St Paul's UMC
January 22, 2023
  • Blessed Assurance
  • Trust And Obey
  • Doxology
      • Psalm 1:1–3NIV2011

      • John 17:6–10NIV2011

  • Goodness Of God
  • Upon receiving the Law from God, including the 2 tablets on which the Lord wrote the Ten Commandments, Moses addressed his people, the Israelites.
    Deuteronomy 10:12–13 ESV
    “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?
    God had set apart a people, a chosen people, to be His witness in a sin-filled world. Moses relayed to the people the laws and statutes that had been spoken to him while He had been in God’s presence for 40 days. These laws instructed the people how they were to worship, how they were to handle their resources, what they were to eat and what to refrain from eating, how to treat one another, how to celebrate Passover - the law covered all aspects of daily life.
    In the 17th chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses states that when the time comes for them to appoint a king, they must select an Israelite of God’s choosing. Then he gives instruction for the future king:
    Deuteronomy 17:16–17 ESV
    Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
    Now imagine for a moment that you have been appointed king over a young, fairly new nation surrounded by hostile nations who want to wipe you out. You are constantly engaged in battles with neighboring kings. Every battle you win provides you with the spoils of war - chariots, horses, weapons, shields, gold, silver and bronze. What do you think a king would do in that scenario? Would they not add the captured horses and chariots to their military? And wouldn’t the king add the riches to the royal treasury to ensure that they could buy whatever they needed to defend themselves - and maybe live a bit more comfortably and secure?
    Let’s look at what King David, a man after God’s own heart, did in this situation.
    2 Samuel 8 gives a broad summary of David’s victories in battle.
    2 Samuel 8:3–4 ESV
    David also defeated Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to restore his power at the river Euphrates. And David took from him 1,700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses but left enough for 100 chariots.
    David cut the hamstrings of at least 1600 horses - why? So they would not be able to pull the chariots he captured in this battle.
    Upon his victory, another King, an ally, brought David gifts of gold and silver.
    2 Samuel 8:11 ESV
    These also King David dedicated to the Lord, together with the silver and gold that he dedicated from all the nations he subdued,
    David dedicated the gold, silver and bronze to the Lord. What does that mean? In modern terms, it means he put the riches in an irrevocable trust dedicated to Yahweh - he could not use it to grow his war machine.
    From the standpoint of military strategy - this is foolish.
    Why would God demand such a thing? And why would David obey?
    God desires a people who completely depend on Him for their well-being and protection - not on their own riches, power and might.
    By obeying God’s word, David put himself at risk. There was a time when David faced a war on two fronts - fighting against the Arameans and the Edomites - and he thought he may lose. He cried out to God in Psalm 60:11-12
    Psalm 60:11–12 CEB
    Give us help against the enemy; human help is worthless. With God we will triumph; he’s the one who will trample our adversaries.
    God did come to David’s aid, because David was obedient to the Lord. Instead of being conquered, David was a conquerer.
    I want us to keep that truth:
    We are conquerers when we are obedient to God’s Word
    as we examine this week’s gospel lesson.
    Last week we started this series on the Jesus Prayer, sometimes referred to as the High Priestly Prayer. This is a prayer that Christ spoke aloud, in the presence of his 12 disciples, while meeting with them in the Upper Room on the night in which he was to be arrested.
    The first part of the prayer was Jesus praying for himself - asking His Father to glorify him so that Jesus may in turn, glorify his Father.
    This morning, the prayer continues and we hear Jesus praying for His 12 disciples (students) who would soon be his Apostles (those who are sent out). This portion of the prayer is for the twelve - minus Judas Iscariot who would betray him (I will probably touch on that next week).
    I want us to listen to what makes them special. For although this particular section is specifically about them - what makes them set apart is the same that sets us apart who believe.
    John 17:6 (NRSV)
    “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
    Think about who Jesus chose to follow Him. Ordinary, everyday men. Quite a few were fishermen, one was a tax collector, one was a radical - a zealot. The others we do not know what they did before.
    But they were not trained priests. They were not educated scholars. They did not hold political office. They were not movers and shakers.
    What they did bring to the table that Jesus could use? What set them apart for arguably the most important work ever to be assigned to a group of people?
    They believed and obeyed God’s word when it was delivered to them.
    Let’s look at this a little closer. Jesus says
    “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.”
    Jesus made God’s name known to his people. “His name” meaning the fullness of who He is - all His attributes. God had partially revealed himself to humankind through Creation. He shared more of himself through the giving of the Law. But it is in Jesus we see the fullness of God and his role as Father.
    “to those whom you gave me from the world.” The disciples were chosen. Jesus prayed and the Father showed Him who to choose. God knew their hearts, their thoughts, their receptivity of the truth. They belonged to God because they were children of Abraham, they were Jewish - the tribe out of humanity which God had set apart to bear witness to Him.
    It does not mean that free will wasn’t involved, and we see in their behavior over the course of their time following Jesus that they struggled to understand…but that did not stop them from receiving the word and keeping it.
    After one particularly hard teaching lesson when Jesus spoke about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, many of Jesus’ followers began to fall away from him.
    John 6:67–69 ESV
    So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
    This is faith. Even when struggling with a hard teaching, not fully understanding what it means, yet choosing to stay and obey because you have believed.
    Jesus’ teaching about eating his flesh and drinking his blood pointed to what the disciples would later understand to be, and we what we understand as being, the sacrament of Holy Communion. Jesus’ presence with us at His table.
    But when they first heard it - it sounded very strange - maybe even unrealistic. How often do we not take God’s word seriously because we do not fully understand it? In our limited scope, we think we know better?
    One commentator on this passage explained it this way:
    The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Volume 4: Matthew–Acts F. The Prayer of Jesus (17:1–26)

