MVOPC 7 September 2014
Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3
Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”
Confession of Sin
Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done. And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us. But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent; According to Your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father; For His sake; That we may hereby live a godly, righteous, and sober life; To the glory of Your holy name. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 55:7-9
Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 27:1-13
New Covenant Reading: Acts 4:32-5:11
Hymn of Preparation: 44 “How Great Thou Art”
Sermon Text: Leviticus 27:14-34
Sermon: Regulated Giving
Hymn of Response: 188 “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting”
Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 429 “Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured”
PM Worship: 1 Samuel 31:1-13 – The Death of Saul
Adult Sunday School: Understanding the Book of Revelation
CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 63
63.Which is the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment is, Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Monday (9/1) Read and discuss Leviticus 27:1-13. A chapter on regulating vows may seem like a really low key way to end a book. Yet, as Philip Eveson reminds us, faithfulness in vow keeping is an essential aspect of both a well functioning society and the Christian life:
People are quick to denounce politicians who make promises in their party manifestos and then fail to deliver when they are elected, but what about ourselves? Did we make vows at the time of our conversion or baptism, or when we became members of a local church? Have we kept them? And what about our marriage vows? Maybe we have made commitments that we now regret and we seek ways of backing out of them. This chapter makes it clear that when you make a commitment to God, it is a serious undertaking and must not be entered into lightly.
Chapter 27 divides up into three sections: (1) Today’s passage focuses on vows concerning people and animals; (2) Verses 14-25 focus on vows concerning consecrated houses and lands; (3) The chapter concludes by dealing with exceptions to consecrated items. Read or sing Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Please lift up Pleasant Mountain OPC, our mission work in Bridgton, ME, in prayer as they transition to a season without a pastor.
Tuesday (9/2) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 26:1-13. It is critical that we recognize what this is not saying: The LORD is not saying, “If you ever sin here is how I am going to hammer you.” The Living God is not running around with a human sized fly-swatter just waiting for us to slip up so He can smack us. Notice the strong language that describes those who will receive these curses: “You spurn my statutes” and “your soul abhors my rules.” Such individuals are not disciples who slip up they are not followers of God at all. Let’s look at this issue from a different perspective: What would the opposite of spurning God’s statutes and abhorring His rules look like? Clearly, it would involve delighting in the Law of the LORD and meditating on it day and night. But it would not look like sinless perfection. Yes, faith and faithfulness do actually result in greater conformity to God’s law – but faith would also reveal itself in regular repentance. For the justified sinner in Ancient Israel this would mean availing him or herself to the sacrificial system which took up so much of the earlier part of the book of Leviticus. God would be glorified precisely through showing mercy to His people while maintaining His perfect righteousness through accepting the substitutionary sacrifice which was judged in the sinner’s place. This contains a tremendous lesson for us. In our remaining sin, most of us unreflectingly imagine that we most glorify God by being better and demonstrating that we need less of His mercy than other people do. The Bible teaches something radically different: God is glorified when we repent and magnify His mercy and grace to a sinner as wicked as me. John Piper is undoubtedly correct to teach that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” but I would like to offer an addendum: God is most glorified in us when we sing:
“Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.
Foul I to the fountain fly wash me Savior or I die”
Let’s take the promised blessings and curses of this chapter seriously this week. Let us do so by thanking Him with grateful hearts, by seeking to walk in His ways, and by confessing our sins along with the absolute and comprehensive sufficiency of our Savior. Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church as it meets this evening.
Wednesday (9/3) Read and discuss Leviticus 27:14-25. Derek Tidball writes:
A tremor of apprehension about the offering of voluntary gifts to God runs right through this chapter. The currents of religious emotion flow strongly, and it is all too easy to be swept away by them in the midst of a ceremony or celebration, and rashly promise what is later regretted. Genuine emotion can also give way too easily to ostentatious display. In an effort to prove our devotion to God (and perhaps even to convince ourselves of it), we can fall victim to the need for extravagant gestures. Cool reflection may subsequently make us seek a way of delivering on our promises without paying the full costs involved. One route to bargain spiritually is to count a gift twice and give God what already belongs to Him, in the pretence that it is really a new, voluntary gift.
Today’s passage rules out this duplicitous practice with respect to the firstborn, devoted things, and the tithe – which already belong to Him. We need to be careful, as Jesus warned us, not to do our giving in a way to be seen by men. We should also be careful not to manipulate the emotions of others in an effort to get them to give more. Let everyone give to the LORD from a cheerful and thankful heart. Read or sing Hymn 44 “How Great Thou Art” Prayer: Ask the LORD to remove hypocrisy from your heart and actions.
Thursday (9/4) Read and discuss Acts 4:32-5:11. Today’s passage has two movements. The first reveals great grace. The second reveals great fear. This pattern has often been repeated in history. First, there is genuine Christian revival which leads to new devotion and a new way of life. Second, this is often followed by people who want to be seen as participating in this new way of life while still clinging to the way they were before. Such hypocrisy can have devastating consequences for the Church. In this instance, God used this hypocrisy to declare His own holiness. There are several important aspects of both the grace and the hypocrisy found in this passage that are worthy of sustained contemplation. For now, with the aid of N.T. Wright, let us simply look a bit further at the issue of lying:
The real, deep-level problem about lying is that it misuse, or abuses, the highest faculty we possess: the gift of expressing in clear speech the reality of who we are, what we think, and how we feel. … Instead of allowing God’s spirit to have free rein through our faculties, so that we praise God in words or sounds which enable us to stand (however briefly) at the intersection of heaven and earth, when we tell lies we not only hold heaven and earth apart; we twist earth itself, so that it serves our own interests. Lying is, ultimately, a way of declaring that we don’t like the world the way it is and we will pretend it is somehow more the way we want it to be. At that level, it is a way of saying that we don’t trust God the creator to look after his world and sort it out in his own time and way. And it is precisely the claim of the early church that God the creator has acted in Jesus Christ to sort the world out and set it to right. Those who make that claim, and live by that claim, must expect to be judged by that claim.
We should not imagine that this is something that only other people wrestle with. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons why great fear came upon everyone was because we all recognize the temptation toward religious hypocrisy within our own hearts. The issue is what we do with such temptations. Ananias and Sapphira conspired to commit a pre-meditated fraud upon the church. Instead of doing this, we need to keep turning back to the LORD with tender consciences. That is why the very first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses reads: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He called us to repent, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” Read or Sing Hymn: 188 “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq who are suffering severe persecution at the hands of ISIS.
Friday (9/5) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 31:1-13. While we will be interrupting our study of First and Second Samuel at the end of the first book, it is helpful to remember that this is not the end of the story and to learn from how David responds to the news of Saul’s death in Second Samuel. Robert Chisholm writes. This will help us as we grapple with applying today’s passage to our own lives:
Even though Saul’s death is the result of divine discipline and clears the way for David to take the throne, David does not celebrate. David has expected the LORD to deal decisively with Saul and has even appealed to God for vindication, but when Saul’s death finally arrives, David does not gloat or express any kind of vindictive satisfaction. Instead, he eulogizes Saul and mourns for his death. For David, Israel’s loss outweighs any personal gain he might derive from Saul’s death. His reaction is a reminder that the demise of God’s rebellious servants is to be lamented, not celebrated. After all, the LORD chose and anointed Saul, and Saul won victories for Israel and delivered the nation from its enemies on several occasions. His demise is tragic and antithetical to God’s ideal for Saul. But lamentation is appropriate for other reasons. Saul’s demise has broader consequences. Three of his sons dies as well, including Jonathan, David’s faithful friend and covenant partner. In fact, divine discipline humiliates the entire community, and the reality of Israel’s loss and humiliation grips David at a deep emotional level. In the end, the demise of God’s rebellious servants is to be lamented, because it shatters God’s ideal for the individual, often causes innocent people to suffer as well, and brings shame to the entire covenant community.
Prayer: Please pray that the LORD would bring visitors to our congregation who be blessed by uniting with our church and whose gifts would be used to build up this particular local church.
Saturday (9/6) Read and discuss Leviticus 27:26-33. Derek Tidball writes:
The Israelites realized that they had much for which to thank God. He had brought them ‘from slavery to freedom, from sorry to joy, from mourning to festivity, from darkness to great light, and from bondage to redemption. Having done so, he remained their faithful covenant friend, who continued to forgive, guide, protect, provide for, prosper and rule over them and their families. For all this they wanted to express gratitude. To do so adequately meant they felt the need to go beyond what was required by law and give offerings freely and from the heart. If they felt gratitude, how much more should we, who can see the full wonder of God’s love for us in the cross of Jesus Christ? Religious should be a matter … of love. If we truly understand the cost and meaning of anything we are told to do, and may well involve extravagant gestures of giving. We shall seek, not to scrape by, gaining a mere pass mark in obedience, but to excel in our zeal for the LORD. We shall not skimp on our giving, but contribute to the LORD’s work generously, even sacrificially.
Yet, in expressing our devotion, we need to be wise. Well intended vows made with enthusiasm in the heat of the moment during wonderfully intense periods of worship can return to haunt us. But having made the promise to God, we dare not go back on our word. Qohelet, the teacher, in a passage that could be a commentary on Leviticus 27, warned of the trap into which we can easily fall:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. God near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on the earth,
so let your words be few.
As a dream comes when there are many cares,
so the speech of a fool when there are many words.
Read or Sing Hymn 429 “Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.