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03-21-21

Lent 5, March 21, 2021

Know the Lord

Text: Jeremiah 31:31–34

  • Jesus compared his own death and resurrection to the destruction and rebuilding of the temple (Jn 2:19–22). Thus we may see Jeremiah’s prophecies of the destruction and restoration of Jerusalem as pointing to Good Friday and Easter. 
  • Moreover, the death of the unfaithful nation and the return of the faithful remnant signify the daily life of every Christian. We are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, and Lent in particular calls us to remember our Baptism daily. 

Human nature hasn’t changed much in the 2600 years since Jeremiah. People still rebel against leaders, live an immoral lifestyle, and worship other gods. But God has done something truly new: he has made available the forgiveness of sins through the vicarious work of Christ Jesus. 

V 31: 

  • Constitutes one of the most important prophetic passages in all of Scripture, as testified by its quotation in its entirety in the NT, Heb 8:8–12 (see also Heb 10:16–17). 
  • In fact, this passage is the primary reason we refer to Scripture’s two sections as the Old and New Testaments.
  • “Declares the Lord” occurs four times in these four verses. 
  • Jeremiah is speaking with authority straight from God.
  • Notice throughout that God takes the initiative: “I will make,” “I will put,” “I will be,” “I will forgive,” etc.
  • In the coming days, the covenant made at Sinai will be referred to as the “first” or “old” covenant. 
  • The new covenant does not violate the old, nor do its benefits differ in substance. 
  • But the new supersedes and fulfills the old. 
  • Like the old, the new will involve Torah (teaching or doctrine), forgiveness, and a covenant relationship between God and his people.
  • The difference is that it will be written on his people’s hearts. 
  • The external demands of the Law will give way to the internal guidance of the Spirit. 
  • The rigid, burdensome commands will be replaced with the freedom, joy, and spontaneity of people who are new creations in Christ. 
  • This new covenant is eschatological; it will be fully realized at Christ’s return when God’s people enter the new heavens and earth. 
  • True, it is now already in place due to Christ’s work. But the new covenant makes us heirs of the age when God’s promises will be fully implemented, when the old will be forgotten forever, and we who are now simul justus et peccator will be saints—period!
  • This is written in the form of an "unequal" covenant i.e. God ALONE is making the covenant it is not a " you do your par & I will do mine"
  • The “new covenant” (vv 31–32) is an unconditional covenant of divine commitment, also called a royal grant (See Concordia Self-Study Bible, p. 18). 
  • “The days are coming.” – At JUST the RIGHT time (God’s Time!)
  • The royal grant points to the radically new covenant brought into effect through the person and work of Jesus Christ which supersedes the Sinai covenant of human obligation mediated through Moses (Heb 8: 13).

V 32: 

  • "Grabbed or grasped" their hand - image of a child being pulled off the road
  • Ba’al -  “to rule, be lord; marry.” - “though I was a Lord/husband to them.”
  • God assures them that he will be their God in spite of their previous infidelity. 
  • The sacred covenant union could be reestablished only by God’s forgiveness and mercy. 
  • Christ is the bridegroom, and the church is his bride, washed clean (Eph 5:21–33; Rev 21:9; 22:17). 
  • God is merciful. He loves his people. He reinstates, forgives.

V 33: 

  • To say that God’s Law will be written in man’s mind and on his heart is to say that man will become a new kind of creature. 
  • This is not a "new" as in from scratch but rather a "renewal" a "re-establishment" of the previous covenant that was broken
  • This is done when the Torah becomes flesh - JESUS!
  • No longer will God’s will (expressed in the Law) be something external, condemning man because of his disobedience, but the will of God will be part of who man is. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17). 
  • This renewal is, of course, incomplete in this life (Romans 7).
  • The Body of Christ after Pentecost is NOW the Torah of God!!

V 34: 

  • KNOW - is not a knowledge of humans or intellect but rather made possible by the forgiveness of sin, we GROW in our relationship with God in Christ!
  • Forgiveness is NOT a result of peoples character or ability to keep the law but because God is simply willing to forgive and meet His demand for justice within Himself in Jesus! 
  • The prophet Ezekiel said it this way: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek 36:26–27).
  • “Know the Lord.” “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12).
  • “Remember their sins no more.” This phrase is not an indictment of God’s omniscience, but a description of his mercy. 
  • For the sake of Christ, he will not recall our sins on the Day of Judgment. 
  • Revelation 20 describes the opening of books that recorded the deeds of the dead and declares there will be no punishment for those whose names are found in the Book of Life. 
  • Matthew 25 indicates the “sheep” do not have their sins remembered, but only hear recounted the deeds done in faith.
  • But how does this state of affairs come about? How does man become a new creature? How does he acquire God as his God? How does he “know” God? 
  • The answer is in v 34. “For ‎כִּ֤י , ‘because’] I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
  • It is important that we make this distinction between cause and effect. 
  • Unless we pay attention to the grammar, we might start to think that only if we become a new creation (having the Law written on our hearts) can we have God as our God, know him, and have our sins forgiven. 
  • To do this would make the new covenant the same as the old covenant, which had said “the man who obeys them will live” (Lev 18:5).
  • We usually remember our sins and perhaps think that our memory of them is evidence that God hasn’t really forgotten them. But in Christ God has forgiven and forgotten. He promises, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jer 31:34).
  • The promise of the Jeremiah text that you need to KNOW is that all people will know the Lord, for it is the Lord who will reveal himself to all people (v 34). Thanks be to God who remembers us, not because we have disappointed and failed him, but because of his great mercy.

03-21-21 Video

Worship materials for the weekend of March 21:

https://stjohnsmarysville.360unite.com/news

03-14-21

Lent 4, March 14, 2021

“Look Out! Look Up to Jesus”   Numbers 21:4–9

  • Are you frustrated today? Angry? Fed Up? Impatient? Hopeless? THEN this text is for you and me!! Look OUT & LOOK UP!
  • In the 1970s, there was a British/American rock band called Fleetwood Mac. One of their biggest hits was “Go Your Own Way.” I seriously doubt that they had any biblical concepts even remotely in mind when they recorded it, but that title, “Go Your Own Way,” describes our human condition to a T. 
  • Disappointment – impatient – complaints - self-pity = rebellion.
  • A pastor asked a rabbi, “From where do you derive your hope of forgiveness, since animal sacrifices are no longer performed?” The rabbi replied, “Since the destruction of the temple in AD 70, every Jew must complete good works, especially during the week prior to Yom Kippur.” He continued by saying that we cannot depend on “fables” like manna feeding millions or bronze snakes lifted into the air to heal as reliable history. 
  • As Lutheran Christians, we are thankful for the sure foundation of God’s Word, which never leaves us floundering, but continues to lift high the cross for our salvation. 
  • The once for all sacrifice for sins is in the Lamb lifted high. Our Rabbi and Savior was historically lifted up on Calvary to save dead men and women like you and me!
  • The bronze serpent of our text. God incarnate is lifted up, and all men who look by faith to him are given the antidote of his eternal mercy. The antidote of Word and Sacrament never fails the Church, and Lent reminds us that without his body and blood offered to us, we have no life in ourselves.
  • It’s rather ironic that God’s people are passing through the wilderness area of the Red Sea and Mount Hor when they commit the sins in our text. Both geographic places are sacred:
  • The Red Sea was the place of divine deliverance, where the horse and rider of Egypt were drowned in the deep. 
  • Moses’ brother, Aaron, was buried on Mount Hor. 
  • Ironically, in and around the geographical places of God’s deliverance and God’s gift of divine leadership, the people fall into sin. 

V 4: “to go around Edom.” 

