Sunday, May 20, 2018

Every Blessing!

And I Will Bless Them
(Numbers 6:22-27, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, May 20, 2018)

[22] The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [23] “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
[24] The LORD bless you and keep you;
[25] the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
[26] the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
[27] “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

The Command

3500 years ago Yahweh, the I-AM of heaven and earth, gave a command to Moses regarding words that were to be spoken through weak, sinful priests, Aaron and His sons, over the Lord's people, Israel. Priests were mediators between God and His chosen ones. They lifted up the prayers of sinful people to the Almighty together with their sacrificial offerings and spoke grace from God to unworthy mortal men and women.

The Blessing

The content of this blessing was three-fold. First, “The LORD bless you and keep you.” Yahweh, Jehovah, I-AM-WHO-I-AM, is the only true God in a fallen world of clean and unclean angelic spirits, lawful and presumptuous human authorities, false idols that men wrongly cling to and serve, and needy people wanting power for living. He is the author of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). These all come “from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” He is the One—the only. We need Him, not He us.

Blessing” is a verb and a noun, an authorized activity of the priests and a desired result upon Israel with specific content. In Leviticus 26:3 God says to Israel, “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them,” then I will “bless” and “keep” (guard) you. These blessings included rain, food, military security, safety from wild beasts, victory over adversaries, population increase, and especially as God says in Leviticus 26:13, “I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” In the New Testament we are instructed about the preeminence of this final point in 1 Timothy 6:6-10, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” These two passages help us to understand the content of the blessings that were to be spoken over the people: Godliness with contentment.

Second, amplifying this importance of God's presence, the priest was to say, “The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.” The Son of God has always been the visible “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). In the “fullness of time, God sent forth His Son” (Galatians 4:4). Now the church has this experience of “seeing” God in Christ with the eyes of our hearts as He is presented in the Word, “and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). “For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Importantly, the Old Testament priests were to speak words of hope beyond the “if” of the conditional blessing of Leviticus 26 and the inability of ancient Israel to keep the Promised Land. We don't do well with “if,” but Aaron and his sons were to speak these words, “be gracious to you” about a life that would flow from the achievement of the One who would be the very face of God to us, Jesus our Savior. He gives grace to those who turn to Him for His steadfast love. Remember the story Jesus told about the two men praying, and find yourself saying along with the second man “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). This is the only way to have forgiveness, or as Jesus puts it, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.”

Third, note the end result of pure grace from God for the undeserving, “The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” God's plan for Israel was for something far greater than the “peace” which is the absence of conflict. The word is “shalom” and it means wholeness and fullness that can only find its highest and best expression in the resurrection. Such shalom requires the coming of the Man who became the countenance of God in the midst of Israel, living according to God's Law, and especially the Law of perfect Love, and then dying the death required by holy justice. Shalom required the cross, but it also needed the resurrection. It is the power of our risen and ascended Lord which fills us with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

The Name

Leviticus 9:22 records Aaron's posture when he gave this blessing: “Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them.” We are told in Numbers 6 that this act was a way of putting God's holy Name upon the people. The raising up of the hands over a group of people is equivalent to laying hands on each individual with the intention of blessing. With this in mind, many New Testament passages come to mind to help us to think about this ancient practice today for our lives as followers of Jesus Chist as those who have the Name of God on us and belong to the Lord in a very intimate way.

2 Corinthians 13:14 has the three-fold pattern, but now explicitly using the three persons of the Trinity: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” In Matthew 19:13-15 we read that Jesus touched the little ones with His hands and prayed for them. Especially in Matthew 28:19 we have the connection between the singular “Name” and the three-fold blessing, “baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 2:39 Peter connects baptism with the promise to Abraham, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Finally in Luke 24:50 the ascending Jesus “lifting up His hands he blessed them.”

For all who call upon the Name of the Lord, God's Word of blessing rightly administered is mighty upon His chosen flock. As He has said to true Israel, “I will bless them.” The church throughout the world has received the blessing of our ascended Lord, a better priest than Aaron. We have been marked in baptism with the Name above all names, and we have become agents of the Lord's benediction upon the true people of God. How should we respond to this great divine blessing? Bless, and do not curse, by the presence of the risen Christ within you (Romans 12:14 and James 3:10). 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

How Can We Achieve Confidence and Faithfulness?

