|02-08-2023 Grace Notes – Pastoral Letter Monthly memory verse: “Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb 12:3-4).Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,It was wonderful to see you, worship together, and share a meal after the service this past Lord’s Day. What a blessing to be counted among the saints. What an encouragement to spend time with one another on the day the Lord has set apart for His glory and our good. My heart is always strengthened when I am with you. This Sunday was no different, and I have been praying for you in the time since, being thankful for God’s good gift of Christian fellowship, especially when it is set in contrast to so much of what we see in our country today. Each Monday morning brings a new flood of news filled with local and national violence, widespread corruption, and often governmental abuse of power in one way or another. It stands over-against the life of freedom, joy, and peace for which we were designed, and I was recently reminded of why things are the way they are as I read through 1 Samuel 8 with my family – why a country built once renowned for its freedoms and relative peace has become a place filled with iniquity and crushed under endless government regulations. 1 Samuel 8 reminds us that the Lord made His people, first and foremost, to submit to Him as their King, and to trust in Him alone for their peace and security, and that when His people turn away from Him then great unpleasantness results.Submitting to and trusting in Him was what the Lord had commanded His people to do when He called them out of Egypt and set them apart for Himself. They weren’t to seek to be like the nations around them. They weren’t to be beguiled by the displays of pomp and power in which other nations and their rulers would participate. They were to be satisfied to receive their laws from the mouth of their God, to order their hearts and lives accordingly, and to trust, with childlike faith, that He would surely protect and provide for them. But, by the time we get to 1 Samuel, the situation is Israel is the horrific mess described in Judges. People no longer honor the Lord as King. Their hearts aren’t gladly submitted to Him. Their trust is far removed from HIm. They’re ruled by their passions – doing whatever seems right in their own eyes. And, as a result, their land is filled with vice and violence. Israel isn’t the peaceful, godly, prosperous nation that was supposed to fill the land, but a people who had, for all practical purposes, abandoned the Lord as their King. The result? Theft, rape, murder, and more are all present. The land looks less and less like the sort of place you would want to raise a family.This is the context as the events in 1 Samuel begin to unfold. As a result, the Israelites lose a battle with the Philistines, suffering many casualties, the ark of the covenant is taken away, and a lament goes up that the glory of God has departed. Mercifully, the Lord restores the ark to His people, and things start to look up as Samuel calls upon them to get rid of all idols and serve the Lord alone. But, it is only a short time before they’re back to looking around and seeking a solution to the mess that marks their land in something, indeed someone, other than the Lord. Instead of wholeheartedly turning back to their God, confessing their sins, and beginning to reform their lives according to His Word, they look around at the nations surrounding them and decide they want to be just like them – the very thing that got them into this awful situation in the first place. So, they ask for a king. And not just any king. They want a king, “like all the nations” (1 Sam 8:5). Samuel is dismayed at their response, knowing this is an awful thing. But the Lord says to give them what they want. Yet, before giving them the king, the Lord instructs Samuel to warn them what this will mean. Exalting a man to rule them like the other nations will mean being pressed down under the heavy burden of all that such a kingship will involve. Their sons and daughters will be taken away and pressed into his service, fighting his wars and cooking his food. Portions of their crops and animals will be taken as taxes. Indeed, all the people in the land will effectively become his slaves, such that they will cry out for relief (cf. 1 Sam 8:10-18). The anarchy of unrestricted passions will be replaced by the crushing oppression of a heavy-handed ruler.These are the extremes between which we’re forced to choose when we choose to reject the Lord as our proper, ultimate authority and provider. We can have freedom, resulting in lawlessness and lewdness, since men’s hearts are unbound by the Word of God. Or, we can have laws piled upon laws as an ever-enlarging government is charged with reigning in the otherwise unrestrained behaviors that flow from hearts whose only guide is their own evil desires. What we can’t have is broad freedoms and peace at the same time. Not without repentance. Not without great numbers of hearts coming into willing submission to the King of kings and Lord of lords, such that they can be trusted to exercise freedom in ways that bring blessing and prosperity rather than lawlessness and fear.Therefore, our prayers for the church and for our land today need to be exactly the sort of prayers that God’s people needed to start uttering long ago. We need to pray for the only thing that can truly bring transformation on a large scale, which is transformation on a small scale – that is, repentance and renewal in individual hearts all throughout the land. We need to pray for those who know the Lord to live like it, and to bear faithful witness to those who don’t know the Lord. We need to pray for those who don’t know the Lord to be granted repentance and faith. We need to pray for sanctified lives as a result, leading, if the Lord wills, to such a change in the tide that, by and large, people hunger and thirst for righteousness rather than the satisfaction of their most base desires, such that they rejoice in the Lord as King and seek earthly leaders who, in their proper place, exercise authority in submission to Him who sits on the throne. Then and only then will freedom and peace sweetly meld, abounding for our good and magnifying the glory of our God.In Christ,Pastor Eric P.S.Join us for the prayer meeting each Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall – dinner is served at 6:00pm, followed by a brief lesson and a time of prayer at 6:30. Or, join us for prayer each Thursday at 10:30am in the adult Sunday School room.Please mark your calendars! If you ever need to double-check dates, events are usually kept up to date on the church’s website calendar: https://covenantofgracews.org/event-calendar/· Daily devotions|
o I continue to encourage you to daily read Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening as we seek to maintain a spirit of unity. It is widely available – here is one link:
‘Vision Statement’ Covenant of Grace is a loving church family that equips people to know God and His Word through serious, joyful, Christ-centered worship and service, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself
= Love God. Love people.
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