Second Reformed Church is an ancient-future community at 132 Elmwood Ave, Irvington, New Jersey 07111. We are members of the Reformed Church in America. We exist to glorify God, preach and teach the Bible alone, and spread the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ Alone. Worship is held every Sunday (D.V.) at 10:30 AM. Please call 973-373-4525 for our current schedule of events. The secretary is in the office on Thursdays from 10 AM to 12 PM.
Today is Christ the King Sunday,
and, I believe, for the first time, I was asked this week why this is Christ
the King Sunday – after all, isn’t Christ the King and Sovereign over all of
Creation all the time?Why is this day –
the Sunday before Advent considered – specially – as Christ the King Sunday?
I thought that was a worthy question
and looked it up:in 1925, Pope Pius XI
instituted Christ the King Sunday as the Sunday before Advent because he was
concerned that – especially after WWI –people were not remembering that Jesus is the King and Sovereign over
everything that happens in history.Pope
Pius XI instituted the day to remind people of three things:first, the Church is to be free of interference
from the state, second, the nations are to respect the teachings of the Church,
and third, the faithful are to remember and seek to see Christ reign in their
heart, soul, mind, and body.
And we might question this celebration,
because we are not a Roman Catholic Church – which is true – we are a
Protestant Church, but the fact of the matter is that Pope Pius XI was right on
this point:Jesus is the Sovereign Ruler
and King of the Creation, and we need to remember that and seek to live under
His Reign in all aspects of our lives.
And so we look at this fact, as we
turn to the book of Daniel, and specially, part of one of his visions in the
seventh chapter of Daniel.Daniel was
one of the young, intelligent, possibly upper class people brought into Babylon
during the Babylonian exile.And we are
told at the beginning of the seventh chapter of Daniel, that this vision took
place during the first year of the reign of Belshazzar – which would have been
about 553 BC – not long before the Persian conquest of the Babylonian Empire
and the return of the remnant to Israel.
As the vision begins, God tells
Daniel to encourage the people, because four kingdoms would arise after the
Babylonians, and then ten after the four, and then one which would strike down
three of the ten.We are not going to
spend time on which kingdoms these were, except to say that the Reformed
understanding is that the final kingdom – and its splinter kingdoms – were the
This has been the story and the
promise from the beginning:God told the
serpent in the Garden, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and
between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you
shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, ESV).From the beginning – believers – the Church – would be at war with the
forces of evil in all their varieties – human, animal, and supernatural.
David noted:“The wicked draw the sword and bend their
bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright;” (Psalm
37:14, ESV).All evil and violence that
comes against true believers in God and His Savior come because those who do
not believe and worship God hate Him and all those who follow Him.
Paul explained:“For we do not wrestle against flesh and
blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic
powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the
heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).Evil is real and we – as believers – as the Church – are called to fight
against it – by following God – by becoming more like Jesus – until He returns
to restore the Creation.
We are not called to create a
militia – we are not called to take up the weapons of this world to kill what
we perceive to be evil in the flesh, but we are called to follow our King and
Savior in all He has called us to do and be, and the Holy Spirit will work
through us to the Glory of God.As Paul
wrote – quoting Jesus, “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if
he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap
burning coals on his head’ (Romans 12:20, ESV).
So, let us note, first, this
morning, that the Church is to be militant – we are to fight against all those
things which oppose God in the world – and in ourselves, as we seek to kill off
the last vestiges of sin in ourselves, but we are called to fight God’s way –
acknowledging and clinging to the hope that we have that the work is finished
through Jesus and the war is won.
After seeing the kingdoms that would
come forth in history – the kingdoms that would oppress believers in the Gospel
of God – God revealed something else to Daniel – a message of hope:
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and
the Ancient of Days took his seat; his
clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels
were burning fire.A stream of fire
issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten
thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and
the books were opened.”
Daniel saw a vision of God seated on
a throne – symbolizing His Authority and Power over all Creation.He was pure white in clothing and visage –
symbolizing His Holiness.And fire came
out from before Him – symbolizing purity in Himself and in the work that He is
doing.God is purifying the world and
will bring it to pure holiness and purity on the last day.
And all the holy angels and the
creatures of heaven – all those who have served God in holy obedience from the
beginning, stood before Him – as they do now – and worshipped Him.And then the court sat in judgment on the
world, and God opened the books to judge.
