Afternoon Sermon: What Does The Ninth Commandment Forbid?, Baptist Catechism 83, Psalm 15

Baptist Catechism 83

Q. 83. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment forbideth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbor’s good name. (Eph. 4:25; Ps. 15:3; 2 Cor. 8:20,21)

Scripture Reading: Psalm 15

“A PSALM OF DAVID. O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.” (Psalm 15, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

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The ninth commandment is, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Most basically, this commandment forbids lying especially in witness-bearing leading to the unjust treatment of our neighbor. But if we were to reflect more carefully upon this commandment, and if we were to consider all of the ways in which the scriptures tease this commandment out, we would see that this law does, in fact, forbid us from using our tongues in any way that is contrary to the truth. Brothers and sisters, we are to be men and women of the truth. We are to believe what is true, and we are to speak what is true. Anything short of this is sin. 

There is a resource that I would like to introduce you to that might help us to think more deeply about what the ninth commandment forbids, and that is the Westminster Larger Catechism. We use the Baptist Cathechism, well, because we are Baptists. It is the Baptist’s version of another catechism called the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which is beloved by the paedobaptist Presbyterians. The two catechisms — the Baptist Catechism and Westminster Shorter Catechism — are very similar. But there is Presbyterians have another catechism called the Westminster Larger Catechism. It is called by that name because… it is larger. This catechism expands upon the questions and answers of the shorter catechism. To my knowledge, there is no Baptist version of the Larger Catechism, and so I will consult it from time to time for additional insight into our catechism.

I would like to read you the answer to question 145 of Larger Catechism which asks, What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment? The answer is much longer than the one given in the Shorter Catechism, and in the Baptist Catechism, but I find it helpful. As I read it greatly expanded my thoughts concerning what the ninth commandment forbids. 

“The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours, as well as our own, (1 Sam. 17:28, 2 Sam. 16:3, 2 Sam. 1:9,10,15–16) especially in public judicature; (Lev. 19:15, Hab. 1:4) giving false evidence, (Prov. 19:5, Prov. 6:16,19) suborning [bribing] false witnesses, (Acts 6:13) wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, out-facing and overbearing the truth; (Jer. 9:3,5, Acts 24:2,5, Ps. 12:3–4, Ps. 52:1–4) passing unjust sentence, (Prov. 17:15, 1 Kings 21:9–14,10–11,13) calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; (Isa. 5:23) forgery, (Ps. 119:69, Luke19:8, Luke 16:5–7) concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, (Lev. 5:1, Deut. 13:8, Acts 5:3,8–9, 2 Tim. 4:16) and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, (1 Kings1:6, Lev. 19:17) or complaint to others; (Isa. 59:4) speaking the truth unseasonably, (Prov. 29:11) or maliciously to a wrong end, (1 Sam. 22:9–10, Ps. 52:1–5) or perverting it to a wrong meaning, (Ps. 56:5, John 2:19, Matt. 26:60–61) or in doubtful or equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; (Gen. 3:5, Gen. 26:7,9) speaking untruth, (Isa. 59:13) lying, (Lev. 19:11, Col. 3:9) slandering, (Ps. 50:20) backbiting, (James 4:11, Jer. 38:4) talebearing, (Lev. 19:16) whispering, (Rom. 1:29–30) scoffing, (Gen. 21:9, Gal. 4:29) reviling, (1 Cor. 6:10) rash, (Matt. 7:1) harsh, (Acts 28:4) and partial censuring; (Gen. 38:24, Rom. 2:1) misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; (Neh. 6:6–8, Rom. 3:8, Ps. 69:10, 1 Sam. 1:13–15, 2 Sam. 10:3) flattering, (Ps. 12:2–3) vain-glorious boasting; (2 Tim. 3:2) thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; (Luke 18:9,11, Rom. 12:16, 1 Cor. 4:6, Acts 12:22, Exod. 4:10–14) denying the gifts and graces of God; (Job 27:5,6, Job 4:6) aggravating smaller faults; (Matt. 7:3–5) hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; (Prov. 28:13, Prov. 30:20, Gen. 3:12–13, Jer. 2:35, 2 Kings 5:25, Gen. 4:9) unnecessary discovering of infirmities; (Gen. 9:22, Prov. 25:9–10) raising false rumors, (Exod. 23:1) receiving and countenancing evil reports, (Prov. 29:12) and stopping our ears against just defense; (Acts 7:56–57, Job 31:13–14) evil suspicion; (1 Cor. 13:5, 1 Tim. 6:4) envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, (Numb. 11:29, Matt. 21:15) endeavoring or desiring to impair it, (Ezra 4:12–13) rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; (Jer. 48:27) scornful contempt, (Ps. 35:15–16,21, Matt. 27:28–29) fond admiration; (Jude 16, Acts 12:22) breach of lawful promises; (Rom. 1:31, 2 Tim. 3:3) neglecting such things as are of good report, (1 Sam. 2:24) and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name. (2 Sam. 13:12–13)”

That’s a mouthful. But I think you would agree that it is helpful as we try to comprehend all that the ninth commandment forbids. In brief, the ninth commandment forbids us from using our tongues to promote what is false. And how easy it is for us to stumble in this regard. 

I’m reminded of what James says regarding the tongue: “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” (James 3:2–12, ESV)

Those who are in Christ and are growing in godliness will strive to bring their tongues under control. They will labor, with God’s help, to use their tongues for good, and not evil, to build up, and not tear down, and to speak the truth, and never what is false. Lord help us in these things. 

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Psalm 15

Psalm 15 calls us to this by asking,  “O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.” (Psalm 15, ESV)

Who has kept this standard perfectly? Who is the one who is worthy to dwell in God’s presence and on God’s holy hill? Not you or me, for we have violated his law in thought, word, and deed. But Christ is worthy. And we are made worthy in him by faith. Having been made worthy, let us now walk worthy. Let us honor God in all things, and even with our tongues.   

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Conclusion 

Q. 83. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment forbideth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbor’s good name. (Eph. 4:25; Ps. 15:3; 2 Cor. 8:20,21)

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Afternoon Sermon: What Does The Ninth Commandment Forbid?, Baptist Catechism 83, Psalm 15

Morning Sermon: Psalm 80, Restore Us, O LORD God Of Hosts

New Testament Reading: John 15:1-5

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1–5, ESV)

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 80

“TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO LILIES. A TESTIMONY. OF ASAPH, A PSALM. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River. Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it. Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself. They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face! But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name! Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (Psalm 80, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

In the past, I have noted that the Psalms express the whole range of human emotions. There is a Psalm for every season of life, therefore. And this is one reason why they are so beloved. 

This Psalm is a community lament. It is a strong expression of grief and sorrow offered up to God by the nation of Israel. It is also a cry to God for help and for deliverance from trouble.

And though the situation that prompted the writing of this Psalm is very far removed from us, there is much for us to learn. This Psalm is useful to the people of God in all times and places. Indeed, it should be dear to our hearts and on our lips, especially in times where the people of God are troubled communally, or corporately. For we know that God’s people will, from time to time, experience trials and tribulations, devastation, disappointment, and despair. This Psalm shows us what we are to do in moments like these. We are run to God, who is our Shepherd. We are to come boldly before him, crying out to him for mercy and grace, appealing to his promises, for his names’ sake. 

So what was the situation that prompted the writing of this Psalm? What was the trouble that Israel experienced that produced this impassioned plea/lament? 

Not all commentators agree, but the majority opinion seems to be that this Psalm was written at the time when the northern kingdom of Israel was carried away into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. This Psalm was written and sung in the southern kingdom, therefore. It is a lament concerning the sad state of Israel as a nation. Israel was divided. And the northern tribes had been overrun. This was a prayer for mercy, deliverance, and restoration offered up by the Israelites who remained in the south. 

I think it would be beneficial for me to briefly rehearse the history of Israel so that we might better understand this Psalm, and more effectively put ourselves in the place of the Psalmist and of the original worshippers. Indeed, these were very dark days for Israel.

Israel’s story begins with the call of Abram in approximately 2,000 B.C. God called Abram out from the nations, promised to bless him and to make his name great. He promised to bring a nation from him and to bless all of the nations of the earth through this nation. This is the beginning of the kingdom of Israel.

Abram’s name would be changed to Abraham. He has many sons. And his descendants would eventually go into captivity in Egypt. There they would suffer for a time, but they also grew very numerous. And in approximately 1,450 B.C. God led his people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm through Moses. God entered into a covenant with Israel. It was a covenant of works that promised blessings in the land of Cannan conditioned upon obedience, and threatened exile from the land should they disobey the terms of the covenant. And of course, God’s grace was with them too. The unconditional promises that were made to Abraham concerning salvation in the Messiah were preserved and promoted in this covenant that God transacted with Israel. 

In approximately 1,400 B.C. It was Joshua who would lead the people of Israel into the promised land. The tribes of Israel were at first ruled by judges. But in approximately 1,000 B.C. God set King David on the throne. Israel was united under David. And Israel flourished as a nation for a time. God did also transact a covenant with David. The promises and conditions of this covenant were not altogether unrelated from the promises and conditions of the covenant transacted with Abraham and with Israel in the days of Moses. But the covenant made with David had to do with kingship. In brief, David would be blessed as King over Israel. Kings would descend from him. If they obeyed, they would be blessed. If they disobeyed, God would discipline them. And the unconditional promise was this: a King would descend from David whose kingdom would never come to an end. 

The kingdom of Israel flourished in the days of David. It reached its apex of power and prosperity in the days of King Solomon, David’s son. But sin soon ravaged the kingdom of Israel. And by the year 950 B.C. the kingdom of Israel Israel was already divided with Israel in the north and Judah in the south. 

Israel and Judah were sometimes at peace, and sometimes they were at war. Good and bad Kings would rise and fall. But for the most part, the kings of Israel were evil. In 722 B.C. the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians. It wouldn’t be until 587 B.C. that the southern kingdom would fall to the Babylonians. Finally, in 538 B.C. some of the captives of Israel began to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple which had been destroyed.  

So this Psalm which we are considering today was likely written by someone living in the southern kingdom of Judah at the time of the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians. I would like for you to imagine it? Put yourself there and feel the sorrow along with the fear. Imagine being one of God’s faithful people longing to see the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, and praying for the flourishing of the nation of Israel. And yet what do you see? You see sin, faithlessness, division, and destruction. Indeed, there would be in your heart a great sadness and a sense of disappointment. And do not forget the fear. If the northern kingdom was overrun, perhaps the southern kingdom would be next!

I’ve asked you to use your imagination to put yourself there in that 722 B.C. setting. But in fact, you may not need to strain too hard with your imagination, for when we look out upon the visible and universal church of God today, we see something very similar — unfaithfulness, division, and devastation. The situations are not identical, of course. Here I am comparing Old Covenant Israel with New Covenant Israel as she appears to our natural eyes. But there are enough similarities that enable us to pick up this Psalm and to sing it as our own in light of the arrival of the Christ and his kingdom. 

Notice that there is a repeated refrain in this Psalm. It is first encountered in verse 3: “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” And it appears again in verse 7 with a slight alteration. There we read, “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” Here, God is called “God of hosts”, or God of armies —  a fitting and comforting thought for the people of Israel, given the circumstances. In verses 14 the Psalmist again calls upon the “God of hosts”, but here he says, “Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine…”. And then lastly in verse 19, the Psalm concludes with the refrain: “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!” The difference here is that God is called, the “LORD God of hosts”.  So the name YHWH is used. And we know that this name for God does emphasize his covenant faithfulness. The God of Israel is the self-existent One. He is the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. He is faithful. The name YHWH reminds us of this. And so the Psalm concludes with an appeal to the “LORD God of hosts”, the LORD who makes and keeps covenant with his people. 

The repeated phrase “let your face shine” is an echo of the Aaronic blessing found in Numbers 6:24-27. Aaron the priest and his descendants were to bless Israel with these words: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24–27, ESV). So here the Psalmist is praying that God would show favor to Israel. Israel had broken the covenant that God made with them. They were beginning to experience the covenant curses. Here in this repeated refrain, the Psalmist is crying out to God for mercy and grace. He is asking the LORD to save them and to bless them despite their sin.  

As I have said, though our situation differs significantly from the original situation, there is much for us to learn from this Psalm. In particular, this Psalm does teach us how to pray in times of disappointment and despair. I know this congregation well enough to know that you have all experienced times of disappointment and despair. Indeed, some of our beloved members are experiencing such circumstances even now. What shall we do? Where shall we go for comfort? How shall we pray? I do believe this Psalm of lament will help us to know. 

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Run To God As Your Shepherd (vs. 1-3)

Taking our cues from the four refrains mentioned a moment ago, we see that this Psalm is naturally divided into four parts. In verses 1 through 3 we find a prayer for deliverance. And here we learn that in times of trouble — in times of disappointment and despair — it is right for God’s people to run to him as their Shepherd. Dear brothers and sisters, we worship and serve God Almighty. But we must remember that he is like a Shepherd to his people. He is tender and he is near.

Verse 1: “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (Psalm 80:1–3, ESV)

In the title, This Psalm is said to be “Of Asaph”. It was written, then, by a member of the Asaphian division of the temple choir. The author lived in the southern kingdom, therefore, and ministered in the temple in Jerusalem, which at this time still stood. But his concern was for the northern kingdom. He cries out to God on behalf of Joseph. He then mentions the two northern tribes that descended from Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh. 

The mention of Benjamin has puzzled some. Benjamin was one of the two southern tribes alongside Judah. And some have wondered if this Psalm was indeed written in response to the conquest of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians, why is the southern tribe of Benjamin listed? But I think there is a good reason for it, and it has to do with unity. Yes, Israel was divided north and south. But the Psalmist longs for unity. The Psalmist longs to see Israel united and flourishing. When we consider the twelve sons that descended from Jacob who would become the twelve tribes of Israel, we see that Benjamin was the other son of Rachael besides Joseph. And so, when the Psalmist cries out to God on behalf of Joseph (or, Ephraim and Manasseh as Joseph’s sons) and Benjamin, the unity of Israel is emphasized. In other words, the faithful of God living in the southern kingdom did not rejoice in the division, nor celebrate the destruction of the northern kingdom, but lamented it, and longed to see restoration, revival, and reform.

APPLICATION: I might ask you by way of application, do you have the same concern for God’s kingdom today? Do you long to see the church united and flourishing? Does your heart break to see the sin, faithlessness, division, and devastation of the visible and universal church of Christ? It is right for us to call out to God and to plead with him that he would make his church strong, true, and pure. Indeed, this we are to do daily when we pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. 

We are to run to God as our Shepherd, for that is what he is. And now that the Christ has come we can see with even greater clarity that it is so. God is our shepherd, and he has provided salvation for us through the Messiah, who said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11–15, ESV)

Do not forget, brothers and sisters, that God in Christ is our Shepherd. We are to run into his loving arms, especially in times of disappointment and despair, for he is tender and kind. But we must not forget that he is also strong. And this is why the Psalmist says in verse 2, “stir up your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” Here we are reminded that our God is strong and mighty and able to save. We are to run to him in days of difficulty. 

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Bring Your Complaints To Him (vs. 4-7)

Secondly, in verses 4 through 7 we find the Psalmists complaint. And here we learn that in times of difficulty and despair we are invited to bring our complaints to the Lord. 

Now, that word “complaint” might seem inappropriate to some. Truthfully, I hesitated to use it. By no means do I think we have the right to grumble against God. To whine, gripe, and protest against him. That is not what I mean by “complaint”. Rather, by using the word “complaint” I wish to encourage you to come to God in prayer with boldness and honesty concerning your affliction. In times of devastation, disappointment, and despair, God’s people are certainly permitted to moan before God and to plead with for mercy. 

Notice how bold the Psalmist is in verses 4 through 7. “O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (Psalm 80:4–7, ESV). 

After reading these verses the word “complaint” does not seem too strong, does it? The Psalmist was bold in prayer. And he does complain, doesn’t he? “O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?”, etc. 

Notice, however, that he does not charge God wrong. Nowhere does he suggest that God has acted unjustly towards the people of Israel. In fact, God was perfectly just and right to judge Israel for their sins. Do not forget the terms of the Mosaic covenant. If the people obeyed God’s law they would be blessed in the land. If the people disobeyed, they would be vomited out of the land. Truly, Israel’s sin was very great. Both King and people walked in wicked ways. God was just to judge them. The Psalmist knew this. Never did he charge God with wrong. But he did bring his complaint to the Lord. He did bring his sorrow. He cried out to the Lord for mercy. And I do believe we are invited to do the same.

In fact, I do think the word “complaint” is appropriate, for it describes the honesty and the boldness that we see in this Psalm. The Psalmist’s prayer is both honest and bold. And we must remember that this prayer is a Spirit-inspired song for God’s people to sing. We too are invited by the Lord to be honest and bold in prayer. But an adjective might help. What we see here is a reverent complaint. The Psalmist approaches God with deep and solemn respect as he pours out his heart before him. 

APPLICATION: Brothers and sisters, do you approach God in prayer with this kind of boldness and honesty? Do you run to him as your Shepherd in times of trouble bringing your complaint to him? Do you lay the truth concerning your afflictions at his feet? Be careful as you do! You must come with reverential fear, remembering who it is that you approach. But in Christ Jesus you are invited to ”with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that [you] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV)

Allow me to make two more observations about the Psalmist’s complaint before moving on. One, the Psalmist’s concern is not only the peace and prosperity of the people of God but the glory of God amongst the nations. In verse 6 we read, “You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves.” Instead of Israel being a blessing to the nations, they were a source of strife for their neighbors. And instead of Israel being honored amongst the nations, and thus bringing glory to God, they were the laughing stock of their enemies. Certainly, this brought shame to the name of the God of Israel, and not glory. And so the Psalmist appeals to God on this basis. Two, this Psalm is not only a complaint but a plea to God for deliverance and restoration. Have mercy on us, Lord. By your grace, restore the covenant. Bless us in your presence. Save us from the just consequences of our sins. That was the Psalmist’s prayer. 

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Do Not Forget The Mercies Of The Lord In Times Past (vs. 8-13)

So, in times of despair, I have encouraged you to run to God as your Shepherd and to bring your complaints before him with reverential fear. And now I say, do not forget the mercies of the Lord in times past. 

Look with me at verses 8-13. The Psalmist speaks to God, saying, “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River. Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.” (Psalm 80:8–13, ESV)

In the third point of this sermon, I have urged you to not forget the mercies of the Lord in times past when difficult days come upon you. And that application is drawn from the fact that the Psalmist remembered the mercy and grace that God has shown to Israel even as the northern tribes were being conquered. 

Here God is portrayed, not as a shepherd, and Israel as a flock, but as the vinedresser, and Israel the vine. “You brought a vine out of Egypt”, he says. This is a reference to the exodus event when God redeemed Israel from Egyptian bondage. He then says, “you drove out the nations and planted it”. This refers to the conquest of Cannan in the days of Joshua. It was the LORD who gave Israel the victory. The words, “You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River”, refer to the establishment of the nation of Israel, and to the flourishing of Israel under David and Solomon. 

Here the Psalmist reminds God of the mercy and grace that he had shown to Israel in times past. Doesn’t that sound strange to say that the Psalmist reminds God of these things? We know that God does not need to be reminded of anything, for he knows all things, past, present, and future. But that is what the Psalmist does in prayer. He reminds God. Or to put it another way, he appeals to God to show Israel favor now on the basis of the kindness he has shown to him in the past. It is as if the Psalmist said,  LORD, do not forget how gracious and kind you were to us in past generations. You redeemed us from Egypt. You entered into a covenant with us. You established us and made us fruitful. Do not throw it all away, Lord. Have mercy on us again.  

But the complaint returns in verse 12: “Why then have you broken down its walls..?” The image is that of an established vineyard with walls built up strong and true to keep thieves from stealing, and wild beasts from trampling the precious vines.  Lord, you planted this vineyard and you built it up to maturity. “Why then have you broken down its walls?”, the Psalmist complains, “so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it” (Psalm 80:12–13, ESV). 

The Psalmist was not ignorant as to why. He knew the terms of the covenant that God made with Israel in the days of Moses. And he knew very well that Israel had violated the terms of this covenant and was deserving of this punishment. He was well aware of Israel’s sin and God’s justice. These are not so much straightforward questions as they are appeals for mercy. God, think of all that you have done for this nation. Think of the mercy you have shown to them in generations past. Yes, we have sinned O LORD, but have mercy on us again. Do not throw it all away. 

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Appeal To The Lord To Show Mercy And Grace In The Future (vs. 14-19)

We see clearly that this is the meaning in verses 14 through 19. Here the Psalmist explicitly appeals to the Lord for mercy and grace. And dear brethren, this is what we must do in times of trouble when we are tempted to despair. Having remembered past mercies, we must appeal to the Lord to show us mercy and grace in the future.

Verse 14: “Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself” (Psalm 80:14–15, ESV).

God sees all. This we know. But the Psalmist calls out to God who sits enthroned in heaven in the midst of his army of angels and says, “look down from heaven, and see…” Notice how freely the Psalmist uses anthropomorphic language in prayer. He speaks to God as if he were human, though he knows he is not. “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel”, he says. “Stir up your might”. “Come to save us”. “You brought a vine… planted it… cleared the ground for it.” “Turn again… look down and see… have regard…” These are things that humans must do, and not God, properly speaking. And yet God invites us to pray to him in this way. He invites us to speak to him according to our perception of things so that we might approach him freely and from the heart. He condescends to our weakness. 

Stated differently, when we approach God in prayer as the Psalmist did, saying, “look down from heaven, and see…”, God does not belittle us and reject us, saying, don’t you know that I am omnipresent and omniscient! No, he brings himself low for us and he receives our weak and feeble prayers, knowing that to us it sometimes seems as if he does not see, or as if he has forgotten. 

When the Psalmist reminds God of his past mercies, or calls upon him to look, see, and remember, he does not reveal a poor understanding of the doctrine of God but speaks instead as a man severely burdened with grief. 

“Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself” (Psalm 80:14–15, ESV). What does this mean? Who is this “son” that the Psalmist refers to? 

He is mentioned again in verse 17. Let’s read verse 16 first: “They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down [referring to the destruction of  Lord’s vineyard, Israel, at the hand of the Assyrians]; may they perish at the rebuke of your face! But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!” (Psalm 80:16–17, ESV). Again I ask, who is this “man of your right hand” and “the son of man” that God made strong for himself. 

In brief, he is King David. He is the Kings of Israel who descended from him. And above all, he is Christ. 

Listen very carefully to this, please: these references to the “son whom [God] made strong for [himself]”, “the man of [God’s] right hand”, and “the son of man [Adam] whom [God]” made strong for himself, reveal something very important. These references to God’s son and the son of man reveal that the Psalmist has appeal to God for mercy and grace, not according to the terms of the covenant of works transacted with Israel in the days of Moses, but on the basis of the promises of God delivered to King David concerning an everlasting King and an everlasting Kingdom, and to the promise made to Adam concerning a savior that would one day descend for him. 

Think of it. What right did the Mosaic covenant give to the Psalmist to appeal to God for mercy and grace? None at all. The terms of that Covenant were, obey and live, disobey and perish. Israel broke the covenant. God was right to vomit them out of the land. That covenant — the Mosaic Covenant — provided no grounds at all for the Psalmist to appeal for grace.

But God did also promise to provide a Savior who would descend from Adam and from Abraham. And to King David God said, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12–13, ESV). This is the “son” that the Psalmist appeals to. This is the “man of [God’s] right hand”. He is the promised son of David, Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Stated differently, the Psalmist appealed to God for mercy saying, “Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine….”, preserve us and restore us for the sake of the promise you made to David regarding his son, and regarding his everlasting kingdom.

In fact, I do believe that there is a significant connection between Psalm 80 and the covenant that God transacted with King David as recorded in 2 Samuel 7. As I began to flesh these connections out in this sermon I realized that I was running out of space, and so I relented. Perhaps you can read 2 Samuel 7 later today. And if you do I would encourage you to look for the themes of shepherding and vine planting. The judges of Israel and King David were called by God to shepherd God’s people. But in Psalm 80 it is God who is called the Shepherd of Israel. Why? Because the kings of Israel had failed the people. Now the Psalmist looks only to God. And in 2 Samuel 7:10 God says, “And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly…” (2 Samuel 7:10, ESV). In Psalm 80 the Psalmist picks up on this promise and appeals to God to restore this vineyard whose walls were broken down. 

And so the point is this: Psalm 80 appeals to God for mercy and grace, not on the basis of the covenant that God transacted with Israel in the days of Moses, but on the basis of the promises that God made to King David. And shared themes of shepherds, vineyards, and promised a son in Psalm 80 and 2 Samuel 7 do help us to see this.

Dear brothers and sisters, do you see that God has answered the prayer of Psalm 80?

The northern kingdom of Israel was carried away, and never did they return. The southern kingdom would eventually fall too. But God preserved a remnant in Babylon. Some would return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple that had been destroyed. And so  Israel was spared in this way. A remnant was preserved. And at just the right time the Christ was born into the world through them. God preserved his vineyard for the sake of his beloved Son and for the establishment of his eternal kingdom. And the New Testament opens with these words: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1, ESV)

“Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!”, was the prayer of the Psalmist and of faithful Israel along with him. And this is indeed what God has accomplished. By mercy and grace, he preserved Israel his vine. The LORD YHWH kept his covenant promises. He blessed Israel, despite their sin. And he has provided salvation for them and for all the nations of the earth through the Messiah, the son of God, the son man, the son of Adam, who has descended from them. He is the true Son, and we are sons of God in him. He is the true vine, and we are the branches. He is the good shepherd, and we are the sheep of his pasture.

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Conclusion 

Brothers and sisters, I have encouraged you to learn from this Psalm so that we might know how to pray in distressing times. I have encouraged you to run to God as your shepherd, to bring your complaints to him with reverence, to remember the mercies of the Lord in times past, and to appeal to the Lord to show you mercy and grace in the future. I think it is right that I have encouraged you to pray in this way concerning the discouraging situations that you face in your personal lives. It is right for us to follow the pattern of the Psalmist in this Psalm of lament.

But we must be careful to see that Psalm 80 is not about personal trials and tribulations. No, it is about the devastation that came upon the kingdom of Israel under the Old Covenant and the desire to see the purpose and promises of God concerning the establishment of his eternal kingdom fulfilled. We must recognize this and see that God has answered this prayer in Jesus the Christ.

And so I must exhort you finally in this way: let us not lose sight of the big picture purposes and promises of God when facing trials and tribulations of various kinds. Yes, we may run to God with our sorrows, for he is our Shepherd in Christ Jesus. But let us keep this as our leading concern: not our own comfort and prosperity, but the flourishing of God’s kingdom on earth through the church until Christ returns to make all things new.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: Psalm 80, Restore Us, O LORD God Of Hosts

Afternoon Sermon: What Is The Ninth Commandment And What Does It Require?, Baptist Catechism 81-82, Zechariah 8:14–17

Baptist Catechism 81-82

Q. 81. Which is the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment is, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)

Q. 82. What is required in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing. (Zech. 8:16; Acts 25:10; Eccles. 7:1; 3 John 12; Prov. 14:5,25)

Scripture Reading: Zechariah 8:14–17

“For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the LORD of hosts, so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not. These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.’” (Zechariah 8:14–17, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

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We have developed this tradition at Emmaus over the years to answer the question, “have you kept this law (that is God’s moral) perfectly?” with the answer, “no, we have violated this law in thought, word, and deed.” 

We didn’t come up with this tradition. The Reformed have been saying this for a long time. But it is a very helpful saying, and so we have adopted it as our own. By it we are reminded that we are violators of God’s law. Left to ourselves, we stand guilty before God. True, we are no longer guilty if we are in Christ! But we stood guilty before we placed our faith in him. And that is the point! We need Christ! And we are reminded of that fact everytime we hear God’s law and say this saying. 

And this saying is also helpful because it reminds us that God’s law is to be kept, not only externally, but also in the mind and with our words. “Thou shalt not murder”, the law says. And most men would probably think that they have kept this law… that is, until they remember what Christ said about it. He said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)

Let that sink in for a moment.

The law, “thou shalt not murder”, also forbids unrighteous anger in the heart, and all insulting. And the same sort of thing is true of the sins of idolatry and adultery, etc. So these moral laws forbid and require certain actions, but they also forbid and require certain thoughts and words.

The thing that I would like you to notice about the ninth commandment is that it has to do with our words, and not our actions. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”, it says. And what does this require of us? Answer “the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing.” The Christian — indeed, all people — are to use their tongues to promote truth. 

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Baptist Catechism 82

Clearly, this forbids lying. Don’t lie, brothers and sisters, but rather speak the truth. This is especially important in witness bearing, our catechism says. If ever you are called to testify in a court of law, or if ever you are called upon to serve as a witness in some other civil or churchly matter, it is especially important that you tell the truth. For what you say will affect the judgments  that are reached, and these judgments will likely have a significant impact on other people’s lives and reputations. 

Our catechism says that we are to tell the truth so as to promote and maintain our own and our neighbors good name. Perhaps you have noticed how common it is in our day for men and women to tell lies about others, or to twist the truth regarding others, so as to damage their reputations, and thus gain some advantage over them. This is particularly common in politics today, and this is vile. We should have nothing to do with this. 

And notice that our catechism does not here deal with what is forbidden — namly, lying — but with what is required. The ninth commandment requires that we promote the truth between man and man. Not lying and promoting the truth are related things, but they are not the same things. It is one thing to not tell a lie. It is another thing to promote the truth. Not telling a lie may involve refraining from speaking, but promoting the truth will require speaking the truth whenever it is our responsibility to do so. 

To illustrate, if a person has wrongly been accused of a crime, and you know they are innocent and can provide information to demonstrate that they are innocent, then it would be a violation of the ninth commandment to refrain from speaking. Again, “the ninth commandment requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing.”

So do not only not lie, but be resolved to use your words to promote the truth. 

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Zechariah 8:14–17

Think of how happy our families, churches, and societies would be if men and women promoted the truth with their lips. 

This is what the LORD commanded Old Covenant Israel to do in that Zechariah 8 passage that I read earlier: “These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.”

As we have been studying these Ten Commandments I have often been struck by the thought of how wicked our society is. When Christians think of the evils of our society they often think of the great evil of abortion and how it violates the sixth of the Ten Commandmnet, though shalt not murder. But if we were to consider our society with eyes wide upon I think we would see that sin is truly rampant. Men and women do often tell lies, and fail to promote the truth with their tongues. This happens in the media, in politics, in law, and in day to day life. 

And where we will learn to speak the truth in love except in our families and in our churches. Parents, we must teach our children to not lie, but rather to speak what is true. And this we must also do in the church. I’m afraid that many within the church break the ninth commandment, not by lying, but by failing to tell the truth.  Sometimes Pastors are guilty of this, for sometimes it is easier and safer to withhold the truth — speaking the truth is sometimes risky and scary. But do not forget what Chrst said: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, ESV). 

The truth is very powerful, friends. The truth brings life, whereas falsehood brings death. And so we must be committed to promote the truth with our tongues. We must learn to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15, ESV). And do not forget what James said regarding the tongue. It is most unruly. But those who are mature in Christ will learn to control their tongues, to use their words to build up, and not tear, by speaking the truth lovingly and skilfully, for the glory of God, and for the good of others.

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Conclusion 

Q. 82. What is required in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing. (Zech. 8:16; Acts 25:10; Eccles. 7:1; 3 John 12; Prov. 14:5,25)

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Afternoon Sermon: What Is The Ninth Commandment And What Does It Require?, Baptist Catechism 81-82, Zechariah 8:14–17

Morning Sermon: Psalm 67, Let The Nations Be Glad

New Testament Reading: Acts 1:1-11

“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:1–11, ESV).

Old Testament  Reading: Psalm 67

“TO THE CHOIRMASTER: WITH STRINGED INSTRUMENTS. A PSALM. A SONG. May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!” (Psalm 67, ESV).

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

Please be patient with me this morning, brothers and sisters. It will take me a little while to get back to the text of Psalm 67, but I assure you, everything will tie together in the end. 

I wish to begin this sermon by addressing a terrible misconception that some have of those of us who are Calvinistic and Reformed, and that is the misconception that Calvinists do not believe in evangelism or world missions. 

Have you ever encountered this claim? I know that many of you have! This charge was slanderously leveled against us when we planted this church nearly ten years ago, and I have heard that some of you have been asked this question even recently. So is it true that Calvinists do not believe in evangelism or world missions? The short answer is, no, of course it is not true.

So where does this misconception come from, then? Please allow me to make three brief remarks about this: 

One, it may be true that some within the Calvinistic and Reformed tradition have neglected evangelism and world missions. I do not doubt that for a second. But listen carefully. Their neglect is not the result of our beliefs, but of sin. These, for one reason or another, have failed to do what they know in their minds the scriptures call them to do — that is, to go and make disciples of all nations through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, if there has been neglect amongst the Reformed, it is not the product of our theology, but of spiritual lethargy. And, if our critics were to be honest they would admit that this same spiritual lethargy does sometimes appear in other traditions besides the Reformed tradition. 

Two, there are some who would call themselves “Calvinists” who hold erroneous views on this subject. We would call them hyper-Calvinists. And these do in fact error in their doctrine by downplaying the role of human responsibility in the Christian life in general, and in the salvation of sinners in particular. But these hyper-Calvinists are badly out of step with the Reformed faith, that is to say, with biblical Christianity. As we will see in just a moment, the Reformed believe that God is sovereign over all things, including salvation, and that man is also responsible to do what God has called him to do. And one thing God has called his church to do is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. So please do not confuse us with the hyper-Calvinists.

Three, it is ultimately the ignorance of our critics that produces the misconception. They are ignorant of our beliefs, and they are also ignorant of the scriptures. When our critics hear us say that God has chosen some for salvation (which is what the scriptures clearly teach) they assume that means there is no need for evangelism or world missions. It is truly an absurd notion. Our critics are guilty of jumping to this conclusion. 

Watch how they jump. They hear us say what the scriptures say — that God has chosen some for salvation (see Ephesians 1:3ff, for example), and that God is sovereign over salvation, meaning that he will certainly bring those whom he has chosen to faith (see Ephesians 2:1ff, for example) — and they jump to the conclusion that there is no place for evangelism in our theological system. But they have connected dots that do not necessarily connect.   

Think of it. If it is true that God has chosen some for salvation from before the foundation of the world (see John 17, and Romans 8:28ff), and if it is true that God will certainly save these (see again the texts cited above along with John 6:35ff), the question must still be asked, how will God bring his elect to faith and to salvation in Jesus Christ? How will he do it? What means will he use? How will he move these elect of his from unbelief to belief, from death to life, from wrath to grace? Will he simply act upon them immediately and supernaturally without any human intermediary? Will God simply zap his elect from on high and cause them to believe upon Jesus the Messiah? No, that is not what the scriptures teach, nor is it what we believe. 

So, how will God bring his elect to faith in Christ and thus to salvation? Answer: through the proclamation of the gospel, and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. This will be the means. Yes, the Spirit of God must work. The Spirit must open blind eyes, unstop deaf ears, and breathe spiritual life into those who are spiritually dead. God must do that work. And if he does not, then none will ever believe (see John 3:3ff and 6:44ff). But the gospel must also be proclaimed by us, for this is the way that God has determined to bring his elect to salvation — through the preaching of his word and the working of his Spirit. 

This is why Christ told his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18ff). And this is why he sent them out as his “witnesses” (Acts 1:1ff). And when they went out from Jerusalem to go to the nations, what did they do? They proclaimed Christ crucified and risen. And why were they confident that anyone would believe in their message? Their confidence was in God, in the knowledge that he had his elect scattered throughout the nations, and that as they went and preached the gospel of the kingdom, those chosen by God and appointed to salvation would in fact believe. Stated differently, their confidence was in the sovereignty of God over all things, and over the salvation of souls in particular. So no, their belief in the sovereignty of God over salvation did not produce lethargy in them, but rather it propelled them to “go” with boldness in obedience to Christ’s command, knowing that God would surely accomplish all of his purposes through them.

This mindset  — that God is sovereign over the salvation of his elect, and that we must be responsible to go and proclaim the gospel, for this is the means by which all will be saved — is clearly seen in the book of Acts. For example, in Acts 13:13ff we read of Paul and Barnabus’ gospel ministry in Antioch. As the story unfolds we learn that many of the Gentiles in that place were receptive to the gospel message. And listen carefully to how Luke describes what happened. He says in verse 48, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48, ESV). Did you hear that? The gospel was preached by Paul and Barnabus, and many believed. And how did Luke interpret this? He says, it was those “appointed” or “assigned” to eternal life who believed the message of the gospel. In other words, the elect of God believed. Those chosen by God believed. And this was the understanding of Christ and all of his Apostles — the gospel would be preached, and the elect would respond in faith as the Spirit of God worked upon their hearts. This is exactly what Christ taught when he concluded that parable regarding the invitation to the wedding feast with the words, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14, ESV). He was teaching his disciples that many would hear the external call of the gospel with their natural ears, but it would only be those chosen of the Lord, and are therefore called of God inwardly and effectively, who will respond in faith to the invitation. 

So no, the biblical doctrines of predestination and effectual calling, which the Reformed are faithful to teach, do not nullify the need for evangelism, for it is through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ that the elect will be drawn to faith and salvation. Stated most bluntly: no gospel, no salvation (with the exception, perhaps, of “elect infants dying in infancy… and [other] elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word”. See 10.3. of our Confession of Faith). But in general, no gospel, no salvation. For the Lord has determined to bring salvation to his elect by the means of gospel proclamation.

And this is why Paul — yes, the same Paul who so clearly teaches the doctrine of election or predestination in all of his letters — says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16, ESV). And a little later in the same letter, he says, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ [Now listen to this] How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.’” (Romans 10:9–17, ESV)

So please hear me. The Reformed agree with Paul and with the rest of the scriptures that there is no conflict between the biblical doctrine of election and the need for evangelism, for this is how the elect will come to saving faith. To call on the Lord, they must first hear about him. And to hear about him, someone must preach. And to preach, someone must be sent. 

Far from being a hindrance to evangelism, the doctrine of election does in fact motivate it. For it is the doctrine of election that says, God has his chosen ones scattered throughout the world and he will certainly bring them to faith in Christ. So we must go and prayerfully preach the word, and watch as the Lord does his work. Stated differently, it is the doctrine of election that reassures us that the fields are indeed ripe for harvest (John 4:35). God has his elect scattered throughout the world. He will prepare them. He will draw them inwardly. We must simply go and harvest them with the gospel message freely offered. 

And this was exactly what motivated Paul to persevere in his missionary work, despite all of the suffering. He says so in 2 Timothy 2:10, where he writes, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10, ESV). Paul knew that all of the sufferings he endured in his gospel ministry were for “the sake of the elect” of God. His mission was to go and harvest those whom God had chosen. He did not know who they were, but he would find out as preached, and as men and women responded in faith. 

So, this idea that those who believe and teach the doctrine of predestination, effectual calling, limited atonement (and all the rest), do not believe in evangelism is ridiculous. This is not what we believe. This is not what we teach. For this is not what the scriptures say. Also, it is not difficult to see that this is not the case when one considers church history. 

And if you would only take a moment to study the history of the so-called modern missions movement, you would see that it was sparked by men with Reformed and Calvinistic convictions. Perhaps you have heard of William Carry? He is called the “father of modern missions.” Did you know that he was a Particular (or Reformed) Baptist? And did you know that he was sent out to do his work by Particular (Reformed) Baptists? Adoniram Judson was also a Particular Baptist. So too was Luther Rice. These leaders in the modern missionary movement were all Calvinists. They believed just as we believe. Brothers and sisters, Reformed theology properly understood does not hinder missions. No, it propels it. Why? Because Reformed theology simply tells the truth regarding God’s plans for the salvation of sinners, his accomplishment of that plan in Christ, and the means by which he will apply it to his elect in every time and place, that is, through the preaching of his word and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.

So, what does all of this have to do with Psalm 67? 

Well, here is the point that I wish to make from this Psalm: while it is true that our doctrine of salvation does not hinder evangelism, but rather encourages and propels it, it is also true that our understanding of the history of redemption  — that is, our understanding of what is called covenant theology — does not stifle our zeal for world missions, but should propel us to take the gospel of the kingdom to all nations, knowing for certain that this has always been God’s plan. 

The dispensationalists (at least the radical ones) miss this. In their minds, the great commission that Christ gave to his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” was “plan B” in the mind of God. Not all dispensationalists will talk in this extreme way, but some do. To them “plan A” was for God’s kingdom to be established with ethnic and Old Covenant Israel, but when Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah, then the gospel was to be proclaimed to the Gentiles as “plan B”. A greater misunderstanding of the overarching story of the Bible can hardly be imagined. We reject this view in all of its various forms and insist that God’s plan has always been the same (How could it not be? For our God does not change?). His plan has always been to save people from every tongue, tribe, and nation through faith in the crucified and risen Christ.

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Believing Israel Knew They Were Blessed To Be A Blessing To The Nations (vs. 1-2)

Psalm 67 proves the point. Here we have a Psalm (or song) written and sung by Old Covenant Israel. And what is its central concern? That salvation would come to all of the nations of the earth! 

Yes, it is certainly true that from the days of Abraham up to the day of Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the gospel of the kingdom was largely confined to the Hebrew people and to the nation of Israel. They were blessed to have the word of God, to worship God, and to know and preserve his very great promises concerning the Messiah who would come from them. But hear this: they were blessed to be a blessing! And they knew this (or at least some of them did). [SLIDE] Believing Israel knew that they were blessed to be a blessing to the nations. Listen to what they sang: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” (Psalm 67:1–2, ESV)

The first line of this Psalm is drawn from the blessing that Aaron the priest and his sons were commanded to pronounce upon Israel, as recorded in Numbers 6:22ff. There we read, “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’ So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:22–27, ESV).

In Psalm 67 the people of Israel cry out to God for this blessing. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us…”, they sing. But in verse 2 the purpose for this blessing is acknowledged beginning with the word “that”. “That…”, or might say, so that “your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (Psalm 67:2, ESV). As I have said, Israel knew that they were blessed by God so that they might be a blessing to the nations. They were chosen by God so that through them salvation might come to the Gentiles. This was always God’s plan. And this plan was clearly revealed to them from the beginning. 

Do not forget what the LORD said to father Abraham when he called him to leave his country and promised to make him into a great nation. He said, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great…” Abraham did not live to see the fulfillment of these promises, but we know the story. We know that Abraham became Israel. But that is not all that God said. He added these words of purpose “so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3, ESV). So, from the beginning, God revealed to Abraham and his descendants that they were uniquely blessed by God… so as to be a blessing to the nations. 

Yes, many within Israel had lost sight of this in the days when Jesus walked the earth. And yes, many from amongst the Jews were offended by the news that the Christ died for all the peoples of the earth, that this gospel of the kingdom was to go to the nations, and that the Gentiles who believed would be grafted into the true Israel of God. But they were surprised, not because this truth hadn’t been revealed before, but because they either misunderstood or willingly ignored, the scriptures.  

From the start, Israel was blessed to be a blessing to the nations. And this is why they were to sing, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us… that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” (Psalm 67:1–2, ESV) 

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Believing Israel’s Desire Was To See the Nations Give Praise To God  (vs. 3-4)

Secondly, we see in this Psalm that believing Israel’s desire was for the nations to give praise to God. Look at verses 3 and 4. They sang, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah” (Psalm 67:3–4, ESV)

Read the New Testament and see the difference between believing and unbelieving Israel. One key difference is that while unbelieving Israel was enraged at the thought that the kingdom of God would extend to the nations, believing Israel rejoiced greatly in this. Considered from the vantage point of Psalm 67, unbelieving Israel could not bring themselves to sing this Psalm, whereas believing Israel sang this Psalm heartily. 

To illustrate, in the book of Acts there is a large portion of the text devoted to the story of the Apostle Peter (an Israelite) proclaiming the gospel to a man named Cornelious (a Gentile). The story runs from 10 all the way to Acts 11:18. Apparently, this was a very significant moment given the amount of space devoted to this story. In brief, Peter was faithful to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to Cornelious and his household, they believed, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Peter reported this to the church in Jerusalem, he concluded by saying, “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” And listen to the response  of believing Israel: “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’” (Acts 11:17–18, ESV)

This was always to be the disposition of Israel. They were to be eager to see the Gentiles believe in the Messiah, and give praise to the one true God, who “[judges] the peoples with equity and [guides] the nations upon earth.”

Why should the Hebrew people be so eager to see the Gentile people give praise to their God? Well, beyond what has already been said regarding the Covenant transacted with Abraham, and the observation that Israel was blessed to be a blessing, we must also say that the Gentile nations should give glory to the God of Israel for he is also God of the nations. 

Yes, the LORD was Israel’s God in a special way from the days of Abraham to the resurrection of Christ — that is to say, under the Old Covenant. The LORD was Israel’s God, and they were his special people. But never did this mean that God was not also Lord of the nations. For we know there is only one God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth. He is Lord Most High. And he is the judge, not of Israel only, but of all peoples. And so that is one reason why Israel was so concerned to see the nations turn to God in praise — “[judges] the peoples with equity and [guides] the nations upon earth.”

To state the matter most succinctly, when God set Israel apart as his peculiar people, he did not at that moment cease to be God of the nations also. Or to say it another way, when the LORD set Abram and his offspring apart from the nations, he did not forget about the rest of the offspring of Adam. No, in setting Abraham apart, his purpose was to bring salvation to the other children of Adam through his, for the God of Israel is the one and only. 

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Believing Israel Knew That God Preserved Them So As To Bear Fruit Through Them, And They Gave God Thanks (vs. 5-7)

Lastly, in verses 5 through 7 we see that believing Israel knew that God preserved them so as to bear fruit through them, and they gave God thanks. 

In verse 5 we find a repeat of the exhortation of verse 3: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” But in verse 6 the emphasis is not on God as Lord and judge of all the earth 

(as it was in verse 4), but on God’s provision for Israel. In verse 6 we read, “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.” 

Here Israel gives thanks to God for his provision. “The earth has yielded its increase” means, the Lord has blessed us with a good harvest. The Lord has provided food for his people to eat so that we might live. And the words, “God, our God, shall bless us”, are words of confidence and hope concerning the future. In other words, Israel was to testify to the Lord’s past provision when they sang this Psalm, and they were also to confess their faith and hope in God concerning future provision. 

By the way, where did they get this confidence that the Lord would bless them? How did they know that the Lord would provide? Answer: from the unconditional promises given to them in the Covenant that God transacted with their Abraham.

I do love how simple, raw, and down-to-earth this portion of the Psalm is (pun intended). God promised to bless Abraham and his descendants so that they would be a blessing to the nations by bringing Christ into the world. And how did God bless them? Among other things, by causing vegetables and grain to grow from the earth so that they and their animals might have food to eat. 

When we consider the promises that God made to Abraham and their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ from a high level, big picture perspective, we can lose sight of the fact that God kept these awesome promises concerning the Messiah, by preserving his people in very ordinary ways from day to day, and from season to season, as his chosen people gave glory to him while planting seeds and reaping the harvest for hundreds of years.

We can learn from this, I think. I just a moment I will exhort you to not lose sight of the mission that God has given to us. But here I will take the opportunity to say, don’t neglect the little things. And don’t forget to give glory to God for his daily provision. 

But again, we return to the theme. Israel gave thanks to God for his provision. They knew that God would be faithful to bless them in the future. But they were never to forget their purpose. They were to bear fruit in bringing salvation to the nations. 

Verse 6: “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

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Conclusion 

I began this sermon by insisting that Reformed and Calvinistic theology does not hinder evangelistic zeal, but propels it. God has his elect in the world. Let to themselves they would never come to faith in Christ, and so God will surely call them to the faith. How will he do it? By calling them externally through the ministry of the word, that is, through the proclamation of the gospel, and inwardly by the power of the Holy Spirit. The doctrines of grace, or the five points of Calvinism as they are commonly called, do not stifle evangelistic zeal. To the contrary, they stoke the flame. They insure us that the fields are white for harvest and that God will make our labors effective. It is the Calvinist who has reason to be confident in God when proclaiming the Gospel. The Arminian, if they are true to their system, must trust only in themselves, and in the goodness and light they imagine resides within the heart of every man. 

And I wish to conclude this sermon by saying that is the Reformed understanding of God’s working in the history of redemption which propels our zeal for world missions. Here I may contrast our covenant theology with the dispensationalism that is so prevalent in Arminian churches today. 

When we go to the nations with the gospel, brothers and sisters, we are not wasting our time with God’s “plan B”. God does not have a plan B. God only has plan A. This is what we confess in 2LBC 3.1, which speaks the truth when it says, “God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass…” 

And what is God’s will regarding salvation? He has decreed to redeem a people for himself, through faith in Christ, not from the Hebrews only, but from every tongue, tribe, and nation. What a glorious plan it is! 

We must remember brothers and sisters that this plan of redemption was not revealed first to Abraham, but to Adam. God promised to provide a Savior for Adam and his offspring (Genesis 3:15). And when this gospel was clarified and entrusted to Abraham and his descendants, it was always with the nations in view.  Abraham was blessed to be a blessing to the nations.

Brothers and sisters, you and I are the nations. Don’t ever forget it. Think of how gracious and kind God has been to us to bring us the gospel of his Son. It truly is marvelous and mindblowing to consider how this gospel of the kingdom has been preserved and has come here to this place!  And think of how blessed we are to have been grafted into the Israel of God by faith. 

But here is one other thing that we must never forget. Like our Father Abraham, and like Israel which descended from his loins, we, the Israel of God by faith, are blessed to be a blessing. Our mission is still to take the gospel of the kingdom to the nations. Our heartfelt song must be “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy…”

Never can we allow ourselves to lose sight of the mission that Christ has given us. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV)

May we be found faithful to the end of the age. 

Let me conclude with a few very brief suggestions for application. 

One, let us be faithful to proclaim the gospel of Jesus in this place — in our homes, to our children, in our churches, and in our communities. Being mindful of the nations does not require us to neglect the fields that are white for harvest locally. And so we must know the gospel, believe the gospel, and share the gospel here, praying and trusting that God will make it effective according to his will. 

Two, let us pray that the Lord would raise up ministers of the word of God to be used by him locally and to the ends of the earth as he wills. Christ taught his disciples saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37–38, ESV). We must pray for this, and we must also work towards this. 

Three, let us be sure to never lose sight of the nations. Yes, we are the nations. And yes, this culture is very dark and in need of the gospel and biblical churches. But even still, there are places where the gospel has not been preached, and where the church is in an even worse condition than it is here! We must not forget about world missions. Instead, we must be constant in prayer, and eager to support gospel ministers even to the far-out corners of the earth.  

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Afternoon Sermon: What Does The Eight Commandment Forbid?, Baptist Catechism 80, Proverbs 6:6-11

Baptist Catechism 80

Q. 80. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment forbideth whatsoever does or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward state. (1 Tim. 5:8; Prov. 28:19; 23:20,21; Eph. 4:28)

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 6:6–11

“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:6–11, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

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The eighth commandment is, “you shall not steal”. It is rather obvious what that means. Don’t take what is not yours. But that very simple principle is just begging to be fleshed out. For example, we should ask, how then should I provide for myself? How should I increase my wealth and my possessions?  

Stealing is forbidden. 

Yes, it is true that someone may give you a gift. That is fine. 

And making wise investments is also encouraged in the scriptures. 

But in general, we must confess that the way to provide for yourself and your family and to increase your wealth and possessions, is to work. You are to provide a service for someone else and be compensated for it, or you must work the land with the hopes of reaping a harvest. Either way, the principle is the same. We must provide for ourselves by working. As Paul says,  “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28, ESV)

There are so many questions associated with this topic. I’ll name a few to show you that I am not oblivious to them. Must a person work with his hand? No, some work involves the mind more than the hands. And what about the wife and mother who does not go to work but remains at home? That is a great blessing, but the scriptures do warn against idleness at home. The wife and mother should be diligent to manage the home, and she is also free to engage in industry on top of that (see Proverb 31, for example). And what about retirement? Is there a place for that? Of course, there is. Hard work in the younger years does sometimes lead to retirement. But even in retirement men and women should serve the Lord. They should be diligent in prayer in their old age. And what about those who are independently wealthy, who come into great wealth by way of inheritance? That is a great blessing. But the scriptures do warn the rich not to trust in the riches, but to trust in God. And those who are rich should use what they have been given for the furtherance of God’s kingdom, and the relief of the poor. They should be generous. Again, idleness is forbidden. 

In general, I wish to say this: Christians should be diligent and hard-working. That takes so many different forms. I am aware of that. Yes, things will look different from person to person, and the circumstances will change as the seasons of life come and go. But in general, Christians should be hard-working. Stated negatively, Christians are not to be sluggards. No, we are to use our time and energies for the glory of God, for our good, and for the good of others.

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Proverbs 6

The Proverbs have a lot to say about this. They constantly urge men and women to be diligent in hard work and wise with their money. They show how men and women generally come to be both rich and poor. And the text that we read from Proverbs 6 is most instructive. 

“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise”, the text says. 

Have you ever watched ants? And no, we are not talking about your Aunt — your mother or father’s sister — but ants — the little bugs that crawl on the ground. Have you ever watched them? They are very hard-working and diligent little creatures. They never stop. They just move and move along, working constantly to provide for themselves and others. Proverbs 6 tells us that we are to  “go to the ant” and “consider her ways…”

And no, the point is not that we are to never rest. That would contradict other scriptures, wouldn’t it? The scriptures teach that sleep is a gift from God. The scriptures warn against the vanity and folly of overworking. And the scriptures command that we cease from our labor one day out of seven to worship to God. That day is called the Sabbath Day, or the Lord’s Day. So we are not to imitate ants by working tirelessly and unceasingly seven days a week (in fact, ants do sleep. Worker ants take about 250 little power naps a day, totaling about 4 ½ hours of sleep a day. The Proverbs do not speak scientifically, but from the appearance of things).  

But what are we to learn from the ants who seem to work so diligently? Well, notice that the lesson is for the sluggard. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” A “sluggard is a lazy person. It is the lazy person who is encouraged to go to the ant and to consider her ways to become wise. 

And what exactly is the sluggard to notice? Two things: 

One, the ant works very diligently “without having any chief, officer, or ruler”. Yes, scientifically we know that in an ant colony there is a queen. And there are even other kinds of ants so that there is a kind of hierarchy in the ant world. But the point is this: when you watch ants you see that they work very hard and very diligently and no one is cracking a whip, as it were. Ants seem to be self-motivated. It seems to be a part of their nature to work hard and consistently. The sluggard should learn from this. The sluggard may work hard for a time…. if someone forces him to, and then back to the couch he goes. 

Two, this proverb urges us to notice this about ants: they seem to understand the seasons. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” The ant is diligent to work and to save in times of plenty knowing that times of want or lack may soon come. The sluggard needs to learn this lesson too. The lazy person may have adequate provisions at the moment and so they lounge on the couch and sleep in their bed, but they forget that those provisions will soon run out! What then? That ant works diligently even when her storehouse is full for she knows that the time will come when provisions will be lacking. 

And that is what the Proverb warns against so directly, saying, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” 

Christians are to be hard-working and diligent people. The eighth commandment requires it. Yes, it forbids stealing. But that means on the flip side that we are required to “labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28). 

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Baptist Catechism 80

To state the matter negatively, “The eighth commandment forbideth whatsoever does or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward state.” 

As with all of God’s commandments, we must reflect deeply on these things. What sorts of things may “hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward state”? 

Well, concerning our neighbor. stealing is obviously out of the question. That would hinder our neighbor’s wealth, wouldn’t it? Dishonest work is also out of the question. Though we may provide some good or service to our neighbor, if it is dishonest work, or a good of poor quality, then we are not helping our neighbor, but hindering them. 

But what about the responsibility we have to earn a living for ourselves to provide for ourselves and to help others who may be in need?  It seems to me that we need to think about our own work ethic, the management of our finances, the wisdom of our investments and business ventures. Brothers and sisters, we must think carefully about these things. 

A Christians we must not love money. We must pursue contentment and be generous with what we have. But at the same time, we cannot be foolish with our money or unconcerned about the question, how will I make an honest living? And will I have enough for the future when my ability to earn an income has diminished? These are important questions. 

And perhaps I should move to a conclusion by saying, I understand that life does not always go as planned. Sometimes we wish to work, but cannot. I don’t mean for any of this to burden those who are a in situation like that. Rather, I am setting forth the scriptural ideal. Remember, the scriptures do speak of the importance of caring for those in need. Ideally, no one would ever be in need. But in reality, sometimes people are. And the reasons for this are varied. 

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Conclusion 

Q. 80. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment forbideth whatsoever does or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward state. (1 Tim. 5:8; Prov. 28:19; 23:20,21; Eph. 4:28)

Lord, help us to keep your law in thought, word, and deed. And forgive us when we do not. We thank you for Christ who kept this law perfectly on our behalf and died for our sin. In him we have placed our trust. Amen. 

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Afternoon Sermon: What Does The Eight Commandment Forbid?, Baptist Catechism 80, Proverbs 6:6-11

Morning Sermon: Psalm 49, Fear Not

New Testament Reading: Luke 16:19–31

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19–31, ESV)

Old Testament  Reading: Psalm 49

“TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH. Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together! My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre. Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit. For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names. Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself— his soul will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again see light. Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” (Psalm 49, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

The title of Psalm 49 is, “TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH”. The sons of Korah were just that — the descendants of a man named Korah. You can read about him in Numbers 16. It’s not a happy story. Korah was the Levite who led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, and the Lord judged him. The earth opened up and swallowed Korah and his household. But Numbers 26:11 clarifies that “the sons of Korah did not die.” By the grace of God, some of Korah’s descendants survived and became temple doorkeepers and guardians (1 Chronicles 9:17ff.), whereas others became singers and musicians in the temple choir, which was founded in the days of David (1 Chronicles 6:31ff.). So, it is possible that this Psalm was written in the days of David, but it is also possible that it was written later by the further descendants of Korah. 

Notice that Psalm 49 is a wisdom Psalm. This Psalm (like Psalm 1, and many others) is not addressed to God as Psalms of thanksgiving and praise are, but to man. Look with me at verses 1 through 4: “Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together! My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre” (Psalm 49:1–4, ESV). So Psalm 49 is like a Proverb, or a wise saying, put to song. 

On a bit of a side note, what does this say about our singing, brothers and sisters? We are to sing the Psalms — yes, even wisdom Psalms like Psalm 49. And when we write our own hymns and spiritual songs, we may also write songs of wisdom that are addressed, not to God, but to one another. In fact, that is what Ephesians 5:19 commands. It says that we are to “[address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart…” (Ephesians 5:19, ESV). So, all of our singing is to be directed “to the Lord”, but we do also address one another when we sing. We are to remind one another of God’s truth and God’s faithfulness as we offer up praise to him together through song.

But one might ask, how do songs of wisdom, which are addressed to man and not God, give glory and praise to God? Should not all of our singing give glory and praise to God? Of course it should. And Psalms of wisdom do give glory to God even though they are addressed to man. They give glory to God for it is God’s truth that is expressed. They give glory to God for they do implore men and women to run to God for truth and for deliverance (see verse 15). And they give glory to God when they move men and women to live according to God’s truth. Certainly, God is glorified when his people trust and obey him. Though Psalm 49 is addressed to men, it is God who gets the glory, for it is God and his truth that is here exulted.  

Verses 1 through 4 functions as an introduction to this Psalm. Here we see that the Psalm is addressed to “all peoples”. All “the inhabitants of the world” are called upon to listen. In particular, the sons of Korah call upon those who are “low and high, rich and poor” to listen. As we consider this Psalm it will become clear as to why he addresses these two groups specifically, for this Psalm does provide special instruction for the powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor. And lastly, by way of introduction, this Psalm is said to be a wise saying which is the product of the Psalmist’s meditation upon a “proverb” and his contemplation of a “riddle”, or a difficult question. 

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Why Should I Fear The Wealthy And Powerful In Times Of Trouble (vs. 5-6)

So what is the question on the Psalmist’s mind? What is the “riddle”? It is actually stated in verses 5 and 6. “Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?” 

This is a very good question. It is a riddle that has plagued the people of God from generation to generation ever since man’s fall into sin. And I think you would agree, it is certainly a question for our days as well. 

“Why should I fear in times of trouble…”, the Psalmist asks. So this wisdom song is about fear. Why should I fear? is the question at hand. Or put it another way, should I fear? Is there any good reason for me to be afraid? 

And while it is true that this Psalm will help with all kinds of fear, no matter the source, the question is rather precise: “Why should I fear in times of trouble…?” Other English translations say, “in days of evil”, “in days of adversity”, or “when evil days come.” So this is not a Psalm about fear in the face of some natural disaster or sickness or some other amoral tribulation, but rather fear of the trouble that evil people are causing. Look again at verses 5 and 6. “Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?” (Psalm 49:5–6, ESV). So the fear that the Psalmist speaks of is the fear of man. It is the fear that those who are weak and vulnerable feel when those who are rich and powerful come against them to oppress them.

As I said before, this is a perennial problem for the people of God. Sometimes the weak and the poor are oppressed by the rich and the powerful. This happens all around the world, in every time, and in every place. And sometimes it happens to God’s people. It happened to Christ. It happened to his Apostles. In fact, it has happened to people of faith from the days of Adam on to the present day. And really, we must admit that it is terrifying. If you have not experienced it directly and personally, then you must use your imagination. And when you do, you will admit that it must be a very fearful experience to have those who are powerful seek to oppress you especially if you are weak.

Last Saturday was the 500th anniversary of the Diet of Worms where Martin Luther refused to recant of his writings before the religious and political authorities of his day. He famously concluded his speech with words, “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” Can you imagine the pressure that he felt? Can you imagine the temptation to give in to fear? He stood before some very, very, powerful figures who were eager to have him recant. And he knew what had happened to others who refused to bow to the pressure of powerful and wealthy figures such as these — they burned! Whenever I hear that story I think, where did Luther get the strength? 

Luther escaped, but many others in the history of the church did not. Perhaps you should read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs some time. It is a history of some who have died for their faith from the days of the Apostles onward. The book is not for the faint of heart. But it is helpful to consider the martyrs who have gone before us and to ask, where did they get the strength? Where did they find the courage to not give in to fear in the days of adversity as the powerful moved to oppress them?

And of course, we may ask this same question of Jesus himself. Where did he get the courage? How was it that he was able to drink the cup of suffering that the Father had called him to drink? And yes, we are to remember that Jesus was fully human. He experienced all of the emotions that we experience. Where did Jesus, the Son of Man, the Son God, get the courage to stand firm and true in the face of persecution and death at the hands of those with great earthly power?

These are famous examples of men and women who have suffered persecution, and even martyrdom, at the hands of powerful and wicked men. But we should not forget that many, many more of God’s people have suffered at the hands of powerful persecutors whose names we do not know. And many are suffering throughout the world today, being oppressed by powerful governments, organizations, and individuals. Where do they get the courage? Where do they find the strength to overcome the fear and to stand firm?

Clearly, they possess some deeply held conviction which moves them to bear up under the suffering and to not abandon their hope in God and Christ. They have decided that it is better to suffer in this world for Christ’s sake than to deny him. So what is that conviction? What do those who suffer in the name of Christ believe which enables them to stand in the face of such fear? And then we must ask, do we have it? Do we have the same courage founded on the same conviction?

This wisdom Psalm — Psalm 49 — does not say everything that may be said, but it does help us to contemplate this age-old question: “Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?” It truly is a marvelous Psalm. 

It is a little difficult to know how to divide the remainder of this passage. Commentators differ in their divisions of it. And I will admit that the commentaries I read do not divide it in the way that I have. But whatever structure we see in this Psalm, the meaning will be the same at the end. 

I have decided to take my cues for the division of the text from the two “Selah’s” found after verses 13 and 15. Do you see them there? Most commentators agree that the term “Selah” was used to signal a musical interlude, perhaps to encourage the worshiper to pause and reflect on what was just said.

And when we divide the remainder of the passage up by the “Selah’s” after verses 13 and 15 we do find that these sections have themes.  After the introduction of verses 1 through 4, and the question found in verses 5 through 6, we find a contemplation of the grave in verses 7 through 13, and then a contemplation of Sheol in verses 14 through 15, followed by a beautiful resolution to the question in verses 16 through 20. 

So I have outlined the Psalm like this:

Introduction (vs. 1-4)

Question (vs. 5-6)

Contemplation of the grave (vs. 7-13)

Contemplation of Sheol (vs. 14-15)

Resolution of the question (vs. 16-20)

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Contemplate The Grave (vs. 7-13)

The question has been stated. In summary, it is this: Why should I fear the wealthy and powerful when they seek to oppress? And the first thing that the sons of Korah wish for us to contemplate is the grave. They call upon the peoples of the earth — rich and poor, strong and weak — to come along and to think about oppression in light of the grave.

In verses 7 we read, “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit. For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names. Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah”

This is profound. Should the poor and the weak fear the rich and the strong when they come against them to oppress them? The Psalmist says, let us begin by considering the pit, or the grave. And when we do it becomes apparent that the rich and the powerful oppressors have their hope and confidence misplaced, for they too will go down into the pit. No amount of power or wealth will save them from that. And when they go down into the grave, they will take nothing with them. In other words, death is the great equalizer. The bodies of both the rich and poor will return to the dust of earth from which we all came.   

This is a very helpful observation, I think. And it may help to put yourself in the place of the persecuted and to see the world through their eyes to understand why this is a helpful observation. Immagine yourself weak and vulnerable, and imagine someone powerful, like a king or governor, coming against you to threaten you even to the point of death. You see him there in all of his wealth and splendor. He dwells in his fortress. He has armies at his disposal. He could crush you in a moment if he so desired. Is it not helpful to remember that he is just a man? His body will one day go down into the grave just like everyone else? Yes, his tomb may be more elaborate than yours, but his body will decay just the same. 

Now, this observation is not comforting all by itself (more will be said in this Psalm). But it is an important observation, for it puts things in their proper perspective. The wealthy and powerful oppressors are mere men. In fact, they are men with their hopes misplaced. They trust in their power and wealth, but these things will utterly fail them in the end. 

This theme of misplaced trust was introduced to us in the question of verses 5 through 6. “Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?” They trust in their power and wealth, but when we consider the grave we see that their trust is misplaced. This is an important truth for the oppressed to consider. And it is also an important truth for the oppressor to consider. You are merely a man, and one day your will body will go into the grave like all the rest. 

In verse 7 we find this observation: “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.” In other words, though the rich may oppress the poor (by demanding a ransom for their life), the rich  (no matter how rich they are!) will never be able to pay a ransom to God to escape the curse of death. Truly, this observation puts everything into perspective. 

Think of the ultra-wealthy today. Some are worth millions and even billions of dollars. Their power is very great. And yet there is no sum of money that they can pay to escape the curse of death. They may try, but they will surely fail, “for the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23, ESV)

Verse 10: “For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others.” As I have said, death is the great equalizer. One cannot take his wealth with him, though he may try. And the Psalmist says that even the oppressor can see this if he would but open his eyes. 

Verse 11: “Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names.” So there is an irony here. Even the powerful ones who live in lavish homes and have lands named after them will in the end occupy the same amount of real estate as all the rest — their grave.  

Verse 12: “Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish.” “Pomp” here means “splendor”. Even those with splendid power and wealth will not live forever. Like the beasts of the earth, their bodies will also perish and decay. 

Verse 13: “This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah”. The word “path” is important. It refers to a way of life. “This is the [way of life] of those who have foolish confidence…” This word “path” is found throughout the book of Proverbs where the way of wisdom is consistently contrasted with the way of folly. And this word “path” is also found throughout the Psalms where it is often used in the same way. In fact, the first verse of the first Psalm introduced this theme, saying, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way [path] of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…”, etc. 

As I have said, this is a wisdom Psalm. Here the Psalmist is highlighting the folly of this way of life. It is foolish for the wealthy and powerful to set their hope on riches. It is very foolish for them to use their power to oppress the weak. But it is wise for rich and poor alike to remember the grave and live accordingly.    

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Contemplate Sheol (vs. 14-15)

But the grave is not the only thing we must consider. The rich and poor, strong and weak, oppressor and oppressed must also remember Sheol. If we are to live according to wisdom and without fear not only must we contemplate the grave, but also Sheol.

In verse 14 we read, “Like sheep they [that is, the wicked who have trusted in their power and wealth] are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.” This is a very ominous verse but it expresses truths that are very important for us to consider.

Notice that the rich and powerful oppressors are said to be “like sheep”. This is quite a contrast to what they appear to be in the eyes of the oppressed! To the oppressed, they appear to be like strong lions! But in death, they will be like sheep — sheep appointed for Sheol. 

So what is Sheol, or in the Greek language, Hades? Well, it is not the grave. The grave is where the body of man goes after death, but Sheol receives the soul. Sheol is the place where the souls of the dead live. They do not live there bodily, but their souls reside there. 

Prior to the resurrection of Christ from the dead the souls of the righteous and the unrighteous went to Sheol after death, and there they lived. The souls of the wicked were tormented there, whereas the souls of those made right through faith in the promised Messiah were comforted there. And so Sheol was divided into two parts, and a great chasm separated the two parts. Within Sheol, which is the realm of the dead, there was hell and there was also paradise. This is precisely what Jesus described in that story about the rich man and Lazarus which we read from Luke 16:19–31. The unrighteous rich man was tormented in Hades, or Sheol, whereas righteous Lazarus was comforted there at Abraham’s side (or bosom), for Lazarus had the faith of Abraham. 

Now, something did change in Sheol (or Hades) at the time of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The souls of the unrighteous who pass from this world do still go to Sheol and are tormented there, but the souls of the righteous — those who have faith in Christ and are cleansed by his blood — go, not to Sheol, or Abraham’s bosom, to be comforted there as in the former times, but into the blessed presence of God in the heavenly realm. Why the change, you ask? Because Christ has won the victory. He is “the living one. [He] died, and behold [he is] alive forevermore, and [he has] the keys of Death and Hades. [Sheol]” (Revelation 1:18, ESV). “Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men’” (Ephesians 4:8, ESV).

When we read the Psalms we must remember that they were all written prior to the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Therefore, what is said regarding the wicked in Sheol is still true, and it will remain true until the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment when those not in Christ, but in their sins, will be cast into the lake of fire. But what is said regarding the righteous in Sheol, though it was true then, is not true now, for Christ has risen, and he has set those once held captivate free. And this is why in the book of Revelation we see the souls of the righteous worshiping God, not in Abraham’s bosom, but in heaven. So it is true then, for all who have faith in Christ after his resurrection, “to be absent from the body [is] to be present with the Lord” in the heavenly realm (2 Corinthians 5:8, NKJV). 

Back to our text. What is the destiny of the wicked at the time of death? Their bodies go into the grave, and “Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol”. And then we read, “death shall be their shepherd”. Here death is eerily personified as a shepherd. The unrighteous in Sheol are alive in the soul, but death governs them. They live in a continual state of death, and they await eternal condemnation. Again, we are to recognize the contrast. While alive on earth these rich and powerful oppressors appeared to live life to the fullest. But in death, their bodies will go to the grave and their souls will go to Sheol where they will be shepherded by death and covered in darkness. 

Furthermore, we read that “the upright shall rule over them in the morning.” “The morning” may refer to the final judgment, or the morning may refer to the change that occurs when we pass from this life to the next. I think I prefer the second of these two options. But the imagery is very powerful either way. When we pass from this world, and especially at the final judgment, a great change will occur. From the vantage point of the wicked oppressors, they will at the moment of death move from light in this world to the darkness of death, that is, from earthly day to eternal night. But for the oppressed who have taken refuge in the LORD and in his Messiah, at death they will be transferred from the dark night of suffering here on earth to the dawning of the eternal day in the comfort of God. And this is why the text says, “the upright shall rule over them in the morning.” The just and the unjust must always keep this in mind. At the time of death, and especially at the final judgment, there will be the dawning of a new day. For the righteous — that is, for those who have taken refuge in God and in the Christ — it will seem like the morning. The sun will rise upon them, bringing eternal light and comfort. But to the wicked, this new day will seem like nightfall. The sun will set on them never to rise again. Whatever graces of God they enjoyed in this life will melt away and never return. 

Again, note the contrast in our text. Note the reversal of the fortunes, as it were, of the faithful oppressed and the faithless oppressor. As the oppressor moves from day to night, the oppressed who are in Christ will move from the darkness of suffering to the dawning of the day as they pass from this world.

Concerning the faithless and wicked oppressor, the text goes on to say, “their form shall be consumed in Sheol”. This is an interesting expression and one that is hard to translate. I do believe that the context makes it clear what is meant. This verse seems to correspond to verse 12, which said, “Man in his pomp [or spendor] will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish.” That, I believe, is what the word “form” refers to here in verse 14. In Sheol, the external and fleshly pomp and splendor of the wealthy and powerful will be consumed. Their form will melt away, for, as the remainder of verse 14 teaches, in Sheol, there is no place for the form, or external splendor, of the dead to dwell. The fleshly splendor of the powerful and wealthy will all be consumed by death and the grave. Again, the contrast is startling. The reversal of things is very great.

And in verse 15 we find one more statement about Sheol. And it is in this statement that true comfort is delivered to the people of God. Up to this point, we have contemplated what will become of the wicked in Sheol. And yes, we have been told that in Sheol “the upright [would] rule over” the wicked. But true comfort is found in these words: “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah” (Psalm 49:15, ESV)

Those two words, “but God”, are very refreshing, are they not? They grab our attention because they are words of hope. This Psalm is rather dark and ominous in its contemplation of the grave and Sheol. But the words “but God” signal that in God there is hope for man, body and soul. 

The words, “but God”, remind me of what Paul said in Ephesians 2. Speaking to Christians he wrote,  “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:1–6, ESV). The words “but God” are the hinge on which this passage turns from bad news to good. And so it is with Psalm 49. The words “but God” signal that good news is coming — there is true hope and comfort found in God.  

Listen again to the hope of the Psalmist. “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah”

Ransom. Think about that word for a moment. Previously it was said that no man, no matter how rich, could possibly ransom another or give to God the price of his life. We are indebted to God, brothers and sisters. We stand guilty before him. A price must be paid for our sin. And the wages of sin is death. No sum of money will do. But here the Psalmist says, “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol”. God himself must pay the ransom. And notice the faith of the Psalmist! He knew for certain that God would! “God will ransom my soul”, he says. And we know that he has done this very thing through Jesus the Christ in his life, death, burial, and resurrection. Christ has ransomed his people, body and soul. He has paid the price for their sins. As Matthew says, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, ESV). He has ransomed those given to him by the Father. He has rescued his people from Sheol, and he will raise their bodies from the grave at the end of time to bring them healthy and whole into the new creation and into the blessed presence of God forever and ever. “For he will receive me”, the Psalmist says. God will redeem me, and God will receive me. That was his hope, and it is our hope too. 

And so finally we have the answer to the question, why should I fear in times of trouble? The answer is that in Christ we should not! In Christ, we should never fear, even when the strong and powerful oppress us to the point of death. For in Christ God has ransomed us body and soul. And through faith in Christ, he will receive us for all eternity. “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6, ESV).

To some, this may seem like a strange way to answer the question, why should I fear in times of trouble? Many Christians today will not dare answer the question in this way, by contemplating the grave and Sheol and Christ’s victory over it. Instead, many will say, fear not, for God will certainly protect you in this life. He will surely bless you, heal you, preserve you, and keep you from all evil. But this is neither true biblically, nor is it true in reality. Martyrdom is real, friends (consider Christ and his Apostles). And so these unbiblical, naive, and shallow answers to the question, why should I fear?, will not do. They will not bring real comfort in the face of the real trials and tribulations of life. But what will bring real comfort? It is the good news that Christ has won the victory over death, the grave, and Sheol. Indeed, all who are found in him will live in the blessed presence of God forever and ever. This is real comfort. And this must be our decided belief and conviction if we hope to stand in the evil day. 

We teach our children the Baptist Catechism, but there is another very good Catechism that you should be aware of. It is called the Orthodox Catechism. It is the Baptist’s version of another very famous and beloved catechism called the Heidelberg Catechism. Listen to the very first question and answer:

Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.

He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Really, this is our only comfort in life and death. We are not our own, but belong— body and soul, in life and in death— to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Fear Not, For God Has Redeemed You And Will Keep You In Christ, But The Wicked Will Perish  (vs. 16-20)

Let us now very briefly consider the resolution or solution to the question that was raised in verses 5 through 6. I don’t have much to add to the reading of these verses, for they do nicely summarize the observations that have already been made. Why should we fear when the powerful and wealthy rise up to oppress us? We should not. Fear not, brothers and sisters, for God has redeemed you and will keep you in Christ, but the wicked will surely perish.

Verse 16: “Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself— his soul will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again see light. Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” (Psalm 49, ESV)

Here is wisdom for the rich and poor, the powerful and the weak alike. May we all live our lives with the grave and Sheol in mind. And may we be sure to run to God and to his Messiah for refuge, for he has paid our ransom. Through faith in him we find the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of life everlasting in the blessed presence of God. Amen. 

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Psalm 49, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: Psalm 49, Fear Not

Afternoon Sermon: What Is The Eight Commandment And What Does It Require?, Baptist Catechism 78-79, Ephesians 4:25–32

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Baptist Catechism 78-79

Q. 78. Which is the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment is, “Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)

Q. 79. What is required in the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others. (Prov. 27:23; Lev. 25:35; Deut. 15:10; 22:14)

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:25–32

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25–32, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

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Some time ago I was considering the question, is it right to earn a living by gambling? This is probably a bigger issue than we realize. The internet has made it possible for men and women to gamble from the privacy of their own homes, and many in our society do devote substantial time to this. Some even seek to earn a living through gambling, be it online or in person. And so the question is, is it right to earn a living by gambling? 

Most arguments that I have heard against gambling are based on the premise that gambling is not good for the gambler or his family. And that argument may have power against the gambler who is reckless, who gambles away his retirement or the family’s grocery money. But what about the gambler who is careful? What are we to say about the successful gambler — the one who prospers through gambling? Is it right to gamble so long as the gambler is careful, that is, not impulsive or reckless? 

And to be clear, when I say “gamble” I am not using the word as a synonym for “risk”. Life always involves taking risks. Every businessman takes risks. Starting this church ten years ago involved risk. When I speak of “gambling” I am referring to the risk of money in playing games of chance and or skill with the hopes of taking money from others in the process. Is that activity right? Is it right for anyone? And even more specifically, is it right for Christians? Is it right to seek to earn a living by gambling?

It is true, the Bible does not explicitly forbid gambling. And that is why when biblicists (that is, those who believe that in order for something to be “biblical” a verse has to be found which explicitly says it (how biblicists maintain their belief in the Trinity, I do not know) argue against gambling the best they can do is to present that passage wherein the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothes after he was crucified. See, gambling is bad!, they say. But we are not biblicists. We understand that the Bible communities truth, not only by explicitly stating this or that, but also through necessary consequence. In other words, some things must be regarded as true because what is explicitly stated in scripture demands that we come to such and such a conclusion. For example, the scriptures teach that there is only one God. And yet, the Father, Son, and Spirit are called “God”. Therefore, God must be Triune. The Bible never says, “God is Triune”. But what the Bible says about God demands that we believe that God is Triune. 

And so it is with gambling. The Bible never says, “thou shalt not gamble”, but it does have other things to say about how we are to go about procuring wealth, and how we are to respect, and even promote, the wealth of others. When these clear and explicit teachings are considered, it becomes clear that gambling – especially gambling for a living — is a sin. It is not the right way for us to increase our wealth.

Two passages are particularly helpful. 

One, Ephesians 4:28 says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28, ESV). This is the standard for the Christian. In fact, it is the standard for all people, but particularly the Christian. 

How are we to go about increasing our wealth? We are to labor. We are to work. We are to use the gifts that God has given to us — physical gifts, and mental gifts — to earn a living. We are to toil. 

And in fact, the text does not only say that we are to work, but that we are to do “honest work”. So we must admit that not all work is honest work. Let that sink in for a moment. I’m sure you realize that there are some very skilled and hard-working people in the world who make lots and lots of money doing dishonest things. God’s standard for procuring wealth is not only that we “work”, but that we do “honest work”.  

And what is “honest work”? Well, though more could be said, let me say two things. Most obviously, it is work that is not inherently sinful. There are some who work very, very hard, at extorting others, for example. This is not honest work, for the work itself is a violation of God’s law. And secondly, honest work is work that not only takes but gives. Think of that for a moment. The scriptures teach that “The laborer deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18, ESV). And this is the nature of honest work. Honest service is rendered, and a fair and honest wage is given in return. Yes, there are many different kinds of work, and there are many different kinds of wages, but when work is honest, the one who pays the wage walks away happy and satisfied, and not sad.

The gambler may work very hard at his gambling. He may even have the skill to prosper in it. But that does not change the fact that his work is not honest, for when he gambles his objective is only to take, but never to give. And this is why when gamblers stand up to walk away from the table, most walk away disappointed.

Paul says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28, ESV). So you see that Paul’s positive instructions concerning the procurement of wealth through “honest work” are rooted in the eighth of the ten commandments. “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28, ESV).

So gambling for a living is forbidden in the scriptures because it falls short of the standard of procuring wealth through “honest work”, and it is also a violation of the eighth commandment which says, “Thou shalt not steal.” Though the gambler may exert a great deal of effort in his gambling, gambling is not work, properly speaking, for it does not provide a service, it only takes. Properly speaking, gambling is theft. It is consensual theft. When gamblers sit down around a table, either physically or virtually, they are agreeing to do their very best to steal from one another. The objective is to take, but never to give. And that is what thieves do. They wish to take, but never give.

So why have I camped on the subject of gambling? Well, to give you an example of how these ten commandments that we are studying are to be applied in the realm of ethics.

“Thou shalt not steal.” Clearly, this forbids things like putting a piece of candy in your pocket and walking out of the store without paying for it. But the law of God is to be applied more deeply than this, as the passage from Ephesians 4 illustrates. “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28, ESV).  

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Baptist Catechism 79

Let us briefly consider Baptist Catechism 79. 

Q: What is required in the eighth commandment? A. The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others. Notice three things:

One, The word lawful is significant. It means that we are to procure (or obtain) wealth in lawful ways. We must not break the laws of the land, nor the laws of God, to get wealth. 

Two, our catechism teaches that the eighth commandment requires us to procure and further our own wealth and outward estate. This might sound strange to you, but it is true. Yes, the scriptures do warn against the love of money. And yes, they also warn against trusting in riches instead of in the Lord. But they do also command us to use our treasures for the good of others and the glory of God. You should work hard, brothers and sisters, if you are able. And you should seek to advance your outward estate. Be on guard against covetousness. Be on guard against discontentment. But also be on guard against complacency. You must know that the Lord can use your wealth for the furtherance of his kingdom.  Do not be like that wicked servant in the parable who took the talent (a talent was a sum of money) that the Lord had given to him and buried it out of fear of losing it. No, be like the ones who were given 5 and 2 talents. They invested them and made an increase for their master (Matthew 25:14ff.). I think the meaning is this — we are to live fruitful lives to the glory of God. And this applies even to the realm of finances. If we are able to advance our wealth and outward estate through good and honest work, or wise investments, then we should.      

Three, our catechism is right to say that the eighth commandment requires us to seek the procuring and furthering of the wealth of others too. And this is what will happen in societies where men and women are left free to exchange goods and services and are honest in their dealings with one another. Everyone’s wealth will tend to increase. But where there is injustice, favoritism, greed, and dishonesty, the powerful, rich, and well connected will tend to prosper, whereas the weak and marginalized will tend to languish.   

It is a grave mistake to assume that economics is a zero-sum game. In other words, it is a mistake to assume that when one person increases in wealth that others must decrease, as if there always must be winners and losers. Or to state it yet another way, it is wrong to think that for a person to increase in wealth it will require him to take from others and to oppress them. Yes, that is how things go with gambling and thievery. But in fact, it is possible to pursue and increase in your own wealth and to simultaneously seek the increase of the wealth of others too. 

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Conclusion 

As I move now toward the conclusion, let me ask, how might the Christain apply the eighth commandment? Here are some suggestions:

Employers, are you compensating your workers fairly? 

Businessmen and women, are you providing quality goods and services to your customers so that they are getting what they paid for?

Employees, are you giving your employers an honest day’s work? 

Citizens, are you paying taxes to whom taxes are owed?

Friends, do you return things that you borrow in a timely manner? Herman Bavinck mentions this is his book on ethics, and adds “(for instance,  books)”.

Brothers and sisters, are you working hard and managing your money well, to the glory of God?

Little children, do you take things that don’t belong to you?

You know, this is the most basic application of the eighth commandment: don’t take what isn’t rightfully yours. We should learn that lesson when we are young. It is a sin to get into the teacher’s candy jar when she isn’t looking, or to steal from the grocery store. And it is this same principle that is applied to the whole of life. Let us be sure to keep the eighth commandment maturely as adults. 

And finally, if I were to ask you, have you kept this law perfectly?, we would have to say, no we have violated this law in thought, word, and deed. 

Thanks be to God for Christ Jesus who lived and died and rose again so that our sins might be forgiven. 

Q. 79. What is required in the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others. (Prov. 27:23; Lev. 25:35; Deut. 15:10; 22:14) 

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Afternoon Sermon: What Is The Eight Commandment And What Does It Require?, Baptist Catechism 78-79, Ephesians 4:25–32

Morning Sermon: Psalm 38, For You, O LORD, Do I Wait

New Testament Reading: 1 Peter 5:6–11

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:6–11, ESV)

Old Testament  Reading: Psalm 38

“A PSALM OF DAVID, FOR THE MEMORIAL OFFERING. O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath! For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning. For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me. My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off. Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long. But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth. I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes. But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. For I said, ‘Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!’ For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully. Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good. Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!” (Psalm 38, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

Psalm 38 may be categorized as a “Psalm of lament”, or a Psalm of sorrow. This is one of the reasons that the Psalms are so loved. They express the whole range of human emotion. There is a Psalm for every season of life, therefore. There are Psalms of praise, thanksgiving, and confidence. But there are also Psalms of lament. And this is because life is not always easy for God’s people. God’s people do sometimes suffer in this world. There is such a thing as “the dark night of the soul”. And Psalms of lament can help us to run to God in the midst of our suffering. These Psalms may help us to “Humble [ourselves]… under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt [us]”. They help us to cast our anxieties on him, and to remember that he cares for us. 

Notice, this is what David does in Psalm 38. He runs to the Lord in his affliction. After expressing his sorrow he acknowledges God’s presence, saying in verse 9, “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.” And then in verse 15 he reasserts his faith, saying, “But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” As I have said, Psalms of lament show us how to run to God and to wait on the LORD in the midst of our suffering.  

Psalm 38 is a Psalm of lament. But we might classify this Psalm with even greater precision as a “penitential Psalm”. Penitential Psalms are Psalms of repentance (there are seven such Psalms — 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143). As we analyze this Psalm together it will become clear that in this instance David’s suffering had something to do with David’s sin. And so David to runs to God in his suffering, but does also repent. And this is also helpful for the people of God, for God’s people do struggle with sin as they sojourn in this world. And sometimes our sin does bring about suffering. In this Psalm, we learn that even when our suffering is the result of our sin — even as we languish under the chastisement of the Lord —  even still we are to run to God and not from him. 

So, Psalm 38 is a penitential Psalm of lament.

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In Humility Confess Your Sin And Run To The Lord To Receive Mercy And Grace (vs. 1-4)

Look with me now at verses 1 through 4 where the Psalmist says, “O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath! For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.” (Psalm 38:1–4, ESV)

In this instance, David knew that his suffering was the consequence of his sin. What sin of David brought about this suffering? We do not know for sure. The text does not say. Perhaps it was one of the sins of David recorded in the pages of Holy Scripture, or perhaps it was another sin. We simply do not know. But we do know that David was suffering and that David knew that this suffering was the consequence of his sin. 

Sometimes our sins have natural consequences. The sin of lying will often naturally lead to fractured relationships. The sin of fornication may lead to disease. Sin is often accompanied by natural consequences.      

Our sins always have spiritual consequences. When the people of God sin the Spirit of God is grieved within them. Sometimes our sin will lead us into seasons of doubt and despair. 

And sometimes we are able to discern that the suffering we are enduring, be it physical or spiritual,  is in fact God’s discipline upon us. 

Please notice that I said “sometimes”. The scriptures are very clear that not all suffering is the direct consequence of some sin that we have committed. There is a whole book of the Bible that has this as one of its major themes — the book of Job. And certainly, we could pile up examples from scripture and from the history of men and women who suffered in the flesh though they were doing right in God’s sight. Christ is of course the supreme example of this. So it is not always possible to draw a straight line between our suffering and some particular sin that we have committed. Suffering is not always the chastisement of the Lord. Sometimes we simply suffer because we live in a fallen world and because God wishes to refine through the suffering, to bring us some good, and to glorify his name. So we should not assume that every ache and pain, every sniffle, every heartache and sorrow of life is the Lord’s discipline upon us. We may say that it is the Lord’s will, for nothing happens apart from his will (there is purpose and meaning in everything, therefore). And we may say that it is the sanctifying work of the Lord. Yes, the Lord is always sanctifying, or refining, his people. But we must not say that every bit of suffering we endure is the Lord’s chastisement. I think you can see how problematic it would be to think in this way.     

But in this instance (whatever the circumstances were) David was able to draw a straight line between his suffering and his sin. He knew that the Lord was chastising him at this moment. He knew that his affliction was the discipline of the Lord. Hear again verse 3: “There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation [anger]; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.” And in verse 2 David confessed that this suffering was in fact the discipline of the LORD, saying, “For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.” And this is why in verse 1 David cried out for mercy, saying, “O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!” 

We know that God will never pour out his wrath on those he loves, that is, on those who have taken refuge in Christ. But that did not stop David from praying in this way, and neither should it stop us. It is right for us to say, Lord, we know that we deserve your wrath, but have mercy on us for Christ’s sake. Lord, be gracious to us in Jesus’ name. “Rebuke [us] not in your anger, nor discipline [us] in your wrath!” Have mercy Lord. And we know that he will if we are in Christ Jesus, for Christ endured the wrath of God in our place. In Christ, we are washed. In Christ, we are covered. His righteousness has been applied to us through faith.

But never should we forget that God disciplines those he loves. As Hebrews 12:6 says, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6, ESV). We must never forget this. We must never despise the discipline of the Lord. Though it is true that “for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant”, we are to remember that “later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11, ESV). Never will God pour out his wrath on those in Christ, but he will discipline those who are his. 

Here in verses 1 through 4 David confesses his sin and acknowledges that his suffering is the result of his sin. He was experiencing the natural consequences of his actions (whatever they were). And more than this, the LORD was disciplining him through the suffering. 

But do not miss this one fact: David ran to the LORD and not away from him even as endured the LORD’s chastisement. The Psalm begins with the words, “O LORD”. What did David do when the LORD disciplined him? He ran to the LORD and cried out to him for grace and mercy. And here is the difference between the faithful and the unfaithful, the righteous and the wicked. When the wicked endure God’s judgment they flee from the LORD. But those who have been made righteous by the blood of the Lamb endure God’s discipline, they know it is in love, and so they run to the LORD, who is their heavenly Father.  

[SLIDE] And so this is the first point of the sermon for today. When the LORD chastises you, do not run from the Lord, but in humility confess your sin and run to the Lord to receive mercy and grace (vs. 1-4)

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Bring Your Suffering To The Lord, For He Cares For You (vs. 5-8)

Let us go now to verses 5 through 8 where we read, “My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning. For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.” (Psalm 38:5–8, ESV)

So it appears that David was both physically and spiritually afflicted. And this affliction, as I have already said, with the result of sin. Here David says that it was “because of my foolishness”. Sin is foolish. When we sin against God we exchange that which is good, beautiful, and life-giving for that which is ugly, detestable, and leads to death and decay. As David says elsewhere, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul… the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7, 9–11, ESV). Sin is folly. To live in disobedience to God’s commands is to choose the wrong path  — a path that leads only to death and destruction. David had gone down the path of folly. But because David belonged to the Lord, the Lord was faithful to discipline him so as to turn him around so that he might set his feet upon the right path again.    

I will say it again, it would be wrong to interpret every bit of suffering we endure as the Lord chastisement. But it would also be wrong to forget that the Lord does discipline those he loves. When we suffer, we should at least ask the question, what is the Lord teaching us through this suffering? How is he refining me? How is he working to strengthen me? I can tell you for certain that he is always about that work! But we should also ask this question, is there some sin in my life that I have not turned from so that this suffering that I am enduring may in fact be interpreted as the discipline of the Lord? 

There is always sin, brothers and sisters. We always come short of God’s law in thought, word, and deed. And I am not talking about those sins that you struggle with and struggle against. No, I am talking about unrepentant sin. Intentional sin. Sins committed with a high, arrogant, and rebellious hand. I hope you can see the difference. There is a difference between, let’s say, a mother being impatient with her children from time to time, recognizing her fault, confessing it to the Lord to seek his forgiveness and strength, and even asking her children for forgiveness. Did the mother sin when she was harsh with her children? Well, yes. But should we expect the Lord to chastise her? Well, no, for she responded with repentance when the Spirit of God convicted her. She judged herself according to the scriptures, recognized her failure, and amended her ways. This is the Christian life, friends. There is a great difference between that, and the one who professes faith in Christ running headlong into sin without any thought of turning. It breaks my heart to see that as a pastor, but I have witnessed it. And I have also watched the Lord chastise those who belong to him so as to humble them and finally bring them to true repentance.     

We should remember that David did at one point sin in this way. I am thinking here of his sin with Bathsheba. He sinned in a bad way. And for a time he did not acknowledge his sin but instead covered it so as to persist in it. And we know that the Lord brought him low so as to bring him to true repentance. Perhaps that is what Psalm 38 is about, but we do not know for sure.   

And we should remember what Paul said to the Corinthians regarding the connection between their unrepentant sin, the unworthy partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and their sickness. 

In 1 Corinthians 11:27, he says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:27–32, ESV)

So why would the Lord give his children over to the natural consequences of their sin? Why would he chastise them with physical and spiritual afflictions? Doesn’t he love his children? Yes, he loves his children. And we know that he disciplines us because he loves us. He wishes to refine us. He uses afflictions to humble us. He does often wake us up from our sleepy slumber concerning the danger of sin by giving us over to its consequences for a time. 

The thing that I would like for you to see in verses 5 through 8 is that David did not grow hard-hearted and calloused as he endured the Lord’s disciple. [SLIDE] No, he brought his suffering to the Lord, knowing that the Lord cared for him. Not only did David confess his sin, he also confessed his suffering to the Lord in prayer, saying, “My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning”, etc. (Psalm 38:5–8, ESV). And we are to do the same, brothers and sisters. Confess your sins to Lord. Run to him for mercy and grace. And bring your suffering with you to lay it before his feet, knowing that he cares for you. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6, ESV).

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Know That The Lord Is With You in The Midst Of Suffering (vs. 9-14)

In verses 9 through 14 we see that though David knew his suffering was the result of his sin, and though he knew that his suffering was the chastisement of the Lord, he also knew that the Lord was with him. And that is the third point of this sermon: [SLIDE] If you are in Christ you must never forget that the Lord is with you in the midst of suffering. This is true of the suffering that is unrelated to some particular sin. And this is even true of suffering that is the result of sin. If you are in Christ — if you have faith in him — then you must know for certain that the Lord is with you, for he has promised to “never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV). 

Let us now briefly consider verses 9 through 14 and notice that David knew the Lord was near.

In verses 9 we read, “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Psalm 38:9, ESV). In other words, David knew that the Lord was not unaware. He knew that the Lord had not abandoned him, but was there with him. 

In verse 10 he says, “My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me” (Psalm 38:10, ESV). I do not doubt that David was physically afflicted, but what he describes here is spiritual affliction. And this is what sin does to the soul. It hurts the heart, saps our strength, and darkens our outlook.

And in verse 11 David notes that his friends and companions did abandon him in his trial. He says, “My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off” (Psalm 38:11, ESV). This verse is very significant. You should notice that it is at the heart of this Psalm. Also, you should notice that this verse is alluded to in Luke 22:49 which describes the experience of Jesus on the cross with the words, “And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things” (Luke 23:49, ESV). We will return to this observation at the end of this sermon. But for now, notice the contrast. The Lord was faithful to David even as his closest companions failed him. And so it is in life. Many have found that in times of trial and tribulation those who were thought to be friends prove only to be fair-weathered friends. 

Allow me to make a brief point of application before moving on. This must not be the case in Christ’s church. We must be faithful to God and to one another in Christ’s church. This will involve weeping with those who weep. This will involve walking with one another through the trials and tribulations of life. This will even involve patiently enduring one another’s weakness. We must show grace to one another, brothers and sisters. We must love “one another earnestly”, and we know that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV). This does not mean that love ignores sin. Nor does it mean that love tolerates unrepentant sin. No, unrepentant sin is not to be tolerated within Christ’s church. But it does mean that we are to forgive one another, bear with one another, be patient with one another, and walk alongside those who are suffering — yes, even if the suffering is self-induced. 

David’s friends abandoned him, but the Lord did not.

And then in verse 12, David mentions his enemies. “Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long” (Psalm 38:12, ESV). David’s enemies looked to capitalize on his weakness to overthrow him.

And finally, in verses 13 and 14 David describes his response.“But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth. I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes”. So weak was he that he could not respond. 

But again, the point is that David knew the Lord was with him. He was so very weak that he could not even speak in his own defense. His enemies were plotting against him. His friends had abandoned him. But he knew for certain that the Lord was with him. “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you”, he says. 

And this should bring great comfort to all who are in Christ Jesus. You must not interpret the trials and tribulations of life to mean that God has abandoned you. No, if you are in Christ, then God cannot abandon you, for he has determined to set his love upon you. This he has done, not because he regarded you as worthy, but according to his good pleasure. If he set his love upon you because he regarded you as worthy, then I suppose he could remove his love if you began to walk in an unworthy manner. But this is not the case. God has determined to set his love upon you, not because of anything in you, but according to the good pleasure of his will. He has set his love upon you, he has justified you, and he is sanctifying you, not because of your own merits, but because of Christ’s merit. And God is faithful. He will never leave you nor forsake you, for he has promised.

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Have The Lord As Your Only Hope (vs. 15-22)

Lastly, in verses 15 through 22 we find a most wonderful expression of faith. David’s hope was in the Lord and in the Lord only. And this must be true for you and me. [SLIDE] We must have the Lord as our only hope.

Listen carefully to his words: “But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. For I said, ‘Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!’ For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully. Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good. Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!” (Psalm 38:15–22, ESV)

The question that I have is, where did David get this confidence? What made him think that he could cry out to God for mercy as he did in this Psalm. After all, he admits that his suffering was due to his sin. He deserved it, in other words. So on what basis did he plead for mercy, saying in verse 1, “O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!” Where did he get the confidence that the Lord was with him, saying in verse 9, “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.” And why would he set his hope so firmly on the Lord, saying in verse 15, “But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” And on what basis does he make his final appeal in verses 21 and 22, saying, “Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!”

The basis cannot be his own righteousness, for he admits that he had none. It was his own sin that brought this misery upon him. The basis for his hope could only be the gospel. David knew that the LORD was gracious. He knew that the LORD had promised to forgive all of his sins in the Messiah. He understood that the Lord was his salvation. And so he ran to the Lord for refuge, knowing that “blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12, ESV).

Conclusion

I have told you before that the Psalms are all about Jesus the Christ. Yes, Psalm 38 was about David and his experience. We cannot ignore that. And yes, Psalm 38 does apply to us. We have experienced similar things, have we not? But above all, this Psalm is about Jesus the Christ. 

Notice two things: 

One, David could not appeal to God for mercy as he did, not have confidence that God was with him, not have the hope that the Lord was his Savior, apart from promises of God concerning a coming Messiah who would atone for all his sins. So in this sense Psalm 38 is about Jesus. The Christ is revealed here in this Psalm, for it is in Christ that David hopes. 

Secondly, this Psalm is about Jesus the Christ for Jesus experienced what David experienced but on a higher level and without committing sin. Jesus suffered as David suffered. Indeed, the very wrath of God was poured out on Jesus. He was abandoned by his friends. His enemies sought his destruction. And he did also trust in the Lord, just as David did. But Jesus the Christ is different in this respect — he suffered, not for his own sin, but for the sins of others. The sins of his elect were imputed to him, he endured the wrath of God (the wrath that David and you and I deserve), his friends abandoned him, his enemies prevailed over him, he died and was buried, but on the third day he rose again in victory, for he had earned our salvation. This Psalm is about Jesus. Every word spoken by David could be spoken by Jesus the Christ with the exception of these: “there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head”, “My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness”, and “I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.” But even these words, which belong properly only to David, and which may also belong to us, still illuminate the Christ, for they show that he suffered for sin — not his own sin, but the sins of those given to him by the Father — David’s sin, yours and mine, and all who will run to Christ the Savior for refuge.  

Read the Psalm again today, but read as if uttered by Christ, and you will see what I mean. With the exception of the confession of personal sin, these are the words of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of God. And then labor to make this connection: these could only be the words of King David because they would also be the words of King Jesus. In other words, David, the anointed King, could only make this expression of hope as he suffered for his own sin because he knew that the Christ, God’s anointed one, would suffer in his place and atone for his sins to provide salvation for him.    

So let me conclude with four very brief suggestions for application. 

First of all, as you reflect upon Psalm 38 I pray that you are moved to carefully avoid sin seeing that sin does lead only to death and destruction. Up to this point, I have not said anything about the title of this Psalm. The ESV renders it, “FOR THE MEMORIAL OFFERING”. The KJV and NKJV say, “To Bring to Remembrance”. I think that is more the point. In Psalm 38 David remembers his sin, its destructiveness, and how the Lord was faithful to preserve and refine him through suffering. May we learn something from David’s remembrance. And may we also be disciplined to remember our own past. Do not forget how destructive sin is, brothers and sisters. Avoid it! But also, do not forget the faithfulness of the Lord. He is faithful to discipline those he loves.

Secondly, if you are in Christ Jesus, united to him by faith, may I exhort you to patiently endure suffering knowing that the Lord is with you? He is working to refine you through suffering, he will keep you, and in due time he will lift you up. The title of this sermon is, “For you, O LORD, do I wait”. And this is drawn from verse 15 where David says, “But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer” (Psalm 38:15, ESV). As God’s children, we must learn to wait patiently on the Lord and to know that God will answer. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…” (1 Peter 5:6, ESV).

Thirdly, may I exhort you to patiently endure the Lord’s chastisement. When God disciplines you, turn from the sin, brothers and sisters. Run to God through faith in Christ. And once there, wait on him. Endure his discipline knowing that he disciplines those he loves. Do not misinterpret the discipline of the Lord. If you are in Christ then God will discipline you because he loves you. This is a truth that is learned in homes where fathers and mothers are faithful to discipline their children in love. The children in homes like these learn from a young age that discipline and love are not contradictory. But I’m afraid that those who have grown up in abusive homes, or in homes where “love” meant “no discipline”, may have a more difficult time understanding this marvelous truth. They will have to learn it from the scriptures and in the church. God disciplines those he loves. The faithful know this. And they will run to God and not from him when he disciplines.      

Fourthly, and lastly, if you have not believed upon Christ for the forgiveness of you sin then I must plead with you to flee to Christ for refuge today. Yes, God is love. He is merciful, gracious, and kind. But if we are to come to him and stand right before him,  we must come to him through faith in the Savior that he has provided. Jesus taught this saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). And in John 3:16-18 the matter is stated most clearly: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16–18, ESV). Friends, we must run to Christ for refuge, for there is refuge found in no other but him.  

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: Psalm 38, For You, O LORD, Do I Wait


"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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