Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
My Salvation Is Close at Hand - August 20, 2017 - Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15) - Text: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Perhaps you have heard that sentiment before. The purpose of such sentiments is to get us to look at our lives, to see how we might be better people and perhaps even better Christians. It is a nice sentiment. I hope what you noticed about such a sentiment, as well as similar sentiments, it is a law statement. We know it is law, because it is asking us to do something. I could add other sentimental statements, or pious platitudes such as, “If you knew you were going to die in a month would you do anything different?” and of course I would have to follow that up with the law question, “Then why aren’t you?” The sentiment and the result are the same. The fact of the matter is, and this should not be a surprise to hear, we are conceived and born in sin, every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, we are continually at odds with our Lord and if we seriously and honestly looked at our lives we would be able to see how true this is. Thanks be to God that our Lord continues to be our Lord and continues to give us His many good gifts and blessings. Our Lord continues to be a gracious God as we see in our text.
Getting to our text, our Lord gives us the whole lot, both the law and the gospel. Verse one reads, “1Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed’” (v. 1). Our Lord begins by giving us the law, telling us that we are to maintain justice and do what is right. As sinners in a sin filled world we realize that for us to attempt to do this by ourselves is an impossibility. The Lord knows that this is a task we cannot perform which is why He does not stop with this command, but continues with the second part of the verse, giving us His gospel message.
Our Lord presents us with the Gospel by telling us, “for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.” Keeping this statement in its context we realize that this statement is being made to the children of Israel and that this is the promise that the Messiah will come to save them. The Lord’s salvation is the Messiah, namely Jesus Christ. This statement is not meant just for the Israelites, it is meant for us today. We have seen the salvation of the Lord. We have seen His righteousness, but we continue to look forward to His second revelation, when the Messiah will return on the last day to take us to be with Himself in heaven.
Our text picks up at verse six with the Lord including foreigners in His covenant. We read, “6‘And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered’” (v. 6-8). This is good news for us because we are the foreigners. We are the foreigners who will serve Him, who will love the name of the LORD, who will keep the Sabbath, who will hold fast to His covenant. We will do these things, not in and of ourselves, but because the Lord will work these good works in us. We will do these things, not to earn our salvation, but as a response of active obedience for our salvation which He has earned for us.
And because He works these good works in us He will bring us to His holy mountain and give us joy in His house of prayer. He will make our burnt offerings and sacrifices acceptable on His altar, in other words He will make our good works acceptable to Himself. He will gather still others besides us meaning that those who are included in His covenant will be a great number.
So we get to the question we ask about every text, what does this mean? What does this mean to us as a church, as a congregation? What does this mean to me personally? This means that we continually remind ourselves of what God has done; what we cannot do; what God works in and through us; and what we gain.
We remember what God has done. Obviously to remember all that God has done would take several days, even years. With that said, it is important to remember what God has done. What He has done here at St. Matthew Lutheran church as a congregation as well as what He has done in our own lives. As a congregation He granted that people got together and saw the need to begin a Christian church. He has granted our church over 100 years even 117 years of being a church. He has granted us a place to worship as well as the continued freedom to worship. We are especially thankful as we are reminded that He has given us both the talents and abilities as well as the means to continue to be His church and his people in this place. He has given us this building in which we worship Him in divine service. Personally we remember and are ever so thankful that He has given us our very lives, at conception. He has given us new life through our baptism which we daily remember and through which we are daily strengthened. We remember that He gives us His Holy Precious Word as well as His true body and blood in His Holy Supper. We remember that He gives us the greatest and most wonderful gift of forgiveness as we confess our sins and hear His most precious words of forgiveness. His Word reminds us of all the prophecies which He has given and how Jesus fulfilled all those prophecies.
As I sat down thinking about what God has done for us I began to think about Dr. Martin Luther’s explanations to the articles of the Apostles’ Creed. Immediately I began type out his words, then I thought, maybe I should not take so much from Dr. Luther and I almost erased what I had typed. Then I thought a second time. Why not use Dr. Luther’s words? When I am through preaching you will go home and maybe, just maybe, you will say to yourself, what were those words Pastor Bogs was saying that said how much God has done for me. Then I thought, if I give you Dr. Luther’s words you can go home and if you have them memorized or if you remember them from your own conformation, or of you have forgotten them, then you look them up in your catechism and constantly be reminded of all that God has done for you.
