PENTECOST 13, C – August 18, 2013

SCRIPTURES – Ps. 55; Jer. 23:16-29; Heb. 11:17-31 & 12:1-3; Luke 12:49-53 

 



 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. Heb. 11 


Last week I told you about Paul White, the man who recently won 149 million in Powerball. What wealth and worldly blessings are now his! Today I’d like to tell you about a man who was kind of the opposite of Paul White. This man had great wealth, honor and favor, security, and an abundance of pleasures; but, amazingly, he gave them all up to live among and join himself to a people who were not only poor but were despised and mistreated and suffering under many hardships. He came to help them, but while doing so he ended up being opposed and spoken against; and not only by those who were oppressing them. Even the people he was trying to help at times opposed and spoke against him!

The man is Jesus, right? Well, yes, such things could be said of Jesus; but, it is not Jesus I have in mind. I’m talking about Moses. You know his story, right? It began with the king of Egypt, Pharaoh, ordering all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed because he was afraid that the Jews, whom he had enslaved, were becoming too populous and so a danger to the Egyptians. But, when Moses was born he escaped death, as his parents put him in a basket and placed it in the reeds along the river, where Pharaoh’s daughter found him. She knew he was a Hebrew baby, but still took him into her home and raised him as her own. The wealth and honor and blessing of Pharaoh’s house were now his! But, as the book of Hebrews says, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” He must have been looked upon by the Egyptians, including his adopted mother and family, as a fool for doing this!

Well, at least his own people appreciated what he did for them and spoke highly of him! Yes, they did; sometimes. But, there were also times when they distrusted him and opposed his leadership. Once even his own sister, Miriam, and brother, Aaron, spoke out against him! “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” they said before the people (Num. 12). “Who do you think you are? You act as if wisdom begins and ends with you! Well, we know a thing or two ourselves!” Perhaps such words have been said to you before. I’ll bet you’ve thought and/or spoken such words!

Conflict; disagreement; argument; harsh and hurtful words – boy, wouldn’t it be great to not have to endure and deal with such things? Well, at least when you’re home and with the people who love you most you’re spared them! At least when you’re in God’s house and with your fellow believers you’re spared them! At least you get to come here and listen to happy and cheerful Bible readings and sermons that get your mind off of such things for a while!

Sorry, but this is not a happy place of escape from sin. It is where God deals with our sin. “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?” Jesus says. “No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.” Division is not only common in this world. Jesus and His teaching can actually cause it and bring it.

Why? Why does conflict and division occur? Today’s Scriptures show that the causes are often our own sinful desires. We’re unwilling to lose out or take the lower place. Jealousy, worries about favoritism and the desire to have our own way bring separation. This is what led Miriam and Aaron to oppose their brother Moses and caused God’s anger and judgment to fall upon them. Does not jealousy overflow from our own hearts many times, also? Recognize it, turn away from it, and seek God’s forgiveness in Christ. Look to the riches you have in Christ and the heavenly reward that awaits you, and then be content with what you are and have here. God will sustain you.

Sometimes, however, division is inevitable. “Is not My Word a fire?” God says in Jeremiah 23. Jesus emphasizes this in Luke 12. In His Word God proclaims many things which burn by going against what others, and sometimes even our own hearts, consider to be good and right. To accept and follow it will bring division, sometimes even from family members. But, if you ignore it or turn away from it in order to gain acceptance and have peace you will be divided from God. Be like Moses, who “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt.” Above all, Hebrews says, “Consider [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” When division is your lot for following God, accept it as His will. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Introit, Ps. 55:22)

We’re told that Moses was enabled to endure opposition and respond with mercy because he saw “Him who is invisible.” 

 

  • He saw the invisible God when God summoned him to a burning bush (Ex. 3), and there God spoke to him.
  • He saw Him on Mt. Sinai, where God brought him after leading the people of Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 19), and there God spoke to him.
  • As Moses led the people of Israel to the Promised Land he saw the invisible God when God summoned him to a 4’ x 2’ x 2’ box, the Ark of the Covenant, and there spoke to him (Ex. 25:10-22).

As in these places he saw and heard “Him who is invisible,” Moses came to know God as merciful and forgiving. And so, when his sister and brother opposed him out of jealousy, he did not respond with his own angry words but let God defend him. And, when God rebuked them and afflicted Miriam with leprosy, Moses prayed for mercy.

In Jesus we have God made visible as “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 11). In His death for sinners we see that He is not only the forgiver of our every sin, but also of every sin others commit against us. In the large box of this church He reveals Himself to us in Word and Sacrament as our merciful and forgiving Savior. See Him and listen to Him here, so that when you are angry and hurting because you are divided from someone you will remember that you, too, are sinful. When your first impulse is to blame and find fault – and this is usually how we feel – Christ will lead you to instead make mercy and forgiveness your focus. Ask for forgiveness for your own sin, and then for the sins of the one from whom you are divided. This is accepting “the reproach of Christ.” He will then be not only our forgiver but will also be the healer of our every division.

Seeking the healing of division and bringing the healing of division is not easy. It is, however, a blessed work, for it is Christ’s work. Look upon Him, your God made visible! “ Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” He will enable you to “run with endurance the race that is set before [you], looking to Jesus” and knowing that the joy that was set before him and which He received when He sat at the right hand of the throne of God is now ours, also, for it is His gift to us, our possession through faith!

Rejoice and be glad, you people of God! Rejoice in Jesus, your God made visible, in whom you are made one with the eternal Father and blessed forever!