Sunday, February 26, 2017

Delight in the Lord

Delight thyself also in the Lord and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Psalm 37:4

Hebrew poetry is interesting in that it uses restatement not rhyme or rhythm to make emphasis. Applying that to verse 4 we learn that the second portion of this verse, “and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” is a kind of restatement of the former portion.

How does this work? As we delight in our God He gives us what we delight in - more of Himself!

So the second portion is not saying that if we love God we will get what we like.  But rather that as we love him he becomes more and more precious to us and we are blessed by more of that very precious Lord Himself!

Such is the mysterious ways of our Lord! May we delight in him first that our every hope lies within Him and our trust is entirely in His hands. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Continue in my trials

“But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30)
This caused me to think of John 6:66 – 69:

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

They indeed did come to believe the truth but their understanding alone did not save them. Yet it did help them continue with him – for as Peter stated, ‘To whom shall we go’ They did not have a plan B. It was either Christ or bust. In fact, after the resurrection, but before the ascension, Peter, who had denied his Lord, thought hopelessly, ‘I am going fishing’


Hadn't he the promise that he will be among those who will eat and drink at the table?

Wasn’t he to be one of the Twelve regents – seated upon thrones and judging the twelve tribes?

Did he cease from believing this, or no longer believe in Christ as the son of the Living God?

Of course the answer lies in his denial. He felt that he had not ‘continued with him in his trials’ abandoning Christ at the crucial time with his literal ‘trials’ before Caiaphas and the Romans. He felt it was a bust.

Yet Christ pursued him! God had a plan for this simple former fisherman.

“Peter, do you love me more than these?” “Lord you know that I love you” “Feed, tend, and care for my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

Peter, and all of us need to remember it is not we who keep ourselves, but Christ.  “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Psa. 100:3)  Read the whole Psalm!  It's a beautiful reminder of our place in His world!

May we always remember this – Keep On Keeping On!


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Defining Sabbath

(This message was preached at Heritage Baptist Church on Wed. eve, 2-1-17: )
THESIS: To define the Sabbath biblically and how it impacts us as believers today. To know the Lord is the intent of the Sabbath.

This evening we’ll be considering Mark 2:23-28:

23And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. (Mark 2:23-28)

What is the Christian’s responsibility toward the Sabbath?  What does keeping the Sabbath look like today?  How do we know?  These are the questions I seek to answer today.  First off – we are defining the Sabbath because it is clear that Christ’s idea of the Sabbath is different from that of the Pharisees.  And Christ is the authoritative One, but the Pharisees aren’t to be completely ignored.  They do have a zeal about the Sabbath which makes their case compelling.  Sabbath keeping was to them a serious business!  But secondly, please recognize that to preach a single sermon on defining the Sabbath is kind of like studying an atlas of America, and presuming that you know all about driving!  The sheer amount a material, let alone the depth of the various facets are too great!  And don’t worry! We’ll be touching the subject again, as the very next pericope deals with Christ healing on the Sabbath!

The Sabbath described.

Let’s consider how the Sabbath is described in the Scripture.  The 1st reference to the Sabbath is found in Genesis 2:2-3.  And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.  I want you to notice that it is God who sanctified the Sabbath.  In Exodus 16:14-30 we have the gathering of manna explained – and in particular the explanation centers on the Sabbath.  How much to gather, when to gather and to save it overnight 1 night a week, that Sabbath may be observed.  Both of these accounts reference the Sabbath before the giving of the Law.  So Sabbath actually predates Mosaic Law.  But that does not mean that it supersedes it.  The Law merely codifies the matter.  Sabbath was not created by the Law, but the Law does establish the Sabbath day practice to some extent. 

And let’s look at the law.  The 10 commandments are listed twice for us. The 1st giving of the Law in Exodus 20, the 2nd in Deuteronomy 5.  Consider how the commandment is put, in the positive – to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  But then the command switches to the negative.  You shall not do any work.

What is the benefit of a negative command?  In most cases it is to prevent receiving the consequence of the act itself.  But ‘work’ has a good consequence – in fact we are commanded to work from the time of the garden. Look at some of the other negative commands, you shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not lie. These commands are there simply to prevent us from the catastrophe of participation.  These things are sin, and the wages of them is death.  But the wages of work?  Work is not sin. So immediately we see a uniqueness to Sabbath.   The reason given to keep the Sabbath was that creation reference in Genesis.  God blessed the day – He sanctified it.

Before we get to the 2nd giving of the Law in Deuteronomy, we read in Exodus 31:12-17 some additional clarification on the Sabbath, and I want to focus on verse 13, as this verse gets to a purpose not yet known to us.  It reads as follows:

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.

So here it is made known that the Sabbath is a sign to all between the Lord and the people of Israel throughout your generations.  A sign of what you ask?  Of the relationship God had and has with his people.  Sabbath is an outwardly visible display to everyone of the specialness our Lord has toward his people. And again we read that it is the Lord that sanctifies you. We read a similar reference in Ezekiel:

Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. (Eze. 20:12, 20) 

Deuteronomy 5 restates the Law upon the arrival to the Promised Land.  But the interesting thing is how instead of pointing to creation as a reason that we are to keep it, now Moses tells us to “remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God brought you out…therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Duet. 5:15)  We’ll see why I think He does this later.

I’d like to consider what might seem to be a rather obscure event which happened in Numbers 15:32-36,

32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.  33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation…35 And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

Why was this man treated so harshly? Let me show you how it wasn’t harsh at all.  Let’s reason this out for a moment.  This man knew about manna and how it was they were to collect it every day, before the sun was high.  He had seen that God supernaturally provided it, and even gave the double portion on Friday, and further allowed that it stayed fresh for that 1 evening a week.  The whole matter was a supernatural event.  He knew of the commandments in Ex. 20, 23, 31, 34, and 35.  Yet knowing all this – the man would not believe the testimony of God’s mighty loving provision for the people!  He did not know his God!  And let me assert right here – To know the Lord is the intent of the Sabbath.

Later in the whole 1st chapter of Isaiah we read of another negative example of keeping the Sabbath.  Verses 11 – 15 read as follows,

11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. (Isa. 1:11-15)

These people were doing all the right things.  The problem is that they were not doing them in truth.  I’d like to read verse 13 in another translation, “Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.”  Though they were doing the work of offerings and prayers, the Lord rejects such as sin, because their heart was not in it – to Him it was sin to combine empty obedience without love.  They really didn’t love this God to whom they offered sacrifice and prayed. 

Consider for a moment David’s words in Psalm 40,

5 Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. 6 Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8 I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”

David extols God’s wonderful works and thoughts toward us.  Can I ask, what is his motivation for saying so?  David loves his God!  He knows Him, and loves Him!  This is an important clue.  Reading on we see in verse 6 that sacrifice you did not desire.  This is not news to us, as we know well 1 Sam. 15:22, that to obey is better that sacrifice.  But David goes a whole lot further than that.  Verse 6 concludes, “Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.  Very clearly something new has been disclosed to us.  The Law of Moses did indeed require sacrifice.  I puzzled for a time on this and came to verse 8, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”  This is amazing!  In David’s words we have the very expression of the New Covenant!  Didn’t David live long before such was prophesied?  Indeed – about 400 years before Jeremiah and Ezekiel mention it.  And what do we know about the New Covenant? A new heart! A new Spirit!  New desires!  What drives this New Covenant?  Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel tell us, Ye shall be my people, and I shall be your God.  Again we see relationship as the key.  Jeremiah explicitly tells us in verse 34a, “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord.”  It is the knowledge of the Lord which accomplishes this!


To know the Lord is the intent of the Sabbath.  Psalm 46:10 is really the theme of the Sabbath, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”  You might be more familiar with the rendering, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Let me demonstrate from the commandments themselves that the knowledge of the Lord is indeed the goal of keeping Sabbath.

In the creation account we are told that God rested, and that is why we are to rest on the 7th day.  We bear the image of the living God – and if so, we should reflect that image – even to the point of rest.  In the Ex. 20 commandment this is what we are reminded of – God rested and set it apart.  In Ex. 31 we read that it is a ‘sign between me and you’ pointing to a unique and special relationship God had with his people.  Especially note the phrase, “that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.”  Knowledge of the Lord is what sets us apart folks. That’s exactly what we read earlier in Eze. 20 verses 12 and 20.  And we do not sanctify ourselves in sabbath keeping – rather it is the Lord who does so.  In the restatement of the commandments in Deuteronomy 5 the Sabbath command is again stated, but this time pointing to their slavery in Egypt and His deliverance of them.  Why does He point them to this event instead of creation?  I say he does so because as his relationship with his people progressed he wanted to remind them once again of His special covenant love to them, and he did have the right to expect of them obedience!   He loved them!  And those whom He loves receive His benefits. 

In Isa 56:1-8 we see that a blessing is in store for those who keep my Sabbaths.  Even for the foreigner, even for the eunuch!  He gives them ‘a place and a name that shall not be cut off’ in verse 5.  A name and a place to live point very much to relationship.  Just 2 chapters later we read,

13 If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, 14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isa 58:13–14)

This portion reminds me of the Psalmist, “Delight thyself also in the Lord and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

How does this work? As we delight in our God He gives us what we delight in - more of Himself! It is as we love him he becomes more and more precious to us and we are blessed by more of that very precious Lord Himself! Do you delight in being still before the Lord? 

In our passage the disciples were plucking grain as they went through the field and this act is what upset the Pharisees.  What they didn’t get was that Sabbath keeping is not simply the keeping of the letter of the law.  The intent was that instead of having to go out early and pick up the manna – they had a day set aside to consider the God of that manna!  Instead of looking at Him as some evil taskmaster who was waiting to strike them down over the least stick picked up, He wanted them to see that they didn’t need to pick up sticks.  He’d made provision for them in manna and he’d do the same if they needed sticks.  Unbelief is betrayed in the Pharisee’s legalistic accusations.  And Christ answered them easily with an example from the life of David – a man after God’s own heart – who had learned with great joy the God does provide for his own – even if it would be day old shewbread.  Look it up in 1 Sam 21:1-6 to get the detail. 

It’s not that the law didn’t matter.  Think about it – This is the Son of God we’re thinking of when we keep the Sabbath!  Do you know Him?!  If the Sabbath appealed to anyone, most certainly it did to Him!  In the counsel of eternity, when God rested on the seventh day, was Christ absent?!  Of course not!  We know that he was party to creation itself from John 1.  Most assuredly that was a Sabbath day properly kept!  But Christ makes a revelation to us in the statement, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.  Turning this statement on its head, the Pharisees made the Sabbath a burden to man.  But Christ points us to the Joy of Sabbath – which is God himself.

Do we extol our God and enjoy being his people?  This is Sabbath dear people!  This is the real joy of keeping Sabbath.  Not the keeping of every jot and tittle of the law per-se but considering how such a God can and does take care of His people – even when they don’t know where the manna and sticks will come from next.  

In early December 2002 I walked into the fellowship hall of Forest Glen Baptist church and there on the whiteboard it read, “Have a Mary Christmas!  What was different was that Pastor Dave, had misspelled Merry.  He put M a r y in place of M e r r y.   Then he had us turn to Luke 10:38-42, “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.  39And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.  40But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.  41And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:  42but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

The message was clear – don’t let all the distractions of the holiday season take you away from the precious Lord of that season.  Cease striving, and know that I am God.  I’ve never forgotten that lesson.  And I really believe that Mary was keeping Sabbath right then.

Jesus made another pronouncement against the religious leaders in respect of Sabbath observance in John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

This tells us again that God looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).  We read in Col 2, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Col 2:16–17)  The blessing of being a New Testament believer is that we don’t have to wait ‘til the 7th day.

I’ve made a whole lot of ‘keeping the Sabbath’ as a law.  Please don’t leave today thinking that to be a burden.  The law if rightly kept is a joy to his people – but it can also be a burden.  That is pharisaical law keeping.  We aren’t under the law to keep it.  It was the pointer to lead us to Christ.  But if you now have Christ – it becomes actually a means of grace!  O the wonders of our God! 

Let me close with the words of our Lord from Matthew 11, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat. 11:28–30.)



Thursday, December 29, 2016

Two mites

"And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 21:1-4)

As I was studying this passage I read several commentaries and one thing was noted more than once.  God does not measure the gift by its value in reference to what others have given, or even what its value in society is monetarily. But rather, God measures the gift by what was held onto - what remains in the givers possession.  I don't necessarily disagree... but there is a matter overlooked which is of great importance, the faith which the woman had.  She knew her Lord would supply her need (Phil. 4:19) since she was a widow and had had experience with God, He always provides for His own.

...for these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God… (vs. 4a)

How we give is very important.  Are we with open hand or closed fist?  Is our giving generous or do we hold back when we could give?  Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, was an open handed giver.  Yet no matter open or closed our hand - we must be thoughtful in our giving.

I say thoughtful because to fulfill Paul's request that no collection be made when he arrived in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:1-2) required thoughtful and planned giving.  Bob Pierce was not a thoughtful giver, though he was very generous.  He once took a wad of money from his wife, which was for the rent and gave the whole amount in a certain Church service. 

Yet that generosity violated another principle, taught in 1 Tim. 5:8, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Bob Pierce's family suffered much due to his generosity in part.  This is a presuming upon God. (His story is told in Days of Glory, Seasons of Night.)

In our text the widow who put in all that she had couldn't violate this principle, since she was a widow.  She had God alone to provide for her.  James tells us, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (Jam. 1:27)

This woman was better the recipient of offerings than the offeror!

Finally, we ought to be cheerful in our giving.  Paul tells us this in 1 Cor. 9:6-7:
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Lord help us, to be cheerful, generous, and thoughtful as we give, that you be seen to be the truly generous and gracious God you are, before all men!


Monday, December 26, 2016

Counted Worthy?

But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:35-36)

In verse 35 we read “But those who are counted worthy…”
‘counted worthy’ is  translated from the Greek καταξιόω and is a conjunction of two Greek words:

κατά - Preposition that intensifies;

αξιος - worthy.

It means essentially, to deem entirely worthy - not simply to indicate a worthy one.  But one who is exceptionally or especially worthy of that which is discussed.

But who is worthy to attain eternal life? None!  There are none who do good, no not one. 

And this verse seems to indicate not only are there some, but that whomever they are - they are exceptionally worthy!  There is no explanation except in the blood of the blessed One. 

Paul explains in Romans 4 about this.  It’s called imputation.  I like the way the ESV translates the verses,

That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Rom. 4:22-25)

When Christ was on the cross, one of the two entirely unworthy thieves called to him, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This man was not worthy.  In fact, one could argue he was most UN-worthy!  Yet Christ’s response, “Today you will be with me in paradise” tells us what happened.  The thief placed the whole of his hope upon the One who alone is worthy - even exceptionally worthy to attain eternal life. 

Paul explains this plainly in Philippians 3:7-11.  He tells us it is by knowing the Lord through faith in Christ that we get His righteousness.

That I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:8-11)

Oh! That all my children and loved ones desired Christ like this! - Indeed, would that I loved my Lord all the more!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Messiah for Everyone

(This message was preached at Heritage Baptist Church on Wed. eve, 12-7-16: 
THESIS: To explain the parable and what are both the warnings and the blessings to us as Christians.

18 And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? 19 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.  21 No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. 22 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.

Luke’s account of this parable concludes, “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better. (Luke 5:39) We’ll be focusing on verse 21-22.  As a young man I recall reading and re-reading it, in different translations…mulling it over and thinking that I am in deep water – and theologically I wasn’t ready for the deep side of the pool!  As far as that goes, I am not claiming that I have mastered the depths, but let’s together explore the mysteries of our God.

From the outset, consider that this parable is comparing old and new.  How they are different and what that means to us is what we will be exploring.  My goal for you tonight is to explain the parable and what are both the warnings and the blessings to us as Christians.

There are two comparisons made – old and new cloth, and old and new wine.  In both comparisons Christ makes the statement that no one does the thing.  No one sews new cloth to old cloth – no one puts new wine in old bottles. No one does these things.  Why?  It’s self-explanatory – the loss of the garment or the wine. 

I don’t think I need to long get into the particulars of how the loss occurs, except to say torn clothes and broken bottles are pretty useless.  For the sake of the younger among us, the phrase bottles might better be rendered wineskins.  You might even think of a leather water canteen…  After a while the leather gets stiff and loses its pliability.  As wine ferments it needs room for the fermentation process to occur – as gasses build up.   So an old leather pouch – a wineskin, has no pliability to allow for the fermentation to continue, and the pouch bursts.  The same with clothing.  A new shirt, unshrunk may fit nicely, until it’s washed.  But how many of us have lost a perfectly fitted shirt to the first wash in the machine!  You have to plan for that and buy a larger than normal shirt.  Thankfully most material is pre-shrunk, before the sewing process these days.

As I was preparing for this message I read many commentaries.  I looked up many cross-references.  My thought at the first was that the new wine and the new cloth was the Church, and the old Israel.  This troubled me, since it meant even more study.  How Israel and the Church relate is not a small theological matter.  Men with longer and greyer beards than I, have long studied it. Terms such as dispensationalism, and replacement theology are quickly tossed around like theological bombs. And there are distinctions between Israel and the Church. What our job is today is not to settle the disputes – but to grasp Christs’ teaching in this parable.  If we limit ourselves to this goal, we should be able to look for warnings and blessings and leave tonight more blessed than we arrived.

