Where Are You God?
Isa 63:7 I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD And the praises of the LORD, According to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses. 8 For He said, "Surely they are My people, Children who will not lie." So He became their Savior. 9 In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them All the days of old. 10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, And He fought against them. 11 Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying: "Where is He who brought them up out of the sea With the shepherd of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them, 12 Who led them by the right hand of Moses, With His glorious arm, Dividing the water before them To make for Himself an everlasting name, 13 Who led them through the deep, As a horse in the wilderness, That they might not stumble?" 14 As a beast goes down into the valley, And the Spirit of the LORD causes him to rest, So You lead Your people, To make Yourself a glorious name.
Ga 4:1 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.
3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Lu 2:33 And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him.
34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 "(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." 36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity;
37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
God’s children are special to Him. So special that those who believe and are baptized are given the Holy Spirit that enables them to refer to Him as da da. (Abba Father) Isaiah seeks to make that point of specialness in our OT lesson today as well. Oh, how God loves His people. He is good, merciful, loving, and kind. Then in v8 Isaiah begins a little history lesson for us. And he picks it up with Jacob.
He says, God’s children will not lie. If you know anything about Jacob.....he was a liar, and it’s not fitting for children to be liars....especially God’s children! Jacob was a liar until he had his all-night wrestling match with God, in which he was given a new name....no longer a liar, (God’s children will not lie) he would be called Israel.
Later, Israel and his 12 sons were on the brink of destruction. A famine in the land forced them to come to Egypt for bread. And God had planted Joseph in Egypt at just the right time to be a type of Savior for them. (So He became their Savior.)
Then affliction came at the hands of the Egyptians, and God felt their pain. (in all their affliction He was afflicted) When the time was right He raised up Moses to lead the people, and as they fled Egypt, the Angel of His Presence saved them. (He was the fiery cloud that went with them and protected them from the Egyptians)
In His love and pity He redeemed them and carried them in their days in the wilderness. But they rebelled and grieved the Holy Spirit and God became as an enemy to them. Then he (Israel) remembered the days of old, and began to ask where is this God who did all this stuff for Moses?
Where is the One who divided the Red Sea and made a smooth path that they might not stumble? Where is the One who shepherded this flock? Where is the One who put the Holy Spirit within them? Where is the One who makes an everlasting name for Himself through deliverance? Where is the God who brings His people to rest in order to make a glorious name for Himself? Where is He?
It’s an age old question, and one that I find myself asking more and more these days. Where are You God? Why does revival tarry so? Why is your church such a mess? Why does your Word go forth and no one seems to want to heed it? Why have you not come Lord Jesus to once and for all straighten this mess out!
I know the church right now isn’t doing very well. We wink at our covetousness, we wink at our sexual sin, we don’t love and forgive others as we should. In fact there is little difference between us and the world. I know the only hope to turn that around is revival. I know the only hope is godly sorrow over our sin. Where are You God?
I want to cry with Isaiah in 63:17, “O Lord, why have You made us stray from Your ways, and hardened our heart from Your fear? Return for Your servants sake....our adversaries have trodden down Your sanctuary. We have become like those of old, over whom You never ruled, those who were never called by Your name.”
It’s not like God makes us stray from His ways. He doesn’t hold a gun to our head and say, “Disobey Me! Stop fearing Me!” It’s more like “God why don’t You do something to wake us up, to stop us!” O Lord, lead us not into temptation! “Where are You God!”
It’s a common question from the remnant in the church through the ages and one we all ought to be asking. Where are You God? You can be sure that Simeon and Anna of our Gospel lesson were asking the question.
Where are You God? Where is the Consolation of Israel? Where is the redemption of Jerusalem?
We haven’t heard from You in 400 years! Your church has become dead orthodoxy. Where are You God?
Well, their question was answered as we see in our epistle lesson. As Paul writes, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son born of a woman.” The Consolation of Israel had arrived!
Let’s set the scene for you in our Gospel lesson today. We’ll pick it up after the shepherds have left Bethlehem “praising God” for all the things that they had heard and seen. What’s next for this young couple from Nazareth? The next thing on the agenda is the baby must be circumcised.
As Paul said, the babe was born under the law and the law says every Jewish male child was to be circumcised on the 8th day.
