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Sermon Notes, Rogation Sunday

Sermon Notes, Rogation Sunday, 21 May 2017 Anno Domini

 

The Collect

The Fifth Sunday after Easter (Rogation Sunday)

O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things which are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

    25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. 30 And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. 31 Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. 32 Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. 33 Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. 34 And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. 35 And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. 36 Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. 37 Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. 38 As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezek 36:25-38)

 

     Have you ever tried to clean a really filthy basin by starting on the outside? Which is more important for our health, the cleanliness of the outside of the basin or the inside? If we start by cleaning the outside first, we may find that the outside will become just as soiled as before when we begin cleaning the inside later. If a plumbing fixture in our house is clogged, do we clean the outside and surrounding environment first, or do we unclog the fixture first and then clean the outside?

     God works in the same way – he cleans our hearts so that the outside may be cleaned with the sprinkling of water. By the outward sprinkling of water shall the outward sign of cleansing be made. That inward, spiritual grace of the Sacrament occurs in the heart. The whole being of man, as well as his eternal destiny depends more on the condition of his heart than does the life of his body.  When God abides in our hearts, there will be left no room for idols or perversions.    25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. The old, malicious and legal heart of stone must be replaced by a heart of tender flesh. What does this mean to the Christian? How do we receive this new Spirit and this new Heart?

     We receive this New Heart by genuinely professing a true faith and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. We must know, by faith, that He has died in payment of our sin debt, that He was buried and rose again on the third day, and that He sits on the right hand of God the Father to make constant intercession on our behalf.  It is our faith and our believing that will open the DOOR (Jesus Christ) of the Sheepfold to us. Our faith cannot be fickle if it is to be saving. It must be a somber and earnest faith that Christ is Savior, Redeemer, Lord, and King of our lives. He will be a God of the Sunday Lord’s Day only, but the Lord of the continual seven-days-a-week Sabbath.   27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. Wherever Christ is, there will also be the Holy Spirit. If Christ is in our hearts, the Holy Spirit will take possession and drive out the spirits of lust, greed, and deception.  We come to obey God, not through the compulsion of legality and Laws engraved on Tables of Stone, but out of that Law of Love that is written in Crimson on the soft sinews of our hearts. Not only will we avoid doing evil (keep my judgments), but we will not commit, as the General Confession states, sins of omission by seeking good to do toward others.

     28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. Which land…Canaan? No, not at all. He will give us that land which Moses entered from atop the heights of Mt. Nebo. Moses looked over into Canaan, but was taken to be with God instead of going to Canaan. The next time Moses appears in Scripture, he is on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and Elijah. This is a beautiful illustration of the complete Word of God. Elijah represents the Prophets and Moses the Law. Both together represent the whole of the Old Testament. Christ represents the consummation of the  long thirsted after Purpose of God by crowning both the Law and the Prophets with the Grace and Mercy of His Person. The Law and the Prophets are not separate from Christ, but are an integral part of His revelation in the fullness of the Scriptures. The old school was given to teach us to know our frailty and depravity. They both prepared the hearts of man for the coming Savior who would redeem us from those frailties of a sinful nature.

     29 I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. 30 And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Do you, or do you not belief, that Christ is the Lord of the Harvest? We cannot wash our robes as the NIV version claims in Revelation 22:14 - "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Rev 22:14) (NIV) Only God can wash us, and only Christ can provide that White Robe of Righteousness typified by the returning prodigal’s father.  God will call for the Harvest and increase our yields by the same Voice that spoke Light into existence on the first day of Creation. He will forestall the famine and pestilence from afflicting our fields. He will make our way straight and not narrow.

     31 Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. This is the dawn of first-light in the soul called to God – to recognize, with tears of repentance, their true natures that have been at enmity to God. It is important – very important – that we remember from what swamps of sin from which we have been drawn out. It is important that we despise our sins and our complicity with it. We have looked at the murderous Cain, the adulterous and murderous King David, the treachery of Judas, the profligacy of Herod – and we have seen ourselves as if by looking in a mirror. That mirror is the Word of God. It reveals our total hopelessness without a Redeemer.

      32 Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. God does not act to amend our characters and redeem our souls for the benefit of the sinful soul that we are at the Calling, but of the virtuous character that the former thief, robber, liar, murderer and adulterer may acquire through the efficacious working of God’s Holy Spirit. Thankfully, god never beholds us as what we currently are, but what we may become under the comforting and gentle influence of His Holy Spirit.

     Though these passages have a reference to that fallen Israel of the Old Testament, it has an even more relevant meaning to that new Israel of Promise expressed in Romans, Galatians, and other parts of NT Scripture. That new Israel is the same Israel to which Abraham laid claim all the way back in Genesis.

     33 Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. 34 And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. 35 And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Though the Jewish nation-state of modern Israel has reclaimed land that has lain in waste for centuries, the state does not meet the descriptive marks of the Israel of God – neither racially nor nationally. There is no place on earth today that can compare with the Garden of Eden. The desolate and ruined cities are still desolate and lie in ruins. The miracle of that nation which claims God as its Lord will certainly produce a greater wealth of faith and virtue than that war-torn little acre in the Middle East. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. (Psalms 33:12) If we attempt to force any description of the people of God other than those who have believed and accepted the Promise, we labor in vain. God’s people are not a people of a certain race or nationally, but those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. (1 Tim 1:4) and But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. (Titus 3:9)

      In the process of blessing His people, either nationally (as in the great history of the once-Godly nation), or individually, the unbelievers are always amazed at our resilience and joy in peace as well as in moments of trial. 36 Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it.  He blesses always, without distinction of race, that nation bearing the fruits of righteousness. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. (Psalms 33:12) All peoples of the earth – Jews, Gentiles, blacks, whites, Asians, Indians, men, women – all have had the DOOR opened to the redeeming blood of Christ.

     37 Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. It is to be prayed and hoped for that God will bring the modern Jewish nation into the fold of believers. But it is not consistent with the nature and Word of God to bring them into God’s fold as a people who cling to the legal system of ancient days, or sacrifice lambs and bulls for a remission of sin. When they ACCEPT, and not REJECT, Christ, they have assurance of being reconciled to God. In remonstrating with the rulers of Israel in the Temple, Jesus was clear in His warning to them: Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.(Matt 21:43) What nation? ANY nation that bears the fruits of the Gospel faith.

      38 As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD. Thus shall the Lord bring to pass His Kingdom in the Latter Day.  The waste cities shall, indeed, be filled wherever the Gospel of Christ is preached and received by the people of that land.  The vast stretches of prairie and meadow of America lay in waste for centuries until a people, bearing the cross of Christ, came seeking religious liberty. Then were the waste places filled and the land knew the Lord. Such a prosperous people were never before known in the world, nor since that Godly nation dominated the continent. Can we restore the Bright Hope of Liberty? The same can happen to any people until such time as the Lord draws the curtain of time down on our human undertakings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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