The King and His Word of Hope
(1 Chronicles 28, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, May 13, 2018)

[1] David assembled at Jerusalem all the officials of Israel, the officials of the tribes, the officers of the divisions that served the king, the commanders of thousands, the commanders of hundreds, the stewards of all the property and livestock of the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the mighty men and all the seasoned warriors. [2] Then King David rose to his feet and said: “Hear me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD and for the footstool of our God, and I made preparations for building. [3] But God said to me, ‘You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood.’ [4] Yet the LORD God of Israel chose me from all my father's house to be king over Israel forever. For he chose Judah as leader, and in the house of Judah my father's house, and among my father's sons he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel. [5] And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons) he has chosen Solomon my son to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. [6] He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. [7] I will establish his kingdom forever if he continues strong in keeping my commandments and my rules, as he is today.’ [8] Now therefore in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the LORD, and in the hearing of our God, observe and seek out all the commandments of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you forever.

[9] “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. [10] Be careful now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it.”

[11] Then David gave Solomon his son the plan of the vestibule of the temple, and of its houses, its treasuries, its upper rooms, and its inner chambers, and of the room for the mercy seat; [12] and the plan of all that he had in mind for the courts of the house of the LORD, all the surrounding chambers, the treasuries of the house of God, and the treasuries for dedicated gifts; [13] for the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, and all the work of the service in the house of the LORD; for all the vessels for the service in the house of the LORD, [14] the weight of gold for all golden vessels for each service, the weight of silver vessels for each service, [15] the weight of the golden lampstands and their lamps, the weight of gold for each lampstand and its lamps, the weight of silver for a lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each lampstand in the service, [16] the weight of gold for each table for the showbread, the silver for the silver tables, [17] and pure gold for the forks, the basins and the cups; for the golden bowls and the weight of each; for the silver bowls and the weight of each; [18] for the altar of incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the LORD. [19] “All this he made clear to me in writing from the hand of the LORD, all the work to be done according to the plan.”

[20] Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished. [21] And behold the divisions of the priests and the Levites for all the service of the house of God; and with you in all the work will be every willing man who has skill for any kind of service; also the officers and all the people will be wholly at your command.”

David's Word to the Leaders

The king of Israel was not alone in his service of the Lord. David had appointed many individuals to do the work of the kingdom. Now the time had come to gather them together and address them concerning this most important of all duties for the nation—the worship of the Lord.

David had it in his heart to build a permanent structure for God, but the Lord redirected him in his plan. Solomon, David's son, would build the temple. The Lord would be a Father to the great son of David. He would establish the line of David forever.
There was a note of warning in David's remarks. Solomon would have to continue strong in keeping God's commandments. This same condition was upon all of Israel if they hoped to keep the land that the Lord had given to them. The temple, the land, and the stability of the kingdom depended upon the obedience of the king and the children of Israel.

David's Word to His Son

David addressed his son directly in the hearing of the entire assembly. God had chosen Solomon for this great task. The time would soon come for the fulfillment of this work. But Solomon needed to be faithful to the Lord. If the new king turned away from God, the Lord would cast him off forever.

David's address to the leaders of the people came at a great moment in the history of God's kingdom work upon the earth. Yet the plan for the future had a fatal flaw. God required obedience from David's son. How would Solomon measure up according to the Lord's holy standards? How would the nation do in their obligation to keep God's commandments?

The Failure of Men and the Victory of the Almighty

David gave Solomon all the plans for the temple. He had amassed a great amount of silver and gold necessary for the work that needed to be completed. The temple would indeed be built. Solomon would have the help of thousands of chosen people, and the Lord himself would be with him. But how long would Israel be able to keep the temple that Solomon built? How long would the descendants of Jacob be able to stay in the land of Canaan? Within one generation the problem with this covenant arrangement would become painfully obvious. For the facts of Solomon's failure see Nehemiah 13:23-26 and 1 Kings 11:1-11. Regarding his descendants, see the story of Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:9-13). Israel needed a New Covenant based on an obedience that would be more robust than what Solomon supplied. They needed the perfect obedience of a different Son of David. See Hebrews 1:5 about Jesus, “I will be to Him a Father...” (2 Sam. 7:14).

God's kingdom plans were always bigger than the land of Israel (Psalm 95:11). He would build a far greater temple beyond anything that David or Solomon could ever have accomplished. That temple would stand on the holiness and goodness of Jesus. He is the Cornerstone of the church and the sure foundation of a kingdom that will never end.

