Pastor Sherry’s message for March 21, 2021
Scriptures: Jer 31: 31–34; Ps 51: 1–10; Heb 5: 1–10; John 12: 20-33
Do you remember a Scottish woman named Susan Boyle? She appeared on an English TV program called Britain’s Got Talent in 2001. She wowed the skeptical judges with her stunning rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.
You may remember that she looked fairly frumpy; both the audience and the judges were cynical and dismissive, until she began to sing! Then they were awed and astonished. She has since gone on to improve her appearance and create award-winning albums.
Susan’s story proves the adage that we should not judge a book by its cover. Psychological research on perception says that we tend to size a person up in five seconds. We decided we would or would not like them based on very little information. We take more time than this to buy a car or rent an apartment. This makes it easier for us to quickly move on to other things but it also results in some misperceptions and erroneous assumptions.
Thankfully, our God has much more information on people and events than we do, and never makes some wrong assessment. His assessments are always correct!
Let’s start with our Jeremiah passage. Just prior to the passage, God says through His prophet to the Israelites, I have loved you with an everlasting love. God is foretelling the day when he will call all the Jews who are scattered throughout the world back to Israel. He will make a new covenant with them. Instead of abandoning them due to their unwillingness to except His son as Messiah, He will write his law upon their hearts. Instead of punishing them for turning away from Jesus, He will claim them to Himself again. As Peterson translates it, “they will no longer go about setting up schools to teach each other about God. They’ll know me first hand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned.”
We should rightfully expect judgment, but instead we get mercy, grace, forgiveness, and that everlasting love only God radiates. How surprising! How wonderful! How humble and grateful we should be that God assesses us and still desires to be in close relationship with us all.
Psalm 51: 1–13 is King David’s great penitential Psalm. He has broken the sixth, seventh, and tenth commandments. He had set up Uriah, a loyal bodyguard, to be murdered so that he could claim his wife, with whom he had had an adulterous relationship. And he kept quiet about his massive sins, only to suffer torment he was highly anxious and miserable.
When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became day long groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.
The writer to the Hebrews (4:13) observes nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Sure enough, God dispatches the prophet Nathan to confront him in story form. David could’ve lied and blown Nathan off. Like many absolute rulers, he could’ve had him killed. But in a plot twist from what one might have expected from any other ancient Middle Eastern king, David admits his guilt—he takes responsibility.
- For his transgressions—Stepping over God’s boundaries, he transgressed against Bathsheba, Uriah, and to his family. He was a poor example to his sons and to his nation.
- For his iniquities— those things that are grossly immoral and thoroughly wrong: adultery, murder, covetousness.
- For sins— failure to meet God‘s standards.
However, David does provide a good model for us in this Psalm. He admits his sins, transgressions, and iniquities; he begs God‘s forgiveness, and he asks God to transform him by the power of his Holy Spirit. In today’s “cancel culture,” David would be toast. His life and his legacy would be ruined. But our God loved his heart, took pity on him, and forgave him. I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of correct assessment I would prefer God had of me.
Hebrews 5:5-10 is making it clear to us that Jesus is our great high priest. But he’s from the tribe of Judah, not descended from Aaron, nor a member of the Levites the priestly clan. However, given God’s correct assessment, the Father defines Jesus as our high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek is first mentioned in Genesis 14. He congratulates Abraham on his victory against four pagan kings and blesses Abraham in the name of the Most High God. As king of Salem, he gives Abraham bread and wine. Then Abraham awards him a tithe.
John 12 2333, some Greeks come to ask Jesus their questions. As outsiders they were consigned to the court of the Gentiles in the temple and could not be present to hear Jesus teach. They approach Phillip, perhaps because his name is Greek, who with Andrew bring them to Jesus’ attention. Jesus, knowing He is soon facing the cross, meets with them briefly. We don’t know what the Greeks expect or want to ask. But Jesus reiterates He is going to die.
A millennium later (Psalms 110:4), David speaks prophetically of a priest and king to whom he would bow, Jesus the Messiah. Today’s passage from Hebrews, written just after Christ’s Ascension, asserts that Jesus is a high priest from the order of Melchizedek, a higher order than the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood. Speaking God’s truth and accurately predicting His death, resurrection, and the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus was a prophet in His earthly ministry. He will come again in glory as the universal king. And here we learn Jesus is our great high priest.
The kernel that falls to the ground but results are much fruit and many other seeds
He knows he’s going to the cross and it’s going to be very painful. He doesn’t want to, but he will. For the third time, God speaks encouragement to him. He will be lifted up as His followers hope, but on a cross not to a kingly throne…yet. Nevertheless, over hundreds of years, has He not drawn millions to Him?
So often our God does the opposite of what we might expect, or even what we wish Him to do, so how might we deal with this? We might want to remember that God’s assessments are always correct. We tend to trust in our own perceptions. Experience tells us we are sometimes—maybe even often—wrong. Nevertheless, we worship a God who is always accurate in his assessments.
Are we going to trust in our own perceptions or in God’s accurate assessments?
Proverbs 3:5– trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Proverbs 28-26– he who trust in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.
Lord, help us to put our trust in you, even above ourselves and our own perceptions, judgments, and assessments. Help us to rightly discern the truth and to live lives that are pleasing in Your sight. We pray this in the mighty, compassionate, grace-filled, and always accurate name of Your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Copyright 2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams