The Joy of the Lord is our Strength

Today we meet together to give thanks to God for 319th Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. We do so, not merely to give thanks for a battle, but for God’s interim deliverance which he wrought for us, freeing our forefathers from the dictatorship of James 11, and blessing them with civil and religious liberties under the reign of William and Mary.

Some people say that today is just a day of thanksgiving for Protestants. People from other faiths and backgrounds can give thanks too – for the civil and religious which we enjoy not only here but throughout the FREE WORLD – even Roman Catholics! And they have!  When the news broke of Williams success ‘Services of Thanksgiving’ were held  in the Reformed Churches of Europe including St. Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin, and Te Deums were sung in the Roman Catholic Cathedrals of Austria and Spain. There were even Papal celebrations in the Vatican itself. We need to know our history. And so if you’re a Roman Catholic here today, you are very welcome!

As the people of God, we gather around the Word of God, as God’s people have always done down through the years. And as we gather around the Word of God, we would do well to follow the example of the Israelites of old, who listened attentively to the Word. And we would also do well to listen the advice of St. James in the New Testament – “be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Therefore we must listen carefully to God’s Word and put it into practice so that we are not deceived.

In our Bible reading (Nehemiah Ch 8), we heard of how the people of Israel gathered around the Word of God, as Ezra the Teacher explained and applied it to them. God had been gracious to them, freeing them from captivity in Babylon, and bringing them to the blessing of Jerusalem. On hearing the Word of the Lord, their hearts were grieved because of their much wrongdoing and sin. But Ezra encouraged them to lift up their hearts. Why? Because “the Joy of the Lord was their strength!”

Brethren, the Joy of the Lord is still our strength!  We have sinned, followed our own way rather than God’s. Although we are sinners, God has been gracious to us, sending his only Son Jesus Christ into the world to save us from our sins and welcome us into God’s family. And so by grace alone through faith alone we are saved and justified in God’s sight. Because of this wonderful work of God, we can rejoice! Our God has won the victory over sin and death! He is our strength! He is our Joy! No matter what the enemy may throw at us, let us take heart in what the Cross of Christ has achieved! Christ has been victorious!

St Paul says in Philippians:

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.”

This year marks 500th anniversary of the birth of Jean Calvin. Calvin was a French Roman Catholic who became the great Protestant Reformer. He grew strong in the faith and became like Ezra of old. He taught the people of God the Word of God, and by listening to it and obeying it, many towns, villages and nations were won for Christ as the gospel went forth.

If you haven’t heard of John Calvin before, why not pop into your local bookshop and pick up a book on him. You’ll find in John Calvin someone to give thanks for! We need more Jean Calvin’s to teach the people of God his Word. Will you pray for them?

One way in which The Orange Institution seeks to help people hear the Word of God today is by implementing Christianity Explored throughout our Districts and Lodges. Christianity Explored is a 6 week course looking at Mark’s Gospel so that people can hear the good news of Jesus Christ and respond to it in faith and repentance. Will you support this in any way you can?

To close, let us give thanks today for the deliverances of God down through the centuries: For freeing our ancestors from popery and arbitrary power through the events of the Glorious Revolution! For freeing the children of Israel from Babylon by returning them to Jerusalem! And most importantly, for freeing the people of God from the power of sin by Christ’s death on the cross! As we give thanks, let us never forget that “The Joy of the Lord is our strength”!

Sermon preached at 2009 Twelfth Celebrations