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, June 30, 2019
The Sound of a Low Whisper - June 30, 2019 - Third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 08) - Text: 1 Kings 19:9b-21
Wise King Solomon, by inspiration of God relates these words from God in one of his proverbs, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Proverbs 46:10). How difficult it is for us in our fast paced world today to “be still.” Most of us believe we simply do not have enough time to “be still.” Anyone who has ever been laid up for medical reasons understands how difficult it is to “be still.” But, let me tell you this, if you take the time, if you make the time, if you will “be still,” you might be amazed at what you might see and hear and what might happen.
In order to best understand our text for this morning, we will need to make sure we hear it in its context, so let us go back a bit and review what had happened before we get to our text. In the chapter before our text we have Elijah’s challenge and defeat of the prophets of Baal. Now, personally, I believe this history is a very instructing history, both for us as individual Christians and as a church body. We live in a world that espouses what we call an ecumenical movement, that is a movement that would bring all the various denominations and even religions together suggesting that we all worship the same god, but call him different names. I believe Elijah’s response to the prophets of Baal is a good example of what should be our response to this movement. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a sacrifice “throw down.” They, the prophets of Baal, would offer a bull as a sacrifice and so would Elijah, but neither would light their offering. The “winner” would be the one whose sacrifice the Lord God would light and consume. Now, notice that in the account, Elijah did not join the prophets of Baal in prayer, instead, he stood off and mocked them. He made fun of them. At no time did he even imply that the one true God was even close to being on the same level as the false god of Baal. Likewise, I believe as Christians, as worshipers and followers of the Only One True God, never should we give any indication that we believe that our God is the same as or equal to the false gods of the world.
After the prophets of Baal were unable to get their god, small “g,” or idol to wake up and accept their offering, Elijah made his offering, even pouring water on his offering and as the history goes, the Lord God, the one true God, took his offering and the water in the trenches. And notice that after he won the sacrifice “throw down,” Elijah did not evangelize the prophets of Baal, but he put them to death. God never wants us to put Him on an even par with any other false god or idol, but always to make sure that He is the exclusive God of all, which is why we Christians are hated, as we have said before.
So, after his victory, Jezebel threatens Elijah and he runs away. At this point, Elijah believes that he and he alone is the only person left in Israel who is faithful to the Lord. Elijah did not run away because he was afraid of Jezebel, because we know he was a great man of faith, look at what he had just accomplished, but he ran away because he believes that he has noone left in Israel to befriend and thus he has no reason to stay.
So, now we pick up at our text for today. God appears to Elijah, not to chastise him, but to ask him what is on his mind. We pick up at the second part of verse nine, “9bAnd behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 10He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away’” (v. 9b-10). Elijah laments to the Lord that he believes that there are no longer any faithful believers left in Israel.
Which brings us to my words of introduction and how God speaks to us. As our text continues, God speaks to Elijah and notice how He speaks to Elijah, picking up at verse eleven, “11And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 14He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away’” (v. 11-14). Notice that God did not speak to Elijah in the loud rumble of the “great and strong wind,” nor in the earthquake or fire, but instead He spoke to Elijah in a still small voice, “the sound of a low whisper.”
And the Lord instructs Elijah in what to do, including naming and anointing his predecessor, Elisha, naming and anointing a new king over Syria, Hazael, and naming and anointing a new king over Israel, Jehu. Notice that God is still in control. God is still in charge. God continues to guide and work with His people, even His sinful fallen people, to work out the best for them. God is still with Elijah, guiding and directing him.
So, what does this mean? And what are we to do? First, I believe this narrative serves well to remind us that God’s desire is that we do not compromise our doctrine and faith. There are many in our world today who would suggest that we all believe in the same God, we simply call Him by different names. The problem with that suggestion is that these same people do not believe in a God who would die and rise again, instead, they believe in a god who insists that one is saved by one’s character, that is by how good a person can be. It all goes back to who is running the show, who is doing what. Do we worship a god who needs us to do for him, if we are, then we are worshiping a false god and an idol. Or, are we worshiping a God who does everything for us and gives everything to us, if we are, then we are worshiping the one true God.
It is God who gives us the victory. God created a perfect world into which man, namely Adam and Eve, brought sin, corruption and death. Yet, it was God who immediately promised to take care of their sin and the sin of all people, of all places, of all times. It was God who sent His Son, truly Himself in human flesh to live perfectly for us in our place because we cannot. It was God, in Jesus who took our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price for our sins. It was God in Jesus who suffered the eternal death penalty for us and died and rose so that we might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Notice how the one true God is the one who does for us, His people, not one who demands that we do for Him.
