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, March 31, 2019
I am quite sure that we have all heard the phrase, if not spoken the words, “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.” Well, I hate to break it to you, but according to King David in Psalm five not only does God hate the sin, He also hates the sinner. If that is the case, that God hates the sin and the sinner, then how can we say that God loves us? God loves us because He does not live in time as we do, so when He sees us, He sees that Jesus has already paid the price for our sins, and so He does not see us as sinners, but He sees us as righteous, holy and having salvation.
Our text for this morning is God’s “command,” if you will, to give thanks to the Lord, not that we would think that we would need a “command” to give thanks to the Lord.. I want to briefly run through our text and then tie our text in with our life today. So, we begin at verse one, “1You will say in that day: ‘I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me’” (v. 1). This first verse reminds us of God’s righteous anger. God has every right to be angry with Israel because of her sin and likewise, God has every right to be angry with us because of our sin. This anger is then indeed righteous anger. However, our text tells us that God’s righteous anger has been turned away and instead the Lord has turned to comfort us. How can this be that God’s righteous anger has turned to comfort? We move on to verse two.
In verse two we read, “2Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (v. 2). Now remember, Isaiah is writing some seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth, but what God is telling Israel, and us, through Isaiah is that God is our salvation through Jesus’ blood. In other words, it is Jesus’ blood, Jesus’ death on the cross, in the future, that bought and brought Israel’s salvation here in the past. It is also Jesus’ blood and Jesus’ death, in the past, that still pays for our sins and gives us salvation today.
Continuing on with verse three, “3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (v. 3). God’s promise through Isaiah to Israel and even to us today is that as the Lord provided water in the wilderness for Israel so He provides living water in heaven for Israel. As the Lord provides us with water even today, so He will provide for us living water in heaven.
Continuing on with verse four, our response is, “4And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted’” (v. 4). God does it all. God gives His Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins. God gives us life at conception. God gives us new life, even eternal life and faith through the waters of Holy Baptism. God gives us forgiveness of sins in Holy Absolution. God strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Word and His Holy Meal. And He stirs in us a response of faith. So we give thanks and proclaim His name alone as the name through which salvation comes.
And verse five, “5Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth” (v. 5). Our continuing response of faith is that we sing praises so the whole world knows all that our Lord has done, does and will do for us.
Finally, verse six reads, “6Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (v. 6). We shout and proclaim that God is the greatest and He is in our midst and will be forever.
Again, these words of God through the prophet Isaiah were spoken and written some seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth. How do we relate, or what do these words say and mean to us today? In order to answer that question we need to make sure we understand that God does not live in time as you and I do. God created time for us. God lives in the eternal present, which means for Him there is no yesterday and no tomorrow, only the forever today, the eternal now. Thus, we have to think in terms of God’s perspective of the eternal present.
Thinking in terms of the eternal present we understand that even before God began creating the world He chose us. Before God began creating the world, He already knew how things would turn out. Maybe you have heard the understanding that God has given us the Old Testament in light of the New Testament. Yes, we do have the Old Testament and normally we read the Old Testament before the New Testament, but because God is not bound by time like you and I, He has given us the Old Testament knowing what would happen in the New Testament. Now, I used this illustration before and since I have not come up with or heard a better illustration I will use it here. It is kind of like when Steven Spielberg completed the Star Wars series at least the series of the first six movies. When the sixth movie which was actually the third movie in the series came out we already knew what had happened in the last three movies, number four, five and six. We already knew what had happened in the first two movies. The last movie he made tied together movies two and four, so as we watched we watched with eager anticipation for the completion of the story. We watched as he filled in the blanks from the second movie knowing what would happen in the fourth movie. For us Christians, we understand that God knew what was going to happen in the New Testament. God knew He would be sending Jesus. So, in order to get to the sending of Jesus, He worked out the events of the Old Testament, always pointing to the New Testament. Thus, again, even before God began creation, He knew us. He had us in mind and our salvation.
In the Garden of Eden, immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to send a Savior. This promise was given before there was a Jew and a Gentile, when there was only Adam and Eve, and thus, this promise was to all people. As time went on, God chose Abraham, and God chose Israel to be the nation through which the Savior would be born. This Savior was not simply a Savior of one nation or group of people, but was the Savior of all. God did not make two covenants, only one for all people.
As we read through the Old Testament we read of the prophecies and promises to be fulfilled in the New Testament. We see how the events foreshadow the events of the New Testament. As God delivered Israel from bondage of slavery in Egypt, so He delivers us from bondage of sin in this world. And as God brought Israel into the promised land, so ultimately God brings us into the promised land of heaven.
Because God created time for us and because we live in time, we look back, we look to the future and we live in the present. At the end of the great chapter of Love, First Corinthians chapter thirteen, we are told, “13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13) With that in mind, we understand that faith pertains to the past, as we have faith in the events that have taken place. Hope looks to the future, as we hope for certain things to happen and indeed our Christian hope is a certain in our eternal salvation, and love lives in the present. So, looking back in faith we see what God has promised. In the Garden God promised to send a Savior. Throughout the Old Testament God reiterated His promise to send a Savior.
Also, as we look back and we see what God has done, we see how Jesus fulfilled all of God’s laws, perfectly, for us in our place because we cannot. We see how Jesus fulfilled all God’s promises concerning the coming Messiah, the Savior, showing Himself to be that promised One.
We look back in faith and we look forward with hope. We look forward to the day that we will see Jesus in heaven. And again as Christians we understand that when we speak of hope, we are not speaking of an iffy, maybe, hope, but when we, as Christians speak of hope we are speaking of a certainty, something we know will happen. We know, by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus and His death and resurrection, for us, in our place, we have the certainty of seeing Him again.
Thus, not only do we look forward to eternity in heaven, we understand that heaven is our now, at this time. When we are given faith, either through the waters of Holy Baptism and God putting His name on us, or through the means of His Holy Word, at that very moment heaven is ours. Certainly we will not move in until our own passing or until the Lord returns, but heaven is ours now.
We look back in faith. We look forward in hope and we look to today and live each day in love. But let us not misunderstand this love. As one reads through the love chapter, the love Paul is speaking about is the agape love that only God can have for us. Certainly we cannot love as God loves us, but, with His help we can strive to emulate His love as we love one another. In love, as God first loves us and as He motivates us and works in and through us, today we give thanks to the Lord for all His benefits to us. We give thanks to the Lord for living in the eternal present, for seeing our need for a Savior, for providing us with Jesus, who freely gave His life for ours.
In love, as God first loves us and as He motivates us and works in and through us, today we give praise to the Lord. We praise the Lord for faith, forgiveness and life, even eternal life in heaven. We praise the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.
In love, as God first loves us and as He motivates us and works in and through us, today we make His name known among the nations. As we live out our lives, as we live in our vocation, we live our lives in such a way that others see the faith that we have and as we have opportunity, as others ask, so we give an answer, we give a defense of our faith in Jesus.
God’s word to Israel through Isaiah, are not simply His word to Israel. They are not words that are stuck in a particular time or place, rather His Words to Isaiah are His Word to us even today. Listen again to God’s Word through Isaiah to the children of Israel and know that by faith in Jesus, you are a child of Abraham and a part of God’s chosen people, you are a part of the new Israel. Listen to God’s Word and give thanks as He speaks to you. “1You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. 2“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” 3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. 5“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. 6Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Our text for today is from Isaiah chapter nine, 1But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone (Isaiah 9:1-2). This is our text.
Just a reminder as we get started that this year during the Lenten Season and through to Easter Sunrise and Easter morning we are looking at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament which have their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person and work of Jesus. Last week we looked at the place of Jesus’ birth as well as God’s perfect timing, including all the social and political aspects of God’s perfect timing. Today we move ahead to look at the prophecies and fulfillment concerning Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Isaiah prophecies, “1But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:1-2). In this prophecy we are given the where, the when, the who and the what.
The where of Jesus work would be in “the Land of Zebulun and Naphtali.” The “land of Zebulun and Naphtali” were the area around the sea of Galilee the area where Jesus lived and traveled, where He did His signs, wonders and miracles. Indeed, the Land of Zebulun and Naphtili would and did see the Savior.
Continuing on, “the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” would be the further regions where Jesus would live and travel, where He would do His signs, wonders and miracles. This also would be the region where the people would and did see the Savior.
The when of Jesus would be at just the right time. The when of Jesus would be when the people were walking in the darkness of sin and unbelief, which most certainly could describe all earthly eras and times, but for Isaiah this was especially the time of the Romans. While the children of Israel had moved back into the promised land and while the temple had been rebuilt they were still under Roman rule. Some of those sitting in darkness were still seeking the Savior promised in Eden, a spiritual sin forgiving Savior.
However, there were many other people who were walking in the darkness of sin and unbelief seeking a social/political Savior. There were many who were looking for a Savior to overthrow the Roman government, many like the Pharisees who thought they should be the rulers in Israel, which is why they did not see Jesus as the Savior they were seeking. The when of Jesus was the time of greatest need for the people, the greatest spiritual need.
The who of Jesus is Jesus. Jesus is the Light of the world. Jesus is a light that shines in the darkness exposing sin for what it is, sin. Even though we see news bits of brazen crime committed in broad daylight today, most criminal activity occurs in the night, under the cover of darkness so as not to be seen. Jesus is the Light of the world shining through the darkness and exposing sin and unbelief.
Jesus is the Light of the world, a light bringing healing. Jesus is true God in human flesh and although He did not always nor fully use His Divine attributes He did use His divine power to some degree. He showed His Divinity in His healing sick people, in His casting out demons, in His feeding thousands, in His controlling the wind and storms. Indeed, it was the signs, wonders and miracles He performed that showed that He was truly Divine, truly God in flesh as only God could do the things He did.
Jesus is the Light of the world, a light bringing good news. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus calling people to repent. Jesus came bringing the good news of salvation. Jesus came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill the Law. Jesus was completely obedient to the Law fulfilling all the ceremonial laws that pointed to Him so that they became obsolete. He came tearing the curtain in the temple that separated man from God so that we might go to Him directly.
Jesus is the Light of the world, a light bringing forgiveness. Our greatest need is forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness we would be left in our sin and would be eternally condemned. Jesus brought forgiveness by paying the price for our sins, death, His life in death for us in our place.
The what of Jesus is that He was true God in human flesh. He showed His Divinity, that He was true God by doing signs, wonders and miracles. No other human being, no plain human being could do what Jesus did because as humans we cannot do signs, wonders and miracles. Jesus showed that He could forgive sins because He used the logic of the Pharisees against them. Remember, when Jesus told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven the Pharisees were upset calling Jesus a blasphemer because only God can forgive sins. To show them that He was God, He healed the man, which only God can do. Of course their response was not belief but revenge.
Jesus was true God, perfect and holy. Jesus had to be true God in order to be perfect and holy. Remember God’s demand is our perfection and we cannot be perfect. In order for Jesus to come as our substitute He had to be born in perfection, thus He had to be God.
Jesus was true man, born of a woman. He showed His humanness in His living, in His being tired and sleepy, in the fact that He ate and drank because He was hungry and thirsty. He was sad and even cried when His friend Lazarus had died. Jesus was true man and He had to be truly human in order to be our substitute. He would not be able to trade His life, suffering and death for us if He were not truly human. Remember, the price for sin that was set in the Garden of Eden was death, human death for human sin. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament simply reminded the people that the price for sin was death and pointed to the one ultimate death of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Jesus Himself.
Thus, Isaiah points us to Jesus. Jesus, God in flesh, lived perfectly, obeyed all of God’s laws and commands perfectly, took our sins, all our sins, our sins of omission and commission, our sins of thought, word and deed, and He paid the price for those sins. He suffered for all sin paying the price for all sin, for the sins of all people of all places of all times and He died. Jesus lived the perfect life. He suffered the perfect death. He died the perfect death, but as we know death and the grave had no hold over Him because on the third day He rose from the dead, defeating sin, death and the devil. His was a perfect resurrection.
We might say that Jesus practiced what He preached for us giving us faith, forgiveness and life. Jesus took up John’s call to repent and believe in the Savior. Jesus lived a life demonstrating that He was and is the Savior. Jesus preached of forgiveness of sin, and of forgiveness through death, His own death.
As we continue on through this Lenten Season we continue to point to Jesus. We are reminded of all the prophecies of the Old Testament that pointed to Jesus and as we read and hear of the history of Jesus we know that He is the One who fulfilled all those prophecies. How can we come to any conclusion except that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, the Christ. Thus, we are reminded of our part in this history, that is that although it was through Adam and Eve that sin first entered into the world, we too are accountable for our own sin and our own part in Jesus life and death. It was because of me and my sin that Jesus came to earth. And, yes, even if I were the only person in the world, God loves me so much that He would have sent Jesus to give His life for me. And we rejoice that as we look back we do know the whole story, that we worship a living God. Jesus died, but He also rose, He has ascended and now He is seated at the right hand of the Father where He is watching over us, ruling over us, and interceding for us, and yet, He is also always everywhere present so we know He is always right here with us. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, March 24, 2019
The season of Lent is a time for self reflection, a time for us to look at our lives and our part in putting Jesus on the cross. Two weeks ago we were reminded of the fact that we are in this world because God created us and everything we have in this world is truly God’s, on loan to us to use in service to others and in such service we are serving God. Last week we were reminded of how the way of the world is that we constantly question God and His Word so that we would rather live as we want, that is we desire to live according to our inborn sinful nature. This week our texts reminds us that God’s desire is that all people are saved and so He gives us instructions on how we are to care for the spiritual well being of each other, calling each other to repent.
Our text reminds us that God’s desire is that all people are saved, beginning at verse ten, “10And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ 11Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (v. 10-11). Because we are conceived and born in sin, because every intention of our hearts is evil all the time, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, because no one is righteous, no not one, in order for people to be saved God tells us that they must turn from their evil ways.
God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God’s desire is that all people are saved. Contrary to what some teach, God does not predestine anyone to hell. As a matter of fact, no where in the Bible can you find God’s desire to condemn anyone, Rather God’s desire is that all people are saved and in order for people to be saved they must repent.
Moving back to the first verses of our text we hear what we might label as the work of the pastor. Verse seven: “7So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul” (v. 7-9). God, speaking to Ezekiel, and we might say by extension to pastors tells us that the pastor must preach the law and the Gospel.
As a review, let me remind you that the law shows our sins. The very purpose of the Law is to show us our sins. The Law is not meant for us to find some grey area, nor to find some loop hole. The purpose of the Law is to show us our sin, our unworthiness before God.
The purpose of the Gospel is to show our Savior. It is the Gospel that stirs in us our repentance, not the Law. The Law, by itself will lead either to despair, that is that there is no hope, or to works righteousness, thinking we can do something to save ourselves, to earn our salvation. It is the Gospel, the good news that our sins have already been forgiven that moves us to confess our sins, to repent and be given forgiveness of our sins.
So, God, speaking to Ezekiel and again by extension to pastors, tells us that if the pastor preaches the Law and the Gospel and the parishioners do not repent, the blood is on their own head. Indeed, neither Ezekiel, nor any pastor can make people repent and believe. All we can do is preach the Law and the Gospel.
