A Glorious Battle

Dear Church Family,

My daughter is in charge of maintaining our “Christmas countdown” calendar in our home. Beginning at the end of November, each day she dutifully turns the manual wheel, counting down the days until Christmas. This week, she excitedly called to me, “Dad, guess what? There’s less than two weeks until Christmas!” She’s very excited.

Christmas is an exciting time as we remember God’s sending His Son to take on human flesh, born in weakness in a cattle stall, the Savior of sinners – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This time of year is filled with Christmas music and carols praising God for His love to mankind which was proclaimed through the host of heaven, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). Indeed, Christmas is often marked by warm thoughts and feelings – for God and for our fellow man. When we think about God in the flesh, wrapped in ‘swaddling cloths,’ it seems only natural.

A Glorious Battle

At the same time, there is a harsh reality that is also attached to Christmas. The work of Jesus Christ in His incarnation is also described in Scripture as the victory of a holy war – the holy war of God against the enemies of God’s people: sin, death, and the devil (Hebrews 2:14-15). The prophet Isaiah tells us that one of the things that will mark the coming of the Messiah is a great battle. A battle which he describes with the language of violence, of breaking, of blood-letting, and of burning: the ‘child who will be born to us’ will break the rod of the one who oppresses His glorious people (Isaiah 9:4-5).

In the sermon this coming Sunday, we will be examining this “glorious battle” as we continue in our series from Isaiah 9:

(Dec. 9)  A Glorious People (Isaiah 9:1-3)
(Dec. 16)  A Glorious Battle (Isaiah 9:4-5)
(Dec. 23)  A Glorious Child (Isaiah 9:6)
(Dec. 30)  A Glorious Kingdom (Isaiah 9:7)

At the heart of Isaiah 9:4-5, Isaiah says that this glorious battle in which the Messiah shall be victorious will be like the “day of Midian” (Isaiah 9:4). In my mind, this phrase is the key to understanding what Isaiah is talking about. To the original recipients of Isaiah’s prophecies, they most likely would have immediately understood and connected the dots. For us today, describing the glorious battle in which Christ is victorious over His and our enemies as being like the “day of Midian” may not be so apparent.

The “day of Midian” is a reference to the time in Israel’s history when the Lord raised up a judge and deliverer by the name of Gideon to defeat the Midianites. So, in preparation for the sermon this coming Sunday, I encourage you read about the “day of Midian” from the book of Judges, chapters 6-8. There, you will read of Gideon and his exploits as the Lord used him to put an end to the oppression of the Midianites. Gideon’s victory over in the “day of Midian” is a paradigm by which we may better understand the victory of God in the work of Jesus Christ.

The Day of the Lord

Another concept which is helpful in understanding how the “day of Midian” is a paradigm for the redemptive work of Christ is the concept of the “day of the Lord.” This is a technical phrase which several of the prophets employ to speak of the coming of the Lord – the coming of the Lord in salvation for His people and judgment for His enemies (see, for example: Ezekiel 30:3; Joel 2:31; Amos 5:18-20; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:14; Malachi 4:5).

In the New Testament, this “day of the Lord” is described as being fulfilled in three ways: the first coming of Christ, the second coming of Christ, and all the time in-between. For example, the Apostle Peter explains on the day of Pentecost how the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a fulfillment of what Joel had written concerning the “day of the Lord” (Acts 2:17-21; cf. Joel 2:28-32a). In another place, Peter also spoke of the “day of the Lord” as being fulfilled in the future second coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:10). And, according to the Apostle Paul, the day of salvation which would come through the work of the Suffering Servant and Prince of Peace is now! (Isaiah 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2)

Thus the “day of the Lord” as foretold in the prophets is fulfilled in three phases: (1) the inauguration of the kingdom of God in Jesus’ first coming, (2) the continuation of the kingdom of God as Jesus’ builds His Church today, and (3) the consummation of the kingdom of God in Jesus’ second coming.

I look forward to this coming Sunday as we explore the “day of Midian” and the “day of the Lord” together. Indeed, it is a glorious battle! That is what we celebrate at Christmas: the good news as prophesied through Isaiah – through His only begotten Son, God has been victorious: “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7). All those who repent of their sins and trust in Christ are blessed and privileged to share in the victory of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

The Glorious People of God

Dear Church Family,

In the sermon this past Sunday morning, we looked at the prophet Isaiah’s call from Isaiah, chapter 6. There, we see Isaiah’s call, his cleansing, and his commission. And, we took note that Isaiah’s message which the Lord commissioned him to bring to the people of Israel was a gloomy one: through his preaching, Isaiah was to render the hearts of the people insensitive until God had completed the judgment that He would bring upon them (Isaiah 6:9-12).

At the same time, God held out hope: a remnant who will continue to trust in the Lord will remain, and a holy seed would rise from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 6:13; 11:1). Jesus’ earthly ministry and proclamation of the gospel had a similar result as Isaiah’s (Matthew 13:10-17). More importantly, though, Jesus was also the fulfillment of Isaiah’s ministry and prophecy (Matthew 13:14, 34-35).

This coming Sunday, we will turn our attention from the gloomy message of Isaiah and begin to examine the glorious good news of the coming of the kingdom of God in the Person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. And, we will do so by examining four aspects of this good news from Isaiah 9:1-7:

(Dec. 9)  A Glorious People (Isaiah 9:1-3)
(Dec. 16)  A Glorious Battle (Isaiah 9:4-5)
(Dec. 23)  A Glorious Child (Isaiah 9:6)
(Dec. 30)  A Glorious Kingdom (Isaiah 9:7)

This coming Sunday (December 9th) we will see three promises concerning the glorious people of God.

