Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 18:1-5 (21:1-7); Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 or Exodus 19:2-8a; Psalm 100; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
Trust the Lord.
Is anything too hard for the Lord? (Genesis 18:14).
We need to hear these words as God’s call to greater faith.
Sarah, like Abraham, had heard God’s promises, yet ‘she laughed to herself’ (Genesis 18:12).
We can hear God’s Word, and still remain, in our hearts, men and women of unbelief. The Word of God does not benefit us when we do not receive it with faith (Hebrews 4:2).
God knows what is in our hearts, just as He knew what was in Sarah’s heart (Genesis 18:13-15). He knows the human heart, ‘deceitful above all things’ (Jeremiah 17:9), yet He continues to love us. He does not give up on us. He perseveres with us. He could have given up on Sarah as a hopeless waste of His time, but He did not.
‘The evil heart of unbelief’ is always with us, but God is constantly at work to create in us ‘a clean heart’ (Hebrews 3:12: Psalm 51:10). 'Soften my heart, Lord’ (Mission Praise, 606).
We have here the contrast between Isaac, the child of promise, and Ishmael, the fruit of unbelief. Ishmael was born as a result of impatience, the failure to wait upon the Lord. In the birth of Isaac, the initiative belonged with God, and the glory belonged to Him.
In Christ, we are the children of promise - ‘children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:13).
God did not forget Ishmael. There were blessings for him (Genesis 21:17-21).
The difference between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between common grace and saving grace.
Many people know much of the grace of God in ‘the common things of life’ (Church Hymnary, 457). There are so many blessings for them to count. Still they fail to appreciate God’s greatest gift - His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thank God for this and that and... Jesus!
Love the Lord.
‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’ (Psalm 116:1-2).
Our love for God is to be a lifelong life. It is to be the love of our life.
What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’ (Psalm 117:2).
When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us.
When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us.
He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak.
In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength. Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’ (Church Hymnary, 450).
Obey the Lord.
Before law, there is Gospel - what God has done for us (Exodus 19:4).
We are to obey in the Spirit of grace, as those who have been redeemed by His mercy (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9-10).
God’s Word is not only for the leader. It is for the whole people of God (Exodus 19:3, 7, 9, 11).
God speaks to us concerning possession, consecration and reverence.
* Possession - We are His 'own possession' (Exodus 19:5). In love, He has claimed us for Himself. We belong to Him.
* Consecration - God is holy. We are to be holy (Exodus 19:10, 14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
* Reverence - Don’t rush into God’s presence, presuming on His blessing. We must not take God’s blessing for granted. That would be arrogance (Exodus 19:21-22).
We must come to Him with this humble confidence: God will bless those who truly call upon Him (2 Chronicles 7:14-16).
May God help us to say, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (Exodus 19:8).
Worship the Lord.
‘Exalt the Lord our God ... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4, 6; 100:1).
We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him.
* In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy! ... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9).
* In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’(100:5; 98:1).
The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’
Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).
Rejoice in the Lord.
God has great things in store for His people!
(a) ‘Much more’ (Romans 5:9-10): ‘Justified by Christ’s blood’, ‘reconciled to God’, ‘We shall be saved by Christ from the wrath of God’, ‘saved by His life.’
(b) ‘Much more’ (Romans 5:15, 17): ‘The grace of God’ has ‘abounded for many’. In Christ, we have ‘received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness.’ Through Him, we shall ‘reign in life.’
(c) ‘More than that’ (Romans 5:3): Our pathway to eternal glory will not be easy. There will be ‘suffering.’ God has given us a glimpse of our eternal destiny: ‘grace reigning through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 5:21). ‘We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God’ (Romans 5:2). Having caught sight of the heavenly and eternal glory, we see our ‘suffering’in a new light, the light of ‘God’s love’ (Romans 5:3-5).
Serve the Lord.
In Jesus’ miracles, we see Him triumph over sin, death and hell.
As well as healing, there is forgiveness (Matthew 9:5-6), the raising of the dead (Matthew 9:18, 24-25) and the casting out of demons (Matthew 9:33).
The Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) did not like what was happening, and they came up with their own explanation - ‘He casts out demons by the prince of demons’ (Matthew 9:34). Jesus gives us another, better, explanation: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...’ (Luke 4:18-19).
Jesus was sent to preach the Gospel. We are to bring the Gospel to other people. Jesus was 'teaching... preaching... and healing' (Matthew 9:35).
What opportunities there are to bring the healing power of Christ into many hearts and homes! These opportunities will be missed if ‘the labourers’ remain ‘few’ (Matthew 9:37). Many are ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’(Matthew 9:36). We must not fail them!
Jesus gave authority to His disciples (Matthew 10:1). He gives authority to us. It is the authority of the Word and the Spirit - ‘you will be given what to say’ by ‘the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’ (Matthew 10:20).
Christ’s disciples were being trained for a great work to be done in the Name and the Power of the Lord (Matthew 28:18-20).
If we are to communicate the Word in the power of the Spirit, we need to see our life as life in the Spirit and life under the Word. Scripture calls us to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18) and to ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’ (Colossians 3:16). To be filled with the Spirit is to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. To let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is to be filled with the Spirit. We are to live in the power of the Spirit. We are to live in accordance with the Scriptures.