Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 or Jeremiah 20:7-13; Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 19:24-30
Let us rejoice in God’s greatest gift – Jesus.
We have here the contrast between Isaac, the child of promise, and Ishmael, the fruit of unbelief.
Ishmael was born as a result of impatience, the failure to wait upon the Lord. In the birth of Isaac, the initiative belonged with God, and the glory belonged to Him.
In Christ, we are the children of promise – ‘children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:13).
God did not forget Ishmael. There were blessings for him (Genesis 21:17-21).
The difference between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between common grace and saving grace.
Many people know much of the grace of God in ‘the common things of life’ (Church Hymnary, 457). There are so many blessings for them to count.
Sadly, they fail to appreciate God’s greatest gift – His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thank God for this and that and… Jesus!
Let the God of love fill your heart with His joy.
‘You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you… Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth… I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart… For great is Your love towards me’ (Psalm 86:5, 11-13).
God loves us. He forgives our sins.
We receive His love. We want to love Him more.
His love inspires our praise – ‘I will praise You…’
His love inspires our prayer – ‘Teach me Your way…’
Our whole life is to be a celebration of His love – ‘Great is Your love towards me’. We are to celebrate His love with ‘joy’ (Psalm 86:4).
We rejoice in the Lord because of who He is – ‘You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’- and what He has done for us – ‘You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me’ (Psalm 86:15, 17).
The joy of the Lord gives us strength to keep on serving Him.
Jeremiah is deeply depressed – ‘Cursed be the day I was born! … Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?’ (Jeremiah 20:14-18).
He has been preaching God’s Word.
He’s getting nothing but abuse in return: ‘The Word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long’ (Jeremiah 20:8).
Does he stop preaching? No! He keeps on going.
He feels like giving up: ‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name”’.
There is, however, a greater Power which drives him on – ‘His Word is in my heart like a fire.’
No matter how much Jeremiah tries to keep silent, he ‘cannot’ do it (Jeremiah 20:9). He moves forward in triumphant faith: ‘The Lord is with me like a mighty warrior’ (Jeremiah 20:11).
He calls on the people to worship the Lord: ‘Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord!’ (Jeremiah 20:13).
The joy of the Lord gives us strength when we are suffering.
David is going through ‘the deep waters’ of suffering. He prays to the Lord for deliverance from ‘the flood’ and ‘the deep’ (Psalm 69:14-15).
He had sinned against the Lord. He does not try to hide this. He confesses his sin and guilt – ‘the wrongs that I have done are not hidden from You, my guilt is not hidden from You’ (Psalm 69:5).
He looks to the Lord, remembering that He is the God of ‘steadfast love’ and ‘abundant mercy’ (Psalm 69:16).
When you come to God in prayer, do not try to hide your sins from Him.
Remember – ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’
In Christ, there is ‘mercy’ – God doesn’t send the judgment we deserve – and ‘grace’ – God sends the blessing we don’t deserve.
Come to Christ and receive His ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ (1 Timothy 1:13-16; Hebrews 4:14-16).
The joy of the Lord gives us strength to walk in the way of Gospel obedience.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) – What a great thing God has done!
He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (Romans 6:2 Corinthians 5:17).
(b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) – Believe it.
This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit… the Spirit of God dwells in you… Christ is in you… the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you… His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11).
(c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) – Act upon it’.
‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new.
We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.
The joy of the Lord gives us strength to look to Jesus Christ for salvation.
Even though ‘large crowds followed Him’, still ‘the Pharisees’ opposed Jesus (Matthew 19:2-3).
Jesus’ teaching regarding marriage has perfect balance.
Marriage is God’s purpose for ‘male and female’ (Matthew 19:4-5).
‘Others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 19:12). There is no compulsion in these matters. Each one must seek God’s will. Celibacy should not be viewed with suspicion. This way can also be chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. It must not be suggested that celibacy is the only truly ‘spiritual’ way.
Jesus calls for humility (Matthew19:14, 30).
What we cannot do for ourselves, God does for us (Matthew 19:23-26). The Gospel humbles us and exalts God. Before we can be exalted by God and with Him, we must be humbled by God and before Him.
‘Eternal life’ (Matthew 19:16) begins when, conscious of our sin – ‘Who then can be saved?’ (Matthew 19:25) – we look to Christ alone for salvation.