A Worship Meditation: The Journey of Faith
The Public Reading of Scripture
God has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures. Reading and listening to the Scriptures requires effort. If what is done this evening is effective, it will only be because all of us have realized that the Lord Himself is speaking with us. For those listening to the Word of God this evening, let me offer the following admonitions:
1. Listen with a reverent ear – we are reading the very words of God.
2. If you listen reverently, you are worshiping God.
“Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.” – Deuteronomy 4.10
When God spoke here in Deuteronomy, the people that heard Him begged that He no speak to them in the same manner again. They could not endure what had been commanded. “And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling” (Hebrew 12.18-21).
3. The public reading of Scripture needs to be held in high esteem.
4. Public reading/listening of and to Scripture is worship.
Hymn: Close to Thee (328)
Prayer: Father, help us to see how brief our lives actually are. Let us fall into rank and journey close to you. Keep worldly pleasure and fame distant. Bear us through whatever awaits us this year. Keep us close to you until we enter the eternal gate to be forever with you.
Introduction: The Bible often presents the life of faith as a journey. A journey typically takes us away from all that is comfortable but not necessarily profitable. We tend to dismiss God from our lives when we feel at home in the world. Yet trust and dependence belong to vulnerable travelers as they journey through the world toward a common destination with a common perspective.
We embarked upon our journeys at different times. We were uprooted from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We began the journey because of the abundant and eternal life given to us. We fled from guilt and the oppressive burden of sin. Now, we pursue a celestial and eternal home together. Of course, any journey has to begin, and it has to end. Our meditation this evening will center on the journey of faith. May the Lord be honored by the journey we take together into the New Year.
Hymn: Christ Receiveth Sinful Men (199)
Journey of the Patriarchs
Salvation is not something for which we simply wait. It is something we pursue …something that we journey toward …something that stands at the end of a life of faithfulness to God. We receive the end of our faith which is the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1.9). As newborn babes, we are to desire the pure milk of the Word, that we may grow thereby (1 Peter2.2). “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2.21).
The journey of redemption began before the foundation of the world and time. God put enmity between mankind and the accuser. Two kingdoms have formed throughout the history of mankind: one kingdom whose citizens journey in darkness and another whose citizens journey through darkness bearing precious light.
The Bible begins with the downward spiral of human history. Then God focuses the journey of redemption upon one man…
Genesis 12:1–4 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Abraham began his journey of faith by leaving all familiar to him. He left behind family and country to become a stranger in a strange land. God said to him…
Genesis 17:8 “…I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
Abraham ended his journey by realizing only a portion of God’s promise – land he purchased as a family burial plot.
Genesis 25:7–10 This is the sum of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived: one hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. 9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, 10 the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth. There Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife.
The journey of one man became the journey of a nation. God revealed to Abraham that this would be so…
Genesis 15:13–14 “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”
Hymn: O Thou, in Whose Presence (277)
Journey of Israel
Moses embarks upon the journey of redemption as an unlikely deliverer of Israel, a nation that had grown in the incubator of Egypt for 400 years. Before God used Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, Moses journeyed in his own wilderness called Midian for 40 years. This journey shaped and prepared him.
The exodus of Israel began a journey in the wilderness for an entire generation. It was a journey fraught with trials and testing. Israel learned to depend upon God …to trust in Him. But they were not alone…
Exodus 33:14 And [God] said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Israel encountered God at Mount Sinai. It is here that they receive God’s law. Once the next generation enters the land promised to Abraham and his descendants, God desires that they remember all the past journeys.
Psalm 39:12 “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with You, a sojourner, as all my fathers were.”
Psalm 119:19 I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me.
Psalm 119:54 Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.
1 Chronicles 29:15 For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, as were all our fathers; our days on earth are as a shadow, and without hope.
God prepared Israel for a second journey after their rebellion. He led them back from Babylon. Isaiah said that this would be so a century before.
Isaiah 35:8–10 A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; it shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, 10 and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 40:1–8 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. 2 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; 5 the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 6 The voice said, “Cry out!” and he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Hymn: O Word of God Incarnate (172)
Journey of Jesus Christ
Israel’s unfaithfulness persisted even after exile. The journey continued through the arrival of a Messiah that they would soon reject. The Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, began a journey of His own. He lived the life of an itinerant preacher who left family and earthly possessions. He journeyed from place to place with dependence upon God. He called others to follow Him. To those who would be followers, He said…
Matthew 8:20 “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Matthew’s portrait of Jesus’ journey is tied to the exodus of Israel with the ironic twist of fleeing to Egypt instead of away from her…
Matthew 2:13–15 Now when [the wise men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
According to Matthew, we will encounter this protected King on our own journeys…
Matthew 25:37–40 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Mark’s portrait of Jesus’ journey follows the path of the Gospel itself…
Mark 1:2–3 As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.’”
Mark 10:32 Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him…
Mark 13:32–37 (NKJV) — 32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 34 It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. 35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— 36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
For Luke, the death of Jesus is a journey…
Luke 9:31 [Moses and Elijah] appeared in glory and spoke of His decease (way out; Gk = ek hadas) which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
This is why Jesus demands a radical break with everything to join Him on the journey to faithfulness…
Luke 14:27–33 Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
John’s portrait speaks of Jesus’ initial cosmic journey from Heaven to earth…
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Hymn: Lead on, O King Eternal (407)
Journey of the Believer
As we begin the new year, our own journey is possible because of Jesus’ journey…
1For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
2 Corinthians 5:1-4
29But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, 30those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, 31and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
20For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise…
13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
14For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.
17And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear…
1 Peter 1:17
11Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul…
1 Peter 2:11
15Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 2:15
Closing Hymn: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (291)
Prayer: Father, as we dismiss this evening, we pray your powerful hand to hold us through the new year. Lead us all our journey through. Care, doubting, gloom, and sorrow; fear and shame are ours no more. The journey of faith knows nothing of a dark tomorrow. Lord Jesus, go before us and prepare the way. We will sing our songs of praises forevermore to You.