September 22nd 2019: Mike Viccary

mike viccary - sept 19bZechariah 1:1-6 A word on Repentance

Zechariah was a close contemporary of Haggai. Verse 1 tells us whom the Lord used to convey this vital message, “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo.” If you glance back at Haggai you will find that he prophesies in the second year of Darius as well. The important dates in Haggai are as follows:

day month year What happened
1 6 2 The word of the Lord comes to Haggai (1:1)
24 6 2 The people began work on the house of the Lord (1:14b,15)
21 7 2 The word of the Lord comes to Haggai (2:1)
24 9 2 The word of the Lord comes to Haggai (2:10)
The foundation of the temple was laid (2:18)
The word of the Lord comes to Haggai (2:20)

 

Zechariah receives his word from the Lord in the 8th month of the 2nd year of Darius, so somewhere between Haggai 2:9 and Haggai 2:10 in about 520 BC. At this point the work is on-going but not yet finished. It will be helpful to review the history from the time of destruction of Jerusalem to the completion of the temple by the exiles on their return.

  • Jerusalem destroyed and captives taken to Babylon in 586 BC.
  • Exiles return in 536 BC.
  • Work begins in the second year 535 BC (Ezra 3:8, Ezra 4:24, Ezra 5:1-2).
  • Haggai and Zechariah receive words from the Lord in the 2nd year of Darius or 520 BC.
  • The temple is finished in the 6th year of Darius or 516 BC exactly 70 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of the Israelites (Ezra 6:14-15).

Thus Zechariah is co-prophet alongside Haggai encouraging the work of rebuilding the temple. However, whilst Haggai seems to be encouraging the external work and the rebuilding programme, Zechariah’s prophetic word is aimed at the hearts or an inner work. That is not to say that Haggai was not concerned with heart work, but that his words were encouragements to build and work in the world as applications. Whereas Zechariahs’ focus was on the inner life as can be seen by the style of the prophecy with its visions and pictures and its burdens and oracles – Haggai is much more plain speaking and practical.

Our text acts as the introduction of the book and we shall draw four main themes as follows:

  • The Lord of hosts is a God of wrath.
  • True life is a life of repentance.
  • Pay attention to your history!
  • The power of the Lord’s word OR the faithfulness of the Lord.
  • The Lord of hosts is a God of wrath:
    “The Lord has been very angry with your fathers (Zechariah 1:2). Imagine the situation Zechariah witnessed and saw. The temple was in the process of being built but was nowhere near as majestic as the former one that was destroyed. All around in the city and surroundings were the evidence of the destruction wrought by Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar (see commentary of H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah, p.22).

Now verse 2 literally rendered is as follows: Angry was the Lord towards your fathers, with anger. The word ‘angry’ comes before and after, like bookends that surround the people – hence the emphatic ‘very angry’ in the NKJV. How is it that God can be angry? Isn’t He above this? We need to be careful that we do not transfer human views of anger to God – He is not capricious / vindictive / doesn’t lose control (see summary of God’s wrath by John Stott, ‘The Cross of Christ’).

Why was God angry with the fathers? The answer comes in verse 4, ‘Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the Lord.’ They would not listen to the Lord. Jeremiah (and other prophets) give us precise details of how this worked out but essentially this is the reason for God’s anger.

Is such a response fair? Well, we need to remember who God is and who we are! Here in our text are three explanations for God’s anger:

  • He is ‘Lord’ (YHWH). He is the self-existent One – the I AM. We are the created ones, dependent, reliant and not self-existent.
  • He is ‘Lord of hosts.’ This title is found 46 times in Zechariah. It occurs mostly in Jeremiah (71) and Isaiah (53) but these are much longer books. It also occurs 24 times in Malachi. The essential meaning is that God is Commander-in-Chief over all armies! All answer to Him! We are brought to consider the Lord’s sovereign power over all His works of creation. As Commander-in-Chief He has the power to execute His plan perfectly without any opposition. Whilst He allows opponents to do their worst, they do not realise that they are doing what God requires because He always makes good come from evil. Think of Exodus and Pharaoh! Think of Christ on the cross – taken by wicked men but fore-ordained of the Father.
  • He brings / offers the word of the Lord. This points us to two things – first the revelation pf God which is 100% true, and second the Lord Jesus Christ, who is ‘the way, the truth and the life.’ (John 14:6). Now God’s word, the word of the Lord, will never fail. In fact, in our text we are told it will ‘overtake the fathers and prophets.’ Thus, from these three basic ideas, we note that God is: true, right, perfect, pure and holy. Thus, to not listen to God is tantamount to supreme folly. God is:
  • Affronted that we do not listen to what is true, right, perfect, pure and holy.
  • Horrified that we opt for sin, error, evil and all that which is other than what God would bring and suggest.

Would not a parent express the same indignation at a toddler who says, ‘No’ when asked to eat up their food and instead sprays it around the room onto carpets, walls and all over themselves and you? Would not a father be angry when his teenage son defies the best advice and goes off to binge, indulging in drink, drugs and loose living, only to end u on the run or in hospital? The Lord is very angry when people do not listen to Him.

Of course, God has other attributes. God is:

The God of love (2 Corinthians 13:11)
The God of glory (Acts 7:2)
The God of patience (Romans 15:5)
The God of hope (Romans 15:13)
The God of peace (Romans 15:13, 16:20)
The God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3)
The God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10)

The Lord is also is described as the God who is:

true (John 3:33)
faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9)
holy (1 Corinthians 3:17)
a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29)
light (1 John 1:5)
love (1 John 4:8, 16)

None of these attributes are contrary or contradict the fact that God is a God of wrath. Consider these scriptures: John 3:36, Romans 1:18, Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 3:6, Romans 2:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:9. Ezra puts it like this, “The hand of God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him, (Ezra 8:22b). The holy and pure God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) and He is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). He will consume utterly anything which is tainted with evil, sin or error. Think of it like this: if you had painted a perfect picture or baked a beautiful cake and decorated it, or if you had built a superb garden, what would you do or feel if someone wanted to scratch your picture, poison your cake, or overthrow your garden? We are God’s workmanship. We have ruined it, His picture, His garden! Sin, iniquity, error, transgression do this. They spoil and maim, they ruin and break up. Would that be acceptable to you? Or would you not be angry?

  • True life is a life of repentance.
    ‘Therefore say to them, ‘Thus declares the Lordof hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts’ (Zechariah 1:3).
    There are two key thoughts in verse 3 and they are quite clearly stated. The first is the command for the people to return to the Lord, and then there is the consequence, outcome or fruit – the Lord will return to the people. Before we go any further we must pause and declare the great grace and mercy of God here. The fathers (and all mankind, including us) do not listen to God. We are under His wrath. But He does not pour this out immediately! Isn’t that remarkable? Think of the countless warnings God gave to the people in Israel and Judah. Or think of the warnings the Lord gave to Pharaoh. Or what about the people in Noah’s day. The Lord gave ample warning that He would one day come and bring judgement for wickedness and sin. There have been many temporal judgements on the world or on nations, or even on individuals, and these act as warnings to us. One day there will be a final reckoning! We stand at that point in history where we can look back and see that God has poured out His wrath on the sinless substitute, Christ Jesus, at Calvary, and such propitiation (the diverting of wrath from us to another) is available.

 

The word rendered as ‘return’ in verse 3 means to ‘turnabout’ and signifies repentance – a change of mind and direction. You were walking in one way with one aim and purpose, but then you about face and walk in the opposite direction with a diametrically opposed way of thinking. Now verse 3 may appear to be somewhat of a surprise!

 

The Lord of hosts is calling the people who returned from Babylon to return to Him i.e. to repent. Now you may be thinking: wouldn’t those who came back from Babylon in 536 BC have been ones who wanted to see the Lord vindicated and glorified? Would not these be the zealous ones who sought the Lord rather than those who were left behind and settled in Babylon? Are not these the ransomed of the Lord who returned to Jerusalem with singing as prophesied by Isaiah? (Isaiah 53:10, 51:11). Perhaps. But we err greatly if we think that repentance is a one-off affair at the start of our walk with God. There are two things we need to bear in mind here:

First, our natural tendency / inclination is to drift from God. We can see this in a number of ways:
(a) think of the many exhortations to wake up, rouse yourself, stir up your gift and so on. If we did not drift away there would be no need for these calls.
(b)  think of the many calls to ‘keep.’ For example:

  • Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3)
  • Keep yourself pure )(1 Timothy 5:22)
  • Keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27)
  • Keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21)
  • Keep yourselves in the love of God (Jude 1:21)

(c) consider the scripture in Hebrews 2:1-3a.