  • The forty years of wandering (Num 14:33–35) are nearly over—passing through Edom would bring Israel to the Promised Land in a matter of days—but yet another detour is the last straw for the people. 
  • This new rebellion will be God’s occasion to deal with many of the generation who have yet to die off before Israel may enter Canaan (14:27–32). 
  • The Israelites no longer believed that God would honor his promise to lead them to safety. 
  • In that frame of mind, they imagine they had been better off in Egypt! Consequently, they whine and complain against both God and his chosen servant, Moses. 
  • Their complaint is that there is no food or water; in reality, they have plenty of both.
  • The gifts of food and sustenance that God had provided kept the Israelites alive for years. Now they decide they are sick of them. 

V 5: qatsah, literally, an abomination that makes one sick to the stomach

  • Collectively, as a people, Israel was calling God’s blessing an abomination. 
  • We know how things are supposed to go, thus if you are on my side things should go really easy for us!
  • The ungrateful “loathing” of the gifts of God continues to this day. So many loathe God’s greatest gifts of his Word and Sacraments and seek other things that are not simply worthless, but can actually hurt, harm, and even destroy them!

V 6: 

  • hannəchashim hassəraphim. (automonopia or Harry Potter)
  • “fiery serpents”; their inflammatory bite filled the victims with burning. 
  • These snakes were characterized by fiery red spots and were very poisonous. 
  • Luther points out that the reddish color of the snakes was revealed on the bitten victims (LW 22:338).
  • The expression “Be careful what you ask for!” might just apply here. 
  • God heard the people’s complaining and showed them what they were really requesting. 
  • Essentially, they asked for death and misery, so he showed them what that meant. 
  • Snakes—that reptile used by Satan to bring death upon mankind in the first place—came among the people and brought with them pain, suffering, and death (“many” died).
  • Can you love/trust a god whose hand is CAUSING your pain with a promise for relief?
  • Abraham & Isaac
  • Isiah & Jeremiah taken into captivity

V 7: 

  • The serpents’ strikes upon the people—and most likely even their slithering presence among them!—helped the Israelites recall quickly how well off they had been prior to the beginning of their complaints. In their misery, nothing, not even their human pride, got in the way of their repentance. 
  • They returned to God’s servant Moses, whom they had previously rejected, and asked him to intercede for them.

V 8: 

  • ra’ah, “to look, behold, see.” Those looking outside themselves in confidence were healed of their malady. 
  • Rod of Asclepius – medical emblem
  • In today’s Gospel, John recorded Jesus’ own words regarding what would happen to him: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14–15).
  • Paul told us in today’s Epistle how this will be: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4–7).
  • The snake is a typology of Christ.  God has taken an instrument of Satan and made it an instrument of grace through faith!
  • This is quite sacramental:
  • Visible element - pole/serpent
  • Instituted by God's Word - told Moses
  • Forgiveness of sins - Promise, they will live
  • The snake or poison now became their healing. 
  • Christ is the poison of sin on the cross for us and the antidote for our sin at the same time. 
  • The bronze serpent had “the aspect and the form of a serpent,” but was “a bronze serpent without venom” (again, Luther, LW 22:343). 
  • Christ on the cross absorbs the venom of man’s sin, and yet a look in faith to him is a dying people’s antidote.
  • Moses prayed on behalf of those who had rejected not only him but also the one who had declared Moses to be the people’s leader. The merciful Lord heard Moses’ prayer and provided a remedy. 
  • The same merciful Lord would later hear Jesus’ prayer for fallen mankind and make him to be the remedy from certain death in hell!
  • The plan of God to save his wayward people was simple. The people were to look at the serpent raised up on the pole. 
  • As they gazed at the image of the very thing that was killing them—which expressed faith in God’s promise to send them relief—they would be cured from the serpents’ bites.
  • All this, of course, prefigured the work Jesus would do on the cross. When even to this day God’s people who are dying and “dead in [their] trespasses” (Eph 2:5) look up in faith at Christ on the cross, they, too, are healed of their mortal, sin-caused wounds and will live.

V 9: 

  • "My God, My God, why have I forsaken you?"  Is our question looking at Christ on the cross!

V 10: 

  • chanah, “to camp or dwell.” After such a horrible sin, God still provides safe camping for his people. God camped (eskēnōsen, “tented”) among his people in the incarnation (Jn 1:14).
  • Jesus did not sugar-coat the life of discipleship. Yes, hard times will come. But when they do, look in faith to the Son of Man lifted high on the cross. 
  • Apart from him there is only death. But with him there is life. 
  • Just as God provided life to dying Israelites by means of a bronze snake lifted up on a pole, so also by means of Jesus Christ and him crucified, God gives you eternal life, everlasting fellowship with your Maker. 
  • Follow Christ through the wilderness as he leads you to the new and greater Promised Land. 
  • And on your journey, come to the Lord’s Table and receive with thanksgiving his heavenly manna and his life-giving drink.
  • It was not the Lord God’s will to kill all the Israelites in the wilderness. He had made a promise, a covenant with them, one that he would keep, even as his people were unfaithful. 
  • The Lord God hears what his people say in repentance. And to them he provides a remedy for what afflicts them. 
  • What has been set up for you to look at? That is what Jesus tells you: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14–15). 
  • Jesus identifies himself as the ensign of salvation. Those stricken by sin, victims of Satan’s venom, are to look to him who was lifted on a pole, and there they will find forgiveness and redemption.
  • You no longer are destined for death. You no longer have reason to complain or speak out against the Lord God. He has delivered life to you and set you on a path to Paradise. 
  • It is finished! He has borne your guilt. Your guilt is no longer your problem. Look to the cross of Christ and believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, the one who has reconciled the world to the Father. “Look Out! Look Up to Jesus” In him we live! Rejoice! Amen.

03-14-21 Video

Worship materials for the weekend of March 14:

https://stjohnsmarysville.360unite.com/news

 

03-07-21

God Gave the Law for the Good of His People.

March 7, 2021 

Exodus 20:1–17

  • Everything that is to be a good work must arise and flow from and in this true fountain and channel. So apart from the Ten Commandments, no work or thing can be good or pleasing to God, no matter how great or precious it is in the world’s eyes. (LC I 311)

Introduction: 

  • People may not welcome a sermon on the commandments. Many Lutherans quickly recall their confirmation course, which started with mandatory memorization of the commandments. “At home we cannot do this and mustn’t do that. Now we come to church and the pastor makes us memorize another bunch of ‘dos’ and especially ‘don’ts.’ Try to change such reminiscing to thinking of the commandments as a letter of advice for godly living from a loving Father in heaven, a Father concerned about us.

When Did God Give the Commandments?

  • Sixteen centuries before Christ, God’s own family from Abraham were slaves in Egypt. They have been there for more than 400 years. 
  • Their challenge is to live together successfully and arrive safely in the land of milk and honey.

Why Did God Give the Commandments?

  • God wanted to bring law and order to a community that had no experience in such matters. Also, a central issue for God, is the declaration of his name to nonbelievers. 
  • A key factor in the giving of the Ten Commandments is the part the Israelites are to play in God’s mission to the world.
  • The commandments lead us to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and then map out for us how God wants us to live in our new life as missionaries to the world.

You Shall Have No Other Gods

  • Have you given up all other gods? Luther said: “Whatever your heart clings to or relies on—that is your God.”

You Shall Not Misuse the Name of the Lord

  • What we say about God and to God plainly shows our attitude toward him.

Keep the Sabbath Day Holy

  • When God “rested from his labors,” he was celebrating what he accomplished. Creation would not have been complete without the Sabbath. Neither is our week complete without remembering with celebration what God continues to do for us. 

Honor Your Father and Your Mother

  • This is first of God’s commandments about living in harmony with each other and it focuses on the home. 

You Shall Not Murder

  • God gave this commandment because we have a right to live. 
  • We must not kill by hand, heart, or word!

You Shall Not Commit Adultery

  • Experience shows that one person runs headlong into sexual sin while another makes a mad dash to the moral high ground. 

You Shall Not Steal

  • Honesty is not only the best policy but also happens to be God’s will. 

You Shall Not Give False Testimony 

  • We are not free to speak as we choose. 
  • Telling the TRUTH may not release one from the restrictions of the 8th commandment!! i.e. Social Media - may be speaking the truth in a hateful/hurtful/agenda based way that is a violation of the command!

You Shall Not Covet

  • Coveting, having a compelling desire to get something that is not yours, 

Conclusion

  • So. . How does your life reflect in the mirror of God’s holy Law? We all fall short.
  • The Ten Words show us:
  • The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. (Ps 19:7–9)
  • It was suspicion of God’s love that was the original sin, and that same genetic defect that we all share 
  • So some confused Christians say, “Well, as Christians, we retain the moral law, but not the ceremonial law.” 
  • the Third Commandment. It’s not a moral issue. It’s a health issue. 
  • “A day of rest now is neither necessary nor is it commanded except for the teaching of God’s word and prayer. The spiritual rest which God especially intends in this commandment is that we not only cease from our labor and trade but much more—that we let God alone work in us and that . . . we do nothing of our own” (LW 44:72).
  • Sabbath means “stop.” Israel was to stop work for one day. To imitate the Lord God, who stopped after creating the world in six days, and to be with God, ,  their Creator and Savior. 
  •  “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27). It wasn’t an extra duty; it was a break from duty. 
  • We often hear holy defined as “set apart.” 
  • They only know what they aren’t. 
  • James Nestingen: “the law is like a wolf that you train as a guide dog. Good guidance, good protection, but you never know when it will turn on you.”
  • The law that guides or protects today can easily slip back into its crushing role, and Christians must be sensitive to how the law is impacting their hearers.
  • The gospel is about what God has done and does for me today in Christ!!
  • God is completely clean, completely good, and completely well. What it boils down to is that God is free from anything that causes death. God is totally alive. That’s what holy means. 
  • The more we study this command, and the Ten Commandments as a whole, the less and less they sound like hard demands, and more and more like invitations to live! 
  • In each of the first three commandments, he spoke of the people’s relationship with God. Commandments 4–10 would govern their relationship with their fellow man. 
  • “It is of utmost importance. . . that. . . the Decalogue is in indicative, not imperative form. . . . These are statements of what the believer who has experienced God’s grace will voluntarily do” (Horace D. Hummel, The Word Becoming Flesh [St. Louis: Concordia, 1979] 74).

God Gave the Law for the Good of His People.

03-07-21 Video

 

Worship materials for the weekend of March 7, 2021

https://stjohnsmarysville.360unite.com/news

02-28-21

Lent 2, February 28, 2021

Your Spiritual Family Tree

Text: Genesis 17:1–7, 15–16

  • Today, we consider God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah, and in so doing, you will clearly see “Your Spiritual Family Tree.”

Introduction: 

  • Perhaps you’ve joined the millions of Americans who in recent decades have traced their family origins back for several generations. Some folks are just curious to discover who their ancestors were. Others want to see if they have any famous relatives in their past. One Web site, RoyalAncestors.com, allows visitors to investigate whether or not they’re related to kings and queens of previous generations. In fact, visitors to the site can purchase the three-volume Royal Ancestry Bible to aid them in their search. This work attempts to include all colonists who have at least 20,000 living American descendants and who descend from English or French kings or the Emperor Charlemagne.
  • In today’s Old Testament Reading, God allows Abram and Sarai to look forward, not backward. 
  • He gives them information about their descendants, not their ancestors. He informs them that they will have royal descendants, kings, and that they will be the parents of whole nations of people. In so doing, God helps each of us see that we have been grafted into a royal family tree, spiritually speaking, that dates all the way back to Abraham and Sarah.
  • V 1: Abram is now ninety-nine years old and received the promise twenty-four years earlier that God would make of him a great nation (Gen 12:2). 
  • In our text, God is making promises to Abram. Not only does God change his name from Abram to Abraham, but Sarai’s name to Sarah. 