Understand, the book is symbolic of
God keeping a record – that God does not miss anything – that God’s Knowledge
is complete and perfect about everything and everyone that ever is and will
be.God does not have a bad memory, such
that He would need notes, but He has proof of all that He says and does, so
that His Judgment is Righteous and True.God does not make mistakes, and God will not let one stray sin escape
The prophet, Micaiah echoed Daniel
when he said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on
his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand
and on his left;” (1 Kings 22:19, ESV).
And John, in the book of Revelation
– which is a collection of visions, symbolizing both the persecution of the
Church – which we will not escape – and the Great Hope we have in our Holy
God:“Then I saw a great white throne
and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no
place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before
the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the
book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according
to what they had done” (Revelation 20:11-12, ESV).
Daniel’s vision continued as those
who hate God, symbolized by the final horn, continued to object and blaspheme
God:“I looked then because of the sound
of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was
killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for
the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were
prolonged for a season and a time.”
And so, Daniel emphasized the hope
to the captives – the enemies of God will not win out – God is victorious over
His enemies.But the victory will come
in stages.God will bring about His
Glory and His Victory over all sin and evil in His Time.So, yes, believers – the Church – will
continue to suffer in many ways until the end, but we are to stand strong in
the Hope that we have – that when the end comes – there will be no question of
Who the Victor is.We are called to
endure patiently through this life and look to God Alone through Christ Alone
for our Hope that God in the Person of Truth has done everything necessary to
save everyone who will ever believe in Him and to deliver them into His
Glorious Kingdom for all of eternity.
Paul wrote about this time: “Then
comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying
every rule and every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24, ESV).
And John likewise wrote, “The
nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and
for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your
name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Revelation
And so, the second thing we should
note this morning is that the Church – all believers through time and space –
will be triumphant to the endless ages of eternity.How?
Daniel’s vision continued:“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with
the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the
Ancient of Days and was presented before him.And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples,
nations, and languages should
serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and
his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
Jesus’ favorite way of speaking of
Himself was the title, “Son of Man.”And
we might wonder about that:why didn’t
Jesus just come out and say that He is God the Messiah, the King?Why did Jesus use the title, “Son of Man”?
One reason He called Himself “Son of
Man” was to acknowledge – to make sure everyone understood that He is a real
human being.Jesus had to be a real
human being in order to live under God’s Law as a human being – and secure righteousness
for us – and He had to be a real human being to take our place under God’s Judgment
and Wrath for the sins of everyone who would ever believe.
Jesus knew that Levitical
Sacrificial System and its animals could not rightly and fully take the place
of a human – as we have seen in our look at the book of Hebrews.He also knew that some of the main heresies
that would come into the Church would be those which denied that He is a real
Yet, as we see in Daniel’s
vision:the Son of Man is not merely a
human being – He is the One to Whom God gave Glory and the Kingdom – the
Everlasting Kingdom which can never end or be defeated, as all the merely
earthly kingdoms would be crushed by God.He is the One to Whom God said all peoples, nations, languages would worship.He is the One Who would sit on His father,
David’s, throne for all of eternity and rule over all of Creation.
As Paul wrote:“Therefore God has highly exalted him and
bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every
tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians
And, “for it is written, ‘As I live,
says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to
God.’So then each of us will give an
account of himself to God”
So, Jesus, the Son of Man, is also
the Almighty God.
Jesus did not come – the first time
– blazing His Divinity to the world, but came quietly.Yet, there were times when He revealed
Himself and acknowledged that He is, indeed, the Almighty God.
When Jesus was on trial and asked if
He was the Christ – the Messiah – the Savior – God Incarnate, “Jesus said to
him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Matthew
26:64, ESV).And let us understand, the
phrase “you have said so” is an expression which means, “You’re right – you hit
the nail on the head – that is exactly Who I am.”
And John confirms that He is not
merely the Son of Man, but the judge of humanity:“And he has given him authority to execute
judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27, ESV).Because Jesus is the God-Man, God Incarnate,
He has the authority – the right – as the Promised Savior – to judge every
Jesus, Himself, confessed:“since you have given him authority over all
flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal
life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have
sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me
to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I
had with you before the world existed” (John 17:2-5, ESV).
And so we see, third, that the
Church is triumphant because Jesus is the Triumphant Son of Man, the Almighty
God, Who lived and died for all those Who would ever believe.That is our hope, and He is our comfort as we
look forward to His Return.
John wrote of Jesus’ Return – which
will not be a joy for everyone:
“Then I looked, and behold, a white
cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on
his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand” (Revelation 14:14, ESV).Jesus will not return as a helpless baby, but
as the Warrior King – Christ the King – the Son of Man.
“Then I saw thrones, and seated on
them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls
of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of
God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not
received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and
reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, ESV).
For all we who believe in Jesus
Alone for salvation, the return of our King will be a day of joy – all evil and
sin will be banished from His and our presence.Our fighting against sin and evil in the world and in our selves will
end, and we will enter into His Kingdom, and hear these words:“Then the King will say to those on his
right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared
for you from the foundation of the world’” (Matthew 25:34, ESV).
“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say
to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne,
you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve
tribes of Israel’” (Matthew 19:28, ESV).
“’Then the seventh angel blew his
trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the
world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign
forever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15, ESV).
As long as we live on this earth and
before Jesus, our King, the Son of Man returns, we have to keep fighting by
spreading the Gospel and following Him in faith and obedience.We must run from temptation and confess our
sin and rely on God the Holy Spirit Who lives in us to continue forward until
Jesus returns for us.
And we do so filled with hope,
knowing that the Church is triumphant to the endless ages of eternity – in
through the gates of His Kingdom fully come.Because God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, the Son of Man, lived
a perfect life under God’s Law, died for the sins of everyone who would ever
believe, and physically rose from the dead, after which He ascended back to His
Throne and reigns King of Kings and Lord of Lords over all of Creation, forever
As we soon enter the Advent season,
we remember these words summarizing the Scripture from the “Hallelujah Chorus”:
the lord God omnipotent reigneth (Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah) Hallelujah
kingdom of this world; is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ and
of His Christ
He shall reign for ever and ever And he shall reign forever and ever
he shall reign forever and ever And he shall reign forever and ever
of kings forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah and lord of lords forever and
ever hallelujah hallelujah.”
King and Son of Man, we rejoice and give thanks knowing that You are God and
Sovereign over everything that is.Strengthen us as we continue to fight in Your Name to become more like
You and to spread Your Holy Gospel.Give
us the grace we need through the Sacrament we shall receive.Assure us that You are victorious, so we
shall be victorious, and our future with You in the Kingdom is Hallelujah and
Amen.For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray,
This is Thanksgiving Sunday, and we
are looking back about three thousand years in history to an event – a
thanksgiving – that occurred by a certain women named Hannah.
there was a man from Ephraim named Elkanah, and he had two wives:Hannah and Peninnah.Elkanah had several children by Peninnah, but
Hannah was barren, and Peninnah took every opportunity to rub that fact in
loved Hannah, and though he provided for Peninnah and her children by him, he
gave a double portion to Hannah, which made Peninnah all the more bitter and
vicious towards Hannah.
was a righteous man and went to offer up sacrifices at Shiloh once a year.And one year, Hannah broke down in the Temple
and cried with great abandon and mouthed the words of her prayer to the Lord
asking that He grant her a son.And she
promised that if a son were born to her, she would give the son to the Lord and
to the work of the Temple under the high priest, Eli.
Lord honored her prayer and she became pregnant and bore the prophet,
Samuel.When the baby was weaned, she
brought him to the Temple at Shiloh and presented him to Eli, and prayed the
prayer of thanksgiving that we read this morning.
And Hannah prayed and said, “My
heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my
enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.”
Notice first that Hannah gives
thanks to God because He has lifted up her heart, He lifted up her strength,
and He gave her salvation.
Hannah recognized that the work
which was done in her – in bearing Samuel the prophet – was the work of God –
God opened her womb and caused her to bear, through the love of Elkanah, a
son.She recognized that God was her
strength – not beating out Peninnah in bearing children, but in being the
servant of God in His Time and according to His Will.And she recognized that salvation is the Gift
of God, as He wills to give it.And
because all these things are true, she spoke of her enemies with contempt and
And we might scrunch up our faces at
that and wonder – she joyfully looked on her enemies with contempt because of
these things?Was she sinning?No.
Hannah submitted to the Sovereignty
of God, acknowledging that everything that happened to her – and especially the
answering of her prayer for a son – was in the Providence and Wisdom of
God.She humbly submitted herself to
God’s Will and rejoiced in Him, looking on all those who oppose God and His
Will with contempt.
Hannah gives a living example of
rejoicing in God’s Will and hating what God hates.Likewise, as we rejoice in God and His Will –
and all things about God – Who He is – His Attributes – we are to despise sin –
all those things which are against God’s Will and all those things which
neglect to follow God’s Will.
