Wednesday, December 23, 2020

We Need a Luke 2 Shepherd Song with Some Real Terror in It—To Point Us to the Eschatological Joy in It!

We are enjoying the kindness of our merciful God on our annual seaside holiday.

Trying to anticipate what we might get in worship this week (often a sketchy proposition on holiday) to address in family worship times, it seems that the minister has been preaching through Handel's Messiah (at least it's full of Scripture!). He has hit all the Isaiah passages. If he doesn't change gears, likely candidates include Mal 3:1–3, Luk 2:8–14, Zec 9:9–10, Psalm 2, 1Cor 15:20–22/51–57, Rom 8:31–34, Rev 5:9–14.

In opening the Luke passage, we considered the sheer terror these shepherds must have known: not just one warrior of heaven's army, but God's very glory itself enveloping them, and then the thundering host of an entire battalion of heaven.

And yet, their fear was stayed by the mighty word that because of the Savior, Christ the Lord, God's most heavenly glory was actually for their peace rather than their destruction, expressed in His goodwill rather than enmity!!
Luke 2:8–17
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
No wonder, then, that what they were most excited about at the manger was that this sign had successfully verified this fact: by virtue of the Savior, we will stand in the presence of His glory not with exceeding terror but with great joy. He came not only that we might be forgiven, but that we might be preserved and perfected, so that on that day when we stand before Him, He will have made us faultless, and we will be filled with His joy!

This of course prompted reflection upon Jude, vv20–25
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
25 To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
So, we brought this back full circle to how much we have been enjoying His mercy. Not in ignorance, like so many poor ones 'round us for whom our hearts ache at the terror which awaits them. We enjoy all of these mercies, because we know that they are subsidiary to THAT great mercy—that we have a Savior in Whom all God's doings toward us are peace and goodwill. And one day, that greatest of all mercies will be to stand in the presence of His glory, faultless, with great joy!

I don't merely wish you contented moments and wholesome pleasures. I pray for you that they would be for you not illusions that precede horror, but foretastes that precede the exceeding gladness of sinlessly enjoying the full display of His glory.

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