Proper 28a Matt. 25:14ff What Kind Of God Do You Think You Have?
#DailyDevotion God Has Bestowed You With Talents To Serve Your Neighbor And The Church
Read Dan 1:1–21
Dan 1:17-21 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. (18) At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. (19) And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. (20) And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. (21) And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
God endows us all with natural skill and abilities at birth. It is good to realize this and to give him thanks and praise and to use those skills and abilities as best we can to serve our neighbor. We see in today’s lesson that Daniel and his friends were endowed at the outset with skill and ability fitting that of those born into noble families. There were born into households that were set to be leaders of God’s holy people. But now they were in a foreign land and the Lord saw to it that they would be set apart to be leaders in the household of Babylon.
On top of those skills and abilities with which they were born with, having been set apart for learning the ways of the Babylonians, the Lord now specially endows these young men with learning, skill in literature and wisdom. Daniel is also bestowed with the ability to have understanding in all visions and dreams. So well endowed were Daniel and his friends by the Lord, at the end of their training the king questions them and finds them 1o times better than all the advisors in his kingdom. This would serve them and the Jews there in Babylon well during the time of their exile.
We would do well to remember that we too have natural abilities and gifts from the Lord. They are given to us at birth that we may serve our neighbor. As we become Christians, the Lord also bestows upon those whom he chooses special gifts of the Spirit that they may serve not only the neighbor but also the Church. There won’t be any sparks going off above your head and nor will most of these gifts be seen as “magical.” Besides the ability to interpret dreams and visions, Daniel and his friends did not receive miraculous gifts, but an increase in their already natural abilities. We don’t need to take spiritual inventories to find out what gifts the Lord has bestowed upon us for the Church. Chances are, you and everyone around you knows what you are able to do. So when the time comes for the Church to need your abilities, don’t shy away from it fearing failure. Simply do to the best of your ability that which you are being called to do.
St. Paul reminds us, Rom 12:4-8 “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, (5) so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (6) Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; (7) if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; (8) the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” This list isn’t exhaustive. Nothing particularly spectacular either. As you are members with Christ’s body, those talents, abilities, and skills you have should be used for the good of Jesus’ body, the Church.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have called us to be members of your mystical body, the Church and have endowed us with peculiar gifts and skills. Grant us faith to use them for the good of our neighbor and your body, the Church. Amen.
#DailyDevotion God’s People Don’t Always Want To Hear God’s Word
Read Jer 38:1–28
Jer 38:3-6 Thus says the LORD: This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.” (4) Then the officials said to the king, “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” (5) King Zedekiah said, “Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you.” (6) So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.
Guess who’s having a bad day? Yep, you guessed it, Jeremiah. He was preaching what the Lord had told him to preach. Sure we can relate to the city officials who put Jeremiah in the cistern. What Jeremiah was saying was tantamount to treason. We don’t care when people are preachers call out the sins of our country and say we deserve the bad things that happen to us either, though not many are telling their fellow countrymen to work with our enemies to accomplish our country’s defeat. But that was what Jeremiah was doing. He was telling the people and the king of Jerusalem to surrender to the Babylonians and they would all be fine, otherwise certain destruction would fall upon them.
Having been delivered by someone who respected Jeremiah as a prophet, he is brought to the king who interrogates Jeremiah. Jeremiah knows the king won’t listen, believe or do what he says. The king makes him promise not to tell anyone what he was told and he would not be killed and so Jeremiah does so. The lives of Jerusalem are on the king now.
Well there are many pastors and laity out there who may be in similar boats today. Pastors mainly in Old Word and the US and both in other countries face persecution because of the Word of God. In the US pastors normally face persecution from their own congregations and sometimes Church bodies because they are being faithful to the Word of God. They are not preaching what people want them to preach but what they want to hear. Their salaries are cut, their electricity in the parsonages is cut off, and lies and rumors are spread to discredit them. At least in foreign countries where both laity and pastors face persecution because of the Word of God it’s not from fellow Christians but rank unbelievers, pagans, Hindus, Buddhist and Muslims. But we should all take comfort in this, that our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for us was treated the same way. We who follow him will likewise be treated that way also.
