Come to the wells!

Our God is not just a clockmaker who set the gears in motion and walked away.  Far from it!  He deeply cares and loves his creation.  When Jesus appeared, he showed this clearly in every way.  It marked him as being the Son of the Most High.  We focus on this simple yet beautiful aspect of our God today — He cares for his creation!

See Our Covenant God!

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10th Sunday after Pentecost
Exodus 24:3-11


Infamous Atheist and author of the book “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins; is quoted in that book as saying this: “Yahweh: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Perhaps you’ve had friends or family members who’ve made similar remarks about God in the OT?  Perhaps we’ve even wondered at the God that we see in the OT from time to time.  Perhaps we’ve wondered why the OT seems to be so violent or why the OT seems to have so much blood in it.  I know I have.  Even in the text for today, we hear of those young bulls being sacrificed.  And if you let your mind ponder the logistics of that – it can make your stomach turn.  Indeed, there is a lot of blood in the OT!  Indeed, worship in in general in the OT was an altogether noisy, somewhat terrifying, possibly traumatic and bloody affair.  At times, for many of us it is difficult to see a connection between the Lord in the NT and the Lord in the OT –

In the Word of God from Exodus this week, the Holy Spirit helps us to clearly see that connection.  He helps us to see the heart of God, our immovable, unchanging from everlasting to everlasting covenant God.  In this text from the OT We clearly see our same covenant God: by his Word and by the Sacrament.



Anyway, speaking of terrifying, shocking traumatic things… If you were an Israelite standing there in that mass of humanity 2 million strong, camped out before Mt. Sinai, what you and your neighbors saw would’ve made you break out in a sweat and divert your eyes, and cower down in fear.  The mountain was covered in fire, thunder, lightening and smoke and the ground shook.  If God were to open his mouth to speak you knew for sure that the whole of Israel would wither and die right there at the foot of that mountain. This was the almighty. The hand of God, the creator of the universe himself resting his presence upon that mountain – of that there was no doubt.

Part I: By His Word


Why did the Lord give the Israelites such a terrifying display?  Why would he appear horrible, wrathful, and angry?  Why would he be unapproachable, save by one man, Moses? This hardly seems like the covenant God of free and faithful grace!  Why didn’t God just take them as they were and love them as they were?

It’s because the Israelites had no inkling, no bearing on what it meant to be the chosen people of a Holy God.  They were mortal, he was not.  They were fickle, he was not.  They were sinful, and he was not.  By nature, sinful mankind has no business approaching a perfect and holy God.

God was showing them his wrath and anger at sin.  They needed this terrifying display lest they think that there was some way to approach him on their own worth or merit.

Yet, God is driven by an insatiable love.  A love that has ever sought to overcome that massive divide between sin and holiness.  Enter the Covenant – that binding agreement to allow the LORD almighty to dwell with his people.  And where does it all start?  It begins with his promise, his Word to his people.

Moses returns from speaking to the Lord and, Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.

Oh, the Word of God was precious to them!  Now they had it!  In written form!  Something they could look at, and reference and marvel at!  That almighty God would go to them!  And give them his Word, a document that told them what it meant for them to be his people, that they were to be special, different – a chosen nation a people set apart!

Just in the face of such a wonder that formerly terrified mass of humanity responded in “one voice!”  “Everything the Lord has said we will do!”


Do you see God here, our God of the Covenant?  A God that has chosen to deal with his people by his Word.  A Word that endures, and does not change.  Evidence of that is just the simple fact that I’m preaching from this text today.  These words have existed since they day that they were written down at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  It has survived attacks and those who sought to destroy it.  Because it is the very Word of that Almighty God, creator of heaven and Earth – the Holy Covenant God who appeared in fire and smoke and thunder.

The fact that God has given his Word to us, should fill us with a holy awe, just as it did the Israelites!  The wonder of having it makes a believer want to respond in the same way Israel did, “We will do everything the Lord has said!”

But do we?  Did they? No.  We know even after this Israel turned away time and time again from the true God and we’re no different.  Even when that Word has told us of how good God has been to us and Lord has lead us through wildernesses of our own.  Even when it shows us what it means to be called God’s people.  Every time we sin, we raise our fist in rebellion to God and his Word.  Saying, “God I know your word says otherwise, but I’m going to do what I want to do!  I’ll continue to be the person I want to be, live how I want to live, keep my comfortable pet sins and how dare you tell me otherwise.”

But friends, this is the truly amazing thing.  God knows we are like this, he knows that by nature we are divided from him. That as our sinful selves, we are in no way able to ascend the mountain of the Lord. But just as in the Old Testament, Our God is still and always will be driven by his love for us.  His one great desire is to draw us to himself and bridge that great chasm that divides sin and holiness.  That is why he gives us his Word, it is to remind us of the promise, the Covenant that he has made with us.


Part II: By the Sacrament


Were it not for this Covenant that God had made with his people, he rightly should forget about them in the wilderness that they are in.  But this is not just a Covenant made as a light agreement and a hand shake – a thing to be easily thrown aside.  It is a covenant that is sealed in blood.  See this transaction, this Covenant that the Lord made with his people there at the foot of Mt. Sinai was unique.  It set the pattern for what was to be the Old Testament Sacrament.  With Moses building the altar, and setting up the stones to represent Israel, the sacrificing of the young bulls and throwing half the blood on the altar and then the rest on the people – Israel was formally set apart as the people of God.

The New Testament writer to the Hebrews helps us in understanding the sacramental nature of this Covenant. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”[e]21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

That is really the chief characteristic of a sacrament.  A thing that is connected with God’s Word and reminds the sinner of God’s grace.  And oh was there forgiveness, and oh was there grace and it was plain to see.  After the covenant was sealed in blood, and the sacrifices made: Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

These men, these sinful men, the representatives of all Israel go up with Moses, and they no longer see the fire, lightening, or hear the thunder and the ground shake as sinful men tread upon holy ground.  No, they see the definition of tranquility.  Pavement of sapphire blue and peaceful.  This is where they ate.  They ate a meal there in the presence of God.  Talk about a foreshadowing!  This extends beyond foreshadowing the promised Savior!  This is the wedding feast of the Lamb!  The peace and glory, at the end, with a new heaven and a new earth, when sin has been destroyed and man can dwell in the presence of a holy, eternal and righteous God.


Brothers and Sisters, it is really this covenant that we are reminded of every single Sunday.  We are reminded that without the shedding of blood that there is no forgiveness!  We really are reminded of a worse thing than a mountain smoking with fire and wrath.  But we see the blood of an innocent shed for the lives of the guilty.  We see an angry God who poured out all his hatred for sin, my sins and yours, on his very own son.  That God made one who had no sin at all to literally be sin for us.  He punished one who was full of love for our lack of it.  He shed the blood of one who never had an impure thought as though he were guilty for every single one of ours.

But as Jesus said on the night he was betrayed, that blood, his blood, was the blood of the new covenant poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.  It is that covenant, that we are reminded of every time we put the wafer on our tongues and the cup to our lips.  That just as the elders of Israel ate that fellowship offering on the mountain and communed with holy God, we do the same exact thing.  We can literally taste the forgiveness that God has for us.  The sacrament really is a foretaste of the wedding banquet in heaven.

The sacrament of the altar reminds us that when someone else shuts our eyes in death, we will open them on our own to see that same tranquility, that same peace that the elders of Israel saw.  The savior, the God of the Covenant on streets of sapphire blue and clear and pure as the sky.  Where sin is gone, there is no pain or fear or tears.



A service of Word and Sacrament.  Sound familiar?  I believe that’s the order of service we are following today.  I also believe that is the order of service that Moses and the Israelites followed at the base of Mt. Sinai.  These are the things by which we see our Covenant God.  A God whose always sought to bridge that gap between sinfulness and holiness. Our Covenant God who shed blood, indeed his very own blood that we might be at peace with him and that we can depart, when we depart this life in peace.  Amen.

I Will Help You Speak.

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6th Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 4:12

Ordination & Installation of Benjamin Zamzow

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Participants in Today’s Service

Vacancy Pastor Seth Scheuerlein
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
Grand Rapids, MN

Guest Preacher Michael Spaude
Ascension Lutheran Church
Antigo, WI

Circuit Pastor Bryan Prell
Petra Lutheran Church
Sauk Rapids, MN

New Pastor Benjamin Zamzow
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
Bemidji, MN

Thank you, God, For Working in Mysterious Ways!

Give thanks to God at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day Sermonettes

Jonah 1:17– Thank you, God, for confronting me

How would you have felt?  God asked Jonah to go preach in the capital city of one of Israel’s most powerful enemies… because God wanted to show them compassion and love.  Would you have been jumping up and down to go?  Jonah wasn’t.  So he got on a ship that was sailing as far away as possible.  But God sent a fierce storm, so fierce the ship was about to break up, the sailors figured out that the storm was because of Jonah.  So with Jonah’s permission they threw him overboard…and everything immediately grew calm.  But what happened to Jonah?  “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”  Do you think Jonah got God’s message?  Do you think he had time to think?  Do you think God got his attention?  He did…in a very unusual way.

Have we been in Jonah’s shoes, shoes of rebellion against God? God tells us to forgive those who sin against us, but do we say, “No way!  That’s his problem; after all HE sinned against ME!”  God tells us to put Him first, but do we say, “No!  I have my own wants and needs to take care of first, maybe if I have some leftovers I’ll give something to God.”   We’ve all had times like that.  And what does God do?  He wakes us up.  Probably hasn’t been with a great big fish, but maybe it’s a sudden challenge in our lives which draws our attention heavenward.  Maybe it’s a serious illness that strips us of our “I can make it on my own” attitude.  Maybe it’s a long, hard look at God’s law that shows us how greatly we’ve fallen and how desperately we need a Savior.  Whatever it may be, THANK the Lord for confronting us with our sin and showing us our desperate need for a Savior.  Realizing our sinfulness let us confess our sin to God:

Hosea 3:1 – Thank you, God, for your faithful love

God has taken away your sin.   For as high has the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for you; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed your sin from you.  You are forgiven.  How might you picture that kind of love?  I’ll bet you wouldn’t have guessed this one.  God gave the Israelites and us an object lesson.  God told the prophet Hosea to marry an adulteress, a prostitute.  God wanted Hosea to unconditionally and unselfishly commit his life to a woman who had a terrible history of being faithless and unfaithful in the deepest way.  How would you have felt if you were Hosea?  I think it’s safe to say that no one looks for a spouse who is unfaithful or not-trustworthy.  But what was God’s point?  Look at the verse, “The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.  Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”  What’s the point?  God still loves the unfaithful.

Although we are the unfaithful ones, unfaithful with the gifts and abilities God’s given us, unfaithful with our devotion to His Word, although that is who we are…guess what…  God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for your unfaithfulness.  God picked you up and united Himself with you.  God still continues to love you. God will not turn away from you, God will never divorce you, God does not leave you.  God loves you unconditionally and His abounding love and forgiveness will never, ever run out for you!  Is that something to be thankful for?  THANK you, Lord, for Your incredibly faithful love!

Jeremiah 32:7-25 – Thank you, God, for reminding me of the big picture!

To understand this next segment, we need to understand the context.  Nebuchadnezzar – the Babylonian king – has come with his army and is besieging Jerusalem.  He’s already overrun the rest of the country, and is about to destroy the capital city, Jerusalem, and will be killing many and taking many more off into exile.

What do you think?  Is that a good time to be buying property?  Not so much, right?  J

And, yet, that’s exactly what God tells Jeremiah to do.  He tells Jeremiah that his cousin is going to come and ask him to buy his field, and that Jeremiah should buy it.  So, sure enough, Jeremiah’s cousin shows up, and Jeremiah dutifully weighs out the silver, and buys the field.

Later, Jeremiah’s praying, and he says to God, and it seems like it’s probably with some degree of frustration, “See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see. {25} And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign LORD, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.'” (Jer 32:24-25 NIV)

What was God teaching Jeremiah, and us?  He’s reminding us that He sees the big picture!  Yes, the army was at the gates at that point.  Yes, the Israelites were in trouble at that point.  Yes, they would be going into exile.

But they would be coming back!  It would be years later, but they would come back!  God knew the big picture, and would guide His people through it!

And so God will do with you and me.  He knows what will happen next month, next year, 50 years from now.  Even now He’s guiding and directing all things for the good of His people, including you.  In fact, even now God’s causing/allowing things in your life which will be a blessing for your great, great, great grand-children!

Thank you, God!  Thank you for knowing the big picture!  And thank you for reminding me of that big picture, that I might approach all of life with confidence and joy!

Exodus 17:10-12 – Thank you, God, for Gifting Me in Unique Ways!

Okay, everyone, I want you to do something a bit different.  Hold up your arms into the air.  Go ahead, hold them up high as you listen to this last sermonette.

The Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land after having left Egypt.  Indeed, it wasn’t long after God had begun giving them manna, that the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites.  And God did something, well, strange.

He had Moses stand on the top of a hill, holding up the staff of God (the same staff, apparently, which he’d held out over the Red Sea when God divided it).  As long as Moses’ hands were up, the Israelites would be winning the battle; when his hands went down, the Israelites would begin losing.  Strange!  The challenge, of course, was for Moses to keep his hands up there.

By the way, how are your arms doing?  Starting to feel it a little bit?  Well, imagine doing this for hours, and the success of the battle depends on you keeping your hands up!  Would it be nice to have some help?

Well, that’s what happened!  Aaron and a man named Hur stood to Moses’ side, and held his arms up, and so the Israelites won the battle.  Aaron and Hur’s contributions were huge!  Simple, but huge!

And, you know what’s neat?  God uses each of our talents in accomplishing His eternal work!  God uses each of our talents – maybe we’re “Moses,” maybe we’re “Aaron/Hur”, maybe we’re one of the “foot-soldiers” in the trenches – to accomplish His eternal work!

All of which leads us to again say, “Thank you, God!  Thank you for gifting me in a unique way!  Thank you for using me to either hold up my hands, or to help hold up someone else’s hands, or to be blessed by those hands being held up!  It may not be obvious to me how it’s happening.  It may not be obvious to me how I’m a blessing to others.  But You’ve promised that I am.  Hands down!  J

VBS – Dive In!

VBS Celebration Sunday

Genesis 3:1-19 – Buyer’s Remorse

Have you ever had “buyer’s remorse”?  It’s something that happens usually after you’ve made some large purchase or spent a lot of money on something, but soon afterwards what you bought begins to disappoint you, maybe worry you, buyer’s remorse can lead you to even try and take your purchase back if you can.

Do you think Adam and Eve had some “buyer’s remorse”?  The devil had come to them and sold them the idea that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a good idea.  But God had told them that if they would eat from that tree that they would surely die.  But the devil came to them and sold them a bill of goods.  So, Adam and Eve took the fruit.

Can you imagine their anticipation as they went into it?  As they were about to eat the fruit?  “Wow!  We’re going to be like God!  We’re going to understand good and evil!  We’re going to advance to a whole new level!”

And then?  Some “buyer’s remorse”?  All of a sudden they were hurled into all those terrible things, all of a sudden they felt guilt, shame, fear, selfishness, pain, anger, blame – all those things that we hate about ourselves.  What the devil had painted as being so wonderful, turned out to be awful and horrible!  “Why, why, why did we listen to the devil?  Why, why, why didn’t we listen to God!”

Well, nothing is new today is there?  The devil continues to paint sin as being alluring, attractive, interesting.  “Go ahead and hold a grudge instead of dealing with the person who hurt you, bottle it up inside, be angry, you deserve it!”  “Go ahead and indulge yourself even if you can’t afford it!”  “Just be lazy at work for once, so many are, your employer won’t notice, it’s about time someone did something for you for a change.”  But what happens afterward?  Sin always ends up biting us, making us feel terrible, or plunging us into more sin.

This past week the children learned about a certain deep sea creature.  It’s called the black dragonfish.  It looks like a snake and it lives deep in the ocean where there is hardly any light.  What it does is it has a way of shining a little light in the darkness that causes little fish to swim to it, but when the little fish get close it suddenly chomps down on them with sharp teeth.  Isn’t that what Satan does when he tries to get us to sin?

Finally, all the horrible things of this world, all the bad stuff that we experience, comes back to this: our first parents’ sin and it is perpetuated by our sin.

But did you notice what God promised?  “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers, he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  This is the first gospel promise, the first promise of the Savior, which came moments after sin first entered this world.  God promised to send Jesus who would come to crush the devil’s head, to destroy the work that he did in the Garden of Eden.   And…Jesus came.  Jesus lived knowing full well what he was getting into, knowing full well what he was purchasing with his life and bitter death on the cross.  And…He did it.  He went to the cross to buy us out of our horrible debt of sin.  So we can live, we can live free from sin’s guilt, live free from slavery to the devil and his bill of goods, live free to glorify our God and Savior.  Amen.

Matthew 4:1-11 –  Protection in Temptation

What scares you?  What are you afraid of?  We might be afraid of all sorts of things in life: Perhaps the darkness, perhaps an intruder in our home, perhaps we’re afraid of some sickness or disease, perhaps we’re afraid of some kind of loss, like the loss of our money, loss of our respect, loss of friends or family.  Living in this world there are all kinds of things that can scare us.  And how do we deal with those things?  If you’re afraid of the dark you might keep a light on all night long, if an intruder you might purchase a gun, if you’re afraid of getting sick you might take a bunch of vitamins or regularly visit a health professional.

But finally all of those things really pale in comparison with something that probably should fill us all with a great amount of fear.  Most things that we fear in life have only to do with this life, this temporary life.  But really there is someone who wants nothing less than for you to suffer eternally because that is exactly his fate.  You see, the devil’s number one goal is to bring people, including you and I, down and he will stop at nothing in order to try to get us to distrust God, abandon God and His Word, lose our faith, and suffer forever with him.

We learned about a certain fish this past week called the porcupine fish or pufferfish.  When it is scared or in danger it has a way of filling itself up with water or air and it becomes kind of rounded with these spikes sticking out all around it.  Whatever predator wants to eat it quickly decides eating that fish would be worse than not eating it at swims away.

Wouldn’t that be nice?  Would that be nice to puff ourselves up with spikes so the devil and his evil angels would think twice about attacking us with temptations to bring us down?

Temptations in and of themselves are not bad.  Any temptation that the devil throws at you has to first be allowed to come at you by God.  In fact, it was God who led Jesus to the desert to be tempted by Satan.  And here in the desert unlike Adam and Eve who had everything Jesus had all kinds of things against him: he was hungry, he was alone.  And yet, Jesus didn’t waver at all, He stood firm against every one of Satan’s attacks.

And why?  To be our perfect substitute.  Jesus didn’t give in to temptation for every time you and I have fallen for the devil’s tricks and lures.  Jesus didn’t give in for all of the times we’ve dove right into sin.   And because Jesus remained perfect his whole life and died on the cross for our sins, the devil has been defeated.  And you notice that each time Jesus didn’t use His power as God to shut down the devil, he didn’t strike him with lightning or blow him away with a powerful wind.  Rather, Jesus relied on God’s Word.  We want protection from the devil?  We want to give glory to God in every temptation in our lives?  Memorize God’s Word, keep it close to your heart and mind and the devil must flee.

Exodus 14:21-23, 26-27, 16:11-16, 17:3-6 – Providence in Need

At times in our lives we face obstacles, don’t we?  Things that keep us from confidently moving forward in life.  Perhaps it’s a health issue, a relationship issue, a difficulty of some kind.  And when we face obstacles it can be easy for us to get discouraged, to complain, to get frustrated, or to just be down.  Where do we go?  Where do we turn?

One little fish in the ocean is called a clownfish.  It’s bright orange fish and is an easy target for predators.  There’s another fish called the sea anemone that has a bunch of long tentacles.  Apparently, when a fish touches one of those tentacles it stings and paralyzes the fish.  It does that for most fish except for the clownfish.  The clownfish is unaffected by its tentacles.  So, when a clownfish is in danger it swims for protection in the tentacles of the sea anemone.

Well, the Israelites faced many dangerous obstacles.  God had just miraculously delivered them out of slavery in Egypt but now there they were sitting on the edge of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army marching after them.  Where do they go?  Where do they turn?  There’s no solution that they can see.  So what does God do?  He parts the water so the whole nation could go through on dry ground and then closes the sea on top of their Egyptian pursuers.  Then, later on they’re hungry, they have no food, what will they do?  There’s no solution that they can see.  What does God do?  He miraculously provides bread for them every day while they wandered in the desert.  Then later on they have no water, they’re dying of thirst, so what does God do?  He causes water to come from a rock for them to drink!

It wouldn’t have been too difficult for the Israelites to see that their protection, their food, their water, really came from God.  Perhaps it’s more difficult for us to see that.  Our pantries are often filled with food, we don’t really ever have to wonder if we’re going to have water when we turn the faucet on, and we aren’t exactly afraid of an enemy nation ready to kill us or take us hostage.  Perhaps it can be easy for us to forget that it’s really God who gives us everything we need for life.

And so sometimes God will let us realize that we have a need or a bunch of needs.  We’ll hit an obstacle in life just like the Israelites.  They saw clearly their need for protection from the Egyptians, their need for food, their need for water.  What need in your life has God let you see?  A health issue, a financial issue, a relationship issue?

But when the Israelites lived only by sight they were filled with discouragement and fear.  When we live only by sight we, too, are filled with discouragement and fear.  But when we look back at God’s faithfulness to us in the past, how He’s provided for us in the past, how He’s protected us, how He worked things out so that today we could once again hear His Word, hear the message of Jesus our Savior, when we look back at God’s faithfulness in the past we’re encouraged to live not by sight, but by faith, trusting that our faithful God will bring us from the point we’re at now to the place where He’s calling us.  And one day, because we have a faithful God and Savior, we know He will faithfully lead us and bring us to our ultimate home in heaven.  Amen.

Live Life Free From Fear!

4th Sunday after Pentecost
Exodus 14:10-18

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, No way!  No way!  It’s just not happening!  Ever said that?  Thought that?  It was December 1776, only 5 months after the colonies had signed the Declaration of Independence and things were looking terribly grim.  Why?  Because up to this point many of General Washington’s army had been killed, wounded, captured, or deserted.  For the most part, Washington’s men were not trained army men, they weren’t used to discipline or following orders, there were many that would have rather taken his spot, and the 13 colonies weren’t very “united” colonies at this time.  And add to all of that they were fighting Britain who had the best army and navy in the world at that time.  No way, not happening.  Morale was extremely low, and to top it off many of the army men’s commissions were coming to end on December 31, 1776 and they could have legally left the army and went home.  So, it’s Christmas Day 1776, that night it was decided that the Continental army would cross the Delaware River and launch a surprise attack on some of Britain’s mercenary soldiers.  But that night there was a brutal winter storm: hurricane force winds, snow, sleet, hail, many men weren’t dressed warmly, didn’t have shoes, crossing a freezing river, wet, some men froze to death.  One of the soldiers wrote that they crossed the river “with almost infinite difficulty.”  And now they’re going to fight a battle??  No way!  It’s not happening!  Right?  The obstacles in their way were too huge, too enormous, too insurmountable, right?  Were they afraid?  Scared?  Nervous?  Fearful?  Anxious?  Distressed?  I’m thinking probably so.

We’ve all been there at some point in time, haven’t we?  There’s been times when we’ve said, “No way!  Not happening!”  When the obstacles in our way seem too large, too insurmountable, too huge to get over.  What is it in your life?  What is it in your life that keeps you from moving forward?  What obstacle would it be?  What is it that fills you with fear?  What are you afraid of?

Well, in our text the Israelites are also filled with fear and terror as they face an insurmountable obstacle.  They’ve just escaped from slavery in Egypt, the whole nation has left Egypt and is headed to the Promised Land.  But the Lord has led them on kind of a strange route out of Egypt, it looked as if they were confused, going one way and then turning back and going another way and eventually God has them set up camp right by the Red Sea.  Then Pharaoh who had let the Israelites go changed his mind about them and thought, “What have we done?  We’ve lost their services!”  So he assembled his army to pursue them and then the Israelites saw them marching toward them.

So this is their situation: They’ve got a huge sea to the East in front of them, mountains to the West and to the South, and Pharaoh and his well-trained army heading at them from the north.  Add to that they’ve got a nation of some likely 2 million people.  Are they going to survive?  By the way it looks- no way!  And they’re terrified.  What are they going to do?  Where are they going to go?  And where in the world is God in all of this?!?  They’re scared, distressed, afraid.

Why are they afraid?  Finally, they’re afraid because they can’t control what’s going on, right?  To their own minds this can only turn out bad- in every direction is an insurmountable obstacle- and so this is going to be a blood bath, men, women, children killed or recaptured, so they ask, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?  It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert.” They can’t control the outcome of this.  And isn’t that a big part of why fear often enters our hearts?  When we can’t control the outcome?  If we had everything worked out, everything figured out, every possible outcome taken care of, everything that could go wrong has been secured, then we’d be without fear, right?  But finally fear is the result of realizing that I don’t have everything under control.  It’s fear of the unknown.

How’s this sickness going to turn out?  Where are my investments going to go?  What is so-and-so going to think of me?  What’s going to happen in the world?

The Israelites are terrified.  And where is God?  Well, where IS God?  Isn’t He right with them?  Not only right with them but visibly right with them, remember that God was leading the Israelites by pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire.  And He was the one who led them to the very place where they were at!  Add to that what God had just got done doing in Egypt!  Remember He had just sent 10 devastating and powerful plagues on Egypt!  This all-powerful, awesome God was right with them!

So need they to be afraid?  Need they be discouraged, terrified, scared?  Not when God’s with them!  Not with all that they’d seen in the past weeks!  They had no right to be afraid.  Well, hasn’t God promised something like that to us too?  Didn’t Jesus say something like, “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age?”  Yes, He has.  Need we really be afraid of anything?

So Moses gives the Israelites some excellent encouragement.  “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  But then did you notice what the Lord told Moses next?  “Why are you crying out to me?”  “Why??  There’s an army marching right at us to completely devastate us and we’re trapped!  We have nowhere to go!  Of course, I’m crying out to you!!”  But need he be?  See what God’s doing by asking him that?  Perhaps God is gently reminding Moses of something.  Remember, it was no accident that the Israelites were situated right where they were, God Himself had led them there!  Would God have led them into that situation if it wasn’t for their good?  No!  So is Moses questioning God’s leadership?  Questioning God’s ability to help?  Perhaps.

And then, here’s the kicker, God says to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to move on.”  What?  Really??  Move on??  Move on where??  We’ve got Pharaoh and his trained army behind us and a sea in front of us!  Two insurmountable obstacles, right?  Insurmountable obstacles, yes for us, but not for God.  God had Moses raise His staff and God split the sea, divided the waters, so that the entire nation of Israel, likely some 2 million people could pass through it, this wasn’t just a little passage, it must have been huge!  And so the Israelites moved on.  God, the almighty one, rescued them.

Need they have been full of fear?  No.  Remember what God had promised them?  God had promised to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, He had promised to lead them to the Promised Land, He had promised to send a Savior through them.  Would God be able to do those things if the nation was massacred by the Egyptians?  No. God the all-powerful God is able to do anything to fulfill His promises- even when the odds and the obstacles look insurmountable.

Are there times when God places us in situations where it seems like the Red Sea is in front of us and Pharaoh’s army is behind us and we have no where to go and no control over our circumstances?  But what happens when matters are out of our hands, out of our control are we filled with fear?   Think about it, what is it that you fear?  Loneliness, failure, rejection, being laughed at, family problems, not having enough money, job stress, the news, losing  a loved one,  future, disease, pain, I’ve even heard of something called a phobophobia which is the fear of being afraid!  And fear has a way of paralyzing us, immobilizing us, and draining the joy out of life because it torments us.

So what’s God’s answer to our fears?  It’s the same answer He gave these Israelites: keep moving on.  Why?  Because we like the Israelites God’s given us all kinds of promises.  And faith is simply trusting that God has the power to do what He’s promised He will do.  We can keep going in life because God’s promised to be with us…and He will.  God’s promised to guide all things for our good….and He will.  God’s promised that in Jesus all our sins are forgiven and that we’ve been released from the fear of sin, death, and hell…and we are.  God’s promised that He loves us dearly…and He does.

Does that mean God’s going to part the Red Sea for us and everything that ever stands opposed to us in life will be defeated?  No, God hasn’t promised that as we move forward in life everything is going to be pleasant and easy.

But He has promised us of the final outcome.  God has assured us that our life’s journey will end in the glorious kingdom of heaven.  How do we know that?  Because Jesus won those mansions in heaven by His death and resurrection.  Because of Jesus your sins- all of them- are forgiven.  Because of Jesus you stand before God as right, as clean, as justified.  Because of Jesus ALL of God’s promises are yes.  God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, guided all of history so that at the right time Jesus would come, live for us, die for us and rise from the dead.  Finally, it’s Jesus’ resurrection that drives fear out of hearts because by it we’re assured that our all powerful God keep His promises and loves us dearly.

Well, Washington led his army surprised the enemy and won a decisive battle boosting morale and cementing his leadership.  Many historians believe if it wasn’t for this victory the war would have likely taken a turn for the worse and the Americans probably would have lost and the declaration of independence meaningless.  It was a bold move, Washington didn’t know the outcome of the battle.

Well, we know the outcome of a far greater battle already.  It was the battle Jesus fought on the cross for you.  There He paid for your sins in full, there He released you from the devil’s snares, there He freed you from death and the fear of death.  Because of Jesus eternal life is already yours, you know the outcome of your life – it’s eternity with Jesus!

And knowing that makes all the difference in life.  With Jesus’ presence, His power to do anything- even parting seas, His guidance, His protection, His love, His promise of eternal life, you can move on in life, you can keep going, you can live free from fear.  I don’t know what fears you carried with you in today, but know this: it doesn’t matter what people think if you, what others can do to you, what you might lose in life, what pain you might feel, because you know that with Christ as your Savior you already have it all now and forever.  Amen.

Names of Wondrous Love: The Lamb

Maundy Thursday
Isaiah 53:7-8, Exodus 12:1-14, Luke 22:7-20

The Lamb’s in the Prime of His Life: Isaiah 53:7-8

Sin, all of it, is a horrible, horrible thing.  But, we often underestimate just how horrible and horrifying it is, we fail to see its price.  God wanted His people to see the price of their sins up right up close.  So God established a sacrificial system for His Old Testament people including the Passover.  For the people to be saved there must be a death.  A death has to occur.  Why?  Because the wages of sin is death.  That’s the price of sin.  I deserve to die, you deserve to die, to burn in hell forever, because of our sinfulness.  That’s the price of sin, that’s exactly what we deserve.  And time and time again the Israelites saw a picture of it, as the lamb was cut down, in the prime of life.  Sin is a horrible, horrible thing.

In amazing love, God allowed the full price for sin to be paid, but not by you, but by His very own Son.  Just like time and again a lamb was killed, Jesus, THE Lamb, was cut down, in the prime of life.  “For he was cut off from the land of the living” but why?  “For the transgression of my people he was stricken.”  The price of sin is horrific, but it’s been paid for in full for you by the Lamb of God.  And now God gives you along with the bread and wine, the very body and blood of The Lamb who was cut down in the prime of life, for you to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of your sins.

The Lamb’s Part of the Family:  Exodus 12:1-14

When God was about to break Egypt’s back in order to rescue the Israelites from their slavery He sent the final plague.  In order that the firstborn in your family didn’t die you had to trust God’s Word and do this Passover.  The Israelites were to choose the lamb- it was to be a year-old-male without defect- they were to choose it on the 10th day of the month, then take care of it until the 14th day of the month.

So what’s going to happen when you have a young animal, and it’s being taken care of carefully by the family?  It becomes a pet, it becomes part of the family, doesn’t it?  And then they were to take that lamb, slaughter it, and eat it.

And that was the way that God decided to carry out our salvation: He was going to become “part of the family.”  He came into this world as you and I do- he was born of a woman, born under the law.  He was a baby, a child, He grew up as you and I grow.  He ate, He drank, He laughed, He cried.  And then He became the perfect Lamb of God as He was sacrificed for our sins.

Why?  Because He wants you to be part of His family.  Even today He remains part of our family and loves to be with His family.  So what did He do?  He instituted a meal, which we get to enjoy with each other, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and with Him!  He gave us His Supper where we receive His own body and blood enjoying wonderful family fellowship with Him and each other.  Part of the family.

Saved by the Blood of the Lamb:  Luke 22:7-20

Of course, the most important aspect of the Passover Lamb was what happened with the blood.  The Israelites were to carefully drain the blood and take it and paint it on their doorframes.  Then the whole family was to be gathered inside their homes behind the blood-stained doorways.  That night when the angel of death passed through Egypt, the angel would see the blood and pass over that house.  The people would be able to say that they were saved by the blood of the lamb.

The comparison is obvious, isn’t it?  You and I are guilty of sin, we don’t deserve to live, our sins have rightly earned death, we deserve to die.  But God has provided the way out.  Just as those Israelites were saved through the blood of the lamb, so you and I are saved through the blood of THE Lamb, the blood of Jesus, the blood of His Son who purifies us from all sin.

So it also makes sense that, to continue to save His people, continue to feed His people, that Jesus would feed us with…Himself!  With His true body and His true blood!

As you come to the Lord’s table, be reminded of the enormity of what’s happening – God is SAVING you!  God is cleansing you from your sins, God is feeding your soul.  He is giving you the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation!  God is taking you from spiritual death, to spiritual life.  Just as those Israelites were saved by the blood of the lamb, so you are saved by the blood of the Lamb, that was given and shed for you.  And now, in amazing grace, it is given to you, to feed you for all eternity!

Hallowed be Your Name!

7th Sunday after Pentecost

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  Dear friends…. “Peyton Manning,” “Barack Obama,” “Jenna Nitz”…what’s in a name?  When you heard those names you thought about more than just a few letters, right?  You probably thought about who that person is, what you know about that person, the impression that person has made on you, how you feel about them, etc.  So, in a sense, encapsulated in a name is everything you know about, feel about, or have experienced with that person.  In a similar way God’s name is everything that we know about Him, everything that He’s revealed to us about Himself in His Word.

Today, in our text we’re going to take a look at how God Himself summarizes everything we need to know about Him in His name.  But before we take a look at the text let’s consider this concept of a “name” for a bit.  Particularly, how we expect our names to be used is not all that different from what God expects about His name.

Let’s think about it for a bit.  Let’s say I go and rob a bank.  After the police catch me and are questioning me as to why I did this crime, I then lie to them that I was told to do it by you and all the plans were given to me by you, and I give them your name.  Would you appreciate me using your name to lie?  Or maybe I just twist around some of your words to imply that you were involved with my crime…would you be happy with me?  I’m guessing not.  Or a different scenario, let’s say one day you come running up to me in tears yelling, “Call 911!!”  And I say, “Now I don’t think that’s exactly what you mean.  Because this is coming from you, this could be interpreted in a number of different ways: Maybe when you say, “Call 911” you really mean that I should go to the store for you or that I should lend you 20 bucks, but you really can’t mean that I should call 911.”  Now that’s absolutely absurd isn’t it!

In the same way God does not appreciate people using His name to tell lies or false things about what He says in His Word or twisting His Words in order to make it say whatever.  He also doesn’t appreciate it when people say that His words can be interpreted in all kinds of different ways and that no one can really ever figure out what God is saying anyway.  He not only doesn’t appreciate those things, He hates it when people abuse His name by abusing His Word.  And He hates it when we don’t go back to His Word to see if the book we’re reading or what we’re hearing on T.V. is being truthful to His name and truly saying what God says in His Word.

Let’s consider another situation.  Let’s say I get a T-shirt and put your name on it front and back and I wear it.  Then I go down to the mall on a Saturday afternoon when it’s just packed and I start yelling curse words at the top of my lungs and ripping things off shelves and getting into a couple of fights…would you appreciate me using your name to do that?  Ok, well what if I just, just do it once…would you appreciate it?  I’m guessing you would hate it and you wouldn’t be too happy with me either.  Well, in the same way, as Christians, with God’s name written on us, when we live immorally or are dishonest or whatever, then God doesn’t appreciate it, in fact, He hates it.  He hates it when people abuse His name by not acting like His children.

So when we pray “Hallowed be your name” we are praying that we keep God’s name holy.  That we keep His name holy by teaching/learning His Word correctly AND that we live upright, honest, and moral lives as His children with His name written on us.  This glorifies God’s name.  This is how God wants us to use His name.

And this is of course something that we want to do.  Why?  Because of what His name means to us.  Because of how He has revealed Himself to us.  Because of what we know about Him.  Everything that we know about God can be neatly summarized in the verses of our text, which has been called the John 3:16 of the OT or the Lord’s sermon on His name.  Moses has just gone up on a mountain to receive the 10 commandments and he asked God to see His glory; instead of showing him His full glory (which would have killed Moses) God gave Him these words explaining His glorious name: read text.

So what comes to mind when you hear the name “the LORD”?  It is this: that the almighty God who exists exalted above all things, in absolute independence, who doesn’t have to please anyone, who isn’t afraid of anyone, out of the unselfishness, goodness, and mercy of His heart generously pours out His love and grace on human beings!

The LORD, the LORD the compassionate and gracious God”- that’s what the Lord’s name means.  The Lord is compassionate.  He sees the suffering of His people, He sees their helplessness on their own, His heart goes out to them and He chooses to show compassion on them.  He is also gracious.  Not only does He have compassion but He also has a heartfelt response to give something to those in need.  It’s a word that describes God as one who has something to give the poor and needy who can’t help themselves.  He has a gracious gift of grace to give them.  And His name is further explained:

The LORD…slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”- He is the Lord who is long-suffering, slow in anger, He does not have a short temper or lose His cool easily.  He has incredible patience.  The Lord is also abounding in love and faithfulness.  There is no limit to God’s faithful love.  His love will never run out, never be used up, never be exhausted.  God will always keep His Word, He will never go back on what He says, His promises are sure and certain.  God further explains His name:

The LORD…maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”- When you hear the name “LORD” what do you see Him doing?  You see Him “maintaining,” literally “guarding” or “keeping” love to thousands, to an unlimited number of people.  This is kind of a funny way of speaking, but the love God has for us is guarded by Him and if His love for us is protected by Him there is no way anyone is going to take it away from Him.  And what else does He do?  He’s forgiving sins.  He calms the troubled conscience burdened with guilt, He forgives sins of rebellion, sins of turning one’s back on God’s goodness in order to sin, He forgives sins of weakness, daily sins of being a sinner in a sinful world.  That’s what comes to mind when you hear “the LORD,” forgiveness full and complete!

God explains His name with one further phrase “The LORD…yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation”- that’s what the Lord’s name means?  But wait!  Didn’t we just get done talking about how merciful, compassionate, and gracious God is?!!  Yes, but God’s boundless grace does not mean He’s indifferent towards sin or that He simply overlooks sin.  God says there will be no unpunished sinner.  So how do we reconcile this?  On one hand God says that He’s gracious and compassionate and then on the other that He doesn’t leave the guilty unpunished?

There is only one solution to this contradiction: No guilt, no sin remains.  Why?  Because JESUS became the one stricken by God, smitten by Him in our place, He was pierced for our unfaithfulness, He was crushed because of our iniquities, while we were headed for destruction He cast all our guilt upon Him, and because He was punished we are healed, we have peace, we are justified.  Yes it’s only at the cross of Jesus where God’s name becomes the most clear to us.  It is there where the righteous justice of God is satisfied by the same gracious, compassionate, and loving God.  It is by the name of Jesus that we are saved.

So what’s in a name?  What comes to mind when you hear the name “the LORD”?  What do you feel when you hear
“the LORD”?  Well, you know: the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin that is who YOUR God is and will always be!  The LORD, that name, we will always hallow, always keep holy!  Amen.