Monday, April 29, 2013

Peter and the National Day of Prayer

Last Sunday, in anticipation of the National Day of Prayer, the pastor of the church I have been attending (Bob Shirock of Oak Point Church in Wixom, Michigan) gave an excellent message:
 The essence of it was that our real crisis, as a nation, as a culture, is a God crisis. To lay the foundation, he took us to an extensive reading from the Torah: (Deuteronomy 28:15-63) and the Prophets: (Ezekiel 14:4-14). He then read from Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation for the National Day of Prayer. I must confess that I never read it before and was blown away by its wisdom and relevance for today:
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.”
This provides a good backdrop for another quote from the book The Tent of David- that I started to review a few weeks ago: (pages 87-89 written by Boaz Michael)
“...When Peter adjured the crowds after the coming of the Spirit on Shavuot in Acts 2:38-39, his message was not ‘believe in Jesus; go to heaven.’ It was repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of he Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.
Notice several things about his exhortation. First, repentance, not baptism, is primary. Second, ‘the promise’ of the giving of the Holy Spirit is specifically given to a corporate people, Israel; ‘for you’ - that is, those Jews and proselytes who were present- and for your children-  that is, the next generation of Jews- ‘and for all who are far off - those Jews in the Diaspora...
Finally, notice that Peter does not mention any kind of eternal reward...In Peter’s mind, as he gives the gospel of the kingdom to thousands of Jews, the impetus to receive the gospel is in order to be able to receive the spirit of God, which in turn empowers people to change the world here and now, making the kingdom of heaven manifest and bringing the presence and reign of God into the world in a tangible way.
That is the gospel message. Repent- change the way you live your life and begin to obey the commandments of God. For the kingdom of heaven is at hand- you can, in some way, bring God’s rule down to earth through your actions; it is possible to “live now for the realization of the Messianic Age.”

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of a sermon I have listed to many time - "The 10 Cannons of God's Law" by Ray Comfort. The essence is that it is that the "law is a school master to bring us to Christ." If people come to Christ to improve the quality of their lives, they will be disillusioned when they face persecution and difficulties. If they are shown to be a sinner, having violated God's commands, they will run to the cross in repentance, grateful to have escaped the certain wrath of judgement day.

    You watch Ray give his sermon here: