Thursday, January 8, 2015

“In Humility Learning to Number Our Days!” (Luke 2:8-12)

S-1469 NE/3B 12/31/2014 Hymns: (O) #102; 97; 647; 92; (S) #109; (C) # 94

Texts: Psalm 90; Romans 13:8-14; Luke 18:1-8

Theme: “In Humility Learning to Number Our Days!” (Luke 2:8-12) 6th in sermon series on: “Humility in the Holy Land”

Question: “How much time do you have to live?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text for our New Year’s Eve is Psalm 90 whose author is Moses. During the sermon I recommend that you look at the text in your bulletin. Please notice that Moses through this Psalm helps us look both ways. Verses 1-11 calls upon us to look back at the gracious protection and providence of God. Then verses 12-17 ask us to look with hope and joy to what lies ahead—our guaranteed future.

Beloved in the Lord, we know that life is short and God calls us to make the best of it. We also know all too well the changes that take place in our lives. Some of the changes we welcome. Others we wince at. Some we look forward to. Others we lament. Some we rejoice at. Others we regret. As I was writing this message, my FB page beeped and I had a note (of a change) one of my classmates “Elizabeth” had gone to be with Lord (12/30). Certainly there are changes in our lives that remind us of the passing of time and how fragile life is and should be handled with care and love.

Moses, the man of God, helps us read this Psalm with comfort from sorrow, joy in sadness, and light in darkness. But He also helps us to look forward with hope—hope that is anchored in the work that the Lord has established and carried out.

The opening phrase sets the tone of the message of this inspired Word: Moses begins thus: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (v. 1). With these words, Moses says Look back. Look back at how long God has been around. Look back at the One who is not time-bound, nor time-limited. Look back and learn that God is not a recent invention—He has been around forever and will be around forever.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God” (v 2). Moses tells us God has been around before everything and anything that the human eye could see. He is steady, sturdy and strong. He is stronger and will last longer than any mountain or earth. Everything that we see, touch, hold and hold dear can easily be removed or lost. But not God! He has been here from the beginning and will be here until the end of time.

Because of these comforting words, we can by the Spirit’s power look back at our lives and know that He who is immovable and not time-bound is with us at all times. Though our lives change and will come to an end someday we ought in humility to learn to number our days and live as our lives matter. C.S. Lewis has a great quote: “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” This is not our permanent place—we are simply pilgrims passing through. As the hymn reminds us: Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but Thou art mighty; Hold me with Thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, Feed me till I want no more; Feed me till I want no more.”   Yes, indeed He is mighty, He is strong and He holds us in the palm of His hands. PAUSE.

Moses goes on saying: “You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence. For all our days pass away under Your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (vv 8-10).

With the sins that we see before us, it would seem that any haughtiness on our part is out of place. Look deeply into the recesses of our hearts and recognize the lack. See the corruption of our nature and understand the sinful character of our very being. In the clear view of God’s Holy Law we are humbled before the Lord. Our glory, our self-construction is but a flimsy house of cards destined to collapse into ruin. However our God-humbled hearts are led by the Holy Spirit to seek Him while He may be found. Moses is telling us to go to Him because He is our retreat. He is our refuge. He is our strength and support. Without His aid and help we can’t humble ourselves.

But Moses doesn’t stop there. He wants us to look not only back but to the glorious future that God has promised and fulfilled for us. Notice how Moses helps us look to the future with these words: So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v 12). Teach us Lord the wisdom that You provide. Give us the wisdom to know how to be humbled. For wisdom is Your gift to us sinners. Solomon wrote, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (9:10). The wisdom that the Lord gives leads His subjects to eternal life with Him and peace in our hearts. This wisdom is comforting in knowing that He will teach us His ways that keep us from harm’s way.

Then Moses states: Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (v 14). In this world there is nothing that will satisfy us completely. Ask a millionaire on his death-bed what he wants more than anything else? It isn’t money. It isn’t a jet plane, cars or homes. Only God can satisfy us. As St. Augustine said, “Our lives are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” God is the only One who can, has and does satisfy us with His grace and favor which He gives us daily.

But there is still more. He alone will make us glad as He removes the burden of sin. He alone will put joy in our hearts as He fills us with His peace. He alone comforts us in the hour of sorrow and sadness. And He alone opens heaven’s gate for us.

As we look ahead into the coming year Moses shares yet more good news: In verse 16 we read these precious words: Let Your work be shown to Your servants, and Your glorious power to their children” He does show us His work. He takes us to the foot of the cross. There we see love carried out. There we see God dying for those who are wicked and evil—you and me. At the foot of the cross we learn the true meaning of His work as the angel told Joseph about the baby Mary is carrying: She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

At the foot of the cross we see the real work of the heaven-sent holy child. We see His mission to save us. We see that His ministry to wipe away our sins. We see His message is for all people. And those who in faith believe and hold unto these promises see the work of His hands stretched out on Calvary’s cross and as He burst forth from the tomb. PAUSE.

By the Spirit’s power we are privileged to gather one final time in His holy house to worship Him and serve Him. As we look back we see all of the sins we have committed and how sorry we are. As we look ahead, we can also see the glorious future that awaits us on account of the One who satisfies us and pours His favor upon us. Furthermore, we look up knowing the Lord is the One who takes care of us always.

Therefore tonight, I remind you that, a humble heart the Lord will not ignore; a broken and contrite spirit He will not despise. This is the glory of the Lord, that He has done great and mighty things for His people. He has provided forgiveness, life, and salvation for the world though His Son. He has promised cleansing for those who lean upon Him; He has granted life for those who have stared death in the face. As only the Holy Spirit can lead, humble yourself before the Lord; acknowledge Him to be the Lord and we, the people of His pasture. Receive the waters of life from the font and the bread of life from the feast; give thanks and be glad. Be humble before the Lord; give praise and glory to Him, and He will bestow praise on you and bring you glory–the praise and glory that come to those who bear His name. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


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