November 5, 2023 - Preparing for the Lord's DayOctober 31, 2023
Preparing for the Lord's Day
Jesus is Better
There are four main warnings that are given throughout the book of Hebrews. Each focuses on what it means to reject God’s way of salvation in Jesus Christ and the consequences that follow that rejection (see Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7-4:11, 6:4-8). In our passage for this Sunday, we come to the fourth and strongest of the admonitions against rejecting the gospel. Commentator P.T. O’Brien summarizes the message of this passage in these words, “Those who persist in sin and utterly refuse God’s Son cannot expect divine forgiveness because no other sacrifice for sins is left.”
How are we to approach these warning passages? There are many who are fearful of such passages. A few members have even mentioned that they plan ahead to miss the Sundays when these passages are preached. Others ignore these passages believing that if they are believers then their security in Christ means that they have use for warnings against falling away. Still others reject these passages as outdated and outmoded forms of religious fear-mongering and manipulation.
Yet none of these approaches are correct. Rather we are to approach these passages as a blessing and a comfort. In Psalm 23 we learn about the ministry of a shepherd. In this familiar Psalm in verse 4, we read
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 ESV)
The image is that of a shepherd who must move his sheep through a dark valley to bring them to green grass and clear water. However, on this path there are dangers. There are wolves and thieves that seek to steal and kill the sheep. But the sheep looks to his shepherd and sees that there is a rod and a staff. The rod was a short club used to beat off enemies that might harm the flock. And the sheep would receive comfort from knowing that his shepherd would keep him safe from enemies. But there is also the staff. The staff was long and hooked. It was used to corral and guide the sheep. At times, however, it was used to thump a wayward sheep back into the fold. It too was a comfort.
Loving and proper discipline is a comfort. I know that there are times when the struggles of ministry and the Christian walk are too much for me. There are times when I get spooked and want to bolt. I want to make a run for it. It is comforting to know that the staff of the Lord will keep me in the fold.
This is how we are to approach the warnings of Hebrews. Above anything else they are to comfort God’s people as the rod and the staff comfort the sheep. For these words are God’s words of warning that he will judge his adversaries and he will keep all his own. To come prepared for the sermon, take time this week to read and to meditate upon Hebrews 10:26-31, Leviticus 10:1-2, Deuteronomy 32:35-36, Psalm 23, Isaiah 26:11, Revelation 16:7, and Westminster Confession of Faith 17.
This week we will celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper during our worship service. As we receive the elements of bread and wine look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. For as we physically receive the signs of the Lord’s body and blood, spiritually we feed upon him and all his benefits. Our hymns for this week include “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” “Before the Throne of God Above,” and “For All the Saints.”
A Liturgical Note:
In the Church liturgical year, November 1 is designated as All Saints' Day, on which Christians traditionally remember with thanksgiving the life and witness of the faithful Christian men and women who have gone before us, following Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. In the Communion Prayer this Sunday, we will remember those saints of this congregation who have died since November 1, 2022. This is not a prayer of intercession for them, but a prayer of thanksgiving for their life and faithful witness, in the assurance that Christians who have preceded us in death are "away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Text: Hebrews 10:26-31
Title: Thy Rod and Thy Staff
- Every Christian Must Know the Nature of the Visible Church.
- Every Christian Must Know the Nature of Apostasy.
- Every Christian Must Know the Nature of God’s Judgment.