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, February 12, 2017
The Choice - February 12, 2017 - Sixth Sunday after Epiphany - Text: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
God gives and we are given to. God gives faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Through the water and Word of Holy Baptism God puts His name on us claiming us as His own. Through the water and the Word of Holy Baptism God gives us faith. Through the confession and absolution God forgives our sins. Through the Holy Word of Scripture and the Lord’s Supper God strengthens and keeps us in faith. These are all works of God. This work is God’s work of justifying us, that is making us just and right in His eyes. This morning our text brings us to Moses speaking to God’s people, a people already belonging to the Lord. Moses’ words are words we call words of sanctification, that is the response of those already belonging to God. Indeed, once we have been given faith, we can and do make decisions concerning our faith life. We make bad decisions by ourselves and good decisions as the Lord leads us to do so. It is important as we look at our text for this morning to understand that our text is not speaking about the justification of God’s people and their making a decision to be God’s people. These are God’s people as He has made them His own. As His people, Moses addresses the Children of Israel and encourages them to remain faithful to the God who has chosen them and made them His own. So, let us get to our text.
God chose Israel to be His people and He made His covenant with them. A part of the covenant God made with Israel, beginning with Abraham, was that He would make them into a great nation, that He would give them a land, that He would guard and defend them, that they would be His people and He would be their God and that all nations would be blessed through them. These blessings, however were conditional blessings. These blessings would be theirs if they walked in His ways and kept His commandments, statutes and rules. In other words, these were the blessings God had promised and the only thing the Children of Israel could do would be to refuse and reject those blessings by not remaining faithful to the Lord.
God chose Israel to be His people and He made His covenant with them and along with the blessings already mentioned God also promised eternal spiritual blessings, that is God promised salvation through a Savior. God’s covenant was always first and foremost a covenant of salvation. God’s covenant was first made in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve before there was a Jew or a Gentile. God’s covenant was that He would send a Savior for all people. When God chose Abraham He narrowed the family line through which He would fulfill His covenant to send a Savior, namely that through Abraham, through the Children of Israel, the Savior of the world would be born. This part of God’s covenant had no conditions, as a matter of fact, even though Israel continually broke the conditions of the covenant, God still kept His part, that of sending the Savior of the world though the family of Israel.
Our text comes at the end of Moses time of leading the Children of Israel. Moses was getting old and because of an earlier sin, when he hit the rock instead of speaking to it, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. After wandering in the desert for forty years, after those who were twenty years and older had passed, now was the time to enter the promised land. Our text brings us to the point where Israel is ready at this time to enter the promised land and so Moses is getting ready to depart.
As Moses gets ready to depart, and go to heaven, so it is not so bad with him, but as he is getting ready to depart he now address the Children of Israel and encourages them as they enter the promised land. He encourages them to remain faithful to the covenant God has made with them. Moses knows these people, that they are a stiff necked, rebellious group. He knows the land and the people in the land they are about to enter and thus he knows the Children of Israel need all the encouragement he can give because the temptations to not remain faithful will be great as the land is full of idolatrous nations ready to lead Israel astray.
And even with all of Moses’ encouragement we know what happened. Time and again the Children of Israel broke their covenant with God, God allowed for them to be disciplined, they would cry out and God would deliver them. The history of the Children of Israel quite easily reflects the lives of many in our world today as we continue to suffer and fall into temptation and sin, then repent, are forgiven and continue to sin, after all, sinning is our nature. Unfortunately, in the last, for Israel, at the rejection of the Savior, at the rejection of Jesus we see the Children of Israel losing the conditional part of God’s covenant, the earthly blessings.
Although Israel broke their covenant with God and lost the conditional parts of the covenant, the earthly blessings, yet God remains faithful to His promise of spiritual blessings for all who believe. God’s promises are sure and certain and He is faithful and never goes back on His promises. God’s promise was the promise of a Savior for all nations and He has kept and continues to keep His promise. Jesus was born, lived, suffered, died and rose for all people, of all places of all times, not just for one group of people.
Fast forward to today. Today God’s covenant is with us. God has chosen us in Jesus and promises eternal spiritual blessings to us. Indeed, by faith in Jesus we are children of Abraham, we are the true Israel of God. Although God does not make a covenant with us for the sake of earthly blessings, for the sake of making us a great nation, a multitude of people, giving us a promised land and the like, He does covenant with us to give us greater blessings.
