The English poet William Cowper (1731-1800) reflected on the condition of England in his day in his poem, “Expostulation.” His words condemning the compromise of the Church and her ministers are as true of the American Church in our day as of the English Church in his. The first two lines are golden: “When nations are to perish in their sins, ‘Tis in the church the leprosy begins.” Cowper informs us that the future does not look good for America primarily because things do not look good in the Church. So if we want to see reformation and revival in America, then it must begin with the Church and her ministers returning to God’s Word.
“[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.
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 pursue wisdom?October 29, 2017 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Bible - OT - Psalms, Confession, Discipline, Image of God, Meditations, Parents, Wisdom
Proverbs 10:1 (NKJV)
1 The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son makes a glad father, But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.
The proverbs of Solomon guide and teach us in order that we might be full of wisdom; in order that we might govern our daily affairs in a way that glorifies and honors our Creator and Redeemer, the Lord of hosts. In chapter 10 of Proverbs, Solomon begins to identify practical ways that the law of God teaches us wisdom. And where does he begin? He begins with your motivation. Why should you pursue wisdom? Because it is the wise son who brings joy to his parents.
Every child is born with an innate desire to please his parents. This desire is a gift from God, part of what it means to be made in the image of God. God the Son has eternally delighted to do the will of His heavenly Father, a delight on display in His Incarnation. “I delight to do Your will, O God,” Psalm 40:8 declares, “Your law is within my heart.” This delight of the Eternal Son in the Eternal Father has been hard-wired into the world such that children long for the approval of their parents, oftentimes even when those parents have been cruel or unkind.
So how can a son, young men, how can you, please your parents? Solomon gives you the answer: strive for wisdom and avoid folly. Cultivate the fear of God; meditate on the commandments of God; imbibe the promises of God; flee greed; flee lust; flee covetousness. Why should you do these things? Because it is the wise son who makes his father glad; because it is the foolish son that brings grief to his mother. And which would you rather do, bring your father joy or bring your mother grief? I pray to God that you would rather do the former.
But perhaps you don’t care about pleasing your parents. Perhaps you could care less what they think; perhaps you just want to cause them pain because you are frustrated with their restrictions or upset by their rules or hurt by their inattention. What should you do then? The first thing you should do is stop making excuses for your sinful attitude, confess it to God, and pray that He would change it. The fifth commandment is clear: Honor your father and your mother, that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth. God’s desire for you is that you honor your parents. So if you are failing to do so, if you have no desire to do so, then you are in sin and you need to repent.
But what if you are the parent? What if your child doesn’t care about pleasing you, what should you do? First, ask yourself whether you care about pleasing your parents. Much more is caught than taught. If you do not long to please your parents it may very well be that your kids are simply taking a page from your book. If so, repent and confess your sins to the Lord and to your kids. Second, are you embittering your children, treating them tyrannically? A child’s innate desire to please his parents, though strong and resilient, can be destroyed by such behavior.
Reminded this morning that the innate desire that God has placed within us to receive the praise of our parents is often twisted, distorted, or even annihilated by our sin, let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. And as we confess our sin, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.
The King of kings – Palm Sunday 2017April 9, 2017 in Bible - OT - Zechariah, Church Calendar, Confession, King Jesus, Liturgy, Meditations, Postmillennialism
9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’
Why does worship include a pronouncement of forgiveness?March 12, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Bible - NT - Mark, Bible - OT - Leviticus, Confession, Liturgy, Meditations
Whatever things are of good reportNovember 14, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Psalms, Confession, Meditations, Worship
What is Worldliness?February 28, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Timothy, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Ephesians, Confession, Creation, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification
Face to Face CommunicationJanuary 31, 2016 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Bible - NT - Matthew, Confession, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Trials