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Sunday Service – Christ Church Downtown (9:30)
February 23 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Announcements & Meditation
– Call to Worship –
Minister: Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Congregation: And also to you.
Minister: Lift up your hearts!
Congregation: We lift them up to the Lord!
Our God, Our Help in Ages Past, p. 374
– Confession –
Jesus, Lover of My Soul, p. 358
CONFESSION OF SIN
Congregation is invited to kneel if able
+ ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Minister: Your sins are forgiven through Christ.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!
Minister: Christian, what do you believe?
Congregation: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Minister: Blessed is the man that fears the Lord,
Congregation: That delights greatly in His commandments.
Minister: His seed shall be mighty upon earth:
Congregation: The generation of the upright shall be blessed.
Minister: Wealth and riches shall be in his house:
Congregation: And his righteousness endures forever.
Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem, bulletin pp. 8-9
– Consecration –
+ SCRIPTURE READING
Zechariah 12:6–13:2; 1 John 2:24–3:3
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!‘
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah, bulletin p. 7
Opening: Isaiah 7:14
Thanksgiving: Isaiah 35:10
Petitions: Isaiah 25:4
Psalm 117, bulletin p. 10
CC: Psalm 117 (Douglas Wilson)Sermon
The Hallel psalms are psalm of praise—they are Hallelujah psalms. This one also concludes with that exclamation of praise. This is a very brief psalm, and is one that many of you can already sing from memory. But although it is brief, it packs a throw weight that is considerable, and is a psalm of praise that encompasses the entire world.
“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: Praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: And the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord” (Psalm 117).
Summary of the Text
The psalm begins with an invitation to “all nations” to render praise to Yahweh, to join together with the Jews in saying hallelujah (v. 1). Praise Him, all you goyim. Praise Him, all you tribes (v. 1). And why should we do this? We should do it because His merciful kindness (hesed) is great toward us. We should do it because the truth (emeth) of Yahweh is something that endures forever (v. 2). This is why we must sing hallelujah.
Minister of the Circumcision
The Gentile world mission, of which Paul was the most notable representative and emissary, was not the point at which God changed His mind about the Jews. Rather, the Gentile world mission was the point at which God fulfilled one of His great promises to the Jews, and at which the Jewish leaders changed their mind about Jehovah. That particular apostasy is one that we need to understand a bit better than we do.
The apostle Paul defends his mission to the Gentiles in Romans 15, and in the course of that defense he quotes our passage. Let’s see how he uses it.
“Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 15:8–13).
Christ was made a deacon of the circumcision, a servant or a minister of the circumcision. He was born in the tribe of Judah, as a fulfillment of the promise made to David. And Paul says here that Christ was made a deacon in this way in order to confirm the promises made to the fathers (v. 8). Everything that follows supports that, and everything that follows is also about the gathering in of the Gentiles. We do not just have an exhortation to the Gentiles that they ought to praise the Lord, but we know they probably won’t. No, we have a prediction that the Gentiles would in fact glorify God for His mercy (v. 9; see 2 Sam. 22:50; Ps. 18:49). In the next verse (v. 10), we have a command that was issued to the Gentiles in Deuteronomy (Deut. 32:43). And then again, we see the same thing in Paul’s citation of our text (v. 11; Ps. 117:1). And then Isaiah prophesied that the root of Jesse would spring up, and He would rule over the nations, and the Gentiles would hope in Him (v. 12; Is. 11:10). They shall not hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain, and the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Is. 11:9).
In this context, the Roman Christians (largely Gentiles) had a benediction declared over them, that the God of hope might fill them with joy in believing (all of this), that they might abound in hope, as the power of the Holy Spirit works in them.
Gentiles Were Not the Non-Christians of the Old Testament
We have to distinguish the universalization of the priesthood in the New Testament (which actually happened) and the universalization of salvation (which is not what happened).
We know from the New Testament that Christ is the only way. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And so, as the Westminster Confession puts it, outside the Church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
Now if you assume that the Jews were the Christians of the Old Testament, this creates enormous problems. In the Old Testament, salvation was not limited to just one nation. Rather, the priesthood was limited to just one nation.
How could we say that salvation was limited to the Jews? We can say that salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22, ESV), but far too many Gentiles are saved in the Old Testament to simply equate “Gentile” with “unbeliever.” Melchizedek was a Gentile (Heb. 7:3), and Abraham paid tithes to him (Heb. 7:4). When Ezekiel named three of the godliest men he could think of, two of the three were Gentiles (Ez. 14:14). Noah lived before there were any Jews, and Job was an Edomite. The inhabitants of Nineveh repented (Jonah 3:5; Matt. 12:41). Naaman the Syrian became a true worshiper of God (2 Kings 5:17; Luke 4:27). Jethro was a priest in Midian, and a servant of the true God (Ex. 18:1). The Queen of Sheba was taught by Solomon (1 Kings 10:5). (1 Kings 8:60). And Solomon built the Temple with a provision for Gentiles in view (2 Chron. 6:32-33).
