The Benedictus

“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:67-79

Zacharias, being filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke the words of the “Benedictus” (Latin for “Blessed”). It is both a song of praise to God for sending the long promised Messiah and Savior into the world to redeem mankind from sin, and it is a prophecy concerning our Lord and Savior, and concerning John the Baptist, who would prepare the people for the Lord’s coming.

Zacharias blessed and praised the Jehovah God of Israel because He, in Jesus Christ, would take on human flesh and blood and become true man in order to visit and redeem His people (cf. Psalm 130:7-8). In Christ, God raised up a horn of salvation–a strong and mighty Savior–for us in the house of His servant David (Mary being a descendant of David). And this was as God had promised through His holy prophets from the beginning of the world.

According to the promises of God, beginning with that first promise spoken in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), God would in Christ save us from our enemies. He would destroy the devil and his hold upon us by fulfilling the righteous demands of God’s Law and then bearing upon the cross the punishment for our sins (cf. Col. 1:12-14; 2:14-15; Gal. 3:10,13). Thus, He would save us from our enemies that we “might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life” (v. 74, 75). And, when Jesus Christ returns to “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3:21), then we will, without sin, “serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness” (Luther’s Small Catechism, 2nd Article).

John the Baptist, though yet a young child at the time this prophecy was spoken, was to be “the prophet of the Highest” (v. 76); for he was to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ by giving them knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. He was to call men to repent of their sinful ways and then comfort them with the knowledge that God is gracious to them and forgives their sins for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, and His sacrifice for sin (cf. Luke 3:3; John 1:29).

He was to give light to those sitting in spiritual darkness and in the shadow of eternal death. He was to lead and guide God’s people to their Savior, Jesus Christ, that they might truly know the peace of God which was established through the death of Christ for our sins (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 2:12ff.).

Today, we join Zacharias in blessing and praising God for sending the long promised Savior into the world. And, we, following the example of John the Baptist, prepare people for Christ’s return by giving them knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins, for sake of Christ’s blood, which was shed upon the cross for the sins of the world.

O Gracious and Merciful God, we thank and praise Thee for sending forth Thy Son into the world to be born of a virgin and made man that He might redeem us from all our sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; for Jesus’ sake, grant that we trust in Thy mercy and serve Thee both here in this world and hereafter in heaven. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James version of the Bible]

 

Pointing People to Jesus

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:6-9

John the Baptist was sent by God to bear witness to Jesus Christ, God’s Son and the Light of the world. John was “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).

John did not seek to gain a following for himself, but called upon all people to repent of their sins and trust in the Messiah and Savior who was about to appear. He testified of Jesus, that He is God the Son and the Savior who would take away the sin of the world. When He saw Jesus coming to him, he directed his disciples to Jesus, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (v. 29).

We too are called to bear witness to Jesus, the Light of the world, that all might place their trust in Him for forgiveness and life everlasting (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16)! We are not to proclaim ourselves to be the light, but Jesus; for only He can give light and life to men.

We of ourselves cannot forgive sins or give life everlasting; but Jesus paid in full for the sins of the world when He suffered and died upon the cross and rose again, and Jesus offers forgiveness of sins and the everlasting joys of heaven to all mankind.

Jesus is the true Light which shines upon the people of this world, offering them forgiveness and life (cf. John 8:12; 1 John 1:5ff.). We can only reflect that Light and point people to Jesus that they too might know Him and trust in Him for life and salvation.

Dear Jesus, grant that we would not proclaim ourselves to be the light and seek to gain a following for ourselves. But, rather, grant that we would proclaim You to be the Light of the world and the only Savior of mankind! Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

Benoni or Benjamin?

And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.” Genesis 35:16-20

Even for believers, life is difficult and full of sorrows. As God had said in Genesis 3:16, bearing children brought sorrow to Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife. While taking their journey from Bethel, Rachel went into hard labor with her second child and died giving birth to a son.

As she was dying, she named her son Benoni, which means “son of my sorrow.” Jacob, however, called his name Benjamin, which means “son of the right hand.”

Though Rachel, who is oft referred to in the Scriptures as the mother of Israel, died in childbirth and was buried along the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem, yet this birth points ahead and reminds us of another son who was both a son of sorrow and the son of the right hand.

After Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem, when Mary and Joseph presented Him to the Lord in the temple, the aged Simeon told Mary, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

Jesus would be a “son of my sorrow” to Mary as she witnessed her Son, whom she knew to be the Son of God and the Messiah and Savior of Israel, rejected and crucified for the sins of the world. Yet, God, the Father of Jesus, raised Jesus up and exalted Him to His own right hand where He rules over and fills all things (cf. Ephesians 1:17-23; Philippians 2:5-11).

We too, when we see the horrific sufferings endured by Jesus when He was tortured and crucified by men and condemned and forsaken of His own Father, can and should be moved to lament and sorrow over our own wickedness and what it cost the Lord Jesus. Yet, at the same time we can rejoice that Jesus paid in full for all our sins and rose again in victory and that He has been exalted to the right hand of God the Father where He intercedes for us and rules over all things for the good of His church – all who believe in Him. Cf. Isaiah 53; Matthew 27-28; Romans 4:25; 8:34.

The Scriptures also assure us that though we, like Rachel, endure pain and suffering and finally death in this world, this is not the last word in the matter. Because Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, suffered and died upon the cross and paid in full the penalty for mankind’s sin and disobedience and then rose again and was exalted to God’s right hand, all who trust in Him will also be raised up on the Last Day and exalted to reign with Him who is the “Son of the right hand” to God our Father (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12).

Dearest Jesus, forgive us for our sin and wickedness and for the terrible suffering which we placed upon You by our evils thoughts, words and actions. We thank You for bearing upon the cross our punishment, for paying in full for our sins and for rising again that we might have forgiveness and life everlasting through faith in Your name. As You endured sorrows on our account but have been exalted to the right hand of the Father, so bring us through the sorrows of this life to reign with You forever in heaven. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible]

Rend your hearts, not just your clothes

“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye [even] to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he [is] gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth [if] he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; [even] a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?” Joel 2:12-14

As God warned His people through the prophet Joel that the Day of the Lord was coming, so He warns us that the Day of Judgment is near – it is near for us as a nation and people; and, of course, the Day of Christ’s return when all will stand before His throne could come at any time. The arrival of that Day only waits because God is being patient with us, not desiring that any perish but that all repent and look to Him for mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9).

And, with God’s judgment at hand, He warns us and calls upon us: “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye [even] to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he [is] gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth [if] he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; [even] a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”

God does not desire that we just go through the outward motions – that we simply fast and say the right words. He desires not that we tear our clothes as a sign of our deep sorrow over our sin but that we tear our hearts and turn to the LORD God for mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. It’s not enough to just say the words of confession we speak each Sunday. He desires that our acknowledgement of sins and sorrow over them be true and sincere – with the whole heart (cf. Psalm 139:23-24).

God desires that we turn to Him for grace, mercy and forgiveness. And, He assures us that He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness and repents of the evil He determined against us because of our sinfulness (cf. Psalm 103:8ff.). The Bible tells us: “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5). The Scriptures tell us: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness … And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world” (1 John 1:8-2:2). In Christ Jesus, and for the sake of His cross, God reaches out to us in grace and mercy and desires that we return to Him for pardon, forgiveness and life eternal!

And if we repent, God may also repent of the judgment determined against our nation and people and send to us blessing instead. And when we repent and look to Him for mercy in Christ Jesus, we can be assured that God will pardon our sins for Jesus’ sake and grant unto us life everlasting.

O gracious and merciful God, forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake and cleanse our hearts that we might walk in Your ways until that Day when You come to judge and condemn all who have been disobedient to Your Word but to be glorified in all who have believed and trusted in Your mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness

“Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Mark 1:2-4

In fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Mal. 3:1; Isa. 40:3ff.) God sent John the Baptist into the spiritual wasteland of his day to prepare people for the coming of their Lord and Savior. He warned of God’s coming judgment and called upon all to repent of their self-centered and sinful ways and take hold of in faith the salvation which Messiah Jesus provided for all lost sinners of this world.

John preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins and pointed people to Messiah Jesus who baptized with the Holy Spirit – who washed away sins in His shed blood and regenerates by the mighty working of His Spirit through Word and Sacrament.

We too are called to prepare the way of the Lord, for He is coming to judge this world and all its inhabitants (cf. Mk. 16:15-16; Lk. 24:46-48; Acts 2:38-40; 3:19; 10:42-43. And, like John’s day, the world around us is a spiritual wasteland and desert. The people of this world wander to and fro without a clue of what life is all about or of the judgment which is to come. Churches preach peace and love but fail to warn of God’s judgment or to call sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. People count themselves good and righteous and don’t see their utter sinfulness and shortcomings and so remain proud and unprepared for that day.

We are to prepare people for the second coming of our risen Lord Jesus by preaching the Law of God and making known to people their utter sinfulness and hopeless condition. And we are to preach to them the saving Gospel of the forgiveness and life God offers and gives for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus for the sins of the world.

In such a way, we prepare a smooth and straight road for the coming of our God and Savior. Instead of hearts in rebellion and opposition to Christ, hearts are humbled, acknowledging their sins, and then lifted up and comforted through the news that in Christ Jesus they are forgiven and acceptable to God – ready for His judgment and the coming of His kingdom.

Prepare our hearts, O Lord, for Your coming, and enable us to prepare Your way by making known the truth of Your Word. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

More Meditations in Genesis

“And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: and she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.” Genesis 30:22-24 (Read Genesis 30:1-24)

In a day when we have so much scientific knowledge about the reproductive process, it is easy to forget the Creator’s role in the creation and formation of a child in the womb. The Scriptures, on the other hand, teach us that it was the LORD God who had opened Leah’s womb and given her the ability to conceive and bear children (Genesis 29:31ff.); and, after years of barrenness, the LORD heard and answered Rachel’s prayer and opened her womb as well, allowing her to conceive and give birth to Joseph and later to Benjamin.

The Bible teaches that the ability to conceive and bear children is the blessing of the LORD. After creating Adam and Eve, “God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

When Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel were barren, God answered prayer and opened their wombs, giving them the ability to conceive and bear children (Genesis 18:9ff.; 25:21; 29:31; 30:22ff.).
Psalm 139:13-16 describes God’s creative roll in the conception and formation of a child in the womb in this way: “For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”

While there is nothing wrong with seeking medical help with questions of fertility and child bearing, there is something wrong with forgetting to go to the Creator of life for His help, blessing and perfect will. Since it is the LORD God who is ultimately in control, giving conception and forming each child in the womb, couples would do well to remember Him and seek His help and guidance when it comes to family planning and seeking children. He can bless and work miracles even where medicine and science say there is no hope.

We ought also remember that children are a blessing of the LORD (Psalms 127 and 128), not a curse. How we turn things around when we forget the One who gives us children and count children as an unwanted consequence rather than a blessing of the Almighty! And, since it is the LORD God who gives us children, causing conception and the formation of the child in the womb, who are we to determine that this or that unborn child is an infringement upon our lives and can be destroyed at will!
Because of our own selfish and sinful nature, we fail to see life as God sees it. We fail to see what a blessing it is to conceive and bear children and raise them up to know the LORD. How thankful we can be that, though we have in so many ways failed to live and think as God desires, He still reaches out to us in grace and mercy for the sake of His own dear Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for our sins and rose again! How thankful we can be for God’s pardon and forgiveness!

O LORD God, our Maker and our Redeemer, we thank You for creating us in our mother’s womb and giving us life; and we thank You for paying the just consequence of our sins and offering and giving to us life eternal through faith in the Son. In His name we pray. Amen.

