• Confession

    Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!

    You have given me relief when I was in distress.

    Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

    —Psalm 4:1

    O you who hear prayer,

    to you shall all flesh come.

    When iniquities prevail against me,

    you atone for our transgressions.

    —Psalm 65:2-3

    And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

    —Exodus 34:8-9

    “...For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.”

    —Daniel 9:18b

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    —1 John 1:9

    Moses had seen the power of the Lord in the burning bush, in the plagues on Egypt, in the parting of the sea, and in the gifts of water and manna. Perhaps those prepared him to confess and to ask for pardon.

    Daniel had seen the power and wisdom of the Lord in the dreams, humbling, and rescue of Nebuchadnezzar, in the physical rescue of his childhood companions, in the handwriting on the wall, in his own physical deliverance from death, in visions, and in the words of prophecy. Perhaps these prepared him to confess and to ask for mercy.

    John had seen the wisdom and power of the Lord in the teachings of Jesus, in water transformed into wine, in healing after healing, in the feeding of a great crowd, in the raising of Lazarus, and in the resurrection of Jesus. He wrote that the signs performed by Jesus were recorded as preparation for belief and therefore life.

    And the first letter of John connects confession to the Lord's faithfulness and forgiveness and cleansing.

    Many Psalms cry out for deliverance from hostile humans, for physical healing. or emotional healing. And those acts of mercy and deliverance, whether past or requested, lead to praise. The people of Israel were not delivered from slavery and physical oppression because they were great or because they deserved exaltation and power. They were delivered to proclaim the Lord's righteousness and grace.

    The Lord continued to offer grace and deliverance even when they had failed utterly, when their own iniquity had prevailed against them.

    It is not personal strength or greatness or wisdom that connects the Lord's people to His grace. It is confession.

    1. Enduring Word

      Forever, O Lord, your word

      is firmly fixed in the heavens.

      —Psalm 119:89

      And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses' anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.

      The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.”

      —Exodus 32:19, 34:1

      As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot.

      Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah's dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned.”

      —Jeremiah 36:23, 27

      “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

      —Matthew 24:35 (Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33)

      But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

      —2 Corinthians 4:7

      The stone tablets and leather scrolls were just vessels. They could be destroyed, but the word could not.

      The accounts of the prophets are filled with vivid symbolic acts that delivered the Lord's message to the eyes as well as the ears. None is so chilling as the scene when Moses smashed the tablets engraved with the word of the Lord. That is the nature of law; once it is broken, it is broken.

      Of course, the Law itself was not destroyed; it was the Israelites' pledge of faithfulness that lay in rubble at the foot of the mountain. But the word endured.

      No one would identify Jehoiakim as a prophet. His arrogant destruction of the scroll containing Jeremiah's prophecies was defiance, not grief. But, as with Pharaoh before him and Caiaphas after him, his actions set the stage for the Lord's faithfulness and truth to be revealed. The Lord, whose word to Jeremiah was recorded in the first stroll, could easily deliver His word again to those who would humbly receive it.

      The leather may have turned to smoke, ascending like a parody of the smoke of incense. But the word endured.

      The council and priests may have conspired against Jesus, aided by one of the twelve. The Roman soldiers may have thought that they could carry out the orders to put a shameful end to Jesus. But He became an eternal priest “by the power of an indestructible life” and the will of the Father.

      His body may have been pierced and hung up as an attempted demonstration of worldly power. But the Word endured.

      1. Thanks for posting.
    2. Surrounded

      The idols of the nations are silver and gold,

      the work of human hands.

      They have mouths, but do not speak;

      they have eyes, but do not see;

      they have ears, but do not hear,

      nor is there any breath in their mouths.

      Those who make them become like them,

      so do all who trust in them.

      —Psalm 135:15-18

      Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel.

      —Exodus 24:9-10a

      Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

      —Daniel 6:4-5

      Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us... Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

      —Hebrews 12:1, 3

      The ESV uses the word “surrounded” twenty times. Only one of them does not refer to hostility. Or does it?

      Twice we read that a violent mob “surrounded the house” containing someone whom the narrative is following. Multiple cities and warriors were “surrounded” by attacking forces. Jonah was “surrounded” by flood and waves, by deep and weeds. Revelation depicts the hostile forces gathered by Satan that “surrounded” the Lord's people.

      And the letter to the Hebrews says that we are “surrounded” by witnesses. Which I have often heard described—and described it myself—in terms of the Lord's people drawing encouragement from the faithful of the past.

      As encouraging as that is, it is also the case that those people were “surrounded” in their time by a different kind of crowd. The end of the previous chapter describes several cases of people—both named and unnamed—who endured great hostility and opposition and mistreatment. And even death.

      Moses took Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy Israelite elders to a meal beneath the presence of the Lord. At that moment, Moses may have felt surrounded by family and fellow worshippers. But, not long after, Aaron submitted to the demands of the people and gave them a golden calf. Later on, it was Nadab and Abihu whose disrespect for the Lord led to their own destruction. Even further on, the generation that had seen the Lord deliver Israel from Egypt spent their lives in the wilderness because of grumbling and lack of faith.

      Although the word doesn't appear in the account of Daniel, it is clear that he was surrounded by people looking for a way to make him fall out of favor with Darius.

      In fact, we are surrounded by encouragement and opposition, family and foes, exhortation for good and temptation of evil. We get to choose which to look for. Which examples to follow.

      And what kind of surroundings to be for others.

      1. Perspective

        Have mercy on me, O God,

        according to your steadfast love;

        according to your abundant mercy

        blot out my transgressions.

        —Psalm 51:1

        King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.

        —Daniel 3:1

        Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

        —1 John 2:9-11

        It is an old and familiar thought, but it is still true. Although the perception of our eyes may be influenced by distance, there is a true perspective that puts things in their proper light.

        The diameter of the sun is close to 400 times the diameter of the moon. But we don't see it as a circle in the sky 160,000 times the size of the moon's circle, because the sun is also very close to 400 times further away. So, when the alignment is right, we get a total eclipse, in which the moon seems to blot out the sun.

        Sometimes the little thing that we hold close seems large enough to blot out the light until it moves. Or until we shift our own perspective.

        Nebuchadnezzar held his ego and his gold close, and so he lost the true perspective on his own power and importance (or lack thereof). So did everyone else around him, except for Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They looked beyond the statue and saw the light of the Lord who was still there. They allowed themselves to be His instruments through whom the king's flawed perspective was revealed as such.

        (And Nebuchadnezzar didn't completely learn the lesson the first time around.)

        Just when the darkness seemed deepest, the moon was surrounded with the glow of the sun's corona, punctuated by red prominences likely bigger than our entire world.

        The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

        When darkness tries to blot out the light, it reveals even more glory.

        1. This coming Sunday we will begin a new series entitled: What has our God done? During the 2024 year we are focusing our sermons around the idea of Sharing God. To properly share anything we must first know something about it. To help us better know our God we began a sermon series in February entitled: The Names of God. The names of God reveal truths about the character, nature, attributes, and the relational aspect of our Father but there is still so much more to know about God that His names do not give us. With that in mind and keeping with our theme of “Sharing God” we are going to look at the deeds of God by answering the question, “What has our God done?” In this new series we will explore the extraordinary feats, actions, and wonders of our God. The more we come to know and appreciate what our God has done, the more we will fall in love with Him over and over again.        Come and see what God has done,            His awesome deeds for mankind!    Psalm 66:5
          1. I am looking forward to this - looking forward to growing in my knowledge of who God is.
        2. Gathered by Steadfast Love

          Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

          for his steadfast love endures forever!

          Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,

          whom he has redeemed from trouble

          and gathered in from the lands,

          from the east and from the west,

          from the north and from the south.

          —Psalm 107:13

          Behold, how good and pleasant it is

          when brothers dwell in unity!

          —Psalm 133:1

          “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

          —John 17:20-21

          So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

          —Acts 10:34-35

          Sometimes circumstances are hard, but His steadfast love endures forever.

          Some things take a long time to understand; His steadfast love endures forever.

          Eyesight and insight may fail; His steadfast love endures forever.

          The Lord has gathered His people before; His steadfast love endures forever.

          He brought them from captivity and slavery and exile; His steadfast love endures forever.

          Some were brave enough or desperate enough or awed enough to follow Him on the roads of Galilee and Judea; His steadfast love endures forever.

          They were gathered together after a turbulent week that demanded them to consider everything that they had heard; His steadfast love endures forever.

          He stood among them and breathed peace to them; His steadfast love endures forever.

          A few weeks later there were people gathered from many nations who needed to hear the rest of His message; His steadfast love endures forever.

          And time passed and His people went beyond the city, not to be scattered, but to gather more; His steadfast love endures forever.

          Generations later, He still gathers those willing to be gathered; His steadfast love endures forever.

          May His children be one; His steadfast love endures forever.

          1. Take Versus Give

            “This is my resting place forever;

            here I will dwell, for I have desired it.

            I will abundantly bless her provisions;

            I will satisfy her poor with bread.

            Her priests I will clothe with salvation,

            and her saints will shout for joy.

            —Psalm 132:14-16

            Behold, how good and pleasant it is

            when brothers dwell in unity!

            —Psalm 133:1

            “...this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king...”

            —Daniel 2:30b

            “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

            —Luke 6:37-38

            Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

            —Ephesians 4:28

            In Psalm 132, the description of the Lord's chosen dwelling place speaks of abundance, including meeting the needs of the poor. And that is associated with salvation and joy.

            Considering that song in the light of the book of Ruth, or in the context of the laws governing harvesting and gleaning, makes it clear that the abundance is not just for those who have plenty to have more. Rather, they are to share. Put another way, the Lord's blessings are given for a purpose. And He sees how His blessings are used by those who receive the use of them.

            David established that principle at the brook Besor, when some of his men did not want to share the property and people rescued from the Amalekites. And he referenced it again in his prayer over the offering for the temple, as he prayed, “...all things come from you, and of your own we have given you.” Daniel humbly applied it himself when he interpreted the dream of Nebuchadnezzar.

            Jesus Himself, in His "priestly prayer" of John 17, stated that He had given to His disciples the glory that the Father had given to Him. And He so for unity, allowing His disciples to experience and demonstrate the same kind of unity that He had with the Father. The unity in which had existed since before creation.

            Restoring the unity between human and Divine that humans had shattered when choosing to take good and evil for themselves. As if.

            Paul taught the same message to the Ephesian believers when pleading for a complete reversal of taking versus giving in the heart and actions of a thief, transforming from one who would take for self, into one who would give to others. And he held up to the Philippian believers the example of Jesus as the one who did not grasp or hold, but who gave in order to serve.

            A gift that will unify every bowing knee and confessing tongue.

            1. Infinite Grace

              So teach us to number our days

              that we may get a heart of wisdom.

              —Psalm 90:12

              He determines the number of the stars;

              he gives to all of them their names.

              Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;

              his understanding is beyond measure.

              The Lord lifts up the humble;

              he casts the wicked to the ground.

              —Psalm 147:4-6

              ...Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

              —Ecclesiastes 3:11b

              He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector... For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

              —Luke 18:9-10, 14b

              But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

              —James 4:6

              The number of stars in the universe is commonly estimated as 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one septillion, according to the American system of naming large numbers).

              There aren't enough years in a lifetime to count that high. In fact, there aren't enough years in all the lifetimes of all the people alive on earth. And there is grace in knowing that we humans have the ability to be aware of things beyond our limitations.

              Truly knowing of our limitations and knowing our limitations can help cultivate humility. Whether we look to Scripture or to events in the world around us, it is clear that pride and arrogance form a path to destruction. In the parable, the Pharisee spent his time in the temple comparing himself to others and praising himself. Some translations even render the verse as saying that he “prayed to himself”, which can be understood two ways. Both are true, perhaps.

              But humility is not intended to lead to futility, despair, and a sense of worthlessness. Not if we understand that the Lord who knows all the stars by name also knows the number of hairs on our heads and knows each of His children by name.

              We are tiny in this enormous universe. The infinite Creator chose to be with us and rescue us.

              Both are true, definitely.