(d) consider the sad and sorry fact that we continue to sin (even though we do not want to as believers). Read Paul’s testimony in Romans 7:18-25.

(e) Finally, hear the words of the apostle John in 1 John 1:8-10).

We sin, we struggle / wrestle with the flesh, we forget, we drift and we are assailed by Satan and the world. Such a state of affairs means that we should often repent. We need to draw near to God, come back to Him, forsake our sin, do everything we can to remember what God has done, fight the devil and the world, realign ourselves in accordance with God and His ways. We need to repent!

But there is another aspect to repentance which I fear is sorely missing today. It ought to be at the forefront of our evangelism. Second: repentance is the flip0of-faith. If faith is the ‘heads’ on a coin, repentance is the ‘tails.’ We are perhaps guilty of over-emphasising faith – trust in God. If we look at the message that Christ declared at the start of His ministry, we find that the emphasis is rather on repentance, (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15, Matthew 9:13, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32).

Repentance focuses our thought on turning around from our current course. We are going astray, walking down the wrong path, and not following the path of righteousness. Wherever repentance and faith are found together in Scripture, in all cases, repentance comes first: (Matthew 21:32, Mark 1:14b-15, Acts 19:4, Acts 20:21, Hebrews 6:1). We need to stop, re-consider, think again, and change our course of action – and that is where faith comes in. Asking a person to put trust in God whilst they are walking in the wrong way, that is, away from God – is not likely to succeed. We need to call people to turn around before they can place trust in God!

When we see God in all His holiness and purity and it causes us to tremble and quake, and we think, ‘What am I doing? I must be mad to pursue this sinful way!’ Then we think again and turn our lives from the old ways we have been pursuing – this is repentance towards God (in His holiness) and from dead works (our old sinful way). But then we also see Christ, and especially Him on the cross bearing our sin. When we see Him dying and rising we love Him and run to Him for help and salvation – this is faith in Jesus Christ.

(b) The Lord returns! Verse 3 is quite clear on the process. When a person responds to the command of the Lord to return, He will return to them. We get a clear picture of this if we look at the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11f). I’m sure you remember the story. The younger of the two sons wanted to have the inheritance from his father before the father died. He took it and went and spent it all on loose living. Ending up in a pigsty, eating the pigs’ food. But we then read that ‘he came to himself’ (Luke 15:17), that he decided to go back to his father saying that he had ‘sinned against heaven and before’ his father (Luke 15:18) and that he humbled himself, requesting to become ‘one of your hired servants’ (Luke 15:19). So the younger son arose and set off to return to his father, but then we read: ‘but when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him’ (Luke 15:20). Isn’t that wonderful?

The same basic truth / ideas is expressed more clearly by James, ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you’ (James 4:8). Such a statement is easy to repeat and grasp, especially with the story of the prodigal son we have just considered. However, it is important to give the statement its true context. James begins by pointing out that wars and fights come because of selfish lusts and desires and because we have a worldly and fleshly inclination but the Holy Spirit years within us jealousy. He then states that God is with the humble and lowly giving grace but He resists the proud – which thought seems to be an allusion to several OT and NT Scriptures (Job 22:29, Psalm 138:6, Proverbs 3:34, Matthew 23:12, 1 Peter 5:5). Following this we read a series of 7 exhortations of which the third is the one we noted. These exhortations start with the word ‘therefore.’

Therefore:
(1) submit to God
(2) Resist the devil and he will flee from you
(3) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
(4) Cleanse your hands, you sinners and
(5) purify your hearts, you double-minded.
(6) Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
(7) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:7-10).

It is clear from what James says that the essence of these imperatives is the nature of repentance. We need to humble ourselves by stopping our independent autonomous lifestyle, put on our armour of faith against the devil and avail ourselves of the cleansing power of the Cross and Christ. Now all that we have said is a part of our daily lives. Life is one of repentance from sin, error, evil and faith towards God and Christ.

