Wednesday, October 27, 2010

“The Question is: Justice or Mercy?” (Genesis 4:8-9)

S-1215 22SAP/3C 10/24/10 Hymns (O) #2; S#403 LS #341; #371; #315; (C) # #456

Text: Genesis 4:1-15; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-17

Theme: “The Question is: Justice or Mercy?” (Genesis 4:8-9)

Question: “Why do you come to worship?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is from the O.T. Lesson: “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Genesis 4:8-9).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, as a Pastor I have been privileged to travel often to preach, teach and lecture around the country. I often encourage the saints to raise up any questions they may have. In all the years I lectured and taught, or attended workshops, I have never heard a stupid question. However, I have heard a stupid answer.

Today, we hear a stupid answer to the question asked by God. The Lord God came to Cain and asked him, “Where is your brother?” And Cain’s response was. “Why, am I supposed to be my brother’s keeper?” Indeed that is a stupid response since Cain knew exactly where his brother Abel was—buried somewhere in the dirt.

And this brings us to the very important question that the text asks: Is it justice or mercy that we need? Do we want God to be a JUST God or a MERCIFUL God? Today, let us call upon the Holy Spirit to help us with the answer. The truth of the matter is: if we are to be saved, we need the mercy which comes from Holy Spirit-given faith in the risen Lord. By His power, may all of us be moved to say, “Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner!?” God grant this to us all.

We don’t want God’s justice. Because if we did get justice this is what will happen to us! The Just God can’t help but cut us in pieces, put us in the frying pan and after cooking us all up throw us to the sharks to devour us. If you want justice in the sight of God, you are doomed, damned and dead. If you want justice for what you have done, look out, because you have failed miserably. If you stand before God showing Him why you are so wonderfully good, then be very careful of what you get. No, we don’t want justice. we WANT MERCY FROM GOD HIMSELF.

Mercy is what this sermon is about. And how do we describe, depict and define mercy in human terms so that we can understand it and appreciate it. Simply put, MERCY is receiving relief from what you do deserve; but the GRACE of God, is giving you what you don’t deserve. PAUSE.

Study the Scriptures, and you will see God’s trade mark on humanity showing mercy to them when they didn’t deserve it. How often in Scripture God pours out His mercy on the children of Israel? Again and again they wonder from Him, they do their own thing, they run after other so-called god’s. Instead of banishing them, He blesses them. Instead of murdering them, He showers them with Mercy.

Mercy oozes from God’s Holy book. We see it here in our reading when God in mercy comes to Cain and offers him repentance before it is too late. But instead of receiving the Mercy of God, Cain wanted to offer God his worthiness. He wanted to prove to God his hands can fulfill God’s demands. That he is worthy to stand before God on his own good works. But God offered him the opportunity to turn away from his fallen nature and turn from his jealousy towards his younger brother. Indeed, with this simple task, the Lord was providing Cain pardon and peace. This is nothing but true and Divine Mercy.

Mercy is the stock in trade of heaven. Our Lord wills it for all His children. Cain was given by God to Adam and Eve - their firstborn. Eve thought him to be the fulfillment of the promise of Genesis 3:15, the first pronouncement of Jesus - that Jesus would be bruised on his heel by the serpent (the Cross) but that from His place on the Cross Jesus would crush the head of the serpent, He would reverse the curse, give life for death - show mercy to fallen mankind.

However, Cain didn’t want mercy. I suspect he wanted justice - fairness - the feeling that his offering was “just as good as” his brother’s gift. We dare not ask God for justice; else He will pronounce the sentence on our self-imposed mortal wound. We must not think we have earned nor deserved His favor by what we have done (I fast twice a week, tithe of all I get, yes I’m so glad I’m not like other men, extortionists, murderers, slanderers...). “Lord, You know me. I come to church every Sunday. Lord, You know I serve on the Board. Lord, You see how much of my money I give to the work of the Kingdom. Lord, You know that I don’t skip church to go hunting. Lord You know…” All of the things we do for the Lord has its proper place as a way of thanking Him for all He has done for us. But to call it my justification for God to bless and honor me, that will exclude God from being Merciful to me, a sinner! That means I will deny God the right to be my Father, my provider, the One who loves, cares, and provides for me, just because He is love. He is merciful and He is Mercy. His love is lavished undeservedly upon us, unrestrictedly! Behold the man on the Cross: undeserved love, given without limit, without restriction. PAUSE.

When the tax collector comes to the Temple he knows he has earned no right to be there. Even his blood line is not the “golden ticket.” He deserves wrath! What he pleads is Mercy, on me, a sinner. This man with the bowed head and heart wants what he knows he cannot and does not deserve as well as not having to pay for what he does deserve: Grace, given in Mercy. Or is it Mercy, given in Grace. In receiving both he receives Peace! He receives the Peace of God in Christ Jesus!

As we stand here today, in this holy temple, we stand with the tax collector and cry out to God not for Justice, but for MERCY. The Divine Worship Service is a cry for mercy. Our liturgy speaks of this mercy. Our corporate confession begins this way: “O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess to unto Thee all my sins and iniquities…” We continue by crying out, “Lord, God have mercy upon us.” And before the Lord’s Supper, we cry out: “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.” (Divine Worship pp. TLH 15ff).

Oh, yes, what a blessing to receive the mercy of God instead of His Justice. God’s Son gets justice, and we get His mercy. We want love and mercy when we don’t deserve it. And we get it because God Himself intervenes in our life by giving us the Ultimate Sacrifice.

In our reading, we read that Abel offered to God a Lamb—the first-fruit and the Lord was pleased with it. But today know and learn this absolute truth God took the Lamb—His ONLY Son, Jesus and offered Him to redeem humanity from death and destruction. And with certainty we say to Him, “Lord, I don’t deserve anything good from You, but accept this Lamb’s death instead of mine. Be merciful to me a SINNER! And our cries of mercy are heard by the One hanging on the cross—Jesus the True and Eternal Sacrifice—God’s pure and holy Lamb. PAUSE

Right here and right now you and I don’t get justice but receive mercy. Here in this place you receive forgiveness through the Lamb of God—Jesus Christ. He gives it to you through His Word. He showers you with it in the waters of Baptism, and He supplies it in the beautiful bread and cup of blessing on His Altar.

Oh, my beloved and His beloved thank God with me that you have a loving Father who doesn’t give us what we deserve, JUSTICE, but He gives us something to take away our punishment—MERCY. Know this truth, the heart of Scripture is a God who loves you, cares for you and seeks you out. See in them that He is a God who takes the initiative in reaching out for sinner. He is the lovesick Father who runs to meet His runaway son. He is the Landlord who cancels a debt too large for His servant to repay. He is the Employer who pays the 11th-hour worker the same as the 1st-hour workers. He is the banquet GIVER who goes out to the highways to find bums, beggars and bag ladies to be His guest. He is the Priest who washes us, cleanses us, and sends us home justified as if we have never sinned.

Humanly speaking, there is no way you can explain this unbelievable mercy of God. God does not condone the sin of those He loves nor does He compromise His standards. He doesn’t ignore the rebellion of His chosen ones nor does He relax His demands. Rather than dismiss our sins our Brother’s keeper—Jesus Christ assumes them—He takes them on His shoulders; He carries them on the cross and buries them in the tomb forever.

No wonder, Jeremiah writes: “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him’” (Lamentation 3:19-24).

Yes, this is our hope going home justified because we know what our Savior our Brother’s keeper has done. Today, reap the fruit of the Cross, where God offered His first-fruits, His Son for sinners. Here is mercy for sinners. Here is the gift that enables sinners like you and me to join with that poor tax collector and cry out with certainty, “Be merciful to me, a sinner!” Here is the grand invitation to come as a child, as His child! Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Soli Deo Gloria

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