David called upon Solomon and the leaders of Israel to carefully observe and seek out all of the commandments of the Lord. They were to understand their mission and to do it. He urged them forward with good words of hope for every follower of the Lord to hear: “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.” Yet these men could never have established God's eternal kingdom (Psalm 127:1). A better Servant of the Lord would keep the Law fully and then die for our sins. By His obedience and grace we are called to both confidence and faithfulness. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Sermon Point: Our only secure hope is in a better king than Solomon (Luke 11:31).

Old Testament Reading—Psalm 57 – Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!

Gospel Reading—John 21:1-14 “It is the Lord!”

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Eternal Friend and Neighbor

The King and His Civil Leaders
(1 Chronicles 27, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, May 6, 2018)

[1] This is the number of the people of Israel, the heads of fathers' houses, the commanders of thousands and hundreds, and their officers who served the king in all matters concerning the divisions that came and went, month after month throughout the year, each division numbering 24,000:

[2] Jashobeam the son of Zabdiel was in charge of the first division in the first month; in his division were 24,000. [3] He was a descendant of Perez and was chief of all the commanders. He served for the first month. [4] Dodai the Ahohite was in charge of the division of the second month; in his division were 24,000. [5] The third commander, for the third month, was Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada the chief priest; in his division were 24,000. [6] This is the Benaiah who was a mighty man of the thirty and in command of the thirty; Ammizabad his son was in charge of his division. [7] Asahel the brother of Joab was fourth, for the fourth month, and his son Zebadiah after him; in his division were 24,000. [8] The fifth commander, for the fifth month, was Shamhuth the Izrahite; in his division were 24,000. [9] Sixth, for the sixth month, was Ira, the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite; in his division were 24,000. [10] Seventh, for the seventh month, was Helez the Pelonite, of the sons of Ephraim; in his division were 24,000. [11] Eighth, for the eighth month, was Sibbecai the Hushathite, of the Zerahites; in his division were 24,000. [12] Ninth, for the ninth month, was Abiezer of Anathoth, a Benjaminite; in his division were 24,000. [13] Tenth, for the tenth month, was Maharai of Netophah, of the Zerahites; in his division were 24,000. [14] Eleventh, for the eleventh month, was Benaiah of Pirathon, of the sons of Ephraim; in his division were 24,000. [15] Twelfth, for the twelfth month, was Heldai the Netophathite, of Othniel; in his division were 24,000.

[16] Over the tribes of Israel, for the Reubenites, Eliezer the son of Zichri was chief officer; for the Simeonites, Shephatiah the son of Maacah; [17] for Levi, Hashabiah the son of Kemuel; for Aaron, Zadok; [18] for Judah, Elihu, one of David's brothers; for Issachar, Omri the son of Michael; [19] for Zebulun, Ishmaiah the son of Obadiah; for Naphtali, Jeremoth the son of Azriel; [20] for the Ephraimites, Hoshea the son of Azaziah; for the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joel the son of Pedaiah; [21] for the half-tribe of Manasseh in Gilead, Iddo the son of Zechariah; for Benjamin, Jaasiel the son of Abner; [22] for Dan, Azarel the son of Jeroham. These were the leaders of the tribes of Israel. [23] David did not count those below twenty years of age, for the LORD had promised to make Israel as many as the stars of heaven. [24] Joab the son of Zeruiah began to count, but did not finish. Yet wrath came upon Israel for this, and the number was not entered in the chronicles of King David.

[25] Over the king's treasuries was Azmaveth the son of Adiel; and over the treasuries in the country, in the cities, in the villages, and in the towers, was Jonathan the son of Uzziah; [26] and over those who did the work of the field for tilling the soil was Ezri the son of Chelub; [27] and over the vineyards was Shimei the Ramathite; and over the produce of the vineyards for the wine cellars was Zabdi the Shiphmite. [28] Over the olive and sycamore trees in the Shephelah was Baal-hanan the Gederite; and over the stores of oil was Joash. [29] Over the herds that pastured in Sharon was Shitrai the Sharonite; over the herds in the valleys was Shaphat the son of Adlai. [30] Over the camels was Obil the Ishmaelite; and over the donkeys was Jehdeiah the Meronothite. Over the flocks was Jaziz the Hagrite. [31] All these were stewards of King David's property.

[32] Jonathan, David's uncle, was a counselor, being a man of understanding and a scribe. He and Jehiel the son of Hachmoni attended the king's sons. [33] Ahithophel was the king's counselor, and Hushai the Archite was the king's friend. [34] Ahithophel was succeeded by Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, and Abiathar. Joab was commander of the king's army.

David's military divisions and civil officers

The Lord brought forward men who were willing to serve King David in the battles that Israel faced. There were chosen men at the head of families of ground troops, foot soldiers serving month by month according to the king's direction. There were other men who served as civil leaders. It was in the unauthorized counting of these tribes in the days of David that so much trouble came upon Israel. But this only reinforced the promise that the Lord would make “Israel” as numerous as the stars of heaven.

Stewards of the king's property, advisers, and friends of the king

There were other appointed men throughout the land that served the king. They were managers over David's property and his interests. David also had counselors that played a prominent role in the affairs of God's people and an official “friend” or “neighbor” who stuck with him when so many others were turning away from him. All of these great men of responsibility were necessary for the functioning of the nation of Israel in her prime. The Chronicler's great hope was to see this kingdom reestablished.

Jesus and the kingdoms of this world now

Immediately before Jesus ascended into heaven His disciples asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” He went on to correct their misunderstanding of the the extent of His reign. Their vision of the kingdom was too small. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The rulers and authorities among men and angels exercise their power and influence in the present age, but Jesus is in charge of everything in heaven and on earth. He is working out His grand design using us as His ambassadors and witnesses, and also as ground soldiers in all areas of life according to the gifts and calling that He has given us. As those who live in America, we hold to certain spiritual truths regarding the world: 1. It belongs to the Almighty Creator, Ruler, and Judge. 2. He is the Source of all rights. 3. Underlords who would contradict His Laws may be lawfully and submissively resisted.

Jesus and the kingdom of God now and forever

We would add to this American Declaration of Independence good start three more points regarding this world: 1. It is fading away, while God's kingdom is forever. 2. Jesus is the the King over both this fading world and the new heavens/earth. 3. This God/Man is your friend if you receive Him. He calls you to the high office of King's friend.

The kingdom of Jesus is being established throughout the earth through the proclamation of the gospel. One day our King will come in judgment. He will show forth the fullness of His reign throughout the great extent of the new heavens and earth. Many who have proven to be faithful in even small responsibilities during their brief days of mortality will serve Him in much greater ways when He has fully established His everlasting kingdom. Whether now or in that future Day of the Lord, we serve at the pleasure of the King. Our lives are not our own. We have been bought with a price.

Sermon Point: Our King is in charge of everything. It is our honor to serve in any way He desires. He is our eternal Friend and Neighbor.

Old Testament Reading—Psalm 56 – The present age and the light of life

Gospel Reading—John 20:30-31

[30] Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; [31] but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Our Heavenly Destiny - God's Holy Royal Family

The King and His Gatekeepers
(1 Chronicles 26, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, April 22, 2018)

[1] As for the divisions of the gatekeepers: of the Korahites, Meshelemiah the son of Kore, of the sons of Asaph. [2] And Meshelemiah had sons: Zechariah the firstborn, Jediael the second, Zebadiah the third, Jathniel the fourth, [3] Elam the fifth, Jehohanan the sixth, Eliehoenai the seventh. [4] And Obed-edom had sons: Shemaiah the firstborn, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sachar the fourth, Nethanel the fifth, [5] Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, Peullethai the eighth, for God blessed him. [6] Also to his son Shemaiah were sons born who were rulers in their fathers' houses, for they were men of great ability. [7] The sons of Shemaiah: Othni, Rephael, Obed and Elzabad, whose brothers were able men, Elihu and Semachiah. [8] All these were of the sons of Obed-edom with their sons and brothers, able men qualified for the service; sixty-two of Obed-edom. [9] And Meshelemiah had sons and brothers, able men, eighteen. [10] And Hosah, of the sons of Merari, had sons: Shimri the chief (for though he was not the firstborn, his father made him chief), [11] Hilkiah the second, Tebaliah the third, Zechariah the fourth: all the sons and brothers of Hosah were thirteen.

[12] These divisions of the gatekeepers, corresponding to their chief men, had duties, just as their brothers did, ministering in the house of the LORD. [13] And they cast lots by fathers' houses, small and great alike, for their gates. [14] The lot for the east fell to Shelemiah. They cast lots also for his son Zechariah, a shrewd counselor, and his lot came out for the north. [15] Obed-edom's came out for the south, and to his sons was allotted the gatehouse. [16] For Shuppim and Hosah it came out for the west, at the gate of Shallecheth on the road that goes up. Watch corresponded to watch. [17] On the east there were six each day, on the north four each day, on the south four each day, as well as two and two at the gatehouse. [18] And for the colonnade on the west there were four at the road and two at the colonnade. [19] These were the divisions of the gatekeepers among the Korahites and the sons of Merari.

[20] And of the Levites, Ahijah had charge of the treasuries of the house of God and the treasuries of the dedicated gifts. [21] The sons of Ladan, the sons of the Gershonites belonging to Ladan, the heads of the fathers' houses belonging to Ladan the Gershonite: Jehieli.

[22] The sons of Jehieli, Zetham, and Joel his brother, were in charge of the treasuries of the house of the LORD. [23] Of the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites, and the Uzzielites—[24] and Shebuel the son of Gershom, son of Moses, was chief officer in charge of the treasuries. [25] His brothers: from Eliezer were his son Rehabiah, and his son Jeshaiah, and his son Joram, and his son Zichri, and his son Shelomoth. [26] This Shelomoth and his brothers were in charge of all the treasuries of the dedicated gifts that David the king and the heads of the fathers' houses and the officers of the thousands and the hundreds and the commanders of the army had dedicated. [27] From spoil won in battles they dedicated gifts for the maintenance of the house of the LORD. [28] Also all that Samuel the seer and Saul the son of Kish and Abner the son of Ner and Joab the son of Zeruiah had dedicated—all dedicated gifts were in the care of Shelomoth and his brothers.

[29] Of the Izharites, Chenaniah and his sons were appointed to external duties for Israel, as officers and judges. [30] Of the Hebronites, Hashabiah and his brothers, 1,700 men of ability, had the oversight of Israel westward of the Jordan for all the work of the LORD and for the service of the king. [31] Of the Hebronites, Jerijah was chief of the Hebronites of whatever genealogy or fathers' houses. (In the fortieth year of David's reign search was made and men of great ability among them were found at Jazer in Gilead.) [32] King David appointed him and his brothers, 2,700 men of ability, heads of fathers' houses, to have the oversight of the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of the Manassites for everything pertaining to God and for the affairs of the king.

David and the Gatekeepers, Treasurers, and the Officers and Judges in Charge of External Duties

In First Chronicles 26 and 27 we read of the arrangements David made for the religious and civil order during his lifetime. This week in chapter 26 we will look at the Levites and consider the king and his gatekeepers with a view toward orderly administration in the kingdom of God. When we eventually get to chapter 27 we will hear the names of a second set of leaders for military and other administrative purposes, not from the Levites, but from the other tribes. That will allow us to consider David's care for life beyond the temple which we face now in our relationship with the world outside of the church. God surely cares about all of that too, and Christ is truly Lord of all, but today we look at the administration within the kingdom of God, using David's attention to necessary organization to lead us to similar topics in this life and beyond.

Chapter 26 speaks of gatekeepers and other Levitical officials that kept charge over property. A gatekeeper for the temple precincts of the Lord was a very important position of trust, greeting people who were permitted to be there, but also providing for the security of the temple by being guardians of holiness who were ready to keep out those who were not allowed in (2 Chronicles 23:29). Gatekeepers had the keys to the kingdom of God for that era of divine worship.

Others had their important callings. There would be much in the temple treasuries and among the dedicated gifts of the people of Israel that would have been desirable to thieves. Men were required to guard these valuable items to ensure that they were used for God's purposes and not to enrich corrupt and greedy people. Some of the wealth that had been dedicated to the worship of the God of Israel had come through the free gifts of Israel's leading men. Much was given to Israel through the defeat of her enemies. All of it required the careful oversight of honest men of ability. All these Levites served the king and the king's God.

Jesus, Elders, Shepherding, the Keys of the Kingdom, Deacons, and Everything Else

Jesus has given shepherds to the church. These pastors, teachers, and elders have a responsibility for the spiritual care of all those in the household of God and they guard the gospel and the house of God. The apostles and eventually the elders of the church have been given the “keys of the kingdom” to use in accord with the word of Jesus, the Son of David (Matthew 16:18-19, Matthew 18:15-20, John 20:22-23, Hebrews 13:17). The Lord also has given the church deacons and other trusted leaders who take charge of property, poverty relief, and every other matter by which the light of the kingdom of God shines in a dark world (Acts 6:1-7). The mission and ministry of the church is governed by the Word and Spirit of the King, with the happy consent of the worshipers.

