The Finger of God

The Finger of God

A polite person is testament to diligent mothering.   Mothers are guardians of polite behavior.  When someone is rude we think, “didn’t his mother teach him not to do that?” All the basic dictums of polite society still resonate in our mother’s voice:  “don’t slam the door, don’t chew with your mouth open, don’t interrupt, don’t stare, and don’t point at people.”

Children, especially, love to point at those who appear strange or comical.  They are given to the perspective of Lizzy Bennett’s father in Pride and Prejudice, “what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”  But pointing the finger means more than calling attention.  It implies condemnation, accusation, and judgement.   The phrase, “to point the finger” indicates guilt.  Witnesses in court are often called to “point out the accused.”  

No one wants the “finger of blame” pointed at them.  Especially if the finger is God’s.  In his classic painting, Belshazzar’s Feast, the Dutch painter, Rembrandt, captured the terror of this.  The painting graphically portrays the moment, chronicled in Daniel 5, when Belshazzar literally sees the ‘handwriting on the wall.’   At a moment of great national peril with Cyrus besieging the gates of Babylon, Belshazzar throws a great feast.  To add to the revelry, he brings out the bowls and goblets looted from the Temple in Jerusalem to use as serving pieces.   Belshazzar thought himself untouchable behind the walls of Babylon, but God had a word for him.

“Then from [the Lord’s] presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

DANIEL 5:24-28

None of us wants to hear that we have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Especially from God.   Belshazzar lifted himself up against the Lord of Heaven.  He despised God’s judgement, his holiness, his sovereignty, and his grace.  And the finger of God’s judgement was pointed at him.

The phrase, ‘the finger of god,’ was common in the ancient world for divine revelation or judgement.   We find it in the Old Testament in reference to God’s creative work in Psalm 8 and His revealing work in Exodus 31 and Deuteronomy 5.   And in the New Testament Jesus used the phrase in Luke 11.

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 

LUKE 11:14-21

But the first occurrence of the phrase ‘the finger of God’ is on the lips of Egyptian magicians.   Without warning, the third plague of Egypt brought swarms of gnats upon man and beast.  Until  this, the magicians mimicked the plagues in microcosm.  Enough to convince the Egyptians that the plagues were not divine judgement.   But even by their secret arts they could not conjure gnats from dust.   And they declare to Pharaoh “this is the finger of God.”

But Pharaoh refused to repent.  The finger of God’s judgement was pointed squarely at him, yet he bowed up.   For once the magicians spoke truth.  But it was a hard truth to accept. And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.   He refused to relent or repent.   His only hope was the mercy of God.  Yet his heart became even harder.   What about you?  Is the finger of God pointed in your direction? 

The hard truth is that the finger of God is pointed at us all.   Acknowledge it or not, we have been weighed and found wanting.   Or as Paul put it in Romans 3:23-24, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  

The hard truth is that we all face God’s judgement.  But the happy truth is that judgement need not be the last word.  Jesus endured the judgement of God for sin on behalf of those who believe in Him.   Join us as we examine Exodus 8:16-19 and consider hard truths about God’s judgement and the happy truth that in even in wrath God has remembered mercy in the gospel.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Prayer Meeting this Lord’s Day at 11 AM

Prayer Meeting this Lord’s Day at 11 AM

We will meet together for prayer meeting this Lord’s Day at the Phillips’ home at 11 AM. If you need directions, contact us. This time will be followed by a fellowship meal. Please consider bringing a dish to share.

Prayer is vital to the life of a congregation, and the Lord uses prayer in powerful ways. Would you consider joining us for this important time of prayer and fellowship?

God’s Power Over the Frogs

God’s Power Over the Frogs

Human sinful pride is destructive.  If you look across the history of the world, you will see that the downfall of many came at a time in which they were most proud.  Great novels in Western literature have emphasized the destructive nature of pride.  And of course, the Bible, God’s Word emphasizes again and again how deadly pride can be.  

Egypt’s Pharaoh during the time of Hebrew captivity was a proud man.  He imagined himself to be a god and when confronted by Moses and Aaron in Exodus 5, verse 2 records his response: “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go?”  This is the height of pride and hard-heartedness.  

But Exodus 8:10 corrects this, when Moses says, “There is no one like the LORD our God.”  Pharaoh is not God.  And the plague of frogs sent upon him and the Egyptians makes this abundantly clear.  As Bible scholars have noted, the ancient Egyptian fertility god would have been portrayed as a frog.  But as we see God send the frogs upon the Egyptians, it highlights that He is the Creator of frogs and that He governs all that they do.  The fact that He had restrained the frogs from this sort of invasion for so long indicates His power over them.  And the fact that they will go into Egypt at His command indicates this same power.  The gods of Egypt were no gods at all, and Pharaoh was no god at all.  

As our other pastor has reminded us, the plagues are rightly referred to as Mighty Acts of God.  They emphasize His power and might.  They emphasize that He alone is worthy to be worshiped, and when evil men hinder His people worshiping Him as He commands, the Lord defends His people.  

The story only becomes more tragic as Pharaoh’s heart grows more hardened against God.  One imagines some of the evil kings of Shakespearean tragedies who grow more and more oppressive and proud until their downfall.  In the case of Pharaoh, he not only oppresses the people, but his heart is set against God Himself.  

As we consider this, there are certainly warnings for us to heed.  It is a dangerous thing to harden our hearts against God.  But we also are reminded of God’s mercy.  We also were once set against God, determined to live for our own glory.  Yet God is the redeemer from the plague of sin and its curse. Christ has come into the world bearing that curse so that we might  be set right with God.  And we are made in His mercy and kindness able to love Him and to follow and worship Him.  

We were also reminded last week that hard heartedness need not have the last word.  If you are hardening your heart against God, won’t you see His kindness, His steadfast mercy and grace in Jesus Christ and turn to Him while there is still time?  Do not be as Pharaoh who saw the work of God all around him and still refused to worship Him.  Rather, repent,  run to Him, trust in Jesus Christ and you will be delivered from something far greater than frogs; you will be delivered from eternal judgment and will have hope for eternity.  

Have you seen that there is none like God? There is none so powerful, and there is also none so loving and merciful.   Have you trusted in His Son, and experienced His abundant grace and mercy?  

We will discuss this more fully in worship this Lord’s Day at 5 PM at The Commons at St. Andrews Church.  For directions, click here, or contact us for more information.  You can also join us on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube.

Cardiopathy

Cardiopathy

Most of us are concerned about the condition of our heart.   Every trip to the doctor involves a check of our ‘vital signs.’  Vital signs which assess either a direct metric of our heart’s performance or some downstream effect, such as our blood oxygen level.  No matter what medical concerns brought us in, our health care providers want to know our heart is working well.   Nothing in the machinery of our anatomy reflects the frailty of life like our heart.  Only one heartbeat separates life and death, the here-and-now from eternity.

Despite our modern debates, the presence of a heartbeat is still the core criteria for distinguishing life from death.   A sound heart is so fundamental to being alive, that our language enshrines the ‘heart’ as the center of our being.  It represents our will, our desires, our affections, our deepest thoughts.  We use the heart to describe our physical, emotional, and spiritual condition.  And so, the thought of having heart problems brings existential crisis.   The clinical term is cardiopathy which refers to any disease or disorder of the heart.  

The thought of cardiopathy creates anxiety and imminent concern for our mortality.   Especially, cardiopathies with few effective treatments.  I recently read about “stiff heart syndrome.” Stiff heart syndrome is a condition in which the heart muscle thickens due to chronic high blood pressure. It is a warning sign of developing congestive heart failure. When the heart muscle can no longer efficiently pump blood, it can lead to fluid build-up in the lungs and limbs and cause shortness of breath.   The heart quite literally becomes hard.  

Degeneration and death come from a slow, progressive process of heart hardening.   The good news is that it can often be prevented through diet and lifestyle choices.  But once you have it, it is not easily treated.  Any time a life-giving organ turns to stone we should be concerned.  But are we as concerned for the hardness of our hearts, spiritually – a condition far more deadly, with eternal consequences?   

The Bible shows us the devastation of a spiritually stiff heart through the example of the Pharaoh in the book of Exodus.  The plagues, or mighty acts, God used to deliver his people from the oppression of Pharaoh were a judgement against both the people and the gods of Egypt.   And they were connected to Pharaoh’s hard and hardening heart.   From the start, the Lord declared that only the death of the firstborn would bring deliverance, but He graciously brings the progressive destruction of the plagues to reveal His glory, that the Hebrews and the Egyptians might “know the Lord.”  

But Pharaoh persisted in unbelief. And it brought disaster to his nation and his family.   He is a prime example of the destruction produced by a spiritually stiff heart.  And a warning to us.   The author of Hebrews warns.

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled?

HEBREWS 3:12-15

How many times have you heard the free offer of God’s grace and yet rebelled?   Is your heart hard or hardening?   Take heart! There is good news.   Hard-heartedness need not be the last word.   The Bible promises, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” And “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” There is a cure for spiritual stiff heart syndrome.   Join us this Lord’s Day to hear more as we examine Exodus 7:14-25 and consider the consequences and cure of a hard heart.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Prayer Meeting and Fellowship Lunch this Lord’s Day at 11 AM

Prayer Meeting and Fellowship Lunch this Lord’s Day at 11 AM

We will gather for prayer meeting this Lord’s Day at 11 AM at the Phillips’ home, and we will conclude our time with a fellowship lunch. Please consider bringing a dish to share. If you have family or friends in town for the holiday weekend, please consider bringing them to prayer meeting and to our regular worship service at 5 PM.

If you need directions to the Philipps’ home, contact us. For more reading on prayer, consider picking up the book Persistent Prayer by Guy Richard from our resource table.