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Sermon for January 30, 2011

Micah 6:1-8 (4th Sunday after the Epiphany—Series A)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

January 30, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Old Testament Lesson for today recorded in Micah 6:

Hear what the LORD says: Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the LORD has an indictment against his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 

All rise!

Today we have before us Case # M61-8, The Lord God v. His People.

Please bring in the mountains and the hills who will witness this lawsuit.  They will hear this suit as observers who have seen what the Lord has done for His people throughout the course of the ages, and how Israel has rewarded God for it all.  They will bear witness on behalf of the Lord and against His people.

Please be seated.

The charges will now be read, the words of the Lord against His people.

“O my people, what have I done to you?  How have I wearied you?  Answer me!  For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.  O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.”

We hear now from the prosecution.

Thank you.  What has God done to you, His chosen people, that you have become so tired of Him?  You, O Israel, have fallen away from God.  You have broken His covenant.  How has God wearied you?  You claim that God has wearied your patience by giving you demands that are too difficult, too severe.  You imply that God has failed to keep His promises.  So today He gives you opportunity to show Him where He has wearied you.

Has God has done you harm?  Has He not continually, despite your sins and rebellions against Him, been faithful to His promises?  God brought you up from the land and Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery!  This is the greatest manifestation of divine grace, to which you owe your rise into a free and independent nation in the land which God promised to give to you.  What’s more, the Lord gave you the prophets, those entrusted with the Lord’s counsels and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, as leaders for you in the Promised Land.

Let me remind you of another great display of His grace.  God frustrated the plan formed by the Moabite king Balak to destroy you by using Balaam to curse you.  Instead of letting curses come from Balaam’s mouth, each time he spoke, God poured out blessings.

Think about the whole journey into the land of promise—the defeat of the Midianites who attempted to destroy you by seducing you to idolatry.  There was the miraculous crossing of the Jordan where the Lord parted the river for you to go through into the land.  Then God allowed the generation that grew up in the desert to receive the covenant of circumcision, being received into the Lord’s covenant promises, being reinstated in your relationship to God as His people.  So what has God done to you that He wearied you?

The defense may speak on behalf of God’s people.

Israel cannot deny these gracious acts of God.  Remembering them brings to mind the deep ingratitude with which they have repaid God by rebelling against Him.  The people’s response is this: “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Israel offers to bring sacrifices, the means appointed by God for maintaining fellowship with Him.  The people of God offer burnt-offerings to the Lord—calves, rams, olive oil.  They are even willing to offer the Lord the sacrifice of their firstborn for their transgressions and sins, realizing that an animal may not be a sufficient substitute for a human person.

The prosecution may respond.

The surrender which God desires is that of the spirit not of the flesh!  Israel should have learned this, not only from the sacrifice of Isaac required by God, but also from the law concerning the consecration of the firstborn.  This offer from Israel shows that the people have no true knowledge of the will of their God.  They are still entangled in the delusions of unbelief, that the wrath of God can be paid for by human sacrifice!

Let me remind you of the moral demands of the law, which God has already laid out for you.  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  It is not outward sacrifices of any kind, but only the fulfillment of doing righteousness and exercising love.  These embrace all of the commandments of the Second Table, numbers 4-10—love your neighbor as yourself.  Instead you have been addicted to the opposite—injustice, oppression, and want of affection.  Yet we dare not forget the First Table of the Law, commandments 1-3, that deal with your relationship to God.  You are to walk humbly with your God, in fellowship with God, not in rebellion against Him.

“Thus says the Lord: What have I done to you, O my people, and wherein have I offended you?  Answer me.  For I have raised you out of the prison house of sin and death, and you have delivered up your Redeemer to be scourged.  For I have redeemed you from the house of bondage, and you have nailed your Savior to the cross.  O my people.”

“Thus says the Lord: What have I done to you, O my people, and wherein have I offended you?  Answer me.  For I have conquered all your foes, and you have given me over and delivered me to those who persecute me.  For I have fed you with my Word and refreshed you with living water, and you have given me gall and vinegar to drink.  O my people”

“Thus says the Lord:  What have I done to you, O my people, and wherein have I offended you?  Answer me.  What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?  When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?  My people, is this how you thank your God?  O my people.”

Like God’s Old Testament people, we were guilty of unfaithfulness to God.  We were guilty of sin and transgression and rebellion against God’s Word.  And what is there that you and I could have done to make up for it?  Sacrifices?  What would be sufficient?  How much would be enough to pay the tremendous debt we owe?  Sacrifices would be useless.  They would gain us nothing.

That’s why God did everything for you and for me, His people.  When we were still sinners, God gave up His Son into death, the firstborn of the Virgin Mary.  “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  His sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf rescued us from the slavery of Satan, sin, and death.  Jesus’ body given in death and His holy, precious blood shed for us saved us from the power of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.

Jesus saved us from our sins so that we can do that which the Lord requires of us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the forgiveness of Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit which He accomplishes in us through the Gospel and the Sacraments of Christ, you and I are able to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God and Lord.  In fact, because God declares you and me forgiven by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God also announces through the mouth of Jesus Himself that you and I are “blessed.”  Because of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf, you and I receive the blessings Jesus talks about in the Beatitudes in the Gospel lesson.  It is because we are forgiven in Christ that the kingdom of heaven is ours.  It is because we are forgiven in Christ that we are comforted.  Because you and I are forgiven in Christ, we will inherit the earth, we are satisfied with His righteousness, we are recipients of His mercy.

So what of the charges of God against His people?  They were paid in full at the cross when Jesus suffered and died to purchase our forgiveness.  They were left dead and powerless in the tomb when Jesus rose again to give us resurrection and life.

So what of our lives now in Christ?  In the power of the Gospel, we do justice.  This means we harm no one.  We give to each person what is their own.  We strive to prevent damage and violence, and promote the welfare of others.  So what of our lives now in Christ?  In the power of the Gospel we love kindness.  We serve as blessings to others in the name of Jesus.  So what of our lives now in Christ?  By grace through faith alone, we walk humbly with our God as His redeemed and forgiven children.  We are modest and reverent, always aware of our total dependence on the Lord for life and salvation.

All rise!

Do we have a verdict in Case # M61-8, The Lord God v. His People?

I will now read the verdict.

 

 

NOT GUILTY.  FORGIVEN BY CHRIST JESUS.  SET FREE FROM SIN AND DEATH BY

HIS BLOOD.  FREELY GIVEN A NEW LIFE IN WHICH TO WALK HUMBLY WITH GOD AS SONS AND DAUGHTERS BY FAITH IN JESUS.

GO IN PEACE.

YOU ARE FREE.  AMEN.

 


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