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The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

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Various Sermons

“A Distintive People” Exodus 33

What makes a certain group of people unique?

We can pick out family resemblances and know who is related to who by their looks, mannerisms, or customs. We can know what football team a group of people barrack for by the colours they wear.

There are many illustrations we give, and most would be something external.

Israel were chosen by God to be His people. Their distinctiveness as God’s people though, was not in their customs, manners, or behaviours alone.

God being as holy as He is, instructed them to be holy, and gave them laws to obey Him in so they could enjoy His blessings, but as we know with any law, no matter how great the benefit of obedience to it is, it will be broken by imperfect people.

So the distinctiveness of the people of Israel had to be found in something more accessible than the keeping of the law.

There are lessons here for us as we would seek to live in a world that has no regard for God or His ways, but also as we seek to live out the identity that God has called us to with freedom and joy.

1 – The Disastrous Word v. 1-6

We find the Israelites in Exodus 33 at Mt Sinai, where they have been for some time now.

God has given them the ten commandments through Moses, and had given many other instructions on how they should live and how they should worship. The covenant had been confirmed (ch24) and Moses had been on the mountain forty days and nights (24:18).

This had been too long for the people’s liking, and they made a golden calf to worship (32:1-6).

At Moses’ intercession, God relented from destroying the people (32:11-14), but there was still a plague that came upon them ( 32:35) and many others were put to death as judgement (32:25-29).

This was disastrous enough, but as chapter 33 starts, God gives another judgement that brings the people of Israel to a point of mourning.

He tells Moses to head for the Promised Land, that God Himself would clear the way, clearing out the enemies, but He would not go with them. He could no longer be with them without destroying them (33:1-3).

They had been stiff-necked and unashamed in their sin. They had been arrogant, wilfully doing what God had forty days earlier instructed them not to do. He had given them ten commandments, and they had stumbled on the first (20:1-3). They stumbled where every other human being has ever stumbled.

Our hearts our idol factories ( John Calvin), and God cannot dwell where He does not reign. He cannot be in the presence of unrighteousness and idolatry. He cannot be with those who worship other gods or trust in anything else for righteousness.

When the people hear this ‘disastrous word’ they rightly mourn.

What hope do they have of purpose or identity, if God will not go with them?

The disastrous word the Israelites received is the word anyone who wilfully rejects the ways of God to live their own way. Anyone who rejects God’s Word, His revelation of Himself, rejects the presence and blessing of God, thereby rejecting the very thing they were made for, to live for God and His glory.

We constantly make good things our ‘god’ things. We sacrifice to the altars of power, sex, money, relationships, tradition, and are constantly left either striving for pleasure or working off a debt we can’t pay.

The Israelites were faced with losing the presence of God, they were without hope, unless someone could step in for them to intercede.

2 – The Friend of God v. 7-11

In the midst of a people that God could not be present with, there was one man who God could not only accept the presence of, but met with God ‘face to face’ (33:11a).

Moses had his own ‘tabernacle’ before the real one was made, and it’s no small thing to notice it was ‘outside the camp’ (33:7b).

Whenever Moses met with God, the people worshipped, knowing their only hope rested on God’s acceptance of Moses as their intercessory.

Joshua too, is so in awe of God’s presence, he does not want to leave the place where God has been. (33:11b).

If you long to be a leader among God’s people, you not only need to be friend of God, an intercessor for others, but above all you must hunger for His presence more than anything else the world offers.

3 – A Distinctive People v. 12-16

Moses intercedes for Israel again and again through their wilderness wanderings.

He constantly reminds God of His covenant, offers his own place in eternity in exchange for God looking over the sins of the people. There is no one else in Scripture are more accurate likeness to the work and ministry of Jesus than Moses.

He represents the unworthy, stiff-necked, faithless and failing people to a just, righteous and holy God, and uses his close relationship with God to bring forgiveness.( 33:12-13).

He lays out his reasoning as to why God cannot leave His people to go on without His presence, and his chief reason besides God’s covenant with Abraham ( 32:13) is his own personal favour with God.

The greatest thing He wants from God is to know His ways, and know Him even more, to find more favour. (33:13) Here is a man who has the ear and favour of God but has no interest in using it to his own advantage. He just wants more of God.

If we want the favour of God, the friendship of God, a close communion with Him, we can never settle for the status quo. There is no such thing as a ‘grace graduate’.

If you have friends it’s because you have reached level of intimacy where you have gotten to know who they, different or alike to you, and have accepted them. If you reach a level of intimacy where you can know so much about the other person ( and they you) and are still wiling to love and accept them that’s a deep oneness that imitates Gods love. Good friends are side by side & face to face, always seeking more knowledge about the other.

If you are content with your current understanding of God and His ways. If you think you are favoured by God because you have achieved a standard no one else can or has, you are not just deluded, you are most likely lost.

Friends of God are never content with how much they currently know about Him, and they are certainly never happy to settle with anything less than seeing God’s promises fulfilled and His people blessed by His presence.

God’s responds to Moses’ intercession is to assure His presence will go with them, and give them rest (33:14). This is what would define the people of God, He would be with them.

In the wilderness.

Despite their failings, complaining, and lack of desire for His righteousness alone.

In battles they would face, in rivers they would have to cross.

God would be with them.

What makes God’s people distinct?

Not their appearance.

Not their ability to keep the law. They had failed miserably at that.

Not their heritage. Many of those who left Egypt never saw Canaan.

Not just the ability to follow directions God gives.

God’s promise of His presence is what defines His people, and if His presence is not noticeable in the lives of those professing to be His people, then the people are lost. If there is no fruit, there is no life.

We have an identity crisis in so many life situations, because most of the time, we have forgotten we need the presence of God, and we rely instead on our own understanding or personal efforts and works.

We pontificate about modesty but take no heed to hearts filled with lust. Women covering up is not the issue, men with wicked hearts and minds are real problem.

We spend energy discussing church politics and credal alignments when we should be aiming for Christian unity.

We make rules about the consumption of substances that are prone to abuse, but neglect clear biblical warnings about other potential abuses of our bodies.

We think we are more favoured than others because of our affiliations, our knowledge, our abilities, our appearance, our efforts, our presence.

We have this issue because we have not ‘internalised’ righteousness. Righteousness has become a set of man-made laws for people to check off in order for acceptance. Righteousness as God sees it, of course, is never the external. God looks at the heart.
How does the believer know they are a child of God? The Spirit bears witness (Romans 8:16). We have God with us in more ways than the people of Israel ever did, not only as Immanuel, but also as the Comforter that Immanuel so freely gives those who believe in Him alone.

4 – Seeing God’s Glory v. 17-23

The reward God gives Moses is not only favour, the affirmation of His presence, confirmation of His promises, but He also grants him his request to see His glory.

In one of the most awesome passages of Scripture, we have this encounter between God and Moses. (33:20-23).

Moses, hidden in a cleft of a rock, sees God. The very sight of only the back of God is enough for Moses’ face to shine (34:29-35).

You may never physically see God like Moses, but you can see God when you acknowledge His goodness, hear His name proclaimed, and accept His gracious and merciful Sovereignty as being the essence of Who He is. ( 33:19).

You may never see God, but you can know His Word, seek His ways and live in His favour.

You can know His Word and His glory in more ways than just the reading of it.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (tabernacled) and we have seen His glory.

There is a great danger in knowing the revelation of God, but not trusting in Him, hardening your heart to His ways. If you do not want the knowledge of God, you will not enter the rest He has promised. ( Psalm 95:10-11).

Why wouldn’t you want to enter the eternal rest of God, the rest that releases you from sin, shame and the crushing burden of self-salvation through your own efforts?

If you do not have any rest. If you are constantly fearful, or anxious, or bitter, or angry, or just generally frustrated with you lot in life, chances are you have placed more faith in your abilities than you have on God or His presence in your life.

When we stop obeying the dictates of our fears, desires, our need for approval of or supremacy over others, and when we see the only glory we can have is the glory of God being revealed to us and through us, we will pursue that glory through obedience, not out of manipulation, guilt or coercion, but out of hearts that have seen Him and His goodness, and the deep peace that comes from knowing we have a rock of salvation that never fails and that our identity comes Him being with us.

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One True Light. John 1:1-14

With all the activity that Christmas brings, we can easily forget about Jesus.

We’re so busy shopping, decorating, eating, drinking, spending time with family, doing all sorts of festive activities!

If you’re like me, you think it’s ok to listen to Christmas music and carols all year round , or maybe you’re a little less enthusiastic about the season, for many and varied reasons, and carols are old the first time you hear them!

Christmas holds many good and pleasant memories for me, but that isn’t always the case for all.

I grieve over the commercialisation of Christmas as much as the next person, but I also revel in one of the only times of year where I have an opportunity to give, to receive, but mostly to remember and share the good news of peace on earth coming in the form of God in a manger.

In John’s version of the Christmas story there are no stables, donkeys, stars, shepherds, wise men or mangers. John’s focus, as he starts his Gospel, is the same as he has all the way through the rest of it – Jesus, the Son of God, becoming man.

1 – Starting From the Very Beginning v.1a

Where would you start your life story?

Most biographies start with the generations before. Parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and the various impacts that they had.

When we see John’s opening to his account of Jesus’ life, we see something very unique. We immediately see that this is not an ordinary story about an ordinary person.

‘In the beginning…’ is not just the start of one person’s life, this is the real “In the beginning…”. It is the start of all life, where all life as we know it began. This is the story of Creation, and it echoes Genesis 1:1.

John is retelling the story of Creation, with Jesus the Word at the centre.

The story of every person hinges on the facts of the story of this One person we are about to be introduced to.

Genesis’ account climaxed with the creation of the first human being, the first Adam. John’s account of creation will climax also with man taking on human flesh, the last and true Adam. Not just an updated, improved Adam, but this person, although very human, has a very different introduction to life in this world than most humans have.

The story of Jesus does not begin with His human conception. He was born in our world, as a real human being, but that’s not where His story started. His story doesn’t even start at the only reference point we have so far as our concept of time goes, ‘in the beginning’.
2- The Eternal Word v. 1-4

John will go on to say that Jesus already “was” in the beginning. His story had no beginning, for He was in eternity.

At the council of Nicea in 325AD, there was a bishop from Myra who had been called, along with many other church leaders of the time to hear and respond to the teaching of a man named Arius, who was claiming that Jesus was a created being and not eternal.

The bishop from Myra listened politely for some time to Arius’ arguments, but after a while, he could take it no longer. He walked across the room and slapped Arius in the face.

The bishop’s name was Nicholas, we would later receive sainthood for his acts of charity, which are remembered in various ways today. Perhaps the best way of observing Christmas would be to punch heretics rather than exchange presents, but it is what it is!

This point has been a matter of vital importance for all true believers. If Jesus Christ is not the eternal Son of God, we would have nothing to believe in.

John dismisses anything else as being possible.

The Word was!

John goes on to say something even more staggering. The Word was, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

He is not talking about two separate “Words”, but One, Who is One with God. Separate, yet at the same time, completely the same.