First, we hear through Isaiah how God’s people will expand to include the gentiles (Isaiah 9:1). In Christ, the people of God, the Church, is no longer confined to one nation, as before under the law (Romans 15:9-12).

Second, we hear through Isaiah how God’s light will shine upon this one people who belong to Him and they will no longer walk in darkness (Isaiah 9:2). In Christ, those who follow Him have the Light of life (John 8:12), and this people becomes the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

Third, we hear through Isaiah how God will multiply His people and increase their joy (Isaiah 9:3). In Christ, the corner stone, God builds His church (Ephesians 2:19-22),  and He promises to turn our grief into joy (John 16:20).

The glorious people whom Isaiah was prophesying about in Isaiah 9:1-3 is the Church of Jesus Christ. Because the kingdom of God has come in Jesus Christ, we have received these great and glorious promises! That is what we celebrate at Christmas: the good news as prophesied through Isaiah – through His only begotten Son, God is calling to Himself a glorious people. And, all those who repent of their sins and trust in Christ are blessed and privileged to be made a part of this glorious people and heirs of the promises of God!

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

From Gloomy to Glorious

Dear Church Family,

The coming Sunday, December 2, we will begin a new sermon series in our Sunday morning worship from the book of Isaiah. This series will last for the five weeks in December, so obviously we will not be looking at the entire 66 chapters of Isaiah! Here is the planned outline of this series:

Sermon Series: From Gloomy to Glorious

(Dec. 2)  A Gloomy Saying (Isaiah 6:1-13)
(Dec. 9)  A Glorious People (Isaiah 9:1-3)
(Dec. 16)  A Glorious Battle (Isaiah 9:4-5)
(Dec. 23)  A Glorious Child (Isaiah 9:6)
(Dec. 30)  A Glorious Kingdom (Isaiah 9:7)

In this series, we will be examining first how God, through the prophet Isaiah, gave a gloomy saying of judgment for His people. That is, Isaiah was commissioned to preach the gospel (the good news of salvation) to the people of Israel, but because of their failure to believe that gospel and repent of their sins, the people would receive Isaiah’s message as a judgment and condemnation against them.

We don’t usually consider this side of the gospel: that the preaching of the gospel either redeems or condemns. However, that was the nature of Isaiah’s ministry and as we will see this Sunday that was actually the nature of Jesus’ ministry, as well (Matthew 13:11-17).

But, as you may see by the outline of this forthcoming series, Isaiah’s message was not all gloom. Isaiah also foretold of a day when the people who walk in darkness would see a great light, a day when the Gentiles would be gathered in to God’s work of redemption. In that day, Isaiah prophesied that there would be a great battle in which the enemies of God’s people (sin, death, and the devil) would be defeated by a child. And, this child would be a royal son who would sit on the throne of King David, and that child would rule with justice and righteousness.

Of course, we now know who that royal son is: Jesus Christ, the Son of God! When you finish reading a detective novel, you can look back at the story you just read and say, “Oh, the butler did it!” In a similar way, we can look back at what Isaiah prophesied and say, “Oh, Jesus did it!” In His incarnation – in His earthly and heavenly ministry – Christ accomplishes all that Isaiah prophesied. The good news for the people of God is this: Your God reigns! (Isaiah 52:7) That is what we celebrate at Christmas, and it is that good news, as prophesied through Isaiah, that we will be examining in the month of December as we are reminded of the Lord’s glorious provision in His only begotten Son!

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

Thankful for God's Word

Dear Church Family,

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends, as we all give thanks for the bountiful gifts of God that He has given to us as our Creator and Redeemer.

In our sermon series on Sunday mornings, we’re coming to the end of our series in the book of Ruth. This past Sunday, we made application from this Old Testament story of redemption by way of example. We examined Proverbs 31 – the man of nobility (vv 3-9) and the woman of valor (vv 10-31) – as what a man and woman look like when ensconsed in the wisdom of God. In the book of Ruth, Boaz and Ruth are examples of this man of nobility and woman of valor. They are examples for us to look to as we seek to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to our own business and work with our hands so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

This coming Sunday, we will be reviewing the book of Ruth and making application by way of typology. We will see how the people of Bethlehem viewed Ruth in a particular way, how Ruth viewed herself, and how Boaz viewed Ruth. In the end, we will see that just as Boaz’s view of Ruth as her kinsman-redeemer is the most important perspective, Christ’s view of us as our Redeemer is the most important perspective. For our true identity is shaped by the One who made us and the One who redeems us! In this way, Boaz is a type (or a shadow) of Jesus Christ – Boaz points us to, and illuminates for us, the person and work of Christ.

These two ways of looking to the Scriptures and making application are not arbitrary, but are actually grounded in God’s Word itself, as well as in our confession. Of the Reformed confessions, the Westminster Confession of Faith is the most explicit in its description and explanation of the Word of God. The first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith (“Of the Holy Scripture”) is viewed by theologians from many traditions as the most clear, definitive, and orthodox statement about the Bible and what it teaches. The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes the definition and usefulness of Scripture in the first three questions:

WSC 1  What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

WSC 2  What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
Answer: The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

WSC 3  What do the Scriptures principally teach?
Answer: The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Notice the two-fold answer to question number three: The Scriptures principally teach, (1) what man is to believe concerning God, and (2) what duty God requires of man. Here we see a concise definition of what are the two main things that we learn from God’s Word. First, from the Holy Scriptures we learn about God (the content of faith, theology, doctrine). Second, from the Holy Scriptures we learn about godliness (the righteousness of faith, morality, ethics).

Seeing as it is Thanksgiving weekend, here is something to be thankful for: the Bible – the Holy Scripture which is “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Praise God that He has not left us to figure out on our own who He is or what He requires of us! Thank God for revealing these things to us in His Holy Scripture!

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch