Sermon Text: Proverbs 30:4-5
Date: June 23 & 24, 2018
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
Proverbs 30:4-5 (EHV)
4Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in the palms of his hands?
Who has wrapped the water in a garment?
Who has set up all the ends of the earth?
What is his name and the name of his son?
Tell me if you know!
5Every word of God has been refined.
He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Who Do You Think God Is?
“Who do you think you are?” If someone asks you that question, it’s generally not in a very calm, polite way. Usually something you’ve said or done has made someone else quite upset. Maybe you accidentally stuck your nose where it didn’t belong. Maybe you invaded someone’s privacy or “turf” at work. Maybe you were doing exactly what you were supposed to be doing, but someone took exception or offense at what you were doing.
Do you ever wonder if God has the same mindset with us? Do you ever wonder if our prayers or our actions and attitudes make him wonder aloud, “Who exactly do you think you are?” The writer of our verses from Proverbs for today seems to have that idea in mind. He asks a lot of questions, none of which apply to us: Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in the palms of his hands? Who has wrapped the water in a garment? Who has set up all the ends of the earth?
The answer to all of those questions is, “Well not me… not anyone, actually. In fact, this only applies to God.” We can’t enter God’s eternity and then return. We can’t capture the wind so that it continually swirls in our hands. Water is the most destructive force on the planet, we can’t really control it, and certainly can’t with a piece of fabric. And while mankind has accomplished a lot very impressive feats of engineering, they all stand on the foundation of the earth which was laid for us.
This really emphasizes the gap between us and God, doesn’t it? We can start to feel really good about ourselves, start to think that we’ve really got things together and are very successful, but by comparison? We know nothing and have no power. God is so much higher than us, that it’s not even comparable!
The disciples experienced that first hand when Jesus calmed the storm. These seasoned fishermen thought they were going to die on the sea, and Jesus, with a word, stops it all. “Who is this?” they wondered aloud. Other times, Jesus’ power caused the disciples to fear even being in his presence.
Maybe there are times when we are afraid to even approach God with prayers for help or requests. After all, we might think, doesn’t he have better things to worry about than my relatively small problems? If I start making requests of God, is that dictating what he should do? Is that being insolent? Is that going to cause God to ask me, “Just who do you think you are…?”
This past week in our Bible Camp, we our time at “Splash Canyon.” All of our Bible stories for the week centered around water in some way. But water was not the main point. Whether we looked at God protecting baby Moses in a basket on the Nile River, God’s people entering the promised land by crossing a parted Jordan River, or Naaman washing in the Jordan to be cleansed from his leprosy, the main point was that God was powerful—and that was power that he used for us. In fact, our second lesson for this morning was the lesson for Thursday—Paul’s shipwreck on his way to Rome. God promised Paul that, despite the storm devouring their ship, he and the others sailing with him would be safe. God has the power to back up his promises, even when those promises seem impossible.
See, God’s power is alarming. The heights that he dwells in are infinitely higher than where we dwell. That power discrepancy can be frightening. But when we start to realize what he uses that power for, our perception starts to shift. Instead of being fearful of God, we see that he uses that power to help us. And as a result we can trust him. Our lesson says of God, “Every word of God has been refined. He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
First of all, God’s words are refined. Parents, have you ever made a promise or threatened some sort of punishment that, once the words came out of your mouth you thought, “Well, that was stupid. I can’t ever follow through on that”? We say things, good and bad, without thinking all the time. Why do the staff of a politician get so nervous when the politician deviates from the script of a speech? Because that speech has been carefully crafted to express what they wanted to express, and anything that it is improvised runs the risk of being poorly thought out or poorly expressed or simply impossible to follow through on.
God’s words are not poorly thought out; they are refined. He doesn’t let words come out of his mouth and then say, “Whoops, that was a bad idea. I take it back.” God’s words are carefully calculated and perfect. And because God has all power, his promises are absolutely trustworthy. He can keep the biggest promise better than you or I could keep the smallest promise we make.
This comes to a head in the way we needed them to the most. God’s words of promise from the Garden of Eden on were centered on his saving work. Adam and Eve brought sin into the world. The children they had continued on that sinful trajectory. Despite all of that, God continues to be clear: there would be a Savior. He would come to fix all of this. We were not doomed to hell without hope.
And so God exerts his power and love by sending his Son Jesus to be our substitute. We should have been perfect, but we clearly haven’t been. Yet, Jesus was perfect in our place. We should have died an eternal death in hell as the punishment for our sins, but God didn’t want that. So, Jesus was condemned to hell in our place. And if Jesus had lived and died and then stayed dead, we would have no hope or comfort from any of this. But, God continued using his power by proving that our sins had been forgiven. Paul expresses it this way when writing to the Ephesians: I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope to which he has called you, just how rich his glorious inheritance among the saints is, 19and just how surpassingly great his power is for us who believe. 20It is as great as the working of his mighty strength, which God worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule, authority, power, and dominion, and above every name that is given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22God also placed all things under his feet and made him head over everything for the church. 23The church is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:18-23, EHV)
Our lesson described God as a shield to those who take refuge in him, which is exactly what Paul mentioned there in Ephesians 1. Jesus now rules all things—but he rules all things not to intimidate us but for us. Even when we don’t understand the how’s and the why’s, God’s power is at work to protect us, to work good from trouble and hardship, and to bring us to his heavenly kingdom.
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.
Perhaps the take-home points the children learned this week at camp are helpful for us as well as we consider who God actually is: God is with us! God give us live! God is faithful! God give us hope! Jesus is our Savior! Amen.