With that in mind let us listen to Dr. Luther’s words as he reminds us so well what God has done for us in His explanations to the first and second article of the Apostles’ Creed. He says, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”
We remember what God has done, but we also remember what we cannot do. Again, Dr. Martin Luther said it so well in his explanation to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed when he said, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason our strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.”
In and of ourselves we can do no good thing. In and of ourselves we can only do the evil that is born in us. We cannot keep God’s Word. We cannot keep His commandments. We cannot do all the things that He would have us to do. We cannot even respond to all the good things that He has done and continues to do for us. As a matter of fact, apart from our Lord all we can do is rebel against Him as His enemies and we do this on a daily basis, breaking not one or two, but all the commandments.
Knowing that we can do no good thing in and of ourselves we are moved to remember what God works in and through us. It is God who works a renewing of our faith. It is God who works a renewing of our commitment to being in the Word. It is God who works in us the response to come to His House of worship. It is God who works in us a response to make regular and diligent use of His means of grace, those means through which He comes to give us the good gifts and blessings He has to give to us. Any and all good works that we do we do because it is God working in and through us.
When we stop and think about it, it is rather amazing and to use the language from God’s Word, it is rather a mystery. None of us was here when this congregation began. Soon we will pass away and yet this congregation will continue on. This is not our church. This is not our congregation. As a matter of fact, if you look at the history of this congregation, it has gone through some tough times, mostly because of the attacks of Satan, working through those who have tried to undo what God has done. That the devil is working so hard might give us a little confidence that we are doing something right, because you know the devil is not going to waste his time on something he already has.
Because God works good works in and through us, we gain all the gifts which He has promised to us. Because of God’s good works, namely because of His work of sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to live for us, living perfectly as we cannot, and then taking our sins upon Himself and paying the price for our sins, by shedding His holy precious blood, because of Jesus, we gain eternal life with Him in heaven.
“1Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed’” (56:1). With the help of the Holy Spirit we respond by working to maintain justice and doing what is right. We respond, with His help to be the people He would have us to be in this place. And with the help of the Holy Spirit we pray that in this place God’s Word may continue to be proclaimed in all its truth and purity. We pray that the Holy Spirit may use us as His congregation for the extending of His kingdom, for the strengthening of His people and for the praise and glory of His Holy Name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Monday, August 14, 2017
So, your grown up and you’re off to college. You’re ready to become an individual who thinks for yourself, wonderful. The temptation and challenge ahead of you is to not be fooled into a false intellectual independence. What I mean is that you may think you are becoming independent in your thinking by giving up the thinking, the moral and ethical values of your parents, those values on which you were raised, and deciding for yourself what are your moral and ethical values. Beware! What tends to happen is that you become deceived by those who would espouse another moral, ethical value than you were taught so that you have simply traded one intellectual thinking for another, a foreign one. In plan terms, you will be tempted to give up what your parents have taught for what your professor would have you think with his encouragement that he wants you to be a free independent thinker.
But, does your professor truly want you to be an independent thinker? More often than not he or she simply wants you to be one of his or her disciples regurgitating what they think and then telling you only then are you truly a free thinker. And unfortunately most of these professors have never actually had to live in the real world that you and your parents live in so they really have no clue about the affect of their ideas.
So, does your professor truly want you to be an independent thinker? I would suggest not and I might suggest a way to actually find out if they do want you to think for yourself. Beware that this suggestion might get you kicked out of class or given a bad grade, so perhaps it might best be done in as anonymous way as possible, like placing a note on the professors desk without them knowing. The note might say something like this: Dear Prof. As a members of this class we are wondering if you truly want us to be free thinkers? Will we be made fun of and called name, even down graded and ejected from class if we disagree with you or question any of your teaching? Or would you rather we simply regurgitate what you well us and keep quite in order to pass? Please give us an answer and an honest answer so we may know how to proceed in class.
Your professors response and answer or lack of answer should give you some insight into whether or not you are expected, encouraged, or discouraged in being a free thinker.
