A Call To Praise God

In a number of the Psalms, the Spirit-inspired Psalmist calls us to praise God. We know that we are to praise the Most High, but two questions arise – Why? and How?

In Psalm 95 we have instruction that may help us to addresses these two questions. In verse 1 and 2 we read ‘O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.’ 

Here we have a call to ‘sing unto the LORD’. Thus, we have a warrant here in the Word of God for the singing of praise. Why are we to praise God? Well, are we not told to do so? In singing to His praise, we are showing forth our obedience to His revealed will. Furthermore, He is the LORD. He is a Being of infinite power and majesty. He is eminently worthy of all praise. From everlasting to everlasting He is God. We are also encouraged to praise Him as He is described as, ‘the rock of our savlation‘. He is the Saviour of His people and His redeemed are to praise Him for the glorious Saviour and salvation by which they are saved. We are also to praise Him because, as we read in verse 3, He is a ‘great God and a great King above all gods.’ He is Great above all the gods of the heathen, which are vain and of no power. He is also great above all the mighty men of this world, in whatever generation they may arise. Another reason why we are to praise God is found in verses 5 and 6 – for He is ‘our maker.‘ Ought not the responsible and rational creature to praise his or her Maker? Moreover, as we see from verse 7 of the psalm, God’s people are to praise Him for, He is their covenant God. There we read, ‘For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.’ In verses 8 -11 One more reason is that He is supremely just. We must not harden our hearts as did Israel in the wilderness. They murmured and complained against Him and His dealings with them, which was evidently, not the spirit of praise. So we see even within this psalm we have a number of reasons why we are to praise God.

The next question is – How are we to praise God? Again, we find interesting material in Psalm 95 to help us answer this question. We are to praise God by singing. Not only in our hearts but with our lips in an audible sound. Such singing should be in a language we understand. We are told to ‘make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.’ And indeed what a joy there should be in the heart when we view Him in this light! Thus heart and lip are to be engaged in praise to God. In verse 2 we read that we are to ‘come before his presence with thanksgiving…’ Does this not suggest that in praising God, there ought to be a thoughtfulness, devotion and reflection on who He is and what He has done for us? And finally, where can we find suitable material with which to praise Him? We have the answer in this psalm too – ‘make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.’

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

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A Stronghold in the Day of Trouble

In Nahum 1:7 we come across a very precious and comforting text of Scripture, it reads, “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”

Here we have three truths in one verse.

Firstly, “The LORD is good…” here is a truth of the Word of God. Here is a fundamental fact. The eternal God is good and He is eternally so. He was good in Nahum’s day, and He is so in our day too. Even in the first chapter of the Bible, we read of the goodness of God reflected in the good work of Creation. On the sixth day, God surveyed the work of His own power and it was all very good. When our first parents fell from the estate in which they were created, God was good in clothing them with skins to cover their nakedness. It is one of the perfections of God that He is good. Even the Shorter Catechism notes this fact when it observes, in answer to the question, What is God? ‘God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.’ God is good in His longsuffering towards the wicked, giving space for repentance, and He is good in respect of His electing love and redeeming mercy towards His people, who by nature are no better then others. He is good in sending His own dear Son to suffer and die, the just in the room of the unjust. He is good in preparing the glories of heaven for His redeemed people. And so we might extend this list of evidences for the goodness of God.

Secondly, the LORD is a stronghold in the day of trouble. The word stronghold could be rendered, a mighty fortress or mountain stronghold. This of course conveys the idea of His being a source of comfort and safety to His afflicted people in the day of trouble. On a recent visit to Scotland, my family and I went to view Stirling Castle, one of the best known of the many castles in Scotland. It stands high upon a craggy rock and doubtless would have been a difficult place to assault. I am sure the inhabitants of Stirling might well have fled for refuge to that castle in the past, if enemies threatened them. How thankful they would be to be safely found within its walls. So the LORD is set forth in this Biblical truth as a place of refuge for His people in time of trouble. The devil might tempt them that they are weak and defenseless, and so they are in themselves, but not so when they flee to their divine refuge in Christ.

Thirdly, the LORD knoweth them that trust in Him. Here too we have a truth, and a blessed fact. The LORD knows them that are His. He knows such as trust in Him. And furthermore, His eye is upon them for good. He will bring them through fire and water to a wealthy place. Though Elijah the prophet was at one time, when threatened by wicked Jezebel, much cast down, yet the LORD knew Him and supplied His needs, supporting and encouraging soul and body. He still knows those that trust in Him and knows how to support and encourage them in times of trial. Consider for example, the Lord Jesus and how He knew His disciples toiled in rowing in the dead of night, and came walking on the water to deliver them, saying to them, “It is I; be not afraid.” (John 6:20)

May we be refreshed by considering these three truths in one short verse, “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” They are as true today as ever.

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

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Sydney Communion August/September 2018

As a congregation we were privileged to have the assistance of Rev J D Smith (Auckland) at the communion season. We were also blessed to have the help of Rev C J Hembd (Gisborne) who took the Thursday evening service.

On Thursday morning we were directed to James 4:10 ‘Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.’ Five means were set before us to the end of humbling ourselves. Firstly, to recognise the majesty of God. He is set forth in the Scriptures as exceeding glorious. Secondly, by examining ourselves we may humble ourselves. When we see ourselves as sinners, not worthy of the least blessing, this should encourage humility of mind. Thirdly, by confession of sin. By agreeing with God and His verdict concerning us in the Bible, for this is what confession of sin is, acknowledging the truth about ourselves and confessing it. Fourthly, by self-emptying, resisting temptation to being puffed up, acknowledging ourselves to be as nothing in God’s sight, and our own. Finally, by seeking a view of Christ by faith. The promise is added, He shall lift you up. As God did David, who could say “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me…” (Psalm 138:7)

On Thursday evening, we were led to consider Ezekiel 9:4 And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.’ The wickedness of idolatry and many associated sins was found even in Jerusalem. In spite of their privileges and of God’s judgments – wickedness was present. The people refused to humble themselves and seek the Lord. So in our day, many profane the Sabbath, when they could make use of it to seek God. If a man lives 70 years in this world, he has 10 years to seek the Lord, even if he did so on one day in seven. It is in and through Christ Jesus, the Great High Priest, that sinners will find peace with God.

On Friday evening, the subject of humility was again before us. The text was Acts 20:19 “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind.’ Emphasis was placed on i. Serving the Lord and ii. Doing so with humility of mind. The disciple follows and serves. So the Christian is one who obeys Christ. And, following the example of the Master, he does so with humility of mind. Paul, as a noted disciple of Jesus, speaks of himself, not as seeking to glorify himself, but to show what was his practice by the grace of God.

On Saturday morning, the subject was ‘The Prince of Peace’. Here is a glorious title given to the Messiah, and found in Isaiah 9:6. The identity of the Person whose title this is was established. The Prince of Peace is God as well as man. A child born, but also – ‘The Mighty God’ – as seen from the same verse. The rule of the Prince of Peace is characterised by authority and peace. And thus the question comes back to us, “what is my relationship to the Prince of Peace?”

On the Sabbath morning, we had the action sermon and Lord’s Table. The subject was the Person, Service and Glory of Christ and the text was from Philippians 2:5-11. Divine worship is ascribed to Christ and Divine works are done by Him. He humbled Himself by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul and he was found in fashion as a man. In service to God and on behalf of His people He died upon of the Cross. His glory is fully seen in His rising from the dead and ascending up into heaven. He there intercedes for His Church and shall come again at the last day in power and great glory.

Once again the Lord’s death was remembered in the manner appointed in the simple but profound service of the Lord’s Supper.

One Sabbath evening, we were again found in Acts 20. This time our attention was drawn to verse 21 ‘Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Whether Paul testified to Jews of Greeks, his message was clear – repentance and faith. The sinner is to repent and believe the gospel. In emphasising such doctrines, Paul was of course simply following the example of the Saviour.

