Josiah’s Passover & The Lord’s Supper

This week we wrap up our series Great Is Thy Faithfulness. We’ve taken an overview of the Hebrew Scriptures through the lens of God’s faithfulness. We’ve discovered that Yahweh keeps his promises regardless of what we humans do. We also discovered that our actions affect the way God’s faithfulness impacts us. When we live the life he calls us to then his faithfulness is a blessing. When we live contrary to his faithfulness, our sinful actions have painful consequences. This is what we saw the last two weeks as we looked to the 8th century BC in the prophecies of Hosea and Isaiah. The sin of Israel and Judah will bring painful consequences to the people, but God will remain faithful to heal and to save when they repent.

This week we turn to 2 Kings 22 and look at the story of Josiah. About 100 years after Hosea and Isaiah the 8 year old Josiah became king. Following the wicked reigns of his father and grandfather, Josiah chose not follow in their footsteps. We read that he was much like King David, and today is recognized as the 2nd greatest Davidic king.

All of Jerusalem had forgotten Yahweh. His temple had fallen into disrepair and had become the site of worship for Baal, Asherah, and star worship. Josiah ordered to restore the temple of Yahweh, and during that restoration a copy of the Torah was found (presumably Deuteronomy). Nobody knew about God’s word, or what to do with it. When Josiah heard the Torah read, he ripped his robes and sent his advisors to the prophet Huldah to confirm if what they were reading was true. 

The female prophet told these men that indeed the word of Yahweh was true and the punishment foretold in the Torah was coming. But she also had a word of peace for Josiah because of God’s appreciation for his heart. This destruction would come upon Jerusalem, but because of Josiah’s repentant heart, it would not happen during his lifetime.

Josiah calls all the people of Judah and reads aloud the Torah (as prescribed in Deuteronomy). When the people heard the words of Yahweh, they all pledged themselves to keeping the covenant. All of the idols and instruments of pagan worship were destroyed and removed and Josiah issued this decree:

“Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” – 2 Kings 23:21 NIV

In celebration of the renewed hearts and renewed commitment to Yahweh, the people eat the Passover.

Every Sunday at our gathering, we renew our hearts, we renew our commitment to Yahweh, and we eat the Lord’s Supper, a reapplication of the Passover by Jesus on the night he was betrayed (Mk. 14:16ff).

This week as we gather to worship, let us recommit to the mission and the covenant that Yahweh has made with us. And then let us eat the Passover of Jesus.

Sermon Text for 11/24/19 – 2 Kings 22:1-23:23; Mark 14:16-25

Looking At Ruth And Seeing God

This week we continue our sermon series called Great Is Thy Faithfulness by looking at the character of God revealed to us in the life and actions of widowed pagan foreigner by the name of Ruth. We looked at Ruth in our sermon and our auditorium Bible class back on July 14th. But I think it’s a point that is important enough for us to look at again. But before we look at Ruth, let’s begin by looking at God.

The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 34:6-7 NRSV

The phrase steadfast love is the Hebrew word hesed. It’s how God introduces himself to Moses. It’s the very character of God and can be described as a “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” kind of love. When Moses is reminding the people of God’s covenant with them in Deuteronomy 7, he once again reminds the people that they serve “the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments…” (Deut. 7:9 NRSV) Again…hesed.

Now to the story of Ruth. Naomi has lost her husband, and her sons. She is going to return back from the land of Moab to Bethlehem in Judah to live out her days. She bids farewell to her two daughters-in-law (somewhat successfully) by saying “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me.”  (Ruth 1:8 NIV)

Hopefully the bold words have tipped you off. The Hebrew word there is hesed. Notice that Ruth and Orpah are commended for showing hesed to Naomi and their husbands. Naomi is blessing them by asking Yahweh to do hesed to them as they have already done hesed to her and her sons.

This would be shocking to the original Israelite readers of this short story. The characters that most embody the character traits of Yahweh are not Israelites, nor faithful worshipers of Yahweh, nor wealthy, nor are they males. They are Moabite widowed women. Orpah quickly exits the narrative and we hear from her no more, but Ruth continues to be an example of Yahweh’s hesed through her relationship with Naomi.

Many different applications can be made here. But for now I want us to consider this one point. As we were reminded by the Deuteronomy 7 passage above, a clear example of God’s faithfulness is his hesed. To quote Bobby Valentine, “[Hesed] is the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the ’Jesus Creed.’” We discussed that last week. Sometimes God’s hesed is brought to us through our neighbor’s actions and faithfulness toward us and others. And we too are called to bring that hesed to others through our actions and relationships. 

When we look at the faithfulness Ruth shows Naomi, we begin to see a glimpse of the faithfulness of our God. To quote Jesus, “Go and do likewise.” (Lk. 10:37)

Daily Psalms – Psalm 146

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 146-150

Psalm 146 is one of my favorites. As the psalter comes to a close today, we are reminded of many important beliefs and practices through these praise psalms.

I attended a funeral service yesterday that was life changing for all who were present. It was a celebration of a Christ-centered life well lived. As I read this psalm this morning I couldn’t help but recall all of these themes from yesterday’s service.

I will praise the LORD all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Psalm 146:2 NIV

We are called to praise our God as long as we live, no matter what life holds. In the good times and the bad, in joy and sorrow, in health and in death, we are to praise God!

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Psalm 146:3-4 NIV

Life is short. We are all from dust and to dust return. Nothing in this life lasts, therefore our trust should be in God alone.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.

Psalm 146:6 NIV

This is difficult to remember at times. When chaos seems to affect our lives it’s difficult to remember God is faithful. Yet he always has, and always will be faithful and we are called to join him in this faithfulness. No matter what life hands, no matter how much hurt or pain or destruction comes in this life, God is faithful. We are called to be faithful as he is faithful.

The LORD watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Psalm 146:9 NIV

This is a key theme throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. God is one who looks after the widow, orphan, and foreigner. We are called to do the same. God is compassionate and cares for those in need. We are called to do the same.

Today I am thankful for who God is and for what he has done. Though I don’t always understand why things work out the way they do, he is sovereign and faithful. He loves the sinners and abhors the sin. He cares for the needy and those whom society has forgotten. He is faithful forever, and loves us in spite of our faults. And he calls us to be just like him. And for that we praise the LORD.

Daily Psalms – Psalm 106

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 106-110

Psalm 106, in many ways, is the “other side” of Psalm 105. Where 105 calls us to recount the blessings that God has given us, Psalm 106 calls us to acknowledge our sins by telling the story of our failures.

We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
    we have done wrong and acted wickedly.

Psalm 106:6 NIV

While harm can come from ruminating on our failures, acknowledging them in recognition of God’s grace is important. Here the Psalmist starts with praise (v. 1-3), petition (v. 4-5), confession (v. 6), and then begins the story.

The first episode recounts God’s salvation. Even though Israel forgot forgot Yahweh, he did not forget them. He saved them out of slavery and defeated the Egyptian army. Israel saw the might of Yahweh and believed! (v. 6-12)

From here the psalmist recounts many of the episodes that led to Israel’s exile. “How did we get here?” This is the confession that the psalmist makes: Yahweh asked us to do these things and time after time we did not. But that’s not the end of the story!

Once again the psalmist returns to the grace of Yahweh, and tells of his goodness, mercy, and future favor.

Many times he delivered them,
    but they were bent on rebellion
    and they wasted away in their sin.
Yet he took note of their distress
    when he heard their cry;
for their sake he remembered his covenant
    and out of his great love he relented.
He caused all who held them captive
    to show them mercy.

Psalm 106:43-46 NIV

How does this captivity come to an end? It isn’t anything that the people do, but the unmerited favor of God. It is God’s faithfulness to his covenant! Our faithlessness does not nullify God’s faithfulness! (Rom. 3:3-4) He is faithful! And because of God’s faithfulness, we have hope in him for salvation!

Save us, LORD our God,
    and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
    and glory in your praise.

Psalm 106:47 NIV

Once again, we end on a petition for rescue, not for our own benefit, but for bringing glory to Yahweh in praise. He alone is our hope. He alone is our salvation. He alone rescues us, and so we give thanks to him in praise.

It is good to tell our story. It is good to remember our past. How did we get here? Where are we going? These questions recall God’s continued blessings and our continued need for them. We must never think we have “arrived” in our walk with God, but always remember, analyze, and adjust our walk as we move forward. Yahweh is good and faithful. Don’t forget this. Live accordingly.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord.

Psalm 106:48 NIV

Daily Psalms – Psalm 77

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 76-80

Today we spend our time reflecting on Psalm 77; a psalm that recounts what God has done for his people, and asks him to move once again on their behalf.

We often believe that faith is blind. It is not.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1 NIV

It is true that faith is in something we cannot see, but that doesn’t mean there is no proof. We may not know where we’re going, but we know how we made it to the present. That’s a bit like what the psalmist is doing here.

Israel knows that God has done great things in the past, and now in their time of need they are pleading with him, and trusting him to move yet again. This is an example of faith in God for the future in light of the past. Faith is not blind.

Most of the stories in the Bible involve God showing his power in order to help his people have faith. Take the life of Jesus for instance. No miracle of Jesus is ever about the miracle, but rather to provide evidence that their faith was warranted. They always point to Jesus’ authority to do whatever he was doing. (See Matthew 9:6)

This psalm begins by pleading with God for help, interspersed with remembering how God interceded in the past (v. 3-6). The end of the psalm reflects on specific ways God moved in the past (v. 16-20). And right in the middle is faith in action: looking toward the future, but evidenced in the past.

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Psalm 77:10-12 NIV

As we wait for God to move powerfully in our lives (as he may very well be doing already), let us keep our faith rooted in his mighty acts of the past. Let us plead for God to do great things now and in the future through his people, and expect nothing short of the great things he has already accomplished through them.

