Proclaiming the Lord’s Death Until He Comes

Robertson McQuilkin remembered watching Muriel Webendorfer run her  “lovely, artistic fingers” through her “lovely, brown hair.” And as he began to spend more time with her, Robertson discovered Muriel. She was “delightful, smart, and gifted, and just a great lover of people and more fun than you can imagine.” And so on February 14, 1948, Robertson asked Muriel to be his wife. She said yes. Forty-two years and one month later, Robertson would resign as the much loved and respected president of Columbia Bible College with these words:

My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health for about eight years. So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibilities at CBC. But recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just ‘discontent.’ She is filled with fear – even terror – that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. Then she may be full of anger when she cannot get to me. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time…The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel “in sickness and in health…till death do us part.” So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more; I love Muriel. She is a delight to me – her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I do not have to care for her, I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.[1]

When You Come Together as a Church

This is the second Sunday of the month and on this Sunday we will spend time in a passage that seems to be about the first Sunday of the month. The first Sunday of the month is that Sunday we set apart as the Sunday to observe the Lord’s Supper together. And so it was last Sunday that we were served broken bread and individual cups filled with grape juice and together we remembered and gave thanks and ate and drank.

The Lord’s Supper is given to us in four passages: Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. And notice something rather important; the Gospel of John does not mention the Lord’s Supper. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 is the only passage that calls the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Supper. And listen carefully; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 is not about the Lord’s Supper.

Listen to 1 Corinthians 11:17. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you.” Pause there and mark two things. First, the following verses are instructions. And we just want to simply ask, instructions for what? Second, notice the word commend. It is a very important word, some translations instead have the word praise. The picture is that of standing up and applauding. 1 Corinthians 11 can be divided in two parts. In the first part, Paul writes to this local church about that which he can applaud them (1 Corinthians 11:1-16). The second part is about that which he cannot applaud them. And we just want to simply ask, what is it?

Keep listening to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.” And there it is; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 is about when the local church gathers together. Paul will mention this phrase, when you come together, five times (v. 17; 18; 20; 33; 34). He keeps coming back to it, meaning whatever it is he has to say affects every time the church comes together whether it is Sunday morning at 9:30 for prayer or rehearsing the order of worship or Sunday morning at 10 to greet one another or Sunday morning at 10:10 to read God’s Word and sing God’s Word and preach God’s Word or Sunday evenings at 5 or Wednesday evenings at 7 or…This passage is about any time the local church comes together.

So, why does Paul bring up the Lord’s Supper? He first mentions it in verse twenty and it sure seems to be the concern in the rest of the passage. It is because the observance of the Lord’s Supper is to affect everything else we do. The first Sunday affects the second and third and fourth and sometimes fifth Sunday. The Lord’s Supper affects every time we come together. And the reason that Paul cannot applaud the gathering of this church, whenever it gathered, is because they were getting the Lord’s Supper wrong. The Lord’s Supper is one of two ordinances that Jesus gave us, two particular commands that we as a church must be doing. The other ordinance is believer’s baptism. And what I am about to say next applies to both ordinances, but in particular to the Lord’s Supper. Yes, it is a command. We must do this; but there is a delight in doing this that is like Robertson McQuilkin – we get to do this!

The Divisions Among You

And as we walk through these verses we are to see the significance of the Lord’s Supper; the significance of regularly eating the Lord’s Supper; the significance of the Lord’s Supper in the life of a local church, specifically Calvary Community Church.

So, in verse seventeen Paul pointed out that when this particular local church gathered together it was not for the better but for the worse. Meaning, our gathering together is to be for the better. But how does Paul know that their gathering together is for the worse? Listen to verse eighteen. “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part.” Notice the word divisions. Paul uses this word three times in 1 Corinthians. The third time is in 1 Corinthians 12:25, the first indication that 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Corinthians 12 are to be read and studied and preached together. But the first time Paul uses this word is in 1 Corinthians 1:10. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” And how does Paul know that their gathering together is for the worse, not the better? Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:11. “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.” Chloe told Paul about these divisions. And Chloe told Paul what was happening on the first Sunday of the month. And notice what she called the divisions: quarreling among one another.

At the Lord’s Supper, some in this church were making this meal their main meal. Somebody was rushing ahead to this table and just devouring the bread leaving others breadless. And then there was somebody taking the cup and guzzling all the juice, enough juice to get drunk (v. 20-22)! Notice Paul’s response: WHAT?! And what he says next has opened my eyes to the significance of the Lord’s Supper.

Do You Despise the Church of God?

It is in verse twenty-two. “Do you despise the church of God?” The church of God is people. The church of God is saved people. The church of God is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb people; these are blood bought people. The church of God is sins forgiven, debt canceled at the cross people. The word despise means to devalue. So, it is like Paul is asking, do you not value the church of God? Do you not value your church? Do you not value the church members? And we want to ask, what does that have to do with the Lord’s Supper? How we treasure the Lord’s Supper has something to do with how we treasure one another. This is the division; the tear in the garment.

And so, here again, Paul asks us, “What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not commend you.” Then in verse twenty-three Paul gives the reason for why he cannot commend them or their gathering. Look at the very first word: for [or because]. So his question, do you value your church, is rooted in the night that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.

Remember, the Gospel of John is the only Gospel that does not mention the Lord’s Supper. Instead, the Gospel of John provides all that happened in that room before the Lord’s Supper and after the Lord’s Supper. This is so remarkable. Before the Lord’s Supper, Jesus got down on his hands and feet and washed the disciples’ feet, including Judas. And after this feet washing, Jesus then said these words: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

And then after the meal, right before they left together for the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed these words: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21). Surrounding this meal, the institution of it, is that those who eat this meal together love one another. And that among those who eat this meal, there be a united togetherness. What does that look like?

Why Many of You Are Weak

And so when it comes to this meal which seems to affect everything else we do, we must examine ourselves to make sure we are not partaking in this meal in an “unworthy manner” (11:27-28). How could I, how could we eat this meal in an unworthy manner? The word unworthy means lacking a corresponding value. How I treasure this meal has much to do with how I treasure those whom Jesus has bought with his blood. Francis Chan shared what characterized the earliest Christians when they gathered together: devoted. They were devoted to Bible teaching. They were devoted to fellowship. They were devoted to prayer. They were devoted to the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42). And soon thereafter those same Christians would endure together intense persecution. “Imagine sitting around a table and sharing a meal with the few people who shared their mission and beliefs. Imagine sitting around a table and sharing a meal with people who loved you unconditionally and whose lives had changed in the same way as yours. As you gather, you can’t help but remember those who used to sit at the table with you but were killed for proclaiming his death. Some who gather with you have injuries and scars from the persecution. You break the bread and eat it, remembering that Jesus had broken His body so you could find life in Him. Imagine drinking the cup with these fellow believers as you recall how His blood was shed. He did this for you so you could be cleansed and forgiven of all your sins. Can you see how powerful this experience would have been for the church every time they gathered?”[2]

This church was doing this in an unworthy manner. How? They were not connecting the value of Jesus’ death with their valuing of one another. Notice what Paul shares about this, how serious it is, in verses twenty-nine and thirty. “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” And is this why, in part, there are ineffective churches, dying churches, lacking power churches? Does it have something to do with the significance of the Lord’s Supper in the life of a local church?

Proclaiming the Lord’s Death Until He Comes

What happens when we treasure the Lord’s Supper treasuring one another? “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” We preach to one another! And we prepare for the meal together by first preaching the significance of this meal to ourselves! And what are we preaching to one another at this meal? “As you travel, dear brother, dear sister, as you travel along the dusty path of Christian obedience, as you walk up your pilgrimage in service to your Redeemer and you feel yourself weary, remember, Jesus is enough. Jesus is enough. He’s coming soon! Trust Him and press on! One day He will come and a better banqueting table will be spread before us! And there we will be with Him at last, face to face with our Savior, eating and drinking to the joy of our hearts and our everlasting delight! Christ is enough, so press on, dear brother, dear sister. Press on. Keep going. He will sustain you. Look to Him.”[3]

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, pages 33-34.

[2] Francis Chan, Letters to the Church, pages 60-61.

[3] J. Ligon Duncan, sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

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But God Meant It For Good

These are the generations of Jacob: Reuben. Simeon. Levi. And Judah. Dan. Naphtali. Gad. And Asher. Issachar. And Zebulun. Joseph. And Benjamin.

Genesis 50, the final chapter of Genesis, may be viewed in three parts: the beginning (50:1-14); the middle (50:15-21); and the end (50:22-26). And these generations of Jacob – these twelve brothers – are in each part. In the beginning, these twelve brothers returned to Egypt together. In the middle, these twelve brothers were in Egypt together. And in the end, these twelve brothers remained in Egypt together. The big question is, why?

None Like These Brothers

There have been many brothers throughout Genesis, but none like these brothers. There were Ishmael and Isaac. When their dad died, these two brothers buried him together and then went their separate ways, never to see each other again (Genesis 25:9). There were Esau and Jacob. When their dad died, these two brothers buried him together and then went their separate ways, never to see each other again (Genesis 35:29). But not these twelve brothers. No, when their dad died, these twelve brothers buried him together and then went their separate ways, only to see each other again.

Each brother is back in Egypt. Joseph at his house, probably the second largest house in all of Egypt, and his brothers are each in their tent on their ranch just outside the city limits. Perhaps on a clear day, Joseph’s house can be seen from here. Some time has apparently passed and it has been a while since anyone has seen Joseph. Come to think of it, no one has seen Joseph since dad died. And he was rather quiet on the return to Egypt. Listen then to verse fifteen. “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.’”

What reason would these brothers have to think this way? Could it be that they remembered the story of Esau and Jacob? Esau hated Jacob and planned to kill his brother but not until their dad died (27:41). And so, they send a note to their brother. “Your father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” (50:16-17).

Why do the brothers send a note? It is the note that does all the talking. And Joseph hears every word and at the sound of every word Joseph weeps! Joseph is just about the only man in Genesis who cries and most of his tears are at the sound and sight of his brothers. Listen to the English Standard translation of verse seventeen. “Joseph wept when they spoke to him.” Joseph heard his brothers’ voices in this note. And as he wept, it is audible almost like a wailing, he looked up and there was each brother, all eleven, kneeling in his living room before him. Why do the brothers send a note and why does Joseph weep at the note? Fear. The brothers out of fear send this note to their brother; afraid that all Joseph has done since Genesis 42 was motivated by affection for dad, not out of any real affection for them.

Is the note real? I mean, why the note now? It seems too good to be true, too convenient. And did Jacob really say this to these eleven, well, really ten sons? There are only two records of Jacob giving a command to his sons before he died. The first was to Joseph alone. “Do not bury me in Egypt” (Genesis 47:29). And the second time was to all of his twelve sons together. “Bury me with my fathers” (Genesis 49:29). So, was there a third time, a private moment with these particular brothers, no Joseph, that Jacob commanded his sons? Maybe. It sounds good, but seems suspect. But there is something good about it.

Behold, We Are Your Servants

Whether truly genuine or not, there is a glimpse into the heart of these brothers. There is a glimpse that these brothers recognized something.

At the end of verse eighteen, the brothers bowed themselves before Joseph and present themselves as their brother’s servants. Bowing is an act of humility. Now think of it; these brothers are seeking forgiveness for something that they did nearly forty years ago! And what did these brothers do? Keep in mind Benjamin is there too and he had no part of the plan to kill Joseph. Neither was Benjamin a part of selling Joseph, accepting actual money, into slavery. But he is there, too, bowing. And what did these brothers do? Listen closely to Genesis 50:17. “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” It is important to see that these brothers called what they did not a mistake; not a failure; not an accident; not an error or lapse in judgment; not a disorder or disease or…but a break, a breaking of trust. The brothers called it sin. The brothers called it evil.

And the Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And the Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And the Bible says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land” (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Isaiah 1:18-19). And the Bible says this to who?

But God Meant It For Good

In Genesis 50:19-21, Joseph responds to his brothers. And let’s not forget his tears. This is not an unmoved, stoic man. And his response is summed in the last few words of verse twenty-one. “Thus he comforted them.” So, all that he said in verses nineteen through twenty-one was to comfort them. And his comfort for them are these words: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear.”

Twice he tells his brothers to not fear. Why? The brothers intended evil against Joseph, but God intended it for good. And circle that word good. This is a part of the section of Genesis called the generations or account of Jacob. There are eleven of these sections in Genesis; each begin with the words the generations or account of… The very first section is called the generations or account of the heavens and the earth when they were created (Genesis 2:4). This includes both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. What did God say about the creation of the heavens and the earth? God looked at what he had just created and saw that it was good. And what then is Genesis 3 all about? It is about Adam and his wife and transgression and sin and evil that they did. Sin broke what was good. Sin always breaks what is good. But be sure to listen to this; in Genesis 3 in the midst of what the serpent intended for evil and what Adam intended for evil and what Eve intended for evil, God surprises all three with the hope of the Savior. This has been called the first pronouncement of the gospel, also known as good news (Genesis 3:15).

And when Genesis closes there is this final word from Joseph for his brothers, words of comfort, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good;” meaning, since Genesis 3, not just in the life of Joseph, but including the life of Joseph, God in all of his dealings, all of his workings, has been continuing to bring about his good plan.

Now keeping watching closely. God meant it, meaning what these brothers did to Joseph, for good, but good for whom? Listen to all of verse twenty. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Who was it good for? Joseph is not saying that it was good for him, although it was pretty good for him – he is the second most powerful man in the world. But what does Joseph say? Remember back to Genesis 45:5-11. He told his brothers to not be angry with themselves for what they did to Joseph. They did not send Joseph to Egypt, God did. In other words, God was in control the whole time! But keep listening to Genesis 50:20. Who was it good for? It was good for many people, that many people should kept alive, as they are today. So, the good was for those who were living today! The good was to keep many people alive. Keep this in mind; this evil the brothers did was something the brothers did forty years ago. But what they did forty years ago was for a good forty years later. Is that not amazing? But it gets better. Who in particular was alive today because of Joseph? These eleven brothers, ten of whom intended evil. Wow.

It reminds of Acts 2; a sermon. It takes place some fifty days after the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And fifty days later, Peter preaches to those who at the cross were yelling crucify him, crucify him! And the heart of his message is this: you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. What is the good? To give you new life. And the beauty and wonder of that message is on that day those who yelled the most awful things about and to Jesus, on this day said, what can we do to get this new life? The Bible says, repent. Call sin what it is and believe Jesus for who he is and all that he is to be for you and get saved (Acts 2:14-41). At that message, three thousand people were given new life.

There Is So Much For Us

The end, the third part of Genesis 50 is Joseph on his death bed. And he is with his brothers. And with his brothers he commands them to look forward to the day when God will surely visit them (this would be in about 400 years). God is coming for his people, to take them to his promised land. And Joseph has his brothers promise to carry his bones out of Egypt to that promised land on that day. The writer of Hebrews observes that out of Joseph’s entire life, this was the moment he really shined. He said these things by faith (Hebrews 11:22). He was looking forward to the reality to come and in a sense he tasted it now.

And as Genesis concludes, there is so much for us! It is to be like these brothers. How so?

1. Be fighting sin daily. Romans 8:12-13 puts it like this: “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” How do you fight sin daily? You do not fight sin daily by yourself. The way it is worded here is to put sin to death, that is, kill it. So, you do not kill sin all by yourself. Are you saved? If you are saved you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you and so by his supernatural power you kill sin daily by calling sin what it is; sin and by saying no to it.

2. Have a goodward perspective daily. Romans 8:12-39 is the commentary on Genesis 50. And Romans 8:28 is the commentary on Genesis 50:20. Listen to Genesis Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” The goodward perspective is this: in any of the unpleasant and undesirable things we endure, God indeed intends it for good, but sometimes that good is not for us. Sometimes that good is for others. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

 

And listen to those first few words of Romans 8:28. “And we know….” We can know this! How can we know this? This is part of that goodward perspective. How can we know? “As long as the cross stands in history, no one who knows its meaning will be able to pronounce a limitation on God’s providence.”

And Joseph Returned to Egypt with His Brothers

If you struggle with depression, I would tell you to see the doctor. If you want to be married or do not want to be married; if you are married or not married or no longer want to be married, I would tell you to see the doctor. And if you just need some good news, I would tell you to see the doctor. His name, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a distinguished medical doctor, but also much more. He was a preacher…who did not live for preaching.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones died on March 1, 1981. Two days before his death, with trembling hand, he wrote this note for his wife and children: “Do not pray for healing. Do not hold me back from the glory;” that is what he called heaven – the glory.

Jacob died on day 53,655. Days before his death, with trembling voice, he gave this note to his children: “Do not bury me in Egypt.”

Genesis 50 could be viewed in three parts. There is the beginning (50:1-14). There is the middle (50:15-21). And there is the end (50:22-26). Both the beginning and the end share the very same big idea. In the beginning, Jacob’s sons do not bury their father in Egypt. At the end, Jacob’s sons do bury their brother Joseph in Egypt. And there is a reason.

After Jacob Blessed His Twelve Sons

After Jacob blessed his twelve sons – and the sense is that this was immediate – Jacob commanded his twelve sons. This is Genesis 49:29-32, something we spent nearly no time on last week. And in this command, Jacob used the word bury five times and then drew his last breath and died. These are his last words; so concerned with his burial! Note that; he is more concerned about his burial than his funeral. I have no reason to, but I have thought a little bit about my funeral, more so than my burial. I know that I do not want to be there for my funeral, meaning, no casket and no shell of what is left behind. And no pictures; just the reading of God’s Word; the singing of God’s Word, especially It is Well with My Soul and Behold Our God; and the preaching of God’s Word.

But here, Jacob was especially concerned with his burial, it is not the first time, just the last time. The first time was just a couple of chapters ago, in a moment between Jacob and Joseph (Genesis 47:29-31). After which, Jacob bowed in worship. So, there is something sacred about this burial. Jacob is to be buried with his fathers. Jacob is to be buried in that cave in that field that Abraham bought way back in Genesis 23. Jacob is to be buried in that cave in that field where Abraham and Sarah are buried and Isaac and Rebekah are buried and where Leah, Jacob’s wife is buried. And Jacob is to be buried in that cave in that field in the land of Canaan. And what is the land of Canaan? It is the land, land that God has promised to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, to give to their offspring, but not until their offspring spent four hundred years in a land not called home (Genesis 12:1-9; 15:1-16). And then Jacob drew his feet into his bed, breathed his last and died.

The Affection of a Son for His Father

Then Genesis 50 begins. Joseph fell on his father’s face. Remember, when Joseph first saw his father after years of not seeing his father, he ran to him and fell on his neck and wept for a good while (46:29). And remember, God promised that Joseph would be the one who at the end would close Jacob’s eyes (46:4). Here, Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. And it just spoke to me the affection of this son for his father.

It is interesting that of these thirteen men – Jacob and his twelve sons – Joseph is the only one in this record who has shed tears. He has shed tears for his brothers like three times and he has shed tears for his dad. And he has kissed each one of them. It is something I had not really noticed or appreciated until his father died, but in these closing chapters the affection of Joseph has really been brought forth. And I think what we are seeing with Joseph is the affections God had for him affecting his affections for others. And where did he learn the affections God had for him? It was not in the favor his earthly father had for him. It was not in getting a brand new and glorious robe. It was not in his success in Egypt. It was, though, through difficulty and discouragement and at the border of despair. He learned the affections God had for him in the pit and in the pit again (the prison).

And Joseph Commanded His Servants

And now watch closely verse two and verse three and verse four. Joseph commanded his servants to embalm his father. What kind of servants? These are Egyptian servants. These are Egyptian doctors. It is really interesting that Joseph does not have nor does he allow the Egyptian priests to embalm his father. Remember, Joseph’s father-in-law was the Egyptian priest. It is as if he is purposely avoiding any false religious practice with preparing his father’s body for burial. This particular embalming practice took forty days. But notice the last part of verse three. The Egyptians wept for him, presumably Jacob, for seventy days. This was two days shy of the required mourning for the death of a pharaoh. It shows the high regard the Egyptians had for both Joseph and Jacob.

Then comes verse four. When the days of weeping past, this was almost two and a half months, Joseph sought to speak with Pharaoh. This is very important to not miss. He only speaks to the household of Pharaoh. Perhaps it is because he is in no condition to rightly stand before Pharaoh. But he sought Pharaoh’s permission to leave Egypt. Please pay attention to that. It is to fulfill his father’s will that he be buried in the land of Canaan. But just note, Joseph sought Pharaoh’s permission to leave Egypt for the promised land. And Pharaoh responded, “You may go” (50:4-6).

Now watch closely Genesis 50:7-9. Joseph went up to bury his father. And so did all the servants of Pharaoh. And so did all elders of Pharaoh’s household. And so did all the elders of the land of Egypt. And so did all of Joseph’s brothers. And so did all of Jacob’s household. And so did Egyptian chariots and Egyptian horsemen. The point is that this was a very great company of both Egyptians and Israelites heading out of Egypt for the promised land.

Highlight the last part of verse eight. There were three groups that did not make this trip this time. The grandchildren of Jacob and the flocks of Jacob and the herds of Jacob stayed behind, this time. This all foreshadows the book of Exodus. Exodus will be four hundred years later. And then, the descendants of Jacob called the nation of Israel will get out of Egypt. Moses, a one time most powerful man of Egypt, will seek Pharaoh’s permission to lead Israel out of Egypt. And when Israel does leave Egypt, it will be a very great company leaving Egypt, this time including their children and their flocks and their herds. And when Israel does leave Egypt, the Egyptians with their chariots and their horsemen will oppose them (Exodus 10-14). Now this is interesting; in Genesis 50:11-14, Moses gives a hint to the route that Joseph and his brothers took getting to the promised land. It was the long way, very similar to the route in Exodus; the long way.

And Joseph Returned to Egypt with His Brothers

But really pay attention to verse fourteen. It is the verse that grabbed my attention. “After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers.” Prior to burying their father, the whole company including the Egyptians stopped to mourn together for seven days. There was weeping and wailing, so much so that those living in Canaan came out to see what this noise was and said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” And then Jacob’s children went up by themselves to the cave and buried their father. But they returned together to Egypt. I wondered for a few days why it was that Moses would include that detail. Would it not be a given? I mean, they left their children and their flocks and their herds in Egypt.

Why did Joseph return to Egypt with his brothers? It was with his brothers. This was the first time Joseph had been back home in decades. How hard was it to leave? Perhaps it was not too difficult; perhaps it no longer felt like home. When he first left for Egypt it was against his will. And when he first left for Egypt it was by his own brothers’ hands. And they stood there watching the caravan carry their brother away until it disappeared over the horizon. The brothers though have made this trip to Egypt several times. The difference this time is that the twelve brothers, the twelve tribes of Israel are returning to Egypt together. So, what is the point?

Listen to Genesis 50:13. “…his sons carried him to the land of Canaan.” And then listen to Genesis 50:25. “Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’” When will Joseph’s bones be carried up out of Egypt? The exodus. And here then is the reason that the beginning of Genesis 50 and the ending of Genesis 50 both concern burial, the burial of Jacob and then the burial of Joseph. And it is why Joseph and his brothers returned to Egypt. Burying Jacob was a rehearsal for the exodus. These brothers returned to Egypt by faith. They walked back to Egypt not by sight. They returned to Egypt together holding fast to God’s promise of Genesis 15:13-16. The famine was over, it had been over for a long time. There was an argument to be made to stay home and not return to Egypt. But no one mentioned it. Each went back to Egypt to wait. It was there that they would wait and wait and wait for God’s salvation. They were going back to prosperity and favor. But the generations to come would lose that prosperity and favor. These brothers were not allowing their circumstances to dictate their faith. They would wait and generations to come would wait. There would be oppression. There would be difficulty. There would be suffering but there God would perform his wonders. There in the fiery furnace of Egypt, God would fashion a people for his own possession. I marvel that these twelve men went back to Egypt.

There will be difficulty to come; there will be trials; there will be reason to grow dismayed; there will be circumstances that will exhaust patience and will try endurance…for us. And I have been praying for us, differently than I think I ever have before. I want us happy and joyful and that is not to say that we are not happy and joyful. But there are moments, here and there, when I get concerned. I wonder what will happen when we are not so happy. And I wondered how did those men go back to Egypt knowing that God promised centuries of difficulty? Here I am, fretting a little bit about even just one period of difficulty as a church. So, how do you go back to Egypt, how do you lead a people to go back to Egypt where presently everything is fine, but know that there will be times of trial to come?

I talked to our Father about it. And I wrote down five things that I have been praying now for four days. I have been praying that we would pray. Jesus said that his father’s house is to be a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13). I have been praying that we would love…God’s Word. I have been praying that we would love…one another. I have been praying that we would love…those who are outside. And I have been praying that we would love…God.

And it seems to me that if I do those things, if we do those things, we can go back to Egypt.

And Then Jacob Blessed His Twelve Sons

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. And I fall asleep counting my blessings. When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all. And I fall asleep counting my blessings. So, if you’re worried and you can’t sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep. And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings. Or so said Bing Crosby who then dreamt of a white Christmas.

In Genesis 48, Jacob blessed his two grandsons. And he blessed them not because these were his only grandsons. And he blessed them not because these were his favorite grandsons. Jacob blessed these two grandsons because they were Joseph’s sons. And despite what Jacob had believed for so many years; despite what Jacob was led to believe for so many years, this his son Joseph was still alive. And Joseph was not only still alive, but after so many years, Jacob realized that God’s will, God’s plan, God’s purpose had not been thwarted. God had done abundantly. But these two grandsons were a picture that God had done abundantly more.

And Then Jacob Blessed His Twelve Sons

And then Jacob blessed his twelve sons. Listen to this concluding remark. It is Genesis 49:28, a remark made for us by Moses. He interjects here something we must know, a point we must not miss. “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel.” Pause…right…there. How many? Twelve. Let’s continue. “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them.” Again, pause…right…there. What is this that their father said to them? This is very important. This is Genesis 49:2-27. Again, let’s continue. “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them.” And again, pause…right…there. In speaking to his boys, what did their father do? He blessed them. And again, let’s continue. “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to them.” How many sons did Jacob bless? He blessed each son; that is twelve. According to this very verse, which Moses intentionally pauses to say something to us, a point we must not miss, there should be, if we were to count these blessings, twelve blessings.

There is a big problem. If we were to count these blessings, we might only see six blessings. In Genesis 49:22-26, the word bless or blessing occurs six times. And each of those six times is directed toward one son; the son who at one time owned a coat of many colors; the son who now stood before his father arrayed in the finest linen of Egypt – Joseph. The blessing of twelve sons, Genesis 49:2-27, does not look like twelve blessings, nor does it sound like twelve blessings. Just listen. “Simeon and Levi are brothers [allies]; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company” (49:5-6a). What does that sound like? Does it sound good? Blessings, I think, are meant to sound good. Listen some more. Still speaking to and about Simeon and Levi, their father says, “Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel!” Jacob in talking about these two sons used the word curse. That does not look like blessing, it looks like the opposite of blessing. And on top of that, Jacob puts an exclamation point at the end of it.

So, What is the Point?

So, what is the point? Listen to how this chapter begins; it is verses one and two. “Then Jacob called his sons” – this immediately follows, or is meant to give the sense that this immediately follows Genesis 48. And I think it sets us up as much as it sets up these twelve sons. Meaning, in Genesis 48 Jacob seemingly overwhelmed by what God has done, blesses his two grandsons and implores God to bless his two grandsons (48:15). So, when Jacob calls for his sons, the feeling is that with that same feeling, Jacob is about to bless his twelve sons. “Then Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather yourselves together.” I love this; I think it is a great picture. These twelve brothers have all entered their dad’s bedroom. And there he is, sitting up in his bed, a dulled white beard, face tired. He looks weak. His breathing is slowing. And each brother is so different. Joseph stands out in his royal garb. A brother or two stick to a corner of the room. There is one brother staying close to the doorway. And Jacob wants them, needs them to come closer and huddle together around his bed. Perhaps it is because his voice is already straining to be heard and perhaps he wants them close enough to hear and not mistake anything he has to say. So, each brother, maybe looking at another, comes up right to the bed. No space is left for a thirteenth person. They lean in and Jacob says, “that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.”

Already this does not sound like a blessing. Jacob does not even say, “that I may bless you.” This is already not sounding like the two grandsons (cf. 48:9). Jacob wants to talk about the future, the near and perhaps the far future. Why? These sons must be puzzled. Wouldn’t you be trying to figure what possibly could be said? There is always an inquisitive one, eager to hear. And there is always an anxious one who would rather not hear anything.

There are some then who begin to back away, so Jacob in raising his voice just a bit more says, “Assemble!” Now listen closely. “And listen, O sons of Jacob, listen to your Israel your father.” Listen is a command and he says it twice. I think he really means it. All that is required of these sons is to listen. And so it is for us in reading these verses, just listen. And keep in mind that closing remark made by Moses for us. Each of these twelve sons was blessed by their father. And count them, there should be twelve blessings. And I want to know, this is the big question because of the apparent big problem, how can Moses say that? I want to know, where are the twelve blessings?

And it all leads me to say this and it is about the point. This is a lesson in believing God, but not with the eyes and not with what is perceived. And it is wonderful. This chapter and this moment has been called the high point of Genesis.

Let Each One Hear

Each son is in this room. And Jacob will speak directly to each son about each son and for each son to hear about the other. Jacob does not call each son into his room privately. He wants all twelve to hear all of this at the very same time. And so he begins with Reuben. He was the firstborn and so was to enjoy the prominence and position of being the firstborn but he threw it all away for one night of passion. “He went up to my couch!” Jacob says, again, with an exclamation point (49:4). It was something perhaps Reuben did not know that his father knew. It was something perhaps none of the other brothers knew either.

We already know what he said to Simeon and Levi. Zebulun will apparently enjoy the prosperity of being near a trade route (49:13). Issachar will consider freedom too much of a burden and will trade it for servitude (49:14-15). Dan will be a supreme court judge of the nation. The judge Samson will arise from him. But watch out for Dan, he may just nip at your heels and cause you to stumble (49:16-17). Gad will be raided and will do some raiding of his own (49:19). Asher will be a place to get great food (49:20). Naphtali might be a poet (49:21). Benjamin will be a warrior’s warrior. He will be wanted to lead in battle (49:27). It does not sound all bad, does it?

But again, there is that lesson in believing God, but not with the eyes and not with what is perceived. Jacob has learned this lesson, it was not until old age, but he learned this lesson. Remember, and it concerned Joseph, despite what Jacob had believed; despite what Jacob was led to believe, he learned that God was doing abundantly. And so, when he speaks to Joseph it is for each son to hear. And what is really unique is that not only with Joseph does he use the word bless and then six times. Instead, it is what he says about God. Listen just to verse twenty-four. “…by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob.” He called God mighty. This is a peculiar word. And it means strong. And it is only used six times in the Old Testament and it is only ever used of God. And it is always the Mighty One of Jacob. Jacob is saying for all his boys to hear that God is mighty and God is my God. It gets so much better. He then describes this might. God is the shepherd. God is the stone, a rock, a refuge. And he is El Shaddai, the Almighty, the one who makes things happen by his might and his power. Now listen to this; Jacob is recounting for Joseph and for each son to hear how it was that Joseph endured what he endured. R. Kent Hughes called this “a waterfall of divine names.” And that “it was God in the full significance of these names who had delivered Joseph and sustained him.”

Why is that important? In the middle of speaking to each son for each son to hear, Jacob says in verse eighteen, “I wait for your salvation, O Lord.” And he just wants his sons to listen. Why? This is the blessing, the twelve blessings. Could it be that he wants them to wait too, even in view of “the days to come” for each one of them? And how will they wait? how can they wait? By God, who in the full significance of who he is will both deliver them and sustain them as they wait. But there is more and it is so much better. For what is there to wait?

There Was Judah

There was Judah. I cannot wait to show you this. Judah had a moment in his life not unlike Reuben and not unlike Simeon and not unlike Levi. But a moment that Jacob does not mention. It was a moment of failure recorded in Genesis 38, but a moment that Judah called it for what it was, his failure. It was his sin. And he confessed it for what it was and simply declared, “She is more righteous than I!” (Genesis 38:26).

And Jacob talks to Judah and he wants Judah to listen and for each brother to listen. Judah is a lion’s cub. All of Jacob’s sons, meaning Jacob’s offspring will bow down to Judah. And again Judah is a lion. Now listen to verse ten. There is much to this verse. First, the scepter shall not depart from Judah. The scepter is a sign of royalty and of kingship and of authority. And the ruler’s staff shall not depart from between his feet, meaning Judah will have offspring, a particular offspring who will hold this scepter and this ruler’s staff. It is a lion who will hold this scepter and this ruler’s staff, a descendant of Judah. And a sign that this offspring has arrived is wine. And when he arrives there will be an abundance of wine, so much wine that no one will care if donkeys are eating grapes right from the vine. There will be more wine than water (48:11).

I never noticed this when having studied it, but you must turn to John 2:1-11. It is when Jesus was invited to a wedding and at that wedding the wine began to run out. And what did Jesus do? He turned water into wine, the most expensive, most best wine! This is really important. Listen to verse eleven. “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” This sign was about declaring that the Lion of Judah was here.

And now get ready for Revelation 5:5. This is about days to come. “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’” But what about the scepter and the ruler’s staff? Listen to verse six. “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” Who is this Lion? He is the Lamb! He is the Lamb standing. He is the Lamb who was slain, but when he was slain he conquered as a lion. His name is Jesus! And when he died for my sins at the cross, he conquered as a lion!

And so what is the point? All of these brothers were indeed blessed…even in their good or not so good circumstances. Jacob wanted them to know that they were blessed and it is because of days to come, days when the lion would come, the salvation of the Lord. Their dad wanted them to wait! Look forward and wait!

And for us it is put best like this: “I am always aware that a hurting heart needs to understand and believe that God’s gracious plan is one of blessing and that despite circumstances [and I would add, even in the circumstances] his people are always blessed.”[1]

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, page 561

By Faith Jacob Blessed His Two Sons

Throughout the book of Genesis is the story of two. The first few chapters are about the first two people, Adam and Eve. And the chapter that follows is about the first two brothers, Cain and Abel. Then come the chapters about Noah and the ark and the animals who entered it two by two. There are the chapters about the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. There are the chapters about the two sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob. And then there is the one chapter about the two sons of Joseph.

And in this one chapter, the two sons of Joseph do not say much, in fact, they do not say anything. And in this one chapter, the two sons of Joseph do not do much, in fact, they do not do anything. And it is because this one chapter is not really all about them. This one chapter is really all about their grandfather. Their grandfather was Jacob.

By Faith Jacob Blessed His Two Sons

Jacob had twelve sons – Reuben and Simeon and Levi and Judah; Dan and Naphtali and Gad and Asher; Issachar and Zebulun; Joseph and Benjamin. And Joseph had two sons – Manasseh and Ephraim. In Genesis 49, Jacob will bless each of his twelve sons. But in Genesis 48, Jacob will bless only Joseph’s two sons. Now Jacob had other grandsons (cf. Genesis 46:8-25). But there is no chapter about Jacob blessing any of them. Why, out of all his grandsons does Jacob single out these two boys? At 147 years old, is Jacob still being Jacob? Meaning, he loved Joseph more therefore, he loved Joseph’s sons more?

Throughout Genesis 48 the word behold appears four times. It is used as an attention grabbing word. The first time it occurs is right there in Genesis 48:1. “Behold, your father is ill,” which by the way, is the first reference in the Bible of illness. And this attention grabbing word occurs again in Genesis 48:4 and lastly in Genesis 48:21. But it is Genesis 48:11 that I think is most helpful. “And Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.’” I think the reason for blessing these two grandsons has to do with Joseph. When Jacob heard that Joseph was still alive and that God had accomplished his will and his plan and his purpose despite what Jacob did not believe or was led to believe, his soul revived and he exclaimed, “It is abundant!” (Genesis 45:28). But when he finally saw Joseph’s face and then learned that there were two more faces to behold, he knew that God had done abundantly more.

I called this sermon, By Faith Jacob Blessed His Two Sons, because of Genesis 48:5. “And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine.” Jacob was making them a part of the inheritance that is only for his sons. The word bless is the most frequent word in the chapter. And the title given to Genesis 48 is Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh. So I thought to call it, Jacob Blessed His Two Sons. But there is more. There is more to this chapter than simply blessing these two grandsons or treating them as sons.

There is Hebrews 11:21. “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.” Is this not incredible?! The writer of Hebrews is referring to Genesis 48! Jacob lived to be 147 years old, that is roughly 53,655 days. And out of all those days, the writer of Hebrews “selects this as Jacob’s outstanding act of faith.”[1] One Bible teacher called Genesis 48, the singular triumph of Jacob’s life.[2] All because of how Jacob blessed his two grandsons. And how did Jacob bless his two grandsons? Listen again to Hebrews 11:21. “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph.”

And so, I want to know two things. What does by faith mean? Jacob blessed these two grandsons by faith, meaning, we should be able to see this in Genesis 48. And what was the blessing?

What Does By Faith Mean?

Jacob is ill. Joseph is told that his father is ill and so he goes to see him, but brings Manasseh and Ephraim with him. Jacob is told that Joseph has arrived and, in that moment, for this moment he musters every bit of possible strength (Genesis 48:1-2). I think that this is rather important. He does not muster every bit of strength to simply sit up in bed. No; he mustered every bit of strength and sat up in bed to do just one thing. It was to speak. Listen to verse three and notice the first two words out of his mouth. “God Almighty” or in Hebrew, El Shaddai. On his lips because it is on his mind is the God who makes things happen by his power and might.

Just quickly note this. The name God Almighty is rather unique to the life of Jacob. God uses it when speaking to Abraham one time (Genesis 17:1), but all the other occurrences are in the life of Jacob (cf. 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3). And the first it is used in the life of Jacob is when Jacob’s dad blessed him (28:3). And it is the name that Jacob called upon as Jacob prayed for the safety of his sons. But this is so good, when Jacob uses it here, he is actually quoting the Bible. Jacob is quoting Genesis 35:9-15. This is all that I want us to see; Jacob is on his deathbed and he musters all his strength to quote God’s Word. So, what does by faith mean? It has something to do with knowing who God is and it has something to do with knowing God’s Word.

Who Are These?

And as the chapter keeps moving, Jacob is also thinking about the day when his wife Rachel died, which is also recorded in Genesis 35. So, Genesis 35 is near and dear to Jacob in this moment. But I want us to see Genesis 48:8-10. When Jacob finally sees that two other people are with Joseph he asks, “Who are these?” And Joseph tells him, “These are my sons.” Jacob then shares his desire to bless these two sons. It is then we are told that Jacob cannot see. He is about to bless two boys and he cannot see. Part of this is to bring back to our minds Genesis 27 when Isaac was old and he could not see. In that chapter he sought to bless two sons one of whom was Jacob. There and by deception, Jacob sought the blessing of the firstborn and got it.

This is all purposeful. Jacob hugs and kisses his grandsons. Joseph then takes Ephraim in his right hand and positions him in front of Jacob’s left hand. He takes Manasseh in his left hand and positions him in front of Jacob’s right hand. It is all to ensure that each boy gets the proper blessing. From the right hand of Jacob will come the blessing for the firstborn and from the left hand of Jacob will come the other blessing for the younger. But at just the right moment Jacob crisscrossed his hands, placed them on the top of each boy’s head and listen to verse fifteen, “blessed Joseph and said…” Is that not intriguing? The heart of this chapter is Genesis 48:15-16; Jacob blessing Joseph. And it will lead to our second question, what was the blessing?

But look at Genesis 48:17. Joseph discovers what is happening and is actually angry. His blind father is giving the blessings to the wrong boys. Ephraim is getting the blessing of the firstborn! And so, he seeks to reverse the hands, bu Jacob stops him. “Not this way, Dad!” And I love Jacob’s response. “I know, my son, I know” (48:19). Jacob was blind, but knew exactly what he was doing. How? The blessing for each boy was to be great and to be a great people, but that Ephraim would be a greater people. Regardless, whenever the people of Israel would give out blessings it would be said, “Oh, that God would make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!” (cf. Genesis 48:17-20).

What Was the Blessing?

But what was the blessing? This is actually seen in Genesis 48:15-16, the heart of this chapter. And note that it is peculiar how this is worded, for again, this chapter is about a grandfather blessing his two grandsons. But notice, again, verse fifteen. “And he blessed Joseph and said.”  Even though the blessing was for these two grandsons, as long as Jacob has those hands on those two heads he is blessing these boys, Jacob was also blessing Joseph. How? This is the most wonder-filled thing I have to say. Jacob blessed Joseph by praying for his two sons. Genesis 48:15-16 is actually a prayer! It is a grandfather’s prayer for his grandsons! And this blesses a father!

In his prayer, he calls upon the God with whom his fathers walked. Walking with God or walking before God is only used of four people in Genesis. Here it includes Abraham and Isaac, but is also used of Enoch and Noah (5:22; 6:9). In his prayer, he calls upon the God who has been “my shepherd.” What does this sound like? It sounds like Psalm 23. And Jesus in the New Testament is called the good shepherd (John 10). And he calls God the shepherd who has shepherd him all life long to this very moment. And what is this moment? It is the finish. Jacob is dying. This is the valley of the shadow of death. In his prayer, he calls upon the angel who redeemed him from all evil. Note the word redeemed or rescued.

Contextually, Jacob is equating this angel with God. I think he has in mind Genesis 32 when he wrestled with God. His Uncle Laban had just hunted him down to kill him and was stopped by God. Then when Jacob kept moving he was stopped by the angels of God. Then he heard his brother was coming to meet him with 400 men, the perfect size for an army. And that evening God wrestled with him. But note that word redeemed. It means to purchase. It is the same word used in the book of Ruth. But there is a beautiful picture had in this word. This redeemer or rescuer was usually the nearest male relative whose responsibility was to bail someone out of if he fell into debt or slavery. It is the same word in Job 19:25-27. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!”

And what is Jacob praying for his grandsons? He asks, “bless the boys.” Bless them with knowing the God you can walk with; the God who will shepherd you all the way; the God who redeems lives! He is praying this for his grandsons! This was the blessing for Joseph and Manasseh and Ephraim.

How Are You Finishing?

And it comes back to a question we asked in Genesis 46 and again in Genesis 47 and again, now, here. How are you finishing? This was Jacob’s one singular moment of triumph. How did he finish?

1) The Word of God was holding his view on God.

2) And his view affected his praying.

This is what I have been gaining in turning thirty-eight years old. Finishing and how to finish! The Word of God is to be holding my view on God and this view is to be deepening my praying.

[1] Derek Kidner, Genesis, page 224.

[2] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, page 547.

When You Come Together as a Church

In the middle of Michigan is a small town called Edmore. And in the small town of Edmore is a farm. And on that farm is a door. And holding that door open, every day for the last thirty some years, was a twenty-two pound rock. Just recently a geology professor at Central Michigan University was asked to examine this rock. She has received numerous requests like this one before and like before she accepted the request and her conclusion had always been the same: it was a rock. This time, though, it was different. This was no ordinary rock. It was 88.5% iron and 11.5% nickel. Calling this a rock would have been meteor wrong. This was meteorite! Her careful examination not only uncovered that this was a meteorite, but also its value – one hundred thousand dollars. We can assume, and in large part due to its value, that it is no longer being treated as a rock or a doorstop.

How We Treasure the Lord’s Supper

This is the first Sunday of the month and the first Sunday of the month is that Sunday that we set apart as the Sunday to observe the Lord’s Supper together. There is only one time in the Bible that this is called the Lord’s Supper. Jesus never called it the Lord’s Supper. However, it was a Thursday evening. And it was supper time. Jesus was in a room with his closest friends. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark we are told that “as they were eating,” Jesus did something (cf. Matthew 26:25-29; Mark 14:22-25). In the Gospel of Luke, on the same Thursday evening, at supper time and in the same room, it is recorded that “when the hour came,” Jesus did something (Luke 22:14-20). And this tells us two things: what Jesus was about to do was particular and intentional. And there are two things that I treasure from those three records. First, Jesus shared with these close friends, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). In a few hours, Jesus would be nailing my sins to the cross, canceling my debt there forever. And at this supper, Jesus shared that it was with great desire that he desired to eat with these disciples. And second, Jesus promised to do this again, one day, with all of his disciples in his Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). He is talking about the Lord’s Supper!

It is only in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 that this is called the Lord’s Supper. And the big idea here regarding the Lord’s Supper is how we treasure the Lord’s Supper. And the reason is that this particular local church was getting it wrong and not just wrong, but meteor wrong.

When You Come Together as a Church

Listen to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you.” Pause there and highlight the word commend. Many translations have instead the word praise. Think of standing up and applauding someone. And make note of that word because Paul uses it again in verse twenty-two (actually twice). “Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not [commend you].” And what is his reasoning? Listen further to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together…” Pause there and highlight the words when you come together. Five times in these verses Paul refers to when you come together (11:17; 18; 20; 33; 34). Five times in these verses Paul is talking about when you come together as a church. He is referring to not only Sunday morning, but Sunday evening. And he is referring to not only Sunday evening, but Wednesday evening And he is referring not only to Wednesday evening, but Friday evenings and Bible studies and work days and…you get it. In these verses, Paul is talking about any time the church gets together.

Keep listening to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together, it is not for the better but for the worse.” In other words, this is bad. But the word to pay attention to is instructions. These verses are about instructions for whenever we come together as a church. But the occasion that Paul focuses upon is when the church comes together to eat the Lord’s Supper. Just notice how Paul narrows in on the Lord’s Supper in verses seventeen and eighteen and twenty. “…when you come together…when you come together as a church…when you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” They were eating the Lord’s Supper, but there was no way it could be called the Lord’s Supper. Why? This particular church was getting it wrong, meteor wrong.

How to Get the Lord’s Supper Wrong

How were they getting the Lord’s Supper wrong? Better yet, how might we get the Lord’s Supper wrong? In verse eighteen, Paul pointed out that there were “divisions among you.” The word divisions is the picture of a tear in a piece of garment. And it is just interesting that the occasion out of all the occasions to point out this division was the Lord’s Supper. How was this particular church divided?

Paul said that some of them were making this meal their meal, treating it like it was dinner. Imagine, making a meal out of this unleavened bread. Somebody or somebodies were rushing ahead to this table and just devouring the bread leaving others breadless. Then there was somebody or were somebodies taking the cup and guzzling all the juice, enough juice to get drunk. So, we might say that this particular church was getting the Lord’s supper wrong in how they were treating one another. There is the division! But that would miss the point. It is not so much how they treated one another, although that it is true, but their mistreatment of one another was because they did not value one another. Listen then to verse twenty-two. “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” The church of God is people. The church of God is saved people. The church of God is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb people; these are blood bought people. The church of God is sins forgiven, debt canceled at the cross people. But on the occasion of the Lord’s Supper, Paul asks a question. Do you despise the church of God? What does that have to do with communion Sunday? The word despise is a strong word, isn’t it?

The word despise means to devalue. It is like he is asking, do you not value the church of God? Do you not value your church? Do you not value the church members? Why is he asking this on communion Sunday?! The Lord’s Supper is something that the gathered church is to do together. How can it be done together if there are present divisions among us? And what really are those divisions? How we treasure the Lord’s Supper has something to do with how we treasure one another. And the reasoning is that the church of God is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb people; these are blood bought people. The church of God is sins forgiven, debt canceled at the cross people. These are people that Jesus the Christ gave himself up for; people Jesus the Christ is sanctifying and perfecting to one day present to himself blameless and without blemish or spot or wrinkle. And this is all tied into 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 where twice Paul reminds of the command to “do this in remembrance of Me” and that when we do this in remembrance of Jesus, we are “proclaiming his death until he comes!”

So, again, how we treasure the Lord’s Supper has something to do with how treasure one another.

Let A Person Examine Himself or Herself

1 Corinthians 11:28 contains what may be the lone command in this passage. “Let a person examine himself [and herself].” This is sort of like the twenty-two pound rock being used as a doorstop. It was not until upon examination that the rock was discovered to be a meteorite and its true value uncovered! How might we examine ourselves? In the previous verse, Paul warns to not eat the bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner. Unworthy here means to lack value or to lack a corresponding value. He then gives us the application in verse thirty-three. “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”

So, it is something that when Paul gives instructions regarding this meal he does so focusing upon our relationship to one another and valuing one another. How might I be treasuring you in treasuring the Lord’s Supper? Is it any wonder then that in the very next chapter Paul talks about being members one of another (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)? And then in 1 Corinthians 13 he only wants to talk about the value of love?