His Word

Grace, mercy and peace be to you, from God, our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The past two weeks I have spoken about the meaning and importance of our two Sacraments, Holy Communion and Baptism. Most Confirmation students can tell you that these two are Sacraments because they were ordained by God, necessary for salvation and combined the Word of God with a physical element. That is how we define a Sacrament. This definition is also the reason that we have only two sacraments and not three or even seven. So how good is your word? Do you ever make promises you don’t keep? Well the truth is that we sometimes make promises we CAN’T keep. Those are usually the little things that just creep up on us and slip through the cracks. The problem is that someone will remember that you broke your promise and hold it against you. “You promised that I could have ice cream if I ate all my broccoli.” “You said I could go to that party if…,” just fill in the blank. So how good is your word? We all like to think that our word is our bond…the truth as we see it. We remember when a handshake was as good as a contract and that was that. But now days, people split hairs over what they say and political candidates try to make hay out of things they say or others might have said. It has become rare to hold someone responsible for the things they say, unless it is on video somewhere or is in writing. Again, how good is your word? I know where we can find someone’s word that is ALWAYS TRUE, accurate and complete. That Word, of course is God’s Holy Word, the Bible itself. I believe and we confess that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. Every Word is true from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. That is VERY comforting for me and I hope for you. I do not have to guess or figure out which parts to believe and what stories belong to the narrative. I do not have to evaluate the great fish of Jonah, the six days of Creation or the birth of our Lord to a virgin woman. They are all found in Scripture and that is enough…I believe them. Does that mean that I understand everything or can explain all the details? Absolutely NOT! There are lots of things in the Bible that are accepted by faith and are beyond the ability of a mere human to explain. But the limits of my ability do not make them false…that is purely the wonder and mystery of God. He has revealed all that we need to know and understand through His word, but there is a lot more to Him than we find here. Our OT Reading for today offers us a further glimpse into God’s revealed Word. The text is from Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of Moses. Moses is reviewing for the House of Israel the Law of God. They were issued earlier and now for the second time the Prophet explains them. “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live…” There He is telling them the importance and value of such obedience… “that you may live.” God’s plan from the earliest moments always involved life; not just any life, but life with Him. Adam and Eve had lived such a wonderful life, but they let the devil ruin it for all creation. The Garden of Eden had even contained the Tree of Life so that all who ate of this tree could know they would live forever. After sin spoiled God’s creation, they had to be banished from that Tree. Life would now come through the forgiveness from God and the purification necessary to make it so that we can be in God’s presence. Living forever in a sinful condition would leave us permanently separated from God…and that was also not part of God’s plan. Now He was teaching, through the Prophet the rules and statutes of what it means to be God’s people, His children and yes, His church. “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” Ok, that sounds like Moses is putting a final period on the rules and regulations that they had. He is telling them that these are what you are to live by and follow. After all this is the last book that Moses was to write. But since this is a divine book written by human hands, it is not surprising that this message is found elsewhere in the Bible. At the very end of the text, Revelation, Chapter 22, we hear, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy. God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (vs. 18-19) Now it is clear that God’s Word is connected from the beginning to the end and it is not ours change, modify or even question. He is saying, by quoting Deuteronomy and then adding to it, that this ENTIRE thing is His and He expects us to understand and appreciate it. His Word is good and He keeps it from beginning to end. The Epistle reading takes up some of this same issue…and again applies it for us to our world. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” God has offered us a way to handle this world. It does not matter whether you are worried about politics, or Planned Parenthood, Islamic extremists or distant wars, our Lord knows all about it. He knows about our human failings and the battles that the devil is causing all over the earth. He is saddened by our stubbornness and gladdened by our faith. But none of this comes as a great surprise to Him. God hates sin…no matter the form. It does not matter whether it is our sense of entitlement, our inflated egos, the self-puffery of our leaders or the desecration of sacred places…He hates those things. Sure He tells us not to steal or gossip or kill. But we know those things. There are a lot more actions on our part that are sins before God. Notice what Mark says, “For from within…the heart of man come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness…and they defile a person.”   Again, there is nothing that surprises our God. But when I ask, how good is your word, you are left hanging your head knowing that you too fit into this sinful description God, on the other hand loves you anyway and seeks to make you His own. And His Word is Good. We have now explored and examined the wonder of God’s means of Grace…the Word and Sacraments. This is where we are assured that we can find God and this is where we find Him. Three He reveals Himself to us and showers us with His grace. There He is found in all His majesty and wonder and there we can taste and see what He is and has done for us all. What a wonderful thing. A bunch of sinners sitting around receiving the wonder of God’s love, grace, mercy, His banquet and His Salvation. How this is possible, is found only in His Word…His Word of truth given to us from the beginning of time. Wow! What a glorious thing! Thanks be to God. Amen.