NAMES:

  • Abram - exulted father - now God's name
  • Abraham, father of many, the receiver of the great fathers gifts by grace. 
  •  Sarai - becomes Sarah which means "princess" - a tool in the hand of God!
  • Isaac - he laughs - Sarah firsts laughs at God at the promise of God giving "he laughs" God has the last laugh again!
  • Their lifestyle and popularity probably almost made her name a joke to the "world View" of others - she did not "look" lie a princess and if that is what being a Princess of God looks like - then most would not want to be a Princess of God!
  • Of critical importance is what we read in 17:17–19. Here Abram questions whether a one-hundred-year-old man and a ninety-year-old woman can have a child. Then he states, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” To that God says, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son.” 
  • Throughout the verses of our text, Abram is having a real problem believing the promises of God that he will have a son (vv 5, 7–8). In fact, he laughs at God’s promises (v 17). 
  • God calls on Abram to walk before him tamim. We translate this “blameless,” but the implication is that Abram walks before God according to God’s ways and not his own. In other words, believing in God’s promise that Abram and Sarai will have a son of their own. Ishmael will not be the heir.
  • Abram is looking for his own answers. Abram’s own answers led him to have a son by Hagar (also Sarai’s idea). Abram’s answer to his old age would allow God to keep his promise in Ishmael. 
  • This not only reveals a lack of faith on Abram’s part, but a sentimental feeling toward his son Ishmael. 
  • Abraham the sinner was trying to get God's will done his way by getting a surrogate mother, "Give God a hand" to which he is told "STOP IT"  I am God and I will make the things I promise come true in my way, you just receive!
  • God’s plan is for Abraham and Sarah to have a son, and he will be the heir. The heir will come based on the gracious actions of God, not as a result of Abram and Sarai’s human plans and weak faith. This context is critical to understanding our text.
  • Abraham did not earn or deserve the stupendous honor of becoming the father of nations.
  • V 2: Nine times throughout these verses God speaks of “my covenant” (bǝrithi), emphasizing God as the one who establishes the covenant, sets its conditions, and brings blessings that are his alone to bestow. 
  • V 22: This verse is important (although not a part of the text) because it tells us that Abram was not having a vision, but this was a face-to-face meeting with Yahweh.
  • By faith through the word of God we are given a special in to hear the council of God as he plans the salvation of mankind, what a privilege!
  • Yet there is a more significant fulfillment in the most notable descendant, the Christ (Matthew 1). Through his life, death, and resurrection, everlasting life in the presence of God is purchased for all. The promise to have nations as descendants is reflected in Christ’s command to go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19–20) and is ultimately fulfilled in people from all nations being grafted (ek pisteōs Abraam) into the seed of Abraham (Rom 4:11–18; 15:8–12; Gal 3:29; Rev 7:9; 21:24).
  • We don’t deserve to be part of God’s plan and to be declared holy because of the work of Jesus Christ. But we are made holy, nonetheless. Paul tells us this in Ephesians.
  • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Eph 1:3–4)

Conclusion: 

  • Today, God has helped you trace your spiritual family tree back more than four thousand years, all the way back to Abraham and Sarah. And you don’t need the Web site RoyalAncestors.com to know that your spiritual family tree contains royalty, not only David and Solomon, but the Anointed One, Jesus Christ, who reigns eternally as King of kings and Lord of lords. With him, you and all in this incredible spiritual family tree will reign forever! Amen. 

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