Monday, July 4, 2016

Day 102: Luke 2:22-38 & Psalm 103: How Long Must We Wait on the Lord?

Today's Reading: Luke 2:22-38 & Psalm 103

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How Long Must We Wait on the Lord?

Today's devotional is taken from my e-book of advent devotionals, The Light Has Come:

The Falling and Rising of Many: Simeon’s Prophecy
Scripture: Luke 2:25-35

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” – Luke 2:34-35, ESV

What do you do when the one thing you’ve been waiting for all your life finally comes and, when it does, it completely shatters all of your expectations? This is not a question that many of us know how to answer, for we’ve not had enough life experiences to help us here. We are not old men, doubled over by the cares of a long and expectant life. Even in the short years we have lived, we have not unwaveringly sought one thing and hoped for it with all our hearts. Our divided and distracted hearts keep us from feeling real kinship with Simeon.

Simeon was a single-minded man of purposed determination. Luke tells us that he “was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel.” God had given Simeon a rare and precious promise, a promise that kept Simeon waiting and watching expectantly. God told Simeon that he would have the honor of seeing Israel’s True Hope before he died. When the day came for the promise to come true, “he came by the Spirit into the temple.”

Simeon received the promise with great joy. God had been faithful after all! The wait had been long and Simeon was now a tired old man, but he had finally seen the Long-Expected One with his own eyes! Now he could die in peace, for he had seen God’s salvation face-to-face. None of us can die in peace until we have seen God’s salvation. Simeon was a man at peace. He now saw what his heart had longed for all those years.

Yet before Simeon passed from this world into the peaceful rest of the righteous, he spoke words that must have taken Mary and Joseph by surprise. I think even Simeon himself was shocked by the words that came from his lips. They were given to him by the Holy Spirit, as a prophecy of things to come. Simeon went to bless Joseph, Mary and Jesus, but the words he spoke were not words of blessing, but a dark and mysterious warning.

What did it mean that Jesus was “destined to cause the falling and rising of many” and that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul? Well, while Jesus’ whole ministry exposed “the thoughts of many hearts,” I think Simeon was directly speaking of the coming cross. It was at the cross that Mary felt deep pain in her soul as she watched her son shamed and dying before the jeering mob. The cross was the reason for Jesus’ coming, and even at His birth, its shadow hung over His life.

As Jesus hung on the cross, heaven and earth intersected in a unique way. In the dying of the Savior of the World, justice and mercy met in a bloody demonstration of the love of God for sinful people. Satan fell and salvation was finally made a reality as God’s justice was satisfied and the chains of slavery that had held God’s people were broken.

Something else also happened on that cross, as Jesus died for our sins. The cross was transformed that day from a symbol of human wickedness and torture into a symbol of hope for millions of people. Yet it also became a symbol of God’s final and unrelenting judgment against rebellious sinners. Those who embrace the cross and its shame find final freedom in the blood of Jesus, as they receive the forgiveness that can only be found at that dark place.

Those who reject the cross and its offer of forgiveness find something else on Calvary’s hill-- a graphic demonstration of God’s furious wrath against sin. Those who will not accept what Jesus did on the cross must still see in it the anger of God against wickedness. If they will not allow Jesus to bear that anger, they must be prepared to bear it themselves, something which none of us has the ability to begin to imagine.

The cross offers us no middle ground. It will be our falling or our rising, our destruction or our salvation. And at the cross, our hearts will be revealed before God; there will be no doubt where we stand. Perhaps you never expected to find life at such a place of death. Perhaps you’re not ready to accept that someone else’s pain could mean peace to your soul. I’m sure Simeon wasn’t expecting what God revealed to him, either. The question is, now that you know the truth, what will you do with it?

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
    and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” - Romans 9:30-33. ESV

Prayer Based on Psalm 103:

Psalm 103 is one of the best texts in the Bible for preaching the gospel to ourselves. It is a glorious reminder of gospel truth and one we should ponder and sing and tell to ourselves again and again!

Psalm 103 by Sovereign Grace:

O Lord, let my soul ever bless You!
   and all that is within me,
   bless Your holy name!
Let me not forget all Your benefits,
You forgive all my iniquity,
     You heal all my diseases, in this life and in eternity
You redeems my life from the pit,
    and You crown me with steadfast love and mercy,
You satisfy me with good
    so that my youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Oh Lord, let me believe and rejoice and glorify You for Your amazing love and benefits to me!

You, O Lord, work righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
You made known Your ways to Moses,
    Your acts to the people of Israel.

You, O Lord, are merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
You will not always chide,
    nor will You keep Your anger forever.
You does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is Your steadfast love toward those who fear You;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far do You remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so You, O Lord, show compassion to those who fear You.
For You know our frame;
    You remember that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
But Your steadfast love, O Lord, is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear You,
    and Your righteousness to children's children,
to those who keep Your covenant
    and remember to do Your commandments.
O Lord, give us the grace to keep trusting in Jesus,
   who is the substance and fulfillment of Your covenant.

You, O Lord, have established Your throne in the heavens,
    and Your kingdom rules over all.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty by Fernando Ortega:

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