Preparing for Worship // August 20, 2017

Preparing for Worship // August 20, 2017

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One of the songs that we’re singing this week is “Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher. The song’s bridge goes like this: “O death where is your sting? O hell where is your victory? // O church come stand in the light, The glory of God has defeated the night.” This bridge is based on 1 Corinthians 15:55, where Paul is mocking death. But these words aren’t actually original to Paul. Paul is quoting from Hosea 13:14. This is an instance where understanding the context of a passage of Scripture sheds new light on it, so I want to take a closer look together at this verse. Hosea 13:14 has five lines where God is speaking to Israel. In the middle of the verse, God asks the questions that Paul quotes in 1 Cor: “O Death, where are your plagues? // O Sheol [Sheol is a way of referring to the grave], where is your sting?” Because of the way Paul uses these questions, we naturally assume that God is asking these questions as a way of showing grace to His people, but the context shows otherwise. Look at the first two lines of v. 14: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death?” God is asking a rhetorical question of whether He will rescue Israel. In the last line of the verse, He answers His own question: “Compassion is hidden from my eyes.” In other words, No, God will not rescue His people from death.

This changes the way that we understand God’s question, “O Death where are your plagues?” God is not mocking His people’s greatest foe. God is urging on His people’s foe. In a sense, He is saying, “Where are you death? Let’s do this already.” God is ready to pour out His wrath upon a rebellious and sinful people. Therefore, when Paul quotes these words in I Cor 15, he is using them in a very different way, a contrary way, from how they are used in the passage he is quoting from. Originally, this question which Paul uses to mock death was meant to point to the power of death over sinners as a means of God’s judgment. In other words, the question “O Death where is your sting?” was originally language of God’s judgment, not His grace.

Why does this matter? So what if Paul took Old Testament language and used it in a different way than it was originally used? What this means is that the death and resurrection of Christ go so far as to reverse even the language of judgment. Words that were once used to condemn God’s people are now our song of victory. By Christ’s resurrection, God is making all things new, and He is redeeming all things. He can even take His own words, words of righteous judgment, and flip them around to use them as words of His righteous grace. And all of this is the result of the defeat of death and sin that took place at the resurrection. So, as we sing “Christ is Risen” this week, I want you to sing it knowing that you, who deserved God’s judgment, have been shown His grace. Let the words of this song, words that were once the mark of your sin and judgment, be your song of victory. The sting of death, which you deserved, fell on Christ; therefore, you can sing these words with joy: “O Death where is your sting? O hell where is your victory?”

THE WORD

Scripture: Matthew 28:1-15
Sermon: The Surprises of the Resurrection

SONGS

Christ is Risen (Matt Maher)
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I Know That My Redeemer Lives (Tune: Jesus Shall Reign) (Matt Grimsley)
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Jesus Lives and So Shall I  (Nathan Partain)
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Song of Preparation: The Strife Is O’er  (The Welcome Wagon)
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Song for the Supper: At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing  (Wen Reagan)
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Song of Response: Christ the Lord is Risen Today (He is Not Dead) (NCC Worship)
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