Our Heavenly Destiny – Leaders and Servants in God's Holy Royal Family

Sermon Point: It is a great privilege to be welcomed into eternal glory. (John 1:12-13)
1. The church is not a business looking for customers, but a royal family far beyond our reach. We are saved only by the righteousness and grace of God (Matthew 22:1-14 and Romans 4:5-8). We have a great King over the house of God. Much of His work had to be done by Him alone. We did not help with His cross. We added nothing to the resurrection of Christ. Those saving events happened long before we were born. We are beneficiaries of much hard work that we receive today only as His gift. We are blessed!

2. What will our lives be like in glory? We will have spheres of responsibility and service in eternity (Luke 19:17, 1 Corinthians 6:1-11). Hard to fathom? Of course. How can we prepare? Be filled with the Spirit. Rejoice, give thanks, and serve (Ephesians 5:18-20).

Old Testament Reading—Psalm 54 – He has delivered me from every trouble

Gospel Reading—John 20:19-23 – A job for kingdom gatekeepers: The forgiveness of sins

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Our Heavenly Destiny - God's Musicians

The King and His Musicians
(1 Chronicles 25, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, April 15, 2018)

[1] David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was: [2] Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah, sons of Asaph, under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king. [3] Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the LORD. [4] Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. [5] All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him, for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. [6] They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king. [7] The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the LORD, all who were skillful, was 288. [8] And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike.

[9] The first lot fell for Asaph to Joseph; the second to Gedaliah, to him and his brothers and his sons, twelve; [10] the third to Zaccur, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [11] the fourth to Izri, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [12] the fifth to Nethaniah, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [13] the sixth to Bukkiah, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [14] the seventh to Jesharelah, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [15] the eighth to Jeshaiah, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [16] the ninth to Mattaniah, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [17] the tenth to Shimei, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [18] the eleventh to Azarel, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [19] the twelfth to Hashabiah, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [20] to the thirteenth, Shubael, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [21] to the fourteenth, Mattithiah, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [22] to the fifteenth, to Jeremoth, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [23] to the sixteenth, to Hananiah, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [24] to the seventeenth, to Joshbekashah, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [25] to the eighteenth, to Hanani, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [26] to the nineteenth, to Mallothi, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [27] to the twentieth, to Eliathah, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [28] to the twenty-first, to Hothir, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [29] to the twenty-second, to Giddalti, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [30] to the twenty-third, to Mahazioth, his sons and his brothers, twelve; [31] to the twenty-fourth, to Romamti-ezer, his sons and his brothers, twelve.

Learning from David's Preparation for Temple Music

The King's Passionate Priority: The king of Israel, David, was passionate about the worship of the Lord. God had given David a plan for temple life that would go beyond his days. Prior to departing he was putting everything in place so that Solomon could lead the nation well in this central function of humanity. One important part of this worship would be instrumental and choral music under the direction of three families, of Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman, who composed 11 of our 150 psalms in the Bible.

A Ministry of Word and Spirit: We are surprised to learn from our passage that these musicians with their sons and brothers “prophesied,” which tells us that the singing of songs to God was a part of the prophetic ministry. This conclusion is reinforced in one important New Testament passage, Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” When worshipers sing rightly they do so as those who are filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-21).

[Here's another interesting Scriptural truth: Singing is an element of biblical spiritual warfare. Remember how David's music was used to make a harmful spirit depart from Saul? “Saul was refreshed and was well” (1 Samuel 16:23). When Jehoshaphat went out to battle, he sent the Levitical singers out first: “And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, 'Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever'” (2 Chronicles 20:21). The Word of God was spiritually powerful in the mouths of His servants as they thanked Him in life's most difficult moments.]

In 1 Chronicles 25 the playing of instruments was a part of the beautiful ministry set up by David, for the “sons” and “brothers” of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun “prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals.” The content of their songs was also noted, for they “prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the LORD.” Impressive.

An Orderly and Excellent Service to God: These “trained” and “skillful” musicians had a chain of command which began with God (note the casting of lots) and His anointed King and continued through the leadership structure of their clans. Everyone knew that they were “under the order of the king” and the Great I-AM who was the king's God.

Participating in New Testament Resurrection Worship

Why would God make music to be a part of His worship? What is the purpose of music in God's plan, and is it important for our service of Him both now and in eternity? We find the answer in God and in us as His image-bearers. It may help us to go back to creation, since God says in Job 38:7 that “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God (angels) shouted for joy.” Among human beings we read of one “Jubal” in Genesis 4:21 who “was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.” When the Lord wanted Israel to remember essential truths, He gave them the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32. Even more amazing, God also sings. Will you hear His voice? (John 20:16, “Mary”) Zephaniah 3:17 says “He will exult over you with loud singing.”

We have 150 songs in the Bible (Psalms) that we still sing today, but we are not restricted to these since we see other Scriptural songs beyond those 150. In 1 Corinthians 14:15, 26, Paul writes about the composition and singing of new hymns, “I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also,” and a few verses later, “When you come together, each one has a hymn.” That kind of creativity and involvement was not despised, provided that all was done in a decent and orderly way, for God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40).

Our worship now is a step forward from what David was organizing in 1 Chronicles 25. His was a picture of heavenly worship and ours a participation in glorious devotion. We have come “to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant(Hebrews 12:22-24). Jesus, our Priest and King is preparing us for an eternal existence with perfect songs of praise and the most worthy musical endeavors (Revelation 5). Even more impressive.

The best thing that we can do to prepare for that new life is to be filled with the Spirit according to Ephesians 5:15-21. When the days feel “evil,” take a moment to be still and know that the Lord is God (Psalm 46:10). Then do what Paul says:

1. Rejoice in the presence of our heavenly family (even when we are alone),
2. Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of Jesus, and
3. Humbly serve one another out of reverence for Christ.

Sing a new song to the Lord. Here's one I discovered yesterday:

Be Still, and Know

How can I stop the noise?
I hold my ears in pain.
The clashing sound of hate and fear
Soon covers me again.
Be still, be still, and know that I am God.”

How can I stop the blare
Of ignorance and pride?
I hear them marching in the street.
There is no place to hide.
Be still, be still, and know that I am God.”

How can I stop the blast
Of anger, vengeance bold
That fills each day with clashing words
Of hatred loudly told?
Be still, be still, and know that I am God.”

Lord, help me be Your peace
With every word I speak
That they may hear your love and know
The promises You keep.
Be still, be still, and know that I am God.”

And quietly we'll rest.
Your majesty will show
Within the noise we hear your voice,
Be still, be still and know.
Be still, be still, and know that I am God.”

Sharon Fernie, 2018
Sing to MARION S.M.ref, ArthurH. Messiter, 1885, (Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart)

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Our Heavenly Destiny - A Royal Priesthood Without Sin and Death

The King and His Priests
(1 Chronicles 24, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, April 8, 2018)

[1] The divisions of the sons of Aaron were these. The sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. [2] But Nadab and Abihu died before their father and had no children, so Eleazar and Ithamar became the priests. [3] With the help of Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, David organized them according to the appointed duties in their service. [4] Since more chief men were found among the sons of Eleazar than among the sons of Ithamar, they organized them under sixteen heads of fathers' houses of the sons of Eleazar, and eight of the sons of Ithamar. [5] They divided them by lot, all alike, for there were sacred officers and officers of God among both the sons of Eleazar and the sons of Ithamar. [6] And the scribe Shemaiah, the son of Nethanel, a Levite, recorded them in the presence of the king and the princes and Zadok the priest and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar and the heads of the fathers' houses of the priests and of the Levites, one father's house being chosen for Eleazar and one chosen for Ithamar.
[7] The first lot fell to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah, [8] the third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim, [9] the fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin, [10] the seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah, [11] the ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah, [12] the eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim, [13] the thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab, [14] the fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer, [15] the seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Happizzez, [16] the nineteenth to Pethahiah, the twentieth to Jehezkel, [17] the twenty-first to Jachin, the twenty-second to Gamul, [18] the twenty-third to Delaiah, the twenty-fourth to Maaziah. [19] These had as their appointed duty in their service to come into the house of the LORD according to the procedure established for them by Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.
[20] And of the rest of the sons of Levi: of the sons of Amram, Shubael; of the sons of Shubael, Jehdeiah. [21] Of Rehabiah: of the sons of Rehabiah, Isshiah the chief. [22] Of the Izharites, Shelomoth; of the sons of Shelomoth, Jahath. [23] The sons of Hebron: Jeriah the chief, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, Jekameam the fourth. [24] The sons of Uzziel, Micah; of the sons of Micah, Shamir. [25] The brother of Micah, Isshiah; of the sons of Isshiah, Zechariah. [26] The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Jaaziah: Beno. [27] The sons of Merari: of Jaaziah, Beno, Shoham, Zaccur, and Ibri. [28] Of Mahli: Eleazar, who had no sons. [29] Of Kish, the sons of Kish: Jerahmeel. [30] The sons of Mushi: Mahli, Eder, and Jerimoth. These were the sons of the Levites according to their fathers' houses. [31] These also, the head of each father's house and his younger brother alike, cast lots, just as their brothers the sons of Aaron, in the presence of King David, Zadok, Ahimelech, and the heads of fathers' houses of the priests and of the Levites.

