Tuesday April 7, 2020
Psalm 40:6-8 New Living Translation (NLT)
6 You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand—
you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
7 Then I said, “Look, I have come.
As is written about me in the Scriptures:
8 I take joy in doing your will, my God,
for your instructions are written on my heart.”
These verses may sound familiar to you since they were a part of yesterday’s devotional reading. Yesterday the focus was on the importance of sacrifice in Jewish religious practice. Animal sacrifice had been the way the Jews atoned for their sins, but Jesus changed all that. Instead of having to make regular and continuous sacrifices, sacrifices that atoned for sins only for a little while, Jesus’ death and resurrection atoned for all of our sins for all of us for all of the time.
Jesus knew that this was the role he was to fill. Jesus understood that God no longer found animal sacrifice pleasing. Jesus understood that he was the Messiah, the one God was sending to God’s people because of God’s immeasurable love for them.
Jesus also must have known that this would not be an easy role to play, that it would require him to suffer and to die. Yet Jesus quotes this psalm – including the words “I take joy in doing your will, my God for your instructions are written on my heart.” This psalm, written by David, was to be fulfilled by the Messiah.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday, he must have known that the culmination of all that he was sent to do would happen very soon. Jesus, fully human and fully divine, must have felt conflicted within himself concerning what was to come next. We know from scripture that he continued to follow God’s will – he chased the money changers out of the Temple, he continued to preach within the Temple grounds, he told his disciples what was to come, he brought them together for a final meal – the Last Supper. He knew Judas was going to betray him and he willingly went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to wait for his betrayer and those who accompanied him.
But he did have doubts. That was his human side. Before Jesus met his betrayer, he went away from the others to pray. Luke 22:39-46 tells us the story:
39 Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. 40 There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.”
41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
45 At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”
We are now being asked to make sacrifices: no more school days, work from home or no work at all coupled with the loss of income, no church services, no vacations, no travel, no movies, no dining out, possibly no senior proms or senior trips, no play dates, no birthday parties. Weddings are being postponed and funerals are either being postponed, or attendance is being severely limited. The list could go on and on.
How then, can we take joy in following these social distancing regulations? Can we see these actions as following God? One scripture can shed light on these questions. John 15:13: There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
When seen from this perspective, we are laying down the lives we once enjoyed in order to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy. This shows in obvious ways: that God’s love in our responses to our situations is part of this experience. By giving up, even temporarily, those things that we love to do in order to shield ourselves and others from this COVID-19 virus, is truly an act of love.
We may feel anxiety, fear, apprehension, and concern about our future, and that is natural. That is human. Jesus felt similar feelings. An angel came and ministered to Jesus and strengthened him. We probably will not have a similar angel come and minister to us, but we have the knowledge that God loves us abundantly and we can show God’s love by experiencing social distancing and sacrifice so that we and others might stay healthy. There is joy in doing God’s will, even though this means difficulty and hardship. We, like Jesus, carry God’s instructions in our hearts. That is why we can stay strong throughout this challenging time. May God bless and keep you. Stay Strong. Stay healthy. Stay home. Amen.
-Pastor Joyce Donigian