Archive for March 12th, 2018

New York City is a great city…with many challenges.  One of them is driving into the city and attempting to park on the street.  The challenge is not only lack of parking spaces, but also reading the parking signs:  

Image result for NYC street parking signs

There are confusing sign supposedly to help us. Sometimes they begin with, “Research has shown…” Or “The poles indicate that…”  It especially becomes confusing when various sages, gurus, thinkers, best seller authors, rattle on and on about their programs for healing and salvation.  They all, though, are very clear: you better do something, follow their program and they ever lead you to yourself, giving sop at times even to God. It’s the same: be your own savior.    “Oh, grant us  help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!”-Psalm 60

Wrong signs such as follow your heart, or recently, Oprah has intoned to follow your heart song.  “Every one of us has an internal guidance, a GPS, an intuition, a heart print, a heartsong that speaks to us.”  My internal GPS at this fork in the road sure speaks to me and is pretty clear: I would like to smack people who so teach.  The Lord’s GPS is very clear also in me following my heart in His ten signs that such desire to smack is wrong. 

As it is written in Jeremiah:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? 

It certainly ain’t Oprah. Next verse in Jeremiah:

 “I the LORD search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Israel followed their heartsong:   we’re sick and tired of all this manna and they became fiery in their bitterness and so bitterly complained.  The Lord gave to every one of them according to the fruit of their deeds.  He gave them a taste of their own medicine.  The Lord appointed those fiery serpents to enter into the camp and they bit many of the freed slaves and many died.  Then, the  people of Israel prayed out of their sin and death most earnestly, We have sinned against You O Lord and against Your servant. AS sin is clear here, so is the Lord’s remedy: a sign, as in a sign from God Himself.  A fiery bronze serpent on a pole and the Lord’s promise:  whoever looks on will live.  Not because this thing was magic, but according to the Lord’s Word.  His Word of Law and Promise is His clear sign.

Much later in Israel, in the days of the divided kingdom, one of the good kings of Judah, Hezekiah tore down the idols, such as the Asherah, “…And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).”  When we seek our salvation in the sign, any sign,  apart from God’s Word, then idolatry and false worship and doctrine are present. 

The sign of the bronze serpent certainly and clearly caught Israel’s dying eyes and faith seized the promise in the grace of God’s mercy.  Freed, the people of Israel was lost again and found again by the Lord.  Men follow wrong signs.  In today’s Psalm we chanted:

 Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.

They were lost in the wilderness of the world.  Maybe you have been lost in the wilderness of this world and it’s vain promises of fame and fortune, permanence and promise, the allure of unbridled sexuality which results in diseases of the body and sickness unto death of the  soul.  You took a wrong turn, followed a bad sign, did not heed the warnings: wrong way.  Or just got up on the wrong side of the bed.. Lost, then,

… they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love

We are not told what changed that they finally cried out to the Lord.  I’ll hazard a guess:  For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth, God intercedeth. The cross points the way to the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We did not pray these verses of Psalm 107 and a second group:

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

Can you see the pattern of Psalm 107?  Then a third group, which sounds like the people of Israel in today’s Old Testament reading:

Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,

And there is a fourth group in this psalm: lost at sea, in the storms of this world.  These verses about being lost at sea are the basis of the navy hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save.  They cried out as well.  Iniquity and the storms of life, the results  and then prayer  and the basis of prayer and it’s answer is not me, but the Lord’s “steadfast love”, hesed. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love Maybe the bronze serpent on the pole reminded the people of Israel of their bitterness of their sin and they were lost even as freed men and women, and the Cross of Christ reminds us ever of the hesed, the steadfast love of the Lord. The clear and saving sign, forever, of our crucified and risen Savior.  The sign of the cross is not one shot deal to make our decision for Christ but the sign of His decision to redeem us so we repent and return to the Lord our God.  We need the Lord’s sign of his hesed, everyday, every moment of our lives  So Jesus took the sign of the nehushstan and it is changed by His risen body and soul, bearing the wounds of the Cross, so His grace of the Holy Spirit flows into our lives by His blood shed. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love

Jesus now repeats in a burst of Gospel-preaching which is without equal in the world’s literature, which, in fact, summarizes the entire Gospel in one short sentence. With the full emphasis of adoring wonder Jesus exclaims: For so God loved the world, so much, so greatly, so beyond all human understanding. The greatness of God’s love is such as to call forth this cry of astonishment even from the Son of God, the Savior Himself,

God is the Author of salvation, Hebrews 5  He is sure of his salvation, because it is based upon the work of Jesus the Savior. …as Paul says Rom. 8, 32: 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  … as St. Paul again says, 1 Cor. 3, 22. 23: All things are yours; and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love

He loved the world, all the people living in the world, all that make up the human element in the world; there is none excepted. He proved this love with a deed so wonderful, so surpassingly beautiful, that it cannot be brought out strongly enough in words of human speech…What a contrast: the holy, eternal God and His equally holy and eternal Son giving the highest and best for the world, for the fallen, corrupt humanity, for the bitter enemy of God! Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love

The death of the Son of God is the punishment for the sins of the world; the Son of God dies that the world, all the people in the world, might live in all eternity. God’s death, God’s blood, was thrown into the scales in payment for the sins of the world. And there is nothing to be done on the part of sinners but to accept this atonement in faith; for faith accepts and appropriates the redemption of Christ. And the believer has eternal life even now, even here in time. The mission of Jesus as the gift of God to the world was not to condemn the world, though the latter had richly deserved such condemnation. Though He Himself is the Holy One of God, yet He would not, in His capacity as Savior of sinners, judge and condemn them; The sole purpose of His coming was the salvation of the world. We wear the sign of the cross, not because we are stupid, but sinners, baptized into the Lord. Here is your sign! Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love

IN Him, in His hesed, by His grace alone we are saved, not through our works, but His Work to work in us the good works the Lord has prepared beforehand to be our way of life that we should walk in them.  In His light, our works are carried out in God for our neighbors, as the Savior taught us in John’s Gospel.  This loveless generation, walking in the dark of their nehushstans, need the light of Jesus’ pure love, maybe more than ever.  Here is your sign, as clear as the light of heaven, flowing with God’s blood shed for us for our work in the world.  Our cry is the Lord’s cry:  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!

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