On the other hand if the pastor fails to preach law and Gospel and the parishioners do not repent, their blood is on his hand. Here pastors are encouraged to preach, not a theology of glory, that is that God wants you to be rich, powerful and famous, but rather a theology of the cross, that is a theology of sin and death, of blood being shed, of suffering and dying, of God giving the life of His only begotten son for us on the cross.
Continuing on in our text we are encouraged then to trust in the Lord. “12And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins. 13Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. 14Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.” (v. 12-16). Simply stated, God tells Ezekiel that if the righteous trust in themselves they shall surely die. We cannot save ourselves no matter how good we might think we are. On the other hand, he also says that if the wicked turn from their sins and trusts in the Lord they shall surely live. If the Law works contrition and the Gospel works repentance and faith then there is salvation.
After all this, there is an accusation brought against the Lord. “17“Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. 18When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by them. 20Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”” (v. 17-20). The people say that the way of the Lord is unjust.
God’s response is that the way of the Lord is just, both to the righteous who turn from their righteous ways and are then condemned and to the unrighteous who turn from their evil ways and are saved. Notice salvation is for all who put their trust in Jesus alone. The bottom line if you will is that each will be judged according to his own heart; whether one has faith or has no faith.
What does this mean? First and foremost God speaking to us through His Word to Ezekiel reminds us that His desire is that all people are saved. From the very beginning, from creation, death was never a part of God’s plan. Death entered because of sin. Indeed, God’s initial demand of perfection continues today and so, because we are conceived and born in sin, God’s solution was to send His only begotten Son, to live perfectly for us in our place. Jesus lived perfectly, took our sins, suffered and died paying the price for our sins and rose defeating sin, death and the devil. The forgiveness He earned is ours and is for all people of all places of all times. Truly, all we can do is refuse and reject His forgiveness which is what we do when we fail and refuse to confess our sins.
Thus, God calls our pastors to preach both the law and the Gospel. Our pastor is to preach to us so that when we listen we are to hear him speaking personally to us, or rather, better said, we are to hear God speaking personally to us through the word and mouth of our pastor.
We must hear the law, that is that we are sinners. If we fail to hear the law, if we fail to hear that we are sinners we may believe we are good people and then we would have no need for a Savior, this is what we call a theology of glory. And yet, we must never hear the law without hearing the Gospel. We must hear the pastor preach the Gospel, that is the good news of Jesus. We must hear of Jesus’ perfect life lived for us in our place. We must hear of His suffering, death and resurrection for us. We must hear of His forgiveness of sins. As we hear the Word of the Lord, as we hear law and Gospel, the Holy Spirit works through that Word to give us the gifts God has to give, forgiveness of sins, faith, life and salvation. Indeed, it is not the pastor who gives faith, but it is God who gives faith and He does so through the means of the read, spoken and preach Word, His Word.
As we are given faith, as we repent and are given forgiveness of sins. As we are given forgiveness of sins, God’s desire is that we are ready to call others to repentance. And as we call others to repentance, we do so, not in a way in which we stand in judgement but rather in a way of care and concern, recognizing our own sin and the forgiveness we have been given and wanting to share that forgiveness with others. We become the means through which God brings the means of grace to others, as always, pointing them to Jesus.
And as they hear the Law, as they are contrite because of their sins, and as they confess we must be ready to comfort others with the Gospel. As we began hearing, God’s desire is that all people are saved, thus His desire is that all people hear His Word, confess their sins, and be given forgiveness, faith, life and salvation, and His desire is that as we have been given His gifts we share those gifts with others and invite them to come and hear and see that the Lord is good especially in His Divine Service.
God called Ezekiel and told him that he would be accountable for sharing His Word. Today God calls pastors to share His Word and will and God will hold pastors accountable to preach both law and Gospel. And so as we hear and believe, God also calls us to our vocations wherein He will also hold us accountable for living lives of faith, for always being ready to give an answer for the hope, that is the certainty of our salvation in Jesus, and for inviting others to come and see and hear of the good news of Jesus.
This morning, God is speaking specifically to the prophet Ezekiel, and today to pastors, but also indirectly to all of us. The fact is that we are to warn others of their sin so they repent and comfort them with the Gospel of forgiveness and salvation, because God’s will is that all are saved. Thus we rejoice in our salvation, God’s gift to us. And we desire as God desires, to share that good news, that salvation with others as we live as priests in the priesthood of all believers. My prayer continues to be that God would stir in us and work in and through us all, even through our times of being not so good witnesses so that we may grow in our own faith life through His Word, so that we might share that good word with others that is that we are always ready to give an answer for the hope and certainty we have so that through our answer God may bring even more to salvation, and that praise and glory may be given to His Holy name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Again this week we have two texts. Our first text is from Micah chapter five; 2But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Micah 5:2). And our second text is from Daniel chapter nine, 25Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time (Daniel 9:25). These are our texts.
Just a reminder as we get started that this year during the Lenten Season and through to Easter Sunrise and Easter morning we are looking at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament which have their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person and work of Jesus. Last week we moved ahead and looked at another reiteration of the promise of a Savior and another narrowing of the line of promise being the line of Judah. Today we look a the place of Jesus’ birth as well as God’s perfect timing of His birth.
When it comes to prophecy and fulfillment we remember that a true prophet is one whose prophecies come true. One who prophecies and their prophecies do not come true is one who is not a true prophet. When it comes to the One who was to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Savior, that One is the Savior who fulfills not one but all the prophecies which leads us to Jesus who is the only One to fulfill all prophecies. So, one prophecy concerning the coming Savior was that of the place of His birth, that He would be from Bethlehem, “2But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
As we talked about last week, Bethlehem was a city in the land allotted to the tribe of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. Bethlehem was also the city from which one was born a ruler over Israel and in particular it was known as the city of David, the second earthly king of Israel.
Further, from Bethlehem would be One whose coming was from of old and again, as we talked about before this one from of old means God. Jesus is God taking on human flesh, being born in the city of kings, the city of David, Bethlehem. Yet, Jesus was not born as an earthly king, but a heavenly king.
The place of birth is important and so is the time of birth and we have a prophecy concerning the time of birth being after the restoration of Jerusalem which was after the exile as we heard in our second reading from Daniel, “25Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time” (Daniel 9:25). This prophecy possibly has to do with the decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C. to allow for the Israelite exiles to return to rebuild Jerusalem.
The seven weeks of this prophecy are not seven literal weeks but a short period of time, perhaps the time of the completion of the Second Temple. The fact that Israel was in exile and had been disbursed to various parts of the world as punishment for their apostasy is proof of their loss of the conditional earthly promises of the covenant and a reminder that the main part of the covenant was the spiritual part pointing to a spiritual heavenly Savior and King, Jesus.
That the building was “built with the squares and moat” perhaps is a reference to the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall by Nehemiah. You might recall if you have read Ezra and Nehemiah that both these minor prophets worked to restore Jerusalem and the temple so that any freed exiles might return.
With prophecy comes fulfillment. As we have heard many times, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David, this is undeniable historic fact. Which is important as well. Perhaps we have not said enough about the fact that the Christian faith and the Christian Church are grounded in actual factual history. Other religions, cults and sects are founded in mythology and fantasy, but our faith is grounded in actual history. Disprove the history and disprove the Christian faith. Having said that we know that neither archeology nor any history has ever invalidated anything of the Christian faith.
Moving on, as the prophecy foretold, so Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem which was a town in the territory allotted to the tribe of Judah. Again, another prophecy of many fulfilled by this one man, Jesus.
Jesus was born at just the right time. And about this timing, indeed God’s timing is perfect. Someone once said that God gave us the Old Testament in view of the New Testament, meaning that God knew what He was going to do in the New Testament and aligned the events of the Old Testament, especially their timing in line with His fulfillment. So, as part of the perfect timing of God, Israel had come back from exile so that they were in Jerusalem.
