May 16, 2024
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Grace in Exile Manuscript

SERMON TITLE: Grace in Exile
TEXT: Daniel 4:1-37 (NLT)‌
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson‌
DATE: 5-19-24

Sermon DIscussion Guide
Take notes here

WELCOME

As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time — are joining us at our North Main Campus or are with our friends in Bucyrus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.

SERIES INTRO

We’re continuing our series in the book of Daniel today — looking at what it means to live in exile. And — once again — we’ve got an entire chapter as our text — so let’s turn to it. We’ll be in Daniel chapter four today — and our focus continues to be on king Nebuchadnezzar. We’ve seen him make an unreasonable demand — “tell me my dream or die.” We’ve seen him respond to the dream in rebellion — “If God says my kingdom is temporary — I’ll show him.” We’ve seen a lot of pride in Nebuchadnezzar’s life and now — finally — we’ll come to his humility.

But know that this isn’t humility he chooses for himself — this is humility forced upon him by God. I’ve found this to be a proverb of life — not something found in the Bible — but something I’ve found to be true of life: When it comes to humility — we either humble ourselves before God or — eventually — he’ll bring about circumstances in our life that humble us. We either humble ourselves or we’re humbled. And — let me say — humility — as our choice — is always way better than humility experienced when it’s forced on us. This is true for us as individuals — Christian or not — for churches — and for nations. We either choose to be humble or we’ll find ourselves in a situation where we have no choice.

And what we’ll learn — from king Nebuchadnezzar’s story — one of forced humility — is that even forced humility is God being gracious to us. The question left unanswered — is how will we respond to the lesson God’s grace is wanting to teach us.

But — before we get ahead of ourselves — let’s begin by reading Daniel chapter four — beginning in verse one.

Daniel 4:1–37 (NLT)
1
King Nebuchadnezzar sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! 2 “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me. 3 How great are his signs, how powerful his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations. 4 “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living in my palace in comfort and prosperity. 5 But one night I had a dream that frightened me; I saw visions that terrified me as I lay in my bed. 6 So I issued an order calling in all the wise men of Babylon, so they could tell me what my dream meant. 7 When all the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and fortune-tellers came in, I told them the dream, but they could not tell me what it meant. 8 At last Daniel came in before me, and I told him the dream. (He was named Belteshazzar after my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.) 9 “I said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too great for you to solve. Now tell me what my dream means. 10 “‘While I was lying in my bed, this is what I dreamed. I saw a large tree in the middle of the earth. 11 The tree grew very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. 12 It had fresh green leaves, and it was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. All the world was fed from this tree. 13 “‘Then as I lay there dreaming, I saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. 14 The messenger shouted, “Cut down the tree and lop off its branches! Shake off its leaves and scatter its fruit! Chase the wild animals from its shade and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze and surrounded by tender grass. Now let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the wild animals among the plants of the field. 16 For seven periods of time, let him have the mind of a wild animal instead of the mind of a human. 17 For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses — even to the lowliest of people.” 18 “‘Belteshazzar, that was the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now tell me what it means, for none of the wise men of my kingdom can do so. But you can tell me because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.’ 19 “Upon hearing this, Daniel (also known as Belteshazzar) was overcome for a time, frightened by the meaning of the dream. Then the king said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, don’t be alarmed by the dream and what it means.’ “Belteshazzar replied, ‘I wish the events foreshadowed in this dream would happen to your enemies, my lord, and not to you! 20 The tree you saw was growing very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. 21 It had fresh green leaves and was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. 22 That tree, Your Majesty, is you. For you have grown strong and great; your greatness reaches up to heaven, and your rule to the ends of the earth. 23 “‘Then you saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, “Cut down the tree and destroy it. But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze and surrounded by tender grass. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven. Let him live with the animals of the field for seven periods of time.” 24 “‘This is what the dream means, Your Majesty, and what the Most High has declared will happen to my lord the king. 25 You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses. 26 But the stump and roots of the tree were left in the ground. This means that you will receive your kingdom back again when you have learned that heaven rules. 27 “‘King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.’ 28 “But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. 30 As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’ 31 “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. 32 You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’ 33 “That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. 34 “After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. 35 All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ 36 “When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. 37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.”

INTRODUCTION

It is gracious of God to use difficult circumstances to reveal our hearts to us. 

