NEW WORSHIP EP!

Dear visitors,

Exciting news! My new worship EP “Where The Light Shines” was released on the 1/9/17. It has 5 acoustic worship songs that I have written this year and I’d love for you to take a listen and get yourself a copy to support my music ministry. I hope that the songs connect with you, but more importantly help you to connect with God and come to him in worship.

Please follow my music website www.andrewrobinsonmusic.co.uk for access to all the music, news, events and updates. You can also follow me on social media:
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You can listen to and buy the EP by clicking HERE or the “buy now” button below
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Many thanks,

Andrew

.cardboard_wallet_Ed_final new

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The Church – God’s Vision of the Gospel

The Church: God’s Vision of the Gospel.

Isaiah 52:13 – 54:17.

INTRODUCTION.

When the word ‘gospel’ is mentioned or the phrase ‘preaching the gospel’ what is it that immediately springs to mind? If you are like me I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is Jesus’ death and resurrection to save me from my sins. I tend to think, first, of the cross and my salvation.

Now, of course, that is true and right. Jesus did die to save me.

We need to understand the reasons why Jesus had to die – to satisfy the justice of God – that he is a sacrifice – that is was necessary for there to be a penalty paid for sin – that because I am a sinner I am unable to pay for my own sin and I need a redeemer – and on and on we could go talking about the reasons for Christ’s death and the implications for people.

It is important, of course, that we understand all these things about the death and resurrection of Christ.

However the good news – ‘gospel’ – about God’s rescue plan in Jesus Christ is far bigger than MY salvation and MY relationship with God.

Last time we saw something of God’s cosmic purpose – to unite everything under Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)

We saw that God has a plan – a plan that encompasses the whole universe – and that central to that plan is God’s rescue of sinful people in order to bring them into a loving relationship with himself.

We looked mainly at what Paul had to say in his letter to the Church in Ephesus. This is, of course, a NT perspective. We did see that the Church is made up of all true believers for all time. There is one people of God – believers from the OT Times and the NT times and those who are already in heaven.

It would be easy to rush from here into the details of church life. However, I would like to linger with the big picture a little longer. It is all too easy for us to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of trying to make church work in our tiny patch that we fail to see the wood for the trees.

When we speak of the gospel we tend to rush to the NT. The gospel is also in the OT. The whole Bible is a progressive revelation of God’s plan.

  1. THE ETERNAL VIEW OF GOD’S VISION.

God existed before creation – thus before time. God is complete and lacks nothing. There is perfect love and fellowship between the father, Son and Spirit. Yet for reasons that are beyond our comprehension, God shows his love to the creation he planned and we are included in that relationship.

Out of the whole universe – earth has a special place. In the midst of the billions of stars in the billions of galaxies earth is special. God created life on this planet and from the myriad forms made humans was special, made in the image of God with the capacity to have fellowship with God. That meant choice, a choice that could reject the creator’s love.

The coming of evil is a mystery in many ways, yet before time began God had a plan to overcome evil. A plan too terrible except for God to understand. That through the death of his Son sinners could be redeemed. This death of Christ on the cross became the focal point of earth, time, history and eternity itself. It also is the focal point of worship for those who have been rescued by it.

The victory of Jesus Christ on the cross is the final reversal of all the evil effects of sin and Satan. The picture the Bible portrays is that God is preparing a bride – the church – for the Son who is the bridegroom. At the end of time when God brings history to a close there will be the marriage supper in heaven – a wedding feast when Christ and his church are united in a new way – when all true believers from all of time will be united to Christ forever.

This is God’s eternal plan for the Church!!

The Bible reveals this plan to us through it pages. One of the most wonderful sections of all scripture is Isaiah – last bit of 52 through 55.

  1. THE FOCAL POINT OF GOD’S VISION.

This section of Isaiah is one of the most powerful and magnificent passages of the Bible. It reveals the heart of a loving creator for his creation. 52:10 – 53:12 speaks of God’s suffering servant who came that we might be recreated and restored.

More than anywhere else in scripture we have the picture of a suffering Messiah who comes to bear away our sin as a substitutionary sacrifice.

Isaiah 53:6 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,  each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (NIV)

Now only does he die but he rises again overcoming sin and death – surely these are the OT passages Jesus would have explained to his disciples after the resurrection [on the road to Emmaus]

Isaiah 53:10-11

10 …. though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,

he will see his offspring and he will prolong his days,

and the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

11 After the suffering of his soul,

he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied;

Clearly this speaks of his resurrection [700 years before the event]

And it also speaks of the salvation it brings to sinners –

by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities. (NIV)

Who can ever understand the depth of the Father’s part in this suffering? I can understand, at least in part, why Jesus died for my sin – I am guilty for his death. However, there is a deeper cause – it was the Father himself who put him there and what is more he had planned it from eternity – for me!

We will never understand the depth of the words of this chapter – we can only marvel and worship –

Isaiah 53:4-10

4 …. yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. ….. 6

….. the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7

….10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, ….

God deliberately sent his own Son to us, knowing that he would have to turn his back on him and cause him to suffer – it is a mystery and a miracle and an amazing act of grace – we will need all eternity to wonder at it!

Surely such news needs to be shouted from the rooftops to every person on earth!

  1. THE BROADNESS OF GOD’S VISION.

 I began by saying that we tend to think of the gospel very individualistically. This is true even when we read passages of scripture like Isaiah 53-54.

If I asked what Isa. 53 was about most Christians could probably give the gist but would struggle to say what 54 was about.

While chapter and verse divisions are very helpful and we would struggle without them – they are also a hindrance in this respect, viz. that they cause artificial breaks that the original authors never intended.

The break between Isaiah 53 and 54 is a good example. Chapter 53 is a marvellous passage about the death and resurrection of the Messiah BUT is artificially separated from 54 which is the glorious triumph of the gospel – the expansion of the people of God’s throughout the whole earth.

When we neglect this dimension of the gospel – call it missions / evangelism / outreach / church growth – we not only distort the gospel of God but we are also the poorer for it.

54:1-5.

These verses speak of JOY – GROWTH – CERTANITY of the people of God, the community of the redeemed, the church.

JOY – God’s people supernaturally gathered.

Isaiah 54:1

1 “Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. (NIV)

To understand what Isaiah is saying here we need to look at the history of Israel. Abraham is considered the father of the faith. When God called Abraham he promised him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. However, there was a problem – his wife Sarah was barren – when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 and child-bearing was no longer an expectation Sarah had a son – Isaac.

Abraham tried his own solution by having a child by Sarah’s slave woman Hagar but that was not God’s solution.

The picture is of Sarah, a barren woman, who bears a miracle child and becomes the mother of a family more numerous than the stars.

The point that Isaiah is making is that the bringing into being of the community of God’s people cannot be explained naturally. Firstly, because it is a supernatural spiritual birth that is needed and, Secondly, these ‘children’ are so numerous that it cannot be explained naturally but only supernaturally.

This supernaturally born, innumerable family is a cause of great joy and celebration.

Someone may say “Surely it is unjustified to apply this passage from the OT to the NT church.” Is this not referring to the Jews of the OT? Wasn’t Isaiah trying to give encouragement to the Jewish people in exile in Babylon? Yes, that is true but it is only a shadow of the fullness of what was to come.

We have every justification for applying this passage to the church because that is exactly what Paul does in Galatians 4:25-27 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: “Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labour pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” (NIV)

Paul is quotes Isaiah 54:1 and applying it to the church.

Just as the full meaning of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 could only be seen after the resurrection of Christ, so, too, the joyous harvest and growth of the people of God in Isaiah 54 could only be seen after Pentecost.

GROWTH – God’s people designed to include all nations.

Isaiah 54:2-3 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will [dis]possess nations and settle in their desolate cities. (NIV)

Tent life was very familiar to Middle Eastern people of that day. Abraham had lived in a tent. The Israelites had lived in tents in the desert and while it was a time of many failures it was also a time of walking in fellowship with God, a time of living in dependence on him and under his care.

Isaiah’s call to the people of God is to increase the size of their tent in preparation for growth. God’s plan and purpose is that the suffering of His Son would not be in vain nor would it yield a small insignificant harvest. Rather his plan is for his ‘tent’ to extend to cover all nations.

your descendants will dispossess nations – is an unfortunate translation. I think it is better understood as being which is more positive. God’s desire is that all nations will be included. That those desolate cities were there are no people of God will become inhabited by people who turn to God for salvation through the work of his suffering servant.

Psalm 2 is about the Messiah-King – God speaking to his Son says…

Psalm 2:8 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. (NIV)

Why did Jesus, the suffering-servant-Messiah, go to the cross so willingly and bear the sins of many? How is it that he could endure such suffering?

We read in the NT Hebrews 12:2 2 …. Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NIV)

Surely a redeemed people from all the nations on earth was part of the joy before him.

Doesn’t Isaiah 53:11 make more sense in the light of this Isaiah 53:11 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: ….. (KJV)

This is what the Church is – a community of people rescued by a suffering- Messiah.

If we fail to grasp this big picture of God’s purposes then we will have a distorted view of the gospel. It is true that Jesus died to save me form my sins BUT it is much more than that.

SECURITY – God’s people have a certain future in the care of a loving Lord.

When the Jews originally heard this from the prophet Isaiah they probably didn’t feel as if they were this innumerable powerful group of God’s people who would possess nations and inhabit cities. They probably felt weak, insignificant and marginalised. They didn’t think of the Church of God around the world.

We have seen the enormous growth of the church over 2000 years – yet we still feel small and powerless sometimes. This passage of scripture assures us that the growth and power and triumph of the Church is no pipe-dream. As true as Ch. 53 was about the death and resurrection of Christ so too is ch.54 true about the growth triumph of the church of God.

On what does Isaiah base the existence and growth and security of God’s people?

LOOK at v.5.

Isaiah 54:5 5 For your Maker is your husband –

  • the LORD Almighty is his name –
  • – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
  • he is called the God of all the earth. (NIV)

For your Maker is your husband

– God is not only our creator but he also deliberately sets out to form a relationship with us – just as a man deliberately sets out to seek a wife to whom he can be a Husband. He sets out to make those who are not his people to become his people.

Is it any wonder that the NT holds this relationship up as a model for husbands to love their wives?

Ephesians 5:25   25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (NIV)

the LORD Almighty is his name

– LORD is in capitals – whenever you see it written like that it is the most holy name for God – YHWH. It was the name God gave to Moses at the burning bush. He is the God of the Exodus, the one who rescues his people and overthrows theirs and his enemies.

Almighty tells us that he is the absolute and ultimate power.

the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;

– the one who is holy and cannot tolerate sin is also the one in whose image we are made and he therefore longs to have a relationship with. In order to achieve that end he redeemed us through his suffering servant thus satisfying the requirements of his divine justice and at the same time meeting the needs of our human nature.

he is called the God of all the earth

– What gives God the right to act in this way? Well the earth and all that is in it belongs to him. Everything in heaven and earth belongs to him – because he is both its maker and redeemer!

CONCLUSION.

Is it any wonder then that Isaiah says to us “Do not be afraid … Do not feel disgraced” – we have no need to. We are God’s people and our JOY and our GROWTH and our SECURITY are in him.

Jesus died on the cross, not just to save ME, but to call to himself a people of God from every nation on earth – THE CHURCH.

OHP – Isaiah 53 – sufferings of Christ – Isaiah 54 – fruit of Christ’s sufferings.

On the basis of who God is and what he has promised we can be certain that all this will happen – indeed we are seeing it happen around the world if we look. The Church of Jesus Christ is growing at a faster rate than any other time in history – maybe not in the WEST but certainly in other parts of the world.

What is more we have the promise of scripture that the gospel will not fail.

Jesus said “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not stand in the way”

Revelation 7:9 9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (NIV)

The Church:

GOD’S VISION OF THE GOSPEL

 

  1. The eternal view of God’s vision

 

 

  1. The focal point of God’s vision

 

 

  1. The broadness of God’s vision

 

JOY

God’s people supernaturally gathered

GROWTH

God’s people designed to include all

nations

SECURITY

God’s people have a certain future in the care of their loving Lord

 

* For your Maker is your husband –

* the LORD Almighty is his name –

* the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;

* he is called the God of all the earth.

The Church – The Church in God’s Masterplan

THE CHURCH IN GOD’S MASTER PLAN.

 INTRODUCTION.

When we say the word ‘church’ it conjures up all sorts of images in people’s minds.

  • Building
  • Denomination / Organisation – Roman catholic Church, Church of England (The whole organisation or just the local parish church), Baptist Church, etc.
  • People – a good evangelical response!

But do we mean the local congregation or the church around the world. On the other hand is the church bigger than even that. At the other end of the scale what about ‘house-churches’?

So then, What exactly is the Church? That is what I hope we will learn more about over the next few weeks / months. Today I want to try and draw some broad-brush strokes. A wide-angle lens view. Then over the next weeks we will zoom in on various aspects of the Church:

  • Worship
  • Fellowship
  • Discipleship
  • Ministry
  • Missions and evangelism
  • Leadership
  • Baptism – —— and so on.

If we simply focus on the Church in our day and our time and our culture and even our own particular ‘Binscombite’ view of the church we will end up with a very inadequate view of what the church is.

What we need to do is to step back, far back, back to eternity to see God’s overall plan for his creation. We will never see the full picture in every detail because we are finite and God is infinite. This does not therefore mean that we can’t understand anything, on the contrary God has told us many things in the Bible about his plan for his universe.

The question that we must first address then is ‘What is God’s master plan’?

  1. GOD’S MASTER PLAN.

Some would say that God’s purpose is to save souls. While it is true that God does save souls. To say that God is saving souls and preparing them for heaven is an inadequate definition of the Church and its purposes. What is more I believe it is not a biblical definite.

Ephesians 1-3 is a wonderful passage of scripture giving us some amazing glimpses into the purposes of God. As we read this passage there are two striking truths. (There are many marvellous truths but two stand out in the context of what we are talking about)

Firstly, God has a plan.

Throughout this passage we have numerous references to the plan, purposes, will of God.

Ephesians 1:1-10

1 … the will of God,

5 …with his pleasure and will — .

9 ..the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure,

which he purposed in Christ,

10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Paul repeatedly says that God ‘chose’ – ‘appointed’ – ‘destined’ etc. – this is a picture of a God who has a specific plan and purpose.

ILLUS.: Remember the TV series the A-Team. The characters were Murdoch, Face, BA and Hannibal Smith – lots of fighting and seldom a scratch. Hannibal Smith always had an elaborate plan, which somehow worked at which point he would say; “I loved it when a plan comes together”

God has a plan and it will come together because unlike Hannibal Smith God’s plan do not depend on a little planning and a lot of luck. God’s plans have a will come together because he has the power to make them work.

Paul uses a word (oikonomia) in v.10 which means house / household and which refers to the oversight and management of a large household. The idea is that the whole universe is like a big household of which God is the master and it is managed by his divine order.

Jesus used similar imagery when he told parables of God as a householder who will settle accounts [Matt.13; 20; 21]

Secondly, God’s plan extends to the whole universe.

V.10 tells us that it is God’s purposes “to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” 5x he speaks of “Heavenly realms”. In 4v10 he speaks of Christ “who ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe”.

Then these wonderful verses at the end of chapter 1- Ephesians 1:20-23 [the power of God]20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)

When we come to study the Church we can be tempted to rush into looking at the nitty-gritty of Church life here on earth and that is important. However, we can only rightly understand the church and its mission when we see it as part of God’s over all plan and purpose for all creation.

Thirdly, God’s plan is to reconcile all things to himself through Christ.

God’s plan is the restoration of the damage done to persons and nature by the fall. When sin entered the world through human disobedience towards God the damage was done and God set in motion a plan to rectify that.

How was he going to do that? Paul tells us in Colossians 1:20 – 20 and through him {Christ} to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (NIV)

Central to God’s plan is the rescue of people like you and me from our sins and bringing us back into a relationship with himself. However, God’s plan is broader than just my relationship with him. Jesus dying on the cross deals with all alienations that resulted from sin – within ourselves, between individuals / communities, between our physical environment and us.

The purpose of God in bringing us back into a relationship with himself is not simply that I have a relationship with him in isolation. His plan is to “call together a people for himself”

We are talking about “The Church in God’s master plan” – we have seen briefly God’s plan, now we need to ask “What is the church?

  1. WHAT IS THE CHURCH?

There is much we can say.

  • Is it a local congregation or the whole Church around the world?
  • Does it included believers only on earth or are those who have died also included in the Church?
  • What is the relationship between the Church and the nation of Israel in the OT?
  • What is the difference between the church and the kingdom of God?

We will touch on these things over the next few weeks.

Essentially the Church is the community of all true believers for all time.

This tells us three important things about the Church:

  • It is a community of people
  • It comprises those whom God has saved / who have a personal faith in Christ
  • It is for all time – both OT and NT.

Ephesians 5:25

25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (NIV)

Did Jesus die only for those who lived in the NT age? NO, surely OT believers were also rescued by God on the basis that the Messiah would die for them. They looked forward to the cross and we look back. The Church is all true believers for all time.

God’s plan for the church is so great that he has exalted Christ, His Son, to the highest position of authority for the sake of the church – Ephesians 1:22-23 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)

Furthermore it is Christ who builds the Church – Matt. 16:18 “I will build my church”

Luke in Acts 2:47 is very careful to tell us that the growth of the Church is not by human effort – And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)

This way in which the Church grows is an continuation of the way God established his people in the OT. He brought the people to himself to be a worshipping assembly / community before him.

The Lord says to Moses –

Deuteronomy 4:10 10 …. “Assemble the people before me …..” (NIV)

Or “Gather the people to me”

This has the same meaning as the word used in the NT for the Church – ekklesia – from which we get our English word ecclesiastical.

It is not surprising therefore that when the NT writers refer to the OT people of God gathering together they call it a church – Acts 7:38 38 He [ Moses] was in the assembly [ekklesia – church] in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. (NIV)

In the Book of Hebrews we have reference to a great number of witnesses in heaven surrounding the Church on earth going all the way back to Abel, the son of Adam and Eve. [Hebrews 12:1] Later in Hebrews it talks about the Church of the firstborn enrolled in heaven [Heb.21:22]

This is not surprising when we consider that the NT emphasises that Jewish believers and Gentile believers are united as one – Ephesians 2:14-19

14 … has made the two one .15 …. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two,   16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, ….. .

19 Consequently, …. fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, (NIV)

There are new blessings and privileges that we have in the NT era. However, it God has always called his people to assemble to worship him so it is appropriate to think of the church as being all the people of God for all time.

  1. WHY DOES THE CHURCH EXIST?

This question can be answered in two ways:

  • The Church exists because ….
  • The Church exists for ….

The Church exists because …. God brought it into being and continues to keep it going by the power of the Holy Spirit. If the church is not a spiritual community then it is not a church but simply a club on a human level.

The Church exists for ….

What is the purpose of the Church? Or rather purposes?

We could talk about these under many headings. I think there are three basic dimensions to the purpose of the church:

  • Towards God
  • Towards fellow believers
  • Towards the world

Towards God – to worship him. Paul tells the Church at Colossae – Colossians 3:16 16 ….. sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (NIV)

God has rescued us in Christ “to live for the praise of his glory” [Eph.1:12]

Worship is a major purpose of the Church – It is to be focussed on the Lord and done in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In a sense all of our life should be an act of worship to God. Everything Christians do should be done to the glory of God.

However, it is also true that as far as the Church as a body of people is concerned there need to be times of meeting together to sing / pray/ read and study the scriptures / and focus of God alone.

One of the marks of being filled with the Spirit is that we then worship God from the heart – Ephesians 5:18-19 ….. be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, (NIV)

Towards fellow believers – Nurture. The Church has a responsibility to nurture those who already believe and build them up to maturity in their faith – in short, discipleship. Paul goal was not simply to bring people to Christ but to bring them to maturity – Colossians 1:28 28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ

We read in Ephesians that God gives gifted people to the church 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Ephesians 4:12-13

The goal of the Church is never simply to save souls! Rather, it is to bring every Christian to maturity in Christ.

Towards the world – Outreach [evangelism, mission, acts of mercy, caring …]

Jesus was very clear that his follower – his church – were to be turned outwards to the world. The gospel of His kingdom was to be proclaimed to ALL nations

{Matt. 24:14} Make disciples of all nations [Matt.29:20] Go into all the world [Mark] be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth [Acts1]. Telling the world the good news about what Jesus has done by dying on the cross is the primary task of the Church towards the world.

YET accompanying this task of evangelism is to be the ministry of caring for the poor and needy in the name of the Lord. Luke 6:35-36 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend … without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

These areas of involvement by Christians in the world, in the name of Jesus, for the good of society are numerous – BUT they must not be seen as a substitute for genuine proclamation of the gospel; nor must they be a substitute for ministry directed at God or ministry to other believers.

Keeping a balance – It is always a temptation to ask which of these three is more important?

All three are commanded by the Lord in scripture, thus all three are important and none can be neglected. Emphasising one to the neglect of the other two creates and imbalance that results in an unhealthy Church.

They are, of course, not entirely separate compartments. There is a large degree of overlap between them. There are also many different aspects to each of the three ministries of the Church.

A Church that over-emphasises worship will end up with inadequate Bile teaching and remain shallow and immature.

If we neglect evangelism we will cease to grow & become turned & will wither.

If we place the building-up of believer over the other two we will produce Christians who know the Bible’s teaching but are spiritually dry because they know little of the joy of worshipping God or telling others about Christ.

All three dimensions must be emphasised and held in tension.

This does not mean that each individual Christian must give exactly 1/3 of their time in the church to each of these. God has gifted each differently.

Thus if your gift is in teaching you will give more time to building up the Church than to the other two. If you have a gift for evangelism more of your time will go in that direction. If you have the gift of helps you may spend more time doing practical things, and so on. This is an appropriated response to the diversity of gifts God has given us.

Still we must all be involved in worship, fellowship/discipleship and witness although the proportions may differ according to gift.

So the Church of God is wonderfully varied. It is especially brought together by God for his glory. It is central to God’s master plan. AND we have the immense privilege of being part of what God is doing in the universe – as we co-operate with him uses us to accomplish his plans for his universe – What a thought!

THE CHURCH IN GOD’S MASTER PLAN

 

  1. GOD’ MASTER PLAN.

God has a plan.

God’s plan extends to the whole universe.

God’s plan is to reconcile all things to

himself in Christ.

 

  1. WHAT IS THE CHURCH?

“The Church is the community of all true believers for all time”

 

  1. WHY DOES THE CHURCH EXIST?

Three dimensions:

            Ministry towards God.

            Ministry towards fellow believers.

            Ministry towards the world.

 

 

Isaiah – An Introduction

INTRODUCTORY NOTES ON ISAIAH

[See Appendix 1: p.67 of “Two Cities” study notes for the historical context of Isaiah 1-39]

There are many themes [motifs] in Isaiah – a brief look at three to get a feel for the book; viz. “The Messianic Hope”, “The City theme” and “the Holy One of Israel”.

  1. The Messianic Hope.

There are 3 pictures of Messiah in Isa. –

King (ch.1-37) 7v10-15; 9v1-7; 8v23-9v6; 11v1-16; 14v28-32; 24v21-23; 32v1-8; 33v17-24:

Servant (38-55), 42v1-4; 49v1-6; 50v4-9; 52v13-53v12:

Anointed Conqueror (56-66), 59v21; 61v1-3; 61v10-62v7; 63v1-6.

