"Despised and scorned, they sojourned here; But now, how glorious they appear! Those martyrs stand, a priestly band, God's throne forever near. On earth they wept through bitter years; Now God has wiped away their tears, Transformed their strife to heav'nly life, And freed them from their fears. They now enjoy the Sabbath rest, The heav'nly banquet of the blest; The Lamb, their Lord, at festive board, Himself is host and guest."
If you had seen one of these people on earth, you would not necessarily have noticed anything different about them, at least not so far as outward appearance goes. In fact, you see one of these people every day—you need only look in a mirror. There you see a saint, one of God's holy people, redeemed and dressed in the righteousness of Christ. By God's grace you have been brought to faith in Jesus. God has called you to be one of His people, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9a), set apart for service in Christ's Name. Here on earth, we look no different from anyone else, but one day that will change.
Our hymn verse is a study in contrasts. The hymn celebrates the lives of the saints, God's holy people who have fallen asleep in Christ and now rest in His presence. On earth, while they looked no different, their faith in Jesus and their lives dedicated to Him set them apart, and for that reason they were often "despised and scorned." But now before God's throne, "how glorious they appear!" Many suffered martyrdom and on earth "wept through bitter years," but now God "has wiped away their tears." Now they enjoy their Sabbath rest.
Today, when you look at that saint reflected in the mirror, you will see someone who may at times be despised and scorned by the world. You may weep through bitter years and struggle with fears and earthly strife. But even now, the apostle Paul tells us—speaking so dismissively of this earthly strife and struggle—"this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17).
At some point, we will be called home to be with the Lord and enjoy the Sabbath rest that God has prepared for us. And then, on the Last Day, when Jesus returns in glory, these bodies that once appeared no different will be raised up from death. On that day of resurrection, our bodies will be dressed in immortality and transformed in glory. We will join our fellow saints at the wedding banquet of the Lamb, who will be our "host and guest." But for now—even though we can't really see it in the mirror—through these bitter years and earthly strife we are already clothed in the bright righteousness of Jesus Christ. In Him we "shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15b).
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we give thanks for the saints, past and present. Until we will join them at the "heavenly banquet of the blessed," shine through us so that we will shine as lights in the world. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "Behold a Host, Arrayed in White," which is found on page 676 of the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Can you give an example of someone from history who was martyred for his or her faith? How was their life like Christ's?
2. Does knowing that God Himself will wipe away our tears make suffering for Him any easier?
3. Do you have any favorite Bible verses to get you through times when you feel like you're being scorned or mistreated for your faith?
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