A 54 Sermon Unpublished Book of Wonderful and Very Thought Provoking Lessons in Faith
First 20 Sermons
- THE CONQUERING LION OF JUDAH – Gen 49:9 (Advent)
- THE TREE THAT WOULD NOT DIE – Isaiah 11:1 (Advent)
- PRE-CHRISTMAS LIGHT FOR MARY – Luke 1:35 (Advent)
- PRE-CHRISTMAS LIGHT FOR JOSEPH – Matt 1:20-21 (Advent)
- COME TO THE CHRISTMAS SERVICE UNDER THE STARS – Luke 2:8-15
- WHAT IS THE NAME OF NAMES? – Acts4:12 (Sunday after Christmas)
- OUR ROCK OF AGES NEVER CHANGES – 1 Sam 7:12 (New Years)
- THE LONGING OF A PANTING HART – Psalm 42:1-2 (1st after Epiphany)
- SEEK THE PRICELESS JEWELS OF LIFE – Prov 31 (2nd after Epiphany)
- NATURE’S MOST POWERFUL SERMON – Psalm 19:1-4 (3rd after Epiphany)
- A FORETASTE OF THE GLORY THAT AWAITS US – Luke 9:29-35
- RECEIVING A LASTING MEMORIAL – Mark 14:9
- WATER ACCOMPLISHES WONDERS – Isaiah 55:10-11
- WE LOOK TO THE HILLS FOR HELP – Psalm 121:1
- THE PROWLING BEAST OF THE UNDERWORLD – 1Peter 5:8 (1st Lent)
- BLESSED IS THE LIFE CROWNED WITH LOVE – Psalm 103:4 (2nd Lent)
- WE NEED THE HEAVENLY LAWYER – 1 John 2:1 (3rd Lent)
- LISTENING AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS, 1000 B.C. Psalm 22 (4th Lent)
- BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT – Isaiah 53 (5th Lent)
- WHY WE ARE LENT TO THE LORD – 1 Samuel 1:27-28 (Confirmation sermon)
THE CONQUERING LION OF JUDAH – Gen 49:9
Gen 49:9 “Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?”
The lion is a royal beast and commands our admiration and respect.
From antiquity the lion has been known as .the king of beasts because of his power and fearlessness and even men have been called lion-hearted when they displayed conspicuous courage and daring.
In Scripture times the lion was common as far as Palestine and southern Asia, but as civilization pushed outward into all the world the lion has been confined, more or less, to a space in the zoo. His once vast domain has been narrowed down to a few game preserves and parks.
The Bible often refers to the lion’s strength and bravery. Thus Jacob in our text, by the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, made a remarkable prophecy concerning his fourth son Judah, and compared him to a lion, a young lion growing into full strength and calmly resisting any attempt to disturb his serenity and rule as he crouched in dignified repose. We shall see how this prophecy was fulfilled.
THE CONQUERING LION OF JUDAH
- HE PREVAILED AS A YOUNG LION.
“Judah is a lion’s whelp,” said Jacob. A very solemn moment had arrived in the life of the patriarch as he was Hearing the end of his earthly pilgrimage, and felt the urge by the Holy Ghost to bless his sons before he departed this life. The blessing of the birthright and all that goes with it was bestowed upon Judah, from whom the promised Seed of the woman should come. From the history of the twelve sons of Jacob we would expect the Lord to choose Joseph as the fore-father of the Promised One who would crush the serpent’s head. But the Lord’s ways and thoughts are often different than ours.
Judah received the lion’s share in the Promised Land. As a young lion he was the first tribe to take possession of his allotted territory, which was the most valuable portion of the new land. Fighting and driving out the Canaanites from the inherited land Judah’s soldiers displayed the courage and daring of lions. This tribe took the leading role in the Old Testament church history and it was highly respected and feared among the other tribes.
When the kings ruled Israel, at a time of much dissatisfaction among the people, Rehoboam uttered such words of folly to the tribes that ten of them renounced their allegiance to the king and so were lost forever to the house of David. Judah remained faithful to the king and became more and more prominent as the years rolled by. Benjamin, the other faithful tribe, assumed a minor supporting role compared to that of Judah.
Still later in history the ten tribes were taken into captivity and lost their identity as tribes of Jacob, but Judah and Benjamin were and remained Intact at the time of our Lord. Judah, as a young lion, prevailed over his brethren.
Is that the end of Judah’s reign? Not at all. Now he entered a new phase of rule as a grown lion. Judah is the lion of the tribes, but now we shall hear of the lion of the tribe of Judah.
- HE RULES AS A GROWN LION
Obviously Rev 5:5 refers to our text for Jesus is called “The Lion of the tribe of Judah.” In fact, this is the real point of Jacob’s prophecy, since from Judah should come the Savior of the world. The Seed of the woman was promised to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden long, long ago. This first promise of the Redeemer was the hope of the people of God for many centuries and sustained them in their trials and crosses. Jacob believed that first promise of the Savior and he certainly thought of Him when he gave the blessing of the birthright to Judah in these and other words, “He couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?”
Jesus came from the tribe of Judah through Joseph and Mary, for in the genealogy of Christ in St. Matthew chapter one and in St. Luke chapter three we are shown how Jesus descended Judah. “The Lion of the tribe of Judah” overcame sin, death, and hell by suffering and dying on the cross for the sins of the whole human race.
How does this Lion conquer and rule? All who accept Him by faith as the Savior have eternal life and immediately come under His rule and domain. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” John 3:5. Jesus convinced many people of His day that He was indeed the promised Messiah of the tribe of Judah.
The Apostles spread the Gospel and extended our Lion’s rule, and down through the ages His domain has been so enlarged that He rules in many nations and has millions and millions of people who have been conquered by Him.
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision,” Psalm 2. How often in the history of the world did not nations and kings attempt to destroy the rule and domain of the Lord’s Lion? What persecutions and terrors were heaped upon the church of God to exterminate it from the face of the earth, but the Savior and His gospel grew stronger and stronger, and no power on earth can overcome Him or His church, yes, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
We also belong in the pride or family of this Lion of Judah for we have accepted Him as our own and He rules us with His wonderful gospel. In this Advert season we are looking forward to Christmas when our hearts will again rejoice in the story of His birth.
Does it not seem strange that the devil is also compared to a lion? In 1 Peter 5:8 we read, ”Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist steadfast in the faith.” But the points of comparison are very different; Satan is as a roaring lion in his devouring and destroying actions; Jesus is as a couchant or reclining lion, satisfied in his power and confident of victory. Therein lies His real greatness. Jesus is certainly not pictured as a roaring, rending, destroying and devouring lion.
Of course, only the Spirit of God could foresee and foretell all these events in the history of Judah and the world, only He could guide Jacob to utter this remarkable prophecy. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed and conquered throughout the ages. We are happy that He has convinced us to be on His side.
No matter what is in store for us in this world we are confident that the Holy Spirit will also make us lion-hearted to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from our faith in Christ. Amen.
PRAYER. We thank thee, O Lord, that Thou didst foretell the Advent of Thy Lion of Judah and didst send Him into this world to redeem us poor sinners. We shall be eternally grateful for Thy mercy and love to us fallen sinners. Our Savior has conquered and will continue to conquer until the final victory has been won. His victory will be our victory; His glory will be our glory. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. AMEN.
THE TREE THAT WOULD NOT DIE – Isaiah 11:1
Isaiah 11:1 “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”
The California redwoods and the Sequoias are remarkable trees for age and size. Some of them measure up to 350 feet in height and are 15 to 18 feet in diameter. You can drive your car through the base of several of these trees, and in one a room has been carved out. The General Sherman tree is one of the largest, and it is estimated to be about as old as the pyramids of Egypt. If these trees could talk, what history they could tell us!
These gigantic trees appear to be indestructible but they are not. Many a tree among them lies flat on the ground, a victim of fire or lightening, or some other cause. Eventually they will all topple over and die.
However, our text speaks of a tree that would not die, an indestructible tree, one that appeared to be dead yet today is growing stronger and larger than ever before.
THE TREE THAT WOULD NOT DIE
- IT GREW
Jesse is mentioned in our text as the seed from which the indestructible tree grew. He was of the tribe of Judah and lived in Bethlehem with his eight sons. He was known and respected as an upright man of God.
The seed of Jesse became a sapling in this manner. When king Saul rejected God and His Word, God rejected him and chose another king. David the youngest son of Jesse was a faithful shepherd of his father’s sheep and under the Lord’s directions; he was privately anointed to be the next king of Israel by the prophet Samuel. Thus the sapling of Jesse began to grow into a tree.
At first Saul was pleased with David but his attitude toward him soon changed. Because his life was in danger David became a fugitive until the death of jealous Saul. After Saul’s death, David became king of all the tribes and strengthened the kingdom inwardly and drove out the invaders from the land. He was truly a man of God and as such he was the author of many beautiful Psalms. Jesse became a strong and spreading tree through his son David.
However this mighty tree did not remain upright very long.
- IT WAS FELLED
Men, as instruments of God’s judgment upon Israel, began hacking away at this great tree. The tree suffered a serious blow when ten of the twelve tribes renounced their allegiance to Rehoboam and so were forever lost to the house of David. The ax cut still deeper into the tree when the Jews and David’s descendants were carried away into captivity.
If you hack and chop at a tree long enough it will fall. This is what happened to the house of David. Foreign powers began to overrun the Holy Land and at the time of Christ the Romans held sway and set up their own rulers over all the land. All that was left of the great tree of the house of David was a stump. The Hebrew word translated “stem” actually means a “stump.”
For years the stump of this fallen tree appeared to be dead. Mary and Joseph were of the house and lineage of David and, like the stump, were poor and lowly people with all the pomp and power of a former age gone. Now we shall see the great miracle which took place in the apparently lifeless tree or stump.
- IT REVIVED
Out of this dormant stump there came forth a sprout as God foretold it would in our text, ”A Branch shall grow out of his roots.” From the virgin Mary who was of the house and lineage of David there came forth a sprout, a tender little branch, when Jesus our Lord was born of her on Christmas. Many other passages of the Bible verify that statement. In Romans 15:12 Paul quotes Isaiah, “There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.” In Rev 5: 5 we read of Jesus that He is “the Root of David,” and again in Rev 22:16 the Savior Himself says, “I am the root and offspring of David.” Even at the annunciation the angel said, “The Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David,” Luke 1:32.
Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of man, came into this world to suffer and die and thereby pay for the sins of the whole world. By faith in His cross we all can have eternal life. This Gospel message gives the revived tree its power and glory far surpassing anything of the past ages. Preaching Christ crucified, the New Testament Church suddenly began to grow rabidly until its branches are now spread out over all the earth. How vast this tree has become is even hard to imagine. Sitting upon the throne of His father David, Christ the Lord rules this vast Church with His gracious Word. What a powerful tree this has become growing out of a stump of a tree.
Today the kingdom of Christ, or His Church, has become the mightiest of trees, spreading out to every nation and kindred and tongue. Truly we have witnessed a tremendous miracle! David’s kingdom was but a very small part of the earth, in a little nation, over a few people. But the “rod of Jesse” spreads over all the earth, among all nations, over countless numbers of people.
This revived tree will last until the end of time because it is God’s indestructible tree. How often in the past have not men, by persecutions and bloodshed, tried to chop down this tree and have failed because it is the tree that would not die. The redwoods and Sequoias and all other trees may and will fall and die, but not this Miracle Tree of God.
God has brought us to faith In Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit and thereby has made us branches on this wonderful tree of life. Let us not allow the storms of life to tear us from our Savior for the dead and fallen branches and the broken off leaves will be raked up and burned forever. May we also, by our good works show that we are living twigs and leaves which are connected to the living tree by faith.
Even our Christmas trees should remind us of this amazing tree; the greenness representing its durability and life and freshness; the tree lights should remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world; and the ornaments and decorations should suggest to us that we, by our good works, are to beautify and adorn the marvelous tree of our text.
This is more than just a surviving tree or a tree that would not die. It is the Tree of life, eternal life, for every human being who will have it. It is the only possible way for us to be those who are before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands” Rev. 7:9. AMEN.
PRAYER. Dear Lord, in this Advent season, as we are preparing to meet Thee, help us to cling to Thee as true twigs and leaves. The wonderful promises found in Thy Holy Word strengthen our faith and trust in Thee. The nearness of Thy approach sets our hearts aglow with joy and anticipation. We, too, hail Thee as the Root of David and are trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, for full salvation. Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. AMEN.
PRE-CHRISTMAS LIGHT FOR MARY
Luke 1:35 “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
The “Christmas rush” seems to come earlier from year to year. Even worldlings fuss and fret as they become possessed by what they call “the Christmas spirit.” Amid the tinkle and tinsel the cash register accompanies the singing of Christmas carols. The increased activity in the Church during the pre-Christmas season is (or ought to be!) of an entirely different nature. Advent is a time of preparation. The four weeks are a holy season reminding us of the four millenniums during which the Savior-God set the stage for the most important event in the history of man.
The Lord Himself made special preparations for that first Christmas by prophesying in the Old Testament of the Messiah who was to come into the world to save sinners.
When the “fullness of the time” was drawing nearer God sent the angel Gabriel to Zacharias with the wonderful message that the forerunner of the Messiah was to be born from him and his wife Elizabeth.
Six months later the same angel was sent to the Virgin Mary to prepare her also for the coming of the Redeemer. Gabriel came to tell Mary about the nearness of His birth and to enlighten her as to her part in God’s plan to provide a Savior for all men.
PRE-CHRISTMAS LIGHT FOR MARY
- LIGHT FROM THE WORD
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden the Lord came to them in love with the first revelation of His plan of salvation. The “Seed of the woman” was to crush the serpent’s head and in so doing the “Seed” would be severely bruised. Through woman sin was brought into the world, and through another woman the Lord was going to bring His Savior into this world.
The Lord further clarified His plan of salvation in Isaiah 7:14. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The Messiah was to be born of a woman only, a virgin woman. This is amazing, but the most amazing part is this, He is to be “Immanuel,” [עמּנוּאל ; ‛immânû’êl] which means “God with us,” The virgin mentioned by Isaiah was to have a unique son, the coming Messiah, true God, would be born of a woman only. Add the first prophecy of God’s plan of salvation to the one in Isaiah and we have these promises; God is going to come into the world by being born of a virgin and He will crush the serpent’s head thereby destroying the works of the devil.
Mary was not in the dark as to God’s plan of salvation for she knew these prophecies of the Old Testament and they gave her some light. She was an Israelite who was thoroughly instructed in the Word of God, and the Jews of old; memorized many important passages of the Bible as we do. The hope of salvation and the advent of the Savior was the chief concern in life of every true Israelite, and certainly that can also be said of the Virgin Mary. However, to her compete surprise, she was chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah, she was to be the “virgin” spoken of by Isaiah. This was the reason why Gabriel came to enlighten her with some of the details of God’s plan.
- LIGHT FROM THE ANGEL
Gabriel gave added light to Mary with these words, “Blessed art thou among women.” As the Lord called Moses and David from the flocks of sheep to perform wonderful feats in His name; as God chose John the Baptist before he was born to be the great forerunner of the Messiah; as Paul was called from the ranks of the enemies to be the most famous missionary of all times; so Mary, meek and humble Mary, was given one of the highest honors, the Savior of the world was to be born from her. Eve brought sin into the world and Mary will bring the Savior from sin into the world.
Mary was troubled about the meaning of the angel’s words, especially as to how she was to have a child without being married. Gabriel enlightened her and explained that the Holy Ghost would perform the miracle of conception by overshadowing her. Further light was given her that because of the unique manner of His birth the Messiah would be a “holy thing” without original sin. All other humans are “flesh born of flesh” but the Savior is to be the only exception. Gabriel also clarified the meaning of “Immanuel.” God would dwell among us, be with us be one of us, because the child is to be the “Son of God.” Since He is the son of Mary and the Son of God, He is the God-man. Luther beautifully expresses these thoughts in his explanation to the second article of the Apostle’s Creed, “Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.”
This was the pre-Christmas light for Mary, given by an angel of light sent by the God of light. Little wonder that she said later on, “For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” Truly she was a blessed virgin, chosen by the Lord to be the mother of the Redeemer. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, felt this same amazement and was overwhelmed by the visit of Mary, and she cried out, “Whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Of course, the real blessing of Mary was not only that she had the most blessed of all sons, but that she also accepted Him as her own Savior and Lord.
Although Mary was highly elated at the marvelous grace of God, she at the same time must have known that, for a time at least, she would have to bear the scornful looks of people who would consider her an unfaithful woman, and not a virgin.
These thoughts did not trouble her very much for she was willing to leave everything in the hands of the Lord. Even facing Joseph she would not falter, but would wait with patience for the Lord to clarify all matters. Mary’s simple child-like faith and trust excites our utmost admiration.
We all need this pre-Christmas light which Mary received. If we would realize the full extent of our sins and the urgent need of a Savior from sins, we would be much more concerned at Christmas time with the thoughts of God’s love and grace in permitting His Son to come down on this earth to be our substitute and redeemer. We often get so involved in Christmas preparations that we are in danger of forgetting the real purpose and meaning of the great holiday, the birthday of the Son of God in the flesh for us and our sins.
Now that we have received more enlightenment from God’s Word, may this Christmas season find us all with the spirit of Mary who could hardly find words to express her wonder and amazement at “the grace of God which bringeth salvation” to all men. Like Mary, let us keep our eyes upon that little “Immanuel” resting in her arms. We can all very well repeat after her, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.” AMEN
PRAYER. O God of love, by the same Holy Spirit which caused the conception of our Savior in the blessed Virgin, grant us enlightenment to receive Thy dear Son with a pure and untainted joy in our salvation. O heavenly Father, we stand in awe and wonder at Thy marvelous Christmas gift to man. May we, like Mary, believe these things with all our hearts. Glory be to Thee, O Father, Son, and Spirit.
PRE-CHRISTMAS LIGHT FOR JOSEPH
Matt 1:20-21 “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.”
About 1700 years before the time of our text, another Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, lived a life of sunshine and shadows. At first he basked in the sunlight as Jacob1 s favorite son, and received many special favors and gifts from his father. Dark shadows gathered about his head when his brothers out of envy wanted to kill him, but changed their minds and sold him as a slave into Egypt. Almost immediately the sun began to shine again, for his new master Potiphar elevated him to be overseer of all his house. Dark clouds gathered again when he was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and was thrown into prison. Finally the sun burst forth in all its splendor when Joseph was made the second highest ruler in the land. Joseph showed that he understood his life of sunshine and shadows and the ways of the Lord for he told his brothers, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good,” Gen. 50.
Joseph, the husband of Mary, went through similar periods of sunshine and shadows. This was true especially before the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem.
PRE-CHRISTMAS LIGHT FOR JOSEPH
- THE SHADOWS OF SADNESS
Darkness reigned in Joseph’s heart before the angel of light came to him, but it was not because of his religion that he was sad. He was a man of God who feared the Lord and was a true Israelite indeed, a believer in the grace of God and one who put his trust in the coming Savior. He loved the house of God and his faith could only generate happiness and hope in his heart. Joseph, no doubt, reechoed the words of his forefather David who spoke of “the joy of thy salvation.”
Joseph was a carpenter, one of the oldest and most useful of trades. He was a faithful and respected craftsman, who found satisfaction and joy in the labors of his hands, so his work did not cause him to be disappointed and disturbed.
Surely his heart was not darkened because he found a maiden of his own faith who promised to marry him. Mary was a pure and chaste virgin who made his heart glad and whenever he thought of her it was with gratitude to the Lord who gave him such a wonderful maiden and future wife.
Joseph’s plans for the future did not cause the shadows in his heart. Like all young couples, Joseph and Mary planned and dreamed of their future home and family. The future looked very bright indeed for these two children of God.
In the midst of all his sunshine Joseph received a terrible shock — Mary was “found with child.” What else could he think except that Mary had been unfaithful? All his dreams and plans for the future were suddenly wiped out. Thoughts like these must have raced through his bewildered mind, “How could Mary do such a thing? I always looked upon her as a faithful child of God, what caused her to sin?” The past seemed like a dream and his whole future was shrouded in darkness at this time.
Only one problem remained unsolved, and he asked himself, “How can I best deal in this delicate matter? I do not want to marry her, nor do I wish to shame her publicly. What is pleasing to God, what should I do?” There was no light of Christmas in the poor man’s heart at this sad time.
- THE SUNSHINE OF GLADNESS
An angel of light was sent from the God of light to dispel the shadows from Joseph’s heart and bring him some Christmas light and joy. It was very fitting that an angel should do this , since the light to be shed into Joseph’s heart was a message concerning a great miracle and the coming birth of the Savior.
How relieved Joseph must have been to learn that Mary had not been unfaithful, but that the child was “of the Holy Ghost.” The sunshine of gladness was beaming again in his heart and around his world. All his plans were before him once more with a more glorious future than ever before. He looked at Mary with a new admiration and respect because she bore all that shame without a murmur or complaint.
Joseph was overjoyed that he could have Mary again, but there was even greater joy in his heart that she was to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah and Savior of the world. And the Lord had honored him and chosen him to be the guardian of the little child! The shadows were all gone now and life was like a glorious new sunrise for this humble man of God.
Joseph did not care what the rest of the world thought of him or his wife. He knew who the future child was and he was filled with gladness and gratitude to know that the Savior of the world was about to be born.
The shadows deepened somewhat when he journeyed to Bethlehem and was refused a place of shelter for Mary, who was “great with child.” How frantically he must have begged for a place for his wife and finally was forced to accept the only offer he could get — a stable!
Again the sunshine of gladness chased away all shadows when he was able to gaze upon the new-born King of the for the child gave him new light and hope.
Later on, a few more shadows gathered around him when he had to flee into Egypt with the young child and his mother, but under the Lord’s guiding hand those dark clouds were soon blown away.
Like Joseph we all must go through times and periods of shadows and sunshine. There are, and will be, dark days and deep shadows when it seems that all is hopeless and lost. When we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” we should never forget the courage and trust which Joseph had, that the Lord would somehow dispel all gloom in His own good time and make glad the heart with His beautiful sunshine.
Now is the time to get some pre-Christmas light to dispel all darkness from our hearts. Should we let the world and the children of this world dictate to us the kind of Christmas we are going to have? Are we going to permit this commercialism to becloud our hearts and minds so that we see not the true light and sunshine of Christmas? Rather, should we not have the same holy joy which Joseph had, joy in the birth of the Savior from sin? If we will accept Jesus now by faith as our true and only light we shall dwell with Him in eternal light and glory where there will be no more shadows of sadness. AMEN
PRAYER. O holy Lord, send Thy angel of Christmas night to drive out all darkness and shadows from our sinful hearts. Give us the sunshine of gladness that we may be enabled to look with new joy and hope upon the Babe lying in the manger. Fill our hearts with a new faith and trust in our Redeemer as Thou didst enlighten Joseph. Grant that the observance of our Savior’s birth ever remind us of the everlasting light promised us who put our trust in Him. Hear us, O blessed Trinity, for thy holy name’s sake. AMEN
COME TO THE CHRISTMAS SERVICE UNDER THE STARS
Luke 2:8-15 “…Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
The churches have had many Christmas services since the night when Christ was born, but none can compare with this first service for simplicity and beauty. In fact, this was a unique church service, never to be repeated. Instead of a beautiful cathedral dome, the worshipers had something more beautiful, the dome of heaven studded with sparkling and twinkling stars. Suddenly and unexpectedly church began, and the whole world is now invited to attend this wonderful service.
COME TO THE CHRISTMAS SERVICE UNDER THE STARS
- LISTEN TO THE PREACHER FROM HEAVEN
The message to be delivered was so important and precious that God chose an unusual preacher. In order to make the sermon more impressive and noteworthy the Lord sent a holy preacher, an angel of light and truth, to deliver this special message. As this angel-preacher appeared, a glory flooded the fields of Bethlehem with heavenly light. They needed no candles or other light in this evening service.
The sermon was even more important than the preacher. The introduction to the sermon was, “Feat not.” When the “glory of the Lord shone round about them” the shepherds were afraid, as all sinners are in the presence of the holy God. “Fear not, hear my message and let it dispel all your fears,” were the reassuring words introducing this marvelous sermon.
The theme of the angelic preacher’s sermon was, “I bring you good tidings of great joy.” From heaven, the source of all happiness, the angel brought a special message full of joy for all the people on earth.
“For unto you is born a Savior,” was the first point in the sermon of joy. When man fell into sin God promised a Savior as He spoke to them in the garden of Eden. The people of God waited thousands of years for that Savior and now, at last, the Lord has sent Him into the world to fulfill His promise. Was there ever a more important message than that?
The second part of the celestial message was, “For all people.” The Savior is for all people, of all nations, of all languages without any exceptions. Truly this is “good tidings of great joy.”
The practical application of the angel’s sermon was simple and effective, “Ye shall find the babe in a manger.” “Go, see for yourselves, find the babe, and worship the new-born Savior,” intimated the angel to the shepherds.
Such a wonderful preacher and his important sermon should be accompanied with special music and singing, and it was.
- SING WITH THE CHOIR IN HEAVEN
There now appeared in the sky a sight which is beyond any description. Suddenly, countless angels were seen in their robes of glory and they began to sing their song. What notes and what music! Can we imagine perfect music, sung by perfect creatures with perfect voices? We shall have to wait until we get to heaven to hear such singing again. The heavenly choir sang three beautiful stanzas in their holy hymn.
“Glory to God in the highest” was the first stanza of this sublime song. Praise and glory and honor be to the Lord our God is the eternal theme of the holy angels and the redeemed.
The second stanza was “and on earth peace.” The choir of angels was not singing of peace from wars; otherwise they would have been wrong for Jesus said, “Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars.” They were singing of the peace of God in the heart, which the Savior brings us by washing us pure in His blood. God in Christ is at peace with the whole world.
The third stanza of their brief song was “Good will toward men.” God has good will toward us and has shown His good will in this gift of His own dear Son for us on Christmas. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.”
What a marvelous church service under the stars of heaven! What a preacher and what a choir! The song and sermon are worthy of each other and fit perfectly together. Such a sermon and song should not go unheard. Who was out there that night in the fields to listen? A surprise awaits us.
- JOIN THE WORSHIPERS BENEATH HEAVEN
According to our viewpoint we would, perhaps, expect to find the mighty and the great, clothed in robes bedecked with jewels, listening and watching in this glorious church service. Such was not the case. We are amazed to find lowly and humble shepherds being the audience in this unique service. We might assume that God here revealed the future course of the Gospel, which, in general, shall be as Jesus said in Luke 10:21,”Hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes.” These lowly people were highly honored by the Lord this night.
The humble hearers heard the message of God and accepted His Word without question. They were certain that their Savior was born in Bethlehem, and they immediately went to seek Him. It was not hard to find Him in this little town. Perhaps they were surprised at the place of His birth, but they did not let the lowly surroundings and the manger disturb them at all, but worshiped Him in child-like faith. God’s Word was the most important thing with the shepherds and, disregarding everything else, they knelt in devotion before the Christ-child. On the way back to their fields they became the first missionaries to spread the good tidings of great joy. Following the example of the angels, the humble worshipers returned, “Glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.” The sermon of joy transformed these people into men of joy.
