Jesus, Lamb of God

 

Introduction

I think it’s easy to underestimate everything that Jesus has done for us. I’ll go further – no matter where you are in your Christian walk, you and I have already underestimated and continue to underestimate everything the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords has done, is doing, and will do for you and me.

Today we are going to study Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Old Testament

We’ve been walking through the Chronological Bible this year, and we need to recap a little about God addresses sin. The first sin, of course, was in the Garden of Eden, breaking forever the unblemished relationship between man and our God.

God promised the serpent the sin would not go unpunished, in Genesis 3:15,

And I will put enmity
   between you and the woman,
   and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
   and you will strike his heel.

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As for Adam and Eve, whom He loved, God began the sacrificial system when God slew an innocent animal and covered man’s nakedness in Genesis 3:21,

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

Slide3.JPGFor the next several centuries, those who walked with God understood this concept of substitutionary death. Alters were built and sacrifices made by Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But God’s sacrificial system was taken to another level while the Israelites suffered under bondage by the Egyptians. In this first Passover, 4 days prior to their exodus out of Egypt, each Israeli household was to choose a lamb without defect. The lamb was slain, roasted, and eaten on the night of departure.   The lamb’s blood was smeared on lintel and doorpost of each Hebrew home, signifying to the angel of death that death had already occurred in that home. God’s wrath would then “pass over” that home.

Slide4.JPGIn the 40 years of the wilderness, God still had a desire to be close to His people, despite their sin nature. The sacrificial system was expanded, and introduced a high priest and an altar, the holy of holies, and substitutionary sacrifices were made annually on the Day of Atonement.

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The Israelites lived their entire year in their sin, anticipating their Day of Atonement to be free of their sin, living in the light of this promise of redemption.   The sacrificial lamb saved them from their sins.

But as we learned through the books of Kings and Chronicles, the people of Israel continued to do evil in the sight of the Lord. Despite God’s instruction to observe Passover every year, this celebration lapsed. The people God loved would not cleanse themselves regularly to restore their relationship.

God began to lay out the prophecies of a messiah who would rescue them from bondage, none of them so clear as Isaiah 53 when we are told our savior would bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.   And in Isaiah 53:7,

He was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
   and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.

God would send a savior to pay the price for our transgressions. God’s own son would pay the price for our sins. As fully man, Jesus would identify with us, be tempted like us, understand pain like us. As fully God, though, He would be able to pay for the sins of the whole world.   But prophecy also said that when the Lamb of God was sent, He would be rejected by His own people.

God’s people fell into bondage again in the hands of the Babylonians and spent years enslaved and compromising their beliefs. God became silent. He seemingly stopped intervening, instructing or interacting with His people for over 400 years. During this time, the rituals, laws and traditions took on even greater importance to the Jewish people – not because they fully understood their need for a relationship with God, but because it was the thing passed down from generation to generation. It was their defining characteristic. That rigid structure was something tangible they could control, and they used it to create systems, divisions among the people and hierarchies.

The religious texts promised that God would send a deliverer, but unlike when He sent Moses, this savior would set up a kingdom greater than any they had ever known. The scriptures foretold of a Messiah that would save the Jewish people from oppression, and they clung to their understanding of what that meant. Now under control of yet another invader, the Roman empire, the Jewish people longed for the day their king would come. They just didn’t realize their king would look very different from what they expected.

Lamb of God – New Testament

And in our Chronological study, we arrived a few weeks ago in the New Testament, and John the Baptist is baptizing with water at Bethany, and the Jewish leaders accuse John the Baptist of being the Messiah.

John replies in the book of John 1:23,

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

John is quoting from Isaiah 40. And just a few verses later in verse 29,

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

When John recognized Jesus, John announced Him according to prophecy that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament promises of redemption. John understood that Jesus came to die as a sacrificial substitute, and that Jesus will rise from the dead to demonstrate God’s acceptance of Christ’s death as payment for guilty sinners. But not all prophecy had yet been fulfilled. Isaiah 53 had spelled out exactly how our Messiah must die.

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The Jewish leaders who had become powerful and wealthy based on their legalistic interpretations of Jewish law were horrified by the notion that Jesus was the foretold Messiah. The Jewish leaders wanted a kingdom to rule over the surrounding nations as had been done to them, but Jesus preached a very different kind of life. He encouraged the people to be meek and mild.   He preached that one should love even those who did not follow the commands they had been taught to fear. The more popularity Jesus gained among the people, the more the religious leaders set out to accuse and convict Him through both a Jewish trial and a Roman one – trials meant to execute Jesus and lasted less than a day.

Jesus is King

After the betrayal by Judas, Jesus was arrested in the dark hours of a Friday morning. He was bound and taken to Caiaphas, the high priest, and the ruling members of the Sanhedrin in what was really a preliminary hearing. Matthew 26:59-66 (Chronological Bible, November 2nd, pg 1409) –

Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none.

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 Remember, the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin are legalistic and use the Law to elevate themselves in positions of power. Here they are using the rules from Deuteronomy 17 about how the court system should work, particularly Deuteronomy 17:6-7a –

On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person [who blasphemes] is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting that person to death, and then the hands of all the people.

