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Blessed Assurance

October 31, 2022
View from the Mt. of Beatitudes overlooking the hillside leading down to the Sea of Galilee where Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus stood at the bottom of the hill and spoke up to the crowd on the hillside which forms a natural amphitheater. The ancient town of Tiberius is across the lake in the distance. (DCR March 2022)

 “The Lamb . . . will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7: 17

We open our door to all kinds of interesting people on Halloween. The princesses are beautiful, and many others are funny or just adorable. We always get a few scary ones too; fortunately, they are friendly and only want a piece or two of candy.

But genuine fear often creeps into our everyday lives. We seem to be doing just fine by ourselves– and then bam! We get hit with a scary diagnosis. Or we find out that our job is in jeopardy. Or we have a difficult boss. Or we make a mistake that has (or that we think may have) dire consequences. Or a loved one falls ill or dies and we don’t know how we will cope.  Or we take on a new challenge and aren’t sure we are up to the task. Or a car suddenly careens out of control and heads straight at us. Or we slip on ice or on the stairs and sustain serious injuries and face a long recuperation and medical bills that we don’t know how we will pay. Or we have been out of work for months and don’t know how we are going to pay the rent or mortgage and other bills. Or we are being prepared for surgery or another medical procedure and read through the list of things that can go wrong. Or we’re so ill that we wonder if today is the day when we will meet our maker.  Or . . . you name it. The causes of our anxieties are endless, and never cease to assail us in the middle of the night or day. Mr. Murphy dogs our steps.

But we know the One who will rescue us from our fears.  God will calm our anxieties and fears if we turn to him in prayer and read his Word. The lyrics from the Fanny Crosby hymn, Blessed Assurance, came to mind when I read through next Sunday’s scripture texts[1] The words to that great old hymn are balm to my anxious and fearful soul, as are this week’s Scriptures. These words of Scripture are beautiful and healing by themselves.  You need to read them and let them sink deeply into your being.

John’s writings bathe us in the hope and love that is Christ Jesus. In the reading from Revelation, we learn that God will welcome those who have come out of great suffering–that’s you and me!  “Then he told me, ‘These are those who come from the great tribulation, and they’ve washed their robes, scrubbed them clean in the blood of the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:14, The Message).  God assures us that whatever nightmare we are living through, he will see us through it to a fresh new day.  

In verse 15 we read that God “will shelter them with his presence.”  N.T. Wright explains that God’s ‘presence’ is a way of speaking of his glorious presence in his temple, and the word for ‘shelter them’ means literally that God will ‘pitch a tent over them,’ as he pitched his tent in the midst of the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings. All of the blessings of the Jerusalem Temple, in other words, will be theirs.”[2]

But the verse that really grabs me is verse 17: “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eye” (Revelation 7:17). In a stunning reversal of roles, Jesus, the Lamb who was sacrificed for us, becomes the Good Shepherd who leads us to eternal bliss. Living water is a symbol of eternal life. This verse assures us that when Jesus leads us to that place, God will personally and tenderly wipe every tear from our eyes.   

When we are anxious and hurting, God gives us his blessed assurance that there is nothing to fear because he is with us in this life and in the next. It is a fitting reminder this week, as we observe All Saints Day and remember the multitudes of witnesses in heaven who have gone before us—who in God’s time we will join to claim our reward as well.

John gives us further assurances of God’s love and promises to us in his first letter: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God . . . everyone who hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3: 1, 3). The hope we have in Christ and in our life after death with him is no pie in the sky hope—it is blessed assurance. This assurance is grounded upon the promise of Christ: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23).

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is the most famous sermon of all time. In the beautiful introduction, Jesus gives us the guidelines to find deep hope and joy, despite our circumstances. Any explanation of these Scriptures falls short of the words themselves

When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

When Jesus looked out into that crowd, he looked into the heart of each person. He saw the lonely, those in mourning, those who were fearful, the persecuted, those who were seeking the truth, and he chose to bless them. The God of the universe chose to put his arms around them and assure them of his love. He told them that the pure in heart will see God.  At the conclusion of his sermon, Jesus confirmed to his listeners that all who seek him will find him (Matthew 7:7). 

Those first believers clearly sought and found God; they were literally looking at God.  God will bless you also in your anxiety and fear. He will “pitch a tent over you.” He will envelope you in his arms and shelter you as you face your most difficult challenges if you turn to him in prayer with a contrite and humble heart– with a heart honestly searching for truth. Feel your fears recede and his peace wash over your soul as you rest in his arms and receive his blessed assurance.

Prayer: Father, we join today with all of the saints in praising and thanking you for the great gift of your Son, who died on the cross for us for the forgiveness of our sins.  We thank and praise you for sending your Spirit to live in us throughout the trials of our lives on earth.  We praise and thank you for promising that we will be with you in eternity, surrounded by your love and joy. Forgive us, guide us, comfort us, and surround us with your love—removing every vestige of fear.  We ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit forever and ever.  Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for All Saints Day (Observed) are Revelation 7: 9-17; 1 John 3: 1-3; and Matthew 5: 1-12.

[2] N.T. Wright, Revelation for Everyone (2011) Westminster John Knox Press, p. 75.

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