many have concluded that the law is the problem. “Let’s get rid of the law then we won’t have these problems.” Paul declares the absurdity of this idea in Romans 7 –
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
The problem is not in the law, the problem is in our hearts. The problem is that we have rebelled against our Creator and need him to forgive us for our sin and to enable us to love what is good and right. And praise be to God that He has sent His Son Jesus Christ to solve this problem. Through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, God forgives all those who confess their sins trusting in Jesus as their sacrifice. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the Spirit of God empowers all those who trust in Christ to begin loving righteousness and practicing the same.

So reminded that the law of God is holy and just and good and that, in ourselves, we do not desire to practice it in our lives, let us confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness through His Son Jesus. Let us kneel as we confess together.

Thou Shalt not Bear False Witness

March 30, 2014 in Bible - OT - Exodus, Bible - OT - Leviticus, Bible - OT - Zechariah, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Politics, Ten Commandments
Exodus 20:16 (NKJV)
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Martin Luther writes in his Large Catechism, “Besides our own body, our wife or husband, and our temporal property, we have one more treasure which is indispensible to us, namely, our honor and good name, for it is intolerable to live among men in public disgrace and contempt. Therefore God will not have our neighbor deprived of his reputation, honor, and character any more than of his money and possessions…”
Even as we treasure our own reputation, we are to treasure the reputation of our neighbor and beware tarnishing his good name. So what does this mean? First, it means that in courts of law, we are obliged to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. A faithful witness, Solomon declares, does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies. We are not to be influenced by another’s money, power, influence, gender, race, poverty, or position to speak anything other than the truth when summoned to do so by a lawful authority. God declares in Lev 19:15 – You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. God reiterated this need for truth in the halls of justice through the prophet Zechariah:
These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate, says the Lord.
When summoned to bear witness in a court of law or when summoned to sit on a jury judging our peers, our obligation in the sight of God is to tell the truth and to judge in light of the truth.
Second, not only are we forbidden to bear false witness in courts of law, we are forbidden to use our tongue to destroy the reputation of our neighbor. Leviticus 19:16 declares, You shll not go about as a talebearer among your people… God hates the one who slanders and gossips and back-bites. He delights in the truth, delights in the one who is willing to speak truth with his lips. So Paul commands us in Ephesians 4:25, Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.
Even as God is a God of truth so we are to men and women of the truth. Truthfulness is to characterize our interaction – with God and with others. So what of you? Is your life truthful? Or do you hide behind lies? Lie about others? Gossip? Slander? Malign?

Reminded of our calling to be men and women of the truth, let us confess to God that our courts and our culture have abandoned truth and embraced lies; and let us confess also that we ourselves often twist and distort the truth to serve our own ends. Let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.

You Shall Not Steal

March 23, 2014 in Bible - NT - Luke, Bible - OT - Exodus, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Politics, Ten Commandments
Exodus 20:15 (NKJV)
15 “You shall not steal.
On one occasion Jesus was ministering and teaching to an innumerable multitude of people. So many had gathered that they trampled one another, each eager to hear the words he would speak. As he was teaching, a man in the crowd shouted, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Clearly this man was presenting Jesus with an opportunity, had he been a demagogue courting popular opinion or a revolutionary trying to lead an uprising, to rile up the crowd. Money always gets people excited. Jesus could have used this as a springboard to speak of the injustice of the inheritance laws or the excessive nature of Roman taxation. “Let us rise up; let us protest; I’m your man! Follow me!” But Jesus was neither a demagogue nor a revolutionary. The man in the crowd had misjudged Jesus.
Instead Jesus speaks bluntly to this fellow, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” Essentially Jesus is reminding the man that there is a lawful way to handle his complaint – and that lawful way was to appeal to the magistrates, to appeal to the courts who would decide in such case what was good and just. Jesus was no revolutionary.
But Jesus then goes further and speaks to the multitude: “Take heed,” he declares, “and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.” Jesus exposes the sin that was at the root of this man’s request and of our drive to revolutionary action: covetousness. Hardly the type of response that a successful demagogue should make!
Unlike Jesus, our politicians regularly use class envy as a tool to propel themselves into power. “Tax the rich; take from those who have more. We’ll make your brother divide that inheritance with you! he shouldn’t have so much!” In his response to the crowds, Jesus exposes the sin that is at the root of this mentality: it is coveting that which God has given to another; it is theft.
But covetousness is not something that afflicts only politicians. The reason that we fall prey to the pleas of politicians, demagogues, and revolutionaries is that we are covetous; we desire more than God has given. But Jesus rebukes our covetousness and reminds us that our life does not consist in the abundance of things we possess. Instead, a meaningful life consists of loving God and loving our neighbor, of laying up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroy. And this is true for rich and poor alike.

And so reminded that we are not to steal, not to take from others in order that we might have more, let us kneel this morning and confess that we are often envious and covetous of others’ possessions.