Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The LORD Restores!

Advent Midweek III: The Psalms of Advent: Restore Us, O God!

The LORD Restores!
Text: Psalm 126

            “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:1, 4; ESV).  “You” O LORD, “have turned my mourning into dancing,” prays King David, you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (Ps. 30:11).  The Lord does give us times of sadness and tears.  He chastises us and lays crosses upon us.  These are for our good.  “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6).  But so also He gives us times of refreshment.  He surprises us with joy.  The LORD hears our cries and answers our prayers.  The LORD restores. 
            The people of Judah had suffered years of exile in Babylon.  Now, under the Persian King, Cyrus, they had been allowed to return to the Promised Land, to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and the Temple, the place of God’s presence among them.  They were back where they belonged and all was right in the world.  It seemed too good to be true.  “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream” (Ps. 126:1).  But it was real.  The LORD had brought them out of Babylon, just as He had brought them out of Egypt so many years before.  Their tears had been wiped away.  Their chastisement was at an end.  “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongues with shouts of joy” (v. 2).  The nations took notice of the gracious things God had done for His people.  “(T)hen they said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’  The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad” (vv. 2-3).  We are filled with rejoicing and recounting the praises of our God. 
            Israel had been restored.  And yet, it was only a partial restoration, a foreshadowing of the true restoration to come in Messiah, the Christ, Jesus, our Savior.  For that, the people still had to wait nearly 500 years.  They were still waiting for the Seed of the woman to crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15).  They were still waiting for the virgin to conceive and bear a Son, as Isaiah prophesied (Is. 7:14).  And so they pray: “Restore our fortunes, O LORD” (Ps. 126:4).  They had been restored.  And yet they were still waiting to be restored.  It was an “already/not yet” situation, as Luther would call it.  It is a paradox.  Restored already, but not yet fully.  The people of God continue to wait upon Him for deliverance.
            Such is always the case with God’s people.  Restored already, but not yet fully.  God restored the Children of Israel countless times in the Old Testament, yet they continued to wait for their full restoration in the Advent of the Savior.  He came, and we have a different perspective as New Testament people, as those born after our Lord’s earthly ministry and saving work.  Christ has come.  We have been restored.  Jesus did it all.  He paid for our sins on the cross.  He shed His blood to save us and claim us for Himself.  He is risen, and has won for us eternal life in heaven.  We are baptized in Him, and so all of this is ours already. Our fortunes have been restored.  We are like those who dream.  Our consciences are cleansed.  Our guilt is taken away.  The Law’s accusations are muted.  Sin has no power over us.  Death has been destroyed.  Hell has no claim on us.  And the serpent’s head is, indeed, crushed by the Seed of the woman, born of the Virgin Mary.  Our salvation is done deal.  The LORD has restored us.
            And yet, even for us, there is this sense that this is only a partial restoration.  There is more yet to come.  For we still suffer seasons of weeping.  There is still sadness.  Our consciences may be cleansed and our guilt taken away, but it doesn’t always feel like it.  We still sin.  We still feel the sting of the Law.  We know death has been defeated, but we still get sick, we still suffer physically and emotionally, and we still die.  We know it is all ultimately taken care of in Christ.  But we still have to live with it for now, for a little while.  For our restoration is a hidden reality.  It is hidden with Christ, in God (Col. 3:3).  We are waiting for the Last Day, when Christ will raise all the dead, when what is hidden will be revealed, when Christ will deliver His people once and for all.  As God’s people in between the comings of Christ, we wait, and we pray: “Restore our fortunes, O LORD.” 
            And there is one thing you can always count on with God.  What has been brought low will be raised up.  What is wrong will be made right.  What has died will be brought to life.  What is lost will be found.  “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).  “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy” (Ps. 126:5).  You will be consoled.  You will be comforted.  You will be restored.  And you will have joy again.  There will be times in this life when God will dry your tears.  Perhaps you will be healed from an affliction.  Perhaps God will provide something you have lacked, or some unexpected blessing for you to enjoy.  The Lord is good, and He pours out His good gifts upon us.  He gives us each day our daily bread, with a generous slathering of butter on top.  He gives us what we need, and so much more besides.  And He gives us one another, to love and to bless and to enjoy.  Christmas is a time when many of us will be surrounded by people we love.  We’ll enjoy a lavish feast and be showered with gifts, most of which we don’t need.  This is all from God’s liberal hand, to be received with rejoicing and praise. 

            But all of that is only temporary.  This is not the true joy.  And thank God for that, for all of these earthly blessings, though good, are fleeting.  Fortunes change.  Stuff decays.  People move away.  And die.  Many find the holidays particularly difficult for this reason.  Some Christmases are spent alone, or without presents.  Thank God Christmas is not defined by what we eat and who we eat it with, or the presents under the tree.  Christmas is about God coming in the flesh to restore our fortunes.  Knowing what He has accomplished by His life, death, and resurrection; that He dwells with us now in His Word and holy Sacraments; that He will come again to take us to be with Him where He is; this is our true joy.  This is the joy that we possess even in the midst of sorrow.  We can sing of joy to the world even as we mourn or suffer, because the Lord has come.  Joy is not the absence of sorrow, but the knowledge that Christ works it all for our good in the end.  He has done everything for our salvation.  And He’s coming back for us.  He’s coming again.  He’s coming to restore us fully.  It is not a dream.  It is real.  You will meet that Day, your mouth filled with laughter and your tongue with shouts of joy.  You can laugh and shout for joy now and celebrate Christmas with hearty rejoicing.  For no matter what you are going through at this moment, You have the Lord’s sure promise.  He has restored you, and He will.  And He is restoring you now as He gathers you around His Table.  Here He turns your mourning into dancing.  He looses your sackcloth and clothes you with gladness.  Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmaunel comes to thee, O Israel!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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