DAILY  DEVOTIONAL

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APRIL 18

"The Strife Is O'er, the Battle Done"

 

Apr. 18, 2021
 
 

"Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! The strife is o'er, the battle done; Now is the victor's triumph won; Now be the song of praise begun. Alleluia!

"He broke the age-bound chains of hell; The bars from heav'n's high portals fell. Let hymns of praise His triumph tell. Alleluia!"

Jesus told His disciples about the strife to come. He must go to Jerusalem, where He would be rejected, condemned, and killed, and on the third day rise. Yet, even before He spoke of the deadly strife, He told the disciples of the victory to come. Jesus' victory would also be a triumph for His followers. The church, built on Jesus and on the confession that He is the Messiah and the Son of the living God, would be so strong that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18b). The strife was not over—it had barely begun—but the outcome was already decided.

Just as He had foretold, Jesus was rejected and betrayed. His disciples fled, including Peter, who had boldly confessed that Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God. For a time, according to God's plan, "the power of darkness" was permitted to overshadow the Light of the world (see Luke 22:53). Jesus was condemned to death and nailed to the cross. There, hanging alone in weakness, the Son of God was engaged in battle with our deadly foes—sin, death, and Satan, enemies that held us captive. In fact, in fallen sinfulness, we willingly gave ourselves over to our captors. No efforts of our own could set us free. It was a battle that we could never win.

Jesus died in the strife and yet, even in death His triumph had begun. Through His death, Jesus destroyed "the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14b). The Savior's body was taken down from the cross and buried in a sealed and guarded tomb. On the first Easter morning, He rose in triumph from the grave. The Victim was the Victor, and He "broke the age-bound chains of hell." The strife is over, the battle is done. For all who trust in Jesus, death and the devil no longer have the last word. Jesus is "alive forevermore" and He holds "the keys of Death and Hades" (Revelation 1:18b).

While here on earth, our strife is not over. We are still engaged in battle against sin and Satan, yet we can be confident because Jesus has triumphed and His victory is our victory. As His body, the church, we move forward in witness, love, and service in our Lord's Name. Captives are set free as the Holy Spirit continues His work of enlightening hearts through the Gospel. The gates of hell cannot prevail against us and "heav'n's high portals" stand open before us. Our hymns of praise tell the story of Jesus' triumph, the victory that will be celebrated now and into eternity! Alleluia!

THE PRAYER: Mighty Savior, You have broken the chains of sin and death. You have set me free! Amen.

The Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "The Strife is O'er, the Battle Done," which is found on page 464 of the Lutheran Service Book.

Reflection Questions:

1. When was the last time you cheered (loudly) for something or someone?

2. How can the church stand strong against the powers of hell?

3. How does the Holy Spirit enlighten the hearts of people today?

"A Table Prepared"

 

Apr. 19, 2021
  
 
Psalm 23:5-6 - You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Jokes and comedy shows sometimes focus on the unwelcome behavior of an eccentric relative at a family holiday gathering, or the overbearing guest who exhausts everyone with political views or tedious stories. That does not usually happen (we hope!) in real gatherings, but even less-than-welcome guests are just that, guests. They are not enemies. If we planned to dine with enemies, we would be more inclined to set up fortifications, not tables and chairs.

Jesus our Good Shepherd does not set up such defenses. He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. We may not always be aware of it, but we do live in the presence of enemies. The devil, the temptations of the world around us, and our own sinful desires within us, always seeking to lead us astray. In our weak and fallen nature, we may at times welcome these enemies into our lives as guests. We wander from God's ways and seek the imagined "greener pastures" offered by the devil, the world, and our own desires. But Jesus is our Shepherd and Savior. He seeks us out through His Word, calling us to repentance and bringing us back to Himself.

Jesus Himself once came to the table in the presence of His enemies. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus gathered with His disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. At the same time, in the same city, Jesus' enemies also began to come together, "both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel" to do what God "had predestined to take place" (see Acts 4:27-28). As His enemies plotted against Him, Jesus and His disciples remembered the night when God brought His people out of slavery into freedom, the night on which the firstborn of Israel were saved from death by the blood of lambs painted on the doorframes of their homes. As Jesus celebrated that night of freedom, He gave to His followers the gift of His body and His blood.

On that same Passover night, according to God's design for our salvation, Jesus was betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He was condemned to death. On the cross, the Lamb of God shed His blood to atone for the sins of the world. On the first Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over every enemy, even over death itself. As the blood of lambs once marked the doors of Israel, the blood of the Lamb of God marks our lives today. Our risen and reigning Lord invites us to the table He has prepared. As we celebrate His Holy Supper, Jesus feeds us with His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. Anointed by the Holy Spirit, we receive peace that floods our lives and overflows over into eternity, and we will "dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6b).

THE PRAYER: Jesus, through the gift Your body given and blood shed for me, I have peace, even in the presence of enemies. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler.

Reflection Questions:

1. What are some of the things a shepherd does to tend a flock?

2. What does it say about God that He would prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies?

3. What's your favorite line or thought in Psalm 23?