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“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12

In our catechism, we know this commandment as the Fourth Commandment: “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. What does this mean? Answer: We should fear and love God that we may not despise our parents and masters, nor provoke them to anger, but give them honor, serve and obey them, and hold them in love and esteem.” — 1912 Catechism

This commandment of the LORD requires us to honor our parents (and all whom God has placed over us) as our God-given representatives. Children are to obey their parents; and parents — especially fathers — are to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20-21; Deut. 6:4-9).

The only exception to God’s command to honor and obey parents is that we are “to obey God rather than men” when there exists a conflict between the will of parents (and authorities) and the will of God Himself (cf. Acts 5:29; cf. Dan. 3 and 6).

This means that children sin against God when they disobey their parents and do not show them the honor and respect which God requires. Parents too are guilty of sin when they do not bring up their children to know the LORD and His ways.

How thankful we can be that Jesus Christ kept this commandment perfectly for us, not only in deed but in word and desire! The Scriptures tell us that He submitted Himself to His parents and honored them (Luke 2:51; cf. John 19:25-27).

And, how thankful we can be that Jesus also bore upon the cross the just punishment for our sin! In Him, we sinners find pardon and forgiveness; and, in Him, we find strength and guidance to amend our ways and live in accord with God’s will and command.

Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, forgive our sins against the perfect will of God, our Maker, and give us the desire to live our lives for You. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 14:11 (Read Luke 14:1-11)

It was the Sabbath Day and Jesus was invited to a meal in the home of one of the prominent Pharisees, a sect of the Jews which believed one could please God and be acceptable in His sight by a strict keeping of God’s commandments. However, Jesus was being put to the test in regard to His keeping of the commandment regarding the Sabbath.

The Pharisees and experts in the Jewish law were watching Jesus because a man was there with dropsy, a condition in which fluid would build up in the extremities causing pain and discomfort. We might call it edema today, a condition often caused by congestive heart failure.

Jesus didn’t have to ask because He most certainly already knew the answer, but He wanted His hearers — experts in the Jewish laws — to consider the truth. “And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?” (v. 3).

They didn’t answer Jesus but, quite obviously, they considered it a violation of the commandment for Jesus to heal anyone on the Sabbath because they regarded such acts to be work forbidden by the commandment in Exodus 20:8-11.

What they failed to see and understand in their efforts to outwardly obey God’s commandments so that they might be deserving of God’s favor and eternal life is that “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). God had commanded man to rest from his labors on the Sabbath in order that he might have time to consider God’s Word and God’s ways (cf. Isa. 58:13-14). They were to sanctify and set apart the holy day. It was never God’s intent that the Sabbath be legalistically observed as nothing more than a day in which all work was prohibited.

And, since the Sabbath served as a shadow of things to come, pointing to the fact that we are justified and obtain eternal rest by faith alone in Jesus Christ and not by our own works and merits (cf. Rom. 4:4-5; Heb. 4:1ff.), Christians are no longer required to observe a specific day (cf. Rom. 14:5-6; Col. 2:16-17; Gal. 4:10-11).

Jesus healed this man “and answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things” (v. 5-6).

And how could they answer Jesus or accuse Him? Jesus showed their hypocrisy and guilt in regard to God’s law. None of them would even hesitate to pull one of their animals out of a pit on the Sabbath Day, and yet they considered it wrong to help a human being on the Sabbath and were ready to condemn Jesus for showing love and mercy on the Sabbath! (Cf. Rom. 13:8-10; Hos. 6:6).

Jesus also told the Pharisees and experts in Jewish law a parable when he noted how they chose for themselves the prominent seats at the table, “saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.”

Not only did this parable have a practical application for them to avoid being humiliated if asked to give place to a more-honored guest and to be honored before all if asked to move up; it also has a spiritual application: “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (v. 11).

