Song of the Drunkards


God Reveals His Son

January 9, 2022 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Epiphany, Meditations

Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)

Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Though Epiphany proper fell earlier this week on January 6th, today we celebrate Epiphany Sunday. As we have emphasized each year, Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana of Galilee. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.

Consider, first, the coming of the Magi which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ life. The Magi were a powerful ruling class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. While Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Magi, Gentile rulers, sought out the new-born Jesus and worshiped Him, acknowledging Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles. So Epiphany celebrates that, through the Magi, God the Father revealed that Jesus is His King, come to rule over all the nations of the earth.

Consider, second, the baptism of Jesus which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry and revealed the purpose of His kingship. He was washed in water to identify with us in our sin and to prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, through Jesus’ baptism, God the Father revealed that His Son Jesus is His Redemptive King, come to rescue us from our sinful corruption and from death. 

Consider, finally, the wedding in Cana of Galilee which occurs as the beginning of Jesus’ miraculous signs. When the wine at the wedding feast ran out, Jesus turned water into wine and, in John’s words, “revealed His glory” (Jn 2:11). He revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation, that He might make glad the hearts of men through His rule and reign. Every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree. Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, at the weddding of Cana, Jesus revealed Himself to be God’s Festal King, come to rule us in joy for our good.

Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God eliminates our excuses for rejecting His Son and rebelling against His lawful and joyful rule. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Festal, Redemptive King? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then praise be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world, to proclaim the glories of our King that all men and nations bow before Him and worship Him.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us confess that we have often closed our eyes to His revelation and our lips to His praise. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Blessing of Children

December 26, 2021 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Children, Meditations

Psalm 127:3–5 

3Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate. 

Christmastide reminds us of the blessing of children. And it is of this blessing that Psalm 127 teaches us to sing. “Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is his reward.” Children are a heritage from the Lord – God’s reminder that he intends to bless us and to cause His people to inherit the earth. The fruit of the womb is his reward – a treasure far greater than second homes, new cars, expensive toys, or undistracted minds. Does it cost to have children? Absolutely. Is it at times a struggle to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Absolutely. But Psalm 127 reminds us that even so children are a blessing and reward from God.

Hence, our fathers and mothers joyfully received children from God. Zacharias and Elizabeth rejoice that now, in Elizabeth’s old age, God has seen fit to give her a son. Mary welcomes the news of the angel Gabriel that she will bear a child and embraces the social scandal that accompanies her pregnancy. Joseph obeys the command of the Lord and raises the Christ-child as his own, despising any shame that others would put upon him. They received these children with joy and praise.

Increasingly, however, our broader society tempts us to view children as a burden rather than a blessing. Our culture of death has not only aborted over 60 million children, but is now making the morning after pill increasingly available to stave off the supposed curse of fertility. Rather than extolling the glory of sexual chastity and celebrating the wonder of children conceived in wedlock, the culture of death has endeavored to divorce the sexual act from fertility. Tired of confining the fire of sexual passion to the fireplace, we have lighted it in the middle of the house – and now the house is burning down around us. Rampant divorce, skyrocketing rates of mental illness, the #MeToo movement, homosexuality, transgenderism – all are the fruit of our hatred of God and our hatred of the fruit of the womb. According to numbers released this past week by the CDC, the birth rate in the United States has continued to drop, reaching its lowest level in over a century, far below replacement rate. 

But Scripture teaches us to welcome children as a gift from God. Psalm 127 reminds us that one of the reasons that children are a blessing is that they can join us in fighting against the enemies of God. “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.” The psalm reminds us to welcome children and to train them so that they are like polished shafts in the hands of a warrior and can go deep into the heart of the enemy. So praise God for you children – and praise God for parents committed to raising these children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. May God uses us all to advance the cause of light, truth, and justice in the world.

So what of you? Have you given thanks for the blessing of children? Parents, are you giving thanks for your children, for the opportunity to teach and train them, to disciple them daily, to show them the paths of the Lord, and to invest in them? Grandparents, are you giving thanks for the opportunity to invest in the lives of your grandchildren and point them to the greatness of the Lord? Congregation, when the cries of children are reverberating in our sanctuary and you’re having a hard time following the sermon, are you grateful for the blessing of children?

Brothers and sisters, let us remember on this First Sunday of Christmas that Mary responded in faith to the news that she would bear a child. So let us imitate her by giving thanks for the children that God has given us and anticipating with joy the arrival of others. And let us confess that as a society we have despised the little ones – and, as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Public Reading of Scripture

December 19, 2021 in Bible - OT - Nehemiah, Meditations, Worship

Nehemiah 8:1–8 

1Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3Then he read from it in the open square… before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law… 5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up… 7… and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law… 8So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. 

The Word of God is our wisdom, our understanding, and our life. It is this Word that conveys to us the truth of God and that is used by the Spirit of God to enliven us spiritually. Hence, Scripture commends to us its public reading in the assembly of God’s people. When we gather as God’s people to worship the Lord, the public reading of Scripture should be prioritized. For example, Paul instructed Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (ESV, 1 Tim 4:13). And the Apostle John pronounced a blessing upon “he who reads and those who hear” the revelation that Christ gave him for the churches (Rev 1:3). And, in our text today, Ezra “read from the book of the law in the sight of all the people.” Public reading of Scripture reminds us of the centrality of God’s Word in our worship and in our lives.

So how ought we to approach this reading? Well notice a few things from our text. First, Ezra read the Scriptures in such a way that the word was “translated to give the sense.” Have you ever wondered why we don’t read the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek during our Sunday worship? Have you ever wondered why our Reformational fathers objected to the Roman Church’s practice of reading the Scriptures exclusively in Latin? Here in our text is your answer: when God’s law is read aloud, it is to be read in a manner which the people of God at large can understand. And so, we read the Scriptures in English translation not in Hebrew, Greek, or Latin.

Second, notice that when Ezra opened the book of the law, the people of Israel “stood up” (5). Standing communicates respect, attentiveness, eagerness, and determination. It is, after all, at the most intense moments of an athletic competition that the spectators stand on their feet, on their tiptoes, straining to see the action. And when we stand for the reading of the Word we are communicating that here is one of the most important moments in our service of worship. God is speaking to us – not through the frail mouth of the preacher, not through the symbolism of the sacrament, but through the living words of the text. 

Finally, we are told that “all the people were attentive to the book of the law.” It is not enough to hear the Word. In Jesus’ parable of the foolish man and the wise man each of whom built their houses on different foundations, the foolish man who built his house on sand is he who hears Jesus’ words but fails to practice them. The wise man, however, who builds his house on the rock, is he who hears Jesus’ words and obeys them. We are to listen to the Scriptures so we can obey them.

One of the dangers of regular traditions is that we begin to take them for granted and simply go through the motions. The Word of God is read and we chat with our neighbor or daydream about butterflies or nod off. So what about you? Why do you stand for the reading of God’s Word? Do you stand because you want to hear better? To learn more? Or do you just want to stretch or not stand out in the crowd? When the Word of God is read, are you attentive, straining your ears to hear and your heart to embrace the words of the living God? Or are you inattentive just doing one more meaningless thing in a meaningless service?

Reminded that we often fail to give heed to God’s Word as we ought, that we are often distracted from hearing and that, when we do hear, our heart often refuses to obey what we have heard, let us draw near to God and ask Him to cleanse us of our sins. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.