Friday, December 24, 2021

December 24 - Isaiah 45

The prophecy from Isaiah 45:1-7 has a lot more to do with Christmas Eve than you might imagine.  The Lord gets very specific as He names Cyrus to be the one to restore His people after they have lived in exile in Babylon (and remember that Isaiah announced this prophecy over a century before the Persian King was born.)  More than that, He speaks of Cyrus in Christ-like terms as being God's anointed – despite the fact that the man was a foreign pagan, and in no way a descendant of Abraham. Remember, God commanded His priests to anoint prophets, priests, and kings. And there are also the prophesies of the Anointed One (which in Greek is Christos, or Christ.)

2 Chronicles 36:22 reports to us God's fulfillment of this promise in Isaiah 45, "That the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia." He gave this military success and political power to King Cyrus for the sake of God's chosen people Israel – and for your sake!  As God says prophetically to Cyrus in Isaiah 45:5-6, “I equip you, though you do not know Me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides Me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.” 

Among those whom Cyrus helped leave Babylon and return to the Promised Land were ancestors of Jesus, our newborn King whose birth in the city of David we celebrate this night.  God would also use the decrees of Caesar and Quirinius to get Mary and Joseph into Bethlehem for that birth.  

Over the last two years especially we have spent what seems like more time than usual thinking about (questioning and complaining about even) those who govern us.  These Christmas Scriptures remind us that no matter if they believe in Him or not, God will use their decisions to serve the purposes of His salvation for us.  Our rulers will come and go.  The ones we obsess over today may become less than a footnote tomorrow.  But the newborn King, to whom all authority in Heaven and on earth has been given, has guided all of it and will bring good from it.  The Holy Trinity who sent the angels so that the shepherds would recognize Christ now has directed the servants of His Church to go out into all the world and find you, teaching you to know Him as the only God, so that you could have more than just a merry little Christmas - but also that as you have the forgiveness of your sins, you could live in His kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

Friday, September 3, 2021

September 3 - 1 Kings 19

 [Elijah] said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10)

One Sunday during college I went with my friend to her church. I never imagined that I would both hear a sermon that has stuck with me and meet a pastor who would become a dear friend about 20 years later.

“There are no soloists in the symphony of God, Elijah” preached Rev. William Cwirla. The great prophet was at the end of his rope, convinced that the whole world was going to Hell. He had tried fighting the idolatry of King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. He showed decisively that the LORD is the only God and Baal was a fake. But that only made the King and Queen mad. Elijah gives up on even taking one more step forward. He complains to God, “I'm the only one left” who believes in You.

Pastor Cwirla's sermon put God's response into different words as he taught us that we are in this Christianity thing together, comparing us to musicians in a great symphony lifting songs of praise to our God, rather than isolated individual soloists trying to go it alone. My own life has proven that sermon true. When I have tried to live out my faith without help, like Elijah thought he was doing, it has gone badly. I've even thought of quitting like Elijah did. But I am not alone. God has blessed me with brother pastors and countless other Christians – both Lutherans and not – who encourage me in my faith and work.

You are not alone either. Now, your family might be the only Lutherans in your town. You might be the only Lutheran at your workplace or school – and that gets really lonely and awkward. However, Christ is with you – the One who went alone to His Cross so that You could be with Him in Paradise. Never will He leave you, never will He forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

More than that, you will never imagine the children of our Heavenly Father that He is preparing you to meet and befriend in the future – brothers and sisters in Christ for you to encourage and to be encouraged by on your journey through this world.

Merciful Father, by Word and Sacrament You have created Your Church in our world to be a caring family. Grant Your comfort to those who live in loneliness. Help them to find a place of healing and pleasant fellowship among people faithful to You. Amen.

Friday, August 13, 2021

August 13 - Psalm 68


"Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation." (Psalm 68:5)
This verse from this morning's devotions is so very appropriate today as my sweet friend Maria and her faithful sons bury her husband and their father Robert in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.

On that Day when the Lord drives away the last enemy of death, they shall be glad and exult in Christ (Psalm 68:1-3)

Saturday, July 3, 2021

July 3 - Psalm 84:5-8

 Blessed are you as you find your strength not in this world and its nations, but in the Lord God who has all authority over Heaven and Earth and is head over all things for the sake of His Church.  The world says you are a citizen of country that is only temporary.  There was a time when a different kingdom ruled over this country's land.  And in the future this piece of ground will be ruled by yet another kingdom - at the time of the New Heavens and the New Earth, if not sooner.  However, you have the inheritance of the saints in light because God the Father has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  

And so, even if you now live in your home and native land (which I do not), you are like me - a stranger in a foreign land.  In your heart is the pilgrimage you are now on as you head to your true and eternal home, from which you await our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Until you appear before God in Zion, you pause your travels at rest stops the Lord has placed for you, going from the strength of one Divine Service to the strength of the next.  And along your way in the days of the week between, out of your heart flows streams of living water (that is, the Holy Spirit).  He cascades from your daily life to make this dead world to be a place of Life in the Christ who died for us, covering the land with pools of salvation.