Year A – Lent 4 – Psalm 23

Psalms 23:0–6: Psalm of David. 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.  4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.  5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Summary – Psalm 23 is the beautiful poem which expresses the Shepherd/sheep relationship between the Lord and David. This is one of the most memorable parts of Scripture. It explains God’s care for us to lead us, to restore us, to be with us through the dark valley, to comfort/strengthen with rod and staff, to prepare a table, to anoint me, to cause goodness and mercy to follow me. When God looked on David’s heart, by His grace, David was the kind of believer that placed His trust in Yahweh as Shepherd of His people.

Insight – Psalm 23 is the best known Psalm in the world. It is a tremendous comfort. The first five words, like five smooth stones can bring down the giants of self-condemnation and lack of assurance.

The LORD is my shepherd. That is The one and only Almighty God is the One who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is not a vague deity. He is the Covenant Lord (Yahweh) of Israel, a covenant keeping God who has committed Himself to the salvation of His people.

The LORD is my shepherd. Now He IS and ever will be at any time I call upon Him, the only Covenant Lord who is my shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is certainly the Covenant Lord and Savior of His people and unlimited in His power to save, but I confess now that He is MY personal Shepherd who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. Not only is He the Almighty God and Savior, but He saves me not as a Tyrant, but as a loving Shepherd. So I can claim boldly, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

Children’s Catechism – Who is the Lord? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – Have you learned Psalm 23 by heart? If not can you at least learn the first five words? Which one of these words is most important for you?

Prayer – 
Through Christ you make us a new creation, O God, 
for with Him we pass from sin to the new life of grace.
 Accept our prayers in the warm embrace of your compassion,
and welcome all people to the festive banquet of your table,
 where we may rejoice in your love and celebrate the inheritance you have given to us. 
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Year B – Easter 4 – Psalm 23

Psalm 23:  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3he restores my soul.  He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.  (NRSV)

Summary:  Despite its lack of cultural relevance, our thoughts of a what a shepherd is, remains a powerful and moving metaphor; Especially when we consider how such imagery informs the Lord’s devoted interaction and guidance within our individual lives.  Throughout history, readers have found this psalm particularly comforting and deeply personal.  God’s care and leading are intimately felt by David’s firsthand experience and poetic imagery.  Thankfully we have a share in David’s voice:  even in the darkest valley, our Divine Shepherd is leading you and me.

Insight:  Biblically, shepherding is a leadership trait that describes even ungodly leaders.  Naturally, such bad leaders were called ‘bad’ shepherds, and they were one of the most damaging and reoccurring threats to the flock of Israel (Jeremiah 23).  However, God was never unsympathetic to such leadership problems; he promised one day to shepherd his people himself (Ezekiel 34).  So when Jesus came onto the scene proclaiming he was the ‘good’ shepherd (Jn 10:14), he was more than just speak of his tender care and pastoral heart,[1] he was claiming to be David’s divine shepherd of Psalm 23.  In fact, “no human king of Israel was ever given the title [of shepherd].”[2]  But now, we have the privilege and responsibility to serve the Shepherd King of Israel.

Likewise, the image of Christ as a shepherd should instill in us a picture of great dignity as well as unsurpassable tenderness.  In Psalm 23, David expresses them both.  He was a man striving to live in that appropriate fear and adoration of Lord.  As we serve the risen and reigning Christ, we must impress upon ourselves the same:  we too have nothing to fear, with no wants, and only the shepherd’s leading:  Surely, goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives!

Child Catechism:  How is God a shepherd?  God rules the universe with a shepherd’s caring and tender guidance, deserving for his name’s sake, all creation’s love and respect.

Discussion:  In the Near East, shepherding was a regal image as well as a commonplace profession; what modern everyday occupations might you use to describe God’s guidance?  How does C.S. Lewis’ Aslan help depict the appropriate fear and adoration of who God is?

Prayer – Father, we thank for your shepherd-like leading and provision in our lives, Grant us the grace to follow the one and only Shepherd King:  Christ Jesus;  And it is in his Name and the blessed unity of his Spirit that we pray.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West


[1] Peter C. Craigie.  Ezekiel.  (Philadelphia:  Westminster, 1983):  243.

[2] Timothy S. Laniak.  Shepherds After My Own Heart:  Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible.  (Downers Grove:  InterVarsity, 2006):  249.

Year B – Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5-11

“5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Summary – Last week we read where Jesus, Glorified by God alone to the office of the Eternal High Priest and was the only begotten Son of the Father offered up prayers to the only One who could save Him from Death. We are called to have the same mind wherein Jesus was heard because of his respectful submission as in one believing, trusting even worshiping the Father. Even though He was a Son, he learned obedience through what He suffered. Thus, being made perfect we too are called to have the same mind set.

