New Year's Sermon
† In His Name - IMMANU-EL †
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
May our year be one of celebrating His great mercy and peace, poured out on this world as He makes us His sacred people!
Teach us to Number our Days… for we need the wisdom!
As we enter this year, from the Psalm of the Day comes a most interesting prayer:
“Lord, teach us to number our days, so that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
It is perhaps one of the greatest paradoxes of scripture. That in order to realize the value of life, we have to realize that our lives are too short, too frail. To realize how much of God’s masterpiece our lives are, we have to grasp that life is “soon gone, and we fly away.”
I have to confess, that I am so influenced by the world that I struggle with this prayer, with the idea of the Lord reminding me and teaching me that this life will not go on forever. It is as if we have been so shaped by the world, that to conceive of what God has waiting for us as more beautiful than anything we have ever seen, more incredible than anything we have heard, more than anyone could imagine.
Rather than expecting, what the Bible leads us to know it will be like, we end up like the world – wanting to change the topic. That was even the experience writing this introduction, as the words I struggled to type, and would erase them as I thought about saying them to you.
Revelation talks of us in this way,
11 They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. 12 So let the heavens rejoice and all who live there; ' Revelation 12:11-12 (NJB)
Instead of this, we find ourselves struggling – a struggle that even invades our study of God’s word, as we hear analogies like today’s as law rather than gospel, as warning instead of encouragement, with a focus on our own shortcomings instead of on the work of Christ. I
We have to grasp that being dressed for service, keeping the lights burning are not harsh commands of law, but in view of the number of our days, an act that shows that God has indeed answered our prayers for wisdom!
We need to realize our relationship with the Master
As we look at this passage – we have to remember who Jesus is referring to, the identity of Master who is returning from the wedding feast. We aren’t talking about some tyrant who oppresses us, or some boss whose demands are unreasonable and is just waiting for a reason to take punitive action towards us, or fire us. Somehow, that is what many hear, and see the words “be dressed and keep lamps burning” as a warning – if you aren’t ready – the Master is going to toss you out!
We must keep in mind that these words are addressed to the servants – the ones whom the Master would redeem with His own body, whom He loves enough to spill His blood for! He is the Master of whom it was said, “He takes no joy at the death of the wicked, and is patient with us, not willing that any should perish!”
You have heard it this way before, that the covenant relationship in the Old Testament required more devotion, and placed more obligation on the Master than it did those who would serve Him. That the Master was called into cHesed – the love and mercy that required Him to do everything in His power to keep secure those He for whom He is responsible.
This Master for whom the slaves expectantly wait is not described as one who will whip them upon His arrival, but if they know His nature, they know His celebration will become theirs, He will seat them and serve them – because of His love and care for them. His joy will becomes theirs.
For He has invested Himself in us, He has made us His greatest example of His craftsmanship – and if He has invested that much in us, surely then, as Paul notes,
37 None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. 38 I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, 39 high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
This the master whom we expect to come… and it is, as we realize the number of our days, that we realize He is coming, one way or another, for us soon.
That Changes why we will stay awake
Knowing who is coming then, changes why we are awake, why we keep the lights on!
Have you ever wanted someone to see their dreams realized? Where you thought so much of them, you would give all you have to see them joyful? Where their being blessed was more important to you, than anything you could have for yourself?
That is the best way to describe why the slaves are up at 3 am – waiting for their Master to return home from His wedding feast – to great Him and His bride, to celebrate privately and even intimately this long awaited day. For this is the culmination of the existence of this planet, the reason for creation. It is as Isaiah wrote:
15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength!
There is nothing God has waited as patiently for, this is His will, that His bride the church find its rest.
And here is another paradox, we are both the slaves awaiting His return, and the bride which He brings back to His home. A very wise theologian named Lenski wrote of it this way:
”What is meant is clear: the celebration and the jubilation in heaven to which Jesus ascended over the glorious redemption which he worked out for the world. This may be compared to a wedding as well as to a feast in general. In either case it is the celebration appointed unto Jesus on his return to the Father. It is now in progress. This marriage feast of the Lamb began with the ascension and will continue forever. We need not make it start at the last day.”
That is the key that unlocked this analogy – that made it consistent with the Psalm, and Paul’s writing. The simple concept that does not make it into English – the feast is His, the celebration of the Marriage feast of the lamb – that continues with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven…..
So no wonder we stay awake… no wonder we stay dressed – now wonder why the Master’s return is described as our blessing, and that He will bless us, by waiting on us, feeding us, and we will share in His joy and His glory!
And knowing that awaits us, when this frail life is over… will help us grasp the wisdom that is ours in Christ.
There is a feast to come!
So we wait, not for judgment to condemnation, not for the end of all that is good, but for the incredible feast that is to come. Our outlook is not to preserve the day, but to live each day in the light of what truly matters, a relationship with our Lord, our Master, the One who pours out His love to purify, to cleanse, to present to Himself a bride without blemish, or spot.
This feast – that we share as we praise our Father in Heaven with the angels, with the archangels, with all who await us in the growing host of heaven, is a foretaste of the feast that we all will share together with them that day.
For we have the wisdom that goes beyond this world, that comes from realizing our days aren’t numbered, as much as our life is abundant, and eternal, lived with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lord’s!
What should we do until He comes? Perhaps a better question to ask is, “Why does the Father tarry”
until all come to repentance, till all are granted a new mind, until all realize this blessed truth,
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus…. AMEN!