Advent Sermon Series – My Son, My Savior

My Son, My Savior Sermon Series – Both on Sunday and Wednesday worship services during Advent we will follow the theme “My Son, My Savior.” We’ll look at various ancestresses of the Savior and what the Lord wants us to know from them. Come!


my son my savior

My Son, My Savior DVDS available! The WELS has put out another evangelism movie called “My Son, My Savior” looking at Jesus’ mother Mary. We’ll have a showing of the DVD in place of Bible class on December 20th. If you’d like to purchase one of these DVDs, they are available at church for a suggested donation of $5. Please submit your donation in offering or put it in Doug Kranich’s mailbox.


Read or Listen to Sermons:

Nov. 29 – Eve “My Son, My Substitute”

Dec. 2 – Tamar “My Son, My Longing”

Dec. 6 – Leah “My Son, My Life”

Dec. 9 – Rehab “My Son, My Sanctifier”

Dec. 13 – Ruth “My Son, My Redeemer”

Dec. 16 – Bathsheba “My Son, My King”

Dec. 20 – Children’s Christmas Program “Did you know?”

Dec. 24th – Mary  “My Son, My Savior”

Dec. 25th – God’s Son, Our Savior

What does Christmas mean?

Children’s Christmas Devotion
Christmas Account

We humans have this ability to be able to adapt in a certain way. For example, there was a time when I was younger when it really bothered me to listen to a baby cry…then I had children and now it’s just a normal sound to my ears. There was a time when I felt really cold when the temperature was 10 degrees outside…then I moved to Bemidji and that can be a pretty warm day during the winter.
We have a way of adapting to things that happen over and over again in our lives. Has that happened to you about Christmas? Christmas comes every year, every year we celebrate it, every year we sing the same songs, every year we hear the same account, every year we have the same traditions. Are you adapting to Christmas? Has Christmas become for you just another holiday, just another family get-together, just another event, just another thing? It’s easy for us to adapt to Christmas and forget what this all really means.
But that’s why we’re here, we’re here once again to marvel in amazement at what the children are about to tell us, we’re here to gasp in amazement at a message so simple that children can relay it to us and yet so profound we’ll never be able to hear it enough. And as we hear the message again think about what Christmas means. It means redemption, it means relinquishing and it means rejoicing.
Christmas means redemption. There’s a simple fact that can’t escape us here. Jesus was born to save us. Why was Jesus born to save us? Because we couldn’t do it. Christmas means you can’t save yourself! It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do or how much you have, you’re a sinner doomed to death, you can’t save yourself. So what does God do? He’s born into this world to save you and me! That’s redemption.
Christmas means relinquishing. We’ve come to think of Christmas as coziness, right? Twinkling lights, warm house, fire, chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But that’s really not what Christmas is! Christmas is straw and stench, not goose down fellow pillows, Christmas is God leaving absolute glory and perfection to live in this filthy and sinful world! He left security, safety, glory and riches, so that you through His poverty might be eternally rich! Christmas means relinquishing my selfish definition of life: I want a comfy home, an early retirement, a nice paycheck, Christmas means I’m ready to relinquish all that to keep my Savior number one in my life for He made me and my salvation number 1 in His.
Finally, Christmas means rejoicing. If everything that we’re going to hear this morning is true, and it is, then we have reason to be joyful no matter what. Why so? For we have a God who has stopped at nothing to be near us, close to us. Our God took on human flesh in order to live our perfect life for us, die our death for us, all so that we can live with Him forever. That’s what Christmas means and since God has done that for you, then most important thing in life is taken care of, your salvation, so you have every reason to rejoice.
Let’s not adapt to Christmas, as we hear it once again this morning, let’s marvel at what it means: redemption, relinquishing, and rejoicing.


Bathsheba: My Son, My King


3rd Wednesday of Advent
2 Samuel 11:1-17

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, Why does God give us certain commands? Why does God want us to obey what He tells us? Is it just God’s way of holding us back, does God just want us to miss out on the fun that the sinful world has to offer? Does God just not understand how much better it would be for us to sin than not to sin? Is God just restricting us? Why does God give us certain commands? If we think those things, we don’t truly know who our God really is. Yes, God is the ultimate and final King, so if He tells us to do something, we have no right to question Him in any way. But there’s far more to it than that. Our God is also a God of love. So, even the commands that God has given us are expressions of His deep care and love for us His people.

Disobeying God and sinning always bring about pain and heartache. And we see that in this familiar account of David and Bathsheba. Well, what do we know about Bathsheba? For the few things that we do know about her, there’s a ton that we don’t know. We know that she lived in a home that wasn’t that far from the king’s palace, perhaps that indicates that she was part of circle of people close to the king. We know that she was the daughter of Eliam, an important official of David’s. We also know that she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was also one of David’s royal guard, his mighty men, an excellent and devoted soldier, a close friend of his, who happens to be gone fighting for His king and country. And we know that she was very beautiful.

And one evening David’s at home and he has nothing better to do, so he looks out over the city and sees her bathing. Well, first we must ask, “Why was he at home?” Where should he have been? He should have been off at war with his fellow soldiers- that’s what kings were supposed to do. But, David is at home. He’s unfaithful in something rather small, but look where it leads. As he sees her he covets, he lusts, he inquires about her and sends for her. What’s going on with David? This is how sin often begins, isn’t it? Can you just picture David spinning a web of rationalizations, defenses, self-deception as he concocts a plan? “I deserve this, I’ve been such a hard worker, I’ve been so faithful, I deserve this “little” self-indulgence, no one will know about it, it will happen only this once, after all I am the king, after all God clearly loves me- I can do what I want.” That’s not a little baby step towards unbelief, that’s a huge leap! “God loves me, I can do what I want.”

