“And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” Matthew 27:66 (NIV)
We have been considering how Jesus approached His death on the cross and how He died. Now, let us consider what happened after He died and after He was buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus in a new tomb. Because the Sabbath began at sunset His burial needed to be done quickly on the same evening (Friday) that Jesus died. What happened on Saturday? We are told that some of the women who had followed Jesus watched the burial that Friday evening, spent time preparing spices and perfumes to anoint His body (Luke 23:25-26). But because Saturday was the Sabbath, the women decided to wait one more day and rested on Saturday. The interesting thing is that although the friends and disciples of Jesus were inactive on Saturday, some of his enemies were not. Matthew 27:62–65 records how the enemies of Jesus remembered what he had said about rising again. They went on Saturday to request a special guard at the tomb where Jesus was buried. Today’s verse describes what resulted from their request. Jesus had promised to rise again and nothing that his enemies did would stop what God would be doing on Sunday morning.
“I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up, And have not let my enemies rejoice over me.” – Psalm 30:1 (NASB)
Extol: to praise highly, when used of God: GLORIFY.
When was the last time you “extolled” God or anyone else? Is it common for us to think that we have enemies trying to rejoice over us? As we look around the world we find that there are more than plenty enemies – perhaps not as King David did in his time but we do have adversaries. Enemies have been after our joy and our peace since the very beginning. David writes that he will ‘extol’ the Lord. This is another way of giving ‘praise’ to God. The original Hebrew word for extol, which is used most often in the Old Testament means “high and lifted up, to exalt.” The psalmist declares that God has lifted him up above his enemies so that they have no opportunity to rejoice over his defeat. That has a different meaning than the lifting up by extolling. It speaks of being lifted by someone out of difficult or dangerous circumstance. Our enemies can be both physical and spiritual and for either, its best for us to call on God extolling His name, lifting His name while we ask for help and safety from those who threaten us.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” – Luke 6:35 (NASB)
The fuller context of our passage is Luke 6:17-49. Some will say this is the same discourse as the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. Others call it the Sermon on the Plain. It could be the same or it could be at a different time and place. That Jesus taught these important lessons on unconditional love more than once is likely. Jesus repeated his lessons many times to different crowds of people who followed Him around. It would be fair to suggest that the commands given here by Jesus on how to live in difficult circumstances with difficult people are too often overlooked, ignored, or deemed too difficult to do. Yes, if we try to exercise love of this kind in our own strength. But it can be done. Jesus never commanded us to do the truly impossible. He is with us always as he abides with all faith believers. This love is unconditional, the love that God demonstrates to us every day. As God’s children we should bear the indelible stamp of His moral character. Since He is loving, gracious, and generous—even to those who are His enemies—we should be like Him.
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:10-11 (ESV)
Before most of us came to believe by faith that Jesus Christ is our savior, we lived thinking that we’re pretty good people. We even believed a God exists. All we had to do was live a good life. However, we remained enemies because by not believing, we were rejecting God. We were at odds and in conflict with God. Our promise today is: God provided a way for all who would believe to be reconciled to Him while still enemies. He made a way for us to have peace. This was accomplished by the death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Since reconciliation was provided by Him for all who believed, all can trust absolutely in the truth that they will be saved by Christ. The promises don’t end with that. Our reconciliation comes with our rejoicing in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Imagine being in a serious conflict with someone who spent all his time doing what you need to cross over and join their side. Imagine all he does is to make a way for you to be able to be his friends and brother/sister with him. Forgive and forget – that’s His way.
“A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies.” – Nahum 1:2.” (NASB)
Again today, we find God’s promises in one of the Minor Prophets. Most of the promises we ponder are promises of blessings from God for us, His own people. Today’s promise is not like those. God has promises for those who by faith believe in Him. He also has promises which are warnings of judgment and wrath for those who do not believe. Those who refuse to believe remain the enemies of God. Nineveh, an ancient city full of wickedness and evil, was the capital of the Assyrian Empire during the period of Assyrian dominance throughout the ancient Near East. God instructed the prophet Jonah to go and preach to the inhabitants of Nineveh. He first refused, but eventually obeyed and the people of Nineveh repented. But by the time of Nahum’s prophecy, a century later, they had returned to wickedness. Nahum’s ‘oracle,’ as it is called, prophesied the city’s destruction by Babylon. Here is the promise God gives Nahum: “The LORD is an avenging God.” Those who remain enemies of God will meet the wrath of God for it is reserved for those who reject to the end the call of God, to repentance and faith in God.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” – Psalm 23:5 (ESV)
In this verse the psalmist changes the illustration. Now the example is more about people, not sheep. In this verse the scene is a feast where a gracious host provides lavish hospitality. Under this metaphor the psalmist is rejoicing in the Lord’s provision. What was comforting to David was that this meal was set in the presence of his enemies. Despite the danger looming around him, the Lord spreads out a table for him, once again telling how God provides for him and for us. The image of anointing the head with oil indicates a host who has great appreciation and wants to make his guest feel refreshed. Oil was soothing and aromatic. Its scent was extremely pleasant. This picture corresponds with the concept of a gracious host welcoming someone into his home. In view of the table and the oil, David knew that his lot in life was his cup which God was filling abundantly with His blessings. Our Lord cares about our ‘cup’ which is our life. Cups were important and precious as lives are precious and important to God. He wants to fill ours to overflowing with His grace and mercy and love.
“Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.” Psalm 66:1-3 (ESV)
Psalm 66 in its entirety is the story God’s dealings with His people, especially how He dealt with Israel in helping them escape slavery in Egypt and find how God wanted them to worship Him. We can know how great God’s power is from this passage. So great that His enemies cringe before Him. What He does is awesome and God is deserving of our praise, worship and to receive glory through what He does. In this Psalm, there is also a warning given as a promise of what God will NOT do if we cling to our sinful ways. “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear;” Psalm 66:18 (NASB) We cannot pray through a screen of wicked behavior and habitual sin. SOMETIMES people quote promises, and say that God is bound to fulfill those promises to them, when all the time there is some sin in their lives they are not willing to give up. It is well for us to search our hearts, and find out why it is that our prayers are not answered. Psalm, 19-20, confirms that if we are confessing our sin, God hears and will not turn away from our prayers.
“To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.” Luke 1:74-75 (NASB)
The singing at Christmas time reminds us of the great things God has given us through His Son Jesus. This is in line with the songs recorded in our Bible before Jesus was born as well as when He was born. We look today at a song which Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist sang when his son John was born. A few days ago we looked at a portion of Mary’s song, The Magnificat. Today we select a passage from the prophecy by sung by, Zechariah. This, of course was just six months before Jesus was born. Our verses for today remind us about what God was doing in sending His Son to earth. Jesus came to earth to serve God in holiness and righteousness. He came to help us live pleasing to God through all our days. Jesus came to be our Savior to make our lives different so that we will bring glory and honor to God the Father and Jesus our Savior, God the Son. If He is your Savior, my Friend, He will help you live today in a way that pleases God. That is a promise.