And our God continues to care for us so that we may lay our burdens on Him. Just as Elijah had his own down time and lamented to the Lord, so we may come to our Lord and lay on Him our troubles, our hardships, our heart aches and the like and He will lift us up and take care of us.
Just as Elijah was in conversation with the Lord, so today, we continue to be in conversation to the Lord. We speak to Him in prayer and He speaks to us through His Word. Very often, the reason we fail to hear God speak to us, is because we fail to make use of His Word, we fail to “be still” and listen to “the sound of a low whisper” through His Word. Or, if we do take the time to read and hear His Word, we fail to hear the Lord in His low whisper because we fail to believe His Word. Either way, the problem is not with the Lord, but with us.
The Lord our God is a jealous God, desiring that we have faith in and worship Him alone. It is through His Word that He instructs us, reminding us of the authority He has given us and the promise to be with us even to the end of the world.
So, what are we to do? First and foremost we are to be given to. We are to be still and know that the Lord is God. We are to be still and be given the gifts He has to give, and in particular to be loved by God. God created us to love us. God created us to lavish us with all the good gifts and blessing He has to give.
And so our Lord does love us and lavish us and He does so through the means He has given us to lavish us, His means of grace, His Holy Word, the Bible and His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, along with Confession and Absolution. As we make regular and diligent use of His means of grace, our Lord comes to us through these means to give, strength and keep us in faith, to give us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Which reminds us that the opposite is also true, as we neglect to make use of the means of grace, so then we are refusing and rejecting the gifts God has to give, in essence we are rejecting His love and the gifts He desires to lavish on us.
As Christians, making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, being given to and lavished on by God, the good gifts and blessings He has to give, so He stirs in us and moves in us to live lives of faith, that is we live as priests in the priesthood of believers. As we work in the various vocations the Lord has given us so that we offer our lives through these vocations as living sacrifices for the Lord.
And ultimately, as God lives in us, lavishes us with all His good gifts and blessings, and stirs in us to live lives of faith, our lives bear witness of the faith that God has given to us and in so doing, give glory to the Lord. Notice, God is the prime mover. We love because He first loved us. And we know His love and we hear Him speak to us especially as we are still and as we listen to the whisper of His voice.
God never promised that life would be easy, as a matter of fact, a beautiful rose has painful thorns. God has promised that He will be with us, even to the end of the world. God has promised that He gives us His authority to boldly proclaim His Word and the exclusive nature that He is the Way, the only Way, the Truth, the only Truth, and the Life, the only Life so that no one can come to the Father, no one has eternal life except those He has called and given faith, forgiveness and life. So, I encourage and exhort you yet today, make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, be given the good gifts and blessings the Lord desires to lavish on you. And rejoice and give praise to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy does endure for ever. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
I Will Do For My Servants Sake - June 23, 2019 - Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 07) - Text: Isaiah 65:1-9
Today we begin what is called the non-festival part of our church year. We have just completed the festival part of our church year which began at Advent and through which we celebrated the feasts of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost and ended last Sunday with Holy Trinity Sunday. For the next twenty-four Sundays we will be in the Pentecost season, our liturgical color will be green reminding us that this is the time of the church year that we are to grow in our Christian faith and life, which we do through our being in Divine Service and Bible Class.
Stephen R. Covey who wrote the best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, once wrote, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” This morning, the main thing of our text is the first two verses, “1I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation that was not called by my name. 2I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices” (v. 1-2).
In our text, God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, seeks to set the record straight. God’s promise of salvation was, is and always will be to all people. Beginning in the Garden of Eden before there was a Jew and Gentile, God’s promise was to all people and here in Isaiah, God’s promise continues to be to all people, and even to us today, God’s promise continues to be to all people. Certainly we rejoice because God’s promise of salvation is for us even today.
In our text, Isaiah speaks of “those who did not ask.” “Those who do not ask,” are the Gentiles. By the time we get to our text, the Jews have established themselves as God’s chosen people, yet they have done so in such a way that they have excluded the rest of the people of the world and the Gentiles know this, that is they know that they are not included in the Jewish world, let alone the Jewish faith or religion. In other words, the Gentiles simply have come to believe that they have no part in the Jewish Savior and so they do not even ask.
As for the Jews, God’s chosen people, the nation through whom the Savior of the world was promised to be born, they have become a rebellious people. Although God chose Abraham and his people to be the nation through which the Messiah would be born, they have rebelled against the Lord, against His commands, against His good gifts and blessings and have followed after their own devices. At this point we might say that God is not happy with either the Jews or the Gentiles and so His words are words of warning and a call to repentance and faith.
Let us look a little closer at these people, the Gentiles. The Gentiles were any people who were not of Jewish descent. Up until the call of Abraham, there really was no distinction, at least Biblically speaking, between any of the nation groups on the earth. Certainly there were the various culture groups which spoke different languages that spread out after the confusion of the languages at the tower of Babel, which we talked about a couple weeks ago, but Biblically speaking, all people were the same. It was at the call of Abraham that a Biblical distinction began to be made, and this distinction was not a distinction concerning who would be saved and who would not be saved.
As for the Gentiles, the Savior of the world was not promised to be born through their offspring. In essences, the Jews, the nation through whom the Savior was promised, became first class citizens, at least that is what they thought of themselves, and they regulated the rest of the world, the Gentiles to second class citizen status. I believe there is a cliche that says, “Pride goes before the fall.” With the Jews, perhaps it was their proud nature, thinking themselves as first class citizens and regulating the rest of the world as second class citizens which began their own fall as we will see.
As for the Gentiles, they knew God, not as the chosen nation, not from the great blessings the Lord bestowed on them compared to the Jews, but they knew God, through natural knowledge as well as through revealed knowledge proclaimed to them. Remember, God’s promise to send a Savior was never a promise to just a certain group of people, but was always a promise to all people of all places of all times.
And so, the Gentiles, not having the special status of the Jews, rejoiced in the good news. It is no wonder that when the Apostles finally recognized God’s favor on the Gentiles as well that the Gospel so easily took hold in the Gentile community.
As for the Jews, they were God’s chosen people, but not necessarily the way they believed themselves to be. The Jews were the people of the family line of Abraham. It was Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, who was chosen by God. Abraham did not choose God, but God chose him. And God chose him, not because of any deserving reason on his own part, simply God chose him.
God chose Abraham and made a promise, a covenant with him. God’s covenant with Abraham was that He would bless him, that He would make him a great nation and that the Savior of the world, of all people, of all nations, Jews and Gentiles alike would be born through his offspring. And God made Abraham a great nation.
As the nation of Abraham grew, as they became the nation of Israel, as they were forced into slavery and then delivered from slavery in Egypt, as they were brought into and given the promised land, you would think that with all that God had done for them they would be His loyal people. However, instead, they disobeyed God and went after other gods and idols. That is what the rest of our text for this morning is about, the fact that they were not and did not act like the people of God, the people God called and through whom God promised to send the Savior of the world.
As a matter of fact, as we look at the history of the children of Israel, we see that they were constantly disciplined by the Lord. Their history was rather a roller coaster ride of sin and rebellion, discipline and punishment, repentance and forgiveness, and then moving back and starting again with sin and rebellion, discipline and punishment, repentance and forgiveness. And this ride went round and round for many years, until the birth of the Messiah.
So, what does this mean? And what does this mean for us today? As I have said, time and time again, God’s promise to send a Savior was given in Eden, before there was a Jew or a Gentile and His promise was made to all people of all places of all times. If only those who continue to misread the book of Revelation would only go back to the beginning of the Book, they would see quite clearly that the Lord made one covenant with all people, not two covenants, one with one group and one with another group. And the covenant the Lord made was not a covenant of birth or genetics, but was a covenant of grace, of God’s doing, of God’s giving and our being done to and given to. It always, all begins with the Lord.
Again, if one would take the time to read God’s Word, from the beginning, and let God speak and actually listen to and believe what God says, one would realize that the fulfillment of God’s promise was narrowed so that His promise would be fulfilled through the line of Abraham. This narrowing of the line of fulfillment in no way took away from the fact that the Savior would be the Savior of all people of all places of all times, simply that the family line through which the Savior would be born would be through the family of Abraham.