Insight – We should practice the same mind of Christ Jesus, “who .  .  .  .  emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” We too should empty and humble ourselves and become obedient to God and His truth even to the point of death. Our level of commitment and benevolence should be such as we are to be total servants of the most high God putting off “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:17-24, NASB)

Childs Catechism – Should we be committed to serve like Jesus in every area of our lives? Yes, we should be committed to serve like Jesus in every area of our lives.

Discussion – What does it mean to be committed even to the point of death? Did Jesus have to do that?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and heavenly Father, bless us O God, bless us O Lord, protect us and give us strength to be the servants You have called us to be. Prepare us O God for such servant-hood and forgive us when we fail in our commitments to You in our everyday lives serving others. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Fifth Sunday in Lent – Hebrews 5:5-10

“5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” 7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Summary – Jesus, Glorified by God alone to the office of the Eternal High Priest begotten of the Father offered up prayers to the only one who could save Him from Death; Jesus was heard because of his Reverent submission. Even though a Son, he learned obedience through what He suffered. Thus, being made perfect Jesus is the only source of our salvation.

Insight – Jesus did not assume the glory of the priestly office for Himself but rather was called of God (John 8:54). That is, the Father glorified and appointed Him to the priesthood. This appointment was the result of the Sonship of Christ which qualified Him for the office. Only the divine Son could have fulfilled such an office.  Jesus did not represent Himself to be the Son of God, but was from everlasting [in eternity] the only-begotten son of God.  He is a Priest absolutely because He stands alone in that character without an equal.  He was always obedient to the Father’s will but the special obedience needed to qualify Him as our High Priest He learned through suffering. He was High Priest already in the purpose and eyes of God before His crucifixion, but after it, by it, He was made perfect.

Childs Catechism – Is Jesus the perfect son of God the only source of our salvation? Yes, Jesus is the perfect son of God and the only source of our salvation, and He says: “anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24, NSAB)

Discussion – What qualified Jesus to be the High Priest forever? If God could save Him from death why did He have to die?

Prayer – Lord God and heavenly Father, our ways are not Your ways nor our thoughts. Help us O God, Help us O Lord to think of one another as Christ thought of us giving Himself on the cross that we might live. We thank you Lord for all you have done, You alone are God and the great High Priest and we worship You alone with great thanksgiving and we do so in your name Jesus, Amen.

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

Year B Fourth Sunday of Lent Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 “1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. . . . . 17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; 18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; 20 he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. 21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.”

Summary – The psalmist in verses 1 – 3 gives thanks for God’s steadfast love on behalf of those the “redeemed of the LORD”. He praises God alone for His deliverance and for the children of the covenant. The psalmist in verses 17 – 22 speaks to those in rebellion, those whose sickness of sin resulted in their being led into exile. However, after their crying out in their time of need and desperation, God once again delivered them by his Word.

Insight – The psalmist began by giving thanks in his ongoing experience of God’s steadfast love with a sense of in-depth spiritual understanding of how the Lord has worked on behalf of those the “redeemed of the LORD”; the groups of which referred to here were those gathered out of the lands who had been dispersed throughout the Babylonian empire and re-gathered. In part he was referring to those brought through the Red Sea (Psa. 114:3), which was to the south. For us looking retrospectively and also into the future regarding believers in Christ that did and will follow; we can know who will experience God’s deliverance as all the children of the Covenant will be saved. The psalmist in verses 17-22 speaks to those in rebellion; their sickness of sin resulted in their being led into exile. It also led to human or physical sickness. This does not refer to the ignorant only, but more at those willfully given to doing evil and acting in violation of God’s ways (Psa. 14:1). They were afflicted, even tormented with disease. However, crying out in their need, God once again delivers them by his Word allowing those who were sick to participate in the cultic festivities of thankful praise. We too can count on being delivered from our circumstances and sickness due to our own sinful passions. ““Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”” (Romans 10:13, NSRV)

Childs Catechism – If we confess our sins and repent will God restore us who call out to Him alone? Yes, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Discussion – What dose it mean to “call on the name of the Lord”? Can we too rejoice with the psalmist?

Prayer – O Lord O God, please forgive us and open our eyes to our sins, remind us that as we sin against others and ourselves we also sin against You. Help us to see into Your ways for our lives and behaviors thus revealing our evil hearts filled with evil human worldly passions. Forgive us and teach us in Jesus name, Amen.

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Lent 1 – Genesis 9:8-17

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.””

Summary – In Verse 8 & 9 God, speaking to Noah and his son’s states, “I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you.” God’s promise would extend beyond this generation. God also says He will never destroy man or animals again by a flood nor shall the earth cease to exist as a result of the flood. The “sign,” the rainbow, when seen on the face of the clouds is brought about by God and God says when He sees the sign He “will remember My [His] covenant that is between you and Me [God].” God says “I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between” [Himself] “and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Insight – In God’s economy all legal agreements require a sign or a seal as a reminder of the terms of the covenant. The sign of the rainbow is comparable to the witness in later covenants. When God says in verse 13 “I have set my bow in the clouds,” this can mean to “give.” This common phenomenon of the rainbow became a pledge of peace. Its appearance when showers began to fall would be joyfully welcomed. The “bow” is the same word as the weapon that shoots arrows. Often rain and lightning are referred to in Hebrew as God’s arrows (Deut. 31:28; Psa. 18:14; Hab. 3:11). God’s bow now turned the other way (inverted as in the shape of a rainbow), perhaps shows His willingness to receive repentant sinners in the absence of His wrath and to also demonstrate His sovereign will, power and love to His elect. He does this ultimately through the the blood of the new covenant in the crucifixion & resurrection of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ which we receive through faith.

Child Catechism – What does a rainbow in the clouds remind us of? The rainbow in the clouds reminds that God will keep always His Covenant Promises.

Discussion – How does God keep His Covenant with us today for our eternal salvation? What is our part if any in order to keep God’s Covenant?

Prayer – Lord God and Heavenly Father, thank you God for Your promises that You have kept and will always keep as we trust You alone through Jesus alone through faith alone this day and every day. We praise You joyfully and ask that You give us the perseverance to press on even though the times in which we live may be difficult. We both thank You and praise You in Jesus name alone, Amen.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Transfiguration Sunday – 2 Kings 2:1-12

“1Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”4Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”6Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. 9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.”

Summary – Elijah, knowing that he was about to be taken up by God and prompted by the Holy Spirit goes on a journey. He is depicted here as wanting to go off to a quiet place and he is accompanied by his understudy Elisha. He does however ask Elisha if he realizes that his master is about to be taken up. Elisha acknowledges but makes it clear that his loyalty to Elijah will supersede Elijah’s request for him to stay behind and so they press on together passing through the region served. In addition, fifty other men “of the company of prophets” also follow but at a distance as though curious but still showing respect. Elijah when arriving to the Jordan in similar fashion as Moses by the Spirit parts the water and they cross together on dry ground. Elijah asks Elisha if he has a parting request from his master. Elisha’s request is for a “double share of your spirit.” Elijah assures him that if it is to come to fruition it will be of God not him and then states: “yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” They are then separated by the horses and Chariot of fire and Elijah departs to the heavens in a miraculous whirl wind. Elisha then rends his clothes as an expression outwardly of his grief and loss inwardly.

Insight – The miraculous event had been made known to the prophet Elijah. However, unknown to him, it had also been revealed to his disciples and to Elisha who in particular was determined to remain by his side until Elijah’s final departure. Gilgal was near Ebal and Gerizim; a school of the prophets was established there. At Beth-el there was also a school of the prophets, which Elijah had founded. In travelling to these places inspired by the Holy Spirit Elijah would pay a farewell to those institutions. They were also on the way to the place of his ascension. At the same time and from a feeling of humility and modesty Elijah was, wanting to be where there would be no eye-witnesses of his glorification. However, all his efforts to have Elisha remain behind were fruitless. Elisha knew that the time was at hand and at every place the sons of the prophets spoke to him of the approaching removal of his master. Their last stage on the journey was at the Jordan where they were followed by fifty scholars/students who sought to witness the miraculous translation of the prophet. The revelation of this striking event to so many was a necessary part of what would be visible historical proof of the continuation of promised supernatural events that would take place in the fulfillment of the covenant promises and a type of the resurrection of Christ the perfect and final fulfillment of God’s promise to His covenant people for their salvation eternal by grace alone through faith alone and as we hear and read by the Word alone.

Childs Catechism – What promises can we know and trust God for? We can know and trust God for all His promises.

Discussion – How did God translate or change Elijah? Why did God translate Elijah to depart this realm without seeing death?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and heavenly Father, thank you Lord for your Word which teaches; gives demonstration and proof of Your miraculous supernatural intervention in Your creation and our lives as we both retrospectively witness with trust and faith the fulfillment of your promised Messiah and the inward testimony we have today by the indwelling of Your Holy Spirits as we now through Christ are temples of You O God, and “the temple of God is Holy,” and that is what we are by grace alone through faith alone according to Your Word alone, O God, AMEN.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Epiphany 6 – Psalm 30

“30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. 30:2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 30:3 O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. 30:4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.  30:5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.  30:6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 30:7 By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 30:8 To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication: 30:9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 30:10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!” 30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 30:12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.”

Summary – The psalmist gives praise and thanks for his deliverance from his foes. The psalmist cries out to God for his rescue even from death and he gives and sings praises to God for the same. God is Holy and rescues His faithful ones and the psalmist understanding this acknowledges that weeping as a result of ones sin is a painful reality for the truly repentant but joy come’s to God’s people who cry out to Him in repentance as they are eternally loved and forgiven. While the psalmist experienced a time of suffering God heard His cries and delivered him turning his mourning into dancing! The psalmist reflects and with great joy in his very soul he praises God alone and declares to give God thanks forever!!

Insight – The psalmist speaks of his deliverance as being drawn up as if from a well or pit referring to deliverance from the depths of death (30:3). Throughout Scripture and seen especially in the healing and miracles performed by Jesus God is seen as the great temporal and eternal healer. In referring to “Sheol” the dwelling-place of the dead, “you brought up my soul from Sheol,” the psalmist reveals that the sickness had brought him to the brink of death (Psa. 28:1). He then invites the community of Saints, those who have experienced the covenantal loving-kindness of God to join him in praising the Lord. Interesting note: because of God’s character, anger is a necessary response to sin, but His anger redemptively gives way to the expression of His steadfast eternal love. In other words He does sometimes correct us but when convicted we weep in response because 1. It’s an appropriate response to God’s corrective love and 2. In our heart-felt tears of sorrow for our sins we demonstrate true repentance. Thus, joy is the response to experiencing God’s forgiving love. An important note to consider: When prosperity (wealth) had been the psalmist’s lot his confidence in himself was unshakable (Deut. 8:11ff.). However, with the withdrawal of God’s approval the psalmist’s whole world came crashing down. Our appeal for mercy then must also be based on putting off all self-praise. All of our gifts and abilities, all of our talent and the riches we can earn and store with the work of our hands was and is all from God. He made us, He gifted us, He provided for us and the praise then should be from the deepest part of our soul in response and with praise and thanksgiving for God’s deliverance and provision.

Childs Catechism – When we do well and receive many blessings who shall we thank? We shall thank God because he loves us and gives us everything we need.

Discussion – Why does God get angry? What shall we do when we receive God’s loving correction? How does God correct us? Why is it important for us to hear God’s Word daily?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and Heavenly Father, may we always hear Your loving voice through Your written Word. And as we remember things we should never have done, please O God forgive us and be gentle when You correct us that we perish not but rather that we may all be healed by You, that we may serve only You to Your Glory and in Your Power and to Your praise, serving You alone for ever and ever in Jesus name, Amen.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA

 

Year B – Epiphany 3 – My Song of Love Unknown

My Song is Love Unknown

It is always exciting to sing songs that have been enjoyed by Christians over centuries.  This beautiful example is over three hundred years old!  It comes from England, from the pen of an Anglican minister who ministered for a time at All Saints’ Church (!) in Sudbury.  The beauty of the hymn’s words is in its poetic descriptions of our Lord compared to us.  The focus is on the way in which our natures are “unloveable” because of sin and yet our Savior’s love for us despite this fact.

The first verse explains the goal of Christ’s work:  “love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.”  We were at one time separate from Christ, without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12).  Now as we present our bodies as living sacrifices, we become holy and pleasing to God and, indeed, lovely (Romans 12:1).  The verse also asks the question: who are we that Jesus should take for our sake “frail flesh and die”?  It is certainly not for anything we have done, or He would not have done so!

Some of the other  major points and themes of the song are great examples of poetry about an aspect of Christ’s passion.  “Sometimes they strew His way” begins verse 3, alluding to the triumphal entry found in Matthew 21, “then ‘Crucify!’ is all their breath, and for His death they thirst and cry” (verse 3).  In context of Christ’s great love for the loveless, this story of His work for us is all the more striking: humankind, and here the Jews in particular, made His decision to be obedient to death (Phil 2:8) a difficult one!  Jerusalem’s people’s hypocritical actions in praising Jesus one moment and cursing and calling for His death the next shows just how “loveless” humanity is.  Verse 4 makes this point further, that He who “made the lame to run” and “gave the blind their sight” was still offensive to men.  He who truly did no wrong and knew no sin, was made to be sin for us, His people (2 Cor 5:21).

Verses 5 and 6 give us more to think about.  Pointing at those same people who crucified Christ, verse 5 says, “A murderer they save, the Prince of Life they slay,” in allusion to the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus in Matthew 27.  This would be another point where Jesus could have said, “These people are ridiculous, I’m done with this;” and yet as we sing, He went cheerfully “to suffering…that He His foes from thence might free” (verse 5). Again with verse 6, we see Jesus who had no earthly home nor even His own tomb to be buried in “but what a stranger gave” (verse 6).  And all that even though “heav’n was His home” and “the tomb” really belonged to us, He took the trade and was laid in the tomb that should have been ours.

This is why we sing: “No story so divine!  Never was love, dear King, never was grief like Thine” (verse 7).  This is our Friend, He who bore all these things for our sake, and whose love we could write across the sky and still not have room to write it all.  This is a great reason to sing loudly this Lord’s Day!