Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 7 September 2014 Sunday, Aug 31 2014 

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

Suggested Preparations

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.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 31 August 2014 Sunday, Aug 24 2014 

MVOPC 31 August 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 8:1-4

Old Covenant Reading: Proverbs 11:1-9

New Covenant Reading: Romans 4:1-25

Hymn of Preparation: 162 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

Sermon Text:  Leviticus 26:14-46

Sermon: Rebellion and Judgment

Hymn of Response: 167 “When Morning Gilds the Skies”

Confession of Faith:   Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender”

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 30:1-31 – Disaster Averted

Adult Sunday School: Understanding the Book of Revelation

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 62

Q. 62.What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?

A. The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the sabbath day. 

Monday (8/25) Read and discuss Leviticus 26:14-46.  John Currid writes:

On account of the sin of Adam and the continuing depravity of every human being, all humanity stands in a broken covenant relationship with God. Every human being is deserving of God’s wrath, which is given some detail in the passage before us. None of us can stand before God and say that we are righteous and that we have kept the covenant. We are by nature children of wrath. But thanks be to God, who has taken away the wrath from coming on his people! As the apostle Paul so eloquently states, ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith’ (Gal. 3:13-14). In other words, the way that God’s people receive the many blessings of the covenant is by being in Christ. It is his work, indeed his death, on the cross that has taken away the curse and brought blessing to the people of God. Apart from him, nothing but curse awaits. Will you turn to him this very day?

Read or sing Hymn: 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Prayer: Please lift up the President of the United States, and other world leaders, as they try to grapple with the best way to respond to the wicked behavior of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq.

Tuesday (8/26) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 26:1-13. In today’s passage, the LORD promises a rather comprehensive series of blessings to Israel if they will trust Him and walk in His ways. This means that it is critical for us to understand what faith and faithfulness actually look like lest we miss out on these blessings. The marks of faith and faithfulness are unfolded for us in verses 1 and 2. Negatively, the people are not to make idols or images that they bow down to. Positively, they are to reverence the LORD’s Sabbaths and His Sanctuary. The critical thing for us to see is that these commands are not so much about being good they are about being His. They are about trusting God alone with an undivided heart. This is what Jesus means in the New Testament when He says: “Blessed are the pure in heart.” To be pure in heart means to not be divided in ultimate loyalties between God and other lesser things. To reverence the Sabbath means that we trust the LORD to be a good father who will provide for all our needs so that we don’t have to endlessly be striving on the treadmill of life. It has been wisely said that: “Even if you win the rat-race you are still a rat.” So what’s the point? Who aspires to simply be the #1 rat? The LORD calls us to something better. He wants us to learn to trust Him and to rest in His provision. Finally, delighting in the sanctuary means that we are seeking to know God rather than use Him for our own agendas. To reverence His sanctuary is to say with David in Psalm 27:

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.  3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

This is a prayer that the LORD answers. This is a prayer that should be regularly on our lips and a desire that should regularly be in our hearts. Prayer: Please pray for the special meeting of Presbytery which is being held this afternoon at Second Parish in Portland, Maine.

Wednesday (8/27) Read and discuss Proverbs 11:1-9. Anthony Selvaggio writes:

Throughout the mid-to-late 1990s, Enron Corporation was an apparent paragon of business excellence. Once a simple and stodgy natural-gas company, Enron had transformed itself into a high-tech powerhouse engaging in such trendy businesses as Internet bandwidth and electronic energy trading. As a result of this stunning transformation, Enron’s stock price soared, and the company soon became a darling of Wall Street.

Just one problem, Enron’s riches were built on a foundation of deceit. Essentially, the company’s top executives had begun keeping two sets of books. Through a variety of “creative” accounting strategies, they were able to defraud Enron’s workers, customers, and investors by making the company appear vastly more profitable than it really was. When the fraud was finally revealed it resulted in one of the largest bankruptcies in American history. Thousands of people lost their jobs and their life savings. How ironic that Enron’s corporate logo was a crooked “E,” for it was the crookedness of upper management that ultimately led to the company’s collapse. Due to a lack of business ethics, Enron had imploded.

One might say that the book of Proverbs effectively predicted the collapse of Enron. “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out. He who winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin” (Proverbs 10:9-10). This describes well what happened at Enron. The company’s top leadership walked a crooked path and were found out. … Enron had built its house upon the sand, and great was its fall. The executives were eventually divested of their ill-gotten wealth and convicted of criminal offenses – chattering fools, come to ruin.

One final thought: It is vital that we remember to use Proverbs 11 to instruct us and not as a measuring rod to evaluate others. These truths were written down for our instruction. Read or sing Hymn 162 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause you to engage in all your business affairs with transparent integrity.

Thursday (8/28) Read and discuss Romans 4:1-25. R.C. Sproul writes:

Abraham was one hundred years old, and his wife was barren, but God said that Sarah would have a child. Eliezer of Damascus would not be Abraham’s heir; one from Abraham’s loins would be his heir (see Gen. 15:2). Abraham looked at himself and his wife and saw a hopeless situation. “How can I possibly believe that promise?”Then he looked at the One who made the promise and realized instantly that there was nothing hopeless about it. The only thing hopeless was the idea that the promise would not come to pass, because it is impossible for God to lie. It is impossible for God to break a promise.

In our sin, we project onto the character of God our own character. We break promises, and we live in the midst of people who break promises routinely. Therefore, we question how, since we are so accustomed to broken promises, we can trust this One who promises us things against all earthly evidence. How could Mary believe the announcement of the angel Gabriel, who told her that she would bring forth a child? She asked, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God”. The angel was not talking about the power of men here. He was talking about the author of the universe. With Him all things in this world are possible, and Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Satan has never performed a miracle in his life. He does not have the power to perform miracles. All his attempts at miracles are counterfeits because he does not have the power that God alone possesses. The one whom Abraham believed is the God who can create ex nihilo, who can bring something out of nothing, who can bring life out of death. Satan could have gone to the tomb of Lazarus and cried, “Come forth” until he lost his voice, but not a grain of life would have stirred in that corpse because Satan does not have the power to bring life out of death. Satan could speak into the void and with all his energy say, “Let there be light,” but not a candle-watt of light would appear. He cannot bring something out of nothing.

These words make it clear that the key to a growing and vibrant faith is to focus on the One in whom our faith is rightly placed. To know Him is to trust Him. Read or Sing Hymn: 167 “When Morning Gilds the Skies” Prayer: Please pray for our missionary work in the troubled country of Haiti.

Friday (8/29) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 30:1-31. Dale Ralph Davies writes:

Because hordes of Amalekites are not on our list of most feared phenomena we are apt to consider David’s victory a minor episode. The text, however, will not allow us to do this, for it stresses that David’s victory is central and complete. … We must … deal with the way verses 18-22 emphatically insist on David’s total recovery of all that had been lost: David delivered all Amalek had taken, including his two wives, nothing was missing, whether young or old, sons or daughters, plunder – whatever. In case we missed the point, the writer summarizes: “David recovered all” (v. 19b, emphasis in Hebrew; our colloquialism, ‘the whole shooting match,’ catches the idea). The writer pounds the point home in order to highlight the fidelity of Yahweh to his previous word, “You will certainly deliver” (v. 8). And he did – fully and totally (vv. 18-19).

Yet David himself catches the importance of the victory in a single line, his greeting to the various elders of Judah “Here’s a gift for you from the plunder of Yahweh’s enemies” (v. 26). We are prone to regard the Amalekites as only Israel’s enemies. … But because they are Israel’s enemies they are Yahweh’s enemies; and because they have mangled his flock they must deal with it Shepherd. We do not merely have an ancient altercation here between Israel and Amalek. Rather this conflict is symptomatic of the greater war. There are Yahweh’s people and there are Yahweh’s enemies; there are two kingdoms, the kingdom of Yahweh and the kingdom of this world; there are two humanities, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. And here in 1 Samuel 30 Yahweh’s enemies have been trounced! This victory then is not an episode but a promise, a scale-model scenario of how it will be when Yahweh makes the Davidic Messiah’s enemies his footstool (Ps. 110:1).

Prayer: Give thanks that Christ’s absolute victory over His enemies has already been accomplished and will one day be fully visible for everyone to see.

Saturday (8/30) Read and discuss Leviticus 26:14-46. Philip Eveson writes:

The prophets were not only biblical in presenting the curses to the people, they were also biblical in presenting a message of hope to a humbled and subdued people. A future is held out to them after the final curse of total defeat and exile. Just as the LORD remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and acted to deliver Israel from the Egyptian bondage, so he promises to act again (26:42, 45). AS there are conditions that relate to the series of blessings and curses, so a condition is set at the commencement of this passage of hope. They are urged to confess the sinfulness of their own treacherous disloyalty and that of their ancestors in living so contrary to God’s standards, to acknowledge that God has rightly punished them by removing them to the land of their enemies and to turn to God in humbleness of heart. If they show these marks.

