Our Joy in God is Under the Cross

Epiphany 3 Wednesday

Isaiah 9:3

“They will rejoice before you as they rejoice at the harvest, as they rejoice when they divide the spoil.”

He says, “before you,” that is, in the Spirit and in faith in which Christ’s kingdom consists. Here, then, is the little flock that rejoices, as I just said…This is also said so that no one should think or expect worldly and temporal joy in Christ’s kingdom. Our joy in God must be under the cross, as Christ says, “In the world, you will be afraid, but in me you will have peace,” John 16:33. The heart is always joyful among the Christians, even when they must suffer outwardly for
Christ’s sake in body, possessions, and honor. For the vast majority of the people, for whom the gospel is a bad joy, and the devil will make sure that the Christians must not outwardly enjoy possessions and honor. Thus, Isaiah touched on both how Christendom is at once in suffering and delight, in pain and bliss, in war and peace, because the Christians are joyful before God in the Spirit, while they are an abomination to the unbelievers and the devil whom they cannot stand. Isaiah also uses a simile about the joy at harvest. For the greatest joy of the year is in the fall when one harvests all sorts of fruit and produce from the land, including wine, grain, oil, figs, fruit, and the like without number, especially when the harvest turned out well. Then we speak of a “rich fall.” For then the land pays back the people who worked it and gives its interest and fruits in exchange for the labors of the entire year. At that time, everybody sings and is joyful while he gathers the harvest. This is also why Scripture calls the fall the end of the year, as it says in Exodus 23:16: “When you have gathered all your fruits at the end of the year.” For soon after the harvest, the work begins anew with plowing and preparing the land, so that there might be another harvest. Accordingly, the time of the gospel I also a spiritual harvest, as Christ himself interprets it in John 4:35: “Look how the land is white for the harvest.” The prophets who came before prepared the land, but did not live to see the harvest, that is, they preached the law, preached about Christ, prophesied about the gospel, labored much with the people and Scripture to prepare them for Christ’s coming. But they did not reach the time when it was to happen, as Christ says, Luke 10:24: “Many kings and prophets would have liked to see what you see and hear, but they did not see and hear it.” But we, that is, the apostles and all believers, have received the gospel and have come to the harvest to gather all the fruits of the gospel, that is, the Holy Spirit with all his gifts. This has made us so rich, so that we now have eternal grace and forgiveness of sins, also redemption from death, dominion, and power of the devil and all evil–in short, we have the fullness and abundance of all good things, in the most plentiful way, so that St. Paul puts it well when it calls it unspeakable possessions and immeasurable riches in Christ, Ephesians 2:7; Colossians 1:27. This is the rich fall that fills the barn and the barrel.

St. Louis ed., 11:1979-1980.

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