Year after year we repeat this first Christmas service under the stars, with a human preacher and choir, but with the same joyful message. With true faith, as those first hearers, we accept the message of salvation which the angels brings us, we give our hearts to the new born Redeemer, we join the heavenly choir in praising God who sent His Son to be our Savior, and finally, we obey God’s Word and help to spread abroad this glorious Gospel into the whole world. O how happy we are that we came to the Christmas service under the stars! AMEN
PRAYER. Dear Savior, on this night of Thy birth we listen with renewed amazement to the wonderful sermon of Thy heavenly messenger. We raise our voices and join the holy choir in praising Thee for coming to redeem us. We also with humble and believing hearts accept Thee as our only Lord and Savior. Help us to spread abroad into all the world the glorious truth that unto everyone is born this day in the city of David, the only Light of the world. Hear us and help us for Thy holy name’s sake, dear Lord. AMEN
WHAT IS THE NAME OF NAMES?
Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Words and names are of utmost importance to us and our thought processes-for God created us to think in and with words and names. One of the first concerns of Adam was to give names to all the birds and animals, and man is continuing to coin names for newly discovered creatures. When we think of all the words and names in the dead and living languages since creation, the number must be staggering and run into the millions and millions.
“What’s in a name?” has often been said, and it is true that names often mean little or nothing. But of all the names in this world can we imagine one name so outstanding that it towers over all others? There is such a name in a class by itself and set apart from all others by God Himself. Surely we are interested.
WHAT IS THE NAME OF NAMES?
- THERE ARE MANY FAMOUS NAMES
We have space for only a few examples of famous names in history. Almost everyone has heard of Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon. Many buildings, colleges, and hospitals are named after distinguished people such as the Yerkes and the Lowell observatories, the Chrysler and the Woolworth buildings, just to mention a few. Many streets and cities are named for Washington and Lincoln and many other famous people.
In every branch of learning and labor there are outstanding names. At some time or other we have heard of the great doctors, scientists, educators, and manufacturers of our day.
In religious circles we find many revered names in history. The Apostles are certainly well-known names and church history is filled with names who have contributed so much to our faith and life. History, past and present, is rich with names of people who are above the average person in thoughts and deeds.
We repeat, of all these renowned and important names there is one name which stands high above them all. We could add all the great names of the world together and the name referred to in our text would be higher than the heavens above them all, because it alone can open the door of eternal bliss and happiness. Yes, we call it the name of names.
- THERE IS ONLY ONE SAVING NAME
In the name JESUS alone is there salvation for all mankind. He received His name from God through the angel before He was born. The angel said, “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Gabriel first revealed the name to Mary, “Thou shalt bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS”(Luke 1:31). The Lord’s directive was carried out and He was given that name on the day of His circumcision.
JESUS has been given other names in the Bible. Isaiah 9:6 gives a list of names which refer to JESUS, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” The following is a partial list of some more names for JESUS found in the Scriptures—
Alpha and Omega, Anointed, Bread, Bridegroom, Christ, Star, Son of God, Son of man, Immanuel, Lord, Judge, King, Priest, Lamb, Light, Master, Prince, Redeemer, Shepherd, Vine, Word, etc. All of these names for JESUS are not a contradiction of our text which says “name”, not names. The many names describe some phase or work of His life, but He has only one real name given Him by the Father. A man, for example, could be called doctor, director, chairman, health inspector, husband, and father; but that would not change his real name.
JESUS, God’s Son, came down from heaven to be our substitute and in our stead suffer all the torments of the damned. He paid for our sins fully and completely. Who else could have done that for us? What other religion has a solution for our sins and offers us salvation free and without cost? There is none other, for JESUS is the only one who has taken away the sins of the whole world and reconciled us to God.
Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” There is salvation by faith in the name JESUS, and JESUS means Savior, “for he shall save his people from their sins.”
What’s in a name? Often very little. Some of the worst people and greatest criminals have names which originally had the noblest of meanings. But look at the name of JESUS once more, not a single soul can get to heaven without it. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Believe in that name, trust in it, call upon it, for only by it can we hope for eternal life. All other names fade into insignificance along side of this powerful and mighty name of names.
JESUS is the heart and center of the Bible and without Him there would be little value for us in the Scriptures. “Search the Scriptures: for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me,” says JESUS in John 5:39. Every sermon must testify of the salvation in JESUS, otherwise it is no true sermon. What good does all preaching do if the people do not hear the way to heaven in JESUS?
Some people spend their lives trying to make their names famous.
Many industries thrive on famous names or brands. When a man becomes famous, crowds of people gather to see him or be near him. But how many people in this world are attracted to the most famous name of all?
Names on certain products are guarantees of good merchandise, and they create confidence in us that the quality offered is excellent.
Our signatures on a check can buy many things; our name on a contract can move us into a new home; or by signing our name we can drive home a new car. In fact, most serious business transactions are done over signatures. Under certain conditions and circumstances even our names are of value and can do many important things.
But look at the Name of Names. God put this name far above everything in heaven and earth, Phil.2:9-11 “God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The moment the name of Jesus is signed in our hearts we have eternal life. If we want our names to be found in the Book of Life, the name JESUS must be written on our souls and in our hearts. Little wonder that we sing—
“How sweet the name of JESUS sounds in a believer’s ear; It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fears.”
PRAYER. Dear JESUS, Thy name means more to us than anything in this world. It means for us forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and the hope of glory. We pray Thee to keep Thy name in our hearts at all times so that our names may remain in the Book of Life. We thank Thee for Thy salvation, Thou who livest and reignest with the Father and Spirit, ever one God, world without end. AMEN
OUR ROCK OF AGES NEVER CHANGES
1 Samuel 7:12 “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”
In eternity there will be no clocks, or calendars, or new years, because there will be no time to measure. How important then are the few years allotted us on this earth! Now is the seedtime for eternity, now is the time to prepare for our everlasting destiny. Think of the solemnity of death, the gateway and door to timeless and endless duration.
Since we are not yet in eternity we continue to count every second, minute, hour, day, month, and year. Today as we put up a new calendar, we have an opportune time to pause and examine ourselves as did Samuel in our text. The Lord had helped him and his people out of great trouble and he set up a memorial stone and called the name of it “Ebenezer11 which means “stone of help.” We are going to follow the example of Samuel and make his stone our stone or rock.
OUR ROCK OF AGES NEVER CHANGES
- HE, HAS BEEN OUR ROCK IN THE PAST
When we examine the history of God’s people in the Old Testament we often wonder how they survived. Abraham was almost alone in the world, a pilgrim, as were his children Isaac and Jacob. Look at the precarious life of Joseph with its sunshine and shadows. All the Jews were slaves in Egypt for many years, yet by the grace of God they managed to survive.
After that they existed for 40 years of wanderings in the wilderness, with no crops to support them. Entering the Holy Land they found it well fortified and seemingly impregnable.
Even after conquering the land they were still surrounded by enemies and at the same time were plagued with many internal problems and troubles throughout the years. Truly the past often looked very dark and hopeless.
No matter how black the past was for His people, God always came to them with His comfort and help. He promised them a Savior from sin and in Him they could always find comfort and forgiveness. Yes, the Jews of old could say with Samuel, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”
All of us have experienced good days and bad days. We have had family sicknesses, church troubles, world turmoil, and many other sorrows and crosses too numerous to mention. This world is full of evil. And no one can go through life without some tribulations and afflictions. Job, who ought to know, said (Job 5:7), “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” St. Paul from experience could say (Acts 14:22), “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
When did the Lord really forsake us in the past? When did He ever turn His face away from us? When did He ever deny us the forgiveness of our sins in Christ? Looking backwards, our whole life is a record of the faithfulness of our Father who is in heaven. “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver thee,” is a promise which the Lord has never broken.
- HE IS OUR ROCK NOW
Twenty years before the events in our text the Philistines had won a victory over the Jews and it looked, for a time at least, as though the Lord were on the side of the enemies and had forsaken His people. But such was not the case ‘for at the time of our text the Israelites had just defeated the old enemy and were able to keep the land. This present victory over the Philistines aroused Samuel to such gratitude to the Lord that he took a large stone and called it “stone of help,” The stone was for all people to see and was to remain for a long, long time as a memorial to the faithfulness of the Lord. There were no human names inscribed on the stone, no list of heroes who died defending their country. With mute eloquence the stone declared “all glory to God.”
Did we gather here today in this church to tell the Lord how we guarded and protected ourselves until this present moment? Are we coming before the Lord as did the Pharisee, proud of our own achievements and deeds, and boasting with him, “I fast, I give tithes, I am not as other people”? Surely that cannot be our attitude on this New Years Day.
Today, as Samuel, we set up a stone, an invisible monument to commemorate the everlasting mercy and faithfulness of the Holy Trinity, who never did leave us nor forsake us. He has always forgiven our sins through faith in Jesus and has taken us into His arms for protection and help. Even now God is with us and near us, strengthening our weak faith to believe in His faithfulness. We cannot live without Him and our prayer will always be, “Abide with me” and “I need Thy presence every passing hour.”
- HE IS OUR ROCK FOREVER
Samuel set up this “stone of help” in the midst of his people as a memorial to the past faithfulness of the “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” But he certainly had also this thought in mind that the stone should be a reminder that the Lord would always be their help in the future. If “hitherto” is correct, then “always” is also correct. No matter what dark future lay before them as individuals or as a nation, they should never forget “Ebenezer.” The stone should remind future generations that our Rock of Ages never changes.
How can we know what the future has in store for us? Would we really want to know? Who knows how many more years we have to live on this earth? It matters very little, for He will be “with us always even unto the end of the world.” Our new year and future we place into the hands of our Savior, and we are safe and secure.
Our final future is and must be eternity. What about it? Where will we spend eternity? We are assured again and again by the sacred Scriptures that if we put our trust and confidence in the “Rock of ages, cleft for me” we shall be washed pure and white in His blood and shall live and reign with Him forever and ever in heaven. The theme of our eternal song will still be—EBENEZER: “hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” When we are “before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in our hands” we shall more fully understand how OUR ROCK OF AGES NEVER CHANGES. AMEN.
PRAYER. O faithful God, when we look back upon our past life and the past years, we hang our heads in shame and remorse over our many and grievous sins. Look upon them no more for Jesus’ sake, O gracious Father in heaven. But towering above all our frailties we see Thy faithfulness and goodness like a mighty rock and fortress. With Thee by our side we fear no evil. Forsake us never, that we might see Thee face to face and praise Thee forever and ever, Thou great and changeless Rock of our help.
THE LONGING OF A PANTING HART
Psalm 42:1-2 “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, 0 God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”
Is there anyone with a soul so dead that he has never experienced an intense longing and yearning at some time or another? Almost every traveler feels a quickening of the pulse as he is nearing home after a long journey. Do you remember that little child who would not be consoled until the mother had been found? Certainly you recall the time when you were separated, for a while, from your spouse and family.
Animals are also created with desires and longings. David, perhaps, saw a stag racing past him with its tongue extended, gasping and panting for breath. He immediately saw a comparison between the fleeing deer and his own pathetic plight.
THE LONGING OF A PANTING HART
- TO FIND REFUGE FROM THE CHASE
Every hunter and woodsman will recognize the picture before us; “As the hart panteth after the water brooks.” The deer has many enemies which pursue it; wolves, lions, dogs, and humans. Its very existence depends upon an alert attitude at all times, and the chief means of escape are it’s speedy legs. After a long hard chase the deer nears exhaustion and longs for a place of refuge or a shady spot in which to recuperate.
The date when this Psalm was written is probably the year of David’s flight into the Trans-Jordanic territory when Absalom, his own son, stirred up a revolt against him. We can picture David fleeing from his enemies, perhaps sitting on some hill and looking longingly toward Jerusalem. Our Psalm is so beautiful and simple. David felt forsaken and alone and we are deeply touched by the tragic longing of the author, whose words strike a responsive chord in the heart of every child of God. He expresses a great thirst for the living God.
Have we never sighed with weariness in the struggle of life, nor become exhausted from the constant battle with the devil, the world, and our flesh? Do we not often feel forsaken and alone? Do not our crosses and afflictions bear down upon us causing us to cry out with the words of the well-known hymn “Other refuge have I none; hangs my helpless soul on Thee”?
Refuge alone will not suffice, the hart must have water!!
- TO FIND RELIEF FROM THIRST
The hunted becomes the hunter. At last, when the enemies have been outrun, with tongue out and the body liquids low, the hart has only one desire; cool, life-giving water. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks.” Off the beaten track, weary and tired, the hart will instinctively look and long for the one thing needful, the refreshing water brooks.
It is possible that David was cut off from the services in the tabernacle when he wrote this Psalm. He sorely missed the singing and the reading of God’s holy Word. The Prophet knew that God was omnipresent, but he felt His gracious presence to be closer and nearer to him in the house of worship. An overwhelming desire came over him and his soul began to thirst for the gracious presence of the living God. “Lead me beside the still waters of Thy Word,” were his thoughts and desires at this time. David loved the Word of God and he expressed his attitude toward it in Psalm 122,”I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” The real cause of David’s thirst he expresses in verse four of this Psalm where he wistfully reminds himself of a happier past, Psalm 42:4 “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude. I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.”
Do we have the same longing for the house of God? Or do we come to church out of a sense of duty, or because it is expected of us, or for the sake of our parents and relatives? If we were cut off from church services for a long time, would we begin to long for the house of God and say, “My soul thirsteth for the living God”?