  1. Pay attention to your history!

Zechariah 4-6. A view or reading of church history is often played down or ignored in many circles. Sometimes for very dubious reasons. But we ought to be students of church history  is clear when you look at the length of time it took the Lord to reveal Scripture to us. Also we consider testimony to be an important tool or witness to faith – and church history is just that – testimonies of believers through the ages. Now these verses help us to understand how to read church history. We can consider the following lessons:

  • Beware of your traditions.
  • The reluctance to repent (or the need to always reform)
  • Do not trust to mere men – trust in the word (the problem of personalities)

 

  • Beware of your traditions. In verse 4 we hear an exhortation: “Do not be like your fathers.” It is natural to follow in the footsteps of fathers (and mothers). How often do you hear someone say, ‘He sounds just like his father!’ As Christians we are equally prone to follow in the footsteps of our forebears – our fathers in the faith. You may think this is a good thing but that is not necessarily the case Do you wonder why I say this? Have I gone mad? NO! Let me explain what I mean. We have fathers in the faith – believers who have gone before us and have walked the walk of faith before we came on the scene. Where can we see their walk of faith we ought to glory and rejoice and we ought to seek to emulate them. But where we see their faults and failings we ought to avoid these like the plague. But what do we do? Well in practice we simply continue the traditions that have been handed down. We are lazy and do not think deeply. In a lot of cases these traditions are time-bound and do not necessarily pass well from one age to the next. The fact is that God has no grandchildren and each generation must seek to follow the Lord afresh. That does not mean we ignore or belittle those who have gone before us – NO! But we live in this age and we must endeavour to follow Christ in this age. The truths and principles of Scripture NEVER CHANGE. But the application does change.

 

  • The reluctance to repent (or need to always reform). Their fathers had the same privileges and advantages as the people in Zechariah’s day. They had the prophets who brought God’s word through preaching, and therefore they could hear what God had to say. They heard the call to repent from the Lord through the prophets (verse 4). But they did not act on this, they did not combine it with faith. They did not listen intelligently and they did not prick up their ears and do what was needed. I think the main problem is that we naturally assume that we are like trains which can only go forwards or backwards. Once we have ‘repented’ we think that all the work is done with. Instead we ought to realise that we are like a house that has fallen into great disrepair and need much renovation. When we are converted it is like being translated from one kingdom to another (Colossians 1:13). When we are born again it is like being a new creature with a new vision (John 3). But nobody goes from sinner to 100% fit for heaven overnight. There is a long proves of sanctification and we are all WOPs – works in progress. This means that for a long time we have to have our flooring replaced – our ground and foundation. We have to change our minds and allow the Lord to choose the pattern and structure for the floors of our lives. When that is done perhaps there is some time to allow it to settle but then the walls need repairing and repainting so that when people come to visit there is something good to see instead of cracks and mould, or peeling paint. Thus we need to always be ready to reform.

We need often to repent. Think on these verses: Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 4:16, Ephesians 4:20-24. Our minds, our inwards man needs to be renewed on a daily basis. Their fathers refused to do this! The Pharisees of Jesus’ day refused to reform and repent. Hebrews 4 is a warning about those who wandered in the wilderness and refused to obey God when it came time to enter the Promised Land. Are we the same when we hold onto outmoded forms and rituals? I think the great problem can be summed up like this: it is one of comfortableness and a settled nature. (See Zephaniah 1:12). The prophet Jeremiah spoke in a similar way concerning Moab (Jeremiah 48:11). Have we become too comfortable, predictable and unaware of God’s will and ways? (See what the Lord looks for in Isaiah 66:2, Isaiah 57:15, Philippians 2:5-8). Now the nation as a whole, and the kings and nobles in particular, did not repent even though Jeremiah made repeated calls from the Lord for them to do so. Nevertheless there were some who did. I am thinking of the likes of Daniel and others who were taken into captivity. Thus our text points to these as ones who turned back to follow the Lord (Zechariah 1:6). It may be worth looking at Daniel’s prayer in your own time – see Daniel 9:1f. In concluding this part – have a view of church history to see how people repented and reformed.

  1. The power of the Lord’s word or the faithfulness of the Lord. (Zechariah 1:5-6). The wrath of God leads us to repentance which is simply demonstrated throughout church history. Now we consider what does not alter. In verse 6 we have a contrasting word ‘yet.’ So in stark contrast to the fathers and the prophets we have God’s word. All men die. Even the good ones like prophets (Job 14:1-2, James 1:11). IN stark contrast the word of God lasts forever (Isaiah 40:6-8). IN our test it is put differently (see verse 5). It is sad to reflect that those who have gone before are truly gone. Some may think that they can ‘live on’ in their work, achievement, their monuments and so on. But these do no disguise the fact that they are in fact no longer here with us. We ought to realise that we are not all that.

But there is something which does last! The words and statutes of the Lord. Notice how this is put. First they are God’s, that is, they belong to God. They are ‘My words and My statutes.’ We must be very careful to recognise the origin of these words here. How sad it is that many simply consider these as the words of mere men scrambling around trying to make sense of things. What does God have to say? Read Isaiah 66:2. Do we tremble at God’s word? Really? Now this means we ought to be careful to look into the words of Scripture carefully.

Second, they are words and statues command by the commissioned. In other words, these words and statutes are not to be played around with or altered or held in contempt. No! They must be faithfully passed on. They must be held as dearly and as precious as the One who brought them into being. The prophets are given the title ‘My servants.’ A servant does not initiate things or produce a message from himself! No! He takes what he has been given and passes it on faithfully. But the prophets died. Just as the father did. So …

Third. They are the words and statutes that overtook the fathers and the prophets. God’s word is much more than simply long-lasting. It is eternal (Psalm 119:89). Such a though is obvious when you think about it. The eternal God can only utter words which are eternal. What God says is true and always will be. God never needs to qualify, adjust, correct, amend or alter anything He says at all. He has no plan B.

Contrast this with man’s words and statutes. How often do we have to alter or change our words and statutes? Think of the re-structuring of institutions such as education. One year a set of ‘words’ and ‘rules’ prevails as the guide for teaching and the next a new set is rolled out. Or think of government. One government lays its plans for legislation and the next repels and alters those laws in conformity with a new way of thinking! God’s words when once spoken, and God’s statutes when once written down, last for eternity. They are reliable, trustworthy and faithful. This last point is worth dwelling on.

Fourth. The words and statutes of God are immutable – they will never change. Here we are brought face-to-face with the faithfulness of God. We tend to think of faithfulness as something that is always positive. When we say someone is reliable, or trustworthy, what we mean is that they are on our side, they agree with our way of thinking. But true faithfulness is that quality or remaining true to your word. This means that when the Lord warns us of the consequences of wrong actions we can be absolutely sure that these will result. (See Deuteronomy 28. especially verses 33, 36 and 37).

Final Thoughts:

  • God, the Lord of hosts, the Almighty, Holy One of Israel is angry – very angry – about sin, rebellion and evil

 

  • Repentance is a first course of action for all. Repentance and faith, coming back to the Lord daily, frequently (Matthew 11:28).

 

  • The history of the true church is one of reform – repentance, turning back to the Lord. Revival.

 

  • God’s word will outlast all of us! Ours is a passing moment in history. But God’s word will continue forever.

 

  • Will we continually come back to the Lord and His word?

 

August 12th 2018: Ian Jones

Ian Jones-August 18Luke 15:11-24

The beginning of this chapter sets the scene; people gathered to listen to the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the groups who loved to gather were the publicans and sinners. The Lord Jesus spoke to them in a very special way in which they were drawn to listen to Him. Amongst them were the Pharisees and Scribes, who complained because Jesus received sinners and met with them. In response, Jesus spoke three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. In each, all have the same meaning – to rejoice when something lost is found. This is something which the Pharisees knew nothing of.

This Prodigal Son is probably the best known of all Jesus’ parables. The younger brother represents ourselves, the Father is Himself and the eldest brother the Pharisees. The younger son comes to the Father and says, ‘Give me my inheritance’ (verse 12). He has little respect for his father. He doesn’t say, ‘Please,’ or ‘May I have?’ No, he says, ‘Give me.’ Right fromstart the relationship is revealed between the young man and his father. He wants his money now. In other words, he wants he demands his independence, he wants to live his own life and not be tied down. If ever there was a boy who broke his father’s heart, it would have been this prodigal son. He is saying, ‘I don’t love you, I don’t want to be in your presence anymore.’ He wants his father dead so he can have his inheritance, an inheritance which wouldn’t usually be given until his father had died. It’s an unlikely event. The father is loving, kind and generous but the son days he doesn’t want any more to do with him.

