"God's Resolution of Redemption" #77-17
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 3, 2010
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
(Q&A Topic:Is God responsible for both the good and the bad?)
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Matthew 2:1-3
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Although enemies of the Redeemer still wish to eliminate the Christchild and eradicate any mention of the salvation He has won, God's resolution to save sinful humanity has been kept. Today, because of the crucified and risen Savior all who are brought to faith in the Christ are given eternal life. God grant such believing hearts to us all. Amen.
Well, it's already the third of January and we are well into the New Year. Just wondering, did you make any New Year's resolutions? What kind of resolutions? You know, the kind of things where people take a good and honest look at themselves and decide 'enough is enough.' They say, "I'm tired of the old me and in the next 365 days I'm going to lose weight, quit smoking, get fit, eat better, drink less bad stuff, save more, spend less, reduce stress, have family time, clean out my closets, and the clutter of my life, get a promotion and if I don't get a promotion, find a better job. You know, resolutions. I don't know what you decided to do, but if you're like most folks, you resolved to try to do something different, to make some sort of change. Which is why I'm asking, "How are your New Year's resolutions coming? Is your will-power or your won't power still holding up? Is it possible your new resolutions have already been thrown out in the garbage or taken to the landfill along with your dried-up Christmas tree?
I certainly wish you good luck with your resolutions. Me, I'm struggling with mine. It's true, this year I made a few resolutions for myself. Normally Pammie, my wife who sees me far more clearly than I do myself, kindly and ever-so-gently suggests a few areas of my life which maybe could use the least little bit of tweaking. This year, I didn't wait for her. This year I decided to make up my own resolutions. Would you like to know what those resolutions were? I'll tell you if you promise not to bring them up the next time we meet. It could be a very long year if a million people come up and ask, "So, Pastor, how you doin' with your resolutions." OK, here goes: my resolution is not to let the little annoyances and nuisances of life drive me nuts.
Now I wouldn't share my list of aggravations with you if I wasn't convinced you have your own list of pet peeves which, probably, like mine, drive you crazy. Your list might include losing your temper with people who snap their gum or chew with their mouth open. Me? My list includes people who drive in the left- hand lane of the highway r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y. This year, no matter how long they keep it up, I'm not going to get angry at them. But that's not the end of my list. This year, I'm not going to lose my temper with those folks who, at the grocery store, abandon their shopping carts rather than putting them into a cart corral. Yeah, I know it's not a big thing, but the wind can get hold of those carts, whip them across the parking lot, and do hundreds of dollars worth of damage as they smash them into the doors and fenders of innocent, unsuspecting cars... cars like... like mine.
There are other things on my resolution list. I'm not going to go ballistic when somebody seated behind me in an airplane or a movie theater puts their foot on the back of my seat and, nervously, starts pushing... which makes the back of my chair start rocking. Here's another: this year I've resolved to fight down the urge to throttle the person who, seeing I'm watching a movie feels compelled to tell me the ending... or the spectator who reveals the final chapter of the novel I'm reading. No, these things and others I'm going to change. Those are my resolutions for the New Year.
The sad thing is, most of us aren't very good at keeping our resolutions. In my files I found some statistics which say 55% of Americans can keep a resolution for about a month; 40% are faithful to their resolutions for six months, but after two years, the figure of the faithful has dropped to a dismal 19%. We may not be good at our resolutions, but Scripture, more specifically the 2nd chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, tells of one fellow, a King by the name of Herod, who was excellent at keeping his. Herod was born into a politically powerful family and he was raised to be a mover-shaker. By the time he was 25, the Romans had named him the governor of Galilee, a pretty high position for somebody so young. Having succeeded in that post, in 40 B .C. the Roman Senate promoted him. No longer Governor, Herod's new business cards read, "King of the Jews." In short order Herod wiped out some roving bands of robbers, made peace between warring factions, and, all-in-all, managed to make a very favorable impression upon his superiors back in Rome. Rome liked young Herod, even though most everybody else hated him. The Jews didn't like him because he wasn't, strictly speaking, Jewish. The religious leaders didn't like him because Herod liked to associate with idolaters. You get the picture: Herod was hated.
And since Herod's mama hadn't raised no dummy, Herod got the picture, too. All of which takes us to his resolution. When he was but a young man, Herod's father, a man who had also been king, was poisoned. Knowing his father had been murdered by someone whom he had trusted, Herod resolved never, ever to completely trust anybody. It was a resolution he kept throughout his entire life. Herod's logic went something like this: I want to be King and I want to live. If you help me in those resolutions, great. If you don't want to help me, you're in trouble.
Let me give you a few examples of how that worked out in practice. In the year 35 B.C., Herod, contrary to law and tradition, appointed a 17-year-old boy to be the country's High Priest. Unfortunately for the young man, he became popular. Too popular. That's why Herod invited the popular young man, Aristobulus was his name, to go swimming at his palace in Jericho. Because Herod killed him, Aristobulus never came back and he never celebrated his next birthday.
Herod kept his resolution to never let anybody mess with his kingship. When he thought Mariamne, his favorite wife of ten, was plotting against him, he didn't hesitate in having her executed for adultery. Mariamne was murdered and so was most of her family. With single-minded purpose Herod could keep a resolution. If one of his sons was suspected of instigating a revolution or plotting against dear, old dad, it didn't take too long before that son would disappear. One by one, many of Herod's sons disappeared. Herod could keep a resolution.
With that background, you won't be surprised to hear what happened the day some wise men, some Magi, some learned astrologers showed up in Jerusalem asking, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews?" With Herod's well- known reputation for eliminating any and all competition to his throne, the Wise Men's question can hardly be called 'prudent.' Still, because they were scientists and not diplomats, they can be excused for their error. After all, they had to be exhausted from a long journey where they had traveled at night through some treacherous terrain. Even so, when Herod heard their question, "Where is the new king of the Jews?" he and the people in court who knew him went on high alert. Even the citizenry of Jerusalem couldn't escape the feeling that the visit of the Wise Men might end badly.
Putting on his best poker face, Herod repeated the Magi's request, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews?, hmmm let me think...Well, I don't know, but I've got some religious-type folks here who just might have an answer to your question." Herod summoned his religious-type leaders and, when they had heard the question, they said, "Newborn King? Hmmm, let us think. Sure, we know, the prophet said He was going to be born in Bethlehem." You probably know the rest of the story. The Wise Men went off to David's city and they found Jesus and His family and they gave the Baby gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When the Magi didn't point out the Baby or even bother to return to his court, Herod decided to cover his bases and play it safe. He ordered his soldiers to wipe out any Bethlehem baby who might grow up to be king. Once again Herod kept his resolution to make sure nobody got between him and his kingship.
It was an unnecessary thing for him to have done. For two reasons it was unnecessary. First it was unnecessary because Herod was going up against God. Like so many rulers who have come after him, Herod should have known that you can be big, and you can be strong, and you can be cagey and crafty, too ... but you can't win when you're fighting against God. In this case, the Lord had already made sure Jesus, was headed off to Egypt and far from Herod's murderous grasp. The other reason Herod shouldn't have bothered to keep his resolution was this: his time was limited; he was dying. In wouldn't be long before Herod would succumb to a particularly nasty illness ... an illness where he rotted away ... an illness where worms ate his flesh while he was still alive. Those who were there say the stench was terrible. No matter how it comes, death is the ultimate fate of humanity. It doesn't spare the mighty monarch, the royal ruler, the powerful potentate, the ones whom history has called 'great.' One after another rebellious and unrepentant rulers have tried to kill the Christ, and one after another, they, themselves, have been placed into their own tomb.
Today we have been talking about resolutions ... human resolutions ... resolutions, which, in spite of our best intentions, are often broken or forgotten. But now I'd like to speak of another resolution, a good and gracious resolution, a resolution made by God when humankind fell into sin, a resolution kept by God in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His Son, a resolution which is, for believers, renewed each and every day. That resolution is this: God so loves this sad and sinful world that He resolved to do that which was necessary to save us. So that we might be rescued from eternal death and damnation, God resolved to send His only Son into this world. Born true man so He might take our place, and true God, so He might do so perfectly, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The keeping of God's resolution that was what the Wise Men had come to see.
Throughout His entire life, Jesus was the fuWillment of a Divine resolution to ransom us from those who had stolen us when sin had entered this world. You know, every Christmas the world celebrates the birth of Jesus as best it can. Without faith, they say silly things like, 'The true meaning of Christmas is giving' or 'The real purpose of Christmas is sharing', or 'peace' or 'kindness' or 'love' or 'babies' or ... ' Well, it's sad. The world just can't figure out what Christmas really is: Christmas is the beginning of Jesus' earthly life, the beginning of God keeping His resolution to save us.' And because the world doesn't understand, when December 25th is over, they stop looking and they never see how Jesus kept the Divine resolution which, when completed, gives salvation to all who believe.
How sad. Doubters and deniers never see how Jesus grew into a Man and taught as no other man has ever taught. Using simple stories, He spoke of a pearl of great price, a prodigal son, a small seed, and when He was done never again could His listeners see the oyster's jewel, a wandering child, a great tree, and not think of God's great love and gracious sacrifice. How sad the world never sees how Jesus kept the holy resolution. They don't see how Jesus set aside human wisdom and old traditions to teach those who would follow Him of a new way of life, a better, a more complete way to live. "Love your enemy", Jesus said. "Do good to those who persecute you", He said. And although, from any other man, these words have been just words, in Jesus those thoughts became flesh. Jesus did not clout His friend who betrayed Him with a kiss; He did not destroy those who came to arrest Him. When He was beaten, He did not retaliate by withering the striker's hand; when He was spit upon, He did not shut the mouth of the person who insulted Him. Innocent of any sin, Jesus carried our transgressions; free of any wrongdoing, Jesus was condemned on imaginary charges. Jesus, the Son of God, kept the Divine resolution to redeem us when He was crucified, suspended between the very heaven and earth which He had created.
Jesus kept the Godly resolution of redemption that day on His Calvary cross. It was the last day of a resolution He had kept perfectly for 33 years. So completely had He kept God's resolution that three days later, in glorious victory, Jesus rose from the dead and showed to the world that because He lives, all who believe on Him will live also. Bless that day when God's resolution became our reality. Now because of Jesus, all who believe on the Living Lord, who are brought to Him as Savior will not perish but have everlasting life. God's resolution has been kept, and His promise is made. Repent, believe, be saved.
Thomas Moore was an Irish poet of some talent. In the early 1800s he married a beautiful Irish girl, Bessie. Those who remembered Bessie said her beauty was so great that no one looking at her could ever forget her flaming red hair and sparkling green
eyes. The couple was, in short, incredibly happy. Still, the time came when Thomas was called away from home. When he was gone, his lovely wife came down with the dreaded disease, smallpox. Many of you have never seen what that illness can do to a person's face. I have seen pictures. The deep scars it leaves can be hideous ... especially for someone who is beautiful.
So it was for the wife of Thomas Moore. What had once been the loveliest of faces now became a painful mockery of what had been. Understandably she was fearful of what her husband's reaction would be when he returned and saw her. That's when Bessie resolved, there's that word again, she resolved he would never again see her face in the daylight. Before he returned she began staying in her room, ordering heavy drapes be hung over the windows to block out the light. That was the way Thomas Moore found things the night he returned. Before the days of telephone or telegraph, it fell to his staff to break the news of what had happened to his once-beautiful wife.
Having heard, Thomas climbed the stairs which led to their bedroom. He opened the door, entered it, and began to move toward his wife. Recognizing his footstep and without turning to look at him, Bessie called out: "Thomas, no. Come no nearer. I have resolved that you will never see me again by the light of day." Hearing her pain, Thomas stopped, and without saying a word in reply, turned and left the room. He descended the stairs and moved to the music room where he sat at the piano. Thomas Moore also made a resolution. He resolved his love would conquer. Throughout the night he labored on a poem, a poem which was finished early in the morning. Inspecting his work, he folded the piece of paper, placed it in his vest, and climbed the stairs.
He did not hesitate to push open the door of the bedroom. Still he did not enter. Instead he stood in the doorway, and there using the half light of the hallway, he read to his wife the words of his poem. That morning this is what he read: "Believe me, if all those endearing young charms, which I look on so fondly today, were to pass in a moment, and flee from my arms like fairy dreams fading away, thou would'st still be adored, as this moment thou art. Let thy loveliness fade as it will; and around that dear visage each throb of my heart would entwine itself verdantly still." Thomas finished reading the poem, placed the paper back in his vest, moved to the east window, and threw open those heavy drapes. As the early morning sun flooded into the room, he turned and kissed his wife. His resolution of love had been kept.
If a man can keep such a resolution of love, how much more so our Divine, Triune God. My dear friends, by the Holy Spirit's grace and power I pray you may see the Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the Divine Resolution of Redemption. No matter what this world may do to Him or say about Him; no matter how much they may disparage Him or defame Him or denigrate Him, the crucified and living Lord Jesus remains God's gracious gift of salvation for you. He has seen and carried the ugliness of your sins; He has looked into your heart and seen the horrors which continue to live there. In spite of those transgressions He comes today and invites you to repent of the past and be given God's grace for the future. With Holy Spirit faith in the crucified and ever-living Lord, you can be restored, recycled, redeemed, and saved.
