Pentecost 2 (Proper 6), June 14, 2009
Whatever God Wants Ezekiel 17:22–24
God Does What He Wants, Whatever He Wants,
and you can’t stop it, you can’t control it, you can’t even predict it.
If you can’t see His Hand – Trust His Heart!!
V 22: The first person singular pronoun ’ani is emphatic: “I myself” will take and plant.
A. Then: In Jerusalem, God’s people were relying on their own power and political might for their protection, and God calls them a tall tree, which he is going to tear down through the rise and fall of nations and political powers.
B. Now: God is still in control of human history, even if we don’t know exactly what he’s doing. We can’t say for sure how God is acting in current news headlines. God is not the author of evil, but he is ultimately in control.
C. Always: God does whatever he wants. God acts beyond our predictions and against our expectations. Repeat refrain verse.
II. God does what he wants in salvation.
A. Then: comfort for the remnant.
1. Judah had already been laid low, humbled, cut down, sent into exile.
2. God promised to plant them again in the land; his covenant with David would stand. The exiled community goes from burn pile to blossoming, fruit-bearing tree—even though cedars never bear fruit—big enough for all nations to find a home under its branches.
The miraculous reversal here is expressed in ultra-natural terms (Supra-Natural). God is doing something unexpected and impossible.
3. When God saves, you can’t predict it, you can’t stop it; it’s more wonderful than any of our expectations.
B. Now: daily repentance.
1. This verse is both Law and Gospel: which one applies to me? We can only understand ourselves as the low, dry tree that is being made high and green because we have other promises from God:
Before God, there’s no place for our tall pride, our green and flourishing self-reliance, no place for the best we’ve done or the hardest we’ve tried.
“I baptize you in the name” (LSB, p. 270), “shed for the forgiveness of your sins” (LSB, p. 164), “I . . . announce the grace of God unto all of you” (LSB, p. 185)
2. Great reversal: trusting in God means giving up on yourself, bearing fruit means admitting our barren lives, being raised to life means first being torn down and laid low. Repeat refrain verse.
3. That’s what happened in our Baptism: God kills and makes alive, God tears us down and makes us grow and flourish and bear fruit. We live as baptized Christians who’ve been joined to the tearing down and raising up power of God in Jesus Christ.
III. God does what he wants, and all he wants to do, he does for us in Christ.
A. God’s work for us in Christ.
1. For our sake, the Son of God, who shared the eternal glory of the Father, was laid low in a manger. For our sake, the royal Son of David, the shoot and branch of Jesse, was dried up and nailed to a tree. For our sake, a broken corpse, laid low in a tomb, was raised up from the dead, bursting with resurrection life.
2. All of this, to accomplish what God wanted done.
B. The God who does what he wants, whatever he wants, wants an intimate relationship with you in Jesus Christ.
1. In Jesus, God is on your side; you can trust him no matter what.
2. We need that promise, because we are not ultimately in control of our lives, our families, our church. God is in control. And God does whatever he wants, even if you don’t understand it, even if you didn’t expect it, even if you don’t like it.
Conclusion: The Good News is that this God who works outside of human understanding or control, this almighty, all-powerful God is acting for you. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, even when it doesn’t look like it, even in the confusing and painful times, God is in control. God does what he wants, whatever he wants, and this is what he wants: to bless you and protect you, to humble you and save you and in saving you, to save other people too. God himself has planted you and will make you grow and flourish and bear much fruit, through Christ Jesus, our Lord. If you can’t see His Hand – Trust His Heart!! Amen
Worship materials for the weekend of June 13:
Pentecost 2, June 6, 2021
Tragedy Reversed Genesis 3:8–15
The Pentecost season underscores the central and critical role of the Holy Spirit in our personal life and in the Church’s corporate life.
‘I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” (Third Article)
The ancient Greeks developed theater in remarkable ways that have influenced Western civilization up to the present. One of the genres they are credited with creating is called “tragedy.” Three authors—Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles—achieved greatness in this form of literature. They lived four hundred years before Christ, yet they influenced such writers as Shakespeare, who drew upon their work in his tragedies. The plot of a tragedy characteristically describes a central figure who exhibits many virtues, but, due to one flaw, ends up in a horrible state. Usually these figures are fictional or drawn from ancient mythology.
Today’s text describes the greatest tragedy in all of human history! The movement from a blissful existence of unending life with God to the crushing reality of a fallen world and certain death is held before us. And it is not fiction! This really happened. This is a real tragedy!
“Where are you?”
So rejoice and be glad! In Jesus Christ, the tragedy of our sin and self-will has been reversed. Unlike the Greek tragedies that ended in despair and death, our tragic situation has been reversed by the one who took all our sin—all of our selfishness—into his holy body on the cross. There God’s character as the giver of lavish love was again bestowed on us. Now he has given his very Son for our redemption and restoration. So rejoice and live out the new life that is yours in Christ. From his throne at the Father’s right hand, he speaks to us: “I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5). Amen.