Read or Sing Hymn 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 24 August 2014 Sunday, Aug 17 2014 

MVOPC 24 August 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Sin

O You whose chosen dwelling is the heart that longs for Your presence and humbly seeks Your love:  We come to You to acknowledge and confess that we have sinned in thought and word and deed;  We have not loved You with all our heart and soul, with all our mind and strength;   We have not even loved our neighbor as ourselves.  Deepen within us our sorrow for the wrong we have done, or for the good we have left undone.  But You, O Lord, are full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy;  there is forgiveness with You.  Restore to us the joy of Your salvation;  Bind up that which is broken, give light to our minds, strength to our wills and rest to our souls.  Speak to each of us the word that we need, and let Your Word abide with us until it has wrought in us Your holy will.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: John 14:1-3

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 1:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Romans 6:15-23

Hymn of Preparation: 65 “Before Jehovah’s Awesome Throne”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 26:1-13

Sermon: Does the LORD Always Bless Obedience?

Hymn of Response: 672 “Trust and Obey”

Confession of Faith:   Heidelberg Catechism            Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come”!

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 29:1-11 – A Narrow Escape

Adult Sunday School: Understanding the book of Revelation

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism 61:

Q. 61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.

Monday (8/18) Read and discuss Leviticus 26:1-13.  John Currid writes:

The lavish promises of blessing given to Israel in this passage never came to pass in the history of Israel in their fullest sense. Israel was consistently disobedient to the covenant treaty between themselves and Yahweh. Because of that habitual noncompliance, the later prophets predicted that these promises would not be fulfilled until the eschaton. Ezekiel, in particular, draws on the very images of this Levitical passage to point to the future. He pronounces that one day God’s people will be free from harmful beasts (Ezek. 34:25), and that they will not be exploited by other nations (Ezek. 34:28). In addition, it will be a time of great abundance in rain and in crop yield. At that time God will cause his people to be fruitful and multiply. The Immanuel principle will be central to their existence.

The last days have truly been inaugurated by the first coming of Jesus Christ – the kingdom is here! And Jesus is the covenant-keeper, the only one who could ever be obedient to the requirements of the divine treaty. By his work, the blessings of the covenant have come on him and on those who belong to him. Yet eh blessings of eh covenant have not been fully applied to the people of God as of yet. We await the final appearance of Christ when all the blessings of the covenant will be completely applied and realized.

Read or sing Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Please lift up our mission among the Karamojan people in Uganda.

Tuesday (8/19) Read and discuss Jeremiah 1:1-10. Several modern action movies have used the destruction of our nation’s capitol building or the White House as symbols of great turmoil and fear. This isn’t a new idea. The first readers of the book of Jeremiah would have experienced the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. This wasn’t a movie where they would be rescued by super-heroes 90 minutes later. This was the painful reality which marked most of their lives. Where can we find courage and hope in times like that? What we need is someone or something which is stronger and more certain than our passing though painful circumstances, and that is precisely what happens to Jeremiah when the LORD lays a hold of him in today’s passage. The LORD speaks to Jeremiah and says:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

God is in control and He is personally involved in both the life of Israel but also the individual lives of men like Jeremiah. As the book of Jeremiah unfolds, the LORD will reveal that the sins of His people are behind the intense suffering that they are experiencing. This is actually good news because it means that when the LORD puts away their sins He will also be restoring them to the fullness of His blessing. God mercifully leads His people to the place of repentance and confession of sin in order to bless us once again. As the Holy Spirit tells us in First John:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (8/20) Read and discuss Psalm 1:1-6. The first Psalm is so important to the Christian life that it is well worth memorizing so that you can meditate upon it throughout the day. Allen P. Ross explains the central message of the psalm:

By drawing a contrast between the righteous and the ungodly, the psalmist instructs believers not to live the way the world lives, not to take spiritual, moral, or ethical advice from unbelievers, and not to join them in their profane enterprises; rather, believers must study the word of God in order to live an untarnished and productive life for God, and that life will be evidence of a living faith that will see them through the judgment, when God judges the wicked. …

For believers, the application is obvious: they must spend time meditating on God’s word so that they may live a distinct and productive spiritual life for God, and in the process find assurance that God knows them and will preserved them through the judgment. To unbelievers the message is urgent: they must come to faith in the Lord, because if they live their lives without faith in him or his word, not even their good deeds will count and they will not survive the judgment to come.

Read or sing Hymn 65 “Before Jehovah’s Awesome Throne” Prayer: Pray that the LORD would send new visitors to our church who would be blessed by uniting with our congregation.

Thursday (8/21) Read and discuss Romans 6:15-23. What was the Messiah given the name Jesus? This name is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua which means “Yahweh is salvation”. That makes sense to us. After all, Jesus is our wonderful Savior. Yet many evangelicals conceive of Christ’s work of salvation primarily in terms of Jesus saving us from hell. Interestingly, that is not how the New Testament presents Christ’s work. Instead, when an angel appeared to Joseph he announced:

 Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

As we sometimes sing, “He breaks the power of canceled sin.” At the very moment you first believe God justifies you by reckoning Christ’s perfectly righteous life to your account. This is only the beginning. Because Jesus is not divided, to embrace Christ is to embrace the whole Christ (i.e. to submit to Jesus as both Savior and Lord). Therefore, everyone who is truly born again of necessity is being sanctified. Doug Moo helpful divides the two regimes that Paul is talking about into the following two categories:

The Old Regime                                   The New Regime

       Adam                                                       Christ

       Sin                                            Righteousness; obedience

      Death                                                         Life

      Law                                                            Grace

      Flesh                                                          Spirit

The key thing to realize is that we cannot pick and choose from each menu those things that we would like to embrace. We are either under the Old Regime or the New. If we are in Christ then we are new creations. This is true in principle and a significant part of our Christian lives is simply a matter of living out in practice what we already are because of our relationship to God the Father, Christ our Savior and Lord, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Read or Sing Hymn: 672 “Trust and Obey” Prayer: Give thanks that in Christ you are a new creation!

Friday (8/22) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 29:1-11. It is necessary in corporate worship for us to look at relatively small portions of Scripture week after week. It is therefore, important, that we step back from time-to-time to read larger portions of God’s word so we can see how the individual passages fit together. Richard Phillips writes:

The historical books of the Bible are not bare records of past events, but theologically and pastorally shaped narratives. To this end, they are written with remarkable skill, employing careful construction for the sake of suspense and meaning. One example is the narrative flow of 1 Samuel chapters 24 through 26, which present David as growing in grace while Saul declines in depravity. An even better example is chapters 27 to 31, where the sacred historian shapes the timeline to make his point with subtlety.

To see this narrative craftsmanship, we should line up the action in the final chapters of 1 Samuel. In chapter 27, David seeks salvation from Saul’s malice by turning to the Philistines. In chapter 28, Saul seeks salvation from God’s rejection by turning to an occult medium. In chapter 29, David is saved from the Philistines; in chapter 31, Saul is destroyed by the Philistines. The point of this arrangement is no that David is wiser or more virtuous than Saul (though undoubtedly he is). The point, rather, is that David’s relationship with the God of grace makes the vital difference. David is saved from his error, while Saul, having turned his heart away from the LORD, is destroyed in his folly. The lesson of these chapters is summarized by David in Psalm 118: “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. … The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death” (Ps. 118:14, 18).

Prayer: Please pray for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Saturday (8/23) Read and discuss Leviticus 26:1-13. Philip Eveson writes:

The greatest blessing of all is to experience the presence of God. This supreme gift is conveyed by the pictures of the tabernacle and the Garden of Eden. The glory cloud of fire and smoke that had accompanied Israel thus far and that had recently rested on the newly constructed tabernacle was symbolic of his special presence (Exod. 40). Instead of God being so sickened by them that he would want to abandon them, they are assured of this presence when they enter the land and erect the tabernacle. The reference to God walking about among his people is a reminder of the fundamental loss that our first parents experienced when they were removed from the earthly paradise. Israel in the land of Canaan under the Lord’s blessing would reflect the conditions that existed in the Garden of Eden before the Fall.

In this final part of the blessing God’s response mirrors Israel’s obligation: ‘If you walk …. I will walk’ (26:3, 12). Israel’s walk means a way of life that is committed to doing God’s will, whereas God’s walk involves his active, watchful care over them. Echoes of God’s covenant with Abraham are picked up in the formula which declares that the LORD will ‘be your God, and you shall be my people’ (26:12). This personal relationship between God and Israel lies at the very heart of the divine covenant. In this the agreement is unlike the ancient political treaties but more akin to a marriage, a theme that is later used by the prophet Hosea.

Read or Sing Hymn 426 “Till He Come”! Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Sunday, Aug 3 2014 

As we do not know what passages of Scripture Rev. Tindall and Professor Petter will be preaching on the Worship Blog will be taking a two week hiatus and returning on August 18th.

 

This coming Sunday evening, Elder Bacon will be teaching Micah chapter 4:

 

Micah 4:1-13  ESV It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it,  2 and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  3 He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore;  4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.  5 For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.  6 In that day, declares the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted;  7 and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore.  8 And you, O tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, the former dominion shall come, kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.  9 Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, that pain seized you like a woman in labor?  10 Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.  11 Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, “Let her be defiled, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.”  12 But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.  13 Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion, for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hoofs bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples; and shall devote their gain to the LORD, their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.

