clinging to truth

I’m 28 years old, but I’ve only spent about 7 of those years trusting in and following the Lord, saved by God’s grace alone.  And in these 7-ish years, I’ve been amazed to see the work that God has done in my life, yes, but especially in my heart.

The Lord has taken my self-righteous, seemingly self-sufficient heart, and has given me a love for Him and His great and perfect Word. As a new Christian, I remember other believers had shared that God’s Word was satisfying in every circumstance and season, and that the Bible was good for all instruction, reproof, and correction in life.  Their testimony awed me, but I couldn’t bring myself to be interested in the history-ridden (my least favorite subject at the time) Old Testament, nor the super holy New Testament.  I felt sad that I instead was bored with the Bible, opening it only every now and then for an encouraging Psalm or promise that someone had shared with me. I asked God to give me a desire to read His word, and my gracious God provided the love and hunger for His Word that my heart could not fabricate on its own.

The growing desire to know God more deeply was gradual, but continual.  However, it came about not through warm mornings spent in my journaling nook, but rather, dark moments alone in my room, feeling distraught by the wages of my sin. Mind you, there have been many times when I stood at the top of a hill or the edge of a beach, and felt overwhelmed by the majesty and love of my Creator. But this love seemed ever brighter and true when I had already tasted it’s abundant forgiveness and unmerited grace amidst the pain, tears and consequences of sin.

See, to err and have it be remedied is a blessing. But to sin against the One True God who permits the very blood that runs through my veins to continue to flow, is something to fear.  I am deserving of His wrath, because I have sinned against my God who practices perfect love, justice and righteousness in all the earth. But His love is so great; He has become sin Himself and sacrificially suffered the wrath that I deserved so that I might have the righteousness of God through Him.  So I sing in amazement with the body of Christ – what wondrous love is this?

I cling to His Word because His Word is truth. His Word tells me about His nature and the greatness of His works. And it tells me about my nature and the futility of my works. His Word is for me, and works in me, by the power of the Holy Spirit. His Word dispels the lies that I have immersed my heart and my mind in as I dwell in the flesh.  His Word is my delight, the foundation of my joy and peace, my lifeline.

Lord, I cling to you. And I cling to you by reading, meditating on, and knowing your Word. Please give me a greater thirst for your Word, and lead me to understand it by your power alone.  May your Word lead me to profess my love for you with a profound sincerity that is only brought on by a life that walks by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

“-He cannot err in any dispensation-“

“My chief happiness now consisted in contemplating the moral perfections of the glorious God. I longed to have all intelligent creatures love him and felt, that even fallen spirits could never be released from their obligation to love a Being possessed of such glorious perfections. I felt happy in the consideration, that so benevolent a Being governed the world, and ordered every passing event. I lost all disposition to murmur at any providence, assured that such a Being could not err in any dispensation. Sin, in myself and others, appeared as that abominable thing, which a holy God hates, and I earnestly strove to avoid sinning, not merely because I was afraid of hell, but because I feared to displease God, and grieve his Holy Spirit. I attended my studies in school with far different feelings and motives from what I had ever done before. I felt my obligation to improve all I had to the glory of God; and since he in his providence had favoured me with advantages for improving my mind, I felt that I should be like the slothful servant, if I neglected them. I, therefore, diligently employed all hours in school, in acquiring useful knowledge, and spent my evenings and part of the night in spiritual enjoyments.”

Ann Hasseltine Judson, Wife of Adoniram Judson, Missionaries to Burma (James, My Heart in His Hands, p.27)

Leviticus 13

 

Why is this in the Bible? Skin Disease and Mildew (!)

***Note from Priscilla: In my study of Leviticus this morning, I found myself pondering why the law was so strict on the lepers, of all the illnesses that could have been brought up.  So I googled it, and was so blessed by this sermon. Hope it blesses you as you read through all of God’s word!***

April 13, 2005 on Leviticus 13:1-59 by J. Ligon Duncan

Wednesday Evening

April 13, 2005

Leviticus 13:1-59

“Why is this in the Bible? — Skin Diseases and Mildew (!)”

Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

I’d invite you to turn with me to Leviticus 13. This is a long chapter. Leviticus has some short chapters, and then it has some long chapters. Leviticus 12 was just eight verses, but Leviticus 13 is 59 verses and it’s very specific material, most of which deals with skin diseases and how the priests are to distinguish between things which are not serious skin diseases and things which are serious skin diseases which preclude you from being able to come into the assembly of God’s people within the camp, and which preclude you from coming into the tabernacle to worship the Lord. And so, again, the passage that we are studying tonight is continuing this discussion of clean and unclean, of ceremonial purity and holiness in Israel; and it’s doing that to make some very important points.