What happens next? Bathsheba comes. Now, we don’t know exactly what’s going on with her. We don’t hear about her protest or refuse to come or even try to turn him down in anyway. But we also have to understand that David was a king, he was a dictator, there weren’t any checks and balances like we have in government, he was king and when the king summoned, you came. He used his power as king to commit sin and include someone else in his sin! She goes to him, she sleeps with him, and she finds out that she’s pregnant.  And what’s the punishment for adultery? Death for both the man and the wife.

Then what follows is David’s attempt to cover everything up, first he brings Uriah home, hoping he’ll go home sleep with his wife and no one will know the difference, but when Uriah doesn’t go home, David gets him drunk, still doesn’t go home, David sends him back to battle with directions to essentially murder him (and the other soldiers with him). And when it happens, David responds callously, “Well, that’s what happens in war, people die.” And then takes Bathsheba as his wife and nine months pass.

But the pain begins. Sin always, always brings pain and heartache. We hear about some of David’s pain throughout this nine months from the Psalms. David talks about how when he kept silent his bones wasted away, groaning all day long, God’s hand was heavy upon him, his strength was sapped. That’s what guilt does. When we try to hide our sins it eats us away spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. But there was going to be more pain too. His child was going to die, in fact, he was going to end up losing 4 children and deal with all kinds of trouble in his family. Sin always, always brings pain and heartache.

What about Bathsheba? Is it fair to say that she, too, struggled with guilt from their sin? She, too, would experience the loss of her child, something I’m sure she would never be able to completely forget about. Sin wreaked havoc on her life too: adultery, involved in the corruption of power, loss of a husband by a violent act of murder, loss of a child.

There’s a saying which says, “You can choose your sin, but you can’t choose its consequences.” As believers we face choices every day. We have choices to either obey God or sin, God or our sinful nature. And while we can choose to do evil, we can’t forecast all the pain, hardship, and heartache that it will wreak in our lives or the lives of others. The reality is that sin always has consequences.

You see, all this started when David broke God’s commands: Do not covet, do not lust, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not murder. God’s commands are not here to restrict us, burden us, cause us to miss out. God’s commands really exist for our blessing, to protect us from the pain and consequences of sin. You see, it’s sin that separates us from our God. But God in His grace wants nothing less than to draw ever closer to us.

So what does God do? He allows there to be consequences to sin. If David didn’t feel any consequences for his sin, he would have kept going down a path that leads away from God and finally to unbelief and hell. By God’s grace, God doesn’t abandon David or Bathsheba, but He sends the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin and by the power of God working through His word David was convicted of his sin, repented and immediately forgiven.  That’s the grace of our God, He wants nothing less than to draw us to Himself with His forgiving love.

And yet after confronting them and forgiving them, God does something even more! He blesses them with another child, Solomon, and how fitting that his name means “the peaceful one” and we’re told was loved by the Lord. In spite of their sin, their rebellion against God and His commands, God forgave them and blessed them with another child, the peaceful one. What was it that was going to cleanse them from the guilt of their sins? What was going to sustain them through the future painful consequences of their sin? What was going to motivate them to follow God’s laws in the future? It was knowing who was coming. And in the genealogy of Jesus in Mathew 1 we’re told that Jesus, the Savior, descended from Solomon, the peaceful one, whose father was David and whose mother “had been Uriah’s wife.”

Do you see the grace of God? He brings the Savior into the world from sinners in order to save sinners. God took all the filth of David’s sin, all the filth of Bathsheba’s sin, all the filth of your sin and my sin, and put it on Bathsheba’s son Jesus who paid it in our place on the cross. Yes, Bathsheba suffered because of the sin and lust of someone else, but Jesus was totally innocent and yet He suffered all the pain and punishment of the sin of everyone else. Yes, David was a king who used his power to commit sin, but Jesus is THE king who used His power to NOT sin and to pay for and forgive the sin of all.

That’s the son we’re preparing to receive this Advent season. And we prepare by listening and obeying the gracious commands of our true King and live to thank our true King for the real peaceful one, the one of whom angels sang was born to bring peace and pardon to people on whom God’s favor rests.  That’s Bathsheba’s Son, our Savior and our King. Amen.

Ruth: My Son, My Redeemer


3rd Sunday of Advent
Ruth 4:13-17

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus who is our eternal Redeemer, dear friends in Christ, my 2 year old son David has learned a new word: Why. I think there’s a time in every child’s life when they learn that word and it becomes a favorite. “David, go to the toilet.” “Why?” “David, come to the table.” “Why?” “David, stop playing with that!” “Why?” “David, don’t hit your sister!” “Why?” If you have children, I’m guessing you know what that’s like. J Now, I don’t know if he just picked that up from one of his parents or one of his siblings or if he just likes saying the word and doesn’t care about an explanation. But it does strike you that he’s questioning whether someone else knows what’s better for him than he does. But, really, that’s a question that never really goes away in life. “Why?” And what about when it comes to God? Do you ever ask that question of God? Do you shake your head, look up, and wonder, “Why God?” Do you think God looks down at us and sees a bunch of little children asking “Why?” all the time?  And why would we ask why? Isn’t it because our definition of life or the way things should be in life is not lining up with the way God is working things out in life? Don’t our questions come when our ideas of a good life are not matching up with what God has in the works?

You see, our relationship with God is based on trust. He doesn’t spell everything out for us, He doesn’t explain everything to us. In grace He’s given us His Word, in love He’s won us for eternal life. And He says to us, “If you give up your definition of what you think life should be and you follow me, doing the right thing, your life won’t be what you expect, probably won’t even be the good life you were hoping for, but I’ll take care of you and it will be great.” Let’s think about that as we review this incredible account about Ruth.

It all begins with the family of Elimelech. Elimelech and his wife Naomi move out of Israel and into the foreign country of Moab because a famine is devastating Israel and they don’t want to die. They had two sons who, while they were living in Moab, meet and marry two Moabite women: Orpah and Ruth. Well, in the course of time, exactly what they were trying to avoid happens!  All the men die. Elimelech and his two sons. And Naomi hears that there is food once again in Judah. So she sets out to move back to her homeland. Ruth and Orpah accompany her, but Naomi urges them to stay in Moab because it will be much better for them, they’ll be by their own families, they’ll be taken care of, and have better prospects for getting married and having status in life. But that leaves Naomi in a devastating position. She’s old and she’s a widow.  So, there were really 4 ways that she could be taken care of as a widow: 1. Work in the fields, but she’s too old, 2. Get married, but she’s too old 3. Your children support you, but her children are dead and her daughters in law are Moabites 4. Sell her dead husband’s property and hope that she can survive on it. And as we’ve noted before, a widow in Bible times was the most vulnerable in society. She had to live at the mercy of others. Naomi’s life is miserable, she’s lost everything in that culture that would give her meaning and significance in life. In tears, Orpah returns to her own home. But not Ruth. We’re told that Ruth “clung” to Naomi. It makes no outward sense for Ruth to go with Naomi. Her home, her family, her status, her safety, her prospects of a getting married and having a good life are in staying in Moab. But this is what we hear from Ruth, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” What a confession of faith from this Moabite woman! Finally, Naomi relents and lets Ruth come with her.

When Naomi returned there was quite a stir among the whole town of Bethlehem where she was from. This is how down Naomi is, she tells the other women to not call her Naomi, which means “pleasant,” but Mara, which means bitter. Well, Ruth immediately sets off to work in order to have food to eat. One of the things that God allowed for was farmers to not harvest every single piece of grain in their field and maximize their profits. They were actually supposed to purposely leave some in the field so the poor could go through and find food to eat. This is what Ruth did and she just so happened to pick a field that was owned by a man named Boaz. As she was going through after the harvesters, Boaz noticed her, inquired about who she was, and showed her incredible kindness. He doesn’t want her to glean in anyone else’s field, well, why not? Because he’s warned his servants not to touch her. Why would he have to do that? Well, as a Moabitess, she was an outcast of Israel and vulnerable to being hurt or harmed, he protects her, then he has her work with his working women who were harvesting, that means now she’s not just gleaning, she’s harvesting and can keep what she harvests.

Then Ruth went back to Naomi not with just a few gleanings, but a ton! Where did you get this? And Ruth tells her about Boaz and how he had been kind to her. Naomi says, “Oh my! Boaz is one of our “goels” – our kinsman redeemers.” Since Naomi had no husband or son or any income she was forced to sell her property. You see, there were two ways that a poor person could keep their property. God didn’t want all the land owned by only a few people destabilizing the economy and creating an impoverished underclass. So, first there was the year of Jubilee, every 50 years, property that had been sold would revert back to the original owner. Second, the kinsman redeemer. A close relative could “redeem” or “buy back” the property to keep it in the deceased family member’s name. Then the purchaser would buy it, maybe go into debt, work the land as Naomi’s trustee. But who would do that? But, then, in this case the land couldn’t really be restored because there was no descendant of the family. But another law also said that if a man died his unmarried brother was to marry his widow and if they had a son, that son would legally carry on the name of the deceased brother in order to preserve his deceased brother’s name in Israel. Well, this seemed to extend voluntarily to close relatives as well. Under this law, if Ruth, who was married to one of Naomi’s sons, would marry again and have a son, that child would then be able to legally claim a right to Naomi’s property and it would remain in her line. But who would do this? Who would marry a Moabite and then knowing that a male child would then be legally another families and then inherit the land you just purchased? Who would do that?

So, Ruth indicates to Boaz that she would be willing to marry him, even though he was quite a bit older than her. And what does Boaz say? “I’ll do it all. I’ll redeem Naomi’s property and also marry Ruth fully knowing that the first male child will legally carry on the name of Naomi’s family and inherit the property.” And it happened, and God blessed them with a son named Obed, who then becomes the grandson of Naomi, a son to carry on her family’s name, inherit her property and take care of her. But also think about Ruth, her life has taken a total reversal. She went from being an impoverished foreigner to having equal share of all of Boaz’s wealth –none of it she worked to earn!

A “redeemer” is really someone who “gives something to buy someone or something back.” And we have several redeemers here, don’t we? There’s the obvious one: Boaz. He takes on the debt of his relatives to keep them from poverty, he unselfishly unites himself to Ruth giving her equal share in all his wealth.  But then there’s Ruth of whom the book of the Bible is named. What does she do? Every immigrant leaves their own country expecting to have a better life, but look at what Ruth does, she leaves her home country expecting a worse life! She had a choice between a life that would have seemed good and what she knew was right, was what God wanted. She knew that if she didn’t go with Naomi, Naomi’s life was humanly speaking over, she had nothing and no reason to keep going, her life was “bitter.” So, if Naomi was going to get her life back, Ruth had to give hers up! She has to give up everything to go with Naomi. She impoverishes herself so Naomi can be rich. She leaves her home, becomes a foreigner in a strange land, gives her life in marriage to Boaz, all so that Naomi’s life is redeemed, restored! Why does she do it? Because she has placed God at the center of her life, she’s going to do what is pleasing to the LORD. “I will obey, I’ll do the right thing, I won’t expect an easy life.” And she put no conditions on it, “nothing but death will keep me from doing what I need to do.”

But there’s another Redeemer far greater than Boaz or Ruth. You see, Boaz became the father of Obed, Obed had Jesse, and Jesse had King David. And one day, born in the line of David, in Bethlehem, the town of David, the ultimate Redeemer was born. Like Ruth, the Redeemer, Jesus left behind a “good” life, left behind glory, to be impoverished in a world foreign to Him because of sin. Like Ruth, He gave up His life, so that we might have eternal life. Like Boaz, He paid our debt our ransom of sin with His own blood shed on the cross. Like Boaz, He unites Himself to you with the waters of baptism and His own body and blood in the sacrament, so that all of His wealth might become your wealth. Like Boaz, He is our true relative, our God took on our human flesh and blood, not to show us how we can live a good life to please God, but to be the good life, the perfect life we couldn’t live in our place as our substitute. And greater than Ruth, our Redeemer Jesus doesn’t even let death separate us from Him, but rose from the dead to prove without a doubt that we are His eternally.

With a Redeemer like Jesus, we can give up our own definition of what we think life should be or how life should go or what we think would be a good life, and even though we might not see it or understand the why, we can do what’s right, what God wants us to do, what is God-pleasing, and know that our life might not be what we expect, but it will be great. For we have been bought eternally by our Redeemer, Jesus, Ruth’s Son, our Savior. Amen.

Rahab: My Son, My Sanctifier



2nd Wednesday of Advent
Joshua 2:8-14

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Dear friends in Christ, What’s it like to be an outsider? In 1978 Joe Smarzik from Walnut Grove, MN was going to be spending Christmas alone. He was divorced for 20 years and had lost contact with his wife and children. He was in his own words “terribly lonely.” So what did he do? Just before Christmas he placed an ad in the local newspaper seeking a family to eat Christmas dinner with and offered to even provide the turkey. A family Tracy, MN took him in and shared that meal and many more holiday meals together. He had some new found friends. He was included.  He was no longer an outsider.

Isn’t that what everyone longs for? No one wants to be an outcast, we all want to be included somehow, someway. At this time Joshua is leading the Israelites and he’s in charge of bringing them into the Promised Land. God’s patience with the sin of the Canaanites was through and God was about to bring upon them judgment for their sin and unbelief through the Israelites conquering them. The first stop was the city of Jericho. So, Joshua sent in two spies to check up on the city. They entered Jericho and apparently were trying to be discreet so they went to a prostitute’s house- not to solicit business but probably to aid in their cover. But, somehow their cover is blown. The king sends people to go and arrest the spies, but Rahab covers for them and hides them saving their lives.

How much of an outsider was Rahab? First, she was a Canaanite, she wasn’t a Jewish. Her ethnicity doomed her to the same fate as all the unbelieving Canaanites whom the Israelites were about to destroy. Second, socially, in this culture she was a woman who was apparently unmarried and childless and in a culture where having a family was your status, she was at the bottom rung and without much prospects, what self-respecting man would marry a prostitute or tolerate his wife to be in such a profession? How many friends do you think she had? I’m guessing she had few female friends especially married ones. And so she lived on the margins of society, in fact, there isn’t much more marginal in an ancient society than having your house set in the city’s outer wall.

In every way, to a human and outward standpoint, she’s a most unlikely candidate for inclusion in God’s kingdom. But what do we see here? “I know that the LORD has given this land to you…We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea…the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Wow! Did you hear that? This foreigner, this former prostitute, this lady who lived a life of sin, and what does she know? She knows the LORD! The LORD, the God of free and faithful love, the LORD who made a covenant with Himself to send a Savior into this fallen and corrupt world! This is 40 years after the Red Sea event and they’re still talking about it! Clearly the news about the LORD has traveled and it hasn’t gone without effect. In absolute grace God, the LORD of love, has wooed and won another sinner into His kingdom through faith.  The outsider was brought into God’s kingdom.

You know, really, we’re all like Rahab. We’re all outcasts and outsiders in God’s kingdom. None of us should be included. We were born estranged from God. Essentially prostitution is giving your body to be used in degrading ways in order to get a cheap pay off. Perhaps we haven’t done that physically, but what about spiritually? Have I used my body to harbor greedy thoughts? That means I’ve degraded it for the cheap pay off of maybe feeling like I deserve more than what I have. Have I used my body to speak words that hurt or cut or tear down? That means I’ve degraded my body for the cheap pay off of feeling better about myself at the expense of someone else. Have I neglected showing love and compassion and care for someone who is hurting? That means I’ve degraded my body for the cheap pay off of being lazy.

You see, we might look at Rahab and think she was a special kind of sinner, perhaps someone who deserved to be an outcast. But the reality is, we’re no different. And it’s important that we realize that. It’s easy for us to look down on others as if someone else needs more saving than we do, that God has to work harder on others than He has to on us. If we think that, then we have the same problem the Pharisees had with Jesus.  Jesus had the reputation of associating with whom? Tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners.  Jesus came in order to rescue everyone. But it’s only the sick who need a doctor, only those who know they need Him who will receive Him.

Each of us is in desperate need of God’s rescue. Interestingly in Matthew chapter 1, we hear the genealogy of Jesus, and at that time a genealogy was like your resume. And who is listed? Rahab. By faith in the true God she left her life of sin,  was included in the nation of Israel, got married, and became the mother of Boaz who was the father of Obed who was the father of Jesse who was the father of King David from whom finally Jesus was descended. One of Jesus’ ancestors was a former prostitute. What does that show us? It shows us that Jesus came from a line and lineage of sinners. And yet, He himself was not a sinner, not a tax collector, not a prostitute. But He came to be Rahab’s true Son, although He was without sin, He became the ultimate outcast. Rahab faced imminent death and destruction but was spared by the grace of God. Jesus, the only one who was ever “in” with God, the only one who ever deserved to be “in” with God, became the ultimate outcast, from birth He was an outcast being born not in the inn or a home, but a stable, He was an outcast by His friends when the disciples abandoned Him, became an outcast of society when people cheered for His crucifixion, and became an outcast from God when God forsook Him on the cross.

Why? He became the outcast to save all outcasts. He put Himself on the outside of God’s love so that we could be forever on the inside. Jesus came to save Rahab, Jesus came to save every prostitute, Jesus came to save every sinner, Jesus came to save you and me. Jesus came to sanctify all sinners. Sanctify means God looks at you and says, “I want you included as mine! I want you to be set apart as my special possession, to live as someone clothed with my holiness.” By His blood Jesus set a well-known sinner apart as special, washed her clean of her sin, brought her into his kingdom and won her for eternal life.

He’s done the same for you! Let’s prepare for his coming this Advent season by being sanctified, by jettisoning pride from our lives, confessing our guilt of selling our own bodies to evil for cheap thrills, and trusting in our God who has brought us close to Him, made us insiders in His kingdom through faith in Jesus, our Sanctifier. And may we ever have hearts that seek to bring more outsiders into Jesus’ kingdom that they may be sanctified by Rahab’s son, our Savior. Amen.

Leah: My Son, My Life

2nd Sunday of Advent
Genesis 29:14-35

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, who came once to save us and will come again to take us to our eternal home, dear friends in Christ, what is your heart’s deepest longing? Perhaps that sounds like a strange question, but think about it. Our second lesson this morning said, “[God] has set eternity in the hearts of men.” What do you think that means? The reality is that everyone is longing for something. Something that is going to make sense out of life, something that is going to fulfill their life’s dreams, something that is going to fulfill their heart’s deepest longing. So people are searching. “If only I had true love, my miserable life would be better.” “If only I had that job, my life would be better.” “If only my bank account had this much money, then life would be better.” “If only I was wanted, accepted, validated, approved, then my life would be better.” We each have it. We each feel that something is missing in life and it would be better, if we had it – whatever it may be. What is it for you?

The account before us gives us a somber look into the reality that exists not just in Jacob’s heart or Leah’s heart, but in your heart and mine. Two generations before this account, God had appeared to Abraham and had given Abraham an incredible promise. In this world full of sin, God was going to send a substitute, a Savior, who was going to rescue the human race, be an answer to all the sin and death and tragedy of the world. And this Savior would come from Abraham’s descendants. So, in every generation there was someone who was going to carry the line of the promised Savior.  Abraham finally had his son, Isaac, and Isaac carried the promise. Isaac married Rebekah and they had twin sons, but God told them that the older would serve the younger, in other words, the younger one would carry the promise. Isaac, however, disregarded that, and set his hopes on Esau the older son whom he liked better. So, Jacob, with the help of his mother deceived Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau. And because Jacob had deceived his father, his brother hated him and wanted to kill him, so Jacob had to leave with almost nothing and travel hundreds of miles away to his mother’s hometown, with no money, no inheritance, and no real future. He never had his father’s love, he had lost his mother’s love, and was probably questioning God’s love.

He arrives and his relative Laban welcomes him. Laban recognizes that Jacob is very gifted and talented and is going to be a good manager for his sheep business, so he says, “Should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.” To that, Jacob has essentially one word: Rachel. I want Rachel. What do we know about Rachel? We’re told that “Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful.” That means exactly what it says, she was gorgeous, stunning, she had a beautiful figure and lovely appearance. One commentator points out some the indicators here that Jacob is just intensely lovesick. Notice what it says in verse 20, “Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” And then we’re told that when the 7 years are over, he says to Jacob, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.” Do you see how forward that is? Can you imagine a boy saying to his future father-in-law, “I can’t wait to sleep with your daughter”? As you can see, Jacob has an overwhelming longing for one woman.

Why? Consider Jacob’s situation. His life is miserable, he’s left behind everything he knows of, never had his father’s love, lost his mother’s love, his brother hates him, he’s got nothing. But now! The answer to my problems! If I had her – the most beautiful woman around – then my miserable life will finally amount to something. Do you see what Jacob is doing? He’s fixating all the meaning, significance, security of his life on one woman: Rachel. Does this happen today? Sure it does! Do people fix all their hopes and dreams, meaning and significance in life in romance and love? This is exactly what our culture is telling us! “Your lousy life will mean something if only you have romance, love, and sex.” Watch the movies, listen to the music, you’ll see it.

But where does it get Jacob? Notice what Jacob offers Laban for her. Now, back in this culture it was customary for the husband-to-be to give something to his future wife’s family to make up for their loss when he marries their daughter. Well, a commentator said that typically the price was between 35-40 shekels. Someone typically made about 18 shekels a year. So, 2 years worth of wages. This may not be a bad thing to start up again – I have three daughters J. But notice what Jacob offers! 7 years wages! Laban is a shrewd business man. He knows that Jacob is lovesick. But notice what Laban says, “It is better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” Notice what he didn’t say, he didn’t say, “Yes, it’s a deal.” But what did Jacob hear? He heard what he wanted to hear. So he works for 7 years, tells him he wants to marry Rachel, they have the festival, Jacob is probably quite intoxicated, the bride is brought to him, probably heavily veiled, he marries her, and then consummates the marriage with her, and wakes up in the morning and…there was Leah!

Remember, Jacob was lovesick, he set his sights on Rachel, he thought having this woman was the key to his happiness, and he woke up and…it was Leah. I think there’s a truth here. Whatever we set all our dreams and hopes, meaning and significance on from this world, in the morning it will always be Leah, not Rachel, it will always disappoint.

Well, who’s Leah? Leah is Rachel’s older sister. And all we’re really told about her is that she has “weak eyes.” What does that mean? It probably doesn’t mean she can’t see very far, because in contrast to Leah’s weak eyes, we’re told that Rachel “lovely in form, and beautiful.” Finally, the point is, Leah was particularly unattractive and had to liver her whole life in the shadow of her stunning younger sister. Now put yourself in Laban’s shoes. He knows that no man is going to be looking to marry Leah, no one is going to offer much money for her, how’s he going to unload her? How’s he going to get rid of her? He sees his chance with Jacob, he can get 14 years of work out of this lovesick man. But what’s the result for Leah? Really, she becomes the girl nobody wants.  Her father doesn’t want her, her husband doesn’t want her. So what does she do? She wants the hollow of her heart filled. She wants meaning in this meaningless life. So, she sets her heart on winning the love of her husband.