May God be praised now and forever more! Amen.

Daily Psalms – Psalm 45

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 41-45

Today’s psalm reading concludes Book 1 of Psalms (Pss. 1-41) and begins Book 2 (Pss. 42-72). This Book begins by reflecting on hope for the future, and a return to the Temple in Zion. There is also a great deal of Messianic hope in these psalms, which is most obvious in Psalm 45.

Psalm 45 was originally a secular psalm written for a royal wedding between the king of Israel and what is almost certainly a foreign wife (v. 10-12). A flat reading of the text can see the secular roots and leave someone to wonder why a psalm praising an earthly king and his wife are included in the psalter. The reason lies in how it was read and interpreted later.

After the fall of the monarchy in Israel, this psalm came to be understood as a foreshadow of they type of ruler the Messiah would be. This can be clearly seen in Scripture because when the Hebrew writer wants to tell his readers about Jesus, he does so by quoting Psalm 45:6-7. So instead of reading this psalm by focusing on its secular roots, let us look at it the way the Jews, and early Christians read it – as a reflection on the Messiah, whom we believe is Jesus.

Anointing (lit. messiah) language is present in several places in the text. This begins with the lips (understood words) that are anointed with grace (v. 2). The anointed one is clothed in splendor and majesty, and is mighty with a sword (see Rev. 19:11-16). The anointed one will seek truth, humility and justice, just like Yahweh wants his people to do. (Mic. 6:8) The nations will be placed below his feet. (Lk. 20:41-44) He is fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia. (Jn. 19:39)

We understand the Messianic references, but I want us to see how we, followers of Jesus, are viewed in the psalm. We are the royal bride adorned in gold (v. 9). We are called to forsake any other earthly relationship for our Anointed King (v. 10). Our king finds us beautiful, worthy of gifts and favor (v. 11-12). We are adorned with the finest robes and led joyfully into the King’s presence (v. 13-15).

Did you realize that Jesus views you this way? That you are not some stray dog he had mercy on. You are his chosen bride! (Eph 5:22-33, 2 Cor. 11:2, Rev. 19:6-9) No matter your faults, no matter your failures, seek him because he loves you and has chosen you! Even when you were still a mess, he chose you! (Rom. 5:8)

Today, walk with King Jesus and keep your head held high, because you are his chosen one! Tell your story today because all are invited to the wedding banquet of our King.

I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.

Psalm 45:17 NIV

Follow Me

Our final Gospel reading for the year comes from the end of John’s Gospel, chapters 20 & 21. I have always loved the personal touches John includes in this section, including the fact that he was a faster runner than Peter (20:4).

One of the interesting debates surrounding this portion of Scripture has to do with the occasion of the writing of chapter 21. It certainly appears that 20:30-31 is the ending of the Gospel. And yet there’s chapter 21. I could bore you with all of the scholarly arguments back and forth, but the truth of the matter is that all early manuscripts of John contain chapter 21. What does this mean? Chapter 21 was written by John as well. It appears that John completed his Gospel with chapter 20, and was then moved by the Spirit to include one more episode in the life of Jesus, likely for the reason given in 21:22-23. It’s an important story with a message we need today!

If you remember in John 18, we see Peter deny Christ three times around a charcoal fire (see 18:18). This so devastated Peter that it appears he had given up on his ability to follow Christ and had returned to fishing (21:3). Jesus performs yet another fishing miracle among them, a clear signal to Peter about who was talking to him, and the disciples come to shore where they find Jesus cooking breakfast, once again around a charcoal fire (21:9). In a way, Jesus has once again placed Peter at a charcoal fire in an effort to give him another chance. Three times Jesus asks Peter to confirm his love for the Savior. Each time Peter does, and each time Jesus invites Peter to feed his sheep, an expression basically telling Peter to act like the pastor he has been called to be. But Jesus also gives Peter an ominous prediction.

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” – John 21:17-19

Did you notice what just happened? Peter returned to Christ. He has been reinstated, and called to shepherd the flock of believers. As Jesus is calling Peter he basically tells him that the pain and suffering he himself had just endured would also be endured by Peter. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “Peter, you too will be crucified. Now follow me.” And the shocking thing is Peter did. Peter followed him! And in case you are wondering, church history tells us that Peter was crucified, but differently than Jesus. Peter claimed he was unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord, so Peter was crucified hanging upside down from the cross.

Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and follow him. He calls us to die to ourselves and follow him. He calls us to give up everything, including our own lives to follow him. It’s radical. It’s extreme. It’s Jesus. My question is this: What is Jesus calling you to do that you have not done? Is he calling you to change something in your life? Is he calling you to share the Gospel with a friend? What is he calling you to do that you haven’t done?  Just like Peter, if you have denied him or ignored his call, it’s not to late. He will welcome you back, with open arms. But the call remains: Follow me!