PENTECOST 2, A – June 18, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Ps. 67; Exodus 19:2-8; Romans 5:6-15; Matt. 9:35 – 10:8

You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples… you shall be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Exod. 19

 

Today is Father’s Day. Businesses advertise and try to make a big deal out of this, but Hallmark won’t have sold nearly as many cards as it did for Mother’s Day. There won’t be as much travel or as many phone calls as on Mother’s Day. And, florists? This is not a big day for them.

Even the Church seems to treat fathers and mothers differently. On Mother’s Day we heard this Scripture from 1 Peter 1: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” How motherly, how nurturing this sounds! What do we hear on Father’s Day? “Obey my voice and keep my covenant!” (Exod. 19) Gee, this sounds like, “Just wait till your father gets home!” Oh, we poor fathers have it rough. We’re the Rodney Dangerfield’s of the family. We get no respect!

How do you show love and respect for your father? There are many ways, but surely you do so by listening to him and obeying him. It should be the same with your heavenly Father. If you love God, honor Him by listening to Him and obeying Him!

But, where do we begin? Before God called His people Israel to listen to and obey Him, He reminded them of what He had done for them:

“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore… obey my voice…”

It is so important to begin with God and what He has done. This keeps us from getting the wrong idea about our obedience, thinking that by it we will gain something from God. It’s easy to have this idea, for so much of life in this world is based upon this idea.

q   In school, if you do your homework and study hard you’ll be rewarded with good grades.

q   In your job, if you work hard you’ll move up the ladder and earn more money.

q   The athlete who works hard to stay in shape will play more, and perhaps win.

You do in order to get. You work to be rewarded. That’s the way things work.

Ok, think: when did your father begin loving you? Was it after you first said, “Da-Da”? After you began picking up your toys like he told you to, or began doing your chores without being hounded? Of course not! A good father does not need to be persuaded to love, but loves first. Out of love he teaches and guides his children in what to do and how to live, in order to bring forth good for them and for others.

If this is so of earthly fathers who, as sinners, do not always know what is good or do it, then how much more is this so of our holy and wise Father in heaven! “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself,” God tells the people of Israel. He did this because He had compassion on them. His heart went out to them, and He came down to help them.

God’s eyes were upon you with mercy and love even before you were born. You do not have persuade Him by your obedience to love you or help you. It is not our obedience, our readiness and willingness to listen to Him and follow what he says, that makes us precious to God. Thank goodness, for how pure are our hearts and motives, how good and sincere and willing is our obedience? We are weak and sinful, impure even in our obedience! God knows this well. But, His Word assures us (Rom. 5):

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Take this to heart. While you were a guilty sinner you were justified, pronounced innocent of sin. While you were an enemy of the holy God in your disobedience, you were reconciled, made His beloved friend. And all this, not because of anything you had done, but because of Jesus. Our heavenly Father sent Him to bear our sins. He became the guilty one, the disobedient sinner. He bore the punishment for our sins, and we are freed of their condemnation. God is our loving Father because Jesus came and died for us, and did this long before we could love and obey God! In Jesus we are loved! In Him we are precious to God!

Isn’t this great love of our heavenly Father something to rejoice in and live in? Shouldn’t we honor Him by how we live our lives? This is where our obedience comes in. By listening to God and obeying what He says – not grudgingly but because He is good and all He says and commands is good – we honor God and show forth His goodness. Our loving obedience is then something good and precious. “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant,” God says, “you shall be my treasured possession.” (Exod. 19)

“my treasured possession.” This phrase – one word in the Hebrew Bible – is used of precious gems. Many of you have precious gems. Many of you wives were given a diamond by your husband. What do you do with it? Keep it under your pillow? Put it where it is safe and never bring it out? Of course not! You proudly wear it for all to see, thereby honoring your husband. It proclaims his love for you and your love for him.

When we go to church to listen to God and praise Him; when we read and study and learn His words, and then do what they say; by, for instance:

q   Speaking well of others and putting the best construction on their actions, for God says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”;

q   Honoring people’s lives, no matter who they are, and helping especially the poor and weak and helpless, as Jesus did;

we show forth the goodness and love of our God for all people. Now, it is certainly possible that if you lower yourself and give of yourself you might get no respect. You might even suffer loss! Your Father in heaven, however, will see you as His precious gems. He will uphold you with His love as you display His love.

What great honor God has given to our works, our obedience! “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession… and you shall be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” He has made you His priests: His hands to help others and His mouths to pray for them. You are like your “great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14) May God our heavenly Father, by the working of the Holy Spirit, make us this and keep us this; through Jesus Christ, our Lord! Amen.