Sunday, May 17, 2020

Part One - Notes from a recent sermon on Revelation 19:7-9 and Matthew 22:1-14 entitled: "God's RSVP"

How to RSVP by Post to a Wedding Invitation – Monoset

       In today's post I want to share notes from a current sermon I'm preaching from the book of Revelation. My main text is Revelation 19:7-10 (with emphasis on 19:7-9). Revelation 19:7-9 is what I refer to as "God's RSVP". We all know God is working even in this time of a worldwide pandemic. His invitation to sinners to respond by faith to His gracious call is ongoing even at this time. In the passage, we find these words as follows:

"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God."

     As I began studying this passage, I realized that John is showing us a vision of a completed process. The Bride in the vision (i.e. "The Church") is portrayed as having completed her journey with God in sanctification. She is viewed as composed of individual believers whom received glorified, resurrected bodies and which are free from sin in Heaven. 
        What I began to ask myself was this: what all brings believers to the point of what will transpire in Revelation 19:7-9? More importantly: why is John putting this forth as an invitation for people to respond in faith to the Gospel in this present age? Such questions prompted me to begin tracing what I call "the wedding theme" through the entire Bible. What follows in this post (and the next post) entails the process of preparation in thinking through the scriptures for this sermon. I hope too that readers will find their appetites whetted for God's Word and for Jesus' soon return. 

         To begin this first sermon (which will likely be the first in three overall sermons), I can recall the wedding invitation Debi and I had nearly 24 years ago. An RSVP was included. I had always wondered what "RSVP" meant? "RSVP" derives from a French expression, "répondez s’il vous plaît", for "please reply". 

       For me, reflecting back on our preparation (let me correctly say, my wife's preparations!) caused me to see how God always issues a "RSVP" to fallen sinners - whether Israel in the Old Testament or sinners scattered among the nations today. I can remember as the time approached, we were wondering why not everyone on our list had responded. It was an invitation. We don’t know why everyone didn’t “RSVP”. 
        Revelation 19:7-10 issues a Divine RSVP (it is worth reading Revelation 19:7-9 to hear the words of God's invitation). After having read this marvelous text, what I want us to do is slingshot over to Matthew 22:1-14, where we will camp in the remainder of today's sermon. As we will spend the remainder of our time in Matthew 22:1-14, we will begin to consider how God is calling forth sinners to become part of the Bride of Christ – the church. As we will discover, when God issues a RSVP for salvation, none are interested. His gracious working, by the Spirit, is required for anyone to respond (more on that later). 

              Now, why this focus upon the "wedding theme"? Well, this theme of “the marriage between God and His people” provides a lens to better understand Biblical salvation as presented throughout scripture. In this message, we will look at how God prepared history for the arrival of His Son – the Bridegroom, and how the Lord Jesus is now calling sinners to become part of His bride – the church. The relevance of this message is in how you and I need to respond to this Divine RSVP. 

      What I want to see happen in this message is a connection between the whole Bible to that of Revelation 19:7-9. In the second message, I plan on detailing how God is preparing the believer for what will be that glorious meeting with the Bridegroom - the Lord Jesus Christ - spoken of in Revelation 19:7-9. Then in the third sermon, we will focus particularly on Revelation 19:7-9 to culminate the grand vision of the wedding theme as intended by God in His Word.
1. God called a people that would reject Him. “God’s RSVP” to Israel, O.T. Matthew 22:1-7

a. God’s calling began. 

       God's invitation to sinners and His desire to have a redeemed people began in the Book of Genesis. The Old Testament uses the metaphor of marriage as signifying a marriage-of-sorts between Yahweh and Israel. The Bible often uses metaphorical language to depict God's adaptation of the revelation of Himself to His people's understanding. Metaphor as a vehicle of communication doesn't make what He reveals any less true. 

       As I had one professor explain to me years ago, a metaphor is an "implied comparison" between two unlike things. The intended affect of metaphor helps us to connect to what is true about God. If I say for instance: "it is raining cats and dogs", you would know I'm speaking metaphorically (afterall, we don't see poodles and kittens on weather maps!) The affect of my figurative way of speaking would bring about the affect in you that, "indeed, it is raining a bunch!) God does this often too, since we are finite people. 

      There are those instances, of course, when God makes known direct statements about Himself (such as He being "all-knowing" in Psalm 139). Now I likely won't cover these thoughts in the sermon, however, it helps me to think through why God would reveal marriage in the first place - because the institution tells us something true about His love and devotion to His people. Whichever mode God communicates, the idea of metaphorical language is to convey God's desire for relationship with those whom He calls to Himself. This idea of God making a covenant with His chosen people to redeem them and commission them to be a light to the nations is a major point of the O.T. 

      God’s ordaining of marriage in Genesis 2 set the tone for this wondrous metaphor. Literal marriage’s intent is to picture what is spiritually the case between God and His people. Later, We see His calling of Abraham in Genesis 12. It would be in Genesis 24 that Abraham would send his servant to fetch a bride for his son of promise, Isaac. Now at this point I won't spend too much time on the details we find in Genesis, only to say that the "marriage theme" sets the stage for God's formal covenantal arrangement with Israel at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19-20.

b. God’s calling reissued. 

        In the sermon, we will turn to Jesus' marvelous summation of the Old Testament account of God's dealings with Israel as a husband with his wife. Spans of centuries are passed over in the first three verses of Matthew 22. Per Jesus in Matthew 22:1-3, we find God sending his first group of servants or slaves to His people Israel, which derived from Abraham and the patriarchs. Servants (i.e. prophets), such as Moses and Samuel, we could classify in that first group. They were rejected and thus, God was rejected as Israel’s King. We could say Jesus' recounting would cover the contents of the Old Testament from Exodus to 1 Samuel.

c. God’s calling, final notice. 

      Per Jesus again in Matthew 22:4-6, we see God sending a second group of servants (David, Elijah, Major and Minor Prophets). They too were rejected. The attempts of Yahweh to convince Israel to remain loyal to Him is metaphorically a husband trying to convince his increasingly estranged wife to come back to him. God's love ever extends to fallen sinners, captured within the small picture of what was going on in Israel throughout the remainder of the Old Testament revelation.

d. God’s covenant broken, promise of restoration. 

       Per Jesus again in Matthew 22:7, God would send first, the Assyrians in 722 b.c. and then, the Babylonians, beginning in 605 b.c., to exile the people (respectively the Northern Kingdom of Israel and then Southern Kingdom of Judah). The one feature of the "marriage theme" that some may find shocking is that Yahweh would experience the pain of divorce. God was metaphorically pictured in the O.T. as having issued a Bill of Divorce to Israel for her unfaithfulness (Isaiah 50:1). 

       Per Hosea 2, this metaphor of God as a husband and Israel as His wife is featured (one of several spots in the O.T. prophets). Why the Divorce? Israel had broken covenant. However, God would then issue prophecies and promises of Israel’s restoration. Yahweh’s wife, Israel, will be restored to Him in the earthly reign of Messiah. God says at the end of Hosea 2:23 “And I will say to those who were not my people, Your are my people! And they will say, “You are my God!”. The O.T. states what will take place (Israel’s restoration). It even hints at the nations somehow having involvement. However, it does not say “how” (part two of this sermon will cover the New Testament's teaching on the church, which will explain the "how", in the next post).

      God never ceases extending His invitation to fallen man – the O.T. gives us an example in the heart of the Father. If one can keep in mind that the Old Testament is summed-up as "God's initial calling"; "God's calling reissued"; "God's calling - final notice" and "God's covenant broken and promise of restoration", then the general purpose of the Old Testament to New Testament truth should come into view.

More next time....

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