The Sons of Aaron—The Priests, their Duties According to the Word of God, and the Support of Leading Chosen Levites – (Numbers 4:16, Luke 1:8-9)

Did the Jews need priests? It is clear from the Bible that they did, but what exactly was a priest back in those days? The priests came before the Lord (Leviticus 24:1-8) and offered up animal and grain sacrifices to God on behalf of the people for their sins (Hebrews 5:1) since the people had no ritual access to God without a priestly mediator.

What was the relationship between King David and the priests in 1000 BC? David knew that sacrifices were very important to the plan of God, so he organized the priests and their helpers, the Levites, in order to make sure that these special Israelites did their jobs. Using a system of casting lots, David made sure that there was a chief man from the priesthood leading all the priestly duties at his appointed times during the year.

What was the agenda of the Chronicler concerning any future king in the line of David and the priests and Levites 500-600 years later? The only change was that there was no king descended from David on the throne, which was a sad fact because they were all subjects of a foreign power. Aside from that, the Chronicler's definition of good order would have been just like David's. He wanted to get the entire Old Testament sacrificial system up and running again and in good order.

A New Resurrection Priesthood – The King/Priest and His Servants

What about us? Do we still need a priest today? Will we need a priest in heaven? The Bible tells us that Jesus is our priest “forever” according to God's solemn oath (Psalm 110:4, Psalm 141:1-2, Hebrews 5:7-10). Jesus became not only our priest but also our King through His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven.

Let's first appreciate the contrast between the Old Testament kings and priests and Jesus. 1. In the time of David and for the next 1000 years, the kings and potential kings were multiple. So were the priests. They were all subject to death, and none of them rose from the grave, so there were plenty of them. 2. The priests offered up sacrifices to God that were unable to do away with sin. They had their purpose, preparing Israel and the world for a new era to come, but the fact that the system of sacrifices had to be repeated year after year told anyone paying attention that they could not take away sin. 3. Finally all the kings and potential kings were sinners. David had very serious sin and he was one of the best. All who sat on his throne in future centuries and all the priests who served in the temple had plenty of there own sin, and they ministered in the midst of a sinful people. In hope, the king and all Israel cried out in prayer.

What about Jesus and the New Testament system that He established? 1. Jesus is our singular priest and king forever. He is “a forerunner on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:20) and “always lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25). 2. The sacrifice that Jesus made of Himself was effectual. There is no better proof of this than the resurrection, but we are also assured that His sacrifice worked because it would never have to be repeated. 3. Jesus was and is sinless. He is a secure hope for all who come to Him, for His Father was well-pleased with Him (Malachi 1:11).

What about our eternal heavenly existence? Do we have a priest even there? Since we are told that Jesus is our priest “forever” we have the continual assurance that comes from knowing that the One who is on our side now will be with us above. The big difference is that we will one day be entirely freed from sin and death ourselves. We talk a lot about sin and grace now, and so we should, but can you imagine what it will be like then in our heavenly home, when all our sin and death are gone forever and the loving plan of our Father in heaven is perfectly established. We “will be priests of God and of Christ, and ... will reign with him” (Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6, 1 Peter 2:5, 9).

Sermon Point: Let us draw near to God and hold fast our confession of faith in Jesus as our royal priest (Hebrews 4:14, 10:21-25, 13:15, Ephesians 2:18, Romans 12:1).

We have someone before the throne of God who intercedes for us. He is like us in our humanity, but He has no sin. We could never find a more merciful, faithful, and holy mediator for our relationship with God than Jesus the Messiah (Hebrews 2:17). He is the secret to a life of worship and service.

Old Testament Reading—Psalm 52 – David, Doeg, and the Priests at Nob

Gospel Reading—John 20:1-10
[1] Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. [2] So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” [3] So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. [4] Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. [5] And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. [6] Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, [7] and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. [8] Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; [9] for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. [10] Then the disciples went back to their homes.