2020:Sundays in Advent

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Throne Forever (2Sa 7:16)

  • Introduction: It may not be one of those portions of scripture in 2Sa ch#7 that you think of when you think of Christmas.  And yet, there are some key portions of today’s OT reading from which there are many cross-references to the Christmas story.  2Sa 7:1-16 starts out with King David wanting to build a temple for the Lord. However, God responds by telling David he is *not* to build a temple for God, but instead God will build a house for David that will never come to an end.  Integral to this statement by God is an unconditional covenant made to David about his offspring I repeat from v16 of our text - 16His house and His kingdom shall be faithful in My presence forever; and His throne is straightened forever.
    • I will be referring to the bulletin insert that’s on blue paper throughout this message.
      • On one side is an outline of today’s message.  ‘Sorry in advance about the 10pt font, but we needed to get everything on one side. ☹
      • On the obverse side of the outline is an alternate translation of 2Sa 7:1-16.  I took this translation from the Orthodox Study Bible, which translates the Greek Septuagint into English instead of using the Masoretic Text manuscript.  I present this alternative, because I think it is clearer on the Christology of the message given to King David from God through Nathan the prophet.  The Masoretic Text seems to slant the message more toward Solomon as the seed of David.  If we only look at Solomon as the fulfillment of 2Sa ch#7, we miss the true covenant God gave to David and really even to us in 2020.
  • Let us Pray:  Lord, You gave to us the benefit of an unconditional covenant to King David that from David’s own body will come a King whose reign will endure forever.  We can take confidence in this covenant just like all the other covenants and promises You have made.  We celebrate the first coming of this seed of David is who came to us in that stable some 2000yrs ago.  We also look forward to His return in glory!  Send Your Spirit to keep reminding us of Your faithfulness to us though we have not been faithful.  Keep the hope alive in us that we are Your own and will live with You in Your Son’s kingdom forever.  We entrust this petition to Your Son Jesus who also is the seed of David, who reigns with You Holy Lord God, Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background: 2Sa ch#7 starts out with David looking around and seeing he has a house and security, he becomes motivated to build a temple for the Lord.  It didn’t seem right to David to be sitting comfortably in his house, while the ark of the covenant sat outside in a tent.  Nathan the prophet encourages David to plan to build a house for the Lord. It didn’t take long for the Lord to correct Nathan on his error in encouraging David to build a temple.  God said to Nathan later that night, “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Do not build a house for Me to dwell in. To this day, I have not dwelt in a house since the time I brought the sons of Israel up from Egypt, and I walked among you in a temporary place of lodging and in a tent, wherever I went with all of Israel.”’”
    • Okay, so the message is clear, Nathan needs to go back to David and give him the bad news. As they say on TV - But wait; there’s more!  And this is one of those examples of when God says “no” to a plan we have, only because He has something even better in mind.  God doesn’t want David to build Him a house.  That doesn’t mean there won’t ever be a temple to come and worship the Lord.  We see this in v13 of our text - 13He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish his throne forever. The “he” is in reference to the seed of David.  To be the seed of anyone means to be an offspring of that someone.  What the Lord had in mind instead for David is a promise that an offspring of David will build the house of David (royal dynasty) (v11) which will last forever (v16).  That is what we glean from the following - 12And it shall come about, when your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will prepare his kingdom.  14I will be a father to him, and he shall be to Me a son. And if he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15But I will not take My mercy from him, as I took it from those whom I withdrew from My presence. 16And his house will be made sure, and his kingdom shall be forever.” ’ ”
    • This promise made by God to David was not the start of the nation of Israel.  God was actually building Israel ever since the days of Abraham. We conclude this from a covenant God gave to Abraham in Gen 15:18 - 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:. That covenant was made with Abram, later renamed Abraham, about 1200yrs before David.  It would take four generations, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Joseph to get to be 75 people in number.  In only four more generations after the sons of Jacob settled in Egypt, the family would depart from Egypt for the Promised Land with about 2,000,000 men, women, and children.  We are 3,000yrs after David, and it may look like the Abraham Covenant was fulfilled and has waned, but the Promised Land still has not been fulfilled completely in the context of these covenants as of 2020.
    • In 2Sa ch#7, God committed to build David’s royal house so that the promise to Abraham to offspring having peace may be fulfilled - 10And I will appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them so that they may dwell in a place of their own and be anxious no more. No more shall the sons of wickedness humiliate them, as they have done since the beginning, 11since the days I appointed judges over My people Israel, and I shall give you rest from all your enemies. Await the Lord to tell you when to build Him a house.  To have anything get built, there needs to be times of peace.  No major building projects take place when there is war when everyone is either a soldier or supporting a soldier.  That peace had finally come to the Israelites under King David around a 1000BC.
      • The promise of vv10-11 is almost like a reaffirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant I just noted.  I gave some dates and numbers above to provide a perspective on the covenant to Abraham and the covenant made to David in our text for today.  These covenants are unconditional like the one given to Noah - 11 I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be eliminated by the waters of a flood, nor shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.”  There has *never* been a cataclysmic flood since Noah.  That flood occurred around 5,000yrs ago.  No flood has come close to even covering an entire decently-sized country or state.
      • God’s covenant with Abraham regarding the Promised Land will be for Abraham’s children.  God was specific to Abraham with details about his direct descendants in Gen 15:13-16 - 13 Then God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the wrongdoing of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
        • However, the Apostle Paul made clear by inspiration that all who believe in Jesus are Abraham’s children – 16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,  (Rom 4:16)
      • These three covenants we’ve just covered along with all other covenants God has given throughout His word *will* take place! We have our confidence the Lord’s word will accomplish all that was promised as recorded by the prophet Isaiah - 11 So will My word be which goes out of My mouth; It will not return to Me empty without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the purpose for which I sent it. (Isa 55:11)
  • Analysis: The unconditional covenant God made with David is ultimately fulfilled in the kingship of Christ, who was born of the tribe of Judah and the house and lineage of David.
    • We can confirm this from the Gospel reading for today.  Recall from the visitation of the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary, as Gabriel is explaining to Mary the purpose of the child she will bear - 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)  Can you imagine being Mary and hearing this message from someone who just showed up from out of nowhere?  We later learn from the Gospels both Joseph and Mary were devout Jews and followed the Law of the Lord.  They were most likely familiar with the covenants God made with their forefathers, Noah, Abraham, and David.  This unborn child Mary was about to conceive will be given the throne of David and reign forever.  The child will be the Messiah all Israel was awaiting!  Mary wondered how this would happen since she hadn’t had relations with any man at that point.  However, I would imagine she also wondered how a mortal man born of a mortal woman would somehow reign forever.
      • The baby Jesus to whom Mary would give birth has both divine and human natures.  Jesus had to become of the same flesh and blood that we have so He could share in our humanity as well as be God.  God the Father would not have been able to accept the perfect sacrifice Jesus made for our sins had Jesus not been a member of the human race.  There had to be payment for the sins all of us committed, and that payment needed to be from someone of the human race.  The Apostle Paul wrote about Jesus our Savior being - which He promised beforehand through His prophets [of God] in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the fleshwho was declared the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord…  (Rom 1:2-4)  Paul is making clear right at the start of the Book of Romans Jesus is man of the seed of David and Jesus is God.
    • The only potentially troublesome verse of our text for today is 2Sa 7:14.  When I read v14 from the ESV, it comes off as implying Jesus, the ultimate Seed of David, will do wrong.  Let me read from the ESV again -  14 I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he does wrong, I will discipline him with a rod of men and with strokes of sons of mankind…  Now let me read from v14 as found in your bulletin insert – 14I will be a father to him, and he shall be to Me a son. And if he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.
      • The Greek of v14 is different in a way that I think is more accurate, which is why I reprinted an English translation based upon the Septuagint.  When reading the version from the ESV, one can get the wrong impression the seed of David will commit sin.  It is not an “if”, but a “when” he does wrong.  There is a difference between these, isn’t there?  In fact, my rather raw translation of the Greek of v14 sounds like this - “and if therefore the unrighteousness comes to him”.  The “unrighteousness *comes* to him” phrase is a whole lot different than the Seed of David committing wrong.
      • Another problem I have is which of any of the Davidic kings can you recall were beaten by men?  Does anyone beat a king with a rod, or many blows from the sons of mankind?
        • The only son of David I can think of who was a king and who endure being beaten with a rod and with blows from the sons of mankind is Jesus.  He endured beatings from the time He was arrested on that first Maundy Thursday all the way to Golgotha, where He was hung on a cross.
      • The Apostle Paul wrote - 21 [God] made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2Co 5:21)  Hopefully, you can see why I would want to use a more accurate translation of 2Sa ch#7. The unrighteousness that would come to the Seed of David, would be supplied by you and me and everyone who has ever lived.  Jesus didn’t commit any sin.  If He did, then He didn’t suffer an innocent death on the cross.  The blood He shed would not satisfy the sacrifice for sins committed, because it would not have been pure of sin.  We are the cause of the unrighteousness that came to Him.
  • Application: If these unconditional covenants have come to pass, shouldn’t we have confidence that the remaining covenants will also be fulfilled?  When the scriptures state there is life after death, and that there are one of two places a soul can wind up, we have reason to believe this is all true. The covenants, promises, and prophecies which have already been fulfilled, testify to the integrity of our Lord and His word.  If that is all true then Jesus, who ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty must already be reigning from heaven.
    • The Apostle Paul provided guidance on what we need to do, knowing God’s word is truth. We should confess Jesus rules in our life.  We can do that with words, but sometimes actions speak even louder than words. Let me make this point with reading a portion of 2Co 4:7-11 - But we have [the Gospel]  treasure in earthen containers, so that the extraordinary greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  I’ve had the chance to speak with most of you about your thoughts of this Covid crisis, and there is a common theme.  Believers in Christ who trust in His word, are not scared of getting sick from the Covid virus like those who do not have the hope we have in Christ.  Yes, there are concerns of being in a prolonged illness, and maybe what an extended illness would cost financially, but I’ve heard confessions from you about how you have trust in the Lord to get you through this.  People on the outside of this church don’t have that confidence.  Our hope in the Lord comes off as a flippant attitude or a smugness that somehow we are better than others.  We aren’t any better than anyone outside of this church.  The difference for believers is our reliance on these words from the Lord we have heard through faith on today and all days leading up to today.  Those actions of faith speak louder than words.
  • Conclusion: As we read from v10 of our text, the day is coming when we will get to experience living in the home of our own, no longer being disturbed.  We will not have to worry about Covid, because there are no diseases in heaven. We will not have to worry about violence leveled against us, because the violent have no place in heaven.  God the Father has appointed to reign forever His Son Jesus, God’s one and only Son, who is also the Seed of David.  Jesus’ house is already made.  His kingdom shall be forever.  These are the last words on your bulletin insert.  You may want to pin that up somewhere around where you look frequently to have as a reminder of who really is in charge.  Maybe hang it somewhere around the TV so the next time you watch the news, you can refer to Jesus already ruling this very moment.
    • We will live eternally in a place Jesus has prepared for us.  Jesus said as much in John 14:2-3 - In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be. 
    • What Jesus said in the Gospel of John is most certainly true.  And this is just as true as all the other covenants and promises were and are true!  As we confessed in the Nicene Creed a moment ago, Jesus will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end. Amen.

Testing the Prophesies (1Th 5:20-21)

  • Word for the Day: from 1Th 5:20-21 – Do not euthanize prophecies, but test all (of them) and hold fast to the good. (CSRV)  That is slightly different than what you heard read from the lectern a few moments ago, particularly the substitution of “euthanize” for the word “despise” rendered in the ESV.  But it is a faithful translation of the Apostle Paul’s word to the Thessalonians. We will spend a few moments investigating how to test prophecies we hear. We need to be prepared to be able to discern what is of the Lord and what is false.  Whatever is true and good is what we need to hold on to and reject all that is false.
  • Let us Pray:  Lord Jesus, we need to listen to prophecy, because Your sheep hear Your voice.  But, there are so many false prophets uttering lies, how can we tell if You are speaking to Your sheep. Send the Holy Spirit that through faith, we can test all prophecies to verify which are Your word.  We then need the Spirit, in order to trust in prophecies from You.  We entrust this petition to You Lord Jesus, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
  • Background: What is a prophet?  Does a prophet predict the future?  That latter question is one of those things like fingernails being run down a chalkboard.  A weatherman predicts the weather.  Pollsters predicted the outcome of recent elections.  We see how that worked out for them.
    • A prophet sent from God foretells (not predicts) what is to come based upon the message God gives to that prophet.  God made this clear when Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, questioned Moses’ authority to exclusively speak on behalf of the Lord to the Israelites. The Lord was not pleased with their sudden questioning of Moses’ authority, because God Himself called Moses to speak.  Remember the scene at the burning bush toward the beginning of the epic movie, “The Ten Commandments”?  God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.   His siblings were called to assist Moses in the ministry in which he was called.  [God] said [to Aaron and Miriam in Num 12:6], “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.
      • Furthermore, God sends a prophet to a specific people with His message.  All throughout the OT, prophets were sent to different places with a specific message addressed to that group of people.  For instance, Jonah and Nahum were sent to Nineveh at different times, each with the same message – repent from your evil ways. Nineveh listened to Jonah’s call to repent, but about a 150yrs later, despite Nahum having the same message, Nineveh did not repent.  They were eventually destroyed in 612BC.
  • Prophesy: We’d like to think we would know a false prophet when we hear one.  How do we test a prophet and his message to verify it is a message from the Lord?  Jesus once said of Satan - 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies[1].  With Satan on the loose, there is the potential for a lot of false prophecies.
    • A good and faithful prophecy from God is one which is 100% true.  Every aspect of the prophecy *must* be true, or it didn’t come from God.  God devoted the entire chapter of Deu Ch#13 specifically to defining how to discern a true from false prophecy.  I will read from the first five verses so that we can settle on a definition of a prophet - “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst[2].
      • Notice the Lord stated through the pen of Moses a false prophet could indeed provide a sign of something to come, and then it actually happens.  I would suggest that the sign is a prediction and not a foretelling, but let’s say for the sake of discussion, the false prophet was able to foretell something and it came true.  So far, so good on our criteria for determining a prophet – until the prophet then went on to suggest following another god other than the one true God. God was pretty clear on what I just read from Deu Ch#13 that there was one God, who with the ten plagues leveled against Egypt, not only destroyed Egypt in order to redeem His people, but also humiliate the gods of Egypt.  The gods the Pharaoh of Egypt put his trust in had nothing to answer the plagues leveled against them by the one, true Almighty God.
      • Being able to see a prophecy come 100% true is why many prophesies throughout the Bible have both a short- and long-term prophecy.  For example, around this time each year, we read from Isa 7:14 - 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel[3].  There was a virgin at the time God gave that prophecy to King Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah.  We know this, because in the very next chapter of Isaiah, we read from the Orthodox Study Bible – 3Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son, and the Lord said to me, “Call his name Quickly Despoil, Swiftly, Plunder; 4for before the child shall know how to call for his father and mother, one shall take the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria in the presence of the king of Assyria.[4]”  Later in Isa 8:8 there is a reference to this child being a sign of “Immanuel”.  These passages confirmed 100% true the short-term prophecy of God’s word through Isaiah.
      • The Gospel of Matthew in the first chapter provides a lineage of Jesus through Joseph, because Jesus was brought up in the house of Joseph.  Both Joseph and Mary came from the house and lineage of King David, but through different branches after David.  As you remember from the Christmas Story, Mary, mother of Jesus, became pregnant before Mary and Joseph had relations.  Joseph felt as anyone in that situation would feel betrayed. He decided he didn’t want to go through with a wedding with Mary, because, well, he knew he wasn’t the father of the child Mary was carrying.  An angel came to Joseph in a dream and clarified the heritage of the unborn baby in Mary’s womb, and encouraged Joseph to keep his pledge of marriage to Mary.  Matthew then wrote - 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)[5].  Matthew is making clear, by the same source of inspiration Isaiah received over 700yrs earlier, that “Behold the virgin shall conceive…” was also being fulfilled through the conception and birth of Jesus.