If we exalt ourselves before God and seek to enter into the glories of heaven on the basis of our own works and worthiness, we will be humbled when we are removed from our place and it be given to one counted worthy by the LORD God for the sake of the perfect life and innocent suffering and death of Christ Jesus.

If, on the other hand, we count ourselves unworthy sinners and take the lowest seat and trust in nothing but the merit of Christ Jesus, who gave His life as a ransom for our sins and the sins of the world, we will be exalted when God graciously receives us into His kingdom and glorifies us for Jesus’ sake!

God calls upon us to humbly confess our sins and receive of Him forgiveness and life for the sake of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. Think of the parable that Jesus told in Luke 18:9-14. It was the humble tax collector who went to his house justified.

The Bible tells us: “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Ps. 34:18); “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17); and “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa. 57:15; cf. 66:2).

And, St. John writes (1 John 1:8 – 2:2: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Jesus’ point? It will merit us nothing before God to legalistically follow the letter of the commandments when we miss the spirit of the law — love for God and love for neighbor. And, most importantly, rather than depending upon our own works and merits under the law which are far short of what God requires, we would be wise to humble ourselves before the LORD God, confess our utter sinfulness and unworthiness in His sight, and flee to the cross of Jesus, trusting alone in His perfect righteousness in our stead and in His innocent suffering and death for the sins of the entire world!

“For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” — The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn 370

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.” Luke 7:13-15 (Read Luke 7:11-17)

Travel to any city, town or community and you will likely find a cemetery filled with headstones marking the graves of those from that locale who have died, whose bones or ashes are buried there. In fact, many times, the cemetery is the first thing you will see because they often lie on the outskirts of the city or town. And when funerals take place, the processions often lead from a church or the funeral home out to the cemetery.

When Jesus arrived at the city of Nain with His disciples. He encountered just such a procession. Luke tells us: “Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her” (Luke 7:12).

This was an especially sad funeral because the man who had died was still a young man, and he was the only son of his mother, who also was a widow. What a tragedy! How sad! Imagine the loneliness this mother must have felt, having lost her husband in the past and now her only son. She was, no doubt, heartbroken, and probably also destitute.

And death is sad and tragic! It is not natural. God created us for life but, as a result of sin and disobedience to God’s good commandments, we have brought the curse and condemnation of God’s law upon ourselves and have brought upon ourselves death!

The Bible tells us, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die”; and “the wages of sin is death” (Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23).

To Adam, God said, “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:17-19).

Notice that Jesus didn’t try to comfort this woman with words about her son being in a better place. He didn’t tell her to think about all the good times they had together, and He certainly did not tell her that she would always carry her son with her in her heart! Jesus knew and recognized that this young man’s death was the result of sin in the world and that death is sad, devastating and tragic.

And, because we are sinful human beings who have not measured up to God’s holy law, we too will face death. Our souls will be taken from our bodies and our lifeless and decaying bodies will be laid in the ground to return to dust. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Unless Christ Jesus returns soon, none of us will escape. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). We will all die and then stand before the judgment seat of God.

But what did Jesus do? Luke 7:13-15 says: “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.”

Jesus had compassion on this woman in her hopeless and helpless situation which was the result of sin. We are not told that this young man’s death was the result of some sin in this woman’s life or that it was the result of some particular sin in the life of her son, but it was the result of sin in the world and in them in the same way as we must all die because of the sin which infects us all (cf. Ps. 90:3ff.).

Jesus told this woman to stop crying because He had a solution to this tragic death. He intervened by stopping the funeral bier and saying, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” Luke tells us that this young man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

What does this have to do with you and me today? you might ask. Everyone in the history of the world, with the exception of Enoch and Elijah, had to die, and Jesus only called a few people back to life — we think of this young man, Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus and those raised by His prophets in the Old Testament and His apostles in the New.

Though Jesus does not intervene at every death and call the dead back to life, He has intervened for all of us in a much greater way.

Remember that the cause of death is sin, and sin brings about not only physical death but eternal death and damnation! To be raised back to life in this sinful world is not a lasting solution — as far as we know, this young man has since died. So has Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus.

Jesus had compassion on us in our hopeless and helpless situation and tells us to stop crying because He is our solution. As God promised in the garden the Seed of the woman who would undo the work of Satan, Jesus is that promised Seed, our Messiah and Savior.

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

The Bible tells us: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them”; and, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:10, 13; cf. Heb. 2:14-17).

Jesus Christ, God the Son, intervened by taking on a human body and soul and being born of the Virgin Mary — true God and true man — and He fulfilled all the demands of God’s law perfectly in our stead and then suffered our punishment, the just punishment for the sins of all mankind, when He was crucified and died on the tree of the cross. And He rose again from the dead on the third day, proving that the debt of our sin is paid in full, that God accepted the sacrifice of His Son for the sins of the whole world (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3ff.; Rom. 4:23ff.; Isa. 53:6ff.; 1 John 2:1-2).

And Jesus intervened by raising us up from spiritual death and condemnation to spiritual life and justification through faith in His name (cf. Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21ff.; 2 Cor. 5:18ff.). He did this by sending His servants to preach and proclaim to us the Gospel and to assure us of pardon and forgiveness through faith in Christ by means of our baptism into Christ and our partaking in the Lord’s Supper of Christ’s body and blood which were given and shed for us for the remission of our sins.

Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:24-26; cf. Eph. 2:1ff.; 2 Thess. 2:13-14).

How much better this is than the temporary intervention of Jesus when He raised this young man in Nain and restored him to his mother! This young man was raised up yet a sinner in a sinful world. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, all who trust in Him will be raised up from death to life eternal with Christ where there is no more sin or death! Cf. 1 Cor. 15:20ff.; Rev. 21:1ff.

Because Christ Jesus intervened, all who repent and look to Him in faith have God’s pardon, forgiveness and everlasting life (cf. John 3:14ff.; Acts. 3:19ff.); and believers don’t have to sorrow like the rest of this world which has no hope, for Christ will come again with the souls of those who have died trusting in Him and will raise up all the dead and give to all who have trusted in His name everlasting life! Cf. 1 Thess. 4:13ff.; John 5:28-29; Job 19:25-27.

God grant us such faith in Christ Jesus so that death becomes for us the gateway to life everlasting for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7

Many consider it a light thing to misuse God’s name in their language and speech. They curse, swear, lie and deceive by it. Some use God’s name or His Word, the Bible, to support their own false beliefs and teachings. Some use it superstitiously, as though their use of God’s name or things connected with it will bring them good luck and fortune. And, all too seldom, is God’s name used rightly to pray to Him, to praise and glorify Him, and to give Him thanks!

God says that He “will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” It is not a trivial offense with God to abuse His holy name, but a serious offense which will bring His wrath and judgment!

This commandment condemns us all for our misuse of God’s name and for our neglect to use it rightly in ways that bring to the LORD God honor and glory and praise. God’s Word applies to each of us, when it says, “The LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

Our only hope is in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, for He kept this commandment perfectly for us and used God’s name rightly. Jesus called upon His Father in prayer and praises. He taught God’s Word rightly. And His whole life brought honor and glory to God’s holy name – whether that be through His manner of living, His teaching or His miracles.

And, in His death and resurrection too, Jesus brought honor and glory to God’s holy name. He willingly carried out His Father’s will and went to the cross and bore the guilt and shame and punishment for the sins of all mankind that God might show us mercy and give to us forgiveness in His Son, Christ Jesus. And Jesus rose again and is ascended to the right hand of His Father and continues His work of bringing life and salvation to lost sinners.

Jesus, rightly prayed, “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent…” (John 17:1ff.).