From our text for this morning we are reminded of the misuses, the abuses, the misunderstandings, of those who imposed or attempted to impose their own will onto God and His covenant, gifts and promises. And certainly, as I have reminded you from time to time, we are no different today than the children of Israel of old. How often does God find us running after other God’s and idols who are not the Lord? How often does God find us breaking, not one, not two, but all His commandments? How often does God find us “interpreting” His Word according to our own sinful desires? If we actually read God’s Word and took His Word as His Word and took His Word seriously, our world would be a different world. Unfortunately, because of the sin in the Garden of Eden, where it all began, we live in a sinful world filled with sin and that will be the way it is until the Lord returns and recreates everything anew.
The key, how do we know we are getting it right? How do we know we are right and others, other religions, cults and sects are getting it wrong? Simple! All the religions, cults and sects can be classified under two headings: those who must do for their god, in order to appease him, please him or manipulate him, which is idolatry; and those who believe the God of Holy Scripture who runs the show, who does for us, who gives to us, who made His promise and fulfilled His promise to take care of our sin and be our Savior. Remember, it is a matter of who is running the verbs, who is running the show. And if God is running the show, if Jesus is the Savior for all people of all places of all times, then we are indeed children of God and children of the promise, not by birth, not by genetics, but by God’s grace, through faith, given to us, in Jesus Christ alone. Which is why we as Christian are so hated by the rest of the world, because of the exclusive claim of God that there is only one way to be saved and that is through Jesus Christ alone.
The best way I can summarize the Lord’s Word and the key to His Word is the fact that God gives and we are given to, God does and we are done to. It all begins with God. He created us. He gave us life at conception. He gave us new life through Holy Baptism. He paid the price for our forgiveness. He strengthens and keeps us in faith through His means of grace, His Word and His Sacraments. And we rejoice as He stirs in us a response of faith, to give glory to His Holy Name.
As we begin this non-festival part of our church year calendar, although we are about six months from again celebrating the feasts of our church, we do continue to gather each and every Sunday and we do celebrate each and every Sunday. Remember, for us Christians, we worship on Sunday because each Sunday is for us a miniature Easter celebration. We celebrate the fact that we get it right and we know we get it right by pointing to Jesus, who is God, who is the prime mover. We are reminded that none of us chose to be born and none of us chooses for God to give us faith, forgiveness and life, rather we celebrate that as the prime mover it is God who chose to give us life and new life through Holy Baptism. Indeed, as we said earlier, we want to keep the main thing the main thing and the main thing is that it is all about Jesus, just Jesus. God gives to us according to what He knows is best for us, according to His good and gracious will. God loves you so much and He has so much He has given to you and so much more He wants to give to you. Rejoice and be given the gifts God has to give to you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, June 16, 2019
Today we commemorate the social holiday of Father’s day, recognizing God’s gift of fatherhood and giving thanks to God for the Godly father’s who take serious their God-given role as the head of the family making sure to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As we have heard time and again, our short life in this world is nothing compared to our real eternal life in heaven reminding us that what is most important while we are in this world is making sure our eternal salvation has been procured. Thus, we rejoice in Godly fathers who make the spiritual life of their family the highest priority by being in Divine Service and Bible class, being given all the gifts and blessings God has to give. Thank you fathers for being here today and God’s continued blessing on your vocation as father.
This morning we celebrate the fact that we worship a God who has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and as we describe Him in human terms, a God who is three persons in one Godhead. We are baptized into the Church in the name of God when water and His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are placed on us. We begin our divine service by invoking His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We conclude our divine service in His name in the Trinitarian Aaronic Benediction. And, although we may only be able to describe our God in human terms and may not be able to completely understand how He can be how He shows Himself to us, this is what we believe because this is how He has revealed Himself to us.
Our Scripture readings for this morning help us to understand God as He reveals Himself to us. In the Epistle lesson Peter espouses Jesus as truly God in human flesh. Peter testifies that although King David died and is still dead, at least his body is still in the tomb, Jesus, who was crucified on the cross, is alive and showed Himself to be alive and is ascended into heaven, from where He descended.
In the Gospel reading Jesus espouses Himself to be truly God. Jesus tells the Jews that before Abraham was born, He was already in existence. Not only here, but in the other Gospels as well, Jesus continually spoke of Himself and showed Himself, not only to be truly human, but also truly God.
Now, getting to our text. Our text speaks of wisdom and as we hear, read, mark and inwardly digest, or as we take to heart our text, we will understand and know that the wisdom with which our text speaks is indeed wisdom incarnate in Jesus, who is God. God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and beginning in our text at verse twenty-four, He speaks of His creating water, “24When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water” (v. 24). Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the creation of the water and its separation from the dry ground.
Continuing on in our text, God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and in our text at verse twenty-five, He speaks of creating the mountains, “25Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world” (v. 25-26). Again, reiterating the fact that Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the creation of the mountains.
Again, continuing on in our text, God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and in our text at verse twenty-seven, He speaks of separating the earth from the sky, “27When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28when he made firm the skies above,” (v. 27-28a). Once again, reiterating the fact that Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the separating of the earth from the sky.
And finally, concluding in our text, God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and in our text beginning at the second half of verse twenty-eight, He speaks of setting boundaries for the seas, “when he established the fountains of the deep, 29when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth” (v. 28b-29). Finally, once again, reiterating the fact that Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the creation of the seas and the setting of their boundaries. And just as an aside, I believe and trust that God continues to keep these boundaries so that the earth will never again be flooded with a global flood, no matter what fallible, human scientist might suggest.
In summary, then, our text instructs in the fact that Jesus is truly God, with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the world, and with the fact that true wisdom is founded in God and in particular is personified and incarnate, that is made flesh, in Jesus Himself. This is important as today we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday. Today we celebrate that God is wisdom. Just look at creation and how can you conclude anything less than what a wise creator God we have who created out of nothing the complexities of the orderly world in which we live?
Today we celebrate that Jesus is who He says He is and who He showed Himself to be, that is that Jesus is God. Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at creation. Jesus took on human flesh at His conception and birth. Jesus showed Himself to be truly human during His life as He demonstrated human attributes, that is He was hungry, thirsty, tired, sad, and so forth. Jesus showed Himself to be truly God during His earthly life as He demonstrated divine attributes, that is He healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed the storm, walked on water and so forth.
Today we celebrate that Jesus is truly Wisdom incarnate, wisdom in the flesh. If Jesus is God and God is wisdom, then we know that Jesus is wisdom. And thus we understand that apart from Jesus there is and can be no wisdom, no true wisdom.
So, what does this mean? Beginning with our text, we are reminded of creation and the fact that as God created all things out of nothing, He created all things perfect. After each day of creation, God saw what He had created and said it was good. After the sixth day of creation, after creating all things, God looked at what He had created and He said it was very good. So, in the beginning, all things were good and even very good. Unfortunately, when we move to chapter three of Genesis, after God ceases running the show, which He was doing in chapter one and two, when we get to chapter three and man begins running the show, perfection is lost. After creating all things perfect and holy, man sinned and this sin tainted man’s will and wisdom. Before the fall into sin, Adam and Eve knew only good. My contention, not to give them an excuse, but I believe since they knew only good, they did not understand that Satan was lying, because they did not understand evil. Anyway, after Adam and Eve sinned, that sin took root in their entire DNA so that no longer were they perfect and holy and knowing only good. Now they knew what was evil as well as what was good. Now their wisdom and understanding were tainted by sin.
Today our world continues to espouse human wisdom, which is tainted and flawed, over God’s wisdom. Today so called scientist attempt to explain our world apart from its Creator God. Today many people attempt to make sense of death and destruction apart from a perfect, holy Creator God and a humanity which has been tainted by sin. Today there is an attempt to throw God out, to keep Him out of our courts, our politics, our schools and even out of our homes. Is it no wonder that the world is in the mess it is in? Is it no wonder that people, even young people are killing each other? If there is no God then we are accountable to no one. If we are simply accidents of nature, or as some have describe us, rearranged pond scum, then we are simply doing what is natural and who are you to say we cannot kill, steal, and so forth?
What is touted as wisdom in this world, that is wisdom apart from and without God, we can see and understand is truly the foolishness of this world because we know that apart from God and Godly wisdom, is only foolishness. It is amazing how those who tout themselves as wise apart from God will believe the impossible, such as the spontaneous generation of DNA information and deny the obvious, creation by design. When looking at photo of a house and a yard, the so called wise man of this world has no problem believing the biologically complex lawn happened by accident, but cannot fathom and would believe you to be crazy if you suggested the much less biologically complex house came together by accident, perhaps through a tornado. This is the wisdom of this world, tainted by sin, which is indeed foolishness.
As Christians, as those redeemed by God, as those having God’s name put on us through the waters of Holy Baptism, we bear witness of truly Godly wisdom and we do this, bear truly Godly wisdom, through our lives of faith. So, although the world may call us foolish, we have God’s witness and we have His authority and promise that as we live lives as priests in the priesthood of all believers, as we live lives of faith, offering our lives as living sacrifices, He is with us to deliver us. In the end, as we gather around our Lord’s throne, then, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord!