Now, before we look at this passage, let me suggest that we look at the outline provided. And you see that the introduction to this passage comes in verse 1: “The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying….” This particular phrase indicates a new section that Moses in introducing you to in this stage of the Book of Leviticus. You realize, of course, that when Moses first wrote the book he didn’t give “chapter 13” or “chapter 14” or “chapter 15”; he gave other literary indications that he was getting ready to move on to another section or part, or portion of the book, and this is the phrase that he used to indicate a new section, a new treatment, within this larger passage of Leviticus 11-16.

Now, the rest of the chapter, from verse 2 to verse 59, deals with skin disease and with clothing contaminated by, presumably, skin disease, and how that could contribute to a person’s being declared unclean; and how persons who were not infected by serious skin diseases could be pronounced, nevertheless, “clean” by the priests as they were examined.

The idea behind this, again, is that disease and decay are incompatible with the blessing of the presence of God in the assembly of His people. God is holy, and in contrast to that disease and decay remind us that we live in a fallen world, and that we ourselves have the effects of the fall exhibited in our bodies. It’s a picture…it’s a type, as it were, of sin. And therefore these diseases (if they are accorded to be one of the serious diseases in this passage, upon the inspection, the examination of the priests) become things which exclude you from the assembly of God’s people in His presence and worship.

Now, the rest of the chapter describes this in some detail. Two parts you will note: verses 1-46 deals with skin diseases; verses 47-59, the second part of this section of the chapter, deals with the contamination of clothing (again, presumably associated with skin diseases).

Let’s walk through the first part of the chapter together. In verses 1-8 you have the instructions on whether a person was going to be declared clean or unclean, but it’s on the basis of the examination and diagnosis of the priests. Isn’t it interesting that the priest is to carefully examine a person before that person is declared to be clean or unclean? This isn’t supposed to be something that is done, as it were, through impressions or instincts. The priest isn’t sort of supposed to ‘give it his best shot’; he’s supposed to do specific examination, and if those particular conditions which are specified in verses 1-8 are there, he is to make certain pronouncements.

Then in verses 9-17 we have specific instances of people who would come to the priests with diseased flesh. It may have been a raw or an open flesh wound, and in that case that person was pronounced to be unclean, and restored to the status of ritual cleanness after the healing of that particular wound. But if the wound remained, if there continued to be an open wound, the person continued in the state of uncleanness.

In verses 18-28 there’s a third section of this first part of the chapter, and it deals with whether the priest is to pronounce you clean or unclean, based upon the types of skin infections you were bringing to be examined: inflammations, boils, burns, things of this nature.

Then, if you flip over to the other side of the page and look at Section IV, this section from 29-37 deals with whether the priest was to declare someone ritually clean or unclean in relation to skin disorders that impacted the hair or the beard.

Then in verses 38-39 we are told that there are certain types of skin diseases which do not constitute uncleanness. You may have these rashes, or these manifestations of eczema or something of this nature, and these things are not disqualifying skin disorders. And so, he’s sort of telling us that this is a false alarm. If someone comes in to the priest and has this condition of eczema or something of that sort, then he’s not to be pronounced unclean.

Then in verses 40-44, there’s a sixth section of these instructions; and again, this has to do with whether the priest has to declare clean or unclean someone who is bald or someone who has head infections of various kinds. I’m happy to say that most bald people were not declared unclean. I’m very happy to announce that!

Verses 45-46 give us the seventh and final section of this first passage, and this passage reminds us that the one who is declared unclean, during the entire time of his being in the state of ritual uncleanness, is to dwell outside the camp in the mode of a mourner, and he is to announce that he has been declared ritually unclean as he moves around, saying, “Unclean! Unclean!” lest someone who is ritually clean come into contact with him and be contaminated and declared ritually unclean himself or herself. And so there is a loneliness for those who are in this situation of being ritually unclean.

That’s an outline of the passage, because it’s pretty heavy sledding if you just kind of read through the passage without some idea of the structure and where it’s going.

Now, quickly, the second part of the chapter, from verses 47-59, which deals with clothing. First of all, in verses 47-48 explains (like in the beginning of the first half of the chapter) the responsibility of examination and diagnosis of clothing. Clothing which had been contaminated by these various diseases or decay was to be looked at; and again the rationale is similar to that before: because God is holy, this decay or this contamination must be removed from all the lives of God’s people. In fact, later on there are going to be instructions in the Books of Moses regarding to mildew in homes and what was to be done with that kind of decay. At any rate, the principle is: these effects of the fall have to be dealt with in order for the people of God to enjoy His presence.

In verses 50-58 it is basically specified that there are two fundamental ways that you deal with these contaminated clothes. You clean them, and if the cleaning works the clothes can be rescued; and, if the cleaning doesn’t work, you cut out the part it didn’t work on. And if that doesn’t work and the contamination returns, you burn the clothing. So it’s a fairly radical approach to dealing with contaminated clothing, and you see that in verses 50-58.

And then finally, in verse 59, we have a summary statement for the whole chapter when Moses reminds us that this chapter tells us as a whole how God wants us to deal with things which have been infected–even clothing–by the contamination of disease and decay.

So with that brief outline, let’s turn to God’s word and hear it read and proclaimed, and before we do, let’s pray.

Our Lord, we thank You for this passage. It’s not a passage, we confess, that we think about the way we think about John 3 or Romans 8, or Genesis 1, or Genesis 12, or Isaiah 53. There are hundreds of passages, perhaps, that come to our minds which are special and dear to us, and this one is strange and it’s a little bit obscure; but we gladly here tonight acknowledge that this is the very word of God. You tell us through the Apostle Paul that all Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable for our reproof and correction, and training in righteousness. And so, we pray in the few minutes that we have to study this passage together tonight that You would by Your Spirit make it profitable to us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hear God’s word. (

Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,
2“When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes an infection of leprosy on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. 3“The priest shall look at the mark on the skin of the body, and if the hair in the infection has turned white and the infection appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is an infection of leprosy; when the priest has looked at him, he shall pronounce him unclean.
4“But if the bright spot is white on the skin of his body, and it does not appear to be deeper than the skin, and the hair on it has not turned white, then the priest shall isolate him who has the infection for seven days.
5“The priest shall look at him on the seventh day, and if in his eyes the infection has not changed and the infection has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall isolate him for seven more days.
6“The priest shall look at him again on the seventh day, and if the infection has faded and the mark has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a scab. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean.
7“But if the scab spreads farther on the skin after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again to the priest.
8“The priest shall look, and if the scab has spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is leprosy.
9“When the infection of leprosy is on a man, then he shall be brought to the priest.
10“The priest shall then look, and if there is a (C)white swelling in the skin, and it has turned the hair white, and there is quick raw flesh in the swelling,
11it is a chronic leprosy on the skin of his body, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean; he shall not isolate him, for he is unclean.
12“If the leprosy breaks out farther on the skin, and the leprosy covers all the skin of him who has the infection from his head even to his feet, as far as the priest can see,
13then the priest shall look, and behold, if the leprosy has covered all his body, he shall pronounce clean him who has the infection; it has all turned white and he is clean.
14“But whenever raw flesh appears on him, he shall be unclean.
15“The priest shall look at the raw flesh, and he shall pronounce him unclean; the raw flesh is unclean, it is leprosy.
16“Or if the raw flesh turns again and is changed to white, then he shall come to the priest,
17and the priest shall look at him, and behold, if the infection has turned to white, then the priest shall pronounce clean him who has the infection; he is clean.
18“When the body has a boil on its skin and it is healed,
19and in the place of the boil there is a white swelling or a reddish-white, bright spot, then it shall be shown to the priest;
20and the priest shall look, and behold, if it appears to be lower than the skin, and the hair on it has turned white, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is the infection of leprosy, it has broken out in the boil.
21“But if the priest looks at it, and behold, there are no white hairs in it and it is not lower than the skin and is faded, then the priest shall isolate him for seven days;
22and if it spreads farther on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infection.
23“But if the bright spot remains in its place and does not spread, it is only the scar of the boil; and the priest shall pronounce him clean.
24“Or if the body sustains in its skin a burn by fire, and the raw flesh of the burn becomes a bright spot, reddish-white, or white,
25then the priest shall look at it. And if the hair in the bright spot has (E)turned white and it appears to be deeper than the skin, it is leprosy; it has broken out in the burn. Therefore, the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infection of leprosy.
26“But if the priest looks at it, and indeed, there is no white hair in the bright spot and it is no deeper than the skin, but is dim, then the priest shall isolate him for seven days;
27and the priest shall look at him on the seventh day. If it spreads farther in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infection of leprosy.
28“But if the bright spot remains in its place and has not spread in the skin, but is dim, it is the swelling from the burn; and the priest shall pronounce him clean, for it is only the scar of the burn.
29“Now if a man or woman has an infection on the head or on the beard,
30then the priest shall look at the infection, and if it appears to be deeper than the skin and there is thin yellowish hair in it, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a scale, it is leprosy of the head or of the beard.
31“But if the priest looks at the infection of the scale, and indeed, it appears to be no deeper than the skin and there is no black hair in it, then the priest shall isolate the person with the scaly infection for seven days.
32“On the seventh day the priest shall look at the infection, and if the scale has not spread and no yellowish hair has grown in it, and the appearance of the scale is no deeper than the skin,
33then he shall shave himself, but he shall not shave the scale; and the priest shall isolate the person with the scale seven more days.
34“Then on the seventh day the priest shall look at the scale, and if the scale has not spread in the skin and it appears to be no deeper than the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; and he shall wash his clothes and be clean.
35“But if the scale spreads farther in the skin after his cleansing,
36then the priest shall look at him, and if the scale has spread in the skin, the priest need not seek for the yellowish hair; he is unclean.
37“If in his sight the scale has remained, however, and black hair has grown in it, the scale has healed, he is clean; and the priest shall pronounce him clean.
38“When a man or a woman has bright spots on the skin of the body, even white bright spots,
39then the priest shall look, and if the bright spots on the skin of their bodies are a faint white, it is eczema that has broken out on the skin; he is clean.
40“Now if a man loses the hair of his head, he is bald; he is clean.
41“If his head becomes bald at the front and sides, he is bald on the forehead; he is clean.
42“But if on the bald head or the bald forehead, there occurs a reddish-white infection, it is leprosy breaking out on his bald head or on his bald forehead.
43“Then the priest shall look at him; and if the swelling of the infection is reddish-white on his bald head or on his bald forehead, like the appearance of leprosy in the skin of the body,
44he is a leprous man, he is unclean. The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean; his infection is on his head.
45“As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’
46“He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. 47“When a garment has a mark of leprosy in it, whether it is a wool garment or a linen garment,
48whether in warp or woof, of linen or of wool, whether in leather or in any article made of leather,
49if the mark is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, or in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, it is a leprous mark and shall be shown to the priest.
50“Then the priest shall look at the mark and shall quarantine the article with the mark for seven days.
51“He shall then look at the mark on the seventh day; if the mark has spread in the garment, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in the leather, whatever the purpose for which the leather is used, the mark is a leprous malignancy, it is unclean.
52“So he shall burn the garment, whether the warp or the woof, in wool or in linen, or any article of leather in which the mark occurs, for it is a leprous malignancy; it shall be burned in the fire.
53“But if the priest shall look, and indeed the mark has not spread in the garment, either in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather,
54then the priest shall order them to wash the thing in which the mark occurs and he shall quarantine it for seven more days.
55“After the article with the mark has been washed, the priest shall again look, and if the mark has not changed its appearance, even though the mark has not spread, it is unclean; you shall burn it in the fire, whether an eating away has produced bareness on the top or on the front of it.
56“Then if the priest looks, and if the mark has faded after it has been washed, then he shall tear it out of the garment or out of the leather, whether from the warp or from the woof;
57and if it appears again in the garment, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, it is an outbreak; the article with the mark shall be burned in the fire.
58“The garment, whether the warp or the woof, or any article of leather from which the mark has departed when you washed it, it shall then be washed a second time and will be clean.”
59This is the law for the mark of leprosy in a garment of wool or linen, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, for pronouncing it clean or unclean.

