Devotion for Thursday, August 13, 2020
Lectionary Readings for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost:
Collect: Almighty and most merciful God, preserve us from all harm and danger that we, being ready in both body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish what You want done; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymn of the Day: “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” – (LSB 717)
The book of Job is one that we are often encouraged to turn to when things in our lives are going badly. We are often told to take comfort from it in that just as Job suffered and was rewarded, we too who trust in God will be rewarded for our suffering. But truly, the message of Job is one that is much more complex than that, if not even more comforting. It truly is, as our collect of the day suggests, all about God’s mercy, not His rewarding of good behaviour.
What do I mean? Well…I think it’s pretty well summed up in a meme I read online this past week. There is a person talking about how though many people got sick with this Coronavirus, not everyone who contracted it died, and so this person was encouraging people to give thanks to God for being delivered from it in their post, and that’s what most of the responders were doing, until the last one. That person, sarcastically I’m assuming, responded with: “Yah, thanks a lot God for killing all those other people who didn’t get better.” And whether we admit it or not, that pretty well sums up our sinful attitude rather accurately.
Like this person, and like Job ended up doing, we tend to want to blame God for the bad things that happen in our lives and even just in the world around us in general. The destruction of a severe hurricane or hail storm is labelled “an act of God” for example. We like to, as one member once described it to me, ‘externalize blame’. We would rather blame someone else than take any responsibility upon ourselves, and who better to blame than the One who ‘claims’ to have everything under His control? Especially when it is something that we don’t have any control over.
Now…there are several problems with this line of thinking, but I’m going to go straight to the main one, just as God did in His response to Job: Who are you to question God?
Well…who are you? Take a look in the mirror. What do you see? When I look, I see a modestly handsome, though completely sinfully corrupted creature. I see a man who is responsible for many bad things having happened, both in my own life, and also in the lives of those around me. I see a person with no power to change the world around me, a person with no supernatural abilities to control any aspect of creation, a person who is completely helpless, and yet demands the world answer to him and his whims and the way that he thinks things should be. And I’m betting that this is similar to what all of you see when you look into the mirror too…especially the mirror of the Law.
When looking into that mirror, we can’t help but see ‘that we are by nature sinful and unclean and cannot save ourselves.’ We see a creature who has fallen far from the perfection that God had given us in our creation. We don’t deserve any good from God, only punishment and eternal damnation. We say that quite often in church, but have you ever really thought about what it means? It means that, since we are sinful from the moment of our conception, that we deserve death before we even draw our first breath. Plain and simple. This is what we deserve because of our sinfulness, our corruption – insta-death. “How can you say that pastor? That doesn’t sound fair? There’s nothing I can do about that. And that’s true, there is nothing you can do to fix or change that old Adam in you, but again, you’re making the same argument. The fact that you were conceived at all is a merciful gift as your parents shouldn’t have lived either…nor their parents, nor their parents. All the way back to Adam and Eve, whom God spared despite their disobedience. But what does God do instead? He lets us live! And even more than that, He gives us good gifts throughout our lives! (The greatest of which being our faith in Christ and His saving work for us, but we’ll come back to that.) While there is still evil all around us, and we are often faced with the sinful results of our actions in this life, God still loves us, and still gives us good things.
We don’t’ like to think that. We don’t’ like to admit…or maybe confess is a better word…that we are sinful to our very core and deserve nothing good – not even this life that we regularly take for granted. Instead, we’d rather complain that God isn’t doing this or that thing that we want Him to do. Or we’d rather complain that this or that bad thing is happening in the world around us, instead of realizing that this bad thing is even more than we deserve in the first place as we are alive to witness it at all! We deserve bad things to happen to us, because we are, at our root and core, bad people – broken, sinful, bad people.
But thanks be to God that He doesn’t leave us that way.
That’s why He gave us Jesus. That’s why He lived with us, suffered with us, and ultimately died for us. He took all our deserved eternal punishment on His shoulders and had it nailed to His cross where He took our place. So now, while still broken and sinners, we are also glued back together saints. We have forgiveness, even though we still live in this sinful fallen world. Things around us are bad, then good, then bad again, but ultimately, they are all in God’s hands and He has promised that He won’t allow anything to come against us that we can’t handle as long as we remain faithful and trust in Him.
Does that mean it will be all sunshine and roses until He calls us home? No. Quite the opposite actually. Bad things are going to happen, and even more for those of us who believe the Scriptures warn us, as Satan doesn’t want us to believe and trust in God. He wants us to forsake God and walk away from His grace, and so he tries extra hard to make your life even worse so that you would curse God and die – as Job’s wife urged him to do in Job 2. Luther warned us in other words when he wrote: “Our Saviour wore a crown of thorns, why do we expect a crown of roses?” Why indeed.
My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you to see your life for what it truly is: a blessing from God. All the good and yes, even the bad, are all a gift as you are still around to experience it. These goods and bads will continue to come too, all the way until He calls you home and finally removes all the bads, leaving only the goods, and this is how it will stay for all eternity thereafter.
Until then? Trust in God. Understand Him? No – we’ll never be able to fully do that. But trust Him? Yes. Trust that no matter what comes, He will see you through it. Could things be better in your life? Yes, they could. Covid sucks, being stuck inside is frustrating, having to wear masks is annoying, but God will see you through it all. Trust that nothing can separate you from His love, and nothing can cut you off from His grace. Know that no matter how low you think you’ve fallen, that He will be there to pick you up – not because you deserve it (we already talked about that), but instead, because He loves you, and has promised to never leave you nor forsake you.
So rejoice! You do have a merciful, loving God who has promised to be with you always.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your undeserved mercies each and every day of our lives. When we are in doubt, bring us Your certainty, and when we are low lift us up. In all things help us to put our trust and faith in You, knowing that You will never lead us astray, but have promised to be with us even until the end of time. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.