“Rachel is with my wife” and “Rachel is my wife” makes no sense unless there are two Rachels! It makes little sense to us to say the Word that is with God IS God, but we are not dealing with a natural being. This is God. It’s more than just metaphysical wordplay. It is a supernatural reality that God is Three Persons in One Being.

The Word is with God because the Word John is speaking of is Jesus, the Son of God, part of the divine Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God as Triune is not a topic we can get our heads around easily, but until we at least grasp the fact that Jesus is the Eternal Son of God, none of the rest of the Gospel story will make any sense to us, and our story will always have a bit missing also.
3- The One True Light v. 4-9

Stumbling around in a dark room can be a dangerous exercise! Finding the light switch, or trying not to wake others, you can soon be disorientated.

In v4 John moves to the point of where this is meant to make us sit up and take notice. Mankind has entered his story, and what John says about our origin and meaning for life should make all pay close attention.

Jesus is the source of life, and any light in the life is only found in Him. (John 1:4). In Him we live and move and have our being, Paul would later say in Acts (17:28), stating what is stated here.

Even the darkest things of this world, the hearts of the darkest men and women, cannot overcome the light that Jesus gives.

In a dark world, a shining light gives us something to move towards. Like moths to a flame. At least that’s how is should be.In a world with many false hopes, false promises, false messiahs, false lights, we are told that Jesus is the one true light (v9) Who has come to enlighten everyone, yet so often we get caught up with false lights. We chase shadows while the real things beckons us to Himself.

There is no doubt that humanity is confused about life, God, identity, truth and future. We’re confused because we’re creatures with limited understanding, and we’re confused because we’re sinners with depraved minds and hearts.

At the first Christmas, the Word, the the logos, entered our world. It was far more than words alone. It was word with power, absolute power. It was a pure word. The logos was reason, a word we derive our word ‘logic’ from. John is effectively saying, ‘Only because Jesus came can everything now make sense.’

4 – The Revealed Word v. 9-14

Jesus would call Himself the Light of the World ( John 8:12), but of course, not all would accept His light or hear His Word He bought.

Even His own people didn’t receive Him.

Thank God for ‘buts’ in the bible – “but to all who did receive Him, who believed on His name, He gave them the right to be called the children of God.”

Thank God that He has intervened in our history to tell His-story with His Word. He stepped in, literally. He put Himself into the story not just so we could feel special and cozy once a year at Christmas, but so we could know Him.

We know the value and meaning of words. They can heal or destroy. Encourage or disappoint. We use words to communicate, and language is the one of the single defining features of being human. We know the power that words can have.

We get that sense of importance of language from God Himself. From the Old Testament, we see Him again and again reveal Himself through His word.

God’s Word is such a complete revelation of Himself that it is Himself. God’s Word conveys Who He is and it does so perfectly.

God’s written word matters as much today as the day He first moved men to write it. His Word is important because it means that God can communicate in a way that is sure, true, and understandable to us. When we hear God’s Word, we don’t just hear a second-hand report about God, we are hearing God Himself.

Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us that God has spoken to us through His Son.

Even His birth speaks us to us so clearly of what God intends for us. A humble birth. A manger throne.

The Son of God becoming man, putting on our flesh and living among us so he could die for us. That is the only reason Immortality would put on mortality. To die for the mortal.

This is Christmas as it is meant to be. When you take away everything, even Mary and Joseph, you are left not with an empty season, but a meaningful eternity, if you believe the account that John gives.

By all means, celebrate Christmas. Give, receive, attend family functions, enjoy the season, the festivity, enjoy the tree, the lights, the pageantry, the carols, the special events, but don’t focus on the to-do list, join John in focussing on Jesus, the one true light.

There are many ways we can do that as believers in a culture that has hijacked and commercialised what we can freely celebrate.

The Christmas tree can remind us of the one who trusts The Lord. The one who puts roots down deep, and bears fruit that is beautiful and brings glory to God.

The lights can remind us if that bright and shining star that brings people from all over the world to worship Jesus.

The gifts of Christmastime of course remind us of the unspeakable gift that God has given us, and the call for us to gives ourselves back.

Don’t exchange the priceless gift of Jesus this Christmas for something temporary and cheap either. He is so much better than anything we could ask or imagine. He’s the true joy all the joys we have in this life are pointing to. He’s the true gift that all other gifts allude to.

“Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time,behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

 

( credit also to resource “One True Light” by Tim Chester, Advent readings that my wife & I have used this last month a highly recommend it!!)

 

 

“Getting What You Want Out of Life”…Psalm 37 & The Will of God for my life..

If you are anything like me, you may well find yourself at times in almost a permanent state of paralysed indecision and handwringing about what your next move should be.The future is daunting, scary even, and we don’t want to put a foot wrong. We want to please God, He doesn’t give us explicit instructions about what to do in every situation though.

We’re also frustrated by the way others seem to get by with so much success while paying no attention to the will of God for their lives.

“ Fretting is a common activity of our age. It is composed of worry, resentment, jealousy, and self-pity…It chews us up inside while accomplishing nothing.” – Tim Keller

So how do we get out of this dilemma? The Psalmist gives some wonderful insight in how we can live anxiety free. David writes in his old age (v25), and he has wisdom to share with those on the path he has been on.

1 – A Timely Reminder v 1-2

Some of us may identify with the problem of short-term memory loss. Walking into a room and forgetting why you came in. Misplacing your keys, your charger, your car…

What we don’t realise often enough is that as believers in God, we neglect the discipline of remembering our future. We forget what lies ahead, and when we do that, we worry. We will worry not only about our own future, but we will also worry about those around us who love evil and seem to be prospering.