These 3 roles are facets of the one Messianic person.

1.1. The Messiah is endowed with the Spirit and word. 11v1-2,4; 42v1; 49v1-3; 50v4; 59v21; 61v1-3.

1.2. Concept of righteousness is central to the Messiah.

– characteristic of throne and king 9v7; nature of his rule 11v4.

– righteousness at the heart of the servant’s work 53v11; 54v17.

– Conqueror 61v10; 63v1

– the result of his work 61v3, 11.

1.3. This Messiah is a descendent of [King] David (man) 9v6-7; 11v1 and also the root from which David springs (God) 11v10 and the mighty God 9v6.

– Human ancestry and appearance 53v2; common human experience of rejection 53v3 and suffering beyond any other 50v6; 52v14

– BUT also the arm of the Lord (the Lord himself visibly present in saving action 53v1; 51v9; 52v10.

– in the anointed one righteousness, vengeance and redemption meet – it seems to be the Lord 59v16 but in 61v10 the robes of salvation have been passed to the Anointed One. Its his righteousness, vengeance and redemption that are finally accomplished.

1.4. Messianic Hope embraces Israel and the Gentile world.

– restoration of Zion 1v26-27 and in flooding of the nations 2v2-4.

– ‘royal’ David rules over a new world 11v1; 11v6-9

– equality and acceptance of present outcasts and aliens 19v23-25;27v12-13.

– servant will be divine revelation & salvation to the Gentiles 42v1-2; 49v1-6;

– benefits of salvation extend to Zion and the whole world ch’s 54-55.

– the conqueror’s message is universal 62v11-12

– the missionary enterprise is integral to this universal message 66v19.

  1. The city motif.

Jerusalem first mentioned in Gen.14v18 – Melchizedek recognised as Priest Of Most High God by Abraham.

Becomes important when David captures it 2 Sam.5v6-10. Centralizes it religiously and politically. These beliefs expressed in Pss.110, 47, 87,……

Through David, under God, Davidic throne, the Melchizedek priesthood, the promises to Abraham and the chosen city all come together.

Isaiah’s prophecy centres around Judah and the city of Jerusalem 1v1. The fate of Judah is sealed in the city (destruction) but the restoration is not merely of ITS people but of the world,

The motif is striking when set over against Gen. 11v1-4 (Babel) – world history produces a global society structured without God, humanly-made, humanly-centred, created by human cleverness for human salvation.

Along with the Divine overthrow of this human city is the creation of the ‘city of God’, a new world order constructed by God on His plan, with Himself at the centre and from where he reigns over a universe of righteousness and peace. 24v10; 25v2-3, 6-10; 26v1-6.

  1. The Holy One of Israel.

The focal point of Isaiah’s call is the Holiness of God. 6v1-13. [Holiness and transcendence, holiness and judgement, holiness and salvation]

– “holy” used more often in Isaiah than in rest of OT put together.

– in chs.1-37 the emphasis is on the rejection of the Holy One and the judgement which follows 5v16, 24; 10v17; 30v12-14.

– The Holy One is the Saviour who invites his people back 30v15, who the remnant trusts10v20 and acknowledge as holy 29v23 and in whose salvation they rejoice 12v6; 29v19.

– The title ‘Holy One of Israel’ occurs 25 times in Isaiah and only 7 times in the rest of the OT.

chs.1-37     – unworthy, careless, rejecting and unresponsive people.

40 – 55 – length to which the Holy One will go to deal with sin, reclaim the

sinner and create a righteous people for himself.

56-66   – the eternal state of holiness he prepares for his people wherein they

will enjoy him forever.

Nehemiah – Nehemiah’s prayer

NEHEMIAH’S PRAYER

 Nehemiah 1v1-11.

 Introduction:

          Nehemiah was a man of action – we see him as a builder and as a soldier – a leader and politician. Yet the most striking thing about Nehemiah is that he was a man of prayer. As you read his life story you cannot fail to be impressed by the fact that amid pressures and problems Neh. maintained a spirit of prayer and intercession.

Maybe it was those very pressures and problems that helped him in his prayer life. If you take the time to read through the book of Neh. and mark the occassions when he prayed you will discover that he prayed before the work is undertaken; while the building was in progress; after the walls were completed.

He prayed alone in private and in the midst of a noisy building site.

Before we look at the prayer of chapter 1 let us consider the circumstances of Neh.’s prayer.

  1. The circumstances of Nehemiah’s prayer.

IN EXILE – Neh. was born in exile – he had lived away from his homeland all his life but he had not lost his love for the land or the faith of his fathers.

ILLUST: There is something about one’s homeland – no matter how long you are away there is something inside you that belongs to that land. There are times when I don’t think about RSA much (5½ years since we left) But just let 15 green and gold jerseys run onto the pitch at Cardiff Arms Park, Murray Field or Twickenham and all the patriotic feeling comes flooding back – even Andrew who was only 7 when we left is passionately South African when the Spingboks are on the field.

For 70 years the Jews had been in exile – the decree of Cyrus had permitted some to return but only 50 000 had returned – most of the Jews prefering the prosperity of exile to the ruin of Jerusalem.

For reasons we do not know Neh. had remained in the service of King Artaxerxes – he was the king’s cup-bearer. Nehemiah’s prayer is the prayer of a man who has been providentially placed in the service of the Medo-Persian King. God had over-ruled and placed him in the Royal palace. This position that Nehemiah had would proved to be highly significant in the out working of God’s answer to Neh.’s prayer.

God is in control of our circumstances just as he was of Neh.’s. It is no good thinking that prayer would be easier if our circumstances were different – very often it is those very circumstances that God will use to accomplish his purposes.

Neh. did not become a man of great spiritual insight and prayer overnight. It seem clear from this prayer and the rest of the book that Nehemiah knew the scriptures and was in fellowship with God and committed to him prior to the prayer of chapter 1.

It is also important to note that Nehemiah’s prayer was informed. He had taken the time and trouble to find out about Jerusalem and its citizens. When he heard their situation he was stirred. He had a compasion for others and an interest in them and in God’s plan for them.

That is why we need to be involved with people – that is why we need to receive newsletters from missionaries – that is why we need to know what is going on in the church, in our country and in the world so that we can pray to the one who is in control and who has the power to do something about the circumstances.

  1. The characteristics of Nehemiah’s prayer.

COMPASSION AND GRIEF – these are the first characteristics of his prayer.

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.

For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed

before the God of Heaven [1v4]

Neh. was a man of action – that seems clear from the rest of the book – but he does not immediately try to change things himself.

The temptation – esp. for those who are people of action; those who are always wanting to do – the temptation is to act quickly and decisively but Neh.’s first reaction is to come “before the God of Heaven”. He is deeply affected by the plight of his own people and he turns to God first. There is an acknowledgement that God is the only one who is in a position to do anything about the situation.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND CONFESSION OF SIN – this is closely allied to Nehemiah’s grief. One of the temptations we face when we are in a difficult situation is to blame someone else. “It is not my fault, I just a victim.” Difficulties are not always because of sin in your life BUT that always needs to be considered.

BUT because Nehemiah knows God and his word he knows why his people are in exile. [1v6-8]:

I confess the sins we Israelites,

including myself and my father’s house,

have committed against you.

We have acted very wickedly towards you.

We have not obeyed the commands.

decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

Remember the instructions you gave

your servant Moses saying,

“If you are unfaithful I will

scatter you among the nations….”

Confession is an essential part of prayer – There is always need for an acknowledgement of our sinful state before God. A desire to be cleansed by God’s forgiving grace so that we may enter his presence and be heard;

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?

Who may stand in the holy place?

