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    Good Shepherd EPC March 2020 Newsletter Patience, Faithfulness, and Diligence in Trying Times

    Trying Times

    As you find yourself under restraint to stay alone, now is a good time to spend time reflecting upon our difficult days, like these, when darkness seems all about. From a sermon I preached in 2000 on Daniel and the Lion's Den, use these words I hope to comfort you in a trying night:

    Daniel 6: 19 - 24

    Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.

    It has been said that few great men finish well. Time generally has a way of wearing down the fortitude of men. Yet in the annals of our Lord we find innumerable examples of fortitude amongst men who endured faithful unto the end. The prophet Daniel was such a servant of God. For the years, though surely exacting a toll upon the captive in a far away land, failed to deter Daniel from a faithful course. When we draw open the pages of the book of Daniel to the sixth chapter, yet two chapters removed from Nebuchadnezzar’s compendium of praise to the God of heaven, we find ourselves far removed from that day. Thirty years had passed since Daniel had served in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Seventy years had passed since Babylon had first laid siege to Judah. Sixty years Daniel had dwelt captive in a far away land. The once young man had now spent the vast majority of his life far from Jerusalem, far from his land, far from the liberty Israel had once known. Daniel was now believed to have advanced well into his eighties when we open the pages of Daniel six, an aged man, and a faithful man, still serving captive to foreign kings. But now, a new ruler had ascended the throne, no longer a Babylonian, but now a Persian, and his name was Darius. But though a new people and a new king rule over Daniel, we find little had changed since his early days in captivity.

    A continuing theme echoes through the pages of the blessed word; from first to last the word of God resounds with the abiding theme of justice. From the heavenly tribunal to earthly thrones, time and again, cries for vindication and justice echo from the dark recesses of a seemingly unjust world. The oppressed are heard to cry for relief; the captive for liberty; the maligned for vengeance, and the upright call for justice. Yet it is the children of God that are heard resounding the loudest in this world, who seek deliverance from the beasts that roam seeking to devour the godly in their path. Calvin has said, we tremble at the least danger, even at the noise of a falling leaf, as we are necessarily exposed to many dangers on all sides, and surrounded by various forms of death. Listener, this day I would like us to consider the lifelong faithfulness of an oppressed child of our Lord captive in a previous day. Yet the more, I want you to consider the resounding trumpet that is heard giving a faint shrill within this text, hearkening to another day. Yes, listener, this day I would like us to consider the realities of this life, of its dangers, yea, of death itself, and consider, that we shall all one day be swallowed up in the darkest pit of death itself. And listener, I would like us to consider what trembling shall accompany us to such a pit, or what confidence shall we carry, that as Daniel, we might be found whole and justified in the pit of death. For this shall be our proposition this day, though in life all God’s people are exposed to remarkable dangers, still God’s Faithful One’s shall be justified in the Pit of Death.

    Today I shall endeavor to demonstrate first from this account in Daniel the reality of God’s vindicating justice. Second, I shall hope to set before you Christ as the greatest vindication of God’s justice. And third, I shall strive to comfort the saints of God with the results of Christ’s resurrection unto all His saints, while bringing to light the fear that remains upon all men who fail to consider Christ risen. So let us begin, as first we examine the justice of God, revealed and yet concealed in the account of Daniel in the lion’s den. We shall speak of this point as,

    I. Daniel, God’s faithful one, Justified in the Pit of Death

    Outside of the birth and death narratives of our Lord Jesus Christ, perhaps the most known story of all scripture is found in Daniel chapter six. From our early days of childhood we are taught of the faithful man, the ferocious beasts, and the deliverance of God. So what more could we possibly need to know of this glorious legacy of faith? Today I shall seek to instruct you anew in this old, old story. I hope that in hearing it again, we shall learn of God’s straight and faithful justice that met a man amidst the shaking leaves of trouble. When we encounter Daniel here in chapter 6, we note several changes have taken place in just two chapters. As we have said, Daniel is no longer a young man, Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon are no more, and the time of Judah’s captivity was nearing an end. What has not changed though is Daniel’s resolve, his captivity, and his trial from the result of his faithful living. This remains constant throughout Daniel’s life. Equally, and yet the more, we find that Daniel’s God had not changed. For the same God of Daniel’s youth is the same God of Daniel’s old age. He is the sovereign, saving, merciful, and only God. As we read the story of Daniel 6, we first read of,

    A. An Unjust Accusation

    The story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den is a story nearly identical to the trial of the three men in the fiery furnace. We find that King Darius had issued an edict through the coercive acts of his nobles, as an attempt to overcome Daniel. For Daniel held a privileged position in the Persian court, one of the top three officials and the Persian nobles would have nothing of it. Yet, as they sought a charge against him, they found his character impeccable, his service commendable, and his life without blemish. He was a just and faithful man. Thus their fury was enraged against this man and they sought to manipulate a charge against him. Unbeknownst to the king, they conspired to weigh upon the pride of the king that Daniel would be left to disobey the King’s decree. Daniel’s own faithfulness to God would be the cause for his crime. Thus we find the nobles puffing up the pagan king to the position of a god, that the entire kingdom for thirty days would worship and pray to only king. Taking the foolish king and puffing him up they made him to be God himself. Clearly Daniel would have no choice but to violate the king’s own order. For if there were a verse that summed up Daniel’s way of life, it was this, ‘the just shall live by faith.’ So, when we read that Daniel was made aware of the king’s decree, we note that Daniel’s behavior remains unchanged. At the time of prayer Daniel is found bowing before the true king of the heaven and earth.

    In the face of death and threat of the fierce anger of hungry beasts, Daniel remained unshaken by the sure charge and accusation of his accusers. He stared death in the face and trusted that his God was able to deliver him from death. As Christ in the garden of Gethsemene, when the forces of this world came for him, he was led forth as a lamb before his shearers. On a foolish whim of pride King Darius was forced to no other end than to place Daniel to his sure death. We find Darius seemingly fond of Daniel or his dept, seeking to wash his hands of his own folly. But he would not, as he would bow before the pressures of the men that had played upon his pride and position to accomplish their hatred of the man Daniel. See the servant of the hatred of men who was sore displeased with himself and the result of his folly, as he must resign himself to the end of the decree.

    Thus the decree was carried out and Daniel was brought before the place of punishment and execution, forced to stare death in the face. But this time, unlike Daniel’s three friends, the condemned remains silent. Wielding a sword of great might, Darius perhaps with thought of Daniel’s friends, utters Daniel’s only hope, thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. It is interesting here that instead of Daniel the pagan king echoes the hope of deliverance, as Daniel is led to the mouths of lion’s silent, as a lamb to the slaughter. An unjust accusation, a silent lamb, a fierce king, the hatred of enemies, and the sure mouth of death itself then sets the stage of this frightful event. But what do we find?

    B. A Dull Penalty

    The night hastened on, as the edict was carried out. Daniel was taken and cast into the mouth of the Lion’s den. With the setting sun a great stone was rolled over the mouth of the den and sealed the prophet into the utter darkness of sure death. Amused by their seeming success, the nobles, quick to mark the grave sealed forever along with the king upon clay tablets, sealed the tomb shut with their signet rings. The tomb was marked with the vain sureties of men that Daniel would never again live to see the light of day. God alone was Daniel’s sole and only remaining hope. There was none other to vindicate his cause. He was an innocent man on trumped up charges, unjustly condemned, and denied justice. The world in all its hatred against God for a moment seemed victorious. For the beasts of the tomb were real and prepared for the devouring of human flesh and the den was sealed with the authority of kings.

    There would be no escape from the pit. There was no way in or out. Daniel, alone with the beasts, would have to face this ferocious foe alone in the dark of night. As Jonah in the belly of the fish, as Joseph in the pit, and as his three friends in the furnace, the trial was real and able to exact a sharp and sure penalty upon the condemned. Through the night Darius restlessly awaited the dawn. He could neither sleep nor eat. Thoughts of an innocent man left to the devouring of beasts filled him with unbearable guilt. We are told that sleep left the troubled king, so much so, that before the dawn he was up hastening to the pit to see if the prophet were alive, delivered by the sovereign Lord. And what did Dairus find as he came to the place, before the dawn, having the stone rolled away? He found,

    C. An Acquittal

    What Darius found when the stone was rolled away was an innocent man vindicated by his God. For when Darius asks Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Daniel is heard to reply, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Daniel now in life pleads his case vindicated by God above. While before death he was led forth silent, we see the greatest witness of his vindication is his God. For Daniel is brought forth from the jaws of death found innocent in the only court that really matters. Just as Nebuchadnezzar had no power to execute a decree against the three Hebrew men, so Darius could not bring lions to tear at Daniel’s flesh. For Daniel was declared free from all condemnation. Notice how the very person of Daniel bears this out, as he is taken from the Lion’s den. There is neither scratch nor scar from the beasts that stayed with him through the night. He is pure, undefiled by death’s soldiers, and brought forth whole from the grave.

    Notice how the text draws this out, saying, no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. Daniel wore the shield of faith through the night. God was the one who sent His angel in the darkness of death’s grip to pry loose the helpless prophet. God alone would justify Daniel in life, though Darius had condemned him in death. Just as there was one like unto the Son of Man in the flames of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, in the den there came God’s angel to stay the mouths of the lions. For only God can deliver and justify the innocent. Only God can bring forth his own from the jaws of death. Daniel was justified by faith in God as his deliverer from death and he was found innocent and unscathed.

    But even more so, Daniel does not come forth alone, but God is justified as a living God. He is justified as the God who rules over heaven and earth. He is justified as the God that sets the boundaries of the four corners of the earth. He is the God who delivers His own from flames and beasts, and He is the God that shall send forth the deliverer to lead captivity captive. God is vindicated as a just and holy God and is demonstrated to be greater than any earthly tribunal.

    Surely what men do in secret and upon the earth is not hidden from Him, nor is He slack concerning justice. God is not thwarted by the decrees of men nor is He bound by their precepts. But God overcomes every earthly foe and misjudgment; trickery and deceit do not fool him. God is sovereign over all earthly affairs. He shall not fail in bringing swift and sure justice to those who cry unto his name in innocence. For He is the God who hears and He is the deliverer of His people. But look at the justice of God and marvel that,

    D. Judgement came to his accusers

    We note the response by King Darius to be a response of an act of sovereign design. For while the God of heaven vindicates the prophet in his innocence, He at the same time brings forth swift judgement unto Daniel’s accusers. For we read that, the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den. See here the swift and awful judgement of God that vindicates His own and brings forth-unbearable wrath upon the accusers of God’s children. See how He does bring forth His servants to stop the mouths of vile and wicked men. See how God does not for a moment stay the hand of sure punishment. For the same lions that had hungered all night with Daniel in their midst, now with great fierceness tear apart and devour Daniel’s accusers. Death is fierce and God’s justice swift. For before the men who had accused Daniel reach the bottom of the pit, they are destroyed, they and their families. God and his children are vindicated in the end. In Daniel then we see, though in life all God’s people are exposed to remarkable dangers, still God’s Faithful One’s shall be justified in the Pit of Death. Now, let us turn our eyes to another time when God was seen to justify His holy servant in the face of earth’s unjust condemnation. As we look and see,

    II. Jesus, God’s faithful one, Justified in the Pit of Death

    A. An Unjust Accusation

    In the shadows of Daniel we see images of another trial of similar occurrence, where false witnesses and jealous accusers accused an innocent man. It was a time five centuries later, when the true and only innocent man was condemned to die. Unlike Daniel, who was innocent of the manipulative trial of the nobles, the one of which I speak was innocent of all and any charge. For he was the holy one, the Son of God, in whom was no guile. We find Him also in a foreign land, though the land bear the name Israel and the city Jerusalem. We read of His accusers in Matthew, vile, wicked, jealous, hateful men, of whom Matthew writes, when morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor. As Daniel was brought before Darius with false charges, so Christ is brought on similar charges to stand before the Roman. It was His person that infuriated them, His claims and acts of wonder that brought His accusers to have Him tried, much as Daniel’s accusers who probably despised his talents, blessings of God, and favored position with the king, led them to plot against him. Yet, as Daniel’s accusers, these men could find nothing in Christ worthy of guilt.

    Daniel, a sinner, but a faithful man met with grace, was upright in his faithful walk. But Jesus, He was in all things holy, pure, and innocent. And His righteousness brought the fury of His accusers against Him. They could find no charge against Christ, whose nature was holy. Thus, He was falsely accused of blaspheme. See how they accuse Him falsely, and the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!" Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! "What do you think?" They answered and said, "He is deserving of death. He is condemned for the truth He speaks.

    But see now how his accusers bring him with no valid fault. For just as Darius grieved his edict and sought to free Daniel, so do we see Pilate declare, "I find no fault in this Man." Ah but the tumult is raised, much as the accusers of Daniel, demanding the law be fulfilled. Thus we find Pilate, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it. Hear the wicked accusers seal their own guilt with blood as they cry, "His blood be on us and on our children." Then our Lord, our innocent Lamb, was taken away as Isaiah says, as a Lamb silent before His shearers. See how the evangelist writes of His silence, leaving his vindication to God, And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, "Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?" But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly. Our Lord and Savior, sovereign God and man, knew that His vindication was not in earthly courts, nor was His justice to be sought from the hands of men, but rather, He knew His God would vindicate Him from the grave. Thus, with death chant ‘crucify Him’ resounding, Jesus was led to the place of His death. There, with the darkness of night closing in, He was taken from His cross and laid in an open tomb, and it was sealed with the signet ring of men. But we find death for our Lord,

    B. A Dull Penalty

    For the self-righteous accusers of our Lord would mark Him unjust and seal His tomb with their hatred of His claims, and the pagan Rome would exalt her authority and seal the tomb shut, placing a guard to insure the certainty of His decay. For He was left in the ebb of day to the jaws of death. But our God sends no angel this time, as this prophet was wholly unlike any other. He was a prophet who took the jaws of death upon himself and suffered and died at the hands of men. He was not simply preserved in life in the pit of lions, instead, Jesus was given to the grave and dying he truly died. Ah but we find that death was not to hold Him. For death had no power over Him. For death has sin to bring its decay and upon Him was no sin. Though He became sin for us, God would not leave Him to decay.

    Thus the apostle declares, as though Christ were rejoicing from the grave itself, as Jonah in the belly of the fish, as Paul and Silas in jail, and perhaps even in the Lion’s den through the night, ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ Death was a dull penalty for Jesus; yes the lion, that old serpent, thinking he had finally subdued God’s dominion, while salivating to devour the flesh of our Lord, would leave no marks upon Him. For He would be delivered of God and vindicated as the only just and true savior. Thus, when He arose, He arose with,

    C. An Acquittal

    When Jesus arose from the dead, as the women hastened to His tomb in the dark of morning, He would be found justified, innocent of all charges. Though the earthly tribunal had wielded the sword of justice, we find that it had no right to enforce penalty against the Lord. For He was declared in the heavenly tribunal to be innocent of all charges. For He was the just dying for the unjust, the righteous Lord for the unrighteous. He was the innocent Lamb, given as our sacrifice. We find that God justified Him as a Savior. When the woman came to the tomb on that resurrection morn, they found that no guard could hold him, no edict could slay him, no foe could overcome him, and no accusation could condemn him. For He was holy and just and had power over death. He did shut the mouth of the accuser that roaring lion that seeks to devour, once and for all against the kingdom of God. Thus he comes forth with men in his train, bringing captivity captive, as a victor returning from battle, he brings the spoils of His resurrection and gives gifts to men. In Him God is declared a just and righteous God, a vindicator of the righteous and a sovereign Lord over all principalities, dominions and might. He is declared to be the Lord of all. In Him is righteousness and with that righteousness,

    D. Judgement came to his accusers

    Swift and sudden judgement is promised to all those that despise the Lord. Those who deny Him He shall deny. Those who ridicule Him, death shall ridicule them. Those who seek to overcome and destroy Him shall be destroyed. Those who falsely accuse Him are cast into the jaws of death, where sudden, swift, and severe justice shall vindicate itself in them. Yes, the wrath of God shall come suddenly upon all men who do not name the name of Christ. With His rising the axe was laid to the base of the fig tree. With his rising the axe was laid to all the foolish claims of men upon their own righteousness. With his rising, the serpent received a deathblow. With his rising sure and promised vengeance was given forth to all those who fail to bow the knee to the risen Lord. As swift as Daniel’s accusers were cast into the jaws of death in the same pit that held Daniel, so were the accusers of Christ done asunder. For it is not long after that we see the gospel going forth to the uttermost parts of the earth. Judgement came to His accusers and every man that denies Him as Lord, shall be denied by Him. In Daniel then we see, though in life all God’s people are exposed to remarkable dangers, still God’s Faithful One’s shall be justified in the Pit of Death. As Daniel was delivered, so was the beloved Son. But how much greater is Christ’s deliverance, and what a remarkable effect His resurrection has had upon His saints. For we find that He who rose up from the tomb, has raised us up with Him. We then declare of ourselves,

    III. Christians, God’s faithful ones, Justified in the Pit of Death

    A. An Unjust Accusation

    Often in this life we Christians are met with an unjust accusation. We have foes and fiends all about us that seek to berate us with fear and accusation. We are so often assaulted by our conscience, by our guilt, and by the law, cast into Satan’s lair, that we often tremble at the rattle of a leaf. Ah but have we not as Christians rightly understood the effects of Christ’s vindication in His resurrection? Do we not understand that in Him we are risen with Him? Do we understand that we are innocent in him? Do we forget that there is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus? Have we failed to consider this; what then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

    O Christian, do not doubt that our enemies are jealous and many, since we are not like them and are blessed by God. But understand, they can find no charge against us, who are justified in the heavenly court. Who shall lay any charge to God’s elect? Conscience, Satan, law, are all false accusers. We shall faithfully serve God in false accusation, knowing ourselves vindicated in Him. The just shall live by faith. But our faith and our innocence are not our own, it is the gift of our God. Thus we are declared justified before God. We shall not cower at the edicts of men, the threats of conscience, or the coming ebb of death. Nay but in all these things we are more than conquerors. So let us, the unjustly accused in this life, face life and death itself, as Daniel and our Lord, unshaken by every threat.

    For we are told, "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Our vindication is in Christ, though declared guilty on earth we know we are found innocent in heaven. So we stand silent in the face of our accusers, knowing that in heaven a court has already convened. And there our advocate stood and silenced our accuser. We know that there our Advocate spoke:

    "One last question, Lucifer,-where did you get that terrible scar that leads us to believe your head may have been crushed at one time? Lucifer was visibly shaken when asked and refused to answer. El Shaddai had to call for Gabriel to help the weak and falling Lucifer down from the witness stand. (I must say…Lucifer may have been a son of the morning, but whoever put that scar on his head made his sun to set.)"

    Yes, we were there dead in our sins, rightfully condemned, when Mr. Advocate spoke to us, "Foreknown, Sought-Out Elect, is your loving Hosea in this courtroom?" We were there in our hopeless despair crying on the witness stand our only plea, "I ask you my Lord and Savior, to own me before El Shaddai." We were there watching in wonder as Mr. Justice said to our Advocate, who sat on the stand on our behalf, "Mr. Advocate, 2000 years ago, when Peace and I were seen kissing, it was our wedding day. Mr. Peacemaker had just consummated the marriage ceremony and said, "It is finished." I shall never forget the rush of complete satisfaction that filled me. All anger and wrath were gone. There was nothing left but everlasting satisfaction and righteousness." O Christian, can you recall your judgement day when you were owned by Jesus? Can you recall your justification? Then cast off all trembling at the slightest tremble of this earth’s leaf.

    When conscience accuses you, know that God does not. When Satan seeks to devour you, know that the Angel of our God, the Son of the Father, has come and finally closed his jaws. When the law will have you, tell him he has been satisfied in the death of another. And when you are led from this life to the river that leads to another place, do not tremble as darkness comes. But know that death no longer has a sting and every foe has been subdued. Live and die by faith that Christ has defeated sin and death. For this we know that death is,

    B. A Dull Penalty

    Yes each of us in this life shall know the ebb of death. But with sweet serenity now the darkness that so many in this life face shall never trouble us. Though the remnants of sin still cling to this flesh and the grips of Adam’s transgression promise us all to see the grave, still, we know as we lay our head down in sleep, that we shall raise and be with Him. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Tell me you who tremble at the troubles of this life, when you are led through the valley of the shadow of death, can you say, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Do you not know that though the troubles of this life and the sure grip of death shall come your way, that they cannot harm you? Can you stand silent in the face of all life’s storms, trusting that your God shall deliver you? Do you know that you are justified in the only court and found to be righteous because of the righteous of another. Do you not know that death shall not hold you? O what joy is afforded the saints of God, who recall the Lord’s resurrection. What delight to know that we have been raised with Him. That we are innocent by His blood, and we shall never see decay. Rejoice this day that you as Daniel shall come forth from the grave and the lion’s jaws of death, declaring the vindication and salvation of your God. And this, know that every foe, every evil doer, every false accuser, every enemy of yours and your Christ’s,

    C. Judgement shall come to his accusers

    The day shall come when all the martyred, persecuted, and troubled saints of the Lord shall be vindicated in the final and swift coming of God’s justice. When all the saints of the living God have been fetched from the four corners of the earth and the harvest is ripe, the harvester will cast forth the sickle. Then shall come judgement upon the false accusers of our Christ. Then will be seen the Righteous One, One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And it will be said unto Him, "Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe." So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.

    Yes, swift and sudden, and as horrific as the tearing and devouring of the beasts that did consume the accusers of Daniel, thus shall it be to all those who contend with Christ and His bride. Judgement shall come, it shall be exacting, it shall be swift, and it shall not fail. For vengeance is mine declares the Lord. And in this, as with our Christ, and with the prophet Daniel we declare, though in life all God’s people are exposed to remarkable dangers, still God’s Faithful One’s shall be justified in the Pit of Death. Let us conclude.


    I ask you listener, "Is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" Let me put this question in one or two lights, and thus draw our reflections to a close. Leaning over, like that Persian king, I look down into a greater den of lions than he ever descried. It is dark; the stench is foul, and ‘midst the dim shadows I discern struggling forms and figures; tormentors, whose faces are hidden, stretching women upon racks, and torturing men with switch and knout; and, yonder, a spot where, on hundreds of stakes martyrs have burned quick to the death. In the far distance, a wild horse, and a human victim tied to his heels to be dragged to death. Strange and horrible spectacle that, out yonder! — a long procession of men who were scourged, who were stoned, who were beheaded who were sawn asunder; saintly men were they, of whom the world was not worthy. Leaning over the mouth of this great lion’s den, I ask the persecuted saints of all ages, — Has your God been able to deliver you? And with a cheerful shout, loud as the voice of thunder, they cry, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."

    I look down upon another lions’ den. It is still dark, but not so dreary. Night reigns in sacred shade and solitude. The stars are hid; but tapers burn in chambers dimly lit. There, sons and daughters of sorrow are tossed on beds of sickness. Thus they have lain for months, perhaps for years, all hope of health extinguished, all prospect of pleasure passed; their limbs paralyzed, their sight failing, their hearing dull; calamities of every kind have befallen them. God has permitted the great lions of affliction to come howling round, and to tear away all their comforts and their joys, till they are left without any of that cheerful fellowship with nature which seasons mortal life with sweetest relish.

    Some of you are robust in health; your head never throbs, your heart never aches, you are hardly conscious that you have any nerves. Small account do you take of the secret, silent, saintly heroism of sufferers, whose pilgrimage on earth is blighted with pain. Oft have I been their companion in tribulation. I appeal to these tried and afflicted children of God. Tell me, ye Daniels has your God been able to deliver you out of the mouths of the lions? And I hear each one say, "Bless the Lord, O my soul! "and all in chorus join, saying, "Not one good thing hath failed of all that the Lord our God hath promised; our shoes have been iron and brass, and as our days so has our strength been."

    Shall I strain my parable too far if I turn my eye upon another lions’ den? It lies in a deep valley. The night hangs heavy. The beasts of prey are diseases that skill and shrewdness, time and talent, have striven in vain to tame. Like lions, strangely dissimilar in outward fashion, but strongly resembling them in instinct, they pounce on their victims, and seal their doom. We call this place "the valley of the shadow of death." Methinks I am gazing now on the forms of shivering men and women as they are dragged down by the lions. One after another, my familiar friends descend into the grave; and I ask them, in the hour of their departure, "Is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" Calm is their countenance, and clear their voice, as each one chants his solo, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! "So, at length, this lions’ den loses all its terror.

    Then I look into another den; it is almost empty. There is a lion in it, a grim old lion, but I do not see so much as a bone to tell the tale of its victims. No trace of its ravages is left behind. On this soil there once were countless thousands of the slain; it is empty — now. Of a sudden, I look upwards, and, lo! I see myriads of immortal souls, and they all tell me, "Our God delivered us from the grave, and rifled the tomb of its prey. By a glorious resurrection, he has brought all his ransomed people forth to meet their Lord at the great day of his appearing. There shall they stand before the throne of God, for he hath broken the teeth of the lion, and rescued all his children from the power of the adversary." Let us glory in our Lord’s resurrection, for in Him we have life everlasting. Amen.

    Copyright 2000 Dr. Kevin Hartley

    1. Please pray.

      Good Shepherd, Bernice Hamman's husband passed away a few hours ago; she is home. Please pray the Lord give her comfort in such a difficult time. In Christ alone Pastor Hartley
      1. Beautiful MOM Bernice we PRAY for STRENGTH and send our LOVE for you and the FAMILY Leo has gone on a great fishing trip to watch over you. Till we meet again my friend Leo R.I.P. love you lots Bernice God Bless Us All Peace be with the World!
    2. posted an announcement

      Video of Sunday the 22nd of March Sermon

      The sermon is now available on the church website under Content, Videos, or directly at this link:
      1. posted an announcement

        Sermon Sunday March 15

        We will be meeting tomorrow at 5PM in the main auditorium I will cover our next lesson in Revelation. The building will be wiped and disinfected first. Also, you may hear and view Sunday's sermon from a video I posted on my Youtube channel. Go to this link to see a review of Sunday's sermon. https://www.youtube.com/feed/my_videos I will attempt to load up tomorrow's teaching as well. Rejoice in the Lord always Your servant and His
        1. Below is a short reply to a question about worship at home posed to Dr. Clark of Westminster West Theological Seminary: Joe writes to ask My church is currently streaming service online and advocating for family worship at home. They are also encouraging us to get bread and juice/wine and take communion during service hours with our families. Is this how the Lord’s Supper should be taken during this crisis? Or should we abstain from it until we can all meet again at the Gathering. Thanks. God bless. These are unusual circumstances and so churches are forced to resort to unusual means to try to continue to edify the congregation and to minister to one another during the quarantine, e.g., broadcasting messages online and holding prayer meetings online. Nevertheless, there are two points that ought to be made: What is being live streamed or broadcast, unless a congregation is present, is not a worship service. We might call them devotions. At school, we hold chapel services twice a week and prayer groups once a week. These are not worship services. These are informal gatherings for mutual edification. A church service requires the presence of ruling elders, an ordained minister (sometimes described by Presbyterians as a teaching elder), and a congregation. Without those things, it is an edifying gathering but it is not a rightly ordered service. The Lord has given to the office of the minister of Word and sacraments to administer them to the congregation. He gave it to his apostles (Matt 16; Matt 18, John 21:17; Matt 28:18–20). His apostles gave that office to ministers of the Word such as Timothy, Tychicus (Eph 6:21), and Epaphras (Col 1:7) and others. This is why Reformed and Presbyterian congregations, in the 16th through the 18th centuries sometimes went months without hearing sermons from a preacher—typically an elder would read a sermon in lieu of a preached sermon—or receive communion because of the shortage of ordained ministers. It is to ministers, who hold the prophetic office, i.e. the office tasked with ministry of the Word, to whom God has committed the administration of the Word and the sacraments. We see this pattern in the New Testament. The Apostles gave themselves to the minister of the Word and prayer (Acts 2:42) and when the practical needs of the congregations proved too great (Acts 6:1–6), they instituted the office of deacon, following the OT pattern of prophet (Word), priest (receiving offerings and meeting needs), and king (elder) in the New Testament church. It was to Timothy as a minister that Paul wrote, “preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2) not to the entire congregation. So, to answer your question directly, no, families are not authorized to administer holy communion any more than they are commissioned and authorized to preach the Word, administer church discipline, or holy baptism. For a family to take to itself these functions is a confusion of two spheres, the family and the church. The church may be composed of families but that does not make every family a little congregation and every parent a pastor. It is a hardship to be without the sacraments while we cannot gather as congregations but the Lord will see us through this odd and difficult time and restore us to one another and the ministry of Word and sacrament to us. We need to recognize the deep influence that American culture has upon American Christians and we need to recognize the difference between the culture and the Kingdom of God. Since the early 19th century there has been a radical flattening of American society. Scholars call it “Democratization.” Others call it “egalitarianism.” In the spirit of the French Revolution we want to tear down all offices, distinctions, and hierarchies. As Eric Liddell says in Chariots of Fire (1981), “The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. It’s a benevolent dictatorship.” So it is. King Jesus exercises his special, saving reign in his church, the embassy of his Kingdom, through ministers, elders, and deacons. He has given to ministers especially to administer the Word and sacraments. He has given elders to oversee the ministry, and to deacons to minister to the practical needs of the people. Our strange circumstances do not change that order and they do not authorize us to take into our hands those offices that have been given to us.
          1. posted an announcement

            Sunday Services March 22, 2020

            Today there will only be worship at 11:00 AM. There will be no morning study or fellowship meal. The sermon and study notes will be uploaded to the website today.
            1. Good Shepherd, Greetings in Christ. A reminder that we are not meeting tonight, as Oneida and I are visiting our family on the East Coast. Sunday and Wednesdays services and studies will continue as planned this Sunday. I am hoping to have time to visit families next week, as on campus classes are not in session. I will be contacting families to set up visits if time permits. Also, with the present crises, if anyone is in critical need of supplies or assistance, we are able to help. If you need to purchase items in the Phoenix area and cannot travel, just email us your requests as necessity dictates and we will endeavor to assist you. May the Lord greatly strengthen us in faith and abounding joy. Pastor Hartley
              1. Thanks be to the LORD for all of the Love and strength you all give to us know that we love and miss you all God Bless Us All Peace be with the World!
            2. Weekly sermons and study notes from Genesis and Revelation will be posted on our website under Sermons. Please check back regularly for new postings.
              1. Good Shepherd is and will continue to hold services, despite any state closures. However, this Wednesday's study is postponed until the 25th, as Pastor Hartley is travelling. We look forward to worshiping with you again this Sunday.
                1. Please pray.

                  May Irma, Armando and family have the Strength of his mighty hands be wrapped around them as they prepare for the difficult task May the Lord be with us all peace be with the World!