Sunday, December 18, 2011

Done for and Done TO

To hear what God has done for and, even more, TO you--click on this MP3 audio link--"Done for and Done TO."

The Lord's blessings to you as He prepares you to rejoice in the birth of His only begotten Son and the Holy Spirit prepares you to receive and believe the words of the Father that lift you out of he depths of hell and into the kingdom of heaven.

A rough preaching manuscript follows below if you prefer to read along or read instead.

TEXT: 15"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.' 17And the LORD said to me, 'They are right in what they have spoken. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.'" Deuteronomy 18:15-19

That prophet of course is Jesus, the Word of God made flesh. Not only did He speak all that the Father commanded Him, He lived it—and died it—for you.

Now risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father, Jesus lives it again and speaks it to the ends of the earth until the end of the age as He extends the words God the Father put in his mouth to the world through the ministers of His Word.

"The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:16

These concluding words, "the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me," are ominous indeed—especially in light of the concluding words of our OT text, "and whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him."

This, of course, is a statement of judgment and condemnation. Here in a few words the LORD is saying, "Okay, you don't want to listen to me? I'm going to hold you to it. I'm going to require of you that you do it all yourself. Have it your way! But remember, your way is death. You have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, just like your parents and grandparents—just like Adam and Eve. And just like them, you will surely die. What's more, if you do not want to listen to my words, you will die eternally without ever ceasing to exist. Your dying and all the suffering and torment of dying will never be over. For what can the one who is surely dying do to stop his death? What can the one who has fallen and begun the endless descent into the bottomless pit of hell do to stop his fall, and rise to live again?"

But enough of this! You have not come here to ignore the words of the LORD and reject Him. You are here because you have been gathered by the Holy Spirit to listen to the words that this prophet Jesus came to speak in the name of the LORD His Father, our Father who art in heaven. And His words are the words of eternal life. His words are the words that not only tell you what He has done for you in the virgin birth; in the perfectly sinless life; in the holy, precious bloodshed; in the innocent suffering and death; in the descent into the depths of hell; in the resurrection from death, hell, and the grave; in the glorious ascension to heaven of His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ. Even more than this, His words are also the words that tell you what He is doing to you save you, to stop your descent into that bottomless pit of hell, to raise you out of the grave, to place you into the kingdom of heaven, and to give you eternal life.

These words by which our mighty God did great things not just for, but to her are the words the blessed virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord, received, believed, and rejoiced in according to our Gospel text this morning. Mary actually sings a list of those things that God her Savior has done to her and to all people.

"My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for he who is mighty has done great things to me, and holy is his name.
50And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
51He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;
53he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever."

And here is what is so amazing and instructive for us in Mary's "Magnificat." Who of us could hold a candle to her in terms of innocence, righteousness, and good works? She is the very mother of God having born the flesh of the only begotten Son of God into the world. Yet she sings this song of praise in total humility before God to Elizabeth and all mankind, and she plumbs the depths of the meaning of those essential words of the prophet, Isaiah [64:6], "But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away."

You see, as horrible and destructive as our sinful behavior is, it is our good works—even our best works that are our biggest problem. It is these that make us think more of ourselves than we ought. It is these that tempt us into trusting in our own righteousness and thinking we somehow deserve God's blessings. It is these that prevent us from receiving, believing, and rejoicing in what God does for and especially to us.

So let us now once again join with her and all the hosts of heaven and sing "The Magnificat," rejoicing in God our Savior who has looked on our humble estate and forgiven us all our sins--in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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