Psalm 149 (All Saints’ Day—Observed)
“The Cheerful Faith of the Saints”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
November 4, 2018
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The text this morning is the Psalm appointed for All Saints’ Day, Psalm 149:
Sing to Yahweh a new song; His praise in the assembly of the saints.
2Let Israel be glad in his Maker; Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King.
3Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them make music to Him with the tambourine and lyre.
4For Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He beautifies the humble with salvation.
5Let the saints exult in glory; Let them shout for joy upon their beds.
6Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands
7to make vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples,
8to bind their kings in chains and their nobles in chains of iron,
9to execute on them the judgment written. This is the honor for all his saints.
Why? What’s the reason to praise Yahweh and to sing to Him a fresh and new song? What reason do we have to be glad in our Creator and King? What could be the reason for praising God with dancing and music? Why exult in glory and shout for joy even in the quiet of our beds? Answer: Because it is this God who takes pleasure in you. He beautifies you with salvation.
What would cause you to take pleasure in someone? Probably because the person is like you in some way. You share similar interests. You think along the same lines. Personalities are compatible. You say, “That is a person I can take pleasure in being around. I enjoy the conversation, the humor, the activities.” Often the person that we take pleasure in we call “friend.” Should they be a person of the opposite sex, the one we take pleasure in might become our “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.” We might take so much pleasure in that person that they become our husband or wife with whom we are united in holy marriage.
The Psalmist says in verse 4, “For Yahweh take pleasure in His people.” That’s the reason which prompts the new song and the praise of God, the rejoicing and celebration. Sure, we get pretty psyched when someone notices us and takes pleasure in being in our company. It means we are a “fit” for them. We’ve got something in common; we’re on similar pages with our thoughts and actions. We get along. But that’s not quite the situation with God.
Well, it was the situation, a long time ago, in a garden far, far away. God took great pleasure and delight in the crown of His creation—man and woman—whom He created in His own image. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Adam and Eve knew God perfectly. They were righteous and holy, walking with God in purity and in perfect communion. And in an instant, everything in all of creation was changed forever. Adam and Eve disobeyed the commandment of God. They sinned by their disobedience. The bliss of Eden was shattered and destroyed. The image of God was lost to the man and the woman and to their descendants. No longer is humanity like God in righteousness and holiness. No longer does humanity walk with God in purity and in perfect communion.
Sin has separated the crown of Yahweh’s creation from its Creator. Sin has thrown up a dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14). Sin causes all people to be God’s enemies (Rom. 5:10). As sinners, we do not now “get along” with God. We are not on the same page. In fact, we are in all-out rebellion against Him and His Word. We put our fear, love, and trust in ourselves and in our possessions and in created things. These become our gods as we have abandoned the one, Triune God in favor of these idols.
There is no reason that the righteous and holy God, who created heaven and earth, should take pleasure in people. By rights, according to His justice and holiness, the Lord must condemn and punish sin and sinner, “to make vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples. . . to execute the judgment written.” God should avenge how evil and sinful we humans are with eternal death and condemnation in hell forever. But God, who is just and holy, is also gracious and merciful. Instead of enduring His wrath in judgment against our sins, rather than facing the punishment of His holy justice, Yahweh takes pleasure in people whom He beautifies with salvation.
While you and I and the rest of humanity were separated from God by sin, while we were enemies of God, God the Son took to Himself human flesh and blood so that He might endure the full wrath and punishment of God against sin and sinner in our place. Jesus, God the Son-made-flesh, assumed the ugliness of our sin. Christ became imperfect for us. He, the perfect Lamb of God without blemish, became like “one from whom men hide their faces” (Isa. 53:3 ESV). All of our imperfections, all of the blemishes, all of our flaws—yes, all of our sins and sinfulness—He took upon Himself to the cross. For us, Jesus, true God and true Man, endured death and hell as He suffered, bled, and died. All of God’s perfect justice was focused on Jesus as He became sin for us. For us, Jesus endured the separation from the Father who abandoned His beloved Son on that cross because He was bearing the unholiness of all people.
Jesus’ death on the cross purchased and won the forgiveness of all your sins with His holy, precious blood. God takes pleasure in you because your sins are forgiven. You are once again in a right standing with God because He has made you beautiful through His grace and mercy in Jesus. Not too many years ago one of the latest boy bands to hit the music scene, One Direction, had a hit song. (Pastor Tim Martinal, my dear friend and brother in Christ would be groaning right now at the fact that I mention them in a sermon! We had a lot of jokes back and forth while he was on vicarage about One Direction and if it were my favorite or his favorite band.) At any rate, the song was titled “What Makes You Beautiful?” The Bible answers this question for us—What makes you beautiful to stand before God in righteousness and purity forever? Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection.
You and I as sinners have been beautified by the cleansing blood of Jesus. Your sins and mine are forgiven. We’ve been given a total make-over and not one you can get at the spa! We’ve been given new, clean hearts that trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins, for eternal life, and salvation from sin, death, and the devil. Isaiah the prophet celebrated this very event, “[God] has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isa. 61:10 ESV). In John’s vision of the Last Day, Jesus gives John a picture of the forgiven and redeemed saints of God “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).
By faith in Jesus Christ, you are beautiful to your Father in heaven, beautiful in the salvation that the Savior won for you. Yahweh takes pleasure in you and calls you friends and heirs of eternal life. That is why, dear saints of God in Christ, you sing a new song together in this assembly. You are glad in your Creator and rejoice in your King as you give thanks for the blessing that God is gracious and merciful to you, His people, through Jesus Christ your Lord. By the gift of faith in Jesus given to you in Baptism, through the Gospel, and strengthened with the Savior’s body and blood in His Supper, you know that you have a gracious God and that you rightly should rejoice. You have the blessing of His grace—the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.
You are the saints of God, His holy ones who have been made holy by the work of the Spirit who delivers the gifts of Christ to you in Word and Sacrament. You are beautiful to the Lord your God. He takes pleasure in you because you are His sons and daughters by grace through faith in Jesus, your Savior. On this All Saints’ Sunday, we give praise, honor, and thanksgiving to Christ our King. By His suffering and death and the shedding of His blood, He has redeemed us from the kingdom of darkness and made us partakers of His victory over Satan, sin, and death. He has given us a cheerful faith to sing of His grace with heart and soul and to make known His salvation among people. Hallelujah! Amen.