Fri, 22 November 2019
(1Mac.6:1-13; Ps.9:2-4,6,16,19; Lk.20:27-40)
“The needy shall not always be forgotten,
nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish.”
Death comes, yes. Death is upon us and surrounds us in this world. But the suffering we face in this life has its reward. Jesus has brought redemption: He has been resurrected, and we with Him. And this new life is eternal.
It seemed the Israelites were doomed. Antiochus had ruthlessly destroyed Jerusalem and the inhabitants of Judah. All hope seemed lost. But hope was not lost, and today we read of the return of the people to Jerusalem in strength and the defeat and death of their enemy, the king. Now Antiochus has become “sick with grief because his designs ha[ve] failed.” Now he is “overwhelmed with sorrow” as he sees the evils he has committed overtake him and finds himself dying “in bitter grief, in a foreign land.” While in Jerusalem the Israelites celebrate and sing praise to God: “My enemies are turned back, overthrown and destroyed before you.”
And now such redemption is made eternal in the Person of Jesus Christ. What was but human and temporal, the fall and rise of empires and of temples, now becomes divine, now becomes everlasting in the coming of the Messiah in the flesh of God. Yet with Him there is death – but after His crucifixion it shall be no more. Yet with Him is new life – but with His resurrection it has no end. Now “those judged worthy of a place in the age to come and of resurrection from the dead… become like angels and are no longer liable to death.” In His death He destroys death: He makes it bereft of all power. In His rising He draws all into the eternal presence of the Father. Now “all are alive for Him.”
Brothers and sisters, may any “floods of sorrow” which afflict us now because of our sins or by the oppression of our persecutors not overwhelm us in this day. Let our sins be nailed to the cross with Him who is our salvation, and our hope of overcoming all the scourges of the evil one be made strong in the surpassing light of His glorious rising. With David let us “declare all [the Lord’s] wondrous deeds,” and our enemies will be left speechless.
(I must note today that the city named for this evil king – Antioch – would soon become the place where the followers of Christ were called “Christians” for the first time; and that the seat of the state which would next oppress the people of God – Rome – is now the place from which the Chair of Peter reigns. How God’s redeeming Hand does work.)
O LORD, in Heaven we shall be as angels;
let us not be weighed down by the cares of this earth.
YHWH, turn back our enemies, we pray, the sins that grieve us in this dark place. Let us not in exile die, but by your grace come to new life.
O LORD, how we long for the day when we will no more be liable to death. Like the angels of Heaven let us be; in the age to come let us make our home, leaving behind the vestiges of this vain world.
For all we have done or spoken against you, let us be forgiven, O LORD. From all the evils we have committed in Jerusalem, let us be washed clean. Make your City holy this day, that to your NAME we might sing praise.
Build up the walls round about us, dear God, that we might be protected from all the attacks of the enemy. Give us arms to defend ourselves from their snares, and we shall declare your wondrous deeds. O let us rise again with your Son!