The Unshakeable KingdomDecember 2, 2018 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - OT - Daniel, Christmas, Church Calendar, Dispensationalism, King Jesus, Meditations, Old Testament
Hebrews 12:25–29 (NKJV)
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
After the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Jewish kingdom with its bloody sacrifices, priestly rituals, and frail kings, was replaced by the Kingdom of God – a kingdom that Paul describes in our text today as an unshakeable kingdom.
This picture of an unshakeable kingdom harkens back to Daniel chapter 2. Hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had seen the kingdoms of men as a great and impressive statue made of different metals. But as Nebuchadnezzar was looking upon the statue, its feet were struck by a rock made without human hands. This rock caused those kingdoms to shake and totter and crumble while the rock itself became a huge mountain that filled the entire earth. The rock was unshakeable. And what was that rock? Daniel identified that rock as the kingdom of God.
In Paul’s day this rock had just struck the feet of the statue: Jesus had come and fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament: He was the long awaited King who would reign on earth, the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, the Rock that struck the feet of the statue. Through his earthly ministry he established the kingdom of God but the remnants of the old covenant system were still around. The Temple still stood; the priests still offered sacrifices; the feasts of the old covenant were still celebrated. But Paul knew that all that was going to change – the old covenant was ready to disappear, to be destroyed, and in its place would stand the kingdom of Christ, the unshakeable kingdom. Paul’s prediction came to fruition in AD 70 when the Romans, inspired by God Himself, destroyed the temple and the old covenant system collapsed. The kingdom of the Jews came to an end; the kingdom of the Messiah was established.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent, the time of year that we call to mind this transition from the old covenant to the new, from the age of immaturity to the age of maturity, from the kingdom of the Jews to the kingdom of Christ, from the shakeable kingdom to the unshakeable. As we recall this transition, let us remember that the Lord who spoke to our fathers in the old covenant continues to speak to us in the new and that this means not less accountability but more. Paul exhorts us,“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth [during the old covenant], much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven… [in the new]” Because Jesus has risen from the dead and speaks to us as the Lord of all, seated at the right hand of the Father, we are called upon to approach Him with reverence and awe – for our God, Paul writes, is a consuming fire.
Reminded that the Lord has given us the great privilege of being members of His unshakeable kingdom through the sacrifice of Christ, let us confess that we have treated this privilege lightly. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.
Why We Need the PsalmsOctober 14, 2018 in Bible - NT - James, Dispensationalism, Liturgy, Meditations, Old Testament, Singing Psalms, Thankfulness, Worship
James 5:13 (NKJV)
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
What are we to do when facing the ups and downs of life? When we are suffering and weighed down, heavy of spirit – what are we to do? On the other hand, when cheerful, full of joy and wonder at God’s work in our own lives or in the world – what are we to do? Today James tells us. “Is anyone among you suffering – feeling poorly, enduring trouble? Let him (an imperative, a command – this isn’t simply good advice) Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him (again, an imperative, a command), Let him sing psalms.”
James tells us that when we are suffering we are to pray; we are to take our troubles straight to the Lord. Cry out to God; He wants to hear; He wants to be the one to whom we direct our cries. Likewise, when we are cheerful, we are to sing psalms. Why? Because singing enables us to funnel the joy that we are experiencing in the right direction – in praise and thankfulness to our Creator and Redeemer.
But as we think about the psalms, remember that many of them express grief and longing for God, not cheer – so how do they fit with James’ theme of cheerfulness? It is here that we must return to James’ command to pray when sorrowful. For what are many of the psalms but model prayers of sorrow, embodying what desperate cries to God look like? Singing them enables us to funnel our sorrow in the right direction – in prayer and petition to our Creator and Redeemer.
In other words, James’ exhortation in this verse directs us to the psalter in times of both sorrow and cheerfulness. Notice then the priority that James places upon the psalter. What are we to do when suffering? We are to pray. And where do we find examples, patterns of prayers offered up in the midst of suffering? In the psalter. What are we to do when joyful? We are to sing psalms. And where do we find these psalms of praise? In the psalter.
So here’s the question for you – do you know your psalter well enough to obey James’ exhortations? How well do you know your psalms? Do the psalms, when you are burdened and weighed down, come to your mind and fill your soul with cries to God? Do the psalms, when you are cheerful and lifted up, come to your mind and fill your home with praise and thanksgiving?
I dare say that if you are like me there is some lack in this regard. Not many of us grew up singing the psalms; hence, the psalms are often strange and foreign to us. Some of the tunes that we have in our English psalters are hard to learn. Some of the words of the psalms are difficult to understand or even believe. But the problem is not with the psalter but with us. We need to grow in our ability to sing and to understand the psalms.
Consequently, one of the things we are committed to do as a congregation is to become more skilled in our ability to sing the psalms and more knowledgeable of their content. To facilitate that, we prioritize the psalms in our worship and hold regular psalm sings in which we can learn to sing more skillfully. We do these things so that the entire congregation, not just a few individuals, can fulfill James’ exhortations – is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
Reminded that in our suffering and in our joy God has given us the psalms to channel our prayers and praises, let us confess that the American church has largely ignored the psalms of late, believing that we no longer need them; and let us confess that even in our attempt to recover them, we too have neglected to hold them close to our hearts. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.
An Everlasting InheritanceAugust 24, 2016 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Dispensationalism, Ecclesiology, Israel, John Calvin, Postmillennialism, Quotations
“For an everlasting possession (Gen 48:4). We have elsewhere shown the meaning of this expression: namely, that the Israelites should be perpetual heirs of the land until the coming of Christ, by which the world was renewed… For that portion of land was promised to the ancient people of God, until the renovation introduced by Christ: and now, ever since the Lord has assigned the whole world to his people, a fuller fruition of the inheritance belongs to us.”
John Calvin, Commentary upon the Book of Genesis