With God, our Father, this is how everyone has reacted. We want to live our lives our own way, the way we want, not to go His way and be in His presence. It speaks volumes about ourselves. We may not be completely like him – he’s extreme – but in some way or other we’re like the prodigal son. It speaks of a time before our conversion, some of us may still have God outside our lives.

The Father responds by dividing the inheritance; one portion to the younger son and two portions to the older son. The younger son received a lot as his father was rich.  Why did the father give him what he wanted? We don’t give everything our children ask for. Why should God allow us to live our lives as we choose today, knowing the lives we would choose would not be good for us? Our lives are not ours. We’ve been created by God. The prodigal son went off and lived as he chose. But there’s a day coming when we have to appear before God.

It didn’t take long for him to pack up and leave (verse 13). He went as far away as possible. That’s what lots of people do today, they don’t want anything to do with God. Most people are in that far off country, enjoying themselves, doing as they please.

It doesn’t take long for the prodigal son to waste all, he has expensive tastes. He just thought about living it up, enjoying himself. His lifestyle was one of excess. During that time friends came and joined him. They were living away from God. Not surprisingly, he lost all. Then there was a severe famine. He began to be in want. His plans hadn’t worked out as he thought, he was now in debt. With the famine, work was hard to find. It was a bad experience. This can happen to us. Something happens, goes wrong in our lives. What are we to do?

The best thing for the prodigal son was to go home. Now all his money was gone he was on his own and had nothing. We see people today who go through all kinds of difficulties, yet they will not turn to God.

The prodigal son stuck to a person of that country (verse 15). He was a foreigner, yet he attached himself to a person who didn’t know him or care for him. Because he didn’t care for him he sent him into the fields to feed the pigs. Jesus, in telling this story to a crowd who didn’t like pigs, who didn’t eat pork, was showing them how terrible it was for this man. He was now found amongst the lowest of the low, in a job a Jew would have found to be the worst of all. The situation became far worse. The famine was so hard there was not enough for the young man to feed himself, he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pigs’ food. He wanted to get amongst the pigs and eat their food. This man had fallen so low, it couldn’t have got any worse.

The heart of this parable is verse 17, ‘He came to himself.’ It came from being in a state of need. It implies he had not been in his right mind, living in a way that wasn’t real, wasn’t reality. He awakes to his situation. He sees himself. This is the work of the Holy Spirit convincing him of his need to return home, to come back to God. He recognises how futile it is to live as he was. Friends, have you come to yourself?

God is merciful. The son rehearses what he will say when he returns to his father (verse 18). He is truly repentant. He arose the next day and went home. He put into practice what he thought.

On his way home, when he was still a great way off, his father saw him. He knew the son couldn’t make it on his own, that his lifestyle had made him weak. He needed his father. It’s a picture of Jesus seeing us when we were a long way off. Jesus died for our sins on that cross. Here is true repentance, seeing yourself as nothing, looking upon the Lord Jesus Christ as your lord and Saviour, the one who died on the cross for us.

The father saw his son and rushed out to meet him. Oh what love! Why would God want us when we’ve turned our backs on him and rebelled? God waits, looks and observes us. The moment we repent He comes to us with His open arms, ready to receive us. The son starts talking but the father spares his humiliation (verse 22). The son was raised up to be the son of the father. He was given the robe of righteousness. When we repent, He delights in us. There is great rejoicing in the child of God who returns to His Father. What joy there is in church when we see people returning to God. Do you know that joy? Have you lived that prodigal life and returned?

November 5th 2017: Gareth Edwards

20991230_1910562232550470_632853575_oExodus 10: 21-29      The Darkness of Disobedience

‘Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.”’ (Exodus 10:21).