Lord Jesus Christ, when we befall persecution for your name’s sake, grant us faith in your blessings that we may not lose heart but remain faithful unto the end. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Where Are All The False Teachers When You Need Them?
Read Jer 37:1–21
Jer 37: 17 King Zedekiah sent for him and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house and said, “Is there any word from the LORD?” Jeremiah said, “There is.” Then he said, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” (18) Jeremiah also said to King Zedekiah, “What wrong have I done to you or your servants or this people, that you have put me in prison? (19) Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you and against this land’?
The king of Judah still had some respect for the prophet of the Lord, as many in power respect those men who are of God. They respect them but they don’t believe them. Zedekiah (The Lord is Righteous) inquired of Jeremiah. Jeremiah had been preaching all that was going to happen for practically his whole life. The kings and people of Judah would not listen and believe him. Instead they believed the false prophets of the Lord who preach peace, health, wealth and love from the Lord but who never called the people and the kings to repent of their sins.
As the king questions Jeremiah, Jeremiah asks him, “Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you and against this land”? So too, many pastors who daily work hard at calling their people to repentance and faith will one day say to their flocks who follow the false teachers of today, “Where are all these preachers who you listened to and gave your money and wealth to instead of your congregation and pastor so they could preach the good news to you and to your town, city or area? Why are you coming to me for help? Go and seek help from those false teachers who you’ve been listening to and supporting with your life (wealth and money). Go ask them to help you.”
But those false preachers and teacher will be of no help and avail. They have nothing to give, say or do that will help you in the day of your deepest need. Health, wealth, peace and joy without the message of the cross of Christ, why he bore that cross, what you can expect as you are discipled by him and his messengers will ultimately leave you empty like a empty bag of potato chips. God may indeed give you health and wealth as you follow Jesus but more likely you should be expecting to carry a cross, a burden, to be participating in the sufferings of Christ. But as you participate in his sufferings, you can expect comfort, peace and joy from the Lord as he but for the joy set before him suffered the cross and its shame. And if he does bless you with health and wealth, he’s expecting you to be a blessing to the people around you and not to be selfish with it. You are to be using it to help those undergoing the cross in their lives.
Lord Jesus Christ, give us discerning spirits that we may know those who are not your pastors and help us to support our pastors with the wealth given us that the gospel may be preached with joy and boldness in the place where we live and give us faith to believe the word they give to us of repentance, faith and the cross. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Jesus Is The Branch, The Lord Our Righteousness
Jer 33:14-16 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. (15) In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. (16) In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
Once again the Lord brings us the Branch who shall be called, “The Lord is our righteousness.” This is none other than Jesus. It is written, Isa 11:10 “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” So St. Paul writes, Rom 15:12 “And again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.’” And again, Isa 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Jesus is the root of Jesse and the shoot from Jesse’s stump. He is the origin of Jesse being his Creator, the God who formed him. He is the shoot of Jesse because he takes on Jesse’s flesh in Mary and restores the throne to David, taking his seat at the right hand of God.
Jesus executed justice and righteousness in the land. He goes to John the Baptist, an innocent lamb, and John protest. But Jesus tells John, Mat 3:15 “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” From there Jesus goes to the cross as Isaac, the child of promise and as the substitute ram, to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the Jews, indeed for the sins of the world. Jesus as our high priest has poured out his blood on the mercies seat of God in the heavenly Holy of Holies once and for all, for all.
Because of this Jesus has become our righteousness. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians Jesus has become our wisdom, righteousness, and redemption. By faith in Christ, we obtain the righteousness of God. Through being baptized into his name, we become his children and expand the fold of Abraham’s and David’s family. Each one of us becomes an heir of Christ and an heir of God through faith and baptism. So in Jesus this prophesy is fulfilled.