There are 3 main interpretations of the parable in no particular order:

            1. Israel replaced by the Church.

            2. The Legalistic Judaism vs. Grace in Christ. (also a variation, the Mosaic Law vs. Grace.)

            3. The forms and shadows of the Old Testament being fulfilled in the realities in the New Testament.

Providentially I have been working my way through Luke in my personal quiet time and arrived at Luke 20:9-19.  This is another parable which informs us as to the one in Mark we are studying.  Please follow along,

9 Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.10 And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. 11 And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. 12 And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. 13 Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. 14 But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. 15 So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? 16 He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.

17 And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?18 Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. 19 And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.

This parable – One can hardly call a parable, in the sense that it is also a prophecy of sorts is simply fascinating!  We read here in verse 16 that the vineyard owner will, as a result of the death of his son, give the vineyard to others!  We know plainly that the chief priests and the scribes recognized that it was they who would lose the vineyard, since they replied, “God forbid!”. Amazingly, their hearts that were so dead, that though they realized it was them to whom the parabolic prophecy was directed, they still the same hour sought to lay hands on Him!  Talk about blind leading the blind!

But is this parable speaking to the truth we are trying to get at in Mark 2?  I want to say no, it is not simply the fact that at some level Christ is taking the vineyard away.  Yes, there is a truth in the parable, which applies to our text – but not simply.  Yes, clearly the Jews have lost something.  And clearly the Church is a new body.  But is it really that simple?  I say no it is not. 

A great many of the commentaries I reviewed seemed to make the old out to be the Mosaic Law.  This I reject outright.  Christ himself stated categorically in Matthew 5:18, “til heaven and earth pass one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, until all is fulfilled.”  Some writers went so far as suggesting Christ was bringing in a new salvation!  This is plain bald faced heresy. 

I believe the answer is primarily found in the 3rd of the 3 main interpretations. The forms and shadows of the Old Testament are being fulfilled in the realities in the New.  To illustrate this, let’s travel back to the garden and consider God’s response to Adam’s sin.  In Genesis 3:15 we read of a seed who would crush the serpent’s head.  As early as Cain – some theologians have thought that Eve’s comment in Gen 4:1, “I have gotten a man from the Lord” was a confession of her belief that perhaps even Cain was the seed?! 

We know how wrong that was in Cain’s murder of Abel.  Yet God’s plan cannot be thwarted by Cain.  He simply blesses Eve with Seth. This promise can be traced right through the Scriptures and it’s a most beautiful exercise to do so.  Even when the sons of God chose daughters of men as wives, and it looked as if all hope was to be lost, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  All through the redemptive history we see a golden thread of hope found. 

In Gen. 12:3b we read God’s promise to Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  Later in Gen. 25:23 we read of how two nations were in Rebecca’s womb.  The war between darkness and light was even being waged in her body! 

And here we are, in the Christmas season, to remember the birth of our Saviour, the Seed who crushed the head of the serpent.  We read in Galatians 4:4 that “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”  The birth of our Saviour was not to be thwarted by Herod – though he slay thousands of innocent baby boys.  An act which was prefigured historically by Pharaoh in respect of Moses.  God will deliver his people!

And who are these people?  Is Enoch, who walked with God to be discounted? What about Shem – He wasn’t Jewish – but his line was the blessed line.  And though Job was probably contemporary with Abraham, he looked for a Saviour, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, 27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27) Job wasn’t Jewish – but he had his hope in a Saviour – a seed to come.

Surely God’s promise to Abraham is not to be lost.  Yet even in that promise, we see there were those who were called Israel who were not counted among the physical seed.  Think of Rahab the Harlot and Ruth the Moabite through whom David derived.  Are they not Israel because they were not of the flesh of Abraham? And if we think of them, how about those who are truly of the flesh of Abraham, such as Ishmael – Is he among the blessed? Why not?  Because in Isaac your seed shall be called. (Gen 21:12) And Esau, who despised his birthright was nevertheless a physical descendant.  Yet God does have a people.  His chosen ones.  Think about how God contended with Moses after the sin of the people with the Golden calf.  We read in Exo. 32, “And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!  10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” (Ex. 32:9-10) Both Jesus and John the Baptist reference this.  John says, “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”  In the triumphal entry Christ tells them, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40b)

Let’s look again at the passage in Galatians 4, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”  You see here I added verse 5.  There is a redemption and an adoption.  Adoption indicates a familial identification.  Adopted children take on the surname of their father.  They get to take part in the inheritance.  And inheritances are never earned.  They are granted for no other reason than the pleasure of the testator. 

Think about how Christ spoke to Nicodemas, a ruler of the Jews, a teacher of Israel.  This man should have been looking for the consolation of Israel – the Messiah, like old Simeon.  This man was a righteous man if ever there was one, yet he did not understand that you must be born again! Turn to the next chapter and we see Christ speaking to an utterly sinful woman of a despised cross-bread people in Samaria!  And what did this woman say? “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” She was looking, just as was Nicodemas for the Messiah, the seed to come.  He spoke of himself, the Messiah, to them both.  And who else was looking for Messiah?  Nearly 2 years after his birth, the wise men of the east came saying, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  These men, Gentiles by definition, were looking for the salvation come from Israel!

So when you think of Messiah in the Scriptures, I want you to think of him as the Messiah for all mankind.  The Jewish nation was the chosen vessel to deliver Him to the world. Old Simeon said He was the light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of his people Israel.  Listen to how Peter describes it, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,  11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.  12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaventhings which angels desire to look into.” (1 Pet. 1:10-12)

The question of how the Church and Israel are related is tied directly to his office as Messiah.  Since the Messiah is not for the Jews alone, but for all people we ought to see evidence of it in Christ’s ministry.  We do as I have been showing, and here is another reference, we read in John 10, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”  (John 10:16)

Peter tells us this, “9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Pet. 2:9)

This is not to say that the old wineskin is of no further use to the Lord.  But the purpose for which she existed has by and large been fulfilled in the delivery of Messiah.  However, we cannot overlook what Paul tells us in Romans 11 that God is not yet through with Israel.  Listen to Rom. 11:25-28 , “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.”

And while we can perhaps debate how he will again use them, or if there is another interpretation to consider, it is clear in that passage that we Gentiles have to realize that branches grafted in can be removed just as easily.  This is the warning to us. If we were grafted in due to branches broken off – certainly we ought to hold our stewardship in a reverent manner.  Peter also reminds us to be Holy as I am Holy.   Some of you may be familiar with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  There is a theme in the book where the city of Gondor has a steward.  This steward received his stewardship from his father who had received it from his on down the line.  Once the King returned, he was to relinquish his stewardship.  In the book the steward goes mad rather than return the city to the King.  Tolkien was really just borrowing from the Scriptures when he wrote.  The Jewish nation was a chosen race – they were to deliver the Messiah.  To the Jews were committed the oracles of God.  They were to bring in a light to lighten the gentiles.  Peter states that we are also a chosen nation.  The message of the Old Testament was. “He’s coming!”

We live in New Testament times. So what is our stewardship?  Among our many responsibilities is to honor and obey the Word – living as a holy people should.  But we are also to spread the word of this Messiah!  We are to make disciples, teaching them to obey all our Lord has commanded.  Paul tells us that, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” in 2 Thessalonians.

Brothers & sisters – let’s not fall into the same trap as the Pharisees – protecting our stewardship from impurity by adding to it our own wood, hay, and stubble!  Our works will never be a substitute for the pure unadulterated word of God. 

Why did the Pharisees ask the Lord about fasting?  They did so because they had added to the commandment of the Lord.  The only prescribed fast in the Scripture was found in Lev. 23:26, the Day of Atonement, an annual fast.  But the Pharisees would fast on Monday and Thursday as a matter of course.  Adding to the command – they put heavy burdens upon men. 

Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says in chapter 8, “Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.  12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Heb. 8:7-13

Quoting Jeremiah the writer of Hebrews tells us that the reason the new covenant was brought in, was “because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them” according to the Lord.  Who know brothers and sisters?  Perhaps because we are not working to obey the great commission – our stewardship – our place will be broken off and Rom 11 will be fulfilled. 

We can debate all the day about the eschatological, but the fact of the matter is at least this – we’ve been given a great blessing in the stewardship of evangelism, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded us.  We’ve been given the promise that He’ll be with us always – to the end of the age – at which time we should be looking for Him, our redemption!

Until then – we must not sleep!  Wake up! Do the work of an evangelist!  Spread the Word!  The message of the New Testament is twofold – He came, and he is coming again to judge the living and the dead.  Let’s prepare those living so that if He comes while we are at work, we are all prepared.  If He tarry, we prepare those to meet him after death.  Let’s be sure that for our part – we faithfully work, acting on the stewardship given so that we may be told, “Well done you good faithful servant!”

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