In the gospel lesson we find the boy Jesus in the temple, much to the surprise of his parents. He too had an intense longing for God’s house and a thirst for the preaching of His Word.
Whosoever rejects Christ and the Father will find himself with the eternal thirst of the rich man in hell, who begged for a drop of water to cool his tongue. The thirst of the damned will never be relieved.
Our sympathy and pity goes out to the panting hart, and we hope he found the water brooks and with them, renewed life. David found relief from his pathetic plight and, after the rebellion was over, he could again go to the house of God with the multitudes and hear of the coming Messiah who would redeem the world from sin and death.
Surely we can say with the Psalmist, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.” We have assembled again before God in His holy temple, where we find our Savior with us as He was among the disciples so long ago.
Jesus alone is the “Water of Life” who extends this invitation to all men (John 7:37): “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” He alone can satisfy this great thirst for God, He only can bring us into the eternal presence of the living God, where we shall “neither thirst anymore…. for the Lamb shall lead them unto living fountains of waters.” May we never lose our thirst for the Word of God, for our blessed Savior, and for the living God. May we always be able to say, “My soul panteth after thee, 0 God.” AMEN.
PRAYER. Lord Jesus, Thou art the fountain of life, Thou art the Water of eternal life. We have come to Thy house of worship and our thirst has been satisfied. In Thy Father’s house we always find Thee and are happy. It matters not how hot the way nor how tiring the struggle of life may be, Thou wilt always refresh us with a cooling drink of Thy life-giving water. Pour out Thy Spirit into our hearts that we may never fall from Thee and Thy Word. Finally, let us be with Thee in everlasting glory where we shall drink of the eternal water brooks and be satisfied forever. Hear us for Thy name’s sake. AMEN.
SEEK THE PRICELESS JEWELS OF LIFE – Prov 31
Prov 31:10 “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”
Even before the fall of man we find precious stones mentioned in the garden of Eden (Gen 2:12) , ”And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.” Early in history man began to exercise his ingenuity on precious stones to be used for personal ornaments and adornment.
Some of the jewelry of ancient Egypt we find buried in their tombs and we admire their great art and skill. Almost all nations in the past have evolved their own form of jewelry and costly stones, but modern man has reached the highest peak of development with a vast number of different forms and designs.
Good gems are always very valuable and highly desirable. Who knows how many robberies and murders have been committed for a few of these precious stones?
But they all have a price, usually very high. It is because of man’s warped sense of values that the wise author of our text places something far, far above the worth of jewels and rare stones. Let us hear his wisdom.
SEEK THE PRICELESS JEWELS OF LIFE – Prov 31
- SUCH IS A VIRTUOUS WIFE
“Who can find a virtuous woman?” Does that mean she is as rare as a precious stone and is practically impossible to find? Not at all. There is no perfect woman, but, thank the Lord, there are many who fit the description and have the qualifications mentioned in this chapter. Even precious stones can be found if you know where to look for them and how to recognize them. This virtuous wife is described in verse 30 as “a woman that feareth the Lord.”
From the ten commandments of God she has learned to know her sins and acknowledgers and confesses them. She further knows that the Lord promised to send the Messiah or Savior into the world to pay for all sins. She puts her trust and faith in the Redeemer who would save her and all mankind. This is the “woman that feareth the Lord.” Such a wife shows her gratitude to the Lord for His salvation by her good works as the fruits of faith. Many of these virtues are listed in this same chapter and we shall select a few to show the luster of this most precious gem.
She is trustworthy (v,11),”The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her.” How wonderful to have someone in whom we can place full confidence. Could we put the same trust in cold, dead jewels?
This priceless gem, who fears, loves, and trusts in the Lord, is industrious. In verse 27 we read, “She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” In fact, much of this chapter is used to portray her zeal and industry.
Out of the heart of this woman, this wife, this mother, this child of God flow, words of wisdom and kindness. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness,” v26. Who can ever forget the love and kindness of a pious wife and mother?
She is charitable and kind to the helpless and needy outside the circle of her family. Her love knows no bounds. (v20) “She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.” Her light shines before men and they can see her good works and deeds. What charitable institution has no woman’s helping hand, where is there an orphanage without the support of our Christian sisters, where is there a work of love to be done without the feminine touch?
“Who can find a virtuous woman?” They are priceless. The Bible tells us of many such women: Sarah, Rebekah, Ruth, Hannah, the mother of Jesus, the women who served Jesus in His ministry, Mary and Martha, Priscilla, Lois, Eunice, just to mention a few.
“Her price is far above rubies.” Happy is the man who has such a mate. The only thing “not good” in the perfect garden of Eden was that man should be alone.
However a solitary woman does not make up a family. A pious family is also one of the priceless jewels of life.
2. SUCH IS A PIOUS FAMILY
This chapter forcefully implies that the husband is also one “that feareth the Lord.” It is assumed as self-evident by the author of Proverbs, since he is writing for the children of Israel, who made the Bible their guide in life and were God-fearing people. Of the husband we read in v28 “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her,” An unbelieving husband would see no special virtue in a religious wife. He would condescendingly ascribe it to superstition or some other woman’s silly beliefs. But a man who is of the same mind and heart as his wife will realize that her greatest virtue lies in her piety and devotion to the Lord.
Such a man, then, is also invaluable, and his “price is far above rubies.” How reassuring to have God-fearing men and husbands as the heads of the family. These men labor industriously to support the family and care for all their needs.
They see to it that the children are trained in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” These are the men who build our churches, take an active part in mission work, and give of their labor to further the Kingdom of God. Happy the family and church with men such as these.
What effect will a God-loving husband and wife have upon their children? Again we refer to v28, “Her children arise up, and call her blessed.” It is unthinkable that parents who are washed in the blood of the Savior would withhold that knowledge and blessing from their children. The children will recognize the wonderful gifts of the Lord which they have in their pious parents and will call them “blessed.” How precious the home where children are also children of God.
Diamonds, sapphires, opals, rubies, pearls,—how attractive they are in their sparkling beauty, but they lose some of their luster when we think of other things of far, far greater value. The foundation of the government and civilization and law and order is built upon the family.
And pious families are the foundation of the Christian church. Should not the home of our text be a model for us to follow? The care and preservation of our home and family should be of far greater concern to us than the amassing of earthly goods and property.
Is it not significant to us that Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding in Cana? Surely He put His blessing and approval on all homes where He is the invited guest. At Cana He revealed Himself as the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world. Twice blessed the family where He dwells in the heart of every member by faith.
Father and mother and the children will all die, be buried, and perhaps soon forgotten. What, then, is the real aim and purpose of a pious family, what are the lasting benefits? The true goal of a family which trusts in Jesus as the only Savior is simply this, that each and every member of that family stand on the right hand of Christ on the last day and enter with Him into the eternal family of God. Such is the goal of a pious family, such is the purpose of the Church, and such should be the guiding thought of life itself. This is the priceless jewel of life which we should seek and retain. These are the everlasting values of life.
PRAYER. O Lord Jesus, we ask Thee to bless the families of our churches with Thy gracious presence as Thou didst at the wedding at Cana. May our parents feel their responsibilities toward their children and train them to walk in Thy fear and love. Help our children to grow up in a manner pleasing to Thee, so that the future church on earth will be zealous to serve Thee. Forgive all our sins, dear Savior, and help us where we have been remiss in our duties, and keep up with Thee in faith until the great day when we shall see Thee face to face. AMEN.
NATURE’S MOST POWERFUL SERMON
Psalm 19:1-4. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
“None are so blind as those who will not see.” Such are the fools who say in their heart: “there is no God.” (Psalm 14) The enlightened child of God however reads nature like a book, a kind of primer in which nature’s God reveals his power and wisdom to man. And every page reveals new wonders, for nature teaches many lessons.
The birds should remind us not to worry about our daily bread, for the same Lord who cares for the birds will certainly provide for all our needs, Matt.6:26.
The lilies of the field should serve as an example of God’s concern for us; He who clothed the flowers so beautifully will surely furnish us with sufficient clothing, Matt.6:28.
The ant is held up to us as a model of industry and labor, especially to those who are too lazy to work for their daily bread, Proverbs 6:6-8.
A good tree produces good fruits and a corrupt tree has evil fruits. This is given to us as a good test for the false prophets, Matt.7:15-20.
However, Nature has another lesson so powerful that it overshadows all other lessons and examples. Our text speaks of that.
NATURE’S MOST POWERFUL SERMON
- IT IS A CONTINUOUS SERMON
“Day unto day uttereth speech.” All day long the sun preaches this powerful sermon with its dazzling light and with its heat, the source of all life on earth. “Night unto night showeth knowledge.” When the mighty sun goes down, the moon and stars and planets take their turn to preach. There is no interruption in the sermon, not a moment is lost.
This is the longest sermon in the world, beginning at creation and ending only on Judgment Day when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise,” 2 Peter 3:10. Other preachers may come and go; death stops them all, but Nature continues to preach throughout all generations. There is no sign of weariness or tiring in this sermon, it is ever fresh and full of power day by day.
- IT IS A UNIVERSAL SERMON.
“There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Nature’s sermon is a silent sermon. You may strain your ears but no sound or language can be heard. A strange sermon indeed with no flowery language, no beautiful phrases, and no eloquent delivery. Yet it is full of power and beauty.
This sermon is understood by all people, of all ages, of every language and tongue, a universal sermon with no possibility of a misunderstanding. The unlearned can grasp the meaning of the sermon as well as the educated; children can understand its simple speech as well as the grown-ups. Nature talks with a universal language and meaning, silently, but more powerful in its way than any human speech.
- IT IS A REVEALING SERMON.
“The heavens declare the glory of God.” What is the unmistakable theme and thought of Nature’s sermon? Nature is constantly crying out, “All ye nations and people, behold the majesty and power and glory of the God who made all things. We can only reflect a little of the might and magnificent glory of our Maker. Search for Him, seek Him, learn more of Him, for He is marvelous.” Nature is actually singing a constant doxology to the eternal power, might and wisdom of the Godhead.
“And the firmament showeth his handywork.” An examination and careful study of an automobile reveals the intelligence and skill of the manufacturer. We are often amazed with a simple little gadget on a car which does so much to make it safe and easy to operate.
The firmament of the heavens, the air, the sky, and the starry dome all reveal, in a limited way, the heart and mind of the Creator. God did not try to hide Himself from us in His creation, on the contrary, He wished to give us some picture of Himself and leave us with a very definite impression. And the picture we have of Him simply takes away our breath, we become speechless, our minds become numb.
The power locked in Nature is awesome. The atomic bomb, the violent storms, the quaking earth, the turbulent sun, the exploding stars remind us forcefully of the incomprehensible power and might of the Creator of these things.
To disregard and reject this sermon of Nature is utter folly. Rom 1:20 “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse.” Nature especially warns the atheist and idolater to turn from their wicked ways and seek the true God of creation.
Nature’s powerful sermon has its limitations, however, and it cannot tell us the full story of God. Nature does not proclaim the holy Gospel which tells us of the amazing love of God who gave His Son to die on the cross for us poor sinners. The Gospel must be proclaimed to become known to man. Pastors need not be concerned too much about preaching on the omnipotence and omniscience of God. Nature can do that, and with for more eloquent words than any human being can muster. A preacher is called to do what Nature cannot do—“preach the gospel to every creature.”
Jesus revealed Himself, as the Epiphany season reminds us, as the Lord and Master of Nature when He rebuked the winds and the sea and there was an immediate calm, Matt.8:23-27. This miracle had the desired effect upon the disciples and they cried out in amazement, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” St. John says of Jesus, “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made,” (1:3). In the Nicene Creed we confess, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made.” Jesus is not only the Creator of heaven and earth, but He is also the “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” who came into the world “to seek and save that which was lost.” All who believe and trust in Him as the Redeemer are saved.
As the star led the wise men of the east to the cradle of the Christ-child whom they accepted by faith as their Savior, so may the stars of heaven awaken in us a desire to learn more about the wonderful Maker from the Holy Scriptures. For in that Book we shall learn that the same Mighty God who created all things is also the God of love who came to die for us poor sinners, that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Yes, God so loved the world.
Some day, when we are in heaven we shall not need the heavens to declare unto us the glory of God, for then we shall see His real, full glory, face to face. AMEN.
PRAYER. We thank Thee, dear Lord, that Thou hast not hidden Thyself from our eyes, but hast revealed Thyself to us in Nature and in the Holy Scriptures. We marvel at Thy power and majesty in creation, and especially are we amazed at Thy love to us in Christ which Thou hast revealed in Thy Holy Book. We confess unto Thee all our sins and throw ourselves entirely on Thy mercy, which Thou hast in Christ our Lord and Savior, and ask Thee for forgiveness for His sake. Eternal glory be unto Thee, O Father, Son, and Spirit, ever one God, world without end. AMEN.
A FORETASTE OF THE GLORY THAT AWAITS US.
Luke 9:29-35 “And as Jesus prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spoke of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem….. there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.”
Is it not surprising that at the occasion of the two great extremes in the life of our Savior, the time of His great glory and the time of His deep humiliation, His three favorite disciples were asleep?
When Jesus was in Gethsemane we read (Matt.26:40-41), “And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” Had they stayed awake in the garden, how they might have refreshed Jesus in His deep humiliation. The three disciples kneeling with Him in prayer could have been like a cool drink of refreshing water to a parched throat.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, at the time of Jesus’ great glory, when His face did shine with heavenly light and Moses and Elijah also appeared in glory with Him, at that marvelous moment we are astonished to read, “But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep.” However they did wake up in time to see the glory of Jesus and the two men that stood with Him, and so they received a foretaste of that glory which awaits all of God’s children in Christ.
A FORETASTE OF THE GLORY THAT AWAITS US.
When Moses came down from the mountain after speaking with God, his face shone with rays of glory because he had been close to the face of God. The prophet had to put on a veil when he spoke to the people since the reflected glory lingered for some time on his face.
It was somewhat different with the glory of Jesus in our text. He is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.” “In Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” Col.2:9. Jesus always was God, but from His birth until His death He did not fully use His divine attributes. The Bible tells us that Jesus humbled Himself in order to be our Savior by suffering and dying on the cross. He was indeed a lowly and humble man. But our text is an exception, for here He permitted His glory and light to penetrate His body and clothes as an amazing change took place. Matthew says, “And his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” Mark tries to describe the change in this way, “And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; as no fuller on earth can white them.” And Luke says, “His raiment was white and glistering.” One can sense that all the writers were at a loss j^for words to describe the Savior!s transfiguration. Yet this glory was only partial. Jesus in mercy withheld His full glory for no sinner could look upon the full glory of God and live.
The Apostles were having a foretaste of heaven as they were beholding Jesus in partial glory, Heaven is that place where we shall see God face to face in all His glory. Little wonder Peter said, “It is good for us to be here,” because they were almost in heaven and it was very, very good. Do we need any further proof that Jesus is “Light of Light”? When John says (John 1:14) “We beheld his glory,” he no doubt had also this holy moment in mind. Peter never forgot this short period of glory either for he states (2 Peter 1:16), “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty… when we were with him in the holy mount.” How could anyone forget a foretaste of eternal glory?
- FULL GLORY
Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus in glory. They were great men of the Old Testament and were immediately recognized by Peter and the others. They appeared in heavenly glory, the same kind of glory we all hope to receive. They were in full glory, as glorious as is possible for creatures to be.
“They spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” Moses and Elijah were intensely interested in what Jesus would accomplish by His sufferings and death at Jerusalem. They had believed in Him, the coming Messiah, while they were on earth, and that is the only reason why they are now glorified Without Christ it is impossible to see God in glory. There is a beautiful harmony between the Old and the New Testament, the only difference is in point of time, the Old states that He was going to come, the New teaches that He has come. Moses, Elijah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the other saints of God in the Old Testament received salvation by faith in the coming Lamb of God.
May we all be found among the great throng around the throne of God in glory. We can be saved by accepting His “decease” as having taken place in our stead. When we get to that place of eternal glory we shall better understand what Peter meant when he said, “It is good for us to be here.” This foretaste of glory stimulates our appetite and yearning for the better world to come.
- UNAPPROACHABLE GLORY
God is a spirit and therefore cannot be seen with our present eyes, no more than we can see radio waves or gravity. Whenever the Bible speaks of God appearing and talking, He always assumes some form or covering. Moses wanted to see God’s glory but he was told (Exodus 33), “Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me, and live.” Even the light from an atomic blast could blind us if we did not take proper precautions. Think what the light of the glory of the Creator of things would do to us if we looked upon Him in our sinful state.
The Apostles could see Jesus because His glory was only partial and they could see Moses and Elijah in glory too, but that was about all they could stand. In mercy God covered Himself and His glory with a cloud to protect the Apostles, otherwise none of them would have survived to tell us of this event.
“This is my beloved Son; hear him.” The Father sent His Son into the world to redeem us all, and He did. The Father says to all of us, ”Hear him,” especially when the Son tells us (John 6:40) “This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.” By hearing the Son we shall all inherit the same glorious condition which we saw in Moses and Elijah.
In this Epiphany season, we learn that Jesus revealed His glory to us for our contemplation and joy. Such a revelation of His majesty strengthens our faith and trust in Him and enables us to walk closer and closer with Him. Would it not be fascinating to brush aside the clouds and see the glory and marvels of the Lord? It is impossible now. But if we will accept Jesus as our Savior in true faith, He has promised us eternal life where we shall not just received a foretaste of glory as on the holy Mount, but shall see Him forever in full glory and “hunger no more, neither thirst anymore,” There we will be better able to sing, “For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. AMEN.
PRAYER. Lord Jesus Christ, having now had a foretaste of Thy glory which Thou hadst with the Father and the Holy Ghost before the world began, we long to be with Thee in that land of glorious light and happiness. O Lord, our thoughts are ever turning heavenward where our eternal home is. Keep us steadfast in the true faith unto our end, so that with all the holy angels and the redeemed we may join in singing of Thy kingdom, and power, and glory, forever and ever. AMEN
RECEIVING A LASTING MEMORIAL
Mark 14:9 “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”
When the officers, who were sent to arrest Jesus, came back without Him, they gave this as their reason for not apprehending Him, “Never man spake like this man,” John 7:4-6. Truer words were never spoken.
Listen to some of the astounding claims Jesus made. He said, “I am the light of the world.” Could any mere man, in his right mind, make such a claim? Even more startling are the words, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Anyone who is just a human being would not even think of making such a claim. One of the most amazing statements Jesus ever made we hear of in John 8:58,”Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” Dwell on that claim for just a moment, Abraham lived about 1900 years before Jesus, yet our Lord says that He was in existence long before Abraham. What an utterly impossible and fantastic statement for a mere human being to make! Truly, “Never man spake like this man.” Of course, we know the answer to these astounding claims, Jesus is not only a human being, but He is also “God of God, Very God of Very God.”
Now look at our remarkable text. Before the New Testament was written, and before any command was given to preach the Gospel to every creature, Jesus states in a simple, and one might add, in an off-handed manner, that the Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world—AND IT IS! He also predicted in the same breath that Mary’s deed of love would never be forgotten—AND IT IS NOT! In fact, we are at this moment fulfilling this promise of Jesus made to her. Truly Jesus is the omniscient God. Mary’s name and her deed will live forever because Jesus placed upon her head a lasting memorial wreath with a few blessed words from His lips.
RECEIVING A LASTING MEMORIAL
- VAINLY SOUGHT AFTER BY THE WORLD
No one wants to pass out of existence and remembrance forever. There is a longing in every breast to be remembered by the coming generations. All know that there is a hereafter, but few want to let go entirely of the only world they know. Ah, how delightful is the thought to man to be reasonably certain that when life is over, his name will still be on the lips of many people. How satisfying to so many that their names will be recorded in history books where they can be held up as examples to others. It is a selfish desire and cannot help us after death, yet this longing seems to be harbored in the breast of most people.
The tower of Babel was intended as a lasting memorial for future generations, and the pyramids of Egypt were erected as a permanent remembrance to certain Pharaohs. Men have built tombstones, vaults, buildings, bridges, hospitals, colleges, observatories, cities, and empires to perpetuate their names and memories.
Who built the pyramids? What blood and toil were sacrificed to erect them? Who remembers? Buildings become old and unsafe and they must give way to new ones. Empires rise and fall, graves are turned into farms. In a few centuries most of the past is obliterated. Who was the richest man a hundred years ago? Hundred years from now, brand new earth, brand new memories. All is vanity and nothing is permanent, memory is very short indeed. We are reminded of the words in Exodus 1:8, “There arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” These thoughts humble a person.
But there is something better than a little flash of memory, there is a truly lasting memorial wreath offered to everyone by the Lord. Are you interested in acquiring it?
- TRULY GIVEN BY THE LORD
Whatever God wants to be remembered will be remembered, and what He chooses to forget will be forgotten. Our memorials are entirely in His hands. Jesus placed a memorial wreath upon the head of this woman and her deed and the passing of the ages will never remove it.
Everyone who accepts Jesus by faith as the only Savior is washed pure in His blood. Such people immediately dedicate their lives to the glory of God and place themselves in His service as did the woman in our text. Jesus was eating in the house of Simon when Mary of Bethany came in with a box of very precious and costly ointment, representing, perhaps, a goodly share of her life’s savings. Suddenly she was overwhelmed by her love for Jesus and she broke the box and poured the ointment over the head of the Master.
She was criticized for her actions by” the disciples of Jesus. Even our own reason rebels somewhat and we begin to think within ourselves, “Why waste all of the ointment to be wafted away in the air, why not just a little to show her love? Why suddenly throw away all her savings? Why perpetuate such an impulsive act?” We would, no doubt, choose different acts to remember, for this deed seems so trivial.
But Jesus was well pleased with her unselfish act, and that is all that really counts. Now He made another remarkable statement, “She is come beforehand to anoint my body to the burying.” Mary seemingly did not know that in a few days Jesus was going to die, otherwise her heart might have been broken like the alabaster box. Yet Jesus honored and regarded her deed as though she came to anoint Him for His burial. The Lord was so pleased with her that He immediately placed upon her a memorial wreath which time cannot erase.
We should love and trust the Savior as Mary did and we also will not count the cost of serving Jesus. God works always follow a true faith. Help the needy, love the brethren, support the church, these are some of the things which please the Lord. On the last day He will also regard our deeds in a special light and say to all of His true sheep, “lnasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” These are the deeds and fruits of faith which shall never be forgotten because Jesus regards them as having done to Himself. We, too, can have an everlasting memorial wreath in Jesus our Lord.
Who will ever remember us with our trials and troubles of life? Our little struggle will soon be over and another generation will take our place, who will care or remember us?
Can we have a memorial wreath that never fades away? It is in Jesus’ hands entirely. Let us turn to Him in faith as the thief on the cross and plead, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” You know the answer Jesus will give us, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” There we shall never be forgotten in all eternity.
PRAYER. Lord Jesus Christ, we thank Thee for remembering us poor sinners and for leaving Thy heavenly throne to suffer and die for our sins. May we never forget Thy divine love and compassion. Thy holy cross is our everlasting memorial of Thy mercy to us sinners. Remember us in Thy mercy, 0 Lord, on the great day. The crown of life which Thou wilt be pleased to give us on that day will be our everlasting memorial. Hear us, Thou who livest and reignest with the Father and Spirit, ever one God, world without end. AMEN.
WATER ACCOMPLISHES WONDERS
Isaiah 55:10-11 “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
Water is the most abundant matter on the face of our globe and comprises about three-fourths of the earth’s surface. If all of the earth’s surface were leveled to a smooth plain there would be enough water to cover the whole earth about one mile deep.
Water has its own beauty and has stirred the soul of many a poet by its magnetic attraction. The oceans, lakes, and streams have always delighted the hearts of men by their ceaseless actions and changing colors.
Water is essential to life and because of its vital importance to us the Lord in our text compares His Word with water to give us a better understanding of the aim and purpose of His Holy Word. Like rain, His Word accomplishes much in this world.
WATER ACCOMPLISHES WONDERS
- THE WATER OF THE WORLD
“For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven.” Water, as all good gifts, comes down from above, from the glorious Creator of heaven and earth. Water was one of the very first things which God made, for on the first day of creation we read, “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
“Watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud.” Water has been rightly called the universal lubricant. There can be no life as we know it without this fluid, even the human body is about nine-tenths water. God in His marvelous wisdom set up a giant sprinkling system on this earth. The water is drawn up into clouds by the action of the sun, blown across the face of the earth, and gently sprayed over the land in the form of rain, snow, and mist. The plants draw up nourishment with the water and so life goes on. Most living things get their food from the action of water.
Rain is also our great supplier and renewer of fresh water. Snow is used by God as a vast storehouse of water which can be released in the springtime when needed most. The underground reservoirs are replenished by the rains and melting snows, and the trees and plants drink freely of the life-giving moisture. The rain and snow from heaven wash the dust from the air, fill the wells, and revive the earth. Water does accomplish wonderful things in this world.
The great Sahara desert is only one of many examples of the lack of water and its effects. The prosperity of a country is usually determined by the amount of rainfall it receives.
In the tropics and other areas where there is an abundant rainfall we find veritable paradises. The South Sea islands have plenty of rain and they are covered with a great variety of growths with palm trees nodding gently in the breezes. Indeed water performs a mighty miracle before our very eyes.
- THE WATER OF THE WORD
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth.” As the rain comes down from God so does the Word, else it would not be called the Word of God. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” 2 Peter 1:21. The Holy Ghost is the Creator and Author of the Bible. He moved and inspired the writers to reproduce His thoughts and words, and although the individual books of the Bible bear the names of men as their authors, yet the Book is not man’s word, but truly the Lord of God Himself.
Paul wrote in 2 Tim 3:15, “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” God’s Word, like the rain and snow, is sent into the world to give spiritual life and blessings to mankind. Through His Word He wants to save the world by faith in the Gospel of Christ crucified. The Lord would be well pleased with His church if we would set up a giant sprinkling system of the Word, as He has done with the water of the world: for there can be no spiritual life in this world, nor eternal life in the next world, without this Water of Life.
In the parable of the sower Jesus shows us that the seed (God’s Word) does not always have results. The seed which falls by the wayside is a picture of hardened hearts, in which the Word finds no root and is soon taken away by the devil. Other seed falls on rocky ground where there is little soil and in times of temptation and trouble these people fall from faith. Still other seed takes root among the thorns but soon are choked to death by the cares and riches of this life.
Although there is an apparent waste in the spreading of the Word, it still accomplishes much good, for the Lord solemnly promises us, “lt shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing wherto I sent it.” In the parable of the sower, some seed fell on good ground and brought forth abundant fruit. We do not always see the results of the spreading of the seed, but in due time we shall see the little buds pushing upwards. Eternity will reveal the final results of this watering of our hearts and souls with the water of the Word.
What a dreary desert this world would be without God’s water of life. Wherever this Word is lacking, there is a spiritual Sahara. Without the refreshing rain of the Word we would have a perpetual thirst in this life and an eternal thirst in the next life, as did the rich man in hell, who begged for a drop of water to cool his tongue.