So the time of the new covenant is a time when salvation explodes into the world, but this is not something that erases a former boundary. Gentiles can be saved now, but they could always be saved. The glory is that Gentiles can be priests and Levites now (Is. 66:19-21). The priestly nation has been universalized, and that is why the division now is between Christian and unbeliever.
The Covenant Lord
Over the centuries, the Jews had been praising Yahweh, praising Jehovah, the covenant God of Israel. Christ came as a minister of the circumcision in order to confirm His promises to them. Not to abrogate them, but rather to confirm them. When He came—lived His life as a perfect Jew, was crucified, was buried, and raised again—this was a confirmation that He was in fact the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). As a result of all this, the fundamental Christian confession is that Jesus is Yahweh. This means that He is the covenant Lord of Israel. “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered (Joel 2:32). This is quoted in Romans 10:13, using the Greek word kurios for Yahweh. And just a moment before this, Paul told us that the fundamental confession was that “Jesus is Lord” (kurios).
And never forget the fact that because this priesthood is universal, it must of necessity include ethnic Israel. Their disobedience is only temporary, and they will be brought back in again (Rom. 11:23). Anti-Semitism is about the most anti-gospel frame of mind that can be imagined. And among professed worshipers of Jesus ben-David, it is also the silliest.
CCD: Psalm 1 (Ben Merkle)Sermon
Not a Monkey-Paw-God
Croesus, king of Lydia, died screaming his final words – “Oh Solon, oh Solon, oh Solon, count no man happy until he is dead.” The pagan gods were powerful, but fickle. And the state of man living under them was always uncertain. A short story by WW Jacobs, published at the beginning of the twentieth century, concluded with the moral, in a very creepy way, that you shouldn’t mess with fate. But Psalm 1 tells us that, as Christians, we stand in a very different relationship with God and with the fate that he has decreed for us – “blessed is he,” “happy is he,” “fortunate is he.” There are various ways of translating it. But it all amounts to the same. There is a man that lives, walks, stands, and sits, that you can know lives in the blessing of God, experiences his joy and happiness.
1. The Blessings of the Man Who does not Walk
The word “blessed” (see Gen. 30:13) in the Hebrew is actually in the plural, indicating not just a singular blessing, but an overarching blessedness. This blessing is for the man who does not walk, stand, or sit with the wicked.
You must understand that to be a Christian necessarily requires being set apart. The Jewish Talmud makes this profound observation here – “…if he has walked he will finally stand, and if he has stood he will finally sit, and if he has sat he will finally scorn, and if he has scorned, of him the Scripture says ‘and if thou scornest thou alone shalt bear it.’” Sin is progressive. Faithfulness sees this and cuts it off at the beginning.
Instead of giving himself to sinful fellowship, the godly man gives himself to God’s word, and in it finds an exquisite delight. The Bible is the word of God that called you into this body, that called you to life itself. The command to immerse yourself in the Bible (Deut. 6:6-9, Josh. 1:8-9) is like a command to never skip dessert.
3. The Tree
Don’t rush past this image, because in it is pictured the profound blessing of God that you need to hear. God will make you like a deeply rooted tree (Jer. 17:7-9). So many of your fears, your temptations, your stresses, your pathologies are all answered in this picture. Your fleeting life is made permanent, made fixed when you find yourself inside of this blessedness (Ps. 121:3-4).
4. The Chaff
And you can see the blessedness of the godly even more when you see the curse against the ungodly. They are chaff, which the wind (the Spirit) drives away. Their moment is always fleeting, here for a moment seeming to dominate, and then gone. What a tragedy that someone would trade the permanent blessedness that they have with God in order to walk with the chaff.
5-6. Standing in the Judgment
If we were to simply read the first four verses of this Psalm on their own, it would be easy to come away with a health and wealth interpretation of this passage. But here we see that the blessedness, the permanence that God promises is ultimately fulfilled in the final judgment. There are still a partial fulfillment in this life. But the final fulfillment of this passage is a scene that takes place at the end of history, before the throne of God (John 5:29, Rev. 20:11-13). And those who stand with sinners in this life, will not stand with the righteous in the life to come. The final judgment is a terrifying thing to consider (Acts 24:25, Joel 2:11). But here we are promised that God knows you and he will make you like a tall, thriving tree to stand in that day.
Ending with The Lord’s Prayer
He Which Soweth Sparingly, bulletin p. 10
– Communion –
O, Twas a Joyful Sound to Hear, p. 160
It’s Good to Thank the Lord, p. 121
– Commissioning –
+ CLOSING DOXOLOGY
The congregation may raise hands
Amen: blessing and glory, and wisdom;
thanksgiving and honor, and power, and might
be to our God forever,
and ever. Amen.
CHARGE & BENEDICTION
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14