This Sunday at Immanuel: Chapter 20: The Queen of Beauty and Courage
Chapter 20 of The Story is the story of Esther, an orphaned Jewish girl who becomes Queen of Persia in the post exile time of Israel, in 480 BC. Her privilege, however, is not without responsibility. What seems like a Cinderella story from a lower story point of view is a story filled with salvation overtones in God’s upper story. Esther (with help from cousin Mordecai) saves the people of Israel who chose to remain in Persia from death by “pogrom”, as planned by the evil Haman. This story of intrigue, tension and resolution is also a call to action for each of us. This Sunday we will explore this story’s challenge that God’s people everywhere offer themselves to God for service, “at all times, and in every way”.
Chapter 18 of The Story is dedicated to the well loved story of Daniel. It is a book worth reading. The first 6 chapters include the stories of Daniel living in exile during the time of the Babylonian and Persian kingdoms. God uses him (and his friends) to speak to the kings by interpreting their dreams and other strange events. God also rescues them when others seek their harm. God’s people wondered how to live during a time of judgment, away from the temple and the land of promise and covenant. Daniel answers that question simply and confidently: no matter how “hot the fire” or “fierce the lion”, we never, ever, ever break our promise to love and serve God Most High. God first – God always. A tough lesson that Israel had not yet learned. Daniel prefigures Jesus Christ in that he remained faithful to God even when the cost of faithfulness appeared to be life itself.
Chapter 16 of The Story tells of the fall of the Southern Kingdom of Judah to the nation of Babylon recorded in II Kings 21-25. The deportation of the people of Israel in 722 BC and 586 BC brought to and end the 350 years of their existence as a independent nation. “Now what?” was the cry of the people whose sin had led God to judge them and whose suffering was so severe that all hope seemed lost. God raise up prophets to speak to them in their misery. Essentially they said: Yes, it was God who judged you for your sin, but this same God has not forgotten you. He will restore you after 70 years and bring you home and give you back your land, and your life and your future. All of this will take place because of a promise he made to you to never forget his love and compassion and his plan through you to declare to the nations his love and desire that all the world will know him, and find life in his name. This word of God was brought to them by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and many others. This week we will hear from Ezekiel. To prepare for this Sunday’s message read chapters 1, 18 and 37.
Chapter 16 of The Story is based in II Kings 17-20. I encourage everyone to read those 4 chapters from the Bible in preparation for Sunday’s Message.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel is defeated and deported by the Assyrian nation. Chapter 17 gives us God’s reasons for allowing this defeat of his covenant people. It is a excellent summary of what we have learned so far in The Story. God keeps his promises and expects the same from his people. We then turn to a mocking threat by King Sennacherib of Assyria against the Southern Kingdom of Judah, taunting their trust in Yahweh as being a false hope. King Hezekiah seeks the counsel of the prophet Isaiah who prophecies that Yahweh will send a “report” that will cause the Assyrian king to turn around, sparing the people of Judah. In this story we see the “awfulness” of God’s wrath against sin, and the mercy of God displayed in his covenant faithfulness to those who turn to him as their only hope.
Chapter 15 of The Story introduces us to a few of the prophets who spoke to Israel, calling them to turn from idol worship and renew their commitment to God. Though Elijah did not write a book, he is often referred to in the rest of the Bible. The story of his “challenge” to the false prophets of Baal is one of the many great stories of the Bible, told in I Kings 17-19. You will also read portions of Amos and Hosea in this week’s reading. This Sunday’s message will focus on the ways in which Christ followers today are called by God to continue the spiritual legacy of Elijah (and the rest of the prophets) and bring the message of God to the people of our generation. A monumental mission for which we are equipped by God’s Word and Sacrament, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here’s an audio file of the sermon if you missed it or want to hear it again.
Chapter 14 of The Story takes us into the time when the Nation of Israel was divided into a northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdom. God continued to guide both kingdoms and he calls the kings to follow him in all things, but sadly many did not. It is difficult to sense God’s Upper Story during this time when the Lower Story of the 2 nations involves so much self-centered living and the seeking after other gods. And yet, God’s sovereign plan continues on. He even redeems the removal of the 10 tribes from being ruled by the line of David. (we will get to that part of the story in a few weeks). Though disobedient, God will redeem his people and keep his promise to bring salvation to the nations. One day a Savior will be born who will be Christ, the Lord and he will rule not only over the tribe of Judah but all the nations of the world. Thanks Be To God!
Chapter 13 of The Story is about King David’s son, Solomon, the third king of Israel. His story is told in 1 Kings 1-11. Solomon asked God for wisdom, and God gave him wisdom, wealth and honor. He wrote many proverbs and songs, and the Bible tells us he spoke extensively about plant and animal life. Solomon, we are told was the wisest and wealthiest man on earth. God established his kingdom and Solomon’s influence was known far and wide. He also built God’s temple and a royal palace and dedicated everything to God. His prayer at the dedication of the temple demonstrates his dependence on God and is a plea for mercy for the times when God’s people fall into sin. At the end of Solomon’s life he falls away from God and worships the gods of his many wives. God turns away from him and removes 10 tribes from his kingdom, but because of God’s promise to David, God leaves him with the tribe of Judah (and later Benjamin).
Chapter 12 of The Story is about David the King as told in II Samuel. Following Saul’s death, David is crowned king and establishes the nation, extending the borders and consolidating his power. Jerusalem is conquered and the ark brought home. The story of David’s “rise” in chapters 1-10, sets up the story of David’s “decline”, beginning with the story of Bathsheba in chapter 11 and extending to the end of the book. II Samuel 12 is the story of how Nathan, the prophet of God, confronts David with his sin. As we come together this Sunday to the table of our Lord, David’s response to the reality of his sin will guide us into honest confession so that our hearts are ready for God’s amazing grace.
This Sunday at Immanuel: Chapter 11 From Shepherd to King
David: the man after God’s own heart (I Samuel 13:14). The story of David is a long and detailed story in the Bible told mostly told in I Samuel 16-31 and all of II Samuel. This week’s story includes portions of I Samuel 16-31 and several other selections. David’s greatest attribute was in recognizing the importance of calling on God in time of need and carrying out the purpose and plan of God as God directed him. He did not do it perfectly, but he did it in ways that left those around him in awe of his courage and conviction. Goliath was his first test. What a test! Did he have the courage and conviction to defend the name of the living God! He did! And he did it “so that the world will know… that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s.”
The popular metaphor about David and Goliath gets it all wrong. Goliath didn’t stand a chance! Not against the LORD of all creation. Evil never has the last word. That day at Calvary we see this clearly. The power of evil met its match, and then some, once and for all. Believing that will give you a heart like David’s, molded after God’s heart. Time to take on the Goliaths in your life. Have at it!
For further background information on the book of I Samuel, please follow this link:
Saul is another of the Bible “colorful characters”. His story is found in I Samuel 9-15. I hope you take time to read these 7 chapters before Sunday. For extra credit read chapters 1-8.
Saul does many things right and is chosen and favored by God. But on several occasions, he took matters into his own hands and went ahead without God’s blessing and without listening. Sounds like someone I know quite well.
Was Saul a success or a failure? Both, I think, as am I. But God loved and used Saul in his kingdom, and by God’s grace, he uses you and me.
God continues the Redemption Story in spite of our failures, because he knows that ultimately it is his greater Son that will finally carry out his plan with a perfection he has longed for all these years.
God responds to Saul’s failings with the provision of a king “after God’s own heart”. God responds the same way after the long series of kings that end up mostly following their own ways. God sends the Son of David who is the King of Kings. It is his birthday next month.