Not only where the children of Israel back in Jerusalem the temple had also been rebuilt. Thus, Jesus is seen in and around the temple. Jesus speaks of the temple yet in a way of referring to His body, His death and resurrection.
Yet, even though they were back in Jerusalem, the children of Israel were not in charge, but were being ruled by the Romans. As many times in their history they were under siege and ruled by others so, even at the time of Jesus the Romans ruled the day.
As we have said over the past two weeks and before, many in Israel were continually looking for a social/political savior, one who would come and start a revolt and over throw the Roman government. Jesus was not the social/political Savior some sought. Jesus came to fulfill the spiritual part of the covenant. Jesus came to fulfill God’s demand of perfection. He came to pay the price for man’s sin so that we might have forgiveness and an eternal inheritance and home in the kingdom of heaven.
So, our Lenten preparation continues. Just as God did not immediately fulfill the promise made in the Garden of Eden, you might remember there was almost a thousand years from the time of the garden to the great flood. And then there was the episode of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages so that people disbursed to places around the world. So, God took time to prepare to fulfill His promise.
At the time of Jesus the world, social, political, etc., was at just the right place. The children of Israel were back in Jerusalem from exile. The temple had been rebuilt. There were those of Israel that were continually hoping for a spiritual Savior even among those that were hoping for a social/political savior.
Jesus came as the suffering servant, as Isaiah calls Him, to atone for the sins of the world. Jesus came to do what God promised in the Garden of Eden, to crush Satan, to pay the price for sin, the cost of death, physical and eternal spiritual death. Jesus came not to be served but to give His life in exchange for our lives. God’s demand on Adam and Eve, on His people Israel and on all people was perfection and since they could not be perfect and we cannot be perfect, Jesus was born in perfection, being truly God, to live perfectly for us in our place. Jesus took our sins and all sin and paid the complete once and for all price for our sins.
As we continue to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection for our forgiveness and life we do so remembering God’s great love for us. It was because of us and our sin and for us and because of God’s great love for us and for all His creation that He gave His life. Greater love can no one have than to lay down their life for another and that is what Jesus did for us. And now He pours out His love and forgiveness on us through the means He has given, His means of grace; His Holy Word, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution and His Holy Supper. As He pours out on us and lavishes us with His good gifts and blessings our desire is to be when and where His gifts are given out. We just gotta have more.
As we continue looking at prophecies and fulfillment we continue to see how the odds of one person fulfilling more than one, even two or three is great, and yet Jesus fulfilled all, thus proving He is the Savior. Thanks be to God for Jesus, for His life, death and resurrection because of His great love for us so that we have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, March 17, 2019
The first temptation in the Garden of Eden was so good that the devil continues to use it still today. Perhaps you have heard the temptation or may have even used it yourself. When Satan approached Eve he asked, “Did God really say . . .?” Today we may not hear those exact words, but we do hear that temptation. Usually what we hear is, “Did God really mean . . .?” When we question God and His Word, then we open ourselves to all sorts of temptations and sins and we can see that this has been happening in the Christian Church and in numerous denominations here in America for so many years that it simply does not seem to bother anyone that the church looks and acts like the culture so much so that all kinds of temptation and sins are tolerated. Unfortunately, even in our own church and denomination, too often people want to take God’s word as His opinion.
Getting to our text for this morning, we begin with the accusation against Jeremiah, verse eight, “8And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! 9Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord” (v. 8-9). Now remember, Jeremiah was not speaking his own words. He was speaking only the Words the Lord had given him to speak. And the Word the Lord had given him to speak was a word of destruction against Israel. And the people did not want to hear such words, even from God’s prophet.
So, the people accused Jeremiah of speaking blasphemy. They accused him of blasphemy because they knew that the verdict and penalty of blasphemy was to be stoned to death, so they make an accusation and stone him to death, at least that was their plan.
Fortunately for Jeremiah, the Jewish council heard what was happening to him and so they came to his rescue, in a way. We pick up at verse ten, “10When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. 11Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, ‘This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears’” (v. 10-11). The ruling officials heard the news of the accusation against Jeremiah and, doing their civic duty they came to investigate these accusations.
The council called a hearing on the matter. The one side, the accusers, said that Jeremiah was deserving of death because he prophesied against the city and the people and so they believed he deserved to die. We might boil down their only accusation against Jeremiah as this, they did not like what he was saying about them. Notice, there was no concern about the merit of his words or the validity, simply, they did not like what he said.
In his defense, Jeremiah spoke, picking up at verse twelve, “12Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, ‘The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears’” (v. 12-15). Jeremiah’s defense was the fact that he was simply speaking the Word the Lord had given him to speak. These were not even his own words. He did not make up the words he was speaking. He was only the messenger.
The word of the Lord to the people through Jeremiah were words of warning and encouragement. They were warned of the determent of their sins, and they were encouraged to repent so the destruction of the city might not happen.
Jeremiah was not really concerned about his own life. He knew that his life was in God’s hands. He knew that truly, his life was not in the hands of the people and so he puts himself in the Lord’s hands and then in the hands of the people. He tells them they can do to him whatever they want. Jeremiah knows that if the Lord should allow the people to take his life that his salvation, that his eternal destiny is set, so he is not concerned about what will happen to himself.
Jeremiah put himself into the hands of the people, but he gave them the warning that they dare not bring innocent blood upon themselves, which is what they would be doing if they hurt or harmed him in any way, because he was simply the messenger.
So, what does this mean? Today, God’s usual way of coming to us and speaking to us is not directly. After Jesus’ ascension, the Apostles did signs and wonders, miracles and healings in order to attest to the validity of the word they were preaching. As the Apostles died off, so did the signs and wonders because they were no longer needed. Today, God’s usual way of speaking to us is through means and in particular through the means of His Word. Remember, we carry on a conversation with God when we speak to Him in prayer and when we allow Him to speak to us through our reading and hearing His Word. And the usual way we have of hearing the Lord’s Word today is through His Pastor/Teachers. In other words, When your pastor preaches God’s Word it should be heard as God’s Word. Now, certainly if I preach my opinion, which I have spoken my opinion on occasion, but with the preface that I was speaking my opinion, that is okay, but that should never be misunderstood and confused with God’s Word. So, when I preach God’s Word it is to be taken, heard, and believed as God’s Word and so not discarded and challenged.
Which means that we need to be as the Bereans and check what is spoken against the Word of the Lord. If the word that is spoken is clearly not God’s Word then we need to bring attention to the false word that is spoken. We need to let our pastor know that he has mis-spoken, according to God’s word. However, if it is God’s Word, if the pastor is speaking God’s Word, we need to listen. And not only listen, but we need to believe and live our lives accordingly.
In the beginning God spoke to His people, directly. Later God spoke to His people through prophets and priests. Later God had His prophets and priests write down His word. Ultimately God has spoken through His Son. I do so love John’s Gospel as it speaks of Jesus as being the Word, made flesh, tenting among us. Jesus is God’s Word made flesh, that is He is the fulfillment of all God’s law and promises. What all the people of all places of all times could not do, Jesus did, perfectly. Jesus lived perfectly. Jesus fulfilled all God’s laws perfectly. Jesus fulfilled all God’s promises perfectly and then He took all our sins, all the sins of all the people who have ever lived, who are alive and who ever will live, upon Himself and He suffered the eternal consequence even the eternal judgement, eternal spiritual death and hell for them, for us in our place. Jesus paid the price, the complete price for our sins and then died, but as we know, death and the grave had no power over Him as He rose again on the third day and showed Himself to be alive.