Like plague three and six, this plague comes without warning as Moses does not speak to Pharaoh in advance of the event. This plague strikes at the very heart of the Egyptian belief system. Their chief deity, the creator-god, was Amon-Ra, the sun god of whom Pharaoh was an incarnation. In the famous Egyptian writings The Book of the Dead it is said of Amon-Ra “I am he among the gods who cannot be repulsed.” But here he is repulsed and his life-giving rays, as the Egyptians believed, are extinguished replaced by darkness which spoke of death, judgement and hopelessness. Yahweh extinguishes all trace of Amon-Ra and pharaoh, the so-called incarnation of this deity, is defeated.

Pitch Darkness:

As Moses stretches out his hand to the heaven a terrifying darkness engulfs Egypt. The intensity of the darkness is shown by three things:

  • It was so dense that it could be felt or it seems you could touch it (v21)
  • It was ‘pitch darkness’ (v22) literally ‘dark darkness’ or the deepest sort of darkness they had ever experienced.
  • They could not see one another nor even move it was so dark (v23). It was so dark it appears they couldn’t even find or light torches or candles.

They could not see an inch in front of their noses and it was as if they had all been struck blind. This terrifying state of affairs lasted for three days signifying it was no momentary experience or passing inconvenience. This all-embracing darkness would have filled them with a sense of doom as it spoke of judgement, curse and death.

Yet, where the Israelites lived there was light (v23). When it turned night in Goshen the Hebrews were able to light torches and candles in their homes. In the Old Testament light signifies God’s covenant blessing such as prosperity, peace and justice. Whilst the Egyptians were engulfed in fearful darkness, the Israelites rejoiced in the light.

Applications:

The terrible spiritual darkness which sin brings to men is matched by the darkness of God’s judgement against sin. ‘The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness.’ (Revelation 16.10). In their sin men are blind to the truth and condemned to an eternity of darkness.

The darkness when Christ hung upon the cross symbolises His taking the penalty of our sin upon Himself as He is judged in our place. Consequently, we now rejoice in the light of the gospel in the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Animals for Sacrifice:

Such is the terror of this plague Pharaoh recalls Moses and says all the Israelites can go to worship the Lord in the wilderness. However, he is still not willing to fully submit to the Lord’s demands. He says the Israelites must leave behind all their livestock. Knowing they could not survive for long without their animals it would compel them to return.

Perhaps Pharaoh thought they could capture and sacrifice wild animals, but the principle that sacrifice had to cost the one offering it had been established in Eden and remained central to the worship of God throughout Israel’s history. ‘Then Ornan said to David, “Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all.” But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David paid Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site.” (I Chronicles 21: 23-25).

Moses replies they need their animas to undertake sacrifices God requires but they don’t yet know how many will be needed. Perhaps God will require them to sacrifice all their animals and so Moses insists they will not leave a living thing behind, not even a single hoof!

Applications:

The amazing thing about God’s grace is that at Calvary the sacrifice was made by the Lord who paid such a high price that we might be forgiven. It cost Him everything and us nothing.

However, in response to the extravagance of God’s grace we are to surrender all to Christ, withholding nothing but presenting ourselves as living sacrifices in His service. ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2).

Romans 12-2

Angry Finale:

Once again we are told God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Even this great calamity does not bring the king to his knees in repentance. Even the demonstration of God’s sovereign power vanquishing Amon-Ra does not cause him to capitulate.

There is no mention this time of Pharaoh asking Moses to intercede before the Lord on his behalf. Instead, there are vindictive words and angry threats. Pharaoh throws Moses out with a warning ringing in his ears that the next time Pharaoh sees him hen will have him killed.

Pharaoh’s reply (v29) is full of confidence. Yet, Pharaoh is right; a time is soon coming when Moses will not see him ever again. There will be one more encounter with Pharaoh after which the Israelites will leave Egypt for good. Pharaoh has had his last chance and before long the final judgement of God will devastate his household and the land.

Applications:

It is amazing how those who face the direct and indirect consequences of their sin can blame God for their sufferings. Deep seated hostility to the Lord is found in many a heart despite the Lord’s goodness in His common grace and in affording people the opportunity to repent.

We are reminded that when Jesus was verbally abused He did not reply in kind and when falsely accused He offered no defence as He willingly accepted the punishment due for the guilt of our sin.

 

August 20th 2017: Gareth Edwards – Baptism Service

Reading: Colossians 2:6-15, Preaching: Acts 2

Today is not about Meg, it’s about the Lord Jesus Christ. It is all about what He has done, not what Meg has done. What Megan is doing is a response to what Jesus has done, ‘Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.”’ (Act 2:38-39).

