Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Choose your man!

Bible Readings

  • Hebrews 11:32-40
  • 2 Samuel 17:8-11, 32-37, 45-51

Introduction 

There was nothing usual about the Philistine, called Goliath, the champion.  He was the go-between for his people who represented them and dictated the terms of engagement:

Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” (1 Samuel 17:8–9, NIV)

This giant was more than nine feet tall. His bronze helmet protected his head.  His upper body was covered with a coat of scaled armour weighing fifty-seven kilograms.  His legs were also protected by bronze armour. In other words the man’s defences gave all the appearance of being impenetrable. He was a one-man army.

He carried a large curved sword across his shoulders. His spear was “like a weaver’s beam”. Its iron head weighed more than 7.5 kilograms. A servant carried a big shield before him, providing complete protection.

Why do we battle?

Some weeks ago I told you of the rugby match between a team of our insignificant school against the champions of the big school.  The pure sight of the size of our opponents made us ask ourselves, “Why are we here?”  “Remember, you do it for your school,” were the words echoing in your ears.  On the pavilion was draped the banner with the embroidered Crest of the school.  That spurred us on.

It was a different story with Israel on the other side of the Elah valley.

This giant shouted with a chilling voice his thunderous words echoing over the valley. Shaking in their boots on the other side were the Israelite army.  Saul and his men were terrified and dismayed.  The Hebrew word used in verse 11 tells us that the voice of the giant made them fall apart.  They were demoralised and scared stiff.

“Why do you come out and line up for battle?” 

Israel’s eyes were on the Philistine giant.  They took their eyes off God.  They wanted to have a king like the other nations, but now that king was terrified, maybe even sitting in the shadow of his tent well behind the battle lines.  So they forgot why they went up for battle.

Goliath distracted them, and they fell for it.  “Are you not the servants of Saul?” (v. 8)  You’re in the same boat as your shaking king, stricken with terror, in distress.

Once again the giant thundered:

“This day I defy the armies of Israel!” (1 Samuel 17:10, NIV)

He scorned and despised God’s armies.  Do you remember the school yards fights where a line was drawn in the sand, and the aggressor would spit on the ground and then tread on it with a turning ankle to send the message, “So I will trample upon you!”  It was only the brave who would dare to overstep that line.

That day in the Valley of Elah the people of Israel with their very eyes saw and with their very ears heard the enemy. They saw him spit on the ground as he drew the line in the sand.

In the Valley of Elah we see the important reality of which the Bible often speaks—the enemies of God and his people.  What we need to understand by faith is that the enemies of God and his people are more terrifying and powerful than even the menacing giant Goliath.

All of us face an enemy, an army of enemies, as real, powerful, and terrifying as Goliath. Death wields its terrible sword and mocks us all. Sin threatens to bring us down. Satan himself seeks whom he may devour.

(Woodhouse, J. (2008). 1 Samuel: Looking for a leader (p. 309). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.)

Paul writes:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)

Peter writes:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, NIV)

Paul further makes this statement,

having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; Christ has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:14–15, NIV)

The only threat which Satan can hold against us is not that we sinned against him; he can only accuse us for what we did against God—but that is what Christ cancelled on the cross, where He made a spectacle of Satan.

My dear friend, are you a Christian?  Are you on the Lord’s side?  Have you left the world’s side? Do you understand that the conflict might be fierce and the foe be strong? Are you sure you want to be the soldier in an alien land?

On what grounds and why have you come to the battle line?  I am not asking; your enemy wants to know.  He wants to scare you, he wants you to turn around and run?

Not for weight or glory, not for crown or palm,

enter we the army, raise the warrior-psalm

but for love that claimeth lives for whom He died

he whom Jesus is calling must be on His side.

Round his standard ranging victory is secure

For his truth unchanging make the triumph sure

If you can not sing this song, the fear of Satan will overcome you; but then the salt has become useless, and it is only good to be trampled upon. Unfortunately many Christian soldiers have put down the armour out of fear; they also believe the deception of those who keep telling them there is not really any war raging; all will be conquered by love! “Peace! Peace!”, while there is no peace—that was the message of the false prophets of all time (Micah 3:5).

Choose your man!

Let me tell you about another hero.  He captures the minds of millions of people, adults and children alike.  He possesses the ability to fly under his own power, incredible strength and near impossibility to be harmed by anyone. His eyes can emit bursts of heat, while vision ranges from the microscopic to the telescopic. His vision is also capable of a broader spectrum than human eyes, able to see x-rays and radio waves. He can hear faint sounds amongst a bustle of noises by concentrating. His lungs are capable of holding air for long periods of time in environments without oxygen, and the ability to compress this air and exhale it in a freezing capacity.

In many ways, he is the most human of us all. But when he shoots fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. After all, he is the protector of Earth, living and working as a normal man. When disaster necessitates it he would tear his normal work clothes off him, only to reveal his true colours.  He is your man in times of need.  You can rely on him. His enemy should not pick a barney with him. And he only does good things. He is the legend, Superman!   Would our enemy stand against him?

Our chapter shifts to a newcomer on the scene.  He was the youngest of his brothers, small in stature, ruddy, but handsome.  His was there on his father’s command.  With him he had roasted grain and bread.  He arrived when Goliath thundered another warning across the valley.  The armies of Saul were shuddering with fear and ran for shelter. He left the proviant with his side-kick and ran closer.  His eldest brother belittled him for even being there, but he did not give up.  In the end he was right in the presence of the king.

“Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” (1 Samuel 17:32, NIV)

Don’t be silly, you need protection;  you need armour.

Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. (1 Samuel 17:36, NIV)

Notice the perspective of David:  no uncircumcised (heathen who oppose God) has the right to disparage the people of God.  God made a promise to Abraham, whomsoever curses him and his descendants, God will curse. (Genesis 12:3)

Goliath regarded the Israelites as the men of Saul; and so did the Israelites. David saw himself as a man belonging to the family of the God of Armies (God of Hosts).

With only five stones from the brook, David approached Goliath and his shield bearer.  The giant despised him.  David saw the spear, the javelin and the shield, but by faith he saw God Almighty and said to the Philistine,

I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (1 Samuel 17:45, NIV)

Don’t mess with Almighty God.

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47, NIV)

David took the initiative; he ran up to the giant. The giant fell because of the stone, and David finished him off with his own sword. There was nothing magical about the stones in his bag; it was not his skilful swinging of the sling; it was God’s power at work.

The man of God’s choosing

Let’s go back to the challenge of Goliath. “Choose your man.”  The Israelites did not even move a finger to do so.  But one chapter back (and we will go there in time) God made a move.

In Bethlehem Ephrathah, the place where also Samuel’s ancestors came from, was a man with eight sons.  God had sent Samuel to him because “I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (16:1)  David was not the eldest, not the tallest, not the smartest—like his father and the others he was insignificant in the big scheme of things.  From the Psalms he wrote, and from his testimony before Saul we understand that his wholeheartedly trusted God.  This is a man of God’s choosing.

And David was a forerunner of our Saviour, the Man of God’s choosing.  Christ was despised and derided, and even Pilate scoffingly presented to Him as “your man” (John 19:5).  With his face marred by blood running from the crown of thorns, and gaping wounds on his back because of the flogging, they mocked Him as king as they hanged a purple robe around Him. Our Lord declared to Pilate, “You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 19:11)

Then they crucified Him.  And so He achieved victory of Satan, sin, hell and death.

Conclusion

You might hear the hellish taunt of Satan when you enter the battle under the banner of Christ, but then you have to tell him boldly, “I chose the Chosen One who forgave me and gave me his righteousness.  I’m not strong, but He is.  Every knee shall bow before Him and acknowledge that He is Lord.  And you, father of the lie, will spend all eternity bound up in the pit. Mess with me, and you have to deal with the Son of God.” You might shiver saying words to this effect, but the Holy Spirit of God will be with you till the end. That’s Christ’s promise.

Have you chosen Him to be your King?

The king is dead; long live the King!

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 15 October 2017

 

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The shipwreck of partial obedience

Scripture Readings

  • 1 Samuel 14:31-45
  • 1 Samuel 15:17-23

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Friends of ours had a hobby farm. They had milking goats .  These animals were fairly expensive.

We arrived for a weekend visit, only to find everyone in pandemonium.  One of the goats was terribly sick, lying on its side with its belly resembling a huge balloon.  Over the telephone the vet had advised that the animal was poisoned by eating a certain plant which blossomed after the good rains.  (These things only happen on a Friday afternoon after hours, don’t they!)  If they wanted to, our friends could puncture the belly to let the air out, but before that could be done, the goat breathed its last and was no more.

The eldest boy of the family had good idea what the plants look like, and on command of his father he set out to chip out everything looking like it and collecting it into a bag.  They could not afford another animal dying.  What was left of the afternoon, and also the Saturday morning, the chipping of the culprit plants continued.

Alas!  That afternoon another goat died with a ballooned belly.  The father asked his son, “Did you chip out all the poisonous plants?” The answer came, “Almost!”

The consequence of almost in this case was death.

Righteousness demands holiness 

For some reason we think we get a score out of ten if we are obedient: 10/10 is admirable, but we sometimes see it as unreasonable; five or six might get us a pass, and we argue that’s good enough.

When it comes to our righteousness before God, nothing less than 10/10 will do.  God is perfect and holy, and He demands perfection and holiness. But, and this is where grace comes in, our saving righteousness can never be our own—to God’s standard we can never attain, but by his mercy and grace God provided our perfect righteousness in Christ.  His score is 10/10 in all possible ways. Who clings to Him by faith, receives his righteousness as if it is their own. “Nothing in may hands I bring, simply to Your Cross I cling; stained by sin, to You I cry: ‘Wash my, Saviour, or I die.’”

God appointed Saul to be the ruler over Israel not based on any inherent goodness, social standing, or leadership qualities; God did so because of grace.  Saul then was supplied everything he needed to rule and guide God’s people.  Do you remember how Samuel gave him the unction and how God confirmed his choice to Saul by having him prophesied with the prophets? The command to Saul was:

But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you. (1 Samuel 12:24, NIV)

Disobedience by presumption

In many ways Saul was a disappointment.  The Bible records his first major failure in 1 Samuel 13.  Instead of waiting for Samuel as the Lord commanded him, out of desperate mistrust in God and fear that his men would leave him weak and vulnerable to the Philistines, he took it upon himself to make the burnt and fellowship offering.  Samuel then said,

“You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, He would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure… ” (1 Samuel 13:13–14, NIV)

We saw last week how Saul was too weak to even attack the Philistines.  His son, Jonathan, with his eyes fixed on God, attacked the “uncircumcised” while God sent them into great confession.  It was probably the earthquake God sent to brought about more panic, that shook Saul out of his stupor—only to then muster his forces for battle.  Although he first thought it a good thing to enquire of the Lord, his assessment of the situation then turned into self-confidence: his enemy was in such a disarray, that he could just pounce on them, with or without the direction of God; he would just go in and knock the enemy over. As far as Saul was concerned, victory was in his hands.

Disobedience by addition

To assure his own glory, Saul added to Word of God.  Taking own control he issued this command:

“Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food. (1 Samuel 14:24, NIV)

The Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under that oath.  He had no right to issue the command.  In his effort to take control, he did not understand that “…the Lord saved Israel”. (1 Samuel 14:23, NIV)

When Jonathan became weak of exhaustion, not knowing of his father’s orders, he found honey and ate of it to recharge his energy.  He regarded his father’s order as unreasonable and reckless, and rightly so.

Dead tired, the army—after the day’s battle—pounced on the plunder and butchered the animals and ate it with the blood.  This disturbed Saul greatly.  “Do not sin against the Lord by eating meat that has blood in it.” (14:24)  Once again, without the intervention of priests, Saul presumed upon the office of the priesthood and built an altar.

Saul’s double standards in this story is dumfounding!  Once one starts to build one’s obedience in one’s own understanding of God’s law, one runs into the trouble of tripping over your own interpretation, and double standards follow!  It’s not good enough to only know about obedience to the Lord—Saul knew of it, but applied it as he thought right.  Obedience is only obedience when we fully go by what God actually commands. We might think we know about right and wrong, but because of our sinful nature we can easily add our own interpretation to right and wrong.  “If you ask me, I cannot see a problem with…” Or, “I don’t think what the Bible says actually means …”  That’s in essence disobedience! That’s to be wise in our own eyes. What I think is of no importance; what God says matter infinitely.

The rest of the story reveals the effect of disobedience by addition.

When Saul then wanted to pursue the enemy through the night, the priest thought it might be a good idea to find out what God thinks about it.  The men were tired, it was dark, and Saul’s ego was blossoming—a good mix for disaster.

Saul asked for God’s direction, but God did not answer him.  The only explanation for this silence was that someone sinned.  Saul interpreted this “sin” as disobeying his order. Once again Saul prayed for a right answer.  Keep in mind, Saul did not pray that God would point out the man who sinned.  What was important was that between the two of them only one actually sinned against the Lord—that’s the matter. He and Jonathan were taken by lot.  When the lot fell on Jonathan, Saul jumped to the conclusion that Jonathan sinned against the Lord by disobeying him!  Saul’s disobedience by addiction—adding to the Word of God—would have demanded the death of his own son—and once again there was no Biblical ground for it.

The rest of Saul’s men understood the lot on Jonathan the other way round.  Jonathan stood behind the success of the army that day, not Saul! He was the culprit.

The church can fall in the same trap as Saul.  Actually, the Roman Church added many traditions to the Word of God, like eating fish on a Friday.  Really? By what authority?  Many thousands of Christians who faithfully obeyed the Lord only according to his revealed will found in the Bible died at the stake because they refused to obey the additions of men to the Bible. Wycliffe died because he dared translate the Bible in English. What a “sin”!

Many a child who grew up in strict, let’s call it fundamentalist, Christian homes, fell from the Christian faith because rules not found in the Scriptures, were imposed on them as “authentic Christianity”.  Children can so easily get confused between man-made morality and godly conduct: when these two oppose one another, both are usually discarded.

Disobedience by omission

In the next chapter we find Saul on a mission against the Amelikites.  God’s command was clear:

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ” (1 Samuel 15:3, NIV)

Why this stern command?  It is all connected to God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants—and therefore God’s church through the ages—that those who curse him, God will curse (Genesis 12:3). While still in the desert the Amelikites, descendants of Esau, attacked God’s people.  Now God, through Saul, would strike them with the curse.

We know what happened.  Saul did attack the Amelikites, but not all of them.  He killed the animals, but not all of them.  His disobedience was by omission:  it was partial obedience.  Agag, the king, was omitted, and the best of the animals were omitted—in Saul’s opinion, the good ones escaped death. He applied his own standard to what was weak and despised, and what was good.  Saul showed himself more merciful than God! He actually thought what God despised would be good enough to sacrifice to God!

He became so arrogant that he erected a monument in his own honour (15:12). What completely escaped his mind were God’s words right in the beginning of the chapter:

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. (1 Samuel 15:1, NIV)

Samuel met Saul with a message from God:

“You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!” (1 Samuel 15:26, NIV)

What was the underlying principle?

To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:22–23, NIV)

Disobedience, whether in the form of presumption, addition or omission, is nothing short of idolatry. Disobedience stands equal with witchcraft.

There is a verse in Revelation which comes to mind:

So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Revelation 3:16, NKJV)

Conclusion

There is not a scale of obedience on which we can score 5/10 or 6/10 and still pass in the sight of God. Like the son of my friend, his “almost” was not good enough; maybe there was just one poisonous plant left which killed the goat.

God demands perfect obedience and perfect holiness.

Let’s go back to the scene in the woods towards that evening when Saul almost killed his own son.  The soldiers then said:

“Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die. (1 Samuel 14:45, NKJV)

God demands perfect righteousness.  Should Jesus die who has accomplished great deliverance?  No! He didn’t deserve death.  But He willing to die and gave his life for sinners.  When He did die, there was no-one to rescue Him.  His Father did not stop to pursue the enemy; He sent his Son to conquer them, but to do so, He had to die.

His obedience is our perfect righteousness.  Salvation is in Him only.

The king is dead; long live the King! Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 1st October 2017

 

Victory, but not by the king

Bible Readings

  • Psalm 2
  • 1 Samuel 13:16-14:14

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The high school I attended was a blip on the radar compared to some city schools.  But we had a very good rugby team.  Spurred on by an enthusiastic local crowd of fellow students, and an even more passionate parent community, we won our fare share of matches and trophies.

One day we faced a strong school which could select their 15 players from hundreds of students; in our case, in that particular age group, everyone had to play to make up the numbers.  The match was a no-brainer considering also the strength of our opponents.

This is where strategy came in.  Our teacher-trainer exploited our physical size:  if we could be quicker in all we do, passed out the ball faster and side-step them quicker, we stood a chance.  But, and this was the clincher, we had to be super fit.

Going down in one of the scrums I got a full boot of the opposite team right on my nose, and almost passed out on the spot.  Suddenly rugby was not my game and I thought to play dead, remained on my back, and waited for the pain police (as we called the first aid team then) to carry me off.  But then I remembered the victory!  There was no-one to replace me.  I swallowed my blood, got up and did my part.  I did’t score any try—I can’t remember ever scoring anything—but our team won! No-one was a hero, the whole team was.

We are not outnumbered 

If what the media tells us is true, Christians are totally outnumbered, and therefore totally outdated.  What is interesting, is that more people find themselves in churches today—in Melbourne only—than there were footy supporters in the MCG yesterday. The sad part however is that a great deal of those who are worshipping today do not believe victory is possible.

Are we indeed outnumbered? We have to say, No!  On what do we base this statement?  Let’s go to the chapter we read in 1 Samuel.

Chapter 13:15 reads, “Saul counted the men who were with him.  They number about six hundred.” Compare that with the “soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (13:5) of the Philistines. It doesn’t paint a bright picture, does it?  Let’s read on.

The Philistines mastered the art of metal extraction and made sure they held the monopoly over it. Should the Israelites need weapons or plow shears, they had to beg the enemy for help.

Verse 22 makes this statement:

So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them. (1 Samuel 13:22)

What a hopeless situation!  Let’s face it, in this regard we are helpless too.

Compared with our enemy we have nothing: they own the mass media like radio, television and news papers. Add to this the new weapons of mass destruction: electronic social media.  Sure, we can use these platforms, we still need their platforms. Already we know that certain posts on like Facebook and Twitter, which are deemed to be politically incorrect, are removed at the leisure of their policymakers. However, many a televangelist clamber for the numbers of followers as they too build electronic, flat-screen churches to gather millions to listen to a message which is not much different from the other side. They preach entertainment, prosperity and achievement is tools of salvation.  We agree with Neil Postman, we are “amusing ourselves to death.”

Another platform of mass destruction in hands of the enemy is music.  One gets the impression the microphone and amplified sound—one can hardly call it music—have become a battlefield for the mind, with millions of casualties in its cemetery. Our young people are killed with beat and destructive lyrics.  The sad state of affairs is that many Christian worship leaders are of the opinion that we should join the swaying crowds in the hope that we might win some, but for as long as we are true to our Saviour and his Word, we are not outnumbered.

One with God is a majority

Jonathan looked at what was to his disposal, and employed that little bit to attack.  He believed that God provided all which was needed to secure the victory.

A self-assured enemy

After Saul retreated from Gilgal, then not even engaging in battle, the vast army of the Philistines went on raiding parties.  One division went north to Ophrah, another went west to Beth Horon, and a third went east towards the Jordan Valley.  This left the basecamp in Michmash on the north side of the gorge between the armies of Saul and the Philistines exposed.  In that moment they were so self-confident about their victory that they had their eyes off the ball.

The terrain

King Saul and the men with him were nowhere to be seen.  As appointed king to subdue the Philistines, we find him subdued.  Filled with fear they were (if we follow the advice of some commentators) hiding in the Pomegranate caves.  Others fled to the eastern side of the Jordan, and others hid themselves in hills of Ephraim to the north. This situation further attributed to the false sense of security of the Philistines.

If we reconstruct Jonathan’s attack it seems that he and his off-sider were monitoring the activities of the Philistines in the basecamp at Michmash.

According to 14:1 a detachment left the basecamp to do a regular assessment over the gorge. They used an rocky outcrop which extended over the edge of the ravine. These occasions might even have served as a show of force, almost like when Goliath was used to scare the Israelites out of action.

The gorge at Michmash was deep and treacherous, but Jonathan and his armour bearer knew the terrain very well.  There was a steep cliff with an outcrop on Jonathan’s side too. He and his armour-bearer established their observation post in the cover in the shadow of this outcrop, while the Philistines each morning paraded themselves in the bright morning sun.  Jonathan observed their movements and, most probably under the cover of darkness before sunset, left their observation post and crossed the gorge to be on the other side at sunset, most probably then under the rocky outcrop.

Armour

We’ve already heard that with Israel there were only two swords available, one Saul had with him while hiding under the cover of the pomegranates, and the other was strapped to the belt of Jonathan’s armour-bearer.  It was not that they had no sword—they had two, or at least one! Would you see that as sufficient?  Would you attack a vast army with only one sword to your disposal?  Keep in mind, the battle was not that of Jonathan.

Almighty God

Jonathan said to his young armour-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6, NIV)

Jonathan looked saw in the Philistines not his personal enemy, but the enemy of God—they were the were “uncircumcised”—a term to refer to all who oppose armies of the living God.

Perhaps” tells us that Jonathan undertood that his actions would only be an instrument in the hands of God.  His faith would not secure the victory; the God whom he believed and trusted would give victory.

The outcome is not based on the number of the army, nor on the number of swords, because “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.

Active trust

Although Jonathan understood that the battle belonged to the Lord, he knew his involvement.  And this is something we must learn from Jonathan.  We don’t need to be strong, intelligent, rich, loaded with money or influence to contribute to the battle; we only need to be available for the battle; our Lord is the Commander-in-Chief.

Jonathan presented himself to the Philistines. Humanly speaking, this was an accident looking for a place to happen.  The plan also looked ludicrous:  going up towards to the enemy; it was not ambushing the enemy unawares.  We sometimes just need to show our stance publicly.

“But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.” (1 Samuel 14:10, NIV)

He did not wait for the enemy to start the battle, but trusted God to be saved initiating the combat on their turf—that’s where he could inflict casualty.  How?  One by one!  It seemed as if Jonathan did not even have in his hands that only sword to his disposal.  With his bare hands he started to pull the Philistines over the cliff, only for his armour-bearer for finish them off.  They killed twenty.

The success of the strategy possibly left the greater contingent of Philistines at Michmash to believe that there was a whole army hidden in the gorge, and they started to panic.  Weakened in number due to the raiding parties which went out, they started to run into one another in confusion.  The news spread to the raiding parties and those in other outposts, and with command and discipline they got stuck into one another.

The Lord of the battle ordained the whole defeat.  For good measure God sent a little earthquake (14:15), which sent total confusion as they started to kill one another (14:20).  When Saul eventually realised what was happening and dared to come out of hiding, he became onlooker of a battle he was too scared to be involved in!  Even the Israelites who earlier hid themselves in caves, and other who crossed the Jordan as they deserted Saul’s army, stood in amazement as the mighty Philistine army imploded.  Don’t you just can’t resist to join a winning battle!

Epilogue 

We might be tempted to lift up Jonathan and his side-kick as the heroes of this victory. Looking back on the Reformation 500 years ago, we might look at Luther as a hero.  Did Luther not say,

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God, except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefront besides, is mere flight and disgrace, if he flinches at that point.”

Did he not speak like a hero when he challenged the mighty Roman Church?

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by clear reasoning that I am in error – for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot recant, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen.”

Some historians thought he was trembling at that point, and could hardly be heard.  No hero!

Over the victory are written these words:

So on that day the Lord saved Israel.  (1 Samuel 14:23, NIV)

Conclusion

When our Lord Jesus Christ took on the battle of all battles on Calvary Hill He disarmed the forces of evil, He did not even need the sword Peter wielded in Gethsemane.  With his life He secured the battle.  That was the turning point in history which after that day was divided between the time B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, the Year of our Lord).

When He rose on the third day to leave the tomb empty He disarmed the powers and authorities of this world and made a spectacle of their commander, the Devil (Colossians 2:15).

In this cosmic battle you and I might feel completely outnumbered and ineffective.  Remember,

“Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6, NIV)

There was victory in Michmash, but not by the king.  There was victory on Calvary, and this victory was by the King! The king is dead; long live the King!  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 24 September 2017

 

When the truth becomes a lie and the lie becomes truth (2)

The Battle for Christian Marriage

Bible Readings

  • Exodus 20:1-17
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Introduction

From about 1715 a movement called The Enlightenment swept across the western world.  Behind about every philosophy stood the idea that man should be free of every form of oppression, where everyone will only work as much as is needed, and be free from about any law—the so-called Utopia.

Manmade freedom

Englishman John Locke introduced the idea that the church should abandon detailed debate about the Christian faith and only say Christ is the Redeemer.

Robert Owen, a do-gooder in search of human happiness and freedom, in 1824 declared:

… that man … has been a slave to a trinity of the most monstrous evils that could be combined to inflict mental and physical evil upon his whole race: private, or individual property — absurd and irrational systems of religion — and marriage, founded on individual property combined with some one of these irrational systems of religion.

(http://www.heavenonearthdocumentary.com/leaders_thinkers.html)

Thomas Paine, the American who had a big impact on the French Revolution, took it further.  He declared that the “Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world…[and] are all fabulous inventions…” He declared: “My own mind is my own church”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Paine)

The ideas of “Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood”, influenced by philosophers like Voltaire and Jean-Jaques Rousseau, fuelled the French Revolution which erupted in 1789.  Rousseau held to the idea of the noble savage, who was free from laws ruling property, morals and money.  He opposed the doctrine of original sin.  According to Rousseau private property led to economic inequality and conflict. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Jacques_Rousseau#Theory_of_Natural_Human )

Voltaire’s opinions “…  ended in a furious assault upon Holy Scripture, the dogmas of the Church, and even upon the person of Jesus Christ Himself, who was depicted now as a degenerate.”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaire#Religious_views)

Private property was not part of Utopian theory.  And keep in mind, Utopians rejected marriage because, according to them, marriage made women mere property of husbands. Include into this children, whose labour was exploited to create inequality; children had to be regarded as collective property of all members of the utopian state.

The table was prepared for a the second major development of mid 1800’s. Two major developments the mid-nineteenth century added to the momentum to reject God and absolute truth.

Evolutionism 

In 1859, Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species.  Darwin initially couldn’t foresee the consequence of his theories, but it surely rocked the foundations of Christians who believed that God created everything in its order, with man being created in the image of God.  A swag of atheist philosophers continued to build out Darwin’s theory and blatantly rejected the existence of God the Creator.

Communism

On 28 August 1844 two men met and formed a friendship which would impact on the history of the world.  Karl Marx and Frederich Engels collaborated and published their philosophies on what became known as Communism.  In 1848 Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, commissioned by the Communist League. The Manifesto stood on the principle that the “haves” always oppress the “have-nots”, and the best way to eliminate class distinction and bring freedom and happiness to all, would be the abolition of private property. They wanted to destroy eternal truths, all religion, all morality, instead of just reconstructing them on a new basis.  When Marx was asked what his objective in life was, he said, “To dethrone God and destroy capitalism.”  Marx declared religion “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”  According to the Communist Confession of Faith, “… communism is that stage of historical development which makes all existing religions superfluous and supersedes them.

In 1859, the same year as Darwin’s Origin of Species,  Marx published his first serious publication, which was followed by three instalments, later known as Das Capital.

When Marx and Engels envisioned to abolish “all rights of inheritance”, it was meant to destroy family rights, and ultimately the family.  Later in Russia a child was considered the property of the state, rather than the family, the state had the right to compel parents to turn over their offspring to specially designed “children’s towns.” Through “free education” for every child in “public schools” the most radical break with traditional relations took place. The 1918 Family Code was introduced in Communist Russia which eliminated the distinction between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” children, using instead the carefully considered wording “children of parents who are not in a registered marriage.” Thus, women could claim child support from men to whom they were not married. De facto relationships were introduced, divorce became easy, and abortion was available on demand.

It would be unfair and incorrect to ascribe all we face today to Marx, Engels and Darwin, but the influence of these men in turning people away from God was enormous.  Many practices in our economic and social life — things we sometimes regard as “natural” and “good” — are nothing but the logical outworking of Marxist socialism and Darwinism.

Foreign ethics

On the scene then appeared Freud with his extraordinary views on sex and sexuality.

Add to this liberal theology which crept into the preaching of the churches. The authority of the Bible was in dispute throughout theological schools in Europe.

Both World Wars had disastrous effects on families.

In the mid 50’s Communism as a political and economic system was failing. Were it not for American money which was poured into the USSR under the Lend-Lease Act, the. Utopia of Marxist economy would have starved to death. World domination through military power took a blow.

The emphasis was directed away from the economics and political theory, and now placed the emphasis alternative ethical ideology.  Tools like psychology, sociology, and Freudian teaching on sexuality were used to formulate ethics and morals.  The goal was the same: to eradicate all resistance to implement a new world order.

With the basis of morals already eroded, universities provided intellectual clout to thinkers like Margaret Sanger, (a vigorous atheist, the mother of abortion in America, and later closely connected to Planned Parenthood), Margaret Mead (she declared that “rigid heterosexuality is a perversion of nature” and she wanted Americans to “come to terms with the… normal human capacity to love members of both sexes.”),  Ruth Benedict (a feminist), Elizabeth Bentley (who later became a Soviet spy), and Herbert Marcuse.

Neo Marxism

The Frankfurt School, with its influence on Colombia University, led the charge for Neo-Marxists. They also targeted the media, Hollywood, publishing houses, the theatre, the arts, and whatever other cultural conveyor belt was at its disposal.

They directed attention on gender roles, marriage, and family, but found obstacles in their way.  For George Lukacs the two greatest obstacles were God and the family.  “The family was not only a receptacle of the continuity in values, but the cement which held society together – and Lukacs hated both God and the family.” (Paul Kengor, Takedown – 

(https://archive.org/stream/Takedown-FromCommunistsToProgressivesHowTheLeftHasSabotagedFamily/Takedown-From-Communists-to-Progressives-Paul-Kengor_djvu.txt)

We now enter the period of the Sexual Revolution.  Wilhelm Reich has the honours for naming this revolution.  Reich insisted that the children of marriage must be freed from the sway of “parental ideas.” This included (in Reich’s words) “defending children’s and teenagers’ right to natural love.” (Paul Kengor, ibid)

Herbert Marcuse stepped into the shoes of Reich and believed that sexual liberation was achieved by exploring new explorations of sexual desires.  He argued that everyone was fundamentally bisexual. Marcuse advocated tolerance, only when it comes to accepting their thinking; people who disliked their ideas were labelled “homophobes”, “bigots”, “haters”. Modern LBTQI individuals see Marcuse as no less than a pioneer to their movement, to whom they are deeply grateful.

In the 60’s, inhaling from this immoral oxygen and expanding on it, radical feminism blossomed.  Kate Millett was a prominent Marxist feminist and declared,

A sexual revolution would require, perhaps first of all, an end of traditional sexual inhibitions and taboos, particularly those that most threaten patriarchal monogamous marriage: homosexuality, ‘illegitimacy,’ adolescent, pre-and extra-marital sexuality.”

For these folk the only way to smash marriage, was to smash the idea of patriarchy, and the only way to accomplish this is to destroy monogamy.

A new Marriage Act?

It doesn’t require any mental gymnastics to see the link between between the Neo Marxists and the push for a change in the marriage act.  It is also not rocket science to see the link between the Safe School Program and the push to change the act.  Prof Gary Dowsett of the Latrobe university, where this program was developed, is on record to have positive views on pedophilia, while his colleague Ross Ward said about the program, “I not only teach people to be gay, I teach them to be gay and communist.” When the Victoria Government approved the program, Ward posted on Facebook, “Now we just need to get rid of the racist Australian flag on top of state parliament and get a red one up there and my work is done.

Marsha Masha Gessen, a gay-rights activist writes,

“It’s a no-brainer that [homosexuals] should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. … Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie. The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist.

Paul Kengor writes,

“Once advocates of male-female marriage succeed in redefining marriage as anything but one man and one woman, there will be no end to the redefinition.” 

Enough said.  This is the path and ideologies of those who hate God and his plan for this world.

Knowing the distinction between the truth and the lie

Our text from 2 Thessalonians 2:9 makes reference to “the work of Satan.”  Our Lord declared about Satan:

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44, NIV)

Satan is counterfeit; like the Egyptian sorcerers who countered Aaron’s staff which turned into a snake, so even today Satan uses deceit to perform miracles, signs and wonders.  He lied in Eden telling a half truth followed by a lie, and he is still doing it. Gullible people believe it and are deceived. Why?

They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:10, NIV)

The truth has come to us in Jesus Christ through the Gospel. Paul writes to the Ephesians:

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, (Ephesians 1:13, NIV)

Jesus Christ said,

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32, NIV)

The godless the truth by their wickedness. (Romans 1:18–19, NIV). Once one is swept away by the lie and deceit of Satan, every lie that comes one’s way is gobbled up as truth.  Someone remarked, “We will all eat lies when our hearts are hungry.” What is the result?

… all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (2 Thessalonians 2:12, NIV)

This is what is described in Romans 1,

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:32, NIV)

Of course it all started in paradise. But there was a cross on Calvary’s Hill, and an open grave in Joseph’s garden in Arimathea.  Christ defeated the lie, so so became the truth, the way and the life.  He forgives and restores any type of sinner who comes to be forgiven.  Him we preach.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 17 September 2017

 

When the truth becomes a lie, and the lie becomes the truth

Bible Readings

  • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
  • Romans 1:18-32

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

During the next three weeks Australians will have the opportunity to have their say in the battle to redefine marriage. Pressure from the world is mounting against Christians to separate what they think as Christians when they attend church from what they think when they go to the ballot box. Without a thorough Biblical worldview Christians stand and fall

The church as an institution does not participate in political processes, because we believe there should be a separation between church and state.  The Church as institution, and likewise the state, have boundaries or spheres to which they must stick.  This was the original intent behind the principle.  However, when Christians vote they do not stop being Christians.  Christians do not represent a denomination when they cast their votes; they stand in the ballot box as representatives of the Saviour.  This is the challenge.

In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord said:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13, NIV)

The modern cry for separation between church and state is an aberration of the original principle and is reduced to mean this:

  • (Individual) Christians need to keep their principles at home when they vote.
  • Adherents to all other religions are exempt.
  • Atheists are always neutral, because they don’t worship a specific god.

A Biblical worldview

The question then is what is the Christian of Biblical worldview?

The Bible teaches us that we must

… not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Without going into too much detail, let’s sum up what the Bible teaches about the world and those who live in it.

When truth reigned over the lie

1. God created the world out of nothing, without the aid of anything outside of Himself, by the power of his word. We therefore do not believe in the idea that everything come about by nothing; that everything exists by chance, and there is not really any purpose in life. This notion makes all meaningful life impossible, because it rejects absolute values and truths, while it only relies on subjective truths and values to determine right and wrong.

2. Although created without defect, but now stained by sin, God can be known through the works of his creation.  We read about this in Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)

3. Created things were made according to its kinds, but mankind was created after the image of God. All people should be treated as such. This we know from Genesis 1:27

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27, NIV)

Our Lord also taught this truth:

“Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ … (Matthew 19:4, NIV)

4. God created the first human beings male and female.  They were made to be one another’s companion and helper. Adam and Eve stood as equals before God, complementing one another according to God’s design. God gave them the command be fruitful, because they were created male and female with that capacity, the only basis on which other created things too could multiply.

5. Mankind was created for the purpose of ruling over God’s creation in a way which pleases the Creator.  Creation does not belong to man, but we are placed over it as stewards to look after it and develop it according to God’s design for it.

When the lie are presented as truth

Our first parents rebelled against God and dragged all of creation into misery.

1. What God created to be good—yes, very good—fell from its perfect design to a miserable state: man’s nature became corrupted, nature itself became corrupted and subject to death. Our reading from Romans 1 helps us:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21, NIV)

Another manifestation of how sin corrupted man is the foolishness of worshipping created things rather than Him who created all things:

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:22–23, NIV)

Why does the Bible call this foolishness?  Creation itself is corrupted by sin.  Romans 8:20-21

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20–21)

2. When mankind fell in sin they lost their innocence and freewill, but are still under the grace of God who provide in our everyday need. This is called common grace.

3. This misery affected the relationship between Adam and Eve and all human beings born after them, it affected relationships between members of families, and between nations on earth.  The result is idolatry, distrust, lies, hatred, jealousy, war, stealing, envy, diseases, pestilences, etc., and ultimately death. Romans 1:29 spells it out

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. (Romans 1:29–31, NIV)

4. Diseases and abnormalities became part of human life on earth.  Paul writes in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.”

5. We don’t accept cancer as normal just because it exists; on the contrary, we keep researching ways to eradicate it. Purely because they exist, we do not regard abnormalities as normal. Just because everyone lies, we still need to speak the truth, and we don’t introduce laws making it unlawful to demand the truth in a court of law.

6. Irrespective of what post-modernists say, the truth can be known.  This is the basis for the command of God:

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. (Exodus 20:16, NIV)

This is something the mass media needs to understand:  half truths and fake news are not normal—it is just as abnormal as cancer, and with truth we need to combat lies in the same way as we battle against diseases. For this reason we are called, as Romans 6:12 puts it:

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:12–13, NIV)

5.Sexual desires became deeply affected.  As a result of our fallen state these desires may manifest itself in ways humans rebel against their Maker in an effort to normalise what was not according to God’s original design. Once again we read Romans 1:26-27

Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26–27, NIV)

Reflection

Just before we move on, let’s just pause for one moment and ponder what we have just learned.  It is important to know that Romans 1 does not refer to “them” sinners; it refers to sin and “us” sinners in general. In other words, before we begin to think that we are not included into the description of sinful corruption as Romans 1 spell it out, we have to understand it is not about “us” and “them”—it is about all of us.  How do we know this?  Let’s just read Romans 2:1

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Romans 2:1, NIV)

It might be true that not all of us committed all of the sins mentioned in Romans 1, however the fact remains that one human being cannot claim higher moral ground above others based on inborn qualities.

So, when you find yourself exercising your vote, pray about it, remember were it not for saving grace in Christ, we would all fall short of the glory of God.  As you vote, do so with a prayer that God would show our nation mercy, and pray for those who still do not know Christ, that they would turn from their rebellion and find salvation in Him.

When truth destroys and exposes the lie

1. The message of the Bible is one of hope:  sinners are saved by grace.  Jesus Christ, the son of God, was God’s gift to the world as perfect redemption.  By faith in Him alone all sinners, irrespective of the kind of sin they have committed, are forgiven and restored as God’s children. Although not perfect, relationships between forgiven people have a good chance of success as we forgive one another as we are forgiven in Christ. The Word states:

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10, NIV)

Let’s heed to this verse too:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

2. Christ being the Head of both, husband and wife now should live submit to Christ in reverence of Him; in faithfulness to one another they must strive to live for the glory of God. By God’s design they bring up children for the glory of God within the confines of marriage.

The Bible sees marriage as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his church. Paul writes:

This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:32–33)

3. Family relationships are sanctified in Christ.  Children must obey their parents, “for it is right.  Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2–3)

4. Christ’s grace, which reconciled sinners to God, calls them to gather as his people, the church.  Until Christ returns according to his promise, the Holy Spirit dwells with us as we fellowship with one another.

5. When Christ returns all people will be called to judgement where there will be a separation between those who were made righteous and those who rejected Christ’s righteousness.  The restoration in Him we know and experience now, will then be made complete as we will live on a new earth where sin will not enter to destroy the work of God.

Conclusion

These are the basic aspects which make up the worldview of Christians.  We don’t grab these out of the air; we base them on the Scriptures, which are the infallible and inerrant Word of God. These principles should be your guide when you vote.

Next week, Lord willing, we will endeavour to point out the principles of those oppose the truth of the Gospel in an effort to present it as the new truth.

Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on 10 September 2017

 

The rainbow banner!!

Visitors to our site would have noticed the rainbow banner over the top of the page.  We have not placed it there!

I contacted WordPress (who provides the electronic infrastructure for our webpages) with this request:

Please remove the rainbow banner over the top of my page. Or what can I do to get rid of it?

The response I receive was:

Australia will be holding a national survey on marriage equality over the next two months. To show our support for marriage equality, we’re showing the rainbow bar to all our Australian visitors. You can read more about the marriage equality campaign here:

http://www.equalitycampaign.org.au/

We cannot remove this banner for individual sites. We understand it looks a bit different to what you’re used to, but it’s here for everyone. We absolutely respect your right to publish the content you choose to your site, but the navigation bar styling reflects WordPress.com’s brand.

In response I wrote:

You might also appreciate my dissatisfaction with your reply.  The fact that you support marriage equality is one thing;  but to coerce others to advertise your choice against their conscience is lamentable.  If WordPress placed any value on other opinions, they would at least have given a choice to customers.  The disregard of WordPress for the opinions and beliefs of customers reflects the spirit of our time:  we need to be tolerant, but only in as far as we all agree on one opinion; all other opinions are regarded as invaluable.
You must understand the unacceptable position I find myself in to run a website which honours the traditional view of marriage, while a rainbow banner advertises quite to opposite—a matter in which I have no choice.
If there was at least a possibility to opt out, continuing to use your services would not place a burden on my conscience;  but that I am bound by your point of view would weigh upon my mind if I should continue using your services.
I am using the same freedom you assumed to point me to the marriage equality campaign propaganda (and I assume you expected me to read it!— as if I have not already read so much about it) to point you to what I strongly believe in about marriage — also with the expectation that you would read it.

We apologise in case any visitors to our site found themselves confused.  We still stand by our conviction to uphold the traditional view of marriage, as found within the infallible Scriptures.

The King after God’s own heart

Bible readings

  • Acts 13:16-25;
  • 1Samuel 13:1-15

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters, it’s only the expression on the faces of little girls when mom catches them out with make-up all over their faces sometimes which helps to not dish out punishment straight away.  It’s another story when a parent finds a toddler with a permanent marker in its hands after the walls and the furniture had a bit of treatment.  The first question is usually, “What have you done?”

Don’t we all know the embarrassment of being found out, especially after we acted silly or unwise. Men work with tools, handle them the wrong way, and end up with stitches in a finger or a hand.  And still his wife asks, “What have you done?” She doesn’t really want to know; the question is actually a statement, “You should have known better!”

This question occurs frequently in the Bible, and in most cases it follows rebellion.  After Adam and Eve were disobedient in Eden and rebelled against God, He asked Eve, “What have you done?” (Genesis 3:13)  When Cain murdered Abel God asked him, “What have you done?” (Genesis 4:10)  When the storm tossed the boat with Jonah in it, the men asked him, “What have you done?” (Jonah 1:8)

In our reading today, Samuel asked Saul, “What have you done?”

Shattered hopes

There are difficulties in the translation and understanding of 1 Samuel 13:1.  There are wide-ranging differences between commentators.  Fact is, Saul was surely not a year old when he became prince, and neither did he only rule the people for two years. The Hebrew text reads:  “Saul was … year when he became king; he was king for … years”.  By implication the translation mentions two periods: one year and two years.   What does it all mean?

A careful study of the context gives us the impression that 13:1-2 should actually be grouped with the previous chapter, and should serve as a summary of Saul’s kingship.  We learn two things from these two verses:

  1. After his inauguration Saul made his son Jonathan his Second-in-Command. Saul selected 3,000 men as army, 2,000 of which stayed with him, and the other 1,000 was under the command of Jonathan.  Saul made Micmash his (temporary) headquarters, and Jonathan manned Gibeah.
  2. It is possible to understand verse one this way: Samuel anointed Saul as king; but his official inauguration as king happened a year later.  That explains the time between Samuel anointing him, followed by Saul’s successful campaign against the Ammonites (chapter 11), and then his confirmation at Gilgal (11:12-15).

The second part of 13:1, stating that Saul reigned for two years, describes the period between his official inauguration and his rebellion against the command of God.  This is when Samuel confronted him with the question, “What have you done?” From that moment on, according to 13:14—only two years into his kingship—Saul’s kingdom was so-to-speak over.

If this explanation is true, we have to conclude that if the people wanted a king like the nations around them to lead them in war against their enemies, their hope was shattered very early—and to make things worse, they were stuck with an ineffective king for the next about 30 years!

Let’s see how all of this happened.

The inoperative king

Directly after Samuel anointed Saul as king he specifically mentioned the Philistine outpost at Gibeah, and added, “You will be changed into a different person … do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.” (10:7)

His kingship was to commence with charity at home—in his own hometown.  The word “outpost” can also be translated as “commander”.  The first assignment was not meant to be outrageously difficult—he only needed to get rid of the commander of the Philistines.  He didn’t! Jonathan did with his 1,000 men after his father was inaugurated. This is what is recorded in our reading this morning.

Jonathan’s action and courage overshadowed that of his father’s.  After all, Gibeah was described as “Gibeah of God” (10:5). For the young Second-in-Command, the honour of God came first—he had to rid the Promised Land of the uncircumcised (14:6) Philistines.

Although the people wanted to be free from the Philistines, they were not actually encouraged by Jonathan’s campaign. For them they now were a stench to the Philistines.  Don’t stir sleeping dogs; Jonathan did, and it surely stirred the Philistines into vengeance.

His father seized the moment and took the honours.  He blew the trumpet and called “the Hebrews”—the derogatory term the Philistines used to describe the Israelites—into action. He ordered them to gather in Gilgal.

The Philistines assembled in vast numbers right there where Saul left for Gilgal.  Chariots with six thousand charioteers and four soldiers as numerous as a sand on the seashore (13:5)

The foolish king

After Saul was officially installed as leader, Samuel foreshadowed this event (10:8). Saul was ordered to go to Gilgal and wait for Samuel.  This was the arrangement:

Go ahead of me to Gilgal. I [mark my words – there is a ‘Behold’ in the original; also the “I” is emphasised] will come to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice fellowship offerings. Wait seven days until I come to you and show you what to do.” (1 Samuel 10:8, CSB)

In the lead-up to this day the people who thought now that they had a king, all would just be hunky dory, but when they saw the enemy and observed the inaction of their king, their courage left them.  They hid in caves, in bushes, among the rocks, in pits, in cisterns, and some even ducked across the Jordan.

Saul arrived in Gilgal, but troops with him were quaking with fear.  He remembered the command of Samuel to wait for seven days.  At first it seemed Samuel forgot, and Saul’s army began to scatter.  He ordered the burnt and fellowship offering and the sacrifice.

Then Samuel appeared.  Saul went to greet him.  There were no niceties from Samuel’s side.  Just, “What have you done?”

Saul did not see anything wrong in what he did.  Instead, he blamed first of all, the soldiers—they scattered.  Then he blamed Samuel—he did not show when Saul expected him to arrive; lastly he blamed the circumstance —the vast number of the Philistines.

He had the sure word of the prophet that he will come, yet he doubted it; he had no certainty that the Philistines would attack him at Gilgal, yet took it for certain.

He was tested—but he failed.  He sought the favour of the Lord by being disobedient to the Lord.

“Disobedience is like the evil of idolatry.” (15:23)

So close, yet now removed

We might have been compassionate towards Saul:  the end justifies the means.  His situation was desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures: he had lost his army, his had lost the trust of the people, the enemy was vast, and he ran out of time.

Samuel did not listen to the reasons.  What counted was the action.  “You acted foolishly.” There was this moment in Saul’s heart that he doubted God—and only a fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)  And because this was the case with Saul, his unbelief and doubt urged him to disobey the command of the Lord, “Your kingdom will not endure.” To this Samuel added:  “If you had, He would have established your kingdom for all time.”

Saul, you were so close—now you’ve missed it all!

The only person to lead the people of God would be a person who fully trusted and fully obeyed the Lord.  As we will see further down our study of the kings of Israel, God was not after a sinless king—even David would not have qualified then; but God was after someone who fully trusted and obeyed Him.

The King after God’s own heart

Samuel informed Saul of God’s plan:

“… the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people.”   

This was set and done—when it comes to the well-being of his people, God’s sovereign right demands his justice. Now it was God’s desire to appoint a king, then it was the people’s desire. But in the meantime, the people were stuck for more than 30 years with the indecisive, ineffective, foolish king who did not obey and trust God.

What was the consequence?

Saul, his son Jonathan, and the troops who were with them were staying in Geba of Benjamin, and the Philistines were camped at Michmash. (1 Samuel 13:16, HCSB)

Saul went home with only six hundred soldiers; the rest lost confidence in him—and there is no indication that there was any confrontation with the Philistines.

And then this tragic note:

No blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise, the Hebrews will make swords or spears.” So on the day of battle not a sword or spear could be found in the hand of any of the troops who were with Saul and Jonathan; only Saul and his son Jonathan had weapons. (1 Samuel 13:19, 22, CSB)

Imagine God’s people defenceless, subject to their enemy. Does it not paint a vivid picture of the church of today?

God’s choice was someone who would lead the people to not be like the nations around them; his choice was someone who would lead the people to lead the nations to be God’s people.  In the short term David would be that man. Ultimately God had Someone else in mind.  Let’s go to Acts 13.  Paul preaches in Psidian Antioch.  Referring to king David he draws this conclusion:

“From this man’s descendants, according to the promise, God brought the Saviour, Jesus, to Israel. (Acts 13:23, HCSB)

He then mentioned the resurrection of Christ, securing salvation for his people, and said:

And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors. God has fulfilled this for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second Psalm: You are My Son; today I have become Your Father. (Acts 13:32–33, CSB)

Why is this this message important?

“… through this Man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, and everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38–39, CSB)

Then the warning:

Look, you scoffers, marvel and vanish away, because I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe, even if someone were to explain it to you.” (Acts 13:41, HCSB)

These words are from Habakkuk and it refers to God’s judgment upon his people by sending the king of Babylon to take them in slavery.

Conclusion

In Saul the hope of the people was shattered.  He was ineffective, indecisive and acted foolish by disobedience to God.

The King after God’s own heart, Jesus Christ, obeyed God, took on the enemy and crushed him, and thereby restored the hope of those who trust God.  He is the Saviour; He forgives sin, and whoever believes in Him stands justified before God.  Is He your King?

We can safely say, “The king is dead; long live the King!”  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 27 August 2017

 

Grace, forgiveness, restoration

Bible Readings

  • 1John 1:5-2:6
  • 1Samuel 12:6-25

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Of all the parables of our Lord Jesus Christ I relate very well to the one of the wayward son.  This parable is about four lost things:  a coin, a sheep, and  two sons.  The headings added by some translators are missing the point:  it’s not about the lost coin, or the lost sheep, and even one son—the last it about two wayward sons, but surely not a prodigal son.  To be “prodigal”is to be wasteful, especially with one’s money—and the parable has nothing to say about being wasteful.

Although the father pleaded with the elder son and assured him of his love, the hardness of his heart resisted the restoring love of the father. That’s why he too was lost.

What the parables want to bring home is that the coin, the sheep and the younger son were found by the owner who cared. That’s the point! And over and over our Lord repeats:

I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10, CSB)

And this aspect of grace keeps knocking me over every time I think about it. In our sinfulness we walk away from God, we want to do our own thing, we then fall in a heap, but the cords of love we enjoyed in the presence of our Father, draw us back.  In his faithfulness and mercy, God forgives and restores.  This is the message of all Scripture: the holy God who bows down to an underserving and sinful world, and then provides a way out if this sinful mess in and through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ.

Grace

According to 1 Samuel 12 he is now and old man, grey, about to hang up the boots.  He calls the people to bring charges against him, if they have any, before he hands over.  Has he taken anything from anyone unlawfully?  (“Taken” in this context stands against the charges brought against the sons of Eli who “took” what be longed to the Lord, and also stole what did not belong to them.  The future king would also “take”, and even Samuel’s own sons “took” bribes.)

Has Samuel defrauded anyone?  Was anyone oppressed?  Was anyone bribed?  No!  Can you hear these words echoed in the words of Paul?

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7–8, CSB)

Samuel had been faithful and true to the God who appointed him. But he was not sinless; he too needed a sacrifice and atonement blood to be forgiven.  More later.

Our High Priest and Prophet, Jesus Christ, superseded and was far more superior to Samuel.  He never sinned in any way.  Yes, He only gave.  He did not come to be served, but to serve.  He knelt and washed the feet of his own.  The only thing He took was our trespasses to become sin for us, in order that we might in Him become the righteousness of God (2Corinthians 5:21).  Him we worship as our perfect High Priest. The writer of Hebrews helps us to understand the superiority of Christ.  A human high priest “… is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he is also subject to weakness. Because of this, he must make a sin offering for himself as well as for the people.” (Hebrews 5:2–3, CSB) But of Christ he writes:

“… though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek, …” (Hebrews 5:8–10, NKJV)

Call to life

Samuel used the last opportunity to address the people to plead for the people before God.

Now therefore, stand still [maybe,“be quiet”], that I may reason with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord which He did to you and your fathers: (1 Samuel 12:7, NKJV)

Moses used the same word and command of Moses in Exodus 14:13 when the Israelites were in a panic with the army of the pharaoh behind them and the mighty waters of the Red Sea in front of them. Moses said to the people,

“Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. (Exodus 14:13, NKJV)

Now Samuel connects these events and applied it to the people who away turned from God, and rejected his Kingship by asking for a king so that they could be like the nations around them.  In essence they formally walked away from God in rebellion.  Do you see the attitude of the younger son of the parable?

What Samuel said was to remind them of God’s love and how He compassion on his people.  Samuel recalls God’s acts of rescuing his people from slavery out of Egypt, and later out the clutches of Sisera, and again from the commander of Hazor’s army, and out of the oppression of the Philistines too.  He gave them leaders like Gideon, Barak and Jephthah, and even Samuel himself.

Samuel preached about the God’s great act of salvation, pleading with them to worship God.  This “plead” is a word used in legal sense.  An advocate pleads on behalf of his client, or brings charges against a perpetrator.  Samuel did both:  he charged the people with their sins, but he also pleaded for them before God.

Samuel hammered in the fact that they sinned by asking for a king, and pointed to Saul, “Look at him, God answered your prayers.”

Is it all over now?  Will God forsake you and leave you in the hands of this feeble man?  Have they missed the boat?

Has the lost son forfeited everything, even the love of his father?  No!  There is still opportunity for grace, forgiveness and restoration.

If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. (1 Samuel 12:14, NKJV)

The next verse spells out the opposite, “the hand of the Lord will be against you!” And it is a dreadful thing to fall in the hands of the living God!

The prophet then called upon God to do an extraordinary thing:  to send thunder and rain upon the grain which was ready for harvest.  Why?  It was to illustrate to them that their actions were a mirror of the disruption of the God-ordained pattern of relationship that should be between them and the Lord. Israel moved out of its proper relationship with the Lord; now Lord ordained that nature would move out of its proper pattern with the people. This terrified the Israelites, for they understood that it could point to more severe disturbances as God spelled in the his Covenant with them.

Repentance and forgiveness

They then begged Samuel to pray for them, to intercede so that they would not die.  They realised they had made an enemy of the living God.  They begged:

“Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.” (1 Samuel 12:19, NIV)

They needed some to intercede for them.  Samuel did!

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you. (1 Samuel 12:23, NKJV)

This is the amazing aspect of grace. Then Samuel said to the people,

“Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. (1 Samuel 12:20–21, NKJV)

Why?  “For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.” (1 Samuel 12:22, NKJV)

Restoration

The younger son went after all the empty things which profited him nothing and could not deliver what he craved for: he dreamed of freedom, but ended up in slavery.  At that point the loving care of his father overcame him.

“I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. (Luke 15:18, NIV)

Like Samuel, and more than Samuel, our Lord, our Mediator, stood before God.  He,

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, [he] offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7, NIV)

God heard the cry of his Son, not only for Himself, but for those He came to set free.  Samuel said if he would not intercede for the people he would sin.  But he stressed upon them “to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart” and to “consider what great things He has done for you.”  (1Samuel 13:24)

Jesus is still doing it. That’s our verse from 1 John this morning:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2, NIV)

More than Samuel, Christ pleads for us:  He is our righteous advocate before the Father; his plea rests upon his atoning sacrifice.

Conclusion

What is so amazing about grace?  Ask the younger son of the parable: in spite of his rebellion, his father restored him as his son.

Ask the Israelites as they gathered to hear Samuel’s farewell speech and heard the thunder and saw the lightning!  They found out that the same God who rescued their forefathers stood ready to destroy them if they did not repent; but He also stood ready to forgive and restore if they turned from their wicked ways and serve Him with all their heart.

What’s so amazing about grace?  There’s forgiveness and restoration for every rebellious sinner in and through the work of Jesus Christ, our High Priest.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:14–15, NIV)

He is our atonement.  He intercedes for us.  He calls sinners home to freely forgive and give assurance of restoration.

He is our King.  Saul, the king, is dead, but Jesus Christ our King lives forever. Fall down and worship Him as Lord. Do as the younger son did:

I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ (Luke 15:18–19, NIV)

What you will hear is the welcoming voice of the Father:

This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.  (Luke 15:24, NIV)

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 20 August 2017

 

The King appoints a prince

Scripture Readings

  • Hebrews 2:5-18
  • 1Samuel 9:15-10:1

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

There are times when I am so disappointed in myself that I abhor myself.  I then wonder why God still puts up with me.  Why would He still bother? Why still give room for Australia to live, to enjoy what we have, to plan for a future and to see prosperity?  We kick against his laws, the the more we call ourselves a progressive democracy, the more we push God aside.  Yet, we still see the sun rise, the beauty of every morning, we have enough and more to eat, and we breathe fresh air.

Why does God still bother?

God cares—and appointed a prince

God’s care

I have seen the affliction of My people, for their cry has come to Me. (1 Samuel 9:16, HCSB)

Even when his own people acted worse than the godless nations who lived in the Promised Land before God had them settle there, God still bothered.  They openly rejected Him and despised their identity as Gods own inheritance by demanding a king so that they can be like the other nations.  God granted their demand—and yet, He did not reject them as his people.  He spoke to Samuel:

At this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over My people Israel. He will save them from the hand of the Philistines… (1 Samuel 9:16, HCSB)

They rejected God; He did not reject them and still called them “My people”.  He still cared for them.

We have to follow the wonderful way in which God controlled everything.

God’s control

A certain man, Kish, had a son.  He was of no royal line, just well-to-do a farmer who had a son.  He was from the tribe of Benjamin.  Now you will remember that about this whole tribe was wiped out because of a civil war after the death of an innocent women.  O, as far as the background of Kish and his son Saul is concerned, there is nothing to report.

God put it the mind of the donkeys to go walk-about, and Kish sent Saul to look for them.  Almost completely unimportant to us was the fact the Saul took a young man along—we don’t even know his name.

They couldn’t find the donkeys.  After two days Saul wanted to go home.  After all, there were many valleys and high mountains in Ephraim with wild animals lurking.

This off-sider of Saul then makes mention of The Seer, Samuel, of whom Saul apparently had not known a thing.  And it happened that the young fellow had a coin in his pocket to give to the seer.

This is where things are getting very interesting.  While Saul and the young man were looking for the donkeys, God whispered in the ear of Samuel (that’s how one can interpret the word):

“At this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over My people Israel.”

This verse echoes the words of Exodus 3:7-8 when God called Moses to lead the people to freedom:

I have observed the misery of My people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I know about their sufferings. I have come … to bring them … to a good and spacious land … (Exodus 3:7–8, HCSB)

And of course, years later in the fullness of time we heard these words again when the birth of the Messiah was announced:

She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, HCSB)

God’s appointed time and place

God is in control.  The people wanted a king, but God would appoint the man in his own time, in the place He wanted, the occasion He determined, and the setting against which the future prince would hear about it.

The purpose of the new prince was to free God’s people from Philistine oppression.  A further purpose was that he would restrain God’s people.  With this we have to understand that the days when everyone “did as they saw fit”, have now come to and end.

With expectation the Samuel arranged for a special sacrifice.  He invited special guests, he arranged for a special animal to be slaughtered, he even arranged the seating at the table.  Among these guests was most probably a man by the name Abner, the uncle of Saul.  While waiting for Samuel to arrive one can only assume that the conversation between the invited guests centred around the appointment of a king.

We continue with the day’s events.  It was by God’s eternal appointment that young women were on their way to the well to draw the household water.  They knew about the special meeting Samuel was arranging, and therefore could point Saul and his off-sider to Samuel.  The inclusion of the word “immediately” gives us the indication that all concerned just arrived at God’s appointed time.

It was at that stage that God once again spoke to Samuel.  “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you.”

The people asked for a king, but God gave them a prince.  The people would not belong to the new leader; they are still God’s own.

At the God-appointed time Samuel and the future prince met. Saul got an invitation to eat with Samuel and the special guests, who were waiting for the prophet/priest to bless the sacrifice.  The prince met the King at a sacrifice!

Just as a word in passing Samuel set his mind at rest: the donkeys were found.

Saul surely didn’t understand the words of Samuel who said something about someone all Israel was desiring.  Surely it had nothing to do with him, he was just a nobody from a clan no one knows anything about, and on top of that, he was a Benjaminite?

Once in the hall with the invited guests, he received a place at the head.  Surely, he must have felt out of place.  Now for that special portion of the offering, bring it for the future prince! The appointed hour had come!

God’s appointment

It was late and Saul was offered a bed on the roof of Samuel’s house.  Early the next day Samuel had to inform Saul of God’s plan.  This handsome young man, probably only in his early thirties, standing head and shoulders above his fellow Israelite, had to hear that God appointed him as prince. Samuel had the off-sider sent ahead, and then he anointed Saul—a loaded term, because in it was hidden something of “messiah”.  In true form, Samuel would have embraced Saul, and then, perhaps bowing, he kissed him—perhaps on his hand. He added these words for clarification:

  • The Lord anointed you; you’re not the peoples prince
  • He is still king, you are a prince/leader
  • The people belong to God

God’s affirmation

Inside of Saul there would have been turmoil.  How could all this be true.  God provided specific signs:

  1. He would meet men telling him that the donkeys were found—his mind would from now on be on bigger things than matter of his own family;
  2. Then, three men with goats, bread and wine will meet him—God would from now on provide for his daily needs;
  3. From there he will meet a band of prophets with musical instruments, proclaiming the greatness of God—he would join them singing as the Spirit of God would enable him to from now on focus on the business of God and his people;
  4. The people would see and hear him with the prophets, as a sign to them that God set him apart for his service. 1 Chronicle 25:1 helps us to understand:

David and the officers of the army also set apart some … who were to prophesy accompanied by lyres, harps, and cymbals. (1 Chronicles 25:1, HCSB)

This “prophesying” was simply then to proclaim the greatness of God in music and song, and should not be confuse with the speaking in tongues. It of course has a lot to bear on what we sing in church!

Saul left Samuel a changed man.  As a confirmation to Saul that God indeed called him, everything happened just as Samuel said.  He then returned to the place where he sacrificed with Samuel.  He met his uncle, Abner, who must have been still there.  Perhaps he was a but shy, or even humble, to tell the full event of matters to Abner, who would later become his military commander.

The new prince and victory

The next chapter in this story takes us to Mizpah where Saul was introduced and confirmed as God’s choice as their leader—the one they asked for.

He repeated God’s stipulations for a king, most probably recorded in Deuteronomy 17:14-20

  • He had to be God’s choice
  • He had to be an Israelite
  • He had to rely on God for military strength, not horses
  • He must not have many wives, especially not wives worshipping other gods
  • He must not chase after riches
  • He had to study the law of God daily, live accordingly and set and example to the people

All these terms were agreed to, and Samuel took a copy.  “Long live the king!”, the people shouted.

Chapter 11 records to first victory of the Israelites over the enemy under the leadership of Saul.

In all of this we clearly see the intervention of God

Long live the King!

He cared for his people, He did not abandon them, He prepared what was best for them.

But Saul, as we will see in future, Saul failed miserably—and in the end he fell on his sword, greatly confused, mentally disturbed, devoured by resentment and hatred of David, even possessed by an evil spirit.

And God did not give up on this sinful world:

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, HCSB)

He was God’s chosen One.  Listen:

You are My Son; today I have become Your Father. Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance and the ends of the earth Your possession. (Psalm 2:7–8, HCSB)

Your throne, God, is forever and ever, and the sceptre of Your kingdom is a sceptre of justice. (Hebrews 1:8, HCSB)

Where Saul and all others after Him failed, the real Prince of Peace succeeded.  Of his kingdom there will be an increase, the Bible says. His Name is Jesus, the Messiah (the Anointed One), the Son of God. He was born as an Israelite according to the line of David—He was the stump of Jesse Isaiah prophesied about:

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him — a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2, HCSB)

His Kingdom is not of this world, so He didn’t need horse and chariots to establish it. He never chased after riches (the foxes had holes, but the Son of Man had no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58).  He did more than read the Law of God—He fulfilled it!  He never sinned, but He took the sin of those who disobeyed the Law as if it was his own.

Every word spoken of Him through the prophets came true as God’s affirmation the Christ is indeed his Son: his birthplace, where He would minster, how He would die, and even where He would be buried.  God’s voice from heaven declared Him at the beginning and end of Christ’s earthly ministry:

 And John testified, “I watched the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He rested on Him. I didn’t know Him, but He who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The One you see the Spirit descending and resting on—He is the One who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ (John 1:32–33, HCSB; [see also 12:27-28])

Do we still need more evidence?  The Holy Spirit testifies about Christ:

When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you. (John 16:13–15, HCSB)

Conclusion

This King will come in glory to take home with Him those who love Him waited faithfully for his return.  He must be your king now if you want to see Him as King then.

I trust you will be amongst them.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 13 August 2017

 

Christian Marriage – Statements

A Statement by the Session (Elders) of the Presbyterian Church of Hervey Bay,

and a

Statement by the Presbyterian Church of Australia regarding the proposed postal vote regarding definition of Marriage

Introduction

  • The Church of Jesus Christ exists because of the grace of God and for his glory
  • The Church is the work of the Triune God:  the Father calls sinners to salvation; Jesus Christ gave his life for sinners to reconcile them to God; the Holy Spirit gives rebirth through the Word and binds saved sinners to the work of the Saviour, and empowers them for their task in the Name of Christ till His return
  • The work of the Church is defined only by God; his will for his Church is expressed in the Bible, the infallible and inerrant Word of God
  • God is glorified through his church where his will is done – He requires his people to serve in the world with love as defined in the Bible: the Church can therefore not love less than God, and it cannot love more than God
  • Acts of mercy, the task of Evangelism, and the calling of Mission are not restricted by humanly defined boundaries like race, colour, creed, language, sexual preferences, or social standing.  It is the task of the Church to reach out to all people, always remembering that those who confess to be Christians were once alienated from God, but were shown grace in Jesus Christ
  • People who respond to the call of God through the Scripture to be reconciled to through Christ, must repent from their sin and live a life of sanctification defined by God declared in his Word

Session observes that:

  • members of the Church of Christ are in no way better than those who have not found forgiveness in Christ; Christians are mere sinners saved by the grace of God, called to glorify Him as Lord of all;
  • members of the Church of Christ are adopted into the family of the Lord and are called to live as God’s Covenant people;
  • the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ (of which Hervey Bay is part) has not always been true to its calling as defined by the word of God;
  • the Church of Christ has no right to withhold the Gospel message from any individual;
  • homosexuality/lesbianism is not an unforgivable sin, and should be recognised as all sins:  it is an offence to God, but through repentance can be forgiven by the grace of God in Jesus Christ;
  • members of the Church must constantly repent and grow in their obedience to God through sanctification

Marriage in the Bible

Marriage was designed by God who created a man and a woman and brought them together in union.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 1:27, 2:21–24, NIV)

Jesus Christ said:

“Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4–6, NIV)

  • A man is not superior/inferior and the women is not inferior/superior: both are created in the image of God.
  • Marriage is based on faithfulness: partners promise to not betray their love and trust.   They depend on God’s faithfulness who brought them together and promises to bless them.
  • Marriage is not an end in itself: God created marriage to His glory to display Christ’s covenant relationship to his blood-bought church. God ordained for children to be born through unity between husband and wife and equipped male and female with unique physical reproductive capacities.

Session observes that:

  • Ministers and members who are Marriage Celebrants within the Church of Christ are bound to obey the commands of Christ when they are requested to officiate at marriages
  • It is extremely desirable that prospective couples should receive thorough instruction about the meaning of Biblical marriage and the nature of mutual responsibilities of man and wife towards one another and the children God might give them before entering into marriage
  • Married members of the congregation are called to preserve the holiness of marriage according to the Word of God, always remembering that their relationship with one another should reflect the relationship between Christ and his Church
  • For husband and wife to understand their relationship and responsibilities towards one another, they must both submit to Christ and model his love to one another:

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:23-25, 32, NIV)

  • Cohabitation (de facto relationships) has no covenantal binding in the eyes of God and as such mocks God’s deeper meaning of the relationship between Christ and his Church; without public vows to one another in the presence of God such a relationship between Christians is sinful
  • Divorce is an offence to God (Malachi 2:16), and should only be allowed in extreme circumstances (Matthew 19:9).  Both those who were unfaithful toward their spouses and divorcees, have not committed a unforgivable sin and should be restored into fellowship after heartfelt repentance
  • For millennia, even in communities other Christianity, have grasped what God says in nature — that marriage unites man and woman.

Australian Law

The current Marriage Act (1961) acknowledge the principle for marriage as defined in the Scriptures and states that marriage as:

“the union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.

Session observes that:

  • the current secular definition of marriage reflects some Biblical principles
  • union between a man and a woman” is necessary with a view to multiplying the human race
  • for life” is necessary because children need the security and safety of a stable family
  • voluntarily” is necessary to guard against forced or arranged marriages where marriage partners can be used as commodities, and mutual love, respect, trust and faithfulness are no obligation.
  • The Marriage Act (1961) was weakened by the Family Law Act 1975, referred to as the “No Fault” Divorce, where one spouse must simply state a reason for the divorce that is recognised by the state.

International Human Right Laws

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (which does not [openly] take Biblical principles into account) declares:
  • Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • UDHR declares the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
  • UDHR stresses that “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and protection”. In a same sex marriage, who of the partners is the mother/father?
  • Article 8 of the Convention on Rights of Children (CRC) states “the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognised by law without unlawful interference.” How would this be possible in the case of anonymous sperm and egg donours?
  • Article 18 of CRC declares that, “States Parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that for the upbringing and development of the child.

New Marriage Act proposed

Those who propose a new definition of marriage do so to

  • to remove from the Marriage Act 1961 discrimination against people on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • to recognise that freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity are fundamental human rights;
  • to promote acceptance and the celebration of diversity.

Session observes that:

  • Marriage between and man and a woman has never been based on discrimination; it has been a mere recognition that it takes a man and a woman to marry and make up a marriage
  • Even the UHDR does not see the right to marry as a fundamental human right (UNICEF define human rights as “those rights which are essential to live as human beings – basic standards without which people cannot survive and develop in dignity.” – this also applies to those people who remain single)
  • “Equal rights” in marriage refer to them having these rights in a court of law: men are not favoured above women, and women are not favoured above men. It does imply that there is not different between a male and female. (The current push for “equality” is merely a push for “sameness”.)
  • The current marriage act precisely celebrate diversity. What diversity is celebrated if the sexes are “the same”? (There is substantial difference between being “equal” and being “same”?
  • Members of the same sex cannot reproduce – it is how God designed human beings; they have to be different.  Partners in a same  sex “marriage” who desire children, will have to involved a third (or fourth) person—which indicates clearly that such a relationship can not be called “marriage”.
  • If the law is changed as proposed, children will become a commodity, produced outside of marriage through surrogacy, sperm and egg donation, or ethically unaccepted methods
  • Children of same sex marriage partners could be denied the right to know their biological parents, and in some cases will never know their brothers and sisters (which of course puts a complete new interpretation on the Laws governing incest).

Statement

  • We affirm anew the Biblical principles for marriage as defined in the Bible.  We reject any definition or law concerning marriage that is not in agreement with the Word of God
  • We call on our Governments to strongly reject proposals to change the Marriage Act to include people of the same sex to enter into a marriage relationship
  • We repent of neglecting teaching the clear Biblical doctrine that the Christian marriage should reflect the relationship between Christ and his Church
  • Session calls the congregation to repent before God if their marriage relationships fall short of the Bible model
  • Married couples should strive for marriage enrichment and not allow marriages to rich a point where the only option is dissolving the marriage in divorce
  • We repent of the sin of neglecting our duty to our children and young people by not always setting the Biblical example of the holiness of marriage
  • We confess that failing to clearly live out the principles of God’s Word regarding marriage brought the Church of Christ, and ultimately our Lord and Saviour, in disrepute before those outside of the Church
  • We confess if we through speech or otherwise elevated the sin of homosexuality/lesbianism to be seen as a greater sin than idolatry, adultery, greediness, theft, slandering, or swindling (1Corinthians 6:9-10)– indeed all other sins!
  • We affirm in line with the Scriptures that even those who claim to be born with a genetic sexual disposition towards the same sex, can be forgiven and made a new person:

And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11, HCSB)

  • In our task of evangelism we will reach out to everyone, including homosexuals and lesbians, to hear the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • We confirm that all who truly repent and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour according to his Word will have a place in our fellowship

Statement by the Presbyterian Church of Australia regarding the proposed postal vote regarding definition of Marriage

The Australian Government plans to conduct a postal vote seeking the opinion of Australians on marriage. Ballot papers will begin arriving at our homes on 12 September, just a month from now.

The Presbyterian Church of Australia opposes the introduction of legislation for so called ‘same-sex marriage’. We affirm that the true definition of marriage is found in God’s Word: the life-long union of one man with one woman, voluntarily entered into, excluding all others.

It’s important to urge every Presbyterian Christian to engage in the process and vote, and to vote “NO” to change. We ask every attendee at church to both register and vote, and then seek to persuade as many as possible of their family and friends to do likewise.

There’s no doubt that the postal vote can be won in favour of the current definition. There is a large number of Australians, many of whom have not had their say, who affirm the common view of marriage as God-given and God-blessed.

Your participation will make a difference, but we need you to be earnest, active and in prayer about it. There are many powerful voices clamouring to tear down what God declares to be holy. The church must not be silent on this.

While we speak up and have our say, we do so with a gracious engagement and with respect for those with whom we disagree.

THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA ASKS YOU TO VOTE, AND TO VOTE NO TO CHANGE.

Rt. Rev. John P Wilson

Moderator-General

Presbyterian Church of Australia