Jesus Christ, on the tree of the cross, brought glory to His Father’s name and bore the full punishment for all our sins. He desires that we, too, bring God glory by repenting of our misuse of God’s name and of our failures to live and speak in ways that bring God’s name glory. He desires that we turn to Him for mercy. And, in His Word, He promises that forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting, as well as the help to use God’s name rightly, are ours through faith in Jesus’ name.

And placing our faith in Jesus – trusting in Him alone for forgiveness and life – brings glory to God’s name!

O LORD God, forgive us for taking Your holy name in vain, and for neglecting to use it rightly. Graciously help us to hallow Your name among us. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross to redeem us. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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Today, the 29th of September, is Michaelmas, from Michael’s Mass, a feast day celebrated in the Western Church since the mid-fifth century when a basilica near Rome was dedicated in honour of Michael the archangel on Sept. 30, with celebrations beginning on the eve of that day, Sept. 29. The feast is now kept in honour of Michael and all angels in some Western churches.

And, if you paid close attention, you will have noted that all our Scripture readings today make reference to the angels or to Michael himself. We see the angels protecting believers in Psalm 91 and young believers in Matthew 18. And Michael’s work in resisting Satan and his forces in the world is mentioned in Daniel 10 and 12, with Revelation 12 describing Michael’s battle with Satan and Satan being cast out of heaven and onto the earth until Judgment Day, when Satan and his evil angels will be cast into the eternal fires of hell (cf. Matthew 25:41).

There are all kinds of false beliefs out there concerning the angels. Some even suggest that good people will become angels when they die. But, to learn the truth, we need to look to the Scriptures and to what God Himself tells us about the angels.

The Bible teaches that the LORD God, when He created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1-2), also created a great number of angels to carry out His commands and do His will. The Bible says that God “maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire” (Psalm 104:4; cf. Nehemiah 9:6; Exodus 20:11; Colossians 1:16; Psalm 103:20-21; Daniel 7:9-10).

It describes the angels as spirits of great power and strength when it says: “Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure” (Psalm 103:20-21; cf. 2 Kings 19:35).

According to the Bible, a large number of these angels sinned and fell away from the LORD God shortly after the creation (cf. Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:9). The Bible speaks of the devil (or Satan) and the other evil angels who fell away with him being reserved unto the judgment of eternal torment in hell (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Matthew 25:41).

The Bible also warns us that, until the last day, these evil spirits continue to oppose God and His will and seek the destruction of God’s works, especially seeking to lead believers away from God and back into sin and unbelief. It tells believers to ”be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8; cf. Genesis 3:1ff.; Revelation 12; John 8:44; Job 1-2; Matthew 4:1-11). It cautions followers of Christ to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:11-12).

The great number of angels who remained faithful to the LORD God are now, according to the statements of God’s Word, confirmed in their holy estate and continue to carry out God’s commands and serve the needs of Christians. God tells us in His Word that His angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Jesus says in regard to the angels who watch over little children who believe that “in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10; cf. 25:31). And, the Bible assures us that God “shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12; cf. 103:20-21).

All of this teaches us of the great spiritual battle taking place — a battle we can’t even see with our eyes. Satan and his evil angels are working through nations and rulers to silence the preaching of God’s Word and to persecute and destroy the true visible church in this world that people would not hear of their lost and sinful condition and would never learn of God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Satan and his cohorts are at work through false doctrine and temptations to lead people away from Christ and the salvation He won for all when He died on the cross and rose again.

That is why the Bible enjoins us in Ephesians 6:10-13: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand….”

And God’s good angels are watching over us and protecting us from Satan’s assaults by withholding nations and rulers, by keeping us from harm, by watching over us and protecting us that we are not swallowed up by Satan and his schemes.

We who trust in Christ alone for our salvation have the assurance of God’s Word in Psalm 91:9-12: “Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” And we are assured that in heaven, our “angels do always behold the face the Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

“I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee that Thou wouldst keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.” — Luther’s Small Catechism.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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