God’s Word and Jesus are practically synonymous because Jesus is the heart and center of the Bible. The Scriptures would not be the life-giving water without Jesus, who is the “Water of Life” Our Savior tells us in John 7:37, “lf any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Again He says in Rev 21:6, “l will give unto him that is a thirst of the fountain of water of life freely.”
Jesus is the only thirst-quenching water for all sinners. Drink of Him and we shall never thirst again. Accept Him now, every sinner, as the only Savior and Redeemer, and we shall then come to that place where “The Lamb shall lead them unto living fountains of waters.”
Most of us have been living in a well-watered Garden of Eden all of our lives, for the Lord has showered His Word upon us in an abundant measure. We have been born in the church and have known God’s love and grace from childhood on. But there are still many desert places left in this world where man has not been showered with this wonderful message of Christ crucified. Should we not be mission-minded as Jesus wants us to be and help cause a rainfall of the Word in all the world? Spread the truth to the ends of the earth, and the Lord will see to it that His Word will accomplish that which He wants it to do. All who trust in the “Water of Life” will come to that wonderful place where we shall “neither thirst any more.” AMEN.
PRAYER. O dear Savior, Thou hast taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come.” Thereby Thou hast taught us to pray for the spreading of Thy Word and the growth of Thy kingdom. Give us renewed zeal to plant Thy cross from shore to shore that many more might believe in Thee and Thy holy cross. Above all, do not withdraw Thy wonder-working water from our parched souls, but let us be refreshed now and always with Thy precious Truth. O blessed Trinity, hear us for Thy holy Name’s sake. AMEN.
WE LOOK TO THE HILLS FOR HELP
Psalm 121:1 “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help?”
Mountains always make us look up. As we climb up the side of a mountain we get the feeling we are getting closer and nearer to God.
Very high mountains give us the impression that they are eternal. Perhaps the writer of Psalm 90 had this in mind when he said, “Before the mountains were brought forth… thou art God.”
The Bible makes no great distinction between hills and mountains, neither shall we. Our Psalm says, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,” and the writer quickly adds, “from whence cometh my help?” Let us do as the Psalmist did, look to the more important mountains of the Bible and learn how they may afford us help, instruction, and guidance for our lives.
WE LOOK TO THE HILLS FOR HELP
1.CAMEL. We may call this the mountain of decision, for here the great prophet Elijah appealed to the people with these words, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” Most of the people decided for the true God and they slew the prophets of Baal. “He that is not with me is against me,” says our Lord. We cannot be “on the fence,” we dare not be indifferent or lukewarm when it comes to our faith and religion. Decide with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” That is the language spoken by Mt. Carmel.
2.GERIZIM. This became the mountain of the false religion, for on it the Samaritans built a rival temple to the one on Mt. Zion at Jerusalem. Jesus sealed the fate of this mountain when He told the Samaritan woman at the well, “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” The Samaritans were a mixture of Jewish and heathen blood and their religion was a mixture of truth and heathenism. We should take Jesus’ warning to heart and “beware of false prophets.” Let us be sure we have the Bible religion, the religion of the pure doctrine, so that the Lord need not say to us, “Ye worship ye know not what.”
3. SINAI. This we name the mount of holiness, for here in the wilderness God gave us the Ten Commandments which show us our sins and how far we have fallen from the holiness which God expects of us. The law given on this mountain shows us that we cannot save ourselves, that we need help if we ever hope to be saved. Mt. Sinai destroys self-righteousness and makes us cry out, “God be merciful to me a poor sinful being.”
4. CALVARY. From Sinai we quickly flee to the mountain of the cross, the holiest mountain in the world. Jesus carried His cross to this hill which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha. Here He suffered the torments of the damned while nailed on the cross and thereby paid for the sins of the whole world. Ah, sacred Calvary, upon whom our Lord has redeemed us, You will forever be dear to our memories, You are the real hill we have in mind when we repeat the words of our text, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” We put our trust and hope of eternal life in what happened on this holy hill.
5. ZION. The temple was built on this hill, and so it became the mountain of salvation. From Zion came the good news of the coming Savior and the true children of God in the Old Testament rejoice in His promised coming and were saved by faith in Him. Little doubt, our text refers primarily to Zion from whence cometh help.
“Daughter of Zion” was used to designate the church. We should all join the Church of Christ because He saved us, and we will want to confess Him before the world and do all in our power to spread His kingdom into all the world. It is a privilege to serve Him who did so much for us.
6. ARAKAT. We may call this the mountain of safety for here the whole world’s population, consisting of eight souls, was safely landed after the terrible flood. These eight people were also the church of God which He guided and brought to safety on this mountain. They were entirely in the hands of the Lord.
Our chief concern in life should be the safety of our bodies and souls through all the storms of life. Seek security for time and eternity in the guiding hand of the Lord, lest we suffer shipwreck and go lost. Only the Lord can pilot our ship of life to safety in the heavenly harbor.
7. GILEAD. “ls there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?” asked the prophet Jeremiah. The gums of certain trees found on Gilead were used as ointment for wounds, and certain oils were used as medicine. Gilead, then, might be called the mountain of medicine. There is only one balm and medicine for sin-sick souls, Jesus Christ the great physician of our bodies and souls. Seek Him now while He may still be found.
8. LEBABON. Clothed with snow and giant cedars the mountains of Lebanon were things of rare beauty. The cedars of Lebanon were used in the construction of the temple at Jerusalem. We should lay our gifts and life at the feet of the Lord to be used in the service of His church, then we acquire new beauty in the eyes of the Lord.
9. MORIAH. Abraham offered up his son Isaac to God on this mountain. Abraham is the father of believers and he did not falter in the hour of trial. All God’s children in Christ can expect trials and temptations in this world. May the Lord give us the strength to persevere and help us reach our heavenly home.
10. NEBO. The Lord would not permit Moses to enter the Promised Land, but He did allow him to climb this mountain and view the promised land from the peak. The hopes of Israel were about to be realized as they stood on the fringe of the Holy Land. Moses died on Nebo, the mountain of hope. May our hope of the promised land in Christ, which we see before us in the Bible, ever burn brightly in our hearts and keep our eyes ever heavenward. 11. OLIVES. After His life of infinite blessings and salvation for mankind was completed, Jesus ascended into heaven from this hill to His heavenly throne. When our time comes, may this mountain remind us that we also will ascend up to heaven where our Savior is waiting to receive us.
11. TABOR. This is the mount of transfiguration, for here Jesus was changed before the three disciples and He shone with an unearthly light and glory. After our ascension into heaven we shall also be transformed with heavenly glory forever.
We now sum up the teachings and lessons of the hills from which we get so much help. Decide (Carmel) now and forever for the Lord and avoid all false religions (Gerizim). Confess all sins and iniquities (Sinai) and flee to Jesus (Calvary) for forgiveness. Join the church (Zion) and find safety (Ararat) for the soul where the healing balm of Christ (Gilead) will be applied. Serve the Lord (Lebanon) with joy and remain steadfast (Moriah) under all trials and keep our hope (Nebo) ever bright. Finally, when our last hour shall come, may we ascend (Olives) up to heaven, and be transformed (Tabor) into eternal glory.
Meanwhile, so long as we are on this earth we will say and sing, “Come to Calvary’s holy mountain, sinners ruined by the fall.”
PRAYER. O holy and blessed Trinity, may our eyes be ever lifted up to the hills so closely associated with our salvation. But may Calvary always be dearest to our hearts because of Thy wonderful offering given on it. Holy Spirit, keep our hopes ever burning brightly. Glory, glory, glory be to Thee, O blessed and holy Trinity. AMEN
THE PROWLING BEAST OF THE UNDERWORLD
1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith.”
Because the Devil is such a wild, mad spirit the Bible compares him to repulsive and hideous creatures. For example, in Rev 12:9 he is called “that old serpent.” Satan is not a serpent, but he used the body of a serpent in the garden of Eden, and he is like a snake with its hypnotic eyes and sly movements. In the same passage he is called “the great dragon,” for he is like a great sea animal or crocodile in treachery and hideousness. Jesus refers to the Devil as a wolf in John 10, since he is as murderous as a wolf among sheep.
In our text Peter compares this fallen, evil spirit of the underworld to a roaring lion on the prowl, a hunter and stalker of game, a very dangerous creature crazed by hunger.
THE PROWLING BEAST OF THE UNDERWORLD
- HE HAS FOUND MANY VICTIMS
Satan was created a holy angel and enjoyed the bliss and glory of heaven for a time, but the Devil and many other angels fell into sin and were cast out of heaven. The sin of Satan may be inferred from his own words to Eve, “Ye shall be as gods,” and from his words to Jesus in the great temptation, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Pride, and the desire to be a god seems to have been the first sin of the Devil and his angels. God placed him and the other fallen spirits under a terrible curse.
The Devil is the source of all evil in this world. He is a vicious, savage spirit who seeks to destroy the works of God and in his frenzy has turned this world into a wicked wilderness . Countless numbers of people have fallen prey to the temptations of this prowling lion. The whole world fell in the fall of Adam and Eve. The old world became so wicked God had to destroy it by the great flood. The history of the heathen vividly shows us how Satan has them in his control.
Jesus knew that the Devil would be especially active in the near future. He referred to him as the “power of darkness. ” The Evil One entered the heart of Judas, caused the disciples to flee, and Peter to deny Him. He stirred up the people to demand the crucifixion of the Holy One of Israel.
Success must have twisted and perverted the mind of this savage hunter still more for he wanted to add Jesus to his list of triumphs.
- HE DARED TO ATTACK JESUS
We are told of the great attack on Jesus in the simple words of St. Mark, “And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.”
The Devil, through the fall of man, turned this world into a savage wilderness. Jesus was in a place of desolation, surrounded by wild beasts with their snarls and roarings. Many a piercing cry went up at night as some animal became the victim of a fierier foe. The Lord began His life on earth amid the cattle in the manger and He began His ministry among the beasts of the wilds.
How odd this scene in the wilderness, Jesus fasting and praying with the background noises of growls and snarls. How different this scene from the temptation of the first Adam, for then he was surrounded by all the beauties of the holy creation with all the animals grazing peacefully near by; but the second Adam was surrounded by vicious, roaring beasts, in a sin-cursed world, in one of the most desolate spots on earth.
The Beast of the Underworld appeared on the scene and began to attack Jesus. He surely must be a mad spirit to hope to overcome the Son of God Himself. After forty days of fasting Jesus became very hungry, and the Devil suggested that He convert some of the stones into bread and appease his hunger. Being repulsed, he tried again and suggested that Jesus jump down from the pinnacle of the temple. Having met with formidable resistance again, the Beast of the Underworld with an inflamed mind, offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He would only fall down and worship him. He could not overcome the Lord, for the Word of God and prayer defeated him.
Is it not noteworthy that in the garden, which was like paradise, a man was tempted and by his sin turned this world into a wilderness; and in a wilderness THE MAN overcame temptation and restored paradise to us again. Through faith in our Savior we have eternal life, for He has overcome sin, death, and the power of the devil.
- HE CAN BE RESISTED
Grave dangers face us with this invisible Beast of the Underworld. We read of the prowling Beast but somehow we feel that he is a thing of the past, a page from ancient history. We complacently think of the present world as almost devoid of evil, with no devil, no original sin, no real evil. It is just this dangerous delusion which the Devil hopes to create in our minds. A beast or lion, stalking its prey, does so in a manner which does not warn the intended victim of its presence.
Peter experienced the grave dangers connected with this self-delusion and self-trust. He was warned repeatedly by Jesus, but with little effect. “If I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee in any wise,” was his confident vow to the Lord, yet he soon fell a victim to the wiles of Satan and denied the Lord three times.
Many years later Peter wrote the words of our text, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a tearing lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist steadfast in the faith.” As the years rolled by Peter became confident again that he could resist the attack of the savage enemy, but only with the help of the Word of God and prayer.
The season of Lent has been set apart by the church to commemorate the temptation, trial, and crucifixion of our Savior. This is the time when we should withdraw our affections from the world and walk closer with Jesus in faith and prayer.
Satan has not changed, and he uses the same temptations on us as he used on our Lord. He suggests to us to be more concerned about food and clothing and other things of life. He holds before our eyes the great “successes” of the world, the men and women who have made a name for themselves. He displays to us the wealth and glory of this world and offers it all to us if we will only turn to him. Truly we are living in a materialistic wilderness and are in great danger from this prowling Beast of the Underworld.
May the Lord bless us in this solemn season and may He always answer our prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” He has promised to hear us for the sake of the cross of Jesus our Savior. AMEN.
PRAYER. O blessed and holy Trinity, we thank Thee that again we are privileged to enter the sacred season of Lent. As we contemplate and meditate on the bitter sufferings and death of our Lord and Savior, may we be drawn closer to Thee and further away from the world and the things of the world. Help us overcome the old evil foe that he draw us not into sin. Keep us at all times trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ, our only Savior and Redeemer. AMEN.
BLESSED IS THE LIFE CROWNED WITH LOVE
Psalm 103:4 “Who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.”
Love creates happiness. A person who loves his or her work is, as a rule, a content person. Blessed and happy the family where love reigns in the home. The children reflect the joy emanating from such a house.
However the most important question in life is, “Does God love me?” We are living in His world and we must answer to Him for all the time spent here. His attitude toward us is the only thing that really matters. If God does not love us or is displeased with us, we certainly cannot be happy in this world or in the next.
We are told in our text that God does love us, in fact He crowns or adorns us with His love and kindness and mercies. Many people do not know of this attitude of God toward us, but blessed indeed are those who acknowledge and accept His mercy and kindness toward us and all men.
BLESSED IS THE LIFE CROWNED WITH LOVE
- THE CROWN OF THORNS AND THE CROWN OF LOVE
All of God’s attributes are very wonderful, but His attribute of love is the most amazing to us. “God is love,” 1 John 4:16. He is not just a loving, kind, and good God, He is LOVE itself. Everything in heaven and earth is only a reflection of God’s love. God is Love just as He is Omnipotent or Omniscient.
It was God’s love to the fallen world which caused Him to send His Son into this world to be our Substitute and Savior. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” John 3:16. Love is the foundation of our whole faith.
It was Jesus’ love which moved Him to come into this world to bear our sins. We know the price He paid to redeem us, He was smitten, spat upon, mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified, and forsaken of His Father on the cross. Only LOVE itself could do that for some one else.By Jesus’ crown of thorns, God’s just demands were vicariously expiated, the sinner cleared of guilt.
St. Paul in 2 Cor. 5: 19 very clearly states just that, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”
Our Psalmist certainly had this in mind also for he says (verse 3 and 12), “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases” and “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
103 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
It is self-evident that all God’s children in the Old Testament put their hopes for the forgiveness of sins and salvation in the coming Messiah. Forgiveness of sins through the crown of thorns is clearly foretold in Isaiah 53:5,”But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we are healed.” Is there anything unclear about a passage like this?
All that Jesus did for us and our salvation is ours by faith in His crown of thorns and holy cross. John 6:40 “This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.”
God’s marvelous love shows itself in all His dealings with us. He does as our text states ;”Crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” Now we love Him because He first loved us and so our Psalm begins with, “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord. 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” This whole Psalm is summarized thus, “An exhortation to bless God for his mercy.”
What a blessed life crowned with God’s loving-kindness; Then we find peace with God, we have a good conscience, there is a new joy and purpose in life, and a lively hope for the future. With such gifts of God how can anyone be sad or despondent? On the other hand, where the crown of love is missing through unbelief, there can be no joy or hope, no blessings or peace.
May we put our faith and trust in the thorn crowned Jesus, and God will place a crown of love upon our heads.
These two crowns cannot be separated, we cannot have one without the other.
There is another crown associated and connected with the crown of love. What is it?
- THE CROWN OF LOVE AND THE CROWN OF LIFE
We all know what love is but it is hard to define. Love has a strong attraction or desire for someone and seeks to be near the one loved. God’s love to us is that way. He loves all people and offers them eternal life through faith in Jesus. The thief on the cross, Peter and Paul, the Jailor at Philippi, and countless other sinners have experienced this universal love of God.
Why does God love us, what does He have in mind, what are His intentions toward us? The Lord is not satisfied with this present arrangement and life, neither are we. This is not real life, to be apart from God, to be unable to see Him. “Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee,” is our constant prayer and desire. We long to be closer and nearer to God, and He longs to have us closer to Himself. That is the nature of love.
We receive a crown of life with the crown of love. David knew about this (v.17) “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him.”
In the last book of the Bible (Rev 2:10) Jesus gives us this encouragement, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” In the next chapter He urges us to “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev 3:11)
The crown of thorns and the crown of love have as their goals the crown of life. Blessed, then, the man who has the crown of love for he shall be eternally blessed.
Coronation day conjures up visions of grandeur in our minds. The preparations, the pomp, and ceremony impress us with the importance of the event. But the Lord has a far better crown for us, a crown of surpassing splendor and glory which endureth in all eternity.
The kings and their crowns are disappearing in our age, but we hope that the crown which makes us kings and queens before God will be multiplied among us.
Accept that crown, wear it, sleep with it on, never remove it, for it is the most precious possession in life. With that crown upon our heads we can burst forth in this hymn of praise, “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” And with the crown of life upon our heads we shall continue that praise in these words (Rev.7:12) “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” AMEN
PRAYER. We thank Thee, O holy Trinity, for Thy marvelous love and mercy. We are especially thankful to Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast worn the crown of thorns and carried Thy cross for us. Thou hast crowned us, 0 Lord, with lovinkindness and tender mercies all the days of our lives. Help us, 0 Holy Spirit, to hold fast to our crown of life until we see Thee in all Thy glory. To the on true God, Father, Son, and Spirit, be honor and glory, world without end.
WE NEED THE HEAVENLY LAWYER
1 John 2:1 “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 ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Suppose that in a moment of weakness or temptation we would commit a terrible crime and were arrested. To engage the best lawyer obtainable would now be our chief concern. Price would become secondary, we would mortgage our home, borrow from friends, and do everything in our power to get someone to represent us and plead our cause before the court.
But all of our wrong acts in life, whether they are seemingly small or great, carry an eternal penalty before God. How few people care or try to get a good lawyer for their defense, although every single human being needs one if he hopes to escape his just punishments.
The dictionary defines an advocate as “One who pleads the cause of another; an intercessor; defender; counselor.” There is an ideal and perfect lawyer in heaven who offers His services to all men. And all men desperately need Him.
WE NEED THE HEAVENLY LAWYER
- WITHOUT HIM WE HAVE A HOPELESS CASE
Sin is universal, Rom.3:22-23 “For there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Even people who are converted and are washed in the blood of the Lamb still sin daily; not intentionally, or willingly, or with malice; but sin they do, and must also pray every day, “Forgive us our trespasses.” So the words “If any man sin” are directed to all men, but especially to the Christians.
Sin is humiliating and alienates and separates us from God our Creator, the source of all goodness. Sin carries with it a bad conscience-and we have no peace or happiness in life. See how Adam and Eve fled from the presence of the Lord after they had sinned. Sin tears us away from God.
Now our case comes before the court. Would anyone in their right mind plead “Not guilty” before the omniscient Judge? We cannot plead innocent, or deny the charge, or offer an excuse, or present a defense; especially since the all-knowing Lord has pre-judged us, 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
At this point we are ready to repeat the plea of David in Psalm 143:2,”Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” We are faced with an eternal sentence and an everlasting prison term, for “the wages of sin is death”(Romans 6:23)
Let us not make the terrible mistake of thinking that the holy and just Judge is only saying these things to frighten us and will at the last minute change His mind about our case. If we have those thoughts we are committing a horrible, grievous error.
Having reached the point of despair can we not understand that without the heavenly Lawyer we have a hopeless case? Who would dare go into our State or Federal courts without legal council.
Dare we face the final judgment which decides our eternal fate, without an advocate? There is even a more compelling reason why we need the heavenly Lawyer.
- WITH HIM WE HAVE AN ASSURED ACQUITTAL
The services of the Lawyer in heaven are ours, free for the asking. In fact, He invites us, pleads with us to put our case into His capable hands. The moment we put our faith and trust in Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer, that very moment we have placed our cause into His hands; and we shall never regret it.
Jesus alone is the court-appointed lawyer, the only one the court will recognize, the only one who has the right to approach the Judge and represent us at the bar of justice.
Jesus is the perfect lawyer being “the righteous.” He comes into court with clean hands, holy hands, to face the holy Judge. He knows the heart and mind of God perfectly because He Himself is God, He knows the heart and mind of man since He is also a true man.
He eloquently pleads our case for us. His summation speech might sound something like this — “0 most worthy Judge, my heavenly Father, out of infinite love for the world You sent me to be the substitute for the whole human race. I suffered and died on the cross for the sins of all men at Your urging and encouragement. Gladly did I obey Thy will because I also loved the world. Now I plead with You, dear Father, to be merciful and forgiving, and accept my sacrifice as the vicarious offering for all my clients. Our plea is —Not guilty by reason of my substitution.” How can such a plea go unheeded?
The Judge’s verdict might sound something like this —“My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, You are the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. I cannot say “no” to Your plea. I do not want a single soul to go lost. The plea that all your clients trust in your sacrifice and offering settles the case. I pronounce unconditional pardon in Your name. More than that, instead of Your clients being condemned to the eternal prison, I now decree that they shall live with Us and the holy angels in everlasting glory in heaven because they are freed of all sin by Your blood.”
This assured verdict and acquittal is taken for granted by our text, and is stated in many passages of Scripture. In fact, the Bible may be summed up in the words of John 3:16,”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
What now, after receiving our pardon? Should we not walk in newness of life, should not the verdict cause us to live a life of thanks to the grace of God in Christ? Should not our gratitude to the Lord and our Savior show itself in our daily life, renouncing sin and striving for true holiness? Should we not rededicate ourselves to the service of the Lord?
If we refuse the services of the heavenly Lawyer we shall surely lose our case before the bar of divine justice. Retain Him now before it is too late. For He will not always remain a Lawyer. On the last day He will exchange His role of lawyer for that of a judge. As the final Judge of all men He will gather His believers together and take them with Him into eternal glory; but the others who refused Him will be thrown into the eternal prison.
In the realm of eternal glory and bliss we shall need no lawyer. But until then, our prayer must be “ln the hour of trial, Jesus plead for me.” AMEN.
PRAYER. “Before Thee, O holy Lord, do we confess all our sins and iniquities, knowing that we deserve Thy eternal wrath and punishment. But Thou hast taught us to hope for grace and forgiveness through the merits of Thy dear Son, our only Savior. Enter not into judgment with us else we would all be lost. Accept the plea and sacrifice of Thy Lamb which taketh away the sins of the world, and make our hearts glad with the assurance of Thy mercy and forgiveness. Help us, 0 Holy Spirit, to lead a life pleasing to Thee. Praise and glory be to the holy Trinity, ever one God, world without end.” AMEN.
LISTENING AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS, 1000 B.C.
Psalm 22 — Portions will appear in the sermon.
22 My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Why art Thou so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?
2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not; and in the night season I am not silent.
3 But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in Thee; they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto Thee and were delivered; they trusted in Thee and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm and no man, a reproach of men and despised by the people.
7 All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn; they shoot out their lip, they shake their head, saying,
8 “He trusted in the Lord that He would deliver him; let Him deliver him, seeing He delighted in him!”
9 But Thou art He that took Me out of the womb; Thou didst make Me hope when I was upon My mother’s breasts.
10 I was cast upon Thee from the womb; Thou art My God from My mother’s belly.
11 Be not far from Me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed Me about; strong bulls of Bashan have beset Me round.
13 They gaped at Me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My body.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws; and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded Me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed Me; they pierced My hands and My feet.
17 I can count all My bones; they look and stare upon Me.
18 They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture.
19 But be Thou not far from Me, O Lord; O My Strength, hasten Thee to help Me!
20 Deliver My soul from the sword, My only one from the power of the dog.
21 Save Me from the lion’s mouth; for Thou hast heard Me from the horns of the unicorns.
22 I will declare Thy name unto My brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.
23 Ye that fear the Lord, praise Him! All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify Him; and fear Him, all ye the seed of Israel.
24 For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from Him, but when He cried unto Him, He heard.
25 My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation; I will pay My vows before them that fear Him.
26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied; they shall praise the Lord that seek Him. Your heart shall live for ever.
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee.
28 For the kingdom is the Lord’S, and He is the governor among the nations.
29 All they that are fat upon the earth shall eat and worship; all they that go down to the dust shall bow before Him, for none can keep alive his own soul.
30 A seed shall serve Him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
31 They shall come and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this.
Our text is a Messianic Psalm which foretells of the Lord’s sufferings and death. There are many such passages in the Old –Testament.
But this Psalm is remarkable in that the coming Messiah speaks directly to us through David. Jesus is talking of His sufferings and death about a thousand years before it happened. In this Lenten season we shall learn from Jesus’ own lips how He felt on the cross. From this Psalm we have chosen seven of His utterances.
LISTENING AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS, 1000 B.C.
- “I am despised of the people.” Psalm 22:6.
Thus spake the Lord to Himself as He observed how they all ”laughed him to scorn.” They shot out their lips and said, ”He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” Psalm 22:8 Yes, Jesus was so humiliated that He said v.6, “I am a worm and no man.”
It is hard to understand why the people should despise Jesus so much. He did only good things among them, healing their sick and speaking words of comfort. He came to seek and save that which was lost, and He paid for the sins of the world so that all can be saved by faith alone and by grace alone. Should such a man be so despised that He cried out, “I am a worm?” How can these things be? How perverse our human nature is we shall never fully understand. Even the murderer Barabas was held in higher regard among the people than the holy Son of God.
- “They pierced my hands and my feet.” Psalm 22:6.
It is evident from these words that this Psalm is truly Messianic, for David never had his hands and feet pierced, but that was done to Jesus when they drove the spikes into His hands and feet. What a cruel and inhuman way to kill a person.
Jesus chose this disgraceful way to save the world from all sins. Even the Apostle Paul was amazed when he thought of Jesus on the cross and how He died “even the death of the cross.” The cross, ordinarily a mark of disgrace, has become a sing of glory for us because Christ chose this way to redeem us. With the words of the hymn we say, “In the cross of Christ I glory , Towering over the wrecks of time.”
- “They part my garments among them.” Psalm 22:18
Jesus could see the Roman soldiers, like vultures, pounce upon His only earthly possessions. He could see and hear them haggle over His garments and finally decide to cast lets to determine who would get full possession of them. The soldiers regarded Jesus as already dead, He would have no further need of clothes. Perhaps it was at this point that the above words ran through the mind of Jesus on the cross. Humble, lowly Jesus, born in a manger, having no place to lay His head, having no earthly belongings except His clothes, and now these were considered a prize by the soldiers and they cast lets for them. Truly He became poor that we might be made rich.
- “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1.
These are the words which Jesus spoke out loud when He was on the cross and many people heard him. From the lips of anyone else these words would be fairly simple and understandable, namely, that God was not with the speaker anymore and had turned from him, or was not favorably disposed toward him.
But think what these words mean coming from Jesus. He is “God of God, Lights of Light.” He is the second person in the holy Trinity and is born of the Father from eternity. Now Jesus meant what He said and was speaking the truth: the Father DID forsake Him on the cross. How could the Father forsake His Son? What happened in the Trinity? We are faced with one of the deepest mysteries of Holy Scripture. Since only the damned in hell know the real meaning of ”forsaken of God”, then Jesus must have “been suffering the tortures and torments of the damned in our stead. It is just by this “forsaken” that we were redeemed from all sins.
- “All my bones are out of joint,” Psalm 22:14.
This is how a person must feel after hanging for a short while upon the cross. Practically the whole weight of the body would be pulling on the arms and shoulder joints. What awful torture! Such a crucified person would feel as though he were, as our Psalm says, “poured out like water.”
Our Psalm mentions all these sufferings of the crucified One, not “because God takes special delight in these tortures, but because He wants to show us how much He loved us to give His Son into such a death.
- 6. “My tongue cleaveth to my Jaws.” Psalm 22:15.
Jesus refused to drink vinegar mingled with gall because He did not want to avoid pain, He came into this world to suffer and die for a purpose, to redeem the world. Without drink for many hours, and suffering a great loss of blood, Jesus felt exactly as these words say, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd.” He tried to swallow, but His tongue would not come off His jaws. It is remarkable that He was even able to cry out loud, “I thirst.”
- “0 my God, I cry in the day time.” Psalm 22:2.
Jesus cried to God at night in the awful garden of blood, sweat, and tears. He cried to God all through His ordeal and crucifixion, in fact the whole life of our Lord was a life of prayer. He did not doubt that God would hear Him and He comforted Himself with the thought that the fathers trusted In God and He heard and helped them. Finally, when the Savior said, “It is finished,” He received the answer to all His prayers. Then with childlike confidence He fell asleep with these words on His parched lips, ”Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Seven words from the cross about 1000 B.C. Lent in the Old testament was no different than ours. They were saved by faith in the future sufferings of the Messiah, we are saved by faith in the finished sufferings of our Redeemer.
The Lenten season, above all, makes the love of Jesus to us stand out clearer and clearer. Surely He loves us poor sinners with a love beyond comparison. May we show our thanks to Him by leading a life that is pleasing in His sight. We thank Thee, Father, Son, and Spirit for Thy wonderful salvation. AMEN
PRAYER: Dearest Savior, as we again meditate upon Thy holy Passion in this sacred season, we are once more amazed at Thine infinite love for us worthless creatures. Thou didst become poor and lowly that we might all be rich forever. Accept our humble and heartfelt thanks for all that Thou hast done for us, dear Lord, for the sake of Thy bitter sufferings and death. AMEN
BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Isaiah 53— Portions will appear in the sermon.
53 Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground. He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
4 Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth; He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of My people was He stricken.
9 And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief. When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied. By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He hath poured out His soul unto death. And He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Moses lived about 1500 B.C. and Isaiah lived around 750 B.C. about half way “between the time of Moses and the time of Christ.
In chapter seven Isaiah foretold, “Beheld a virgin shall conceive,” and in chapter nine we read, “Unto us a Son is given.” These are some of the Christmas promises which we love so well and they could be called the Christmas story of the Old Testament.
We also have a Lenten story of the Old Testament. In our text Isaiah uses such simple language and yet describes the details of the crucifixion and death of Jesus so accurately that you begin to think that he was an eyewitness at the very foot of the cross. Isaiah 53 is indeed a very sad and heart-breaking account of the sufferings and death of the Messiah. Yet it is a masterpiece in describing the Lenten story, almost 750 years before it happened. Little wonder that Isaiah has often been called the Evangelist of the Old Testament!
Any Old Testament child of God could also have a Lenten season every time he studied this chapter. Last Sunday we were listening at the foot of the cross, today we are going to watch at the foot of the cross and learn how He was “brought as a lamb to the slaughter.”
BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
- THE SUFFERING OF THE LAMB
Let us just pick out a list of words from this 53rd chapter which describe the sufferings of the coming Messiah. “Despised—rejected —man of sorrows—acquainted with grief—borne our grief—carried our sorrows—stricken—–smitten—-afflicted—wounded—-—slaughter——cut off from the land of the living—put him to grief-—poured out his soul unto death.”
What impression would a child of God get, from out text about the coming Savior, or Messiah? Surely not the idea which was prevalent at the time of our Lord, that the Messiah was going to regain political freedom for the Jews and set up an earthly kingdom which would surpass that of David or Solomon. Either some Jews did not believe that this chapter spoke of the Messiah, or else they perverted it.
Isaiah 53 talks only of suffering for this Servant of the Lord. The people are not going to rally around Him, on the contrary, He will be despised and rejected of them. There is no thought of an earthly kingdom found in our text, but only “grief” and “sorrow.”
It is easy for us to put the New Testament story of Lent alongside this prophecy and in that way fill out all the details. We know how the Messiah was crucified and forsaken by His Father on the cross for the sins of the
- THE SUBSTITUTION OF THE LAMB
Again, let us chose words and phrases in this chapter which show that the Messiah was suffering as a substitute for someone else, a vicarious suffering. “He hath borne our griefs—carried our sorrows—wounded for our transgressions—bruised for our iniquities—chastisement of our peace was upon him—-with his stripes we are healed-— Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all-—for the transgression of my people was he stricken—soul an offering for sin—shall bear their iniquities—bare the sins of many~~~made intercession for the transgressors.”
Even the phrases which show the personal holiness of the Messiah emphasize the fact that he was not suffering for some evil which He committed, but was suffering for someone else. Some of these phrases are: “opened not his mouth—lamb to slaughter-— he had done no violence— neither was any deceit in his mouth— -righteous servant.”
Again, what impression of the coming Savior would the people of God in the Old Testament receive from these words? Just this, the Messiah will be perfectly holy in Himself, yet He will offer to take the place of sinners and bear all their iniquities. In doing this He is the Servant of the Lord, in other words, the Lord is entirely pleased with Him for doing this act of substitution. Surely every child of God before the time of Christ must have learned to love the coming Savior since He was going to do this great act of love for them. Another point, since one man was going to do this, He must be much more than a mere human being.
The Pharisees crucified Jesus because He preached that He came to seek and save that which was lost. They overlooked all these statements about sin, and taught that it was possible to keep the commandments of God perfectly. They were self-righteous, and talk of a Savior from sin was foolishness in their opinion. Jesus told them in John 5:39, “Search the Scriptures (Old Testament}; for in them ye think ye have eternal life (by your self-righteousness); and they are they which testify of me [especially Isaiah 53].
Every person before Christ who believed these promises of the coming Savior was saved and went to heaven. All who rejected these promises were lost.
- THE SATISFACTION OF THE LAMB
Once more we shall pick out some phrases from this chapter which show us a double satisfaction; the Messiah will make satisfaction for us; and He will satisfied with the fruits of His sufferings, “we are healed—iniquity of us all–—bare sins of many.” He paid for us completely and made satisfaction for us before the scales of God’s justice.
The Messiah foresaw the many people He would save from their sins and He is satisfied and feels well repaid for all His sufferings. This is brought out by the following, “He shall see his seed—prolong his days-pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand-—shall be satisfied—portion with the great.”
It is altogether fitting and proper that the church chose Isaiah 53 as the Epistle lesson to be read in the churches on Good Friday, because it is the Lenten story in the Old Testament. We have been watching at the foot of the cross, 750 B.C.
We should all feel about the Messiah as St. Paul did in 1 Tim 1:15 “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
How can we be absolutely certain this text is a prophecy of the Savior to come? Read Acts 8:27-35 where Philip showed the eunuch that Isaiah was speaking of Jesus Christ in our text. There is only one way to heaven, by faith in the Savior; either that He will come or that He has come.
The hymn writer expresses our faith and thanks to Jesus for His love to us, “Glory be to Jesus, who in bitter pains Poured for me the life-blood from His sacred veins.” AMEN.
PRAYER Dear Lamb of God, Thy love to us poor sinners. shown to us especially in thy passion, is beyond our understanding and grasp. We can only accept it and Thy offering for us with hearts filled with gratitude. Give us Thy Holy Spirit that we may show our thanks by a newness of life in our daily living. Help us, dear Lord, for the sake of Thy bitter sufferings and death.
WHY WE ARE LENT TO THE LORD
1 Samuel 1:27-28 “For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: therefore also I have lent him to the Lord: as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord.”
The story of Samuel captivated Luther as a young man and he prayed the Lord to make him a pious man like Samuel. The Lord surely answered Luther’s prayer and it can also be said of him that he was “lent to the Lord” all the days of his life.
Hannah’s words express her gratitude and thanks to the Lord for giving her this son, and she dedicated the little boy to the service of the Lord for the rest of his life. All parents whose hearts are given to the Lord and His Messiah as was the heart of Hannah will repeat these words of hers and also be happy to dedicate their children to the service of the Lord.
Children, you were also loaned to the Lord by your parents at your baptism. You were set apart from the world to be a child of God all the days of your lives. Today from our text we want to show you some of the reasons why your parents gave you back to the Lord in Baptism. We know that you will heartily agree with their actions and be happy to be loaned to the Lord.
WHY WE ARE LENT TO THE LORD
- WE CAME FROM HIM
Hannah prayed long and earnestly for a child and vowed that she would dedicate him to the service of the Lord for life. God did hear her prayers and gave her a son and she called him Samuel. “For this child I prayed: and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him,” she confessed. Our children surely come from the Lord for He alone can create life. Believers pray to God in Jesus’ name for children, and He answers their prayers. There are not many things in life which we can rate higher than our children.
When a person deeds property to a city to be used for a public park the wishes of the donor are respected and upheld. When the members of our church give an envelope for a specific charity, we respect their wishes and do not misappropriate their money for something else. And when the Lord gave us our children He specified how they were to be trained by us, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” It should be said of us as of Abraham in Gen 18:19 “For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord,” Children are not to be “misappropriated” for something else, but the wishes of the donor are to be respected.
Children, now you can better understand why your parents loaned you to the Lord and soon after you were born gave you to Him in baptism. It was the wish of Him who brought you into being, and your parents could not disregard the wishes of the Lord whom they love with all their hearts.”Lent to the Lord,” surely you are in good hands.
- WE ARE TO SERVE HIM
Anyone who reads the life of the prophet Samuel will readily see how he carried out the wishes of his mother by serving the Lord all the days of his life. He was a great prophet during very trying times in Israel.
When we baptized our children they received a new name, the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The logical continuation of baptism is to train our children to serve Him whose name they bear. How contradictory to baptize our children and then let them grow up to follow their own sinful flesh instead of turning their hearts toward the Lord.
How important to child-training are those table prayers and bed-time prayers, those wonderful Bible stories told the child at home. Little Samuel was not surprised when he was taken away from his home at such an early age. It followed logically from his home- training, for he was brought up with this in mind and was certainly told beforehand the intentions of his parents. Christian parents are the best missionaries with their children and they may be training some future worker or pillar of the church.
Early in life our parents send their children to the church for continued lessons. Later on the children are to receive thorough instructions in the doctrines of the Bible. With such careful training the congregation will suffer very little loss (Prov.22:6) “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Children, this has been your story up to the present moment. You have been taught by your parents and the church how to serve the Lord for the rest of your days. Confirmation is not the end but the beginning of your service to Him who redeemed you. This is the reason why you have been lent to the Lord. You children are the future church, and as you are so will be the coming church. May you resolve to serve the dear Lord as long as you live.
There is another most important reason why we are lent to the Lord, the most important point of all.
- WE ARE TO RETURN TO HIM
We readily concede that our text does not expressly state that our children are to return to the Lord, but the implication is so clear there can be no room for doubt. It is self-evident also that the Lord wants us to draw this conclusion. Samuel was prayed for and lent to the Lord so that when this life was ended he might return to the Lord forever in heaven. The text and our sermon would not make much sense without this conclusion.
Others may have different aims in life, such as glory, money, honor, success, power, etc. Wordly-minded people have these goals before them and teach them to their children, but we are strangers and pilgrims in this world. One of the main purposes of Christian training and instructions is to emphasize the Biblical aim and goal of life. Our eternal home is heaven, thanks be to Jesus, and what a crown awaits us and our children. What a reunion when parents and children and all the redeemed are gathered around the throne, washed pure in the blood of the Lamb that once was slain.
If we gladly loan our children for the service of the Lord, it will not be too hard for us to offer the Lord our gifts and talents and all that we have to be used for the furtherance of His kingdom on earth.
Little Samuel reminds us of another young boy who said, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? ” Thank God, now and forever, that this boy stayed with His Father’s business and redeemed us all by His sufferings and death on the cross. Through faith in Him and His cross we have eternal life.
Parents, it is self-evident you can only give your children to the Lord when you have first given yourself to Him. Now help these young lambs of Christ to stay in the service of the Lord, Children, “do you intend faithfully to conform all your life to the rule of the divine Word, to be diligent in the use of the means of grace, to walk as it becometh the Gospel of Christ, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to the Triune God, even unto death?” (Confirmation vow). We are certain your answer will be, “I do so intend, by the grace of God” because you are lent to the Lord now and forever. AMEN.
PRAYER. Dear heavenly Father, we thank Thee especially for the gift of our beloved children. Truly they are precious in Thy sight. Give us the necessary zeal to train them in Thy holy ways. Let them grow up as a new generation anxious to serve Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. Finally, in our dear Savior, let us all be united around Thy throne of glory where all of Thy children will praise Thy holy name, 0 Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.