Let us rejoice ...
Revised Common Lectionary: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 or Jeremiah 20:7-13; Psalm 69:7-18; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 19:24-30
- Let us rejoice in God’s greatest gift – Jesus.
We have here the contrast between Isaac, the child of promise, and Ishmael, the fruit of unbelief.
Ishmael was born as a result of impatience, the failure to wait upon the Lord. In the birth of Isaac, the initiative belonged with God, and the glory belonged to Him.
In Christ, we are the children of promise - ‘children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:13).
God did not forget Ishmael. There were blessings for him (Genesis 21:17-21).
The difference between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between common grace and saving grace.
Many people know much of the grace of God in ‘the common things of life’ (Church Hymnary, 457). There are so many blessings for them to count.
Sadly, they fail to appreciate God’s greatest gift - His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thank God for this and that and... Jesus!
- Let the God of love fill your heart with His joy.
‘You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you... Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth... I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart... For great is Your love towards me’ (Psalm 86:5, 11-13).
God loves us. He forgives our sins.
We receive His love. We want to love Him more.
His love inspires our praise - ‘I will praise You...’
His love inspires our prayer - ‘Teach me Your way...’
Our whole life is to be a celebration of His love - ‘Great is Your love towards me’. We are to celebrate His love with ‘joy’ (Psalm 86:4).
We rejoice in the Lord because of who He is - ‘You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’- and what He has done for us - ‘You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me’ (Psalm 86:15, 17).
- The joy of the Lord gives us strength to keep on serving Him.
Jeremiah is deeply depressed - ‘Cursed be the day I was born! ... Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?’ (Jeremiah 20:14-18).
He has been preaching God’s Word.
He’s getting nothing but abuse in return: ‘The Word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long’ (Jeremiah 20:8).
Does he stop preaching? No! He keeps on going.
He feels like giving up: ‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name”’.
There is, however, a greater Power which drives him on - ‘His Word is in my heart like a fire.’
No matter how much Jeremiah tries to keep silent, he ‘cannot’ do it (Jeremiah 20:9). He moves forward in triumphant faith: ‘The Lord is with me like a mighty warrior’ (Jeremiah 20:11).
He calls on the people to worship the Lord: ‘Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord!’ (Jeremiah 20:13).
- The joy of the Lord gives us strength when we are suffering.
David is going through ‘the deep waters’ of suffering. He prays to the Lord for deliverance from ‘the flood’ and ‘the deep’ (Psalm 69:14-15).
He had sinned against the Lord. He does not try to hide this. He confesses his sin and guilt - ‘the wrongs that I have done are not hidden from You, my guilt is not hidden from You’ (Psalm 69:5).
He looks to the Lord, remembering that He is the God of ‘steadfast love’ and ‘abundant mercy’ (Psalm 69:16).
When you come to God in prayer, do not try to hide your sins from Him.
Remember - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’
In Christ, there is ‘mercy’ - God doesn’t send the judgment we deserve - and ‘grace’ - God sends the blessing we don’t deserve.
Come to Christ and receive His ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ (1 Timothy 1:13-16; Hebrews 4:14-16).
- The joy of the Lord gives us strength to walk in the way of Gospel obedience.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) - What a great thing God has done!
He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (Romans 6:2 Corinthians 5:17).
(b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) - Believe it.
This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit... the Spirit of God dwells in you... Christ is in you... the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you... His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11).
(c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) - Act upon it’.
‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new.
We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.
- The joy of the Lord gives us strength to look to Jesus Christ for salvation.
Even though ‘large crowds followed Him’, still ‘the Pharisees’opposed Jesus (Matthew 19:2-3).
Jesus’teaching regarding marriage has perfect balance.
Marriage is God’s purpose for ‘male and female’ (Matthew 19:4-5).
‘Others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 19:12). There is no compulsion in these matters. Each one must seek God’s will. Celibacy should not be viewed with suspicion. This way can also be chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. It must not be suggested that celibacy is the only truly ‘spiritual’ way.
Jesus calls for humility (Matthew19:14, 30).
What we cannot do for ourselves, God does for us (Matthew 19:23-26). The Gospel humbles us and exalts God. Before we can be exalted by God and with Him, we must be humbled by God and before Him.
‘Eternal life’ (Matthew 19:16) begins when, conscious of our sin - ‘Who then can be saved?’ (Matthew 19:25) - we look to Christ alone for salvation.
1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49; Psalm 9:9-20 (or 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16); Psalm 133:1-3 (or Job 38:1-11); Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
- The enemy is defeated. We have the victory in Christ.
David defeats Goliath. This is not only a story about David and Goliath. It is about the Israelites and the Philistines. It is about ‘God’and the ‘gods’(1 Samuel 17:43, 46). Victory comes from the Lord. It is given by grace. It is received by faith (47). Notice the contrast between the attitude of Saul - unbelief -and the attitude of David - faith (1 Samuel 17:33, 37). Unbelief is all around us. Don’t be pulled into it. Don’t forget God. Remember what He has done for you and thank Him that He will not fail you now (1 Samuel 17:37). Put off the armour provided by men. ‘Put on the whole armour of God’(1 Samuel 17:38-40; Ephesians 6:11). We will not win the victory if we fight in our own strength. We must draw our strength from the Lord. He helps us. We are ‘strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man’(Psalm 121:2; Psalm 124:8; Ephesians 3:16).
‘Loved’ by ‘all Israel and Judah’(1 Samuel 18:16, 28), David was hated by only one man, the most powerful man in the land - Saul (1 Samuel 18:29). Saul was full of envy (1 Samuel 18:7-8), suspicion (1 Samuel 18:9) and violence (1 Samuel 18:10-11). Saul had been proved wrong (1 Samuel 17:33, 50), and he didn’t like it! David had more success with the women (1 Samuel 18:7), and Saul wasn’t happy about this! The women shouldn’t have been idolizing David. Saul shouldn’t have been seeking glory for himself. The glory belongs to the Lord - not to David, not to Saul, not to anyone else! ‘Saul was David’s enemy continually’(1 Samuel 18:29). His real argument was with God. ‘The Lord was with David’(1 Samuel 18:14, 28). This didn’t please Saul - ‘Why am I not getting all this blessing? I’m the king!’. If anyone says, I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar... he who loves God should love his brother also’(1 John 4:20-21).
‘I will give thanks to the Lord...’(Psalm 9:1-2). The enemy is defeated (Psalm 9:3-6). ‘The Lord sits enthroned for ever’(Psalm 9:7). ‘The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble’(Psalm 9:9). What an encouraging Psalm this is: We have the victory in Christ. Nevertheless, it is not easy when we face determined opposition from the enemies of Christ and His Gospel: ‘Behold what I suffer from those that hate me’(Psalm 9:13). In this situation, we must call upon the Lord: ‘Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail’(Psalm 9:19). Though the conflict is raging all around, we must - taking our stand in Christ - declare God’s praises and rejoice in His salvation (Psalm 9:14). ‘The Lord dwells in Zion’(Psalm 9:11): ‘Blest inhabitants of Zion, Washed in the Redeemer’s blood’, may we always say, ‘Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy Name’(Church Hymnary, 421).
- As we gather together for worship, let us give thanks to the Lord and let us ask Him to strengthen our faith in Him.
God sends ‘His blessing’ when His people gather together for worship: ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!’(Psalm 133:1, 3). Many people like to think of themselves as ‘believers’, yet they show no interest in worshipping together with God’s people. What does God’s Word say about this? - ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...’(Hebrews 10:25). ‘Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the House of the Lord’(Psalm 133:1; Psalm 134:1). Some people never miss a Sunday morning service - but they always miss the Sunday evening services! They are missing out on so much of God’s blessing. ‘May the Lord... bless you...’on Sunday evenings as well as Sunday mornings (Psalm 134:2)!
