3rd Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 7) LSB #867
Text – Matthew 10:28
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul & body in hell.
TO FEAR OR NOT TO FEAR
Shakespeare is well-known for having written the words, “To be or not to be.” This morning we’ll be considering a variation of that from Holy Scripture, “To be afraid or not to be afraid. To fear or not to fear.” The Bible speaks of the concept of fear on over 500 different occasions. It seems to be aware that fear is common in the world in which we live.
In fact, it doesn’t take long for the concept to appear in God’s Word. Already in the 3rd chapter it shows up, after Adam & Eve had rebelled against their Creator. Adam said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, & I was afraid, because I was naked, & I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10 ESV) What is it that makes you afraid? What causes you to hide yourself away?
Before the fall into sin mankind didn’t know what fear was. Neither did the animal kingdom. The wages of sin is death, but we could say that fear came along with it. Death strikes fear into the heart of even the most arrogant human being. How conscious we are of that fear does vary greatly from person to person.
To fear or not to fear? That’s the question we ponder for this day. Adam & Eve brought fear into God’s creation. Our heavenly Father demonstrated His love for us by sacrificing His Son to save us from sin & death & fear. Love is the antidote to fear as the Apostle John wrote:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, & whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18 ESV) I asked you earlier, “What is it that makes you afraid?” Based on the verse I just read it sounds like God is telling us that fear somehow revolves around the idea of punishment. Certainly it did when Adam 1st sinned. He knew he’d done wrong the moment he ate of that fruit. The fear of God is still at work, subconsciously driving the thoughts, words & deeds of countless people around the world. We know many of them – even ourselves. In order for our heavenly Father to restore the relationship He wants with each of us, His plan must 1st address the issue of our fear.
Since fear has to do with the expectation of punishment, the Gospel of John reaffirms that the reason Jesus entered our world had nothing to do with our punishment: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17 ESV)
However much our Creator loves us, & longs to recreate His perfect relationship with us, not all of God’s creation loves you & me. The Devil wants to devour us & he’s perfectly willing to use other human beings in accomplishing that goal. In the section just before today’s reading from Matthew, Jesus acknowledges that He’s sending His disciples out:
“…as sheep among wolves.” (Matthew 10:16) We are certainly to beware, but not fear, the kinds of hostility we’ll face on account of the reign of God that’s happening in this depraved world. Here’s a recent example from Great Britain.
In a public shopping area, in the city of Bristol, two men were explaining the difference between Islam & Christianity, using the Bible & the Quran. Bystanders began hurling insults at them so police removed the two men from the scene. The prosecutor in the case said, “To use words translated in 1611 in a very different context, in the context of modern British society, must be considered to be abusive & a criminal matter. To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they’re saying the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth.”
In their ruling, the court said, “We feel it has been proved that both defendants’ behavior went beyond preaching the virtues of their religion.” Both men were ordered to pay fines & they are appealing the conviction.
In a statement one of the convicted men said, “We want people to have access to the good news about Jesus Christ. I am shocked that God’s message of love is now considered hateful & dangerous. Today, speaking God’s truth seems to be a hate crime.”
He should not be shocked by the court’s ruling. Neither should we. Jesus warned us that
the world would hate us simply because the world hates Him. Jesus made it quite clear in the reading from Matthew: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” (Matthew 10:24 & 25b ESV) The Pharisees had called Jesus the prince of demons.
Jesus continues, “So have no fear of them…” (10:26) That’s easier said than done for the sinful creatures that we are. After encouraging us to continue proclaiming the truth, Jesus then says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul & body in hell.”
For now, our heavenly Father is all about grace & mercy, forgiveness & life. Yet, there is a day when that will end. For now, punishment is not in the picture at all. There is a day coming when that will return. Jesus came the 1st time in humility, as a helpless child, as one of us, that we might not be afraid. He did so that we might be drawn to Him by love.
When the appointed Day arrives, then our Lord will come in power & might & majesty. The earth & the heavens will be shaken & every knee will bow before Him. No human being, however powerful, can do any more than kill our already dying & corrupted body. For today, we have no reason to fear God, but for eternity all men do.
Peer pressure is real. It causes us, at times, to question our faith & even to silence our confession. Our Lord gives us, in this Gospel reading from Matthew, the eternal picture. We have nothing to fear in this life. It is the eternal life, which we cannot see, that matters far more than any suffering or glory of this world.
