A 54 Sermon Unpublished Book of Wonderful and Very Thought Provoking Lessons in Faith
Part 2 Next 20 Sermons 21-40
- EASTER IS THE BEGINNING OF A GREAT HARVEST – 1 Cor 15:20 (Easter)
- EASTER TRANSFORMING THE HEART – Luke 24:13-41 (1st S. after Easter)
- THE INFALLIBLE SHEPHERD GUIDES HIS FLOCK – Ps 78:52 (2nd S./Easter)
- HOPE IN THE VALLEY OF THE SKELETONS – Ezek 37:1-14 (3rd S. after Easter)
- SAILING ON THE SHIP OF LIFE – Heb 6:19 (4th Sunday after Easter)
- THE INCENSE WHICH PLEASES THE LORD – Psalm 141:2 (5th S. after Easter)
- A CLOSER LOOK AT HIS HOLY HANDS – Luke 24:50-51 (Ascension Day)
- WHY THE SUDDEN CHANGE OF TONGUES? – Gen 11:9 – Acts 2:4 (Pentecost)
- OUR GOD IS A TOWERING STRONGHOLD – Psalm 46:1 (Trinity Sunday)
- WE ARE PRISONERS OF GOD’S PRESENCE – Psalm 139:7-10 (1st after Trinity)
- THE BRIGHTEST STAR HAS RISEN – Rev 22:16 (2nd S. after Trinity)
- DROWNING MEN CAN BE SAVED – 1 Tim 6:9 (3rd Sunday after Trinity)
- DAVID’S VISION BECAME DISTORTED – 2 Sam 12:5-7 (4th S. after Trinity)
- BEWARE OF SEARING THE CONSCIENCE – 1 Tim 4:2 (5th S. after Trinity)
- EXCLUDE LEAVEN FROM THE BREAD OF LIFE – Matt 16:6 (6th S. aft Trinity)
- SLIPPERY PLACES ARE DANGEROUS – Psalm 37:2-3 (7th Sunday after Trinity)
- OLD AGE DESCRIBED IN MOVING PICTURES – Ecc 12:1-7 (8th S. after Trinity)
- PUTTING WAGES INTO A BAG WITH HOLES – Haggai 1:6 (9th S. after Trinity)
- BEING WEIGHED BY GOD – Daniel 5:27 (10th Sunday after Trinity)
- WHY WAS A KING GIVEN THE HEART OF A BEAST? (11th S. after Trinity)
EASTER IS THE BEGINNING OF A GREAT HARVEST
1 Cor. 15:20 “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”
Solomon in his Song (2:11-13) describes spring in these words, “For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of the birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.” Can anyone improve on such a beautiful description?
How many poems and songs have been written about this wonderful season? In spring the days are lengthened, the brown covering of decayed leaves is gradually replaced by a beautiful green carpet, the skeleton-like trees and branches become filled out with soft and tender foliage.
After the long death and burial of winter, springtime is resurrection time for Nature when everything is reborn in a newness and freshness of life.
Perhaps the greatest joy of spring is the anticipation of the warmer seasons to come. Spring is actually a pledge and promise of another harvest to follow in the summer and the fall.
Is it not appropriate that Easter occurs in the spring of the year in the Holy Land. There is a reason for this and Paul calls our attention to it in our text, for Easter, like spring, is a promise of a wonderful harvest to follow.
EASTER IS THE BEGINNING OF A GREAT HARVEST
- THE FIRSTFRUITS OF EASTER
Some of the members of the Corinthian congregation denied the resurrection of the dead. Paul, in this chapter, considered this dreary thought and gave a list of some of the dismal consequences if there were no resurrection of the dead or of Christ. He concludes, “Then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” and “We are found false witnesses” and “Ye are yet in your sins.” Paul wished to emphasize the fact that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
In triumph Paul continues, “But now is Christ risen from the dead.” How can he be so certain that Christ is the Firstfruit of the resurrection harvest? Aside from the fact that Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus, St.Paul confidently states, “He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep,” v 6.
If two or three people would joyfully declare they had seen the first wildflower or robin of spring, would anyone think of doubting their word? Would we ever dream of doubting the word of five hundred people? Now it would take greater faith on our part to believe that these five hundred brethren were deliberately lying about seeing Jesus alive after Easter than to believe in His resurrection from the dead.
These five hundred were not ordinary witnesses but were the best obtainable, for they were all “brethren”, people who put their trust in Jesus as the Savior who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Is it conceivable and reasonable to believe they remained “brethren” for twenty five years, if they had lied about the resurrection of Jesus and were continuing to live in this lie? Just the opposite, the resurrection of Jesus kept them in the brotherhood all these past years.
These five hundred brethren were living witnesses, “The greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.” Twenty five years after Easter Paul can confidently write for the benefit of the whole world of his day that most of the five hundred witnesses are still living, and he is virtually saying, “If you doubt the Easter story, ask these living witnesses.” Paul is implying that he knows the names of many of the five hundred and where they live, and would be glad to give this information upon request. No one would dare make such a claim were it not true and certain.
Christ, then, is like the first sprout or bud of spring after a long, dark winter. Lent and Good Friday are past, death has been overcome, the blade of hope has appeared, Christ is risen.
One of the most striking things about the firstfruits and Easter is recorded in Lev.23:11, “The priest shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.” In other words, the sheaf of the firstfruits should be waved before the Lord on the first day of the week, the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. How remarkable!
The firstfruits were offered and dedicated to the Lord as a pledge and promise of the harvest to follow. It, too, is to be dedicated to the Lord and for His service.
- THE FINAL FRUITS OF EASTER
“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease,” is the promise of the Lord (Gen.8:22). We know that summer and the harvest will follow the spring, and no one questions that fact. The same certainty exists with the resurrection of Jesus for He has “become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Christ was the first stalk to become ripe, but others are on the way and will follow Him.
The fruits are springing up all over and everywhere we look in the world we see the final fruits growing and ripening. Some grains are already ripe for harvest, others are just pushing through the ground, but the final harvest will be immense. What a beautiful scene, the waving grain in the fields as far as the eye can see, all standing as a memorial to the work of the Holy Ghost.
As the firstfruits are given to the Lord as a pledge and promise for the coming harvest, so the harvest itself will be dedicated to the goodness of the Lord. God gave His Son as the firstfruit so that He could claim the whole harvest. Every stalk in this field believes that Jesus Christ is “the resurrection and the life.” All who believe that He died and rose again for the sins of the world have peace with God, peace within themselves, and peace with their fellowman.
The important event is the gathering of the harvest. On that last great day the reapers will gather in the fruits and the heavenly barns will be filled. What a day of joy. The Father is happy because He has a harvest to share His glory in eternity; the Son is satisfied that His offering is not in vain; the reapers, the holy angels, rejoice to know that other creatures of God will share their bliss and happiness. But above all, the ones who are harvested will forever bask in the pleasures and joys of the heavenly Father.
Take another look at our Easter lilies, they are so white and beautiful, and they remind us of Christ our Lord, who is the first breath of spring for us. But let us never forget, we have been dedicated to the Lord, to believe in Him, to serve Him, and to be gathered with Him. And “so shall we ever be with the Lord,” transplanted from this world into the heavenly gardens.
Spring is here for the Church because we have seen the firstfruits today. Hallelujah! AMEN.
PRAYER. Lord Jesus, we rejoice with Thee in Thy great triumph over death and hell. Thou didst conquer all enemies for us. Thy victory is for us like the fresh breath of spring. May we always remember Thy comforting words, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Today we begin a new life with Thee and await the great harvest day when we shall be gathered in Thine arms. Glory, praise, and honor be to Thee O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. AMEN.
EASTER TRANSFORMING THE HEART
Luke 24:13-41 “…..as ye walk, and are sad?……. O fools,
and slow of heart…….Did not our heart burn within us?
…..and while they yet believed not for joy…….”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on Easter Sunday morning is a clearly established historical fact which few would care to dispute. Even the devils know about the resurrection, but knowledge alone does no good. If we accept the Easter story as a mere fact without any change of heart, Easter will mean little or nothing to us.
Easter is the most exciting day in the whole church year, and it should arouse in us a revival, an awakening, and a spiritual exhilaration. Easter is a time of life and living, not one of apathy or indifference. It should be said of our cold, dead nature that it is changed and risen with Christ to newness of life.
Our text tells us of two saddened disciples who were walking along the road to Emmaus on Easter evening. Let us join these two dejected men, it will do us a world of good. We shall see how Easter caused a change of heart in them, and we hope that a similar transformation will take place in us also.
(Full passages for reference only.)
13 And behold, two of them were going that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about seven miles.14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.15 And it came to pass that while they communed and reasoned together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.16 But their eyes were held, that they should not know Him.17 And He said unto them, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another as ye walk and are sad?”18 And one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto Him, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which have come to pass there in these days?”19 And He said unto them, “What things?” And they said unto Him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people;20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death and have crucified Him.21 But we trusted that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel. And besides all this, today is the third day since these things were done.22 Yea, and certain women also of our company, who were early at the sepulcher, made us astonished.23 And when they found not His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive.24 And certain of those who were with us went to the sepulcher and found it even so as the women had said, but Him they saw not.”25 Then He said unto them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”27 And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.28 And they drew nigh unto the village whither they were going, and He made as though He would have gone further.29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening and the day is far spent.” And He went in to tarry with them.30 And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread and blessed it, and broke and gave it to them.31 And their eyes were opened and they knew Him. And He vanished out of their sight.32 And they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the way and while He opened to us the Scriptures?”33 And they rose up that same hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them,34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon!”35 And they told what things were done on the way, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.36 And as they thus spoke, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them and said unto them, “Peace be unto you.”37 But they were terrified and afraid, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.38 And He said unto them, “Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me to have.”40 And when He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and His feet.41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, He said unto them, “Have ye here any meat?”
EASTER TRANSFORMING THE HEART
- THE SAD HEART
Jesus was such a wonderful person that His disciples proved their love for Him by outstanding loyalty. Most of them left everything they had behind them, gave up their families and possessions, and offered the best years of their lives in the service of Jesus. No one can doubt their devotion to Him. In v.21 they said they “trusted” Jesus, meaning, they believed Him and His claims that He is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.
It was a terrible blow to the disciples when Jesus died.
Any funeral is sad but this one was much worse. They did have a very faint hope that He might rise the third day as they remembered Him say, but this faint hope was fast fading with the fading light of day. All their ideas and plans of a kingdom under Christ were disappearing rapidly. No one can be happy in life without hope, when hope is lost, happiness is lost. Look how sad and dejected they were because they thought Jesus was lost to them. As we walk along with these troubled disciples another person joins our little group and asks them why they are so sad.
- THE SLOW HEART
These disciples had only the Old Testament, and they were trained from their youth to accept it without question or doubt. But they were too sluggish and slow to accept the prophecies which spoke of the sufferings and death of the Messiah. They had some vague ideas and hopes of an earthly kingdom of the Messiah and forgot, temporarily, passages like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. For that reason they were called “slow of heart” by Jesus whom they did not recognize at this time.
Jesus was perhaps recognizable as His old Self, but with such sad, slow, and sluggish hearts how could they know Him? Is it not strange, He was walking with them, and they saw Him, and still they did not “see” Him? We know, too, that the Lord withheld recognition from their eyes, but their dejected frame of mind did not help them in the least.
- THE BURNING HEART
Somehow, quietly in their gloomy hearts, the Holy Spirit was changing these disciples through the words which Jesus taught them on the way. A slight burning began to be felt in their sad and slow hearts. They began to suspect something about the stranger with His confident words and answers.
There was something vaguely familiar about Him, but they could not quite discern it as yet. However, the comforting words which He spoke were lifting the gloom from their hearts, a transformation was taking place. Notice how the Lord dealt with His disciples: first He built their faith firmly on the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, after that He was willing to be recognized. They were attracted to the Lord without being sure of His identity. “Abide with us,” was their sincere invitation to Him. They wanted more of the Stranger, for He caused their hearts to burn.
“And they knew him.” Suddenly, as if scales fell from their eyes, they saw and recognized the risen Lord. When Jesus is near us He always sets the heart on fire. Easter is a heart transformation, and all who believe that Jesus rose from the dead will have burning hearts, as these disciples did.
- THE JOYOUS HEART
When these Emmaus disciples hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the good news to the other disciples, Jesus suddenly appeared before them all. In v.41 we read, “And while they yet believed not for joy.” Surely that is putting it mildly, but it is sometimes very hard to describe a condition of the heart. All the pre-Easter gloom and sorrow disappeared, and they had a complete change of heart by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave.
For a time the future of the disciples looked dark indeed, but the Easter resurrection changed all that, and they were confident that He would take care of all things in due time. O happy disciples of Jesus, you passed through a period of sadness to a time of great gladness.
“I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus proved the first part of that claim by His own resurrection from the grave, and He will prove the second part when He calls us forth from the graves to live with Him in eternity. Through faith in Jesus as our Savior we can now cry out, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Have you ever been so happy that it hurts? Have you had a heart transformation? Is your heart burning with joy? True faith in the resurrection of Jesus can have only one effect upon us, extreme joy over the fact that we are going to heaven to be with Him forever in glory.
All of us should join the society of burning hearts! Our hearts should be afire because Jesus is with us and near us. “Abide with us” should be our invitation to Jesus. He will accept our invitation and walk home with us today from church and will brighten our homes and our whole lives. Yes, He will be with us always as He promised, even unto the end of the world. Hallelujah! He is risen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! AMEN.
