St Paul's UMC
February 5, 2023
- Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah
- Open My Eyes That I May See (Open My Eyes)
2 Timothy 2:21NIV2011
- 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 ESVOnly 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 ESVDavid 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 ESVThese 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 CEBGive 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 Wordas 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 ESVSo 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 ESVAnd 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 NKJVNow 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.
2 Samuel 8:3–4NIV2011
2 Samuel 8:11NIV2011
- Imagine for a moment that you are home and you’re cleaning up from dinner. You have a habit of taking off your wedding ring and placing it on a dish next to the sink as you rinse off the plates and load the dishwasher. You suddenly hit the dish by accident and the ring pops into the sink and goes down into the garbage disposal. Now I know, I’m making a lot of presumptions - that you have a wedding ring, a dishwasher and a garbage disposal - and that you actually clean - but work with me here for those who do not.Would you go and grab your toothbrush and use it to fish out the ring?Or let’s say your are cleaning your bathroom - again for some of the guys here, this may be a stretch - but let’s say you have your bleach cleaner, your gloves, some paper towels, and you are give the toilet a good once over. But you notice under the lip of the bowl some residue - would you grab your toothbrush and use it to clean that hard to reach place?Of course not! (At least, I hope that is your response) Your toothbrush is not a general tool used for all sorts of situations. It is set apart for a specific purpose - to clean teeth. And not just anyone’s teeth - it is set apart to clean your teeth.In a sense, it is a holy toothbrush.In the Hebrew language, the word “holy”, kodesh, means to be set apart for a specific purpose.Holiness does convey the sense of purity and righteousness, but when the Bible calls something holy, it typically means that it is “set apart” from everything else in order to do a job.Your toothbrush is set apart to do a specific job, therefore you separate it out from other objects - you treat it differently. You protect it from becoming contaminated.As we read the Bible, we find many instances of God setting apart something for specific use.
Genesis 2:3 ESVSo God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.God made the 7th day holy. He set it apart as a day of rest. A day when work would cease and we worship our Creator. Exodus 20:8–10 ESV“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.As God instructed Moses on how to establish the priesthood for the Hebrew people in order to have those who would intercede on behalf of the people and atone for their sins, we read the following: Exodus 28:40–41 ESV“For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty. And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.If you ever wonder why the clergy of some churches within the Christian faith wear robes, stoles, hats, and other elaborate vestments - they would point back to this early “setting apart” or consecration of the priesthood. And when we hear words like consecrate and sanctify - know that these two words are sometimes interchangeable and refer to being set apart for God’s use.In Leviticus, God set apart the entire Hebrew people which he rescued out of slavery. Leviticus 11:44–45 ESVFor I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”The New Testament similarly reflects the idea that followers of Christ have been sanctified or set apart as a result of Christ’s holiness.This is what we hear in Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer found in the 17th chapter o the gospel of John. We are making our way through this prayer and today we hear Jesus, praying to his Father, asking him to set apart, sanctify, his disciples, for God’s own use. In order for them to be set apart, sanctified, Jesus the High Priest will need to atone for their sins, and he would do so by consecrating himself. Voluntarily giving of himself as a sacrificial lamb, so that in and through Him, his disciples would be made holy.Let’s look at this closely. John 17:16 ESVThey are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.Jesus identifies the disciples to himself. They were once of the world, living in rebellion against God, but now their identity will be in Jesus. John 17:17 ESVSanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.The Wesleyan Bible CommentarySanctification comes through the truth, which is the Word of God. The saving truth revealed by Jesus is the sanctifying agent. Truth is purifying: only truth can dispel falsehood, counteract error, and set men freeThe disciples were to be sanctified (set apart) through the truth: Jesus is both the Word and the Truth. And because Jesus was soon to leave the world, the Father would send the Holy Spirit to take Jesus’ place and lead the disciples into all truth. John 17:18 ESVAs you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.God sent Jesus. Jesus sends us. We are identified with Him. We carry on the mission that He enacted - to bring salvation to all who are lost. We have been set apart, made holy, for God’s purposes. I’ve said this before - but the purpose of every Christian is to glorify God - that is your overarching purpose in life. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 ESVOr do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.now the last verse of today’s passage: John 17:19 ESVAnd for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.Jesus was set apart for a specific purpose. He was sent to reveal the Father’s love to humanity. To show who God is, His great love for us all, to seek out and search for all who are lost and lead them home.Consider the following statements Jesus made concerning his purpose for coming (there are just a few): John 6:38 ESVFor I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. Matthew 5:17 ESV“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. John 10:10 ESVThe thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 12:46 ESVI have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.In order to fulfill His purposes, and to fulfill His role as the High Priest, to atone for the sins of His people, a sacrifice was required. A bull or ram would not do. To pay for the sins of all of humanity, the blood of one who knew no sin was necessary.“For their sake, I consecrate myself.”Jesus’ death on the cross freed us from the penalty of sin and death. Because of what he did, we can be sanctified in truth.Jesus’ disciples, those who were present with him in the Upper Room as he prayed this prayer, would soon become his apostles. An Apostle is one who is “sent out”. By his death, they were set apart. And upon receiving the Spirit, they were sent out.This is was has been passed down to us. In Jesus name, you are set apart and when you receive the Spirit of God, your are then sent out.Let me close with some instruction from the Apostle Peter: 1 Peter 1:13–16 ESVTherefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”Amen.
1 Corinthians 6:19–20NIV2011
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