That death strikes fear into even the most arrogant human being reveals a glimmer of the gravity of our eternal existence. We shall continue, after death in this life, in one place or the other. Jesus warns us not to fear men & encourages us to put our trust in Him who died for us. Our Savior offers us the faith necessary to trust Him, to live for Him, & to reject the lies of Satan. By that faith, we do experience our Creator as the words we spoke in the Introit earlier today described:
For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Following Jesus does not make this life easier. In fact, on a human level it will make life more difficult. Yet the child of God keeps this prayer always in heart & mind: O God, because Your abiding presence always goes with us, keep us aware of Your daily mercies that we may live secure & content in Your eternal love.
Even if that means death at the hands of men, we will prove to be ‘more than conquerors through Him Who loves us’ (Romans 8:37) because our Creator will protect us &, in the final judgment, will confess us in the presence of His heavenly Father. Jesus tells us, “You are mine” in the waters of holy Baptism.
In Holy Communion Jesus gives us His body & blood to demonstrate the lengths to which He would go to save us. The people of our country seem to be drifting further & further away from a relationship of humility with Yahweh. We ourselves may have opportunity to rightly fear retribution for our faith in Jesus. We should consider that a blessing from God.
In the OT reading, Jeremiah cries to God, “I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me.” In the Gospel reading, Jesus asks us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Those are His words of encouragement to us. They are also words of promise. We truly are worth more than many sparrows. Jesus is the only way to the Father, but He does everything necessary to get us to heaven. We only need believe that it is so. Amen.
Our sons & daughters we shall tell & they again to theirs that generations yet unborn may teach them to their heirs. O teach them with all diligence the truths of God’s own Word, to place in Him their confidence, to fear & trust their Lord, to learn that in our God alone their hope securely stands, that they may never doubt His love but walk in His commands. Amen. LSB 867:3-5.
 Jeremiah 20:7b ESV
 Matthew 10:29-30 ESV
2nd Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 6) LSB #562:1-4, 6
Text – Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, & death through sin, & so death spread to all men because all sinned.
THE SPREAD OF DEATH
It was early, this past Wednesday morning, when a man filled with hatred & rage attempted to kill a group of people whose politics he did not agree with. There was a highly disturbed human being pulling the trigger of the rifle, but his desire to spread death across that baseball diamond did not originate with him. Sin came into the world through Adam.
The wages of sin is death & it has infected everything in creation. It spread across the universe the moment Adam rebelled against the design of His Creator, as he ate the forbidden fruit. It was a simple act that many today would label a victimless crime, but it came with far reaching & horrific consequences. Yet, few people ever grasp the enormity of what Adam did.
St. Paul understands that, so the Holy Spirit guides him to point us in the direction of our Creator’s solution. In this 5th chapter of his letter to the church at Rome Paul does so not by zooming in on the details, as St. Luke does in his Gospel. Rather, Paul does it in the fashion of a big picture flyover, beginning with someone we would least expect.
The United States is a throwaway society. If something breaks we throw it away. If something gets old we throw it away. If the latest fashionable colors change we throw it away. You should thank your heavenly Father that He is not a throwaway God. Adam screwed up all right, but his Creator doesn’t just toss him into the scrap heap.
That’s good news for Adam. It’s good news for you & me as well. You see, Romans 5:12 isn’t exactly happy news. I’ll read it again to remind you: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, & death through sin, & so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Sometimes people get mad at Lutherans because we talk a lot about sin. It’s a depressing topic, & what St. Paul wrote in Romans 5:12-14 has a very dismal tone to it. Yet, in the midst of that, the Apostle concludes verse 14 with a glimmer of hope. He writes, “[Adam] was a type of the one who was to come.” And that is the unexpected part.
By now, you should know who is the One to come. It’s Jesus! Messiah! Savior! Lord! What you may not have been aware of is that Adam was the prototype for Him. That’s what St. Paul just wrote: “[Adam] was a type of the one who was to come.” Now, here’s a question for you. Why was Adam the prototype?
In case you’re stuck, here’s a clue – I already gave you the answer. Yeah, our heavenly Father is not a throwaway God. Even though Adam had just plunged God’s entire creation into the throes of sin His Creator calls for him & says, “Where are you?”
