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Isaiah

29:17-24

 

Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. For the ruthless shall come to nothing and the scoffer cease, and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off, who by a word make a man out to be an offender, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right.

 

Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: "Jacob shall no more be ashamed, no more shall his face grow pale. For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmur will accept instruction."(ESV)

 

 

Incredible

Wednesday of Epiphany 4

4 February 2015

The Lord calls us to believe the incredible. We are loath to trust God's radical resolution of human depravity through the declaration of divine righteousness. God has counted sinners righteous? Sinners? Really? How does that work? How can that be fair? I've been good, obedient, faithful to my wife and family, regular in church and Bible class and that doesn't do me any good in God's sight? What's up with that, God? It is evidence of my deep depravity that I actually think this way. I should not be pleading my own holiness in God's sight. What have I got, what have I done, how have I lived in a way that is totally pleasing to God? The standard I need to keep is not social piety, but the standard is "be holy, because the Lord your God is holy" (Lev 19:2). And what exactly would my piety serve to substitute for? The righteousness of God; which is the righteousness of Christ. Oh, there is a great plan; I am going to plead my own righteousness in preference to the righteousness of God's eternal Son.

 

But isn't there a premium with God for my own piety? If not, why do I bother to be pious? Simple: for my neighbor's benefit. Piety is for this world and its relationships, duties, and responsibilities over against our neighbor. It has no value for righteousness in God's sight. This is incredible to us because of our opinion of the law; our love of our own piety. Our Lutheran confessions warn us against thinking that "works merit forgiveness of sins and justify. This opinion of the Law naturally sticks in people's minds. It cannot be driven out, unless we are divinely taught" (Ap 5, 144). Only God's Word can overcome our inbred opinion that our piety is meritorious in God's sight. When we no longer believe this it is a divine miracle every time, because what God has done for us in Christ is incredible to human reason.

 

God has saved the saints with His righteousness at all times. He promised the righteousness of Christ to Adam and Eve and covered their shame (Gn 3:15; 3:21). Abraham, whose piety was hardly exemplary, becomes the father of faith (Rm 4:16). Rahab, a prostitute, becomes an ancestor in the messianic line, because she was placed into the righteousness of her Heir (Mt 1:5). The righteousness of God is not some doctrinal quirk of the Apostle's imposed on the New Testament. This is why Paul continually points to the Old Testament saints. Only the wicked are heirs of this righteousness (Rm 4:5). This an offense. This angers our old Adam. This rejects our own piety. We howl against this like the pious son in the parable of Luke 15: "Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him" (Lk 15:29-30)! This is the opinion of the law. It must be slain, so that the righteousness of Christ might become our own and our only righteousness before God. Isn't that incredible?

 

John Chrysostom

 

"This righteousness (Rm 1:17) is not your own, but that of God; hinting also at the abundance of it and its power. You do not achieve it by works and labors, but you receive it as a gift from above, contributing one thing only from you: "believing." Then since his statement did not seem credible, if the adulterer and effeminate person, and robber of graves, and magician, is not only to be suddenly freed from punishment but to become just, and just too with the highest righteousness; he confirms his assertion from the Old Testament. With a short statement, he opens a vast sea of histories to one who has a capacity for seeing them. For after having said, "from faith for faith" (Rm 1:17) he sends the hearer back to the working of God, which took place in the Old Testament, which, when writing to the Hebrews [Chrysostom believes that Paul is the author of Hebrews], he explains with his usual great wisdom, showing that both the just and the sinners were justified in that way even then. Therefore he also made mention both of the prostitute and of Abraham."


John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Romans, 2

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Your righteousness is mine by faith. Send Your Spirit to me that I might believe Your incredible grace. Amen.

 

For the LCMS Council of Presidents, that they would be upheld in the work of supporting the eternal gospel as they meet next week

 

For those suffering inclement weather , that they would be kept safe in the midst of difficult circumstances

 

For all military personnel, that they would be faithful in the conduct of their duties and kept safe as they do that 
Art: AERTSEN, Pieter  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1560)

 

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