We are called to rejoice in Who God
is and what He has done and those who are obedient and faithful in following
Him.As we pray, “your will be done, on
earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10b, ESV).We are to rejoice and give thanks to God as we see His Will done – like
the creatures of Heaven – who in perfect obedience – follow God.We are to rejoice as we see God – in His
Grace and Mercy – call the elect and cause them to believe and follow Him in
faithful obedience – and we are to rejoice as we see God meet out justice and
strike down all those things which oppose Him.
And again, we may be scrunching up
our faces at giving thanks for God’s Justice and crushing sin and evil and
death and all those who oppose Him.Yet,
Jesus quoted David, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I
put your enemies under your feet”’?
22:44, ESV).And Paul encouraged the
Romans as he wrote:“The God of peace
will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be
with you” (Romans 16:20, ESV).
We can understand hating sin, but not
hating the sinner.We say, “Hate the sin
and love the sinner.”And that is true
to the extent that we cannot see the heart – we have no idea who the elect of
God are and what God has chosen to do with any individual person.It is possible – for example – if Hitler
repented and believed in Jesus Alone for salvation before he died – he will be
in the Kingdom.Only God knows the heart
of the individual and a person’s state of belief and faith at death.We know that only those who believe the Gospel
will be saved – justified – made right with God.We know what God has called sin, but we
cannot – with surety – say any specific person is in Hell (except those God
names in the Scripture).
The point here is not that Hannah
was rejoicing in the condemnation of any specific person – though we likely
jump to Peninnah who had been so cruel to Hannah – but that – in the Kingdom,
we will be able to rejoice in God’s Justice as He punishes those who die in a
reprobate state.Somehow, we will be
able to know that myriads of people are suffering eternal Hell and rejoice
because that suffering proves the Holy Justice of God.
Second, Hannah gives thanks to God
because God Alone is Holy:“There is none holy like the LORD: for there
is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance
come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions
The Name of the Lord Alone is to be
hallowed.We pray:“hallowed be your name”
Heidelberg Catechism (cf. Q&A 122) explains that this means that we are
to rightly recognize – understand – Who God is.We are to look to the Scripture and understand the God Who is.And as we rightly understand Who He is, we
are to respond by glorifying God – by showing Who He is to the world – pointing
out the Sovereign Beauty of the One Holy God.We are to present Who He is – and especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ
– that the world would hear and believe – according to the Providence of God –
that His Power and Mercy and Goodness and Justice and Truth would be clearly
displayed throughout the world – through history – and in individual lives.
Secondly, it means that we are to
change ourselves – that – in everything we do – we do not blaspheme the Name of
God – we do not bring shame or dishonor or disrepute to the God Who has granted
us salvation, but, instead, that we would do everything with the end that
people would look at us and give praise to God for Who He is – because –
ultimately – life and death and salvation are primarily about God and Who He is
– not about us.God has chosen us to
present the Gospel to the world, because it can be seen clearly through us and
in us, because its holiness and purity shines out distinctly from our partly
Hannah continues confessing in thanksgiving
that her security is in this Holy God because He is strength personified and
unchanging.James reminds us:“Every good gift and every perfect gift is
from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change”(James 1:17,
ESV).We can trust and hope in Him
because He cannot change – there is no other God like Him – He is the strength
and security of our salvation forever.
Therefore, she tells those who do
not believe to watch what they say – literally, the text says “don’t let words
fly out of your mouth like a swarm of locusts.”Watch what you say – especially if you don’t believe, because God is
coming as judge – the God of Knowledge – Who will judge our works – including
everything we have said.(For the
believer – for the Christian – this judgment is not about salvation – our salvation
is through Jesus Alone – through what He did – but there is a judgment of all
yet to come – and those who do not believe will have not an excuse – no
salvation – from what they have said – especially as they have blasphemed the
Holy Spirit by not believing in Jesus Alone for salvation.)
Third, Hannah gives thanks to God
because He is the God Who does as He wills with all of Creation:with kings and kingdoms – the God Who gives strength
to those who are – literally – “stumbling to ruin.”
bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength.Those who were full have hired themselves out
for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.The barren has borne seven, but she who has
many children is forlorn.The LORD kills
and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings
low and he exalts.He raises up the poor
from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with
princes and inherit a seat of honor.For
the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and on them he has set the world.”
know this text is not merely about Hannah and her situation.She did not bear seven children, but
six.She did not become wealthy.And so forth.This is a picture of how God moves the world and its people to
accomplish His Will.
