Long-Suffering Community (Part 1 of 3)Revelation 2:8-11, Revelation 3:7-13
The persecuted church in Smyrna was poor and faltering when they received an encouraging, comforting message from the risen Christ. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg considers how God produces usefulness out of weakness and riches out of poverty.
From the Sermon
The grace of God for His people knows no bounds and remains within no limits. To know the truth of this, we need look to nowhere else than the cross of Christ, by which “we have redemption through his blood.”
In the book of Exodus, God instituted the Passover, which painted a picture of freedom bought at a price. He instructed the Israelites to sacrifice a family lamb and spread its blood across their doorposts to prevent a visit from the angel of death as he passed through Egypt. The residents of each of those faithful households avoided God’s judgment of the death of the firstborn son only because a lamb had died in his place (Exodus 12:3-13).
The Israelites were enslaved to Pharaoh. Similarly, all of us enter this world as slaves to sin and death. The price of our forgiveness was the very blood of Christ, who accomplished redemption as the great Passover Lamb for all who might believe in Him. It is His blood that frees us from death, for life, eternally. Christ did not come to earth to tell us how to make ourselves Christians. He did not come to tell us what we have to do to save ourselves. He came to do what we could not—to save us. He acted on our behalf, offering forgiveness that is free to us but costly to God. We dare not think that God simply decided to overlook our sin; rather, Christ’s death on the cross absorbed the judgment that you and I deserve. God’s holiness requires sin’s penalty to be paid—and His Son provided the payment.
As he considers this, Paul is moved to exclaim, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Ephesians 1:3). Considering God’s grace should always move us to praise. But notice the phrase Paul uses in verses 7-8: “the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.” God’s grace is torrential. It is overwhelming. He has poured it out over each one of His children, holding nothing back. And He will continue to do so for eternity.
Imagine you have just finished your meal in a high-end restaurant and someone picks up your check, saying, “I’ve got you covered—I’ll pay.” That’s what God has said to you on the grandest scale imaginable. He isn’t saying there is no payment to be made. He’s saying He has already made the payment. God’s grace is beyond all limits, extending further than the eye can see or the heart can grasp. So, although as you look back on the last day or week, you will know that you are sinful, you can also know this: you cannot sin as much as God can forgive, and you can be confident that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). You will enjoy the experience of grace upon grace upon grace for all eternity.
‘Twas grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
Hosea Redeems His Wife
1And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech1 of barley. 3And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” 4For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.
Run to the Bands of Love
I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love.
Our heavenly Father often leads us with the cords of love; but how slow we are to run toward Him! How reluctantly we respond to His gentle impulses! He leads us to exercise a more simple faith in Him; but we have not yet learned to trust like Abraham. We do not leave our worldly cares with God, but, like Martha, we burden ourselves with much serving. Our meager faith brings leanness to our souls; we do not open our mouths wide, though God has promised to fill them.
Does He not this evening lead us to trust Him? Can we not hear Him say, “Come, My child, and trust Me. The curtain is opened; enter into My presence, and come boldly to the throne of My grace. I am worthy of your complete confidence; cast your cares on Me. Shake yourself from the dust of your cares, and put on the garments of joy.” But, sadly though called with tones of love to the blessed exercise of this comforting grace, we will not come.
At another time He leads us to closer communion with Himself. We have been sitting on the doorstep of God’s house, and He invites us into the banqueting hall to eat with Him, but we decline the honor. There are secret rooms not yet opened to us, which Jesus invites us to enter, but we hold back.
Shame on our cold hearts! We are but poor lovers of our sweet Lord Jesus, not fit to be His servants, much less to be His brides, and yet He has exalted us to be bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, married to Him by a glorious marriage-covenant.
Herein is love! But it is a love that takes no denial. If we do not obey the gentle leadings of His love, He will send affliction to drive us into closer intimacy with Himself. He is determined to bring us close to Him. What foolish children we are to refuse those bands of love, and in doing so to bring upon ourselves painful discipline, which He exercises for our good!
Offerings for the Feast of Trumpets
1“On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets, 2and you shall offer a burnt offering, for a pleasing aroma to the Lord: one bull from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old without blemish; 3also their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah1 for the bull, two tenths for the ram, 4and one tenth for each of the seven lambs; 5with one male goat for a sin offering, to make atonement for you; 6besides the burnt offering of the new moon, and its grain offering, and the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offering, according to the rule for them, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord.
Offerings for the Day of Atonement
7“On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation and afflict yourselves.2 You shall do no work, 8but you shall offer a burnt offering to the Lord, a pleasing aroma: one bull from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old: see that they are without blemish. 9And their grain offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for the bull, two tenths for the one ram, 10a tenth for each of the seven lambs: 11also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the sin offering of atonement, and the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings.
Offerings for the Feast of Booths
12“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall keep a feast to the Lord seven days. 13And you shall offer a burnt offering, a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord, thirteen bulls from the herd, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old; they shall be without blemish; 14and their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for each of the thirteen bulls, two tenths for each of the two rams, 15and a tenth for each of the fourteen lambs; 16also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering and its drink offering.
17“On the second day twelve bulls from the herd, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 18with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 19also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings.
20“On the third day eleven bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 21with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 22also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering and its drink offering.
23“On the fourth day ten bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 24with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 25also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering and its drink offering.
26“On the fifth day nine bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 27with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 28also one male goat for a sin offering; besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering and its drink offering.
29“On the sixth day eight bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 30with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 31also one male goat for a sin offering; besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offerings.
32“On the seventh day seven bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 33with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 34also one male goat for a sin offering; besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offering.
35“On the eighth day you shall have a solemn assembly. You shall not do any ordinary work, 36but you shall offer a burnt offering, a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord: one bull, one ram, seven male lambs a year old without blemish, 37and the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bull, for the ram, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 38also one male goat for a sin offering; besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering and its drink offering.
39“These you shall offer to the Lord at your appointed feasts, in addition to your vow offerings and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings, and for your grain offerings, and for your drink offerings, and for your peace offerings.”
40 So Moses told the people of Israel everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
God Is My Strength and Portion Forever
A Psalm of Asaph.
1Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
10Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.1
11And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
13All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
14For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
15If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
16But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
18Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
23Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength2 of my heart and my portion forever.
27For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon
1The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.
As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on,
it comes from the wilderness,
from a terrible land.
2A stern vision is told to me;
the traitor betrays,
and the destroyer destroys.
Go up, O Elam;
lay siege, O Media;
all the sighing she has caused
I bring to an end.
3Therefore my loins are filled with anguish;
pangs have seized me,
like the pangs of a woman in labor;
I am bowed down so that I cannot hear;
I am dismayed so that I cannot see.
4My heart staggers; horror has appalled me;
the twilight I longed for
has been turned for me into trembling.
5They prepare the table,
they spread the rugs,1
they eat, they drink.
Arise, O princes;
oil the shield!
6For thus the Lord said to me:
“Go, set a watchman;
let him announce what he sees.
7When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,
riders on donkeys, riders on camels,
let him listen diligently,
8Then he who saw cried out:2
“Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,
continually by day,
and at my post I am stationed
9And behold, here come riders,
horsemen in pairs!”
And he answered,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon;
and all the carved images of her gods
he has shattered to the ground.”
10O my threshed and winnowed one,
what I have heard from the Lord of hosts,
the God of Israel, I announce to you.
11The oracle concerning Dumah.
One is calling to me from Seir,
“Watchman, what time of the night?
Watchman, what time of the night?”
12The watchman says:
“Morning comes, and also the night.
If you will inquire, inquire;
come back again.”
13The oracle concerning Arabia.
In the thickets in Arabia you will lodge,
O caravans of Dedanites.
14To the thirsty bring water;
meet the fugitive with bread,
O inhabitants of the land of Tema.
15For they have fled from the swords,
from the drawn sword,
from the bent bow,
and from the press of battle.
16For thus the Lord said to me, “Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end. 17And the remainder of the archers of the mighty men of the sons of Kedar will be few, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken.”
False Prophets and Teachers
1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell1 and committed them to chains2 of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;3 7and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8(for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,4 and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10and especially those who indulge5 in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions,6 while they feast with you. 14They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness.
17These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves7 of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
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