Wednesday, November 12, 2014

“Equipped for Ministry by God” (Isaiah 45:1-7)

S-1453 19SAP/3A 10/19/2014 Hymns: (O) #5; (S) #400; (C) #52

Texts: Isaiah 45:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

Theme: “Equipped for Ministry by God” (Isaiah 45:1-7)

Question: “How many tools do you have?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for our meditation is from the O.T. Lesson: “I Am the Lord, and there is no other, besides Me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know Me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides Me; I Am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I Am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:1-7).

What a joy it is to be in the Lord’s house. We rejoice at the kindness of God’s grace for us sinners in giving us His Word and forgiveness and the blessings He pours upon us daily to enrich our lives. Today’s text is one of those glorious gems that show the mighty power of God in our lives by equipping us for the ministry for the sake of His Gospel and glory of His name. To help us grasp a better understanding of the words of Isaiah we call upon the Holy Spirit to empty us of ourselves, and open our ears and hearts to hear and heed His Words.

Beloved in the Lord, the next few days stop by the True Value Hardware store here in Armour. When you do, you will see a wonderful array of equipment for just about any task. If you need to drive a nail, they have a hammer. If you need to tighten a screw, they have a screwdriver. If you need to do some plumbing they have pipe wrenches. While this is not a commercial for Wilson’s True Value, the truth is the store carries just about everything and anything in the form of equipment to complete the task you have at hand.

But you don’t walk into the hardware store and pick up the one hammer that they carry. They have a vast selection. You can choose from a claw hammer or ball-peen hammer. Or you might need to choose between a finish hammer and a tack hammer. And if you have a really big job you might need a sledge hammer or an air-hammer. But even then you have to decide how big a hammer you need. So when you go to the hardware store to buy a hammer, you also need to know the task at hand and just which specific tool you need to complete the project before you.

Those hammers hanging on the racks at the hardware store have no idea about the job that you have to do. They are just there hanging out looking for the right person to come along and purchase them for the task that they were created to accomplish. The tools don’t have any input. They are only as good as the hands that they are placed in. A master carpenter will do wonders with a hammer. A novice will only get bruised and battered hands with the very same hammer. It is all about being in the right hands.  PAUSE.

Cyrus, the king of Persia, is a bit like those hammers. Cyrus was a pagan. In fact, at the time the Prophet mentions him, he isn’t even born yet. But the Lord has already planned a task for Cyrus. Cyrus doesn’t know it, but he will be the sledge hammer God uses to break the bonds of captivity for God’s faithful remnant in Babylon. This Persian sledge of a King will challenge and break down the mighty Babylonian Empire. At the time of the Lord’s choosing, when God’s people were humbled and ready to once again sit under the gracious hand of the Lord, Cyrus would be just the right tool in the hand of the Almighty! Cyrus didn’t know that! But the Lord did! The Lord reached for the right tool and accomplished His will and task.

In this text you see how God is the Agent behind the scene in bringing about Salvation as He did creation. God alone who does these acts of creation, redemption and salvation. God’s righteous rule is over three realms: nature, history, and over the hearts of people. Those who do not acknowledge Him will come under His work of doom. The Law serves the Gospel. His Left hand rule is for the sake of His Right hand Kingdom. This can only be seen through eyes of faith. His way is hidden to the world that is under the spell of the devil and ruled by his power. However, this text assures that God’s plan through His Messiah will be accomplished through His heaven-sent Son--Jesus, who now reigns and rules over the Church, Creation, and History.

Through the work of Cyrus, the unwitting yet useful tool, the Lord set His people free. But they were set free for a purpose of their own. Cyrus was the instrument that would set things in motion to return Judah back to the Holy Land just in time for the fullness of time. That fullness of time is what would take place when our Lord’s greatest equipment would come into the world, our Lord Jesus Christ! He would be the One who would accomplish a work that dwarfs all other work in creation. The flesh and blood of Jesus would be the instrument that would work the work of salvation. He would be the hammer that broke the bonds of captivity to sin and death. He would also be the tool that would rebuild God’s people into the same relationship with the Lord that was a part of the original creation. In the instrument of Jesus in the flesh, God walks and talks among us in this world so that we might walk and talk with God in eternity! All of this is done by Jesus at the cross. 

And when you are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, you too are created to be the right piece of equipment in the hand of the Lord. Now, you are not called to go to the cross bearing the sins of the world like Jesus did, but you are called to accomplish a task. The task that you are to accomplish is at the Lord’s direction and for the Lord’s purposes. What you are to bear, in a way that is specific to you, is the Gospel. You carry that Gospel in your body as you bear the cross of Holy Baptism on your forehead and upon your heart. You are a tool for the delivery of this precious message. You are that important!

As important as you are, you are also unique. While you might look like a hammer, you are not just any hammer. You are the right tool for the right task. Like Cyrus, you are placed in a unique position and place by the Lord to carry the Gospel. It might be as a parent to your family. It might be among your relations at a family meal. It might be sharing your faith in the workplace. It might even be that you are being equipped by the Lord to do a random act of mercy that leads someone to ask the question of who this Jesus is for them. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, while at the seminary one of our professors Dr. Nagel used to say: “How humble the tool when praised for the work of the Master.”  That is what we are tools in the hands of the Master—Jesus Christ equipped by Him for ministry. But let us be clear about one thing: This text does not call on Israel or us to do anything except believe. They and we are in prison and in darkness; yet God through the great Messiah—Jesus Christ has set us free forever from the bondage not of captivity but of death and hell.

The writer to the Hebrews captured this thought beautifully with these words: “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

And the Apostle Paul wrote these gracious words to the church at Philippi: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (Phil. 2:12-13).

What a joy to know that we are been equipped to be used by God as His tools for the glory of His name and the building up of His kingdom. To Him alone who does all things well be glory now and forever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


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