The Lord of the universe was looking for Adam, not to throw him into the scrap heap of history, but to put Adam to use as the prototype for an entirely new creation. St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
As Adam is the head of a race of mortal sinners, so Christ is the head of a new race – the redeemed & eternal people of God. St. Peter expands upon that as he writes to Christians experiencing the trials of persecution, & probably some doubt concerning their status:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have...” (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)
You too have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light, & that’s not just any
light. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV) At His resurrection from the dead Jesus is the beginning of the new creation. He is human flesh & blood recreated in the image of God for all of eternity. Where Adam failed Jesus succeeded as the son that Adam was supposed to be.
St. Paul mentions Adam in comparison to Jesus for the purpose of bringing out more clearly the magnitude of the work of Christ. In essence, Paul compares the Light of the world to the darkness of the world so we can more fully understand the incredible nature of our salvation. The New Living Translation words it this way:
“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin & God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace & His gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15) Adam’s sin involved us all in a situation of sin & death from which there is no escape other than in Christ.
Because of Adam death has spread to all mankind. Because of Jesus life is spreading to all who believe His Word. Still, the saving death of Christ is not something we need only for a single past experience of conversion.
Instead, Christ’s death once & for all is the ongoing power that overcomes our pathetic spiritual weakness, the sin that so easily entangles us, & the awful hostility toward God that lurks inside us, & sometimes springs forth even against our will. So how many of you are too busy?
You hear it in conversations every day. We run here, we run there, we always have stuff going on. Retired people wonder how they ever could have worked for a living. So I’m going to ask you point blank to name one thing you did this past week for God’s kingdom here at St. Matthew Lutheran Church. If you can think of one thing, how long did it take you?
Did you spend 2 minutes, 15 minutes, maybe one hour? If we go by the OT guideline of
10%, you would need to spend over 16 hours every week to be contributing what God considered the standard amount of financial support for His kingdom. Or, if you want to compromise & look at only a 40 hour work week, 10% is still 4 hours each week. How does death spread? It spreads in many cases one person, & one decision, at a time.
One child of God says, “I no longer want to serve.” They justify it by saying, “I’m too busy. I have too much going on,” & that’s all it takes for death to spread. You see, you don’t have to point a rifle at someone & pull the trigger to spread death. You simply need to be working for the darkness. Satan loves to have people on his side so he can devour them.
Nevertheless, “…as sin came into the world through one man, & death through sin,… much more have the grace of God & the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” What our Lord is teaching us is this: His forgiveness does not simply balance our act of sin, it overbalances it.
The old man doomed the world; the new Man recreates it in even more glorious splendor. The sins we commit, by what we have done & by what we have left undone, are completely erased & a new kingdom is being created in their place. What we miss through our sins is the joy of participating in God’s kingdom as Jesus saves lost sinners.
His work on the cross is finished, yet His work is never done. Jesus is constantly, & at all times, working to bring all things together for the good of those who love Him. As we are deceived into spreading death whenever we sin, Jesus continues to spread life even more abundantly. He is always creating new opportunities for us to join Him in service to others.
When it seems as if we’re too busy, we need to reorder our priorities so that Jesus is once again 1st in every aspect of our lives. Nowhere else will we find the strength & the ability to serve. It is Jesus alone who has overcome sin & all its effects. He is the Light & our life, yet the best news of all is that He is not a throwaway God. He loves to welcome us home whenever we turn our hearts back to Him. As the Gospel reading from Matthew told us, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed & helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 ESV) Amen.
Through all our powers corruption creeps & us in dreadful bondage keeps; in guilt we draw our infant breath & reap its fruits of woe & death. But Christ, the 2nd Adam, came to bear our sin & woe & shame, to be our life, our light, our way, our only hope, our only stay. We thank You, Christ; new life is ours, new light, new hope, new strength, new powers. This grace our every way attend until we reach our journey’s end. Amen. LSB 562:2, 4, 6.
Holy Trinity Sunday – A LSB #’s 905, 877, 947
Text – Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens & the earth.
IN THE BEGINNING
“The Father eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal,” in the Athanasian Creed, after the sermon, we will confess that God is eternal. He has always existed. Time defines no boundaries for the heavenly Creator. So when God sought to reveal Himself to us He began Holy Scripture with these words, “In the beginning…”
That means time did not exist until God began creating the heavens & the earth. Being the inquisitive person I am, at an evangelism meeting one evening it occurred to me to ask the man leading the study, his name was Tom, “What was God doing during all that “time” from eternity until He finally began creating the heavens & the earth?”
