PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 16:8-9, 11 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure. You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Hebrews 6:17-20 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.
This past Sunday was a reminder of God’s greatness. We were reminded of the name that God gave for Himself to Moses at the burning bush, to credential Moses as His representative. That term is the name YHWH, which is normally rendered as Adonai in Hebrew. In English that name usually appears as LORD. This term appears in the Bible 434 times. The discussion reminded me of the song at the top of this week’s message. It addresses God as Adonai, along with a couple other names that God uses for Himself. In addition to the verses Pastor James discussed, here are a couple other verses where Adonai (LORD) appears:
“This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut…” (Isaiah 45:1)
“The word of the LORD came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
Another name that the song presents for God is the name in the title, El Shaddai. It appears as God’s name or title 48 times. There has always been some disagreement between scholars as to how the term should be understood. It is often translated in English Scriptures as “God Almighty,” emphasizing God’s power. Some believe the “sh” sound at the beginning of the word was adapted from more modern Hebrew, and that the original word would be pronounced “saday.” Others believe that the title should be understood as “God of the Mountain,” which may be a reference to God’s place above us, or to Mt. Sinai. I am not a Hebrew scholar and cannot determine the best choice. Nevertheless it is a distinctive name that God calls Himself. Following are a couple verses where it is found. Both verses below also contain Adonai. It is interesting to note that El Shaddai appears in Job, which is generally believed to have the been the earliest book written, over 30 times.
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” (Genesis 17:1-2)
“The LORD said to Job: ‘Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!’” (Job 40:1-2)
The third name that the song contains for God is El Elyon. It is used by and for God 28 times. This term translates to “God Most High.” The term elyon was also used by peoples like the Samaritans to refer to their most high god, among their pantheon of false gods for different roles or purposes. In the Old Testament, the term “El” refers to the one true God, and when used in combination with elyon, “El Elyon” gives God recognition of His true standing above all. A couple of Scriptural samples follow.
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’” (Genesis 14:18-20)
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” (Psalm 46:4-5)
The verses in Psalm 46 also simply call God, “God.” This word is the translation of the word “Elohim,” which appears in Scripture over 2,700 times. It means “mighty one,” or “supreme one.” Unlike the other words discussed already it is also used to refer to human leaders, judges, angels, and possibly others. So although it is often used as a name for God, it is not exclusively used as a name for God.
So which name is the best or most accurate for God? Adonai (LORD), El Shaddai, and El Elyon are all used by God to refer to Himself, as well as being used by others to refer to Him. I think the general guideline is that the word used in a particular case or Scripture is the one that best described the attribute of God that either God or the writer is trying to emphasize. I think God appreciates all of them, as they bring Him honor and glory. As long as we address Him with respect and love through prayer I don’t believe the particular term matters.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 68:32-35 O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
sing praises to the Lord, to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice. Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
and whose power is in the skies. Awesome is God from his sanctuary;
the God of Israel—
he is the one who gives power and strength to his people.
Blessed be God!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 146:5-8 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
This week finds me in Florida attempting to relax my mind, if not my body entirely. I always have a desire to get out and experience nature, as well as seeing interesting local sights. I received some inspiration from a very unusual source a couple days ago. It is a short illustration or story that I read in the Beach Welcome Center’s 2023 Annual Magazine Visitors’ Guide. Most of the magazine is filled with ads for various activities and restaurants in the Tampa Bay and nearby gulf area. There are also tidbits about the area’s history and facts about wildlife. I read this story, probably fictional, that made a few connections with me, so I thought I would share it with you. There is no author credited, but the website given is BeachWelcomeCenter.com. The editor of the publication is Christine Phares.
Once upon a time, there was a wise old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself when he thought of someone who would dance through the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he saw a young man, but the young man wasn’t dancing. Instead, he was reaching down into the sand, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean. As the wise man came closer, he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?”
The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I guessed that, but why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
“The sun is up, and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
“But, young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down and picked up another starfish. He threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”
This story connected in my mind to the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:3-7. While not an exact parallel by any means, it, like the story above, reminds us of the value of each individual. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)
I believe that God uses believers to reach His lost sheep. It might be tempting to think, “Gee Joel, I’m not a preacher, missionary, pastor, or teacher. Really, how much of a difference can I make?”
