December 22, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is His work, and His righteousness endures forever.”
Great people who do great acts are deserving of study. Their works influence more than themselves. The impact of what they do may have effects on multiple future generations. Because of this, we dedicate museums, archives, and institutes to the study of these great people. Go to Washington, DC, and you can spend hours in line just to see documents that two groups of men authored in Philadelphia: the great works of American democracy.
The Psalmist also knows that such great people exist and great acts take place. They are worthy of study. But note who the Great Person is for the Psalmist—not any of the kings of Israel, even though he could study their records. No, the Psalmist declares that it is the Lord and His deeds that should be considered. And with good reason: “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is His work, and His righteousness endures forever.”
The Lord’s work endures. It has effects, not only on several future generations, but on all times—past, present, and future. This leads to the Psalmist’s words: “He has caused His wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful.” What are those wondrous works? The creation of the cosmos, the making a great nation out of Abraham’s descendants, the deliverance of the Exodus people, the establishment of David as king all fall into the list of what the Lord did. But the head of that list is something even greater.
The truly great and wondrous work of the Lord is His giving a Covenant which promised salvation to all who are part of it. And not only does the Lord give the Covenant, He brings people into it and fulfills it. The greatness of this Covenant elicits praises from the Psalmist. Listen to how he extols it: “He provides food for those who fear Him; He remembers His covenant forever. . . . He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His Name!”
So what was in that Covenant which is eternal, that brings redemption? It is what Moses disclosed to the Exodus people prior to their entry into Canaan: “And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to My words that he shall speak in My Name, I Myself will require it of him.” The Lord would send a prophet who would speak directly for Him.
The Lord’s people waited centuries for that prophet. Many seers and messengers came and went, but they were not the Promised One. Even when John came baptizing, the leaders of Israel asked him: “Are you the Prophet?” They wanted to know if John was the Promised One. John answered rightly and negatively, but he did tell the people what was about to happen: “I baptize with water, but among you stands One you do not know, even He who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” The One who comes after John, who was making straight the Lord’s way, is the Promised One. He is the One who will do all the wondrous works of salvation.
The sending of the Christ and what the Christ accomplished are the truly great works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them: “Full of splendor and majesty is His work, and His righteousness endures forever.” Those works include the miracles of Jesus. But they also include His own death and resurrection. Dying and rising again brings mastery over all things. They are actions which cannot be topped. And they are the actions which save you, since Christ’s righteousness endures forever and has been given to you.
The Lord’s work continues to be done to you. The Psalmist says: “The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.” So it is with Christ’s precepts, including the things He has instituted: proclamation of forgiveness, baptism into new life, eating for salvation. These the Lord gives to you and the Church to be done for the rest of the age. And these precepts deliver exactly what they promise to you, because they are connected to Christ’s truly splendid and wondrous work of dying and rising to life again.
In the precepts which Christ has instituted, the Lord’s works are displayed to you. As the Psalmist writes: “He has shown His people the power of His works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.” In the Exodus, the power of the Lord’s works was clearly seen, when He made Canaan to be their possession. Like the Israelites of old who were given the Promised Land to be their own, you also have an inheritance. What the other peoples of the world possess shall not be theirs. But the Lord grants that you shall be resurrected and live for eternity. The precepts of Christ may not look like much—simple acts done among simple people—but their fulfillment carries the full glory and majesty of the Lord. Your resurrection and taking possession of salvation will be for all to see. It will be as public as the Israelites marching through the Jordan River into Canaan.
That is what awaits you. Not because of what you have done, but because “[the Lord] sent redemption to His people” in Christ Jesus. “He has commanded His covenant forever,” so that what has been accomplished by Christ in history has effects for you now and for the age to come. “Holy and awesome is His Name!” greater than all the celebrity and fame of mankind. And since you had that Name placed on you in Holy Baptism, making you the Lord’s people and sealing you in the death and resurrection of Christ, you study those great works which He has done. Find your delight in them and the eternal righteousness and hope they bring to you.
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.