8th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace and peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Dear friends in Christ, breaths of crisp fresh air during a gorgeous morning in beautiful northern Minnesota, a glass of sparkling clean fresh spring water, a table filled with the choicest food cooked to perfection, a clean bill of health from the doctor with a commendation of being strong and in shape…so what is it that gives us life? What is it that keeps our lives going, that keeps us going from one day to the next? None of those would hurt would they : )? Well thank the Lord that He’s given us all that we need for our lives as Christians. He’s given us all that we need for life, and not only for this life, but for eternal life.
What did Israel need for their lives? A major part of what the Israelites needed some 2,700 years ago was rain. You see, they didn’t, of course, have the modern conveniences of irrigation systems, pumps, hoses, and sprinklers that we have today. They pretty much needed the rain and snow to live. Rain and snow for many Israelites spelled the difference between life and death. They needed lots of snow on Mt. Hermon (which is in the northern part of Israel) in order that in the spring that snow on Mt. Hermon would melt and that was the main source of water for the Jordan River that runs right through Israel. Not much snow meant not much water in the Jordan. And then during the growing season if the rain came at the appropriate times the people could hope for a good crop. A good crop meant food to eat. A good crop also meant seed to save for the next year’s crop. However, if the rain and the snow did not come you could expect a bad crop with no food and no seed for the next year. If the rain and snow did not come you’d be facing that dreaded thing called… famine. And in our day too, periods of dry spells can really influence the outcome of our crops and the price of food, but it usually isn’t a matter of life and death for us. But for the Israelites it was.
God’s purpose for sending the rain and the snow is for giving life and blessing to people. God says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,” You see, this rain and snow that God sends causes things to happen. The verbs in the original language are verbs that indicate cause: this rain and snow causes stuff to happen and will without failing bring about results. God has assigned the task to water to give life and bring about blessings on the earth.
And there is a parallel to this rain- it’s the way God’s Word works. He sends out His Word like a farmer scattering seed, generously and freely. God has packed the Bible full of all of His plans and His purposes and His promises and His power. And He has further promised that His Word causes things to happen. Just like it is God’s will that the rain and the snow accomplish what He’s assigned them to do, so also is it God’s will that His Word should continue without fail to accomplish the mission for which He has sent it. God says, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” The Bible is God’s powerful, creative, commanding Word. “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). When sinners, like you and me, come into contact with God’s Word, God works. God works through His Word. God also says, “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16,17). God works through His Word. How so?
You see, God’s Word is God’s message to us. God’s Word is also God’s power. There are things in Scripture that perhaps we wish God hadn’t told us. Things we may not want to hear. God says things in His Word like … it’s sinful to curse and swear, to lie and deceive… it’s sinful to covet…it’s sinful to hate…it’s sinful to lust…those things that convict us we may not want to hear. These are all things that show us where we are wrong and where we have failed and where we are in desperate need of a cure. That’s what we call God’s law. But there’s a reason why God put that in His Word. Everything God had written in the Bible He had written in there for our good. You see, who would want their cardiologist to tell them that everything is fine and you’re perfectly healthy when the reality is that all of the tests show you have 95 percent blockage in your major arteries? Who would want that from their doctor? Do we really want our Creator and the God of the universe telling us everything is fine and dandy when the reality is that our sins separate us from Him and eternity is at stake? Well certainly not! We need God to tell us the sobering message of His law in order to see how much we need Him. You see, it’s only after knowing our terminal condition, our failure without Him that we’ll appreciate His Gospel message where He gives us the comfort and healing and peace that we need!
You see, it’s also in God’s Word that we hear the Gospel and that’s the most important. Sure we can look at the world around us. We can look at the universe, which God created and tell that God is wise and powerful and orderly. But, if we dispense with God’s Word we dispense with the way God has chosen to work inside of us. If we dispense with God’s Word, we dispense with the way God tells us about our Savior, Jesus. It is through the Gospel, which God has given us in His Word, where God gives us the assurance that Jesus lived a perfect life in your place, Jesus died on the cross to pay for all your sins so you don’t have to, Jesus rose from the dead on Easter to assure you that Good Friday worked! Your sins were paid in full! Jesus rose from the dead so you can be absolutely sure that eternal life is your possession! That’s the Gospel! God uses the Gospel to work faith in our hearts, to strengthen that faith in our hearts, and to motivate us to live as His children.
God works through His Word! God gives blessing through His Word. God now promises that as you read and study His Word that He’ll give you more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, etc! God promises that His Word will not return to Him empty! So what does that mean for us? Let’s not let the weeds of this life choke out our hearing and listening to God’s Word. Maybe that means as a father or a husband I need to skip my favorite hobby or shut off the t.v. or not read the paper in order to read the Bible myself, or my catechism, or have a devotion with my children, or with my wife, then so be it. Maybe it means as a wife or mother that the “one thing needful” is most important to me and my children…that they’ll remember the Bible stories I told them from early on. Maybe it means discussing what was heard and learned in church at the Sunday dinner table. Maybe it means that no matter how much I hear “well everyone is doing it” or “why can’t I be like everyone else” that I remain unmoved from living according to what God says in His Word.
And why is God’s Word so important to us? Because of what God’s Word is! Look at what God’s Word is to us! It is through God’s Word that God reveals His plans and purposes for us. It is through God’s Word where God gives us the promise of forgiveness and life. But how can you be so sure? Pastor, you’ve been telling us what an awesome and powerful thing God’s Word is…but how can you be so sure? How can you be sure that God offers so much through His Word, that He works through His Word, that He gives life through His Word? How can you be sure God will make good on His promises through His Word? How can you be sure? What evidence do you have? What assurance can you give?
Look here. Where does God make good on His promises? How can we be sure we have life, the life that will never end? Look here. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…no one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” Where do we look? Where did God make good all of the promises in His Word? Right there. Where do we look to know God’s Word is true? Right there. Where do we look to know that all of our sins are forgiven and life eternal is ours? Right there. Look at the empty tomb. Jesus is risen, the victory is won. God’s Word is absolutely true! So what gives you life? What keeps you going? Listen to what God says in His Word: Jesus lives and so will you!