When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost there was: conviction, conversion and consolation.

Conviction:
Everybody who comes to be baptised has experienced conviction of sin. Peter is preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ and how the people had wrongfully, spitefully put Him to death. They listeners were cut to the heart, crushed under the enormity of their sin. They knew they were guilty and had no excuse. They had killed the anointed one of God, the one the nation had wanted to see for so long. Yet they rejected Him, He wasn’t the Messiah they wanted. Ultimately, they had Him killed. Now they are told by Peter that He had been raised from the dead. Perhaps they thought He wanted revenge? Crushed under the sense of their sin, perhaps they wanted to know was there forgiveness? In helplessness they cried out to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

There is nothing harder to penetrate than the heart of a sinful man. When we are confronted by the wrong that we do, we suggest if there’s anything wrong in what we’ve done, surely it’s outweighed by the good we’ve done. Some refuse to acknowledge they’re sinners. It is a natural human reaction when confronted by wrong. But these people were convicted – as those of us are who have come to know Jesus. We too are convicted as we saw ourselves as we really are – sinful and broken. We were brought to grief. Have you been convicted of your sin? Has your conscience been grief-stricken at your actions and words in the sight of God?

Isaiah proclaimed, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). There is no hope for the self-righteous. Meg is not here because she thinks she is a good person, she is here because she knows she is a sinner, like me. There is hope only for those who are convicted of sin.

Conversion:
Peter shows the people the way of Salvation. First they repented. Repent means to make a U-turn. All of us have to complete a U-turn if we are to have the hope of forgiveness of sin. In repentance we acknowledge we have done wrong in the sight of God and nothing we can do can save us. Repentance is knowing that there is nothing we can do to impress Him. Everything about me in the sight of a holy, righteous God is an abomination. However, God Himself has come in the person of Jesus Christ into our world. He identifies Himself fully with us, He died on the cross for my sin and gives to me the perfect righteousness, so I am acceptable as He is before God. It’s nothing of me – it’s all about Jesus. Jesus, by His saving grace and power, changes me and makes me acceptable to God. Therefore, it’s important to be baptised. Being baptised doesn’t make me right with God. Praise the Lord, Meg is already right with God. Jesus has taken her to be His own. Now she’s being baptised as a witness to what Jesus had done. A sinner can only be saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. Your old sinful nature dies with Him on His death on the cross. It brings newness of life in Christ, through His resurrection. Baptism shows this. Every one of us here needs to be converted, without exception, from the youngest to the oldest. Meg wants you to know it’s not because of anything she’s done, it is all because of what Jesus has done.

Consolation:
‘So those who received his word were baptised, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.’ (Acts 2:41). The people gladly received the word, the message of salvation which convicted them of their sin. It also thrilled them.

Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ (Matthew 5:4). Receiving Jesus, they are assured their sins are forgiven, they are right with God. Their hearts are gladdened. They gladly gave themselves 100% to serving the Lord and Saviour in the life of the church. They have such great consolation, great comfort. Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, no matter what their troubles, have the peace of God which can never be taken away or destroyed because Jesus is the Saviour and Lord. The gospel never leaves people in the pit of despair but leads to the joy of salvation in Jesus Christ for all who repent and believe in Him. It’s available to all, free of charge, you don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to improve yourself; all you have to do is trust Jesus as your saviour. The gladness, the peace that passes all understanding, is freely available – just acknowledge your sin and trust Jesus Christ as your saviour. Then, being born-again, you can be baptised, as Meg is being baptised. Our salvation was purchased for us at such a great cost. As we witness Meg’s testimony to Jesus Christ, we should also acknowledge our debt to Him.

Meg has poignantly spoken about not so happy days, but she would never exchange the happy days, when God’s saving grace changed her life, to be free of all the unhappy days. For the happy day, when Jesus washed our sins away, is an eternal day. It’s a day that outlives beyond the grave as it will never end. It’s a day to rejoice in. So as Peter preached this sermon on the day of Pentecost, there was a mighty work of conviction, conversion and consolation. The joy of salvation happens to everyone who is truly a Christian.