Saturday, October 25, 2008
October 26, 2008 Reformation Psalm 46
God, to us, a Refuge and Strength; a Help in trouble, well proved. Therefore we will not fear in a changing earth; and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea. Its waters roar, foam; the mountains quake at its swelling. Exalt! There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God; the holy dwelling of the Most High. God is in her midst, she will not be moved; God will help her in the dawn of the morning. Nations uproar, kingdoms totter; He raised up in His voice, the earth melts. Yahweh of armies is with us; our Stronghold is the God of Jacob. Exalt! Come, look at the works of Yahweh; He has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes war stop to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow and breaks the spear, He burns the chariots in fire. Stop, and know that I Myself am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Yahweh of armies is with us; our Stronghold is the God of Jacob. Exalt!
Have you ever encountered a foe simply too overwhelming for you? Like a politician down 20 points to an opponent with only 2 weeks to go before election day. Maybe it was a class you were failing, with no hope of passing the final. Perhaps it was an illness for you or an ailment for family member, and the prospects for recovery were dim. Or it could be a relationship you'd sufficiently messed up that there seemed no hope for repair. At such times, you cry jumpin' Jehosephat & pray for a miracle.
The real Jehosephat, king of Judah, faced an overwhelming foe of his own. The mighty Ammonites of Jordan joined the Moabites & Edomites of the South to form a huge army. They marched on Judah in battle. King Jehosephat prayed before the people for God's help, and He was answered–the battle belonged to God. He fought all 3 armies Himself to save Judah. He turned the enemy armies against one another, & they were all killed. In joyful response the sons of Korah sang Psalm 46!
Which brings us to the overwhelming foe of Jesus' day. Not an outward force like the Roman legions. Such an enemy, no one would deny. But this was the enemy within. This was an enemy which enslaved the people, without many of them realizing it until it was too late. This was no ordinary illness which rose up within men, for such could be cured with medicines & treatments. This enemy was sin, which wrought death. And not just ordinary, everyday death, but eternal, permanent death.
Now, the pharisees of Jesus' day were in denial of this enemy within. They strove to keep some 613 commands they found in the scriptures, foolishly thinking they could defeat this enemy on their own. Modern day pharisees wrongly assume the same thing, proudly announcing that they are no longer sinners of any sort. The pharisee within your flesh may also rear its ugly head to claim that you can fight the foe of sin on your own, but you know that you cannot. Sin is much too powerful an enemy.
For sin enslaves you. It captures you, and causes you to think its thoughts, feel its feelings, desire its desires, and do its dark deeds. If you stop denying sin's hold on you, and admit it has thoroughly enslaved you, they you will realize how bad off you really are in the face of this foe. For at such times, the Law of God has done its job well, convicting you of sin and the hopelessness and helplessness you face on your own in dealing with such an overwhelming & devastating opponent.
Martin Luther realized this, all too well. He knew what a great sinner he was, so much so that even dedicating his life to God's service as a monk could not help him overcome his servitude to sin. He was a failure at fighting this foe. But then the Gospel of God finally dawned its light on Luther. There was a Champion who was strong enough to defeat this enemy of sin–Christ Jesus! So Luther stopped trying to battle sin himself, and searched the Scriptures to see how God fought for him!
Jesus, God's Son made Luther free indeed! That is when Luther realized that the Christian church was not all about what man does, but about what God does to free us from sin by forgiveness. So Luther sought out all those ways God sets us free from sin-slavery in the means of grace. He discovered baptism which delivered you from death as a rebirth to everlasting life. He found the preaching of the gospel which declares you absolutely forgiven from the Pastor as from Christ Himself. He uncovered Jesus' very body & blood hidden in bread & wine of communion to save you.
Rejoice dear friends in Christ, for the battle agains the overwhelming foe of isn isn't yours. It's God's! He is your Mighty Fortress of refuge & strength! There is a river which makes the city of God glad. A river flowing from Jesus' Own pierced side at the cross, through His water & blood of forgiveness. Amen.