This morning, as we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Godly wisdom of our triune God who shows Himself to us especially in the person and work of Jesus. It all begins with Jesus. He is the prime mover. He was with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the world. He took on human flesh and blood in order to be our substitute. He loves us so much and He shines His love into our hearts and lives especially through His means of grace, His word and His Sacraments. He loves us and helps us to love others. He loves us and in our loving others and serving others, we are serving Him and giving glory to His holy name.
God is wisdom and Jesus is wisdom in flesh. God is love and Jesus is love in flesh. As Christians, we rejoice as we are counted as worthy enough to stand with Jesus, to be persecuted for our faith, to be called foolish and unwise, because we know the truth, we know wisdom, we know Him who gave His life for ours and we know Him who saves us and gives all things to us. My prayer for you is that as you continue to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, the Lord will continue to strengthen you and keep you in your faith, and strengthen you so that you will be better able, at all times to give a defense and answer for your hope and faith in Jesus. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, June 9, 2019
There are some people, who, when they sit down to read a book, they like to go to the last chapter or the last few pages and read to see how the book ends. They believe if they know how it ends, then they can better enjoy the journey through the book. This morning, as we celebrate Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, and the ability of the Apostles to speak in the languages of those present in Jerusalem, we might come to realize that we are reading the end of the story of our text which takes us to the time that the languages were mixed and confused so that the people were scattered to populate the earth. Today we celebrate Pentecost which is the undoing of the Tower of Babel in our Old Testament reading.
Our text begins with the plot, and sin, verse one, “1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’” (v. 1-4)
A quick review of history is in order. In the beginning God created the world. On the sixth day of creation, the same day God created the dinosaurs, God created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. Some time after creation, Adam and Eve sinned and brought sin, death and evil into the world. Sin and evil got so bad that God washed the world with a world wide flood. After the flood God told Noah and his family to spread out and repopulate the world. However, instead of the people going out and repopulating the world, they stayed in one place and grew to be a large number of people.
Now, getting to our text, our text tells us that the people wanted to “make a name for themselves,” that is they thought more highly of themselves than they should have. They wanted to make themselves known to the generations that followed them. They wanted to leave a legacy. They wanted to be thought of, even as gods. They did not want to “disperse over the face of the whole earth,” instead, they wanted to disobey God and outright sin.
Their plan was to build an everlasting monument to themselves, a monument that would draw people to Babel, to keep them at Babel and to perpetuate their idolatry. For our engineers, notice that their plan was to make bricks in a new and better way. They were not going to simply make mud bricks and let them dry in the sun which is how it was done before, instead they would make bricks from stone and bake them and concrete them together so they could build a taller and stronger structure, a structure that would last longer. Just a side note of interest, did you notice how, from creation, God had given them the wisdom necessary for this architectural ability. This engineering ability was not something that was “discovered” or learned, but was already in their DNA. When God created Adam and Eve He created them with all knowledge, with perfect knowledge and this is important as we will make note a little later.
God is God and He knows what is happening, He is, after all, omniscient. His answer to their arrogance is seen beginning at verse five, “5And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ 8So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth” (v. 5- 9)
It is interesting as our text describes God in terms of ‘coming down’ to see the city. God is omnipresent, that is He is always everywhere present, yet for the sake of emphasizing how little these “big headed” people really were, God ‘came down’ to this little earth, that He created, to assess the problem. Now, understanding that it is because the people have one language that they are able to carry out the evil intent and desire of their heart and so God’s plan to stop their behavior is to confuse their language. When God confused their languages, since they now spoke different languages and could not understand each other and could not communicate with one another, they had to abandon their project.
After the Lord confused their languages, the people had to find those who spoke their own language. Sorry for the image, but my first instinct is to think that this might have been something like a group icebreaker where everyone is instructed to go around and find people of similar eye color or hair color, or the like, except that with an icebreaker like this, everyone can speak the same language.
At any rate, after finding people who spoke the same language as they spoke, these people of various language groups dispersed, and as they dispersed they took with them certain dominant genetic traits. This is why we have the various cultures we have in our world today. This is natural selection, not molecules to man evolution. As the people who spoke the same language dispersed to certain parts of the world they took with them certain dominant DNA traits. Some took with them traits for certain dominant colors of skin, some traits for certain dominate shapes of eyes, some traits for certain dominate heights, and so forth. What the world calls the various races of the world, I believe, are better described as the various cultures of the world, I say this because God in His Word speaks of only two races, the believers and the unbelievers. So, our text for this morning explains the beginning of the various culture groups we have around the world.
As I mentioned earlier, today is Pentecost Sunday. In our Gospel lesson we hear Jesus promise to His disciples that He will send the Holy Spirit who will teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all that He has said to them. And so, He is encouraging the disciples to wait for the sending and their receiving of the Holy Spirit.
In the Epistle lesson we read the account of the day of Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit. And just briefly, the celebration of Pentecost was a Jewish harvest celebration when the Jews were instructed to be in Jerusalem to celebrate, which is the reason so many Jews from the various parts of the world, speaking various languages were in Jerusalem. God took this Jewish celebration and gives something greater, the gift of the Holy Spirit. One of the most fascinating things about this is the timing, that God’s timing of the life, death and resurrection of His Son happened so that this Jewish celebration of harvest, this Pentecost celebration might coincide with the fiftieth day after Easter and His sending of the Holy Spirit, at just the right time.
And as we made note earlier, this sending of the Holy Spirit on these people who had gathered in Jerusalem at this time and who spoke different languages is the undoing of the Old Testament lesson and the reminder of God’s will to save all people.
So, what does this mean? Again, my contention is that what we read and hear is not coincidence and no surprise. Remember, it was immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden that God promised to take care of their sin. God’s promise to send a Messiah was given in Eden before there was a Jew or a Gentile, when there was only one people group, Adam and Eve. As we walk through the Old Testament, we note that although the promise of through whom, through which family line the Savior would be born was narrowed, the promise to save all people was never changed.
Following the flood, as at the creation of the world, it was God’s desire to populate the earth. At creation God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth. After the flood God told the people to disperse and repopulate the world. Because the sin of humanity remained in Noah and his family, people continued to be born in sin and continued to sin. Sin is in our DNA, it is genetic. That fact that we are conceived and born in sin, that sin is in our DNA does not give us a license to sin, but it does explain our natural instinct and behavior. And this morning, we have our answer as to from where the various cultures, or as our world likes to designate them, the various races come, the tower of Babel.
We live in a world that is still infected by sin. We still think more highly of ourselves. We still seek to make a name for ourselves. Yes, we are still conceived and born in sin and we know that every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. We still need a Savior and that is why Jesus came, to be our Savior, to be our substitute, to give His life for us and for all.
Jesus came to do what we cannot do, to live perfectly, to obey all God’s laws and commands perfectly and He did, never sinning even once. Because He was born as one of us, a human being and because He never sinned, He was able to be our substitute. He took our sins, our sins of thinking more highly of our selves, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission and commission and He took them on Himself and paid the price for our sin. He suffered the eternal death penalty of hell for us, in our place and He died. But as we know the story, death and the grave had no power over Him because He rose victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil. And today we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who worked in the hearts and minds of the Apostles so that they finally understood all of what Jesus came to do and did. It is the Holy Spirit whose work today continues to point to Jesus. He is the one who works and gives faith through the means of the Bible as well as Holy Baptism. He is the one who stirs in us and gives us the words and boldness to proclaim His Word to all.
Again, and as always, God is the prime mover. And now, we know we are getting it right when we know He is the prime mover. God gives and does and we are given to and done to. God gives life and we are reminded of His giving of life at creation and personally at conception. God gives forgiveness of sins, and we know we have forgiveness as we hear His Word of forgiveness spoken to us. God gives life and salvation and we know we have salvation, again, as we hear His Word.
And again this morning we see God’s great love for us. God created all things out of nothing and His desire is to show His love for all He created. He showed His love in His promise to Adam and Eve to send a Savior. He showed His love in His attempt to cleanse the world with a flood and in His preserving Noah and His family. He showed His love in thwarting the plans of the people at the tower of Babel and the confusion of their languages so that they were scattered throughout the world. He showed His love in the giving of His Son and His Son’s life for us on the cross. Today He continues to show His love through His Word as well as through confession and absolution, Holy Baptism and His Holy Supper. God loves you so much, my prayer is that you continue to be given His love and that you will continue to be lavished with all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has to give as you make regular and diligent use of His means of grace. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.