MVOPC 11 December 2016
Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3
Opening Hymn: 2 “God, my King, thy Might Confessing”
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: Psalm 86:5-7
Hymn of Preparation: 36 “Lord, Thou hast Searched me”
Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 35
New Covenant Reading: Mark 8:22-26
Sermon: Seeing is Believing
Hymn of Response: 47 “God the Lord is King”
Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 54 “Hallelujah! Raise, O Raise”
OT: Daniel 9:24-27
NT: 1 Peter 1:10-12
Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism
Shorter Catechism Q/A #72
Q. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words and actions.
Monday (12/5) Read and discuss Mark 8:22-26. We have reached a turning point in the Gospel according to Mark. Structurally, it is difficult to know whether this passage best goes with what the preceding narratives or those that come after. Making such a determination is not particularly important. What is helpful to recognize is that from this passage through 11:1 Mark is narrating the journey of Jesus and His disciples from Galilee in the north until their arrival in Jerusalem. The emphasis of Jesus undergoes a significant change at this point. There are far fewer miracles recorded (only the healing of two blind men and the casting out of a demon) and the teaching focuses almost exclusively upon the disciples. Furthermore, after 8:31 Jesus increasing speaks of His own death. There are two key points that should be seen from this passage: (1) First, Jesus leads the blind man away from the crowd and even out of the village (v. 23!) before miraculously healing him. Clearly Jesus is doing the miracle for the benefit of the man while giving the sign for the benefit of His disciples. (2) Jesus is continuing to reveal who He is in the most dramatic fashion. We have already noted several times how the opening of the eyes of the blind is particularly linked in OT prophesy with the coming of the Messiah. It is also worth meditating on a portion of Psalm 146:
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The identification of the LORD as the one who opens the eyes of the blind gives Christ’s miracles an additional force. Clearly Yahweh was at work in Jesus’ ministry. Indeed, Jesus can rightfully be called Yahweh. This repeated demonstration of who He is (through the miracles of giving sight to the blind) leads up to Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ (8:29). Read or sing Hymn 2 “God, my King, thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send Reformation to New England.
Tuesday (12/6) Read and discuss John 6:1-15. Consider the world’s favorite Psalm, Psalm 23, which begins: “The LORD is my Shepherd. I shall not be in want.” How does that fit with those portions of your life that you view from the standpoint of scarcity – even areas where you currently seem to be entirely lacking in the resources that you need? Here is what John 6 and Psalm 23 do NOT mean: They do not mean that God is going to magically multiple resources to give you everything you want as though the Creator of the Universe is a genie in the bottle who keeps saying: “Your wish is my command.” God is saying something far more profound to us in today’s passage than that. The LORD is saying: “If you ever have to get rid of your car and live in an unfurnished attic, Jesus will be right there with you. … And the Jesus who be right there with you is full of compassion, and He is both willing and able to provide exceedingly abundantly above all that you could ask or even imagine. Therefore, if Jesus chooses to leave you without something that you really, really, want, it is because He is doing something better for you and something better with you.” Isn’t that the very thing that Psalm 23 goes on to say:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Read or sing Hymn 36 “Lord, Thou hast Searched me” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus is your Good Shepherd.
Wednesday (12/7) Read and discuss Isaiah 35. Alec Motyer writes:
Sometimes even Isaiah excels himself! He was a master wordsmith and poet; in chapter 35 he is at his highest and best. But if the beauty of Isaiah’s words and thoughts thrill us, how great is our excitement when we realize that he is writing about us! We are the enigmatic ‘them’ and ‘they’ (vv. 1, 2, 8), the anonymous ones around whom the poem moves, because we are the redeemed and ransomed (vv. 9-10) with whom it ends. The ‘ransomed’ (v. 10) are those for whom the price has been paid; the ‘redeemed’ (v. 9) are those with whom the Lord, the divine next-of-kin, has identified himself, saying to us: ‘What is your problem? Give it to me. What is your need? I will meet it. What is your burden? Lay it on my shoulders.’ That is the way with … the kinsman-redeemer. He bears it all, pays it all, does it all. He the doer, we the recipients. But now that we know who the ‘them’ and ‘they’ are, follow through what Isaiah says about them, about us. First, whatever our circumstances appear to be (the desert, the parched land, v. 1), we may confidently expect to be provided for. No other eye but ours, the eye of faith, will see the blossoming, but the blossom will be there. Secondly, we endure as seeing him who is invisible, (Heb. 11:27). In every situation, in every place, the glory of the LORD is present – and, remember, his glory is not an abstract ‘something’, the LORD’s glory is the LORD in all his glory, with us, recognized by faith, all along the way. Thirdly, to the outward eye, the road may seem full of twists and turns, but it is a protected pathway from which no hazard can dislodge the pilgrim (v. 9). It is a ‘highway’ (v. 8), running in a straight line from conversion to glory. And, finally, the end is guaranteed: emphasize the verb, ‘the redeemed shall come’. Everything that made the journey a sad experience will take to its legs; every unalloyed delight that slipped like soap out of the pilgrim’s grasp will be finally possessed. Zion admits no disappointment.
Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church as they look for a new pastor.
Thursday (12/8) Read and discuss Daniel 9:20-27. Today’s passage has been interpreted in a bewildering variety of ways. Is there any hope that we can get it right? Absolutely! We should remember that this vision is also a part of God’s word that is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).” The key is to begin with one of the most fundamental (yet, oddly frequently ignored) principles of interpreting any passage: CONTEXT. That is, we need to remember that vv. 20-27 are God’s response to Daniel’s prayer in verses 3-19. Iain Duguid helps us grasp this when he writes:
This prayer is the context in which the vision comes to Daniel, a context that has often been overlooked in interpreting the vision. As we saw in our last study, Daniel tells us that he had been pondering Jeremiah’s prophecy of a seventy-year period of exile and subjection to the Babylonians and to their king, after which God would judge the Babylonians, and his people would return to their land to rebuild the temple. Daniel’s prayer took place during the first year of King Darius, immediately after the Babylonian empire had fallen to the Medes and the Persians. He recognized that the Babylonians and their king had been judged by God, fulfilling the first part of Jeremiah’s prophecy. So Daniel prayed that God would now fulfill the second part as well, restoring his people to their land in his mercy and grace and showing favor again to the desolate sanctuary in Jerusalem. Daniel acknowledged that God had judged his people and his sanctuary for their sin, just as faithfulness to the Sinai covenant demanded. Yet that same Sinai covenant also held out the prospect of a new beginning after the punishment of exile, a new beginning in which the Lord would circumcise the hearts of his people and give them hearts that long to obey him (see Deut. 30:1-6).
Indeed, as Daniel read the words of Jeremiah, he would also have read more prophecies that spoke of that promised new beginning. Jeremiah announced that God would make a new covenant with his people that would be different from the covenant that they broke through their sin, a covenant that would finally fulfill Deuteronomy’s promise of hearts that desired to obey the LORD:
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jer. 31:31-33)
Daniel was praying for the fulfillment of these promises of the transformation of the people of God. He longed to see them changed from sinners to a holy people with God dwelling in their midst and to see Jerusalem restored through the coming of the messianic king.
We therefore have our first key to understanding the vision: Daniel is asking, “Will you inaugurate the New Covenant when You bring Your people back to the Promised Land.”
Read or sing Hymn 47 “God the Lord is King” Prayer: Please lift up our congregation’s youth group in prayer.
Friday (12/9) Read and discuss 1 Peter 1:10-12. Karen Jobes writes:
Peter concludes that just as the sufferings of Jesus were followed by glories (1:11), those who suffer for the name of Christ will also find glories when Jesus appears. Whatever suffering the Christians of Asia Minor have experienced is to be understood as a part of that redemptive plan foretold long before to the prophets. This is to be a strong word of encouragement to them not to give up on Christ. Peter’s understanding of the solidarity of Christ with his followers may explain Peter’s use of the plural [for “sufferings” and “glories”] – Christ’s suffering and his glory extended to his followers.
According to Peter, the revelation of the sufferings and subsequent glories of the Messiah given to the prophets is ultimately intended for the benefit of a later generation. The relationship between the prophets’ message for that later generation and its meaning for their own time is understood by recognizing that the same Spirit is at work in both. The Spirit of Christ revealed the sufferings of Christ to a particular prophet in a particular generation so that as the prophet addressed the people and issues of his own time, he did so from an eschatological viewpoint that proleptically knew of the suffering and glories of the Messiah before they became historical realities. Because of this forewitness, the prophets could offer to their own generation counsel that presupposed the ultimate triumph of God’s redemptive purposes because the prophets had witnessed it, even though they themselves lived in times that would call that confidence into question.
Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has given us to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Saturday (12/10) Read and discuss Mark 8:22-26. At first glance, this might seem like one of the oddest miracles that Jesus ever performs. After leading the blind man out of the village, Jesus heals the man in two stages. After the first stage, the formerly blind man can see other men – but they appear to him like trees walking (i.e. he can’t see very well). Then Jesus acts again and grants the man perfect sight. Since Jesus was and is quite capable of healing completely by simply saying the word – why would He heal in this rather unusual manner. Once we understand that Christ was performing this sign primarily for the benefit of His disciples the answer becomes obvious. Let’s remember that the language of blindness is often used metaphorically in the Bible to refer to spiritual blindness (e.g. Isaiah 6:9-10). In our passage Jesus is physically healing this man in a manner that points to how He is opening the eyes of His disciples. By His grace, very soon they will have their spiritual sight opened to be able to see – but they too will see in a rather fuzzy manner. It won’t be until after the resurrection that their spiritual vision will become completely clear. This most unusual two-stage miracle sets the stage for God opening the minds and hearts of Christ’s disciples to recognize that He is the Messiah – while not yet understanding that He is also God nor grasping that the Messiah came to die. Yet, it is important for us to realize that this is not simply about Christ’s first disciples it is about us. This passage teaches us how we should think about our fellow Christians and about ourselves. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you can look back on what you believed 10 years ago and be astonished at how naïve you were. Yet, we can also be surprisingly intolerant of those who hold to the errors that we held just a decade earlier. Furthermore, none of us is close to arriving. As the Apostle Paul plainly put it, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).” This leads to an obvious question, why doesn’t Jesus give us instant understanding now just as He frequently performed instantaneous and complete healings? A significant part of the answer is that the LORD wants us to learn to live together in our weakness where our mutual love covers a multitude of sins because we are receiving grace and love from Him. The truth is, throughout the last two thousand years, the Church has developed a pretty miserable track record in this area. Great harm has been caused in the Church by those who refused to acknowledge that we all currently “see in a mirror dimly”. Read or sing Hymn: 54 “Hallelujah! Raise, O Raise” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.