The Holy Trinity, May 30, 2021
Holy, Holy, Holy . . . and Holy
Some of us may still remember the television commercial from the 1970s that featured a guy finishing his morning shave in front of a mirror by splashing on some aftershave lotion, vigorously slapping himself on both sides of his face, and saying to himself, “Thanks! I needed that!” The commercial’s message was that everybody needs a good waker-upper to be ready for the day. The aftershave lotion company wanted viewers to know that it had just the product.
Under far greater and much more profound circumstances, the prophet Isaiah at the time of our text needed his own waker-upper moment if he was going to be ready for the rest of his life on earth and the ministry before him as God’s prophet to the kingdom of Judah and ultimately the fallen world.
Initially during Isaiah’s lifetime, both Israel (Northern Kingdom) and Judah (Southern Kingdom) enjoyed strength, peace, and prosperity. But this success, as it seems always to do, brought with it pride accompanied by a lack of interest in justice and spiritual matters and a reliance on foreign political alliances rather than God’s continued protection and blessings. As a result, the Northern Kingdom was already on its way out of existence when Isaiah began his prophetic ministry exclusively to the Southern Kingdom.
Luther believed that this text was intended “primarily” to frighten the people (Church) of Isaiah’s day, “who were presumptuous to an extreme degree” (AE 16:69).
Israel was church & state – America is just state
Isaiah was speaking to the Church
The church must be balanced when talking to America!
People need to see the righteousness of God NOT the righteousness of the church!
Isaiah received his commission “in the year that King Uzziah died” (v 1). Uzziah, also known as Azariah, reigned as a “good” king of Judah for fifty-two years, “and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Ki 15:3). But Uzziah became proud and entered the temple to burn incense before the holy God. Even as the priests tried to restrain Uzziah from this unconsecrated worship, the Lord struck him with leprosy to the day of his death. Thus, though Uzziah was classified as a “good” king, his guilt before the holy God received God’s wrath. During the reigns of Uzziah and his son Jotham, who also “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Ki 15:34), the people did not do right. “The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places” (2 Ki 15:4, 35).
Therefore, in today’s text, Isaiah, though he is classified as a “good” prophet, rightly confesses that he is “a man of unclean lips” dwelling among “a people of unclean lips” (Is 6:5).
Robe = the honor of the office not the scrawny little guy underneath them.
The end of Uzziah’s reign marked the beginning of the end of Judah, whose neighbors to the northeast, Assyria and then Babylon, now became the military superpowers that would threaten and destroy Judah.
“High and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” Luther finds significance in God being above the temple and his train alone filling the temple, this to counter the Jewish notion that God was enclosed in the temple and the Mercy Seat, kept there by Judah’s righteousness (see AE 16:69).
V 2: Attending the enthroned King were seraphim, heavenly beings with certain human characteristics (face, hands, feet) and the capacity of speech. Their name means “burning ones”; fire represents holiness (vv 6–7) and points to their blazing appearance. Each had six wings; two covered their faces, for even in their perfection the surpassing brilliance of Yahweh was overwhelming. With two they covered their lower extremities (ragəlayim) in modesty. With the third pair they hovered above the throne, ready to do their King’s bidding.
V 2: “The seraphim.” A main feature of the vision is the glory and holiness of God. The covered faces and feet of these fiery creatures, attendants to the throne who are mentioned by name in Scripture only here, are telling of their great reverence for God and their humility in his presence—this in direct contradiction to the worship attitudes of the Jewish people.
V 3: The seraphim were extolling God’s holiness. Their threefold “holy” is a kind of superlative, i.e., “holiest,” and underscores that between the Creator and his sinful creatures is an immense gulf that can be bridged only by the Lord in his mercy.
“The Holy One” is God’s title 39 times in Isaiah. He cannot tolerate sin and requires that his people be holy (see Concordia Self-Study Commentary p. 95 on Lev 11:45).
For the Christian, the threefold “holy” shows not only the absolute holiness of God, but also the three holy persons in one holy God.
V 3: “Holy, holy, holy.” Holy times three, super holy, wholly separate from sin; also suggestive of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, from whom emanate not only the judgments but also promises of the redemption and sanctification of mankind as announced by Isaiah. In Lutheran worship, we regularly sing in company with these angels in the Sanctus of the Divine Service.
V 4: “Foundations of the thresholds shook.” Luther comments: “This points to the shape of true religion, which is confession, praise, the proclamation of God. When this is known, man is terrified and humbled, and he gives up everything which he formerly trusted and of which he made his boast” (AE 16:71).
These words also bring to mind the Good Friday earthquake (Mt 27:51), when the Second Person of the Trinity announced from the cross his finish of mankind’s redemption, and also the Easter Sunday earthquake (Mt 28:2), when the angel rolled back the stone from Christ’s empty tomb to validate his resurrection from the dead.
V 5: Isaiah cries out as if perishing in hopeless despair.
Isaiah’s words express the doctrine of total depravity. Second, Isaiah recognized that he belonged to a people which likewise was totally corrupt. He could not dissociate himself from their sin. Both he and they deserved to die.
Our “righteousness” must be exchanged for that of Jesus. As Isaiah writes, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is 64:6).
By cauterizing Isaiah’s lips, God prepared him to be a spokesman of divine purification to his unclean brethren. God’s call to Jeremiah (1:9) and Ezekiel (2:8–3:11) likewise involved the sanctifying of their mouths for the proclamation of God’s pure Word.
all God’s people called to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15).
What is that defense? GRACE alone
God might have sent seraphim to speak to Judah. He instead chooses a sinful human being equipped with the one attribute that seraphim could not bring to the task, namely, the experience of and relief that accompanies the forgiveness of sins.
Require faithfulness in speaking Law and Gospel to a people who, like Isaiah, had sinful lips and hearts.
Today is Trinity Sunday. It is and will always remain a mystery to us on this side of heaven. Only then will we slap ourselves on both sides of our face like the guy in the television commercial and say, “Why didn’t I think of that earlier, when I was living my life on earth?”
But for now, this is still the God of mystery, who sends those who have experienced repentance and forgiveness to announce his Law and share his Gospel of forgiveness to all mankind.
“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” continues to be his call today for prophets, pastors, teachers, and everyday witnesses. If we have been truly paying attention to this Spirit-laden text and have been reminded again that God is still God, we will also be ready not only to admit, “Thanks! I needed that!” but also to respond, “Here I am! Send me.” God bless our consideration of this text from his Word that it may be so. Amen.
Worship materials for the weekend of May 30:
I Will Put My Spirit in You
Text: Ezekiel 37:1–14
In the previous chapter the Spirit was described as follows: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (36:26–27).
While the Spirit here is given anew to bring about a heart animated by Yahweh’s words, the Old Testament Reading fleshes this out by beginning and ending with the Spirit for the ultimate purpose of bodily resurrection (37:1, 14).
Ezekiel is among the exiles in Babylon (1:1). Perhaps he was in the first group, taken captive in 605 B.C.
Our text is a hinge that connects the gift of new life in Christ during the church age with the bodily resurrection at the end of time.
In all three of these prophesies one fact stands out clearly: the life-giving Spirit comes through the Word which Ezekiel speaks.
Yet it is God who gives life and the Spirit; Ezekiel merely does as he is commanded (vv 7, 10).
Life comes through the Spirit and the Spirit comes through the Word of God.
Two words permeate the text: ruach “spirit” and ‘atsamot “bones.”
Ruach is variously translated “wind, breath, spirit, Spirit”—each associated with the giving of new life by the Lord.
‘atsamot “bones” has a variety of nuances, including one’s “self” or “essence.” The bones Ezekiel sees represent the essence of human nature: dead and without hope (v 11; cf. Pss 6:2; 22:14; 31:10).
The verbs in v 1 (and most of this text) are Hiphil, expressing a causative action. They help emphasize the one-sided action of God’s grace.
God—working through his Word, spoken by the prophet—is the sole cause of new life.
As Walther Eichrodt (a German Old Testament scholar and Protestant theologian. From 1908 to 1914 ) says, “No words are wasted on any human hopes of resuscitation; responsibility for answering the question is shifted onto God’s shoulders” (Ezekiel: A Commentary [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975], 508. Translation © 1970 SCM Press Ltd. Used by permission).
The passive participle harugim “slain” implies that the people did not simply die; they were killed as a result of sin and unfaithfulness.
Similarly, our old Adam must be put to death by being crucified and buried with Christ.
While the bones were in disarray, the resurrected stand as “a vast army” (chail) with strength, order, efficiency, and purpose.
These verses are one of the classic sources for the Old Testament teaching of the resurrection, possibly the source of the credal affirmation “And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures.”
What was prophesied for Israel was fulfilled by Christ, Israel’s representative and Israel reduced to one, so that the church, the new Israel, might share in the promise.
The statement “you will know that I am the Lord” (vv 13, 14) occurs more than 30 times in the book.
The people come to know Yahweh - This knowledge of the Lord comes from the Holy Spirit working through the prophetic Word.
The goal is to move the people of God of all ages to rejoice in the renewal, both in their personal lives and in the church, which God works by his Spirit through the Word.
We confess every Sunday in the creed that we believe in “the resurrection of the body.” But how can dead bones live? The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision not unlike the crypts of European cathedrals: a pile of dry, lifeless bones. Through this vision, the Lord shows Ezekiel exactly how dead bones are raised to life.
Pentecost reminds us of God’s commitment to bring life into lives killed by sin.
It is to God’s Word that we must look for life and hope. As Ezekiel did and said only what he was commanded, so must we. The Word is able to accomplish the miracle of giving life to dead, dry bones.
We learned from Luther’s catechism that we cannot believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to him by our own reason or strength, but the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel. No more than the disconnected and dried-out bones could pull themselves together and regain life could we walk out of the living death of sin into life with God. The Lord and giver of life has accomplished the impossible. He has brought you to faith in Christ Jesus. That’s why we celebrate Pentecost as the culmination of Easter. So we say it once more, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” It is his resurrection life that the Lord and giver of life bestows on you, calling nonexistent faith into being that you might have life with the Father now and forever.