One Voice among Many

Whose Voice Is Heard?

The Gospel reading for this Sunday is John 10:1–10

1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.

7   Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (NKJV)

It doesn’t take long for us to be aware of how many voices fill our world. Some are rather pleasing—singing, chanting voices, descriptive voices, teaching. Some not so pleasant—sirens wailing, metal crushing metal, explosions of air, enticing voices to turn away the Shepherd.

We face a deluge of voices, so much so that soon we lose track of the uniqueness of voices, especially the voice of the Shepherd. Perhaps we turn off our ears to most of the noise, filtering for only certain voices.

In the midst of all that confusion, cacophony, we miss the most critical voices. Voices that speak beauty, love, even hope, trust, peace.

Jesus spoke about the use of a voice, namely His own voice.

2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (NKJV)

Jesus uses the imagery of the shepherd and his sheep, to emphasize the relationship between shepherd’s voice (Jesus) and His sheep (us) who hear His voice. How comforting to hear His voice in the midst of all the other voices and attention seekers’ voices trying to draw us away, to drive the sheep (us) away —and keep them (us) away.

Jesus urges His sheep to listen to His voice, to be trained in such a way that we, the sheep, can distinguish between His true voice from all the false voices that lure us.

How are we doing listening to His voice? Is His voice just one of many competing voices of the crowds? Even in the Christian realm, many voices sound enticing, offering the latest and greatest. But do they reflect the voice of the Shepherd? Sadly many do not.

Let’s focus on listening to the voice of Jesus.

Listening to the voice of Jesus does not happen in a mystic kind of experience. Rather, we hear Jesus’ voice in the Bible and not just the New Testament. As we have learned in the Wednesday Bible class, Christology in the Old Testament, the entire Old Testament points toward Jesus.

So, we listen to Jesus’ voice as prefigured in the Old Testament, and as presented in the New Testament. We can listen with our ears, our eyes, our hearts as we stay with the Bible. One of the modern conveniences, the internet, allows us to listen to and read the Bible anywhere any time, i.e., Biblegateway (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/) offers several translations which you can listen to. You can also read in many translations. You can also listen to more options on YouTube searching by translation.

Let’s listen to the voice of Jesus, our Shepherd, our Good Shepherd. Today and every day.

Justification from Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13–53:12 is the Old Testament reading for today, Good Friday. This text is one of the high points in the Old Testament, shining forward to the crucifixion of Jesus. Isaiah’s name is translated “Yahweh saves” or Yahweh is salvation,” and equivalent forms in Hebrew are Joshua (Jehoshuah), Hosea, and Jesus (Greek), and we certainly see this in section of chapters 52-53.

Isaiah lived ~740–681 BC, seven centuries before the time of Christ. Yet, it is as if Isaiah had been sitting on the hill overlooking Jersusalem, watching everything happening to Jesus on the day of His death. Isaiah’s perspective is not just a historical referent, but rather a theological commentary of what was happening. I encourage you to read this section of Isaiah today and join him on that theological ledge.

Perhaps the most significant passage is Isaiah’s bold declaration: (53:10-11 NKJV)

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.

Already in the early years of the 7th century BC, Isaiah was proclaiming Jesus’s bearing sins as the basis of justifying many. Notice how Paul references this in his letter to the Romans, and Peter proclaims in his Pentecost sermon.

18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (NKJV)

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ [Messiah].” (Acts 2:36 NKJV)

The centrality of justification by faith (faith worked by the Holy Spirit which receives that justification) is central to Romans, but in fact, central to the whole New Testament. That is the basis of the Reformation spearheaded by Martin Luther, and continues today. When we read, speak, preach, and teach about Jesus Christ and His work of justifying sinners, the Holy Spirit uses that message to create faith in the one who listens, believes, and receives that judgment: justified!

So, Isaiah has great historical significance for the people of his era, for the fulfillment in Jesus’ death on the cross, and for the telling about that same salvation content today. It isndeed a Good Friday to see the prophecy and fulfillment together.

And this is a message to all who fit this description:

 

 

On the night when He was betrayed

The Passover meal with the family had been a Jewish custom for centuries. It was a time for the family to gather, to hear the story of God’s deliverance of His people. He used 10 plagues to force the Egyptians to release them from captivity. (Exodus 7-11). Then God gave them the Passover feast to remember, commemorate, and be part of that delierance event. God gave the Israelites instructions for offering of a passover lamb, taking its blood and putting it on the doorposts of the tent  (Ex. 12:1-13).

Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13 NKJV)

Now fast forward to the time of Jesus. On the Passover night when all Jews gathered (with familiy members) to partake of the deliverance of their ancestors, Jesus was with His disciples to participate in the Passover. But this night was different because of what Jesus said and did.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant [testament], which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28 NJKJV)

Christians have gathered on this night, not just to commemorate, but to share in the body and blood of Jesus, to receive for the forgiveness of sins. As a congregation we celebrate and receive these gifts every Sunday every service.

This year is different, as we are not physically gathering together to receive the Lord’s Supper. And that seems strange. For me this is the first Maundy Thursday I have missed since 1963.