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

It’s a long passage and it takes a long time to read, so let me quickly take you through two or three points of application from this passage. Leviticus 13 and 14, by the way, are a unit. They’re going to be separated in our study by two weeks because our choirs are going to be leading us next week–I think. Is it next week that they’re going to be leading in singing? And then we’ll come back to Leviticus 14. But this is a unit, because in Leviticus 14 we’re going to learn what you do when you’ve been declared clean, having been first declared unclean. What do you do when the Lord has cured you of these various diseases? And of course there’s much to say about that in the New Testament, as well. But these are part of the focus here in Leviticus 11-16 on the theme of purity and holiness before the Lord in every aspect of life, including the physical life; including our health, including even our clothing, in this case.

You see, skin disease and mildew are obvious, visible signs of ceremonial impurity, and in the cases of diagnosis of serious skin disease or contaminated clothing, they were visible manifestations of the effects of the fall of man into sin, and of his consequent separation from God. And so skin diseases and mildew of the variety here that cause you to become unclean–skin disease and contamination of clothing here are viewed as part of the contamination that has come from the sin of Adam; part of the contamination of this fallen world. So the main interest here is to show that purity and holiness is required for fellowship with God, and so the text walks us through a variety of skin diseases and clothing contaminations. In verses 2-8 you learn about minor swellings and rashes and spots; in verses 9-17 you learn about chronic skin diseases; in 18-23 you learn about diseases and scars; in 24-28, burns; in 29-37, problems of the scalp; and then in verses 38-39, even false alarms.

Now, the skin diseases here that are mentioned run the whole gamut: all the way from less dangerous things (eczema) up to psoriasis and leprosy, or Hansen’s disease. This description of various types of skin diseases runs the whole gamut. Let me quickly say that in this chapter, though the specific disease that we call leprosy, Hansen’s disease, is included within the types of skin diseases that can make a person unclean; it is not the only thing that is being spoken about when the word leprosy was being used. Leprosy was the generic term that could refer to many different kinds of skin diseases, so when you see leprosy there, don’t just think of a person who has contracted Hansen’s disease. As you can tell, even if you’re not a physician or a dermatologist, this passage refers to many more things other than just Hansen’s disease.

But at any rate, the main interest here is not primarily medical.The priest, though he may be a divine dermatologist here, is primarily interested in these dermatological problems because of the ritual or ceremonial significance. It’s ritual impurity that’s the concern. You see, a scaly skin disease was a visible sign that something was physically wrong with a person, and in some cases the physical problem was serious enough that it caused the person to be declared ceremonially unclean, unable to come into the presence of the Lord and His people.

And so the lesson, if you look at your outline again, in the italic letters on the first page is very clear: disease and decay–just like we saw last week, with certain bodily discharges–just as those perhaps indicated a state of ill health, so also some of these skin diseases indicate the state of a person less than whole, a disease, a contamination that is incompatible with the presence of the Lord, and therefore the person was declared ceremonially unclean.

So what do we do with this with regard to application? Well, I want to remind you of two or three things very briefly tonight.

The first thing is this: Think of it, my friends. If you had been a child of the Lord in the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, and you had been declared ceremonially unclean, not only would you have been isolated from your family, but you would have been isolated from the worship of the saints, from the assembly of God, from the people of God coming together into His presence to worship. You would have been cut off.

And what function did that serve? Well, one thing it would serve is that it would remind us that the most important thing in the world and the greatest blessing in the world is to be with God’s people, in God’s house, in the worship of the living God. If you had ever been declared unclean and cut off for a time from the people of God in worship, one of the things that you would have delighted in most was your restoration to the worship with the people of God.

You remember what the psalmist says in Psalm 27:4 — “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” Being declared unclean would cut you off from that privilege. And doesn’t that beautifully remind us that the most important thing in life is the glory of God, and the greatest blessing in life is enjoyment of the glory of God? And so we, as the people of God who live in a generation who does not believe that God is the greatest blessing of life, (they believe that God is the means to getting whatever you think is the greatest blessing of life)…this ceremonial code itself reminds us that the greatest hardship that any believer in God could ever endure would be the inability to come into His presence with His people and worship Him. It’s a foretaste of our union and communion with Him in blessing and glory forever, and the ceremonial code would have beautifully illustrated that great point. It wouldn’t matter what other blessings you would be able to retain in your state of uncleanness: if you couldn’t have the presence of God, it would have been a very, very miserable experience. (And I leave aside the implications for your relationship with your family and with your friends.)

Secondly, I’d say this: when we come to this passage, it’s a passage which reminds us of the ravages of sin, and I immediately think of Matthew 8. You remember the passage where the leper comes up to Jesus and bows down before Him, and says, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Now, that’s a very poignant passage, first of all because you remember what Jesus does. Jesus reaches out and touches that leper. You know, in Leviticus 14 we’re going to find out what the priests were to do when a man was cleansed from leprosy. You know, there’s no passage in Leviticus 14 to tell a priest how to cleanse a man from leprosy, and that priest was never himself to touch a man who was infected, lest he be not only contaminated but declared ceremonially unclean. But Jesus stretches out His hand and He touches the man, and you remember His words: “I am willing. You are clean.” And then what does He tell him to do? “Go, and offer the sacrifice commanded by Moses.”

Well, that sacrifice is going to be commanded by Moses in the very next chapter we study. But isn’t that a beautiful picture of how Jesus is the only mediator between God and His people. No priest could cure that man, but the Lord Jesus, with the stretch of a hand is able to transform that man’s disease into wholeness, and that man’s uncleanness into cleanness. Isn’t it a picture of union with Christ, as we trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel? He is able to cleanse us from the inside out.

There is one more thing I want to call your attention to. I’d love to meditate on this passage with you all night, but you know we have said that the ceremonial ritual uncleanness of this passage ultimately points to…what? The problem of sin. And thus moral uncleanness and cleanness is being illustrated in ritual or ceremonial cleanness or uncleanness. And you remember what the psalmist says in Psalm 24:3: “Who may ascend unto the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.”

What is that passage talking aboutIt’s talking about our own state of sanctification and the enjoyment of the presence of God,and that principle from Psalm 27 is illustrated in the ceremonial code. Those who are covered in sin, who are contaminated by the fall, cannot enjoy unhindered fellowship with God. They cannot enjoy the blessing of the presence of God, and so, what has to happen? They have to be declared clean.

Now, as I said, Matthew 8 points us to how God creates that cleanness out of this ritual uncleanness, and we’ll dwell more on that as we expound Leviticus 14 the next time we’re together in this book.

Let’s look to God in prayer.

Our Lord, we thank You for Your word, and we ask that You would bless it to our spiritual nourishment as we contemplate the blessing of fellowship with You in the midst of Your people; as we contemplate the way our Lord Jesus Christ was able to heal that leper; and as we contemplate that if we would come into Your hill, the hill of the Lord, and worship You in Your holy place, we must do it with a heart which has been transformed by Your regenerating, saving grace. We thank You for these truths. We ask that You would bless them to our spiritual nourishment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Would you stand for God’s blessing.