Tom caught me off guard with an instant reply. He didn’t even think it over: “God was making hell ready for those who ask such meddlesome questions.” The thought had just hit me spur of the moment & I’d never heard anyone else discuss it, so I was surprised that he so quickly hit me with an answer.
Later, during my seminary years, I discovered that I was not the 1st person to ask that question, & Tom was merely quoting to me the answer of a famous theologian from over 15 hundred years earlier.
You see the Bible has a very specific purpose. In it, God tells us exactly what He wants you & me to know. If He starts with the words, “In the beginning,” then that is exactly where He wants us to begin our understanding. Prior to that we get into an area where there is no space, no time, no matter, in summary, there’s nothing except God.
So already at the very beginning of Holy Scripture we’re left with no answer but to trust
in the Triune God. He’s incomprehensible to us apart from the revelation He gives in His Word. His Word continues then, in order that we might comprehend what God does desire to make known to us: “In the beginning God created…” The heavens & the earth are not an accident. They were intentionally & thoughtfully designed & created for a purpose.
The OT reading for today was kind of long wasn’t it? That’s to emphasize & bring home the point of just how much love & effort our heavenly Father put into creating our home, the heavens & the earth. When the house was done God then created Adam & Eve specifically for living in that house.
The evolution of man from apes is such a crock, not just for its total lack of scientific basis, but because it is completely devoid of any expression of God’s love. Those in the church, who support the idea that God used millions of years for each day of creation, are missing the main point of the entire creation account.
They’re missing the point that God is trying to bring home through that long & drawn out narrative of the 1st chapter – God is love. A God who would use the suffering & death of evolution, to ‘create’ animals & mankind, would hardly be a loving God at all. Scripture teaches very clearly that it was the sin of man which brought suffering & death into our world.
The 1st chapter of God’s creation ends with a very different summation: “And God saw that everything He made was very good. Evening came & then morning – the 6th day.” (Genesis 1:31 AAT) There’s hardly room in that summary for millions of years of survival of the fittest, or a natural selection process driven by death.
The teaching of macro-evolution is a direct denial of the existence of God, & teaching theistic evolution is a denial of God’s love. The events in Genesis, & the events in the four Gospels, are both part of one true story. The entire OT presents a lifeline that begins with the
creation of the universe & then reaches its climax displayed by the love of Christ on the cross.
The Bible’s 1st verse also underlines the truth that your life is a true story with its very beginning in God’s love, not in some accidental processes that have taken billions of years to culminate in the people whom you see today. In episode after episode of Holy Scripture we meet the hand of God, which delights in lifting the faith of men & women above their failures.
Likewise, it’s a hand that delights in lifting us above our failure. This hand did not seek to crush, after their rebellion, either Adam & Eve or their children. It seeks to give them new life instead – in Christ: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17 ESV)
If survival of the fittest were the ultimate process at work, each one of us already would have died rather than the Almighty Son of God. That we’re alive today testifies to His love & His almighty power. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Spirit almighty; & yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
What Christians confess in the Athanasian Creed can be just as incomprehensible as creation from nothing. And if we cannot understand, it may seem impossible for us to help bring someone else to faith in Christ.
People have so many questions & the reality is we have so few answers. The smart aleck kind like, God was making hell ready for those who ask such meddlesome questions, they don’t work so well for evangelism. Yet that brings us back to the main point God’s Word is trying to bring home already in its 1st chapter & throughout the remaining pages as well.
The message we are to take into the world is that God loves us; enough to create each one of us individually, & enough to sacrifice His own Son for each one of us individually. It’s that love which eventually answers every question that people who remain children of God may have. It’s common to hear from someone who’s suffered a tragic loss that the thing which pulled them through was the concern & love that others displayed for them. In those circumstances love is often expressed simply by listening to the one who’s suffering.
In the case of tragedies, there are seldom answers to bring relief, but loving enough to listen does bring healing. Have you experienced that? Then you know how precious it is. If you’ve never experienced it, maybe that’s a reason you do poorly at sharing it. Stewardship is nothing more than reflecting the love that we have received from our heavenly Father.
Our sinful nature abhors such sharing. It’s constantly battling against the faith in Christ given us at baptism. Our sinful nature wants to believe in man-made theories & solutions. The sinful nature wants nothing to do with trusting God. The sinful nature demands an answer.
With the excuse that a Triune God & a six-day creation of the universe are incomprehensible, unbelieving men place their faith in the evolution of mankind. Martin Luther said that false teachers do their thinking about God with the same sureness with which they argue about a pig or a cow. They are that certain of their own brilliance.
Today, science & technology have become the new religion. Through them, people seek to evolve into their own god. With them, mankind is merely replaying the fall into sin. By following Satan’s temptation to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil, Adam & Eve were seeking to evolve into being their own gods.
Yet, despite their fall to the dark side, God promised & then sent the Light in the man Jesus of Nazareth. When did God do that? When the fullness of time was come, which harkens back to Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning… when the fullness of the time was come… it is finished… I am the Alpha & the Omega, the Beginning & the End.”
All those well-known Bible phrases involve the element of time. The God who created
us did not stand aloof from our problems when man fell into sin. Unlike all the false gods that unbelievers have worshipped throughout time, our God envelops Himself with & even reveals Himself in His very own creation. His Son entered time & took on the flesh of mankind in becoming one of us.
Thus the Athanasian Creed closes with a powerful confession teaching the incarnation of Jesus Christ: “He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; & He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age: perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul & human flesh...” (Athanasian Creed)
The Gospel of John begins: “In the beginning was the Word,” & the theme of John’s Gospel is God’s new creation. As Yahweh spoke in the beginning, such that the heavens & the earth came into being, so God speaks today through His Word, & His children come into being. Each of us was dead in sin, but we are now alive, a new creation, in Christ.
Then Jesus came to them & said, “Go therefore & make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) That end brings us full circle, from, “In the beginning,” to “the end of the age.”
Between the beginning & the end, the light of Christ is always with us, guiding us, & guarding us against the dark side of our soul. The sin that lives within has been conquered. Come Judgment Day all God’s children will see, along with the Apostle John, the same vision he saw at the beginning of the 21st chapter of Revelation:
“And I saw a new heaven & a new earth, because the 1st heaven & the 1st earth had
passed away...” (21:1 ESV) Yes, in the beginning God created, & out of love for us His children He will still be creating even at the very end. Amen.
God, who made the earth & heaven, darkness & light: You the day for work have given, for rest the night. May Your angel guards defend us, slumber sweet Your mercy send us, holy dreams & hopes attend us all through the night. And when morn again shall call us to run life’s way, may we still, whate’er befall us, Your will obey. From the power of evil hide us, in the narrow pathway guide us, never be Your smile denied us all through the day. Amen. LSB 877:1-2.
Pentecost – A LSB #497
Text – Numbers 11:29
But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!”
An Ancient Prayer Of Grumbling
Oh, Lord, why is everyone cutting me off in traffic today? And why do all the traffic lights have to turn red just as I reach them?
LSB #780. “O Lord, hear my prayer, I Lord, hear my prayer; when I call answer me. O Lord, hear my prayer, O Lord, hear my prayer; come & listen to me.” This was sung by a cantor after each prayer petition.
Dear Lord, what have You done to me, sending me so far away from anyone I know, to such a strange people, in a peculiar place, in order to serve them as their pastor?
Lord God, why have You brought cancer upon my child? She is so young & so precious, but You have allowed her to suffer so much loss & so much pain.
Especially in Michigan, we grumble about the weather. As Americans, we’re fed up with our politicians. Then life happens & next thing you know, you’re old & complaining about everything. Grumbling is very, very common in our world. We hear it with our ears. We feel it with our heart & soul. Life in a sinful world doesn’t just wear us down. It changes us.
At least, that’s what we like to grumble about, how life wears us down & wears us out. Woe is me! The Israelites of God were also well-known for their grumbling ways.
Let’s listen: “Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, & they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness & found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” (Exodus 15:22-24 ESV) After numerous other incidents, God finally brings judgment upon the people: “In this wilderness your bodies will fall – every one of you 20 years old or more who was counted in the census & who has grumbled against me.” (Numbers 14:29 NIV) It’s clear that grumbling is not always as light an offense as we often casually consider it to be.
Because we’re remembering the day of Pentecost, let’s compare our words of grumbling to what was happening that day a few thousand years ago as Luke recorded it: “‘We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’ And all were amazed & perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (Acts 2:11b-12 ESV)
That’s kind of the far end of the spectrum from grumbling. How do we connect the two in our daily walk with our heavenly Father? One way is to consider the words of the sermon text as an ancient prayer of grumbling. What I mean by that probably isn’t obvious so let me help you connect the dots.