Lord God, heavenly Father, with Jesus at your right hand, ever interceding for us, ever grant us faith that we may submit ourselves to him and through him receive your righteousness, so we may stand before your throne on the day of your revelation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Proper 27a Matt. 25:1-13 Will The Lord Know You On The Last Day?
#DailyDevotion Jesus Has Instituted The New Covenant He Promised In Jeremiah 31 In His Blood
Read Jer 31:1–17, 23–34
Jer 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (32) not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. (33) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (34) And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
As the Lord speaks these words, Israel aka Ephraim is already destroyed and sent into exile. Judah is well on its way to destruction and exile itself. Many from Jerusalem are already in exile in Babylon. It would seem too good to be true that not only Judah would return from exile but also Israel as well. But indeed, the Lord is true to his promises and is gathering his people to himself in the Church. They had broken the covenant with the Lord. They had broken it many times. As Peter reminds the Jewish Church in Acts, it was too difficult for them or for their fathers to keep.
So now the Lord is going to make a new covenant. Not only are those physical descendents of Israel called to be partakers of it, but all nations. It is too small a thing for the Lord just to redeem the Israelites. He now calls out to the nations to repent and become part of Israel in this new covenant.
In this new covenant, the Lord gives us his Holy Spirit. That is what is meant by placing the law upon our hearts. The law is naturally there anyway, but now he gives us power to keep it. More than that, we will know the Lord. From the greatest to the least of God’s people, those called by his name, they will all know the Lord. How will we know him? We know the Lord when we believe that he forgives us our iniquity and remembers our sins no more. Yes, that is the key to the new covenant, God’s forgiveness and forgetfulness.
So when Jesus institutes the new covenant with his supper, that is what we are being called to become partakers of. Jesus says, Mat 26:28 “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The author Hebrews says, Heb 12:24 “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” That blood of Jesus in the Supper and which covers us in baptism speaks a better word because that is word is “I forgive and I forget.” You are invited to be a partaker of this covenant.
Lord Jesus Christ, your new covenant speaks better than the old because it is your blood in which the covenant is sealed. Grant us faith in your blood which covers us in baptism and placed upon our lips in your supper that we might remember you forgive and forget. Amen.
#DailyDevotion God’s Promises Apply Only To The True Israel-All Those Who Trust In Jesus
Read Jer 30:1–24
Jer 30:18-24 “Thus says the LORD: Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings; the city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the palace shall stand where it used to be. (19) Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small. (20) Their children shall be as they were of old, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all who oppress them. (21) Their prince shall be one of themselves; their ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? declares the LORD. (22) And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (23) Behold the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. (24) The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intentions of his mind. In the latter days you will understand this.
A little good news finally for this rebellious house whom the Lord is sending into exile. He does not excuse their sins against him. They shall indeed be punished. They shall be punished by the world whose ways they have adopted. But those nations whom the Lord uses to punish Israel shall also have to answer for it. The Lord used their sinfulness to accomplish his good purpose.
We have these nice end times promises from the Lord. But first we must understand that a lot of this is not just dealing with Israel according to the flesh. As St. Paul teaches us, not all who are Israel are Israel. Only those who have the faith of Abraham are the Lord’s Israel, and that includes not only faithful Jews according to the flesh but also those non-Jews according to the flesh who have been grafted into Christ also through holy baptism.
The Prince who comes from themselves and draws near to God is no one else other than Jesus, the messiah, of the house of David. Jesus is the David who sits on his father’s throne. But Jesus is also the true king of Israel, the Lord, who called Abraham out from the nations.
We have this promise which is continued in the next chapter, “you shall be my people and I will be your God.” This happens in the new covenant which is made with the blood of Jesus and his blessed sacrifice and his innocent suffering and death. It is the true Israel that trust in him that these promises of restoration apply.
Heavenly Father, grant us faith in your David, Jesus of Nazareth, that we may be partakers of your restoration of Israel. Amen.
#DailyDevotion While We Are In Exile Here, We Should Follow The Example Of The Jews In Babylon
Read Jer 29:1–19
Jer 29:4-11 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: (5) Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. (6) Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. (7) But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare… (10) “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. (11) For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Even in exile the Lord was planning on blessing his people. For you see even in the midst of their disobedience and rebellion, the Lord had a plan for them. He had “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It would take a while for those plans to come to fulfillment. He had said earlier it would 70 years in exile and he repeats it again in today’s lesson. But that would just till this exile ended. Even then his plans for them would not be fulfilled. It would several hundred years till the messiah, Jesus would come.
But for the sake of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the Lord had plans for the Jews. So he encourages them to get on with life. He tells them to bless those who ruled over them so they would be blessed through them. Many of them would not see the end of the seventy years or return to Jerusalem. But in his blessing of them in Babylon, their children would see the return and rebuilding of their fair city and temple.
Now we too, who have been baptized into Christ Jesus are the Lord’s holy and chosen people. He has plans for you, for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jesus though like the Jews has us living in exile among a people and a world not our own. He also promises us grace and every blessing as we live in exile in this world. Not that we won’t have our fair share of problems in it. The Jews during the exile and the wait for the messiah, Jesus, certainly had their share of problems as well. He expects to be about our business, marrying, raising kids, working and sharing the good news with those who ask us about it. He expects us to pray for our leaders that we might live quiet and peaceable lives in this world.
We don’t know the day or the hour of our Lord’s return. But we know that when he does return and we leave this time of exile in this world, he promises us a new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. We shall see him with our own eyes in our own flesh. God and the Lamb, Jesus, will dwell with us and we with him. We will have the fulfillment of peace, joy and love with our God and with one another. Until then, tarry on!
Lord Jesus Christ, grant us patience as we await our deliverance from the exile of this world and our return to you and the Father at your return for us. Grant us your Spirit and faith that we may lead lives pleasing to you and which give glory to your holy name. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Today The Lord Jesus Calls You To Repent And Trust In Him
Read Jer 26:1–19
Jer 26:1-6 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: (2) “Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. (3) It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. (4) You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, (5) and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, (6) then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.'”
It’s not as if the Lord doesn’t know what is going to happen beforehand. He does. Never-the-less he works with us in time because that is where we exist. So in time he sends the prophet Jeremiah to preach repentance to the Jews. In time they might listen. On occasion when the Lord prophesied doom people repented. Remember Jonah how the pagan people of Ninevah heard the Lord’s warning and they repented and were spared. Even the elders of Jerusalem remembered how the Lord had dealt similarly with the Jews in the days of Hezekiah. But, despite that they did not repent.
But you today, listen to the voice of the Lord. Do not be like those who claimed the name of the Lord but went and did their own thing, sinning against the Lord. Jesus has warned us through St. Paul, Gal 5:17-21 “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” If we see ourselves living like this and we claim to be Christians, we need to repent!
But you have been called out from the rest of the world with its ways. He also reminds us, Gal 5:24 “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Indeed, in baptism, we have been crucified, died and buried into Christ. (Rom. 6:3ff) We have a new life, with new impulses, desires and affections. We have been given the Spirit of the Living God. Gal 5:22-23 “[Now] the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Having been forgiven and received the Holy Spirit, these characteristics should be the mark by which we are known. If they are not, go back and repent, confess your sins and receive absolution that is forgiveness and believe that for Christ’s sake it is yours. Only with faith in the forgiveness of sins in Jesus do we possess the Spirit and the Spirit bears this fruit in us. We need more gospel, more promises. For in the promises of God we become partakers of His nature and he begins to live his life in and through us.
Lord, God, Heavenly Father, grant us the gift of repentance and faith, that we may crucify the flesh and live in the life of the Spirit, bearing his fruit and living in your kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.