Subjected to Futility
7th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 11) LSB #765
Text – Romans 8:20-21
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption & obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
SUBJECTED TO FUTILITY
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27-28a ESV) Those are the Words of God just a few days before He was crucified at the place of the skull. He had been waiting for this death His entire human life & that nature was feeling the weight of it.
We can thank Jesus for His prayer because it reveals the tremendous battle God’s Son had to fight against His own flesh & blood. His human nature struggled with the thought of dying. His prayer gives expression to this resistance, that we feel as well, & reveals something of the victory He won, by submitting to the will of God, & by voluntarily going in to death.
Do you feel the weight of sin? You may never before have been asked that question. On a shallow level anyone who believes that sin is real would certainly agree. Each of us has suffered the effects of living in a broken world – illness, crime, pollution, broken relationships, hurt feelings & the grinding, tedious nature of much of the work we do.
On a deeper level though, we may never have given much thought to feeling the weight of sin. After all, this broken world is the only one we have known. The effects of sin are normal for you & me. Everything we’ve ever done has been corrupted by it, & that has colored our perception of the way things are. Nothing in our lives has the substance or clarity that it should.
The book of Ecclesiastes hits home with such power because it perfectly expresses how we experience the weight of sin. These are the 1st two verses: “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 ESV) Now, can you guess which word from the sermon text may be translated as ‘vanity’? “For the creation was subjected to futility…” Vanity is a synonym for the concept of futility! Solomon might have written, “Futility of futilities. All is futility.”
The 3rd verse of Ecclesiastes continues the thought by stating: “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (ESV) It’s been that way since God said to Adam:
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife & have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns & thistles it shall bring forth for you…” (Genesis 3:17-18 ESV) You see, creation has been subjected to futility by the curse of Almighty God.
Feeling the weight of sin, & of the curse, King Solomon wrote so accurately, “All is vanity.” Later in the chapter he adds, “…and a striving after wind.” Yet Solomon was thinking on anything but a shallow level. Here are two more verses from Ecclesiastes 1:
“All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, & what has been done is what will be done, & there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:8-9 ESV) Have you experienced that vanity of living, what can seem like a striving after wind?
Then you have felt the weight of sin, & it is not supposed to be like that. In the 1st chapter of Genesis we hear these words spoken to Adam & Eve: “…Be fruitful & multiply & fill the earth & subdue it, & have dominion over the fish of the sea & over the birds of the heavens & over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)
God’s perfect creation was not subjected to futility when He called it into being. Instead, the work of Adam & Eve was joyful & beautiful. They subdued the earth & had dominion over it in ways that were beneficial to every aspect of the planet that was created for them as their home. All of creation was in perfect harmony & it fully supported the efforts of Adam & Eve as they managed the gift that was given to them. When they disobeyed the One who created it all drastic measures had to be taken to keep Adam & Eve from utterly destroying their world. They were banished from the tree of life so they wouldn’t live forever in their sinful state.
Nevertheless, the wickedness of mankind overtook the human race & by the time of Noah, Yahweh determined to destroy all the unbelievers in a massive worldwide flood. By the time the rain began to fall, only 8 people were left who put their trust in the true God.
Years later, at the tower of Babel, the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, & they have all one language, & this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down & there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:6-7 ESV)
In both cases the Lord acted to subject His creation to futility because, as Moses wrote before the flood, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, & that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5 NIV) That’s where human beings end up when they refuse to accept Jesus as Lord.
By subjecting to futility, anything we do apart from Christ, our heavenly Father has limited the damage the human race can do. Looking at the wars just since the year 1900 to our eyes hardly looks like a limitation. However, without those limits the human race would certainly have destroyed itself many times over by now.
Before The Fall into sin all of creation was subjected to a perfect Adam as caretaker. Now, creation is subjected to futility on account of the sin of the caretaker. Once Jesus reveals Himself to us on the Last Day, everything will again be subjected to a perfect caretaker, the New Adam, Jesus Christ. No more sin, no more sorrow, no more tears! Perfect harmony will again be the rule of the day. “How long?” is a common refrain when life isn’t going the way we expect. God’s Word tells us: “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18 ESV) All of history is moving towards that day & St. Paul reassures us that we will not be disappointed if we don’t give up.
It is difficult to wrap our head around, but as Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, suffering has taken on a new & positive definition. Our trials & tribulations are not meaningless even when we don’t understand why at the time. Jesus gave purpose & meaning to all misfortune because He took away the permanence of death.
For anyone who believes it, Jesus did put away the old creation when His flesh & blood was buried in the tomb. The hard work of freeing creation from sin’s dominion took place on the cross. Then Jesus rested on the Sabbath, as God did after the 1st creation.
On Easter morning Jesus began to fashion the new creation as His flesh & blood was raised from death & given its new & glorious & eternal form. The future of your body & mine is bound up with, & foreshadowed by, that risen flesh & blood of our Lord & Savior.
We shall be like Him, & forevermore the suffering of this life will have no comparison to the glory of the next life. When that day comes, all of us will realize how worthwhile our days were in this corrupted existence. Even: “…the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19 ESV)
A parable hides it’s meaning from unbelievers, yet at the same time reveals it to those who trust in Jesus. In the same way, the firstfruits of Christ’s new creation are present & visible in God’s children already today. Those fruits are hidden from the people who do not believe in Jesus, & yet at the same time they can be visible to the people who do believe.
Left only to ourselves, & our emotions, it’s easy to be overcome by our suffering & by
the many tragedies of life on this earth. We are surrounded by thousands of bits of evidence each day that all is not well in our nation or in our homes or in our bodies. We do feel the weight of sin. Indeed, we “…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Hoping for what we do not yet see requires patience.
“Likewise [God’s] Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Amen.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence faith sees a smiling face. Blind unbelief is sure to err & scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, & He will make it plain. You fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds you so much dread are big with mercy & will break in blessings on your head. Amen. LSB 765:2, 4-5.
 Romans 8:23 ESV
 Romans 8:26-27 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet