On Sunday 12 July 2020, Apostle Abraham Page conducted the Sunday morning divine service at Sandton congregation. This divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by sister Natasha Parkins-Maliko.
He was accompanied by District Elder David Gracey, a small music ensemble and the NACTV crew. This divine service was made available on NACTV, Cape Town TV on DSTV channel 263, as well as Radio KC, Radio Teemaneng and SABIE stereo. Members could also listen to the divine service by calling in from either a mobile phone or landline. This divine service was also streamed live on the NACTV Facebook page.
For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: We love the place, O God (EH: 28)
Bible word: “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews 11:24-25)
My dear brothers and sisters, I am glad to share this divine service today, that we can be here to experience the word of God. I must say, we really need God and His word in this time in which we find ourselves.
The Bible word we received today speaks of the life of Moses where he had to make a decision. And here, I want to speak to the children also. I want to share with you the life of Moses; a short story out of the history of Moses. Moses, who was a great leader and a great servant of God, was well-respected. But he wasn’t always a great leader; he wasn’t always an adult – he was also a baby, a child – and this is why I want to speak to you specifically as the children. During the time, the Israelites lived in Egypt, and Egypt received a new king. And the king at the time became concerned about the Hebrew people because they were growing – they became a bigger nation than the Egyptians, and this became a threat to the king. And the king decided that he would kill all the male babies. And during this time, Moses was born and his parents knew the threat to his life. And it says in the Bible that he was a beautiful child. And his mother decided to hide him, and she got away with it for three months without the Egyptians finding him. But, after three months, she could no longer hide him because he was growing. And, obviously, as a child grows, they start to cry more and make more noise, so there was a threat. She decided to build a small basket – a basket that can float on the river. Once she completed this, she put Moses inside of the basket, closed it and then took it to the river and placed in amongst the reeds. From a distance, his older sister, Miriam, was watching him to make sure that he is ok in the river. And on the day, Pharaoh’s daughter came to the river with her helpers and she saw this basket. She went to the place where the basket was, she opened it and saw Moses. Moses was obviously crying, and Miriam approached them. Pharaoh’s daughter then obviously realised that this was a Hebrew’s child. And Miriam asked if she could call someone who could look after him, and Pharaoh’s daughter agreed to it. And what did Miriam do? She went to her mother, but Pharaoh’s daughter did not know this. And Miriam’s mother came, took the child and fed him. But Pharaoh’s daughter decided to adopt Moses. And Moses lived in the house of Pharaoh – the palace – and became educated. But he was also exposed to the gods of the Egyptians, to their style and the things that they believed in. But as he grew older, he knew that he was a Hebrew. He knew that he believed in the God of the Hebrew people, and not in the God of the Egyptians. And one day, Moses had to make a decision. This is what our Bible word reflects on in the 23rd verse: By faith, Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents because they saw that he was a beautiful child, and they were not afraid of the king’s command. By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses was put into a position where he had to decide: either to live in the house of the Pharaoh with his family and their gods or to go to the other side, to his people and his God. And he decided that he wants to go to his people even if he had to suffer. He wanted to serve his God even if they wanted to kill him. And they wanted to kill him; we know the rest – that is the history.
How do we transfer this to our time? We also made a decision; we decided for the Lord. Our parents made the vow when we were baptized, to raise us and that we faithfully follow Jesus Christ and remain faithful until the end, and to enter God’s kingdom. It’s a decision that was made. And at our confirmation, we made the confirmation vow: “I renounce Satan and all his work and ways and surrender myself to You, God. To remain faithful to You until my end.” We made the decision. We want eternal life. And this is a decision that was made maybe years ago, or maybe someone made the decision this year, or last year. But the decision was made. And now, we sit with a situation – every day we are exposed to choices. The choices that we make needs to be aligned to the original decision: to remain faithful to God until my end. And therefore, the word for today is under the banner: I have decided for the Lord and that is final. Therefore, the choices we make today needs to be aligned to the original decision: I have decided for the Lord. And that is final. But, we are exposed to many choices. We have to decide whether our choices align with our decision.
And I want to make reference to a few examples in Scripture. There are many examples, but we will only touch on a few. And I want to take these examples and also transfer it into our present. Let us start right at the beginning: the first people, Adam and Eve. God had a conversation with Adam and told him: “I place you here in the Garden of Eden. And here, you can eat fruit from all the trees, but the one tree of knowledge of good and evil, of that fruit you cannot eat.” Later on, God made Eve, and Adam gave the same instruction to Eve and told her what God had instructed. Then, one day, Eve was walking in the garden and here comes the serpent and he approached Eve. We can refer to it in Genesis 2 and 3 where he said to her: “Did God really say so?” And when Eve repeated what Adam said, she didn’t say it was what Adam said, she said it is what God said. And she said that God said they cannot eat of that tree because we will surely die. And then he came and he said: “You will not die; God just doesn’t want you to know what He knows.” And Eve took the fruit and ate of it. Then she went to Adam and told him what the serpent told her, and Adam took the fruit and he ate of it. That was the wrong decision. That was not what God told them. They listened to a different voice. Dear brothers and sisters, we know the voice of God. We have been baptised with water and received the Holy Spirit, but we have so many voices around us, so many influences and opinions – especially in this time. The voice: where is the church? You can’t even go to church so why worry? Where are your Apostles? They are in lockdown and can’t even serve you. Do you still need them? So many voices dear brothers and sisters. Listen to the voice of God. We decided, at the beginning, the original decision: we will remain faithful to God, therefore, let us open our ears to Him and to Him only. And let us make sure that the choices we make today are aligned to the original decision. And the voices that we hear, whether outside the church or inside the church, be careful to what we allow our ear to listen to. Eve listened to the serpent. She didn’t see that she was going to be fooled. The same applied to Adam. Let us be careful. Let us be like Samuel: Lord speak, your servant listens.
The second example out of Scripture: let us go to Joshua. In the book of Joshua, chapter 24, we read that Joshua had problems with the Israelites. They came from a background, a history, where they were exposed to idols – they had many gods. But, they became part of the Hebrew people, the chosen generation, and they believed in God. But there was a problem here; some of them kept to the past, to the idols. And Joshua said to them: “you do what you want to do. If you don’t want to serve God, that is your problem.” And he said: “Me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” We decided before that we will serve the Lord. Today, there are many influences. And these influences want to take us away so that we no longer serve the Lord. Joshua said: “Me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Dear father, dear mother, remember what you have decided on behalf of your children when they were baptised and sealed. Take your family by the hand. Lead them to the Promised Land. Dear children, you know the decision your parents made on your behalf. Speak to them about it. Ask them what they said when they had you in front of the altar so that the family can continue to serve the Lord. Dear young people, adults and all who have made the confirmation vow remember that you decided to serve the Lord, and that is what we want to continue to do. We want to stick to our promise because we are a people with a promise. Together, let us serve the Lord. Rise up; take your family by the hand again. Go find the lost ones and bring them back. Rise up and serve the Lord. We remember our original decision. Today we have the choice – make the right choice. Joshua said: “Me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” And if others come and try to change your mind, I don’t want you to tell them what Jesus said: “Satan get behind me” because they might take offence. But you say to them: “Me and my family, we will serve the Lord. You do what you want to do. You no longer believe. If you no longer want to stay with your original decision, your vow, it is your decision. But don’t come undermine my decision and my family’s decision. We have decided for the Lord and that is final.” And that is important, dear family, dear children, dear young people, rise again, be strong, especially in this time. We have decided for the Lord, and that is final. And that is a decision from the family.
Another example that we can go to is an example out of the book of Revelation. Revelation 2 verse 4 - “I know your works, your labour, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience, and have laboured for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” Now, if someone must say this about me, if Jesus must say this about me, this is a good spiritual CV because it is only nice things, good that is spoken about here. But the fourth verse opened my eyes: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” This is to the congregation in Ephesus where this was said. They have done a lot of good work. When we read verse 2 and 3, we see that they have done a lot of good work. But the Lord Jesus Christ had a problem with this congregation because whatever they have done, they have done it without the first love. Dear brothers and sister, we are all disciples of Christ – we have all been baptised.
In some way, we all serve the Lord, but do we still do it out of love? Or are there other influences? Maybe, in the church, it’s a nice position of power, if I can call it that. It’s status; I get the platform. Why do we do what we do for the Lord? Whatever we do must be born out of love. Sometimes, I hear people say, ‘I do it for the Lord.’ But when they do it, you look for the Lord because you can’t find him in their works. Whatever we do for the Lord, the Lord must be visible in what we do. If others cannot see the Lord in what we do, then what we do is our own thing. And, therefore, it says here: “I know your works, your labour, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience, and have laboured for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” But there’s no love. Have the love first. Let us go back to basics. Let us go back to the beginning because then we enjoy what we are doing. Then the Lord’s work won’t become a burden; it will become a joy for us and we draw the full measure of our blessing when we serve our neighbour when we reach out to others who we do not know, especially in this time. Because Jesus said: “what you do to the least of mine, you do to me.” And dear brothers and sisters, if you want to know how to go back to the first love, how to go back to serving the Lord, go to the beginning and read the Scripture, read the gospels of Jesus. What does it say there? How to serve with love. Do what we do with love, not because of a position of power, of status, of fame. Only because of love. And when the love is there, everything else falls into place and then we feel the presence of the Lord. Dear brothers and sisters, here we need to do introspection in our heart and in our soul to ensure that the love is still there. And when the love is there then we go out and share this love. We have decided for the Lord and that’s final. And this decision is grounded on the love of God, grounded on the love of Jesus Christ for His church, grounded on the love we should have for each other and for our neighbour.
And now, let me come to the last example out of the book of Scripture, out of the book Matthew 11. And I think this one is probably the one we need most in this time. Jesus says the following: “Come unto Me, those who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Before the divine service, I said to the District Elder that I’m not sure if I have spoken to anyone in the last couple of weeks who is not sad, burdened or sorrowful. There is so much sorry, concern and sadness because of the situation we find ourselves in. Some of us do not know what to do anymore. For some of us, the tears are running uncontrollably day in and day out, and during the night they don’t sleep and they cry out to God saying: “God, where are you? Why have You forsaken me? Why have You left us as a people? You promised not to leave us alone.” And these prayers go out day and night. But Jesus knew this. He knows the feeling. He was there Himself. And the word goes out today from Jesus, He says: “Come to Me, I want to give you rest.” And we have the choice. We can sit at home and be angry with God because of what has transpired and what is transpiring. But Jesus gives the invitation: Come to Me, I want to help you. And, whatever your situation may be, maybe it looks hopeless, but don’t become hopeless. Let us come to the Lord. We sing in one of our hymns: “take it to the Lord in prayer”. Speak to Him. He wants to comfort and strengthen us. He wants to be with us. We made that original decision. Let us stick to it. Let us come to the Lord so that He can help us.
Let me summarize: Moses made a decision. And he remained with this decision until the end of his life; he had the reward in mind. For us, we want to keep this in mind as well. Therefore, we want to remain focused. We want to listen to the voice of God only. Together with our families, we want to serve the Lord. We want to rise up again and serve the Lord. And, whatever we do for the Lord, whatever we do in the church, whatever we do for our neighbour, we want to return to the first love and do what we do out of love. And then we want to come to the Lord Jesus Christ and bring our burdens so that He can comfort us and He will take us to the future. We remain faithful to the end. We have decided for the Lord and that’s final until the end, until the Lord returns so that we can be in His kingdom for time and all eternity. Amen.