On the Monday evening thanksgiving service, the solemn and glorious truth in Revelation 5:11-12 was the text. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’ The Lamb slain is Christ and He is worthy, on account of all He has done as the appointed Mediator to receive ‘…power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’ It is of course most encouraging to reflect on the glory of Christ, even when the Church on earth may be under the clouds and in great darkness. John was imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos as one persecuted for His faith in Christ, when he received the Revelation.

We now pray for the Lord to follow the Communion Season with his blessing and express our thanks to those who assisted in the gospel ministry for their service.

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

 

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Galilee

One of the most scenic and lovely parts of the land of Israel is the region of Galilee. To the Christian, Galilee is also a special place because of its connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. It was in Galilee that Jesus performed many of His miracles and preached many of His sermons.

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In Matthew 4:12-17 we read, ‘Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

So we see, that there was a divine purpose in the fact that Jesus spent so much time in Galilee. One point to note is the fact that prophecy was fulfilled. The people which sat in darkness did indeed see a great light. They saw Him who declared by word and deed, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life(John 8:12). Notably in Isaiah chapter 9 from which the above noted prophecy comes, we also read the well known Messianic promise, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6).

It was in Galilee that Jesus began to preach. It was in Galilee that Jesus began to work miracles to show His divine power as the Son of God. Concerning the turning of water into wine, the beginning of His miracles, we read that this was done in Cana of Galilee. One thinks of course of Jesus stilling the raging storm on Galilee, and on another occasion, walking on the water. So many mighty words. So many mighty deeds. Such a great Light!

Interestingly, in the providence of God, Galilee was a part inhabited by many Gentiles as well as Jews. It was also a part that was on the noted Via Maris (The Way of the Sea), a major trade route from Egypt to Syria. Thus, as noted in Matthew 4:24, ‘His fame went throughout all Syria…’

Galilee of the Gentiles should be a precious corner of the earth to us still. In Galilee, the risen Lord, gave to His disciples the Great Commission, including the famous formula for baptism, still of course used in the visible Church of Christ.

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Thus, Galilee, is a special place to many Christians. But, it is not visiting Galilee that matters. What truly matters is to believe in Christ Jesus, who ministered there, as the Light of the World, and who gave Himself a ransom for many.

‘He departed into Galilee…’

G B Macdonald

http://www.sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

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The Wise Men and Herod

In Matthew chapter 2 we read of the very different attitudes to the King of the Jews adopted by the wise men and Herod.

Note for example verses 1-3 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.’

The wise men from the east came for to worship Jesus. Herod was troubled to hear of the birth of Christ. Notice in passing, the connection between the description of the Saviour by the wise men and that by Herod – King of the Jews and Christ. These are both titles attributable to the Lord Jesus alone.

The wise men are led to seek the King of the Jews by a remarkable star they have seen in the heavens in their own land. They are willing to come a great distance not just to see the Saviour – but to worship Him. Interestingly, they first come to Jerusalem, and from there, as a result of the confirmation from scripture that Bethlehem is to be the place of the birth of Christ, they proceed to Bethlehem, where the star reappears in confirmation of the scripture prophecy!

When they come into the house they worship the young child. Note – not Mary – what a rebuke to the practice of Rome which exalts Mary worship! They offer gifts in recognistion of the dignity of the One they worship – He is the Christ. Three prominent gifts are presented – gold, frankincense and myrrh. In his commentary, Matthew Henry suggests the following ‘Some think there was a significancy in their gifts; they offered him gold, as a king, paying him tribute…frankincense, as God, for they honoured God with the smoke of incense; and myrrh, as a Man that should die, for myrrh was used in embalming dead bodies.’ What is certain, is they honoured and reverenced the Lord Jesus Christ, even as a young child.

