The Beautiful Beggar – Returning Thanks

“When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” (Acts 3:9-10)

His story is the story of every Christian who has received from the Lord free and abundant life.

He was crippled from birth, unable to help himself in any way.  He had to be carried daily to the temple, where he depended on the mercy of others for his daily bread.

He had no merit or worthiness in him.  He did not even ask to be healed.  But Jesus came to him through the witness of two men, and in a single day his life was changed forever.  His legs – that had never walked a step throughout his life – bore him instantly up with a strength that came not from himself, but from God.

Like this poor, crippled beggar, all of us were born spiritually lame and weak under the curse of sin.  We could not believe through our own power, being unable to take even a single step toward our Savior and the life He could offer.  If left to our own devices, we would have gone nowhere.

But God came to us, through the preaching of His Word by faithful men and women in our lives.  Through this Word and by our Baptism, our souls were filled with a strength that came from beyond ourselves.  Jesus took us by the hand and bid us rise and walk with Him – and by His grace, we were able to do just that.

Since this has been the pattern of every Christian’s life, you may think that it’s hardly the stuff heroes of the faith are made from.  But the most remarkable part of this crippled beggar’s account is yet to be seen; it is in his response to the great work that has been done in him.  He cannot contain himself – he rushes into the temple, “walking and jumping, and praising God.”  He simply must use this new God-given ability, and it seems he can only use it to glorify the Lord and testify to His goodness.

You see, we aren’t walking our way to heaven.  We don’t earn forgiveness by jumping up and down and praising God any more than a cripple can “earn” the use of his legs by running and leaping; it’s simply impossible.  Our saving faith, like the beggar’s miraculous mobility, is a free gift of God.

The crippled beggar is a hero of the faith because he shows us the appropriate response to being healed of our sin.  In faith, we run and jump and shout and praise God for the miraculous gift He has given us.  The beggar’s response draws many onlookers to him, and his thanksgiving becomes the catalyst for thousands of others coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  May God grant that our own thank offerings would bring such fruitful results!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Let the redeemed of the Lord say this” (Psalm 107:1-2)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for redeeming me from all my sins and enabling me to rise and walk with You.  Give me always a thankful heart, that I may proclaim Your goodness and mercy wherever I go; through Jesus Christ, You Son, my Lord.  Amen.

The Thief on the Cross – Jesus, Remember Me

“We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong…Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:41-42)

It is a curious thing that on Jesus’ most heroic day of His earthly existence, there was very little heroism elsewhere – especially in matters of faith.

It was a day for villains and cowards, and even those who had previously shown themselves to be great heroes of the faith faltered in those dark hours.  Rather than standing by their Lord in time of trouble and danger, Jesus’ disciples fled and scattered for the sake of their own safety.  His closest friends denied His name, swearing that they didn’t even know Him.  The administrators of “justice” made a mockery of their noble God-given authority to uphold truth and righteousness.  On that day, the masses of people cried out in anger for the blood of the Lamb of God.

But in this awful darkness, the testimony of one man shines out like a bright star in the heavens.  He was not a friend like Peter, not a student or follower like the disciples, not powerful like Pilate, and certainly not “righteous” like the leaders of the Jews believed themselves to be.  He was a poor, miserable criminal, justly condemned to die alongside Jesus.

During his brief time in the presence of the Word of God made flesh, this thief undergoes a dynamic change effected by the Holy Spirit.  God’s Law was written on this man’s heart, and he recognized his own sinfulness.  He confessed that he was being punished justly, but that Jesus was the innocent Righteous One of God.  The power of Jesus’ words and His very Being enables this criminal to make one of the most beautiful confessions of faith in all of Scripture by his modest plea: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Like blind Bartimaeus, this nameless thief demonstrates remarkable faith in Jesus’ power to forgive and redeem through his humble request for mercy.  And it is by this faith in God’s grace that the thief undergoes the Great Exchange; trading the punishment for his sin – the agony of death and Hell – for Jesus’ righteousness and innocence.  His assurance of this comes immediately after his confession in Jesus’ words: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Strengthened by the example of this heroic criminal, we come before God today and humbly ask for mercy.  We too cry out for the blood of the Lamb – not in anger against Him, but in contrition and repentance – asking God to be merciful for Jesus’ sake.  Like the thief on the cross, we can rest assured that Jesus will remember us in His kingdom where we will dwell with Him eternally.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2)

Prayer: Lord, forgive my sins and remember me in Your kingdom, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen.

Simon Peter – Because Jesus Said So

“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably uttered these words at least once in your lifetime: “Because I said so, that’s why!”  This phrase is usually spoken in a tone of impatience, disgust, or even contempt.  After all, that we even needed to employ those words in the first place means that someone doesn’t trust us; they don’t see us as an authority worthy of respect, and we feel inclined to point out that the very fact that we told them to do something ought to be reason enough for obedience.

Simon, James, and John weren’t just a group of fishing buddies out throwing some casts and knocking back a few beers on a lazy Saturday; they were professional fishermen who spent nearly every day of their lives on the lake, trying to make a living.  They undoubtedly knew the times, locations, and tactics used to catch fish better than anyone, and they also knew where the fish simply weren’t going to be.  These guys were experts.

So when some carpenter comes along and starts giving them advice, it probably would have been easy to get somewhat miffed.  They’re tired from working hard all night long and probably a little crabby at the fact that they have nothing to show for all their effort.  Now some layman wants to come along and tell them how to do their job?  Most of us probably would have said, “Get lost, buddy!”

But Simon Peter catches himself as he starts to point out the obvious facts to Jesus.  He recognizes Jesus’ authority, even if it doesn’t seem to have any logical bearing on the present situation.  He announces, “Because YOU say so, I will let down the nets.”

We tend to think that we’re experts on a lot of things, even matters of spirit and ministry.  We know all the “right” ways to witness, all the best “fishing holes” for finding hearts with fertile soil for the Gospel seed, and just the right times to “let down our nets” and let the Gospel do its work.  But sometimes God calls us to cast out the net of His Word in situations that really don’t seem all that promising.  We look at the deep waters of a thoroughly secular society or a firmly atheistic acquaintance and say, “God, there’s nothing in there to catch.  I’ve worked all through the night in some of the ripest fields, trying to bring Your Word to sinners, and I’m tired of fruitless efforts.  Just let me go home and rest, mend my nets, and maybe another day I’ll try that part of the lake.”

Many times, we are called to bring the net of God’s Word to the fish.  But just as often, it seems, God asks us to let down the net and let Him bring the fish to us.  When we trust His authority and take Him at His Word, we will be amazed as we see the boat of the Church being filled with schools of people coming to faith by miraculous saving grace.  So cast away with reckless abandon, throwing your nets into whatever waters God directs you to – because He said so.  Even with all your skill and knowledge as a fisher of men, you will still get skunked every time without the Spirit’s help.  Let the One who created the lake and everything in it guide you to today’s catch!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Prayer: Lord God, guide me in my ministry today.  Give me the faith to heed Your calling and proclaim Your Word wherever You direct me to do so.  Give me the courage to let down the net of Your Word, even in the deepest and darkest of waters.  Bring the multitude of those who do not know You safely into the boat of Your church, unto life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Paralytic’s Friends – Whatever it Takes

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:5)

If you’ve ever had a really close friend who was sick or injured, you know how hard it is to see them suffer.  Most of us would be willing to do almost anything for the sake of helping someone we love.  Imagine for a moment that one such person to whom you are very close is suffering from a terminally debilitating condition, and that an individual who could immediately heal them was close at hand.  What would you not dare in order to get this friend into the presence of that healer?

Now imagine that this friend of yours suffers not from a mere physical ailment or disease, but from a spiritual plague that is eating away at their very soul and threatening to cause eternal death.  Their condition worsens daily, and at any moment they could pass the threshold of physical death, where their malady would be beyond anyone’s help.  What would you not dare to get this person you love into the presence of the One who is able to heal him?

It’s strange how our hearts become overwhelmed with pity for the physical suffering of those around us, and yet we all know friends, relatives, or neighbors whose souls are in critical condition.  If any of these people were physically dying, we would be willing to carry them on foot for miles to whatever specialist was available, go to great lengths to attract the personal attention they need, and pay whatever price was demanded for their treatment.  But often, we neglect to get them the necessary spiritual treatment because we are ashamed, embarrassed, or reluctant to cause tension in our relationship with them.

The paralytic’s friends loved him very much.  They knew that only one person could heal him and restore the use of his legs.  And so, they were willing to do whatever it took to get him into Jesus’ presence, trusting in the merciful Lord to heal him.  What they didn’t realize is that Jesus came first and foremost to remove our spiritual disease of sin – a much more serious condition than even paralysis – and that they all needed His medical attention.  He then restored their bed-ridden friend’s physical capacities in order to show everyone present that He had the power and authority to remove even the most aggressive strains of humanity’s sinful disease.

If you have a friend or relative who is suffering from sickness or physical adversity, by all means bring them to the Lord in prayer for strength and healing.  But also realize that sometimes physical ailments are just what the Doctor ordered for our spiritual sickness.  Pray more so that God would use whatever adversity they are facing to bring them closer to Himself.

If you have a loved one whose spiritual health is on life-support, the best thing you can do is to take a lesson from the paralytic’s friends: Do whatever it takes to bring them into Jesus’ presence.  Then, trust in His mercy to heal and restore them.  Your job is not to work the miracle – but you can remove the barriers and bring them face to face with their risen Lord.  Only by Jesus’ grace, power, and authority will they arise and walk once more with Him.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we bring before you all those who do not know the joy of Your forgiveness.  Bend their hearts that they may turn to You in repentance and faith, receiving redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ, You Son, our Lord.  Amen.

Elizabeth – Getting it Right

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45)

I’ll make it easy today; those words above are exactly what make Elizabeth one of the great heroes of the faith and our first example for the New Testament.  She professes precisely the same doctrine that Jesus Christ Himself would preach, and the same message that all of our heroes of the faith in the Old Testament pointed toward; we are saved by believing and trusting the promises of God!

It isn’t always easy to fully and immediately trust God’s words.  Elizabeth’s own husband, Zechariah, initially doubted the Word of the Lord through the angel Gabriel, and went without speaking for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy as a result.  However, he and his wife become a united front in faithfully believing what the Lord told them when it came time to name the child, and God richly blessed them for their faith.

How wonderful that in a time of ceremonial laws and regulations a Godly woman would pronounce such a simple, compelling summary of the Gospel!  And what better time for this affirmation of salvation by grace through faith than at the first appearance of our unborn Lord?  Just as John and Peter would later be prompted to their own confessions by the power of the Holy Spirit, so too was Elizabeth filled with the Spirit and given the miracle of faith by which God would use her to speak His truth.

Time and time again, we see those who come into contact with Jesus doing exactly what Elizabeth first proclaimed to Mary on that day: They believe the words of God’s promised Messiah and are blessed with faith and life through Him.  The centurion, the paralytic, the Canaanite woman; all of them and many others confessed their faith in Jesus, believing in what He said, and received the blessings of physical and spiritual healing.  Many, like the thief on the cross, believed Jesus’ words of promise and were blessed with eternal life.

Elizabeth’s statement of faith is true for God’s people today all over the world.  God has promised to redeem and save all those who turn to Him in faith for forgiveness.  Believing that what He says will be accomplished, we look to the cross for salvation, proclaiming righteousness and life to all who trust this promise!

“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to always trust Your promises.  Send Your Holy Spirit into the hearts of people all over the world, that they may turn to You in faith and live by grace, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

Malachi – Sounding the Wake-up Call

“My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name.  True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips.  He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.”  (Malachi 2:5-6)

Tell me when this starts to sound familiar:

The people of God had become lukewarm and complacent.  They felt like worship and duty to God were a burden; a task to be performed without love or joy.  They gave to Him out of obligation, but only the dregs and the leftovers.  They complained that God did not reward them for their “faithfulness” and only prospered the wicked.  They longed for God to come with fire and judgment to destroy the “sinners.”  They no longer respected God’s servants, but despised the priesthood.  They turned to pagan peoples and culture for happiness and fulfillment rather than abiding steadfastly in the One True God.  They quarreled and broke faith even with their spouses, endangering the Godly upbringing of their youth.

Many churches today are stressing the importance of “relevance” in their ministries.  That’s fine and good, but if you cannot see the relevance in the plain and simple Word of God, then something is seriously wrong.  I’m afraid that there are those who turn to other more worldly sources because they feel that Scripture is “dated” and “out-of-touch” with people today.  And yet, is there a single item in the above paragraph with which our society cannot perfectly relate?

Malachi made it quite “relevant” to the Israelites, as well as to us today: When we regard worship as a “burden” and offer to God only the leftovers, we dishonor His name and show a lack of love, trust, and devotion to Him.  When we despise God’s Word and those who proclaim it, we can’t complain when the world despises and humiliates us.  When we break faith with God and abandon His ways, how can we expect to reap the fruits of abundant life that He promises as a result of following Him in faith?  And God certainly will come to judge the sinners; so beware!  Our hypocrisy itself accuses us, for we have fallen far short of the Law’s requirements: “Now implore God to be gracious to us.  With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?” (Malachi 1:9)

The question for our churches today is, how can we make “the rest of the story” relevant as well?  Will we, like the faithful remnant in Jerusalem, turn to God in repentance and place our lives at the mercy of His promise?  “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.  ‘They will be mine,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession.  I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him” (Malachi 3:16-17).

Thankfully, our Heavenly Father has a Son who has served Him perfectly, living a life that fulfilled the fullness of the Law and dying on our behalf.  In compassion for Jesus Christ’s sake, God will spare us even though we have flouted His commands, neglected His worship, broken faith with each other, doubted His justice, and wished for vengeance upon the “ungodly.”  We revere His name by trusting in His mercy and placing our faith in the promise of salvation through forgiveness by His grace!

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” (Malachi 4:2)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for the many ways in which I fall short of honoring You.  Help me to put You first in my life by glorifying You in all that I do and by serving my neighbor.  Bring me at last to be with You forever for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen.

Esther – Pleading before the King

“If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life – this is my petition.  And spare my people – this is my request.” (Esther 7:3)

Queen Esther has long been known as a great hero of the faith because of her willingness to go before the king and selflessly risk her life on behalf of her people.  Haman, the enemy of the Jews, had successfully plotted their complete annihilation which would soon be carried out.  His hatred of Esther’s people could only be placated by wiping them off the face of the Earth.

Although the punishment for approaching the king’s throne without being summoned was death, Esther boldly falls before him to petition for the lives of her people.  Because she had found favor in his eyes, the king grants her life and furthermore agrees to do whatever she asks.  In a series of seeming coincidences, Haman, the great enemy, was destroyed and the Jewish people had life, honor and peace restored to them.

Interestingly, God Himself is never explicitly mentioned in the entire book of Esther.  Yet His hand is clearly seen in the events that play out for the salvation of His chosen people and ultimately the salvation of all mankind through the Messianic Promise.  The “coincidences” that occur are nothing other than Divine Providence working out of love for God’s children.  Because Esther and the other people of Israel look to God in faith for mercy and salvation, they are saved from the terrible fate that had been plotted for them.

Like Esther and her people, we have all been doomed to destruction by a powerful enemy whose hatred for us cannot be quenched by anything other than our eternal damnation.  Satan has built a gallows just for us, and his snare of sin would assuredly have led us into death and hell.  But thanks be to God for One who has found favor in His sight – Jesus Christ – who goes before Him on our behalf, willing to suffer death for the sake of our safety.  By His noble sacrifice, the tables have been turned on our enemy, and Satan has been cast down even as we are raised up in life, honor and peace with God.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for delivering me from my enemies – sin, death, and the Devil – through the precious sacrifice and glorious triumph of Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord.  Amen.

Daniel – The Repentant Leader

“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel 9:9).

Daniel is often honored as one of the greatest warriors of the faith in the Old Testament, and for good reason.  He faithfully served and honored God even under pagan rulers who were hostile to believers.  He turned the hearts of some of the most powerful leaders on earth toward God and paved the way for the Gospel to be spread quickly and received with faith even in foreign lands – think of the magi from the east and many, many others who would remember the God of Israel when the apostles spread the news of Jesus’ death and resurrection abroad.  He endured extreme tests of faith, even being cast into a den of ravenous lions, and was honored by God and angels as “one high esteemed.”

But more than anything else, Daniel deserves to be called a hero of the faith because of his keen understanding of the duty of spiritual warriors – to call sinners to repentance and salvation.  Daniel’s prayer in chapter nine is perhaps one of the most beautiful passages in the whole Bible.  Feeling the weight of sin under which God’s people are suffering, Daniel falls before God and pleads for mercy:

                “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong.  We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.  We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name…[we] are covered with shame because we have sinned against you.  The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him…Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant…We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.  O Lord, listen!  O Lord, forgive!  O Lord, hear and act!  For your sake, O my God, do not delay…” (excerpts from Daniel 9:4-19; read the whole passage there!)

Daniel’s wonderful prayer echoes in our churches today.  In keeping with the true line of faith heroes, our pastors and leaders turn our hearts to God – not only for temporal relief, but especially for forgiveness and cleansing.  Daniel knew that earthly and eternal salvation rested with God alone, and that the merciful Lord will not ignore the pleas of those who fall before Him.  In fact, Gabriel even tells Daniel, “As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given” (Daniel 9:23).

Like Daniel, we serve God best when we cry out to Him with contrition and repentance for ourselves and on behalf of our people.  The greatest leadership we can provide is the act of ultimate humility; to confess our sins and iniquities and place ourselves in God’s merciful hands.  When we hear the promise of forgiveness and salvation through God’s Word, we can be at peace with God.  We are strengthened in faith and enabled to rise and glorify Him through works of love:

“Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength.  ‘Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed,’ he said.  ‘Peace!  Be strong now; be strong.’” (Daniel 10:18-19)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise You for Your unending mercy and love for sinners like me!  Bend the hearts of all mankind to turn to You in repentance, that they may receive strength through faith unto life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

Isaiah – Ready for Orders!