PRAYER. Praise and honor be to Thee Lord Jesus. Through Thy resurrection from the dead Thou hast driven away every sadness from our hearts and hast made us the happiest of people. Walk through life with us as Thou didst walk with those two disciples. Abide with us always, for we need Thy presence every hour. We long for the day when we shall see the final fruits of Thy victory over death, the day when we shall behold Thy face in glory. Till then, we shall sing Thy praises, O Father, Son, and Spirit, ever one God, world without end. AMEN
THE INFALLIBLE SHEPHERD GUIDES HIS FLOCK
Psalm 78:52 “But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.”
A flock of white sheep dotting the green hillsides is a scene to stir the soul of any artist. This is our favorite picture in the Bible, and there are many churches with a painting or stained-glass window of the Good Shepherd and His sheep.
The universal appeal of this picture lies in the mutual love and trust of the shepherd and the sheep. Kindness and tenderness are the predominating thoughts, and hatred, fear, and mistrust are entirely foreign to the scene.
The Lord assures us that He is always the Shepherd of His Church. It might appear at times as though we were deserted by our Shepherd, but such cannot be the case, because we have an infallible Guide going before us.
THE INFALLIBLE SHEPHERD GUIDES HIS FLOCK
- OUT OF THE LAND OF BONDAGE
“But made his own people to go forth like sheep.” Who are “His own people” who are called His sheep? In the Old Testament these were the people who believed God’s promises that He would send the Savior to redeem the world from all sins. So the people who put their trust in the coming Messiah were God’s people, or God’s sheep. In the New Testament, all who believe that God did send the Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ are also a part of the Lord’s flock.
It is self-evident the Lord Jesus is the Shepherd of the flock for He says (John 10:11), “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Certainly the Church can safely trust such a Guide and Leader.
After smiting the Egyptians with ten plagues, the Shepherd led His flock out of that land of bondage and slavery in a remarkable manner. “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.”(Ex.13:21) Every step took them further away from the land of so many bitter memories.
Another amazing thing happened as the Lord led forth His flock. He seemed to have made a mistake, for the people were led on a path with the sea on their left and mountains on their right, and the Egyptians pursuing them in the rear. Escape seemed impossible, yet the Shepherd of Israel made no mistake, the Red Sea opened upland the Lord’s flock passed through, but the hosts of the Egyptians were all drowned. The infallible Shepherd dispelled all their doubts and fears and changed their despair into the greatest joy.
God has called us to be the sheep of His pasture. He brought us to faith in Jesus, who is the only Savior of the world. We trust Him, we follow Him, as He said we would, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, (John 10:27) He leads us out of the bondage and slavery of sin to follow and serve Him. At times it may seem that the Lord is leading us in a mysterious manner, but we know He cannot err. He will safely guide us out of all danger. Let us learn to trust Him more and more.
- THROUGH THE BARREN WILDERNESS
“And guided them in the wilderness like a flock.” It is even hard to imagine the vast scene before us. Can we visualize up to 3 million people with their flocks and herds moving out of Egypt with one accord and toward one goal?
Again it looked as though the Lord was in error because He led them straight into the barren wilderness, where they could find no sustenance for themselves or their families. He caused them to turn their backs on the promised land. How could 3 million people be kept alive in that desolate place without crops or work? And for a period of forty years?
But the infallible Shepherd did it. He led the flock safely through all the perils and dangers of that barren land and sustained them all those years.
Our world is like a barren wilderness. How can we provide for ourselves and our families year in and year out? Somewhere along the line there must be a breakdown, does it not seem so? Yet the Lord always puts us to shame with our fears and mistrust. Passing through this barren wasteland we can with confidence say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
The older we get the more we can speak the language of David, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” Ps.37:25.
Above all, the Lord provides us with the needs of our soul by giving us Him who is the “Bread of Life.” We should learn to rely more and more upon our infallible Shepherd.
- INTO THE LAND OF PROMISE
The Lord led His flock out of bondage and through the wilderness so that they could inherit the land which the Lord promised them long ago. The spies came back with the good report, that it was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. However they added this despairing note, “We saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight,” Num.13:33.
Again we ask ourselves, “Did not the Shepherd err in bringing His flock thus far only to be blocked by the fierce inhabitants of the promised land? How is it possible to drive out all these people in their fortified cities?”
Of course, the infallible Shepherd of the Church did not err in the least. The walls of Jericho fell, and one by one the cities and kings were destroyed by the power of the Lord. We are told of the final outcome of the wars with the dwellers of the holy land; “He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents. Psalm 78:55.
The promised land became the holy land, the land of salvation, the land of the birth of Jesus, the land from which the salvation of the world flowed, the land of the Bible.
On the last day Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats and only where the blood of the Lamb is sprinkled over the heart will there be salvation and eternal life.
The picture of the shepherd and the sheep is the favorite of the ages because it is actually the theme of the whole Bible. “The Lord is my shepherd” and “God is love” and “For God so loved the world” and “Our Father who art in heaven” are all synonymous, with one and the same meaning —- God loves me and gave His Son to die for my sins, God wants me to be with Him in heaven, washed in the blood of His Lamb. Then may we never tire of saying, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” AMEN.
PRAYER. O gentle Shepherd, I am trusting Thee fully in life and death. Let me always hear Thy loving and guiding voice that I may follow Thee wherever Thou leadest me, even though it be through the dark valley of the shadow of death. Thy guiding hand will never fail me. Let me not stray from the flock and go lost. Guide me safely to Thine house of glory, dear Shepherd, where I shall praise Thee and the Father and the Holy Ghost forever and ever. AMEN.
HOPE IN THE VALLEY OF THE SKELETONS
Ezekiel 37:1-14 “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones….. and he said unto me, Prophecy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord … and ye shall live.”
The Church of God, somewhat like the individual Christian, lives in a cycle of ups and downs. There have been many times of great spiritual activity followed by periods of hopelessness and despondency.
We find Israel, at times, worshipping the true God with great love and zeal, then dying spiritual life sets in and they turn to wickedness and idolatry.
It is no different in the New Testament. Just to mention one example, after a few short years of the truth Paul wrote to the Galatians, ”I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel. (Gal 1:6)
We are living in the latter days and we know what to expect, for Jesus told us, “Many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive Many.” All around us we see churches pulling up anchor and drifting away from the faith of our fathers.
Despite the dark outlook for so many churches, our text tells us there is hope even at a time of the lowest spiritual life. That hope is given us in a vision.
HOPE IN THE VALLEY OF THE SKELETONS
- THE APPARENT HOPELESSNESS OF THE VALLEY.
How did the prophet get to the valley? The Lord carried him there in a vision, similar to the manner in which St. John received the book of Revelation. The Lord brought him here to show him something unusual and to teach him a lesson.
It is hard even to imagine the scene before us. Ezekiel saw a desert of white, like a field of white grass in this desolate valley. Long ago a great tragedy took place and somehow thousands were slain and their bodies were left unburied to decay in the desert. Vultures and worms had long since eaten off every speck of flesh, and the bones were bleached in the sun, white and glistening. Skull bones, legs, arms, ribs were all scattered about and mixed together, verily a valley of skeletons. Ezekiel stood by this great sea of white, one solitary figure in the midst of this huge and open sepulcher. Surely the prophet must have felt weird at this moment and thought, “What meaneth this valley of dry bones?”
Suddenly the Lord put a startling question to the prophet, “Son of man, can these bones live?” The question was just as puzzling as the valley itself. Could anyone fit these bones together again where they originally belonged? It would be almost like picking up a bucket full of sand on the seashore and trying to fit the tiny grains together into the original rocks from which they came.
Can these bones live? As far as we humans are concerned, all answers to this question must be, “Impossible.” If we look to the Lord for an answer we must say that He can do anything He wishes. This is the apparent hopelessness of the valley. Can such a desolate, open graveyard ever be revived?
The valley of the dry bones is a picture of the church at a spiritually low ebb. Because the Jews sinned against the Lord and rejected Him, He had them carried away from the Holy Land into Babylon as captives. In Babylon they were spiritually depressed and were like the dry bones in the valley.
At the time of our Savior the church was again like the valley of skeletons. The Pharisees and Sadducees with their teachings of self-righteousness had made a spiritual graveyard of the church. In fact, Jesus told the Pharisees that they were like whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but within are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Jesus said the same thing to the church at Sardis (Rev 3:1), “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, but thou art dead.”
At Luther’s time the church was like bones bleached in the sun, a sad period indeed.
Today it seems as though we are again viewing a valley of skeletons whitening in the bright sun. Can these bones live? Is there any hope for churches steeped in worldliness and materialism in our day? What about ourselves individually, are we just a bundle of dead bones, or is there some spiritual life left in us? There is hope for all of us.
- THE SURPRISING MIRACLE IN THE VALLEY
God told the prophet to speak to the dry bones and they would live (v1-6). Ezekiel was told to call to the bleached frames, and the bones would receive the power to rise to life. When Ezekiel did speak there was a great shaking and rattling as each bone found its proper place. Thus the valley of bones turned into an army of skeletons.
Soon another miracle took place. The sinews and flesh came upon the skeletons, and the army of skeletons quickly turned into an army of corpses. But without souls they could not live. So as in the original order of the creation of man by God, the corpses were now given the breath of life, and they became a living army of people. What does the Lord wish to teach us by this preview of what will happen on the great resurrection day at the end of the world?
The Lord promised to awaken the captive Jews. “Can these bones live?” Humanly speaking it was impossible, but the Lord brought it to pass. He said, “I will put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land” (v14). This He did, and certainly there was a spiritual revival in the return from captivity.
Jesus promised to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to the disciples and us. At Pentecost another surprising miracle took place in the valley of the skeletons as the New Testament Church was born in a great spiritual revival, when thousands and thousands were added to the Church.
God raised up Luther to stand in the valley of dry bones and preach the everlasting Gospel to the world, and another stupendous miracle took place. The Reformation was born, and many bleached bones became alive.”Can these bones live?” They did.
Is there any hope for the Church of today, for you and for me? There is only one hope for all of us, hope that is in and with the Lord. He gave His Son Jesus Christ to die for us, and through faith in His cross we can be saved. It is the Holy Ghost who brings us to faith in Jesus. The Lord will freely give His Spirit to anyone who asks for this gift. Good works always follows true conversion. Yes, there is hope for us in Christ, and in Him alone.
Something similar to the vision in our text will happen to us and all believers on that last great day, for we shall be raised from the dead and live and reign with Christ forever and ever. Thank God, there is always hope for us, even in the valley of the skeletons. AMEN.
PRAYER. O holy and blessed Trinity, give us Thy saving Spirit that we may live in faith in our Savior. Awaken our slumbering souls and give us newness of life to walk before Thee as Thy true children should, knowing that the end of all things is near at hand. When this dreary journey is over may we rise from the dead to live with Thee forever. Hear us, for the sake of our dear Redeemer. AMEN.
SAILING ON THE SHIP OF LIFE
Heb 6:19 “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.”
Our language would be drab and colorless without the many pictures and comparisons in daily use. We often speak of a person as having a sunny disposition, or being as busy as a bee, etc.
The Bible contains many pictures, similes, and metaphors which add to its beauty and understanding. Paul tells Timothy, for instance, there are such as have made “shipwreck” of the faith.
Our text has a similar picture, “Hope…… as an anchor of the soul.” There are many thoughts suggested, such as a ship, an anchor, an implied storm, a way of safety, etc. Let us expand and enlarge these thoughts in this Easter season of hope.
SAILING ON THE SHIP OF LIFE
- THE VESSEL
What a beautiful picture, a sailing vessel with white sails flapping in the breeze, surrounded by the deep blue of the sea. Such a scene has often stirred the imagination of many a poet.
The soul of man is like that ship, a most beautiful creation of God. The life, mind, and heart of man truly is a thing of beauty as David said in Psalm 139,”I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The ship’s launching is a great day and many of the workers and friends are present to see the ship slide down into the sea. Speeches are made, and hopes are high for a long and useful life for the vessel.
The day of our birth was our ship’s launching, and how excited our parents and family were as a new soul was brought into the world to sail on the sea of life with them.
The docks are busy, the ship is loaded and balanced well, all is ready for the journey to the distant land. Everyone hopes the valuable cargo will reach its destination safely. A few last minute instructions and order, and the ship is on the way.
The cargo in the ship of life is the eternal welfare of our body and soul. All of our future comforts and happiness, our eternal destiny, all depend upon a safe journey. Can there be a more precious cargo? How important that we steer the ship aright, how disastrous a shipwreck! How carelessly and indifferently we often regard our priceless ship and cargo.
- THE EQUIPMENT
A ship without a rudder is helplessly tossed about on the sea, without hope of ever reaching the port. The pilot uses the rudder to steer a straight course toward the distant harbor.
God’s Word alone is the only safe guide, and is like a rudder for the ship of life. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet,” and we might add, “Thy Word is also the rudder of my ship which alone can guide me through the uncharted sea of life.” Without this rudder we would flounder about, hopeless and helpless.
“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” The ship’s anchor is very important, especially in time of trouble. Often, during a storm, the anchor is the only security for the ship and must be heavy and strong to hold the ship in the hour of trouble.
Hope is the anchor of the soul. Hope always has a good object in mind, not something bad; always a future goal in view, and not something that is past. Hope also has an attainable object before it, not something impossible to realize.
Hope is akin to Faith: “the evidence of things not seen.” Heb 11:1
The safe landing of our precious cargo of life into the heavenly harbor, with its attendant joys and happiness, is the attainable and ultimate goal of our hope.
The anchor is useless if it does not have a strong cable or chain to unite it with the ship. When the cable or chain is snapped or broken, the anchor is permanently lost.
Our faith in Christ as our Savior from sin is the cable which holds our anchor of hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again for the sins of the world, and we further believe that through faith in His blood we are saved. This is the strong chain on which our hope depends for safety and security.
When the anchor is thrown into sand or some other lose bottom, it cannot hold. To be really secure the anchor should be on firm ground or among rocks. That is the way of safety in a tempest or storm.
Those people who have not Christ will find no firm anchorage for their ships when the storms of life overtake them. The cross of Jesus is the Rock of Ages upon which we can toss our anchors and find security in any storm of life. “On Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” 3. THE JOURNEY
A ship is built for the sea and launched into the sea. The journey may be short or it may be long, the sea may be smooth or it may be very rough. But a ship is built to sail and travel regardless of what weather lies ahead.
We have all been launched on the sea of life by the Lord, and there is no backing out. Some of us are just starting our journey, some are half way through, others can already see the docks in the harbor of our destiny.
Who can tell what storms we may yet encounter? At times we might even get sea-sick and tired of life. None can hope to go through life without any rough seas. There are days of many crosses and afflictions when it looks as though the ship might go under. In these perilous times let us remember that He who created the winds and waves can calm them when it so pleases Him.
How happy and relieved the captain and the crew of the vessel when they have weathered all storms and the cargo is safely landed in the distant harbor. O how happy we will be when we have reached our heavenly harbor. There we will need the anchor no more, for all storms are past, all will be smooth sailing forever.
Hope is a wonderful gift of God, and the Easter season is the time of hope. Jesus rose from the dead; and we shall rise with Him. We live in that hope, we journey through life with that hope, and we want to reach those distant shores by that hope. The stronger our hope becomes, the better our chances are to survive all the storms before us as we sail along in our little sailing vessels. The anchor of hope does not quiet or still the storms of life, but it does hold the vessel secure and firm. We pray that none of us suffer shipwreck, for that would be an eternal disaster. God grant us all a safe arrival in that heavenly harbor for Jesus’ sake.
How can we possibly improve on the words of the well-known hymn in expressing our faith?—-
“Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea; Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treacherous shoal. Chart and compass came from Thee: Jesus, Savior, pilot me. When at last I near the shore and the fearful breakers roar ‘Twixt me and peaceful rest. Then, while leaning on Thy breast, May I hear Thee say to me, “Fear not, I will pilot thee.”
PRAYER. O blessed Trinity, we thank Thee that in holy baptism Thou didst promise to pilot and direct our lives through all the storms of life and to guide us safely to Thy eternal harbor, We also thank Thee for safely bringing us this far on our journey. The harbor is already in sight. Continue to pilot us on the true course which leads to Thy glorious presence. Hear us for Jesus’ sake. AMEN.
THE INCENSE WHICH PLEASES THE LORD
Psalm 141:2 “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
Faith without prayer is as impossible as living without breathing. A Christian prays because it is the most natural thing for him to do, it is his business, his work, and his calling. Faith is the mother and prayer the daughter. We cannot imagine children not talking to their parents, neither can we think of a child of God not praying to the heavenly Father. One of the first things we teach our children to do is how to pray.
Prayer has been likened to the heart-beat, and a person who does not pray is spiritually dead. Prayer is like the crying of a new baby, is the proof of life. In out text David compares prayer to the burning of incense in the religious service.
THE INCENSE WHICH PLEASES THE LORD
- THE MATERIAL
Incense is a fragrant substance which is burnt especially in religious services. Frankincense came from Arabia and India and is a white gum with a very sweet smell when burned. Only the purest of the gums are used in religious ceremonies. One of the gifts of the wise men to the child Jesus was this costly frankincense.
Our hearts are as this material or gum. Incense is dead and lifeless if not used with fire. The natural condition of man’s heart is dead in trespasses and sins. Spiritually man is by nature dead and lifeless, so that from his heart there can arise no prayers to God in heaven. The heathen and unbelievers may say prayers, but God does not accept them nor answer them, for they come from unconverted hearts. Some great change must take place in the heart if there is to be an incense of prayer.
- THE FIRE
Live coals brought from the altar of burnt offerings were used to ignite the incense. The thought behind this ceremony was that first an offering must be made to God, so that all sins would be taken away by the sacrifice (a picture of the Messiah to come), then an approach could be made to the throne of God by the prayer of incense. The incense was kept burning all day long, and if the fire went out it had to be rekindled, since there could be no sweet-smelling incense without fire.
Unless our hearts are set on fire by the Holy Spirit we cannot pray to God. We must be born again, we must be converted to the faith in Christ, we must go to the altar of Calvary for the fire to set our hearts aglow. Expect no smoke from the incense without the fire. Our hearts should like those of the Emmaus disciples. who said, “Did not our hearts burn within us?” We beseech the Lord to give us hearts that are alive and burning with faith and love to Christ our Savior for His sacrifice on the altar of Calvary. There will be much smoke ascending up to God from such glowing hearts. Once our hearts are burning, we pray the Lord to keep them ever glowing by the fire of His Holy Spirit.
- THE SMOKE
Unpleasant odors from the animals and the smell of blood, no doubt, permeated the temple or tabernacle. Incense sweetened the air and neutralized the offensive odors. On a quiet day when there was little or no wind, the smoke of the incense would ascend up to heaven in a straight column and finally disappear from view.
David in our text compares the burning of incense with prayer, a thought often found in the Bible. The burning of incense by Zacharias was the signal for prayer, for we are told in Like 1:10 that “the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the time of incense.” In Rev 8:3-4 we read, “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer: and there was given unto him much incense that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.” Prayer, like the smoke of incense, lifts the soul of a child of God upward toward the glorious throne on high.
Because prayer is an act of worship it must be directed to the true God only, to the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Spirit. A prayer to anyone else is idolatry and is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Our prayers, like incense, must be “before thee,” to God alone.
Gum, fire, smoke, in that order. Prayer always follows faith in our hearts. As soon as Paul was converted we read, “Behold, he prayeth.” We are God’s children by faith in Jesus Christ and hence want to talk often and pray fervently to our Father in heaven. Our lives frequently become sour and evil smelling by all the troubles and misery in this evil world, but the incense of prayer can sweeten our lives again and give us new courage and strength. The sweet smell of prayer neutralizes the bad odors of this wicked world.
With faith in Jesus and pleading in His name, our prayers ascend the throne of God as Jesus has promised us in the Gospel lesson, “Verily, verily, 1 say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” Such a prayer is indeed the sweet incense which pleases the Lord. With the cross of Jesus before our eyes, our prayers are to God as the sacrifice of Noah, of which it is said, “The Lord smelled a sweet savor.” The Lord is pleased with our prayers and expects us to converse with Him as children do with their parents.
“And the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice,” says the psalmist of his prayer. Paul expresses a similar thought in his first letter to Timothy 2:8; “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” We lift up our hands in prayer at home and in church, we pray in the morning and evening, at noon and at night; for the life of a believer is a life of prayer. Our final prayer is that we all be saved through the grace of God in Christ. And He will certainly answer our pleas for the sake of His dear Son. AMEN
PRAYER. O Lord, unto Thee do we lift up our hands in prayer.
Let our prayers be acceptable in Thy sight, not because of any worthiness in us, but solely because of the merits of Jesus our Savior. In His name only dare we approach Thy throne of grace and mercy. Hear us and help us, Thou only true God, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, ever one God, world without end. AMEN.
A CLOSER LOOK AT HIS HOLY HANDS
Luke 24:50-51 “And he led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.”
Parting is often a sad event, and the last scene sometimes lingers in the memory for years. All of us must separate at some time or another, for nothing is permanent on this earth.
On Ascension Day Jesus withdrew His visible presence from the disciples and the world. The last picture we have of Him is with His hands lifted up in blessing the disciples. Jesus’ farewell address is a blessing for everyone who will receive it. Those hands raised in blessing express a heart full of love and mercy, and we want to remember our Lord that way. Today we are so attracted to His holy hands that we wish to take a closer look at them.
A CLOSER LOOK AT HIS HOLY HANDS
- HIS HANDS IN HUMILIATION
In His childhood Jesus obeyed and helped His parents. Those little hands did odd jobs and learned to carry many things. They were willing hands because they were holy hands. Mary and Joseph taught the little boy how to fold His hands in prayer and devotion. Joseph likely taught Jesus how to work with wood. Perhaps there were many tables, benches, yokes, etc. in Galilee built by His hands. What an honor to use an object built by the blessed hands of the Lord Himself!
When the storm raged over the sea of Galilee, the disciples were terrified and cried to Jesus for help. The wind and the waves obeyed His almighty hands as He held them out over the troubled waters. His hands took some mud and placed it on a blind man’s eyes, and he received his sight, for the omnipotence of God was in those hands.
We remember how Jesus took up the little children into His arms, put His hands upon them and blessed them. How gently and lovingly Jesus patted those little ones on the head. His were certainly not rough hands.
Peter tried to walk to Jesus on the water, but he lost confidence and cried to Jesus for help. Immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand and saved Peter. His hallowed hands were truly helping hands.
His hand took hold of Jairus’ daughter’s hand and the breath of life returned to her again. His hand also touched the bier of the youth of Nain, and he was restored to life. In His hands is the fullness of the Godhead.
How often did not our Lord fold His hands in prayer. He prayed for us also, “l pray for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” We shall never forget how earnestly He prayed in Gethsemane.
At the last Passover with His disciples His hands distributed the bread and wine and thereby gave us the blessed Sacrament.
Above all, when they nailed His holy hands to the cross, He thereby paid for all of our sins. Through faith in the Lord with the pierced hands we can be saved and go to heaven. If we take a closer look as He is blessing the disciples we can still see the print of the nails.
Jesus was not only crucified, but He also died on the cross for the sins of the world. In death His hands became very white and cold and still.
This is a short history of His holy hands from His birth until His death when He was in the so-called state of humiliation. He was always God, but He did not always and fully use His divine power and majesty. He humbled Himself so that He could pay for our sins on the cross. We are thankful for those holy hands which were obedient to the Father and thereby redeemed us from all iniquity and sin.
- HIS HANDS IN EXALTATION
After His death, Jesus entered into the state of exaltation, in which He used His Godhead continuously. His work of salvation accomplished, it was not necessary to remain on earth with His visible presence. He did remain on earth for forty days after Easter, and one of the first things He did was to offer His hands as evidence and proof to His disciples that He truly rose from the dead. “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself,” said the Lord to His amazed Apostles. To doubting Thomas He said, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands.” The pierced hands proved His identity and His resurrection.
Just before He ascended into heaven, our text says, “And he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” That is the simple story of the ascension. All the blessings of His sufferings and death He can now place upon His disciples; forgiveness of sins, faith, hope, love, peace of conscience, and great joy. His are hands of hope and happiness to all who believe in Him and His cross.
His hands had done their work on earth, so the Lord returned to heaven from whence He came. He and His blessing hands are now invisible, but will be seen again on Judgment Day when His hands will separate the sheep from the goats. On that great day may He beckon to us with His hands and say, “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom.” We have had a closer look at His holy hands. Now let us take a closer look at our hands. What do we see? We see sinful hands and that have committed much evil and done much wrong. How many times have our hands been used in the service of sin? But we need not despair for Jesus has washed our hands pure and white in His blood. Now let us fold our hands in prayer and ask God for the forgiveness of all our sins for Jesus’ sake and plead with our God to keep us from falling from faith. Today may we dedicate our hands anew for use in the Lord’s kingdom and sing with restored zeal, “Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.”
The verses following our text tell us how the ascension of Jesus effected the Apostles, “And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” May the ascension of our Lord into the highest heavens have the same effect upon us as on the disciples, and may our hearts be filled with a new hope and joy in the ascended Lord.
May we never forget this last view of Jesus before the departure into heaven. Remember, those hands of Jesus are still lifted up to bless all who trust in Him for salvation, and whosoever is blessed by His hands is truly blessed forever and ever. In Jesus we, too, shall have our ascension into heaven, there to live and reign with Him in eternal glory. AMEN.
PRAYER. Dear ascended Savior, we long to be with Thee in glory and our eyes are ever turned heavenward to Thee. We are looking forward with joyous anticipation to the time of our reunion with Thee in eternal glory. Help us always to remember that last blessed view of Thyself with Thy holy hands lifted up in blessings upon us. Bless all Thy dear children and forsake us not, according to Thy promise. Praise, honor, and glory be to Thee, O blessed Trinity now and forevermore.
WHY THE SUDDEN CHANGE OF TONGUES?
Gen.11:9 “Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”
Acts 2:4 “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
When we think of what a simple organ the tongue is, we are astounded at the wisdom of God who created it. The number of words that can be made by the tongue seems to be almost infinite, Let us just suppose that every language has about 20,000 words and that there are about 3000 different languages; the total number of words which the tongue can speak would be around 60,000,000. Learning and vocabulary go together. The more civilized and learned man becomes, the more words he needs to express his expanded knowledge.
Learning a foreign language is difficult and it often takes years to master it. But there are two out-standing times in the Bible when man was suddenly given new languages by God. Today we shall learn why this was done.
WHY THE SUDDEN CHANGE OF TONGUES?
- TO HINDER A WORK AT BABEL
Not too long after the flood the people came to a great plain and decided to remain there. They were all of one language. God had told Noah and his sons to “replenish the earth”, but in direct defiance to this wish of God they did not want to be scattered over the face of the earth. The lesson of the flood was soon forgotten and they were seeking their own glory and not the Lord’s. How awful to defy God and not let His will be done on earth!
There was confusion in their souls and they had confused plans for life. They evolved a grand scheme, and their thoughts ran something like this, “Let us build on this plain a high tower which can be seen for miles around. This tower will not only make us famous for all time to come, but it will also hold our people together, and they will not wander away to other places.”
So they began to build the tower with the thought that this life was the all-important thing, with little or no concern about life after death. They were children of the world and left God out of their confused plans, in fact, they opposed Him.
