Morning Prayer (5th July 2020)
What is God Like?
The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving-kindness.
The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works [the entirety of things created].
All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your loving ones shall bless You
[affectionately and gratefully shall Your saints confess and praise You]!
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power,
To make known to the sons of men God's mighty deeds and the glorious majesty of His kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The Lord upholds all those [of His own] who are falling and raises up all those who are bowed down.
The eyes of all wait for You [looking, watching, and expecting] and You give them their food in due season.
You open Your hand and satisfy every living thing with favor.
The Lord is [rigidly] righteous in all His ways and gracious and merciful in all His works.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely and in truth.
He will fulfill the desires of those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and will save them.
The Lord preserves all those who love Him, but all the wicked will He destroy.
My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; and let all flesh bless (affectionately and gratefully praise)
His holy name forever and ever.
Psalm 145:8-21 (Amplified Bible version)
May my words be in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Amen
In the Psalm above, read out as the first lesson by Margaret, we learnt a little about what the Lord is like.
The first verse alone says he is gracious, full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and kindness.
The psalmist didn’t have the privilege of knowing Jesus as we can know him – in a very personal way.
But the psalmist can describe God’s qualities and know God is capable of blessing him.
What rules for living, if any, did the psalmist follow?
Throughout the Bible there are covenants – binding agreements. When we bought our house in Faaie ny Cabbal the deeds included a covenant that we cannot plant trees or put in posts in the first metre (39”) of our front lawn, measured from the highway. Why? – the answer is that all the utility services are buried there – water, electric, gas, & telephone. These serve not just us but also our neighbour’s properties. They also have the same covenant in their deeds. If we sold our house, the covenant remains.
The Bible shows that the almighty God formed covenants.
The first covenant recorded was with Abraham (Abrahamic covenant). God asks Abraham to do certain things, in return for which he will take special care of them. ... God promised to make Abraham the father of a great people and said that Abraham and his descendants must obey God.
In return God would guide them and protect them and give them the land of Israel.
- Genesis 12 contains God’s first recorded speech to Abraham. There God promises to make Abraham a great nation, to bless him, and to make his name great. Genesis 15 makes clear that the LORD took upon Himself alone the responsibility for fulfilling the covenant.
- In Genesis 15:9 God said to Abram (later called Abraham) to bring Him various living creatures and sacrifice them, and in verse 18, the Bible records that, on that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram.
- Genesis 17 adds the revelation that the covenant would be everlasting. Genesis 18 and 22 restate terms of the covenant in connection with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the offering of Abraham’s son Isaac.
Thus, the elements of the covenant with Abraham are threefold:
- Making Abraham into a great nation
- To bless Abraham personally.
- In blessing all nations through Abraham, God who knows past, present and future,
- was laying the groundwork for us to be blessed.
The rest of the Old Testament repeatedly refers back to God’s oath to Abraham in the Torah (the first five books of Moses in the Jewish Bible). The New Testament does the same by pointing out that Jesus Christ (of the line of Abraham) will make possible the final fulfilment of that covenant in the future.
Adam and Eve had the opportunity of a wonderful relationship with God.
It says in Genesis that God walked in the garden in the cool of the day, talking to Adam, better than any human father and son relationship. The relationship was destroyed when he ate fruit of the tree of knowledge – something they had been specifically told not to do. It had been a place of continual blessing where everything was provided. But they had to leave this idyllic arrangement where everything was provided and start to till the land – backbreaking work.
To make matters worse, the land was cursed. It was perfect before the fall, but now contained weeds and thistles.
Life became tough, very tough – and we’re still suffering because of it.
The next major Covenant was formed with the nation of Israel through Moses – God’s chosen leader of Israel at the time. The agreement is often referred to as the Mosaic or Old Covenant. The pattern of the covenant was very similar to other ancient covenants of that time because it is between a sovereign king (God) and his people or subjects (Israel).
At the time of the covenant, God reminded the people of their obligation to be obedient to His law (Exodus 19:5), and the people agreed to the covenant when they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” (Exodus 19:8).
This covenant set the nation of Israel apart from all other nations as God’s chosen people and was as equally binding as the covenant that God made with Abraham. The Mosaic Covenant is a significant covenant in God’s history of redemption [deliverance from sin]. Also in the history of the nation of Israel through whom God would sovereignly choose to bless the world with both His written Word and the Living Word, Jesus Christ.
The people were to offer sacrifices to God representing their sins. The best animals were sacrificed. The people were bound to the word "sacrifice," in order to cleanse them from sin and reconcile them [bring them back together] to God. God simply required them to be absolutely obedient to Him, and he would bless them. So the agreement was made. The covenant would only exist if the conditions were met – it was conditional.
For as long as the Israelites kept God's commandments, He kept His part of the bargain to bless them.
Some Bible commentators refer to this time as one of ‘blessings and curses’.
'Those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off.'
Deuteronomy 7:9, says
'God is a faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving kindness to a thousandth generation
with those who love Him and Keep His commandments'
However, the conditions were not kept. Israel did not honour the covenant with God. They followed after idols and engaged themselves in immoral practices. A bit like the way many in this and other nations still do - some things never change ! However, some did honour and worship God – I’m sure the psalmists did. The 150 psalms are a collection of sacred songs, lyric poems and prayers originally accompanied on the harp. Traditionally ascribed to King David, it is more likely that David had a number of writers but he was the publisher. They cover the wide range of human life – our struggles, our thoughts of God, our worship of God.
And what of Israel today? God is still working his purposes out through this nation. He certainly hasn’t deserted them. Beware of replacement theology that says that God has given up on them and transferred his blessing to the established Church – rubbish! God does not break his Covenants.
As the Bible reminds us, all nations will be blessed because of Israel,
because from Israel was born Jesus (‘born of David’s line’),
the infant Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man.
Like other young men of the time he repaid his gratitude for being brought up in a loving home by working in the family business until about 30 years old as a carpenter. In our western society we think only of someone who works in wood, but in truth he would probably also have been skilled in other indigenous local materials such as stone.
If you’ve been to Nazareth, Jerusalem or Bethlehem you’ll find the older buildings in the area built mainly of a pale limestone with little wood in the construction. Across the valley from Jesus’s home in Nazareth is the small Roman town of Sepphoris and it is almost certain that Jesus’s building skills would have been well used.
After this he started his ministry – those four short years or so that turned the World upside down.
We are grafted into this Jewish root, and as the Bible reminds us –
the root supports the branches, not the other way around.
Jesus is the New Covenant.
Hebrews 10: 17, reads
"I will put My laws upon their heart, and upon their mind.” He then said
“and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
We might forgive those that have wronged us, but we always seem to be able to remember them.
This covenant with Jesus is an individual and personal thing,
not relying on the Temple priests (Cohens) to remind the people to come to worship.
The Ten Commandments given on Mt Sinai was to provide a framework for what was right or wrong.
It has proved to be a good basis for peoples of the planet to live together - and is the framework of our law.
The Old Covenant with Moses was a somewhat distant relationship, and with all its detailed rules could not save people. It is not that there was any problem with the Law itself, for the Law was given by a holy God, but the Law had no power to give people new life, and the people were not able to obey it (Galatians 3:21).
But, what of this Jesus, the Messiah? Perhaps you remember that great Advent hymn written by Charles Wesley?
‘come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free’.
The majority of Jewish people don’t accept Him as the Messiah –
in fact, many Israelis have a secular outlook, and little time for established religion.
As in other developed countries such as the UK, or France, a large number of young people are interested in New Age festivals. This philosophy, originating in the late 1980s, is characterized by a belief in alternative medicine, astrology, spiritualism, etc. It has its own music culture and its gentle melodies are quite haunting. The desire by men and women for something beyond the mundane-ness of life, the daily toil, is still very real.
Sadly, the established church often fails to meet their needs, whether it be the Jewish Orthodox church in Israel,
or the mainstream Christian churches here.
Consider for a moment these statistics: in the Isle of Man 2016 census
there were 659 homes in the parish of Michael, in which live 1,729 people.
Of these 269 folk were under the age of 15. How many adults or children attend church or chapel? –
probably no more than about 5% allowing for some to worship elsewhere. Broadly similar to the UK.
I don’t want to be on a sinking ship, and neither do you - and like you, must wonder what the congregation of this church will be like in 30yrs time.
Maybe Christ will return to Jerusalem in glory and all the nations will tremble.
Maybe there will be a wonderful revival across the British Isles, starting here at its centre –
many living here and across the adjacent islands are praying for that.
If we think we are too tired, too old, too small a group, too anything else, we can pray.
It is not a waste of time as it empowers God to work amongst us.
Since the Coronavirus hit the UK in February, and church buildings were instructed to close,
the number of people showing an interest in God has increased.
Numbers logging into services on the internet were greater than came to church on Sunday.
The BBC suddenly woke up and realised that its viewers wanted religious programmes on a Sunday and viewing figures rose considerably.
When we’re in control of things we feel secure and many feel they don’t need God – they are their own God.
The Coronavirus is an invisible pernicious enemy that wishes to harm us –
if you get it, it is a lottery as to what damage it will do to us. We’re thus no longer in control.
God offers to walk alongside us at such times – he ignores any ‘social distancing’ rule.
Let’s finish by reflecting again on Psalm 145, and see what God offers all who believe and trust in him…..
"The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving-kindness."
We’re all feeling somewhat fragile at present in this hard world,
so let’s turn to the Lord and accept some of His loving kindness
and share it amongst ourselves and those that we meet.