 

On the evening of August 17th,  Elder Jager will be teaching Psalm 6:

 

Psalm 6:1-10 ESV TO THE CHOIRMASTER: WITH STRINGED INSTRUMENTS; ACCORDING TO THE SHEMINITH. A PSALM OF DAVID. O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.  2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.  3 My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD- how long?  4 Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.  5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?  6 I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  7 My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.  8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.  9 The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer.  10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 3 August 2014 Sunday, Jul 27 2014 

MVOPC 3 August 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 4 “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 8:10-12

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 25:23-46

New Covenant Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Hymn of Preparation: 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”

Sermon Text:  Leviticus 25:47-55

Sermon: God Cares for the Poor through His People

Hymn of Response: 80 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee”

Confession of Faith:   Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 429 “Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured”

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 28:3-25 – When Yahweh is Your Enemy

Adult Sunday School: Jesus Christ Mediator and Prophet: Larger Catechism 41-43

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #58

Q. 58. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself.

Monday (7/28) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:23-46.  Philip Eveson writes:

The poor person in this section has probably become a tenant farmer, renting his former farmland from the creditor and therefore continuing the make a living under the creditor’s authority and protection. In this case, where the creditor has the upper hand, he must remember that, though the Israelite may be in the same kind of state as a resident alien and foreign tenant, he not only deserves the sort of courtesies shown to them but he is actually ‘your brother,’ a member of God’s holy nation, ‘one of your brethren.’ Therefore the creditor must not charge him interest on debts owed, or sell food to him for a profit, as was allowed in the case of foreigners. In other words, the whole covenant community was to consider itself a family, caring for each other as brothers and sisters, with no one taking advantage of a fellow Israelite’s calamity in order to make a quick gain. Loaning money for business enterprises is quite a different situation from the one envisaged here. The poor are not to be exploited.

They are also to remember that they live under the all-seeing eye of God. Any unbrotherly action, even if it lies outside the jurisdiction of the courts, will not go unpunished by God. They are called to fear God. Devotion to God is an important motive in showing compassion towards fellow countrymen in distress. It is an expression of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. To further impress upon the people the importance of these laws, God identifies himself as the one who revealed himself in all his glorious majesty at the time of the Exodus, who acted graciously towards them by redeeming them from Egyptian slavery to bring them into the land of promise and who entered into a special relationship with them to be their God. In a similar way, new-covenant people are to behave generously towards all, and especially to believers. The early Christians were quick to take up the principle of helping poor widows and the needy saints in Jerusalem.

Read or sing Hymn: 4 “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in Iraq as they continue to suffer horrible persecution and crimes against humanity by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Tuesday (7/29) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 25:1-23. One of the most striking things about today’s passage is realizing that there is no evidence that Israel ever celebrated the Sabbatical Year and the Year of  Jubilee prior to the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C. Of course, even if Israel began to rigorously practice the Sabbatical Year and the Year of Jubilee they would only be embracing a sign as it pointed forward to a far greater fulfillment for which the remnant longed. Then, one day, …

… [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,  18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Our Lord was announcing that He is the reality that the Law and the Prophets were pointing forward to. Jesus is our Jubilee! In Him we have perfect freedom and the redemption of our sins. … But, and this is a critical but, that is only true for those who love and trust Him. Where does this leave us? It leaves us with the knowledge that today’s passage is about becoming dependently wealthy. It is about recognizing that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even entered into the hearts of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him. The LORD is that generous and that good.  Jesus owns everything. That is wonderful news for those who love and trust Him and it is dreadful news for those who refuse to trust Him. And there is only one question that you must answer: Which are you? Prayer: Ask that the LORD would stretch your faith so that you would rest more and more in Him.

Wednesday (7/30) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:47-55. Philip Eveson writes:

This piece of legislation emphasizes that both the people of Israel and the land of Canaan belong solely to the Lord. Neither the one nor the other can be sold permanently. Individual Israelites and portions of the land may be leased for a certain period of time under special conditions, but neither can be sold. The people and the land belong together in the purposes of God. In the next chapter we see how the final covenant curse affects this union and the future realization of God’s promises.

This is a most amazing piece of legislation to safeguard against abject poverty. Scholars of various backgrounds are agreed that these laws were the most humane and socially advanced in the ancient Near East. Indeed, we could add that they are the most enlightened laws in any society, past or present. They were intended to prevent the wealth of the nation from accumulating in the hands of a few. …

The sad fact is that it did not work, not because the laws were unsound, but because of Israel’s failure to obey. Despite God’s goodness towards them and the motives for obedience that are spelled out in the legislation, the Israelites failed to honor their obligations. These laws remained an unfulfilled ideal. The prophets warn those who ‘join house to house, who add field to field, till there is no place where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land’ (Isa 5:8), or who ‘sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals’ (Amos 2:6).

Read or sing Hymn 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: The war on poverty announced by President Johnson has not eradicated poverty in our country which is one of the wealthiest nations in the history of the world. Pray that the LORD would work in our nation so that we would find ways to genuinely lift many families out of poverty.

Thursday (7/31) Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 8:1-15. Scott Hafemann writes:

The example of the Macedonians is still instructive today. In a radical role reversal of the world’s values, the abundance of their poverty, fueled by the riches of their joy in God, led to a wealth of generosity. We usually think of “fund raisers” as encouraging those who can afford to give to give more; in the Macedonian churches those who had nothing begged to give. Why? Paul’s answer is the grace of God. Indeed, the “also” of 8:7 shows that giving is just as much a spiritual gift of grace as any of the other charismatic gifts the Corinthians had received. Giving is not merely an expression of compassion for the needy. Nor is it simply a reflection of our own concern. Rather the spiritual gift of grace as any of the other charismatic gifts the Corinthians had received. Giving is not merely an expression of compassion for the needy. Nor is it simply a reflection of our own concern. Rather, the spiritual gift of giving to others is to be the reflex of our own joy in the grandeur of God’s gift to us in Christ. As we have seen, the Macedonians’ joy led to giving, not the other way around. For this reason, throughout Paul’s discussion, the collection is termed a “grace” and a “ministry!”

Read or Sing Hymn: 80 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you a generous heart.

Friday (8/1) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 28:3-25. Dale Ralph Davies writes:

The most hopeless misery in all of life is to be abandoned by God. What the narrative had already reported Saul himself miserably confirms in verse 15: “I am in terrible distress; the Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me and does not answer me any more, not by prophets or by dreams.” Certainly as king, responsible for the leadership of Yahweh’s people, Saul would normally have the privilege of Yahweh’s direction for battle. Now, however, he can hear the shouts of the Philistines but not the voice of Yahweh. He faces the crisis of his life and God has nothing to say to him. Some of the saddest words in all Scripture are printed in 1 Samuel 28:15.

Samuel explains that Yahweh is carrying out what Samuel had previously declared – tearing the kingdom from Saul and giving it to his neighbor (here David is openly identified as Saul’s replacement; v. 17). Why is Yahweh mute? Samuel harks back to the episode of chapter 15: “As you did not listen to the voice of Yahweh and did not carry out his hot anger against Amalek – therefore, Yahweh has done this thing to you today” (v. 18). Samuel picks up the key word from chapter 15, to “listen,” to “hear.” There Saul confirmed the tragic tendency he had show in chapter 13. In chapter 15 he tailored Yahweh’s command to his own and the people’s preferences. Saul would have called it accommodation; Samuel called it rebellion. Saul thought it prudence; Samuel labeled it stubbornness. Perhaps Saul like to think he had only reinterpreted Yahweh’s word; Samuel charged that he had simply rejected Yahweh’s word (see 15:22-23). “You did not listen.” That is the explanation for Yahweh’s absence.

The text is not gentle but it is clear: If you despise God’s word he will take it from you. If you persistently refuse to obey God’s speech you will endure God’s silence.

Prayer: Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel.

Saturday (8/2) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:23-46. John Currid writes:

In Exodus 21:3-4, the laws of the six-year indenture preclude the release of the bound worker’s family if they are acquired during his servitude. They must remain with the master. But in the year of jubilee, everyone is released who has not taken a vow of permanent servitude. All of them will return to the clan, and to the familial land holdings that have also been released during the jubilee.

Bound employees are not to be dealt with ‘harshly’. This is a rare term in the Old Testament, but it is used in Exodus 1:13 of the type of affliction imposed on the Israelites by the Egyptians. A sense of irony dominates: Israel is not to treat here servants in the manner that the Egyptians had treated them.

The theological foundation for the way in which the Hebrews deal with servants is set out here. The Hebrews are God’s ‘servants’, or ‘slaves’; they are his property. He took them out of slavery in Egypt to become his servants/slaves. That is an important concept – the only permanent and true master that a Hebrew has is God. Daube puts it this way: ‘So as a result of God’s intervention the children of Israel, from being slaves to the Egyptians, become slaves to God – in analogy to ancient social usage; and now the societal protection given by the law is rested on that change of master, on the Israelites having passed under divine rule which, essentially precludes any other.’

Read or Sing Hymn 429 “Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 27 July 2014 Sunday, Jul 20 2014 

MVOPC 27 July 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 53 “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty”

Confession of Sin

O You whose chosen dwelling is the heart that longs for Your presence and humbly seeks Your love:  We come to You to acknowledge and confess that we have sinned in thought and word and deed;  We have not loved You with all our heart and soul, with all our mind and strength;   We have not even loved our neighbor as ourselves.  Deepen within us our sorrow for the wrong we have done, or for the good we have left undone.  But You, O Lord, are full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy;  there is forgiveness with You.  Restore to us the joy of Your salvation;  Bind up that which is broken, give light to our minds, strength to our wills and rest to our souls.  Speak to each of us the word that we need, and let Your Word abide with us until it has wrought in us Your holy will.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 3:21-26

Old Covenant Reading: Jeremiah 34:1-22

New Covenant Reading: John 8:31-38

Hymn of Preparation:457 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 25:1-23

Sermon: Jubilee!

Hymn of Response: 460 “Amazing Grace”

Confession of Faith:   Heidelberg Catechism            Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship:1 Samuel 27:1-28:2 – A Dangerous Ploy

Adult Sunday School: The Incarnation: Larger Catechism 37-40

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #57

Q. 57. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Monday (7/21) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:1-23.  John Currid writes:

The film Glory describes the history of the 54th Massachusetts infantry, an all-black unit during the American Civil War. In one of the most poignant scenes, the unit is marching through South Carolina, which had been the first state to secede from the union and upheld black slavery. As the black troops are marching through one town, a bunch of black youngsters run up to the troops and cheer. A character played by Morgan Freeman turns to the children and says, ‘Run on home and tell your parents that the jubilee has come!’

The historical incident of the freedom of black slaves in America is not the biblical jubilee. But it should also be noted that even in the Old Testament there is not one historical episode recorded that involves the jubilee – for all we know, it may never have been celebrated in ancient Israel. But that does not mean that some in Israel did not long for it. In fact, the prophet Isaiah predicts that one is coming who will inaugurate the jubilee, and this Suffering Servant says:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,

Because the LORD has anointed me

To bring good news to the afflicted;

He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,

To proclaim liberty to captives,

And freedom to prisoners;

To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD,

And the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all who mourn,

To grant those who mourn in Zion,

Giving them a garland instead of ashes,

The oil of gladness instead of mourning …

The fulfillment of this prophesy of the coming one is seen in the New Testament with the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In his first public ministry occurring in Nazareth, recorded in Luke 4, Jesus quotes this passage from Isaiah 61, and then says, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

Read or sing Hymn: 53 “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty”Prayer: Ask the LORD to help you rejoice in the freedom you have in Him and to liberate you to hold the property He has entrusted you with loosely.

Tuesday (7/22) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 24:10-23. Verse 11 reads: “and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed.” The first word translated “blasphemed” conveys the idea of attacking God’s name and the term translated “cursed” conveys treating God’s name as a light or vaporous thing. While these two ideas go together I want to focus on the second one for a moment. The Hebrew word for “glory” carries the idea of “weightiness.” When we glorify God we treat Him as weighty or of utmost significance. The word translated “cursed” in the ESV means the exact opposite of that. It is to dishonor God by treating Him as “lightweight” or “insignificant.” We need to feel how wrong it is to treat God and His name in this way – and I’m not sure that we get it. Evangelicals clearly grasp how wrong it is to curse God but do we then turn around and treat Him as lightweight – something to joke about or to compare to consumer products? Isn’t it wrong to turn the tag line of Budweiser  “This bud’s for you” into “This blood’s for you” or to re-write the Coca-Cola logo with Jesus being the real thing? Beloved – we ought not to trifle with God in this way. The fact that the LORD required the death penalty for those who blaspheme His name should remind us of how serious an offense this is as well as His call on our lives to glorify Him in everything we do and say. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would exalt His name in your home and community and that He would begin with you.

Wednesday (7/23) Read and discuss Jeremiah 34:1-22. The Babylonian captivity is a type of reverse exodus. In the great exodus out of Egypt, the LORD freed His people from bondage so that they could worship Him in freedom in the Promised Land. Part of the way Israel was to ascribe worth to God was through setting free their slaves every seventh year as a way of celebrating how the LORD had set them from slavery in Egypt. The people refused to do this and so the LORD took away their freedom and expelled them from the Promised Land. Terence Fretheim writes:

The reason that the law regarding the release of slaves (see Deut 15:12-18) is used to illustrate the people’s sinfulness may be evident in the explicit reference to the exodus from Egypt and God’s liberation of Israel from its slavery (v. 13). By not attending to this law in particular the people are violating their own history with God. God (“I myself”) had made it possible for Israel to be freed from slavery in Egypt and had made a covenant with them, which entailed a law regarding freedom for their slaves after a six-year period. This law was specifically motivated by the call to “remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt” (Deut 15:15). Disobedience of this law on the part of the Israelites demonstrates that the exodus – God’s act of freeing them when they were slaves – no longer motivates their action or shapes their lives.

This linkage to the exodus suggests that disobedience of this law regarding the treatment of slaves is not just one illustration among others that could have been used, as if to say that to break one law is to break them all. This law and Israel’s specific covenantal commitment regarding its enforcement goes to the heart of their identity as the people of God: they were once slaves and God did not renege on a personal commitment to deliver them from slavery. Their violation of this law, together with their fickle commitment to covenants made, also demonstrates the need for a new saving act of God, promised in no little detail in the immediately preceding chapters.

Read or sing Hymn 457 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” Prayer: Pray for peace in Israel.

Thursday (7/24) Read and discuss John 8:31-38. Commenting on this passage, N.T. Write observes:

So Jesus is offering – we might have thought – what everybody in Israel was longing for! Freedom at last! And at an even deeper level than they had imagined. Surely this will catch people’s attention, especially with those who, as John says, have now come to believe that he really is the Messiah?

Surprisingly, no. They hear straight away that he is offering a freedom which goes far beyond the national hope of freedom from Rome, and they react against the idea. ‘How can you say such a thing? We are Abraham’s children, and we’ve always been free!’

Jesus doesn’t point out, as he might have done, that the foundation of their national life and faith was not just Abraham but the Exodus which had taken place after their national slavery in Egypt. He goes straight to the heart of what he means. There is a worse slavery than that which they had suffered in Egypt, or the semi-slavery they were suffering under the rule of Rome. It is the slavery that grips not only individuals but also groups, nations, and families of nations. It is the slavery we know as ‘sin.’

The trouble with saying that out loud is that many people in the Western world are bored of hearing about sin. They think it just means offences against someone else’s old-fashioned morality, often in matters to do with sex. But that’s far too small-minded a view. Sexual sins matter, of course; they matter very much. They can destroy a person, a marriage, a family, a community. But there is more to sin than sex, and sin as a whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. When people rebel against God in whatever way, …individuals and societies alike become enslaved just as surely as if every single one of them wore chains and was hounded to work every day by a strong man with a whip.

So what is the truth, and how can it set people free, then and now?

Throughout John’s gospel the answer is clear: Jesus himself is the truth. But we mustn’t forget that the Jesus who is described as the truth is the Jesus of the whole story John is telling, and above all the Jesus who dies on the cross as the supreme act of love, the act in which the father’s glory is finally revealed.

Read or Sing Hymn: 460 “Amazing Grace” Read or sing Hymn 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our congregation and whose gifts would be used to build up the local body.

Friday (7/25)Read and discuss 1 Samuel 27:1-28:2. Today’s chapter is not a highlight in David’s illustrious career. Although the LORD had repeated delivered him from Saul, David imagines that he needs to take decisive actions to avoid being killed. So, David takes his family and 600 men and returns to Achish the Philistine king. Robert Chisholm comments:

Convinced that Saul will never really abandon his quest to kill him, David, for the second time in the story, seeks asylum with Achish, the Philistine king of Gath. On the first occasion David was alone, got cold feet, and left in fear. But on this second occasion, he has his own private army with him. He offers his services to Achish as a mercenary and border guard. Achish assigns him to Ziklag, located about twenty-five miles south-southwest of Gath.

On his first visit to Gath, David deceived Achish into thinking he was insane. On this second occasion, David again deceives Achish. After convincing Achish to assign him to a relatively distant outpost, where he can operate free from the king’s scrutiny, David raids the nearby non-Israelite peoples to acquire food and provisions for his men and their families. However, David reports to Achish that he is raiding Judah and its allies (the Kenites), so that the king will think he has transferred his loyalties from his homeland to Achish. To ensure that Achish does not discover what he is really up to, David leaves no survivors among his victims. This account supports the narrator’s defense of David by showing that he does not really become a traitor to Israel. Though he moves to Philistine territory and even claims to kill Judahites and Kenites, he is really killing the enemies of Israel.

Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine that the LORD would protect them and cause them to be a blessing to their neighbors. Ask also that the LORD would establish a just peace in this troubled nation.

Saturday (7/26) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:1-23. Phillip Eveson writes:

Jesus uses the words of Isaiah 61:1-2 to announce the commencement of this new age of Messiah. He came to deal with the deep underlying causes of all the troubles and struggles of society. Jesus did not read the part of the paragraph from Isaiah that spoke of vengeance, for he had come not to judge the world but to save it. The jubilee age that began with Christ’s first coming will find its grand consummation at his second coming with the resurrection of the body and the ‘restoration of all things’ (Acts 3:21). Then the Lord’s rule will be seen in all its fullness and glory and the old cures will finally be removed. This hope is not a pipe dream, but is based solidly on what happened to Jesus himself, who died to bear the curse and rose to be the guarantee and living proof of all that the prophets and apostles have promised.