 

“And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, and said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.” Genesis 31:4-7 (Read Genesis 30:25 – 31:16)

Deceitfulness and backstabbing in the workplace is not uncommon. People strive to get ahead and are willing to use and abuse others to attain their goals and ambitions. When some work hard and are prosperous, others become envious and jealous and sometimes even seek a way to take away what a hard worker has gained.

Jacob agreed to work for Laban for a certain portion of the flocks and herds (Genesis 30:25-36) – a deal which Laban thought would certainly work in his own favor – but the LORD God watched out for Jacob and blessed his labors, making him a wealthy man, in spite of the fact that Laban changed his wages 10 times in an effort to gain the wealth of Jacob’s labors for himself.

As a result, Laban’s countenance toward Jacob was not as it had once been – instead of looking upon Jacob with favor, he viewed him in envy and jealousy. This too happens in the workplace today. Employers and co-workers become envious and jealous of the work of others and look upon them with disfavor.

The believer, who serves with all his might and does his best because he is serving not only an employer but the Lord Jesus who died for him and rose again, may become discouraged when an employer takes advantage of his labors or is unwilling to pay a just wage, but the LORD God watches over His own and will bless his honest labors, if not in this world, in that which is to come!
St. Paul wrote to the believers in Colosse: “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:22-24).

David, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, wrote these words: “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and whither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart…” (Psalm 37:1ff.).

Rather than fretting over others who are prospering through their wicked works, or being disgruntled when we are ill treated by others, the Word of God encourages us to “rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). The same psalm goes on to say: “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous” (Psalm 37:16-17).

The LORD upheld and blessed Jacob and taught him to trust. This was not because Jacob was righteous of himself. Rather it was because Jacob was chosen of God and righteous through faith in the promised Messiah and Savior Jesus. We too have come far short of God’s righteousness, but He teaches us to trust Him in all things and counts us to be righteous through faith in His Son, Messiah Jesus, who fulfilled all righteousness for us and suffered and died upon the cross for our sins and rose again in victory!

The LORD God watches over His own. He guards and protects all who put their trust and confidence in Him. As God watched over His servant Jacob, He will watch over you and me!

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for graciously forgiving my sin and accepting me as Your own dear child for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death of the Son, Jesus Christ. Watch over me, teach me to rest in You, and bless my labors done for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

Preparing for the coming of the Lord

“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mothers womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:13-17

“Are you ready for Christmas?” is a question we often hear people ask at this time of year. And, what is meant by this question? Usually it has to do with being done with the Christmas shopping, having up the decorations, and having many goodies baked and prepared for family celebrations. But a far more important question to consider is this: “Are you ready for Jesus’ coming?”

Having His people be ready for Christ’s coming is indeed very important to the LORD, Jehovah God; for He mercifully delays the Day of Christ’s return and judgment, not wanting any of us to perish, but desiring that all of us repent of our sins and unbelief and receive forgiveness and life eternal through the sacrifice of the Son, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). But, we know that the Day of the Lord is coming!

This is why God sent John the Baptist into this world. He was to prepare God’s people for the coming of their Messiah and Savior, Jesus Christ. John, whose name itself means that the LORD is gracious, would be the prophet of God promised in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and would drink neither wine or strong drink (Num. 6:1ff.). He would “go before Him [the Messiah] in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Like Elijah of old, John would boldly rebuke unbelief and sin and call upon God’s people to repent and trust in the coming Messiah and Savior (cf. 2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:1ff.; John 1:29ff.).

Whether young or old, John called all to repent and believe in Christ Jesus, baptizing them for the forgiveness of their sins. To be ready for the coming of the Christ, the fathers had to humble themselves and trust in the LORD God with child-like faith (cf. Matthew 18:1-4). And those who had been disobedient to the LORD needed to be converted to the wisdom of the just (those who humbly acknowledged and confessed their sins and received forgiveness in Christ Jesus (cf. 1 John 1:8ff.). In this way, John prepared the way for the coming of Christ.

But are we ready for Jesus’ coming? How can we prepare? By heeding the message of John the Baptist; by humbling ourselves before the LORD God, our Maker, and acknowledging and confessing our sin before Him; by trusting in the blood of Jesus, which was shed for us upon the cross, and receiving the forgiveness and life which Christ won for us and offers and gives to us through our Baptism; and by amending our sinful ways and seeking to live for Christ Jesus, who has redeemed us and who will soon return in glory to take all who trust in Him to the eternal joys of heaven (cf. 1 John 3:1-3)!

And how can we prepare others for the coming of Jesus? By calling them to the wisdom of the just – to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus as Savior!

Dear LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer, prepare us for Christ’s coming by working in us true repentance, true sorrow over our sins and true faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ! Grant this to us for the sake of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

‘How amiable are thy tabernacles….’

“How amiable [are] thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” Psalm 84:1-2 (Read 1-12)

There was a day when the thought of going to church and spending an hour or more hearing God’s Word and worshiping wasn’t my favorite thing to do. In fact, I was often glad when the service was over and I could go out into the world and do other things I considered more fun and enjoyable. Perhaps many of you can relate to that as well.

And what about heaven? The thought of standing around the throne and offering up worship and praise forever and ever – well, it sounded better than the alternative but wasn’t necessarily all that appealing.

But something happened to change all that. Now God’s house (or tabernacle) is a lovable place to be. Instead of being glad when worship is over and it’s time to go back out into the world, it’s kind of sad. It’s wonderful to be in the presence of the LORD God, to hear His Word and to offer up worship and praise. And how wonderful it will be to dwell forever in the house of the LORD – to never have to stop praising His name and giving Him the glory!

With the psalmist, I can say: “How amiable [are] thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God … A day in thy courts [is] better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

What changed? By the grace and mercy of God, I’ve come to see the futility of this world and its ways and the beauty of the LORD – how He in love redeemed me from sin and death and vanity through the innocent sufferings and death of the Son. I’ve come to see that we were created and redeemed to give God glory and praise in all we do. In the world there is emptiness and futility and death. In God’s house is grace and glory and life in our Lord Jesus Christ.

And what a blessing to walk in fellowship with God our maker through the shed blood of Jesus! What a blessing to be accepted of Him and to dwell in His presence! What a blessing to live for Him and praise His name forever!

O gracious and merciful God, grant that I may love Your house and dwell in Your presence forevermore, all for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Jacob and Rachel – Meditations in Genesis

“And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” Genesis 29:20 (Read Genesis 29:1-20)

It seems to us like a great price to pay – to work seven years, every day caring for flocks and herds – for Jacob to be able to marry Laban’s younger daughter Rachel. And, yet, this is what Jacob did. He “served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.”

Perhaps we can understand this if we have loved another so much that we were willing to go to great lengths just to be with them and to meet their needs.

The love Jacob had for Rachel made all the difference. Because he loved her so very much, the price seemed small to pay. Seven years of hard work seemed but a few days to him because of the love Jacob had for Rachel!

But if we think this was a great price to pay, consider the price Jesus paid that He might take us as His bride! The Bible tells us that Jesus “loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5). God’s Word tells us that “Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son….” (John 3:16). Jesus Christ, God the Son in human flesh loved us so much that He willingly went to the cross to suffer and die for our sins. And, why? That He might take us as His bride, the church, and present us to Himself holy and unblemished, cleansed from our sins in the waters of baptism.

It was indeed a great price for Jesus to pay, that we might be made acceptable in God’s eyes and be joined to Jesus forever; but He endured the pain and agony of the cross because He so loved us – because He desires to give us and all mankind His forgiveness and a place with Him in His eternal kingdom! He served for us and gave Himself for us that we might be His own! Jesus willing suffered the greatest of agonies and counted it as nothing that He might redeem you and me and give us life with Him in heaven!

It is also true for those who trust in Jesus and follow after Him, that their service for Him is not an unbearable burden. Those who do not know Jesus cannot understand why His disciples would give up their lives here in this world and, often-times, suffer so much to follow Jesus and serve Him. To an unbeliever, following Jesus may seem an unreasonable act. But to the believer, who knows and trusts in Jesus – who believes and trusts that Jesus shed His blood to pay in full for our sins and give us life eternal – it is no burden at all. Instead, it is a privilege to serve Jesus and follow Him. Why? The believer in Jesus loves Him and desires to serve Him because He first loved us and gave Himself for us. The believer loves and serves as a result of knowing Jesus’ great love for us!

O dearest Jesus, thank You for Your great love for us – love so great that You willingly took our sins upon Yourself and suffered our just punishment to give us forgiveness and life. Grant that we know Your great love for us and also love and serve You in return. Amen.

“And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” Genesis 29:25 (Read Genesis 29:21-35)

After speaking of the blessing of confessing one’s sins to the LORD God and receiving His forgiveness, Psalm 32 speaks of the instruction given us by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures and warns us: “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.”

It seems that many of us are, at least at times, like a stubborn horse or mule which requires the use of bit and bridle to get it to go where it should. So also, the LORD God sometimes has to use the school of hard knocks to get us to listen to His word of instruction.
Jacob, who shrewdly obtained the birthright from Esau and then deceived his own father to obtain the blessing, now is deceived by his uncle Laban. After working seven years to have Rachel as his wife, Laban brings him Leah instead; and Jacob has to agree to work another seven years before Laban agrees to give him Rachel as well, after Leah’s marriage week is fulfilled. Jacob got a taste of his own medicine, so to speak, and was probably very careful to look under the veil before consummating his second marriage.

Why would God permit such a thing to happen to His chosen vessel? Perhaps there was a lesson to be learned. Why does God sometimes permit us to suffer the consequences of our sins, or even let us experience the same kind of wickedness we have dished out to others? Perhaps we, too, have a lesson to learn.

If only we would read and study the Scriptures and believe that God’s way is really good and right and, yes, best! It would save us so much grief and heartache, which, it seems, we bring upon ourselves because we fail to trust that God really does know best.

How thankful we can be that in Jesus, and for the sake of His innocent sufferings and death in our stead, God is still gracious to us and merciful, forgiving all our sins and giving us a place with Him in His eternal kingdom! And, even when we must learn some things in the school of hard knocks, God is still working for our good to bring us back to Him and His Word. He forgives our sins for Jesus’ sake, and He leads and guides us with His eye upon us.

Dear Father in heaven, forgive us for failing to learn and pay heed to Your Word; grant that we acknowledge our sins to You, trusting in You to forgive us for Jesus’ sake; and lead and guide us in the way we should go. Amen.

A Reason to Give Thanks

“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers….” Ephesians 1:15-16

The very fact that one comes to know and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is reason to thank and praise God.

Consider that we are born into this world spiritually dead and enemies of God and headed toward eternal judgment. God chose us to be His own before the foundation of the world, sent His only-begotten Son to die for us and redeem us from sin and death, sent to us His Word and called us to faith by the Spirit’s mighty working through the Gospel and keeps us in that faith, assuring us of forgiveness of sins and life eternal through faith in Christ.

And, as a result of His Spirit dwelling in us and regenerating us, we are also filled with love for all the saints, for our fellow believers in Christ – saints because we are forgiven, justified and holy through Christ’s holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead.

The apostle Paul, when he heard of the faith of the believers in Ephesus, gave God thanks and praise for His mighty working to save them. And we too, today, have every reason to give to God the thanks, praise and glory for bringing us to know Him and His mercy in Christ Jesus!

We give You thanks and praise, O God, for bringing to us to faith in You and Your mercy in Christ Jesus, our Savior. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sermon Audio from Thanksgiving Worship on Nov. 25, 2014