And how does she go about doing it? She goes about it by going after a traditional value of the day: having children, particularly sons. Her husband didn’t care about her, but the LORD did. The LORD opened her womb. She had a son and she named him Reuben. Why? “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”  Then she had another son and named him Simeon. Why? “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved.” Then she has another and names him Levi because “Now at last my husband will become attached to me.” Do you see how sad this? She longs for a husband who doesn’t see her, doesn’t hear her, whose heart is attached to someone else. Every day is like a knife in her heart as she sees the man she longs for in the arms of the girl in whose shadow she’s always lived.

Wow! How disappointing all of this is! What are the lessons for us? First, there is a disappointment that floods all of life on this earth. Jacob set his heart on Rachel, if only she had her, he’d have a fulfilling life, and in the morning? It wasn’t Rachel, it was Leah. That’s how it’s going to be. If you get married thinking that your spouse is going to fulfill all your deepest longings and dreams, you’re going to wake up one day sorely disappointed. If you think money is going to solve all your problems, you’re going to wake up one day sorely disappointed.  You think you’re going to bed with Rachel, but in the morning its always Leah.

But what does Leah learn? Notice what she named her fourth son, Judah. Why? “This time I will praise the LORD.” Notice nothing about the husband or sons, now she set her heart on her LORD, The LORD, her Savior, is the ultimate thing in her life. Look what God does. “Even if no one loves Leah, I still do.” God is the husband to the husbandless, He is the ultimate spouse. With God she had the ultimate thing, she had all the security, meaning, purpose in life she needed. That’s true for you too. And notice what God does. God uses the unloved Leah, not beautiful Rachel, to bring the Savior into the world. Jesus was Leah’s son, true Son. He became the man nobody wanted. He was born in a barn, placed in a feeding trough. He came to that which was his own and his own did not receive him. Everyone abandoned and sought his crucifixion. Even his Father turned his back, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Why? So He could be the Son of Leah for you and for me. Through His rejection, His punishment, God rescued you and me! And that’s the way God works. You don’t get to heaven through your strength or beauty, but through weakness, through admitting your weakness, admitting you’re a complete moral failure and nothing to attract God to you and have no hope apart from the grace of God.  That’s when God’s grace shines on you. It’s God’s grace and His grace alone that has won you eternal life.

Leah got her life back when she set her hope on God. That’s exactly where you get your life back to live in this world, when you set your hope on the LORD, the husband to the husbandless and father of the fatherless. He will not fail, He will not disappoint, ever. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Amen.

Tamar: My Son, My Longing



1st Wednesday in Advent
Genesis 38:11-30

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, What in the world?? What do we do with an account like this? One thing that’s clear from an account like this is that we can’t read the Bible thinking that the Bible is a book full of moral examples for us to imitate. Judah is the great-grandson of Abraham, Abraham is the one to whom God promised to send a Savior for the world through his family and so in every generation there would be someone to carry the line of the promised Savior. Abraham and his descendants were to live uprightly, serve God, live lives different from the sinful world, Judah totally and utterly fails here! And Tamar? Is she right in all this? Is she the one we should imitate? Is prostitution ok? Is sexual entrapment ok? No!

At the end of the account we read how Tamar names her child Perez, which means “break through.” And as we see here in this account the Bible’s message is essentially: Morals won’t save you. What we have in this account is yet another example NOT of how you live to get God to bless you, but how God’s grace breaks through terribly broken and sinful lives.

This is what happened in the first verses of our text. Judah’s son Er was married to Tamar but all we know about him is that he was extremely wicked and the Lord put him to death. That’s all we know. Then Tamar marries Er’s brother Onan, since that was what was to be done if a brother died and had an unmarried brother- the levirate marriage. He then would have children for his older brother who died. He didn’t want to do that because as now the oldest son, he was in line for a double portion of his father’s inheritance, so if he had a child he would lose the inheritance, so he used Tamar for sexual gratification but would then spill literally his seed on the ground to keep from having a child with her. So the Lord put him to death too.

So, what does Judah tell her? “Go live as a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up.” Now realize that Tamar is probably only around 15 years old at this time. And she’s a widow. If you notice something about the Bible, throughout it, God has a special concern for widows. Why? Because they were the most vulnerable in society. She’s considered a single adult, an already married woman, as a woman she can’t just go out and get a job, no one is likely going to want to marry her, and so because of that, there was a hugely important law concerning widows. The father-in-law was responsible for taking care of and providing for a widow and if he had any other sons, providing one for her. Outwardly he says he’ll give the other son to her. But then sends her away, essentially saying, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” But he’s being dishonest. He thought to himself, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” He’s in denial, he doesn’t want to admit that something is wrong with his sons, doesn’t want to admit his failure as a father, and so he unfairly blames her, she’s bad luck, he assumes something is wrong with her, sends her away with no intentions of giving his other son to her. Essentially he assigns her to a dead end life.

So, she goes into action, takes off her widows clothes, dresses like a prostitute, sits in a place where she knows he’s going to be, not recognizing her, he goes in and sleeps with her thinking she was a prostitute. He doesn’t have anything to pay her with so he gives her his seal, cord, and staff as a pledge. Which indicates he’s a man of some means. It was kind of like his signature, perhaps like leaving your wallet as a pledge.

So what is she doing here? She’s going after justice. And notice how she does it, she uses his double standard against him. Apparently there was a sexual standard for women and one for men. Think to yourself, how would Tamar know that he would go to her as a prostitute? How did she know that he would want to sleep with her? That’s the way he was! It was his character. He could sleep with a prostitute, but when it’s found out what she’s done, he wants her executed!