He who has clean handsd and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to an idol

or swear by what is false

He will receive blessing from the Lord

And vindication from God his Saviour [Ps.24v3-5]

Nehemiah admits before God that he, and the whole nation, are guilty . That is one of the first steps in coming to God – that we agree with him about ourselves and begin to see ourselves as God see us.

CONFIDENCE – we can’t read this prayer without being impressed by the spirit of faith with which it is prayed. There is a quiet confidence that God will hear and answer. This is not an arrogant, demanding prayer. It is not presumptuous or flippant. It comes from the heart of a man who has spent time in God’s presence.

Very often our praying is crisis praying by which I mean we only pray when in difficulty. Nehemiah’s prayer was crisis but behind it was a life of communion with God

IN CONCERT WITH OTHERS –

O Lord, let your ear be attentive

to the prayer of this your servant,

and to the prayer of your servants

who delight in revering your name. [1v11a]

Nehemiah knows that he is not alone – he knows that their are other Jews who have the same desire as he has – those who are also moved with compassion concerning the plight of Jerusalem.

Maybe this is a challenge to us that we need to spend more time together in concerted prayer. A number of people have said to me over the last few months that we need to spend more time in prayer together as a congregation.

 

ILLUS.: We heard about the Korean Church some weeks ago that prays at 4.00 or 5.00 am. – When should we pray. No time is ever convenient but we really ought to make time.

How can we agree together unless we spend time together.

Jesus said …”Again I tell you that if two of you on earth

agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for

you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come

together in my name there I am with them [Matt.18v19]

This is not agrreing simply amongst ourselves BUT agreeing together with God about what his will for us is!!

A RIGHT VIEW OF GOD – There is a deep reverence for God and an appreciation for the greatness of God in this prayer.

O Lord God of heaven the great and awesome God,

who keeps his covenant of love with those who obey his commands.

Nehemiah knows that his God is great and awesome but is also a covenant keeping God.

Sometimes I wonder if the problem with much of our praying – and I speak for myself hear – is that I know a lot about God – BUT how well do I really know him. Sometimes I fell like I know God as an employee knows a boss rather than as a child knows a Father. The latter is what God wants.

  1. The content of Nehemiah’s prayer.

There are three things that Nehemiah wants God to do:

HEAR the prayer of your servant – v6

REMEMBER … [the instructions] word to Moses – v8

GIVE …. SUCCESS to you servant – v11

HEAR – Neh. considered the plight of his people and the city of Jerusalem and consider that to be evidence that God was not hearing the prayers of his people.

This type of prayer is common in the OT. The prophets calling on the Lord to hear.

They did not for a moment think that God was deaf or that he did not know what was going on BUT what they were pleading for was a manifestation of God’s power. Often we see in the OT times when God remains apparently inactive due to the sin of his people. God will not answer the prayers of his people when they are not rightly related to him in love and obedience.

Notice too, that Neh.’s prayer was continual “Day and night” v6

It was also, as we have seen, contrite and repentant.

REMEMBER – What?? Your instructions to your servant Moses..[v8]. Here we have a precedent and a pattern for prayer for believers. To know the scrpitures and to use them in prayer. Not parrot – fashion BUT to have them inside of you so that you can pray according to the will of God.

READ V.9

Nehemiah knows what God has promised – Neh. can pray so boldly because he knows what God has promised. He knows what Moses knew – that Israel were God’s chosen people and God had bound himself to them in covenant and could not break it.

Neh. recognises that the prophetic word of God had told of the scattering of God’s people BUT it had also told of the regathering of God’s people.

Neh. knows this and he knows that the promised blessing for the returned exiles has not yet materialsied. So he prays on behalf of the returned exiles.

v.10 — They are your servants and your people,

whom you redeemed by your strength

and your mighty hand

Prayer is not something magical. Not a wand that we can wave over every problem. To pray is to enter into the mind of God as expressed in his word, in order that his work might be carried out and his name glorified.

Prayer is not reminding God because he has forgotten something or needs to be informed no more than asking him to hear is saying that he is deaf BUT in a mysterious way as we pray according to God’s word he acts. IN HIS TIME!!!

GIVE …… SUCCESS – “Give your servant success by granting him favour in the presence of this man [King Artxerxes]” [1v11]

This is the first direct personal request – he is praying about the relationship with his earthly master.

How often are we in a difficult situation – with work or family – We must remember that God is over them to and he can move / change difficult situation. We might be under authority but we have access to one who has ultimate authority.

Very often we can be the answer to our own prayers – sometimes a difficult situation can be resolved or eased by God changing us.

Neh. was concerned about Jerusalem and he was part of the plan.

In mission work this has happened many times. So often God begins a work by burdening someone to pray and often they end up involved in the work.

If we are going to pray for God to work in Binscombe Church and through us then we must be willing to be part of the answer to our prayers.

  1. The consequences of Nehemiah’s prayer.

 Did God hear?

Did God remember?

Did God give success?

Well. the rest of the book of Nehemiah answers those questions.

God heard Neh.’s prayer!!

He rememebered his word to his people!!!

And Nehemiah had success in completing the walls.

The rebuilding was not without its difficulties. AND this was not the last pray Nehemiah prayed. Pray was not a one – off it was a habit.

The secret of Nehemiah’s success did not lie in the resources he received from   King Artxerxes. Nor was it in his ablity as a leader. It lay in his power with God. The sphere of action in the Book in not the court of an Oriental king but the court of Heaven. Nehemiah’s prayer moved the hand that moves the world!

This is the confidence that we have in approaching God:

that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask –

we know that we have whatever we asked of him. [1 John 5v14-15]

 

Nehemiah – The portrait of a leader

THE PORTRAIT OF A LEADER – NEHEMIAH.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Elders / Deacons – we are leaders of the Binscombe Church.

Helpful to look at Nehemiah as an example of what a godly leader should be.

We are briefly looking at his life and ministry – just a glance.

 

  1. NEHEMIAH’S CIRCUMSTANCES.

 

His time in Israel’s history was a crucial time in the life of the nation of Israel.

It was after the exile when a small group of Jews return from Babylon to Palestine.

 

Eight keys words summaries Israels history up to the time of Nehemiah.

  • ELECTION – Abraham – Israel elected to be worshipping/witnessing community.
  • ENSLAVEMENT – in bondage in Egypt.
  • EMANCIPATION – through Moses delivered from Egypt.
  • ENTRANCE – after 40 years in the desert they entered the Promised land.
  • ESTABLISHMENT – in Saul (then David) the beginning of the Monarchy.
  • EVIL – repetative evil of the nation eventually brought God’s judgement.
  • EXILE – Northern Kingdom to Assyria – Judah to Babylon (Nehemiah)
  • EDICT – Temple rebuilt by Zerubabbel and Joshua with Ezra the priest — then edict given by Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.

 

Nehemiah was prepared by God for spiritual service.

His task was a practical one BUT a mistake to think spiritual preparation was not important.

No matter how practical the task there is still a need for spiritual preparation.

Neh. was a Jew – brought up in exile by godly parents who taught him the Law [inferred in ch.1]

His prayer [ch.1] reflects his knowledge of God’s law – the history and hopes of his people.

OUR spiritual preparedness is crucial to our spiritual service.

Nehemiah was placed by God for specific service.

Long before Neh. led the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls he was being prepared by God for the task – he was cupbearer in the court of Artaxerxes – this was no menial task but and office that held great responsibility and authority. He became a confidant and counsellor to the king. – 1:11 – 2:1.

 

WE are taken through the course of our lives by God – everything from our background, our work, our experiences of life are designed or use by God to make us what we are and to use us in the specific sphere of service we are in.

  1. NEHEMIAH’S CHARACTER

There are many qualities we could list – here are 6.

  • FAITH – whether encouraging the people of Jerusalem or standing up to the foes of Jerusalem , his confidence was in God. [4:14-15, 20. 6:16]
  • PRAYER – a man of prayer – many references to his prayer life .[1v4-11; 2v4; 4v4,5,9; 5v19; 6v9,14; 13v14,22,29,31.]
  • SENSITIVE – to God’s leading “My God has put into my heart…” [7v5; cf.2v12.] Step by step he was guided by God in his work.
  • FEAR OF GOD – he lived his life under the all-seeing eye of God [Nehemiah 5:9 9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? (NIV)]cf.5v15]
  • DISCERNMENT – a keen discerner of truth and reality. Concerning the sham of Shemaiah he is able to say: “I perceived that God had not sent him” [6v12]
  • DEPENDENT – on God – He realised that without the favour of God his work would be in vain. Nehemiah 2:18. I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me.                                                                                                           Psalm 127:1

1 [A song of ascents. Of Solomon.] Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. (NIV)

Is my experience of Jesus similar to that of Neh. – My relationship to Jesus is more important than anything else.

  1. NEHEMIAH’S COMMITMENT.

 

1V1-4 show how Neh. heard about the need in Jerusalem – as he heard about the state of that beloved city he became burdened in his spirit.

His commitment to get involved developed when he began to realise that he could do something about rebuilding the walls.

His commitment expressed itself in the fact that he got on with the work even when he was under threat from the enemies. There was a willingness on his part to give up his safety and comfort in order to complete the task given him by God.

As a leadership team at Binscombe Church we have seen a task that needs doing and have been led by God to get involved – the test of the commitment is seen in the time and effort put in by each one. God help us to continue this and to improve where that is necessary.

  1. NEMEMIAH’S COMMISSION.

From a human persepective Neh. was commissioned by King Artaxerxes – [2v1-8] He was given the permission and material resources to do the job.

WE are like that – appointed by the people of the Church to do a job and the material resources come from them [and us].

Look at what Neh. reports he said to the people of Jerusalem   Nehemiah 2:18 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me.

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. (NIV)

First the hand of God then the King’s word. That was the order inwhich Neh. lived his life.

It is essential for every Christian worker – and every Christian should be a worker – to have a sense of this royal commission from God – We all feel from time to time that we are being used or are not appreciated etc….. but let’s reminds ourselves that we are commissioned by God.

Neh. did a great work – but we need to keep in mind that in the final analysis each one’s work will be no greater than his character!

God has called us to a particular task – and this promise we have from him –Philippians 4:19 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

 

Made To Worship

We were made to worship God. That is our purpose above everything else.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says…

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

 When God made Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden of Eden it was perfect and they worshipped Him simply by being in his presence and having a relationship with Him. (Genesis 1:31) However, they were enticed by Satan to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – they wanted to be like God and for their world to centre on themselves. They broke the perfect relationship with God and from them until now, man has sought to replace worship of God, with worship of self – power, money, sex, religion, ambition, human relationships, sport, music, art…the list goes on and on!

We all worship something, because it is a basic human need that God wove into our DNA (Psalm 139:13-14).We worship the things that we spend most of our time, money and energy on, and the things that we get most excited and passionate about. The problem is that we often choose to worship things that have no eternal value and only temporarily satisfy our human desires. Like Adam and Eve, we eat the fruit that tempts us and promises much, but fails to bring fulfilment.

Although the perfect relationship with God was broken in the Garden of Eden, God established a covenant with his people because he wants us to worship him (Exodus 24). He allowed his people to have access to Him through a system that involved keeping commandments, worshipping at the temple and making sacrifices to atone for sin, in order for them to enter into his presence and praise him. This was the pattern throughout the Old Testament, but we also read frequently that above law-keeping, sacrifice and ritual, God desired heart that was devoted to him and a lifestyle that pleased Him. (Hosea 6:6; Psalm 40:6-8; Isaiah 1:11). He desired genuine worship from a place of love and reverence. A good example of this is King David, who had “a heart for God” but also made some monumentally bad decisions, and didn’t always follow God’s commands. Despite this, God blessed him and used his worship to achieve great things. (1 Samuel 13:14)

This old covenant was replaced by the new covenant when Jesus came to earth to demonstrate perfect worship (Hebrews 8). He and the father were in perfect harmony and he made the ultimate sacrifice by dying as a perfectly innocent man and rising to life again to allow us permanent and unconditional access to God. There is nothing we can to do earn God’s love and there is nothing He requires from us, other than to worship Him – not by being religious and following rituals, and not by earning a place in His Kingdom by hard work, nor by achieving a goal or accumulating spiritual credit. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

Worship is happening all the time in heaven (Revelation 4), and when we worship here on earth we join in the heavenly realms, praising God and finding purpose and meaning for life, entering into the presence of God and finding that the Holy Spirit has power to bring freedom from our sinful ways. Worship brings breakthrough of God’s Kingdom to earth and brings healing and deliverance from sickness, pain and suffering; worship changes the spiritual atmosphere and is a weapon that we have in the spiritual battle, because God’s presence brings light to dark places and releases people who are captive to fear, addiction, and bondage to evil. (Ephesians 6:10-20). Worship brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control – these are the fruits of God’s spirit and ours to enjoy as we spend time with Him. Who doesn’t want these things! (Galatians 5:22-23) Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit and turned their back on God, but through his incredible grace he allows us to have these fruits instead.

There is no greater thing in life than to worship God and the most amazing thing is that it is completey free. All we have to do is grab hold of the gift and enjoy it because it is what we were made for!

NEW MUSIC WEBSITE!

IMG_8741

I have been busy over the last few months writing and recording some songs that God has placed on my heart. If you’ve found your way to this site, please take a moment to go to www.andrewrobinsonmusic.co.uk and check it out!

You can also follow on Twitter , Facebook or YouTube

Thanks,

Andrew

Hosea 3:1-5 – The cost of covenant love

Hosea 3v1-5

THE COST OF COVENANT LOVE.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

ILLUST: There have been stories – either fictitious or true – about men who have fallen in love with a prostitute and have married and had a happy life. There have been stories about men who have been “Jack -the lad” who have met a woman who has reformed him and they have married and love.

 

 

BUT how many men who having married a women who betrays him again and again, has children by another man, who sells her body for reward and who doesn’t want to return to him, – how many men would love such a woman?

 

We are not even told if Hosea actually loved Gomer. It would seem that Hosea had rescued Gomer from prostitution already and married her – after which she had returned to her old ways. It appears that she had sunk even lower than before. She was not a prostitute because she was forced into it. Her husband had not thrown her out or left her – she chose that kind of life because she was wanton and her passions were out of control.

 

She turned her back on her husband who loved her in order to satisfy her carnal desires.

 

The relationship between Hosea and Gomer was a picture of the relationship between God and the people of Israel. Israel was God’s chosen people – he loved them like a devoted husband. He provided all their needs. His intentions for them were only good but they had turned away and chased after other gods – they had worshipped the Baals they had engaged in immoral practices, practised injustices and entered into unholy political alliances.

 

Israel had treated God in the same way as Gomer had treated Hosea – they had prostituted themselves to foreign gods.

When God’s people are side-tracked into following after things that come between them and God then they are guilty of prostituting themselves.

 

  1. LOVE: AN OBEDIENT ACT OF THE WILL.

 

The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again,

though she is loved by another and is an adultress.

 

Try to imagine how Hosea must have felt.

He is the injured party. She left him. She humiliated him. She doesn’t want to return.

She is not saying “I will go back to my husband – I’ll clean up my act and then may be he will love me again” She doesn’t want to know. She is enjoying her life.

 

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because in theory we know that sin is evil and dirty that it is therefore not enjoyable. Like Gomer, men and women today, do enjoy sexual promiscuity – there is excitement and pleasure in having an affair. If there wasn’t people wouldn’t do it. There is pleasure in premarital sex. We must not deny that sin is pleasurable BUT there is a sting in the tail.

The pleasure of sin are for a season.

 

We must not think that Gomer was the only immoral woman in Israel! And were there are immoral woman there are equally immoral men.

There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment

of God in the Land. There is only cursing, lying and

murder, stealing and adultery, they break all bounds

and bloodshed follows bloodshed. [4v2-3]

 

What Gomer was doing was the spirit of the age, everyone was doing it. Why was Hosea so upset why couldn’t they have an open marriage. Isn’t that today’s reasoning! Today for someone to still be a virgin on their wedding night is the exception not the rule! If they marry at all!!

 

The spirit of the age has taken the legitimate desires that God has given us and has pursued them and exalted them to the point of Idolatry.

 

As John White puts it ‘…sex, food, warmth, luxury, sensuality, soft sheets, thick carpeting, fine wines, and fine dining. These are all blessings from God, but when ardently sought for themselves, rather than as gifts to be received with thankfulness, they reduce us to the status of slaves.

 

The sting in the tail of sin is that it pretends to give us control but in reality reduces us to its slaves.

 

Gomer was a slaves but she didn’t yet know it – She had to be bought back, she was enslaved.

 

God commands Hosea to go and love Gomer again! Notice that the kind of love God expects from Hosea is not a “Because of” love but an “inspite of” love. It is not loving her because she loves him BUT loving her inspite of the fact that she is loved by another and has betrayed Hosea’s love – she is an adultress.

 

HOW is this love possible??

 

  1. LOVE: A REFLECTION OF GOD.

 

I don’t think that Hosea’s love for Gomer was ecstatically romantic! It was an act of the will and an act of obedience to God. It was to be a reflection of God’s love for Israel. God’s love for the nation of Israel was not based on their inherent goodness. God loved Israel because he chose to love them.

Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites,

though they turn to other gods and

love the sacred raisin cakes. [v2]

 

God says to Hosea, “I want you to demonstrate to this nation of Israel how much I love them by loving Gomer again.”

 

Here we have a picture of pure devotion over against gross infatuation. God loves the Israelites and what do they love “raisin cakes” -of all things. These raisin cakes were probably linked to some cultic religious festival or some other rare occassion.

 

Consider the incredulity of it – raisin cakes in the place of God’s love. Yet God still loves Israel and Hosea is to love Gomer again. BUT how? HOW?

 

  1. LOVE: A COSTLY ACTION.

 

After having been commanded by God to go and love Gomer we would expect Hosea to say “So I went and loved ….” But he says ‘So I bought her”..

 

Our curiosity is not satisfied as to why he had to buy her. Perhaps she was in debt, or a slave, or was a prostitute working for a pimp, or her lover wanted compensation [revealing the worth of his love]. We don’t know why.

 

Nor do we know Hosea’s feelings. In scripture love is usually practical before it is emotional.

 

ILLUST: Film – Fiddler on the Roof – his daughters are falling in love – man asks his wife – “Do you love me” Wife – “For 25 years I’ve cooked for you, raise the children, shared your bed.”

“Yes but do you love me” “Yes I suppose I do”

 

We have turned love upside down! Love is practical – its doing! The romance and the emotions come and go! Feelings are very fickle! So if a relationship is only based on feeling it will crumble! Love is a commitment and a trust.

 

Why is marriage in such a bad way?? Because it is based on feeling [or out of control hormones] BUT Biblical love is practical – its action – it is doing for the other what is right before God.

And you know the amazing thing is that love comes!!

 

Hosea showed his love by buying Gomer back! That doesn’t mean that love is as cold as ice. It is self-giving and includes a devoted will and a genuine warmth.

 

Hosea pays the price to get her back and he also lays down the terms of the reconciliation.

 

The conditions for reconciliation are laid out in verse 3:

 

Then I told her: “You are to live with me for many days,

you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man,

and I will live with [wait for] you.”

 

There is a realism and a symbolism attached to this probationary period.

Broken relationships take time to be restored. It doesn’t just happen! When there has been hurt and pain and broken trust restoration is never instant.

 

The end of v.3 could read “and I will wait for you to live with you”

After these verses we don’t know what happened to Hosea and Gomer – we can be sure that their relationship took time to heal.

 

The disciplinary period in the marriage is a prophetic symbol of a time that Israel will have to go through.

God is going to strip away from Israel everything that they have come to depend on and put in place of God.

 

READ V.4.

 

Their kings and princes had been chosen in self-will . [cf.8v4]

They set up kings without my consent.

they choose princes without my approval

 

Their worship is tainted with Baalism [idolatry]

Their needed to be a clean break, deep enough and long enough to make a new beginning possible.

 

They needed to climb down from their fierce independence and return to the Lord.

God promises that that will happen “in the last days”

 

READ v.5

 

There was a time in the history of the nation of Israel when after the exile God did bring the People back and restore the nation of Israel for a time.

 

But Hosea is looking far into the future when “in the last days” the Davidic kingship will be restored. He is looking forward to the days when messiah would come and inaugurate the kingdom of God.

God loves his people he can’t turn his back – like Gomer he comes and buys back! He redeems from the slave market! He rescues from the streets of promiscuity!

 

His love is practical:

God demonstrates [shows] his love in this; While we

were still sinners Christ died for us [Rom.5v8]

 

We have seen the dawn of the last days that Hosea predict. We are living in the last Days. As believers we have inherited the name and destiny of Israel. David and his kingdom were a symbol of a greater and more glorious kingdom to come.[Rev.22v16]

 

  1. Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for

the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David,

and the bright Morning Star

 

God’s love will always prevail, he will not allow his people to be destroyed or to destroy themselves.

God’s love for his people is too great. God will never give up on his people> Love will have its way.

 

Like Israel of old the church has been guilty of turning away and following after other gods.

 

John White -“Flirting with the world” -READ p.15

 

It is true of us as individuals too, isn’t it?

We have disappointed him.

Let him down.

Denied him!

Been ashamed to be called by his name.

Bickered amongst ourselves.

We have chosen the raisin cakes.

BUT you know what He still love you – and me!!

 

READ White -p.153

Hosea 1:1 – 2:1 -The God who won’t let go! Punishment and Promise

THE GOD WHO WON’T LET GO!

Punishment and Promise.

 

Hosea 1v1 – 2v1.

 

BACKGROUND.

 

A brief recap of the background is helpful. The kingdom of Israel had split into North [10 tribes] and South [2 tribes] after the death of King Solomon. The North was called Israel and the South, Judah. It is to the North, Israel, that Hosea is speaking primarily although Judah is mentioned at times.

 

When Hosea came on the scene Jeroboam II was on the throne of Israel. It was a fairly prosperous time for the nation of Israel. BUT they were also far down the road of moral decay. So when Jeroboam died a power struggle began with kings being setup and cut down one after another. Of the six kings who succeeded Jeroboam only one died of natural causes. Some reigned for a very short time. Zechariah 6 months and Shallum only 1!

A keyword that would describe the politics of Israel at this time is “CONSPIRACY”.

Each new king sought help from foreign nations like Egypt and Assyria – they lost their national power and independence and eventually became a vassal of Assyria.

 

It was more than just loss of political power – moral decay had swept the nation.

 

There is no faithfulness, no love,

no acknowledgment of God in the land.

There is only cursing lying and murder,

stealing and adultery;

they break all bounds and bloodshed

follows bloodshed [4v1b-2]

 

Religion had sunk to sensual idolatry! Family life had broken down! Even the priests had become corrupt and rejoiced that the people were sinning because that meant more sacrifices and therefore more revenue.

 

It was into this situation that God called Hosea to be a prophet.

 

INTRODUCTION.

Hosea: the man and his message!

 

When God calls us to be the bearers of his message – and we are all called to that in one way or another – he expects us not only to speak about it but to live it. If this was ever true of any servant of God then it was true of Hosea. He more that any other prophet of the OT was called to live out his message.

 

When we judge a persons ministry today we tend to judge it according to how successful it is. AND we tend to measure success in terms of popularity and growth in the number of people who come or how much material blessing a person receives. Obeying God can, however, be very lonely and difficult – you can be misunderstood, even by fellow Christians, and suffer rejection and anguish.

 

Don’t you sometimes think that if you could hear God give you specific instructions it would be so much easier to obey! Would it? Put yourself in Hosea’s place-

“GO AND MARRY A PROSTITUTE ….” [v2]

 

How do you think his friends reacted? Here is a man of God marrying a street girl from SOHO. It wouldn’t sit very well with us, would it?

 

It is unclear as to whether or not she was a prostitute before he married her or only became one later. I tend to think she was already one but either way Hosea knew the kind of woman she was or would become.

 

“Go, marry a whore, and get children by a whore,

for the country has become nothing but a whore

by abandoning God. [JB v2]

 

What God is asking Hosea to do by marrying Gomer is to symbolize to the nation their relationship with God. The nation of Israel has prostituted itself by running after other gods. Whenever we allow other things or people or philosophies to determine and dominate our lives we are guilty of prostituting ourselves. These are harsh words that God is speaking to his people. And God’s tactics may come as a shock to us and we might feel that they are a bit unrefined. But then God is not an English gentleman who is confine to our social etiquette.

 

  1. GOD’S WARNING. [v2-9]

 

God’s warning is conveyed through Hosea’s life and especially through the birth of his three children. Or rather of the three children born to Gomer, his wife, because it is probable that two of the three where fathered by other men.

 

READ v3-5.

 

Jezreel is born.

The name itself has similar meaning to Israel. It was the name of a valley and a town in Israel. BUT because of what had happened there it took on a whole new meaning.

Jehu had in the past caused a blood bath when he wiped out the household of King Ahab. Through trickery and cruelty he slaughtered the kings family and supporters. So Jezreel conjured up that picture in people’s minds. Just like Belsen or Rwanda or Bosnia brings to mind certain pictures.

 

God used the Jehu to punish Ahab for his wickedness but Jehu never followed God nor did his successors so God is now warning Israel that the same fate awaits them.

 

God is going to use the Assyrians to punish Israel. As a kingdom Israel had ceased to be a force for God – so they were to be removed. It took some time for the final judgement to be fulfilled but it was final. God is patient but he is not soft and if his people refuse to go his way and follow his will he will remove them.

 

ILLUST: Consider the churches of Asia Minor – Where are they today? The became cold and preoccupied with other things and so God removed his Spirit from them.

 

We cannot assume that because Binscombe Church is here today it will always be – God will keep us as long as we follow him.

 

Lo-Ruhamah [not pitied]

 

READ v6-7

 

The first child that Gomer had was Hosea’s but it doesn’t say that the second one was his.

It was tragic enough to have Jezreel who foretold the loss of a war and a kingdom but more tragic was the message of the second child “NOT PITIED” . How desperate to lose the compassion and mercy of God. What a pitiful state to be in. If God is not compassionate and merciful then we are without any hope.

 

God is a compassionate and forgiving God but he can’t simply gloss over disobedience and sin. He has been patient with Israel but year upon year they have turned away from him. God was willing to show mercy but they were unwilling to obey. God was willing to forgive but they were unwilling to repent. There comes a point where God says enough!

 

Remember Jesus’s words about Jerusalem:

O Jerusalem. Jerusalem, you who killed the prophets

and stoned those sent to you, how often I have longed

to gather your children as a hen gathers her chicks

under her wings, BUT YOU WERE NOT WILLING,

Look your house is left to you desolate. [Matt.23v37]

 

You see the warning is clear: Persistent impenitence brings the judgement of God.

 

It need to be said that these prophetic utterance were not irrevocable sentence but servere warnings.

 

The same Assyrian army that destroyed Israel set its sights on Judah [the Southern Kingdom] as well. The difference was that Hezekiah who was king of Judah did not turn to a foreign power for help but turned to God and God delivered them {Isaiah 37}. Ultimately they were conquered and taken into exile because they fell into the same sin as their brothers in the north.

 

God is long-suffering and compassionate but there comes a time when he says, “ENOUGH”

 

READ Jeremiah 18v7-10

 

Judah repented and God relented but the next generation refused to repent so God punished them. We cannot rely on the faith of the previous generation and we are responsible to teach our children to obey God. Not only by what we tell they but by what we show them by our lifestyle -what we do with our time and our money how we relate to each other and so on….

 

ILLUST: The first time I went to Wales I was saddened to see so many Churches boarded up. The one we attended could probably seat 1000 but there were 30 there. Something has gone wrong along the way.

 

There is no guarantee that because a Church is alive today that it will be tomorrow. We have to guard the gospel God has entrusted to us.

 

Lo-Ammi. [v8-9]

 

Lo-ammi like his sister seems to be the product of Gomer’s adulterous relationships.

 

Imagine the heartache of Hosea as he contemplated his children – realising that two of the three were not his – and the sadness of the words to Israel “YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE”

 

You see Israel wanted other gods beside Yahweh – They were not content to follow Yahweh alone – they wanted God plus … . Israel wanted to pay lip service to God and then live like the Nations around her. BUT God says that is not good enough.

 

Yahweh is a jealous God. He is not for sharing. God likened himself to a husband – and he is a jealous one – he is not prepared to share his people with another lover. He says; “You have me exclusively or you do not have me at all!”

 

“You are not my people and I am not yours”

 

ILLUST: Would you be prepared to marry someone who said: “I’ll marry you as long as I can continue to live my own life as I please and just fit you in when it suits me”

 

Sadly some marriages operate that ways and inevitably end in disaster. We would not expect that from our partners and we cannot expect God to be content with that attitude.

 

The message is; If you reject God, then ultimately he will reject you. He is patient and forgiving but he is a jealous God who will not tolerate being pushed into second place.

 

  1. GOD’S PROMISE. [v10-11]

 

READ v10-11

 

Through the messages of doom and gloom there are always God’s promises shining through. God’s message of destruction is not the final word – there is the message of Hope. There will be a time says Hosea when the people of God will be restored.

 

There is a clear reminder in v.10 of the promises God made to Abraham.

 

“I will surely bless you and make your descendants

as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand

on the seashore, …. through your offspring all nations

on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me

[Gen,22v17-18]

 

I will make you offspring like the dust of the earth,

so that if anyone could count the dust then your

offspring could be counted [Gen.13v16]

 

God did not totally destroy Israel nor Judah when they went into exile. We know that some of the people from the North joined Judah and God brought back a remnant from Babylon. In that Israel and Judah were united again into one nation. The concept of a single people of God was far from dead and God would bring them together and build a new nation.

 

BUT it does not stop there. The NT does not allow us to stop there.

Paul in writing to the Romans quotes from Hosea:

I will call them my people who are not my people

and I will call her my loved one who is not my loved one.

AND It will happen in the very place where it was

said to them ‘you are not my people’ they will be called

‘sons of the living God.

[Rom.9v25-26]

 

PETER. “Once you were not a people but now you are the people of God

Once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy

[1 Peter 2v10]

 

This idea of the gentiles being part of the people of God was no after thought. It was part of the promise that God made to Abraham. “In you shall all nations of the earth be blessed” [Gen.12v3] . Jesus came to die not just for one nation but for the world and to bring together one holy nation, the people of God.

John tells us this in his gospel: John 11v52.

Jesus would die for the Jewish nation,

BUT not only for that nation, but

also for the scattered children of God

and bring them together and make them one.

 

We are the recipients of this promise. We were once ‘not the people of God’ but now we are ‘the people of God’. We have received mercy.

 

If you have wandered away from God – return God is gracious and loving.

 

The warning to the church is that if we wander from path of obedience to follow Christ out in the world where he is going – he will withdraw his presence from us. God’s concern is that in the places where it is said “NOT MY PEOPLE” there it will be said “YOU ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD”. God is not content to have second place in our lives or for us to set our own agenda.

 

God is infinitely loving and compassionate – he is always willing to forgive if we will return to him.

God is in the business of rebuilding the ruins and calling out a people for himself. He includes us in that business if we follow him and obey him.