There are some things that are worth repeating! The story of God’s amazing grace is worth repeating over and over again - ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress’(Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28). The call to praise the Lord is also something we need to hear again and again - ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men’(Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Let us ‘consider the great love of the Lord’. Let us ‘give thanks to the Lord’ (Psalm 107:43, 1). ‘The great love of God is revealed in the Son, who came to this earth to redeem every one. That love, like a stream flowing clear to the sea, makes clean every heart that from sin would be free... It’s yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given! The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven!’(Church Hymnary, 415).
Jesus was sleeping because He was tired - not because He didn't care (Mark 4:38)! He does care. Everything was under control. Faith was being tested. Fear and faith are opposites (Mark 4:40). ‘Awe’(Mark 4:41) is very different from unbelieving fear. Awe leads to worship. Fear destroys faith.
1 Kings 19:1-7-15a; Psalms 42:1-11 and Psalm 43:1-5 (or Isaiah 65:1-9); Psalm 22:19-28; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39
- God’s Love is Unchanged, Unchanging and Unchangeable.
Life is full of ups and downs. For Elijah, there was a very high point. He prayed. ‘The fire of the Lord fell’. ‘All the people said, ‘The Lord, He is God’’ (1 Kings 18:37-39). This was followed by a very low point: ‘O Lord, take away my life’ (1 Kings 19:4). We are so changeable. Often, we feel like we are being torn apart. Our emotions pull us in different directions. Sometimes, we are full of joy. At other times, we are at the point of despair. We find ourselves in a turmoil of confused emotions. What are we to do? Are we to ‘pull ourselves together’? This seems to be the very thing we can’t manage to do. Are we to ‘hope for the best’ - ‘Some day, some way, things will get better’? We think about this, and we wonder, ‘What happens if things get worse?’! Look to the Lord. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
- God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word?
Three times, the question is asked, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul’. Three times, the answer is given, ‘Put your hope in God’. Three times, there is the response of faith: ‘I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalm 42:5,11; Psalm 43:5). Often, we are filled with questions. We must bring our questions to God. We must learn to listen for His answers. The Lord is speaking to us. Are we listening? God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word? He wants us to come to Him with the prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:8-10). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Let His Word be your Guide: ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me...’ (Psalm 43:5). ‘Deep calls to deep’ Psalm 42:7) - Let ‘the Spirit’ show you ‘the deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:10).
- The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.
We confess our sins to God - ‘We sinned... All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’. We look to God for forgiveness - ‘Do not remember our sins for ever’ (Isaiah 64:5-6,9). We know that God hears and answers our prayer. Jesus Christ is God’s Answer to our prayer. He has ‘come down’ from heaven to earth. ‘The Son of the Most High’ has been ‘born’ into our world. Jesus Christ is God’s way of saying ‘Here am I! Here am I!’. He is ‘God with us’ (Isaiah 64:1; Isaiah 65:1; Luke 1:32,35; Matthew 1:23). ‘The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’. Let us ‘confess our sins’. ‘The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’ - Let us come to God with faith, believing that He ‘will forgive our sins’. (1 John 1:7,9). Let us rejoice in Jesus, our Saviour!
- Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22:22,27,30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9). Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25).
- God has sent His Spirit. Be filled with His Spirit.
‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:6). The Spirit is not a reward we earn by being good people. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ (Galatians 3:13-14). We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling’ (Church Hymnary, 83). All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me’ (Mission Praise, 613). God has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18).
- We need both - worship and witness.‘Where is your faith?’ (Luke 8:25). The Lord is not looking for lip-service. He is looking for real faith. Some beg Jesus ‘to depart from them’ (Luke 8:37). They don't want to know! Others long to ‘be with Him’ (Luke 8:38). They don’t want to go! Some have no interest in worship. They don’t really want to get to know Jesus. Others love to ‘worship’, but they are so slow to witness. They need to hear Jesus’ words - ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you’ (Luke 8:39). Real faith worships. Real faith witnesses. We need both - Worship and Witness. Some - ‘the multitudes’ (Luke 8:45) - touch Jesus superficially. They are interested - when everything seems exciting! They touch Jesus religiously. They do not touch Him by faith. Where is the ‘power’, the resurrection power (Luke 8:46,54)? Without faith, there is no power!