God’s Word is not something we outgrow. It’s not something that uses up its usefulness. We will never have anything more important in our lives than that beautiful, perfect Word of God, through which God brings us to faith in our Savior and assures us of eternal life. May that Word be the center of your joy and the priority of your life now and forever! Amen.
Who do you think God is? He’s not some cruel master, working to make your life miserable. He’s not a vindictive judge, who relishes in your suffering. Your God is your all-powerful protector, the one who works good from trouble now and rescues from sin and death eternally.
Above all else, guard your heart carefully, because your life flows from it. Don’t let anything and everything come into your heart because it’s too precious, too much is riding on your heart being focused on your Savior. Thanks be to God that through his Word, the Holy Spirit keeps that focus on Him for us. He does what we cannot do, what we need Him to do. He focuses you on your Savior and then your life flows from it, your eternal life especially, but even your day-to-day life as well.
At the focus of our meditation is the motivation behind our actions. Why do you do the things you do? What drives you? What motivates you? Is it possible to do the wrong things for right reasons? Is it possible to do the right thing for wrong reasons?
The altar in Old Testament worship life was centered around sacrifices, usually burnt offerings. Thus, the angel brings a coal from this sacrifice to purify Isaiah. The ultimate altar had no coals; it had wood and nails. The cross is the altar upon which God ultimately took away our guilt and continues to provide forgiveness for our sins.
Jesus promised a peace that was different than the world’s. But on our own, we can’t get at it. On our own we can’t stand against the world’s temptations for different peace. On our own we’re powerless. We need God’s help; we need what Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit would do for his disciples and for us, “I have told you these things while staying with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I told you.”
As John writes to the Christians living around about 80 or 90 A.D., he’s encouraging them in their change of life, namely, the change from unbelief to faith. Being grafted into the Vine of Jesus’ love meant changes in both the way they thought and in the way they lived.
Sermon Text: Hebrews 11:24-28
Date: August 26 & 27, 2017
The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
Hebrews 11:24–28 (EHV)
24By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter when he grew up. 25He chose to be mistreated with God’s people rather than enjoy sin for a little while. 26He considered disgrace for the sake of Christ as greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
27By faith he left Egypt without fearing the king’s wrath, because he persevered as one who sees him who is invisible.
28By faith he celebrated the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not strike them down.
The Invisible God Inspires Visible Faith
1. Christ is the greatest treasure
2. Christ is the greatest protector
This week, one of the side projects I’ve been working on is adjusting colors in some worksheets for Catechism to ensure that the colors will pop out when you look at the page. It’s frustrating because colors that seem bright and vibrant on the screen tend to look much more dull when printed on paper. And when they look dull and dark, the parts that are supposed to stand out from the rest of the black text do not. The special terms become almost invisible and difficult to see.
Things that are invisible can run the gamut from annoying to dangerous. You can’t find your phone because the black screen and bezel disappear on the black coffee table. You get sick, because there are invisible impurities in your water or in the air of your home. We tend to not like things that are invisible, but rather things that stand out and can either be appreciated or attended to as the need arises.
That poses a bit of a problem for us, though, as Christians. Our God is invisible. The temptation will be for us to value visible, tangible things more than the invisible God. Yet, by his grace, he produces in us a faith that trusts him, a faith that can be seen in action, though he himself remains invisible.
In our lesson for today, the writer to the Hebrews uses the example of the Moses. You remember the unique start to Moses’ life. He was born at a time when God’s people were slaves in Egypt. Because he feared the Israelites were getting too powerful, the Pharaoh ordered that all of the baby boys among God’s people be killed. Moses’ mother could not allow that to happen, and so hid the child as long as she could and then sent him down the Nile River in a waterproofed basket, leaving her baby boy entirely in God’s hands. God directed that basket to the Pharaoh’s daughter, and he was raised as an adopted son of the royal family.
It would have been easy for Moses to look around him at the gold and gems, at the position of prominence and privilege, and say “This is good. I should stay here.” But that’s not what he did. We don’t have all the details of how Moses came to know his heritage, but he chose instead to be known as he was, a child of Israel, rather than a child of Pharaoh. He chose to be mistreated with God’s people rather than enjoy sin for a little while. 26He considered disgrace for the sake of Christ as greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. Moses was able to look past all the pomp and circumstance of his adopted family and know that it was, in the end, meaningless. His God had something better for him than just the temporary pleasures of this life. He let his confidence, his faith, in God be very visible in where and how he lived.
How would you and I react in that situation? How do we react in that situation? We may not be in the same position as Moses, but we find ourselves in very similar situations. How do we react when a classmate is being made fun at school? Do we step up and defend him, and maybe even remind the bullies that this person too is someone that God loves? Or do we let our faith be invisible and let the bullying happen and perhaps even join in? How will we react when football season gets into full swing? Which altar will we worship at on a given weekend, God’s altar or the gridiron? How do we react when someone at work is mocking the Christian faith? Do we let it be known that we are a Christian and maybe take the opportunity to share more clearly what we believe from the Bible or do we stay silent, hoping no one knows that we come to church, hoping that our faith remains invisible?
God forbid that we should let the pleasures of this world or avoiding uncomfortable things in this world make our faith invisible! Rather, it should be known by everyone that we are a Christian. Because the things of this world and the relationships of this world are only temporary. They do not benefit us in eternity. But what does benefit us eternally is the love of God given most clearly in Jesus. Jesus did not keep his love and concern for us a secret. He didn’t keep hidden that we were his most valuable treasure. Rather, he publicly went to his death to make it clear just how much we meant to him. He defeated our sins (even those sins of not valuing him!) when he died and rose. Because of that love and those actions, we are free to be with him in eternity.
How could we even want to hide the fact that we are so loved by our God? Let’s share it! Let’s make that faith visible to those around us. When we don’t join in hurtful words and actions, when we help others that might not be able to help themselves, when we refrain from joining in crude jokes, when we seek God’s will rather than earthly praise, when we seek God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of others when we sin, we preach powerful sermons about what God has done for us, what he means to us, and that we want to share it with all people.
Of course, not everyone is going to like that, right? You might be mocked for standing up for someone else. You might lose face with people when you turn down an opportunity to join in some crude laughs that mock God’s creation or his gifts of sex and marriage. You might even make enemies at work when you stand up for what is right in the face of overwhelming pressure to do what is wrong. Should we be afraid in those times? What was Moses’ response to threats as a result of his faith? By faith he left Egypt without fearing the king’s wrath, because he persevered as one who sees him who is invisible. 28By faith he celebrated the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not strike them down.
God would call Moses at the burning bush to return to Egypt, to be his mouth piece to rescue his people from their slavery. This would not be well received by the king. But did Moses fear? No. Because he knew that the One who was invisible would protect him from anything the king could do. Even if Pharaoh were to kill him, he knew that his inheritance was safe in eternity. So Moses went forward, bravely, assured of the protection of the invisible God. He let his faith be visible by confronting trouble and hardship head on in confidence.
So, too, when the final plague in Egypt was announced, when the death of every first born in Egypt was imminent, he trusted God’s promise. That promise would have sounded ridiculous. “Every firstborn will die expect those in homes where the blood of a lamb is painted on the door frames.” What? How could that possibly be true? Because God said it would be. And Moses knew that when the destroyer came to wipe out the firstborn in every family, God’s people would be safe who trusted his promise and put that trust in practice by doing what God said.
We have a greater salvation than Israel on the night of the tenth plague. Like them, we too are saved by blood, not the blood of the Passover lamb, but of the Lamb of God. We are saved not from temporal death, but eternal death in hell. And like the Passover, the promises are unbelievable until God gives us the faith to believe them. Then, he is proven right. Nothing in this world can rob us of our faith and forgiveness. Nothing can take heaven from us. Nothing can do us any real harm because God is our greatest protector.
That leads us to rejoice in our God, invisible though he may be. He is invisible, but not absent. He is invisible, but not lacking power. He is our greatest treasure and our greatest protector. May God give us the strength to put our faith into practice every moment of every day, allowing us to be his witnesses like Moses and the innumerable faithful believers who have come before us. Thanks be to God! Amen.