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Archive for September 1st, 2017

An Offensive Sign

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This sign started cropping up at churches and homes here in Lexington, Virginia a few months ago.  I totally agree with it as it is very much a Biblical understanding:  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12: 18).  We are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves.  If a Pakistani, or a Mexican, or a Hindu or an atheist, or a gay couple or a white supremacist,  move next door I would welcome them as my neighbor.  If  a Christian would not, then he’s not worth his salt (St. Matthew 5: 13).  If I was asked about the faith, or Christian morals, or the Biblical understanding of government, I would state what we believe as truth but I pray to do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3: 15). 

The offensive nature of this sign is the implication that if we as the Church want our nation to obey, for instance, it’s own immigration laws that automatically means that we do not want neighbors of other nations and faiths or no faith, next door, and we would not welcome them or be glad they are our neighbors according to Biblical, Christian faith and  practice.  I think this sign demonstrates an elitist and supremacist attitude of the leftists and it is blatantly false, implying assumptions about other neighbors.  I may be reading more into this sign that was not intended but I think it was intended.  In Christ’s humility, we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12: 3).

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Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s (1794-1872) depiction of the Israelites cross the Jordan River on dry ground as priests hold the Ark of the Covenant in the center of the river. From the Pitt Theological Library, Digital Archives, Emory University. Scripture Reference: Joshua 3

Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. Joshua 3: 11

About Joshua:  Today we remember and thank God for His faithful servant, Joshua. Joshua, the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, is first mentioned in Exodus 17 when he was chosen by Moses to fight the Amalakites, whom he defeated in a brilliant military victory. He was placed in charge of the Tent of Meeting (Ex. 33:11) and was a member of the tribal representatives sent to survey the land of Canaan (Num 13:8). Later, he was appointed by God to succeed Moses as Israel’s commander-in-chief. He eventually led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land and directed the Israelites’ capture of Jericho. He is remembered especially for his final address to the Israelites, in which he challenged them to serve God faithfully (Josh 24:1–27), concluding with the memorable words, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”(24:15). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  Some may know he was “Israel’s commander-in-chief”. Some may know that the 6th book of the Bible is named after him.  Most people might know that “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho.”  The Battle of Jericho is recorded in chapter 6 and then follow 18 chapters of the Conquest of the Land.   Joshua and the Israelites fought against the seven nations:

the Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites, Hivites, Girgashites and the Perizzites.

Joshua and the Israelites fought many a bloody battle. Modern/post-modern ‘sensibilities’ do not like the Book of Joshua because it is so ‘militaristic’ and violent.  The Promised Land was given by the LORD but the people fought for it.  We think enemies can be won over to be  ‘nice’ like us. Give me a break.  The seven nations had “detestable practices” , such as “child sacrifices, the practice of divination or sorcery, and occult activity.  In addition, Leviticus 18 and 20 detail the rampant sexual depravity among the Canaanites.” (“The Peoples of Canaan, The Lutheran Study Bible, page 345). Joshua and the Israelites had passed over into an occupied promised land.

What follows after the entrance into the Land, the Crossing of the Jordan, the first circumcisions and Passover therein, and then the Battle of Jericho, in the next 18 chapters is quite a slog.  They,  and only the Israelites, then were engaged in both physical and spiritual warfare, physically killing the enemies.  Spiritually we must kill enemies, 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, againstthe spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6: 12, from the Epistle Reading for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B (9/2/2012)

Yet they are enemies, the cosmic powers, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, even in the Church, giving their consent to sexual immorality   and covetousness. This blind world does not see it but we can see the breaking of every commandment every day on our favorite television programs. We have seen it in ourselves by God’s Law and we cry out, Kyrie Eleison, Lord, have mercy.    By God’s grace alone in Jesus Christ, we see the 7 Nations’ occupation of our own souls.  The name “Joshua”, literally means “God Saves”.  Joshua in Hebrew is pronounced, Yeshua and transliterated into Greek it became Iesus, the very Name in the New Testament, then transliterated into Jesus.

Joshua of old led the Israelites through the waters of the Jordan into the promised land for the conquest.  Jesus Christ leads us through the waters of Holy Baptism into the promised land of eternal life and leads, “the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12: 2) for our struggles, the crucified and risen Lord before us, beside us, within us, around us. He is the new and living covenant of the Lord of all the living who went through the waters for us and our salvation.

We are living in an occupied land.  The 7 Nations of Idolatry, Profanation, Restlessness, Greed, Adultery, Anger and Covetousness hold sway and with everyday occupied more of the land and that means her people.  And it all looks good on our various screens. The Church of the New Testament went into a Roman world and they fought, not with Caesar’s swords but the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6).  The Lord’s orders are clear:  “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them ” (Rom. 12: 14) and “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.  There are so many other Scripture verses on how to live as the Church in occupied land and the point is that those who are held captive can see the way of Jesus Christ in our life together and come to the joyful repentance.

It is a long campaign and it is a slog.  It is a slog when we see politicians approving abortion and the abortions of their conscience.  It is a slog when we see church bodies emasculate even the mention of  spiritual warfare as “too militaristic” so that a man and a woman does not stand in the battle and fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6: 12) . It is a slog when in our lives we see so many fighting and fears within and without.  It is a slog when we are overcome by the evil around us and think no one is with us: that is what the enemy wants us to think.  Joshua took a stand with his house:  we will serve the Lord.  Jesus Christ took His stand and served the Lord to us all, the LORD God of Sabaoth for our battles and struggles to defeat the Hittites, the Canaanites etc.and now by His grace alone won over to the Lord.  He made us His own, forgiven and drafted into His army. Joshua declared as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. In Baptism we renounce the devil and all his empty and false promises.   More than ever, we need the conscientious decision of every family, every father and husband to say as Joshua did, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”, and not the false gods and practices of those around us, not only for our salvation but others to come to faith in Jesus Christ. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Your servant Joshua led the children of Israel through the waters of the Jordan River into a land flowing with milk and honey. As our Joshua, lead us, we pray, through the waters of our Baptism into the promised land of our eternal home, where You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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