The church of Jesus Christ therefore has something very wonderful and exciting to announce to a sad world enslaved by the dark powers of the Evil One. Individual Christians can also be involved in relieving poverty and exercising their democratic rights in bringing pressure to bear on governments and commercial organizations to show more understanding and to act in a just and honorable way towards peoples and nations in dire distress. They should be in the forefront in their concern for social justice, as they have been, and still are, in bringing relief and showing compassion to those with physical and mental ailments and disabilities. But the Christian’s greatest service to a needy world, and certainly the primary task of the church of Jesus Christ, is to proclaim the good news of a Redeemer who delivers from sin and Satan and who sets us on the road to glorious future beyond this present world order.

Read or Sing Hymn 426 “Til He Come”! Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 20 July 2014 Sunday, Jul 13 2014 

MVOPC 20 July 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 44 “How Great Thou Art”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Exodus 34:5-7

Old Covenant Reading: 1 Chronicles 17:16-27

New Covenant Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Hymn of Preparation: 100 “Holy! Holy! Holy!”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 24:10-23

Sermon: Safeguarding God’s Name

Hymn of Response:  101 “Come, Thou Almighty King”

Confession of Faith:  Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 585 “Take My Life and Let It Be”

PM Worship:1 Samuel 26:1-25 – The Righteous Future King

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #56

Q. 56. What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the third commandment is that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.

Monday (7/14) Read and discuss Leviticus 24:10-23.  Derek Tidball writes:

The incident reported here is one of only two narrative interludes in the book of Leviticus. It occurred when a half-Israelite, whose father was Egyptian but whose mother was an Israelite, blasphemed the Name with a curse. The details of the curse are not repeated for us, but it was obviously considered a serious infringement of the third commandment by those who heard it. George Knight suggests that the offender must have been more than merely using God’s name as a swear-word, and ‘was actually trying to destroy the faith of the people of Israel by saying that Yahweh, the Lord, was not like his name. He would therefore be insinuating that the ideal of the covenant was a lot of nonsense. Blasphemy was high treason against God.

The man was held in temporary custody (a rare reference in the Old Testament to incarceration) until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them. Again, the details are missing. How were they to determine the will of the LORD? It reads as if the will of the LORD came directly to Moses rather than by Aaron’s using the Urim and Thummim. Whatever the means of communication, the verdict was that the man should be subjected to the death penalty. The offence was a capital crime, since it dishonored God and undermined the whole basis of Israel’s identity and calling. An offence of this nature, though primarily an offence against God, was also ‘an offence against the state that depended on him.’ So he was taken out and stoned to death by the entire assembly of Israel, probably acting through the tribal leaders and representatives. It made no difference that the man was not a pure Israelite. Full Israelite, half Israelite, or alien, the brazen insolence shown to the sacred name of God and all that it stood for could in no way be tolerated. The sacred name must be safeguarded.

Read or sing Hymn: 44 “How Great Thou Art”Prayer: Please lift up the troubled nation of Syria in prayer asking that the LORD would establish a just peace and that His people would be able to freely worship Him.

Tuesday (7/15) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 24:1-9. In Genesis 12 we read that the LORD called Abraham. We will only understand this call if we set it against the backdrop of Adam’s rebellion against God and the LORD’s commitment to reversing the curse. The LORD promises Abraham: : “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So, we shouldn’t be surprised to find the LORD promising to bring Abraham’s descendents into a Land Flowing with Milk and Honey. Beyond that, the LORD makes astonishing promises to Israel. Consider these words from Deuteronomy 28 right before they were to enter the Promised Land:

And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.  2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.  3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.  4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.  5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. … 8 The LORD will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  9 The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. …  And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.  12 The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands.

That is what today’s passage is all about. The bread symbolized God’s provision for Israel and NOT Israel’s provision for God. This is one of the fundamental differences between Biblical religion and nearly all pagan religions. In paganism, the people provide for the gods while in Biblical religion the true and Living God provides for His people. As Isaiah put it in Isaiah 64:4 “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Prayer: Please pray for Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (7/16) Read and discuss 1 Chronicles 17:16-27. The establishment of the Davidic Covenant is one of the great turning points in redemptive history. As today’s passage clearly reveals – David is overwhelmed at the LORD’s grace toward him. Andrew Bowling writes:

David, as we should do, approaches God in prayer, in awe of what God has done for him. He fosters no pride in his own accomplishments or greatness; his boasting is in God. David then repeats two of the great themes of Old Testament theology: (1) God’s unique work in choosing a nation for his special possession; and (2) God’s great signs and wonders. David accepts the covenant and desires its permanence.

When we rightly apprehend what the LORD has done for us in Christ we are also overwhelmed by what He has done for us. Then, no matter how the LORD might use us to further His Kingdom, we realize that it is entirely of His grace which leaves no room for human boasting. Read or sing Hymn 100 “Holy! Holy! Holy!” Prayer: Ask the LORD to overwhelm you with a sense of the grace that is yours in Jesus Christ.

Thursday (7/17) Read and discuss 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12. Sometimes we struggle with seeing the relatively just suffering terribly while those who appear to be more wicked seem to be living the highlife – even while they are persecuting God’s people. This struggle can be found in the Psalms and in every age of the Church. In today’s passage the Apostle Paul addresses this reality. John Stott writes:

On the one hand, Jesus had taught that suffering was the unavoidable path to glory, both for himself and for his followers. Similarly, Paul had insisted that it is only through many tribulations that we can enter God’s kingdom, and that only if we share in Christ’s sufferings will we ever share in his glory. So suffering and glory, tribulation and the kingdom, belong inseparably to one another. Therefore, since God was allowing the Thessalonians to suffer, they could know that he was preparing them for glory. Their suffering was itself evidence of the justice of God, because it was the first part of the equation which guaranteed that the second part (glory) would follow.

On the other hand, although God was allowing the persecutors some rope, it was evidently in the Thessalonians that he was especially at work. He was on their side, sustaining and sanctifying them. He was using their persecutions aas a means through which to develop their faith, love and perseverance, in contrast to the prejudice, anger and bitterness of their persecutors, and so was preparing them for his eternal kingdom. By these qualities they were not ‘made worthy’ (RSV) of the kingdom, in the sense of deserving it, but they were counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which they were suffering. …

Indeed, because God is just, he will vindicate them publically one day. He will reverse the fortunes of both groups, the persecutors wand the persecuted when Christ comes. He will pay back trouble to the trouble-makers and will give relief (from affliction) to those who have been afflicted, including the apostles. … We see the malice, cruelty, power and arrogance of the evil men who persecute. We see also the sufferings of the people of God, who are opposed, ridiculed, boycotted, harassed, imprisoned, tortured and killed. In other words, what we see is injustice – the wicked flourishing and the righteous suffering. It seems completely topsy-turvy. We are tempted to inveigh against God and against the miscarriage of justice. ‘Why doesn’t God do something?’ we complain indignantly. And the answer is that he is doing something and will go on doing it. He is allowing his people to suffer, in order to qualify them for his heavenly kingdom. He is allowing the wicked to triumph temporarily, but his just judgment will fall upon them in the end. Thus Paul sees evidence that God’s judgment is right in the very situation which we might see nothing but injustice.

Read or Sing 101 “Come, Thou Almighty King” Prayer: Please pray our mission work among the Karamojan people.

Friday (7/18)Read and discuss 1 Samuel 26:1-25. This passage repeats an important theme we saw earlier in chapter 24 when David cut off the corner of Saul’s garment but refused to kill the king: David would not stretch out his hand against the LORD’s anointed to gain the throne through unjust means. Today’s passage, however, also shows David’s remarkable daring in going into Saul’s camp. We are also told that the LORD made it possible for David and Abishai to move freely through Saul’s camp by sending a deep sleep upon Saul’s army. Tony Cartledge elaborates:

David dared to cut a corner from Saul’s robe in the cave above En-gedi, but here he chooses to take Saul’s personal spear and water jar, both of which stood at Saul’s head. Earlier narratives often showed Saul with his spear in hand as a symbol of his power. More than once, Saul had hurled his spear at David. Undoubtedly, David would have found some special satisfaction in taking from Saul his status symbol. The water jug was a personal item that David also took as an obvious symbol that Saul had been in David’s power. Anyone who could pull the sword out of the ground at Saul’s head also could have plunged it through his neck. Anyone who could have taken Saul’s water jar also could have smashed it over his head. David would later return the spear but not the water jar. Perhaps he kept it as a personal trophy, a reminder of Yahweh’s blessing, and a token of greater victories yet to come.

Prayer: Pray for the youth of our congregation that they would both delight in the Summer and make good use of this time away from school.

Saturday (7/19) Read and discuss Leviticus 24:10-23. On Monday we looked at the particular case of the blasphemer recounted in verses 10-16. Today we will look at how this particular case led to a consideration of the entire law. Derek Tidball writes:

The general principle of law is known as the lex talionis: life for life … fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Justice was to be based on the principle of exact reciprocity. This law fulfilled a number of purposes. It emphasized, as other laws in Leviticus had previously done, the sacredness of life. No-one could take a life without surrendering his own, although due allowance was made for the difference between premeditated murder and manslaughter. … The law was also designed to set a limit on the punishments meted out, to check the unleashing of vengeance and to forestall the igniting of spirals of retaliation. If an eye was lost, no-one had the right to take a life in return, or to blow up and house and render a family homeless. The punishment had to be equal to the crime, not more, not less. The punishment also had to be administered on behalf of the community and the offended parties by the courts and magistrates. This was not a charter for taking the law into one’s hands.

There are two clarifications which are important to take note of: (1) First, the law did not literally mean that eyes were to be put nor that hands were to be cut off. This was a figurative way of saying that the punishment must fit the crime; (2) Second, it is very important to remember that these are principles for the State to use in dealing with crimes and not for individuals to use in dealing with their neighbors. That latter error had crept into Judaism by the time of Christ and Jesus took pains to correct that error in the Sermon on the Mount:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42 ESV)

Regretfully, some Christians have taken Christ’s teaching and reversed the error. While Jesus was teaching that we aren’t to treat our neighbor the way civil governments are supposed to through the courts, some Christians have imagined that we are now to operate our courts on the basis of the personal morality that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. The right way of holding both parts of the teaching of God’s word together is to remember that civil courts are to focus on justice while interpersonal relationships are to focus on mercy and grace. Read or Sing Hymn 585 “Take My Life and Let It Be” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 13 July 2014 Sunday, Jul 6 2014 

MVOPC 13 July 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 57 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Ephesians 1:7-10

Old Covenant Reading: 1 Samuel 21:1-6

New Covenant Reading: John 6:22-51

Hymn of Preparation: 305 “Arise, My Soul, Arise”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 24:1-9

Sermon: The Bread of Presence

Hymn of Response:  422 “’Twas on That Night When Doomed to Know”

Confession of Faith:  Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come”!

PM Worship:1 Samuel 25:32-44 – The LORD Will Repay

Adult Sunday School: The Covenant of Grace: Part II

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #55

Q. 55. What is forbidden in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.

Monday (7/07) Read and discuss Leviticus 24:1-9.  Philip Eveson writes:

Unlike Israel’s neighbors who had bread baked daily to put on tables for their gods to eat, there is no thought here of feeding God. God later says through the Psalmist, ‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is mine, and all its fullness’ (Ps. 50:12). This holy bread was a token offering changed regularly every Sabbath as ‘an everlasting covenant’ (24:8). The same is said of the Sabbath itself (see Exod. 31:16). Both were to act as signs of the Sinai covenant. As the high priest symbolically bore the names of the twelve tribes on his holy garments before the Lord (Exod. 28:12, 21, 29), so the twelve loaves spread ‘before the LORD’ each Sabbath day served as a reminder of God’s covenant with Israel. The loaves came ‘from the children of Israel’ so that this special grain offering served as a weekly renewal of the covenant.

Read or sing Hymn: 57 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul” Prayer: Please lift up the troubled nation of Iraq and pray that the LORD would halt the brutality of ISIS and bring a just peace to this land.

Tuesday (7/08) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 24:1-9. The Golden Lampstand in the Tabernacle was a picture of God’s gracious presence with His people in Ancient Israel; but it also pointed forward to the time when God would Tabernacle among us as Immanuel – God with us – where Jesus would plainly declare: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” How wicked and perverse it is that so many then and now reject him bring just judgment upon themselves: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” Thankfully, that isn’t the end of the story. The Golden Lampstand not only pointed to Christ at His first coming but to our life with Him after His Second coming. In Revelation 21 and 22 we read of the New Jerusalem that awaits all those who trust in Jesus. There the Apostle John tells us:

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,  25 and its gates will never be shut by day- and there will be no night there.  26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.  27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

If we focus on the darkness and all the wickedness we see in this world it could easily leave us to despair. But the Golden Lampstand reminds us that we are not to focus upon the darkness but on the Light of Life. We are to remember that the Sovereign LORD will not allow sin to have the final word. Man’s rebellious NO! to God will ultimately be swallowed up by God’s Yes! and Amen! In Christ Jesus our Lord. So, let us look to Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith – with the confidence that because of His life, death, and resurrection; one day the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the LORD even as the waters cover the sea. And let us remember that “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Prayer: Ask the LORD to lift your eyes off the problems of this world to fix them on your High Priest who is enthroned in heaven as the universe’s King.

Wednesday (7/09) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Ahimelech, who is apparently a godly and faithful high priest, is confronted with a difficult situation. David has appeared before him in need of sustenance and all that he has on hand is the Bread of the Presence or Showbread which normally only the priests were allowed to eat. What should he do? The high priest rightly gives the bread to David. We know that this was the right choice because Jesus Himself affirms this decision in the New Testament. But how could it be right to give to a non-priest food that was specifically designated by God for the priests to eat? Most commentators suggest a rather straight-forward solution. They suggest that human need trumps ceremonial law. There is something to this, but on closer examination this turns out not to be an entirely satisfactory answer. After all, Ahimelech offers the bread to David and his men on the condition that they are all ceremonially clean. If human need simply trumps the ceremonial law that condition wouldn’t make any sense. If we look closer at the meaning of the showbread we will realize that stood for God’s commitment to provide food for His people. Here was the LORD’s anointed fleeing, hungry, and in need of food. The meaning of the showbread actually demanded that the showbread be given to David provided that he were ceremonially clean. To do anything else would be to embrace the symbolizing of the showbread while denying the very thing that symbolism pointed to. Just as Jesus told the Pharisees: “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath”; we might say, “The Showbread was prepared and displayed for Israel and not Israel for the Showbread.” Read or sing Hymn 305 “Arise, My Soul, Arise” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has committed Himself to you.

Thursday (7/10) Read and discuss John 6:22-51. After Jesus does the remarkable sign of feeding thousands of people with just a few loafs of bread the crowd responds in an amazing way: They ask Him to perform a sign. Specifically, they want Jesus to send down manna from heaven like they though Moses had done. Starting in verse 32 Jesus corrects their multiple misunderstandings. F.F. Bruce comments:

Jesus reminds them that it was not Moses, but God, who gave their forefathers the manna in the wilderness. And God, who fed his people with material food in those earlier days – and in fact still did so – was now offering them spiritual food, heavenly manna, life-giving bread. Like the loaves and fishes with which the multitude had recently been fed, the manna which Israel ate in the days of Moses was also material food, ‘bread out of heaven’ though it was. But there is another kind of bread which comes down from heaven – true, real bread sustaining the inmost and most lasting life of men and women – and it is of no perishable or material nature.

The expression ‘the bread of God’ is used occasionally in the OT of the ‘showbread’ the manna is called ‘bread of the mighty’ or ‘bread of the angels’ in Ps. 78.25. But here ‘the bread of God’ is the bread which God supplies: like the manna, it comes down from heaven, but unlike the manna, it gives life – eternal life – to all mankind.

Like the Samaritan woman, who said, ‘Sir, give me this water’ when she heard Jesus speak of the living water which he could give, the congregation responds to his words about the true bread with an eager request that they may receive this bread for evermore. But they still understand his words in a material sense; he therefore uses a new form of words to make his meaning plainer.

Jesus’ hearers had not understood what he meant by the ‘bread of God which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Now he tells them plainly what he means. In the former section of the discourse he had spoken of himself as the giver of this bread: in this section he identifies himself with it. ‘For Jesus is himself the gift of which he is the giver (B. Lindars).’ He has come to give himself that men and women may live by him. To partake of the bread of life they must come to him, they must believe in him. This total self-commitment to Christ, this appropriating him by faith, is the secret of eternal life and perpetual soul-refreshment.

Read or Sing 422 “’Twas on That Night When Doomed to Know” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Pilgrim OPC in Dover, NH.

Friday (7/11)Read and discuss 1 Samuel 25:32-44. The portrait this chapter paints of Abigail is remarkable. Although she must have suffered terribly being married to such churlish man, she demonstrates remarkable strength, wisdom, courage, and humility. As Richard Phillips observes:

In contrast to her husband’s depraved folly, Abigail is an image of feminine virtue. What a calamity it was for such a woman to be married to so worthless a man as Nabal. One suspects that Nabal’s material wealth explains this union, perhaps through an injudicious arrangement on the part of Abigail’s father. … How lamentable it is today when young Christian women give their hearts to ungodly men, simply because of their worldly attractions, facing as a result a lifetime of spiritual disunity and marital strife. Paul speaks on this vital matter with forceful language: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). Still, through faith in the LORD, Abigail’s virtue had not been destroyed even in such a marriage. William Blaikie comments that “luxury had not impaired the energy of her spirit, and wealth had not destroyed the regularity of her habits.”

Abigail’s character also provides something of an ideal for Christian men who seek for a bride. Not only is Abigail cited for beauty, but more importantly she is noted for discretion and wisdom, generosity of spirit, humble servant-hood, and biblical devotion. As Proverbs 31:10 exclaims of such a woman, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” Young women would likewise do well to seek in Abigail a model for their own godly character. For all her outward beauty, it is mainly the beauty of her holiness that shines forth. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,” concludes Proverbs 31, “but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would make you into a man or woman of great character.