But wait a minute......this is Jesus! The sinless Son of God! Was it really necessary to circumcise Jesus? Did He really need to be brought into a covenant relationship with God? Of course not. His circumcision was for our benefit...not His.
He willingly placed Himself under the ceremonial Law and the Moral Law that He might fulfill it perfectly in our stead...so we don’t have to. Jesus Himself said,
Mt 5:17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
So how does His circumcision benefit us? Well, it keeps the law for us. If we are baptized, we put on Jesus, and if we remain in the faith we keep Him on, and we receive the benefits of what was done to His body, without having to go through it ourselves.
Just as we are crucified with Christ, without having to endure the cross, in our baptism, so we are also circumcised without actually having to go under the knife.
Circumcision was a necessary part of salvation in the OT, just as baptism is a necessary element of salvation in the NT. Not only that, but circumcision cannot simply be wiped away as a requirement. God is just! It was an “everlasting” covenant between God and man. The requirement still stands.
Ge 17:13 "He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
So when Jesus was circumcised, He was circumcised on behalf of all of us who weren’t around for the OT covenant. This is an everlasting covenant! You and I must be a part of it, and our part was accomplished for us by Jesus.
In like manner, Jesus was baptized by John. He didn’t need to be baptized, He was sinless, but He told John, “permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” Mt 3:15
We are commanded to go and baptize in order to make disciples for Jesus. We are also told that He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. That’s the NT covenant, but again God is just. He is not whimsical in these matters.
So what about those in the OT who had faith in the coming Christ, but were never baptized? What happens to them? Jesus was baptized for their sake. And their circumcision, coupled with their faith in Him, ties them into the benefits of His baptism and His crucifixion.
Thereby making both baptism and circumcision everlasting covenants, the OT believer receiving the benefits of baptism through faith in Christ, The NT believer receiving the benefits of circumcision through faith in Christ. So Jesus was circumcised....and Jesus was baptized.
After the circumcision, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had to make the 5 mile trek to Jerusalem to take care of some more ceremonial Law. First of all, those who had given birth to male children were considered to be unclean for 40 days after the birth. They were not to have contact with anything holy including the temple.
After 40 days they could become clean again by undergoing the purification rite. This involved an animal sacrifice, and if you were poor, a couple of turtledoves could be used. This was the case for Joseph and Mary.
It was at this time, that still another ceremonial law was taken care of, namely, the presentation of the first born son to the Lord. Every first-born son was to be dedicated to God as belonging to Him in a special sense.....namely as a priest.
But once the priesthood was given to the Levites, the first born son from any other tribe had to be bought back for the price of five shekels. This was to be a memorial of the sparing of the first born of the Israelites in Egypt on the night that all other firstborn were slain.
Now, as they arrive at the temple to attend to these ceremonial duties, an astounding thing occurs. First of all a man named Simeon, was led by the Holy Ghost to come to the temple at this time. It had been revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until his eyes had seen the Lord Christ in the flesh.
Overcome with the Spirit, he sweeps Jesus up into his arms and blessed God as he said what we now call the nunc dimittus, “Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation; which Thou hast prepared before, the face of all people. A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
In the old Lutheran liturgy, the nunc dittimus was sung after communion, because the Lord’s Supper is a sighting of the salvation of our Lord. It is the sighting of the actual presence of the body and blood of Jesus. A picture of our salvation!
Joseph and Mary marveled at those things that were spoken of Him. I mean they knew His name was to be Jesus because He would save His people from their sins, but Simeon indicates that He not only will make salvation possible for the Jews,....but for all the world!
This was a marvelous thing! This was the Good News....now he hits them with the bad. Not everyone is going to be excited about the ministry of Jesus. Many will rise because of Him, but many will also fall and speak against Him with their disbelief and words and deeds, or lack thereof.
In fact Mary’s soul will be pierced as if it were being punctured by a sword as she witnesses what will be done to her Son. This prophecy coming to pass during His Passion.
And this Babe, that Simeon was holding in his arms, would live and die for the purpose of revealing the true thoughts of the hearts of men. Oh yes, He was born. He died, and He ascended into heaven, and one day He will return to judge the thoughts and intents of all hearts who ever lived.
And it’s what you do with Jesus that reveals your thoughts and intents toward God. “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me, but in Him who sent me. Jn 12:44
Will you fall or rise because of Christ? What will you do with this Jesus?
Enter Anna the prophetess. A vital part of this account because of the biblical rule of two or three witnesses. This rule comes from Dt 19:15, and was quoted by Jesus in Mt 18:16, “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”
You know it would be one thing for the Scripture to say that Anna showed up, but v 38 says, “and coming in that instant!” meaning that this was no accident. This was orchestrated by God the Father so that there would be no doubt. Two witnesses would testify immediately to the fact that this Babe is indeed the Lord’s Christ.
Anna affirms it as she gives thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. She was going around and telling the remnant, all who were looking for the coming of Christ.....He is here!”
And God, speaking through Luke is telling us to pay attention to this......for he has provided two witnesses!
Let’s talk a little bit about Anna. She was a prophetess. She had this charismatic gift of insight into the Word and will of God that she used for edifying the church, the body of believers. And so what does she do with this new-found knowledge of Jesus? She edified all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem.
Here was an elderly lady who was widowed after 7 years with her husband, and had served in the temple for 84 years since her widowhood. If she married at the age of 15, she would be 106 years old! You are never too old for kingdom work!
Her ministry involved fasting and praying. One of the things we know she was fasting and praying for was the appearance of the Messiah who would redeem Israel.
This is why she was giving thanks....her prayers had been answered. Her prayers of 84 years had been answered! Being a prophetess she knew of the coming Messiah and so she prayed for it to happen....and it did!
As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you know that He is coming again, and this time He is coming to judge the world one final time. And HE is coming to kick the devil and all unbelievers into hell for eternity. But He will provide an eternal paradise for all those who have put their trust in Him.
We ought to be praying and fasting for this second coming with the same perseverance and expectation that Anna prayed for His first coming! Where are You God? Think it through. As a believer, why would you want the Lord to tarry?
Well, what about my lost loved ones? Well what about them? Pray for them! Witness to them in word and deed! But trust God for their salvation. I guarantee you that when He comes again, not one name will be missing from His Book of Life that was supposed to be there. He knows those who belong to Him and they will be there....and then the end.
Never weary of praying. In his book Prayer, O. Hallesby says, Make use of prayer! Put in your applications for help to Him who rules on high whenever you see a need. Send them off at once! Don’t delay, and end them all with, “Grant them Lord only if they will glorify Your name.”
In God’s own time the answers will come back. The more you cease getting worried about the time in which prayers are to be answered, the more freedom you will have to enjoy your prayer life.
The things you will now see will surprise you! The longer you live and pray like this, the more answers to prayer you will experience. As white snow flakes fall quietly and thickly on a winter day, answers to prayer will settle down upon you at every step you take even to your dying day and beyond.
Your life will be the story of prayer and answers to prayer. It is written, Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. This is what happens when you pray like this. And when you pray, it is not any more necessary for you to exert yourself to receive answers to your prayers than it is to exert yourself to receive letters that have been addressed to you.
Even when you pass away, when you are removed from the showers of answered prayer, your dear ones will step into them. Should the Lord tarry, every prayer you have ever uttered for them and their future, will, in God’s time descend upon them in a gentle snow shower of answered prayer.
Who knows what kind of showers you are walking in even now that were precipitated by loved ones who prayed for you before they passed on? The time to pray is now, while the Lord tarries.
Anna could’ve been embittered. Her husband was taken away from her after only 7 years of marriage. But she didn’t get bitter. She gave herself to the Lord! Serving Him with fasting and prayer for 84 years. She took on a ministry of edification, building others up and what a difference she made!
You may be widowed, you may be on in years, you may be divorced, and you may be single. Don’t be bitter. Rather be like Anna, and turn to the Lord in fasting and prayer, give Him your utter devotion that He might use you to bring showers of blessings to others.
The prayer of the remnant has always been, “Where are You God?” Couple it with fasting and make it your prayer beginning today. Simeon and Anna prayed for a visitation from the Lord. May we do the same. May we join our hearts with Isaiah in Is. 64:1 “Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down!
Whether it be in a shower of revival, or that You would come one final time to take all your children home! Come Lord Jesus.
Come Lord Jesus!