Tuesday, November 25, 2014

“God Prepares” (Zephaniah 1:7-8)

S-1455 23SAP/3A 11/16/2014 Hymns: (O) #459 (S) #307; (C) #53

Texts: Zephaniah 1: 7-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Theme: “God Prepares” (Zephaniah 1:7-8)

Question: “Are you prepared for Christ’s return?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for our meditation this morning is from the O.T. Lesson: Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated His guests. And on the day of the Lord’s sacrifice—‘I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire’” (Zephaniah 1:7-8).

Beloved in the Lord, last Tuesday (11/11/14) we observed and celebrated Veterans Day. However, many people don’t think of or appreciate the sacrifice of our Veterans. They only think of the day as another day off from work. How tragic and how sad!

Because of these Veterans and the sacrifices they have procured—some even giving up their lives, you and I are able to enjoy freedom of religion, speech, travel and democracy. May we always honor and give thanks to the Lord for the sacrifice of these brave men and women and their families.

Listen to a story of one such Veteran—Robert O’Neil. Robert was part of Seal Team Six that was sent on a mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. On May 2, 2011 Seal Team Six landed in the compound that housed Osama in Pakistan. They went to work quickly and within 15 minutes Robert found himself standing within two feet from Osama. Having recognized him, he shot him 3 times before he collapsed to the floor and died.

I saw a special this past week on Fox News about the “Man who killed Osama Bin Laden.” What I appreciated about this humble man and his service to this great Nation, were these words: “The mission was not about me. It was about killing the one who has brought havoc to thousands who lost their lives and others whose lives were changed forever.” Robert went on to say: “…They (Seal Team Six) felt that the mission would be worth sacrificing their own lives. ‘We are going to die eventually, this is a good way to go and it’s worth it to kill him!’ He said they thought. ‘He's going to die with us!’ Think about it. These men were willing to sacrifice their lives for the success of the mission.

On a far grander scale, with these living, breathing, and active Words; the prophet Zephaniah tells us of the greatest mission the world has ever seen—to bring about the deliverance of God’s people from someone who is far worse than Osama Bin Laden—SIN and its consequences—death and hell. Our heavenly Father sends His Son, on a mission to be the Savior of mankind, and redeem us from God’s justice.

Through the inspired Word of this prophet of God, we are told that God Himself will prepare a sacrifice. He Himself will consecrate His people. He is the Agent behind the scene bringing about deliverance and redemption to those whose lives have been tormented and tortured by the devil and his cohorts ever since the fall of man. God promised our parents in the Garden of Eden (The first Gospel) these words: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, let it be known among us that it is not our service that causes Him to rejoice over us. It is not our self-denial that moves Him to delight in us and it is not our sacrifice that pleases God. If that was the case, we would do all of these things, but all of these activities are NOT the key to our salvation and redemption.

Listen to how David painted it for us: “For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

Again listen to the voice of God through the pen of David: “Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you I Am God, Your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before Me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are Mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me’” (Psalm 50:7-15). Here is the promise—God will deliver US.

Through all of this we see that it is God who prepares the sacrifice. We behold this so clearly in the story of God telling Abraham to take his son, his only son Isaac and sacrifice him. Along the way “…Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”(Genesis 22:7-8a). PAUSE.

Indeed God provides the sacrifice. We heard this clear teaching from Jesus’ own lips, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). And John the Baptizer points to this sacrifice with these words: The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

The sacrifice that God has prepared—is His—the Lamb that was slain on the Altar of the cross. This Lamb is the sacrifice for the sins of the world—and your sins. So that when the end of the world comes; and the judge eternal is seated on His throne you will not be damned, but delivered. You will not be sent to hell, but ushered into the glories of heaven. You will not taste death but live with Him forever and ever.

Oh, the blessings of this greatest sacrifice that has been prepared for us. In this place God offers this sacrifice to us at His table. This is His work and His gift to us. From the table of the Lord, we get to eat and drink for our benefits and the strengthening of our faith. From this sacrifice we receive grace and mercy that are eternal.

Our sermon hymn captures this thought well with these words: “Draw night and take the body of the Lord, and drink the holy blood for you out-poured. Offered was He for greatest and for least, Himself the Victim and Himself the Priest” (TLH 307 v1).

Indeed, here is the greatest sacrifice prepared by God for us sinners. This is the Lamb that was put to death on the cross for us. The Angel of death HAS passed us by! This is the victory that He prepared and won for us! And He covers us with the proper garments of His righteousness. May we continue to cherish this blessed sacrifice offered, prepared and given by God to us sinners today and always. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


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