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.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
God Comes to Abram - November 30, 2016 - First Advent Midweek - Text: Genesis 17:1-21
This year during the Wednesday evenings of Advent we will hear about the role the angels played in the history of Christmas. This week we will follow along and hear the angel, even Jesus Himself reiterate His covenant with Abram to be the father of the Savior of the world. Next week we will hear the angel announce to Zechariah that Elizabeth would have a son who would be the one who would make straight the way for the Savior of the world. The following week we will hear the angel announce to the young virgin, Mary, that she has been chosen to be the mother of the Savior of the world. In week four, an extra week this year as we usually only have three Advent services, but with Christmas on Sunday we will add a forth Advent service the Wednesday before Christmas, we will hear the angel announce to Joseph that Mary’s baby is the Son of God and that it is okay for him to go ahead with his marriage to her. On Christmas Eve we will hear the angel announce the good news of the Savior’s birth to the shepherds, and on Christmas day we will again hear the good news that God has come into the world in human flesh to save the world.
In order to get to the work of the angels during this Advent season we have to go back to the first work of the angels or rather the giving and reiterating of the covenant which brings us to the work of the angels during this time of preparation for the birth of the one being promised. Indeed, in Genesis three God has already promised Adam and Eve and all mankind that He would send a Savior, a Messiah even a Christ to save all people. After the flood God reiterated His promise of a Savior to Noah and on down to God calling Abram to be the one through whom the Savior would be born. In the verses before our text we have an angel appear to Abram, yet we are also told that this is the Lord who appears to Abram. Thus, we describe what we are seeing is that the angel who appears to Abram is what we describe as the pre-incarnate Christ, that is this is Jesus before His conception and birth as a man, in bodily form.
God appeared to Abram in order to reiterate the covenant He first made in Eden before there was a Jew or Gentile. The promise by God first given in Genesis is that God “will put enmity between [Satan] and the woman, and between [Satan’s] offspring” all the followers of the Devil, “and her offspring” in particular the Savior, Jesus, “he,” Jesus, “shall bruise your head” that is Jesus will deal a complete death blow to Satan crushing his head, “and you shall bruise his hell,” that in the process of Jesus utterly defeating Satan Jesus will be hurt, He will have His heel bruised, He will die on the cross, not an eternal death blow, but a physical death blow defeating Satan.
The covenant made in the Garden of Eden was a covenant that God made with Adam and Eve and all people. It was a covenant that God would carry out. As for Adam and Eve and all people, their part in the covenant was only to be saved. Thus, as God reiterates His covenant with Abram we see that it always was and is a covenant of grace through faith. God is the one acting and we are the ones being acted on, being given salvation.
When God speaks and reiterates His covenant with Abram He adds the earthly part of the covenant, that is He adds certain physical earthly blessings to His covenant, and as we will hear these extra blessings come with a condition. The spiritual blessings have no condition, except faith which is given, but the physical blessings do have certain condition as we will see.
God’s promise is that He will make Abram a great nation, that is Abram will have many children, grand children, great grand children and so on. From one of his descendants, from one of his children, grand children, or great grand children the Savior of the world would be born. God’s promise is that He will give Abram and his descendants a land. This promise makes sense because a great nation will need a place to live and so God promises a place to live. Again, then is reiterated the promise, the spiritual promise that the Savior of all people would be born through Abram’s family line.
The condition for these spiritual blessings is faithfulness to the covenant of God, that is faithfulness to God, to worship and serve only the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Indeed, the condition of salvation is faith in Jesus alone.
The second part of our text is God’s giving of the sacrament of Circumcision. Circumcision was the sacrament setting apart and marking those who were a part of the covenant. As God would fulfill His promises of physical blessings, giving Abram many children and a land as a nation, so He did not want His people to be like the heathens and pagans that were in the land and that were to be driven from the land, so He gave the sacrament of circumcision to set them a part and mark them, even make them His own.
Today we have been given Holy Baptism as the Sacrament that sets us apart and marks us as a part of the covenant. God’s desire is that we are His people so that we do not look or act like the heathens and pagans of this world. God’s desire is that we live lives as His holy children, as priests in the priesthood of all believers.
And yet, just as was the case with the first promises, so God’s covenant continues to have a condition to it which is faithfulness. Interestingly enough, it is not so much our faithfulness as it is God’s faithfulness which is what saves us. Even in the unfaithfulness of the children of Abram, the Israelites, God has been faithful in keeping His covenant, in sending a Messiah. Even in our unfaithfulness as God’s children, He is faithful in continuing to pour out on us His love and forgiveness.
God’s covenant has always been a covenant that pointed to Jesus. All the ceremonial laws, all the sacrifices, always pointed to the one ultimate, once and for all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our forgiveness.
As history bears out, the children of Abram, that is the children of Israel rejected Jesus, thus unless one believes in Jesus they are outside the covenant. Indeed, the first Christians were those of the children of Israel who did believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Those who did not believe have been and are outside the covenant. Again we see it was and is a covenant of grace and faith.
Even today, God gives us faith, through Holy Baptism, through His Word so that unless one believes they are outside the covenant. Yes, there are even those who attend Divine Service, those who attend without faith who are outside the covenant.
Jesus is the fulfillment, the true Israel in all its sense. Jesus was conceived and born as a human being in order to live a perfect life for us in our place according to God’s command because we cannot and He did live perfectly. Jesus perfectly obeyed all the commandments, never disobeying, never sinning even once.
Jesus perfectly fulfilled all the law and prophets. All the prophecies which pointed to Jesus, all the promises of the coming Savior, Jesus fulfilled completely and perfectly. After fulfilling all things perfectly He took our sins, all our sins, and all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times, even those sins we have yet to commit, upon Himself and He suffered and died to pay the price for those sins. He suffered hell for us in our place. And He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death and the devil. And now He gives us faith, forgiveness and life!
As we prepare ourselves to celebrate once again, the birth of our Savior, our Messiah, our Christ, we are reminded of God’s promises and their fulfillment in Jesus. And we are reminded of the gifts He continues to pour out on us even today, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Thus, we rejoice and say to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.