It has been hailed as the greatest sporting victory of all time. Leicester City began the season as 5000:1 outsiders and ended it as champions of England’s Premier League. There were cheers and screams of pure joy from all those on the winning side.
This is, of course, a trivial example. The victory that is at the centre of today’s passages is of a totally different order and significance. But even the tiniest and most insignificant victory gives us a taste of its meaning and joy.
The great victory of God that we read about in the New Testament is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The ultimate victory of God came with the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of his Spirit.
The ‘fool’ in the book of Proverbs does not mean someone lacking intelligence. Rather it means the rebel (especially against God and the laws of decency and justice): ‘the mocker… the foolish… the wicked… the faithless’ (vv.6,7,9,11,14) come to a sticky end (vv.11–14). Their path ends in death.
On the other hand, the book of Proverbs is full of teaching about the importance of righteousness and holiness. We read here about ‘a truthful witness… the upright… the good’ (vv.5,9,11,14).
The implication is that the righteous will in some way outlast death and ‘will flourish’ and be ‘rewarded’ (vv.11–14). In other words, they will ultimately be victorious: ‘a moral life is a favoured life’ (v.9b, MSG).
Lord, help me, by the power of your Holy Spirit, to be faithful in all my ways and do the good works that you have prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).
The church should be a place of ‘celebration, exuberant and joyful’ (v.46, MSG). We should be the most positive people in the world – constantly celebrating Jesus and the victory of God.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, explains the great victory of Jesus. He speaks about his life, ministry, death and, in particular, his resurrection. He gives four reasons why you can be sure that Jesus has been raised from the dead and therefore you can be sure that you will be raised to life with him:
The Holy Spirit enables us to recognise the truth of the words of Peter: ‘You crucified’ Jesus of Nazareth (v.36). Jesus died for my sins. I killed Jesus. My personal sin was present on the cross. The day I recognised this I, too, was ‘cut to the heart’ (v.37). It is this revelation that leads to true repentance.
The way you receive the promise is by repentance, faith in Jesus, baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (vv.37–38). The evidence that you have received the Holy Spirit will be seen in a changed life and a transformed community (vv.42–47). The church is not only a place of celebration, exuberance and joy; it should also be supremely a place of love.
Lord, thank you for the great victory of Jesus over sin and death. Please fill me again today with your Holy Spirit.
The victory of Jesus was foreshadowed in the life of David. There are over a thousand references to David in the Bible. He was an anointed (messiah) king. The Lord gave him ‘rest from all his enemies around him’ (7:1). Nathan the prophet said to David, ‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you’ (v.3). ‘The Lord gave David victory wherever he went’ (8:6,14).
We see in David’s prayer an example to follow:
Only in Jesus were the promises of the Davidic covenant fulfilled. The human kings failed, but there remained the hope of a future king who would fulfil the kingship ideal. Jesus was the son of David (see, for example, Matthew 1:1). As he entered Jerusalem, the people cried out, ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ (Mark 11:10).
However, the victory of Jesus and the kingdom of Jesus were far greater than anyone had anticipated. They were achieved not by a conquering king winning physical battles, but by a dying Saviour winning the great spiritual victory over sin, guilt, addiction, fear and even death itself.
We see from the example of Jesus that victory is not always glamorous or even obvious. But God promises you, as he promises David, that he will be with you wherever you go and that, in Christ, ultimately you will be victorious.
Lord, like David, I feel a sense of unworthiness in your presence. ‘Who am I, O Sovereign Lord?’ (7:1). Thank you that in Christ you promise us even greater victories than David over sin, guilt, addiction, fear and even death itself. Lord, I trust today that you will be with me and help me wherever I go.
All Peter’s friends must have been so pleased and proud (in the good sense) when he stood up and gave his first sermon. They had been with Peter through all his ups and downs and failures. Now the anointing of God was on him. The last three years had been a preparation for this moment.
It is wonderful to see people who have been through their struggles finding their calling.