November 18, 2018

Do Not be Afraid.  God Has You in His Hands.

3rd Sunday of End Times/Saints Triumphant

First Lesson:  Daniel 12:1-3

Second Lesson:  Hebrews 10:11-18

Gospel Lesson:  John 5:25-29

Sermon Text:  Daniel 12:1-3

Daniel 12:1 "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered."

What frightens you? There are thousands of things that make people tremble in their boots. (The Wild Mouse)  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about fear of the darkness, fear of bats or big dogs, fear of heights or meeting new people.  

This Bible lesson from the last chapter of Daniel is also kind of frightening.  You know Daniel.  You learned about him in Sunday School.   He was one of the four young Jewish men, selected to be trained in King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, along with his friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego.  Yep, they were the ones thrown into the fiery furnace and Daniel was thrown into the Lion’s den because he refused to bow down to the king’s statue.  But we didn’t learn much about  Daniel the prophet of God, like Isaiah and Jeremiah et al. He received messages and visions from God and spoke them to the people of God. This morning we are reading about Daniel’s vision of the Son of God, who is describing the end of the world, the end of all things and God’s final judgment of the wicked and the righteous.

Daniel’s description of the end of the world is brief
There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. Verse 1

But other inspired writers have given us more (frightening) details. We read from Matthew, Peter and the Book of Revelation.
Matthew 24:29 The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky. . . 
2 Peter 3:10 The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 
Revelation 6:12-14
. . . The sun turned black… the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth... 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

To be sure Satan and his forces will also be there as they make their last efforts to steal souls from the kingdom of God.  One last battle surge!

On that day, perhaps, Satan or his demons may confront us with our consciences and our sins.  They may remind us of Bible passages such as, 
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place? 
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart. Ps 24:3,4
Then Satan or his followers may taunt you.  “That’s certainly, not you!”  They might bring up other Bible passages we’ve learned such as,
    The one who sins is the one who will die. Ezek 18:20

All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is 
no one who does good, not even one. Romans 3:12

So in such a time of great distress, what will we do?  I’m not certain whether you and I will be able to think clearly and to “fight the good fight” but if the Holy Spirit gives us the strength, perhaps we might recall some of the hymns we’ve learned. This one comes to mind:

Though devils all the world should fill all eager to devour us
We tremble not, we fear no ill; They have no power o’er us.
This world’s prince may still. Scowl fierce as he will. 
He shall harm us none.  He’s judged! The deed is done!
One little word shall fell him.

What is that “one little word?”  Jesus Christ.  He is our Lord, our Savior from “sin, death and . . . the power of the devil.”

But Daniel tells his listeners and us that in those last days there will be more protection sent from God.  

Do you believe in angels?  (Sing) All night. All day. Angels watching over me my Lord.  That’s a promise that King David told believers about. 

Psalm 91:11,12 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. But in this morning’s lesson  Daniel doesn’t prophesy a general protection for those who believe. At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. Verse 1

You can be sure that the guardian angel, Michael, will not come alone. He will come with his army of heavenly hosts.  And the victory will be certain because God has ordained it.

God has also promised the salvation of those who believe.  But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered. Verse 1

There are lists on which it is an honor to have your name: An honor roll at school, employee of the year, scholarship awards, sale awards, civic recognition and so on.  However, this list also gives us the assurance of safety and the protection of God himself. 

There was a time in my ministry when one of our teachers had an emergency surgery and one of our students was also beginning a series of medical operations.   In our Wednesday morning chapel, we read this verse.

Isaiah 49:16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

Everyone wrote both the teacher’s and student’s names on our hands and then took pictures and sent them to the teacher and student, as signs that we would remember them and pray for them throughout the day.  Every time I reached out my hand that day, there were those names.  That’s what it’s like for God all the time. He always is reminded of you, always thinks about you. You are in his hands.

If you’re afraid of dying.  If Judgment Day frightens you.  If the devil or your conscience ever attempt to convince you that you are a loser, you’re weak, a defeated Christian who can’t win the battle . . .  listen to what the apostle Paul says, 1 Cor 15:1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.

You are a child of God.  You and your soul are guarded and protected by an army of angels. You are a victor along with your Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Tim 4:18  The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever.

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be unto God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ.

So, we’ve talked about how frightening the last judgment will appear to be.  We’ve talked about how the greatest of God’s angels will watch over and defend us, but have you also heard the greatest news that was promised to Daniel? At that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered.

Rev 3:5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.

The Bible is full of references to your special place in the heart of God the Father.  He is the one who created you, gave you life.  He’s the one who wrote your name on His hands as a reminder that He will never forget you.  He’s the one that wrote His name on your heart.  He saved you and called you by your name.  He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to save the world from sin, to save all who believe in Him . . . to save . . . you. 

There is no reason to be afraid.  God has promised that His angels will guard and protect all whose name are written in the book.  Because of Jesus, your name is written in that book of life.  Amen