Sunday, March 15, 2009

“Why?” (Exodus 20:1-3)

S-1107 3/15/09 3SIL/3B Hymns: (O) #287 1-4; O.T. 5-8; Ep. 9-12; (S) #295 (C) #286

Texts: Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 2:13-22

Theme: Why?(Exodus 20:1-3)

Question: “How many times have you said, ‘Why’?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Third Sunday in Lent is from the Old Testament reading: “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I Am the LORD Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me’” (EX. 20:1-3).

Saints in Christ, why does a day-care provider in Sioux Falls abuse an infant? Why does a man in Illinois walk into a church and kills the pastor and injures others? Why does a man in Alabama kills and burns 9 members of his family? Why does a court forbid a crossing-guard from giving students high five? Why did God give the 10 Commandments to the people of Israel? Why did God tell the Israelites to keep them? Why should we keep them? Why oh why? PAUSE.

Life is full of mystery. And we the enlightened ones want to know the whys of the world. As we reflect on the questions, we really ask the honest question WHY? I don’t know why a man would want to kill his family. I don’t know why a day-care provider abuses an infant. I don’t even know what motivated these people to do the evil they did.

However, when it comes to God’s Word in giving the Ten Commandments, it is no secret of why He gave them to the People of Israel and to us. The first why, because God in mercy reached out and delivered the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt. In the previous chapter we read: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Ex. 19:4). Second, because He wanted them to be different people. This is how Moses told it: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation(Ex. 19:5-6b). Third, because the Israelite’s were people with a mission—being a light to other nations. God gave them the Commandments, so that they might live with Him in peace and demonstrate that they are a people of God. Their lives were to reflect the story of God’s salvation. They were to tell the world the mighty deeds of the ONLY TRUE GOD.

These 10 Commandments which God gave the people were to be the blueprint of how they will live, how to interact with God, and treat their neighbors. These Commandments were given to help them always focus on the God who delivered them from the slavery of Egypt.

God didn’t give them the Commandments so that by them, they might be saved. ON the contrary because they had been saved and delivered from Egypt, He gave them these blessed Words to guide and guard their hearts and let them know that He is the ONLY GOD in whose presence they should walk humbly and worship Him joyfully.

These Words of God show us His heart. These Words of God show us what He loves and what He hates. These Words of God point us to the might, power, and protection He will provide for us. By obeying these Words, we honor God, and help our neighbor.

King David in Psalm 19 wrote these helpful words: The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether” (Ps. 19:7-9).

Do you see the blessings that come from knowing the Lord’s Commandments? They revive the soul, make our hearts glad, make us wise, make us right with God and open our eyes to see Him for who He really is—the One who delivers from the hand of the snare. PAUSE.

As we continue in our Lenten journey to Jerusalem, we ask, “Why do we need to go through Lent again since we have heard the story before and know it well? Why do we need to come to God’s house Sunday after Sunday, since we hear the same story again and again? We ask “Why?” and we are overwhelmed by tidal waves of worry, stress, and fear.

One why leads to another. We the enlightened ones want to know why. Why doesn’t Jesus come to the aid of those in need? Why did Jesus allow some idiot to kill others, rape, murder and steal from others? Why doesn’t He intervene and stop all of the hatred, the theft, the rape, the murder and the evil that fills our world?

Perhaps our preoccupation with asking “why” is an attempt at gaining control. If I could understand the “why,” then maybe I can affect the “what.” The fallacy is that we think we are the ones running the world, not God. The fact is I am powerless over any of the situations around me, just as I am not in control of virtually everything else in the world. I can ask questions about God and the way He runs this world from today till tomorrow, and I am still just as powerless—and just as confused. PAUSE.

Maybe those are the wrong whys? How about these: Why did Jesus have to be born like all human beings? Why did Jesus have to live in Nazareth? Why did Jesus have to work as a carpenter? Why did He have to suffer at the hands of the Jewish Leaders? Why did Jesus have to be rejected? Why did He have to be nailed to a cross? Why did He have to die? Do you really want to know? Honestly, do you want to?

Beloved in the Lord, Jesus came as a fulfillment of the promise of God to our first parents in the Garden. He was born like us to take our place under the punishment of hell and the wrath of God. He suffered and was rejected for our sins. He endured the punishment and wrath of God so that you and I may never know that kind of suffering, rejection and pain. In a nut shell Jesus came to be the Savior for sinners and deliver them from the slavery of the devil, sin, death, and hell.

Jesus knew His place well. He obeyed His Father completely. He obediently fulfilled the will of the Father in everything that He did. He obeyed His earthly father and heavenly Father. He even worked as carpenter with His father in Nazareth.

Think please how often Jesus carried a tree back to the carpenter shop to turn it into a useful lumber? How many times did He pick up hammer and nails to make some useful items out of those boards? Now others use the tools of His trade to nail Him to a tree. And I know why My Carpenter let them do it. It was because of His love for ME—a sinner—love that wanted to make me one of His creation to adorn His Father’s house forever.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we may never know the answers to all of the why questions in the world. Instead of being part of the question, by the grace of God and His might we become part of the answer. We do know why God gave us the 10 Commandments. The Law only makes us aware of sin. It is the Law that sends us fleeing to the cross for our salvation. The Law should make us say WHY? Why would God be so merciful to a sinner like me? Why would God be willing to lay down His life for me while I am still a sinner? And the answer is not the Law. No, the answer is because that is who God is. He is the One who is slow to anger and abounding in love. He is the One who calls us to worship Him, fear Him, honor Him and love Him above all else. He gave them to us to make us His people that point others to Him. He gave them to us because we are the people who have been redeemed, restored and delivered. He gave them to us to be a light to the nations.

By our words and actions, we pave the way to others to meet the One who is Mighty to deliver. By obeying these words, we tell the world we are ones who have been paid for with the precious blood of Jesus. These Words guide us when we stray, guard us when we play and bless us when we obey.

Why does God give us these commands? The answer is simple. Because, these Ten debarim (Words) are the footsteps of freedom, the boundaries of love, the framework of justice and compassion. God gives us in the law the boundaries of love and in the Gospel the story of Jesus boundless love. Part of the boundless love springs forth from His glory in the Exodus but the greatest manifestation of His glory is in the cross! On the cross Jesus comes into clear view. And we see all the whys clearer. He died so that we need not fear this Law. He rose because this Law has been fulfilled. When we wander, it drives us back to Him. For in Him we find life—life for now and forever. AMEN.

Now the peace…

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