Sunday, February 14, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010 Sexigesima
And in their journeyings, all the assembly of the Sons of Israel, from the desert of Sin, departed according to the voice of Yahweh; and they camped in Rephidim, and there was no water to drink for the people. And the people disputed with Moses and they said, "Give to us water, and we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you dispute with me? Why do you try Yahweh?" And the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and they said, "Why now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill me, and my sons, and my livestock with thirst?" And Moses called out to Yahweh, to say, "What will I do to these people? Yet a little and they will stone me!" And Yahweh said to Moses, "Go over before the people and take with you from the elders of Israel, and your staff which you struck upon the Nile, take in your hand, and walk. Look, I will stand before your face there, on the Rock on Horeb; and you will strike on the Rock, and will come out from it, water; and the people may drink." And thus, Moses did in the eyes of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, over the dispute of the sons of Israel, and over their trying Yahweh, to say, "Is Yahweh in our midst? Surely He is absent!"
God provides. That's not just a platitude we say when one suffers loss. God does provide: clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, a spouse and children, property, animals, and all you have. That's just some of the earthly stuff! He daily and richly provides all you need to support your body and life. God also provides you with blessings from above: redeeming you and bestowing life eternal in heaven!
"This is old news Pastor..." True enough. But the God Who provided for the Israelites of old, and for the Jews of Jesus' day is the same God who provides for you now. But the Israelites grumbled about how God would provide for them, and Jesus tells a parable about those who complained about receiving the same reward from the Vineyard Owner. Guess what? Human nature hasn't changed much over the years. You still find yourselves tempted to murmur and dispute about how God provides.
When we don't understand just how God is providing, we begin to doubt His providence. Church attendance is down, the participation of members slows and offerings dwindle, so we wrongly assume God is failing us. He isn't. But we foolishly want to take matters into our own hands, as though God needs our help to sustain and grow His church. He doesn't. He only requires you to be faithful to Him.
God sustains His church with simple water. Not unlike the water from the Rock in the desert. Jesus blesses His church in the life-giving water of baptism. It gives life because it is water connected to and comprehended with God's Own life-giving word! This water not only cleanses you from sin, but it also quenches your thirst as well. As a sinner you thirst for righteousness, and in trade for your sins (which Jesus took upon Himself in death on the cross). He is the Rock who gives you His righteousness!
When we don't recognize the ways God is providing, that's when we begin to take it up with God's man. The Israelites argued with Moses about how God didn't seem to be providing for them. The workers in the parable grumble to the foreman about their pay. Even today, God's man takes the brunt of the member's complaints. "Why can't we do it this way, or that way, Pastor?"
God's man can say nothing other than what the LORD has given him to say. Your pastor has been given the Law of God to proclaim you guilty as a sinner. But your pastor has also been given the message of the gospel, which declares the grace of Jesus to you this day! It is my privilege to proclaim to you that Jesus loves you so much that He gave up His life on Calvary's hill to save you. According to the voice of the LORD, you are proclaimed to be forgiven today, in His name.
When we fail to comprehend exactly how God provides for us, we are tempted to try puting God to the test. "Where were you God, when that earthquake hit Haiti?" "Where were you God, when that person I loved so much died right in the prime of life?" With such questions, we put God on trial, accusing Him of being absent, just because He allows things we wouldn't have. But he isn't absent.
Your God is here for you, a very present Help for your needs. He's not absent, just because He allows suffering. He is present in the very suffering itself, as Jesus was at the cross. He was really present there to save you from that unholy trinity of sin, death and the devil. He is really present here and now, with the same body given and blood shed, in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper to forgive you! Jesus is here now to provide the blessings of heaven in His word proclaimed and sacraments received!