Living in the Shadow
3rd Sunday in Lent – C LSB #685
Text – 1 Corinthians 10:11
Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
LIVING IN THE SHADOW
In case you haven’t heard of it, Ken Ham & the Answers in Genesis ministries have built a full scale, life size model of Noah’s Ark. About an hour south of Cincinnati it is a sight to see. You can spend hours exploring the inside of what is actually a museum explaining how the Ark might have operated, & how those living in it might have spent their time.
For just over one year it was a sanctuary for all the land creatures that were tasked with repopulating the earth after The Flood. Having spent four years stationed onboard a U.S. Navy submarine; I know something of what the hardships of life would’ve been like on Noah’s boat. I spent plenty of tedious months out in the ocean & I had zero desire to ever go back.
Then, I stepped on board the Ark. When you arrive, there’s a place at one end where you hear the narrative of The Flood read to you as recorded in the book of Genesis. At appropriate times you hear the rains fall, the raging winds blow, & I felt the darkness of that day of death descending upon the land. I could almost feel the boat lifting off the bottom as if to float.
In that moment I sensed the power & majesty of God in a way that drew me back to that great & terrible day when God acted to save Noah & his family. And it was the 1st time, since I vowed never to set foot on the ocean again, that I could say, “It would have been an incredible experience to ride that boat to sea.” It was a monumental event in the course of world history.
If you’re wondering yet, what this opening illustration on the Ark has to do with St. Paul writing in Corinthians about the end of the world, listen to the words of 2 Peter 3: “[Scoffers] deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of His command, & He brought the earth out from the water & surrounded it with water. Then He used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens & earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.” (2 Peter 3:5-7 NLT)
The destruction of the world through The Flood, according to St. Peter, is connected to the destruction of the world on the coming Day of Judgment. A few verses later Peter continues:
“…the Day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, & the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, & the earth & everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy & godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God & hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, & the elements will melt away in the flames.” (2 Peter 3:10-12 NLT)
St. Peter could be a fire & brimstone preacher, but his point is this: “What holy & godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God & hurrying it along.” And the Apostle Paul is expanding on that idea in the sermon text for this morning when he writes: “…but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
For thousands of years con artists have come & gone predicting the end of the world down to the day & the time. Every one of them has been wrong, but the prophets & apostles of Holy Scripture are not crackpots trying to con us into giving away our possessions for their own gain. The vast majority of them were willing to die for the truth they taught & believed.
St. Paul is warning the Corinthians of his day, & you & me in ours, that religion is serious business that should be undertaken with fear & trembling. Human beings are totally incapable of determining reality without the help of God. Without Him, no matter how sincerely you believe you’re following the truth, you are nothing more than the blind leading the blind.
Our culture & media are full of it these days – spiritual blindness leading to death in all sincerity. They plead so earnestly for us to follow their enlightened & awakened thinking while they totally reject the very foundational teachings of Holy Scripture. That is, all people have sinned in thought, word & deed. We cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition, & yet Christ Jesus has called us to take refuge in the infinite mercy of God; to seek His grace for the sake of Jesus. That means we should follow the teachings of Jesus & not those of the world.
The Bible was given to us by Yahweh that we might know the truth through His intentional revelation to us. We cannot know truth apart from Him, yet people are telling us all the time that the OT only applies to the people of thousands of years ago. Jesus would not agree. St. Paul did not agree. Their words in the NT back that up & prove it.
In the Epistle lesson for today, Paul takes the 1st four verses to list many of the blessings the Israelites received on their way out of Egypt. Yet, verse 5 concludes, “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” That’s a polite way of saying their lives came to an end because they despised the gracious will of God.
That attitude is not only foolish & dangerous, it is deadly. The Word of the Lord warns us against it. Following verse 5 Paul makes reference to several vivid pictures of the suffering & death caused by sin. Immediately after Israel set out from Mt. Sinai, the rabble yielded to an intense craving for the meat & fresh vegetables that were plentiful in Egypt.
Not only did they complain about what they lacked, they complained bitterly about what they had – the manna from God’s hand. In response, the Lord gave them quail, but He also struck many of them with a plague. So the name of that place was called Kibroth Hattaavah, or ‘the graves of craving’ – because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.
The meat & fresh vegetables they desired were not evil in themselves. They became evil because of their association with the idolatrous land of Egypt, & because the people preferred them over what the Lord was graciously giving them in the wilderness. What do the people of our culture today crave besides the Word of the Lord? What do we ourselves prefer instead of what the Lord is giving us? Do you long for the forgiveness Christ offers to you through the waters of your Baptism & the Body & Blood of His supper? Do you hold the preaching of His Word sacred & gladly hear & learn it?
How about that part in the OT where God declares that He created us male & female? Is that too constrictive & unenlightened in our day? Can a person defy our heavenly Father’s will in areas like that, which seem to be on the fringe of what’s important in matters of faith, or spirituality? Has the craving for sexual immorality become the Kibroth Hattaavah of our day?
At verse 8 of the epistle reading Paul reminds us, “We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, & 23,000 fell in a single day.” They died of a plague that God sent upon them. After two more examples of temporal judgment Paul summarizes by writing:
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV) The Apostle makes it clear that the OT times weren’t just an aberration due to an angry God. Yahweh’s people of the NT cannot ignore the example of His dealing with our ancestors in the faith.
Those events were real, not fiction, but they were also recorded so we could learn from them, because the end of the ages has come. Another translation puts it like this, “…but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the goals of the ages have come.”
In other words, all the ‘ages’ of this universe, all the different epochs, have by God’s gracious provision reached their common goals – their consummation in Jesus’ death & resurrection. We now live constantly in the shadow of the last great day, the Day of the Lord, the Day of His final coming.
The goal of the ages is the perfect Son, which Adam failed to be, but Jesus accomplished
perfectly. Thus we live in the shadow of Christ! A good place to be! Mindful of this we should not be complacent & arrogant. In spite of all the self-importance of the powerful people in our world there is a day coming when they will pale in comparison. As at the moment of Jesus’ death, the earth will quake once more as it is rent asunder on that day at the end of the world.
Do you realize that every single moment of your life is lived in the shadow of that Day? No, you don’t, & you can’t possibly grasp the magnitude which that Day will bring. Once in heaven we may look back on it & marvel how we could have been so blind, so dense, so self-absorbed. The magnitude of that Day is what struck me inside the Ark.
I felt the darkness of that day of death descending upon the land, but it was not only a Day of Judgment & death. It was also a Day of salvation for anyone who would listen. The tragedy is that, in Noah’s day, only 8 souls were willing to trust the Word of God against the word of man. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
If you trust the Word of God against the word of man, there is nothing for you to fear either. That applies to anything threatening you in this life or the next life. Hell still threatens even if you do not belong to it. It’s like the raging wind & the waters outside the Ark, you’re safe from them as long as you don’t go overboard.
Until we reach our final home, God’s house is here to provide you with shelter & safety. If you spend time here, there are people who will say you’re foolish to believe those old fairy tales about heaven & hell. You’ll hear that you should be enlightened & awakened to the new reality, but those are just the same old lies the devil has been telling for hundreds of generations.
In the Flood & the Ark God was at work to save His people. On that day it was visible & obvious to the naked eye as all things will be in heaven. Until then, we are left living in the tension between God’s promises & His fulfillment of them. So Jesus has sent His Spirit to walk with us, to guide us & even to pray for us when we don’t know how to pray. If our parents are following Jesus, we receive that Spirit in the waters of Holy Baptism, as Archer Greiner did earlier in this service. The water of Baptism saves us from slavery to sin as surely as the waters of the Red Sea saved the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians.
That’s because our Father in heaven has promised to work through water, & He has commanded us to baptize for salvation. That is the promise. The fulfillment comes on the Day of the Lord when He returns to take us home. For those who reject Him it will be that final Day of death descending upon the land for eternity.
For those who believe in Jesus as Savior from sin that final Day will be a joyful day of deliverance & salvation, the completion & fulfillment of all God’s promises. The children of God are the goal of all of history. Christ came to earth & took our place that He might be the true & faithful, firstborn Son of God that Adam failed to be.
In Baptism we are made to be His brothers & sisters. We are called into the kingdom of God. For us who believe that is no reason to be afraid of the Day of the Lord. It’s that which I felt that 1st time I was on the Ark – the power & majesty of God which draws all His children to Him. May all of us be those upon whom the goals of the ages have come. Amen.
Let us ever walk with Jesus, follow His example pure, through a world that would deceive us & to sin our spirits lure. Onward in His footsteps treading, Pilgrims here, our home above, full of faith & hope & love, let us do the Father’s bidding. Faithful Lord, with me abide; I shall follow where You guide. Amen. LSB 685:1.
 1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet