09/20/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:8-10 – Ten Rules for Faithful Living: #2 “No Icons on the Desktop”

http://ppl.ug/_kx6cz4h314/

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:4-63; Deuteronomy 5:8-10; Matthew 22:34-38; Mark 12:28-30

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: No Icons on the Desktop”

September 20, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

A Sunday School student was asked to list the 10 Commandments in any order.

His answer? “3, 6, 1, 8, 4, 5, 9, 2, 10, 7.”

 

Martin Luther once said that “anyone who knows the Ten Commandments perfectly knows the entire Scripture.” (The Larger Catechism)

We all know that Jesus agreed with Martin Luther when He was asked, by people who perhaps hoped to trip Him up, which of the 10 Commandments was the greatest, most important one. Both Matthew and Mark record this story. What is Jesus’ answer? (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’Jesus is merely quoting from Deuteronomy (look again at your Call to Worship from Deuteronomy 6). Love the Lord your God with all that’s in you, with all you’ve got, always, never-ending, without failhave no other godsno desire for riches, no dreams of popularity, no over-extended hopes for glamour, no worries, no fearshave no other gods!

The 10 Commandments, brief enough to be memorized by Sunday School children and comprehensive enough to guide our every thought and action. These Commandments are a far more than just a list of “thou shalt nots”, but it is a list of promises from God and they each contain the secret power to have the ability to obey them. For the next couple of months we will listen as God’s Word reminds us what He demands.

The historical/social context of the 10 commandmentsescape from Pharaoh and unjust system of power and poverty

The three reasons for the Law – 1)to show us we need a Savior,

2) to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),

3) to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore as people created in the image of God what our character ought to beguide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ) – sanctification

Here are the opening words, and then the second of the Big 10 Commandments from the book of Deuteronomy – the second reading of the Law of God. Hear the Word of God….—-

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. …

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10  but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image … [to] bow down [to] or worship ….”

We got the First Commandment last week pretty clear – but what does this Second Commandment mean?

It seems straightforward – no idols, no icons, no things, that you might worship as more essential than God Himself.

This is really a Command about our inner-desires, isn’t it? Desire Goddo not desire whatever it is that might take God’s place.

There have been debates and church splits over how to define and obey this Commandment – does it mean no art work of any kind? Churches have been vandalized and torn apart and destroyed because of a statue or a painting in it. It does say, after all, “do not make any image of anything in heaven, on earth, or in the water ….” But the Commandment adds the phrase about bowing down and worshiping. When the artwork becomes more important than that which it depicts, it becomes a sin. I think the issue here is about when our desires become disordered by yearning for what is enticing us as if God does not exist!

Why is there a Commandment about not making forms and images? Let’s ask this question another way: What are God’s physical characteristics? God is Spirit, right? So how do we accurately depict that with an icon? How would one appropriately make something that looks like God?How do we meet God in the Old Testament? ·

Fire … burning bush, pillar of fire·

Smoke … pillar of smoke·

Wind … hovered over creation – no way to precisely depict something that is ever changing shape·

Voice … God speaks with Adam and Eve, with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, with Jesus! (with Paul.)

God reveals Himself through voice – sometimes spoken, sometimes written. So, God forbids the worship of the true God by way of any images or resemblances – there are to be none. In the time of Moses many nations claimed that their images were gods, others that their images were mere reflections of gods; but the God of the Bible says, NO IMAGES.

This Commandment includes some harsh wordsI, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. The sins of one generation often have consequences that fall on the next. Parents and grandparents, we do teach our offspring right and wrong – take that role seriously.

But this Commandment also comes with amazing promiseI, the Lord your God, show love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Parents and grandparents, we do teach our offspring right and wrongtake that role seriously.

 

But the real reasons why worshiping idols don’t work is that idolsicons on our desktops, figurines in our parks, flags on our poles, money in our banks, dreams and desires that pretend that God doesn’t really existidols cannot engage with us, cannot be in relationship with us.

Listen again to the voice of God remind us why He gives us the Ten Commandments: The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

God wants honest relationship with you, with us. If He is not in a living relationship with us, we might have an idol.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah tells us that idols are nothing more than extra baggage we carry around with us – made of stone or wood but with no more integrity or glory than vanity or a puff of wind. Can we name our idols? We can probably all name idols that our neighbors have, or our pastor….

But let me step on some toes this morning with some generalizations that are at least partly true.Generationally we all carry some idols in our lives, things we value and worship, sometimes more than we value and worship our relationship with God. Ready?

I’ll start with the newest generation – those that are in what is sometimes called Generation Z (born after 2000). People in this Generation value “Beauty”. Beauty, above all else, is what is important. Beauty is good, and important, but should it surpass receiving the relationship with the God of Beauty?

Millennials (born between 1985 and 2000). People in this generation value that which is Good. If it is Good, for the poor, for the environment, for those who need “good”, than it is valued as most important; but should “Good” go beyond the God who created Good from nothing and expects, demands Good from His followers?

Busters (born between 1964 and 1985), sometimes called Generation X. This generation values what is Real, authentic, transparent. If it is “Real” it is worth our attention and time. But is it better than the only Real God there is?

Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1963). This is my generation. We value that which we recognize as Truth. Truth trumps all else, but should concepts of Truth outshine the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life?

Builders (born between 1924 and 1944), most of us in this room. This generation is known more for their religious fidelity than the younger generations (as is evidenced by attendance in churches like ours across this land); and so they have come up with sayings like “I stand for God and Country”, “God and Flag”, “God and Duty”. But sometimes the tendency is to place Country, Flag and Duty as co-equal with, even out-doing, God.

This Second Commandment, along with the First, tells us that God does not want, does not need, and shuns these icons on our desktops – the God-ands we proclaim, the Truths we preach, our Real feelings, our Moral judgments, and even our Beauty admirations. These all become “forms” of a god. What God wants is our desireabove and before our desire of anything else, God deserves to be at the head.

How do we possibly gain victory over any of these idols that call our names, how are we successful over whole generational ideologies of value?

Let me give you two simple strategies: worship and prayer.

When we worship the only True God, when we gather together to sing His praises and when we come before His throne all on our own, we put God first – and all the idols of prestige and importance, the icons of philosophy and valued perspective, the forms of want and fancy become desire for God Himself!

If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and forever. Amen.

Psalm 119:11 tells us: “Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Amen.

Resources:

Hauerwas, Stanley; William Willimon; The truth About God: The 10 Commandments in the Christian Life; Abingdon Press; NY, NY; 1999.

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; P. 5.

Wilson, Tobin; “No Eikons on the Desktop”; sermon preached at Placentia Presbyterian Church; 08/16/2015.

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09/13/2015 – Exodus 20:1-3 – 10 Rules for Faithful Living: “No Other”

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:1-3; Deuteronomy 5:1-7; Matthew 22:34-38; Mark 12:28-30

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: No Other”

September 13, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, on this weekend when we remember the devastations of 9/11/2001, and we are humbled by the gift we have – the gift of freedom and the opportunities to live into that freedom. Help us, right now, to put away any lingering anger or fear, any prejudice or hate, even any thoughts or wonderings about those who perpetrated such evil or the direct victims of that evil. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Ma and Pa made their annual visit to church for the Christmas Eve service.
As they were leaving, the minster said, “Pa, it sure would be nice to see you and ma here more than once a year!”
“I know,” replied Pa, “but at least we keep the Ten Commandments.”
“That’s great,” the minister said. “I’m glad to hear that you keep the Ten Commandments.”
“Yup,” Pa said proudly, “Ma keeps six of ’em and I keep the other four.”

 

7 habits of,  3 steps to,  10 rules for …

Too simple to be real, but often offer something of substance …

The right place of order/law – keeps us in line (speed limit, good neighbors=good fences)

The historical/social context of the 10 commandmentsescape from Pharaoh and unjust system of power and poverty

The three reasons for the Law – 1)to show us we need a Savior,

2) to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),

3) to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore what our character ought to beguide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ)

Page 2 of The Law of Liberty – “O How I Love Thy Law”

The 10 Commandments, brief enough to be memorized by Sunday School children and comprehensive enough to guide our every thought and action. These Commandments are a far more than just a list of “thou shalt nots”, but it is a list of promises from God and they each contain the secret power to have the ability to obey them. For the next couple of months we will listen as God’s Word reminds us what He demands.

Here are the opening words, and the first of the Big 10 Commandments. Hear the Word of the Lord….—-

Exodus 20: And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

 

And from Deuteronomy 5 (Latin or Greek majors? What does “deuteros” mean? Second – that’s what this whole book is about – the 2nd time Moses tells us about the Law.) Hear the Word of the Lord….—-

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails. Let’s do this sermon a little differently today – turn to someone near you and tell that person what this Commandment means. Both Exodus and Deuteronomy tell it in exactly the same way: You shall have no other gods before me. What does that mean? Now, let’s hear what some of you said – anyone? Would anyone like to yell out a god that maybe threatens this Commandment? What gods in our culture seem to come before the Lord our God?·       Money·       Success·       Education·       Being right·       Fun·       Stuff·       Worry·       Fear·       FOMO

How do we have victory over these “other gods”?

Exodus 20: And God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

And the second time Moses said this, when he reminded the Israelites, and you and me, of these Commandments, he said it like this:

Deuteronomy 5: Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

How do we have victory over these “other gods”? Trust in the Lord our God! He is the One who rescues, redeems, saves, and secures us in His presence!

We all know that Jesus was asked, by people who perhaps hoped to trip Him up, which of the 10 Commandments was the greatest, most important one. Both Matthew and Mark record this story. What is Jesus’ answer? (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’

Jesus is merely quoting from Deuteronomy.

In Luke’s Gospel some lawyer who wants to be a follower of Jesus asks Jesus how to follow Him, so Jesus asks the lawyer what the greatest Commandment is – and this lawyer gives this exact same answer (Luke 10:27).

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, always, never-ending, without failhave no other godsno desire for riches, no dreams of popularity, no over-extended hopes for glamour, no worries, no fearshave no other gods!

 

This first Commandment sets the tone and the pace for all the Commandments which follow. If we can remember that the Lord our God, Yahweh, the eternal, self-existent, uncreated One, Himself the Source and Sustainer of all that is – if we can remember that He alone is entitled to supreme reverence and worship – and that anything else that we might cherish lessens, weakens, our trust and relationship with Him – if we can remember that, then the next 9 Commandments become easy.

We might argue and debate over whether or not these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives. If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and forever. Amen.

Psalm 119:2 tells us: “Blessed are they that keep God’s testimonies, and they that seek Him with their whole heart.” Amen.

Resources:

The Law of Liberty; “O How I Love Thy Law”, “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 2-4.

03/22/2015 – John 14:1-9 – “The Right Way?”

Mark Wheeler
John 14:1-9
“The Right Way?”
March 22, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Dear God, thank You for bringing us all here to this place. Help us to open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits to better understand who You are and to know You more. Please be with us as we draw near to You and closer to one another. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

This month has been a more emotional month than I anticipated. It has not been a bad month (for the most part), but an emotional month. Most of you know that I lost my father last July, and I have been reminded of his death several times this month – March 6 would have been my parents’ 61st wedding anniversary, March 13 was a Friday the 13th (and my dad hated Friday the 13th, so I always called him on those days and just checked in with him), and March 20 was my dad’s birthday. So I have had weekly reminders that I can’t pick up the phone and call him any more (he couldn’t hear what was said on the phone anyway, but that’s another story).
But the good thing about these constant reminders of death, and even my dad’s death in particular, is that death always brings me to today’s Bible reading. This passage is a description of direction and hope and life and perfect love. And, in this day and age, boy do I need direction and hope, and the promise of life, and the experience of love.
How about you? Maybe we don’t all require an emotional month, but I think most of us could use some sure and certain direction, a little hope during dismal seasons, the promise of life at the other end of the valley of the shadow of death, and the experience of true love when we might feel lost and alone.

Five weeks ago we read from the Old Testament book of Exodus – and we listened as God told Moses who God is. Do you remember what God said when Moses asked Him, “Who do I tell people You are?” God said, “Tell them ‘I-AM has sent me to you.’”
Since then, and through this whole Season of Lent as we prepare ourselves for the Easter celebration we are in the New Testament Gospel according to John – because the Apostle John records some fascinating ways Jesus also answers Moses’ question.
Jesus identified Himself with God by the way He identified Himself by saying, “I-AM the Bread of Life – I-AM the Light of the World – I-AM the Good Shepherd – I-AM the True Vine – I-AM the way and the truth and the life.”
As we come to today’s Bible story in John 14, we see that Jesus has made His final trip to Jerusalem; He has ridden into the capital city on the donkey; He has washed His disciples’ feet; and He is now seated at the Passover feast – that which became Holy Communion; while at the Passover Supper Table Jesus is teaching His disciples and the opening lines of John 14 are …. —-
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I-AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
May God bless the reading, the hearing, the receiving of His Word which never fails.

What troubles your heart this morning? Are you worried for a loved one’s health? Are you missing someone who has passed or who lives too far away to go visit? Is there someone for whom you are in daily prayer for their salvation or for their faith development? Are finances a concern? Are you afraid of threats made to your way of life?
Full confession: All of these trouble my heart at some level. What are your own heart-troubled concerns?
Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” He was talking to His 12 Disciples who were about to lose their beloved Teacher, Leader, Lord, Savior. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. (The NIV says) You believe in God; [now] believe also in me!”
Sometimes that’s harder than it should be. “Lord, I do believe; help me in my unbelief.”

The description of the Mansion over the Hilltop (is that the old Gospel song?) is a promise that we who believe need to hear and hang on to. It’s not just a “very, very big house” (as the newer Gospel song says), it’s actually the Bridal Suite. The way it worked in Jesus’ day was, when you got engaged to be married, the groom would leave the bride for awhile to prepare their new home – which was attached to his father’s house (there may have been more mother-in-law issues to deal with, but there was always a baby-sitter ready for date night!). And the bride would, obviously, know how to get to the groom’s house!
So, when Jesus says, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going”, He was describing the Disciples’, and our, eternal Home – because the Son of God is the Bride-Groom and the Church, the followers of Jesus, those who believe in Him and submit to Him, is the Bride! Of course, the Groom is coming back for His Bride!
“Lord, I do love You and trust You; help me in my wandering lust and doubt-filled mistrust.”

So, the Disciple who is best known for being a doubter, most remembered for saying he would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection unless he actually saw for himself the risen Lord – he ought to be best known for setting the scene for one of my most relied-upon statements of Jesus. Thomas, the straight-man, sets the stage by admitting that he, and probably everyone else in the room, including you and me had we been present, Thomas says, “What? We have no idea what You’re talking about, Jesus! We do not know where You are going, and we, therefore, have no way of knowing the way to where You are going!”
Just like us, the Disciples didn’t quite get the wedding picture Jesus was painting. So Jesus says straight out: “I-AM the way … and the truth … and the life.”

Do you need some direction in life? Do you need some help navigating turbulent waters? Is this unfamiliar territory you are in? Are you trying to follow Jesus, out of the safety of the boat onto the unsteadiness of the lake-water? Are you wondering what it means to go out to places and people you don’t know, or maybe even like, and share the Good News of Jesus with them? Are you listening to the voices of those around us and wondering who this Jesus really is?
Jesus says, “I-AM the way….” using God’s own name for Himself, Jesus says, “I-AM is sending you.” Jesus says, “Do you need direction? Keep your eyes focused on me, because I-AM the way! You will not be lost, even if you don’t know where you are, you will not be lost if you remain with me, because I-AM the way!”
This week many of you read or heard the news that the PC(USA) has officially changed our understanding of the definition of marriage. Our Book of Order used to read: “Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. For Christians marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship.” It will now read: “Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.”
Is this the worst thing that has ever, or could ever, hit the proverbial ecclesiastic fan? Not at all.
Is it faithful to what the Scriptures teach about what marriage should be? I think, not at all.
Do I need direction to know how to follow Jesus through this? You better believe I do. Does His Church, does Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church, need Jesus’ clear direction – not just what does the Bible say?, but also how do we live that out in a way that honors God and also loves our neighbor?? I believe we need it, here, maybe like never before.
“Lord, I do want to follow You faithfully and rightly; help me in my fog to see You clearly for every step!”

And Jesus also says, “I-AM the truth….” That is my ray of hope in the darkness of wondering what’s next. We worry about our future – health, longevity, cash-flow, eternity, church-fidelity. Jesus shines a beam of hope on us. “I-AM the way and the truth….” There is nothing false or wrong in Him. We can trust Him completely because He is the truth! And no matter how afraid I might get about what’s around the next corner – I can hear Jesus say, “I-AM the way and the truth…”, and maybe I’ll be able to put my feet where His have already trod.
“Lord, I do want to trust You completely; help me when I don’t, and when I worry over that which is already in Your hands!”

And Jesus also says, “I-AM the life….” Whatever is waiting around the corner – yeah, but my husband is sick, my mother is dying, my rent is due, my son is rejecting Jesus, my friend’s faith is stalled and not growing – whatever is around the corner (and those are all huge things, right? Those are life-situations no-one wants to face) – Jesus reminds us, “I-AM the way and the truth and the life.”
“Lord, I am alive in You; help me know that eternal life when this earthly life feels shaky – and if I ever cannot shake off the fears of this life, show me again Your perfect love which casts out all fear, in Jesus’ name!”

Jesus’ next words are of vital importance! He has just claimed: “I-AM the way and the truth and the life.” Not, “I am one of the ways, one truth among many, and life for those who go to church”. If that had been what He said, it would deny His claim to use God’s name. No, what He said was, “I-AM the way and the truth and the life.” Then He adds, “No one comes to the Father (who is ‘the Father’? God!), no one comes to the Father except through me!”
Why does He add that phrase? It is vitally important because without it we human beings will change His meaning to anything that makes us happy and comfortable. Without that exclusivity clause, we can make His claim of divinity and salvation into whatever we want it to mean.
But with this addendum, Jesus claims authority over all of life and death! Jesus is God. And it is only through belief in Him, trusting our lives into His hands, into eternal life, that we have any hope for salvation! And because of Jesus, we have all hope!
This exclusivity is not what some think of as a closed door to heaven – it is Jesus holding the door open for all who believe in Him – no matter who we are or what we’ve done. He offers the gift of salvation, free of charge, if we will only receive it!
This is that direction and hope and life; it is His perfect love for all – because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that all who believe in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life!
Do you want that? It is yours for the taking.

Philip asks Jesus for just a little more proof. And Jesus, you can almost hear the hurt in His voice, says, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

Do you know what it means to “really know” Jesus? Do you have a personal relationship – a living, growing relationship – with the Father?

Living Christ, thank You for showing us the way, for being the truth, for offering life. Help us to understand that just as You have sought us and found us, You are seeking all those around us, too. Teach us to live and to speak about faith in such a way that other seekers will be drawn into a saving relationship with You. Amen.

Resources:
Book of Order; Presbyterian Church (USA); 2013-’15; W-4.9000.

Fuquay, Rob; The God We Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus (Adult Group Guide); Upper Room Books; Nashville, TN; 2014; Pp. 36-39.

Malachi 4 – Who Is this King of Glory?

Mark Wheeler
Christ the King Sunday, November 23, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Malachi 4:1-6
Who Is this King of Glory?

Provider of righteousness and peace, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ You reunited heaven and earth. When sin disrupts the harmony of creation, pour out Your Holy Spirit upon Your waiting people so that we would trust You, love You, and become Your agents of reconciliation in a cruel and hurting world. Amen.

I read this week that while Queen Victoria lay dying, a member of the royal household mused to Edward, Prince of Wales, “I wonder if she will be happy in heaven?”
Edward matter-of-factly replied, “I don’t know. She will have to walk behind the angels–and she won’t like that!”

For those who pay attention to such things as Liturgical Calendars – today is Christ the King Sunday – the last day of the Church Year. And on this day we pay special homage to the all-time truth that Jesus Christ is King of the Universe! We call Him Lord and Savior – that’s what that means! “Lord” means that Jesus is the ultimate authority! He is the one, the only one, who walks in front of the angels in heaven!
And as King, He has righteous rule, He reigns supreme, He judges justly, he has final say. And what we know of Jesus through His written Word, the Bible, is that He is all-powerful and all-knowing and always-present and completely-loving! Therefore, He is totally trustworthy.

We have invested September and October listening to the Old Testament prophet Micah and heard him remind us that even though there are so many ways in which we fall short of meeting God’s standards, we can always count on His unconditional love. Micah kept reminding us of God’s worthiness of our worship.
In November we have been in the book of Malachi. This is the very last book in the Old Testament, and this is the very last chapter in the Old Testament! Next week we begin the brand new liturgical calendar, and we will be talking about the advent of this King we call Christ. We know almost nothing about Malachi, except that his name means “My messenger” or maybe “My angel”. Malachi continues the theme of God’s worthiness, but his emphasis is on our responsibility to worship Him well.

Hear the Word of God from Malachi 4:1-6…. —-
1 “Surely the day is coming [what day is coming? The day of the King – Judgment Day!]; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty.
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Before we get too far in today’s sermon – I have an announcement to make. Last Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of my very first Sunday as this church’s pastor – which makes today my (approximately) 1,200th sermon with you. To celebrate this milestone, I plan to preach for exactly 12 more minutes today! At minute-11, someone can wave your hand, and I’ll try to wrap it up. This is my way of honoring you for allowing me to serve with you for two decades, so far!

What do these six verses of Scripture have to do with the ecclesiastically invented holiday of Christ the King Sunday? How does this chapter answer the question, Who is this King of Glory?

Remember that most of this book has been a prophecy of condemnation about the ways we do not acknowledge God properly, how we do not worship Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, or all our strength; about how our sacrifices have been easy and mostly just left-overs. Here, he says, “Look out, the day is coming – and it will not be fun. But for you who revere my name, [listen to this] the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.”
He says that Thanksgiving will come! Count your many blessings, name them one by one! See what God has done!

And then this great Old Testament prophet does an amazing thing! He ties the whole Old Testament to this coming King.
Verse 4, “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.”
What is Malachi talking about there? [The 10 Commandments, at least.] Moses the great deliverer who freed the Israelites after 400 years of slavery in Egypt! – The Exodus, the Red Sea crossing, the 40 years n the wilderness, the manna from heaven, the water from a rock – Moses is a type of the Christ who waited another 1,600 years – Malachi ties the great deliverer Moses to the coming King!
Verse 5, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.”
Elijah – thought of as the representative prophet of all prophets – Elijah was the prophet who never died , weirdly II Kings tells us that he was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire without ever dying – And Elijah was expected to return before the Messiah came.
These same two, Moses and Elijah, came and appeared to Jesus and three of His apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration – Jesus told the men walking to Emmaus after the resurrection how the Scriptures from Moses and the prophets (Elijah?) explained who He was.
Malachi ties all of that together in two verses.

Verse 6 – As we approach this Christmas – families – turn your hearts to one another – if parents and children cannot do that (for which there are a variety of reasons why this might be so), then cross generations with friends and colleagues. Be community. Call Jesus King, and do that together! If we don’t, Malachi warns us of “total destruction”!

To close, I just want to draw your attention to some Presbyterian denominational stuff – maybe we can draw our hearts together with other Presbyterians even.
Look at your Sermon Notes page:

On the PC(USA) Mission Agency website ( <a href="http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/why-i-belong/ " ), they have posted an article titled “Why I Belong”. Among several theological points listed are the following. These points answer the question, “Who is this King of Glory?”

For more than 200 years, Presbyterians have remained UNWAVERING in this one conviction: Jesus is LORD (I Cor. 12:3). All power, truth, and salvation rest with God alone.
John 14:6, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
I Corinthians 12:3, Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ is the ONLY savior of the world, and the TRUE awaited Messiah. (Acts 16:31; Book of Confession, 5.077 [The Second Helvetic Confession])
Acts 16:31, They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
II Timothy 3:14-16, But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

“Jesus Christ is the only SAVIOR and LORD, and all people everywhere are called to place their faith, hope, and love in him.” (Ephesians 1:3-14; BoC 5.107-5.110)
Romans 10:9, If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Ephesians 1:13-14, And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Who is this King of Glory? He is Immanuel, the promised of ages! Even the angels of heaven fall in line behind King Jesus. Let us, join them, and fall in line behind Him while we are still on earth.

Lord Jesus – You are the king of kings and Lord of lords – today, maybe for the very first time, some in this room this morning are confessing You as their King and Lord, as their Savior, and as their most valued Treasure. Live in our hearts and minds this morning, and draw us close to You as we are drawn close to one another. May this Thanksgiving be different. This time we want to glorify Your name in every thing we do and say, through Jesus Christ, my King. Amen!

Resources:
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 519.

Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary 32; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 335-342.

Malachi 2:1-9 – … Even Though He Brings an Offering to the LORD Almighty

Mark Wheeler
November 9, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Malachi 2:1-9
… Even Though He Brings an Offering to the LORD Almighty

Sovereign God, we seek no glory but our own. Reveal to us all the mystery of Your will from before the foundations of the world. In the fullness of time, unite all things in heaven and on earth, in Jesus Christ Your Son. Amen.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a three-day prayer summit – 70 pastors and ministry leaders from churches all across the inland northwest met for the sole purpose of being together to lift our hearts to God and to listen for His voice back to us. On the 2nd night, we had the chairs arranged in a circle, and the leader looked straight at me and started making some kind gestures with his eyes, signals that I had no idea what they meant. So I looked back, quizzically, and nervously. Finally I started making hand signals, like “You talking to me?” But he just kept making the same weird googly eye signals. Finally as I started to stand up, his gaze refocused and he mouthed – “no, not you!” And I realized his wife was sitting in the row behind me.
Maybe you’ve been in a crowd and someone yelled, “Look out!” What do most people do? We either ignore the warning, or look around. “Look out” usually means “Duck!”
Moms can be good for giving warnings that lose their impact, too. How many of you have heard your mom say things like: “If you don’t stop crossing your eyes they’ll stay that way!”
I interrupted my sermon prep to check FaceBook and a friend posted the Taylor Swift song Shake It Off synced to an ’80s aerobic dance video, my friend said this: “I warn you, you cannot unsee this”, and then I watched it and cannot unsee it!

For the last month we have been listening to the Old Testament prophet Micah and heard him remind us that even though there are so many ways in which we fall short of meeting God’s standards, we can always count on His unconditional love. Micah kept reminding us of God’s worthiness of our worship.
We are now in the book of Malachi. This is the very last book in the Old Testament, and it was written, probably, around the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, also among the final books written in the Old Testament. We know almost nothing about Malachi, except that his name means “My messenger” or maybe “My angel”. Malachi continues the theme of God’s worthiness, but his emphasis is on our responsibility to worship Him well.

Hear the Word of God from Malachi 2:1-9…. —-
1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.
3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Did you hear the warning?! “If you don’t listen, and if you don’t resolve to honor my name, I will send a curse on you!”And then the warning turns ugly, “I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices….” And who said this? The LORD Almighty!
Look out!

Verse 1 does say, “OK you priests, this is for you!” So maybe we can all ignore the warning. After all, no one in this room is officially a priest! Maybe Kathy is, but not me! Right?
The term “priest” was not only used to identify a certain group of people in the Old Testament, but is also used to describe every believer in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, priests were descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron, who was from the tribe of Levi. They were called Levites and their job was to serve in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.
But, amazingly, the Bible teaches that you and I are priests. We are set apart to be involved in wonderful worship and sacrificial service. I Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” John put it this way in Revelation 1:6: “And has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father…”
So this warning in Malachi 2:1 is addressed to me, and to you!

Someone once said, to have a good sermon you need a good beginning and a good ending, and the two should be as close together as possible! We have seven points to make in today’s passage – but I’m gonna try to bring the beginning and the ending close together. So listen well, because this warning is important!

The criticism God was giving to the priests of Malachi’s day was that they did not honor His name. The first four of the big 10 were about honoring God’s name. The greatest commandment, to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind, means to honor His name! The Lord’s Prayer starts off with “Hallowed be Thy name” – it’s a prayer to honor His name!
Is this directed at us? You better believe it is! Whenever we ignore God’s Word in order to do what we want to do, we dis-honor God’s name. Whenever we carelessly gossip about someone, we dis-honor God’s name. Whenever we complain about not getting our own way, we dis-honor God’s name. Whenever we abuse whatever power or authority we think is ours, we dis-honor God’s name.
Is it ever excusable? Probably not! Does God offer forgiveness? Yes He does. But He also, simply because He is God, He has the right to REBUKE us however He sees fit. In the generation before Malachi that rebuke took the form of the people of Judah being sent into exile to Babylon. If we feel exiled, we might need to look to see if REBUKE might be a deserved discipline.
The LORD also has the right to REJECT whomever He chooses to REJECT! Does that sound harsh? It does to me, too. But I’m growing in my trust that God is Almighty, all-knowing, all gracious, He is also all trust-worthy!
And, the LORD has the right even to REMOVE any who dis-honor His name. He promises that He will not lose His grip on any who are truly His, but part of being truly His includes the desire to honor His name!

Malachi encourages us to worship God meaningfully and well. Not just to avoid being rebuked, rejected, or removed, but simply to honor His name well.
Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to RESPOND to God in obedience. God wants us to listen and to set our hearts for obedience. James 1:22 tells us that faith without works is dead, but listen to how The Message translates that verse: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!”
Our Moving Back into the Neighborhood Guiding Team is in the process of helping us listen. Are you listening to the Lord? Are we as a congregation listening to the Lord? The litmus test of true listening is in our living out what we know to be true. RESPOND to God in obedience!

Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to REVERE God as awesome! In verse 4, God is longing for His covenant with Levi to continue. Levi was the third of Leah’s sons born to Jacob. His name literally means, “to adhere,” or “be joined to.” Leah was hoping that with his birth, her husband might be drawn closer to her: “Now at last my husband will become attached to me … so he was named Levi (Genesis 29:34)”.
This reveals a universal desire of wives everywhere. They want their husbands to be locked into them. Malachi uses that image more a little later.
What’s kind of interesting about this “longing of God” is that no where does the Bible mention something called a “Levitical Covenant”. In fact, Levi is often mentioned in negative terms. But Moses and Aaron were in the Tribe of the Levites, and Moses is well known for how he revered God, especially through the 40 years of Wilderness. Do you REVERE God as awesome? Even when life is hard? Let’s turn to our neighbors and just remind each other that “God is awesome”!

Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to RESOLVE to lead ourselves! Look at verse 6: “True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.”
We each own the duty of RESOLVING to lead ourselves in God’s Word – that might mean joining a Bible study group, it might mean morning devotions, it might mean memorizing Scripture passages. However it works for you, we are obliged to make sure that God’s Word penetrates our lives!
Don’t wait for the New Year to make a resolution. RESOLVE today to pay more attention to God’s Word in your lives. Imagine our impact on our families and friends, our community and neighborhoods, our city and state, if we RESOLVED together to lead ourselves into God’s Word!

Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to REPRESENT God to others! One of the roles of the priest was to represent God and reveal His will to the people. We see this in the first part of verse 7: “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge ….” This really just means to live our faith out loud – to boldly live like we believe what we say we believe. To preserve knowledge means to guard against hiding our faith in a closet so that no one knows what we believe!
In a way, REPRESENTING God to others happens automatically when we obediently RESPOND to God’s Word with REVERENCE for God’s awesomeness causing us to RESOLVE to live even more deeply in His Word.
If we’re living our faith out loud, people will notice and they will seek instruction from us. If no one has asked you why your life is different, then maybe it really isn’t!

Did you hear the warning for you? … Even Though He Brings an Offering to the LORD Almighty, God can REBUKE, REJECT, even REMOVE us if we do not RESPOND in obedience, REVERE God’s awesomeness, RESOLVE to lead ourselves more deeply into His Word, and REPRESENT God to the world around us.
Like Mom said, If we “cross” our eyes – maybe they’ll stay that way! Thanks for the warning, Mom. Amen!

Resources:
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 496.

Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary 32; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 317-325.

Micah 5 – What Promise Are You Waiting For?

Mark Wheeler
October 12, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Micah 5
What Promise Are You Waiting for?

O God, through Your Son, the Man of Sorrows, You are acquainted with our grief. We pray for Your Church, especially in places of persecution and distress. When hope grows dim, kindle within us patience in prayer and persistence in the struggle for justice and peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

In 1865, shortly after the Civil war, the Pastor of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston, Massachusetts. was helping with a Christmas Eve service — — — in Bethlehem. He later wrote about his feelings as he went down the hill from Jerusalem into Bethlehem – riding a horse. He said, “I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, – close to the spot where Jesus was born.
The whole church was singing hour after hour splendid hymns of praise to God, it was as if I could hear angelic voices telling each other of the Wonderful Night of our dear Savior’s birth.”
Two years later, in 1867, this Pastor, Phillips Brooks, put his pen to paper and wrote a very special, and very biblical song that we often hear during the Christmas Season. He wrote these glorious words:

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Those verses declare the heart of Christmas. It is a time of celebration, a time of salvation and a time of quiet contemplation.

We have been investing these early Autumn weeks worshiping God through the Old Testament prophet Micah, who lived about 700 years before Christmas. Micah’s book is a book of WORSHIP – even the prophet’s name suggests worship. The name “Micah” means, “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”, and then every chapter in the book talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him!
And we have been learning over and over again that this God who is worthy of our worship is a God of JUSTICE which authorizes His JUDGMENT and provides means for His GRACE.
So with that backdrop in place, let’s look at the fifth chapter of Micah, & see what it says about a promise God’s people had been waiting for. Listen to God’s Word from Micah 5:1-15…. —-
1 Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us. They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”…
… 10 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will destroy your horses from among you and demolish your chariots.
11 I will destroy the cities of your land and tear down all your strongholds.
12 I will destroy your witchcraft and you will no longer cast spells. 13 I will destroy your idols and your sacred stones from among you; you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands. 14 I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles when I demolish your cities. 15 I will take vengeance in anger and wrath on the nations that have not obeyed me.”

The prophet Micah put his pen to papyrus and wrote about this little town of Bethlehem. In just a few brief words, Micah tells the story of a very special town. Though his words may be brief, they contain a wealth of spiritual truth.
The Story of Bethlehem is a special story that needs to be told and retold. Especially in these trying times in which we live. We are living in a day when the real story of the birth of Jesus is lost amid the trees, the decorations, the shopping, and the controversy about appropriate “holiday greetings”. And, yes, I know there are still 74 shopping days till Christmas – for Micah there was still 700 years before Christmas!
And The story of Christmas is also a story of a little town, a town of Bethlehem.

And the Story of Bethlehem is the Story of a Place. When Micah writes of Bethlehem, he writes about a little town that is destined to produce great things.
While Bethlehem may have been a tiny rural village in the country of Israel, it had a colorful past and a brilliant future.

When we think of Bethlehem, we often only remember that it was the birthplace of Jesus, our Lord. But, within the history of this little town, there is a wealth of spiritual truth.
The town of Bethlehem is only five miles south of the great capital city of Jerusalem.
Bethlehem is first mentioned outside of the Scriptures in a historical letter from one of the kings of Palestine to an Egyptian Pharaoh in 1250 BC (that is only 25 years after Moses died!). This would have been during the time of the Judges, shortly after Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and moved the Israelite people into the Promised Land. Bethlehem was already in existence before Israel became a nation.

The name “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread”. Micah also calls it by another name “Ephrathah”. Which is an older name for the city, and means “Place of Fruitfulness”. Bethlehem, the Place of Fruitfulness, and the House of Bread.
How fitting that Jesus should be born in Bethlehem! For He is the true bread – “The Bread of Life” that takes away the sin of the world. And His blood fills the cup of the new covenant, the cup of redemption, the fruit of the vine.

Bethlehem is first mentioned in Scripture in Genesis, the first book of the Bible (Gen. 35:16-20). When Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, and his family are journeying home to Canaan (about 400 years before Moses), Rachel goes into labor and gives birth to a son; but Rachel dies in childbirth, and as she is dying, she calls her son’s name “Benoni”, which means “Son of my sorrow”. And Jacob’s wife Rachel was buried just outside of Bethlehem. Jacob changed his son’s name from Benoni to “Benjamin”, which means the “Son of my strong right hand”.

So Bethlehem is initially associated with sorrow and death, but was transformed prophetically into a place that seats the son of my right hand.
Jesus, too, can take a place associated with grief and suffering and transform it into a place of strength and glory.

Jesus was called by the Prophet Isaiah “a Man of Sorrows” (Isa. 53:1-3). The One Who created the universe had nowhere to lay His head (Matt. 8:20). The One Who left Heaven to come and die was rejected by the those He came to reach (John 1:11). He knew pain; He knew sorrow; and in the end, He knew death – on the cross (Isa. 53:4-6; and all four Gospels).
Jesus is our “Benoni”! He is the “Son of My Sorrow”! But he is also the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, The Son of God’s Right Hand.

The beautiful story of Ruth also transpired in the town of Bethlehem. It was in Bethlehem that Ruth found redemption from her pain and from her past. She found grace, she found mercy, love, and acceptance. She found restoration, hope, family and a future – all in that place called Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is the birth place of David, the shepherd-boy who became the greatest King Israel has ever known. It was a drink from the well in Bethlehem that refreshed David’s soul during a day of battle (II Sam. 23:14-16).
And, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a spiritual well was given to us all. Everyone who drinks from this well, from this living water, will find that they will thirst no more; their thirst is quenched for all eternity (John 6:35; John 7:37-38).

Bethlehem was the focus of an amazing prophecy by the prophet Micah. And that prophecy is the focus of our text today.
Bethlehem witnessed the most amazing miracle the world has ever seen. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, God in flesh came into the world and was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-20). Bethlehem was where the wise men found the Christ Child and offered Him not only their gifts but their worship (Matt. 2:1-12), for He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Yes, Bethlehem is a story of a place. But, it is also a story of a promise. The words from the Old Testament proclaim “From you (Bethlehem) shall come forth for me …. one who is to rule Israel”! These words tell us that God has a glorious plan for humanity. And this little town of Bethlehem is a part of His plan.

When mankind turned from God in Eden, God gave humanity the first glimpse of this promised plan. He told Adam and Eve that a Redeemer would be born (Gen. 3:15). And as the years went by, more and more of God’s plan was revealed. When God saved His people from their bondage in Egypt by the blood of a Lamb (Ex. 12), He revealed a little more of His plan.
When He gave them Manna in the wilderness and brought water from the rock, He revealed a little more of His plan.
When He gave Israel the Law and the sacrificial ceremonies, He was revealing more of His plan.
Every aspect of the Tabernacle, the priesthood and the sacrifices revealed more and more of God’s plan.

Through the mouths of the prophets God gave insight into His plan. When Isaiah wrote about a virgin birth (Isa. 7:14), he was writing about this promised plan. Then the prophet Micah revealed the birth place of the Messiah – He shared where the King would be born – He proclaimed that the One Who would fulfill the promise would come from the little town of Bethlehem.
This glorious plan involved God becoming a human being, one of us. It involved Him going to the cross to die for the sins of the world.
His plan called for our Lord’s resurrection and for his Ascension. And it involves Him coming again — Returning in glory to rule and to reign on this earth. The Micah 5:2 promise is fulfilled in JESUS. But Micah 5:10-15 won’t be fulfilled until Jesus RETURNS!

It is a plan designed with you and me in mind! The prophet Micah closes this prophecy with these words concerning the Christ: “Whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” These words reveal the truth that this One Who would be born in Bethlehem (in 700 more years) was no ordinary Man.
The Prophet Micah tells us that while He may be coming out of Bethlehem, He is eternal! He may be born in Bethlehem, but His beginning is not there. He is Eternal. Jesus is eternal and He is in our midst this very day.
For where two or three are gathered together in His name, Jesus is in their midst. Jesus is in our midst – He is with us this day. Do you feel Him? Can you tell He is here?

The story of Bethlehem is a story of a miracle. The miracle of Bethlehem is that God became man. He did not stop being God! He merely “added” humanity to His deity. Theologians call this “The Hypostatic Union”. Miraculously, God placed Himself within Mary’s womb. Some nine months later Mary gave birth to a Son. And when she looked into the face of her little boy, she was looking into the face of God. God in human flesh!
We cannot fully comprehend the incarnation of our Jesus. He was Fully God, yet, He was fully human. He was as much God as if He had never been a man. And, He was as much man as if He had never been God! Yet he was both!
Jesus experienced humanity in its fullness — He suffered, He was hungry, thirsty, He knew loneliness, He knew grief, He grew weary, slept, wept, was rejected, and He died. Yet, while He was absolutely human, He lived His entire life sinless!
Jesus came to this earth because He loves you and He gave His life as a ransom for you. He came to offer you salvation.

The very end of this chapter says something about God taking “vengeance in anger and wrath”. While we worship this God who became human, who lived and suffered and died, for you and me – the reason this was necessary is because He is also a God of justice. You know how the meaning of words sometimes change over time – in Sunday School last week Madeline mentioned how the word “gay” has changed – no longer meaning anything like it used to.
That’s what happened to “vengeance” here. “Vengeance” really means JUSTICE. What Micah is really saying is that God will act justly with people who reject Him and His ways – but He offers Grace through the miracle of Bethlehem.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord …Emmanuel!

Amen and Amen!

Resources: (My biggest thanks to J. Jeffrey Smead for his Advent message last year)
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 487.

Smead, J. Jeffrey; “O’ Little Town of Bethlehem”; Epiphany Anglican Fellowship; Ligonier, PA; December 2013.

Micah 1 – “Will Peace Come in the Mourning”

Mark Wheeler
September 14, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Micah 1
Will Peace Come in the Mourning?

God of awesome majesty, silence in us each false word and turn our lives to Your obedience, so that every word on our lips may bring honor to Your name, and our very lives may be a holy and acceptable gift to You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Doesn’t it feel good to be back in the groove of the program year? For some it means their entire lives get re-scheduled – school work and all; for others it means planning commute time differently; and for others it means a new routine for monthly meetings and weekly get-togethers. Here at LPC it means monthly fellowship opportunities and outreach groups are back in action (Breakfast Club and Livewires and Lighthouse Circle, for example), choirs get to plan for regular rehearsals and performances (Chancel Choir and Praise Team and Just-for-Fun), Bible Study groups rededicate (midweek and Sunday School).
It also means we look together at pieces of Scripture that we might choose to ignore if we didn’t have each other to read with. So this Fall, as we start our new Program Year, our Sunday mornings will explore God’s Word from a couple Old Testament prophets. We start with Micah.

Today I want to give you an overview of the whole book (7 chapters, about 6 pages in most Bibles), and then hear some main points from chapter 1.

This background might sound like boring minutia, but hear it out and you’ll see how vitally it effects our understanding of the book.
First, who is this prophet Micah? He’s a small town man, from Moresheth, whom God called to proclaim His word to the people of the big city of Jerusalem.
Second, when did this Micah live? He lived during the time just after the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken captive/sent into exile by Assyria, 120 years before the southern kingdom of Judah was captured by Babylon. Around 725BC to 680BC. This is important because God’s Word, which is for all people of all time, was written in the context of actual history with actual people during actual historical events. We learn from this that the Old Testament prophet Micah lived in a DIVIDED world – the powerful against the weak, the wealthy against the poor, and the people of God against God Himself!
Third, the name of this prophet describes the book’s most major theme. The name “Micah” means “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”. In the whole book, every chapter talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him! While the local Philistines had their own gods whom the people of God had started worshiping, and the Assyrians from the east had their own gods, and the Babylonians who would conquer Judah in a number of decades had their own gods – none of them compared to Yahweh, the God of the Jews, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! Yahweh is God of the WHOLE world! – of the entire universe! There is nothing like Him!
Fourth, what are ways this main theme gets talked about? There are actually three ways this uniquely powerful and loving God displays His God-ness: Micah wants his hearers (and readers) to know that God is a God of JUSTICE! God is a God of JUDGMENT! And, God is a God of GRACE!

So with that overview in mind, let’s look at the first chapter of Micah, & see what it says about what causes God’s judgment, and whether peace can ever be the result of the hardships we find ourselves in. Listen to God’s Word from Micah 1:1-16…. —-
1 The Word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
2 Hear, you peoples, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it,
that the Sovereign LORD may bear witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.
3 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth.
4 The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope.
5 All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the people of Israel.
What is Jacob’s transgression? Is it not Samaria?
What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem? …
… 16 Shave your head in mourning for the children in whom you delight;
make yourself as bald as the vulture, for they will go from you into exile.

The prophet Micah summons the image of a vulture, some translations say “the bald eagle” as a symbol of a people! How fascinating that when Micah looked for something visible that would carry God’s message to Judah, he pointed to a large and powerful bird that had no feathers in its cap. And since in the ancient world, a shaved head showed grief, this bird’s baldness signaled a nation that would grieve, a people that would mourn. “Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair for your pampered children; make yourselves as bald as the vulture or the eagle, for they have gone from you into exile.”
Look at the old bald eagle, said Micah; look at his uncovered head. What a picture of loss! Your very symbol of power becomes for you a portrait of pain and powerlessness. The nation is under judgment. Grieve for it. A conqueror will take you away. Mourn for all of that.

Two questions this morning. One: If there is to be judgment, why? What is it that causes God’s judgment? What is it that would bring about the collapse of a great people?
And, two: what about this conqueror? Who or what might he be? Is this to be the leader of another nation, with superior military power? Is this conqueror to be a visionary with a new way of thinking? Just who or what is coming to take over the bald-eagle people?

First, what had the nation done that it should mourn like the bald eagle? What is so severe that they would bring about the collapse of a great people? Micah is confident that painful days are on the way for the people of Judah.
These things Micah will deal with over the course of his entire prophecy. He will go into excruciating detail about some of them. But the great high water mark of Micah’s prophecy gives us all we need to understand the reasons for God’s judgment. Micah 6:8 tells us: “He has told you … what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.
The judgment was to come on Judah because, first, she ignored justice; because, second, she was skeptical of kindness and compassion; and because, finally, she left God out of the equation. Judah was headed for a state of collapse – economic, moral, and spiritual collapse. Judah was going to look like a bald vulture, still flying around but showing signs of mourning.
On your Sermon Notes page it asks, “What causes God’s judgment?” And the answer is SIN. The sin that Micah describes for the nation of Judah where Jerusalem was the capitol was that they did not love their neighbors as themselves (justice and kindness), and they did not love the Lord their God with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind, and all their strength (walk humbly with God).

In this 21st Century, I tremble not for ancient Judah, but for my own country. I tremble for America. For we are going through a period of financial uncertainty, and those who will pay the price of it are not the stock speculators or the oil barons. Those who will pay the price of our troubled economy are those who are already on the margins, those who can barely eke out an existence day by day. We are hearing too many stories of people who must compromise nutrition for their children because they can no longer afford proper food. We are reading of homes foreclosed and families evicted because jobs have dried up. I do not have answers to these dilemmas; I am not an economist. But I do know that a land that lives on injustice cannot last long. I do know that those who prey on the dreams of the poor are undermining the nation. Bald eagle America, are we experiencing an economic collapse?
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness …?” I tremble for a nation verging on moral collapse. A society where dishonesty and greed are so much the norm that a man who finds a diamond ring worth $40,000 and turns it in is reported as if he were a freak. When kindness and common decency are laughed at, we are on the way to full-scale moral collapse. And then, Bald Eagle America, what do we do and where do we go? I tremble for my country if we no longer love kindness.
And most of all, I think I am ready to point to the bald eagle as our symbol, for fewer and fewer of us walk humbly with our God. Fewer of us understand that we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We no longer quake at the thought that a just God will judge us; we want only a nice, sweet, grandfatherly God who pampers us in our little indulgences. We do not want to hear Micah, trumpeting a God who will hold us accountable. We want a bland and generous God who really cares very little about how we live, a God who will give everybody, whether they acknowledge Christ Jesus or not, a nice retirement package in a golden heaven, presumably equipped with sandy beaches and golf courses where we always get a hole-in-one! We are a people who, if the surveys are to be believed, overwhelmingly say that we believe in God, but who refuse to understand that we are to walk with Him, pray to Him, live in and with Him, and live lives worthy of His name! Nor, for that matter, do many want a church that speaks God’s truth and holds out Jesus’ way of life. We want churches that demand little but attendance, and make us feel good but teach little of substance. We are on the way to spiritual collapse.
Economic collapse, moral collapse, and spiritual collapse. Micah is speaking directly to Judah in 700BC, but is he not also speaking to US in 2014AD?! “Mourn for the collapse of your nation. Mourn for the disrepair of your country.” “Make yourselves as bald as the eagle.” And mourn! What does the Lord require but justice and kindness and a humble walk with God? These things we are throwing away, and we will suffer for it.

But, will peace come in the Mourning? Micah also speaks also of a Conqueror who will come to Judah. Part of his warning is that God will send someone who will take them over. Who might that be?
Well, when Micah was preaching, it could have been Assyria. The Assyrians had already conquered the Kingdom of Israel in the north. But in the end, more than 100 years after Micah’s preaching, it turned out to be the Babylonians. Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar was the raging beast that gobbled up the Assyrians and then they conquered Judah.

That’s Judah and her conqueror. What of us? What of America? Who will conquer us? Is God preparing a conqueror for us, as He did for Judah?
Are we to be conquered by the armed forces of another nation? That may seem preposterous right now, when America is the world’s only superpower. But you can bet that ISIS has got President Obama a little nervous right now. It could happen. We did just commemorate 9/11 last Thursday!
Or will our conquest be more subtle? Will it be that no outside force will be so dangerous as our inside forces? Will it be that conquest will come from our abandoning God’s requirements? Will the conquest come from within as we ignore justice, discount compassion, and make a mockery of true faith? Are the seeds of our conquest already sown in our failing economy, our moral misjudgments, and our spiritual anemia?
I know today that I sound impossibly prudish. To call for personal integrity, to summon us to treat all people with dignity, of whatever race or standing or opinion, is to take a stand in quicksand. To ask for respectful language, to work for faithfulness in marriage, to point out the evils of alcohol and marijuana is a struggle that no 21st century prophet will easily win. But God told Micah to call the people to kindness and mercy and integrity; how can we today do any less?
And I know that today it is no longer fashionable to utter the clear word of the Scripture, that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; that outside of Him there is no hope; and that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved. I know that the politically correct thing is to be vaguely spiritual in some non-committal way.
But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Israel and Judah; the God of Micah the prophet and David the King and Solomon the Wise; most of all, the God of Jesus of Nazareth permits no rivals and allows no imposters. Who is like Yahweh? He is God, and there is no other. If we do not take that message to a truth-starved world, then we have lost it all. We are conquered. Not by outside forces, but by our own reluctance to stand and be counted. Are we like bald vultures?

Will Peace, even Joy, Come in the Mourning?
Here is the Good News: Here is the wonderful Good News: Our God has already sent a Conqueror. Our God has already invaded us, and has sent us one who will conquer our hearts as well as our possessions and our bodies. Our God has already come among us in power, and has already gained victory over everything that threatens us.
Our God has sent a Conqueror, the Captain of our souls, who climbed Mount Calvary, and in His sacrificial death paved the way. We learn from Jesus the cost of our salvation and we see in Him the way to love.
Our God has sent a Conqueror, who in His glorious resurrection has defeated death and has destroyed the powers of evil. Our God has sent a Conqueror who has showed us more than justice, whose compassions fail not, and who has taken captive our very hearts.
For though we deserve to die, He gives life. Though we feel grief, He gives a reason to hope. He is a Conqueror, though not like any other. “For not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums; with deeds of love and mercy the heavenly Kingdom comes.” (from Lead On, O King Eternal)

Will Peace Come in the Mourning? May our sign no longer be the Bald Vulture, the raptor that signals mourning for a failing people. May our sign be the dove of peace, descending around the cross. The dove of Christ’s peace, doled out in justice, love, and presence. The Dove of Baptism which signals each of us as called by God to stand tall. Come. Come and find peace, even in the mourning. Amen.

Resources: (with special thanks and credit to Joseph Smith [cf below] for his insight and illustrations)
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 464.

Smith, Joseph; “The Bald Eagle”; Takoma Park Baptist Church; Washington, DC; July 6, 2008.

Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary 32; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 4-23.