God gives and we are given to. God gives life at conception. God gives new life that is He gives faith through the waters of Holy Baptism and through His Holy Word. God gives forgiveness of sins through His Word as well as through confession and absolution and His Holy Supper. God gives faith, forgiveness and life even and especially eternal salvation. God gives and we are given to and God gives unconditionally.
At the same time God’s desire is that we continue being given His blessings. God’s desire is that we continue steadfast in His Word and Sacraments, that we make regular and diligent use of His means of grace, those means through which He comes to pour out on us and lavish us with His many good gifts and blessings. God’s desire is that we do not neglect, nor refuse and reject the gifts He has to give. Indeed, God’s desire is that we not be like the Children of Israel.
And so, as your pastor I encourage you to remain faithful. I encourage you to be in the Word, to have personal and family devotions, to read God’s Word. It is our reading of God’s Word and our going to Him in prayer that make for a conversation with Him. He speaks to us through His Word and we speak to Him in prayer. It is as we are in this daily conversation that we are able with His help to fend off the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh which would lead us to falling away from faith and eternal salvation.
And yet, what happens. Very much like the Children of Israel, we too sin. We too break our relationship with God. We too fall away at times. Because we are conceived and born in sin our natural inclination is to sin, to refuse and reject the gifts of God and too often we fall into a bad habit of doing just that, fall into temptation and sin. We put other things before God. We refuse and reject His gifts as we absent ourselves from reading God’s Word, having devotion and prayer time, skipping Divine Service and the like. Indeed, we put something other than God first when we absent ourselves, refusing and rejecting His good gifts and blessings.
Thanks be to God that He is continually calling us to repentance. God’s desire is that we repent and be given His greatest gift of forgiveness of sins. Yes, forgiveness is God’s greatest gift because as we know, with forgiveness is life and salvation.
God loves us so much. God loves you so much. He has so much, so many gifts and blessings He desires to pour out on us and lavish on us. His love is seen in His giving us life, faith, forgiveness and eternal life. His love is seen in His desire to give even more to us through His means of grace.
What does this mean? Again we are reminded and we can never be reminded too much, God gives and we are given to. God gives us His first and best. God gives us and He gives us even more. We get it right and we know we get it right when we point to Jesus, not to ourselves. God gives and we are given to.
Because of our inborn sinful nature, we sin and fall away. We point to ourselves. We look inside ourselves. We think we can do it ourselves. We think we must do something, anything in order to make ourselves just and right in God’s eyes. We fail. We fall for temptation and we sin. We refuse and reject the gifts of God. We put other things before God. Left to ourselves we would be eternally lost, thus we are continually pointed outside ourselves and the need for regular and diligent use of His means of grace.
We sin. God disciplines us. We repent and God forgives. Sounds an awful lot like the Children of Israel. Thanks be to God that in the same manner He continually keeps His promises. Even when we fail, even when we sin, He is always there, ready to forgive and restore us.
And thanks be to God that He is always there ready to help us to remain faithful in our sanctified lives. It is not as if we are on our own in this world, but we have a God who is near to us and is there to help us in any and every need. Truly His desire is to pour out on us and lavish us with His many good gifts and blessings.
Moses’ words to Israel in our text for today are God’s Word to us. God has set before us, life and good, death and evil. God’s desire is that we obey His commandments, that we keep His statutes and rules, that we walk in His ways. The temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh continually strive to lead us to worship other gods and idols that are not the Lord. We are continually tempted and lead into disbelief, despair and other great shame and vice. And yet, on our side is the valiant one, Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus has already done everything for us. He was born for us as one of us, a human being. He lived for us, a perfect life for us in our place because we cannot. He was tempted and never sinned, indeed He was tempted with more and greater sins than we might ever think or imagine and never sinned. He obeyed all of God’s commands and lived under His statutes and rules perfectly for us. He took our sins and suffered the price, eternal spiritual death for us in our place and He rose for us. He defeated sin, death and the devil. He rose showing us that death and the grave have no power overs us. He did all this because of His great love for us undeserved as we are. And He gives this to us. Even more, as we hear Moses’s words of encouragement, so we are encouraged in our own life of sanctification He is there to help us, because we cannot do it on our own. So, with God’s help we choose life and good and we rejoice in His good gifts and blessings and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.