Having known people in the college teaching profession, and having read evaluations of professors it is well noted that most professors do not want any disagreement or contentiousness from the students. They simply want their students to speak and mimic them. Which brings me back to my original concern, that of your intellectual independence. Might I remind you that there are always people who think like you and who think different from you. You are never truly independent of everyone else when it comes to thinking, thus I would encourage you, do not give up the way in which your parents taught you. They live in the world. They know right from wrong. They are the ones who got you this far in life. Do not give up what they taught because you think you will be more intelligent if you speak like your professor rather than your parents, even if your parents are not professors or Doctors, they are life experienced, real world thinkers.
Give thanks to God for your parents, for their values, for their love and for instilling in you what is mete, right and salutary.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
He Has Endowed You with Splendor - August 6, 2017 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) - Text: Isaiah 55:1-5
Many of you got up this morning, as you do on most mornings; you took a shower, brushed your teeth, maybe you shaved, some of you put on make-up; you got up and got dressed; you got yourself ready to come to church, to worship, to divine service to be given the gifts the Lord has to give. We might say that you prepared yourself with as much outward beauty as you humanly could because you wanted to look your best when you came to the divine service of your Lord. Although it may not be as noticeable today as it is at Christmas and Easter, we do prepare ourselves, at least externally, when we come to divine service at our Lord’s house. Today we will be talking about being glorified and the difference between outward glory and inward glory.
Our text is a part of God’s invitation through Isaiah for the Israelites to come and take part in the Lord’s salvation. The time of our text is when the Israelites were in exile. The Israelites owned nothing and owed tribute for everything. They were a people without a country. They had nothing. Here in our text Isaiah offers the Israelites the prophecy that they will return from exile. He is giving them hope for the future. We can relate well to the Israelites, because we too are in exile in this world. We can relate to the popular hymn, “I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home.” We are strangers in this world. We own nothing and we owe all that we have to the Lord. We are living in exile here until we reach our permanent home in heaven.
The hope for the future that Isaiah gives is that the Israelites will no longer have to pay tribute. Their hope for the future is that they will be able to buy and eat without money or cost. Isaiah’s reference is, of course, to a spiritual eating and drinking. God’s salvation is without cost to us. What is behind this hopeful future is the prophecy which Isaiah spoke in chapter fifty-three. The cost for God’s salvation was paid for by the suffering servant, the Messiah, namely Jesus Christ and His suffering and death on the cross. Jesus paid the cost, the price for our sins, so that salvation costs us nothing.
Getting into our text, verse one reads, “1Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Is. 55:1). Here we have the invitation and notice that this invitation is to all who are thirsty and this thirst does not mean a physical thirst. Spiritual thirst is what is important, is what is most important. The Apostle Peter reiterates this in one of his epistles when he says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). In the same way that you cannot force a person who is not hungry or thirsty to eat or drink, neither can you force a person who wants nothing to do with God to read His Word, to attend Bible Class and Divine Service, to have personal and family devotions and so forth. So, is Isaiah’s invitation to us? Isaiah’s invitation is to us if we are thirsty. How do we know if we are thirsty? We know we are thirsty, spiritually thirsty, if we have a desire to be in God’s Word. We are thirsty if we are eager to come to divine service, if we are eager to read and study His Word, if we are eager and desire to confess our sins and hear God’s Word of forgiveness, if we are eager and desire to come to the Lord’s Table to eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sins. On the other hand, we are not thirsty if we can easily find excuses as to why we do not have the time to be in His Word, to come to divine service and Bible class, to make use of the means of grace. We are not thirsty if we can easily find other things to do, other places to be, and truly do not desire to be where and when the gifts of God are given out. Let us be honest folks, the excuse that we do not have time is just that, an excuse. We find time or make time to do all the things we want to do, why cannot we find or make the time to be in God’s Word, except that we do not want to be in His Word. As we have said before, it is a matter of priorities. We make the time to do what is important to us.
Going on in verse two we read, “2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Is. 55:2). What is “not bread” and “what does not satisfy” are in reference to the things of this world. This almost sounds like a stewardship statement. On what are you spending your money? Are you spending your money on the things of this world, trying to make yourself happy in this world? or are you buying and eating what is good and in what your soul delights? In other words, are you spending your money on the things of this world in an attempt to make yourself happy? Things like your house or even a second home in which to vacation; a boat; an overwhelmingly consuming hobby, one that takes all your time, energy and finances? Are you spending your money on the things of this world in an attempt to make yourself happy and wondering why you are still unhappy? And so you double your spending thinking these things will make you happy and still wonder why they do not? The alternative our text suggests is to listen to the Lord, to eat what is good and to delight in His riches. In other words, the way to satisfy yourself is not in the things of this world, but to delight in the spiritual blessings of the Lord which are given and received through His Word and Sacraments.
Continuing on in verse three we read, “3Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David ” (Is. 55:3). God has made an everlasting covenant to all who believe in Him. His covenant is that He is our God and we are His people. He has chosen us to be His people and He has sent His “sure love” which He promised through “David” who is Jesus to seal and fulfill His covenant with us.
In verse four we read,“4Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples” (Is. 55:4). Jesus is our leader and commander. Jesus is the witness that God has accomplished what He said. Jesus is the witness who paid the cost for us to come, buy, eat and drink. Literally, Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross paid for our salvation.
Finally verse five reads, “5Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you” (Is. 55:5). We are the nations that “you do not know.” We did not know the Lord, but the Holy Spirit has worked through His Word and Sacraments to call us to faith, to strengthen us in our faith and to keep us in our faith.
Our Gospel reading for this morning reminds us, again, that Jesus is truly human and truly God. We see His humanity in His care and concern for the people. We see His divinity in His power over the things of this world, including and especially in our reading, that He blessed the fish and loaves so that they multiplied and were able to feed over five thousand people, perhaps, including women and children, over 15, 000 people. In our Epistle lesson Paul emulates Christ in his care and concern for his people, the children of Israel. Paul says he would give his life to save his people. Paul’s bottom line, if you will, in the epistle lesson is the fact and the reminder that one is a child of Abraham, not by birth, not by flesh, not by DNA, but by faith. As we have talked about in Bible class time and again, the covenant the Lord made, back in the Garden of Eden, first to Adam and Eve, was not a covenant of flesh, but a covenant of grace. The Lord did not make two covenants, one with Israel and one with Christians. The Lord made one covenant and that covenant is a covenant of grace and faith. In other words, it is not what is on the outside that counts, not one’s DNA, but what is on the inside, faith in one’s heart, faith not in self but in Jesus.
If you have ever followed the history of the children of Israel, and we have been doing that in Bible Class, I contend that their history looks a lot like our history as a Christian America. Of course, at this point in our history, we are not that much of a Christian America and that is exactly the point. Just as Israel at one time, were God’s people, yet they gave up their covenant with the Lord, so at one point much or even most of America was a Christian land, but too many have given up their faith to follow the culture of this country and the world, rather than to follow the God of Holy Scripture. As we talked about last week and before, our problems all go back to the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve’s sin. Their sin has been genetically passed down to us today. We are conceived and born in sin. Our every inclination is to sin. It is this sin which separates us from God. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, the price for sin is death, physical death and worse eternal spiritual death. Thanks be to God that the price has been paid. Jesus paid the price for our sin by suffering the punishment for us, in our place, so that forgiveness costs us nothing, because Jesus paid the price.
As you may remember I began by talking about how we get ourselves ready to come to the divine service of our Lord, how we clean ourselves up and put on our finest for the Lord. Every Sunday morning, and maybe even every day we decorate our bodies, the outside shell of ourselves. The problem is that while we may be decorating our outsides, we still have the same cruddy inside. Although we are Christians and our sins have been forgiven, we remain at the same time sinner and saint. So, we may look good on the outside, but we are still sinners on the inside and there is no way that we can ever change that fact. We can change our appearance on the outside; we can change what others see, but we cannot change our inside. It is God alone who can change our inside. It is God alone who redecorates our inside with glory, and that is what is truly glory.
The invitation that Isaiah presented to the children of Israel from the Lord is the same invitation that our Lord offers us today through His Word and Sacraments. The invitation is for us to come, to buy and to eat, without cost. The invitation is to throw off the things of this world, the outward adornments, which do not satisfy and to put on the glory of our Lord, the true glory which He freely gives. We do this by being in God’s Word, by reading our Bibles, by having personal and family devotions, by attending Bible Class and divine service, by remembering our Baptism and how through our Baptism we were made God’s children, by confessing our sins, all our sins and by hearing His most beautiful and precious words of forgiveness, and by partaking in His Sacraments, especially by partaking in His true Body and true Blood, in, with and under the bread and wine in His Holy Meal. Indeed, it is through these very means that our Lord comes to us and gives to us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give. God freely gives and we are given to. So let me continue to encourage you, rejoice, then, and be given the gifts the Lord has to give. Rejoice, and know that the Lord has endowed you with glory, for Jesus’ sake, and to Him be the glory. Amen.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The Lord Set His Love on You and Chose You - July 30, 2017 - Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12) - Text: Deuteronomy 7:6-9
How odd? One of the laws of nature, as it were, is that very often the littlest or the runt of a litter is left to die. Unless the newborn can take care of itself, fight its way to the mother for nourishment, it is left to die. How odd? We are conceived and born in sin. Our nature is to sin. Our nature is to disobey God, to refuse and reject the gifts He has to give. Our nature is to actually fight against God as His enemy. How odd? Even though our spiritual condition is at odds with our Lord, He loves us and cares for us. Rather than leave us to die, rather than fight with us or against us, He chooses us, He calls us, by name. He calls us to faith. He gives us faith. He redeems us, buying us back, purchasing us, not with silver or gold, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. How odd indeed?
As the cliche goes, let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with God’s first promise. After creating a perfect world, a world that God declared as good, even very good, God created and placed two people, Adam and Eve into the perfect world and the perfect garden He had created just for them. Because they had nothing of their own, God also gave them the ability to give to back to Him, that is He gave them a free will so that they could freely obey Him and in this way they could respond to all that He had given to them. At this point in history, before their fall into sin they did have perfect free will. They could freely decide to do what was good. Unfortunately they did not obey the Lord. Unfortunately they disobeyed and they sinned. This sin brought the punishment of death, physical death, but worse, apart from God’s intervention it would be eternal spiritual death, hell in other words. Fortunately, because God is love, He immediately stepped in and made a promise. God’s promise was to Adam and Eve and to all people without regard to culture. God’s promise was that He would take care of Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience. He would provide someone who would pay the price for their sin.
As time went on, God narrowed the fulfillment of His promise to the line of Abraham, that is God promised that the Savior to be born would be born through the narrow family line of Abraham. Notice, Abraham did not choose God, God chose Him. There was nothing innately special about Abraham, as a matter of fact we are told about Abraham’s idols. Again, there was nothing innately special about Abraham simply that God chose Him. God promised Abraham that He would make him a great nation, that He would make him a prosperous people and most importantly that the Savior of all nations, the Savior of all people, the Savior of all cultures, the Savior of the world would be from His descendants.
And finally, at just the right time. At just the right time in history, at just the right time in the world, God fulfilled His promise. He fulfilled His promise in the birth of a child, the Christ child. This child whose birth we celebrate every Christmas was born for a purpose, to die. And that is what He did. After living a perfect life, which is the fullness of the Gospel, not simply that Jesus died, but that He lived perfectly for us in our place because we could not be perfect as God demands, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” After obeying all God’s commands perfectly. After fulfilling all the law perfectly, for us, in our place, He took all our sins and imperfection on Himself. He freely gave His life, exchanging His perfection for our imperfection, exchanging our sins for His life and He suffered and died, paying the price for our sins.
But let’s rewind and get back to our text. God through Moses tells us in our text for this morning that we are a treasure to God. We read verse six and seven, “6For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples” (v. 6-7). The children of Israel were God’s people, descendants of Abraham. They had a rather roller coaster existence. In our text, Moses reminded the children of Israel that they were a treasure to God, His chosen people.
Moses reminds them that God chose them. God chose them, not because of their size. They were not a great nation when God chose them, as a matter of fact, God chose them before they became a great nation and it was only because of the Lord that they would become a great nation. As we look back at their history we see that under the rule of King David and King Solomon they had their glory years as a nation, enjoying many blessings from the Lord. This was after many ups and downs and before many more ups and downs that followed in their history.
Moses reminds the people that it was not they who chose the Lord, but it was God who chose them and set His love on them. It was the Lord who promised that they would be His people and He would be their God. It was the Lord who delivered them time and again and it was the Lord who allowed for them to be disciplined time and again, because of His love for them.