The hands of all the people are to be involved in the death of Jesus, but the Sanhedrin are first trying to find 2 people who agree, so they march a line of false witnesses that don’t tell the same story so the Sanhedrin can’t make a case. But then, continuing in Matthew 26,

But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”

Based on this brief exchange, Caiaphas (the high priest) and the Sanhedrin find Jesus guilty of blasphemy. The goal of the Sanhedrin, though, was not to bring a religious indictment. The Sanhedrin lacked the power of a death penalty under Roman law, and the Romans weren’t interested in a religious squabble.   So the goal of the Sanhedrin was to bring a political allegation that would anger the Romans.   If Jesus claimed to be king, Caesar would have Jesus executed.   So ironically, the Sanhedrin sought to prove that Jesus claimed to be king so the Romans would get rid of him.

The book of Matthew also makes the case that Jesus is king, but for a very different reason.   Matthew spends 26 chapters making a case that Jesus was the foretold Messiah and fulfilled all the prophecies of the coming kingdom of God so that the injustice of His trial and ultimately His death would be seen as fulfilling scripture for the coming messiah, and how Jesus’ actions before and after the Sanhedrin fulfilled Scripture’s promise of a final, atoning, sacrificial Lamb.

Isaiah 53:7 – He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. Matthew 26:63 – But Jesus kept silent.

Matthew 27: 12 – …He did not answer.

Matthew 27: 14 – And He did not answer…

Jesus is Lamb

Later, that Friday morning as the run was rising, with their charges of blasphemy documented, the Sanhedrin then send Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor. The Roman trial begins, but look how the Sanhedrin twist the charges to inflame the Romans in Luke 23:1-2 –

Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”  

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.  

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

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Pilate wants nothing to do with this. Pilate discerns that this is a religious matter and sends Jesus to Herod for interrogation. If Jesus claims to be king of the Jews, well, then Pontius will send him to the king of the Jews, Herod.

It says in Luke 23:8,

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort.

Slide15.JPGHerod was happy to receive Jesus. Maybe he thought it would be great entertainment and see if Jesus would do some tricks. But Jesus stood there silently. So Herod questions Jesus and then mocks Him and sends Him back to Pilate dressed sarcastically as a king.

Matthew 27: 11-14 –

Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly. (Chronological Bible, November 3rd, p. 1411)

Pilate was amazed by Jesus’s willingness to accept the charges against Him.

Matthew 27:22-26 –

Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!” Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!” When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. (Chronological Bible, November 3rd, p. 1413)

Though they knew he was innocent, the crowd demanded the blood of Jesus, thus fulfilling scripture.   Jesus was indeed the unblemished Lamb of God. The crowd wanted Barabbas instead to be released to them. Barabbas was known for leading groups of insurrectionists against the Roman government. The crowd chose Barabbas over Jesus. The crowd chose a “messiah” of their own design. The crowd chose one who tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Rome’s power over the true Messiah with the true power to save them.

Jesus is Savior

It’s only mid-morning on Friday, mere hours after Jesus’ arrest, but with the crowd’s decision, Jesus’s trials were over. Jesus was convicted, sentenced to be crucified at Golgotha.

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The scourging of Jesus was brutal. The crucifixion of Jesus was brutal. But yet again, Jesus fulfilled the scripture. Isaiah 53, remember, we are told our savior would bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.

By the middle of Friday afternoon, the brutal crucifixion was nearing its completion.   Jesus would die by asphyxiation, unable to lift his body on the nail through His feet so He could draw His breath.   You may remember the last words of Jesus from John 19:30, “It is finished.”

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Which if you look at the original Greek, Jesus chose a unique final word. Our English translations use “finished” like it was the end of a race, which is true, but doesn’t convey the meaning I believe Jesus intended. Jesus chose an accounting term as His last breath. The word Jesus used was “τελέω teléō. Or two verses earlier, he uses the more commonly known form of the verb Τετέλεσται tetelestai, and the full meaning is that the debt is paid and nothing left is owed.

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It is finished.   Our debt is paid. We are freed.

And Jesus didn’t go out with a last gasp, a weak goodbye. Matthew 27:50 says the final words of Jesus were cried out in a loud voice.   They were the triumphant words of victory, it is finished! Jesus had completed what He had come to do – to be our King, the sacrificial Lamb of God, our savior.

Conclusion

Jesus didn’t just die for a cause He believed in. He wasn’t just a martyr. God raised to life, overcoming death, demonstrating God’s acceptance of the sacrifice of His son. Jesus did not just die. He overcame death, hell and the grave. His earthly story ends with a miracle just as big as the one with which it began.

Matthew 28:1-6 –

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Chronological Bible, November 4th, p. 14151416)

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Over the centuries, there has been so much controversy around the question of who put Jesus on the cross. Did the Jews put Jesus on the cross? Saying that the Jews put Jesus on the cross is wrong and has fueled terrible acts of antisemitism over the years. But it is just as incorrect to say that the Romans put Jesus on the cross or even, as some claim, that “we” put Jesus on the cross – all of us for the wrong we do and the sin that separates us from God. None of those statements are accurate. None of those groups sent Jesus to His death.

Jesus put Jesus on the cross. Jesus died for the sole purpose of raising from the dead. He died willingly and sacrificially to save a world He loves who could not save themselves.

And not just the world – distant and unknown. He died for you. And me. His death is intimate and personal. It happened a long time ago in a place you may never visit, but it is personal and it matters. It happened TO Him, but it happened FOR you.

Yes, Jesus is King. Jesus’ death fulfills the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures concerning Messiah.

Yes, Jesus is Lamb of God. Jesus’ death satisfies the requirements for a sacrifice for sin.

Yes, Jesus is Savior. Jesus’ death is a substitutionary sacrifice for sinners. Jesus’ resurrection declares His deity and demonstrates the Father’s acceptance of His work on the cross.

But He is not just any king. Jesus is YOUR king. He is YOUR lamb, and He is YOUR savior.

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To God be the glory.   Amen.

Hope

I. Introduction

We are continuing our special series of bible studies on Advent, and this week we are going to study Hope.
I sort of felt like I made a mistake this week studying.  I loved Chris’ lesson on Joy last week.  Chris told us he relied heavily on Brad’s lesson, and he was teaching a lesson that was not his own.  And it was a powerful, well-delivered lesson.
• December 2, 2018 – Advent thru the Eras: Week 1 – Joy
• December 9, 2018 – Advent thru the Eras: Week 2- Hope
• December 16, 2018 – Advent thru the Eras: Week 3 – Faith
• December 23, 2018 – Advent thru the Eras: Week 4 – Love
• December 30, 2018 – The Authority of Scripture
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But I had already started studying Hope, and I realized after Chris’s lesson that I wasn’t on the same page.  My lesson was supposed to be about Hope, but also to bridge the gap from the 3 Eras Christ taught in the Creation Era, Patriarch Era, and Exodus Era, and continue through the Conquest Era, Kingdom Era, and Judges Era. 
By the time I figured out my error (not Era, but error), I was sort of stuck between several possibilities.  I could throw away the half-lesson I had partially finished and teach what Brad had prepared.  I could just try to blend the two of them together into a single 90-minute lessons, but then I was certain I’d have to bring lunch for everybody.
I took the 3rd option.  I kept what I had studied, brought in the Conquest Era, ignored the Kingdom and Judges Era in the interest of finishing our bible study in under two hours, and then wrapped up with my original lesson.
Funny thing about trying to teach God’s word.  They only way I know if it pleases the Lord is if the words pour out of me into the page easily.  I pray I’m bringing Him glory and honor with my hodgepodge of blended lessons, but I honestly feel this was the lesson given to me this week, so I also pray you will find the lesson revealing and brings a message from God to you.  And next time I teach, I promise to do a better job of sticking to the agenda. 
So, now we know Michael went off the reservation.  Next week, Theresa will be teaching about “Faith,” and I expect she and I will talk about many of the same things.   Theresa, since I forgot to talk about the Kingdom and Judges Era, feel free to cover them for me.
So, my first question when I started studying while off the reservation is, “what is the difference between hope and faith?”

II. Faith vs Hope

That’s wasn’t easy for me to answer.  I mean, try out these two phrases –
• I have hope the Texans will win this weekend.
• I have faith the Texans will win this weekend.
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What will be difficult about today’s lesson is that, over the centuries, the English language has completely obliterated the difference between “hope” and “faith.”  And what I’ve discovered is that in many bible translations, even the translations often exchange the words “hope,” “faith,” and even the word “trust.”
So today, we are going to take a closer look at the word “hope” and see if we can understand and apply it to our lives in the way meant in the original scripture.  Let’s start with 1 Corinthians 13:13 –
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Clearly “faith” and “hope” are different things since both words are used here, but again, we’re trying to get away from the English connotations of these words and get back to the original meaning.  Here’s the same verse in the original Greek,
νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις ἐλπίς ἀγάπη τὰ τρία ταῦτα μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη
The word “faith” is translated from the Greek, πίστις pístis, which means assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.  The word “hope” is translated from the Greek confidence, ἐλπίς elpís, to anticipate, usually with pleasure.
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What I found interesting when I was researching “faith, ἐλπίς elpís” is that it’s not always a good thing.  In James 2:19, scripture says,
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
The word for “believe” is πιστεύω pisteúō, the same root word translated as “faith” in 1 Corinthians 13.  In this context we can see pisteúō faith is confidence, but not the kind of “pisteúō faith that brings joy.
So “faith,” “hope,” “trust,” and “belief” are all very closely related.  And I’m going to stop with the study of “faith” now because that’s really next week’s lesson, and instead focus on hope, a confident and joyful expectation of things to come.

III. Hope is Not Wishful Thinking

Let me return to an earlier example –
• I hope the Texans will win this weekend.
• I hope you have a good day.
• I hope it doesn’t rain.
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That may be good English, but it’s lousy Greek.  Over the centuries, the English version of “hope” is just wishful thinking.  To desire something.  But no real assurance, just unfounded optimism.  Compare that to –

• I hope my boss will pay me Friday.
• I hope the sun will come up tomorrow.
• I hope Christmas is coming.
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Will I get paid Friday?  Sure.  Based on the fact Friday is payday and there is history that I get paid on Friday, I have a confident and joyful expectation the same will happen on Friday.  I have a confident and joyful expectation the sun will rise tomorrow, I’ve seen it in the past and it’s never failed.  My entire life, Christmas has come on December 25, and I have a confident and joyful expectation that it will happen again this December 25.
A Christian’s definition of hope is far superior to the world’s definition of hope.  Our hope is based on the promises of God and those promises will be fulfilled because they are a promise.  God never lies.  Hebrews 6:18 says in part –
…it is impossible for God to lie…
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So if God says it, by definition it must be truth.  We can trust in it, believe in it, have hope in it.

IV. Biblical Hope

The hope of Christians is found in a study of God’s Word to see a glimpse of God’s grand plan and how we fit into it.  When we begin to understand God’s plan, we see promises He’s already fulfilled, giving us faith that He will fulfill all His promises, including all promises He’s already given to us.  When we know God will fulfill His promises, we have confidence and joyful expectation for His plans for us.  We have hope.
Let’s look at Romans 8 for a while to see how Paul taught us about this hope, beginning in verse 22 through 25 –
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
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Biblical hope is the joyful expectation of the future that we cannot yet see.  It encourages us to look to the future instead of today, and to place our heart on heavenly things instead of earthly things that perish.
I think this describes hope and God’s purpose for hope very clear.  Is there a tangible or material thing you’ve longed for?  You saved for a car, some jewelry, a house or apartment?  I discovered I like wanting things more than I like having things.
A few years back, I had worked a lot of overtime in single year and saved a nice little down payment for an SUV I wanted.  I’m an engineer, so first I made a spreadsheet, listed all the pros and cons, and finally whittled it down to a specific model.  One of the key features I wanted was a diesel engine.
You know why?  A co-worker bought a diesel and told me something interesting I didn’t know:  Diesel engines go 50% further than gasoline engines.  If your car gets 300 miles on a tank of gas, the exact same car would get 450 miles on a tank of diesel.
That means instead of filling up at the gas station every 10 days, I’d only have to go every 15 days.  Over a year, instead of 36 visits to the gas station, I’d only have to go 20.  I had to have a diesel.
So armed with all this spreadsheet information, I went to the dealer to go buy a diesel SUV.  And he said, “We don’t have any diesel SUVs.  But we can order one for you.  It’ll be 8 weeks.”
So I put my deposit down and waited and waited and waited.  And waited.  I was going to have the best diesel SUV on the planet.  And when the day finally came, I excitedly went to the dealership and drove off in my shiny new diesel SUV.  The thrill of having a new car lasted nearly 8 weeks until somebody ran a shopping cart into the passenger side door.  And then I started wondering what kind of SUV I was going to get to replace it.
I realized I enjoyed the anticipation, the waiting, the hoping for the arrival of something new.  And I realized that’s how God wants us to live.  This verse says
But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
I believe that every Christian goes through tough times.  What sustains us?  What keeps us from becoming mired down in depression and darkness because this world has dished up something cruel and cold to us today?  Hope.  Hope, joyful confidence and anticipation that God has something better for us in the works.   Romans 8:28 and 8:31 says,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
God has a plan, and He is invincible.  If I am a child of God, He is with me, and no enemy shall ever prevail.  God tells me in Jeremiah 29:11,
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
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God gives me hope.


V. Hope of the Resurrection

Whatever this world throws at me, I have hope for a future because Jesus is not just my Lord, but my Savior.  He rescued me from death and gave me eternal life.  He proved He defeated death by His resurrection, and appeared to hundreds of people.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 –
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;  then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
The early church suffered some horrendous persecution, but Peter reminded us that Christ proved who He was by fulfilling scripture, His death and resurrection, and that Christ our Savior died to save us.  Us!  He is coming back for us to gives us that hope and a future we so eagerly desire.  1 Peter 1:3-5,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
That’s our hope.  God has reserved a place in heaven for those who place their trust in Christ Jesus, and that reservation in heaven for us is protected by the very power of God.

VI. Hope in God

The world has a different definition of hope.  “I hope you have a nice day.”  But the world is without the hope Christians have.
Sometimes I wonder about people that have placed their hope elsewhere.  I don’t know much about the eastern religions – I don’t know where Buddhists or Hindus et their hope.  In the case of reincarnation, maybe they just have hope it’ll be better next time around.  But we know we have one life to live and then we appear before our Maker to explain how we used this life.
There are atheists.  I suppose they have hope in this life, but I’ve never met an atheist that expressed hope for the future.  Their hope is in this life.  And when health issues or money issues or relationship issues come into their lives, where is their hope?  This life, at best, has temporary blessings, but eventually moths and rust destroy everything in this life.  And eternity?  In the future of the atheist, the best that they can hope for is… nothing.  They hope nothing happens, there is no eternal judgement for sins.
And I know people who think they are Christians without hope.  Yes, there are people who think they are Christians.  Look at this survey –
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Although it varies by age, only 2/3rds of Christians “who have made a personal commitment to Jesus”, believe they will go to heaven. 
Their hope is somewhere other than the promises of God.  Perhaps if they refrain from cussing, God will think they’re good enough to go to heaven.  Or maybe if they refrain from road rage.  Or they give to the Red Cross.  Or they toss their spare change in the Salvation Army bucket.  They are trusting in their own works instead of Jesus who did it all for us.  And if we trust in own works, how can we ever be sure our works are enough?  But if our hope, our joyful expectation is in God’s works and the fulfillment of His promises, well, God’s works are always enough.  His grace is always sufficient.

VII. Hope Through the Ages

Through the Ages, God’s plan has always been our joyful expectation that we trust in the Lord.  Last week Chris brought us the message of Joy, God bringing Light to a dark work, using stars to provide a promise to Abraham that would be passed on to Isaac which was passed on to Jacob and all generations to follow.
When times are tough, trusting in God’s promises yet to come bring us joy.  At the end of the Exodus Era, God provided light to Moses in the form of a burning bush.  Among many promises given to the people of Israel was hope in a new land.  But as we enter the Conquest Era, the Israelites find that before they could enter the Promised Land, there were difficulties ahead.  Moses had brought them so far, but when Moses died, a new leader arose to complete the Journey.  The promises of God can be found in the story of this new leader, Joshua, in Joshua 1:1-4 –
Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.  Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.  From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.
Joshua’s people had joy, but not in their present circumstances.  Their joy was in the confident expectation of God’s promises fulfilled.  In the present they had difficulties – the land promised to the Israelites were occupied by people who did not believe in God and they didn’t like the people who did.  But God gave them a promise for the future in Joshua 1:5-9 –
Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.  This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Hope begins when we realize victory is in the Lord’s hands, not ours. Joshua realized he could not conquer the people occupying the land of promise based on his own skills and abilities.  However, victory is in the Lord.  To be in the Lord, Joshua realized meant he needed
  • to be connected to God through scripture (vs. 8a, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night…”)
  • to be obedient to what scripture says (vs. 8b, “so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it”)
  • to live a life of hope which is exhibited by being strong and courageous (vs.6, 7, 9, “be strong and courageous”)
God used Joshua to sneak into the land to spy to see what they were up against.  They met a prostitute named Rahab, who helped the spies and kept them safe by using a signal of a scarlet colored rope hanging from her window.  When the spies returned to Joshua after receiving the help from Rahab they had news for him.  Joshua 2:24,
They said to Joshua, “Surely the Lord has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us.”
God’s promises were now a reality. The hope they placed in God led to joy, because God always fulfills His promises.

VIII. Christmas is Hope

We approach the Christmas season, and the celebration of the birth of our Savior gives us hope, joy in the promises we are certain will be fulfilled.  The hope we have is confident, the hope we have is joyous, the hope we have strengthens our faith. 
Over the Eras, God made numerous promises about sending a savior for us, to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  The savior would be a man, born of a virgin woman, who will crush Satan and his power.  He would be a Jew, son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He would be the son of David.  He would be born in Bethlehem.  And in Matthew 1:1-16 we see 14 generations leading up to the Messiah,
The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.  Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.  Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon.  Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.  Jesse was the father of David the king.
David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.  Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa.  Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah.  Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.  Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah.  Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.  Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor.  Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud.  Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob.  Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
God’s delivery of our Savior was centuries in the making, but God is faithful and never forgets his promises.  We can see in the lineage Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.  We can even see  Rahab, the prostitute from the Conquest Era, in the lineage, both showing us the magnitude of the sins that can be forgiven and the reminder that God’s plan has always been for us to have Hope in Him.
God keeps His promises and uses very flawed people like Rahab, like you, like me, to accomplish His purposes.  He uses imperfect people because that’s all He has to work with.  In the end, the only name in this genealogy that matters is Jesus.
And in the end, in the future, the only name that matter is Jesus.  This world would be a very dark place without our future hope of our Redeemer.  But one day Jesus will return, and sin will be eliminated, and Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer will be eliminated.  Death itself will be destroyed, and Jesus Himself will wipe away every tear.  Our present hope is in our future glory in Christ Jesus.
During my study, I came across a study of a painting called “Adoration of t by the Dutch artist Rembrandt.  It was painted in 1646, and it’s a very dark painting, imagining a night scene inside a barn as the shepherds gather round to see the newborn king.
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The dark tones encourage the viewer to slow down and study the images carefully.  The savior is in the middle, in a manger.  Mary is there, Joseph is there, and the shepherds are gazing with love at the birth of their savior, announced by the angelic choir and heavenly hosts.  In the back is an old wooden ladder leaning a crossbeam, and it takes a moment to realize the ladder and crossbeam make the outline of a cross.  Even in this joyous moment, the cross looms over the baby Jesus.  The description I read about the painting then says,
“But the most significant feature is the light. Unlike other Renaissance artists, Rembrandt didn’t paint Jesus as an angel with a halo. He is a very normal, very human baby. All is dark in the painting except for the baby in the manger. The light isn’t shining on the baby; it’s shining out from him. This was Rembrandt’s way of saying that all hope and light shines from the manger, lighting up a darkened world.”
All of our hope, perfect grace and salvation for all of us, in a humble manger.
IX. Conclusion
Hope conquered fear and hate 2000 years ago at Bethlehem.  To receive that hope, like the shepherds did, we must come to Bethlehem and bow before the newborn King.  Hope is freely given to those who humble themselves and bow in faith before the Lord Jesus Christ.
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.
Hope is Born.
To God be the Glory.  Amen.