Grace to you and peace, from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.



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Father, lead me

17 Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18 Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.” 20 Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Exodus 13:17-22

I am the youngest of three daughters, and for pretty much most of my life, I have been praised for my maturity, despite my age.  I guess now that I am an adult, it’s sort of a given that I would act like an adult.  But throughout my childhood and teenage years, I was the obedient, hard-working, g00d-decision-making girl every parent wishes for.  And my efforts paid off – I was high-achieving, intelligent, and successful in nearly all of my endeavors. And I was proud of who I was.

I must give thanks where thanks is due: part of my success was due to my mother, whom I feared growing up, as well as the experiences of my sisters.  My mother (who is one of God’s greatest blessings to me) raised us on her own, and though strict, she was loving.  She had never taught us God’s word, but she had instilled a strong fear for the consequences of disobedience, which helped me see the line between right and wrong more clearly. My sisters, they were the more rebellious teenagers,  not Ferris Beuller status, but still disobedient towards my mother, one more than the other.  I saw how my mother despaired over their decisions and actions. I despised their ways and lack of excellence, not seeing the wonderful women they were; I somehow thought I was better than they.

My poor sisters, how sorry I am for being such a hateful sibling, and for not being an encouragement in any form of the word.  I am thankful for the relationships we have now, and that though they are not proud of all their past endeavors, they are wiser because they have acknowledged their foolishness.  I am proud, blessed, and thankful to have them in my life.

Whether by my own pride, fear of my mother, or disdain for my sisters, God’s gracious hand had guarded me from the many sinful habits I wanted to pursue, but was too scared to.  By the time I arrived at college, a sign that I had achieved the next level, my heart was so full of sinful pride.  There was no room for the gospel, repentance nor salvation, because I believed I was perfect (or was on my way to achieving perfection).

But God demonstrates His love to us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)! Yes! I am so thankful for this truth.  My heart is so wretchedly narcissistic; I truly only care for myself.  But only by the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ can I see the true state of my being – that I am a sinner, mere dust that will return to dust, who brings only her filthy rags to the Cross, in exchange for salvation.  I was bought with a price to be a child of God.  God had led me to where I was in college to be to repent and be saved, and His leadership will continue all of my days.

As I meditate upon the passage in Exodus 13, I consider anew how God had led His people out of Egypt.  The Lord had called his people to freedom, and knew His plans to provide for their every need.  But He intentionally led them in a different direction than what was closer by, and He did it because He knew the hearts and the minds of His people.

“…God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18 Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt...”

God knows the minds of His people, and I am thankful for that.  He knew that they would forget His faithfulness, and desire to run away from the promise ahead.  He knew the path that they could take, but also knew how they would respond, so he led them in a different direction.  Thank you, Lord, that you truly know your people.

There are times when I wonder if I hadn’t gone to school so far away, would I have become a Christian.  Or if I had stayed on the East Coast, would I still be following the Lord.  My answer to that is always, “God is sovereign, and I rejoice in Him.”  I don’t know about the what ifs, but what I do know is that God is certain, and He has led me down the path that would cause me to not change my mind and return to the filth of darkness that I pursued so fervently.

And there may have been another path; actually, there were several. “Even though it was  near,” seems to mean the quicker path, or the simpler way; however, God did not have that for His people, because He knew they would not stand against the hostility of  the Philistines over their passage.  He knew their faith, thoughts, and stamina.

The Lord could have let me pursue that job on the East Coast, get married, acquire a disease or illness of some sort, travel the world, lose my job, or even lose my family.  He could have chosen a myriad of other paths, some that I would desire, some that I would not; some that are nearer, and some that require a bit more walking and waiting.  But the Lord knows me, and knows what is right for me.  He knows the proportion of challenges and burdens to give according to my character and faith.  And though I have been given some opportunities, and denied others, I rest in, and treasure with immense joy, the fact that my God  will lead me according to His will.  I rejoice that my God knows my mind, and desires to conform me to His ways, that I would not trust in my circumstances or loved ones, but that I would trust in Him alone, according to His Word, and by the power of His Holy Spirit.

But this does not mean that the Lord will not give me more than I can handle.  I have seen people experience things that are beyond comprehension, and I too cannot justify why God has dealt with me in the ways He has (both good and hard).  However, I believe God provides all that I need to handle what He sets before me, because each day, and each moment, I am to submissively go to the Living God asking for a heart that draws nearer to Him and His word, that He might transform my mind to know the fullness of joy and freedom in Christ alone.

Lord, thank you for your sovereignty.  I praise you, for you are the one who created all things, and I confess you as God of my life.  I need no other god – you are my all in all.  Forgive me for questioning the path you have set before me, because I am actually questioning your character and faithfulness.  May my heart and mind not forsake the One in whom I trust.  May my soul rejoice in you alone.  May I trust you as you lead me, knowing that you will make known to me the path of life, and in your presence is fullness of joy.  Today, may I know the presence of the Lord, and not look to my own comfort and convenience in this life.  I pray that I would long to please you, that I might praise you in eternity and find rest there alone.

 

 

joy: discovering the what and the how…

“Christian joy is the emotion springing from the deep-down confidence of the Christian that God is in complete and perfect control of everything, and will bring from it our good in time, and our glory in eternity.”

I was sitting on the floor of my room, leaning against the bed, half praying, half resting.  I was tired from my work that day in Orange County: my legs hurt from standing for hours at a college fair, and my face finally relaxed after smiling continually that evening.  I appreciated this moment since I had no where else to be, and no one else to meet; I could finally kick off my heels (literally) for the day.

There on the floor, I reached over to the bedside table and grabbed my phone.  I wanted to hear new music, read an interesting article, go on Facebook, or maybe I could respond to someone who texted me.  But there was nothing to grab my attention: no one or thing to distract me from pausing and thinking, forcing me to sit in the reality of being alone, but also feeling alone.  I started to cry, letting slow tears gradually creep out of the corner of my eyes.  I guess I should pray, or read the Bible, I thought to myself, looking for a way to comfort my heavy mind.  But as I folded my hands and bowed my head, my mind began to race with various concerns and desires – all of these needs and thoughts, and does God even care?  My tears fell heavier, until I was in full out in ugly-cry mode. I wondered if my family could hear me from my room.

I continued to feel sorry for myself and my circumstances, crying about the pain of feeling unknown, unheard, and unloved by God.  I wallowed in my self-pity. Looking back, I am able to say in full confidence that though I was thankful to express my sadness and cry my heart out, I was more focused on myself than the truth of God, and I was not willing to trust God with my pain, and focus on His truths of being with me and being faithful. Many people, even other Christians, would say that it would be wrong to label my hardship as self-pity, but with each passing year, I’m convinced that pity is what most of us, if not all of us, want, and that we, I being the foremost, are extremely more selfish that we could ever imagine.

So, I sat there, crying.  How many days, weeks, months, years would I continue feeling this way? When would I just trust God, and feel peace?  I asked God, out loud, “Aren’t I supposed to be joyful?”

And this is my question. You, Christian, aren’t you supposed to be joyful? Why are you burdened, sad, and heavy-hearted?  Can you not find a reason to celebrate?  If not of your circumstances, can you not find a reason to celebrate in the Lord?  But what does that mean? I asked God, am I really a follower of Christ, if I am not joyful? Your word commands me to rejoice always, but in what? In you. How? It must be my sin that’s keeping me from joy? Or is there more? Lord, search my heart, and show me if there is any waywardness, idolatry, or sin in me. Please, show me.

The Lord is answering that prayer, still, 3 years later.  I praise my God, for He is faithful to answer prayer, and I am so thankful for how He has patiently instructed me through the reading and teaching of His word, and through prayer and learning how to bring all things to Him.  It’s not only sin that kept me from rejoicing in the Lord, but also ignorance; I didn’t meditate on the truths of scripture.

My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
(Luke 1:46-47)

And so, now, I do take joy in the many aspects of this life, bringing my sorrows, frustrations and fears to God in prayer, and rejoicing in the One who knows them all, and cares for me:

Though I still find myself falling into sin, some the same as before and some new to my own eyes, I rejoice in my God who calls me to repent, is faithful and ready to forgive, and equips me with my Helper, the Holy Spirit, to persevere in the faith and wage war against my flesh.  Though members of my family are still unsaved and unrepentant, I rejoice in my God who is patient and slow to anger, wanting for none to perish; and that His gospel is free to all. Though I have prayed for God to make a way for me to serve vocationally in missions and to preach the gospel to those who have not heard, and yet I work at a desk job in which it can be challenging to see the direct impact of my work, I rejoice in my God who calls me to make disciples here and be faithful to Him in all that I do (at work, home, church, and all), that through setting my hand to the plow today, he teaches me faithfulness to Him, and discipline to press on and trust.  Though I have prayed for healing in my body from the various pains I experience, I rejoice in the sure hope that I will be with my Savior soon, for this life is but a fleeting breath.

The list could go on, but I want to encourage you to read or listen to this wonderful sermon on joy.  I wish I had known this definition of joy years ago, but God provided it in His good timing. May His word and this message this bless you today:

“Christian joy is the emotion springing from the deep-down confidence of the Christian that God is in complete and perfect control of everything, and will bring from it our good in time, and our glory in eternity.”

John MacArthur, “Rejoicing Always” (December 5, 2016)

http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/52-27/Rejoicing-Always

 

On Leadership in the Home

Leadership in the Home by Tim Challies

Challies has written a series on men and for men called, “Leadership in the Home.”  As I read through his work, and the truths of scripture he conveys, I celebrate the beautiful picture that God has provided through male leadership.  I’ve experienced it in my church, seeing the humble authority that our Pastor and Elders have over the congregation, never lording their power over us, but always quick to serve for the benefit and purity of the body.  I’ve heard it from women who I truly believe are not feigning their joy, as they share their testimony of God’s goodness in their submission to their God-fearing husbands. And I’ve seen it in the Word of the Lord – in Abraham, Joseph, Paul, and many others, our wonderful God is glorified to have given man the high calling of leadership in the home and the church.

And in my own life, I believe that my God has been a blessed example of leadership and humility, one whom I can trust and submit to, joyfully.  As I process these things, I ask the Lord to make me the woman He desires me to be: that I would honor His word, obey His commandments, and love Him above all else.  And so, if He would have for me to be married, I desire for my heart to love and pray for true leadership in my husband.  Over the years, I’ve seen how God has changed my desires from wanting a husband who is educated (in a certain way), handsome (in a certain way), and super compassionate (to specific needs and callings), to a husband who simply, and supremely, loves God and loves His word.  That is not to say that I do not want my husband to use his mind, his heart, and his life in excellent and honorable ways, but definitely not only in the ways that I had conceived.

God has given me eyes to see some of those wonderful qualities in older couples at my church.  I look to their wives, who love their husbands and are not burdened because ultimately, they trust their Lord. But their husbands, too, are men that love God, and fear Him above man, which in turn gives them a true love for their wives.  They submit their lives to Him, and wield their strength for His glory.  Some of them have an education, some of them don’t.  Some of them have high paying jobs, and some of them don’t.  Some of them are pretty good-looking (no weird intended), and some, not so much.  But as I’ve watched these couples serve and commit themselves to the cause of Christ, I can’t help but rejoice over the goodness of God in providing marriage to His people.  There is nothing that is truly, truly worthwhile in those marriages apart from each person’s love for the Lord.  And their love for God and His Word, is what spurs them on in their pursuit of godliness, for His glory.  That pursuit has little if anything to do with how smart they are, how rich they are, nor how attractive they are, for those things change with every passing season!

And so my prayer today is that I would continue to seek my Lord, depending fully on Him, that if and when He brings a husband, I would not look to the worldly matters or weigh my decisions on factors that will fade; but instead, I would weigh a man according to the word, and what it says his godly leadership and qualities should be, and that he would do the same to me, weighing me by what God calls a woman to be as a follower of Christ.  And if God brings us together in the unity of marriage, we would continue to submit ourselves to God and His word, for the love of God, and for the glory of God.

God, did you give me the wrong life?

Did You Marry the Wrong Person?(Please read the article above! It’s a great read!)
“Your marriage to this person at this time falls well within the scope of his sovereign plan. God simply won’t allow you to entertain thoughts of regret or of escape.”
Though I’m not yet married, I loved this piece. I have so appreciated the countless couples I have met in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and so on who have shared their challenges in marriage and life with me. It is an awesome thing to hear the humbling truth that no marriage can be perfect, and yet only the glorious grace of God can truly bring life into a marriage. And it reminds me that no family is perfect, no church is perfect, no job is perfect. I need to hear that. I’m an idealist, and I so often forget that my sinful self can be the instigator.
There are times when I’ve wondered if I was born into the right family. Or I’ve entertained the thought of, “if only my situation were different in certain ways, then… .” I’ve wondered if my job is the right fit, or if I deserve to do the things that I am doing. These are legitimate questions, but I always run back to the truth that God in His sovereignty chose for me to be a part of my home, my church, my job, this life, and what a privilege it is.
I stand on the truth that God is sovereign, and that He makes no mistakes. My mom is the mom He chose for me, as was my father; my sisters (and their awesome husbands and children) are the sisters (and their awesome husbands and children) He had for me to have; and my work is the work He has set out for me to do. My church is the church God has called me to be a part of and serve in. My community is the community He has placed me in. All of these and more are from Him.
These things are not permanent. Like everything, including marriage, singleness, and the people and tasks in my life are for a season, whether the season lasts for another day, another year, or until I die, for the new and final season will be in Heaven. I am called to live a life submitted to God, to lay down my life and obey His Word, to serve and to have confidence in my Lord. I can trust my Shepherd as He leads me.
It gives me hope for what’s to come in this life, Lord willing, as well as for what I have. I am thankful to God for amazing family, friendships and relationships that are made up of broken people. I praise God for work and ministry that encompasses various aspects of the abilities He has given me and prepared me for, even if I may experience discomfort in it. It’s all sanctifying. It’s all for His glory. It’s all so that I may draw nearer to Him and love Him more.
God is good. May I continue to trust Him and persevere in all circumstances, wonderful and hard, as He does a good work in my heart and transforms my mind, conforming me to the image of His Son, and to His will.