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Isaiah

63:7-19

 

I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, "Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely." And he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

 

But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble. Like livestock that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name.

 

Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me. For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Your holy people held possession for a little while; our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary. We have become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name.
(ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See What?

Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

28 October 2013

When I was a seminary student, my classmates and I shared an ongoing joke, in which, when we were happy and positive, we would remind each other that something terrible could happen and, when we were struggling or unhappy, we would remind each other that that's the way things should be for us morose Lutherans, "I'm depressed. Isn't that great?" There was just enough truth in this joke to teach a little theology to young men. We should never take things as they are, but in them see their opposites.

 

Isaiah foresaw the trying times for Judah when the Babylonians would wreak great damage upon the city of Jerusalem, slaughtering untold thousands, and sending uncounted others into exile far from the sanctuary of God's presence at the temple. Isaiah also lived through the Assyrian incursions upon Isaiah's beloved country and, although they were beaten back by divine intervention, great trouble, suffering, and sorrow came upon the people of God. There was much over which to sorrow: present trouble and future destruction. Yet, Isaiah declined to despair and he recalled the promises of a gracious God, "I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love." (Is 63:7).

 

Faith consists in the confidence to recall all the things that God has done for His people in the midst of trouble and sorrow and to recall our sins and weaknesses in the good times. We should not despair when there is trouble and we should not become puffed up and proud in the good times. The Christian life is always lived under the opposites, that is, that our faith does not have confidence in what it sees but in the promises of God in His divine Word. Jesus Himself lived according to the opposites. He tells us that those who think they see will not and those who do not see will (Mt 13:10-17). We must live by seeing what we do not see. In times of trouble and suffering, when we are struggling with sin and sorrow, we must see only Christ, His mercy, His cross, His grace. We must not look upon what we see but what Christ promises to poor sinners, forgiveness and every blessing given in the divine Word.

 

When we see earthly blessings, when things are going well, our bank account is growing, our children maturing and bringing honor to our families, we must not look upon such things, but return to the divine Word in which God tells us that we must also be brought low and sent away hungry (Lk 1:51-52). The divine promise to bring judgment must begin with the household of God (1Pt 4:17). We must not look upon the divine Word of judgment as applying only to the "wicked" people, but we must have the faith to see that these words apply to us when we begin to look upon good things as though they were signs of our blessedness in God's presence. The law of God must be brought against what we think we see, so that we see God's judgment and flee to His grace for refuge. Human reason easily gets off the track by seeing what is seen and by refusing to hear and see the opposites. Christian life is lived under opposites, so that seeing we don't and not seeing we do.

 

Martin Luther

 

"The prophet Isaiah sings a song and gathers the praises into a poem. In all of Scripture, however, it is customary for all the saints and prophets to console themselves in times of trial by recalling past benefits. This is the rule in the whole Psalter and in the writings of the prophets. 'I will recall Your benefits' (Ps 77:11). For their own consolation they always repeat the past blessings. This is an art, to be able in good times to recall evils and vice versa, as Ecclesiasticus has it (Ecclus. 11:27). For when we are in persecutions, sorrows easily attack us. Therefore, when I am sad, I should avoid all examples of terror so as not to be overwhelmed with sorrow. Rather, the blessings should be remembered. On the other hand, in times of happiness and security the dreadful examples should be recalled. When we are secure, we naturally become puffed up. But our discretion and reason are always put to a perverted use. In sorrows we remember sad things and in happy times we remember happy things. This is what the prophet does here as he sees many and most of his brothers about to perish in extreme sorrow.

 

"So Paul says that the fall of his brothers is deserved, but then he adds, 'But it is not as though the word of God has failed' (Rm 9:6). So here in such great sadness the prophet begins to console himself with a song. He strings out the divine blessings all the way to the destruction of Babylon. So also the psalm 'When Israel went out from Egypt' (Ps 114:1). When such songs are sung in a spiritual manner, they will be thoroughly spiritual. If not, they will be completely chilling."

 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Isaiah, 63.7
 
Collect for Sts. Simon and Jude

Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles.  As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

For Diane Garner, that the Lord Jesus would continue to keep her in the divine promises

 

For all those who are suffering from addiction, that they would find the strength they need to be free from slavery to substance abuse

 

For President Matt Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord Jesus would grant Him the strength to confess faithfully the name of Christ 
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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