When we worry about the evil in the world, and get obsessed over who is doing the evil, we are not only forgetting our end, but we are forgetting theirs.

We get fearful when we look around.On top of our fear, there is a bitterness and envy. We want impunity. We want to do what we want and have no one correct us.

Self-pity as defining characteristic is in no way a compliment to the one who is seeking to please God. Self-pity will leave you compromised. You are not exactly the most objective judge when it comes to other’s sins being worse than your own, or that you deserve more than others seem to be getting.

David has a timely reminder, this life is temporary.

“Look forward – those whose main happiness is found in this world are living on borrowed time.” – Tim Keller

2 – A Godward Perspective v 3-6

Trusting that God has our best in mind while we watch the godless prosper in this world can be a hard thing, but this is what we are called to again and again.

To trust in Him, delight in Him, commit to His way, be still before Him, wait for Him. These are just a few of the confronting yet familiar truths echoed in this Psalm.

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” – Elisabeth Elliot 

While worry gets us distracted with what is happening around us, having a preoccupation with discovering more of God will distract in us in positive way.

It certainly doesn’t mean we ‘stuff’ our frustrations, but by turning to God when we are fearful, we can vent our worries, unload them on One Who can bear them.

Instead of directing all our attention on what others are doing and how it might affect us, we should redirect our attention and focus on what God will do, and when we see what He will  do ( v1-2) we will see glimpses of what He is currently doing (v5b).

Our default response when something goes wrong is hand-wringing or finger pointing. Blame and worry. But when we trust in God, these moments of blame and worry can be turned into moments of praise and delight.

Focussing on God also frees us to see we don’t have to figure it all out!

Our salvation is His work, and as we commit to Him, He will act. (v5b).

He will bring forth our righteousness, there is no need for us to save ourselves or manufacture our own justice ( v6) .

What seems hidden to us now, He will reveal. What is unfair now, will be put right for all to see. There will be no hiding from God’s justice, and there is no hiding the righteousness that He gives us.

3 – A Friendship that Lasts v3

There is the release of a burden in saying that God is the One Who acts to save, but we shouldn’t think we then have licence to live how we wish or spurn His faithfulness by being unfaithful ourselves.

Verse 3 gives another instruction also, to ‘do good’, it’s repeated in v27, but it challenges us again, not to get so caught up in what is happening around us that we don’t get involved in what God has called us to.

We are to do good by dwelling in the land that God has placed us, cultivating the environment we are in to grow faithfulness, or to feed on faithfulness, or ‘befriend faithfulness’.

Blooming where you are planted is a familiar saying, and it is a visual lesson in fruitful faithfulness.

We should get to know what faithfulness looks like.

Cultivating faithfulness is hard work. You have to plough hard, sometimes rocky and dry ground.

Cultivating unfaithfulness is much easier. That we can do. We like to dig up dirt about others and shake off the dust in their faces. Fretting about our plans for the world and purposes we have for ourselves rather than what God has in store.

David says we should feed on things that cause us to delight in God. Getting to know faithfulness like friend. A friend that sometimes that speaks truth with love, showing you how far you have to go, but reminds you constantly of what God has done, is doing and will do to bring you lasting peace.

4 – A Desire That’s Sure to be Met. v 4

Verse 4 is one of those ‘coffee-mug verses’. It is certainly inspirational and fills us with hope, we like the last part especially!

We like the idea of getting what we want in life. We don’t like the idea of having to jump through hoops to figure out how to get it though.

But this is not a hoop to jump through in order to have a blank cheque for life. By taking pleasure in God, delighting in Him, the next natural step is that God will give you a great reward – more of Himself.

When you delight in Him and delight to please Him, committing to Him and trusting in Him when life throws curve balls is not burdensome, but rather, His law becomes a delight. His law becomes our reward. ( Psalm 119:24).

His desires become our desires, and we get what we want when we want Him.

When we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him.

That should fill us with hope and joy. In a world that craves happiness and pleasure, we have something that will outlast these temporary and fickle things. We have a God Who is not only our hope of future vindication in the face of our current problems, He is the God Who is committed to giving us a purpose.

Our purpose is glorify Him and enjoy Him forever, and as we do this, we see more and more of His plan unfolding. We see more and more how our desires fade and His desires for us replace them.

What are some of the things you want in life, but don’t know how to get?

We want relationships that don’t fail.

We want jobs that don’t drain our creativity.

We want a bank account that is always full.

We want to be completely healthy.

These are all good desires, and the fact that we miss out on some of them can be a genuine cause for grief, and to grieve over losses in life is not sinful. But if these desires outshine, outlast and outplay your desire to please God first, you will always be lacking the ‘one thing’ of treasure in Heaven ( Mark 10:21).

Verse 37 hints at what it would take to have a future of peace.

Be blameless.

Be upright.

This may seem to lead us back to where we started – not wanting to do anything for fear of wrong motives, and not wanting to just ‘go through the motions’ or ‘tick the boxes’ in order to get our way. We also know we cannot be completely blameless or upright…It seems like a dead end.

But it’s not!

This where we remember we get our righteousness from God. He acts. He makes us blameless and upright, not by our own actions, but by His, in His Son.

But our commitment, our trust in God, our stillness in His presence, our waiting on Him are not passive acts on our part.

We are to be actively seeking God. As we desire Him, we can be sure we are in His will, we will be in His will when our faith and trust is in Him. Even if that faith is small, weak, and falters from time to time.

