Year C – Seventh Sunday in Easter – Psalm 97

Psalm 97 (NRSV)

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

Summary – Psalm 97 triumphantly declares God’s kingly reign over the whole earth, demonstrated in the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in bringing false religion to an end, providing justice and deliverance for God’s people, which results in their joy and gladness. The psalm divides itself into four portions, each containing three. The psalm is divided into four portions, each containing three verses. The reign of God and the coming of His kingdom in the earth is described (Ps 97:1-3); its effect upon the earth is declared (Ps 97:4-6); and then its influence upon the heathen and the people of God is illustrated (Ps 97:7-9). The last part urges us to holiness, gladness, and thanksgiving (Ps 97:10-12).

 

Insight – Verse 2 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” What is righteousness, and what is justice? When the Bible talks about God’s righteousness it refers to God’s goodness and moral perfection. God is the source of all good, and there is no evil or wrong doing in Him. All that He does, and all that He is, is good. Righteousness also means that God is faithful. That means that God keeps His promises. He always tells the truth, and He does what He says He will do, and He means what He says and says what He means. So righteousness means God is good, and he always tells the truth. Justice is very similar to righteousness. Righteousness refers to who God is in Heaven, and Justice is the outworking of God’s righteousness on earth. God judges our thoughts, words, and actions based upon His own perfection. God is fair.

The problem for us is that we are sinners, and we have told lies, and we have done wrong. So if God is going to judge us according to His righteousness, and if we are to get justice, then that means we will all be punished, because none of us are perfect.

But God provided a substitute for us, Jesus Christ, to stand in our place. Instead of God judging all of us, He judges one person for us all. We all deserve to be punished, but because God is fair, God has to punish someone. And Because God is merciful, He punished Jesus instead of us. Because Jesus took our punishment, our punishment is now gone! And Because He lives forever, we will live forever too. We can see that the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice, and that is because Jesus Christ Himself is the righteous one who satisfies God’s justice.  Praise God for His amazing grace and mercy for providing a way for sinners to to be right with Him.

Catechism – What is the foundation of God’s throne? Righteousness and justice.

Discussion – Discuss further how Jesus satisfied God’s demand for justice. Discuss how God’s goodness and truthfulness (righteousness) are important to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer – O Holy, Righteous Judge of all the earth, You have created the world in order that you might save it. You have demonstrated your love to us by sending forth Your Son Jesus to be our Savior. Please grant us Your Holy Spirit, that we would trust in Jesus and in Your promises, which You have made to us in Your Holy Word, that we would rejoice and be glad at your righteousness and justice, and thus be saved. In Jesus name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – Seventh Sunday after Easter – Revelation 22:12–14, 16–17, 20–21

Rev 22:12–14, 16–17, 20–21 NRSV – 12  “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 16 “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.  20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.”

Summary – Once again we are reminded twice here (v 12, 20) of the imminent (near in time) promise of the “coming” of Jesus. I believe this is the judgment promised in the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD, Mt. 23:37ff) and other cataclysmic events that upset the world system of that day. These included the fall of the Julio-Claudian line of emperors of Rome & the civil war after Nero’s death about 68 AD. Yet the promise of the new creation and the new Bride extend from that time forward until the final Resurrection (including our time). The promise is that those who have cleansed robes (in Christ) can enter this Garden-City by the gates which are set in the foundation of the Apostles (doctrine, 21:14). There is also a plea to enter: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift…” So the call is to enter into this New Jerusalem coming from heaven, to be renewed in this new creation (2Co. 5:17) and to be part of this glorious Bride, the wife of the Lamb.

Insight – Either “in or out” – “with us or against us” – “fish or cut bait.” Once you read through the stark and sometimes frightening contrasts in Revelation it seems that there is no middle ground. You are part of those to be destroyed or those saved, following the Beast or the Lamb, you have number of the beast or not, an overcomer or an idolater, following the Harlot or part of the Bride, part of the new city or the world that is being destroyed. But do not lose the final message – let everyone who is thirsty come. It’s not too late. If you want to have this salvation provided by the slain Lamb of God who is a descendant of David, the morning star – just come. Like the old gospel song, Just as I am and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark spot, to Thee whose  blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come. Have you come to the Lamb of God by placing your trust in Him since He was slain on the cross and provides cleansing from all your sin?

Catechism – Who should come to Jesus? Everyone who is thirsty for the water of life.

Discussion – Why do you think the book ends with this call to come?

Prayer  – Mighty God,
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.
As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

GS

Year C – Third Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:1-9

Gospel LessonLuke 13:1-9 NRSV

“At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Summary – This passage has two parts, the first describes two historical events in which certain persons died, and the second is a parable that applies the meaning of those events to the current listeners. The first event tells of certain persons from Galilee who had been killed by Pontius Pilate, who then mingled their blood with the blood of the sacrifice in the Temple. The second event tells of the Tower of Siloam falling and killing eighteen people in Jerusalem. The second part of the passage is a parable about a fig tree that bears no fruit. The man who owned it has been looking for fruit for three years and has found none. He is about to cut it down. The fig tree in the parable is Israel, and the man looking for three years for fruit is Jesus. He has found none. Therefore, unless Israel repents, then judgment will come upon them, just as judgment came upon the people in the first two events.

Insight – Some people think that they can live as they please right now, and then, right before they die, they can repent and believe, and be forgiven. The reality though is that we never know when we are going to die. While we might think we have 80 years to live, the truth could be that we die in a car accident tomorrow. Or a tower might fall on us, or we might die in our sleep. We never know. The lesson we are to learn from bad things happening to others, like a tower falling on them, is that these things could just as easily happen to us. That means we are to repent of our sins now, for we never know what could happen to us, and when. Those people who died are not worse sinners than we are, are they? Did they deserve to die anymore than you or I do right now? Jesus didn’t think so. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” This Lenten season, we should be continually repenting and remember those ashes that were placed upon our foreheads, remembering that our life is but dust, and to the dust we shall return. Therefore repent, brothers and sisters, and flee to Jesus. Then bear fruit in keeping with your repentance (Luke 3:9-14).

 Catechism – Are those who suffer untimely death worse sinners than others? No. But unless we repent, we will all perish just as they did.

Discussion – What is repentance? How do we know we truly repent? What happens if we do not repent?

Prayer – Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those O God who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent, according Your promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And Grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; To the glory of Your Holy Name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael J. Shover

Year C – First Sunday of Advent – Luke 21:25-36

Luke 21:25–36 NRSV – “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Summary – This passage is part of the Olivet Discourse,  a talk Jesus gave to a few of his disciples after leaving the temple in Jerusalem. He explains about the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple and his coming in judgment. The time-frame of when these things will happen is stated, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.” So there is a clear indication this was to be fulfilled in the first century in a complex of events which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. However, even if this was the primary fulfillment, the emphasis here is on the calamity and judgment that will befall those not “on guard” or who do not “stay alert.”  When judgment comes there’s no time (Lk. 17:31) to go take care of your family. So “Be on guard” and don’t let “that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap” . . . Be alert at all times.” The result is that we must be able “to stand before the Son of Man.”

Insight – Have you been surprised by anyone recently? A few years ago I arranged for longtime friends to surprise my wife at our door. So she answered the door and was completely surprised at seeing her good friends. This was a “good surprise.” But how about a bad surprise, like when someone tries to play a prank and scares you, maybe by hiding in a closet and jumping out to frighten you.  Sometimes calamities befall us and we get terribly bad news about a friend or relative. Jesus warned the disciples that a judgment was coming and it surely came for Jerusalem. While we may not be facing such a judgment in history, such as the fall of a nation or a sudden destruction (although that could be in our future), the principle of always being ready and being alert spiritually always applies. We need to confess our sins and walk in love. We need to put away bitterness and love others. We always need to have our house in order spiritually and relationally so that we could joyfully meet our Lord Jesus at any time. Jesus may not be coming soon but you may soon go to him.

Catechism – Why should we be alert at all times? We should always be ready to meet Jesus.

Discussion – If you knew your world would end today at 6 pm, what would you want to do before then?

Prayer  – O Lord we confess that you are our almighty and righteous Judge and we plead for your mercy in our lives as we are also merciful to others. Grant that we may always be prepared to meet you, clothed in the grace and righteousness of Jesus Christ our Savior. We thank you for this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Year B – Proper 28 – Mark 13:1-8

Mark 13:1–8 NRSV – “As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”

Summary – This is the beginning of a passage known as the Olivet Discourse. The focus of this text is the destruction of the  Temple, “what large stones and what large buildings.” Jesus explains that, “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” Jesus explains the signs of when this will come to pass. There will be false leaders coming in Christ’s name, wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, earthquakes, and famines. This the beginning of the birthpangs.

Insight – Many have thought this passage is about the “end” of the world, rather than the “end” of the old order of the Jewish Temple-system. While it is true that Christ will come at the end of history to judge the living and the dead (John 5:28-29), I am persuaded this passage is  about the end of the old covenant age which concluded with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. This discussion begins with the Temple. Jesus says the stones of the first century Temple will be torn down. That happened in 70 AD. Also this is referring to only one area, Jerusalem in Judea. In vs 14 He says, “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.” But most importantly He practically dates the fulfillment to the first century when He says in Mark 13:30 “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” “This generation” simply refers to those who were living at the time Christ spoke these words. Since the Temple was destroyed during that very generation, we should see this text as a great proof that Jesus keeps His word.

Catechism – What did Jesus predict would happen within a generation? The temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed.

Discussion – Why would God allow the Temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed by the Roman General Titus?

Prayer – Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word and its truth. We thank you that you sent Jesus to be our savior and that His body is the true temple of God. What you have promised you will fulfill and we trust you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Year B – Trinity 2 – Mark 3:20-35

Mark 3:19–35 NRSV –   3:20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 3:21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 3:22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 3:23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 3:24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 3:25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 3:26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 3:27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. 3:28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 3:29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 3:30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” 3:31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 3:32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 3:33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 3:34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 3:35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Summary  –  In this passage of Mark we have the teaching of Christ’s new authority as a new Adam in the world (casting out Satan).  This set in the midst of an encounter with Jesus’s own biological family (his mother and half-brothers and half-sisters). They were trying to keep Jesus from embarrassment or themselves from shame. “For people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.'” The Scribes said He had a demon. It is in just this setting that we have a one of the strongest statements of Jesus’s authority to bind Satan and take the rightful place of the True Ruler of the World. Christ reigns and those who do the will of God are His brothers and sisters and mother.

Insight – In this season of  Pentecost the Gospel texts show our empowerment to accomplish God’s will in the world. In the previous Gospel readings of John 16 and John 17 Christ promised and delivered judgment on the former “Ruler of this World.” Satan had authority in the world prior to Christ. His authority came through deception and lies at the Fall of Adam and Even (Gen. 3). He was legally in a place in which He had authority since Adam yielded authority and power to Satan. As Mark 3:27 makes clear Christ came to “tie up” or “bind” the Strong Man, Satan so that “the house can be plundered” (v27). See also Hebrews 2:14-15 – He rendered “powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” and Colossians 2:15,  “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” Because of this we have the authority in Him to accomplish the mission God has given us in the world. We must believe that  Christ has now “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:19) and no demonic or Satanic force has authority. Though Satanic forces have some power through temptation, they have no  rightful authority.

Catechism – Who are the brothers, sisters and mothers of Christ? Those who do the will of God.

Discussion – How much authority does the devil have in the world today? How much power does the devil have in the world?

Prayer – Almighty Father of our Lord Jesus, you sent Christ into the world that the world might be saved through Him. Through His sinless life and death for sins, you provided an atonement for all the fallen race of Adam and through His resurrection and glorious ascension you placed Jesus as the supreme Lord and King of all heaven and earth. Grant that we may trust Him and not give power to the defeated dark forces in the world by our unbelief. In the name of the only King, Jesus. Amen.

 

 

Year B – Easter 7 – Psalm 1

Psalm 1:  Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.  In all that they do, they prosper. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.  (NRSV)

Summary:   There is a lot of advice floating around in the world.  There are self-help sections in bookstores and libraries; entire magazines devoted to telling you one hundred and one ways to do this or that; and then, if all else fails, you can just “research” it on the internet.  Of course, not all of this advice can be trusted.  Psalm 1 presents us with two fundamental options for life:  we either ground ourselves upon the law of the Lord or we don’t.  For when we do, we are better equipped at judging those other various advice and paths in this life.  Not only that, but our lives will have stability and worth as the Lord watches over us.  But in sharp contrast, for those who do not listen to God; they are like chaff blown in the wind and perish under judgment.

Insight:  The stability and success of our lives is measured a bit differently then we might suppose.  But Psalm 1 makes two general points about measuring life:  First, God’s advice is the only life-giving approach to life.  The Apostle John is even more explicit in this week’s epistle reading:  “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 Jn. 5:12).  In other words, we are either dead or alive; grounded upon the Creator and his guidance or left suppressing his existence, and so, making up self-serving advice as we go along.  That is no way to be stable.  Second, only true happiness and joy are found in him.  In fact, it is Christ’s own joy in us.  Listen to his prayer to the Father:  “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves” (Jn. 17:13).  God himself lived among humanity and shared true life and true joy with us; that is something to meditate upon day and night.

Child Catechism:  Where is wisdom found?  In the only Creator of the universe, who spoke by the prophets and by his Son; and has given us guidance by his Spirit’s written Word.

Discussion:  Psalm 1 says that God’s law combats bad advice, what would be an example of bad advice?   Can even sinful people often good advice?  Consider what James says about doubt and instability in his epistle (cf.  1:5-11), what was his answer towards doubt?  How does prayer strengthen our devotion and understanding of God and his word?

Father,  May Christ’s joy and wisdom enter our hearts and minds,  that those of who doubt may ask in only faith,  that we might speak truly and loving to the unstable world,  in the power of your life-giving Spirit and Son, you lives and reigns with you, Amen.

 

Contributed by:  M.  West

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 – Transfiguration – Psalm 50:1-6

A Psalm of Asaph.  The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.  Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.  Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.  He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”  The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge.  Selah.

Summary – This passage shows an instance of God’s “coming” to judge His people.  “God the Lord,” or the “God of Gods,” shining forth from Jerusalem, calls a court session with the earth and heavens as His witness in which He indicts His covenant people, Israel, with whom He is present (vs 2).  These were people who had cut a covenant with God (vs 5).  Because of His nature as just, God is a righteous judge of His people (vs 6).  Beyond this passage, the charge laid is sacrifices enacted by His people with an insincerity of heart, and accompanied by lawlessness (vss. 16-22).  Though the psalm as a whole is directed to Israel, it looks ahead to the coming of Christ who in His calling of all nations to Himself “shines forth from Zion” as the Light of the World.  His people are those who will enter covenant with Him and bring sacrifices of thanksgiving to Him (vs 23, cf. Romans 12:1).  In this passage, God’s attributes of might, creational authority, light, covenant faithfulness, righteousness, and justice are especially highlighted.

“Before the coming of Christ, the Flesh and Blood of this sacrifice [that of Ps 50:23] is promised by victims offered as likenesses thereto; in the Passion of Christ it is rendered in very truth; after Christ’s Ascension it is celebrated by sacramental memorial.”  –St. Augustine

 Insight – It is almost two months now since Christmas.  Do you remember any of the gifts you got?  Were you thankful for that gift?  By now, the excitement of opening that present has probably worn off, and you may not have looked at it in a little while.  Very often, we forget the good things we are given.  The Israelites had this very same problem: they forgot to be thankful to God for His bringing them from Egypt to Canaan, and instead disobeyed God and offered sacrifices without being thankful to Him.  This was not pleasing to God and so in this Psalm, He is a righteous judge who calls on them to be faithful to Him and offer their sacrifice with thankfulness instead of forgetfulness.  God loves to save His people, but He also wants them to remember it and glorify Him!  Do you do anything just because that is what you always do?  Do you go to church just because?  Do you eat and drink at the Lord’s Table just because?  Next time you come to the Lord’s Table, remember that God has blessed you in Jesus Christ, and be thankful that Jesus the Light has come into the world!

 Child Catechism – Who is the righteous judge?  God the Lord.

Discussion – Why do you think God calls on the earth and heavens to witness His judgment of His people Israel in this passage?  Since He has the authority to do this, what does that tell us about Him?  How could that affect our view of Him as a judge?

Prayer – God, our Lord and our Righteous Judge, thank you that you did not keep silent, but sent your Son Jesus to be our Light.  We know that you can see our hearts and we ask that you give us the strength to remember your faithfulness and be thankful.  Keep us steadfast in your covenant and grant us finally your Salvation.  Amen.

-JHerr