SCRIPTURES – Prov. 8:1-4, 22-31; Acts2:22-36; John 8:48-49; Ps. 16
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would seemy day. He saw it and was glad."
Several days ago in London two Muslim men hacked to death a British soldierwhile shouting, “God is great!” Theybelieved they were honoring and proclaiming God’s greatness by attacking andkilling His enemy. Interestingly, Islam also declares that God is merciful.Apparently, His mercy is reserved only for those who serve and obey Him.
The Lutheran Church has set aside today as Trinity Sunday. It is not a day toexplain who God is and make Him understandable, for that cannot be done. God isa mystery, greatly above us and beyond our very weak and very limitedunderstanding. His ways and what He allows to happen will often trouble andconfuse us. Rather than a day to explain, this is a day set aside to simply confessGod. We do so with words that He Himself gives us. But, we also confess Him byhow we live our lives, and this is the confession that is perhaps heard by themost people.
Jesus holds up Abraham to us as the great example of a faithful confessor: “Your father Abrahamrejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad." (John 8:56) What can we learn from Abraham,a man who lived as many years before Jesus came – 2,000 – as we have livedsince His coming? We learn that the simplest, and perhaps best, expression offaith in God is joy.
What is joy? The dictionary defines it as “a feeling of gladness anddelight,” but joy in God is far more than glad feelings. Because of Christ youcan rejoice in God while being sad and crying. Christian soldiers and sailors haverejoiced in God even while being afraid because they are under enemy fire. Thebeliever who joys in God embraces tears and sadness and fear, as well as happinessand gladness, in the confidence that because of Jesus God will hold him andkeep him in His care and work His will for his blessing, no matter what mayhappen or has happened.
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and wasglad." How so?Well, God appeared to Abraham and promised him that “in you all the peoples of theearth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Abraham was not a believer in Godbut a worshiper of idols when this happened. God had appeared to him and chosenhim by pure grace and mercy, in spite of his unbelief and sin! Many yearslater, when Abraham and his wife Sarah were old and beyond child-bearing years,God appeared to him again and told him that Sarah would bear him a son; andthis indeed happened. Abraham experienced many times in his life the grace andmercy of a God of love, a God who reaches out to sinners, calls them to Himself,and changes their lives. How different He was from the gods other people worshiped,who, if they responded at all, only responded to works of obedience! What joythis must have brought him! He must have thought upon this and looked forwardto the day when God would fulfill His promise to bless all the peoples of theearth through his descendants. Abraham looked forward to the day of Christ, andhe certainly saw Him when he died and was taken to heaven.
This is our God: one who wants to save sinners by drawing them to Himself,forgiving their sins, and changing their lives. He calls out to us eagerly, asHe declares in our reading from Proverbs 8, because He “rejoices in his inhabited worldand delights in the children of man.” He delights in us so much that Hecomes to us Himself, not in power but as a simple person just like us, and byHis death for us the Son of God Himself pays the price for our sins –– notbecause He had to, but because He wanted to, because He loves us.
This is the God of Abraham, the God that Muslims, who claim Abraham astheir father, do not know. But, thanks and praise be to God the Holy Trinity, weknow Him, for He has come to us in Jesus and has shown us the fullness ofHis love and joy in Him. We know Him because He has called out to us and takenus to be His children in our baptisms.
Does this not fill you with joy? It is a joy to know this God, to be ableto read His Bible and learn from Him! It is a joy to follow the good paths Helays out for us in His Word. It is a joy to serve others in His name. It is ajoy to look forward to seeing Him face to face and living forever in thefullness of His joy in heaven.
Isn’t it? Yes, it is; but joy, like God Himself, is also somewhat of amystery. Think of the joy of a newly married couple. Their greatest joy is inbeing with one another. Physical beauty and attraction are a part of thereason. There is also the excitement of a new life together; of pursuing hopesand dreams together; and, of being a help and support for one another. How andwhen did such joy arise? That is somewhat of a mystery. You can’t make lovehappen. You can’t manufacture joy in a relationship. All you can do is spendtime together and talk with one another. It is from this that joy comes.
It is much the same in our relationship with God. David, in Psalm 16, says:“Ihave set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall notbe shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices.” Hisconfidence that God was with Him and would take care of Him, and so then his joyin God, came from setting the Lord before Him, from listening to His words andthinking upon what they revealed about God. God’s words bring us our God andHis joy. They give confident joy to the heart.
A couple of weeks ago I visited Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941 over2,400 Americans were killed there in the surprise attack by the Japanese; ByronRall from our congregation lost his father that day. 1,177 crew members of the battleshipArizona were killed. The Arizona Memorial is a somber place, not a place ofjoy. It is especially sobering to know that the devastation and death on thatday could possibly have been prevented, or at the least greatly diminished. Yousee, over 50 minutes before the Japanese planes arrived, an Army radarinstallation on Oahu detected them. The contact was reported, but it wasexplained away and ignored. No defense was prepared, and thousands lost theirlives.
Far worse will happen when Christ returns to usher in the Father’s eternaljoy, but also bring His eternal judgment upon sin and unbelief. By His Word Heprepares us by forgiving our sins and filling us with His joy in Christ. Setthe Lord and His Word before you, before your eyes and ears and mind and heart,that the knowledge of your great and joyous God may fill you and ready you forthat day!
This is what faith – a joyous faith, the faith of Abraham – does. Truefaith finds joy and delight in God: in worshiping Him; in listening to andlearning His Word; and in thanking and serving Him. Oh, we don’t always do so,and never fully do so, for we remain sinners. But, if you do not have such joyand gladness, pray that God change your heart, for such joy is the mark of a truefaith.
Such joy is the essence of the Holy Trinity, the one true God. Blessed bethis God, our God, the Holy Trinity! How unlike every other god He is. A God oflove and peace and joy and mercy in Christ! Let us give glory to Him, who hasshown His mercy to us!