Saturday (7/12) Read and discuss Leviticus 24:1-9. Mark Rooker writes:

The Israelites were not only to provide oil but also bread for the sanctuary. Twelve loaves, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, were to be baked and set in two rows, six in each row, on the table of showbread that stood before the LORD in the Holy Place. Bread and pure incense were to be supplied each Sabbath. Josephus mentions that the bread was baked the day before the Sabbath and was unleavened. It was to be food for the priests. Later we find that the Kohathites specifically had the responsibility for the loaves of bread. The bread, which was separated from the Holy of Holies only by a curtain, was closely associated with the covenant and was a symbol of fellowship with God. The bread thus symbolized the covenant God had made with Israel (Leviticus 24:8).

The Bible is filled with promises of the LORD caring for His people if we will own turn from our wicked ways and trust them. One of these passages is from the book of Isaiah where the LORD makes clear that He will judge His people for their rebellion yet He also makes clear if they will turn back to Him that He will abundantly bless them. We need to hear these words as well: Isaiah 58:13-14: “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;  14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Read or Sing Hymn 426 “Till He Come”! Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 6 July 2014 Sunday, Jun 29 2014 

MVOPC 6 July 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 12 “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Titus 3:4-7

Old Covenant Reading: 1 Samuel 21:1-6

New Covenant Reading: John 6:22-51

Hymn of Preparation: 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 24:1-9

Sermon: Pure Oil and Holy Bread

Hymn of Response:  32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Confession of Faith:  Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

PM Worship:1 Samuel 25:1-31 – Be Angry But Do Not Sin

Adult Sunday School: Covenant of Grace

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #54

Q. 54. What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works.

Monday (6/30) Read and discuss Leviticus 24:1-9.  When we read today’s passage it seems rather mundane. We can easily find ourselves wanting to go back to the exciting events of Leviticus chapter 23 rather than work through the daily work prescribed in the first nine verses of chapter 24. That, in fact, is part of the point. Derek Tidball explains:

The brief instructions about maintaining the lights and caring for the bread include the word continually four times (2, 3, 4, 8). This gives us both the clue to why they are included at this point and the key principle they seek to inculcate. Chapter 23 had outlined the major events of the year. By contrast, these verses deal with the routine events of every day and every week. The lamps are to be tended daily and the bread on the table replaced weekly. It was by any measure unspectacular, mundane and routine service for God, but, for all that, it was no less important than presiding over the big celebrations or offering a multitude of sacrifices.

The danger of much of today’s Christianity, with its concentration on major gatherings and celebrity speakers, is that it sets wrong aspirations before emerging Christian leaders. Some see the glamour and glitz and want to have a prominent place in the celebration event or on the big platform before they are ready. They do not see, and they fail to grasp, the significance of serving God faithfully in the unremarkable, small and routine work that characterizes most service for God.

Read or sing Hymn: 12 “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim” Prayer: Please lift up Wayne and Joyce as they move today.

Tuesday (7/1) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 23:23-44. In verses 26-32 we come to the Day of Atonement. The elaborate sacrifices of the Day of the Atonement, which so clearly pointed to Christ, were described in Leviticus chapter 16. Here the emphasis is on the people. I think we can get at the point of this passage by asking two questions:

  1. First, why would the LORD establish a fast right in the midst of the harvest. Isn’t this a time to celebrate God’s gracious and abundant provision?
  2. Second, why would the LORD place the Day of Atonement on the calendar at time that is celebration the consummation of the ingathering of God’s people looking toward Christ’s Second Coming when the sacrifice seems so similar in meaning to the Passover Sacrifice in the first month of the ritual year?

Once we ask those questions the answers become fairly obvious:

  1. Fasting in the midst of the great final harvest reminded Israel that man does not live by bread alone, that we have a thirst that can never be quenched by the fruit of the vine, and a hunger that no meal of grain and beef can ever satisfy. We were created to dwell with God in paradise and so long as we live as sinners in a fallen world we cannot be ultimately satisfied.
  2. That still leaves us with the intriguing question of why there needed to be a separate day of Atonement at all. Why couldn’t this have all been included at Passover where we celebrated the Lamb of God whose blood covered over the sins of His people? I think the answer is rather straightforward: While there is only one sacrifice of Christ; Passover is about Exodus – that is about leaving the world behind. The Day of Atonement is not so much about Exodus but about Eisodos – that is about entrance into the eternal Promised Land. Taken together these two sacrifices make it clear that we start with Christ and we end with Christ. We never move beyond the cross. This is an important message for us to hear. Throughout the history of the church an error keeps creeping in that somehow we begin with grace but we maintain our position in the Kingdom through our own faithfulness. This error is making quite a revival in our day – but rather than it being a revival to new life – it is the restoration of an old death putting upon God’s people a burden that we can never bear. The good news is that your salvation is in Christ from start to finish.

Prayer: Please pray for the English for Kids camp being held in Quebec this week.

Wednesday (7/2) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Richard Phillips writes:

Occasionally, you will hear the name of a place that seems strangely familiar. Though you cannot quite place it, it seems that you have been there before. Most Christians should respond this way to a reading of 1 Samuel 21. We hear the name “Nob,” and ask, “Haven’t I been there?” We read of “Gath,” and ponder, “Isn’t that a place I have visited?”

I say this not because most Christians have physically visited Palestine, where these ancient sites were located. Instead, we have frequented the spiritual reality that they represent. Nob is the place of David’s unholy flight of fear, and Gath is the city of David’s mad refuge. Few who have sought to follow Jesus Christ for any length of time have avoided these travel stops; most of us can recognize from our own experience the bitterness of what they represent.

Fortunately, God also knows Nob and Gath very well, and therefore knows how to rescue His people from these places and to use them to challenge and mold our faith. As we study David’s flight through Nob and refuge in Gath, we will not only consider the follow of a believer gripped by fear, but also learn, as Dale Ralph Davis writes, that “even in the most desperate moments [the LORD] does not let go of His servants, least of all David, His king-elect.

Read or sing Hymn 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has promised to never leave nor forsake you.

Thursday (7/3) Read and discuss John 6:22-51. Fallen human beings often have difficulty acknowledging that life comes from Chris alone and only on His terms. N.T. Wright explains:

C.S. Lewis was once interviewed by an American Christian journalist who was writing about well-known characters who had converted to Christianity during adult life. The theme was ‘decision.’ He wanted to get Lewis to say how he had ‘made his decision’.

Unfortunately for his project, Lewis refused to put it in those terms. He hadn’t ‘made a decision’, he said. God had closed in on him and he couldn’t escape though at the time he had badly wanted to). The closest he would get to using the language the reporter was interested in was to say, ‘I was decided upon.’ In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, he describes it in a more evocative phrase: ‘His compulsion is our liberation.’

One of the hard lessons the children of Israel had to learn in the wilderness was that their God, YHWH, was not at their beck and call. He wasn’t obliged to them. He hadn’t decided to rescue them from Egypt because they were a great nation, more powerful and numerous than others. He certainly hadn’t discovered that they were a particularly moral or godly people. There was nothing in them, as they stood, to commend them to him. It was simply that in his loving choice he had decided to make them his own people, so that they would be the nation through whom his purposes and love would be made known to the world. This is particularly emphasized in Deuteronomy 7:7-11 – which is, significantly, set in the context of Moses going through the story of how much Israel had grumbled and provoked their God in the wilderness.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that we find the same blend of themes here. The Judeans – Jesus’ regular opponents in this gospel – are here grumbling, like the people in the wilderness in the Exodus story. They are looking for the kind of leader, or Messiah, who will give them what they want. Jesus’ rather startling emphasis on the sovereignty of Israel’s God in choosing the people is he is going to ‘draw’ to believe in Jesus has the same function as the warnings of Deuteronomy 7: Don’t suppose that, because you are part of God’s chosen people, that must mean that you are special in and of yourselves.

Prayer: Please pray for the war-torn nation of Iraq.

Friday (7/4)Read and discuss 1 Samuel 25:1-31. Robert Chisholm writes:

God’s chosen servants should embrace the wise advice that he provides. As Solomon acknowledges, God’s chosen servants need divine wisdom (1 Kings 3), especially, as in the case of David, when their honor is offended and they are tempted to vindicate themselves. But attempts at self-vindication, even when one has a seemingly just cause, can compromise one’s integrity and prove to be the antithesis of faith in God. Abigail reminds David that bloodshed will be unbecoming for the king of Israel and that his destiny is safe and secure within the Lord’s promise. As the embodiment of wisdom, she has been set by the Lord to David. To his credit, he listens to the voice of wisdom, correctly perceives her as God’s messenger, and decides to trust in the God’s promise and timing, rather than in his sword. Violent retaliation for perceived wrongs is rarely, if even, a wise response, for the wisdom that comes from God promotes peace, not strife.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family and whose gifts would be used to build up this local church.

Saturday (7/5) Read and discuss Leviticus 24:1-9. Sometimes people wonder about the similarities between ancient Jewish and ancient pagan worship. Since both offered food sacrifices to their gods/God – did that mean that they were basically doing the same thing? John Kleinig comments:

The bread gained its function and significance from its location in the LORD’s presence. It was therefore called the “bread of (the) Presence.” Its table was called “the Table of the Presence.” It was the only food offering that was set before the LORD in the Tabernacle. But, unlike the food offered to pagan gods, it did not provide a meal for the LORD. None of it was offered to God by being burned on the incense altar or the altar for the burnt offering. Only the incense that accompanied it was burnt. All the bread was eaten by the priests on duty in the sanctuary on the Sabbath.

