Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we join our hearts in that great prayer for the Word within which Your people pray that they may: read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the holy truths of the Bible. May we never again overlook or pass by the comfort each Word of truth contains and brings to our troubled hearts. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE WORD MADE FLESH IN ORDER TO COMFORT AND SAVE OUR SOULS!
TEXT: Isaiah 9: 1-4
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
One of my fellow pastors in the Wisconsin Synod with whom I attended college has this wonderful website title for his congregation: peacewithGod. Now most of us use our church name to identify us on the web.—Much like our pinewoodlutheran.com, or kingofgrace.org. But that pastor’s designation of: peacewithGod is really, really good, isn’t it? For it aptly describes exactly what his church preaches, teaches, and stands for. I applaud his insight.
One of the great truisms of life that you learn at a very early age is that “nothing in life is free.” You end up paying for everything—even gifts. You disagree? Well, hasn’t someone given you a gift and then later on expected something, perhaps a favor, in return? Don’t you expect others to speak nicely of you or promptly return your calls after you’ve gone out of your way to help them? And if they don’t, aren’t you sometimes emotionally “cool” with them and make your displeasure known? Yes, nothing in life is free—except, except Christ’s gift of eternal peace with God. That is the one and only instance in life where Someone gives a precious gift to us with absolutely no strings attached.
When I was a little boy we didn’t have malls. In fact, in my little town we didn’t have too many stores, either. But what we did have was the Montgomery Ward catalogue. It was chocked full of anything and everything. Sears Roebuck and J. C. Penny’s had similar treasure books.—I call them that because they were about 3 inches thick! Come Christmas time I would take out the special Christmas toy edition of the Monkey Ward’s catalogue and develop my own little wish list. I seldom, if ever, got any of the items. But, it didn’t matter. It made cold nights pass quickly and sparked imaginary journeys to imaginary places. It was window shopping at home.
Very few people use their bibles as catalogues. But, in fact, they are just that! They are catalogues of God’s riches and blessings and gifts beyond all compare. Take today’s lesson from Isaiah 9: 1-4. It’s a very descriptive section outlining God’s gifts to us in Christ. But, because it uses some ancient historical references to describe those gifts, most just give it a glance and pass right on by. We fail to take the time to “inwardly digest it” and thus go hungry.
When the children of Israel settled the promised land around 1350 BC, the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali were given a couple of northern frontier sections around the sea of Galilee. Because they were frontier states which bordered heathen lands, they interacted a lot with those heathen people. Over time such ungodly influences pulled them away from truly honoring the Trinity. They became lethargic in their faith, much like most of America today. And so, stripped of their moral and spiritual strength, they became easy conduits for invading armies to attack the entire holy land. They had been the first line of defense and now inward corruption made them easily crumble when faced with tough times.
But, here Isaiah lays out an amazing prophecy: “In the past he (God) humbled the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Couple that statement with Jesus directly applying it to Himself in today’s Gospel from Matthew 4, and you clearly see the rich meaning. Christ came from Galilee. Christ is the light of the world. He came to dispel the terror of death with the light of His love and His gift of eternal life. Moreover, since He was God’s Son and is all-powerful, His work was totally pure, perfect, complete, and holy. And He did it for people who could never, ever, claim they deserved it. He did it for sinners like us who had turned their backs to Him.
The result of Jesus coming to earth and dying for lost sinners is now amplified: “You (Christ) have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.”
When we live apart from knowing God and having faith in His Son it’s as if we’re groping along in total darkness—tripping and stumbling at almost every turn. How wonderful to have light appear! How wonderful it is to have light illumine our steps! Suddenly we know where we’re going and we can see the pathway! Well, this was and is Christ’s work when it comes to our lives today. By enlarging the nation of believers we have safety in numbers and we can comfort and help each other even more. By having all fear, including the fear of death dispelled via the resurrection, our hearts rejoice because just as in ancient harvest times we know death by spiritual hunger will not stalk us. Just as conquering armies were made rich via plundering their enemies, so Christ has plundered Satan and divided the fruits of His victory with us—peace with God, freedom from guilt and slavery to sin, and the certain knowledge of an eternal life with Him. Midian was an ancient enemy of Israel. Their raids were bloody and awful. When they were finally defeated, everyone gave a huge sigh of relief. Well, just as a heavy oaken yoke weighed down plowing oxen, so the weight of internal guilt weighs down every human. But now, in Christ, the weight has been forever removed from us by Christ. That weight of sin was carried to the cross by Him and removed when He offered up Himself as a sacrifice to God in our place. The rod of regret, the heavy bar of shame over our selfish attitudes—all that is gone forever! Taken away by Christ, the Lamb of God. And so now, peace with God reigns within us!
PEACE WITH GOD IS CHRIST’S GIFT TO YOU! It costs you nothing. It cost Him everything. It comes with no strings attached. You’re totally free to do with it as you wish. However, please, please do not be foolish! Don’t take it for granted. Don’t throw it away. For if you do, you’ll never, ever, get to enjoy it. Amen