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?’  And I said, ‘Here am I.  Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8)

Isaiah proclaimed the Word of the Lord abundantly during the reign of four of Judah’s kings, among which was one of the vilest to ever sit on the throne and one of the best to ever follow God’s statutes.  He continually called the children of Israel to repentance by reminding them of God’s Law and foretelling the destruction that would come if they did not turn from their sins.  But he also announced some of the most wonderful Gospel promises found in all of the Old Testament, specifically prophesying the birth and life of a Savior Messiah who would redeem the people from their sin.

Isaiah was certainly qualified to speak on the topic of God’s free redemption by His grace.  When commissioned by God to go and speak to the people of Israel, Isaiah laments over his coming into the presence of the One True God.  He understood that he was tainted with sin, and that only destruction awaited him in the presence of a just and holy God.

But Isaiah is spared – God in His grace freely removes Isaiah’s sin.  An angel takes a burning coal from the altar of atonement and touches it to Isaiah’s mouth, saying, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7).  Although Isaiah is sinful and unclean, God mercifully removes his sin, taking him instantly from ruin and destruction to cleansing and new life.  The Lord Himself makes Isaiah worthy to come into His presence, and Isaiah responds in joy and thanksgiving by gladly doing the Lord’s work; proclaiming His Word to the people.

Like Isaiah, we often feel unworthy or inadequate of the great task God has set before us.  But we also have had our sin and guilt removed by the atonement of Jesus Christ, about Whom Isaiah prophesied throughout his lifetime.  Though we were sinners, standing under judgment and eternal death, God’s grace brought us into salvation and eternal life.  How great the joy on this day, knowing what God has freely done for us!  Therefore we, like Isaiah, can rise each morning and say to God, “Here am I.  Send me!”

“Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:3-4)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for Your great mercy, by which I have been brought out of death and into abundant life.  You Yourself have made me worthy to serve You; by Your Holy Spirit, let me do so at all times gladly and willingly, through Jesus Christ, Your Son.  Amen.

Shemaiah – Interceding for Peace

“Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance.” (2 Chronicles 12:7)

It isn’t often that we find anyone in Judah or Israel listening to the Lord during the reign of Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  The kingdom had been torn apart because of the sins of Solomon, his son, and all of Israel.  Because of the rebellion against God by David’s heirs, Rehoboam finds that ten tribes of Israel have rebelled against him.  Worship of false gods becomes rampant as David’s faithful example gives way to idolatrous leadership.

Yet even while both Judah and Israel rebel against the Lord God, He provides an intercessor for peace on their behalf.  He sends his servant Shemaiah to King Rehoboam as he is about to march north with a hundred and eighty thousand men set on wresting the kingdom back from the rebellious tribes: “This is what the Lord says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites.  Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’ So they obeyed the word of the Lord and went home again, as the Lord had ordered” (1 Kings 12:24).

Shemaiah’s intercession for peace in the midst of sinful rebellion is reminiscent of the greater Man of God, Jesus Christ.  Even in the midst of our rebellion, God sent His Son to give us peace; peace with Him, peace with our neighbors, and peace in our own hearts through the forgiveness of sins.  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  God’s love for us didn’t stop on account of our rebellion.  Rather, it was our sinful rejection of Him that led to the ultimate display of love at Calvary.

As Rehoboam establishes his reign, he gradually abandons God and walks into disaster.  But God equips Shemaiah with His Word, and through this Word the man of God is able to soften even these hard hearts and turn them to repentance.  God has mercy on Rehoboam and Judah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance” (2 Chronicles 12:7).  Because Rehoboam turns back to God, the remainder of his rule is blessed and God gives him faithful children to rule after him for three generations.  But God gives more than earthly deliverance to Rehoboam.  Through the Law, God turns the hearts of Judah to repentance and saves them through the Gospel by faith in Him and in the Messiah that would soon come and give deliverance to the whole world.

Though he is spoken of little in Scripture, Shemaiah is a hero of the faith in every way.  He preaches God’s just and perfect Law along with His righteous judgment to the people, and he also points ahead toward Jesus by proclaiming the Gospel of peace and salvation.  He reveals the same pattern of a loving God that all faith heroes demonstrate; One who gives us peace now and forever through forgiveness by God’s grace.

“The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.  They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness.  He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever – holy and awesome is his name.” (Psalm 111:7-9)

Prayer: Lord, help me ever to be a man of God, faithfully proclaiming Your Law and assuring repentant sinners of Your Gospel.  Send out Your Word to soften the hard hearts of our world, that all may turn to You in faith; through Jesus Christ, Your Son.  Amen.