But in God’s provision, we still receive the same forgiveness of sins in our service tonight. We confess our sins, then we receive the words of forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ words:

Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18 NAS)

The forgiveness is the same, God’s provision of such great news of forgiveness cannot be stopped —even by the virus. And so as we receive this forgiveness tonight, we look forward to our gathering again, whenever that may be, and celebrate even as Paul wrote:

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant [testament] in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.  (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)

To Change or Not to Change

During this time of change and adjustment in all aspects of life, we also long for the “normalcy.” One of our temptations is to think “how do we adjust worship to make it more compelling?” While that sounds enticing, perhaps that is the wrong question. It assumes that something was missing or lacking in our worship life. But what if we were not missing anything? What if our worship life really was God giving to us what we desperately need: forgiveness, righteousness, hope, comfort? Paul reminds us that what we preach and what our worship life focuses on is: the message of the cross.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18 NKJV)

Thus, we don’t need to bring enticements into our worship life. God has the best gifts already for us: “the message of the cross is the power of God to save.” We don’t need a show, or to be entertained. We need the life that God gives, freely because of what Jesus has done.

During Holy Week, we get to concentrate on the essentials:

  • Palm Sunday: Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey amidst the acolades of the people, which later turn to calls for His crucifixion.
  • Maundy Thursday: Jesus Shares the Passover meal, but more importantly He institutes the Lord’s Supper. Not just a fellowship meal, but Him giving His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.
  • Good Friday: Jesus offers His very life for sinners, like you and me. He who was guiltless takes on our guilt of sin. He dies in our place.
  • Easter: Jesus overcomes, sin, death, and the devil when He rises from the dead. That changes history for everyone who believes in Him.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21 NKJV)

Maybe changing is the wrong focus. Maybe the focus is on Christ and what He has done for us, and continues to do for us.

This is the day the LORD has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps 118:24 NKJV)

From a certain point of view

1 LORD, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
(Psalm 131 NKJV)

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Such a critical Psalm for times like these. But here is the problem, at least for me. I tend to reverse vs. 1 and 2… like this:

LORD, my heart is indeed haughty (proud)
My eyes look for everything in lofty places
I concern myself with great matters
and with things too profound for me.

Surely I have agitated and disturbed my soul,
Like an angry brat with his mother,
Like a self-absorbed child is my soul within me

And then I have the audacity to demand that God fix everything for me. Left unchecked I want my way to continue forever.

But God loves us too much. God draws us back to reality. We need someone like Eliphaz to get things right with God.

“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects;
Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.
For He bruises, but He binds up;
He wounds, but His hands make whole. (Job 5:17–18 NKJV)

God challenges my arrogance, my self-centeredness, my myopic perspective. In other words, He speaks Law to my sin. As much as I want to run away or hide I cannot do so with God. And that is a good thing. Because when His Law has done it’s work, God speaks Gospel. Gospel not focused on my works, my words, my thoughts, my intentions. Gospel is entirely God’s words, actions, work (extra nos = “outside of us”).

God says: “You sins are forgiven.” “You are now righteous.”

And in those words is where my hope lies. May that be true for you as well. Now we can speak and believe Psalm 131 with a heart that has been renewed, refreshed, recreated God. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever.

And now we can finish Psalm 131

God remembered…

23 Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. 24 So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. (Exodus 2:23–24 NKJV)

In daily reading today, these two verses stand out. In the midst of the Israelites groaning because of the bondage, “God heard and remembered.”

Not as if God forgot where they were living and what they experienced. Rather, He remembered the covenant He had made, and was about to act to bring about a change for the Israelites, namely deliverance.
Sometimes we, too, groan because of our circumstances, almost thinking God has forgotten about us. Not so. God is still here, with us, hearing and knowing our plight. And God remembers and will act on that. May we re-learn to trust that God remembers His commitment to us.

Transfiguration Sunday

This Sunday marks the end of Epiphany (“showing forth”) season. The season moves from the showing forth who the baby Jesus is (Matthew 2:1–12), His presentation at the temple (Luke 2:22–40), revealing who Jesus is at His baptism (Matthew 3:13–17), John’s proclamation (John 1:29–34) and the first disciples following Jesus (John 1:35–51), and Jesus begins His Galilean ministry (Matthew 4:12–25) Transfiguration Matthew 17:1–9) reaches a climax of the Epiphany season. The three disciples see Jesus’ in His glory and they see Moses and Elijah. Surprisingly Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone until Jesus is raised from the dead (Matthew 17:9). They are getting a foretaste of that glory ahead of time. The events from now until Easter lead toward Good Friday and Jesus’ death on the cross.

1 Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James; and he led them up onto a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured in front of them. His face was shining like the sun. His clothing became as white as the light. 3 Just then, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you want, I will make three shelters here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them. Just then, a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell face down and were terrified. 7 Jesus approached and as he touched them, he said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” 8 When they opened their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Do not tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Matthew 17:1–9 (EHV)

May this be an encouragement for each of us as we move through the Lenten season of suffering, sorrow, and death, the time of “now, not yet.”

Printing error CSB LP Personal Reference

In my devotional reading tonight I was reading Zechariah 2:5 in CSB.

This is what it should read:

5 The declaration of the LORD: “I myself will be a wall of fire around it, and I will be the glory within it.”

However, in the text referenced below it reads slightly differently. Notice how “fire” is spelled.

*CSB Large Print Personal Size Reference Bible Copyright @ 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers, p. 1264.

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Note: I was informed that the printing errors in the 2017 edition have been corrected.

Prayer for those who have been abused

Gracious Lord, as we see more attention given to church abuse, we ask 
for Your guidance for all who are exposing. Give them Your wisdom, 
strength, courage, and love each day. We pray for those who have been 
abusing that they would be stopped and receive true help. Most especially, 
Lord, for all who have been abused and struggling, facing consequences 
that many do not know or understand. Open our eyes to see clearly, 
and be proclaimers of Your comfort.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.  (2 Cor. 1:3-7 NAS)