    • Now that we’ve established some criteria God gave us in order to be sure about whether a prophecy came from Him, let’s see if we can pick out a prophecy given by what appeared to be a Godly man and test whether it was a prophecy from God or just another false prophecy from another sinful man.
      • Before I get into one example, I have a shocking revelation to make to you today: False prophesy *must* exist in order to refine the saints so they can clearly hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.  That is our understanding of what I read in Deu 13:3 which I repeat - For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  Biblical misinterpretation and outright false prophecy are principle reasons why there are so many religions in the world, many purporting to worship the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
      • I have an example of a false prophecy from the 1800’s that nonetheless wound up forming a religion which still exists to this day.  A person named William Miller predicted the end of the world would happen on 22 Oct, 1844[6].  He lived in up-state New York, and claimed to have this revelation in 1831.  He then preached about this specific date.  Time doesn’t allow me to go into details on how Miller came to this conclusion, but in short, he took one verse of the Bible, Dan 8:14, and changed the 2300 days mentioned in that verse to 2300yrs to predict with “certainty” God meant the world would end in 1844.  Crowds of people from all around the northeastern part of the US wanted to learn more about this prophecy.  I think today is 13 Dec, 2020, and I think we are all real and in this church at the moment.  If that’s the case, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest William Miller didn’t get that revelation from God. :-o   The prophecy wasn’t even 1% true and certainly not even close to 100%.
  • Application: Here’s our first chance in the sermon to apply what the scriptures just taught us about testing the prophecies. In Miller’s case, we have a prophecy of Jesus’ second and final coming. How do we test this?  Recall one of the tenets of Lutheranism is that scriptures interpret the scriptures.  Taking one verse and creating an entire church doctrine or prophecy is already going someplace we would not go.
    • William Miller hit the scene in the early and middle 1800’s.  However, someone came up with a somewhat related prophecy back in the 50’s AD and tried to deceive the church at Thessalonica.  The Thessalonians had been deceived into thinking Jesus had already come as we read from 2Th 2:1-2 - 1Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.[7]  There were Thessalonians who thought Jesus’ foretold return for a second and final time to earth had already come.  The attitude they were expressing was one of what’s the use in working hard?  Paul later admonishes them with the familiar axiom of – you don’t work; you don’t eat.
      • How did these Thessalonians get deceived?  They didn’t look at the scriptures in their entirety.  Jesus is quoted in Mark 13:32 - 32But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone[8].  The Gospel of Mark was written potentially after Thessalonians, but the Gospel of Matthew has a similar quote from Jesus.  We know that was written in the 50’s AD, so it had to be known throughout the Christian church about Jesus’ return after His ascension into heaven.
      • The same can be said for the followers of William Miller.  Daniel Ch#7 is a prophecy about kings who would come after Daniel’s time. Millerite prophesy of the 2300 days had already been fulfilled centuries before William Miller. The Maccabean revolt is described in the OT Apocryphal book 1 Maccabees, chapters 1-4.  It was in this revolt the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah was begun.  One could say the 2300 days reference was a short-term prophecy, and I would agree.  However, if God the Father didn’t tell His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus, about when Jesus would be sent to return to harvest the earth, why would anyone think William Miller would know when the world was going to end?  Think about this whenever anyone suggests to you a date for when the world would end: only God the Father has in mind when He will call for the end of this Age. Jesus’ own words verifies this fact.
  • Conclusion: When Jesus was born in that stable some 2000yrs ago, He was the fulfillment of a promise of a prophet to be sent from the Israelites.  That promise was made in Deu 18:18-19 - I will raise up for them a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them everything that I command him. And it shall come about that whoever does not listen to My words which he speaks in My name, I Myself will require it of him[9]. This prophecy from Deuteronomy is one of many OT prophecies fulfilled on Christmas Day.
    • Jesus is truth in which we can put our confidence.  He is Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him].  (John 14:6) All the prophecies about a Messiah came true, which is how Jesus can be truth.  Jesus answered Pontus Pilate the morning of Good Friday by testifying He was truth - 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” To which 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  Jesus could have punched Pilate in the face and Pilate wouldn’t have recognized truth, so blind he was to truth.
    • Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy and He is truth. That is a winning combination, because whatever the Good Shepherd says, the sheep who hear His voice can trust in it 100%.  We are the sheep of His pasture and so what was written by Paul to the Thessalonians applies to us as well.  We close with the last verses of our Epistle for today - 23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it[10]Amen.