Continuing on in our text Moses reminds the people that it was God who acted first. We read picking up at verse eight, “8but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” )v. 8-9( God remembered the oath, the promise He made. Actually we might say the Lord continually remembered the oath, the covenant, the promise He made. Even better, the Lord never forgot His oath, covenant and promise. The children of Israel constantly forgot, refused, and reject the Lord’s gifts and promises, but the Lord never did and He never does.
Moses reminds the people how the Lord had previously delivered them from slavery in Egypt. It was the Lord who had called them to be His people. It was the Lord who had made them a great nation, at least at the time that they were in Egypt they were becoming a great nation as in have a great number of people. It was because of the gifts and blessing and because of the Lord’s favor that they were the nation they were.
Mostly, Moses’ words remind us that God is faithful and His steadfast love and covenant last to a thousand generations. God never forgets nor does He ever go back on His promises. God’s Word is sure and true and God always does what He says. Even more than depending on the most dependable person we may imagine, we can depend on the Lord. Although we may struggle to keep our word and promises, the Lord’s Word never fails.
What Does This Mean? And what does this mean for us today? Today Moses’ words remind us that before God even began creating the world, He had us, you and me in mind. Before He began creation He chose us to love us. He looked through time to this very day and saw us. Now, that might be difficult for us to imagine, but as we said last week, God does not live in time as you and I do. God created time for us. God lives in the eternal present, so that everything that is happening to us through time is happening all at once for the Lord. Thus, it was and is easy for Him to have us in mind at the time of creation.
On our part, our condition is terminal, at least our physical condition is terminal. We are all dying. We will die. Our bodies will wear out. We are conceived and born in sin. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission, not doing what we should be doing and we sin sins of commission, doing what we should not be doing. We sin and the result is that we are dying. We are dying a physical death as our bodies age and are infected with sin. Remember, the judgement on sin is physical death. Yet even worse, we are dying a spiritual death, the result which, left to ourselves, would be a judgement of eternal spiritual death. Our need, our real need is forgiveness of sins. We cannot forgive ourselves. We cannot earn our forgiveness. Our forgiveness must come from outside of us. Our forgives has been purchased and won for us by Jesus. We need and we get help from outside ourselves.
So, we revel in, we delight in, we respond to all that our Lord does for us and gives to us. We revel in, we delight in, we respond to the fact that we love because He first loved us. We revel in, we delight in, we respond to the fact that, as Paul tells us in our epistle lesson, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” and “]nothing[ in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our Lord has taken care of our spiritual condition. Jesus has paid the price for our sin. The judgement we face will not be eternal spiritual death, but will be eternal life. His life for ours. Yes, we may have to suffer physical death, unless the Lord returns first, and that is a possibility. Either way, we will soon meet and be with the Lord and I would suggest that day will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. Thanks be to God that we are ready and we remain ready and in confidence we look forward to that day.
I believe the key to this morning’s text is the key to all of Holy Scripture. As I have said before, the direction of salvation is always top down, from heaven to earth, from God to man. Those who would espouse what we call decision theology, encouraging you to make a decision for Jesus, to choose Jesus as you personal Savior, reject original sin. In other words, they do not believe we are conceived and born in sin, nor that one’s will is tainted by sin, so we are able to choose Jesus. As we read our Bible, from the Old Testament though the New Testament, what we read is not an attempt on God’s part to get us to choose Him. Rather what we read time and again, like our text for this morning is the reminder that God chose us. I like the illustration and I know I have used it before, but it goes like this. Remember when you were in school. At recess time you would choose two people to pick teams to play a game. Suppose one of the captains was your best friend. Suppose you knew, you chose in your heart to be on your best friend’s team. Did that matter, your choosing? No, what mattered was that your friend chose you. It does not matter if we choose Jesus, which we cannot do because our will has been tainted by sin. What matters most is that He has already chosen us, you and me. He has chosen us. He gives us faith through the waters of Holy Baptism. He gives us forgiveness of sins through His Word, through confession and absolution and through His Holy Supper. He keeps us in faith through His Word and His Holy Supper. He has so many gifts and blessing He wants to give to us. My prayer is that you will continue to be given the gifts He has to give so that he may continue to stir in us our response of praise saying, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.