We want many things, and God has promised us much, but the greatest of His promises is that salvation is His idea – it belongs to Him, and if He gives us that,if He gives us Christ,  He will freely give us all things. ( Romans 8:31-32).

If you have a restless mind, heart, soul then set your mind on Christ. Gain life and freedom by releasing your burden and taking up the cross.

The best way you can delight in God and know His will is to reflect on His Son. If you are burdened and troubled, there is no cure but the Cross.

The Cross held our Saviour as He died for our peace. So we could have that righteousness that God has promised.

The empty tomb, though, holds much more than grave clothes. It it is our hope. Because He lives – I can face tomorrow!

Make friends with faithfulness. You don’t know how long God will have you in the place you are, but you know He has you there. Do good while you’re there. 

Make sure your desires are Godly desires. Don’t desire selfish things. Don’t desire what the world desires. Desire what God has designed you for. If what you desire doesn’t come your way, trust that God has an even better plan and purpose in store. Ask Him to do something better for you than you ask or imagine. That’s one prayer that will always be answered. 

Don’t get worked up about wickedness. Be aware, but don’t be afraid.

Admit you don’t know it all. That’s humbling, but true humility is incredibly relaxing. Rest in God. Be still and know that He is God and you are not!

God has given you a life to live, a land to live in, and a path to walk. Watch your steps, see how He is at work in establishing them ( v23-24).

The Prayer & Heart of Daniel – Daniel 9

There is a story told about the little girl who prayed for a little brother.

 

Every night she prayed, she prayed only for this. Her parents thought it was cute, and didn’t discourage it, but told her prayer would only be answered if it was God’s will.

 

So she started praying,“ Dear God, please give me a little brother named Will.Amen”

 

We often operate the same way when we pray, even when fresh insight or information is given, or new situations arise, we still seek the same answers to our prayers.

 

In our relationship with God, we come at it from an viewpoint of, “ Nice to meet you God. Now we are acquainted, let me tell you about all the wonderful plans I have for me, and how you can help.”

 

We are instructed to pray for God’s will to be done ( Matthew 6), for His kingdom to come.

 

When we pray, we don’t do it to change God’s mind or to manipulate anything out of him, but instead, we most times will find that prayer changes us.

 

It changes our selfish desires into Godly ones. It changes us from self dependence and being self reflective to reflecting only on God, and His Word.

 

We long for prophecy in this world, to know what is going to happen. We want insight.

 

That kind of insight can only come through much prayer, and having a heart seeking after God.

 

Daniel was a man or prayer, we know that from his willingness to even risk his life to keep praying ( ch6).

 

We see him in earnest prayer here. A prayer asking God for mercy, and seeking God to complete the promises of His Word.

 

 

  1. The timing v 1-2

 

Have you ever had a moment when you are reading a good book, and the words jump off the page at you? They just resonate so clearly, you can’t possibly continue reading, but you have to stop and mull it over. Read it again and wonder how the author managed to write words that would grab you attention so well when they’ve never met you?

 

Daniel had such a moment, reading the words of Jeremiah.

 

He called it more than the words of Jeremiah though, Daniel referred to them as the Word of the Lord.

 

The fact that he was studying the Word shows us that he still had a great concern to know what God had said to the prophets before, and the promises that He had made, so that he could properly discern the time he was in.

 

He was engaged in spiritual exercise, strengthening his knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures.

 

He was most likely reading Jeremiah 25:11-12 , 29:10.

 

Studying God’s Word gives us a perception that comes through The Spirit, as we look into, feed on it, and find ourselves desiring God’s Will and purposes to be fulfilled in our times and lives.

 

Daniel sought to understand the Word of God, but like all of us, He longed to know when God’s promises would be fulfilled.

 

God had clearly promised that the exile of the Israelites would last for 70 years.

 

Many commentators put this at a time when Daniel was in his 80s, and the people had been in Babylon for about 68 years.

 

Daniel realized the time was approaching where God’s promise would be fulfilled.

 

How aware are you of your times and seasons in relation to the promises of God in His Word?

 

  1. The prayer… v.3-19

 

Daniel’s response to this knowledge drove him to prayer, and what a prayer!

 

It wasn’t a quick little arrow prayer, it was a descriptive and earnest appeal to God’s righteousness, justice and glory.

 

He didn’t just launch into it either, even his preparation for the prayer that he made was just as precise and logical as the prayer itself.

 

v.3 tells us his posture, his attitude, even his attire. His face was towards God, his heart was towards God, and his humility was shown in putting on sackcloth and ashes.

 

This attitude of prayer shows just how serious Daniel was to seeking God’s face on this issue.

 

“Preparing for prayer and worship is just as important as the prayer and worship themselves. Without hearts that are right before God, our prayers and worship will be empty, pious words.” – Wiersbe. 

 

We may not put on sackcloth and ashes when we pray nowadays, but when was the last time you sought God’s face with this kind of earnestness? 

 

The prayer itself is not only a great model, but includes again the inward resolve of Daniel’s heart. ( 1:8)

 

He launches into his prayer, not on a note of , “Hey God, remember how you told Jeremiah 70 years? Tick tock…”

 

His opening line is on the greatness, love and awesomeness of God.

 

We would want to know, am I going to see my homeland again? God, have you forgotten about me?

 

Daniel instead lays foundation of confession for his prayer, and not just for the sins of the nation, but he includes himself in the sins of the people.

 

Nearly a dozen times, Daniel uses “we” or “us” in referring to Israel’s disobedience and sin.

 

This again is a sign of his humility, but also of his honesty before God.

 

There is no point going before God to intercede for others when you yourself have unfinished business with Him. ( Matthew 5: 23-24)

 

Daniel also talks about the theme of ownership.

 

Righteousness, mercy and forgiveness belong to God.

 

Shame and the consequences of sins committed belong to those who willfully disobey His commands and break His covenant. v 7-10

 

Daniel knew beyond a doubt where the people of Israel stood before God. They were completely at His mercy.

 

They had failed. They had disobeyed. The had been blatant about it. They had ignored His warnings He had given them through the prophets.

 

God’s justice in His covenant demanded a price to be paid for their refusal to follow His Word. They had been warned of the consequences, but still went ahead and bought punishment on themselves.

 

Here is Daniel though, seeking God’s face on behalf of the people, looking for mercy.

 

Looking for God’s glory to be restored to Israel as nation, Jerusalem as His city, and the temple as His sanctuary. ( v 16-19)

 

We might ask Daniel, why do you even bother to ask? Is Israel even worth the trouble?

 

Well, God thought so.

 

Israel are His chosen people, there wasn’t going to be a change to that, because even though the had been unfaithful, it was impossible for God to be unfaithful to His promises or His covenant.

 

Daniel knew this.

 

He knew the justice of God demanded punishment for sins.

 

He knew the righteousness of God demanded cleansing.

 

He knew Israel was still in sin, still in need of complete cleansing.

 

He knew that God’s mercy would only be withheld from them for so long, because God had promised not only that this punishment would be for an appointed time. There would be a time when they would be brought back to the land.

 

He appeals not to them having learnt their lesson.

 

That would imply they had achieved righteousness without God’s mercy.

 

Daniel’s strongest and most challenging appeal is to God’s mercy, that God would impart to Israel the righteousness they could not produce not matter how much they labored in the cost of sin. v 18

 

Daniel knew a lot about the character of God, the covenant, the plans and some of the purposes of God, but he didn’t have the resource that we do in the Cross, where God’s righteousness, mercy, and love all met perfectly, for all time, and for all sins. When all people would be brought back.

 

This is such a wonderful picture of the Cross and Christ’s atoning death and victorious rising again.

 

We must avoid the dangers of being so caught up in trying to interpret the Word of God to fit our agendas or platforms, that we miss that God’s Word and promises will be fulfilled, not on our schedule, but on in His perfect time.

 

We need to avoid the trap of getting wrapped up in prophetic studies so much that we have little concern for the practical outworking of God’s Will. All we sometimes want to do is satisfy our curiosity and proudly share our “insights” with others who are less “enlightened”. When Daniel learned God’s truth, the experience humbled him and moved him to worship and pray. – Wiersbe

 

The burdens we have for ourselves, and for the furthering of our understanding or knowledge of something are put in the right perspective when we actually see God’s grand design and plan behind all things.

 

Daniel’s prayer is a lesson in God’s faithfulness and mankind’s tendency to justify his failures of unfaithfulness, and that God’s justice will always be done, even if justification comes at the expense of His own Son to pay the ultimate price for all sin.

 

  1. The answer….v.20-23

 

Daniel’s pleas did not go unnoticed, because Gabriel turns up to give him an answer to his request for mercy.

 

The reasons given for Gabriel’s special visit were that he came to give insight and understanding, and that was because Daniel was greatly loved, something repeated several times in ch 10.

 

What a compliment to receive.

 

To know you are loved by God, not because you are righteous in and of yourself, but because God is merciful.

 

Daniel’s study of the Word, and earnest seeking after God, trusting in God, confession of sin, and pleas for mercy and for God’s glory to be revealed to him were answered all by that statement, ‘ You are greatly loved’.

 

God’s love is humbling in itself, but what God’s love reveals to us can be overwhelming at times.

 

God longs to give us insight to His Will and purpose for our lives, what our lives could be if we would only call out to Him for His mercy and righteousness to be imparted to us. If only we would long to immerse ourselves in Himself, and His Word, and promises, longing to understand Him and His love for us.

 

  1. The vision….v.24-27

 

Gabriel’s “so-called” answer to Daniel’s plea for mercy seems to very cryptic at first glance.

 

Even on the 1,000th glance, it still seems a little ambiguous!!

 

The 70 weeks, or 70 sevens is a vision, or instruction given in scripture that has been the source of much contention for many debating eschatology through the years.

 

But we must remember when reading this that it was given to Daniel, and God chose him to receive this instruction as an answer to his prayer for mercy.

 

What was it all about? How was the vision an answer to prayer?

 

It details Israel’s history from the time of their restoration to Jerusalem, to the coming of the Messiah, to the Messiah’s cutting off, and another prince who comes and makes a covenant with Israel for a time, then breaks it, then after a great time of war and desolations, until again God’s time is fulfilled and His plan of redemption is complete.

 

The 70 sevens seem to echo the 70 years of exile for Israel in Babylon. It was another 70 for Daniel to consider.

 

For 70 years Daniel had longed for the restoration of the city and the temple of God ( v16-19). Now that it was about to take place his attention was directed to a more distant and loftier peak in the history of redemption. Even a new temple in a rebuilt city made by human hands could be destroyed; Daniel’s eyes were placed instead on a final temple, one that was beyond desolation. ( John 2:19) ( Revelation 21:22-27). – (ivp commentary)

 

Daniel’s answer to pleas for God to reveal His mercy was for him to have an understanding that God was working towards to the redemption of the whole world, not just one city or nation or one building.

 

Daniel’s intercessory worship lead him to see with great God-given insight, that even though we do not understand all of what God is doing, He has a grander purpose in mind, an eternal purpose in all of our personal situations that somehow reflect and echo His grand eternal plan for the whole human race.

 

No story of truth should seem foreign to us when we read it with God’s eternal plan in mind, it echoes of His love, mercy, righteousness, and perfect justice. 

 

Our response to all these things that threaten to overwhelm us when we don’t understand it to plea for mercy, but most of all to pray, “Thy kingdom come!”

God In Our Pit – Psalm 130

 

Ever get that feeling like you’re in over your head? You haven’t just bitten off more than you can chew, it’s more than you can swallow or stomach? New job? Wrong subject choice at uni?

 

My wedding day was a little like that, for a brief moment, just before Rachel walked down the aisle, I suddenly realised what a big moment it was!! Thoughts rushed through my mind like – what am I doing? More to the point – what is SHE doing, marrying me??

 

Moments in life that overwhelm us can be so daunting, we feel completely helpless, hopeless and lost. What does your heart turn to in those moments? The object of your attention in the pits of despair reveals not only your heart, but what you are trusting in to save you.

 

The great Australian theologian, Colin Buchanan put it like this:

 

When you’re in the pits, or out for a duck

If you’re long in the tooth, or short of a buck…Remember the Lord.

 

Being in the pits is rough, and we naturally cry out for help, and we are right to cry out for the mercy of God, but how do we escape the situation we are in? Psalm 130 is rich in reflection, and as we meditate on it, we find it all so relevant to us, that is, if we want help.

 

  1. The Depth of Our Need. v1-2

 

How low can you go?’Is the tagline for limbo. Some push the boundaries of human dexterity in their attempts at going lower than anyone else.

 

The ‘depths’ in the times of the psalmist though, was often was a reference to the depths of the sea. The unknown, unreachable, out of your depth, depths. If you went that deep, chances are you were not coming back. Hence it was also used as an way of saying you were close to death.But ultimately, it is a picture of oppressive despair. More than sorrow, it’s an intimate acquaintance with depravity and sin’s curse.

 

“There is a difference between sorrow and despair. Sorrow is pain for which there are sources of consolation. Despair, however, is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing. When you lose the ultimate source of your meaning or hope, there are no alternate sources to turn to. It breaks your spirit.” – Keller

 

Despair is when you are at the end of yourself, and find no comfort in all the things you hoped in. No fulfillment in all the things you trusted in. No life in what you given your heart to. It leaves you alone, comfortless, unfulfilled and brokenhearted. It’s in this pit of despair, the writer calls out to the only thing he has left to call upon, his most base instinct.

 

There is no place where your cry cannot be heard by God. If anything, sometimes the only place we will call out to God from is when we have reached the end of ourselves.

 

We tried the god of self, and came up selfish and narcissistic. We gave ourselves to others and worshiped the god man’s opinion and came up fearful and anxious. We gave ourselves to pleasure and became addictive and depraved. We gave ourselves to love and found we loved ourselves too much, others too little and hated the God Who made us this way.

What is the way out? Will God hear our cry for help? Will He attend to our desperate prayers?

 

Above the waves and billows, the storms of life’s stormy sea, will we give up a cry of faith in our only hope of salvation, or just give up? The way out is only by extraspection, certainly not introspection.

 

  1. The Greatness of Our God. v3-4

 

“Deep places beget deep devotion.” – Spurgeon

 

What makes up a prayer in this situation? The psalmist will show us in following verses, a God worthy of not only of our call for help, but of our worship.

 

I’m sure you know that song, “ O be careful little eyes what you see….” ? It’s more than a kids ditty. You are being watched, and your sins are noticed.

 

God does marks our sin, and none of us get a passing grade so long as we remain outside of Christ, not accepting the redemption that’s available.

 

There are no credits, passes, distinctions, high distinctions. You can’t study to get a higher mark, you can’t work to get a higher mark. You can’t even stand before God to get your grade, because you are not even worthy of the very privilege of standing – that’s how far short we are. We have all fallen ‘flat on our face short’ of God’s glory. There is none righteous, no not one. Not even the ones that say they are.

 

Before God, no amount of repenting will do, because even the Psalmist couldn’t stand, and he had a repentant, penitent heart. God’s grace is the only cause by which we can enter into His presence.

 

But how do we get the grace of God? How will we stand before Him? We need someone who can go before God on our behalf – but Who can stand for us? We’d need someone like us, who understands us, but isn’t us. Someone acquainted with our griefs and sorrows, and is yet unaffected by them. Someone who can be with us, and for us, but still be completely Holy.

 

v4 Points us to the answer. Forgiveness is WITH God. Forgiveness comes from Him, through Him. He has to stand in for us, before Himself. We need a God-man.

 

God’s very nature is to forgive. It’s his habit to be merciful and provide a way to not only stand before Him to receive judgement, but to receive pardon.

 

Do not think that you stand before God by your own efforts. No one can. Don’t try to enter His presence and demand His forgiveness, it might be in His nature, but He only accepts those who come through Jesus.

 

It’s like you are in the dock. Perry Mason has just laid out all the evidence. You are guilty. The judge holds your life in the balances. But instead of declaring you as you are, he instead chooses to look at you at your sins through the lens of someone else who is perfectly innocent and accepts their innocent over your guilt, as they stand in your place.

 

God’s holiness is overwhelming. No one can stand before Him. Isaiah knew he was undone in His presence ( Isaiah 6), and Peter knew his sinfulness in the presence of the Lord ( Luke 5:8). No one can endure that level of exposure or scrutiny. But His holiness manifests itself in love and mercy, in Christ. In this fact, we like the psalmist, see that He is to be feared, not out of terror, but out of awe. ( 4b) He is, ‘looking down in love’ and not to ‘squish us like a bug!’

“ None fear the Lord like those who experience His forgiving love” – Spurgeon

 

  1. The Earnestness of Our Hope. v.5-6

 

Waiting is not my favorite pastime. As kids we wait for Christmas and birthdays. As teens we wait until the time we can be ‘grown up’, and when we grow up, we’re waiting for EVERYTHING. Traffic. Wives to do their make-up. Kids to brush their teeth. Husbands to take the rubbish out. Pay rises. For our team to win some games. On and on…

 

There is a theme of watching in this Psalm, not only that God watches/marks our sins, but there is a waiting for us in just the same emphasis for the Lord and His Word.

 

Our soul – our very being and essence, who we really are, is made to wait on God and His Word. This points us to the opposite of our position in the pit where we most likely had been waiting on ourselves to get us out of there. Instead, there is calling, a vocation, like night watchmen, we wait for the Lord.

 

The night watchmen and nightshift worker no doubt eagerly waits for the first hint of dawn breaking. Peering into the darkness, keeping eyes open with matchsticks, they earnestly hope for the end of the shift. That’s just a small picture of what our hope should be like, hence the repetition. ( v6)

 

This expectancy cannot even come close to the certain hope that God’s redeeming Word to come to us as His people in their ‘dark night of the soul’. – Alter

 

If God is to become real to us in our lives, we not only have to cry out to Him, and then rest in His grace alone, we have to live expectant lives. Hopeful lives that look for His revealing.

 

“If He is to become real to me, it will be as He speaks to me and makes Himself known through His Word.” – Michael Wilcock

 

We look not only to His Word for His revelation, but also to His coming. The psalmist spoke of the coming redemption, of the Messiah’s coming to Israel, the first coming of Jesus. We look forward also, for His second. When He appears all our hopes will be purified. ( 1 John 3:1-3)

 

How earnest is our hope? Do we live with the revelation of Jesus as the Christ as part of our daily lives, or do we run that as background noise to the busyness of life and our own fixations, hobby horses, rituals and traditions?

 

The hope of the Gospel is for the people of God, not just to be shared when we stumble over a non-believer to evangelise. We should never ever think the Gospel no longer reveals anything to us about ourselves once we have accepted God’s free grace by faith.

 

We need to be expectant, not complacent. We need to be made aware of the danger that sometimes we base our justification on our sanctification, instead of the other way around. Hope is only pure when it is on, in and from Christ alone. We need to cast off the sleeping pills of tribalism, blind ritualism, liberalism and legalism. Wait for the dawn. Light has come, and is coming.

 

 

  1. The Effectiveness of Our Redemption. v7-8

 

Not only is He coming, but He bringing with Him His three constant companions:

forgiveness, covenant love and redemption.

 

Israel, as God’s chosen people, awaited the Messiah to redeem them from all their sins. The psalmist hoped in God’s covenant love, mercy, and His plenteous redemption. We look back and see all was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, making redemption not only possible for Israel, but for all nations. People could be sons and daughters of Abraham by faith. ( Galatians 3:7-9).

 

This redemption that is available through Jesus is not only plenteous, but completely effective and full – all iniquities are redeemed. All!

 

Not just washed, pardoned, excused. Redeemed. Someone paid a price to take them away from us, to free us.

 

We were enslaved in our pit of despair and sin. We were children of wrath. We were in no position to come up, out of it.Helpless. Hopeless. We could not ascend. We needed someone to condescend to us. Someone to come down to our pit and be with us, then pay the price to get us out.

 

God came to us, Immanuel. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God came into our pit.

 

He has established a way for us to be certain of our hope in our redemption. He is intimately invested in us, we are His people, His children.

 

What does the revelation of Jesus as the Word of God made flesh mean for you?

 

Unbeliever – it means you have to call out Him for salvation, then for believers to glorify God with your lives, and to live alone by His mercy, seeing He has come to you in your deepest distress and pain. Believers – this is for your assurance, and to move you to praise, not cause anguish and grief. Do you feel like your whole Christian life has been spent trying to crawl out of the pit? Stop crawling, and start waiting on the Lord and resting in His Word. We have a God Who speaks, listen to His voice.

 

“ Out of the depths of anguish to heights of assurance. See the pearl of salvation, hidden in the depths.” – Spurgeon 

 

 From the depths of woe I raise to Thee, a voice of lamentation. 

Lord, turn a gracious ear to me, And hear my supplication. 

If Thou iniquities dost mark, Our secret sins and misdeeds dark, 

O who shall stand before Thee? 

To wash away the crimson stain, Grace, grace alone availeth. 

Our works, alas! are all in vain; In much the best life faileth. 

No man can glory in Thy sight, All must alike confess Thy might, 

And live alone by mercy. 

Therefore my trust is in the Lord, And not in mine own merit. 

On Him my soul shall rest, His word upholds my fainting spirit. 

His promised mercy is my fort, My comfort, and my sweet support. 

I wait for it with patience. 

What though I wait the live-long night, And ’til the dawn appeareth. 

My heart still trusteth in His might, It doubteth not nor feareth. 

Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed, Ye of the Spirit born indeed, 

And wait ’til God appeareth. 

Though great our sins and sore our woes, 

His grace much more aboundeth. 

His helping love no limit knows, Our upmost need it soundeth. 

Our Shepherd good and true is He, Who will at last His Israel free, 

From all their sin and sorrow.

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