What I hope we’ll all understand — Christian or not — is that it is an act of grace — on God’s part — to use difficult circumstances in our lives to reveal our hearts to us — our motives — to show us what we’re living for. This doesn’t mean the experience will be easy — usually it’s painful — which is why the lesson is often missed from these difficult seasons of life. But we can prepare ourselves — before the difficulty comes upon us — so that we’re a man or woman of humility — who’s able to recognize and experience God’s grace even in life’s most challenging moments.

Here’s the verse in our chapter that shows us this is what we can learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s experience. In verse two Nebuchadnezzar says…

Daniel 4:2 (NLT)

2 “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me.

Now — having just read the entire chapter — you may be thinking, “Well that’s an interesting take on all that happens to him.” But that’s what God’s grace can do to those who are humble. It can open our eyes so we see how — even the most demanding and challenging and difficult situations in life — are part of God’s plan to shape us into who he wants us to become.

A LESSON IS LEARNED

So — let’s return to verse one — where we see that Nebuchadnezzar has finally learned the lesson that God’s been teaching him for a few chapters.

Daniel 4:1–3 (NLT)
1
King Nebuchadnezzar sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! 2 “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me. 3 How great are his signs, how powerful his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations.

If you ever wonder why we read an entire passage — and then go back and re-read it like this — it’s because doing so gives us the big picture before we jump into the details. We need to know what’s about to happen to Nebuchadnezzar — so we appreciate his words that start the chapter. For these are his words summarizing the past seven years of his life that were challenging, difficult, and humbling — to say the least.

And — right away — we see that Nebuchadnezzar sends out his message to the “people of every race and nation and language throughout the world.” And — this is intentional — it’s meant to remind us of what we saw in the last chapter when — full of pride — he ordered that…

Daniel 3:7 (NLT)
7
at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Because — in thinking of the fiery furnace episode of chapter three — we can now see the change in Nebuchadnezzar’s heart. If you remember — after witnessing the miracle of chapter three — where three men survive being thrown into a fiery furnace — Nebuchadnezzar said…

Daniel 3:28–29 (NLT)
28
“Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”

But now — after a gracious humbling experience — Nebuchadnezzar says…

Daniel 4:2 (NLT)
2
“I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me.

And — as we’ll see later in our chapter — Nebuchadnezzar’s relationship with God is now personal.

If you’ve ever gone through a challenging season of life — I’m sure that many of you could write something similar to Nebuchadnezzar’s opening words. Where — in looking back at the end of that relationship, or the exhausting years of caring for your aging parents, or when your post-graduation plans came to a halt because of an unexpected health situation — that some of us can look back now and see how God's grace was at work.

If you’re in a season like this — right now — there’s no need to add on additional burdens — even unintentional religious burdens like, “I know life’s terrible, but I’ve got to make sure I’m looking for God’s grace in this mess.” Is his grace present? Yes. But true friends — people who are spiritual family — can know that God’s grace is present and sit with you in the muck of life without trying to force you to put on a fake happy Christian demeanor.

But — at some point — at least once the ordeal is over — make sure you don’t waste what God is wanting you to discover both about himself and you. Like how he was being gracious to you even in this season of life. For — reflecting on his grace will help prepare you for life’s next challenging season — for you will remember how God’s grace has always been abundant despite past difficulties you’ve faced.

This is what we see in Nebuchadnezzar’s opening words. A lesson has been learned — a hard lesson — a lesson that’s taken him years to learn. Others have even suffered when — due to his pride — he refused to learn the lesson. But thank God the lesson has now been learned — for that’s when we understand grace — when we’re able to praise God for the lessons we’ve learned during life’s hardest moments.

A WARNING IS GIVEN

But let’s look at what it took for Nebuchadnezzar to learn this lesson. We’re in verse four.

Daniel 4:4–27 (NLT)
4
“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living in my palace in comfort and prosperity. 5 But one night I had a dream that frightened me; I saw visions that terrified me as I lay in my bed. 6 So I issued an order calling in all the wise men of Babylon, so they could tell me what my dream meant. 7 When all the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and fortune-tellers came in, I told them the dream, but they could not tell me what it meant. 8 At last Daniel came in before me, and I told him the dream. (He was named Belteshazzar after my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.) 9 “I said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too great for you to solve. Now tell me what my dream means. 10 “‘While I was lying in my bed, this is what I dreamed. I saw a large tree in the middle of the earth. 11 The tree grew very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. 12 It had fresh green leaves, and it was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. All the world was fed from this tree. 13 “‘Then as I lay there dreaming, I saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. 14 The messenger shouted, “Cut down the tree and lop off its branches! Shake off its leaves and scatter its fruit! Chase the wild animals from its shade and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze and surrounded by tender grass. Now let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the wild animals among the plants of the field. 16 For seven periods of time, let him have the mind of a wild animal instead of the mind of a human. 17 For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” 18 “‘Belteshazzar, that was the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now tell me what it means, for none of the wise men of my kingdom can do so. But you can tell me because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.’ 19 “Upon hearing this, Daniel (also known as Belteshazzar) was overcome for a time, frightened by the meaning of the dream. Then the king said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, don’t be alarmed by the dream and what it means.’ “Belteshazzar replied, ‘I wish the events foreshadowed in this dream would happen to your enemies, my lord, and not to you! 20 The tree you saw was growing very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. 21 It had fresh green leaves and was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. 22 That tree, Your Majesty, is you. For you have grown strong and great; your greatness reaches up to heaven, and your rule to the ends of the earth. 23 “ ‘Then you saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, “Cut down the tree and destroy it. But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze and surrounded by tender grass. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven. Let him live with the animals of the field for seven periods of time.” 24 “‘This is what the dream means, Your Majesty, and what the Most High has declared will happen to my lord the king. 25 You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses. 26 But the stump and roots of the tree were left in the ground. This means that you will receive your kingdom back again when you have learned that heaven rules. 27 “‘King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.’

Something not to forget — is all that Nebuchadnezzar’s already seen and experienced of God. He made an unreasonable demand — “someone must tell me my dream and its interpretation” — and Daniel was able to do so and gave all credit to his God. Nebuchadnezzar had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego thrown into the furnace, saw a fourth man in the furnace with them — one who he called like a son of god — saw the three men come out of the furnace without a trace of singe or smoke on them — and yet — he doesn’t humble himself before God.

So this tells us something about the miraculous. Miracles can leave people in awe, can cause them to question what they’ve seen, but — and this is somewhat surprising — miracles rarely are the means by which someone comes to faith in Christ. What’s more common — in bringing about faith and repentance in a person’s life — is a crisis of faith. Where what they’ve been living for comes unraveled — leaving them nowhere else to turn — so they give God a try.

And here’s something I don’t want any of us to miss: Though we often wait until life becomes so bad that we have nowhere left to turn — so we give him a try — God is so good and kind and gracious to us that — he’s right there — with open arms — and his never-ending love.

This is what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. Everything in his life had to be taken from him in order for him to discover the humility needed to see himself for who he was and God for who he is. He’d been warned — but that wasn’t enough. Often the warning isn’t enough for us either, is it? It took seven years of living like an animal in order for him to understand who he was and who God is. Seven years. What a lesson — a lesson none of us want to go through — if we’re honest.

Who wants seven years of chronic pain and discomfort? Who wants seven years of silence — not hearing from your child. Seven years of unemployment. Seven years of separation from your spouse. Seven years is what Nebuchadnezzar experienced. 

Now — before I mislead you into thinking seven years is the longest ordeals like this will ever last — who wants decades of chronic pain or decades of silence from a child or decades of unplanned singleness or unemployment or carrying the weight of trauma from abuse? No one does. Yet — God’s grace can be both experienced — and the reason why your trust in him increases — not in spite of — but because of these seasons of life.

As one author has said, “Discontent and disaster or — at the least — profound personal discomfort — are very often the necessary precursors of spiritual growth and change. As long as we are comfortable and at ease in this world, we are not normally ready to examine our hearts and institute deep changes. On the other hand, when God disturbs the calm waters of our lives we begin to be ready to seek different paths to pursue.” (Iain Duguid)

RESTORATION IS POSSIBLE

Which leads us to God “disturbing the calm waters” of Nebuchadnezzar’s life. And — something else that should amaze us about Nebuchadnezzar’s story — is how it shows us that restoration is possible for anyone. I mean — if restoration is possible for the king who for years has been obnoxiously proud — don’t lose hope for those you know who seem impossibly far from God. And — don’t lose hope for yourself — if you’re the one who’s far from God. We’re in verse twenty-eight.

Daniel 4:28–37 (NLT)
28
“But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. 30 As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’ 31 “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. 32 You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’ 33 “That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. 34 “After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. 35 All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ 36 “When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. 37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.”

Don’t miss that a year went by between the warning and Nebuchadnezzar experiencing the consequences of his pride. One could say Nebuchadnezzar’s been warned for years — but between the earlier warning — and the start of this section — a year has passed. He’s had plenty of time to heed the warning. It’s been said that, “He mistook the merciful delay of God’s judgment as a sign that the threat could safely be ignored.” (Duguid)

That’s so easy to do, isn’t it? Maybe you’re here today because you’re experiencing the consequences of mistaking God’s mercy as a sign that you could ignore what you were told would happen if you continued down a certain path.

  • Could be a financial decision you made. Others tried to warn you — but you knew better. You mistook God’s merciful delay as his approval of the path you were on — and now your finances are a wreck.
  • Maybe it was a relationship decision. And one day — as you were reading your Bible — what you read was a warning about the relationship you were in — and you did your own thing anyway. And now you’re suffering the consequences.
  • It could be your eating habits, how you speak to others, your lack of investing in your spiritual growth — the possibilities are seemingly endless — situations where we ignore God’s wisdom or commands — either directly from his Word or from others — go about our lives and mistake his patience and mercy with us as approval of our decisions. And then we’re shocked — when suddenly our life is flipped turned upside down and — instead of becoming the fresh prince of Bel-Air — we find ourselves living like a wild animal out in the wilderness.

CONCLUSION

But there’s a gracious truth that we find in Nebuchadnezzar’s story — the truth that God opposes the proud. And this truth is found throughout the Bible. For example, Jesus’s younger brother writes…

James 4:4–10 (NLT)
4
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. 6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

God opposes the proud — and gives grace to the humble. 

We find this idea in Mary’s song — a song displaying her trust in God’s plan that she would be the mother of the promised Messiah.

Luke 1:46–55 (NLT)
46
Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”

God opposes the proud — and gives grace to the humble.

Before his humbling, Nebuchadnezzar stood on the roof of his palace and looked out over the city of Babylon and praised himself for building such a magnificent city. His pride had made him the center of his world. And — with his eyes focused on himself — he couldn’t see God.

But after his seven years in the wilderness — Nebuchadnezzar came back a changed man — a man who had learned what it means for God to oppose the proud and for him to give grace to the humble. Thus — after his restoration — did you notice where his eyes were fixed? Up to heaven — to the dwelling place of God. He was no longer the center of his world — God was — and now his eyes could see clearly. And — now — he could be restored as king — for he was now humble — he was a man who’d experienced God’s grace.

Pride causes all of us to believe and act as if we’re the center of our world — it keeps our eyes focused on ourselves and our achievements — or our problems and misery. Regardless — our pride keeps us from being able to see God. And all of us struggle with pride — which leads us to a hopeless sounding question that has a hope-giving answer: Since we all struggle with pride — why should any of us be exalted? We understand why God can and should oppose the proud — but why does he give grace to the humble — especially when so often we’re humble — not by choice — but because he’s humbled us?

The humble are given grace because a King greater than Nebuchadnezzar was humbled — but not because of this King’s pride — he humbled himself because of his great love for his people. This King had every right to look out from the height — not of a palace rooftop — but from the height of Heaven — and look out over — not just a city — but over all of creation and say, “Look at all that my hands have made” — and he wouldn’t have been boasting — he would’ve been telling the truth.

For Jesus is this King — the One through whom all things were created and exist — but instead of exalting himself — he humbled himself — in love — for his people. In his love for you — he was brought low. And — in many ways — we treated him like an animal — as we — full of ourselves — mocked him, beat him, and murdered him. Yet this King humbled himself so he might redeem us from our pride and graciously give us a humble view of ourselves — where we’re not the center of our world — and restore our sight so we see him for who he is: A gracious and humble King who loved us even at the cost of his life — the One who is to be the center of our lives as we live in this land of exile. Let’s pray together.

PRAYER

Father in Heaven, we turn our eyes to you as we pray — recognizing how gracious you have been, are, and have promised to be to us. Gracious when you’re merciful to us — being patient with us — as you wait for us to respond to your Word and your warnings. Help us to hear and to respond.

Spirit, we need your help to be the humble people that you bless. So often we fight against being humble — we allow our pride to puff us up and view ourselves as the center of the world. We may not say this so directly — but we live it — thinking that we know better than others and you — like we’re the smartest person in the room — possibly even the world. What pride we display — what consequences we deserve — which is why we marvel at the grace you extend to us.

And — Jesus — we experience this grace because you — the King of Heaven — the One through whom all things exist — including us — humbled yourself by coming to earth to die as the payment for our pride. If nothing else — this should humble us — cause us to be thankful — and be our reason to rejoice and live for you alone. For who loves like this but you? Not us — not me — only you. Thank you for your patient, merciful, and gracious love. Thank you for humbling yourself for us. Thank you for opposing the proud and for giving grace to the humble. And we pray all of this in your name. Amen.

BENEDICTION

May you go humbled by God’s love for you as displayed in his Son. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.