’The LORD Reigns…’

’The LORD Reigns…’

Introduction – John Mason

Psalm 96 is set in a cluster of psalms that form a celebration of joyful praise to God. Announcing God’s reign over his creation, Psalm 96 alerts us to God’s justice and the mystery of his mercy, even in the face of our unfaithfulness. Nothing can stop the LORD from being himself: slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Dr. Jim Salladin, Senior Minister of Emmanuel Anglican Church, New York City, gave two Bible talks on Psalm 96 – morning and afternoon, at the February Anglican Connection Conference. Here is a transcription of his second Reflection with the title, ‘The LORD Reigns’. While his notes were prepared for a spoken rather than a written presentation, we are grateful for his permission to use them for today’s ‘Word’.

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‘The LORD Reigns…’ Reflection: Psalm 96 (#2) – Jim Salladin

We are picking up where we left this morning. Psalm 96, verses 7-13. Now, you remember this morning we looked at the first 6 verses of the Psalm. And we said that worship animates evangelism. Worship motivates gospel ministry.

So the Israelite Psalmist stands up, looks out on to the whole Gentile world and says, “Hey, whole world, listen up! Join me. Get on board with declaring God’s glory. Evangelize and tell everyone about the Lord of Israel!

And do you know why you should do that? Because he is surpassingly worthy, glorious, beautiful. Worship drives gospel ministry. That was this morning. But there is still a bit of a nagging question. Here is the question: What produces worship?

Do you see the question? If we will only really evangelize when we worship the LORD, then what is it that will get us to worship the LORD? Now we hinted at the answer this morning, but now Psalm 96 gives us more details. And here is what I want you to see: the Gospel imparts the joy of worship.

Let me explain. Look at verse 10. Now verse 10 is important because it gives us the Gospel. What I mean is that verse 10 is the message that Psalm 96 wants us to proclaim. And the Gospel of Psalm 96 might surprise you: Say among the nations, the LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the nations with equity.

There is it is. That is the Gospel. The LORD reigns as King. He is coming to judge the world! Is that the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the word ‘Gospel’? It sort of surprises me, but we’ll come back to it.

First, watch the joy that breaks forth. Verse 11:

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar and all that fills it;

Let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes, to judge the earth…

Did you catch that? The Gospel is: ‘The LORD is King. He is coming to judge! The response is: The crowd goes wild; the universe explodes in cosmic joy. The Gospel ignites the world in the joy of worship.

This is how God brings the human heart to a place of worship. Remember the question from this morning: How can I get my heart to worship? This is the answer. The human heart ignites with worship when we internalize the Gospel.

The Gospel of the LORD’s reign & judgement ignites the cosmos to worship and it also ignites the human heart. Which explains why it is so important that as Gospel proclaimers we apply the gospel to ourselves before we apply it to others.

But go back to the reading because I want to know why does God’s reign and God’s judgment produce joy. God’s reign and God’s judgment do not seem like happy things. Why does that Gospel produce joy? I think this might be easier for a lot of people to grasp now than it was just a few years ago.

When I was younger it was vogue to deny the existence of evil. But I don’t know anyone doing that much now. It seems like everyone knows that something is really messed up. Now no one agrees what is causing the problem but everyone thinks something is wrong. And everyone wants someone to set it right. Democrats think the Republicans are the problem; Republicans think the Democrats are the problem, but the one thing everyone can agree on is that we need a good leader who will set things in order.

Now the Bible goes way deeper. It is not just the Republicans; it is not just the Democrats who are the problem. It is Sin. All of us have repudiated God’s Kingship. All of us have staged an insurrection against God and we have enthroned ourselves. But it ends up that we are horrible kings. In fact, we are so awful at running the world that we end up ruining not only our own lives, not only each other, not only the nations, but we have ruined the whole universe in a deep and profound way.

We are in a hopeless state of insurrection and we really need a good leader who will set things in order. And that is why when the Cosmos hears the Gospel, that the King is returning, that the LORD will judge – even the trees start to rejoice.

But slow down. If the King is returning, if the King will judge, then where does that leave the insurrectionists? You see this is why the Gospel makes me nervous. This is why the Gospel sort of scares me, because I am an insurrectionist. And if the LORD reigns then it means I don’t. And if the LORD judges, then it means I am condemned.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear…’ You see, this why verse 10 leads us to the Cross. Because it ends up a long time later the LORD was enthroned on a Cross. And while Jesus, the LORD was dying on the Cross, God the Father was judging my insurrection. Jesus was voluntarily taking my place suffering my penalty so that I could be declared ‘NOT guilty’.

And when Jesus rose from the dead, he proved first, that the time of amnesty had begun, and second that he would one day judge all who refused the amnesty. Now friends, look at Jesus. He is the LORD who reigns. He is the LORD who judges. And when you are an insurrectionist who has now received mercy, you can’t help but rejoice.

I mean, verse 11 says, the heavens and the earth and the sea and even the trees rejoice, but no one rejoices like a forgiven sinner, those who have been forgiven much, love much and only a forgiven sinner can appreciate the glory of the Gospel and the glory of God. The Gospel imparts the joy of worship and worship drives Gospel proclamation.

So, how does all this apply? It applies in all sorts of ways, but at least it gives us motivation, confidence and something of a method. We already said this morning that this gives us motivation. We will be bold in our proclamation when our hearts are warmed with the glory of the LORD. But it also gives us confidence if the LORD really is more glorious than any other competitor. Then who ever we talk to we can know without doubt that Jesus is precisely what they need.

And finally it gives us some help toward a method. Psalm 96 tells us to lift up the glory of Jesus and show how he is greater than everything else. And when the Spirit makes Jesus’ glory clear, people will drop their idols and turn to Christ.

But in another way, the best application is verse 7: Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples; Ascribe to the LORD, glory and strength; Ascribe to the LORD, the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.

And then, with heart filled with worship, go and declare his glory among the nations. Amen.

© Jim Salladin

’The LORD Reigns…’

’Worship Animates Evangelism…’

Introduction – John Mason

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury during the Second World War, remarked: ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.’ How often we put aside the missional nature of Christianity that bubbles throughout the Bible – and not least that we find in the Psalms.

At the Anglican Connection February Conference, Dr. Jim Salladin, Senior Minister of Emmanuel Anglican Church, New York City, gave two Bible Reflections, morning and afternoon, on Psalm 96. He spoke on the missional focus of the Psalm’s theme that there is only one LORD.

Here is a transcription of the first of Jim’s reflections with the title, ‘Worship Animates Evangelism’. While his notes were prepared for a spoken rather than a written presentation, we are grateful for his permission to use them for today’s ‘Word’.

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‘Worship Animates Evangelism…’ A Reflection on Psalm 96 (#1) – Jim Salladin

Well good morning everyone. It is great to be part of the conference today. Let’s get to it. We are looking at Psalm 96 this morning and this afternoon.

Right now the focus is verses 1-6 And I want to talk about motivation for evangelism. What motivates us to proclaim the Gospel? What motivates evangelism?

Now this is a huge issue isn’t it? I mean most Bible believing Christians know we should all do evangelism. But the reality is evangelism is scary – a lot of our people are ashamed and let’s face it, aren’t you ashamed sometimes?

So, what motivates evangelism? What animates evangelism?  What moves it from duty to delight? Answer: According to Psalm 96 it is worship. Worship animates evangelism. You will proclaim the Gospel when you are captivated by God’s glory. Let me show you.

Psalm 96 is super strange for a bunch of reasons. Here is one reason it is strange. It is a worship song packed full of commandments. Look at the first few verses. The Psalm is quivering with commands: Sing! Sing! Sing! Bless! Tell! Declare! That is just the first 3 verses.

Clearly this Psalm wants us to do something. What does it want us to do? We find out in verse 3: Declare [the LORD’s] glory among the nations. There it is: This Psalm is a commission to proclaim, tell and declare the LORD’s glory. Or in verse 2, the LORD’s salvation to all nations. It is a little bit like the Great Commission:

Psalm 96 says: “Hey, whole world, listen up! Join me. Get on board with declaring God’s glory among all nations. Proclaim his glory, evangelize and tell everyone about the LORD of Israel! Now that is surprising. Does that surprise you? Did you know the Great Commission is anticipated in the Old Testament?

But again my question is why? Why does this Psalm think that we should proclaim the LORD among all the nations? And he answers that question in verse 4. Why should we proclaim the LORD among the nations? What is the motivation for Gospel ministry?

Verse 4: For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;  he is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,  but the LORD made the heavens.

The Psalmist is convinced that the LORD is great, so great and so magnificent, so powerful and so glorious that he outshines every other god any nation could imagine. The Psalmist is driven by the conviction that the LORD is glorious. His proclamation is driven by worship.

Look with me more closely at verse 5. Do you see the contrast between worthless idols and the LORD who made the heavens? His argument there is sort of interesting. I expect the Psalm to say: The LORD is real. The idols are fake.

That is true, but that is not the Psalm’s point. The argument is: ‘The LORD is way more valuable than idols. The argument is: The LORD is more worthy of worship than idols. Idols are stupid and worthless. And when you really see the glory of the LORD, when you see the LORD who created everything, then you will drop your idols like a bad habit.

Can you see it is an argument animated by worship. It is an argument that only works if you really think that the LORD is supremely valuable. And we can fill in a bit more detail here.

In verse 5 the LORD is valuable because he created everything. In verse 2, the LORD is glorious because of his works of salvation. The LORD is glorious because of both creation & redemption. The Psalmist says: Look at all God did in creation – all the beauty of this world, the sky, the mountains, works of art, humanity itself. God made it all. So all you find compelling in this world, is just a shadow of his glory.

But then add to that all God did in redemption and in salvation, all God did for Israel – the Passover and the Exodus, the Mana in the Wilderness, all of it – put all that together and you will see that the LORD’S glory dwarfs all possible competitors.

Now friends, that conviction, that heart worship is what drives boldness in evangelism, when you can see (verse 6) the splendor and majesty, the strength and beauty that are before the LORD. That is when it makes sense to obey the commands to sing and sing, and sing and bless, tell, declare his glory among the nations. Worship drives evangelism.

Does it drive you? Many of us are pastors. You know how sometimes you get people; they are pretty moral. Maybe their hearts are cold; they might not be converted; they are not driven by love yet. Well, what do they need? They need the gospel. They need verse 3; they need the glory of God to be declared to their hearts.

But guess what? It’s possible to is possible to be a preacher. It is possible to be a pretty good preacher, an expositor of the Bible. It is possible to say all the right things and yet still to have a cold heart.

Can you (verse 6) see something of the LORD’s splendor and majesty, his strength and beauty? When you say (verse 4) that the LORD is great, is that mainly a correct statement, or is it also the conviction of your soul? Well, if you look at your heart and find it cold, what do you need?

I think you are orthodox enough to know the answer: you need the Gospel. You need verse 3, the glory of God declared to you.  And you know that you see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He died so that our heart of stone could be replaced with a heart of flesh. He became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.

Look at him. Receive his mercy again and you will see his splendor. Jesus was glorified when he was lifted up on the Cross. He was lifted up so that we could be lifted out of our sin. Sing his glory among the nations. Amen.

© Jim Salladin

’The LORD Reigns…’

’The Word of God…’

Introduction – John Mason

In February this year the Anglican Connection held an online conference with the theme, ‘The Unchanging God in a World of Change’. As the Bible provides timeless answers to questions about life various speakers brought us reflections on the Scriptures to remind us or to help us learn of God and the world in which we live.

Dr. John Yates, Senior Minister of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Raleigh, NC, gave us two meditations on Psalm 19. Now, in preparation for the Conference seminars in a little over two week, here with John’s permission, is his second reflection.

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Reflection: Psalm 19 (#2) – John Yates III

This morning we listened in to the silent song of heaven in the opening verses of Psalm 19.  Bruce Waltke and Jim Houston wonderfully summarize the impact of that song when they write that, “The firmament’s uninterrupted proclamation of God’s glory is copious, extravagant, powerful, and inescapable.”  (Houston & Waltke, p.360).  It’s an apt description, isn’t it?

But the testimony of the heavens takes up only the first 6 verses of this Psalm.  From v.7 on, no longer is it the sun, moon and stars singing God’s praise.  Now it is David’s turn, and in taking up the song he shifts his attention to another source of divine knowledge: God’s law.

With this new focus David changes his language.  In vv.1-6, the term he used for God was the Hebrew word El, which is a general term affirming that God is supreme and all-powerful.  But from v.7 on David uses Yahweh, a personal and particular name given by God himself and shared with his people.  Yahweh is the name of the covenant-maker, the God who reaches down into creation in order to make himself known by direct revelation to his people.  And David carefully uses this name 7 times – the number of completion and perfection.

While the grandeur of the heavens elicits awe in the opening lines, the intimacy of direct and personal revelation draws forth devotion in the verses that follow.  David writes,

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;

the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;

the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

In vv.7-9 David uses 6 different terms for God’s revealed word.  He speaks of law, testimony, precepts, commandments, and rules or decrees – covering every aspect of God’s self-revelation.  He also speaks of the purifying fear of the Lord, which is the attitude of every heart that rightly encounters God’s word.

What does this polyvalent word from God accomplish?  David explains in rapid-fire succession.  First it revives – it gives new life.  Second, it takes the simple, the ill-equipped, the ignorant and makes them wise.  Third, it brings forth deep-seated joy.  Fourth, it makes the eyes of those who read and obey it sparkle with righteousness.  Fifth, it produces pure, single-hearted, fearful devotion to God himself.  Finally, it sets all who hear it on a firm and unalterable foundation – the eternal and unchanging character of God.

While the heavens declare the glory of God, it is the law of Yahweh that reveals his love and goodness.  The heavens tell us that there is a sovereign, powerful God who created all things in a precise and orderly manner.  But only God’s law can convince us that this God is good and loving and so concerned for the people he created that he invites them to call on him by name.

In vv.10-11 David’s exploration of the goodness of God’s word continues as he offers insight into the value, desirability and effectiveness of this word.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;

sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

 God’s word is more valuable than even the most well-refined gold.  In other words, there is nothing on earth that surpasses it in value.  God’s word is also desirable, sweeter even than the sweetest honey left trapped in the honeycomb.  There is nothing that tastes as good as God’s word or is as deeply satisfying to consume.  As Thomas Cranmer wrote in his preface to the Great Bible, “in the Scriptures are the fat pastures of the soul.”

Finally, the one who heeds God’s word and obeys it is warned of dangers and rewarded by faithfulness.  God’s revelation to us accomplishes something.  It is powerfully effective to rescue and to bless those who keep it.

Back in v. 4 David invited us to consider the sun: 1.3 million times the size of earth, containing 98% of the mass in our solar system, and burning at a temperature of 27 million degrees Fahrenheit at its core.  This blazing sphere cries out “glory” like no other star in the sky.  But the power of it’s testimony pales in comparison to the words of God himself.  This is what David is trying to show us in vv.7-11.

No wonder Spurgeon once said of God’s word: “it is a crime to add to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it.” (See Houston & Waltke, p.365).

With this torrent of praise for the goodness of God’s word we might expect the psalm to end.  But it doesn’t.  There is one more section, one more change in focus – this time it is a shift inward.  Verse 12,

Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;

   let them not have dominion over me!

Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

   Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

    be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 The shift is abrupt and superficially surprising. We want David’s poem to end on a high. Instead it concludes with a plea rooted in the humility of one who has stood beneath the glories of heaven and reveled in the love of God’s revealed law. For David, this is the natural and necessary conclusion to his reflections.

He knows that his wanderings, his errors, his hidden faults and flaws make no sense at all in light of what he has seen and said.  But he knows they are there and that he is ultimately powerless in the face of them.  So he pleads not just for mercy but for protection and purification.  He asks the all-powerful God who made the heavens, and the loving Lord who revealed his law, to reign in his life and strengthen him for obedience.

The whole psalm progresses with the logic of grace, and comes to its quiet climax in v.14 when David refers to God as his redeemer.  The term is pregnant with meaning in the context of God’s law.  It comes from the verb that describes the work of a near relative whose obligation is to rescue, protect, and restore life and liberty when a family member has strayed or been enslaved or abused.

The God whose glory fills the skies is David’s kinsman redeemer.  How?  David likely doesn’t fully understand himself.  But we do.  We know that the ultimate revelation of God’s glory and God’s love is not the stars that dazzle or the word that reveals.  It is the only-begotten Son, slain from the foundation of the world.  For Jesus came as our kinsman redeemer and laid down his own life that we might be restored to God our father.

Though the song of glory sung by the heavens echoes over us, and the revelation of divine love pours forth from God’s word, we cannot comprehend him until we meet his Son.  Only in Jesus, our kinsman redeemer, do we see the full extent of God’s glory and love.  And it is only through Jesus that we can hear the song of heaven and rightly read his word.

So we pray with David: Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

© Dr. John Yates III

’The LORD Reigns…’

’The Glory of God…’

Introduction – John Mason

In February this year the Anglican Connection held an online conference addressing the theme, ‘The Unchanging God in a World of Change’. As the Bible provides timeless answers to questions about life various speakers brought us reflections on the Scriptures to help us learn of God and the world in which we live.

Dr. John Yates, Senior Minister of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Raleigh, NC, gave us two meditations on Psalm 19. Now, in preparation for the Conference follow-up October seminars here, with John’s permission, is his first reflection.

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Psalm 19 (1) Reflection – John Yates III

Psalm 19 is well-known to all of us, and for good reason.  As CS Lewis unabashedly wrote, “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”  (Reflections on the Psalms, London 1958, p.63).

This psalm of David begins with an emphatic declaration of the glory of God in the heavens in vv.1-6, pivots to a profound proclamation of the gifts of God in scripture in vv.7-11, and then concludes with a heartfelt confession and plea in vv.12-14.

As we focus on the first 6 verses this morning I want to ask two rather simple questions.  The first is this: What exactly are the heavens doing?  Verse 1,

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

To put it simply, the heavens are praising God.  But this is no normal song of praise.

The first thing to notice about it is that it is continuous.  “Day to day” and “night to night” signify that the song is unending.  The heavens never pause for breath.  They never take a rest, which means that a melody of praise has played in the heavens since God first separated the firmaments and named them.  Every age, epoch and season has been serenaded by it.

The second thing to notice about the heavens’ praise is that it is inaudible.  It is nonetheless intelligible.  It reveals the vast storehouses of God’s knowledge, which unlike human knowledge cannot be taught but is simply possessed by God.  His knowledge and understanding is so vast it can only be displayed in the infinitude of space.

The third thing to notice is that this song is totally unconstrained.  It knows no national borders or physical barriers.  It covers every nook and cranny of the earth, and is therefore inescapable.  It is everywhere all at once.

These are the first things we notice about the song of the heavens as the poem begins.  In the second half of v.4, then, a shift takes place. David narrows the focus of his reflection, moving from the broad expanse of the cosmos to the more familiar track of the sun.  David writes,

In them [the heavens] he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,  and like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them,  and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

In that last phrase, the unconstrained and inescapable nature of heaven’s witness is illustrated by the searching heat of the sun – something every Jew living in the land of Israel would have experienced first-hand on the long, hot days of a Mediterranean summer.

But David is doing more than repeating his opening theme here.  By likening the sun to a happy bridegroom he is painting a more complete picture of the character of heaven’s praise.

The sun is like a man in the fullness of life who strides across the heavens in a demonstration of strength, full of the joy of his exertion.  The sun is doing what it was made to do and loving every minute of it.  We get a hint here of the profound truth that the praise of the heavens is not an accident; it is essential to the vocation of creation.

Not to be lost in this wonderful imagery is the fact that the sun is simply part of God’s creation.  In David’s world the pagans worshiped the sun as a god.  The Babylonians even referred to the sun-god as a bridegroom.  For David, however, the sun gives worship rather than receiving it.  It is a powerful witness – but only a witness – to the far greater glory of its creator.

The subtle polemic of this portrayal is reinforced in the second half of the psalm when Yahweh is named as the one who gives the law and establishes righteousness.  Among the pagans that was the work of the sun-god.  We know this from the stele that contains Hammurabi’s law code, where the sun-god, Shamash, is portrayed as giving the law to the king.  As David will soon explain, however, the sun only heralds the one true God who alone reveals his law directly to Moses.

What are the heavens doing?  They are bearing incessant and unconstrained witness to the glory of God over every inch of creation.  In doing so they are joyfully manifesting part of their very purpose in creation.

But what is the content of their revelation?  What knowledge, exactly, do the heavens reveal?  This, our second question, needs to be addressed briefly before we conclude.

There is a noticeable lack of content in the proclamation of the heavens.  We are told of the vastness of God’s knowledge and his incomparable glory, but little is actually said about God.  Quite a bit, however, is implied in David’s description.

First we see order and intent.  The heavens are well organized; the sun skillfully sent on its daily circuit.  The “handiwork” of God is evident across the expanse of the firmament.  The God whose glory the heavens’ proclaim is orderly and intentional in all that he creates.

Second, we see engagement and accessibility.  God is involved in his creation.  He has not simply wound the spring and walked away.  He sets a tent for the sun, and daily guides its course.  He is also accessible – meaning that he has chosen to make himself known and to reveal his glory.  The extent to which he can be known, and by whom he can be known, is left a mystery at this point, but will soon be revealed in the latter half of the psalm.

Finally, we see distance.  Even though he is active and engaged, the God of David still stands apart from his creation.  He is un-created, and he alone.  The song of the heavens is a declaration of his unique glory – his weightiness, dignity and authority.

The content of heaven’s declaration may be limited, but it is still substantial.  This is a god unlike any other known to the ancient world.

As we conclude I want to leave you with a brief thought about David himself.

A psalm like this requires a lot of staring up into space: head high, shoulders back, mouth agape, mind spinning.  It is the fruit of observing the glories of the heavenly spheres, attending to their silent speech and contemplating divine intent.  Only a man looking up and outside of himself could pen a poem like this.  Only a man keen to see God’s glory and to name it could explore creation in this way.

In asking us to consider the glory of the heavens David invites us to do the same.  He invites us to stop looking at our feet or gazing at our navels, to straighten our backs, and to throw back our heads in wonder.  He invites us to see the heavens from a fresh perspective, to seek out and name God’s glory wherever we see it.

In David’s delightful description the heavens fulfill their vocation by proclaiming the glory of God – by giving him praise.  This vocation is not unique to the sun, moon and stars.  It is ours as well.  And while we may never write a poem like this, we are right to seek out God’s glory and to proclaim it boldly to the world around us.

© Dr. John Yates III

’The LORD Reigns…’

‘The Power of Prayer…’

Listening to a replay of the Last Night of the 2021 BBC Proms I recalled their origin. In 1894 Robert Newman, manager of the then new Queen’s Hall near Langham Place, London, initiated classical music concerts that would be available for everyone. It was not long before the concerts became known as the Proms.

Despite financial challenges following the First World War, the concerts continued with BBC sponsorship and, after 1930 with the new BBC Symphony Orchestra. With television, radio, big screens in local parks and from 2009, cyberspace, the Proms attract many millions.

I touch on this history for it seems to me we all need to catch the vision of making God’s good news available for everyone. Last week I wrote on the power of God’s Word to change lives. Today, let me touch on the power of prayer.

In Daniel’s prayer (Daniel 9) we find two themes: confession and the honor of God’s name.

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans,… I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy… (Daniel 9:1).

By around 539BC, Daniel was amongst the elite of Jewish society who had been in exile in Babylon for some 50 years. During that time his abilities and his faith had shone when, at significant moments, his advice had been sought by Kings Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius.

Now in his 80s Daniel had lost neither his intellectual sharpness nor his faith. And he had not forgotten God’s promises through prophets such as Jeremiah that the Babylonian exile would be seventy years. Daniel was certain that God would not forget, and that the restoration of his people would occur.

However, this did not prevent him from praying. In fact, he actively prayed as he waited for God to fulfil his promises. This is very significant for it shows us that God’s sovereignty does not take away our responsibility. Blaise Pascal once commented, ‘God has instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality’.

Confession. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.

While Daniel’s confession is general, he uses the first-person pronoun: ‘We have sinned and done wrong; we have rebelled; we have turned away…’ (9:5). He includes himself.

Furthermore, although personal, his focus is on God: ‘O Lord, we have turned aside from your commands and your rules’ (9:5). ‘We have not listened to your servants the prophets’ (9:6).

Following a summary of the sins of his people (9:7-12), Daniel acknowledges the failure of God’s people to heed God’s law, let alone ask for God’s forgiveness for their selfishness and idolatry, their greed and failure to care for the needy.

Honor. Yet Daniel dares to plead for God’s mercy ‘for the sake of God’s name’ (9:17, 18). Daniel reminds the Lord that his reputation, his name, his honor are at stake. It was he, the Lord who had brought about the release of his people from slavery in Egypt.

Daniel was echoing a similar prayer that Moses prayed. Numbers chapter 14 records Moses’ intercession for the people when God said he would destroy them. Moses reminded God that it was through his initiative and power that the people had been freed from slavery (Numbers 14:13). He reminded him of his commitment to his promises (Num 14:14). Significantly, he asked what the Egyptians and the other nations would think about him. Was he incapable of fulfilling his promise? ‘Lord, aren’t you a God of your word?’ he asked.

And so Moses prayed: “Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now.”

Humbly but boldly, he spoke directly to God, reminding him of his promises, his nature to forgive and his steadfast love. Moses understood that he could beg for God’s mercy because he knew God keeps his promises. Above all he understood the mercy of God.

In his prayer, Daniel didn’t ask God to set aside his righteousness. Rather, he prayed that God would act because of his righteousness: ‘Lord, in view of all your righteous acts, let your anger and wrath, we pray, turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain;… (Daniel 9:16).

At the heart of Daniel’s intercession is the glory of God’s name. Daniel did not hesitate to remind God of what he’d already revealed in his Word and urged him to roll up his sleeves and act.

We don’t live under the same covenant as God’s ancient people. With the coming of Jesus the Messiah, we live under a new covenant grounded in God’s unchanging character.

The glorious thing about the God of the Bible, is that he is gracious and always willing to receive us when we repent and commit to start afresh.

Daniel’s prayer challenges us to pray. Even though the Western world has turned its back on its God-given heritage we should not cease to confess the sins of the nation and ask for God’s forgiveness.

The power of our prayer is not in our praying but in the One to whom we pray. God is the perfect Father who loves to give good things. Prayer is a precious privilege.

Will you join me in praying for God’s forgiveness of our nation? And also in praying that we catch the vision of enabling everyone around us to access God’s good news through ministries such as The Word One-to-One?

Phillips Brooks once commented: ‘Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance but taking hold of God’s willingness’.

A prayer. Lord Christ, eternal Word and Light of the Father’s glory, have mercy on our broken and divided world; send your light and your truth so that as we proclaim your word of life many will turn to you; for you now live and reign, God for all eternity. Amen.

’The LORD Reigns…’

‘Unexpected Power…’

With the geo-political upheavals the world is experiencing many fear what the future holds. The uncertainty today is exacerbated by the angry divisions within societies. Vindictiveness has replaced respectful and serious conversation. And we can feel utterly powerless when it comes to talking about our faith.

In Perelandra, the second in CS Lewis’ science-fiction trilogy, Ransom, the main character, feels powerless in confronting an evil force at work on the untainted planet Venus. The crafty subtle evil power reflects the temptations in Genesis 3. Despite being a learned scholar in philology, Ransom constantly finds himself defeated in his arguments. What could he do?

This raises an important question for us, for today people have no knowledge of the Jesus of the Gospels. So subtle and persistent has been the attack on Christianity they are not looking to the Christian faith for answers. It is time to review our approach?.

Come with me to a parable Jesus told – the parable of the sower. It begins in Luke chapter 8, verse 4. When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’… ‘Now the parable is this,’ Jesus explained: ‘The seed is the word of God.’

Expectations. People travelled from near and far to see Jesus. Expectations were rising. It would have been a great time for him to call people to join him in a march on Jerusalem to set Israel free from Rome. But that was not God’s way.

We need to focus on the key to the parable: “…The seed is the word of God” (verse 11).

Causes and revolutions are staged by various means. Last century Marxists brought in Communism at the end of a gun. This century began, as we were reminded on 9/11, with Islamist extremists trying to de-stabilise and destroy through terrorism. In Jesus’ day zealots tried to revive Jewish independence through guerrilla warfare.

But these are not Jesus’ methods. The picture he paints is of a farmer quietly sowing seed. The Word of God he is saying, has within its DNA the capacity to change people’s lives for good. At first the transformation is hidden but there comes a day when the change is obvious.

Churches today have often lost confidence in the power of God’s Word to change lives. So, many churches focus on the sacraments, and others on social justice. But to make these things the priority is to lose sight of the way God works. God’s Word is the key that unlocks the door into God’s kingdom and therefore to life.

In Second Timothy chapter 3, verses 16 and 17 we read: All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the people of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

As the Word of God, the Scriptures give us exclusive information about salvation. They don’t contain exhaustive truth, but what they give us is sufficient for our rescue and furthermore, for living as God’s people.

In the larger context of Second Timothy, Paul reminds us that we live in a world that prefers to find or invent its own religion. He tells us that our only real hope for life and meaning is to turn to God’s unique self-revelation. Human resources won’t provide deep and satisfying answers. Our sure hope is in dependence on the resources of the living God.

To return to the parable in Luke chapter 8, Jesus warns us that the results of sowing the seed of God’s Word aren’t uniform. Some of the crop grows well, some poorly, some hardly at all. The results are not so much caused by bad sowing but rather because of some failure in the ground. We could call this parable the parable of the four soils.

One group, having heard God’s Word have hardened hearts through the silent, crafty work of the power of evil. A second group receive God’s Word with joy, but in times of testing fall away. They had liked the preacher but there had been no true repentance, no real change in their lives. A third group have also heard God’s Word, but they have not counted the cost of commitment. They were not convicted of their sin and their need to turn to Christ in repentance. They had come as customers to buy, not as disciples to surrender.

But then Jesus speaks of a fourth group. They are true followers of Christ who hold fast to God’s Word with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. Perseverance in godly living is the sign of God’s grace at work. A real lesson here is the encouragement we can experience in the ministry of disciple-making and outreach.

Jesus’ references to birds, stones, and thorns could easily demoralise us. But he is saying, ‘Don’t be put off. Be realistic, yes. But the ministry of God’s Word will always have its successes, and what success that will be!’ So, let’s be encouraged. Let’s not forget Jesus’ words: “I will build my church, and nothing will prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

And most of all, remember the key to ministry is letting God’s Word do its work.

A prayer.  Blessed Lord, you have caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning, grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that, encouraged and supported by your holy Word, we may embrace and always hold fast the joyful hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.