We therefore have a case of ritual reversal. The divine service instituted by the LORD is the reverse of pagan rites. There was indeed a meal, but God was the host of the meal. In that meal he provided bread each Sabbath for his servants the priests. …

This is one of the fundamental differences between Biblical religion and nearly all pagan religions. In paganism, the people provide for the gods while in Biblical religion the true and Living God provides for His people. As Isaiah put it in Isaiah 64:4 “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”  Read or Sing Hymn 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 29 June 2014 Sunday, Jun 22 2014 

MVOPC 29 June 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 11 “Now Blessed Be the Lord Our God”

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: Numbers 29:12-40

New Covenant Reading: John 7:1-39

Hymn of Preparation:32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 23:23-44

Sermon: Patterns in Time

Hymn of Response: 521 “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 431 “A Parting Hymn We Sing”

PM Worship:1 Samuel 24:1-22 – Whose Vengeance?

Adult Sunday School: What is Sin?

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #53

Q. 53. Which is the third commandment?
A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Monday (6/23) Read and discuss Leviticus 23:23-44.  The seventh month of the Jewish year began with the Feast of Trumpets. As we will see when we look at the Feast of Tabernacles this ceremony points forward to Christ’s Second Coming which is also announced with trumpets. First we should see what the big deal is about the seventh month. Philip Eveson explains:

The ‘seventh month’ is set apart, just like the seventh day and the seventh year. In fact, the seventh month is to the other months of the year what the seventh day is to the other days of the week. The more haunting horn blasts, in contrast to the clear notes of the trumpets, proclaimed the first day of the holy month and summoned the people to make their special offerings and to prepare themselves for the solemn Day of Atonement and the final great festival of joy.

The blasts are also a reminder, or ‘memorial’, in that they call out to God on Israel’s behalf that he would remember his covenant with them and continue to be favorable towards them. In the midst of their rejoicing at the end of the agricultural year the horn blasts drew attention to their need to implore God’s mercy that he would be gracious as they looked towards a new season. At the same time the sound of the horns would have had the effect of reminding Israel of her responsibilities.

Read or sing Hymn: 11 “Now Blessed Be the Lord Our God”Prayer: Please pray for the people of Iraq as they suffer through another civil war.

Tuesday (6/24) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 23:15-22. Fine flour baked with leaven was a sign of abundance. This wasn’t the hurried unleavened bread that was to be eaten at Passover this was the richer fair that came from being settled by God in a Land flowing with Milk and Honey. I’m sure that you’ve heard that leaven in the Bible is a type of sin. That is wrong. Leaven is a sign of something that grows dramatically. Sometimes that is used for sin, but sometimes it is used to signify material and spiritual abundance or even the growth of the Kingdom of God. We see the latter usage of leaven in Luke 13. There Jesus says:

“The Mustard Seed and the Leaven He said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’ And again he said, ‘To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.’”

Jesus is saying: Look at these tiny things – a mustard seed and leaven. That’s what the Kingdom of God is like. Right now the Kingdom is so small that hardly anyone can notice it – but that is not the end of the story. Just as the mustard seed will grow into a tree and the nearly invisible leaven will leaven the entire loaf of bread – so will the Kingdom of God spread. The way that this connects to the Christian Pentecost is obvious. In the ten days after Christ’s ascension into heaven the Kingdom of God looked powerless. It was just a handful of people huddled together waiting on the LORD. But when the Father and the Son poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost 3,000 were saved in a single day – and this was just a down payment on the vast multitude that would be gathered into the Kingdom of God. Prayer: Ask the Holy Spirit to renew a right spirit within you and give thanks that Pentecost is down payment on the promise that one day the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD even as the waters cover the sea.

Wednesday (6/25) Read and discuss Numbers 29:12-40. The Spring festivals of First Fruits and Pentecost celebrated the grain harvests. The olive and grape harvests were in the Fall and were celebrated at the Feast of Tabernacles (also commonly called the Feast of Booths). This feast started five days after the Day of Atonement and lasted for seven days or eight days depending on whether or not the last great day of the feast is included. Peter Naylor helps us grasp how this Feast both celebrated Israel’s past and pointed forward to our future:

There is a great spiritual analogy in these festivals. Passover (commemorating deliverance form Egypt and death) corresponds with Christ’s crucifixion; Weeks or Pentecost corresponds with the sending of the Holy Spirit and the first fruits of the gospel harvest (Acts 2). So Tabernacles corresponds with Christ’s second coming at the close of the age, marking the end of the harvest. The time between Weeks and Tabernacles was a busy period when Israel labored for the harvest. Similarly, between Pentecost and the second coming laborers are sent to reap the harvest among the Gentiles. At the end of the age, the harvest will be gathered in and the weeks thrown into the fire.

The harvest was also a time to remember that God had brought them into the land and blessed them bountifully there (this was why they lived in booths, recalling their journey to the land). Similarly, at the end of the age, God’s people will rejoice in Him who has brought them into the eternal kingdom. Thus the Feast of Tabernacles celebrates the inheritance, the key theme in chapters 26-36. Finally, there is a further point of analogy. Just as trumpets called the people to this greatest of feasts, so at the end, the trumpet will summon people to assemble before the God who is the judge of the living and the dead.

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has not only delivered you from the kingdom of darkness but that He has committed Himself to bringing you to the new Promised Land of the New Heavens and New Earth.

Thursday (6/26) Read and discuss John 7:1-39. John chapters 7-9 record Jesus in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles. Knowing the OT and Intertestamental background will help us understand what He was doing there. As commonly happens with celebratory events, new traditions get added over time. One extra-Biblical tradition that had become part of the customary celebration of Tabernacles at the time of Christ was the water ceremony. Because Israel is a dry land, and the Fall in Israel is normally is a time of drought, people were very sensitive to the importance of water. So, Israel began to celebrate the LORD’s miraculous provision of water from the rock during the Exodus during the Feast of Tabernacles. Every day of the feast a group of priests would make a procession to the Gihon Spring where they would fill a golden pitcher with water while a choir of priests chanted Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The crowd would sing Hallel psalms before the priests as the water was carried to the Temple and poured out on the altar. This was repeated every day. What is the payoff from knowing this? Listen to and meditate on these words from John 7:37-39:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”  39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Read or Sing 521 “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”Read or sing Hymn 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send revival and reformation to New England.

Friday (6/27)Read and discuss 1 Samuel 24:1-22. One of the great themes of this chapter is that the LORD vindicates His servants when they trust in Him. But how can we know that we are trusting in Him? One key is that we are not trying to vindicate ourselves! That is easier said than done.  Yet, just as we don’t grow in faith by focusing on faith; we need to realize that we will not turn away from self-justification by focusing on making ourselves more humble. Both of these virtues are the side effects of focusing on who the LORD is and what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. David wrote Psalm 54 when Saul was pursuing his life:

O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves. Selah

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them.

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.

For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

Sometimes it helps to read a story or a psalm backwards so we can understand each line in light of where it is going. Notice the three phrases in bold print. (1) First, we see that David’s confidence in entrusting that God would vindicate him was based on the fact that the LORD had already worked to deliver him in the past. This is one of the reasons why it is so important for Christians to keep reminding themselves and each other that Jesus has already conquered Satan, sin, and death on behalf of His people; (2) Second, based on who the LORD is David expresses confidence that God is his helper and the upholder of his life in the present; (3) Third, David therefore has to confidence to entrust his vindication to the LORD. This makes complete sense. To paraphrase Jonathan Edwards, if you seek to vindicate yourself the extent of your vindication will depend on your abilities. By contrast, the LORD will completely vindicate those who place their confidence in Him. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would increase your faith and to teach you more and more to rest in Him.

Saturday (6/28) Read and discuss Leviticus 23:23-44. Sometimes people imagine that “serious” Christianity must be a somber or heavy affair. If you asked such individuals how frequently Old Testament believers were required to fast they would probably answer that they had to do so frequently. It turns out that, while there were forty-nine days of feasting stipulated in the Mosaic law there was only one day of mandatory fasting and that was on the Day of Atonement. Philip Eveson helps us understand what this was all about:

On the tenth day of this holy month the people were to keep the ‘Day of Atonement’ (Yom Kippur). The day has been mentioned in Leviticus 16, where we are given details of the special rituals at the tabernacle and the important work of the high priest. Here we see the day in the context of the other calendar events and emphasis falls on the people’s responsibilities. It is the only place in the calendar where the precise time is given for keeping the day – ‘on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening’ (23:32). There are obvious practical reasons for giving this detail. It was important for the people to know exactly when the fast should begin and end, both for their own physical heal and to save them from the disaster of being ‘cut off’ from their people (23:29).

… This ‘holy convocation’ day is like the weekly Sabbath. It is called ‘your Sabbath’ and a ‘Sabbath of solemn rest’ (23:32). Three times it is stressed that no work was to be done, with the warning that God would destroy offenders. As the earlier legislation laid down, the people are called to ‘afflict’ themselves. As we see from Isaiah’s prophesy against false fasting (Isa. 58:3-10), the affliction or deprivation involved going without food and expressing signs of mourning. The people’s attitude was to coincide with what was taking place in the tabernacle when the high priest was making ‘full atonement’.

Read or Sing Hymn 431 “A Parting Hymn We Sing” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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