How very different was the attitude of Herod the king. This wicked man felt strangely threatened by the news of the birth of the Christ. He ought to have rejoiced in such news for it was good news, as told by the angel to the shepherds already (see Luke 2). But, as a proud and evil man, he did not rejoice. He was bent on the destruction of the young child. In spite of the wonderful light he enjoyed he sought to slay Jesus. He had the benefit of the light of scripture as announced to him by the leaders of the Jews (from Micah 5:2) and the example of diligent an reverent inquiry from the wise men of the east. Alas, all was lost on him. His attitude to Jesus was one of rejection. He despised and rejected the Christ of God.

Which attitude is ours? Have we the attitude of faith and love to Christ, or unbelief and rejection? Let us heed the Word of God:

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts of the Apostles 4:12)

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

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Gideon’s Triumph – Judgement and Salvation

At our mid week prayer meeting we have for some time been considering the history of Gideon. This man was chosen by God to judge Israel and strengthened to go forth against the host of the Midianities, who had for year after year been devouring the good of the land of Israel.

In chapter 7 of the Book of Judges, we read of the Midianites being put to flight. Though Gideon and his men were the means, yet it was the LORD who delivered Israel through them. In the victory of Gideon and his 300 men we see a work of judgement and of salvation.

For seven years the Midianites had themselves been an instrument of judgement against Israel. They had come up like locusts to take the harvests from Israel. Israel planted but the Midiaites reaped the benefits of their hard work. This was deeply dispiriting to God’s covenant people. The heathen had come in like a flood, but now the time had come for them to be judged by God. Wicked ones may exalt themselves against Christ and His Church for a time – but at any time – God can cut them down. So it was with Pharaoh and his host at the Red Sea, so too here in Gideon’s day. Then let not the Church be overwhelmed, ‘God shall cut off all flatt’ring lips,/tongues that speak proudly thus,/we’ll with our tongues prevail, our lips/are ours: who’s lord o’er us?’ (Psalm 12:3-4 metrical)

The flight of the Midianites spelled freedom for the Israelites. In a moment suddenly the oppressor was gone. Suddenly, their misery was turned to gladness. So it is with the Lord’s people spiritually. Through Christ, the greater than Gideon, God giveth them the victory over their spiritual foes. Whether by renewal or for the first time. As with the success of Gideon and his men, with their trumpets sounding, lamps blazing and battle cry, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon” so too, in New Testament terms, God is able to bless the preaching of sound gospel doctrine, the light of the holy profession of His people and the battle cry that speaks of trust in Himself and His appointed Saviour. As Paul puts it in writing in 2 Corinthians 10:4 ‘(for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)’. Gideon’s victory which was Israel’s, was a clear revelation that salvation is of the LORD.

That is a timeless biblical principle.

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

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Private Prayer – A Example from the Life of Jesus

In Mark chapter 1 and verse 35 we read of a time when the Saviour prayed in private. ‘And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.’

What a wonder, that so great and glorious a Person should thus seek out a private place for prayer. Christ was a true man. He was a man who prayed. He taught His disciples to pray; as One who prayed Himself. There is a deep mystery in the prayer life of the Saviour, but it is revealed plainly in the scriptures of truth that Jesus prayed.

He prayed on this occasion in a solitary place. There are times when the Christian should seek to be alone for prayer. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus taught his hearers, as One having authority. In that sermon he declared, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6). So we see that Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, both by precept and example.

We are not told what Jesus prayed for. We do consider that His holy human soul took great delight in prayer. Moreover, His work demanded it. We read in the context in Mark 1 of Him casting out devils, and elsewhere in Mark chapter 9, Jesus said in response to a question from his disciples as to why they could not cast out a devil, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). The Saviour also set His disciples and example. By this we learn that prayer is a vital part of the Christian life.

What an honour is thus placed on prayer. How the disciples’ of Jesus should be men and women of prayer. My friend, do you pray in private? A minister once indicated, it is what we are in private before God that truly matters. Perhaps we must admit how far short we come of the holy example of Jesus, the Head of the Church. If so our response should be with that disciple who said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” What a fruitful request that was, for Jesus taught them that form of prayer commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer.

What blessings have come, and shall yet come, as a result of private prayer in the life of the individual believer.

G B Macdonald

www.sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

 

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