St. John sees an uncountable multitude praising God for his work of salvation. Who are they? Where do they come from? And who are we?
I’m releasing this message of hope today because it is needed more now than it was when it was preached.
Talk about fake news! Most of the things people have heard about the Magi and the Star are wrong or at least dubious. Who were the Magi? Why were they seeking Jesus? Why should you care? Have a listen!
Would you believe there is something more important than serving God? Listen and see if you don’t agree.
David and Saul had very different relationships with God. In this sermon, I encourage you to be more like David, whom God called a man after his own heart.
On the screen, you see some pictures of some people and I'll bet you know who the little guy with the sling is. That's David. He's about to kill a giant. The fellow on the left is Saul, the first king of Israel. God called both of these men to be king. God gave them both, essentially, the same job to do. But Saul's relationship with God was not the same as David's. So, the kingship was taken away from Saul and David received it instead. What I'd like to do today is to talk to you a little bit about the difference in the relationship between these two men and their God, in order that you might learn what true faith is, and that that faith might be reflected in your life. Saul didn't set out wanting to be king, he was just a fellow. He was very tall and very impressive to people. But there was something about Saul that kept him from ever really trusting God. And this showed up in two very important events in the course of his life very early in his reign. God sent Saul to fight against the Philistines. And he gathered all Israel, and it took a few days to get them together. And the prophet Samuel, who's the fellow standing next to Saul with the turban on his head, the prophet Samuel told him. "I'll be there in seven days. Wait for me." Saul, on the seventh day, found Samuel was late. He wasn't there. The Philistines outnumbered the Israelites and they were afraid and nothing was happening. And so the people started to sneak home. And Saul said, “Everybody's leaving, we need to go into battle and we need God's help to go into battle. But God won't help us unless we offer sacrifices. And Samuel is not here. So I'll offer the sacrifice.” And so the Bible says that he took and he offered the sin offerings to atone for the sins of the people. But before he could offer the peace offerings, Samuel showed up. And Samuel said, “What you're doing isn't right. You shouldn't you shouldn't have done this. You should have waited for me.” See, Saul did not need to step in and do this. He didn't. He didn't need to placate God before he went into battle. God had chosen him specifically for that purpose. And he stepped out of the bounds of his authority as king by offering the sacrifice. Sometime later, something similar happened. Saul went to battle and defeated the Amalekites (who had been problematic for the people of Israel ever since they left Egypt, hundreds of years before). And God said, “Destroy everything.” Just destroy everything. It's all devoted to destruction. it's Corban It was like an offering that was a whole burnt offering to God. But Saul said to himself, “Gee, that's a waste. I mean, there's some good animals here, God would probably like those.” And so he preserved the life of the king. And he preserved the very best of the animals. Samuel came and Saul said, “I've done what the Lord told me to do.” And Samuel said, “Well, how come I hear bleating sheep and lowing oxen, then? Don't you know that obedience is better than sacrifice and whole burnt offerings? Because you've not listened to the Lord, then the kingdom of God is taken away from you and given to another.” See, once again, Saul thought he had a better idea. Rather than just believing God and doing what he said, Saul said, “Ah, you know, I'm going to do more.” So, the first time he says, "Oh, well, God won't help us unless first, we do something in order to placate God and to earn his favor.” And the second time he says, “what I want to do will please God even more than what he told me to do.” And so, God took the kingdom away from him, because what God was looking for was somebody who would just, simply listen to him, and who would act in faith. And that's what David's doing here at the time that David took on Goliath. Samuel had already anointed him to be the next king of Israel. He was an unimpressive little runt of a kid. He had some very impressive older brothers that Samuel thought, "Surely this is going to be the king." But nah, it was just David who was out by the sheep keeping track of the sheep. But David had something that the others didn't. It was a firm confidence in God and his care and assistance. That kid wasn't afraid to take on lions and bears and go after them because he knew God was with him. And one day, he went to the front between the Israelites and the Philistines, and he heard Goliath come out and say, “Who is your champion? I'll fight him. And if I win, you guys will be our slaves, and if you win, we'll be your slaves.” So, it was supposed to be a fight between the champions instead of the armies. Now, why didn't Saul go out and fight? He had armor; he had a sword. He was a big dude, not as big as though, as Goliath (Goliath was still about three feet taller than Saul was); but it would have been his job. But God had told him, "I'm going to take away your kingdom." David was offended when he saw that there was nobody in Israel who trusted God enough to go kill that giant. Because David understood that it wasn't just by his own strength that he would be able to do this. It was going to be because God blessed him and God helped him; that this giant was challenging the armies of God. And so, David went and he took five stones and his slingshot and he got the giant with the very first one. And then he took the giant's sword and cut off his head in order to make sure he stayed dead. And the Philistines turned and ran away. And as he came to the giant, he said, “The Lord has helped me with the lion and the bear. You're making fun of my God, but it's my God, that is going to help me get you.” And of course, David also had in his hip pocket, he didn't say it, but he had it: a promise from God that he would be king one day. And so you see the faith, which David shows. He doesn't have to offer any sacrifices or go through any ceremonies. He simply trusts that God is going to help him because this is something that needs to be done for God's people. Later in his life, David sinned very greatly, much greater from a human perspective, than any of the sins of Saul. And yet, when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan, he repented, and when Nathan told him he was forgiven, David believed him and accepted the discipline that the Lord laid on him. And so David continued to trust in God, and in His love and in His mercy. The Law of Moses hadn't specified any kind of sacrifice for the sins of adultery and murder that David committed, but he had the word from Nathan, "Your sins are forgiven." And he accepted that word. And he believed that word. And if you read Psalm 51, he will instruct you in what it is. And in fact, we're going to sing part of it in just a minute, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." And so, this is what faith is. Faith understands that it's not what we do that makes God love us. Some of the things we do, please God, some don’t. Some of the things we do, don't please God. But it is not necessary for us to make up to God, to do things in order to make God love us. God has already done what is necessary through His Son, Jesus Christ. In our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus is setting his face to go to Jerusalem. Why is he going there? He's told His disciples, he's going there to be rejected, and to be flogged, and to suffer and to die, and to rise again. And he does all of that for our sins. And this is the very heart and beginning of faith: that we hear this word of forgiveness that is spoken to us because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and we believe it. And this is also the highest form of worship. Sometimes people talk about the confession that we have and absolution that we have at the beginning of our service as being as being a preparation for worship. But it isn't really. It's the highest form of worship, to come to God in order that he might cleanse us from our sins, to come to him as we do in the services and seek his blessings, to come and receive from the men that he is appointed the gifts of His Son's body and blood. So that we might be reassured that our sins are forgiven; that we might hear his word and be instructed by it and put it into practice. And this is simply the heart and the core of faith, to hear God's Word of forgiveness and believe it. From this, then, grows everything else: the possibility of doing something out of love for God and love for our neighbor. Because this is God's commandment, according to John, that we “believe in Jesus Christ whom he has sent, and that we love our neighbor.” And if in doing these things, I'm always thinking about how I can make God love me, Then I'm not doing it out of love for my neighbor, am I? But if I know and I believe that God loves me and has forgiven my sins for the sake of Jesus Christ, I can really do something for you. And this is what we mean as Lutherans when we say we're saved by faith alone, and we don't have to make up all kinds of works, that we don't have to offer all kinds of sacrifices for God to love us. We simply accept the fact that he does, and that all of our sins are taken away and forgiven because of the sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ. May God keep you steadfast in that faith until life everlasting. Transcribed by https://otter.ai and then edited lightly.