December 8, 2007 - Saturday in the First Week of Advent

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 24:14-25:12; 1 John 2:15-29

“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You Who lead Jacob like a flock. Restore us, O God; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”        (Psalm 80:1, 3)

Israel was once strong and mighty. Strong and mighty kings, like David, had led her to great heights. But then, along came other kings, not so strong and mighty — at least in the ways of the Lord. They still called upon the true God of Israel, but they did that in the presence of other gods. And, with no clear distinction by their shepherds between the True God and false gods, the people began worshiping many gods of their own choosing. God punished Israel for that. Once strong and mighty, her kingdom now lay in ruins. Everyone who passed by just laughed.

That's not just ancient history; it's our history, too. For we, too, have chased after other gods. Sure, we'll call upon the True God of Israel. But we'll only trust that He is good to us, kind and merciful, our heavenly Father, when things go our way, when we have enough money, popularity, the right friends, good looks, grades, parents, or whatever. When these are all gone, then what about God? Can't quite stand Him anymore, can we?

Not sure you're guilty? Consider this: What if your pastor gave out $100 every Sunday? Would you ever miss church? Imagine the sense of loss you'd feel if you did? Wouldn't do that twice in a row, would you? In fact, you'd probably beg your pastor to hold services all day long on Sunday. The First Commandment, like all the others, shows us our sin, our idolatry.

No wonder this world is filled with so much pain and misery. No wonder our earthly kingdoms suffer so much calamity and harm. False worship abounds everywhere, even in our own hearts. Where do we turn?

A true Shepherd, in tomorrow’s Introit, tells us: “Daughter of Zion, behold, surely your salvation is coming. The Lord will cause His glorious voice to be heard, and you shall have gladness of heart.” Do not look for salvation in you. Instead, look for it in the Voice that you hear tomorrow from your shepherd. Far better than $100 that cannot last, your pastor will be handing out the Lord's Word, which endures forever: His Pardoning Word, Washing Word, Body and Blood Word. There is gladness of heart! For there, the Lord causes His face to shine on you, no matter who you are. There, the Father makes the Son of Man strong for you — strong enough to cancel your guilt, to pardon your sin, to save you from yourself. Strong enough to revive sinners! Do not despise the Lord's chastening when He withholds certain things. What father does not chasten the son that He loves (Hebrews 12:7-11)? He will still save you. The shine on His face says so!