Sermons by John Spranklin (Page 9)
Israel is near the end of their journey from Sinai to the promised land. The have already conquered some of the lands to the east of the Jordan River and they are poised to cross over the Jordan and begin the conquest to take the promised land of Canaan on the western side of the river. Then some of the tribes make a suggestion which at first seems innocuous, but it has the potential to discourage the rest of God’s people away from pursuing God’s plan to enter the promised land. In our walk of faith, and we move towards the promised land of eternal life, there are similar temptations to compromise. We forget what we’re aiming at, what our destination is, and we fall short. Even when we don’t realise it, often our compromises discourage others. In order to reach our heavenly destination, we must beware of being too pragmatic (“If it works, it must be right!”) and instead test ‘good ideas’ against the clear instructions of Scripture. We must keep our eyes fixed on our eternal destination. And we must do everything to encourage others to get there too.
A promise made produces anticipation, excitement and hope. A promise kept is something that brings joy and fulfilment and creates trust. In Jesus’ birth God fulfils his promise to send a king for God’s people. The story of Jesus’ birth reveals that Jesus is a new king, he is a king who rescues, and he is king forever. He can rescue each of us from sin and death if we put our trust in him and make him our king. The is the promise of Christmas.
Numbers 25 is the crazy story of a priest driving a spear through an adulterous, idol-worshipping couple, and in so doing, turning aside the wrath of God from the whole community of Israel. We learn that at the root of all sin is idolatry, that sin is serious and so making atonement for sin requires extreme measures. And so we are prompted to consider what idols we are yoking ourselves to, to confront sin in our lives and what it will take to cut sin off, but it also causes us to be amazed at what God has done for us in Christ, and to look forward to a new creation where we will no longer battle with sin.
From judging others, to how we pray, to doing to others what we’d like them to do to us; Jesus covers various issues in these verses as he helps his followers to see the implications of being part of the Kingdom for all of their lives, in particular in relationship with other people.
Salvation is found in Christ alone and comes by grace alone. But as a gift, is must be received to be of any consequence for the individual. So we ask, “How do we receive salvation?” The gift of salvation is received by faith alone. A believer is justified before God by faith alone. Real saving faith involves knowledge, assent and trust. Real saving faith leads to assurance, peace and humility in the life of the believer.
“Christ Alone” affirms that because of his exclusive identity, and the sufficiency of his saving work, Christ alone is the basis of our salvation.
The people of Israel have brazenly rebelled against God by not going into the land. And we find ourselves asking, “Where to from here?” “After this kind of failure, how will God’s people continue in relationship with him?” Numbers 15 outlines a series of offerings they are to make and things they are to do once they enter the Promised Land which will remind them that not only did they start their journey because of God’s grace, but each step is taken only by God’s grace. We who have been saved by God’s grace through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus also fail and rebel. And likewise, we are only able to continue in relationship with God on the basis of his continued grace.
Having already given his disciples a description of life as the King’s people, in the beatitudes, Jesus addresses the question, “What does it mean to be the people of the king in our relationship to the world?” He says they are salt and light in the world. That is, as followers of Jesus (the King’s people) our lives are to cause others to glorify God by being unmistakably distinctive.
The Israelites were required to sacrifice hundreds of animals to make preparation for the ministry in the Tabernacle. The pinnacle and the end point of this costly preparation is hearing God speak to them through Moses. God speaks to Christians through the Bible and reveals himself to us through his Son Jesus. Do we treasure this relationship with God enough?
Jesus finally arrives on the scene, he is baptised and is about to begin his public ministry. John the Baptist and the Heavenly Voice announce him to be God’s chosen Messiah who will suffer for and rescue his people. He comes with all authority. People, then and now, must respond in true repentance.