For almost 80 years The Lutheran Hour has resolved to tell you that story. We are glad you have heard it today in this New Year. Now, if you need to know more about the Savior who has loved you so, please, feel free to call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers)
January 3, 2010
TITLE: Prayer and Provision, Part 2
Announcer: And we're back with Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer.
Klaus: And a good day to you, sir. Announcer: Today we continue your response to a comment received from a listener.
Klaus: Yeah, we decided he was a listener but not necessarily a supporter.
Announcer: And, that's because he believes the church has been misleading people by saying God provides if you just pray and put your trust in the Lord.
Klaus: And I said, God's providence comes to believer and unbeliever alike. One thing I
neglected to say was, God is the Giver of every good and perfect Gift. He gives because it is His nature to give ... not because we bribe Him to do so with our prayers.
Announcer: And then he talked about how people suffer and die every day without cause or purpose.
Klaus: And, I objected to that. Anybody who is really honest has to admit he or she has
had dark thoughts, terrible thoughts, shocking thoughts, scandalous things.
That's true for the best of us ... not just the worst.
Announcer: And that's where we left it. Now, after that the email continues. Our writer
says: "If God is all there is, then everything we see and experience must come from God, the beauty and the ugliness. The good and the evil."
Klaus: And here, I think this fellow seems to be building an argument. He's laying a
foundation for some conclusions. He says, "If God is all there is, then everything we see
and experience comes from God, the beauty, the ugliness." Now that is a beautiful and
brilliantly put statement. If God is all there is, then He truly would be responsible for the
bad and the ugly as well as the good and the beautiful.
The fact is this: a good and gracious God is not all there is.
There is also a great deal of evil in this world. Sin, death, devil. They also exist and they
exist in direct and warring competition to the goodness and grace of God.
Announcer: That's what St. Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 when he writes-"For we do not
wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against
the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the
Klaus: Exactly. There is God's goodness and Satan's sin. These are at war for the souls of humankind. So, I would say, you cannot lay the responsibility for the evil of this world at God's feet. It may be convenient for you to do so logically, but it's wrong and it doesn't fly. Does he say anything else, Mark?
Announcer: Well, he does come to a conclusion. He writes, "If God is all there is. It looks like God is both love and hate and the plan is just randomness."
Klaus: What a fantastic conclusion. You know, Mark, if everything he stated before is
true, then this fellow's conclusion is also true. On the other hand, if there is a breakdown
in his logic, then his conclusion is also false.
Announcer: And if he's correct, then it really doesn't make any difference what you believe ... life is just a random string of occurrences without rhyme or purpose.
Klaus: Yeah, no standard of right or wrong. I might as well do what I want, because it's survival of the fittest and watch out for number one. That scares me big time.
Announcer: Let me ask though; is there any way we can make a final conclusion, a determination, as to who is right? Some would say, "It's a matter of opinion. He might be right; you might be right. How can you know?
Klaus: Fair question. Let's get to the truth, shall we? The answer on how to make a determination on who is right is found in 1 Corinthians 13:14. It says: "if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." That's it. That's the bottom line. If Jesus, God's One-and-only-Son lived, and did all the things the Bible says; if Jesus was crucified, died and was buried and then ... AND THEN He actually, physically rose from the dead as He promised He would, then .... we KNOW God loves us as the Bible says He does. We KNOW God has sent His Son to take our place and save us. We KNOW Jesus' sacrifice has been accepted. We KNOW those who believe on Him will be rescued.
Announcer: But, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then our faith and our preaching is all just so much baloney.
Klaus: Yeah ... and life indeed is nothing but randomness. So the question is this: did Jesus do what the Bible says He did? Did He take our place under the law's
condemnation? Did He die the death we deserved? Did He rise? I pray all of our listeners will look carefully at their answer to those questions. I pray it because everything depends on whether Jesus rose.
Announcer: This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music selection for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by John Leavitt. Concordia Publishing House/SESAC
"Arise and Shine in Splendor" From Music Yearbook 2005-2006 (© 2005 Concordia Publishing House)
"O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright" arr. Donald Busarow. From Heirs of the Reformation (© 2008 Concordia Publishing House)
"How Lovely Shines the Morning Star" by J.S. Bach. From Te Deum by the Seminary Kantorei (© 2000 Concordia Theological Seminary)