"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."
The point of view of the unbelieving world is decidedly different than the understanding that we, as Christians, have. Unbelievers may see events as mere chance or "fate." During a flood or storm, people may speak of the disaster as "an act of God" or an act of "mother nature," but there is no true faith behind such statements. By faith, we know that our God commands the seas, setting a boundary for the restless waters: "Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed" (Job 38:11b). In winter storms, God "scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down His crystals of ice like crumbs ... He sends out His Word, and melts them" (Psalm 147:16b-17a, 18a). By faith we see in storms the majesty of the Creator and His creation.
Our hymn verse shows another way in which our understanding of Christian faith and life differs than that of the world. Faithful believers were "despised and scorned" on earth, but by faith we know "how glorious they appear" as they live forever in the presence of God. Many were martyred for their faith in Jesus. They "wept through bitter years" and endured earthly strife, but we look beyond those trials. Now in glory, all of their fears are erased and God has wiped away their tears.
The fact that we can see life more clearly than the unbelieving world does not make our trials go away. We must still endure them. The church is "despised and scorned" on earth in the same way that Jesus was scorned by so many people: "He was despised and rejected by men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; as One from whom men hide their faces" (Isaiah 53:3a). Yet we know and believe that the despised Man of sorrows is the Lamb of God who "was pierced for our transgressions" (Isaiah 53:5a). Our sins forgiven; we are healed by His wounds. The Man of sorrows is the risen and exalted Lord who now reigns in glory. He is host and guest at the "marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9b). One day, when we finally live in Christ's presence, the bitter years of earthly strife will be transformed "to heav'nly life." With all the saints, we will enjoy our eternal Sabbath rest at "the heav'nly banquet of the blessed."
WE PRAY: Lord Jesus, strengthen Your church during times of trial until we enjoy the heavenly banquet of the blessed. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn "Behold a Host, Arrayed in White," which is number 676 in the Lutheran Service Book.
1. How can God work through persecution to bless both the persecuted and those who persecute?
2. What does Scripture say is the outcome of those who are martyred for their faith in Jesus?
3. How can we endure the world's scorn for our faith and still be loving witnesses for the Gospel?
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