Since the Lord was displeased with their plans and projects, He, in love, decided to stop the building lest man become completely corrupt in his vain imagination. God changed their language so that they could no longer converse with each other and the construction of the giant tower ground to a halt as they began to scatter over the earth. There stood the unfinished tower, a monument to man’s foolishness and pride and confusion.
Babel is of sin, and every one who is not a child of God in Christ is living in the same confusion and sin as these people. This is what the Psalmist had in mind (Ps. 1) “The ungodly are like the chaff which the wind driveth.” Would it not be well for each of us to get rid of some of our confusion? Would it not be profitable for us to re-examine our aims and goals in life?
Pentecost is just the opposite of Babel.
- TO AID THE WORK ON PENTECOST
A great change took place in the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. Before that day they were confused and unclear as to the Lord’s plans. Even on Ascension Day they asked this peculiar question, “Lord wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus had promised them that on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon them and also assured them, “He will guide you into all truth.” The Holy Spirit filled their hearts and opened their understanding to perceive the complete truth of the Gospel, and they became the errorless and infallible teachers of the Church until the end of time.
Up until the day of Pentecost the disciples were not fully informed about the person and work of the Lord Jesus. They had vague ideas, yes, but not real clarity. Referring to the coming of the Spirit, Jesus said in John 14:26, “The Holy Ghost shall teach you all things.” Suddenly we see this clarity of the doctrine of salvation when Peter arose on this great day and preached faith in the crucified Savior as the only way to eternal life.
With clarity of doctrine they also became clear concerning their aims and goals as the chosen Apostles of the Lord; they were to spread the Gospel all over the world. The Holy Spirit strengthened them in this conviction by giving them the ability to speak in many of the languages of the then-known world. Although this gift of tongues was, perhaps, continued for a limited time only, yet the Spirit made it quite plain to the Apostles by the special gift of tongues that all people should hear in their own language “the wonderful works of God.” The whole book of the Acts is a history of the missionary zeal of the Apostles which they acquired on Pentecost. The added gift of tongues on Pentecost was given to aid the Apostles in their work of saving souls.
Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian Church and is a towering memorial to the grace of the Holy Spirit. Only those who have been born again of the Holy Spirit have clarity and peace in this life. May the same Spirit open our hearts to believe and, accept Jesus as our only Lord and Savior. He will also aid us in our determination to spread the Gospel throughout the world. The difference between Babel and Pentecost is great
indeed. God was pleased with the people of Pentecost, but was displeased with the people of Babel. Babel is entirely of this world with its proud and selfish aims; Pentecost is for the next world by preaching salvation through faith in Jesus. Babel is of sin, but Pentecost is of grace. At Babel God confounded their tongues into many languages to hinder and stop their work; at Pentecost the Spirit gave them many tongues to encourage and expand their work. Babel was an unfinished tower to the glory of man and it crumbled into the dust; Pentecost is a great tower and memorial to the glory of God and will continue until the end.
Babel is the present world-view, which holds that science will do everything, even convert this world into a paradise. Man and science can do anything! Yes, man is still building his little tower of Babel.
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit give us a different viewpoint. Being washed in the blood of the Lamb we show our faith by our works, and one of the best fruits of faith is that of doing mission work. As His disciples, we are always happy to serve the Lord who redeemed us.
What is our choice. Babel or Pentecost, confusion or clarity, living for this world only or for the one to come, defying God and provoking Him to anger or serving Him and being assisted and blessed by Him, eternal death or eternal life? May the Holy Spirit of Pentecost help us to make the right choice and be able to say with Joshua, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”
PRAYER. O Holy Spirit, shine into our hearts with Thy divine light and let us see our Savior’s face. Fill us with Pentecostal zeal to carry out His wishes to preach the Gospel among all nations. Give unto Thy Church on earth a renewed heart and spirit that in these last days we may carry the cross of Christ to the ends of the world. Hear us, O Holy Spirit, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Son, ever one God, world without end. AMEN.
OUR GOD IS A TOWERING STRONGHOLD
Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Travelers maintain that the Grand Canyon of the Colorado river is the world’s greatest natural wonder, and not without reason. At first sight one is not aware of what is actually being seen. It takes quite a while before the majesty and awesome beauty of the Canyon begins to make itself felt. Even then the realization that we are only getting a limited glimpse of its overwhelming grandeur begins to dawn upon our minds.
This Psalm has a somewhat similar effect upon us. The first reading gives us the impression of pious phrases and thoughts, but we are not conscious, at first, of its full impact. After meditating on this Psalm for a while, the power and majesty of it strikes us with a force which lifts the soul to the highest heavens. We begin to feel a new surge of life and strength coursing through the veins and an exhilaration which is hard to explain. Down through the centuries the children of God have found here a source of power and strength that has lifted them up far above the troubles and sorrows of life.
OUR GOD IS A TOWERING STRONGHOLD
- HE IS OUR REFUGE
“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations …….even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” (Ps. 90)
God always was and always will be a mighty Fortress. Everything else in creation changes, but God, NEVER. Midst the shifting sands of time, He alone remains as the one Stronghold that is “tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time.” Generations may come and go, but God remains, as always, “our refuge and strength.”
Our towering Stronghold is the Triune God, and no other. Out of love the Father created us to share His goodness and to bask in the sunshine of His grace and mercy. Love means sharing with the one who is loved, and love motivated the Father to create the world so that we creatures might see and feel His overwhelming goodness. Because of His love for us the Son of God came into this world to become one of us and bear our sins as our Substitute for the whole human race. He is the great “Rock of Ages, cleft for me.” Through faith in Him we are promised and given eternal life by the grace of God. The Holy Ghost out of love for us brings us to faith in Christ and keeps us with Him. The Spirit of God makes us holy and helps us to walk through life in a manner pleasing to our Lord. Without the Holy Spirit we would feel no power in this Psalm and we would be unable to say with confident trust, “God is our refuge and strength.”
Our trust in the towering Stronghold is given even greater encouragement when we learn that He is always available and accessible, “A very present help in trouble.” He never refused anyone who came to Him for refuge. Jesus said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). The drawbridge is always down in our fortified Castle, and the gates are never closed for all who seek refuge in trouble. The thief on the cross, the woman taken in adultery, the jailor at Phillipi, the publicans and sinners will all testify to that; they sought and found refuge and salvation with the Lord.
- HE IS OUR STRENGTH
The Almighty Ruler of heaven and earth is the source of all power and strength in creation. Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, a sense of humility and insignificance gradually settles upon a person. How can we even think of comparing our frailties and weaknesses with the Might of God. Yet He is our strength. Looking up at the starry sky, a feeling of awe overtakes us contemplating the strength of Him who brought it all into being.
Our Psalm breathes forth the love of God to us in every word. He is the Almighty, but His real strength for us lies in His intense love to us. “For God so loved the world,” (John 3:16) and “God is love” ( 1 John 4:16) give us the real refuge and strength. We certainly would not want to flee to a God who hates us, just the opposite. A baby runs to the arms of its mother for refuge, here it is secure in the love of the mother. We have that same attitude toward God because He loves us.
The Lord draws us to Him like a gigantic magnet by His love for us in Jesus. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) Through the Holy Spirit God’s love gives us great confidence and we cry out with St. Paul, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…..For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, not height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8). With the Psalmist we further sing out, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. ( Ps 73:25)
In our towering Stronghold Abraham found the strength to offer up his son; David found the courage to fight the giant; the three men received from Him the fortitude to endure the fiery furnace; Daniel found heroic bravery to face the lions. When we read Hebrews 11 we learn how all the great Confessors of the faith received their sustaining power from the Fortress of strength and power.
How can we flee for refuge to the Lord? What should we do? Proverbs 18:10 tells us, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” Calling upon the name of the Lord in prayer we find immediate refuge and safety. The experience of every true believer will bear out the truth of this Proverb. “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Ps. 50:15) is the sure promise of the holy Trinity.
Luther explained the first commandment in these words, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Our Psalm is a beautiful paraphrase of the first commandment.
May the holy Trinity always be our Rock and Fortress, our Refuge and Strength, our towering Stronghold. May we always be able to say, “Other refuge have I none; Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.”
“This is my Psalm,” said Luther, and he based his powerful hymn upon it. With utmost confidence every true child of God throughout the ages will join Luther in his mighty hymn and sing;
“A mighty Fortress is our God, A trusty Shield and Weapon; He helps us free from ev’ry need That hath us now o’ertaken.”
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! AMEN.
PRAYER. O holy and blessed Trinity, Thou hast won my heart and confidence with Thy marvelous love in Christ. Truly Thou art my Rock of Defence in all life’s battles. Thou art my Refuge and Strength in every trouble. I love Thee Lord with all my heart, I love Thee because Thou didst love me first in Jesus and hast redeemed me. Thou great Three in One, the only true God, world without end. AMEN.
WE ARE PRISONERS OF GOD’S PRESENCE
Psalm 139:7-10 “Wither shall I go from thy spirit? or wither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there: if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”
There are many things in life which seem to us inescapable and omnipresent. A man lost in the desert feels as though the hot sun holds him a prisoner. A criminal fleeing from punishment imagines the strong arm of the law ready to take hold of him at every step he takes. Riding along in our cars with the radio tuned in, it seems to us that the announcer has become omnipresent. We should be grateful that there are no vacuums on earth, grateful that the life-sustaining air is everywhere, even in the smallest cracks in the earth. Think how universal water is. How can anyone escape gravity? Can we ever step out of space? Is there a place where space ceases?
Yet all things have their limitations and their endings. But there is something which is absolutely inescapable, something that holds us prisoners forever. It is God’s omnipresence, which is over all and beyond all, nothing can ever escape it. We shall always be surrounded by God’s infinite presence.
WE ARE PRISONERS OF GOD’S PRESENCE
- IT IS AN INESCAPABLE PRESENCE
“If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there,” says our text. In our weak and faltering speech we say that God cannot go anywhere, because He IS everywhere. Even the old philosophers, called the Pantheists, recognized this attribute of God and taught that everything is God since He is everywhere and in everything. When we climb the highest mountains or rise in a huge balloon, we cannot find a place where God is absent. Men have rocketed to the moon, but no one can rocket away from God. Astronomers tell us that it takes light, travelling over 186,000 miles per second, many years to reach us from the distant stars. God is out there and beyond. Astronomers have been intrigued by the dark spots in the sky where there are no stars or nebulae. They call these dark spots “holes in the heaven” because they seem to be openings to the end of space. If we could travel through these and keep on going, we still could not escape the omnipresent God. The whole Godhead is present in every speck and spot in creation, and way beyond that. Space surrounds us, and God surrounds space.
“If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there,” says David. Were we to sink to the lowest depths possible, we could still not escape His presence.
“If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Sail across the vast oceans, seek a lonely island, or go down into the earth into a deep cave, or descend into the ocean depths in a submarine, or be like Jonah in the belly of the fish; we never can escape the presence of God, it is even foolish to try. Did not Adam and Eve look foolish indeed when they tried to hide from God among the trees of the garden? How quickly sin warped their minds.
When visiting Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, the ranger puts out the lights for one minute in the deep part of the cave to show the visitors what real darkness is like. Are we then hidden from God? Our Psalm says in v12,”Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee.” His is an inescapable presence.
- IT IS A COMFORTING PRESENCE
Many people wish to escape God and His disturbing presence by drowning themselves in the pleasures of life. Some even commit suicide to escape God, but they only exchange one form of presence for another. Yea, the wicked flee, but where can they go? It is a sobering thought that we can do nothing nor go anywhere without taking God with us. Would it not therefore be the wisest course to try to get on the right side of Him who has our eternal destiny in His hands? Would it not be best for man to seek some way to get peace with this omnipresent God while He still may be found?
The believers in Christ have the only way to be at peace with God. The Lord gave His Son to die in our stead on the cross and He wants us to believe in Jesus and be saved. Our omnipresent God is no more angry with us because of our sins, if we accept Christ as our Savior and Substitute. Then our sins are all washed away in the blood of the Lamb, and we stand accepted and redeemed before our God. For believers, then, God’s omnipresence is no source of fear. It is rather their greatest comfort and joy. We depend upon Him for support and say, “I need Thy presence every hour.” We plead, “Abide with me,” and we pray, “Forsake me not.”
When we love someone we want then to be near us and with us. We love God and our Savior Jesus Christ and we are happy in the knowledge that Jesus is with us “always even unto the end of the world.” We are not only pleased with God’s presence here on earth, but with joyful anticipation we say with the 23rd Psalm, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God’s children in Christ are not disturbed or afraid in the presence of the Lord, in fact, they enjoy walking with God as Noah did. Nor is David afraid of His presence, for he closes this Psalm with the words, “Lead me in the way everlasting.”
Why are the words “The Lord is my shepherd” so well beloved by all believers? Because, the shepherd is always with the sheep, and his presence gives the sheep peace and comfort and assurance.
We are happy to be “prisoners” of God’s presence. Washed in the blood of Jesus we know that our loving Father will take us with Him in glory, there to enjoy His eternal presence. This He has solemnly promised us. Even if we could escape from God by taking the wings of the morning and dwelling in the uttermost parts of the sea, we would not dare to do so, for His presence is our greatest comfort. The Lord has also assured us that He will never tire of our presence. We want His gracious presence here so that we can enjoy His eternal presence there.
In Christ we are confident that He will take us to heaven, where we will be perfectly happy to be “prisoners” of His presence for evermore. AMEN
PRAYER. Dear Lord, without Thee we cannot be happy in life.“Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” By Thy Holy Spirit keep us with our dear Savior so that we always find comfort in Thy gracious presence. Never leave us nor forsake us. “Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee” shall be our eternal song. O Holy Trinity, keep us prisoners of Thy presence forever. AMEN
THE BRIGHTEST STAR HAS RISEN
Revelation 22:16 “l am the bright and morning star.”
The planet Venus is by far the brightest and most conspicuous of all stars, including the wandering stars called planets. It is the earth’s twin sister in size and in many other characteristics. When nearest the earth (about twenty six million miles away) it is so bright that it casts its own shadow on a piece of white paper and can be seen even in the daytime with the naked eye, if one knows precisely where to look for it.
When Venus is ahead of the sun relative to our earth it becomes the morning star and as such is a most welcome and beautiful sight. Such a brilliant object in the sky could not go unnoticed by man, in fact Venus has always been known as the morning star throughout the ages.
Look to the east when the conditions are favorable and see this beautiful picture in the morning. The sky is a bluish purple with a faint hint of red, and upon the horizon rises a brilliant star, rising higher and higher in the sky. Gradually the morning sky gets brighter and more colorful until the sun arises in all its glory and splendor.
Jesus in our text says that He is like this bright morning star in certain ways. As Venus is the herald and forerunner of a new day, so Jesus ushered in a new and glorious day for all mankind. Thinking of Jesus our Savior we say…
THE BRIGHTEST STAR HAS RISEN
- USHERING IN THE DAY OF GRACE
This world, without Christ, is in total darkness. Of Jesus we read in John 1:4-5, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” It would indeed be hard to imagine what this whole world would be like without the Brightest Star.
A description of the heathen is given us in Romans 1,”Their foolish heart was darkened …. and they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things……. being filled with all unrighteousness,
fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness: full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity: whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things,” etc. What an appalling picture of darkness! The world is under the control of the Prince of darkness, the black angel, the fallen spirit called the Devil and Satan.
Much worse than all that, the whole world is condemned to eternal darkness by the justice of the holy God who made all things. “Cast them into outer darkness” is the fate of all mankind. It is not possible to paint this dreadful and horrible picture dark enough.
On the horizon of this dark world of sin and evil a beautiful and brilliant star arose, ushering in the day of light and hope. That brightest star is Christ as He says, “I am the bright and morning star.” Even in the garden of Eden, in man’s darkest hour when he disobeyed God and corrupted himself, God gave the promise of the Savior and the coming of a new day.
In the fullness of the times, the Star had reached its greatest height in the heavens and the day of grace arrived with the birth of the Savior.
Jesus is not only the herald of the day of grace but is also the cause of it, for He became the Substitute for the whole human race. He fulfilled the holy Commandments in our stead. He died on the cross for the sins of the world. He reconciled God with all mankind. All who put their trust in His saving blood have their sins washed away and are saved, no more to live in darkness. Let Jesus tell us what happens, (John 8:12),”I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” God wants all men to receive and accept His wonderful day of grace.
The day of grace followed the rising of the brightest Star as naturally as the day follows the rising of Venus. What tremendous changes in our darkened world were caused by the coming of the morning Star! Think of the advances of civilization and society, of justice and law, of love and hope since the birth of Christ. All mankind is offered a new light and outlook on life, a new aim and purpose for our existence. Without Him we would be steeped in the darkness of despair.
When the conditions are right and we are up early enough, it is almost impossible to overlook the morning star. Today Jesus is preached in all the world and is visible to all men. Our earnest prayer is that all people would accept the Savior now in the day of grace.
But the “bright and morning star” ushered in a day of even greater joy, for after the day of grace follows the day of glory.
- USHERING IN THE DAY OF GLORY
When the morning star appears it brings with it a promise, a sure promise of the glorious day to come. No one would ever think of doubting the arrival of a new day after seeing the morning star slowly rise in the sky, in fact, it was called “Phosphorus” by the Greeks, which means “light-bringing.”
Christ, the bright and morning star, also brings with Him a sure promise, not only of the day of grace, but especially of the day of glory. That was the purpose of His coining into this world, that is the purpose of the day of grace, to usher in the day of glory for all believers in Jesus.
Glory! What a beautiful word filled with promises and hope.
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” (Matt.25:31) All those who put their trust in Jesus will share His glory. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.” (John 17:24)
In that realm of glory there is no need for any kind of light. “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof,” (Rev.21:23).
The day of grace is drawing to a close and the day of glory is fast approaching. For those who reject the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ it will be a day of eternal darkness, but for the believers it will be the day of days when they will be glorified forever.
But the day of grace is still with us, and we pray that all will accept Jesus now as the Redeemer and sing with us, “How lovely shines the Morning Star! The nations see and hall afar the light in Judah shining.”
With hearts overflowing with thanks and praise to Jesus, we sing, “Beautiful Savior, King of Creation, Son of God and Son of man! Truly I’d love Thee, Truly I’d serve Thee, Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown.” AMEN.
PRAYER. We give Thee eternal thanks, dear Lord, that Thou hast called us out of darkness into Thy marvelous light. Thou hast redeemed us and given us this wonderful day of grace in Christ, Thy dear Son. Looking upon our Savior we know that our day of glory will soon be here. Then we shall join with all the holy angels and the redeemed in praising Thee from whom all blessings flow, O Father, Son, and Spirit, ever one God, world without end. AMEN
DROWNING MEN CAN BE SAVED
1 Timothy 6:9 “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.
9 But those who would be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil; and while some have coveted after it, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
Swimming is a healthful pastime enjoyed by millions, but it has its dangers. Every year thousands of people drown despite repeated advice and warnings, such as – avoid dangerous depths – do not swim alone – learn to swim well – etc. Because of the dangers, life guards are a wise precaution in public swimming places and beaches.
There is another kind of swimming in life more dangerous and deadly than swimming in the most treacherous rapids of a river. Yet here few people care or take precautions, and so they slowly sink beneath the waters. They could be, and can be rescued. There is hope, there is a life saver for them.
DROWNING MEN CAN BE SAVED
- THE REASON FOR THEIR PLIGHT.
“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, ……which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
The world is like a sea of evil, and every wickedness and corruption floats by us and tries to lure us away from the main purpose of life and existence. What this sea of danger and evil is we are told in the Bible. The Devil put it very bluntly to Jesus in the great temptation (Matt 4:8-9);”The devil showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” In the parable of the sower (Matt 13) Jesus explained, “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” Our text describes this evil thus, “They that will be rich fall into temptation.” This does not mean that it will always be so, but the grave danger is constantly there.
It is certainly pleasing to God that we work and receive wages and money for our labor. Money is NOT the root of all evil, but “the love of money.” In our complex society we all use money as a medium of exchange and trade. Let us not get confused. The danger of drowning in destruction and perdition is there when we have only one goal in life, one desire of the heart, one idol, one all-consuming love, namely to get rich and amass property and possessions.
This world is like a deceptive sea of allurements. Success, security, honor, fortune, the ability to gratify every whim of the flesh, these are some of the temptations which appeal to the old Adam and draw our thoughts from God and judgment and eternity and cause us to begin to sink into the depths of destruction and perdition. All of us are in this danger.
The rich man who fared sumptuously every day drowned himself in perdition, “in hell.” The words of Jesus strike us with great force (Matt 6:26),”What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” To the rich fool God said, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee, then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20). In 1 Tim 6:7, Paul told Timothy, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”
Judas drowned in perdition because he loved money, and Demas deserted Paul for the same reason. Why was the first world destroyed by water? They drowned themselves in the things of this world and God drowned them by the waters of the flood at the time of Noah. The Egyptians hardened their hearts against the Lord, and in their greed to regain the children of Israel as slaves they were all drowned in the Red Sea. This is the sad plight of so many rich and poor alike, they struggle for one thing only, possessions and riches. The rich want more riches and the poor want riches. It is not a sin to save money, to have social security, to buy property, but these things dare not become our absorbing passion in life.
We are all in danger of drowning. And the greatest danger is to think we are immune to these temptations. The daily struggle of life, the high cost of living, the increasing taxes, all demand our attention and keep us concerned about our bodily welfare. But let not these things cause us to sink and take us away from the main purpose of our existence. Let us swim and keep our heads above water or we, too, will drown. Must we all drown, is there no hope or rescue possible?
- THE HOPE FOR THEIR RESCUE.
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things: and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness,” (1 Tim 6:11)
Jesus is our only life saver, our eternal life saver. His name means “saver” or “helper”, and He is such because He overcame the world and the evil thereof, He paid for all sins by dying on the cross, He alone is the hope of rescue and salvation for all men. “Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Faith in Jesus is the only hope of rescue for the whole lost and drowning world.
This life line of the Gospel thrown to us by God we are to grasp by faith, and use it to save others. Drowning men can be saved! Preach the Gospel, spread the good news of salvation, throw out the life line to others.
Timothy was rescued by Jesus, that is why he is called “0 man of God.” Saved people have different goals in life than the amassing of riches and possessions. They lead a sober, righteous, and godly life, and follow after the things which pertain to the next life. They are such that use the world but do not abuse it, and “having food and raiment” v7, they are therewith content.
The church gives lessons from the Bible for this kind of spiritual swimming, in instruction classes, sermons, Bible classes, etc. Do you know how to swim?
Many church members swim well and some are just learning to swim, some are gradually sinking and others are gasping for breath, some have disappeared beneath the waves never to be seen again.
There is a life saver for all of us, and we need Him, Jesus Christ our Savior. Peter walking on the water began to sink and he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately extended His hand and caught him and saved him. In a similar manner Jesus is willing and ready at all times to save any drowning sinner. He has a saving hand for all men. Accept His helping hand now by faith and in the words of the well-known hymn pray, “Wilt thou not regard my call, Wilt thou not accept my prayer? Lo, I sink, I faint, I fall; Lo, on Thee I cast my care; Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive, Hoping against hope, I stand, Dying, and behold, I live.”
We should seek riches and possessions and make them our life’s goal; not the earthly riches, but the heavenly treasures, for they are eternal and glorious, they remain our possessions forever in Jesus. AMEN.
PRAYER. Help us, dear Lord, to overcome the snares and temptations of this present world. Do not let us sink and drown with the world in striving for passing riches and glory. Thou art our greatest Treasure, Thou art our only Savior and Helper. Blessed Trinity, we thank Thee for all Thy wonderful blessings. AMEN
DAVID’S VISION BECAME DISTORTED
2 Samuel 12:5-7 “And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man.”
Our eyes and sight are priceless gifts of God. However, due to the effects of sin, they suffer the same imperfections as other parts of the body. We are told that more than half the people of the United States wear corrective glasses, and there are many more who should have some form of optical help.
Our spiritual sight has an even greater distortion. People not born again of water and the Spirit cannot see at all, they are totally blind, and even those who are converted to the saving faith in Jesus Christ have not perfect vision.
Jesus upbraided the people of His day because they could see and magnify the “mote” in another’s eye but could not see the “beam” which was distorting their own vision. (Matt 7:3-5)
David, in our text, is another example of a long, long line of people whose spiritual sight became so pitifully distorted that vision itself almost disappeared.
DAVID’S VISION BECAME DISTORTED
- HE COULD SEE THE “MOTE” IN ANOTHER’S EYE
David had committed adultery with Bathsheba the wife of Uriah. In order to cover up his sin he ordered Uriah killed by having the soldiers withdraw from him in battle. So the valiant soldier died by the hand of David. David thought he had committed the perfect crime, the perfect murder, and so he remained unrepentant for a long time. He seems to have adopted this attitude –“The king can do no wrong, kings have rights which the common people do not have, a king can do what he wishes.” (“I want something and why can’t I have it since I have the power to get it.”)
In love for this fallen sinner the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to David to open his eyes to the enormity of his guilt, to clear his distorted vision. Nathan told David the parable of the little ewe lamb. It is a pathetic parable. A rich man with many flocks and herds stole the one little ewe lamb from his poor neighbor. The little pet lamb was slain and eaten by the rich man and his guests.
The parable touched the heart of David, who thought it was a true story which took place in his kingdom. David could see the guilt of the rich man which was only a “mote” compared to the sins of the king. Certainly it was a pitiless crime which the rich man committed, but it did not deserve the death sentence which David decreed. Common sense, justice and decency tell us that a man’s life is worth much more than the life of any animal.
David’s vision had become distorted and perverted, so that he could not see clearly at all. He saw the “mote” in another’s eye, but magnified it all out of proportion. This is simply another form of idolatry, called self-worship. “Other people are wicked and evil, but I am not as other men are,” is the distorted vision of all Pharisees. “Ye shall be as gods,” said the devil in the garden of Eden, and the desire to fulfill that goal seems to linger in the breast of every human being. The devil wants us to practice self-worship and thereby fall an easy prey to his wiles and snares.
Lest we forget and fall into the same sins as David, let us remember that we are people of like passions. Is it not true that other peoples’ faults are easily discerned by us and magnified? Can we claim exemption to this rule into which sin has brought us? Do any of us have perfect spiritual vision?
The way and manner in which we mistakenly judge other people and misconceive ourselves should be a constant source of wonderment for us all. It is appalling. David’s vision was distorted, but so is ours. It is as though we look through a telescope at our neighbor’s faults and see them greatly magnified, and then we turn the telescope around and look through the wrong end at our own faults where they seem to be small and hardly noticeable.
- HE COULD NOT SEE THE “BEAM” IN HIS OWN EYE
David could readily perceive the sins of the rich man in the parable. But look at his own sins. He coveted his neighbor’s wife, he stole her from her husband, he committed adultery with her, he lied and deceived about his wickedness and tried to cover it up, he had Uriah killed, he misused his authority as king of the realm. He did all this in defiance of God’s will, although he was a special servant and prophet of the Lord.