A couple days ago Pastor James shared the story of his sister, who works for a dentist. She shared a devotional with him, and he comes to work excited to share what he read and has learned about God each morning. Can she help everyone, and make a difference for everyone who needs God and His guidance? No, but it made a difference for that one.
PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 66:1-4
Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.”
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The picture above is Norfolk & Western Railroad car 402. I saw it in its current state at the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum in Bellevue, Ohio. It was built by the Roanoke Shops in May 1941. It was built to serve as a Safety First Car (safety inspection car). It still has that label on the side of the car. It was retired in February 1969 and sold to the Luntz Iron & Steel Company. I don’t know what purpose it served with the steel company or how its journey brought it to Bellevue. Many of the cars that the museum receives are gifts from individuals or organizations, hoping that one day the museum and its dedicated group of volunteers can restore and preserve them. I saw many cars at the museum that had been restored to a beautiful condition. I imagine that one day it will be car number 402’s time for restoration.
I am not a rail car expert or mechanic, but it looked like the structure and undercarriage of # 402 were pretty solid. Eighty-two years take a toll on a steel car. Time, use, and exposure to the weather left the exterior faded, rusty, and even crumbling in spots. The march of time has a definite effect.
The march of time also has a definite effect on humans. Despite efforts to stay healthy through diet and exercise, aging takes place. Bones weaken, muscles lose tone and flexibility, and skin loses elasticity. Even worse, we experience aches and pains that a railroad car simply cannot. We tend to think of the end of our earthly lives as relief from the bounds of our physical problems and weakness. Upon our physical death, as believers our souls or spirits will join Jesus in Paradise. We can look forward to the day when at the second coming we will be presented a new physical body to live a physical eternity in Heaven. Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20-21:
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
What exactly will our resurrected bodies be like? After His resurrection Jesus still looked unmistakably like Jesus to His followers. However, His body was no longer subject to the decay or damage that physical life on Earth could cause. We can expect the same for our bodies.
“So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, NIV)
When I think of the challenges and pains my earthly body has experienced it is hard to imagine what my glorious, spiritual, Heavenly body will be. Considering God, I am sure it will be better and more glorious than I can imagine, like Heaven itself!
PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 103:10-12 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
On several occasions Pastor James has stated that he doesn’t watch the news on T.V. because it hurts him more than it helps him. I have the same attitude. These days the news itself is often depressing. Compounding the pain is the spin that the national news outlets put on the news. Newscasters not only want you to know the news, they want you to feel the same way about it that they do. I don’t appreciate the effort to steer me toward a particular political ideology. It is discouraging to see people in our country with no respect for God or His ways with as much influence as they have. Considering the general state of affairs, a scripture came to mind:
“I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to the skillful; for time and chance overtake them all. For indeed, a person does not know his time: like fish that are caught in a treacherous net and birds caught in a snare, so the sons of mankind are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.”
(Ecclesiastes (9:11-12, NASB)
Those who are in power may find themselves out of it at any given time. Solomon had seen enough and had enough God-given wisdom to know that peoples’ comfort in their own abilities, wealth and wisdom couldn’t be trusted. He also undoubtedly learned from the experiences and teaching of his father David. David knew that earthly power and wealth was fleeting, and that God valued righteousness above anything else.
“In the Lord I take refuge;
How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain?
For, behold, the wicked bend the bow,
They have set their arrow on the string
To shoot in darkness at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?
The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes see, His eyelids test the sons of mankind.
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
And His soul hates one who loves violence.
He will rain coals of fire upon the wicked,
And brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will see His face.”
(Psalm 11, NASB)
The Law and the Prophets taught us that we would never be able to fulfill the Law to the degree God requires to be considered righteous. Thankfully God knew our weakness and addressed our need.
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, but it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.”
(Romans 3:21-25a, NASB)
We get discouraged by watching the ungodly making decisions that affect our lives. We get discouraged when events lead our country away from His guidance instead of toward it. It is frustrating that many people in our country don’t know, or want to know God. We can be thankful that nothing escapes His sight. He knows the righteous and unrighteous and will deal with each one accordingly. I am thankful we are counted as righteous because of Christ’s righteousness and our relationship to Him. God knows His people and meets their needs. One day we will see His face!
PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — from 1 Chronicles 16
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — From Psalm 73 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
Yet I am always with you;
You hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
And my portion forever.