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Jesu, Redemptor Saeculi

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Christmas
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We often find ourselves in dire circumstances. When we do, when the situation gets really bad, we find ourselves crying out to God. We cry to God when we’re facing bad diagnoses and little or no chance of recovery. We cry to God when our sins leave us on our backs (sometimes literally). Sometimes we cry to God when others need his help, like when a child is destroying their life with drugs or when a spouse faces a dangerous job. Sometimes we may even cry to God when we don’t even know what is really wrong in the first place, not to mention how to fix it.
The truth that we find when we need God most is that God is a redeeming God. Today, we’re going to see this truth through the Scriptures. The first passage I want us to see is found in Exodus 2. An old spiritual sets the scene:
When Israel was in Egypt land (Let my people go)
oppressed so hard they could not stand (Let my people go)
Exodus 2:23–25 ESV
23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
The Israelites are being oppressed through no fault of their own. A wicked pharaoh has enslaved them and has even called upon midwives to slaughter baby boys before they hit the operating table. The people were groaning and pleading with God to help. This isn’t their fault.
We often find ourselves in the same boat. Maybe we suffer because someone else has sinned and we bear some of the consequences. Maybe we are troubled not because of sin specifically, but because our world is broken. We are so frail and helpless. And yet, even in our helpless estate, we find that

God Redeems Us When We Are Helpless

There come times in our lives that we are completely helpless. We have no where to turn - nobody can help us (or nobody will help us), and we certainly can’t help ourselves. To quote a hymn:
Where could I go, O where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to save me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord?
I want us to end looking at Psalm 80.
Psalm 80:4–6 ESV
4 O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. 6 You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves.
We don’t know what trouble this psalmist finds himself in, but whatever it is, he feels that God has shut his ears to their pain. He asks how long God will be angry with their prayers, indicating that they have turned away from God and have lost his divine favor.
God’s people had turned away from God. The image in verses 8-11 shows God caring for his “vine,” doing many things for his people to establish them and help them flourish. He has transplanted them from the desert of Egypt into a land flowing with milk and honey, and has cleared the ground so they will have plenty of space. He has built walls around them and nourished them. He has provided every for his vine. But then he asks:
Psalm 80:12–13 ESV
12 Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? 13 The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.
Why has God done all this work only to destroy it? The sin of the people. They have rejected God’s ways and have made themselves enemies of God. And yet, even while they oppose God, he offers forgiveness and restoration.
Romans 5:8 ESV
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God Redeems Us When We Are Guilty

This trouble facing the people of Israel brings them to their knees crying out to God for deliverance:
Psalm 80:7 ESV
Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
This is the chorus of Psalm 80 - a cry for deliverance. Notice their cry (the psalmist is leading the people in their collective request) is to “restore us.” That is the same Hebrew word as the verb “repent.” They are literally asking God to bring them to repentance for their sins. And notice to whom they cry: to the “God of hosts.” YHWH Sabaoth is a term that shows God’s universal power. It also reminds us that of all the hosts in both heaven and earth, that God is the Lord of all.
It also reminds us that God is the only savior. No one other than God can save us - especially from our guilt. Peter and John were on trial for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus in the Temple. Listen to their words to the religious and judicial council:
Acts 4:12 ESV
12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
It’s only God who can save the guilty. And praise God he does, when the guilty repents of his sins! That’s why the Psalmist pleads with God:
Psalm 80:14–19 ESV
14 Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, 15 the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself. 16 They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face! 17 But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! 18 Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name! 19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!
When we get to the point that we are that desperate for God to act, that much needing God to intervene on our behalf, that’s when we experience God’s restoration.
That’s the good news of Advent. Our deliverer is coming! Our redeemer is born! No wonder there’s a host of angels crowding the skies that night…this child gives us all a reason to celebrate. God is redeeming humanity!
2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Oh, that we would live our lives in light of that redemption! What if we all looked like God had just drawn us out of the miry pit and had just rescued us? What if we had that kind of gratitude, that kind of awe of God? What if we felt the freedom of that moment. We would burst forth in praise! We would not be ashamed or timid! We would exude Christ in everything we say, everything we do, everything we are!
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts!
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