Did David clearly see his own wickedness? Not at all. His attitude seems to have been – “I am a king, and a king has more rights than the average man. Bathsheba wanted me, Uriah really died as a brave soldier for his country. It is not as bad as it looks. Others have done worse things than this.” He made excuses and rationalized his actions.
David looked right at his sins but could not see them in the proper light. He had a “beam” in his eye which distorted the whole picture, the “beam” of self-worship or idolatry.
He that is without sin among us let him cast the first stone at David. Do we have a better picture of ourselves than David had of himself? Do we not minimize and rationalize our sins and wrongs? How truthful are we really with ourselves? How many of us can honestly say with the Apostle Paul, “I am the chief of sinners”?
David’s soul received a great shock when Nathan said to him, “Thou art the man.” David was like the rich man in the parable whom he had already judged. David was that very wicked man. Suddenly his eyes cleared and his vision was restored and he saw the enormity of his guilt and confessed it in v,13, “l have sinned against the Lord.” The “beam” was removed from his eye and the distortion was taken away.
This terrified sinner was now given the assurance of the forgiveness of his sins in v.13, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin.” It should be self-evident to us that the Lord would put away his sins only because David believed in the coming Messiah and Savior from sin. David wrote of the promised Redeemer, believed in Him, and now returned to Him. That is the only reason why he found forgiveness for all his sins. Without Christ there is no remission of sins. The corrective lens of God’s Word restored David’s vision and corrected the distortion.
Therein lays our only hope of salvation. We, too, have sinned against the Lord and deserve to be punished. Our plea, like David’s, is based upon the cross of Jesus who paid for all our transgressions. By faith in Him we have forgiveness and salvation. Faith in Jesus restores our vision to better evaluate our neighbor’s faults and our own sins.
Have you had your eyes checked lately? Is your vision blurred? Do you need glasses? Go to the Word of God, go to God Himself, He alone can help you. AND HE WILL! He came to fallen David out of love for his soul, He came and found His lost sheep and saved him. The Lord wants to save every single one of us. Come to Jesus now for forgiveness and salvation.
With the Lord’s eye-glasses we will be able to see the enormity of our sins and transgressions. Secondly, with the Greeks of Jesus’ day (John 12:21) we can also say, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” We would see Jesus by faith for the forgiveness of all our sins. Thirdly, we shall have clear vision to put the best construction upon our neighbors deeds, to speak well of him, to bear his burdens, and to love him. Finally, “Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face”(l Cor.13:12). Some day, with redeemed eyes, will be fulfilled the earnest desire of our Savior, “That they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me” John 17:24. Then we shall have perfect vision forever. AMEN.
PRAYER. O Lord, keep us from spiritual blindness and self-deception. Give us eyes and understanding to see all our sins and iniquities. But above all, hold the cross of Jesus before our eyes that we may always see our only way to heaven. We are looking forward to the great day when we shall see Thee in all Thy glory, O Father, Son, and Spirit, ever one God world without end. AMEN.
BEWARE OF SEARING THE CONSCIENCE
1 Tim 4:2 “Having their conscience seared with a hot iron.”
Conscience is that mysterious voice in man which acts somewhat like a moral gyroscope for the soul. God created this voice within us, but it is not God Himself speaking, for there is such a thing as an erring conscience. The law of God is written in our heart, and conscience is intimately connected with it. The real nature of conscience is very mysterious and puzzling to us, but its presence in the breast of every human being is another proof for the existence of God.
We carry with us through life our own little court, a judge and jury, which either condemns our acts and conduct, or else applauds them. There is no-appealing the verdict in the case of a guilty conscience.
Our inward monitor is not knowledge itself, it is that voice which prods us to act according to the knowledge we possess of good and bad. A disturbed conscience is a terrible thing indeed, and can prick and torment us and rob us of all peace in life. The troubled conscience of Judas drove him to suicide. The woman taken in adultery was not stoned to death by her accusers because they were “convicted by their own conscience”. The jailer at Philippi “came trembling” because of his aroused conscience.
Imagine what that means when Paul, in our text, says of false teachers who “speak lies in hypocrisy” that they have “their conscience seared with a hot iron.” There is a warning here for all of us.
BEWARE OF SEARING THE CONSCIENCE
- SEARING SCARS THE CONSCIENCE
Paul told Timothy by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in v.1-3 that there would be an apostasy in the church in the latter times. (Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils,2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron,3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.)
(Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils,2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron,3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.)
The devil is always behind every false doctrine. These false teachers would not only deceive themselves but would draw others into their apostasy. Among other false teachings they would “forbid to marry and command to abstain from meats.” Naturally such false teachers would also deny the fundamental doctrines of the Bible, especially justification before God by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Certainly they would teach that there are many things to do and avoid in order to get to heaven. And all these false doctrines would be taught in hypocrisy, pretending they are teachers of God when they are actually of the devil.
No one can resist the Holy Spirit and reject the truth of God without some effect upon the soul. But instead of saying with the Emmaus disciples, “Did not our heart burn within us?” these apostates must say, “Did not our conscience burn within us?”
The inner voice rebels when we turn from God and His Holy Truth and it begins to burn like fire in the human breast. It is no light matter to sin against the conscience.
As in branding, scars will be formed on the conscience which will remain for life. Such false teachers can never live at peace with themselves anymore, they are burnt and scarred. Such a fire always leaves a mark.
Are we not, to some extent, in the same danger as these fallen souls? How often have we turned our backs when the Lord beckoned us to do His work? How many times do we divert our gifts to pleasures and worldly things instead of wholeheartedly supporting the church and her mission program? Do we always love His Word as we should, and gladly hear and learn it? We cannot do these things without disturbing the conscience. How many little scars do we have on our inner man? When we think of our past life, we recall many things we should have done, and there are things we did do which bother us and cause a little burning sensation in our hearts. In a greater or lesser degree we all have trouble with our conscience because of our sins. But there is still another great danger in searing the conscience.
- SEARING DEADENS THE CONSCIENCE
We can understand how a person might fall into error and teach a false doctrine, for we all have our frailties and weaknesses. But after being shown the error from the Word of God, we ought to accept the correction with thanks and repent of the error. However, if, after being shown the error from the clear Word of God, a person persists in the false doctrine and stubbornly refuses to accept correction, that person has assumed a soul-destroying attitude and is on the road to damnation.
What happens to the conscience of such a false teacher? It finally becomes so seared by constant burning that little or no pain is felt; it is like cauterizing a wound to deaden the pain. The same effect is produced in those who persistently accept and adhere to the false teachings.
These things happen today. Adherents of those religions who deny the Trinity and deny that Christ is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God” often canvass the neighborhoods trying to gain the unwary. When these people are urged to reconsider their false doctrine and way of life, it is often like talking to a dead person. It seems they have seared their consciences into insensibility.
This process of deadening the conscience is also going on within the churches. Some members do not attend public worship anymore, despise the Lord’s Supper, give little or nothing for the support of the Lord’s work. It is frustrating to talk with them. They resist, they argue, they promise no change. How difficult it is to recall a fallen away church member: It seems as though they have cauterized their consciences into numbness. Beware of searing the conscience!
Is there no way to have a good conscience in this sin-cursed world? There is, but only when we can be assured that the same God who put this little voice in us is ready and willing to forgive us all our sins. AND HE IS. He gave His own Son in our stead on the cross and laid all our sins on Him. Only when we put our faith and trust in Jesus and His Word can we have forgiveness of sins and a good conscience. We can never have peace in our heart trusting in our own works and deeds.
“Peace be unto you” was the Easter greeting of Jesus. He was actually saying, “I bring you the message which gives you peace and a good conscience before God.” God is at peace with us in Christ, and that knowledge alone can quiet the human breast.
“The peace of God which passeth all understanding” means God has forgiven our sins in Jesus. He is no more angry with us because of sin. He wants to be “Our Father.” This is the only way we can depart this life in peace. Jesus is my peace.
Having God as our Father and Friend in Jesus, and being assured that we shall surely dwell with Him in glory forever, we are indeed the happiest of people on earth. May the Holy Spirit, for Jesus’ sake, keep us from falling into gross sins. And may we always retain a good conscience, for this is one of our most precious possessions in life.
PRAYER. Before thee, O Lord God, do we acknowledge all our sins and iniquities. When we think of our past sins our conscience begins to trouble us and we become disquieted. But in our Savior’s blood and merits we always find peace and rest for our hearts and souls. Help us keep a good conscience all our days through Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. AMEN
EXCLUDE LEAVEN FROM THE BREAD OF LIFE
Matt 16:6 “Then said Jesus unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”
Leaven was used in Scripture times to produce fermentation in dough so that it would rise before baking. Usually a little lump of dough was set aside for the next baking and allowed to ferment. When this sour dough was added to the new lump the whole batch would be filled with bubbles and so rise. Today yeast is used for that purpose.
In itself there was nothing wrong or sinful about leaven, but because fermentation is the beginning of corruption, the Bible uses leaven as an emblem of sin and corruption. Thus St. Paul writes 1 Cor 5:8 “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Unleavened bread was used in religious ceremonies, especially at the Passover. We use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper.
In our text Jesus compares the false doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees with leaven because of its permeating and corrupting influence.
EXCLUDE LEAVEN FROM THE BREAD OF LIFE
- BECAUSE IT WILL PERMEATE THE WHOLE LUMP
There is only one Bread of Life, one food for the soul, the Christ-centered Word of God. This food strengthens and nourishes the soul, and gives man the power to draw near to God. “I am the Bread of Life,” says Jesus our Lord. He is our only Savior and Redeemer, He is the only way to the Father, He is the only food and life of the soul. Whoever believes in Him has the
Bread of Life.
Matt 6:12 explains what Jesus means by “leaven” in our text. “Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees’ and of the Sadducees.”
What was the doctrine of the Pharisees? They were the strictest sect among the Jews and made their appearance many years before Christ. They taught the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and believed in angels and spirits, (Acts 23:8) So far so good. However, one of their main doctrines was that by keeping the Ten Commandments a person could merit eternal life. Lawyers assumed an important role among them for these men had to find explanations for the commandments which could be kept by man, at least outwardly. Tradition was added to their religious system and became as important as the written Word for them. Matt 15:3, Jesus upbraided them by saying, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” It is easy to see why the Pharisee in the temple was so pleased with himself because he thought he was just about perfect, Luke 18:10-14. We can readily understand why Jesus said in Matt. 5:20 “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” No one can be saved by the keeping of the law. “That is absolutely impossible. The leaven and principle of the Pharisees was that the Bible and tradition are the source of truth and doctrine in the church.
What did the Sadducees teach? They were opposed to the Pharisees. They were fewer in number, very well educated, and claimed to believe in the written Word alone. However, they used reason in interpreting the Scriptures and so denied many clear doctrines of the Bible, such as the existence of angels and spirits. Neither did they believe in the resurrection of the body, Acts 23:8. This was the leaven of the Sadducees, whose principle was that the Bible and reason are the source of truth and doctrine for the church.
Imagine the result if we would allow such leaven, such false doctrines, to be put into the pure Bread of Life. An offensive odor would developed and a sour taste would be produced which would permeate the whole lump. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”
We should ever “take heed and beware” lest our Bread of Life be spoiled and lose its appeal, for we have the same leaven of false doctrines with us today. In fact there can be only these three attitudes in the church over against the Bible today as of old, namely, the Bible is not sufficient of itself; or, not everything in the Bible can be accepted; or, the Bible stands alone as the sweet Bread of Life uncontaminated by any leaven.
There is another very important reason why we should exclude leaven from our holy Bread.
- BECAUSE IT WILL CORRUPT THE WHOLE LUMP
The Bread of Life is sweet, very sweet indeed to the sinners taste. God loves us, He gave His own Son in our stead on the cross. There Jesus took away the sins of the world and we are saved by faith in Him and by the grace of God alone. What could be sweeter than that? This Bread alone satisfies the hunger of the soul and brings man to God and heaven.
If we do not exclude leaven from our Bread and permit it to remain there, it will not only permeate the whole lump but will corrupt and destroy it. See what happened in the case of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus said (John 5:39),”Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” In other words, they thought they had eternal life from the Scriptures, but they had deceived themselves, for the Scriptures state that Jesus is the only way to eternal life, and Him they overlooked by their false doctrines. The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees made the Scriptures useless as far as the way to heaven was concerned. What corruption brought about by the leaven!
“Take heed and beware” is a timely warning for all of us.
All churches today who add doctrines and teachings to the written Word are permitting leaven to corrupt the Bread. It matters not whether it be tradition, or church councils, or church laws, or opinions of the fathers, or resolutions of a Synod; if they add teachings to the revealed Word they are corrupting the lump. All churches who reject doctrines because they do not conform to our sinful reason are also allowing leaven to ferment and ruin the whole loaf of divine Bread.
It is not hard to understand why the pure Gospel, the pure Bread of Life, is not offered in many of the co-called Christian churches of today. Fermentation and corruption of the Truth have caused the havoc. Truly “a little leaven leaventh the whole lump.”
The two great principles of the Reformation are, 1. The Bible is the only source of doctrine in the church and, 2. We poor sinners are saved by faith in Christ alone, by grace alone.
May God give us His Holy Spirit so that we always beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees no matter in what modern form they may appear. May we always “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
The sweetest Gospel, the purest Bread is offered us. To those who know Jesus it will never lose its taste. From this Bread we shall receive nourishment and strength to lead a life of sincerity and truth. To this end help us, dear Lord. AMEN
PRAYER. Dear Lord, keep us on the straight and narrow path of Thy Holy Word. May it always be a lamp unto our feet that we turn neither to the right nor to the left to seek new doctrines. Feed Thy Chuch on the pure Bread of Life until the end of days. Magnify Thy Word among us and spread its truth unto the ends of the earth. Above all, from Thy Scriptures let us see our Savior’s face, and trusting in His precious blood we know we shall see Thee face to face, never to hunger or thirst again. Grant us our petitions for Jesus’ sake. AMEN.
SLIPPERY PLACES ARE DANGEROUS
Psalm 73:2-3 “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Ice and snow make winter driving especially hazardous and extra precautions are necessary, for a skidding automobile can cause serious damage.
The same dangers confront us when walking in different places. Waxed floors, oil, water, ice and snow can add to our list of accidents and narrow escapes in life. Who has never slipped and fallen? Who has always had sure footing?
Our text uses this picture of slippery places to describe our spiritual life with its many dangers to the soul.
SLIPPERY PLACES ARE DANGEROUS
- AN ACCIDENT MAY BE SERIOUS
Why did Asaph, the writer of this Psalm, state that he had almost slipped and fallen? He explains, “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Since God was his Father the Psalmist reasoned that he should be treated with special favors and preference. Often this is not the case; it is the wicked who seem to prosper in this world and God’s children sometimes have many crosses to bear. In the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus the one “fared sumptuously every day” and the other “was laid at his gate, full of sores.” Asaph began to question the justice and fairness of God in His dealings with men, and the Psalmist’s faith began to waver, his feet began to slip, and he was in great danger of falling from the saving faith.
Is this the only time a child of God has been tempted by these observations? Imagine the thoughts of innocent Joseph as he sat in the dungeon in Egypt, or of faithful Daniel in the den of lions. What thoughts raced through the minds of the three men as they were cast into the fiery furnace? How did Abraham feel as he offered up his son Isaac? In all the sufferings of the Apostle Paul he perhaps was also troubled by these thoughts, at times.
We must be on constant guard against carelessness with our souls, for the devil looks for opportunities to cause us to sip, and in his jeering way says to us, “Is that the way your Father should treat you, are you really sure you are a child of God?” He obscures the truth of the passage for us, “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” Heb 12:6.
We must always walk carefully through life because of the dangers of slipping and falling. It is even hard to imagine the damage to the soul when a person slips and falls from faith.
Only the Lord can lift us up again when we have fallen. David sinned grievously and fell from faith, but the Lord put him on his feet again through the prophet Nathan. Peter denied the Lord, yet Jesus lifted him up and placed him among the Apostles once more. The thief on the cross had slipped and fallen into many terrible crimes, but Jesus raised him to the highest heaven in his dying hour.
Our Psalmist received sure footing again after nearly falling from faith, and expressed his renewed confidence in verses 25-26, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”
What caused this change of heart and attitude in Asaph? He tells us in verse 17 and 18, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou casteth them down into destruction.” Suddenly all became clear to the Psalmist when he considered their end; it is the wicked who are really in slippery places. He saw how God has our eternal welfare and happiness in mind in His dealings with us and that this is the guiding thought of all God’s ruling and governing in life. The Father in heaven permits many things to befall His children to keep them closer to Himself. Through faith in the sufferings and death of the Savior He wants to save His children, and keep them in this saving faith.
Do the wicked really have it so good in this life? How suddenly things can change, how quickly all they cherished can be taken from them. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, suddenly we read of the rich man, “Arid in hell he lift up his eyes.” Can anyone really be happy in this life without hope and without God? The rich fool said in Luke 12, “Soul, take this ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said unto him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” Yes indeed, “Thou didst set them in slippery places.”
Asaph became ashamed of his foolish thoughts and reasoning, and repented. He found sure footing again in the Savior and His holy Word.
There is hope for all of us who have slipping feet and uncertain footing. The stanza of the well-known hymn strikes a responsive chord in the hearts of all God’s children, “Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
It pays to be especially careful with the welfare of the soul, for a slip can even be fatal, eternally fatal.
- AN ACCIDENT MAY BE FATAL
A slip and fall can cause death, depending upon the manner, the height, and the object encountered in the fall.
We are given many warning examples of fatal falls in God’s Word. Cain was taught the way of life in a God-fearing home, but he fell from faith and rose not again. Judas also fell and suffered eternal injuries to his soul. Demas loved this present world and fell in that slippery place. Even the great Apostle Paul was concerned about this kind of slipping and falling, for he said in 1 Cor 9:27, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Surely we should all be concerned about walking in slippery places.
In every congregation we see members slip and fall, many of them never to rise again. We all tread on slippery paths, may the Lord preserve us from a fatal fall.
“Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” 1 Cor 10:12. We should not walk through life with the self-confidence which Peter had; we should not put our trust in ourselves, but in the Lord who has redeemed us and promised to keep us and save us.
When we see a brother or sister fall, we should help them to get on their feet again, strengthen them and encourage them. May we show our gratitude to the Lord for sustaining us in the slippery paths of life.
We should ever return in faith to the Rock of Ages who on the cross paid for all our sins, for there we can always find sure footing in the Word of God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
PRAYER. Dear Lord, we thank Thee that for so many years Thou hast kept us from slipping and falling from faith. Thou art a faithful God. We rely upon Thy promises to keep us unto eternal life. We say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” We long for the great day when we shall see Thee face to face and praise Thee, O Father, Son, and Spirit, ever one God, world without end. AMEN
OLD AGE DESCRIBED IN MOVING PICTURES
Ecc 12:1-7 “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them………….”
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, “I have no pleasure in them”;
2 while neither the sun nor the light, nor the moon nor the stars be darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain;
3 in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and the eyes that look out of the windows be darkened;
4 and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low; and he shall rise up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;
5 also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way; and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail; because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets;
6 or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern—
7 then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
8 “Vanity of vanities,” saith the Preacher. “All is vanity.”
9 And moreover because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed and sought out and set in order many proverbs.
10 The Preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth!
11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the master builders, which are given from one Shepherd.
12 And further, my son, by these words be admonished: of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh.
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.
Senile decay and failing powers are usually the lot of the aged as they slowly inch toward the long home of death. It is true, modern medicine and other factors have contributed much in making old age more bearable, but it still is a time of weakness and fading strength.
“Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” said the Lord to man after he had fallen into sin and brought a curse upon himself and creation. Old age is one of the results of man’s disobedience to God.
The weaknesses of old age are described in our text. Each little description of some phase of senility is a beautiful picture in itself. Put all the little pictures together and we have a masterpiece. Let us look at this picture painted by the hand of an inspired master.
OLD AGE DESCRIBED IN MOVING PICTURES
- WITHOUT GOD THEY ARE EVIL DAYS
Youth and life itself without God is evil enough, old age without the Creator is appalling. It is because old people follow a set pattern that the preacher says, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.”
Old age is called “evil days” in v.1, days of sickness and want, a putting off death for another day. The “years draw nigh” and like a string of beads they become less and less as they are counted off. There is “no pleasure in them” for often people tire of the old folks, and many former friends and
relatives have passed on leaving the aged like a solitary tree in a field.
The pictures of old age continue in v2. The eyes become weaker and the light from the heavens begins to fade. Clouds of pain and trouble keep reoccurring and cause an unsettled condition in life, like the weather.
“The keepers of the house” v.3, the head, arms, and hands shake and tremble. “The strong men shall bow themselves” for the legs, back, and main supports of the body become weak and cause an arching or bowing of the body. “The grinders cease” as the teeth gradually decay until there are few left to chew the food. “Those that look out of the windows be darkened” are the eyes which become affected by age.
There are more pictures of old age in v-4. “The doors shall be shut in the streets.” Old people do not care to go out, they prefer resting in their favorite chair. Or perhaps these words are a reference to the lips that are shut to retain the food in the mouth. Then the “sound of grinding,” chewing, is very low due to the absence of teeth. The insomnia or light sleep of old folks is expressed by “he shall rise up at the voice of the bird.” Hard of hearing and a deterioration of speech are another failing in old age, so “the daughters of music shall be brought low.”
Our text is indeed a series of moving pictures. V.5 depicts the timid and careful walk of the old, “they shall be afraid of that which is high. ” The graying and whitened’ head is likened to “the almond tree that shall flourish.” “The grasshopper shall be a burden” refers, perhaps, to the fact that even the lightest foods are hard to digest and the desires for food diminish.
The “silver cord” in v.6 could allude to that which holds body and soul together; and the “golden bowl” might mean the heart and blood stream; the “pitcher” may point to the sources of life in the body, like the main spring of a watch. It is bad enough in later years to lose all the desires and powers which make life good and livable; imagine slipping into old age without God, without any sustaining hope, without the Savior in whom alone we have eternal life.
The pictures of old age are dreary enough, how horrifying, how terrible to pass through that stage of life without being at peace with our Maker. When the Preacher says, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” he is implying that if this is not the case there will be little change expected in the later years. Few people are converted in old age, habits become stiffened and set with the passing of the years. Now is the time to seek the Lord while He may be found.
- WITH GOD THEY ARE PLEASANT DAYS
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” To give our youth to the devil and our old age to God is much worse than bringing torn and sick sheep to God for an offering. (Leviticus 4:32 “And if he bring in a sheep for his offering, for a sin-offering, a female, a perfect one, he doth bring in…”)
Now in the days of our youth when our powers and strength are in full bloom is the time to serve the Lord with gladness. Then we can offer Him labor and service in building His kingdom, then we can work tirelessly for the glory of His marvelous name.
How blessed the young and the middle-aged who joyfully carry out the will of the Lord, bringing up their families in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord,” building the church, giving cheerfully for the expansion of the kingdom. These are the people who are the backbone of the church and the strength of our Synod.
Such young people and families will grow older, but their days will be pleasant. As old age inevitably draws near they can look back to the years devoted to the service of Him who is the Lord of all. Old age with all its declining powers will still be a pleasant age for they have the Savior with them who will never leave them comfortless.
When they pray with David in Ps 71:9 “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth” they will get an answer which will lift them above life’s vicissitudes. God’s love is not founded on youth and beauty, a wrinkled skin or bent back does not change God’s love in the least. His love to us in Christ is eternal and changeless. Whenever we pray, “Abide with me” we always have the answer of Jesus our only Savior, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
God loved the world, young and old, and gave His only Son to pay for all our sins by dying on the cross. The offer of eternal life is for all men; whosoever believes that Jesus died to save us, will be saved.
Is old age then something to fear and dread for a child of God in Christ? It is true there are many aches and pains and the many other things described in our text, but all these things are only for a few short years at most. Old age is the door to eternal life for the believers, the aged are nearing the goal of life, to be forever with the Lord in glory. What is so frightening about that? These thoughts can sustain us in all tribulations and give us a real settled peace which passeth not away. Actually old age is the most blessed time of life for the believers, they are that much closer to being delivered from all evil. They, too, can say with Simeon, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,” Luke 2:29. The Lord has already given us the answer to our prayers (Isaiah 46:4), “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you.” So we see, our text may be depressing, but not for the children of God in Jesus.
Let all of us, young and old, accept Jesus now in faith as our only Redeemer, then whether we die young or old, we shall ever be with the Lord.
We can appropriately sum up our sermon with the words of the Preacher 12: 13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” AMEN.
PRAYER. Lord of life, help us dedicate all our days to service and glory. Thou hast redeemed us with the blood of Thine own Son. Make us willing and able to place all our gifts and talents into Thy hands to labor in Thy kingdom. When life draws to a close then “Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes. Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies. Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.” AMEN
PUTTING WAGES INTO A BAG WITH HOLES
Haggai 1:6 “And he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.”
2 “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying: This people say, ‘The time has not come, the time that the Lord’S house should be built.’”
3 Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying,
4 “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceilinged houses, and this house lie waste?”
5 Now therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!
6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe yourselves, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.”
7 Thus saith the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!
8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified,” saith the Lord.
9 “Ye looked for much, and lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I blew upon it. Why?” saith the Lord of hosts. “Because of Mine house that is laid waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.
How irritating it often is to find a hole in the pocket. For all practical purposes that pocket has become useless, temporarily. Then we begin to wonder how much money was lost because of the worn pocket. Before the pocket is mended we often put more money into it from force of habit and our loss continues. The sensible thing to do is have the pocket repaired as soon as possible.
Would anyone deliberately put wages and earnings into a bag with holes in it? Would anyone jeopardize the needs of his family and loved ones by being careless with his hard-earned wages? If so, that would be a rare exception indeed.
Yet that is what many of us are doing in life with our earnings and money. We shall learn about this from the prophet Haggai.
PUTTING WAGES INTO A BAG WITH HOLES
- HOW THIS IS DONE
After the return from the Babylonian captivity the people neglected the building of the house of God. This displeased the Lord very much. Of course, with their own houses it was a different story, their dwellings had ceiled or paneled walls and decorations. “Nothing but the best” was the motto for their own homes, no expense was too great for their own selfish interests. The prophet complained of this in v.4, “is it time for you, 0 ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?”
So the building of the temple of God was delayed because other things and interests had to come first. Money, time, and labor that could have been used to erect the house of God was used for extra decorations and refinements in their own homes, and, we might add, for other luxuries and enjoyments. It is no sin to build fine houses and to enjoy the blessings of life which the Lord has given us. But it is sinful, it is idolatrous, when we short-change God, when we selfishly spend our money for luxuries while God’s cause goes begging. We are stewards, not masters, of the resources entrusted to us.
The people did not actually refuse to build the temple, but they looked for excuses not to build at this time. V.2 says, “This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” Procrastination, putting off the day for building the temple, finding excuses to take care of their own selfish interests first, this was the sinful attitude of the people.
Because of this selfish attitude at the time of our text, the Lord withdrew many of His blessings from His people. The often fruits of the earth were withheld and the people labored in vain. We read in v.6, “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm.” All this happened because the Lord did not bless their labor which was used mainly for selfish purposes.
Thus they put their wages into a bag with holes, there was no blessing of the Lord upon their labor. V.6 continues, “And he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.” As stated before, it would be a rare exception indeed for a person to deliberately put wages into an old bag with holes in it. Yet when it comes to the Lord’s work too many of us commit this folly. We often labor incessantly and get nowhere and have nothing, our money and labor is falling out of the holes in the “bag”.
By way of application we need answer only a few questions. How much money went into our homes for extra refinements and decorations which could have been given for the church and the wonderful mission program? How many “extras” on our automobiles cost more than we give for the Lord’s work in a year? Have we a different attitude today than was displayed by the people so long ago at Haggai’s time?
We do not maintain that it is a sin to enjoy life’s blessings and gifts of God. We repeat, it is sinful when we use all, or nearly all our gifts and income for ourselves to the exclusion of the Lord’s work. That is the sin then and now.
The Lord can, and may withdraw His blessings from us if we misuse our gifts and talents for selfish purposes only. Then we, too, will be putting our wages into a bag with holes.
Those words of Jesus (Luke 16:8) in the parable of the unjust steward keep ringing in our ears, “For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” O how foolish we Christians are, at times, to divert our precious time and labor from the Lord’s work to the silly toys and trinkets of this life!
All of us admit our sins in this respect, and we ask in all sincerity, “How can we avoid putting our wages into a bag with holes?”
- HOW CAN THIS BE AVOIDED
The Lord Himself shows us the way of His blessings in v.7 and 8, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord.” Our Savior told us the same thing in Matt. 6:33,”Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
The very moment the attitude of the people changed, from that moment on the Lord promised His blessings. “From this day will I bless you,” Haggai 2:19. There would be no more holes in the bag. The poor widow gave everything she had to the Lord. Did she starve to death, did the Lord forsake her? We know the answers.
God is love, and His love sent His Son into this world to pay for all our sins on the cross. Through faith in Jesus our Savior, God has promised us eternal life. We who believe in Jesus are made partners with the Lord in carrying out His work of spreading the Gospel into all the world. Is there a greater honor and privilege in this world? Should not the love of God move us to greater zeal and devotion for His kingdom? Should we not always put the needs of His kingdom first in life?
Jesus tells us how to put our talents and life and wages into a bag without holes. In Luke 12:33 He says, “Provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.” In other words, let us rededicate ourselves to Jesus and His work. Luther tells us in the second article, “That I should be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”
The Lord challenges us, dares us, and asks us to prove Him, whether He will bless us or not when we give Him our whole heart and soul. In the prophet Malachi He issues this challenge (Malachi 3:10), “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that they may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Let a new day dawn for our church and for our homes. Let our homes be bright with the Lord’s blessings resting upon them, let new mission fields be opened, let all men hear of the wonderful news of salvation in the blood of Jesus. Then there will be no more putting wages into a bag with holes.
PRAYER. O Lord, forgive us all our sins for Jesus’ sake, especially our sins of selfishness. Give us Thy Holy Spirit that Thy work may be done, Thy temple built, and the Gospel of Thy dear Son be spread throughout the world. Create in us a new heart to help Thy kingdom come to all men. We thank Thee for the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus and we ask Thy blessings upon our feeble efforts in behalf of Thy holy Church. Hear us, O Father, Son, and Spirit, ever one God, world without end. AMEN
BEING WEIGHED BY GOD
Daniel 5:27 “Tekel; thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”
Gravity may be defined as that mysterious force which causes all matter to attract to itself all other matter. It is gravity which causes weight, and weight can be measured. Actually, weight is the amount of the force of gravity. There are two common methods for measuring weight, one is by the spring scale and the other by the balance scale. The latter is certainly familiar to all of us. It consists of a bar balanced exactly in the center with pans on each side. When an object is to be weighed, it is placed in one pan, and weights are added to the other pan until they are horizontally balanced.
Our text refers to such a balance scale, but with this difference, the balances and scales are the measurement of God’s justice, and God Himself is doing the weighing. He is weighing a man. Let us consider this act of God.
BEING WEIGHED BY GOD
- HOW TERRIFYING TO BE FOUND WANTING
In a drunken spirit of defiance to the God of the Israelites Belshazzar sent for the vessels which were captured from the temple at Jerusalem by his father Nebuchadnezzar, so that he and his party might drink toasts to their heathen idols. Naturally, this audacity angered the Lord and He caused a hand to make some writing on the wall of the palace. The king became terrified when he saw the writing. No one could read or interpret what was written on the wall until Daniel was summoned, and he explained the meaning. Daniel showed from the writing that the days of the kingdom were ended as Belshazzar was being “weighed in God’s scales and was found wanting”. The Medes and Persians overran the kingdom and in that same night Belshazzar was slain.
Belshazzar is not the only person of whom it may be said, “Weighed and found wanting.” The old world was found wanting and was destroyed by the great flood. The builders of the tower of Babel were judged by God and He scattered them over the face of the earth. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were weighed and they were destroyed. Saul, the first king of Israel, was put on the divine balances and we find him falling on his own sword. Daniel explained to Belshazzar how his father Nebuchadnezzar had been weighed by God, and how the Lord afflicted him with insanity which caused the proud king to eat grass like the animals. We remember how Haman set himself against the people of God and a little later he was found hanging from the gallows he had erected for his rival. Judas was found lacking and he hanged himself.
We are often moved by the tears of a child or a woman, but when such a person as Jesus weeps, we are deeply concerned and disturbed. We see Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem, weeping because they spurned and rejected Him, their only hope of eternal life. Jerusalem was also weighed by God and was found wanting. Jesus foretold the doom of the city, not one stone would be left upon another in the great destruction to come, which took place in 70 A.D. The Apostles finally turned to the Gentiles because the Jews persisted in their rejection of their only Savior and Redeemer.
All of us must step on the Lord’s scales. What will the “reading” be? We have already been told!! Rom.3:12 “They are all gone out of the way.” Rom.3:33 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Isaiah 64:6 “We are all as an unclean thing.” 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Ps 19:12 “Who can understand his errors?” These are a few of the “readings” on the scales of the Lord’s judgment of man. Almost the same thoughts as that of our text are expressed in Ps 143:2 “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.”
So all of us are weighed and found wanting. No human being can stand before the stern look of God’s holiness and be found to balance the scales. Yet the scales must be balanced if we hope to go to heaven. Can it be done? 2. HOW COMFORTING TO HAVE THE SCALES BALANCED
It is useless and hopeless for any human being to try to balance himself in the scales of holiness. Only God can do it for us, AND HE DID. He sent His own Son into the world to “balance” all our sins. How could Jesus pay for our sins? On one side of the balance is just one man suffering for six hours on the cross, on the other side of the balances are countless people who would have to suffer the torments of hell forever and never be able to balance the scales. How could Jesus tip the balances in our favor? How could one man pay for the sins of the whole world? It was the God-Man suffering for the creatures, God laying Himself on the scales, and His offering is of infinite value. Jesus paid for every human being that lived or ever will live, because He is God, the Son of God.
This is God’s way of balancing the scales of His Divine justice. In His love and mercy He also wants to give us all the offering of His Son absolutely free, without cost or payment. Salvation is ours by faith and trust in Jesus as our only Savior and Redeemer. We are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, by God alone. “He that seeth the Son and believeth on him hath everlasting life.”
Jesus’ offering on the cross more than outweighs all our sins. He paid for the human race as a whole and it matters not how long the world stands, the scales will always be balanced by the cross of Jesus. Only in this fact can we find peace and comfort in life and death, not in our deeds or merits, but alone in the blood of Jesus shed for us can we find life eternal.
There are, and can be, no more than two religions in the world. One teaches that we can balance the Divine scales by our own weight and works, this is the heathen religion. The other teaches that only Jesus can balance the scales for us, this is the Christian faith.
It is said of us in America that we dig our graves with our teeth; we eat too much. Many people go on special diets because they want to reduce their weight. But how many of us are spiritually overweight? Is it not a fact that most of us are suffering from spiritual malnutrition? This need not be if we partake of Him who is the “Bread of Life.” We should come to church to receive food for the soul, or else it will starve to death. Being spiritually well-fed we can daily walk with the Lord in newness of life.
May we not hear the terrifying words on Judgment Day, “Weighed and found wanting.” We will not hear those words with Jesus on our side of the balances. AMEN.
PRAYER. O Lord, before Thee do we confess all our sins and iniquities. If Thou shouldest try us and judge us on our own merits, we should surely be found wanting. But we plead for Jesus’ sake to forgive all our sins and in Him do we hope to be found acceptable in Thy sight. Take not Thy Holy Spirit from us, that we may always find comfort in the offering of our Savior. Hear us for His sake, O Lord. AMEN
WHY WAS A KING GIVEN THE HEART OF A BEAST?
Daniel 4:16 “Let his heart be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him: and let seven times pass over him.”
Pride is a great wall which separates man from God. A proud person is the opposite of a humble child of God. To be saved we must confess our sins and throw ourselves entirely upon the mercy of God in Jesus. A proud person will not admit his sins nor will he feel the need of a Savior from sin.
The Pharisee in the temple prayed thus, “G0d, I thank thee that I am not as other men are… I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” He was condemned by these words of Jesus, “He that exalteth himself shall be abased.”
Our text is one more example of a long list of proud people whom the Lord resisted. The Lord showed His displeasure by sending a strange malady to a great king.
WHY WAS A KING GIVEN THE HEART OF A BEAST?
- BECAUSE HE, HAD A PROUD HEART
Nebuchadnezzar was one of the great rulers of his time. He reigned over Babylon more than 500 years before the birth of our Lord. As with many mighty rulers, the danger is always present to regard oneself as some kind of superman or higher being than the average man. He became proud in his own conceit as he himself later on admits (4:37), “And those that walk in pride he is able to abase.” God alone is the Ruler of all nations and He sets up the authority to rule kingdoms of this world.
Because of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, God resisted him and determined to humble him. The Lord gave him a warning dream which only Daniel could interpret. The king explained to Daniel how he saw in his dream a giant tree which all people could see. The beasts of the field were in its shadows and the birds lived in the boughs. Then a voice from heaven ordered that the tree be cut down.
The dream frightened the king and he was troubled (4:5).
Daniel explained the dream in Daniel 4:19-26. The great tree is king Nebuchadnezzar. But because of his proud heart God would humble him and give him the heart of a beast. A stump of the tree would remain, so after a time, the kingdom would be restored to the king again. Then Daniel offered this advice to the king (v.27), “Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.”
After the initial shock wore off, instead of heeding Daniel’s advice, Nebuchadnezzar became more boastful. Like a proud peacock strutting about, the king said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty” (v.30) . Pride goeth before a fall. God did not stand idly by as this vain man uttered his boasts.
- BECAUSE HE WAS RESISTED BY GOD
There is only one Ruler of the nations, He makes or breaks, He alone is the King of Kings. How vain and foolish men often become when they receive some power and begin to imagine themselves to be little gods. The Lord will not tolerate such people indefinitely. He withstood Nebuchadnezzar.
“Let a beast’s heart be given unto him,” said the Lord, and the king became afflicted with a form of insanity called lycanthropy. Such an insane person believes that he has been changed into an animal, and he acts like one.
Nebuchadnezzar was driven from men (v.33), and he began to chew grass and crawl on his hands and feet. His hair became stiff and long and matted. His nails were like claws. His wild eyes would glare between the strands of hair as if he were looking out from behind vines. He would utter unearthly screams and growls and claw the ground like a mad beast. Such a picture we would expect to see only in a night-mare. How the mighty have fallen!
God raised David from a humble shepherd to one of the greatest kings of Israel, and He humbled one of the greatest kings of the earth to become the lowest of beasts. God resisteth the proud.
In the dream of Nebuchadnezzar God promised to leave the stump of the tree in the earth. In His mercy the Lord restored the king’s sanity and permitted him to rule in the kingdom again. All the counselors and lords placed Nebuchadnezzar in a position of honor and power again.
No doubt, the king continued to reign with a different heart and attitude. He spoke some fine words about God the Ruler of the world (v.37), “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose words are truth, and his ways judgment.” We have no right to judge his heart or doubt his sincerity. One thing is certain, however, he could only be saved if he trusted in the coming Messiah. We hope he learned more of the truth from Daniel, and that he accepted the only saving faith.
We need never fear the rulers of this world, for God still rules in the heavens, and He rules the world for the protection and benefit of His holy Church.
Down through the ages Kings of the earth have defied the Lord and tried to destroy His people. They have fulfilled the words of Psalm 2,”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.”
The Lord can humble the proud and mighty, as He did with Saul, Haman, Pharaoh, Belshazzar, Herod, and Pilate. We have seen some of our modern rulers strut and threaten, boast and rave, and we have seen how the Lord humbled and disgraced many of them. The warning lesson of Nebuchadnezzar was there all the time for all to see, yet too many disregarded it.
There is a lesson here for all of us. We should fall on our knees before God and humbly acknowledge all our sins and transgressions. We should be overcome with a sense of our own unworthiness, and, like the publican, smite upon our breasts and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” We plead with the Lord to be gracious and merciful to us for the sake of Jesus and His sufferings on the cross. Through faith in our Savior the Lord will forgive all our sins and remember them no more.
Jesus said, “Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” God truly lowers the proud and vain people, but he raises the humble believers in Christ to the highest glory and honor in heaven. AMEN
PRAYER. O Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Ruler of all things, keep us from pride and conceit which can destroy our bodies and souls. May the spirit and mind of our Savior always be found among us. He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death for us. O Lord, we know that we deserve eternal punishment for our iniquities and sins, but we also know that in Thy mercy and love, Thou didst redeem us in the blood of Thy dear Son. To Thee, O Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, be all honor and glory, world without end. AMEN.