Nebuchadnezzar – king ofthe Babylonian
Empire – confessed, “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes
to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and
praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting
dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the
inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his
will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none
can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:34-35, ESV).
Paul reminded the Romans:“Let every
person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority
except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore
whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who
resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1-2, ESV).
God is not a god who created and walked away to allow whatever happens to
happen.Our God is the God Who is intimately
involved in every aspect of our lives.He set our leaders in place – no one has ever held a position of
authority that God did not put there – for our good or our ill – according to
His Providence.The outcome of every
election, every war, and every interpersonal relationship was planned out by
God from the beginning.
choses the life we will have – the life by which He has chosen to bring glory
to Himself – and that we might see Him and give thanks to Him and rely on Him
through our lives.You and I are not
where we are and what we are by accident – God – the Loving Father of all those
who believe has put you were you are for a purpose.
week we looked at the idea of stewardship – how are we using all that God has
given to us to glorify Him?Do you have
joy in your life?Notice I didn’t ask if
you are happy – there are many reasons not to be happy every day – but are you
joyful?Does God and the knowledge of
Him and the fact that He is intimately involved with every moment and every
action in your life give you joy that leads to thanksgiving to God?
same God is the God of life and death – no one can be born and no one can die
and no one can raise from the dead except the Word come from the Mouth of
God.Two weeks ago we looked at the
raising of Lazarus, and we saw that Martha believed in the resurrection that
will come at the end of days before the restoration of the world.But she missed the point of Who Jesus
is:and He told her, “I am the
resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he
live,” (John 11:25, ESV).Life and death
and resurrection are not merely events – they are a Person.God Incarnate, Jesus, is the Resurrection and
the Life – by Him Alone does a person enter life, die, and will be raised.Again, Paul writes, “I tell you this,
brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the
perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not
all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an
eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be
raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:50-52, ESV).
same God lifts up the broken, the repentant, the helpless, and gives them a
seat of honor, because everything is God’s.Abraham Kuyper once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole
domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does
not cry: 'Mine!'"If you are His
son or daughter – that is a reason to give thanks, is it not?That our Father and our Savior is Lord and
Owner of all?
Hannah gave thanks because God Alone is Savior:“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be
cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail.The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken
to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven.The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he
will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
have a saying, “God is the Father of all humankind” – that’s not true.God is the God and Creator of all humankind,
but He is only Father and Savior to those Who believe in Him Alone for
salvation – in the Savior that He sent to save us from the Wrath of God.
guards the feet of His faithful ones – God will not allow one of those He has
elected to be His be lost.Jesus –
praying to His Father and the Father of all those who believe in Him Alone for
salvation prayed, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you
have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except
the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12,
ESV).If God has saved you through faith
in Jesus Alone, nothing you ever do can make Him lose you – He has paid the debt
for all of your sins and credited you with His Righteousness, so you can come
before the Father boldly – as a child.
who never believe – those who have fooled themselves about what they believe –
God will cast them into outer darkness.Jesus – referring to those who put their faith in their biological
heritage as Jews – said, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and
recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while
the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place
there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:11-12, ESV).Jesus used the expression “outer darkness”
again and again – those who do not believe in Him Alone for salvation will be
cast into a place of eternal suffering – there are a number of images used for it
– but, in the end, it means a place where they will suffer in body and mind and
heart and soul for all of eternity – because they blasphemed the Holy Spirit by
not believing in the Savior God sent.
are to preach the Gospel in thanks for our salvation – and everyone that God
intended throughout time and space to believe will believe.But the others will not – and those, God will
take vengeance upon.Hannah reminds us that
God will take their bodies and smash them to pieces and thunder through them in
will judge and welcome His sons and daughters into His Kingdom forever – not
based on anything we did or did not do, but solely on the merits of Jesus.But those who choose to go their own way, God
will not recognize them – and He will cast them out.
thanksgiving for Samuel ends with the promise that God “will give strength to
his king and exalt the power of his anointed.”And certainly we can see God working through the people that God sets up
in power to rule on the earth.But
Hannah is seeing even further than mere human leaders to God’s King – to God’s
Anointed – to the Messiah – the Christ.
believed and looked forward in thanks to the day when the promised Savior – the
Anointed King of God – would come to earth.This King would come about a thousand years later and reveal His Glory
and Power in a way that caused many to believe – and still causes many to
as we acknowledge as we receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper – He is
coming back with the veil fully pulled back and the rod of the King in His Hand
to judge the world.“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son
of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the
Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he
will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his
elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew
thanksgiving for the gift of her son reminds us of many reasons to be thankful:
salvation is from God Alone – we don’t – and can’t – earn salvation – it is the
Gift of God.
is the One Holy God – and we are called to point to His Holiness.
is the Sovereign Ruler, Owner, and Creator of all – and if we are His, we can
trust Him to provide for all of our needs, and we can trust Him enough to
steward everything He gives us.
Gift of salvation cannot be lost – because God earns it Himself and gives it to
whomever He will.
Justice will come to all of Creation – for the joy of some and the terror of
is Jesus Christ, Who does not condemn us, but saves us by His Mighty Right Arm.
Paul wrote, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can
be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how
will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any
charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ
Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right
hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the
love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being
killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in
all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am
sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor
things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all
creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our
Lord” (Romans 8:31-39, ESV).
are you thankful for?
You, O Lord, we give thanks:for life,
for salvation, for being God, for all the ways in which You have revealed
Yourself to us, and especially through You Son.Make us truly thankful, and may our thanks be first and foremost to You
and for You.For it is in Jesus’ Name we
Today is Stewardship Sunday – the
day each year in which we particularly think about the fact that God has given
us all that we have and called us to be good stewards of it.While we are specifically considering
financial stewardship this morning, we ought to consider all that God has given
us – time, skills, and other gifts – are all to be stewarded well and used –
first and foremost – for the spreading of the Gospel and the good of the
Our Scripture begins with Jesus
sitting in the doorway to the Temple watching the people enter and place their
offering in the offering box – not unlike our offering plate.There was a box that people could drop their
financial gifts in that would be taken out later by the priests – and Jesus was
watching and noting what people were giving.Consider:Jesus watches what we
put in the offering plate…
“And [Jesus] sat down opposite the
treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.”
What was He doing?What gave Him the right to do it?Would you have any problem with me – or one
of the elders – looking to see what you put in the offering plate?(Don’t worry; we are not going to start
checking what each person puts in the offering plate as you do so, and only
those who prepare the deposit have any idea of what you give.)
Jesus had – and has – the right to
know exactly what we give because He is God and calls us to account for our
stewardship to Him.“And no creature is
hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom
we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13, ESV).There will come a day when every human being has to account for
everything he or she did before our God and Savior – including how we stewarded
all that God has given us.(This has
nothing to do with our salvation – which is through Jesus Alone – but there
will be a judgment of our works.)
So Jesus sat down and watched what
people were giving – and it was right for Him to do so because He is God in the
rich people put in large sums.”
us immediately note that there is nothing wrong with being rich.God blesses people as He wills, and God
allows people to have personal property of many sorts.There is nothing wrong with that.
we see in the confrontation between Peter and Ananias and Sapphira – they had
come to offer all of the proceeds of the sale of their land to the Temple, but
they lied and kept back part of the proceeds.Peter accused them:“While it remained
unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your
disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have
not lied to man but to God” (Acts 5:4, ESV).The Scripture is clear that people can rightfully receive blessings from
God and enjoy them – the problem was their lying about their offering.The issue is not about what wealth God
blesses a person with, but with the honest stewardship of it – it is a matter
of the heart.
Jesus noticed that many rich people put in large sums of money.There is nothing wrong – in fact it is good –
that rich people give large amounts of money for the work of the Church,
because they have the ability to give large sums.But there is still the matter of the heart to
a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.”
we are told that the person Jesus is watching is a widow and poor.She had no support from others – as we see –
and she puts two small coins in the offering – which made a penny (as our text
calls it).Actually, it was less than a
penny in today’s money.What the woman
gave was about 1/64 of an average laborer’s daily pay.In today’s money, we are talking about 1/8 of
a cent – her two cents, so to speak, would be about 1/8 of a modern penny.
we might be tempted to say, “Well, that was nothing.Move along for more rich people to come.What good is 1/8 of a cent going to do the for
work of the Lord?”
that is not how Jesus looks at it, is it?No.
he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you,’”
calls the disciples over to point out a distinction; He calls them over and
begins by saying, “truly, I say to you,” – which is not language we usually
use.Jesus said, “I solemnly declare
something of great significance – take note of what I am going to tell you – it
Notice:“this poor widow has put in more than all
those who are contributing to the offering box.”
Jesus forgotten what all the rich people had given?Had He looked away and not seen what a
pittance she had given – how insignificant her financial offering was?Of course not.
how could she have given more than all the others?
they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put
in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
What did Jesus mean?
The rich people (at least some of
them) were giving out of their abundance.What they were giving was nothing to them.It was as though a millionaire gave fifty
dollars in the offering plate.Fifty
dollars would be nice – we don’t often see an offering like that in our
offering plate, but fifty dollars is nothing – comparatively – to a millionaire.
there is nothing wrong with a millionaire giving fifty dollars, but would that
be good stewardship of his or her money?Certainly Jesus – through His Divine Omniscience – knew that what they
were giving was reallly nothing – it was not sacrificial – it was not given in
trust – it was not given in faith – it was not given in thanksgiving for all of
the blessings that they had received from God.
let us be clear:Jesus could be critical
of their offering because He is the Omniscient God Who can see the heart of the
giver.You and I do not have the ability
to unknowingly criticize someone’s giving.There are exceptions – for example, when the annual report comes out,
you know how much money I have received (in large part), so we could make some
assumptions based on what the Scripture teaches about how much I should have
given as my offering – at minimum.
widow gave the most because she gave out of her poverty and gave everything she
had.She gave her last two cents to the Church
– to the work of God in the Temple in Jerusalem.Was that good stewardship?If she truly had nothing else and no one to
rely one – no other income to provide for her and her needs?Jesus commends her, so – in this case – yes.
does not mean that everyone needs to give everything that they make to the Church.It is also not an indication that God rewards
based on the percentage of income that a person gives to the work of God.It is possible to be rich and greedy, and it
is possible to be poor and greedy.
then do we judge?Is there a line – a
minimum that we can base our giving on?There is – and Jesus affirms it in His condemnation of the Pharisees:“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the
weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you
ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining
out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24, ESV).
Pharisees understood that the minimum financial offering that God calls His
people to give is ten percent of their gross income.Ten percent of our gross salary.Ten percent of our interest.Ten percent of our Social Security.Ten percent of our pension.Etc.Ten percent of every income that we receive.The Pharisees we so exacting that they gave
ten percent of the herbs of their gardens for use in the Temple and for the
people of God.And that Jesus affirms
them for:“These you ought to have
done!”Jesus commands us to give ten
percent of our gross income – as the starting point of our giving – to the
Church.That does not include the giving
of our time and gifts and financial gifts to others – that is over and above –
as we are so pleased and able to do so.And our giving to the Church above ten percent of our gross income is
according to the joy that it gives us to do so.
problem the Pharisees had – in this passage – is that they were keeping the
letter of the Law about tithing – giving ten percent of their gross income –
but they were not being just – they were not being merciful – they were not
being faithful in other ways.
we may notice that Jesus calls justice, mercy, and faithfulness the weightier
matters of the Law and think, “Well, they are more important – if I am just and
merciful and faithful, then it doesn’t matter so much if I actually give the
tithe to the Church.”
But what does Jesus say?“These you ought to have done, without
neglecting the others.”We do not have
the option of being partially obedient.It’s like being partially pregnant – you either are or you are not.
The widow gave everything she had –
and in this case we know it was the right thing for her to do, because Jesus
praised her for it.We are not all
called to give everything we have, but we are called to be obedient – to be trusting
– to give sacrificially for the sake of the work of God and in thanksgiving to
So, if it’s not wrong to be rich,
and it’s not wrong to be poor, and it’s not wrong to keep and enjoy some of the
blessings that God has given us, how do we determine what we should give?
Well, it is clear that we are to
give ten percent of our gross income.It
is also clear that if God calls everyone to give ten percent of their gross
income to the Church that God has provided enough – through the other ninety
percent – and helps as God wills to provide them – to provide for all of our
needs.Everyone has enough to give ten
percent of their gross income to the Church in thanksgiving to God and for the
work being done in the Church.If we say
we do not have enough money to give ten percent of our gross income to the
Church, then we have not been good stewards – we have used money
inappropriately – perhaps on things we don’t need, but just want and desire –
or, God help us, we are calling God a liar.