Messy People

I.      Introduction

Sometimes I read the bible and the message is so easy.  Just one God, honor your Ma and Pa, don’t take things that ain’t yours, that sort of thing.  Other times, the message is obscure and difficult to plow through.  Ever sat down to read the bible and read it cover to cover?  How many of us got stuck in the begats, as in “Adam begat Seth, Seth begat Enos, and Kenan and Mahaleel and hundreds of other unpronounceable names?”

Today’s study sort of starts that way, the message in the Word seemed esoteric, and I’m not even sure what “esoteric” means.   For instance, here’s our first study verse for today in 2 Samuel 3:8 –

Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hands of David; and yet today you charge me with a guilt concerning the woman.

My first thought when I read this was, “what?”  But the key to understanding scripture is context, or as a pastor I heard put it, “location, location, location.”  I think we need some background before we can begin to understand this verse.

II.      Background of Messy People: David

So just in this first verse, I see at least 4 people discussed by name.  There’s Abner, Ish-bosheth, Saul, and David.  There’s also a woman mentioned, as well as brothers and friends of Saul.  I read ahead over the next several scripture verses – sometimes I do that when I’m studying – and there are several more people that will be mentioned later.  There’s another woman named Michal, a man named Paltiel the son of Laish.  And there’s at least two names that aren’t mentioned, Jonathan and Joab, that influence the events in today’s scripture. 

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Of all the names listed, David is probably the most familiar.  He’s also one of the most complicated.  David was a horrible failure and David was a wonderful success.  David committed murder in his later years and had an affair with Bathsheba.  And yet, David was described as a man after God’s own heart.  Sometimes when I read stories on David, I wonder what I’m missing. 

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But I think a key to understanding David is to recognize the sinner in all of us.  Are we a people after God’s own heart?  We might look at our own lives and say, well, no, It doesn’t look like I’m not a man after God’s own heart.  Look at all the things I’ve done that are bad.  If they could see who I really am, they would know me for what I am.  A sinner.  Just like David.

But God teaches us that what is important is not so much what we do, but what’s inside.  Back in 1 Samuel 16, the prophet Samuel was seeking a king over Israel.  The Lord sent him to Bethlehem because the Lord had selected a son of Jesse to be king.  When Samuel got there, he saw Jesse’s son Eliab who apparently looked like Thor and said, “whoa…

“Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

But the Lord answered in verse 7,

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Slide4And there’s the answer.  David’s heart, despite his sinful nature, was always pointed at the Lord.  When confronted about his sin, David didn’t just confess his sins, he repented and went to the Lord for forgiveness.  When faced with overwhelming odds like when he faced Goliath the giant, David trusted in the Lord.  David meditated on God’s word and wrote over half of the Psalms.

       III.      Background of Messy People: Saul

So the Lord chose David to be king of Israel, but like I said, people are messy.  There was already a king in Israel, his name was Saul.  Saul also demonstrated successes and failures like David, but there was a big difference.  Even when Saul knew what the Lord’s will was, he often would do something else.  Including trying to kill David because of Saul’s jealousy. 

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Saul had 4 sons and 2 daughters.  Of the sons, Jonathan was the oldest; then came Abinadab, Malchishua and Ish-bosheth.  There’s some confusion that in 2 Samuel 21:11, 7 sons of Samuel are put to death, but those include grandchildren because at least one of them was a son of Jonathan.  And the two daughters, Merab and Michal.

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Saul’s jealousy was complicated; he seemed to alternate between loving David as a son and trying to kill David as an enemy.  David was close to Saul’s family; David’s best friend as a child was Jonathan, and Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David.  In 1 Samuel 18:17, Saul promised to give his oldest daughter Merab to David as a prize for killing Saul’s enemies.  But Saul double crossed David and gave Merab to some other man. 

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But since Saul was jealous of David and knowing David was in love with the younger daughter Michal, Saul promised David he could have Michal if David attacked the Philistines.  Saul was hoping David would be killed in the attack, but David won, so Saul had to give Michal to David for his wife.

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Saul tried to kill David outright at this point, but David’s wife Michal helped David escape.  That apparently made Saul mad, David not dying like he was supposed to, escaping with the help of his daughter.  Saul declares the marriage null and void, then Saul then gave Michal to different man, and Michal was married to Paltiel, son of Laish.

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Despite Saul trying to kill him, David didn’t retaliate against Saul.  If David was aware of the New Testament (which he wasn’t), he might have considered this verse, Romans 13:1-2,

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

David may have been selected by God to be king, but David respected the office of King Saul.  David spent years hiding in deserts and caves while Saul hunted him.  One of my favorite stories about David is in 1 Samuel 24.  Saul is hunting David, and had to stop and tinkle.  So he went into a cave, but David was already hiding there.    While Saul is tinkling in a corner, David sneaks up and cuts a corner off of Saul’s robe to prove that David could have killed Saul but didn’t.  What I find funny about that story is that David feels guilty about it.  He should have never cut a piece of garment off of the king’s robe, that’s just wrong, even if the king is trying to kill him.

David had another chance to kill Saul in 1 Samuel 26.  Saul is hunting David, again, but Saul gets tired, so that night Saul lays down to sleep, but he has a bodyguard, Saul’s cousin Abner.  David sneaks into Saul’s camp, finds Saul sleeping next to a spear.  He could have easily killed Saul with Saul’s own spear, but instead David takes the spear, runs over to the next hill and taunts the bodyguard.  “Hey Abner!  Is that how you guard your king?  I could have killed him, but instead, I have his spear!  Neener neener neener!”

This goes on for many years, Saul hunting David and David hiding, but Saul has another set of enemies, the Philistines, and there’s a big battle brewing between Saul and the Philistines at Mount Gilboa.  Saul of course seeks spiritual advice, but Saul believes the Lord has stopped talking to Saul, probably because Saul is trying to kill the Lord’s anointed king, David.  So Saul consults a witch instead.  I’m going to suggest that if for some reason you cannot hear the Lord speaking to you, then spend time in the Word until you do.  Don’t consult a witch, ok?  In fact, let’s take a quick look at 1 Chronicles 10:13-14,

Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

Slide24So, don’t consult a witch, ok? 

 IV.      Background of Messy People: Abner and Ish-Bosheth

So Saul is dead, and David is finally king, right?  I told you people are messy.  Abner, Saul’s cousin and bodyguard, is very well-connected.  David becomes king over the tribe of Judah, but Abner takes Saul’s remaining son Ish-bosheth, and makes Ish-bosheth king.  Abner is able to get the other 11 tribes to unite around Ish-bosheth.  And I wish Ish-bosheth had an easier name to pronounce because saying Ish-bosheth several times in a row is a real tongue-twister.

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Actually, Ish-bosheth does have another name.   When Ish-bosheth was born, his name was Eshba’al which means “Man of the Lord.”)  Here’s a rabbit hole we’re going to follow for just a wee little bit: the definition of “ba’al” means “lord,” or alternatively “master” or “husband.”  The word had been around in early Hebrew as a generic term, but in later years the Canaanites started using “Ba’al” as the proper name of their pagan god.  The Philistines eventually started worshipping Ba’al but changed his name to Beelzebub.  In later Old Testament scripture, “Beelzebub” became known as a major demon, and Christians know the name Beelzebub as another name for the prince of demons.  In the year 1818, Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy wrote a book called “Dictionnaire Infernal” or a book on demonology who described Beelzebub as having the ability to fly.  He then became known as “The Lord of the Flyers,” or later, “The Lord of the Flies.”

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Anyway, yuck.  That’s enough of that rabbit trail.  Back to Eshba’al, Saul’s remaining son established by Abner as king over 11 tribes of Israel, the Northern Kingdom couldn’t bear to call him Eshba’al because it sounded like a profanity, being ruled by man of demons.  So they changed his name to Ish-bosheth which translates as “man of shame.”  Not exactly a flattering name, “man of shame,” but better than sharing the name of a demon.

Anyway, Ish-bosheth was sort of a puppet king over 11 tribes of Israel, controlled by Abner, and between them continued to wage war against David, the king of Judah.

I think they got tired of fighting so often.  In 2 Samuel 2, Abner’s men meet David’s men, led by David’s captain named Joab, at the pool of Gibeon, and they decide rather than everybody fight, each side would select 12 people to fight each other.  It says in 2 Samuel 2:16,

Each one of them seized his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together.

It sounds to me like everybody died, but commentaries say that David’s captain Joab won the battle.  Abner and his men run away, and David’s men start to chase.  Joab has a brother named Asahel who spots Abner and chases him, but when he catches up to Abner, Abner abruptly stops and kills Asahel with a spear.  Joab is inconsolable and vows to kill Abner some day, but for now, Abner escapes back to safety.  These two sides fight for the next 2 years with David’s army generally winning and Abner’s side generally losing.

So Abner gets back to Ish-bosheth, and Ish-bosheth makes an accusation.  The old dead king Saul, Ish-bosheth’s father, had a concubine named Rizpah.  Apparently Rizpah belongs to Ish-bosheth now, but Ish-bosheth accuses Abner of having an affair with Rizpah.  All of this background information just to bring us to the first scripture we’re supposed to study today, 2 Samuel 3:8 which we looked at earlier:

Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hands of David; and yet today you charge me with a guilt concerning the woman.

Slide2Ah, now I have a better understanding of what’s going on.  Location, location, location.  Abner has spent his life playing political games, first with Saul and then propping up Ish-bosheth as the so-called king.  And this is how Ish-bosheth repays him, by accusing Abner of having an affair with Rizpah the concubine?  Abner is furious. 

I re-read this scripture several times and couldn’t help but notice Abner said he was innocent of the charges.  He’s just mad that he’s been accused.  In fact, Abner is so mad, he tells Ish-bosheth that he’s going to give the 11 tribes of Israel to David so David can finally be the king over all Israel, just like the Lord said he would. 

And Ish-bosheth is too scared to say anything.  What could he say?  Abner had all the power, Ish-bosheth was just a puppet.

             V.      Background of Messy People: David and Michal

So Abner goes to David and tells David, “hey, let’s stop fighting.  You agree not to kill me, and I’ll agree to give you the rest of Israel.”  David goes, “hmmm…. Let me think.”

And David agrees, on one additional condition.  Remember Michal?  Saul’s youngest daughter than Saul gave to David for his wife, then took Michal away and gave to another man named Paltiel?  David wants her back.  Abner can come work for David, and all David wants is all of Israel and his wife Michal back.

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Abner agrees.  I mean, it’s not like Abner is giving away anything of his own, right?  David sends a message to Ish-bosheth, and without Abner telling him what to do, Ish-bosheth doesn’t know what else to do.  Of course David can have Michal.  I mean, it’s not like Ish-bosheth is giving away anything of his own, right?  2 Samuel 3:15-16,

Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Paltiel the son of Laish.  But her husband went with her, weeping as he went, and followed her as far as Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” So he returned.

Aww. People can be pretty messy.  David might have loved Michal, but Michal had a new husband, and Paltiel loved her very much and followed her like a lovesick puppy until Abner stopped him and told Paltiel to go back home.

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All David’s conditions are met, Abner has surrendered, David has Michal back as his wife, and our study scripture for today ends in 2 Samuel 3:20-21a,

Then Abner and twenty men with him came to David at Hebron. And David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him.  Abner said to David, “Let me arise and go and gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may be king over all that your soul desires.”

And David finally becomes king of all Israel, fulfilling the Lord’s selection as king.  I thought this was kind of a weird spot to end or story today, though.  Most soap operas continue week after week after week, but we get about 30 minutes, and we have a lot of unanswered questions.  Did they all live happily ever after?

          VI.      They All Lived Happily Ever After.  Not.

Short answer:  No.  Not really.

Michal was not happy to be returned to David.  In the years they were apart, David wasn’t exactly pining away for her.  During the years they were separated, David took a 2nd wife and then a 3rd, each time making political marriages to secure money and supplies.  While David was living in the dessert, Michal’s affection for David began to fade.  When Abner sent for he and gave her back to David, Michal pleaded to stay with Paltiel, the lovesick puppy. 

By all accounts, Michal and David never regained intimacy; the scripture says that Michal remained childless.  The last time we hear about Michal is after she and David fight when the Ark of the Covenant is brought back into Jerusalem, and scripture doesn’t mention her again.

Abner probably had aspirations of becoming a powerful figure under David, but those aspirations were unfulfilled.  Joab, David’s captain, had been away during this time, but when he returns and finds Abner at the city gate immediately kills Abner in revenge for killing Joab’s brother Asahel.

Joab stayed in Israel for many many years, serving King David, until later in David’s life.  David’s son Solomon is set to inherit the title of King from his father David, but Joab offers his allegiance to David’s oldest son Adonijah and eventually flees, assassinated years later and buried somewhere in the wilderness.

Ish-bosheth was assassinated shortly by two of his own army captains shortly after Abner gave away Israel to David.  David honored Ish-bosheth as a king and had him buried in Abner’s grave.

       VII.      Conclusion

There are lots of little lessons in todays scripture.  Perhaps you saw something in one of those characters that resonated with you.  Broken dreams of love.  Aspirations of power to rule.  Revenge against those who hurt you.  I wanted to focus just on the history today, just to lay a groundwork of how messy people can be. 

Probably what I found so compelling is that everybody was messy, everybody had problems, everybody made mistakes.  And yet, our of all thes dysfunctional people, David was considered a man after God’s own heart. 

And it occurred to me that a good summary could probably be the same thing the Lord told the prophet Samuel when David was selected over his older brother Eliab.  People look at what we say and what we do.  The Lord look at our heart.  It doesn’t matter if we succeed or fail, the Lord loves us for who He created.

David did indeed become king of all Israel.  David begat Solomon, and then a great many begats occurred in Matthew chapter 1 until approximately 1000 years later, our Lord Jesus Christ was born to show us how non-messy people are supposed to live.  And He has invited us to invite Him in, so that we are not defined by our own failures, but by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ who lives within us.

I don’t know if I’m as messy as David or Abner or Michal.  I know I make my own messy mistakes.  But praise be to Jesus that I’m not defined by what I made, but by what He made.

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David was a man after God’s own heart, and received an earthly crown.  If we seek Jesus, we too receive a crown.  Scripture mentions the joy of receiving these crowns, the Crown of Righteousness, the Crown of Victory, the Crown of Life, the Crown of Glory, the Crown of Rejoicing.  In the times yet to come, the book of Revelation tells us we joyfully throw these crowns at the feet of Jesus when we all get to heaven.

When we all get to heaven

What a day of rejoicing that will be

When we all see Jesus

We’ll sing and shout the victory

To God be the glory.  Amen.