And notice what Judah wants to happen to her when he finds out what she’s done: In Hebrew it’s just two words: Take. Burn. This is terribly hateful. The only people who were burned at this time were those who committed absolutely terrible crimes. Now why would he want such a terrible punishment? Could it be that he really needed to believe bad things about her to justify his sons’ wickedness? Could it be that he didn’t want to face his failures as a father? She’s the reason, she brought it on somehow, over the years he’s been sticking pins in her in his brain, now look at what happens, and murderous hatred spews out of him. Now he has something against her. I knew it!

Judah is about to do a horrible thing. And left in this hatred, left in his self-righteousness, he’s going to hell. Left on our own in our sins, we’re going to hell. He’s about to take a girl who has done nothing to him and torture her and murder her. He’s blind to his own sins; he’s justifying his own sinful behavior. Judah’s danger was that he was blind to his own sin. So often so are you and me. We too try to justify our sinful behavior. But look at how God’s grace breaks through here.

As she’s being brought out, dragged out to be burned, she says, “Wait! I have a message for my father-in-law, Haker Nah, is the Hebrew, recognize? Not just see, but discern, realize. By the way, the man who impregnated me, who deserves to be burned just as much as I do, these are his. Essentially saying to Judah, “Do you see who you are? Do you see what you did? Do you see where you’re headed?” By God’s grace he did recognize. And he said not, “What she did is right,” but, “She is MORE righteous than I.”

What does he realize? He realizes that he’s no better than the person he despised the most. That’s a truth we each need to learn, we’re no better than the people we despise the most. And what does it take to open our eyes? A painful experience. This was terrible public disgrace for Judah. He committed incest sleeping with his own daughter-in-law whom he thought was a prostitute.  This painful experience turned out to be a turning point in Judah’s life.

Genesis 37 is where Judah and his brothers, who hated Rachel and her sons, because Jacob loved them the best, Judah’s plan was take the coat, put goat’s blood on it, take it to Jacob and say, “Haker nah?” Recognize? Jacob assumes Joseph is dead and gone. Judah started to go wrong in 37, more in 38, but by the end there’s an awesome moment when Judah and brothers are standing in front of the 2nd in command of Egypt and they don’t recognize him, and Joseph says, “I’m taking Benjamin,” and it’s Judah who steps forward and says, “No, take me, I’ll give up my whole life, my freedom, for the sake of my brother and my father.” Judah needed a painful awakening.

At the end Tamar says to one of her children, “You have broken through.” Perez. In the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, we hear the genealogy of Jesus, it has something that almost no genealogies had, it has the name of a woman, Tamar and Judah, how come? Tamar got her life back when Judah looked at her and said in spite of your sin, you’re righteous, and her life was spared. Judah was pointing to the Savior. We need to hear the ultimate Judah, Judah and Tamar’s descendant Jesus and hear from Him, “In spite of all your sin, in spite of who you are and what you’ve done, you are righteous.” How come? Judah was going to punish Tamar for HIS sins! But the real Judah, Jesus, did the very opposite, HE was punished for OUR sins. So we could be righteous. Thank the Lord for Tamar’s son. Amen.

Eve: My Son, My Substitute

adamevesnake1st Sunday of Advent
Genesis 3:1-15

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Why do people do what they do? Why do you do what you do? The human brain is a phenomenal creation of God. It contains literally billions of nerve cells that are arranged in specific patterns that control the functions of your body. Certain parts of your brain keep your body functioning and work involuntary –that you don’t even need to think about them – like your heart beating. And connected to your brain are tons of nerves throughout your body to sense things. The nerves in your hands can sense pain or cold, your eyes sense light patterns and translate them into images that your mind processes, your ears hear sound patterns and your brain processes them for information. And based on information our brain tells our body to act or do certain things. But we all know that the actions of people are not strictly based on logical deductions.  People do irrational things. People do horrendous things. Why? Why do we see terrorists who bomb and murder innocent people? Why do people trample other people in stores in order to get a certain Black Friday deal? Why do politicians often lie in order to get in office? It doesn’t matter how much education, science, technology, social programs are developed on thing remains: evil people. I ran across an interesting quote from the 1926 Minnesota Crime Commission: “Every baby starts life as a little savage. He wants what he wants when he wants it—his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toy, his uncle’s watch. Deny these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is, in fact, dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free reign to his impulsive actions, to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist.” History shows over and over again the evil nature of people. Even Aristotle said, “Man is born on an inclined plane, and is subject to a constant downward gravitational pull.” We see evil in the big picture, we also see evil in the small picture of our own lives; we see what we do is not purely logical, we see anger, jealousy, selfishness and a host of other horrible things that aren’t logical. What’s going on? Clearly evil is not simply a matter of the mind or of the environment, it’s a matter of an infected, inherited evil heart and will in every human.

To understand this we need to understand our true human nature and to understand the cure we need to understand God’s true nature. We can all trace our roots back to the same father and mother, Adam and Eve. And if we want an answer to the evil we see in the world and the evil we see in ourselves, God provides such an answer in telling us from where we’ve come.

When God first created the world He made everything absolutely perfectly. Everything He made by simply speaking the word and it came about. However, when it came to the top of His creation, the prize of His creation, He was hands on forming Adam from the dust of the ground and using a rib out of Adam’s side to build Eve. He brought Adam and Eve together and Adam greeted His wife, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Well, sometime after creation one of God’s angels rebelled against God and took a bunch of angels with him. God sent him from heaven and doomed him to everlasting judgment in hell. Now, put yourself in Satan’s shoes. You’re going to suffer horribly forever. And you look up at this world where you have a man and his wife, everything is great for them, everything is wonderful for them, they love God, God loves them, they love each other. And what do you want? You want to bring it all down. Misery loves company.

So, Satan takes on the form of a serpent, a snake and he begins to talk to Eve. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Really? That little word is actually quite telling. You see, he’s not really questioning whether or not God made that command, rather, what he’s saying is that it’s laughable. “Did he really say that? Was he really such an idiot, such a jerk, to say that?” Notice what he’s doing. He’s not appealing to the brain, he’s not appealing to the mind or logic. What is someone doing when they say something like this to you, “Do you really believe that?” That’s not a logical argument. Rather, what Satan is doing here is appealing toward an attitude of the heart, of the will. And it can be very influential, right? Imagine being a student in a college philosophy class where the professor singles you out as a Christian and says, “Do you really believe that? You don’t believe that, do you?” It’s not a logical argument, it’s an appeal to an attitude, “I don’t want to be thought of as the person who believes that!”

Satan is not dumb. He knows where sin and rebellion against God begins. We’re sorely mistaken if we think the big deal in this account is that Adam and Eve reached up and took a fruit off the tree. They certainly did that, but sin always begins in the heart and then leads to action.

Eve responds. But we’ve got a few problems already here. She’s talking with a snake. She knows snakes aren’t supposed to talk, they don’t have vocal cords. And this snake is challenging what God clearly told them. But she responds that God said that they could eat from any tree in the garden except for one tree. And if they did, they would die.

Then Satan steps up the attack: “You will not surely die!  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Wow! Totally contradicting the clear words of God. Now, what’s at the base of Satan’s lie and temptation here? Notice what Satan is really going after. He’s not denying the existence of God, he’s not denying God’s holiness, he’s not denying what God said. What’s he really going after? He’s really denying the goodness of God. “If you obey God, you’ll miss out. If you obey God, you won’t be happy. If you obey God’s will, it’ll cut off all your options, it will keep you from being all you want to be. You won’t thrive and flourish.” You see? He’s denying the goodness and love and grace and goodwill of God behind the command. “If you obey God, you can’t trust His good will. You can’t trust him. You’re going to have to take your life into your own hands.”  He pictures God as a selfish, envious brute who has forbidden something from you because he knows eating from that tree will give you secret knowledge that will make you like Him. Make you god. That’s at the base of all sin: that God and His will are not really good. And in a way, we’re tempted in two ways here. First, if I can’t trust God to be good, then I can’t trust that His laws and commands and will for my life aren’t good. They’re only meant to hold me back and make me miss out on something fun. Then all of a sudden God’s laws against sleeping with someone outside of marriage are meant not for my good but to hold me back from something “fun.” God’s laws against harboring anger or jealousy or unforgiveness aren’t for my good, but are His way of restricting me. But we’re also tempted to fall into another wrong ditch as well. If I can’t trust that God is good, then I need to follow God’s laws not because I want to or because God is so good to me, but because I need to force God to bless me. This is how this works: As long as I live correctly, do what God demands, then God has no choice but to give me what I want. This too is a result of failing to trust God’s goodness.

And notice the result. When our first mother stops trusting in the goodness of God, she disobeys God’s command and so does her husband who was with her. And what happens next? They realize that they’re naked. They need to hide themselves. They need clothes. Why? God’s not around, it’s each other. We humans hide from each other, we can’t possibly bear to have other people really know who we are. And when they hear God coming? They hide from him. Why? They feel guilt, they’re ashamed, they’re afraid of Him. And when God comes and God questions, what’s the response? “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” What’s Adam’s response? “She made me do it; send her to hell; give me another wife.” Basically he’s talking to the holy God of the universe about his sin and what do you have to say for yourself? “Take her.” He throws her under the bus to justify his sinful behavior. Notice the result of not trusting the goodness of God: Our relationship with ourselves is broken – I need to hide who I really am otherwise no one will accept me! Our relationship with other people is severed – no longer do I have only love and service to other human beings, they are now means to my own ends. And our relationship to God is severed. Now God is the enemy, we’re afraid of Him, ashamed, and guilty.

Because of sin, our nature is to hide. But because God is good and loving, it is His nature to seek and to find. In love God comes after them. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he [Jesus] will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” God is going to do something. God is going to send an offspring, a child, a son of Eve’s who is going to crush Satan’s head.

You see there was another garden, another tree, and another struggle. It was Eve’s descendant Jesus, who was struggling in a garden about a tree. The garden was Gethsemane and the tree was the cross. He knows He has to go to the cross and die for our sins and pay the penalty that we owe in our place as our substitute, and He’s struggling, sweat like drops of blood. Adam and Eve were in a bright sunny garden and God had told them, “Obey me about that tree, and you will live.” And they didn’t. Jesus, however, was in a dark garden, and God said, “Obey me about that tree, and you’ll be crushed,” and He did, for you, for me. He climbed that tree of death and turned that tree of death, the cross, into a tree of life for you and me. Not much has changed. The tree of sin in our lives is this thought that we can put ourselves where only God deserves to be, put ourselves in the place of God. The tree of salvation is God putting Himself where WE deserve to be, on a cross and dying there. That deals with our sin, that also deals with this thought that “I can’t trust God to be good.” All the problems in life, the toxins in our life, our sin are finally caused by not believing that God dearly loves you. Not believing the grace of God. What’s going to overcome that? There’s only one thing: Seeing Jesus climb the tree of death and turning the tree of death for him into a tree of life for you and me!

Knowing that Jesus did that restores how we feel about ourselves: God loved me so much that He bled and died to forgive my sins, I’m washed, I’m clean, I’m forgiven. Knowing Jesus restores how we view other people: they’re not means to my own ends, but people, souls for whom Jesus died and rose, I can treat them as such. And knowing Jesus restores our relationship with God: He’s not my enemy, but my dear Father who rescued me, washed me clean of my sin with the life and death of His own Son all that I can someday enjoy glory with Him forever!

That’s the cure for evil; that’s the cure for human life. Thank God for Eve’s Son, Our Substitute. Amen.