Consider what Paul writes:
point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever
sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has
decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a
cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having
all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his
righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for
food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of
your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every
way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of
this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also
overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service,
they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your
confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for
them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of
the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible
gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:6-15, ESV).
is Paul telling us?
we steward our money rightly when we give thankfully and not under
compulsion.People have tried to use the
“God loves a cheerful giver” as an excuse not to give, but Paul’s point to the
Corinthians was to remind them that they had promised to give a certain amount,
and he wanted them to be ready for when he came – that they would have their
gift ready and not be taken by surprise – but be ready and cheerful about their
giving, just as they were when they made their promise to give.The widow certainly came of her own decision
and gave all she had in thankfulness and not under compulsion.So, we are to be ready to give and to give
thankfully and cheerfully, because we desire to give in thanksgiving for what
God has done and how God has blessed us.
as we see with the poor widow, we steward our money rightly when we give
sacrificially.We start with God’s
mandate of ten percent of our gross and then give as God makes us joyful to
give.However, let us not be confused
when Paul says that the one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly and the one
who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.That is not a guarantee that if you give much to the Church, you will be
rich, and if you don’t, you will be poor.Just as a farmer does not eat everything that he grows, so the person
who gives much (percentage wise) ought not to expect to get a big check back,
but to see that “sowing” – that generous stewardship – flourish as God uses it
for His Work.For example, there have
been people in this congregation who have given more than ten percent of their
gross income to this church, and none of them have become wealthy because of
their doing so.However, I pray, that
their giving has been useful in ways that would not have occurred otherwise in
proclaiming the Gospel from Second Reformed.
we steward our money rightly when we give trusting in God’s provision.Where was the poor widow going to get the
funds she needed to survive on?We’re
not told, but by her example, we see that she trusted in God for her provision
by giving everything she had.And Paul
tells us in the Scripture I just quoted, God will provide for our every need –
and as we are generous, God will give us more to be generous with that we might
be even more thankful to God!Again,
don’t be confused by the false teaching that if you give to the Church God will
give you more for you – that is not to be found in the Bible.But God will give us more to steward well as
we prove ourselves to be good stewards.Paul even tells thieves: “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).Part of the reason we work
is so we will have enough to give – not just to God – but to others in need.
we steward our money rightly when we give regularly and obediently.We can assume that for the widow to act in
the way she did, obedient worship and giving were a regular part of her
life.We have already noted that God
calls us to give a minimum of ten percent of our gross income to the Church,
but we also need to note that we are called to give regularly.What does “regularly” mean?It certainly means that whenever we gather
for worship, we should give, because part of what the stewarding of our money
means is worship – we are giving because we believe that God is Worthy – that
Jesus is God the Savior and we want the Gospel to go out from the Church to the
world.Does that mean if we only worship
once a month then we only have to give once a month – can we keep the ten
percent of the other three weeks of earnings that we would have given if we had
worshipped in the Church?Of course not
– we are to give ten percent of our total income and blessings and giftedness –
period.The primary issue here in the
regularity of giving is that of obedience and worship, but there is also the
very real fact that just as you have bills every week, so does the church.Do not misunderstand me:your offering ought never to be seen as
merely paying your part of the bills – it is an act of worship and obedience
and faith and trust – yet, part of the money that is given is used to pay the
various bills that exist.
of us are saying, “I’m still not going to give ten percent of my gross income –
and I’m certainly not going to give everything I have.I can hardly get by on what I have now, and I
need to save for my future and my children and grandchildren and pets.”
urge you to consider the poor widow again who is praised by Jesus for giving
thankfully, obediently, sacrificially, and regularly, trusting in God to the
point of giving – on that occasion – her last two cents.
you concerned about where to cut?Pray
that God will increase your trust in Him.Pray that God will help you to see where you can give more in
thanksgiving for all the blessings you have.Pray that you will be filled with joy as you see more opportunities to
use what God has given through all of us to proclaim His Gospel to the world.
remember the words of Paul, as he wrote to the Philippians, thanking them for
the gift that they gave him:“I rejoiced
in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me.
You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am
speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be
content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and
every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger,
abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians
are fond of quoting then end of that text, but notice that the context is in
what Paul had – especially with regards to his finances.Our problem – especially in America – is not
so much that we do not have enough, but that we are not satisfied – we are not
content with what God has given us.We
want more – we don’t even recognize our needs anymore – we just want more.God calls us to be satisfied.
you be satisfied with what God has given you?Can you be thankful for what God has given you?Do you believe that God has given you enough
– enough to give ten percent of your gross income to the Church – and more, as
God gives you joy?Do you have the faith
of a poor widow?
God, we thank You for supplying all of our needs and for also overflowing us
with thanksgiving in recognizing Your Provision.We thank You for giving us the opportunity to
give in joy and in worship.We ask that
You would increase our trust and faith and obedience such that the world will
look at Your Church and give glory to You.For all things are Yours.Lord,
make us faithful stewards like that poor widow, and make us ever thankful for Your
Inexpressible Gift of Jesus.For it is
in His Name, we pray, Amen.