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Below are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, July 5, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm/Psalm Alternative — Option One

Readings about Abraham and his household continue. In this passage, Abraham’s eldest servant goes off in search of a wife for Isaac.

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

24:34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant.

24:35 The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys.

24:36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has.

24:37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live;

24:38 but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

24:42 “I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going!

24:43 I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,”

24:44 and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” –let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’

24:45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’

24:46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels.

24:47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms.

24:48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son.

24:49 Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.”

24:58 And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.”

24:59 So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men.

24:60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.”

24:61 Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

24:62 Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb.

24:63 Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming.

24:64 And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel,

24:65 and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself.

24:66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done.

24:67 Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

The following Psalm may be read or, alternatively, the passage from the Song of Solomon, which follows.

Matthew Henry says that this Psalm refers only to Jesus Christ and the Church, not to an earthly marriage.

Psalm 45:10-17

45:10 Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house,

45:11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him;

45:12 the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people

45:13 with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes;

45:14 in many-colored robes she is led to the king; behind her the virgins, her companions, follow.

45:15 With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.

45:16 In the place of ancestors you, O king, shall have sons; you will make them princes in all the earth.

45:17 I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.

As with Psalm 45, the Song of Solomon is also about Christ’s loving relationship with the Church. This may be read instead of the Psalm.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

2:8 The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.

2:9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice.

2:10 My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;

2:11 for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

2:12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

2:13 The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Zechariah gives the Jews a hopeful prophecy of the Messiah to come.

Zechariah 9:9-12

9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

9:10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

9:11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

9:12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Psalm 145 is the first of the last six Psalms, which are songs of praise to God.

Psalm 145:8-14

145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

145:9 The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

145:10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your faithful shall bless you.

145:11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,

145:12 to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

145:13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.

145:14 The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.

Epistle

Paul discusses the conflict that sin and temptation bring. Under the New Covenant, God grants us His infinite grace. Paul gives thanks that Jesus has rescued us from eternal death and reconciled us with God.

Romans 7:15-25a

7:15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

7:16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.

7:17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.

7:19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

7:20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

7:21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.

7:22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self,

7:23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

7:25a Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Gospel

Jesus discusses the parallels between John the Baptist’s ministry and His own. He then invites all sinners to follow Him. The last three verses will be familiar to most of us.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

11:16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

11:17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’;

11:19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;

11:26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What a gracious invitation! Pray that more people in this world accept it.

In closing, I hope that my American readers are enjoying a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.

John MacArthur has given sermons about the protests and riots we have been seeing over the past several weeks.

A big thank you goes to my reader John in Cheshire for telling me about them recently.

The first one is a short video wherein MacArthur says that every life matters and that, if black lives matter, then why is it that Planned Parenthood aborts a thousand little black lives every day:

The next two are much longer but well worth watching. In fact, time will go by very quickly as MacArthur goes through many verses in the Bible to explain why violent protests are not the answer.

Here is the first one, discussing who is to blame for the riots. The video clip above comes from this sermon:

Here is the transcript. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

We are obviously living in very bizarre times that have produced massive fear and confusion. On top of that, our society is drowning in a sea of lies, lies about virtually everything, and lies on top of fear and confusion create an almost fatal insecurity and a devastating chaos. We have little confidence in believing what politicians say or what health officials say or what social activists say or what university professors say or what media says or, frankly, what religious leaders say. We have been lied to so constantly. And there is One to whom we can turn and always hear the truth: that is to the living God who has revealed Himself on the pages of Scripture, the one true living God. And Scripture says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” God is the God of truth. The Son of God is the way, the truth, and the life. “Satan, the prince of this world,” – said Jesus in John 8:44 – “is a murderer and a liar.” And the whole world lies in the lap of the Evil One, and is therefore bent on killing and lying.

So we’re in a time of chaos and lies. We have only one place to turn that we can trust, one who is faithful, and that is God in His word. Jesus said in John 17 to the Father, “Your word is truth. Your word is truth.” So let’s look at the truth and find out what the truth is about who’s to blame for the riots. We can start in … the book of Isaiah, way back in the first chapter.

Seven hundred years before the Lord Jesus Christ, God was confronting another nation, the nation of Israel, steeped in sin and transgression, having rejected their God and on the brink of judgment. And in chapter 1, the Lord speaks to Israel in verse 2: “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the Lord speaks, ‘Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.’ Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.

“Where will you be stricken again as you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, not softened with oil. Your land is desolate, your cities are burned with fire.” This is the desolation of a people that turn against God.

In the fifth chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy there is a specific indictment among all of the sins that were part of Israel’s rebellion against God. Here is one that substantially defines their true condition. Verse 20 of Isaiah 5: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Essentially that’s the sin that signals the coming of judgment. Turning truth and righteousness and virtue upside-down.

Israel was headed for a devastating divine judgment. They had turned against God, they had flipped truth and morality on its head, and in Isaiah 28:17, Isaiah says they found refuge in lies, they found refuge in lies. Isaiah 59, Isaiah says to them in verses 3 and 4, “For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion and speak lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.”

This is where humanity in every generation and in every nation tends to lean toward the reality of the very things that were true of ancient Israel. Humanity leans in the direction of calling evil good and good evil, substituting darkness for light, light for darkness, substituting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. This is the nature of all of us, to believe lies, to follow the father of lies, to overturn right and wrong, and the current situation in which we live is just another historic manifestation and picture of the perversion of humanity.

So confusing. It’s essential to keep harmless working people locked down at home, kept away from their jobs and businesses so they don’t get the flu. But it’s also essential, in fact, more essential to let people bent on doing harm run free in the cities destroying the very places people earn their living. Lock up the weak and the fearful and let the strong and violent run loose to create havoc. Call on all forces, grind the world to a halt to stop a virus, then remove all restraint when a far more deadly virus sets out to destroy a whole nation. Demand justice when a man’s life is taken, and then applaud lawless mobs of criminals attacking the police. Put the police in a position where they can’t act to protect property, but rebel mobs are allowed to destroy it.

You can’t shop in a store, but you can loot it. You can’t work, but you’re free to steal. You can’t attend church, but you can burn it down. You can’t eat in a restaurant, but you can demolish it. Now we’re seeing charges being brought in these riots, not against the rioters, but against the police. We see leaders who totally control the weak with fear of the flu, but can’t control the strong because they’re afraid. And by the way, if you worship the god of anger, the god of hate, or the god of vengeance, you can have church anywhere, anytime, indoors or outdoors, without any rules. You’re completely free to worship the god of mayhem, and the perverted solution to this is to abolish the police, those who are the protectors of the good and the punishers of those who do evil.

What is wrong? What is wrong is exactly what is stated in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe” – that’s a divine curse – “on those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

We need the truth, and the truth is in the Word of God. It’s not my task nor my interest to give you any human opinion, mine or anybody else’s, but you do need to hear from God. I want to help you to understand who’s to blame. We’ll start in Romans chapter 3, Romans chapter 3 and verse 10. Here we have a summation of human nature. This summation, running down through verse 18, is basically drawn from the Old Testament. These are all statements made in the Old Testament – all of them except one from the Psalms and one from Isaiah.

So God hasn’t changed His moral standards, nor His definition of humanity. There has been no improvement in the seven hundred years between Isaiah and the hundreds of years between the Psalms and the present situation that Paul addresses in Rome in the time of our Lord and after. There’s no change. What was true of man in the ancient times was true of man in New Testament times. And here you have the foundational understanding that is essential to know what’s wrong in the world. And summing it up, this is what the Scripture says.

“As it is written,” – and that means in the Old Testament drawn from the Psalms and the book of Isaiah, here is a definition and description of the pathology of humanity. Four times the word “none” is used, and three times “all” is used. “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” That’s a pathology that would make a sensible psychologist go get a job at a gas station. That’s what you’re dealing with; lots of luck

I hear people saying Black lives matter; and they do. God knows they do; they matter just as much as any other life. But if they matter so much, how is it that Planned Parenthood can support Black Lives Matter when there are a thousand little Black lives being aborted every day

Proverbs 16:6 says, “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” Mark it down. “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” And that’s why Proverbs 23:17 says, “Be in the fear of the Lord at all times.” Where there is no fear of God, where there is no sense of transcendent and eternal culpability, guilt, and punishment, you free humanity to be what they are

Now beyond the absence of the fear of God is the rejection of God. It’s not just that they don’t fear God, that’s a negative. They do more than that. They actually reject God. Go back to Romans 1. This is a very familiar passage. Paul is describing what is also true of man, personally and collectively. “The wrath of God” – verse 18 – “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” That’s what they do. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness. What truth? “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” …

Verse 21 says this is characteristic of humanity. “They knew God,” – that is they knew God existed, that’s reason – “they didn’t honor Him as God or give thanks. They became empty in their speculations, their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man, birds, four-footed animals, crawling creatures.”

That’s what I was saying earlier. They reject the true God. Reason would lead them to the true God. Reason would define the true God in terms of His creation, what they know about His creation, and what they know about His law written in their hearts. They reject all of that. They run from the true God, and they run to false gods as a way to escape the true God.

So what does God do in response? This is one of the most profound passages in the Bible. “God gave them over,” verse 24. That is a legal term: handed them over to punishment, handed them over to execution, handed them over to sentence. “God gave them over.” Verse 26, “God gave them over.” Verse 28, “God gave them over.”

Three times God says, “You’re guilty of rejecting Me, rebelling against Me. I turn you over.” To what? “He gave them over” – verse 24, first of all – “to lust of the hearts to impurity, so their bodies would be dishonored among them.” When God gives a people over there’s a sexual revolution. Immorality becomes acceptable, and you will find a culture swimming in a septic tank of pornography.

And when God gives them over, secondly, verse 26, “He gives them over to degrading passions, and women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and the same way also men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their persons the due penalty of their error.” When God turns a society over because it has rejected Him, there will be, first of all, a sexual revolution, followed by a homosexual revolution.

And finally, the third phase in this judgment, “God gave them over” – verse 28 – “to a depraved mind,” a mind that doesn’t function. They can’t think straight. That’s when you have a political party that builds its party platform on killing infants in the womb, destroying the family, elevating homosexuality, transgender perversion, and they’re proud about it. “That’s when you become filled” – verse 29 – “with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossips, slander, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and though they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they do not only do the same, but they give hearty approval to those who practice them.” They elect them to office.

On top of the natural sinfulness is the added reality of divine judgment on those people who have rejected God and those nations who have rejected God. So the corruption is systemic. It is not social, it is systemic and it is personal, and nobody escapes. It’s not related to a lack of opportunity. It’s not related to a lack of money. It’s not related to a lack of privilege, a lack of education. Man naturally is a sinful beast who rejects God, rejects His law, rebels, does not fear God. We were all born with that internal wretchedness that corrupts and defiles. It scars beauty, it darkens wisdom, it defiles love, it robs purity, and it steals peace

So how does a person shut down conscience? Two ways: misinform it. Conscience is not a law, conscience is a mechanism. You can shut down pain, right? You can shut down pain; just take drugs. Mask pain. If you mask pain, you mask the reality that you’re doing some damage. You can mask conscience by misinforming it. How do you do that? You take the true law of God, which is written in Scripture and written in the human heart, and you basically eliminate it, denounce it, diminish it, remove it, and replace it with another law; and if you do this generationally you’ll eventually raise generations of people whose conscience is now informed by lies.

This is what propaganda is. Propaganda is lies. And you see people and you say, “Well, how could they be so zealous? How can Islamic terrorists be so zealous? Don’t they have a conscience?” Their conscience is informed by whatever law they have come to believe. And if you believe all the lies that are thrown around about our society and all the issues, if you believe those, if you got the university and they pound those into your mind with all of their ideological instruction, if you buy into all those lies, your conscience will cease to function because it will be misinformed. If you have a society that says, “Let’s get rid of the Bible,” that’s the first step in having an entire generation of people misinformed about what’s right and what’s wrong. And now, where are we? We’re in Isaiah 5:20, everything is upside-down: right is wrong and wrong is right.

The other thing you can do to shut down the conscience is just think you shouldn’t feel guilty. Let psychology take you off-the-hook: “You shouldn’t feel bad about yourself. You’re wonderful. You’re the best. You can be anything you want to be. You’re heroic. You’re a good person. You ought to be able to do whatever you want. You live any way you want. Don’t let anybody make you feel guilty for anything.” Just keep driving all efforts against the normal work of the conscience and misinform the conscience and you’ve turned the beast loose. This society in which we live today has been doing that damage for decades, for decades.

Where’s the conscience of these people? Where is the conscience of these who do damage, these who overturn everything? Oh, ha, it’s been informed. It’s been informed with lies, and it’s now controlled by lies. And it’s been told again and again and again that it ought to feel good about itself, that every person is his own master, master of his own fate. Every person is his own god. There is no god, you’re god. You shouldn’t feel guilty, everybody should bow to you. And if that’s not working, get drunk, take drugs.

The second restraint God has put into human society is the family, the family. Deuteronomy 6, God says, “Teach His law to your children.” Ephesians chapter 6, “Raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” What is a family? Father and a mother in a union. Family is a divinely created institution for – listen to this – family is the divinely created institution for the formation of restrained sinners

There’s a third provision that God has made and it’s government. So we talked about personal authority in the conscience, parental authority in the family. Government is the social authority. The prime role of government is not material welfare. That is not the prime role of government. The prime role of government, according to Paul in Romans 13 as he speaks on behalf of the Lord Himself who designed government, Romans 13, very, very important portion of Scripture, verse 1: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there’s no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” No authority may be perfect, but every authority is ordained by God. No family is necessarily perfect, no father or mother, but they’re ordained by God. No one’s knowledge of the law of God or conscience is necessarily perfect, but they are designed by God even with a measure of imperfection to restrain this beast.

So, verse 2, “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.” What you’re seeing in the streets is people opposing God. I don’t care what their ideological issues are. I don’t care what it is that they think is unfair or unjust. They are flying around opposing the authority that God has ordained, and they are opposing God. And by the way, they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. God keeps accounts; you don’t get away with it

There’s one more restraint: that’s the church. And just saying that, I feel a pain in my heart, because a lot of these people that are rioting in the streets are rioting right in front of churches. A lot of churches in the communities of all these major cities, what have they been saying? It’s more likely that some of the people in those churches would be joining them than trying to stop them. But the church, critical: the last stand

And this is why I say this is a sad thing for me because church after church, after church, after church is not salting the culture with godliness. False teachers abound: charlatans with religious Ponzi schemes taking money from poor people on the promise of miracles and wealth; pastors whose lives are unholy and immoral; entertainment centers trying to make sinners feel good about themselves, denying, in many cases, whole denominations, denying the veracity of Scripture, denying the deity of Christ, denying the gospel; popular megachurches just entertaining sinners. Little concern for holiness, godliness, virtue, righteousness; it’s not their message. They don’t confront sin. They don’t call for holy living. That would empty the place. So we have to say that Satan’s done some serious damage to the conscience, to the family, to the government, and to the church

Who’s to blame for the riots? Who’s to blame? Sinners, all of them, everybody, all of us; families who failed to raise virtuous, disciplined children in loving marriages; weak government leaders who fail to protect the good, punish those who do evil; and false churches not full of godly people, transformed hearts, living righteous lives.

So what’s the answer? How do we fix this? Well, restore the law of God so the conscience can be informed. Restore the family so restrained children can be the next generation. Restore the government to its role of true justice. And restore the church …

Sad times. And yet if we take the steps of restoration, sometimes in the past God has allowed such revivals, such times of restoration. If we go back to the Word of God, back to ordered families, back to just government, back to sound faithful godly churches, it can change. Apart from that, it grows worse, until we are taken, the final restraint, and judgment falls. And Christ will then come, bring that judgment to its end and establish His glorious kingdom. By the way, we’ll come back with Him – amen? – in that kingdom …

The following week, he gave another sermon on the protests, this one being the Christian response to them:

Fortunately, he has a transcript of this sermon, too. Excerpts follow:

Laws basically are made to protect us from each other. You get that? Laws are made to protect me from you and you from me. But I don’t need those laws if I love you. What is missing in the human heart is this kind of love. There’s no love for God, there’s no love for others that satisfies God. So in light of this reality, we are to love. We are to love God so that we obey His word; and His word says, “We are to love others as ourselves. We are to do no injustice, take no vengeance, do no harm to anyone ever.”

So as a Christian, I’m looking at the world today and I’m watching all kinds of things going on with regard to injustices and suffering. There’s no question about it, there’s lots of injustice in the world. It’s everywhere. Nobody has a corner on it and no group of people have a corner on it. So what are my options in the current situation? Let me be specific and give you some that have been suggested.

First of all, one option would be to join Black Lives Matter, join their cause, because, after all, Black lives do matter; of course, they do – created in the image of God. And those who have suffered deserve our support, and they do; and they have suffered injustice, and they have. So should we just join Black Lives Matter to affirm these things? “Can we join out of sympathy? Can we join out of compassion?” That’s not really the question. The question is, “Can we join, and in joining express love to God?” because whatever we do for our neighbor is subsumed under loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind. “Can I join Black Lives Matter? Can I be a part, if not a member; can I be a part of their function?” They are disruptive. They are rebellious. They are radical. They are anti-authority. They are Marxists. They are atheistic.

What are their guiding principles? Let me read them to you. In their own document we read this: “Black Lives Matter is transgender-affirming. We make space for transgender siblings. We do the work required to dismantle cisgender”which means biological sex – “and uplift transgender Black folk, especially transgender Black women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans antagonistic violence.” They are transgender-affirming. According to Deuteronomy 22:5, transgender behavior is an abomination to God.

Also, this is their declaration: “We are womanists rather than feminists.” Quote: “We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments where men are centered.” End quote. Transgender-affirming and wanting to pull down the leadership of men. According to the Word of God, man is the head of the woman, as God is the head of Christ. The man has the responsibility of leadership. That’s an anti-God idea. Another paragraph – and there are many more: “We are queer-affirming. We gather to free ourselves from the tight grip of the belief that all are heterosexual.” They gather to put an end to the notion that everybody needs to be heterosexual.

In he same book of Leviticus, where the Lord says, “I am the Lord; be holy,” chapter 18, verse 22 say, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. In the next verse it says it’s the same as having intercourse with an animal. Chapter 20 of Leviticus, verse 13, exactly the same thing. Romans chapter 1.

Here’s a quote from Black Lives Matter: “We are intentionally amplifying that the particular experience of violence that Black queer transgender, gender nonconforming women and intersex people face, there can be no liberation for the Black people if we do not fight for these people.” This is an organization designed by Satan to use the suffering of some people as the means to destroy their lives, to destroy morality, conscience, the family, and even the church, and replace it with behavior that is immoral, perverse, abominable, soul-destroying, family-destroying, marriage-killing, and culturally disastrous. Bottom line: those documents are anti-God, anti-Scripture, anti-Christ. This is an organization that is the enemy of God. Do you really believe that going down that path is going to do anything to lift up a culture? It has nothing to do with the color of anybody’s skin. Go down that path and it’s the path of absolute total destruction. Wipe out the law of God in the heart, give people immorality as a standard, destroy the family, take the message of the gospel out of the church, and the only possible restraint left is the police to try to stop the flood.

I can’t be a part of that because 2 Corinthians is very, very straightforward. Listen to what the Lord says, 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you, and I’ll be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

So that leads to chapter 7, verse 1: “Therefore, having these promises,” – of being sons and daughters to God – “beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” We’re back to Leviticus again. You can’t be a part of something that is designed by Satan to destroy the only institutions that can uphold sanity in a society. Are we surprised that since that philosophy, that worldview, has assaulted the law of God, assaulted the family, has corrupted the church that now they want to get rid of the only remaining restraint which is the police?

So you say, “Well, okay, you can’t be a part of that. But can you join the protests? Is that an option? Can I mingle in a crowd of the lawful and the lawless, lovers of people and haters of people?” Look at Ecclesiastes chapter 8, this is very instructive, Ecclesiastes chapter 8. And I’m just looking for answers in Scripture. Chapter 8, verse 1: “Who is like the wise man and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man’s wisdom illumines him and causes his face to beam.” You want to be wise? You want to have a happy life? Verse 2: “I say, ‘Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave him. Do not join in an evil matter, for he will do whatever he pleases.” You put yourself in jeopardy if you rebel against the authorities.

“Since the word of the king is authoritative,” – in verse 4 – “who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ He who keeps a royal command experiences no trouble, for a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure. There is a proper time and procedure for every delight, though a man’s trouble is heavy upon him. If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen?” So you start a rebellion, you get involved in a rebellion, and you don’t know what’s going to happen; but it may turn out very badly

What value is there in being part of rebellion against authority? Paul also speaks in regard to that in Romans 13; let me remind you of it – and we’re going to get back to Ecclesiastes in a minute. Romans 13, verse 1: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” So you not only have the issue of Ecclesiastes where you’re acting in some kind of a protest against the authority, you don’t know how it’s going to end up; but you could lose your life because you can’t control the wind or the day of your death.

Not only that, not only do you have to deal with that reality, but you oppose authority, you oppose the ordinance of God, and you fall under His condemnation. “For rulers are not a cause for fear of good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it doesn’t bear the sword for nothing.” – and that’s a terminal weapon – “It is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” It’s necessary then to be in subjection …

But things happen in a society that aren’t fair. Listen to the words of Peter, 1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake; I am the Lord. Submit yourselves” – be holy – “to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors that’s sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Do right. Do right. And part of doing right is to submit.

Verse 17: “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Even servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also who are unreasonable.” You have an unreasonable boss; submit. “For this finds grace, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.” So you suffer unjustly? Guess what: welcome to the world. Welcome to life in a fallen world.

“This finds grace.” You put yourself in a position of divine grace when you suffer unjustly. “For what credit is there” – verse 20 – “if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure, this finds grace with God.” So you suffered, you suffered unjustly. As a child of God, you have been given grace in that occasion.

Here’s the great example, verse 21: “You’ve been called for this purpose.” What? Yes. “You’ve been called to suffer unjustly, since Christ also suffered for you, not only in a redemptive way, but as an example for you to follow in His steps.” Suffering unjustly, He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being unjustly reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” That’s our example. So you suffer, you suffer unjustly. What do you do? You do what a believer is called to do: you commit no sin, no deception; you don’t strike back; you utter no threats; you just entrust yourself to the one who judges righteously.

“And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” When Christ suffered unjustly, He accomplished the greatest work ever in history. By suffering unjustly, He provided redemption for the human race.

God has His purposes in our suffering. Peter says in 1 Peter 5:10, “After you’ve suffered a while, the Lord makes you perfect.” Paul says, “There was a thorn in the flesh, and I prayed three times for the Lord to remove it, and the Lord kept saying to me, ‘My strength is perfected in your weakness.’”

And here’s my problem with the protests. We are people of the truth. First of all, I have to embrace the suffering the Lord brings into my life because through it He is perfecting me, and He is extending to me grace.

Secondly, in everything, I have to be a person of the truth. The protests? Sure. They have some grievances; obvious, we get it. But they have covered the truth with lies. They have gone way beyond an injustice or several injustices to conclude that there is systemic racism, White hatred, widespread police brutality. Those are lies, those are not true. I can’t, I can’t join the protest without being part of the lies. Proverbs 19:22 says, “It’s better to be a poor man than a liar.” And, “Satan” – John 8:44 – “is the father of lies.” So if you have a satanic system, you expect lies – all goes together.

You say, “Well, okay, I can’t join the Black Lives Matter Association. I can’t really join the protest because I have to embrace whatever I might suffer. And I can’t be a part of lies and deception that is attempting to bring down the last restraint, the authority of the police, government. Thirdly, then, “Could I work to change laws? Could I work to change policies? Is that an option?” Better laws: great. Better policies: we would all appreciate that. But here’s the problem: no matter how many laws you make, you can’t change the sinner, the law-breaker.

Titus 3 is a really often overlooked description of the natural man. Verse 3: “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” Now what do you think laws are going to do to that person? They don’t deal with the disobedience, the deception, the enslavement, the malice, the envy, the hate.

Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” The problem is, you can make a lot of laws, and you can change a lot of policies, but there’s a principle that Paul lays out in Romans 8; and you are familiar with it. Let me read it to you: “For what the Law could not do,” – and this is the law of God, which is reflected in human law, – “what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh.” That’s the problem: the law has no power. “What the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh.”

Verse 5: “Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.” Verse 6: The mind set on the flesh is death.” Verse 7: “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; it doesn’t subject itself to the law of God, it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” God laid out a lot of commandments in Scripture; sinners cannot submit to those laws. They are, by nature, haters injurious. Sinners can’t keep the law. So we can keep adding laws, changing policies, and never get to the issue.

Well, maybe there’s a fourth option. “Should I seek to change the people in power?” Black Lives Matter’s opening statement in their documents says, “We want power.”

“Okay. Is that an option? Do we just swap new sinners for the old ones? Do we just flip this? Let’s put out of power the people who are in power and replace them with lawless people who are trying to overthrow them and assume that’ll be better. We’ll swap sinners.”

Well, the problem with that, we saw also last time, “There’s none righteous, not even one; there’s none who understands; there’s none who seeks for God; they’ve all turned aside, together they have become useless; none who does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave, their tongues keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, the path of peace they haven’t known. There’s no fear of God before their eyes.” Hmm. None righteous, no, not one. So swapping the current sinners for some other sinners doesn’t make a lot of sense.

As I told you last time, God has put restraints in the world: the law of God written in the heart in the conscience. This culture has completely destroyed that. The second restraint is the family and the authority of parents and the discipline that parents bring to restrain sin in children; and this culture has destroyed that. And the church has fallen on very hard times with its pragmatism and its desire to entertain sinners and make them feel comfortable, so it no longer comes with any force against sin. And we’re not at all surprised that the next restraint and the final one standing is the police; and they’re under assault

It was back of the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth, in the early 1900s before World War I, there was a lot of social issues in America: child labor, poverty, the things that come along with poverty. There was a Baptist pastor by the name of Rauschenbusch who decided that the church ended to shift away from the Bible and the gospel and work on social issues. At the turn of the century they had began to do that. The church started to preach what was called the social gospel. Before they were done, every major denomination in this country had abandoned the Bible, abandoned the gospel, abandoned the cardinal truths of Scripture. All their schools were corrupt, all their universities were corrupt, all their seminaries were corrupt, and now you have vestiges of those denominations that are nothing but rockpiles on corners in old cities. It wiped out every denomination. It’s back again, back again about hundred years later, and it’s beginning again to wipe out churches. When you get caught up in the stupidity and foolishness of trying to fix the world, you’re striking a blow against God’s will and God’s purpose, and you’re violating His commands.

We submit to Him, to His providence. We love Him and we love our neighbors as ourselves. This is reconciliation. Sinners must be reconciled to God, and only then can they be reconciled to each other. Once you become reconciled to God through Christ, you become reconciled to every other Christian because we’re all one in Him.

So what do we do? We do what we always do. We live godly lives in the world. We live quiet, peaceful lives in the world. We proclaim the law of God, which is to love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. We proclaim the family: fathers, mothers, raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We declare the support of those who are in authority over us because God has ordained government. We honor them, we respect them. We do nothing to diminish their authority because that is God’s institution. And then, we let the church be the church and not turn into some social agency caught up in trying to do what is designed by Satan to be folly instead of wisdom. And as we go living these lives, we live quiet, peaceable, God-honoring, Christ-exalting lives; and we are ambassadors, proclaiming Jesus Christ is Lord, proclaiming the gospel in His holy name. We are ambassadors, begging people to be reconciled to God, 2 Corinthians 5 says. We are ambassadors for God

In an era when so many churches are closing or empty, John MacArthur’s church is full every Sunday.

These sermons explain why.

Preach the Gospel, not the social gospel.

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 10:16-21

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
    and their words to the ends of the world.”

19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
    with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

—————————————————————————————–

Last week’s post introduced Romans 10, the theme of which is obeying God by obeying Jesus Christ.

John MacArthur explains why Paul had to do this. Paul’s Roman audience were Jewish converts (emphases mine):

Paul has to deal with this in this epistle to the Romans because he can’t get by this hurdle. He’s presenting justification by grace through faith and somebody’s going to say, if this is really the truth, this new covenant, this new message is really the truth, this message which contradicts the old truth, if this is really it, then why doesn’t Israel believe it, because they’re the people who have always received the Word of God? And it was obvious that they were rejecting it. It was obvious the Jews had rejected Jesus Christ and had Him crucified. If this is the truth from God, how is it that the people of God have rejected it? How can it be? And so Paul, in order to defend his doctrine of justification by grace through faith, has to explain the unbelief of Israel. And that’s exactly what he’s doing in chapter 10.

In chapter 9 he showed how the unbelief of Israel was already fit into the plan of God, so it didn’t surprise God. It didn’t thwart God’s plan. He already had knew it. He already had planned it into the plan. And now in chapter 10 he describes how it is that they could be so ignorant and why they reject it.

Here are the verses from Romans 10 preceding today’s reading. These are in the Lectionary:

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

This is why men and women of the cloth should be focussing on preaching the Bible rather the troubling issues of our day. When we are at peace with God — and not rebelling against Him and His Son — we are at peace with our fellow man and woman.

Returning to Paul’s audience, they had an imperfect faith. Therefore, he needed to explain certain doctrines to them and make it clear that God’s people — Israel — had always been rebellious, dating back to the time of Moses.

Paul says that both Jew and Gentile have been rebellious, reinforcing Israel’s rebellion by citing Isaiah 53:1 (verse 16).

Matthew Henry discusses this lack of obedience and the purpose of Scripture:

All the Jews have not, all the Gentiles have not; far the greater part of both remain in unbelief and disobedience. Observe, The gospel is given us not only to be known and believed, but to be obeyed. It is not a system of notions, but a rule of practice. This little success of the word was likewise foretold by the prophet (Isaiah 53:1): Who hath believed our report? Very few have, few to what one would think should have believed it, considering how faithful a report it is and how well worthy of all acceptation,–very few to the many that persist in unbelief. It is no strange thing, but it is a very sad and uncomfortable thing, for the ministers of Christ to bring the report of the gospel, and not to be believed in it. Under such a melancholy consideration it is good for us to go to God and make our complaint to him.

MacArthur discusses the word ‘obey’ in Greek:

The word to “obey” is hupakou. We get “acoustics” from it. It means “to hear,” and hupo means “under,” to hear under. To hear under means to get under somebody in submission like a servant, to line up under somebody. They have not heard it submissively with a heart of obedience. It is a rich word, beloved, by the way, and it implies that salvation has inherent in it obedience. It has inherent in it submission to Christ. And that’s obvious if you study Scripture. In all the messages of salvation there is a sense of obedience. In other words, it isn’t just believing. It is affirming that I will line up under and obey, that I will submit.

That’s a tough message, given today’s protests against submission throughout history.

If we are to submit at all, it must be to God first. We submit to Him by submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to say that faith comes from hearing the Gospels and solid preaching, for only through them do we build up our faith (verse 17). I refer you to my statement above about today’s clergy and their grave error in ignoring both.

Henry says:

The beginning, progress, and strength of faith, are by hearing. The word of God is therefore called the word of faith: it begets and nourishes faith. God gives faith, but it is by the word as the instrument. Hearing (that hearing which works faith) is by the word of God. It is not hearing the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but hearing the word of God, that will befriend faith, and hearing it as the word of God. See 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

Paul reminds the Romans that Scripture always said that Gentiles would be received into the fold as God’s people. Paul cites Psalm 19:4 as proof (verse 18):

Their voice[a] goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,

MacArthur says the Psalm refers to natural revelation of God’s glory:

what David is saying in the Psalm is that the stars and all the celestial bodies proclaim to the whole earth that there is a God, right? That’s what we call in theology natural revelation. But all of the stellar bodies, all of the glory of space communicates that there is a God. And Paul borrows this verse and says this is a symbol and this is a foreshadowing of how the gospel will extend to all the earth, even as the testimony of the stars and the stellar bodies do. It’s a marvelous truth. The testimony of heaven, he says, is like a measuring line that marks out extent. And he uses the term, “their line is gone out,” like a guy who marked out the extremities of an area and says the testimony goes to the very limits of the perimeter. And here Paul says that their sound went into all the earth. Their words to the end of the world, same idea, only he says as the stars have touched the earth with natural revelation, the gospel touches the earth with special revelation.

Then Paul cites from the time of Moses as a way of saying that rebellious Israel never understood submission and obedience (verse 19). As a result, God punished His people through conflict with a Gentile — ‘foolish’ — nation. ‘Foolish’ in that context means that the Gentiles did not yet know about God. The citation comes from Deuteronomy 32:21:

They have made me jealous with what is no god;
    they have provoked me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are no people;
    I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

That conflict is a spiritual one, as MacArthur says:

what he is saying there is, you knew, Deuteronomy told you that, that the day would come when God would embrace a no people, that’s a Gentile people, a foolish nation, that’s a Gentile nation, and provoke you to what? A jealousy about His relationship to them. You knew that, that was in Deuteronomy 32:21. And if you read the thirty-second chapter of Deuteronomy, verse 5 in that chapter marks the unbelief of Israel and verse 20 marks the judgment of God and verse 21 is this verse. I’m going to turn to another people, another nation, non-Jewish, Gentile and bless them and provoke you to jealousy.

That is what happened when Christ was ministering to the Jews of His day. Many rejected Him, so He sought another people, the Gentiles:

this prediction of Moses could find its fulfillment only in the conversion of the Gentiles through the gospel of Christ. They were the no people brought into intimate relationship with God. And the Jews should have remembered Deuteronomy 32, they should have repented, they should have seen the truth of the gospel as it went to the Gentiles. You see, Jesus made this so clear to them. He kept saying to them. Remember how in chapter 21 and 22 of Matthew He kept saying to them, “Look, I’m going to turn from you to this other people. You don’t want to come to the banquet? I’ll get some people who will come to the banquet. You don’t want to serve Me? I’ll find some people who do. You want to kill My servants and kill My Son? I’ll give out My vineyard to someone else who is worthy of it.” In Luke 14, “You don’t want to come to My great supper? You don’t want to eat this feast? Then I’ll go in the highways and byways and I’ll call the lame and the blind and the halt and all the rest of them in here.”

Henry gives us a practical application of the verse from Deuteronomy:

God often makes people’s sin their punishment. A man needs no greater plague than to be left to the impetuous rage of his own lusts.

How true!

Paul concludes his discussion of disobedience with Isaiah 65:1-2, wherein the prophet says he was prepared for people who would listen to him after he had to stop preaching to a rebellious Israel (verses 20, 21). Here are the verses:

65 I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
    I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
    to a nation that was not called by[a] my name.
2 I spread out my hands all the day
    to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
    following their own devices;

There are numerous references in the Bible to God’s judgement on mankind by removing the possibility of faith and leaving people to their own devices. See Matthew Henry’s comment above about God’s making our sin our punishment if we do not repent.

Henry says that Israel not only refused to submit to God, they also quarrelled with Him:

One word in the Hebrew, in Isaiah, is here well explained by two; not only disobedient to the call, not yielding to it, but gainsaying, and quarrelling with it, which is much worse. Many that will not accept of a good proposal will yet acknowledge that they have nothing to say against it: but the Jews who believed not rested not there, but contradicted and blasphemed. God’s patience with them was a very great aggravation of their disobedience, and rendered it the more exceedingly sinful; as their disobedience advanced the honour of God’s patience and rendered it the more exceedingly gracious. It is a wonder of mercy in God that his goodness is not overcome by man’s badness; and it is a wonder of wickedness in man that his badness is not overcome by God’s goodness.

When we are truly at peace with God, we are also at peace with humanity. That is the only way forward in this world.

Next time — Romans 11:2b-6

Below are the readings for the Third Sunday after Trinity, June 28, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings about Abraham’s life continue. God tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice his only child, Isaac. God relented when He saw how obedient Abraham was.

Genesis 22:1-14

22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”

22:3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.

22:4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.

22:5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”

22:6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.

22:7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

22:8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

22:9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.

22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

22:13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

22:14 So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

This six-verse lament of David expressing his desire for God’s deliverance ends in praise.

Psalm 13

13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

13:2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

13:3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

13:4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

13:5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

13:6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Readings from Jeremiah continue. This reading concerns the false prophet Hananiah, who, like Pashur in last week’s reading, came from a family of priests.

Jeremiah 28:5-9

28:5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD;

28:6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles.

28:7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people.

28:8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.

28:9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.”

It would have been a good idea for the Lectionary editors to include the second half of the chapter. God spoke through Jeremiah, who prophesied Hananiah’s death, which came true.

10 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke-bars from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke them. 11 And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.” But Jeremiah the prophet went his way.

12 Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’” 15 And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’”

17 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.

It is possible that the following Psalm was written during the captivity in Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

89:1 I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

89:2 I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

89:3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:

89:4 ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.'” Selah

89:15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance;

89:16 they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.

89:17 For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.

89:18 For our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Epistle

Readings from Romans continue. Paul explains the doctrine of grace to the Jewish converts in Rome. They were once under law only, but the law cannot save. With Jesus Christ, believers have saving faith through divine grace. Verse 23 is another personal favourite of mine.

Romans 6:12-23

6:12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.

6:13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

6:15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

6:17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,

6:18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

6:19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

6:20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

6:21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.

6:22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.

6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel

These verses conclude Matthew 10, Christ’s instructions to the Apostles for their ministries, read over the preceding two weeks.

Matthew 10:40-42

10:40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

10:41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;

10:42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

May you be blessed in the week ahead.

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 10:1-4

10 Brothers,[a] my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.[b]

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Last week’s post discussed Romans 9, wherein Paul explained why the Church opened to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. This was difficult for Paul’s audience of Jewish converts in Rome to understand.

Romans 10 picks up where Romans 9 leaves off. Here are the concluding verses from that chapter (emphases mine):

30 What should we say then? Those who aren’t Jews did not look for a way to be right with God. But they found it by having faith. 31 Israel did look for a law that could make them right with God. But they didn’t find it.

32 Why not? Because they didn’t look for it by faith. They tried to get it by working for it. They tripped over the stone that causes people to trip and fall.  (Romans 9:30-32)

Powerful words.

Paul wanted desperately for his audience to understand that the way to salvation and belief in God is through Jesus Christ alone (verse 1).

Matthew Henry says that verse is a prayer of Paul’s:

It was not only his heart’s desire, but it was his prayer. There may be desires in the heart, and yet no prayer, unless those desires be presented to God. Wishing and woulding, if that be all, are not praying.

Paul says that the Jews have a ‘zeal’ for God, but not one that is based in ‘knowledge’, true understanding (verse 2).

There are many instances where Paul discussed his prior life as a Pharisee and how he was missing out on the truth of Jesus Christ. John MacArthur discusses several instances of these. Here is one from Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 1:13, “For you have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God and wasted it and profited in the Jews’ religion above many, my equals and my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the tradition of my fathers.” He says I bear witness. I bear witness that they have a zeal for God. How do you know that? I had it. I was so zealous for God, I was so zealous for what I thought was the truth of God and the tradition, I was so zealous for that that I relentlessly persecuted the church of Jesus Christ. I did all I could to slaughter the Christians. I was zealous for God.

Henry explains the knowledge that the Jews missed out on:

Their zeal was not according to knowledge. It is true God gave them that law for which they were so zealous; but they might have known that, by the appearance of the promised Messiah, an end was put to it. He introduced a new religion and way of worship, to which the former must give place. He proved himself the Son of God, gave the most convincing evidence that could be of his being the Messiah; and yet they did not know and would not own him, but shut their eyes against the clear light, so that their zeal for the law was blind.

Because of this, they closed their hearts and minds to God’s righteousness and refused to submit to Him (verse 3), even though they thought they were through the law.

MacArthur characterises Romans 10 as follows:

In chapter 9, as I said, the reason they’re unsaved is the sovereignty of God. Concurrent with that in chapter 10 is their own unbelief. And the theme here is the ignorance of Israel, a willing, unbelieving ignorance.

Paul goes on to say that the coming of the Messiah, Christ Jesus, put an end to the law of the Old Covenant (verse 4). The law was there only to prepare God’s chosen people in the way of holiness for Christ, the Redeemer. Note that Christ preached to the Jews first. He instructed His apostles to preach to the Jews. See last Sunday’s Gospel reading from Matthew 10:

10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans,

10:6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Jesus wanted His Father’s people to be the first to know that He came to redeem them.

Henry explains this in a way that we can also apply to ourselves:

Christdid what the law could not do (Romans 8:3), and secured the great end of it. The end of the law was to bring men to perfect obedience, and so to obtain justification. This is now become impossible, by reason of the power of sin and the corruption of nature; but Christ is the end of the law. The law is not destroyed, nor the intention of the lawgiver frustrated, but, full satisfaction being made by the death of Christ for our breach of the law, the end is attained, and we are put in another way of justification. Christ is thus the end of the law for righteousness, that is, for justification; but it is only to every one that believeth. Upon our believing, that is, our humble consent to the terms of the gospel, we become interested in Christ’s satisfaction, and so are justified through the redemption that is in Jesus.

Even so, the following was the disappointing result that Paul desperately wanted to remedy. MacArthur says:

Number one, Israel was ignorant of the person of God. Can you imagine how devastating that is to them to hear that? They were ignorant of the person of God. Two, they were ignorant of the provision of Christ. Three, they were ignorant of the place of faith, the role that faith played. Four, they were ignorant of the parameters of salvation, the extent of it, the wideness of it, the inclusiveness of it. Fifth, they were ignorant of the predictions of Scripture. They were ignorant of the person of God, the provision of Christ, the place of faith, the parameters of salvation, the predictions of Scripture. The whole chapter then comes together to say Israel is lost because Israel is in the ignorance of unbelief.

And I say to you again that no man is ever lost because God makes some decree somewhere utterly unconnected to how that man chooses. They come together. And how God does that is His problem. The present rejection of Israel is not simply and only because of sovereign election, as if God withheld His grace. In fact, He preached and preached and preached and called and called and called and they refused to believe. And so they are found in chapter 10 in unbelieving ignorance.

This theme continues next week, when Paul cites Isaiah preaching to his own people who rejected his prophecy.

Next time — Romans 10:16-21

Below are the readings for the Second Sunday after Trinity, June 21, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings from Genesis about Abraham’s life continue. Abraham desperately wanted an heir, so he slept with his bondservant Hagar because Sarah could not have children until God intervened. Hagar and Abraham’s son was called Ishmael, and God made him the father of the Arab nations.

Genesis 21:8-21

21:8 The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

21:9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac.

21:10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”

21:11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son.

21:12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you.

21:13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”

21:14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

21:15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.

21:16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.

21:17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.

21:18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.”

21:19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

21:20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.

21:21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

The following Psalm is called ‘A Prayer of David’, as he sang it often in times of trouble. Note how verse 16 ties in with the above reading about Hagar and Ishmael.

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17

86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

86:2 Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God;

86:3 be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all day long.

86:4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

86:5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.

86:6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my cry of supplication.

86:7 In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me.

86:8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.

86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

86:10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

86:16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl.

86:17 Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Pashur, the chief governor of the temple at the time, was angry with Jeremiah for preaching the truth. The hierarchy and the people rejected all of the prophets, not just Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 20:7-13

20:7 O LORD, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.

20:8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.

20:9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

20:10 For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.”

20:11 But the LORD is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.

20:12 O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

20:13 Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers

This Psalm, about David’s afflictions, ties in well with Jeremiah’s own.

Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

69:7 It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.

69:8 I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.

69:9 It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

69:10 When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so.

69:11 When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

69:12 I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

69:13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help

69:14 rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

69:15 Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

69:16 Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

69:17 Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress–make haste to answer me.

69:18 Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.

Epistle

Readings from Romans continue. Paul explains that, because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, believers are dead to sin and alive with Him.

Romans 6:1b-11

6:1b Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?

6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life.

6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

6:7 For whoever has died is freed from sin.

6:8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

6:10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel

Matthew Henry calls Matthew 10 an ‘ordination sermon’. In last week’s Gospel reading, we read how Jesus sent the Apostles out to preach and heal. This week’s is the continuation of the chapter, wherein Jesus gives them a powerful lesson about their ministries and the effect that the Christian faith will have on people. He begins with the criticism of the Jewish hierarchy of His preaching (verse 25)

Matthew 10:24-39

10:24 “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;

10:25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

10:26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.

10:27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

10:30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted.

10:31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

10:32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;

10:33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

10:35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

10:36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;

10:38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

10:39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Christianity is not easy at times. It requires endurance and patience. It might also mean losing one’s friends, just as the prophets of old did. We are to keep the faith and fight the good fight.

Have a blessed Sunday and a satisfying week ahead.

The following three posts date from 2009, when I read verses that were not in the Lectionary and wrote about them rather than going through one book of the Bible at a time, as I do now.

These are about Romans 9, most of which is not in the three-year Lectionary:

Romans 9:6-13 – election, New Covenant

Paul introduces the New Covenant to the Jews. Our salvation depends not on our lineage (i.e. Abrahamic descent) and not all will be saved.  Our election to salvation depends not on our own works but on God’s choosing.

11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls)  (Rom. 9:11)

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Romans 9:14-24 – election, New Covenant

This passage explains how and why God, through Jesus’s death and resurrection, opened the promise of salvation to the Gentiles through the New Covenant: ‘not only Jews but also Gentiles’.

Key verses:

24Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?   (Romans 9:24)

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Romans 9:25-33faith, not works; New Covenant

This passage further explains how and why God, through Jesus’s death and resurrection, opened the promise of salvation to the Gentiles.

Key verses:

30 What should we say then? Those who aren’t Jews did not look for a way to be right with God. But they found it by having faith. 31 Israel did look for a law that could make them right with God. But they didn’t find it.

32 Why not? Because they didn’t look for it by faith. They tried to get it by working for it. They tripped over the stone that causes people to trip and fall.  (Romans 9:30-32)

Next time — Romans 10:1-4

Below are the readings for the First Sunday after Trinity, June 14, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings from Genesis continue. Here we have the account of the Lord appearing to Abraham, who was, at the time, pagan (as was his family). Incredibly, he followed the Lord and did whatever He asked of him. The Lord blessed Abraham with many good things and gave him a son, even though his wife Sarah was barren and beyond childbearing age.

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)

18:1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.

18:2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.

18:3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.

18:4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.

18:5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.”

18:7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.

18:8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

18:9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”

18:10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.

18:11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

18:12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”

18:13 The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’

18:14 Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”

18:15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

21:1 The LORD dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.

21:2 Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.

21:3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.

21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.

21:5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

21:6 Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”

21:7 And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

The Psalm ties in perfectly with Abraham’s story. David wrote in thanksgiving for all the blessings the Lord had given him.

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

116:1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

116:2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

116:12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?

116:13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,

116:14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.

116:16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.

116:17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.

116:18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

116:19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

This is the first part of the story of the covenant that God made with the Israelites.

Exodus 19:2-8a

19:2 They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

19:3 Then Moses went up to God; the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:

19:4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

19:5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine,

19:6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

19:7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him.

19:8a The people all answered as one: “Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

This is a beautiful Psalm of general thanksgiving for God’s goodness towards us.

Psalm 100

100:1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.

100:2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.

100:3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.

100:5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Epistle

We begin a series of readings from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul succinctly lays out the New Covenant that God made with us through His Son Jesus Christ. Endurance is part of our Christian journey, as Paul knew only too well in his own ministry.

Romans 5:1-8

5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

5:7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.

5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel

Jesus gave the Apostles the power to preach and to heal early in His ministry along with the following instructions on how to conduct themselves. Matthew 10:16 is a personal favourite of mine.

Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

9:35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.

9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

9:37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

9:38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

10:1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.

10:2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;

10:3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

10:4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans,

10:6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

10:7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

10:8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

10:9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts,

10:10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.

10:11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.

10:12 As you enter the house, greet it.

10:13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

10:15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

10:16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

10:17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues;

10:18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.

10:19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time;

10:20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

10:21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;

10:22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

10:23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Note that Jesus sent the Apostles to the Jews, ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. He also warned of persecution, which befell most of them once they began their own ministries after the first Pentecost. Also note that Jesus spoke of endurance — ‘to the end’.

Bible spine dwtx.orgThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 7:7-14

The Law and Sin

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

———————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s post dealt with the presence of the law but with the added presence of the Spirit, giving us hope for redemption through Jesus Christ.

For the true depth of today’s verses and Paul’s spiritual journey, we need to turn to the King James Version (emphases mine):

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

We read these verses and think that Paul was describing his past self, just after conversion. He was too holy later on to wrestle with lustful desires, surely.

Yet, John MacArthur says that this was Paul in the present and gives us examples from his other letters to support that assertion:

You show me a person with this kind of brokenness, you show me a person agonizing in the depths of his own soul because he can’t do everything written in the law of God, and I’ll show you a spiritual person.

And so, I believe, what you have here is Paul. That’s right, Paul. And you see the word “I” 46 times in this portion of Scripture, in Romans 7, if I remember correctly. Don’t count them now. Anyway, he says it a lot. And I think what you have – some people say, “Well, this was Paul before he was saved. This was Paul when he just got saved, and he was infantile, and he was still sort of carnal.” I think this is Paul at the very heights of his Christian perception. This is Paul at the level of maturity. And what he sees is that he does not live up to the holy law of God, though he desires it with all his heart. And he finds himself debilitated by that ugly reality that sin in its residual reality is still hanging on. And that is a profoundly sensitive realization.

In 1 Corinthians 15:9, he says the same thing in other terms. “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am.” You see that? He didn’t say, “I wasn’t fit to be an apostle. He said – what? – “I am not fit now to be an apostle. I am the least of all.”

In Ephesians 3:8, “Unto me,” he says, “who am less than the least.” Now he’s going down the drain further. He just used to be the least, now he’s less than the least. You see, the man, the more the man perceives himself as over against the holy law of God, though in our judgment relative to other men he is the supreme man, he in his own mind is less than the least of all saints.

I draw you to 1 Timothy 1:12. “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, in that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.” You say, “Well, sure that’s what he was – “ “But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” Then this, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I – ” what? – was chief “ – am chief. Nevertheless, for this cause I obtained mercy.”

Listen, I think that’s exactly what he’s saying in Romans 7. This is Paul far along in his apostleship, mature in the Lord, walking in the dynamic of spiritual life, having experienced the mighty power of God, and the wisdom of God, and the knowledge of God. And the more he knows, and the more he experiences, the more he hates the sin that he sees hanging on. And the terms that he uses in Romans 7 are so precise that I think we can’t miss this picture.

I am so grateful to John MacArthur for these insights.

Recall that Paul is writing to Jews living in Rome who became Christian. Those conversions probably started on or soon after the first Pentecost, when they would have gathered in Jerusalem for Shavuot. Some would have witnessed the Holy Spirit descending on the blessed 70 disciples of Christ and heard Peter’s first sermon immediately afterwards. Those men took the Good News back to Rome with them.

Paul spent a lot of time talking about the law, because it is very important to the Jews. He wanted to share his own journey with his brethren so that they would fully understand the power of the Gospel story. There is more than law; there is now redemption, too.

Paul says that, had it not been for God’s commandments, he never would have known the evils of lust (verse 7). This seems odd, because Paul had been a Pharisee and instructed in his youth by one of the best teachers of the law, Gamaliel.

Matthew Henry said Paul knew the tenets of the law but not their spiritual application. Henry compares it to having a nut but not being able to get beyond the shell to the fruit inside:

He had the letter of the law, but he had not the spiritual meaning of it–the shell, but not the kernel. He had the law in his hand and in his head, but he had it not in his heart; the notion of it, but not the power of it. There are a great many who are spiritually dead in sin, that yet are alive in their own opinion of themselves, and it is their strangeness to the law that is the cause of the mistake.

Paul goes on to describe the tension he felt once he awakened to moral law. He knew that lust was wrong but, even though he was conscious of it, resistance nearly — nearly — became futile at times (verse 8). He was wrestling with sin.

Henry has this:

The corrupt nature would not have swelled and raged so much if it had not been for the restraints of the law; as the peccant humours in the body are raised, and more inflamed, by a purge that is not strong enough to carry them off.

Paul says that without the law, he would not have realised the abhorrent nature of sin, which became very real to him. Consequently, his old self died (verses 9, 10). The Spirit made him aware of his sins according to the law.

Henry explains:

Sin revived, and I died; that is, the Spirit, but the commandment, convinced me that I was in a state of sin, and in a state of death because of sin.” Of this excellent use is the law; it is a lamp and a light; it converts the soul, opens the eyes, prepares the way of the Lord in the desert, rends the rocks, levels the mountains, makes ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Paul says that he finally understood the deceptive nature of sin (verse 11), which goes back to Original Sin, as Henry reminds us:

Ever since Adam ate forbidden fruit, we have all been fond of forbidden paths; the diseased appetite is carried out most strongly towards that which is hurtful and prohibited.

Sin is deceptive, just as it was with Adam and Eve:

sin, that is, his won corrupt nature, took occasion thence to promise him impunity, and to say, as the serpent to our first parents, You shall not surely die. Thus it deceived and slew him.

Therefore, God’s moral law is good. Through the Spirit, the law reveals our sinful ways (verse 12).

Furthermore, Paul says he realised that the power of the law illuminated his perception that sin was evil (verse 13). Without the law, he would not have had that realisation. Therefore, Paul submitted himself to God’s law.

Henry offers this practical application of the law:

The way to prevent this mischief is to bow our souls to the commanding authority of the word and law of God, not striving against, but submitting to it.

Paul concludes by saying that God’s law is good. It is we who are slaves to sin by our very nature (verse 14).

MacArthur explains that the purpose of the law is to convict us of our sins, to show us that we are not only doing wrong but also offending God:

… when you come to verse 14, he is fighting sin and he will not let it kill him. He will not give in to it. And so I believe this is Paul’s own testimony of how it is to live as a Spirit-controlled mature believer who loves with all of his heart the precious, beautiful, holy, majestic law of God, and finds himself wrapped in human flesh, and unable to fulfill the law of God the way his heart wants him to.

I also believe that in this section he continues his discussion of the law, and he is affirming, as we saw last time, to the Jew that there’s nothing wrong with the law. The law can’t save. We saw that. The law can’t sanctify. But it’s still good because it does what? It convicts of what? Sin. And that is true before you’re saved, and guess what? It’s true afterwards

You know, when you become a Christian and you read about sin in the Bible, are you less concerned about your sin because you’re now a Christian? No, you should be – what? – more concerned about it. And the law will always reveal it. When David said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin,” he was saying that the Word of God in the heart becomes the point of conviction. It isn’t just information. You understand that? We don’t go through life just needing information. We need conviction. And the law has that power.

So, while telling us that the law cannot save and the law cannot sanctify, he affirms that it is good, and holy, and just because it does convict of sin before you’re saved and brings you to Christ and after you’re saved so that you’ll understand God’s holy standard and long with all your heart to fulfill it. The problem is not the law. The problem is us.

I hope this helps to explain the role of the Ten Commandments in our lives and the Holy Spirit’s help in revealing to us the state of our souls.

Next time — Romans 9:6-33

Below are the readings for Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

This particular Sunday honours the Triune God. These posts explain more about it:

On Trinity Sunday

Anglican reflections on the Trinity

A practical — and Anglican — reflection for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday — an Anglican analysis of its importance

This next post offers an excellent way to explain the Holy Trinity to someone, particularly a child. It comes from a Lutheran pastor:

A great way to explain the Holy Trinity

Emphases mine below.

First reading

This is the story of Creation. It is difficult to comprehend how people cannot believe that God did not create the universe and all of nature.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a

1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,

1:2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

1:4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

1:5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

1:6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”

1:7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so.

1:8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

1:9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.

1:10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

1:11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so.

1:12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.

1:13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,

1:15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

1:16 God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.

1:17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,

1:18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

1:19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

1:20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.”

1:21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

1:22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

1:23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

1:24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.

1:25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

1:26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

1:27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

1:28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

1:29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.

1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

1:31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.

2:2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.

2:3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

2:4a These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Psalm

This Psalm ties in beautifully with the reading from Genesis.

Psalm 8

8:1 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

8:2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

8:3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

8:4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

8:5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

8:6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,

8:7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

8:8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

8:9 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Epistle

This is Paul’s valediction (farewell) and benediction (blessing) to the Corinthians. ‘Saints’ refers to those who ministered along with him. What a perfect blessing we have in verse 13.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

13:13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Gospel

This is the Great Commission: our Lord’s instruction to spread the Good News to all the ends of the Earth. This is the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel.

Matthew 28:16-20

28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Have a blessed Sunday contemplating the holy mystery of the Triune God.

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