After crossing the Red Sea, Moses leads the people of Israel away from the land of Egypt. Along the way he faces constant grumbling & complaint from the Israelites. In turn, Moses frequently takes his complaints to the Lord. Here’s an example that comes shortly before the OT reading of today:
“Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease You that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do You tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land You promised on oath to their ancestors?” (Numbers 11:11-12 NIV)
You see, Moses is doing too much of the work. The people he’s leading have to start picking up the slack, so God tells Moses, “Bring me 70 of Israel’s leaders & I will put the Spirit on them.” For some reason, two of those men didn’t make it to the meeting, yet received God’s Spirit anyway. Joshua tells Moses, “Make them stop prophesying,” & having dealt with the constant frustration of leading a grumbling people, Moses grumbles right back to Joshua, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!” It’s possible to interpret that as an outburst of frustration, yet it is directed to the Almighty God.
That makes it a prayer, a prayer from about 3400 years ago. That qualifies as an ancient prayer of grumbling. Our Lord Yahweh answered that prayer of Moses about 1500 years later as Peter & the Apostles were gathered together in Jerusalem:
“…suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, & it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them & rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit & began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4 ESV)
When the weather is bad, or when people we love are suffering, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing the negative effects of sin. It’s not ungodly of us even to point them out & complain, but we should take our grumbling directly to our heavenly Father & then release it there. We surrender our grumbling & our very selves that His will be done, not ours.
The grumblings of those we serve can take on the sounds of beautiful prayer if we listen with ears that love the people whom God created to be in relationship with Him. In the person of His Son, God died in order to be relationship with them.
It can be frustrating when a pastor cannot please the people because what the pastor has to give the people do not want, & what the people want the pastor does not have to give. We are tempted to side with Moses & add our displeasure to what pours out from the heart of God’s servant. Moses is charged with leading these people & yet they do not respond to him.
We naturally wonder, & even demand to know, what God is going to do about it. If He
doesn’t give me what I want, why do I need Him? Our ingratitude leads to that kind of doubt, as we’ve been learning of in the Sunday morning Bible study. The story of God’s chosen people is not an epic of national heroism; it is not the glorious record of a people willing to suffer hardship for the sake of freedom.
Rather, they complained & grumbled, they wept over the food & rebelled against Moses. They disobeyed a direct command to enter the Promised Land, & so it is with us. Only because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, because His mercies are new every morning, do we remain His children & not turn back to the slavery of self, materialism & the demonic bondage of Satan.
Because Moses turned to the Lord in his feeling of inadequacy & frustration, his complaint did not degenerate into rebellion. That’s where so often we go wrong – in not turning to our Lord & Savior. He longs to come to the aid of his weak & distraught brothers & sisters.
Today we celebrate God’s faithfulness to the Israelites, to Moses, to His Church throughout the ages. We rejoice that God continues to gift His Church with all the things we truly need. We repent for being ungrateful when God’s hand stretches forth & provides abundantly all that we need for body & soul.
It’s true. The world we live in is fallen, broken & twisted. The fact is this world is hell-bound. Living in this world does wear us down & wear us out. However, God’s children are also aware that our heavenly Father will never forsake us nor leave. Jesus is Immanuel. He is God with us. He took on human flesh to change us.
For now that change is partial. On the day of the resurrection it will be complete. In this life, through our trials & struggles combined with the power of God’s love, the Holy Spirit is working to shape & mold us into the image of Christ. We lost that image at the fall into sin. Jesus restored that image through His life, death & resurrection. You & I will wear it fully, for all of eternity, once the Last Day arrives. Given that, when life’s frustrations arrive, don’t hesitate to take them to the Lord in prayer, even if it is a prayer of grumbling. Amen.
Come, Holy Ghost, God & Lord, with all Your graces now outpoured on each believer’s mind & heart; Your fervent love to them impart. Lord, by the brightness of Your light in holy faith Your Church unite; from every land & every tongue this to Your praise, O Lord, our God be sung. Come, holy Fire, comfort true, grant us the will Your work to do & in Your service to abide; let trials turn us not aside. Lord, by Your power prepare each heart, & to our weakness strength impart that bravely here we may contend, through life & death to You, our Lord, ascend. Alleluia, alleluia! Amen. LSB 497:1, 3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet