March 3rd 2019: Gareth Edwards

20991230_1910562232550470_632853575_oExodus 20:4

It is not enough we should worship God alone, we should also worship in the right way. The Bible is full of instructions how God is to be worshipped in our lives, especially corporately. Worship of God is far too important to be treated to man’s imagination, which is fallen and inclined to false worship. It is God Himself who declares the way He is to be worshipped. This declaration is found in the second Commandment.

The Roman Catholic Church includes the second commandment as part of the first commandment and splits the Ten Commandments in to two to make up the ten. The use of pictures and symbols is then permitted if they are said to be of the true God. To Roman Catholics, this is a continuations of the first Commandment.

Along with all Protestant churches, there should be no idols that represent God because any representation of God will be a misrepresentation. It will distort the truth concerning God. Why?

God is unique in His nature. There is nothing in the whole universe like God. Isaiah 40:18. People have tried to explain the Trinity as being like three states of water or a shamrock. However, all fall short of Biblical truth and is therefore blasphemous. You cannot make a true representation of God because He is unlike anything you have ever known or imagined.

Secondly, God is Spirit. John 4:24. He is not a spirit like angels, He is Spirit. God has no form or shape and is invisible to human sight. So it is that in Deuteronomy 4:12 Moses only heard God’s voice. When we read man was created in God’s image we’re often tempted to reverse this and create God in our image. We shouldn’t think that God is like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It might be a glorious piece of art but it is rotten theology. God is altogether different from us in nature and character. We are in His image in that He created us for a relationship in the spiritual realm. God is Spirit, He is not physical.

Thirdly, God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He cannot be restricted and restrained and subject to human control. In the Old Testament we see time and time again God is not a tribal God. Psalm 22:27-28. The nations create idols and rituals around these idols. That’s the way in which human mind work. But Jehovah, the one true God, is a God above influence and control. He cannot be contained in time and space. He is omnipotent and omnipresent.

So this commandment tells us it’s blasphemy to create an image of God. No image can be used as an aid to worship God. They are misrepresentations and distractions and will lead to false worship of God.

There are those who would encourage us to imagine and visualise what God is like. Now of course we must think upon God. But to imagine and create an image internally of God is just as bad as creating an external image. No man has seen God. He cannot be dreamed about. You cannot have an image of His shape or form. These are equally idolatrous.

By nature, man exalts himself and brings God down. Many today seek to bring God within reach, within control. God does heal. Praise Him. But He’s not at our beck and call and under our influence. Others make Him human in His character and attributes and more like us. This is called the domestication of God – to bring Him under our control – all a direct breaking of the second Commandment.

At least twice in the Old Testament the children of Israel turned symbols into idols of worship: 1 Samuel 4 – they turned the Ark of the Covenant into some sort of talisman. They used a symbol of God’s mercy and grace and turned it into something to be worshipped in itself. In Numbers 21 we read of the bronze serpent. In II Kings 18 Hezekiah smashed the serpent because it had become an idol.

Man’s great weakness is he wants something to see or touch to aid his faith. Symbols of salvation are abused and become a snare, a cause of idolatry. It’s for this reason that the cross is absent from our buildings. It’s not the focus of our devotion. The Lord of Calvary is the focus of our devotion, not the cross on which He died.

Man wants something tangible to worship. It’s not only ornate Catholic cathedrals, but some today who turn worship into a show of lights and music, intoxication that whips up an atmosphere. God is mentioned but it is the experience of atmosphere that is worshipped, not God. Our desire must always be to go past symbols to substance of worship itself.

If we’re not to worship God by symbols or images, how can we worship God in keeping with the second Commandment? Worship Himself in our lives – in His Word and in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s revelation of Himself; everything we need to know about Him is given to us there, the glory of His character is displayed before us. It is possible to know Him personally in repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In plain black and white, it’s all there.

How are we to worship God? By immersing ourselves in His Word, by being a living testimony to His glory. That’s what the Saviour meant when He spoke to the woman of Samaria. Worship in Spirit and truth. The only way to worship God that is not idolatrous is to be Biblical, not to speculate, but know what He says in His Word. We need to know what is pleasing to God and acceptable to God. We worship God when we encounter Him in His real and living Word. Open the scriptures and prayerfully seek to know Him in His Word. God reveals Himself to us in the scriptures. It’s not we only learn about Him, but the Holy Spirit allows us to meet with God in His Word. The Bible is central to everything we do.

Here, the Lord’s Table is situated under the Word of God, so the pulpit is central. This is where God is known. There is one and only one authorised image of God. Colossians 1:15, Colossians 2:9. Jesus Christ is God’s revelation of Himself in human form. John 14:9.

If we want to know anything of God, we see it in the person of the Saviour. We serve Him, declare His glory and desire, by the Holy Spirit’s work, that we would be more like Jesus. The only way to be Christ-like is surrender. Worship God as we encounter Him in His self-revelation found in the scriptures, in the Lord Jesus Christ. Emmanuel, God in our midst. We worship God as we not only learn about Him in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ but as we come to know Him in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. As that happens we become more transformed by the Holy Spirit.