 


[1] John 8:44 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%208&version=ESV

[2] Deu 13:1-5 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deu+13&version=ESV

[3] Isa 7:14 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isa+7&version=ESV

[4] Isa 8:3-4 from Orthodox Study Bible, Thomas Nelson (publisher), Nashville, TN, 2008, p1064

[5] Mat 1:22-23 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+1&version=ESV

[6]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millerism#:~:text=The%20Millerites%20were%20the%20followers,roughly%20the%20year%201843%E2%80%931844.

[7] 2Th 2:1-2 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2th+2&version=ESV

[8]Mark 13:32 from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Mark%2013:32&version=NASB 

[9]Deu 18:18-19- https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Deuteronomy%2018:18-19&version=NASB 

[10] 1Th 5:23-24 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1th+5&version=ESV

Prepare the Way of the Lord! (Isa 40:3)

  • Introduction: What does it mean to prepare?  Last week, it was mentioned that the Lord told us about the tribulation of the End Times not so we would live in fear, but that we could be ready for them and expect them.  The analogy was given of bracing one’s self when a car crash is imminent.  Bracing one’s self is preparation for the impact.
    • However, both the OT and Gospel readings for today refer to preparing the way for the Lord. We confess Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, so that would make today’s message one of preparing for a king to visit.  What would you do to prepare for the king to visit you?
      • A king actually visited St Olaf College in Northfield, MN in 2011.  King Harald V and Queen Sonja visited the college in 2011.[1] It was their third visit, but if I recall, their first with Harald as King. Norwegian immigrants formed the college in 1874, which is about the time my forefathers, the Rendahls, came from Norway and settled in Freeborn Co, MN.  A king from Norway visiting a place I lived or worked would be a big deal!
      • I’m sure the college cleaned up every spec of dust that was within 3mi of the campus, so that the college would be presentable for the king and his wife.  I’m sure the students were told to clean up and be on their best behavior.  Videos I have seen of the event indicated these and other steps were taken to prepare the campus and its people for the king’s visit.
    • In the season of Advent, what is it we should do in order to prepare for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to visit us? That is the question we will explore this morning from the scriptures.
  • Let us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Your one and only Son to come, we too should prepare for the coming of Jesus a second and last time to this Age when You tell Him to harvest the earth.  This means we need to make straight the crookedness which exists in our soul.  Unfortunately, we cannot straighten ourselves out without the work of Your Spirit in us. Please send Your Spirit to sanctify us with Your word, for Your word is truth.  We pray this to You, Heavenly Father, who reigns with the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Prophesy: As one reads Isa Ch#40, those familiar with G.F. Handel’s Messiah will recognize several of the movements of the Messiah based on the first several verses.  In fact, the first sung parts of Handel’s Messiah, the Recitative, the Aria, and Chorus are all based upon Isa 40:1-5. These verses are critical to setting the table so to speak about the purpose our Lord Jesus was to accomplish. Jesus Himself quoted from Isa 61:1 in the synagogue of Nazareth His whole purpose for taking on our flesh. He did this in order to redeem us from certain eternal death in hell. 
    • The Gospel according to Luke quoted Jesus reading from Isaiah - 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.[2]
    • John the Baptist was told to proclaim Jesus as the Lord’s redemption for His people.  The work of John the Baptist was foretold in Mal 3:1 - “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi wrote 400-some years prior to John the Baptist even being thought of by mortal beings.  But, God had Him in mind to essentially run ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for Jesus to be reveal to mankind as the Savior of the World.
    • Another prophesy of the OT is found in Mal 4:5 - “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  Jews to this day integrate the meaning of that verse into their Seder Dinner in celebration of the Passover.  As part of the Seder ritual, they leave a place for the prophet Elijah at the table because of this prophesy in Malachi.  They still are waiting for the Prophet Elijah to return.  The problem is Elijah did come!  John the Baptist was confirmed by Jesus to be the Elijah who was to come in Mat 11:13-15 - 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  Before we think we are so enlightened relative to the Jews, let me repeat v15 one more time – He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Our soul cannot hear the Word of God any more than the Jews or those of other religions without the Holy Spirit working faith in us to believe the Word.  We need to constantly humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord’s Word knowing that without Him sanctifying us with the Truth, we would be as blind as any non-Christian.
    • John the Baptist’s actions consistent with the words of Isa 40:3 are a fulfillment of someone anointed by God to prepare the way of the Lord.  John preached to people in the desert around Bethany near the Jordan River.  However, people were coming from all over the region, even from Jerusalem, to hear the word John was preaching.  He was setting people up to receive the King of Kings and Lord of Lords by preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People would repent of their sins, and the Lord would provide the forgiveness of sins through the Father’s one and only Son.
  • Application: It is unfortunate the ESV translation of Isa 40:4 misses out on some key words which show up in Mark 1:3.  The KJV actually rendered Isa 40:4 more accurately than the ESV.  Let me read from the KJV v4 – Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: The Septuagint version of the OT has two key words which are rendered clearly in the KJV: σκολιὰ; εὐθεῗαν.  σκολιὰ from the Greek means “crooked”.  For example, someone suffering with scoliosis is someone with a crooked spine.  We get the English word, scoliosis, from this Greek word, σκολιὰ.  εὐθεῗαν from the Greek means “straight”.  In Mark 1:3, we read from the Gospel - the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,[3]’”  The Gospel writer of Mark was paraphrasing the Septuagint to make the point inspired by God the crooked path will be made straight.
    • I’m nit-picky about words in the Greek, because words mean things.  Translations that want to be contemporary may be overzealous in their mission to the point of actually missing the point in God’s word. There is another example, this time from Ps 78:8.  The KJV has - And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God.  We didn’t hear the word “straight” in the KJV, but in Ps 78:8 the Greek word, κατηύθυνεν is used.  The root of the Greek κατηύθυνεν is the same root as εὐθεῗαν found in Isa 40:4. Taking the KJV rendering of Ps 78:8 and substituting “straight” for “aright” would sound like - a generation that set *not* their heart straight,
      • Why am I making such a big deal of English translations missing the simple word “straight”?  It’s because making our heart straight with God’s word is exactly what it means to prepare the way for the Lord.  Ps 78 is about exhorting the Lord’s people to follow God’s word.  When we follow God’s word, we are aligned “straight on” with His will, instead of acting on our crooked nature.  This is proper preparedness for meeting with our Lord and King.
    • I mentioned in the introduction to this message the students and staff at St Olaf College most likely prepared to meet with King Harald of Norway by cleaning up. It is a simple thing to clean the outside of the body.  We take a bath or shower and we are clean – on the outside.  What does that make us on the inside, in our soul?
      • Jesus said to His disciples after celebrating the Passover that they were already clean because of the word He spoke to them. (John 15:3)  Judas Iscariot had already left the Passover meal to go to the church leaders and set up the betrayal of Jesus for a measly 30 pieces of silver. He was not clean.  It is not clean to be in the presence of the King with such malice toward the King as Judas displayed.  Before our baptism washed away our sins, we too were filthy.  Noah Hoffstetler will be coming before the Lord on the 27th to be baptized, thereby being cleansed from his sins. You might ask what could a 6mo old possibly have done to sin from which he would need to be cleansed?  Answer: being conceived in sin, because of the sin he inherited from his dad, who inherited sin from his dad, and the list goes on all the way back to Adam.  Noah and everyone of the human race including you & me already have in them the desire to sin and rebel against God.  Washing the skin may clean off dirt and grime, but it does not cleanse the soul of this sin.  Baptism cleanses the soul, and the word of God with the water of baptism made us clean. In order to be prepared to meet the King, we need to be cleansed with the waters of baptism and continue in our baptism by staying in the word of God.
    • In our St Olaf scenario, I mentioned people probably wore their clean clothes and the best that they had.  I made a mistake in the outline on the back cover of your bulletin when I referenced Gen 19:10 for putting on clean clothes.  That should have referenced Ex 19:10 where 10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people[4].
      • God wanted the people He had just redeemed from the slavery of Egypt to be gathered before Him at Mount Sinai.  I get the impression from reading the account of the exodus from Egypt that the two million or so Israelites didn’t have a lot of smarts when it came to relating to the one true God.  There were gods in Egypt, but I don’t know a thing about how one was supposed to approach any of those so-called gods.  Neither do I know whether the Israelites knew anything about those gods.  I do know that the Lord made it clear in Ex 19:10 the Israelites had three days to prepare for meeting with Him at the base of Mount Sinai.  That preparation included meeting Him with clean clothes.  Even more important, the symbolism of what it represented to the people to be clean before the Lord.
      • I don’t know what detergent you use to clean clothes at your home.  I do know that even the most dazzling clean clothes cannot hide any sin from the Lord.  I’ve heard people say over the years that it doesn’t matter what you wear to church. I think it does matter to a point, and I base that thought in part on what I just read to you from Ex 19:10.  We should be clean in order to meet with the King!
      • Additionally, Jesus told the parable about a wedding feast in Matt Ch#22.  There was someone at the feast without wedding clothes on. The person was speechless when confronted with why they were at the feast without wedding clothes.  The end result for that person is summed up in Mat 22:13 - 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Did the person in the parable get tossed out just because of not wearing the appropriate attire?  That wasn’t the point of the parable.  The point was being invited into the wedding feast comes with it a reasonable expectation of preparedness, and of cleanliness in the sight of the Lord.
      • The best means of being prepared to meet with the King is to be clothed in Christ.  The Lutheran Confessions to which we subscribe constantly refer to the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  The reason for that is because the Apostle Paul made a big deal of these sacraments.  Remember: a sacrament is something instituted by God that uses a visible means for the forgiveness of sins.  As said a few moments ago, baptism is done with the visible means of water instituted by God with the words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  With this in mind, we can understand what Paul referred to in Gal 3:27 - 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.[5]
      • Baptism prepares us for attending the wedding feast those in Christ will some day attend in heaven.  We will attend the feast with the appropriate wedding clothes provided by Jesus.  He is the one who has prepared us to meet Him and the Father, by His Spirit.  The prophet Isaiah wrote about the day we will get to sit down at the Lamb’s high feast - 10 I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a groom puts on a turban, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 
  • Conclusion: We covered a lot of detail about how to prepare to meet with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  That is the point of the Advent season and I have laid out for you from the scriptures some thoughts on preparation for Jesus to enter and stay into your soul.  I want to go back and emphasize just a couple points.
    • From our Isaiah text for today, we prepare the way of the Lord (Isa 40:3) through repentance (Mark 1:4).  John the Baptist did not mince words with anyone of the need to repent of sins.  Luther made it clear in the Confessions that it isn’t possible to confess every sin we have ever committed.  Even the most enlightened in the faith is still blind to their own sins.  The take-away from the call to repent is to confess to God you are a sinner and in need of His pardon.  I can assure you a contrite heart our God will not despise.
    • The prophet Joel wrote by inspiration something that helps us understand what a contrite heart looks like - 12 “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping, and mourning; 13 And tear your heart and not merely your garments.” Now return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in mercy
      And relenting of catastrophe[6].
      • What God said through Joel is we need to be sorry with all our heart and not hang on to some pet sins.  We shouldn’t go through the motions of confessing our sins at the start of each church service here at Christus Rex.  We need to be sorry we have disappointed our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by rebelling against His word when we sin.  With that, we then need to make the effort to go forth and sin no more, out of gratitude that our sins are forgiven.  The effort to go and sin no more is what straightens the path which would otherwise be crooked.   Amen.


 


[1] https://patch.com/minnesota/northfield/st-olaf-welcomes-royal-majesties

[2] Luke 4:18-19 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%204&version=ESV

[3] Mark 1:3 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+1&version=ESV

[4] Ex 19:10-11 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+19&version=ESV

[5] Gal 3:27 from NASB at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians%203&version=NASB

[6] Joel 2:12-13 from NASB at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=joel+2&version=NASB

Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum (Mark 13:31)

  • Introduction: VDMA are initials which stand for the Latin slogan: Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum (“the Word of the Lord remains forever”)[1]  Let me read to you a paragraph from the Readers Edition of the Book of Concord. You may follow along on the inside back cover of your bulletin.   “Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum is the motto of the Lutheran Reformation, a confident expression of the enduring power and authority of God’s Word.  The motto is based on 1Pe 1:24-25.  It first appeared in the court of Frederick the Wise in 1522.  He had it sewn onto the right sleeve of the court’s official clothing, which was worn by prince and servant alike.  It was used by Frederick’s successors, his brother John the Steadfast, and his nephew John Frederick the Magnanimous.  It became the official motto of the Smalcaldic League and was used on flags, banners, swords, and uniforms as a symbol of the unity of the Lutheran laity who struggled to defend their beliefs, communities, families, and lives against those who were intent on destroying them.[2]
    • The Word of the Lord abiding forever makes sense, because in John Ch#1, the Apostle John equated the Word of God with Jesus.  Jesus is the eternal generation, meaning He had no beginning and certainly will not have an end.  It’s one of those mysteries about God that comes up around this time each year in the Season of Advent.  We confessed throughout the just-concluded Season of Pentecost in the 2nd Article Nicene Creed, Jesus, Son of God, always existed.  In Luther’s meaning to the 2nd Article, he wrote, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord…[3]
    • There was a gem in v31 of our Gospel reading for today that serves as the inspiration for this message - Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.  We will spend time looking at the state of heaven and earth, and why we should not put our trust in anything we sense around us, but put our trust into something which will abide forever – the word of the Lord.
  • Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, we praise You for humbling Yourself to come to us as a defenseless human baby.  What other religion has a god who comes to them, muchless in the form of a baby?!  Be with us as we begin the season of Advent this Sunday, providing us with the Holy Spirit, so that we can appreciate the humility and meekness You displayed by being born in a stable some 2000yrs ago.  Help us to understand that despite us seeing you born of a virgin, You have no beginning nor end.  And because You are the Word of God, the Word of God has no beginning nor end.  We pray this to You, Lord Jesus, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever more.  Amen.
  • Heaven & Earth: There are two parts to the verse chosen for this message.  The first half is heaven and earth will pass away.  Does it cause wonder on how it is that “heaven” will pass away at the end of the Age?  After all, isn’t that the place where we are wanting to be for eternity?  The reality is in in the Greek word, οὐρανὸς, there is no distinction made amongst the sky, the universe, and the heaven where our Lord lives and all the saints will dwell with Him.  There are different words for these three distinct locations, but two of the three places I just mentioned, sky and universe, *will* pass away.  Only God’s home will remain.  The Apostle John saw in Rev 21:1 a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth went away…  The word in the Greek John used is the same word, οὐρανὸς, that Jesus used in Mark 13:31.
    • At the time of Mark Ch#13, Jesus is toward the end of His earthly ministry.  But, there was an earlier time when Jesus also indicated the current order of life would be coming to an end.  In Mat Ch#5, Jesus started teaching and preaching off from the side of a mountain, and people gathered to hear His word along with the disciples.  The beginning portion of the Sermon on the Mount is often referred to as the “Beatitudes”.  That is where Jesus started each sentence with “blest are the…”  Jesus then proceeded to guide people in a different thinking than the church leaders at the time, because He was asking people to lead a sanctified life in true repentance.  We talked about leading a sanctified life each of the past 2wks where a person full of gratitude for what God has done for them, now hears God’s word and applies the word to their daily life.
      • There is a tendency that when we hear what God wants us to do, we think that’s what we need to do in order for God to like us and let us into heaven.  Some also confuse the words Jesus spoke throughout His ministry as if He had abolished the Law of the OT and replaced it with new Law. Jesus provided a clarification in Mat 5:17-18 which eliminated confusion on these two points - 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished[4]. Jesus made it clear He did not abolish the Law; the Law will be fulfilled to the letter, even down to a punctuation mark (Greek: κεραία)!  And, through Jesus, everything of the OT Law was fulfilled before heaven and earth pass away. Jesus did fulfill every aspect of the OT Law when He took your sins and mine upon Himself to the cross.   There is nothing left to do regarding cleansing of sins, because He already did the work.  His instructions throughout His ministry were about how to lead a sanctified life while we wait for heaven and earth to pass away.
  • Word of the Lord is forever: In the introduction to this message, it was mentioned Jesus has always existed. There was no time throughout eternity when He did not exist.  The Apostle John wrote by inspiration that Jesus is the Word.  The first two verses of the Gospel of John are clear - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God[5].  An infinite being such as Jesus *is* the infinite word.  In other words, if Jesus is the Word of God, and Jesus has lived and will live from eternity to eternity, then it is logical to conclude the Word of God will live forever! This logical progression is how Jesus could make such a claim about the Word of the Lord enduring forever.
    • The Apostle Peter in his first epistle quoted from Isa 40:6-8 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.  It was this passage from Peter that the people of the Reformation in the 1500’s fundamentally believed in.  They used it as their battle cry so to speak when confronting political and church leaders about the corruption of the Catholic church at the time. The risked being excommunicated from church.  They risked being blacklisted from ever being able to conduct business in towns run by Catholic political leaders.  They were not sure how any of the conflicts would turn out, but they did know and trust in the fact that the word of the Lord would endure forever.  They wanted the initials of Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum sewn onto their clothing to have a lasting reminder of what they believed.  That’s how deeply committed they were to this belief in God’s word!
  • Application: The cloud of witnesses now in heaven who were there on the front lines of the Reformation were convinced by faith the Word of the Lord would endure forever.  They knew ultimately the Lord is in charge and nothing would  prevail over His word.  They may lose a battle, but they knew how the war would eventually turn out when Jesus returned for the second and final time.  We’ve just been presented with the same word of the Lord they had 500yrs before us. One takeaway from this means we too should walk the path marked out for us in full faith and confidence that whatever is happening, we need to trust in the words our Lord has spoken to us.  One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples prior to ascending into heaven was this – I am with you all the days until the together end of this Age[6].  “Together end” (Greek: συντελείας) is a literal translation of a Greek word from Jesus last words in Matthew.  What does that mean from the Greek?  It is never translated from the Greek in that way in any bible I’ve seen, but my thought is the “together end” was a word deliberately chosen by Jesus to indicate the end of heaven and earth together.
    • Let’s take a look at how we can practically use the faith the Word of the Lord endures forever.  2020 will go down in US history as a very tumultuous year (and it is not over yet).  There are two big issues of 2020 that come to mind which affected unbelievers and believers alike:
      • The chaos of the election of 2020 caused divisions in relationships of friends and family members.  One was either passionately for Donald Trump’s reelection, or equally passionate against his reelection.  The broader vision for the future direction of this country was also at stake.  I have an uncle I cannot talk to over the phone anymore, because any subject we touch on invariably leads to a political diatribe.  The conversation ceases to be a dialog and becomes a duel-log.  Because I was raised by my paternal grandmother, I grew up in the same household as my uncle!  But now, there is no means of having a civil conversation for any meaningful length of time.
      • I’m sure I’m not the only person bearing with such enmity within family.  Even long-time friends on FaceBook are suddenly “unfriended” because of a political stand someone took online.  We are no longer speaking with each other.  We are speaking past each other.  The 2020 election was not foretold of in the Bible, but the condition we are now in with each other was foretold.  See if you agree that the broken condition of relationships in our culture was foretold with the following from the OT minor prophet Micah - Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms;
        for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house[7].
      • Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea. Micah was sent by God to the people of Jerusalem and Israel throughout.  The message didn’t apparently get received well, because the northern kingdom of Israel fell in 722BC, during the time of Micah.  Jerusalem fell in 586BC after not repenting of its evil ways.  Jesus repeated in Mat 10:35-36 the words He gave to Micah 700yrs prior.  Instead of taking the Lord’s word to heart, Jerusalem, and the temple the religious leaders were trusting in, was destroyed in 70AD.  Nothing of these living situations remain.  Are we not far behind in this culture?  To the extent it depends upon us, we need to be at peace with one another. No matter which side you have taken in the 2020 election, whatever happens in 2021 and beyond will not endure. Only the word of the Lord will endure.
      • Another “wonderful” circumstance for evil in 2020 is the reaction to the Covid pandemic. Last spring, no one really knew what to do to combat the highly contagious Covid-19 virus.  It was understandable to want to take extraordinary measures to stop the spread of the virus.  However, as medical knowledge of the virus has become expanded and refined, political leaders seem to resist trying different strategies other than the ones which failed last spring.  One of those strategies was just struck down by the Supreme Court last Wednesday – the restriction and even closure of church services.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Political leaders will do what they can to stop the spread of the Gospel. Don’t let a crisis go to waste is the motto for many in power.  The text just prior to our Gospel reading for today included Jesus warning people to be on their guard.  Followers of Jesus will be hauled before political and religious leaders who will mistreat those followers.  Family members will turn in fellow family members, even sons & daughters against their own parents, for the crime of following the Christ.  And yet, the steadfastness of the followers will be a testimony of faith to the generation of unbelievers.  (Mark 13:9-13)  Governments and regimes have come & gone which were hostile to the Lord’s people. The longest lasting dynasty in the history of mankind, the Byzantine, is long gone.  The expression, “this too shall pass” applies, because only the word of the Lord will endure forever.
    • Jesus said the tribulation at the end of the Age will so intense, it actually will be something new under the sun.  The intensity will have never been seen since the start of the Age and will never be seen like that again.  (Mark 13:19-23)
      • I can’t say if we are in that final tribulation of the Age.  It looks like it, but as I’ve already pointed out, there have been even worse time periods throughout history where God’s people had it worse than what we are enduring presently.  The saints have suffered tribulation ever since Cain killed Abel. When the tribulation comes to us, we need to remember something the Lord inspired the prophet Isaiah to write - Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.  “Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool, but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.[8]
  • Conclusion: The Lord Jesus has warned us about the evil which will be leveled against us, His people.  He has warned us the things you see around you are not going to be around forever.  Appreciate the Lord is in charge and nothing can prevail over His word, for His word remains throughout eternity.  Jesus is the Word.  We therefore should put our trust in Him for He will reign forever.  (John 1:1-4)
    • The Apostle Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy about the days becoming more evil.  Paul wrote that letter around 60AD, but I think it could have been written on yesterday.  Here is a portion of the letter - But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people[9].
    • It’s easier to take a hit of some sort if you know it is coming.  If a car crash is imminent, the natural instinct is to brace one’s self.  I think that is why Jesus, Paul, Isaiah, Micah, and others in God’s word warned us about the evil that we will have to endure.  The Lord didn’t warn us so that we live in constant fear.  That is why there is the constant reminder of the word of the Lord enduring forever.
      • We unfortunately are just as capable of being evil toward others and causing tribulation. That needs to stop.  As Moses wrote, we need to number our days, meaning we need to be careful with each day we are given, so that we make the most of each day to the glory of our Lord. (Ps 90:12)
    • The 1st Commandment states we should have no other gods.  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We heard from the OT minor prophet Micah a few moments ago about how a person’s enemies may even be in their own home.  I now finish with a Gospel message from Micah  just a verse later from the ones I read - But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me[10].  Our God will hear you and me, because He and His word endure forever.  All those promises He made in His word *will* come to pass!  Amen.

[1] Ps 102:25-27 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+102&version=ESV
 


[1] https://lutheranreformation.org/history/vdma/

[2] Concordia Lutheran Confessions, A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, Second Edition, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO 2006 Preface page 2

[3] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, 2018 Edition, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO 2018 p.17

[4] Mat 5:17-18 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mat+5&version=ESV

[5] John 1:1-2 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+1&version=ESV

[6] Mat 28:20b interpreted from mGNT at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb/mat/28/1/t_conc_957020

[7] Mic 7:5-6 

[8] Isa 51:6-8 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isa+51&version=ESV

[9] 2Tim 3:1-5 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2Ti+3&version=ESV

[10] Mic 7:7 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mic+7&version=ESV

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