Worship Helps for Saints Triumphant

Title: Saints Triumphant
Artist: Melanie Schuette, Avignon Studios


Worship Theme: Lord, keep us watchful for our triumph! Today the Church hears strains of the distant triumph song and affirms, “Blessed are they who are called to the marriage feast of the Lamb.” Jesus wants us to be the waiting Church— the Church that watches for her Savior and cries, “Come, Lord Jesus!” As we journey through these latter days, however, our vigilance slips, and our hearts grow drowsy because the bridegroom seems to be taking so long. So while we wait, the Church prays, “Keep us ever watchful for the coming of your Son that we may sit with him and all your holy ones at the marriage feast in heaven.”

Old Testament: Ezekiel 37:15-28
The word of the LORD came to me: 16 "Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, 'Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.' Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, 'Ephraim's stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.' 17 Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand. 18 "When your countrymen ask you, 'Won't you tell us what you mean by this?' 19 say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph-- which is in Ephraim's hand-- and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah's stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.' 20 Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on 21 and say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 24 "'My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.'"

1. What was the object lesson Ezekiel was told to give to the people?

2. When would this object lesson be fulfilled? Hint: Look carefully at verse 24.


Epistle: Revelation 7:9-17
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!" 13 Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes-- who are they, and where did they come from?" 14 I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."


3. Who is this “great multitude” that John sees? (verse 9) Hint: Read Revelation 7:4-8.

4. What is the focus of worship throughout these verses?

5. When we finally arrive in heaven, why will we praise God?


Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13
"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' 7 "Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' 9 "'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' 10 "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' 12 "But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' 13 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

6. Who do the foolish virgins represent in Jesus’ parable? Who do the wise virgins represent?

7. What is the significance of “midnight” (verse 6)?

8. Why did the bridegroom say he did not know the virgins?



Answers:
1. Ezekiel was to take two sticks and join them together. This object lesson symbolized that in the future Israel and Judah would be joined together again.

2. Judah was allowed to return to Canaan, but the northern tribes of Israel were not. Also, David never physically rose from the dead to be king over a united kingdom. Either we would have to look to some future time when David would rise again and Israel would be united (which many do, pointing to the modern state of Israel), or we can accept it as having already been fulfilled in the kingdom of Jesus, the Son of David. The latter option is the right choice. Other elements of this vision show that this is a kingdom built on Christ, which the modern state of Israel is not.

Notice that in the last four verses God repeatedly talks about the unending nature of the kingdom waiting for us. It will be a kingdom without divisions caused by sin, but exemplified by oneness (one stick, one nation, one king, one shepherd—forever). How will this be? Look at how many times God says that he will act for us! We are purely passive in acquiring the triumph in store for us. God will act to save and to cleanse and to renew his covenant: I will be their God, and they will be my people. As Ezekiel held his bound sticks before the eyes of his countrymen, so the Church holds God’s promises of pending triumph before us and continually cries, “Wait for it! Watch for it!”

3. This is the same group of people as the 144,000 who were sealed on the earth. Only now they are in heaven. This is a symbolic number – 12x12x10x10x10. 12 is the number of God’s people (12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament multiplied by the 12 apostles of the New Testament). 10 is the number of completeness that is cubed. The 144,000 is not a literal number. Rather it is a figurative number that expresses all believers of all places and all times will be in heaven.

4. The focus for the saints is the throne of God and the Lamb.

5. We will realize completely what a great salvation he has given us, what a great price he paid to accomplish our salvation, and that we are there only because he has called us to faith and kept us in faith.

6. It seems best to consider all the virgins as being Christians. The foolish virgins are those Christians who fall away and do not remain spiritually awake. The wise virgins are those remain awake and aware of the Bridegroom’s return on the Last Day. The parable is applied to the Church, to you and me. Jesus is warning believers not to be like the foolish virgins.

Jesus pictures the time before his return as virgins waiting for a bridegroom and the start of a wedding feast. The parable divides all people (ten virgins) into two groups: foolish and wise. They weren’t described that way because of what they did in the parable, but their actions showed what they were. The foolish virgins acted utterly foolish, bearing empty lamps. The other virgins’ actions showed that they indeed were wise. The wise went into the joys of wedding banquet, but the foolish lost both invitation and even recognition. Jesus’ central instruction in this parable calls for the waiting Church to be the watchful Church. Keep watch for you do not know the day or the hour!

7. It was late. Perhaps the foolish virgins had given up any hope of meeting the bridegroom that evening. We must never think it is too late for Jesus to return.

8. Note Matthew 7:22,23, where the same expression is used. They seemed to profess Christ, but their hearts were far from him.


Putting your faith into action


A reading from the Book of Concord for Saints Triumphant
Now we have the Ten Commandments, a summary of divine teaching about what we are to do in order that our whole life may be pleasing to God.  Everything that is to be a good work must arise and flow from and in this true fountain.  So apart from the Ten Commandments no work or thing can be good or pleasing to God, no matter how great it is in the world’s eyes.  Let us see now what our great saints can boast of their spiritual orders and their great and mighty works.  They have invented and set these things up, while they let these commandments go, as though they were far too insignificant or had long ago been perfectly fulfilled.

I am of the opinion that one will find his hands full ‹and will have enough› to do to keep these commandments: love, meekness, patience, towards enemies, chastity, kindness, and other such virtues.  But such works are not of value in the world’s eyes.  Therefore, they are not highly regarded.

But the other works cause people to open their eyes and ears wide.  Men waft incense, they sing and ring bells, they light tapers and candles.  For when a priest stands there in a surplice garment embroidered with gold thread, or a layman stays all day upon his knees in Church, that is regarded as a most precious work, which no one can praise enough.  But when a poor girl tends a little child and faithfully does what she is told, that is considered nothing.  For what else should monks and nuns seek in their cloisters? – Large Catechism, The Ten Commandments (paragraphs 311-314)

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