The second Commandment is so very important. It is the fundamental basis on which other commandments rest. We are not to worship false gods but worship the one true God, in the right way, in spirit and truth. There are to be no images, no imaginations or ritual aids to worship. These are only distractions. True worship is found in the living Word of God. May God truly reveal Himself to us in Scripture, may we truly worship Him in Spirit and truth.

February 24th 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen Feb 2019Genesis 1:26 – 2:4

What does the word ‘holy’ mean to you? Some may think of the Bible, holy book. Others may think of how God calls us to be holy. For a lot of people today, ‘holy’ is an unnecessary word and the negative phrase, ‘holier than thou’ springs to mind. But the Bible talks about holiness in a wonderful, hugely positive way. We see in this passage the holiness of God.

We see before this passage of Scripture how the world came to be. There was nothing, then God speaks, then the universe comes into being. God starts with creating light, water, land, the moon and stars. He starts filling the earth with birds, fish, animals and humans. All of them, including us, are spoken into existence. At the end of each of the first five days God describes what He has made as ‘good.’ At the end of the sixth day, which includes the creation of mankind, He describes this as ‘very good.’

In chapter 2 we read that the seventh day was not a creation day but something is set up by God – a day of rest. From the word ‘rested’ comes the Hebrew word ‘Shabbat’ meaning ‘Sabbath.’

We enjoy naming our own children and the names given to other children. The vast majority are based on names they like. In Biblical times names were chosen for meaning. Adam means red; he was born from the dust; his name comes from the Hebrew word ‘ground.’ Noah means ‘rest’ and speaks of how he and his family found refuge during the flood.  Names give us background, facts about a person.

In Genesis 2:4 we read of two names for God – Elohim, one God, and the first translated name LORD, YHWH in Hebrew. Jews never speak the name YHWH (Yahweh), it is far too holy to utter, ‘In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (Genesis 2:4).

What does Yahweh mean? Moses saw God in the burning bush, ‘God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.”’ (Exodus 3:14). Yahweh is crucially linked to the phrase of Exodus 3.

‘In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (Genesis 2:4). On the surface this verse looks uninteresting but when we begin to peel back the layers it is truly fascinating. It is like an underground mine, where you don’t find great jewels straight away, you have to work for it. Let’s dig!

People ask ‘who made God?’ Was He created by someone even more powerful? God is not made of matter, ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ (John 4:24). Everything we see has been created (Psalm 90:2). The bible is the way of Word of God. He has no beginning and no end. He will to cease to exist. He is outside of time. We will be forever worshipping Him when we get to heaven. It will be glorious, outstanding, worshipping and praising Him in sinless bodies. Jesus Himself says He is God, He is eternal. Our Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is omniscient. He knows all. He doesn’t develop because He’s always been sovereign. He doesn’t need to grow or develop. When our situation changes here on earth, may be the news of cancer, we don’t know what a day brings. But God does. We bring our changing situations to a constant Father.

In Yahweh we see His absolute independence. To be independent on earth you have to learn, to be taught, given advice, learn from mistakes. But God has never been counselled, been given advice or made a mistake. He’s never needed anyone. Isaiah 55. Without God we are useless, worthless. God created us for His glory, His pleasure. We can enjoy Him too. First God, then Man. That’s always been the order Scripture lays before us. But we try to change it – first Man, then God. Some pretend He doesn’t exist. Christians don’t want to get rid of God but, in changing situations, we try to do things ourselves. But we should first get down on our knees and pray to God.

God has given us work to do. We mustn’t think we can do it on our own. We need help and guidance from Him, not the other way round. Yahweh has absolute independence.

We see His absolute beauty. God is holy, pure, perfect and sinless. It’s us who brought sin into this world. We are inherently sinful. Scripture reminds us that God speaks through creation. Before we even knew of the Bible, God spoke to us through creation. How strong must God be if we see the strength of the mountains? How powerful, how awesome is our Creator! Jupiter’s great red spot is a storm. It’s three times bigger than the earth! On a clear night we can see part of the Milky Way. Of all the stars we see, these are only 0.0000002% of the galaxy stars! There are 2 trillion galaxies – that’s 285 for every person! If we travelled at the speed of light to the next major galaxy, it would take 2.5 million years! This gives us some idea of the scale of our God, of the universe’s beauty. It shows the beauty of Yahweh. He is so far above us. The rolling hills, the proud mountains, rushing rivers, all point to Him.

‘So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation,’ (Genesis 2:3). Day seven is a consecrated as a day of rest. It is sanctified – to be holy. This holy day has been established by one person, the only person, our God.

In the name Yahweh we see His absolute commitment. It is not until Exodus 3:14 that God reveals His name properly, ‘God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.”’ (Exodus 3:14). This is His name forever, to all generations. In all of Genesis chapter 1 we see Elohim, God. Now we see LORD. The relationship between God and man. The relationship was completely tarnished when Adam and Eve sinned. The closeness became an infinite gap. The only bridge to get us across is the bridge of the Cross. God never wanted to turn us away but He had to. But then He sent His Son to redeem us. He had a plan. We can pray, sing, spend time, love Him, worship Him.

Do we have at least some idea of who God is? He is so vast, so wonderful. Yahweh, the LORD, I am. We also have to thank God for His plan. He will keep His relationship covenant with us. We have to come to Him as we are; we can’t make ourselves holy on our own. Let’s thank and praise our great God, who doesn’t let us down. Glory be to Him!

February 3rd 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwrds-Feb 19

‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ Exodus 20:3

The first four commandments are about our relationship with God and lay the foundation for the remaining six, which refer to our relationship with others. To be right with God is our first priority, it gives the basis on which we can be right with others. Even within the first four commandments there is a logical progression. The first commandment acts as a cornerstone on which the rest are constructed. ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3) is the prime directive for life.

Each of the commandments is expressed as a negative, ‘You shall not.’ The purpose of the commandments being presented in negative language is to underline a positive. The first commandment tells us that we are to worship God alone. God is demanding an exclusive commitment to Him alone. All must be put aside (verse 5). The Lord speaks about Himself as being a jealous God. He will not share us with anyone or anything else. God is jealous for His people. They are His, they belong to no other. He is jealous for all His creation. Therefore, the devotion of our lives in worship belongs uniquely to God (Isaiah 42:8).

Why is this so? There are no other gods. He is the only supreme God (Isaiah 44:6). There are no other gods, but men invent them. When men refuse to worship the true God they make false ones. They have a natural desire to worship. If they refuse to worship the one true God, they will worship a lie (Romans 1). There are no gods – just the foolish rebellion of men (1 Corinthians 8:4). God expects the exclusive worship of our lives. He alone is deserving of worship.

He alone has done all. The Ten Commandments are set against the context of God saving Israel against tyranny (verse 2). They were to worship God not only because of who He is, but also because of what He has done for them. For them and for us there is nothing better than to spend our lives in the worship of the one who gave us life in the first place, and whose grace has brought us spiritual life through the death of His Son at Calvary.

It’s unjust and ungrateful that we should give away our worship to anyone but God. It is He who gives us life, He who gives us our daily blessings, He who gives us new birth and eternal life.

What are the implications of the fist commandment?

  1. The Almighty is God alone, therefore we should render to Him alone the adoration and worship of our lives. This is the very purpose of our existence – to fulfil a calling to worship God and to give to Him the unadulterated commitment of all we have. The Westminster Confession begins ‘The chief end of man is the glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.’

Psalm 144:15. There’s nothing more worthwhile then the worship of the triune God in every part of our lives. It is a particular grace and blessing of God that we come together to enjoy worshipping Him. That’s the purpose of this day, a day set apart in which we come together to glorify His name and to enjoy Him. Did you come this Sunday morning to have the privilege of worshipping God and to enjoy Him, to meet with Him? The songs and sermon are the means to the end, to enjoying God.

We were made to know God. When we sacrifice our lives for His glory we experience what it means to be truly human. This commandment is for our blessing.

  1. What fools men are. They will worship everything and anything rather than the one true God. There are those who will worship idols – the gods of man’s imagination. Romans 1:21-23. God declares men either worship Him or waste their lives in the pursuit of imaginary gods. Those who reject Him come under His curse. Malachi 2:2.

Men, in their sin, reject God and are rejected by Him. Our nation is under the curse of God. The lives of our friends and family members are under the curse of God because in their sinful rebellion they do not worship Him. They have gods of their own imagination and creation. There are those who will think they are so intellectually complete that they think they are wise and can look disdainfully down on us. Were we once not with them – devoted to other gods? Did not God, in His grace and mercy, have compassion on us and open our eyes to see, open our ears to hear and open our hearts to know Christ? How gracious God has dealt with us. He has called us to Himself. Will we not pray for our friends, our family, the people of Roch, of Wales, Europe and the world, that God will have mercy upon them as He has mercy on us? Their greatest need is to know Him, to know that there is but one God and that He is to be worshipped for who He is and what He has done. Will we not tell them, preach to them, by the lives we live, declaring here is the Lord Almighty, and you must know and worship Him, have your sins forgiven? Man is a fool until God’s grace comes.

  1. You cannot worship God half-heartedly. He demands our all (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30. He’s unwilling to share this with anyone else. This doesn’t mean we can’t serve our community and others. What it means is it’s shaped by our desire to glorify God in all that we do. In our love for our family, to do a good job of work, primarily our deepest desire in doing all of these things is that He will be glorified. In all we do we are to have a single-minded dedication to the Lord which puts Him first, above all else. We must guard against doing anything in the name of the Lord which, in fact, we are doing for ourselves, for our own praise. That is a denial of the first Commandment. We cannot play games with God. This is the most serious business, the worship of the Lord Almighty. Because it is so serious we need the help of God, God the Holy Spirit, when we fail in this duty, which we so often do. We need to know the saving grace that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh gracious God, grant to me the strength, the faith, the desire to honour you in all things. You are worthy to be praised.

November 18th 2018: Alan Davison

Alan Davison Nov18Joshua 18: 1-10

Humans have a desire for a peaceful life. Yet as a race, humanity is fascinated with war. But there are times when we just need to get on with life. Joshua here has to manage the mundane. But there’s more going on here then first glance. We may feel our lives are mundane but we serve a great God.

Here, in this chapter, deciding on the allotment of the land seems mundane. But to the Jews this was exciting as they saw the fulfilment of the promise of God to Abraham in Genesis, generations beforehand. In the beginning of the section in 13:1 Joshua was told he’s old but there was an awful lot to do. This was followed by a list of lands to be divided as an inheritance. God will drive the people out so the Israelites can occupy it. In chapter 18 we might think this is slightly confusing, ‘The land lay subdued before them’ (Joshua 18:1). There was peace, yet 7 tribes had not received their inheritance. This parallels with Christian life. The Israelites did occupy the land but pockets of resistance existed. We have been liberated yet still have sin in our lives.

‘So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given to you?”’ (Joshua 18:3). The Israelites had been slack; God had given land but 7 tribes had not occupied it. Joshua galvanises the people into action. He knew exactly what to do.

‘And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD. And there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel, to each his portion.’ (Joshua 18:10). ‘Before the Lord’ is a significant phrase. The Israelites were to worship God alone. They were in Shiloh. This was important. Why? Because until now Israel had been a nomadic people but now Shiloh is set aside for the tabernacle. It was their spiritual home (Deuteronomy 12:8-11). The prophecy was now fulfilled, the tabernacle was settled in Shiloh. It was here that God would meet with His people through His chosen mediator – now Joshua. Shiloh was geographically central and now spiritually central.

God’s will is to be obeyed. When Joshua commissioned a survey, it was simply a necessary act for him to do the will of God. Joshua is doing what God required of it. Joshua is also motivating the people to do the task, to live holy lives before God – just as pastors today lead their team. The people complained. They were looking to their own strength not looking to God. Joshua stands firm. When we obey God’s will then He will supply us with the strength to do His Will.

Surrendering to God’s Will. Joshua was not the one who as deciding who had to do what. The primary person involved in choosing the land was God. The casting of lots was revealing God’s Will. The Israelites were accepting God’s choice of land they would be given as their inheritance (Proverbs 16:33). God is sovereign. The Israelites are relying on God’s sovereignty to make the decision. This is a parallel to our inheritance in heaven. We don’t choose. ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2). Where we go in heaven is Christ’s choice alone. We will have a place given to us, selected for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to strive for holiness here on earth. What lies before us should sustain us in our lives in the here and now.

God alone is to be worshipped. God’s Will is to be obeyed. We are to surrender to His Will. Do we trust God enough to do His Will? If we do, we will surrender to His Will. We continue to live on this earth but our ultimate inheritance is in heaven. Look to the inheritance to encourage us in our life now.

 

 

October 21st 2018: Peter Gleave

Peter Gleave-Oct182 Kings 6: 8-23:

Where are you headed this week? What difficulties lies ahead? What does the church look like? Today, the church seems to be more and more marginalised. It is becoming more under pressure. As we reach out, the more we reach out, the more the enemy will try to stop you and distract you. How will we handle it?

Elisha is an amazing character in the Old Testament, an exciting man of God. The Bible is all about Jesus, from Genesis to Revelation. We see Bible characters who are people like Jesus, a shadow of what is to come in Jesus. Elisha points the way to Jesus. There are so many similarities between Elisha and Jesus, but Jesus is greater by far. Elisha means God saves. Jesus is the Saviour who saves. Both began their ministry at the river Jordan. Elisha fed 100 men, Jesus fed 5,000. Elisha foreshadows Jesus.

In this reading we see:
God gives direction;
God gives power;
God gives victory.

God gives direction:

The King of Aram was at war with the King of Israel. The Aramean king had a powerful army. However, the king of Israel had an advantage – he had a man of God on his side, a man who knew everything the King of Aram was doing and gave the King of Israel direction from God. The King of Aram thought there was a secret agent telling the King of Israel all his plans, but he was told it was the prophet Elisha who knew everything he was doing.

As we look forward, we see Jesus gave direction to His disciples and the early church. He told them what the greatest commandments were. He also called them together and told them to go into all the world and tell. Jesus taught them our priority is to love and worship Him and to glorify Him in our lives and to tell others. He also taught them that we are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. Look around at church this morning. These are your neighbours. We do God a great disservice when we show the world we don’t love each other. Sometimes, we only love people in church and not outside. They too are our neighbours. We are to tell others about Jesus. The direction for our church is to love Him, make Him our priority. This is borne out by loving each other, telling others about Him. This is what Jesus taught His disciples and us.

God gives power.

In the Old Testament Elisha and his young servant arrived in Dothan. The King of Aram told his servants to capture Elisha and his servant. All around him the young servant sees the King of Aram’s troops, horses and chariots. The enemy is all around. He cries out to Elisha, ‘What shall we do?’ Sometimes we experience that when personal problems come. When the enemy starts to attack we can feel a sense of panic. The servant had a choice – surrender or wait to be captured. Not great options! He had nowhere to turn, he felt like giving up, like the enemy was winning. Elisha’s response is, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ (II Kings 6:16). The servant was looking at the situation with human eyes. Elisha prayed for him (v17). Immediately, the servant’s eyes were opened, his spiritual eyes were opened. He can see what Elisha could see all along – all around them was the power of a heavenly host. He saw the power of the almighty God protecting him. Prayer is vital. The power of prayer brings peace.

Jesus prayed. He talked to His heavenly Father. If He did it, we too must do it. We need to soak ourselves in prayer. The power of prayer is available to you and I for all the circumstances we face. Faith begins where man’s power ends. When the difficulties come, use your spiritual eyes, fix your eyes on Jesus, not the enemy. Jesus stands with you.

God gives the victory (verses 19-20):

The enemy comes to capture Elisha and his servant. Elisha prays. Instead of asking for eyes to be opened, he now asks for eyes to be closed – the enemy’s eyes. When they were closed he then took them all the way to the stronghold city of Samaria. They were captured. The King of Israel became very excited. He didn’t know what to do with all the people who have been captured, whether to ‘strike them down’ or not. Elisha told the King that it was God who had captured the enemy, and the king should now feed and water them before sending them back home. Oh what grace! The young servant had had his spiritual eyes opened and seen the enemy captured. Victory had become a reality.

The spiritually open eyes look to Calvary – the victory has already been won. Jesus died for you and me, for all who put their trust in Jesus and confess their sins, God gives the victory. Eyes that are open to this, show us the direction we should go. The victory is won for you and me. Jesus wants us to tell everyone how He can make a difference. Share the good news. It is life-changing news for your friends and neighbours!

Our desire is to be like Jesus. Show others we love God. Summon God’s power so that eyes are opened. Serve God, the victor, in your life, the life of your church and the world. Revolutionise your community!

October 14th 2018: Alan Davison

Alan Davison Oct 18Joshua 7

The Bible is often described as a picture book which contains many accounts of historical narrative. But we also see these pictures as illustrations of Christian life which we can apply to our own lives today. There is a spiritual element to everything.

Here in Joshua 7 we see that sometimes the Israelites did not fully see and understand what was happening but they knew God was sovereign. The fall of Jericho came about as a result of the Israelites simply following God’s instructions. The occupation of the Promised Land now starts to be fulfilled.

Joshua dealt with difficulty. What was it? In verse 2 we read that Joshua sent out scouts to do a recce on the next target – Ai. Joshua is taking on some of Moses’ responsibilities, following what God declares he should do (Numbers 27:21). Sending out scouts was normal for an attack, so Joshua followed the normal procedure. The spies report back that 2,000 – 3,000 men would be sufficient to take the city. Joshua chose 3,000 men, but they were defeated. ‘The hearts of the people melted and became like water.’ (Joshua 7:5). This was the same phrase used by Rahab. I wonder what Rahab would have thought of this attack? Why didn’t this attack succeed? We find the answer in verse 11, ‘Israel has sinned.’ It had stolen and lied. Even if Joshua had sent the entire fighting force against Ai, they would still have been defeated (v.13).

Defeat was certain because there is sin in the camp. God had given the people strict instructions not to take anything from the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:18) because it would be ‘accursed’. It is a corporate responsibility that runs through scripture. However, accursed items had been taken.

How does Joshua respond to it? Initially, in verse 6, he is shocked and grieved. He and the elders came before the Lord. They recognised the attack should have worked and realise failure has come from God (v.7). Joshua knows God has brought about defeat. Joshua’s concern is for the glory of God’s name (v9).

Sometimes, in our fallen world, life just hurts. We need to turn to God to heal our pain.

God tells Joshua the consequences of sin in the camp (v12). They are ‘doomed to destruction.’ His chosen people, after the glory of the victory of Jericho, are now doomed. The sin of one man now accursed Israel. It is Eden all over again. In order to be sanctified it needs the removal of the accursed thing.

What did Joshua do? He simply obeyed the Lord. God tells Joshua exactly what needs to happen. Achan had coveted what rightly belonged to the Lord, therefore, he and everything that belonged to him had to be destroyed (v25). Achan and his family were stoned and their remains burned.

Achan confessed his sin yet he was still killed. Why? It was not God’s will that Achan died. God had given a warning not to take anything from Jericho yet Achan coveted. When Achan took items, he didn’t confess until the last moment. He continued to seek to deceive, putting himself before the nation. 36 men died as a direct result of his sin. The items he stole were set aside for the Lord’s service. Even if Achan had not confessed at the last moment, his tent would have been searched and the items found. However harsh we consider this punishment (similar to Acts 5), Achan maintained his deception.

In this case Israel was in its initial stage. This sin had the potential to derail Israel. Achan had to be destroyed. Achan’s heart was selfish; he wanted riches for himself, he didn’t care for others. Where are our hearts? Achan’s heart was set on physical treasure but it should have been set on God. Our hearts should be set on heavenly treasure.

Even as Achan’s sin had severe damaging consequences for Israel, his death had consequences for Israel – the sin was removed. The Israelites are told not to be afraid – God is with them. God tells them He has given Ai into their hands (Joshua 8:1). Everyone went to war. God wanted everyone to witness it. The riches were there for all.

Difficulties will afflict us all. We need to come to God and come to Him in prayer. Often we can help the situation ourselves. Everything we do should be based on God’s Word. Prayerfully consider God’s Word. We need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to apply it to our lives.

alan davison - april18April 29th 2018: Alan Davison

Background reading: Ezra 4:1 – 5:3
Sermon: Haggai 2:21-23

The Bible is often seen as a collection of different books which each having a separate entity. However, there is a connection between the books, for example Haggai and Zechariah were contemporaries of Ezra.

In Ezra chapter 4 we are told the temple was being rebuilt and of the opposition to this. At the end of the chapter the building stopped. But in the first two verses of chapter 5 we see a complete reversal of the situation.

The last two verses of the book of Haggai tells us this oracle recorded in Ezra is specifically for Zerubbabel, governor of Judah. Zerubbabel was of royal blood. Zerubbabel is also referred to a ‘My servant’ (Haggai 2:23). This is a Messianic prophecy (see also Isaiah 42:1 and Isaiah 41:8). Zerubbabel was chosen to be God’s means of restoring the temple. He is also seen in a Messianic role, appearing in the genealogy of Christ (Luke 3:27).

The whole of this oracle comes to a climax in Haggai 2:23, ‘“In that day,” declares the Lord Almighty, “I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,”declares the Lord, “and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,” declares the Lord Almighty.”’ God will make Zerubbabel His signet ring. This shows God is restoring His favour (see also Jeremiah 22:4).

A signet ring is a mark of authority and authenticity used to seal proclamations. The value of the ring depended on the status and role of its wearer. There are three aspects of Zerubbabel’s status of becoming God’s signet ring, which also apply to us:

  • We are in God’s hands.

This can be a negative thing, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31). This applies to those who woefully sin against God.

To be God’s signet ring is to be under God’s protection. Eternal security is guaranteed by God. “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9). Can we undo what God has done? Can someone fall away? No! Jesus Himself declared, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:38-39). You cannot be lost again.

Jesus knows who His sheep are, He gives them eternal life, “My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29). No-one can snatch believers out of God’s hands, not even ourselves. See also 1 Peter 1:3-5. We are “being guarded through faith for a salvation” (1 Peter 1:5). God works through our faith – even that has been gifted to us. We are kept, guarded and protected from our own failures. This shows the grace of God. In John chapter 5 Jesus twice states that He does the Father’s will (John 5:19, John 5:30). They are in total unity.

  • To be God’s signet ring is to be highly valued.

We are precious to Him, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15). Why are our deaths so precious to God? The death of His saints is the promotion of them to glory. The Lord Jesus Christ was precious to His heavenly Father, ‘And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus is not only precious to Him but precious to us as well. God has set His seal on His Son, He has the Father’s seal of approval, “For on Him God the Father has set His seal.” (John 6:27).

Jesus’ tomb was sealed, “So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.” (Matthew 27:66). Such a seal did not physically close the opening but in order to open it, someone needed authority to do so. “And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.” (Daniel 6:17).

  • To be God’s signet ring is to represent God’s authority.

In our lives we will be represented in lots of different ways, for example, by MPs, sporting teams representing our nation. Spiritually, we share in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. If a king trusts someone completely he gives them his ring. In Genesis 41:41-43 Joseph was given the Pharaoh’s signet ring so he could act on Pharaoh’s behalf.

In a sense, any Christian who has received Jesus in their lives is Jesus’ signet ring. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). Jesus’ final words on earth show we are to act in His name in proclaiming His name to the world. How do we do this has an impact. Every true Christian is in Christ, we are heirs. We too can be used by God as His signet ring, held firmly and safely in His hands. He does this because we are all precious before Him. We are considered legally righteous before God. Jesus Himself said we are His witnesses. We are appointed by Him. The last verse in Haggai states, “For I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:23). God sets His seal of approval on all He has saved, we are all as a signet ring to God.

 

November 12th 2017: Lawrence Mitchell

On Remembrance Sunday we listened to a Remembrance poem written by Philip Hancock and read out by John Hancock. Before observing two minutes silence in honour of those who have given their lives in battle and those who continue to serve today, we listened to a prayer written by Private William Evans, an uncle of Pearl and Alec Davies, who died serving his country 100 years ago in the Great War.

Our service was led by Lawrence Mitchell who preached on 2 Timothy 2:4

‘No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.’ (2 Timothy 2:4 KJV).

‘No soldier gets entangles in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.’ (2 Timothy 2:4 ESV).

Paul is reminding Timothy he is chosen by God to be a soldier. God Himself, as the Bible tells us in Exodus, is a great God, a mighty God. He is a God of grace and mercy. Exodus tells us God is a God of war. He was against the sins of the nations and had to punish them. God was for the children of Israel and wanted them to walk in His light. There are many battles and wars in the Old Testament. Prayers were said before going into battle. God is a God of war but He is also a God of holiness. He guided those who sought Him in prayer. Sometimes, the people would send singers before they would fight. We read of this in Judges and the Psalms. God gave victory as the people honoured Him.

Today we are going to think of a different battle.

We are called as sinners to the Saviour. He chose us before the foundations of the world. He chose men to be converted. We are called by God’s grace, it is not of us. Paul talks here to Timothy, saying he’s been chosen by God to be a soldier. Paul led this young man to God. It’s wonderful to pray for someone to come to Christ and see this happen. God is able to save, God is able to subdue, God is able to keep.

Paul says to Timothy he’s now a son in the faith and gives him a charge, ‘This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. (1 Timothy 1:18-19).

Paul warns Timothy about being entangled by the things of this world, ‘No soldier gets entangles in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.’ (2 Timothy 2:4). Paul encourages him to endure by trusting in the Lord and believing in His promises. Paul not only tells us of the choices God has made, but how we can be entangled, mixed up in the wrong things of life. Paul is instructing his young son in the faith.

Paul also brings the message not only to Timothy but to all of us; we are encouraged to endure, ‘Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.’ (2 Timothy 2:3 KJV).

‘Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.’ (2 Timothy 2:3 ESV). Paul says we must endure hardship that we come across in this life. Timothy was a great minister to Paul. The young convert brought blessings to Paul. The younger can bring blessing to the older. It’s a humbling yet blessed experience.

God’s soldiers are enveloped. There is a way out of the hardness, the disappointments and difficulties, the darkness of the tunnel. There is light for the true believer. Endure the hardness for God will guide and bless.

As soldiers of Christ we can, as John Wesley says, arise and put our armour on. We are chosen, guided, used and blessed. This is all of God, not of us.

 

September 24th 2017: John Funnell

John Funnell - Sept 17Ruth 1:1-22

The world is changing, and there is all sorts of political unrest. It is much the same as it was during Ruth’s life. She lived during the period of Judges, when Israel had no king. As a people they were fighting to survive against foreign influences, foreign gods and foreign invasion.

You will see the word “Moab” a lot in the earlier verses of our reading. “Moab”, is essentially a word for “Foreign”. Foreign means. “Bad”, “Bad”, “Bad”, “Bad”! But not in a racist way – the entire book is about how Ruth, a foreigner, is welcomed into God’s family. ‘Foreign’ here means ‘away from God and His promises.’ You can almost replace the word ‘Moab’ with ‘away from God.’

So what we see here is a tale of a man called Elimelek who takes his family away from God (which is bad) and away from their identity at the same time in history when God’s people are battling for it. Elimelek takes his family away from his people because of a famine. Essentially, he goes away from God for profit, for worldly gains. And such a decision brings complications.

We are told in these verses that in God’s land there are lots of men, but away from God, the men die. In God’s land there are women getting married and having children, but away from God, women (Naomi, Ruth and Orpah) with no husbands or children. Elimelek went away from God, left His identity and as a result he suffered the consequences for it! Death!

Naomi becomes desperate so she thought best to go back home, back to God which is? …good! As she embarks on her journey we then read ten verses of goodbye. It is like a train station goodbye. Naomi in verse 8 tells her daughters to go, and blesses them in the name of God. The daughters wished to come with Naomi so in verse 11 she reiterates further why they should go from her.

Stay with your people and find husbands.

It would appear Naomi has learned her lesson on leaving her own kin to go to the foreign land. A lesson that cost her all the men in her life!

She obviously did not want her Moabite daughters in law to suffer the same.

V13 the Lord’s hand has turned against me – Naomi says before graciously sending them away in tears.

A touching moment……or is it? If we look at the context we see Naomi is in the mire! We know from Deuteronomy, Israel had provisions for their widows.

Naomi, would have also known the shame that was ahead of her as a returning Jew, who left her people at a time of great need (famine) to go to land of a sworn enemy, Moab for profit.

So, I propose, with the context in mind, that this loving “train station” goodbye is not what it seems. I believe Naomi was in fact preparing for her homecoming! She was concerned that returning with two foreign Moabite women would cause her even more shame? “Naomi’s back and she allowed her Jewish sons to marry Moabites!”

Could this be why Naomi was sending her daughters in law, Ruth and Orpah away? Not in love, but to ease her return back to God? This knowledge changes this dialogue into an argument!Naomi’s tone changes from v6 to a desire to feed her family, to (v12) palming them off on other men!

Naomi is not pleading with her daughters-in-law to come to the God who provides for His people. No! She is clearly trying to persuade both Ruth and Orpah of the many material benefits they will have if they stay in Moab (v9) a new home and a husband!

On Ruth’s insistence to stay, Naomi’s reply in verse 15 becomes a rather coarse and short reply. Naomi clearly does not want her daughters in law, the baggage of her past shameful choices to come back with her.

But as we read Ruth remains honourable and faithful and insists (v16) that She wants Naomi’s God to be her God too! V18 ends the discourse…..“Naomi stopped urging her”. What you have here is a car ride home with a loved one just after an argument.

So how does this argument between two women, thousands of years ago help us today? We are all like Naomi. We have all disobeyed God, gone to foreign lands and done terrible things. And going away from God is always…..bad!

When we realise what we have done is wrong, we then have a desire to repent, so say sorry to God and come back to Him. Often with big ideas of how to make things right by ourselves, we often try to hide our shame, our daughters of Moab, from Him.

But God sees all and knows all and on the cross as He hung naked between two criminals, He took the shame for you, that you deserve for you wrong doing and in His resurrection He beat it!  And if you give Jesus your shame, He can turn those things that once damned you into greater blessings. He can turn a foreign daughter of Moab, Ruth, into a grandmother of Christ Himself!

Do not think that you can’t come to God until you have sorted yourself out. Do not think you have to wait to be an adult before accepting Jesus into your life. Do not try to hide your Moabite daughters’ in-law from Him as you prayerfully return!

He will accept you today for how you are – warts and all! Give yourself over to Him completely and He can turn your problems into wonders of grace for His Glory!

This is the Gospel! The good news! That God saves sinners! Of which I am chief!

Ruth in faith came with Naomi – and that faith lead to God’s embrace. As you will see if you read the rest of the book, Ruth is welcomed in and marries Boaz and her identity changes.

She has a child called Obed, who was the Father of Jesse, the Father of David!

Ruth the Moabite – the Moabite! – becomes a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ our Lord as a result of her faith! Imagine what God could have done if Naomi let Orpah came too!

Do not be like Naomi is here and let your past and present sin hinder your relationship with God today. Do not wait until your life is good enough for God, before coming back to Him, because it will never be good enough without Him.

Bring your shame (your daughters of Moab) to the cross and see God Bless you.

Come to Jesus today and instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.’ (Isaiah 61:7)

Amen

 

 

September 3rd 2017: Norman Rees

Norman Rees-Sept 17II Kings 6:1-7

Elisha was a great man of God. Jesus refers to him in the New Testament. Elisha was used by God, he had a mighty portion of God’s Spirit resting on him. He was a teacher of students. They lived in Gilga, an important place in the Bible. This was where Joshua camped, it was where men were circumcised, where Samuel preached. There was a college in Gilga where Elisha taught the students. They sat at his feet and learnt from Elisha. Elisha loved the Lord. God used him greatly. The students were greatly blessed and grew in number. As they increased, they asked Elisha if they could move and build a bigger place.


They suggested to Elisha that they moved to the Jordan and live there. They would have water (there was a drought in Gilga), and they could expand the work and live for God, then go out themselves as prophets. The young men wanted the counsel of Elisha and asked him if they could go. He said yes, but they wanted him to go with them, ‘Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.”’ (II Kings 6:3). They were keen for Elisha to go with them so they could learn more from him. So Elisha moved with them from Gilga, walking 35 miles to the Jordan across rough terrain to serve the Lord.

The students cut down trees to make booths. They used axes. They were poor. One of the students did not have an axe but he wanted to join in, so he borrowed an axe. However, as he hammered away at a tree the iron axe-head flew off into the water and sank. Panic set in. The River Jordan is a fast flowing river, there was no chance of rescuing the axe-head. Yet the young man was conscious that he was responsible and needed to make good, he knew he had to pay back what he had lost. He was distressed he had lost something belonging to someone else. He was poor. God chooses poor people. We should be ready to serve Him.

The young man was part of a team – he didn’t want to let the team down. We need to be careful of the way we act. The man cried out to his Elisha, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” (II Kings 6:5). He went to Elisha, to the right place, to the man of God. We believe God is sovereign. We may pray in the morning, ‘I’m in your hands Lord, whatever happens today is in your control.’ God is involved in all situations, even when things don’t go our way. God sends these things that can affect our reaction. We have a conscience to admit when we’re wrong. The Lord allows these things to test us. What is important is how we react. The student went to his master, Elisha. We go to a greater Master, Christ. People view our reactions, they should see Christ in us.

Elisha was concerned for the young man. He asked, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float.’ (II Kings 6:6). Elisha did not tell the young man off. When things in our life go wrong, Jesus asks us to tell Him about it. He knows our situation, He knows our thoughts.

Elisha lived close to God and knew the Lord. The student showed him where the axe-head fell. Elisha then threw a stick into the water and the iron axe-head floated to the surface of the water. A miracle was worked by God through Elisha. God made gravity, God can overcome gravity – as He did when Jesus ascended into heaven. God can make the impossible possible. The situation was hopeless to humans but not to God.

We pray for the axe-heads, sinners sunk in sin. Every one of us is born in sin. We pray for people, maybe for many years, who have sunken iron hearts, sunken in sin. What is your axe-head this morning? God is the God of the impossible, the God of grace, the God of Salvation. God will bring an end to the Devil, an end to sin. Christ can save you, He saved me, He can save anyone. Elisha is no longer on the earth, he’s in heaven, but his God is still here on earth.

Whatever give us anxieties, take it to God. God is a God of the impossible. He will deliver. Be sure to glorify Him and praise Him. Praise Him more.