    Jesus described His disciples as men who had received His teachings and had believed that He had come from God. This is the minimum standard of faith for the follower of Christ, and though it seems very meagre when observed in the disciples, nevertheless it was enough to start with. And Jesus prayed for their continuance in the faith: Holy Father, keep them in thy name … that they may be one, even as we are (v. 11)

    In this prayer for his disciples, Jesus seems to be praying from two vantage points. The first being where the disciples were in the present moment. Still unsure, still confused, but firm in their belief that Jesus is the Son of God. The second perspective begins to unfold in the following verses and this one is from the perspective of what is to come. After he ascends to heaven.
    John 17:11 ESV
    And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
    Next week we will look at the spiritual protection Jesus prays over those who follow him. But I want to close today with the following observation.
    We belong to Jesus when we receive His teachings and believe that He is the Son of God. When that happens - when we truly receive the gospel, we have a choice to make. How am I going to live from here on out?
    Am I going to depend on my own wit, my own might, my own resources, my own reasoning - or am I going to trust and obey God’s word?
    If we are going to be conquerers - the choice is simple. Obey and keep His Word.
    I’ve shared before that I am a big fan of the television series the Chosen - a creative portrayal of Jesus’ ministry on earth full of backstories and great story telling.
    On the most recent episode, Jesus is among a crowd of people, healing and teaching. There are those in the crowd who believe he is the Messiah - others who think he is a blasphemer, and others who don’t know what to think. Jesus gives this impassioned speech, in the spirit of His actual words as recorded in the gospels:
    “Do not waste the time right now - hear the truth that I have for you. The kingdom of God is at hand, and so many in this generation are missing it. Do not miss it!”
    This plea is just as relevant and necessary today.
    Mark 1:14–15 NKJV
    Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
    Repentance requires acknowledgement of our sin, turning from it and walking in obedience to the Lord. The Lord is seeking those who, by faith, trust Him with their lives and will live according to his teachings.
    Hamstring your horses (not literally) and dedicate your riches to the Lord. Live completely dependent on Him - for you are His Chosen. Glory be to God. Amen.
      • Deuteronomy 10:12–13NIV2011

      • Deuteronomy 17:16–17NIV2011

      • 2 Samuel 8:3–4NIV2011

      • 2 Samuel 8:11NIV2011

      • Psalm 60:11–12NIV2011

      • John 6:67–69NIV2011

      • John 17:11NIV2011

      • Mark 1:14–15NIV2011

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