God continues to work with us today. God continues to give to us today and He continues to do so through means, namely through the means of grace, His Word and His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and through the means of confession and absolution. God gives faith forgiveness and life, even eternal life. First and foremost God gives through the means of His Word. When we read or hear God’s Word, we know that what it says is what it means. When God’s Word speaks of our sins then we know we are sinners. When God’s Word speaks of our forgiveness then we know we have forgiveness. For us to question God and His Word is to put us in jeopardy of falling for temptation and sin and to lose the very gifts our Lord has to give.
God gives through His Word and God gives through His means of grace. When we hear God’s word of law we are reminded of our sins. When we hear God’s word of Gospel we are moved to confess our sins and when we confess our sins then we hear His Word of absolution and we know our sins are forgiven because they are God’s Word of forgiveness. And God works through the simple, ordinary elements of water and bread and wine connected with His Word to do great things and to give great gifts. Remember, this is God’s usual way of coming to us and giving to us, that does not mean that God cannot use His unusual means and come to us and give to us directly. God can do whatever He wants, but His usual way is through means.
The question we might ask ourselves this morning is this: “What is our attitude toward God’s Word and His means of grace?” Do we tend to be like the children of Israel and dismiss what we do not want to hear, or do we recognize God’s Word and seek, with His help, to live according to His Word and will?
My job and my goal, as God’s called minister in this place, is to be able to preach a sermon in such a way so that when I am finished I can boldly and confidently say, “Thus says the Lord.” If I cannot do that, then you have every responsibility to question what is said. Otherwise, you are to be as the Bereans and as I preach God’s Word and as I am able to say, “Thus says the Lord,” then it is your responsibility to listen, to believe and to live according to what is spoken and you are the one who will be ultimately held responsible before the Lord.
My prayer, then, is that the Lord will guide us both so that for my part, I may, with all boldness and confidence proclaim God’s Word and deliver His gifts through that word so that when I am done speaking I may say, “Thus says the Lord.” And for your part my prayer is that you may hear God’s Word and be given His gifts through His Word, and sacraments, so that you may say with all boldness and confidence, “Yes, thus says the Lord” and then you may believe and live according to His Word so that we may one day together stand before the Lord’s throne and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Tribe of Judah, Descendant of David - March 13, 2019 - Lent Midweek 2 - Texts: Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 9:7
Again today we have two texts. Our first text is from Genesis chapter forty-nine: “10The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10). Our second text is from Isaiah chapter nine: “7Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:7). These are our texts.
Just a reminder as we get started that this year during the Lenten Season and through to Easter Sunrise and Easter morning we are looking at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament which have their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person and work of Jesus. Last week we began with the very first promise of a Savior, a Messiah, a Christ, that promise given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and reiterated to Abraham as the family line through which the Savior would be born. Today we move ahead and look at another reiteration of the promise of a Savior and another narrowing of the line of promise being the line of Judah.
As we were reminded at Christmas as we celebrated Jesus birth; He was born in Bethlehem, the hometown of David and He was born from the line of Judah. As our text states, God’s promise was that the throne, not yet given, would be from the line of Judah. As we heard earlier in our first text, “10The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10). From the line of Judah was born David who became King of Israel. While David ruled over an earthly kingdom the promise of the Savior was looking, not to some future earthly ruler and king, but to one who would rule in heaven for eternity.
When the promised land was divided and settled, the town of Bethlehem was a part of the inheritance of the fourth born of Jacob, renamed Israel, that Judah received. At the time of Jesus’ birth the ruler of the land, Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken and that everyone should return to their hometown to register. This order is what brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem so that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and born from the line of Judah, the royal line of Judah.
In order to be the Savior the one born must fulfill all the prophecies including the prophecy of birth place and line of descent, thus it was important that Jesus was born from the line of King David and that He was born in the city of David, Bethlehem.
So, we know that Jesus is true God, having been conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus gave up the glory that was His in heaven. Jesus was born as a true human, being born of the human woman, the Virgin Mary. Jesus also gave up use of His Divine powers so that He did not always nor fully use His Divine powers. And although He was born from the kingly line of Judah, by the time of His birth it must not have meant very much that Jesus was born of royal blood.
And although Jesus was born of royal blood and probably had a claim to the throne, He did not rule on earth nor did He seek an earthly kingdom. You might remember that the Romans were in power at the time and the Israelite's were reestablishing themselves since the last exile. Also, we know that Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom.
While some in Israel were seeking an earthly king and Savior, one who would over throw the Romans and set up Israel as a self governing people, Isaiah points out the eternal nature of this rule as we heard in our second text, “7Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:7). Jesus ultimate rule was and is His heavenly kingdom.
From man’s view, as we just said, many in Israel were looking for an earthly Savior and an earthly kingdom. Many in Israel saw the many times Israel was disciplined by God, they repented and God sent an earthly Savior to overthrow whoever God had used to discipline them for their apostasy and disobedience.
For many in Israel they continually looked for the glory days of King David and King Solomon. We might imagine that the glory days of Israel were the days of peace, following all the wars of David which solidified their country in the promised land and the days of peace under Solomon before the kingdom was divided. And so many continued seeking a social/political savior.
When Jesus was born, as He became more and more popular, as He truly showed Himself to be God in flesh, still many in Israel rejected Him because He did not, nor was He seeking to be an earthly king. Jesus proclaimed a spiritual salvation, not a social/political salvation.
Thus, many in Israel rejected Jesus because they were not looking for a spiritual Savior. The spiritual nature of many in Israel was an order of following rules and regulations, especially those rules and regulations as prescribed by the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Too many were simply focused on this world and their rule, power and authority in this world.
There are many even today who reject Jesus as spiritual Savior and continue to seek Him as an earthly King. There are those who deny the spiritual and eternal nature of the covenant God made in Eden, reiterated to Abraham, and reiterated and narrowed through Judah.
What was given in Eden and reiterated was God’s promise, thus to better understand what God promised and is giving one needs to look at His word and promise from His view. Remember, back in Eden, Adam and Eve sinned and their sin brought the beginning of physical death and if not for the promise of a Savior it would have brought eternal spiritual death. The price for sin was set by God so that the day Adam and Eve disobeyed, the price was death. So God stepped in and His initial promise was for a spiritual Savior.
When God called Abraham He narrowed down the family line through which He would fulfill His promise and He added earthly promises with conditions and earthly promises that pointed to the ultimate spiritual fulfillment. In other words, some promises, such as the land and wealth were conditioned on the faithfulness of the people. But, as we know their history, they were not faithful and so they lost those earthly promises. The earthly promises and their loss, however did not affect God’s heavenly, spiritual promises, because God always keeps His Word. And His spiritual promises had no conditions attached as they were promises of grace and mercy.
Jesus was God, perfect and holy and He had to be God to be perfect and holy. Jesus was born as a human and He had to be a human in order to be able to substitute and trade His life for ours. Jesus lived a perfect life, the perfect life demanded of Adam and Eve and of all Israel, the perfect life that if they had lived would have meant earthly promises being fulfilled. Jesus lived perfectly for us in our place in order to fulfill God’s demand on us. And so we see that Jesus’ birth and life were never intended simply for earthly reasons.
Jesus’ perfect birth, perfect life, perfect suffering, perfect death and perfect resurrection brought forgiveness of sins to us and with forgiveness is life and salvation. What we could not and cannot do, what the whole nation of Israel could not and cannot do, Jesus did, for us, in our place, as our substitute.
Jesus fulfilled God’s promises, all of God’s promises, all the prophecies concerning the Savior and has brought us salvation through forgiveness and continues to pour out on us all His good gifts and blessings, faith, life and salvation. Although there are many in our world today who continue to think of Jesus in terms of being some type of social/political savior or being a physical bread king savior, we know that Jesus is our true spiritual Savior. Jesus lived, suffered, died and rose paying the price for sin, earning salvation for us which He freely gives to us and today He gives us the gifts and blessings He has to give through the means He has given to give to us, His means of grace; Holy Baptism, His Holy Word, Confession and Absolution and His Holy Supper.
As we continue on in this Lenten season we are reminded that Jesus is who He says He is, the One God promised to save us, to earn, pay for and give us forgiveness. Yes, we are reminded of our part in these events, that it was for us and because of our sin that Jesus did what He did, that God promised and fulfilled His Word. And we are reminded of God’s great love for us, so much that He gave His life for us so that we have forgiveness, life and salvation. And so we rejoice and say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, March 10, 2019
Are you a good Christian? Perhaps that is a strange question for your pastor to ask, but it may be a question you have heard or even asked about someone else. When Jesus was approached by the man who said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark, 10:17). He answered that no one is good except God. Are we ready to admit that we are not as good of a Christian as we might be or as we might think ourselves to be? Or, are we so ingrained by the thoughts and ways of the world that we would be insulted at the very question?
Our text for this morning, addressed to the Children of Israel, speaks of “the ritual offering of firstfuits [which] reminded the individual worshiper that the Promised Land is God’s gracious gift and is to be received with joyful thanksgiving.” God’s Word reminds the Children of Israel that in Egypt they were slaves and they had no land they could call their own. God’s Word reminds Israel and us that nothing that we think we own is truly ours, but the true and rightful owner of all is the one who created all, the Lord God Himself. This morning I want to talk about the ways of the world, the way of the Lord, the greatest gifts and our response of faith.
The way of the world is an egocentric way or an anthropocentric way. I am sure we understand the term “ego” in that we know of some people who have a bigger ego or thought of themselves than others. So, “egocentric” means one who is centered on their own thoughts of themself. The term “anthropocentric” may be a new term. The word “anthro” means man or human and again the word “centric” means to center on, so “anthropocentric” means to center one’s thoughts on humanity and especially on humanity as the end all of this world. So, the way of the world is that there is no one to look out for you except yourself. There is no one to take care of you except yourself. So, as we are taught growing up, you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
We are also taught that there is nothing free in life, that you have to earn your own way. As a matter of fact, we are taught that if something is presented as being free we need to watch out because there are certainly strings attached, in other words, you will eventually pay for something that is presented as being free. Another “cliche” tells us that if something sounds to good to be true, it probably is.
And so we are raised to understand that we each need to work to make a living for ourselves. With that as our understanding, then when we do work, we believe that we have earned whatever it is that we worked for and we deserve it. This is what we are taught, either overtly or subtly, that we are the one’s who take care and look out for ourselves as no one else will. But how does this understanding compare to the way of the Lord?
The way of the Lord is this, first and foremost, God gives. God is the one who created this world in which we live. God is the prime mover. God created all things out of nothing. Certainly it does not take a rocket scientist to see that the complexity of this world did not bring itself into being and into order apart from a designer and creator. “Does not nature itself teach you that there is a God?” So, first and foremost, God gives. God gives to each of us life, our own life and He gives us our life at our conception. We did not choose to be conceived, nor did we choose to be born. God gave us our life and it was a life that began at conception. At conception we had all the necessary DNA, all the necessary genetic information and coding that was need. The only thing added after conception was food, nutrition and we grew into the human being we are today.
God gives life and God gives gifts, talents and abilities. Some people have special athletic abilities, others music abilities, others good people skills, others the ability to understand electricity, electronics, carpentry, food, textiles, and the like. Some people understand math, science, biology, even languages better than others. God gives us each gifts, talents and abilities in order to use.
God also gives us each a vocation and vocations in which to serve others and in serving others we are serving the Lord. Very often we work in more than one vocation. Perhaps we are at the same time a son, a father, a brother, an uncle as well as a welder or a mechanic or a surgeon, or any other vocation. Maybe we are a daughter, a mother, an aunt, a race car driver, a banker or any other vocation. God has given us the gifts, talents and abilities we need to serve others.
And as we use the gifts, talents and abilities God has given us in our vocation, we also earn money which is a means of barter so that through this means of barter God gives clothing and shelter, meat and drink, house and home. Have you ever thought about how God gives us a loaf of bread and what and who all are involved in a loaf of bread? The short list might include the farmer, the bread maker, the package maker, the shipper, and the grocer. The longer list might include the one who grinds the grain, the one who provides the salt as well as the one who mines the salt, the one who provides and makes the plastic wrapper, the one who provides the yeast, the one who provides the gasoline for the delivery truck and the list could go on and on. God provides all of these people as well as all the gifts, talents and abilities to do these jobs in order to provide just a loaf of bread.
God has given us the world in which we live. He gives us life. He gives us gifts, talents and abilities. He gives us a vocation, but even more, He gives us the greatest gifts we need. The greatest gift God gives is new life, even eternal life, through Holy Baptism. Yes, God uses plain, simple, ordinary water, connected to His Word, in particular to His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to give faith and forgiveness of sins, the greatest gifts we need. Although we might wonder and even ask, how can God do such great things, especially with such an ordinary means, our answer is that He is God and He can do whatever He wants.
God gives life and new life through Holy Baptism. Daily God gives forgiveness of sins especially through confession and absolution. When we confess our sins, when we admit our sins, God is faithful and just and He gives us forgiveness, earned and paid for by Jesus.
God gives faith and forgiveness. God gives strengthening of faith through His Word and through His Holy Supper, the Lord’s Supper. Here again, through the ordinary means of bread and wine, connected with God’s Word, God does and gives amazing things, because He is God and because He can do amazing things even though ordinary means.
Our greatest need is forgiveness of sins, because without forgiveness we would be left with our sins and we would be eternally condemned, but with forgiveness is life and salvation. And so God gives us forgiveness of sins which He gives through the life, death and resurrection of His Son. Jesus came, not simply to die, but live for us, to live in perfection for us because we cannot. After living in perfection, after fulfilling all God’s laws and promises completely, Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and paid the price, suffered the eternal death penalty for our sins on the cross and He died. But death and the grave had no hold over Him, as on the third day He rose victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil.
God gives and He also works in us and gives us our response of faith which is what our text for this morning is really all about, our response of faith. Our response of faith is to recognize that the Lord gives, God gives first, God gives us all that we need, and God gives without our earning or deserving. As a matter of fact, if we actually look at what we have earned or what we do deserve, we would realize that what we have earned and what we do deserve, because of our sin, is eternal spiritual death and judgement. We have not earned, nor do we deserve all the good gifts and blessing our Lord so graciously gives to us. And we recognize and acknowledge God’s good gifts and blessing by returning a portion of what is truly His, back to Him.
We return to the Lord, from what He has first given to us, only as we recognize that it all comes from the Lord in the first place. Which means that the opposite is also true, that is that as we fail to return a portion to the Lord this failure is because we fail to recognize and acknowledge that it first comes from Him and then we fall back into our being and following the ways of the world, being egocentric and anthropocentric, looking to ourselves as if we have done something on our own..
To put this into a human analogy or illustration, we might be reminded that when someone gives us a gift, perhaps someone has giving us a French Silk Chocolate pie, our response, recognizing that this is a gift given to us from the gift giver, we have learned to invite the gift giver to have a piece of pie with us. Unfortunately, this is not an instinctive characteristic of our human nature, but because we are conceived and born in sin, recognizing a gift and the gift giver, saying “Thank you,” is something we have to learn. How often did we have to be told, as we were growing up, when we were given a gift, “What do you say?”, “Thank you.” Thanks be to God that as the Greatest Gift Giver, He is also the greatest Teacher and as He gives us the gifts He has to give so He stirs and moves in us to recognize Him as the gift giver and to return a portion to Him. In other words, we only respond as we are moved by the Lord to respond. Here as usual then, we know we get it right when we point not to ourselves, but to Jesus.
And so when we are moved by the Lord to respond we return in thanksgiving. Remember, God does not want a grumbling giver, God wants a cheerful giver. But even more, God does not want anything from you, except first and foremost He wants you. God knows that if He has you, He has all of you. And if He has all of you, you will respond, as He moves you to respond.
God gives and we are given to. God does and we are done to. God is the prime mover. It all begins and ends with the Lord. God gives us the world. God gives us life. God gives us new life, even eternal life. God gives us faith and forgiveness of sins. God stirs in us a response of faith. And we, being so moved by God, we return joyously. What else can we do?
As we begin another Lenten season, the season of preparing our hearts and minds for Maundy Thursday and the giving of the Lord’s Supper, for Good Friday commemorating our Lord’s death, for us, because of us, in our place and for our celebrating of His resurrection it is good to remember that it is God who is running the show. It is God who is the prime mover, who gives and does first. It is God who loves us so much that all He does He does out of His great love for us. It is God who gives us life, faith and forgiveness and stirs in us our response of faith.
So, first fruits, tithes and offerings are not charity, as if God needs our charity. First fruits, tithes and offerings are a response of faith, a returning to the Lord in a show of gratitude and faith for what He has first given to us, because there is nothing that we have, nothing physical or spiritual, that did not in one way or another first come from the Lord. And so, our Lord gives us the great privilege to honor Him, to give Him glory, by recognizing Him as the great Gift Giver. And as we recognize Him as the great Gift Giver and return a portion to Him, that is our way of saying, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Our texts for this evening are Genesis 3:15 and 18:18: 15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). 18seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? (Genesis 18:18). These are our texts.
This year during the Lenten Season and through to Easter Sunrise and Easter morning we will be looking at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament which have their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person and work of Jesus. We will follow somewhat in chronological order from the first promise of a Savior to the narrowing of the line of fulfillment, through to His birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection.
Before we get to our task of prophecies and fulfillment let us take a moment to talk about Lent, the Lenten season and what Lent is all about. Lent has nothing to do with that stuff in your dryer, that is l-i-n-t. Lent, l-e-n-t is a time, a season of preparation. Much like Advent is the time, the season we use to prepare to celebrate the advent, the beginning of Jesus’ time on earth, namely His birth, Lent is a time to prepare to celebrate the events at the end of Jesus’ time on earth.
The season of Lent is a time to prepare for Jesus’ suffering. We are reminded, especially during Holy week, the time between Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and Easter Sunday of the trials and tribulations Jesus faced. Lent is a time to prepare for our being given the Lord’s Supper out of Jesus’ Passover celebration with His apostles. And it is a time to prepare for Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross on Good Friday. Ultimately, however it is a time to prepare to celebrate His resurrection.
The season of Lent is also a time to take the time to look at ourselves, our lives, and our part in putting Jesus on the cross. Indeed, while the history of the Old and New Testament might point us to think that it was the Scribes and Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the Romans who put Jesus to death, the truth of the matter and the facts are that it was for us and because of our sin that Jesus died on the cross. We put Jesus through His suffering and death.
Getting to our Lenten theme, the prophecies and fulfillment of the prophecies, the first promise to send a Savior and deliver all people from the sin of Adam and Eve was given in the garden of Eden. God created a perfect world and placed His perfect humans, Adam and Eve in the perfect garden He created for them. Because God had given them everything and in order to give them a way to respond to all He had given God gave them only one command, to not eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God’s command was that if they disobeyed, the penalty would be death, that is they would begin dying a physical bodily death and, unless redeemed they would ultimately die an eternal spiritual death.
Of course we know the history. Eve and Adam did disobey God’s command. They did eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God confronted them with their disobedience and sin. And God’s just judgement was just as He said. Their sin brought on the curse of death, physical and eternal spiritual death. And their sin brought a curse on the whole earth as well.
However, God did not leave Adam and Eve to suffer. Because of His great love for His creation He immediately stepped in and promised of a Savior, a Messiah, a Christ, a redeemer, One who would take the punishment for their sin. And of this promised Savior God also promised He would be the Savior of all people.
God’s promise was that He would send a Savior. From our first reading we hear God’s promise, “15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). The promise of God in Hebrew is that of a Messiah. In Greek it is the promise of a Christ. Thus, this promise was truly the beginning of the Christian Church, those who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior. Remember, this first promise was made to Adam and Eve who contained in their DNA all nations, Jew and Gentile alike.
As history progressed from Genesis, God eventually reiterated His promise and renewed and narrowed the line of fulfillment of His promise. Out of all the people in the world, God chose Abraham to be the person through whom, through his family God would send the Savior. Notice it was God who chose Abraham, not the other way around. God chose Abraham and promised that he would “become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” (Genesis 18:18). Notice, all nations would be blessed, would be saved through the One Descendent of Abraham, namely through the Savior.
God’s promise to Abraham also carried an earthly promise, but the earthly promise had conditions which were never met. The earthly conditions of Abraham’s family being a great nation, have a land and the like would be fulfilled if they were faithful to God’s commands. Of course we know that they were not faithful as the history of the children of Abraham relates how they continually disobeying God and fell into idolatry. Yet, and I believe it is because God knew the nature of the people, the earthly conditions pointed to an ultimate heavenly fulfillment.
God’s promise to Abraham, which was His promise to Adam and Eve and to all people was first and foremost a heavenly promise that was without conditions. God’s promise was a Savior who would take care of the sin of Adam and Eve and all people and that promise was met and fulfilled by Jesus.
God’s earthly promise to Abraham and His offspring pointed to heaven. The great nation, the land, the great promises given to Abraham all pointed to the fulfillment of a heavenly kingdom in which our Savior, Jesus would rule in the kingdom of heaven for eternity.
God’s heavenly promise pointed to Jesus. Jesus was true God born in human flesh making Him true man, truly human. Remember the price for sin was set at death, human death, death to the one who sinned. In order for Jesus to be our substitute, for Him to trade His life for ours, He had to be truly human and He was as He was conceived by the human woman, Mary.
As you hear me say continually, we get it right when we point to Jesus. The Old Testament points us to Jesus, the One who would be born to live for us, take our sins, suffer and die for us. The New Testament points us to Jesus, the one born in Bethlehem, the one in the temple at the age of twelve, the one baptized into the office of Holy Ministry, even though He was without sin.
Our calendar year, B.C. and A.D., even B.C.E. and C.E. point us to Jesus. We count time from the years before Christ up to zero and the from Christ to today, in the year of our Lord. Even counting the years as before the common era and common era do not change the fact that the zero date is in reference to the date on which we celebrate Jesus’ birth.
As we can see, Jesus is the center of all time and history. We get it right when we point to Jesus. We could point to ourselves as we tend to do, we could look inside ourselves which is what we are encouraged to do, especially by books and movies which want us to find our hope in our inner being, but what do we find when we look inside ourselves? We find that we are sinners with no hope. Thus, we are pointed to look outside our selves, to look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. We look to Jesus who does all and gives all.
Lent focuses us on Jesus and His great forgiving, life-giving love for us. As we remember that God is omniscient, all knowing, that He knew all that would happen even before He began creation, He knew He would have to send His Son, God in flesh to suffer and die and yet, He created us anyway. What great love God has for us.
As we begin this Lenten season we take the time to prepare. We take the time to look at our lives, not in despair, but in contemplation of our sin and God’s great love for us. Jesus has already paid the price for our sins. Jesus love and forgiveness moves us to repent so that we might hear the greatest words we can ever hear, that is that our sins have been forgiven. And we know that with forgiveness is life and salvation. As we move through this Lenten Season, as we hear and rehear God’s promises and know that they have been fulfilled in Christ, may we be strengthened in our faith and better able, when asked, to give an answer for the hope, the certainty of eternal life in heaven with Jesus, because of His great love for us. And may we rejoice and say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, March 3, 2019
Moses Died - March 3, 2019 - The Transfiguration of Our Lord/Last Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Deuteronomy 34:1-12
I want to begin this morning with a bit of Church Calendar instruction, for those of you who do not know how our Church Calendar is put together. Although today is the Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, because next Sunday is the First Sunday in Lent, today is the day we celebrate as Transfiguration Sunday. The way our Church Year Calendar works is that we make adjustments in our Sundays during Epiphany and the number of Sundays in the Pentecost seasons. So, depending on the date of Easter which is set as the first Sunday after the first ful moon that falls on or after March 21, the vernal equinox, that day which marks the beginning of Spring, the Epiphany season is set according to how many Sundays are needed. And so, the Last Sunday after the Epiphany is the Sunday of Transfiguration and the following Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and next Sunday then is the First Sunday in Lent. All in all, this trek through the Church year continually reminds me that our time on this earth is short, is fast and fleeting and so we need to make sure our eternal life is in order, because we will not get a second chance.
So, today is Transfiguration Sunday and the day we commemorate Jesus’ appearance with Moses and Elijah on the mountain before His disciples. To help us get to this appearing, we move to our text from the Old Testament reading. Our text from the Old Testament reading this morning is the account of the death of Moses. We begin at verse one, “1Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” 5So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, 6and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. 7Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. 8And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended” (v. 1-8). Another bit of review is in order this morning and this time a bit of review of the history of the children of Israel, so that we will understand what is happening. You might remember that as Moses lead the children of Israel through the desert, they encountered many struggles, temptations and obstacles along the way and more often than not they failed in these encounters. At one point Moses was instructed to speak to a rock and instead He sinned by striking the rock. Sticking up for Moses, we might be reminded that although this time he had been instructed to speak to the rock there was an earlier occasion when the Lord instructed him to strike a rock. Yet, the fact of the matter is that Moses disobeyed God and his disobedience kept him from entering the promised land.
Our God is a merciful God, but at the same time He is a just God. God shows His justice in His judgement on Moses, that is that he was not allowed to enter the promised land. Perhaps there are times when we do not understand God’s justice and we too believe Him to be unfair with us. Perhaps it is at these times that we might ask the questions of what is just and fair, and especially, what is just and fair from a standing of perfection?
In God’s defense, although His justice allowed for the physical death of Moses, before he died, God allowed Moses to view the promised land. So, we do see God’s mercy as well and ultimately we see God’s mercy in that by God’s grace, through faith in the coming Messiah, Moses was taken to heaven for eternity.
Now, make sure we hear all of our text, that is that Moses suffered the temporal judgement of sin in that he died on the mountain and the Lord buried him there. Yet, just as when we die and our soul is separated from our bodies and our bodies are buried, so our souls will also ascend to be with the Lord and await a reuniting with our bodies made perfect on the final day of Judgement.
But we are not done yet. Our text moves us to show that the children of Israel were not left on their own, but now Joshua takes the lead. We pick up at verse nine, “9And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (v. 9-12). Joshua had been Moses’ prodigy and as you might recall from a few weeks ago, one of his greatest defenders. And now it is his turn to lead these, God’s people.
The important part of this text, however, is not that Joshua took over, but that we are reminded that Moses was the greatest prophet who knew the Lord face to face. Very often the children of Israel referred to Moses as the great prophet or the greatest prophet or simply, the prophet. Moses is the one who wrote down and gave the people the Law in the Ten Commandments. So he was also known as the great Law giver. Please keep this in mind, the giving of the commandments, especially in context with the transfiguration, we will come back to this a little later.
And as for Joshua, he continued in the power and might of the Lord. The Lord never left His people, the children of Israel, alone and helpless. He continually did for them even when they continually refused and rejected Him.
Now, let us tie this in to today, to transfiguration Sunday. In our Gospel reading for this morning we read that Jesus was transfigured with Moses and Elijah. Jesus was changed so that His disciples were allowed to get a glimpse of Him in His heavenly glory. Now, let me tax your memory this morning. Remember that Elijah did not die, nor was he buried. Elijah was bodily assumed into heaven, taken up by a whirlwind into heaven. And remember that Elijah was known to be the greatest prophet in Israel. During the Passover Seder, at one point in the meal the door is opened in order to see if Elijah will enter. It was believe that before the Messiah would come that Elijah would return. You might also remember, as we continue to tax your memory this morning, that Jesus tells us that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
As for this man, Moses, as we just read and as is in our text from the Old Testament reading for this morning, he died and was buried by God and we would imagine God assumed his body as well so that he might be there with Elijah and Jesus.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday which marks the end of our Epiphany season and the beginning of our season of Lent which means that this marks the beginning of Jesus’ journey to the cross, which is why Jesus came into this world in the first place.
Transfiguration also marks Jesus’ accomplishing the fulfilling of the law and the prophets. Moses, the great law giver, conferred with Jesus to make sure that He had fulfilled all of God’s laws perfectly, which we know He did. Jesus was born the sinless, holy, perfect Son of God, having been conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus never sinned and He kept all of God’s laws perfectly, for us, in our place because we cannot. And Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies, all of God’s promises, especially all those prophecies and promises concerning the coming of a Messiah. Having accomplished the keeping of the laws and prophecies of the Lord, Jesus was ready to do what He came to earth to do, to take our sins upon Himself, to suffer and die and rise again.
So, what does this mean? Like Moses, we are conceived and born in sin. Like Moses we too are sinners and we will suffer the temporal judgement for our sins, that is we will suffer physical death, at least if God has not come before the time of our passing. At our death our bodies will be buried and our souls will separate and be with Jesus as we await the resurrection of our bodies on the last day.
Also, like Moses, God has given us forgiveness in Jesus. Remember, Moses did not choose God, God chose Moses. Moses did not live as he wished, but he lived as God directed him, or at least he attempted to live as God directed him. We do not choose God, He has chosen us. God has chosen us, He has given us life, at conception, new life through Holy Baptism and His Word, forgiveness of sins through confession and absolution, through His Holy Supper and His Word and He strengthens and keeps us in faith through that same Word and Sacrament. And He calls us to live lives of faith, to live lives as His priests, as living sacrifices to His glory. And when we mess up, when we err, God grants us forgiveness.
The bottom line is that by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, which He gives to us, we have eternal life! For us there will be a physical, bodily resurrection, in which we our bodies will be rejoined with our souls in perfection. Interestingly enough, as you listened to our Gospel reading for this morning and the account of the transfiguration, did you notice that Peter did not have to ask who these two men with Jesus were? He knew that it was Moses and Elijah. Peter had never seen these men. Moses had died years earlier and Elijah had been bodily assumed years early, yet, Peter knows who they are. This gives us a glimpse of the perfection of heaven, that is that we will not need name tags in heaven, for we will perfectly know all the saints.
This morning we see, first hand, God’s justice and his mercy. God is God and as God we would certainly expect Him to be just, to be fair, to be mete, right and salutary. If God says something, we would expect that He would abide by His Word and He does. At the same time, God is gracious and merciful. And we see His greatest grace and mercy in this that although we have separated ourselves from Him, and although we continue to separate ourselves by our sin, He has given His life and the life of His Son to bring us back into a right relationship with Himself. He has redeemed us, lost and condemned children, not with gold or silver, but with His Holy Precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, because of His great love for us, His dear children. As we begin the season of lent, once again, and as we, once again, begin our trek to the cross, my prayer is that we might take the time to contemplate our part in Jesus’ death and at the same time rejoice in His great love for us, so much that He gave His life for ours. So, that, when our last hour on this earth comes to being, either at the Lord’s return, or at our passing and death, we may join with all the saints in heaven and give praise and glory to His Holy Name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.