Monday, September 28, 2020

Monday of Trinity 16

 God Is not against You

1 Kings 17:17–24 (ESV) After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

“What goes around comes around.” “I got what was coming to me.” “Justice is served.” Expressions like this reflect the theology of the widow at Zarephath when she concluded that God’s prophet Elijah had come “to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son” (1 Kings 17:18). She thought some sin from her past had angered God (or the gods), and the “man of God” had come to execute God’s wrath against her sin. She embraced the same pagan theology as Jesus’ disciples in the story of the man blind from birth, when they asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). Jesus has no patience with this search for causation, for He responds, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3), namely, the work of Jesus in giving him sight.

When tragedies occur in our lives, we ask, “Why?” This is not wrong, as long as we are addressing the question to the Lord in prayer. For example, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)

But when we try to answer the question on our own—by seeking to recall some sin from our past that the Lord must be punishing us for—then we have embraced pagan theology and set aside what God’s Word teaches about the trials and tribulations of His children. We pray, “Remember Your mercy, O Lord, and Your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of Your goodness, O Lord!” (Psalm 25:6-7) and as Christians, we know that the Lord has promised under the New Testament, “ ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:17-18).

God is not standing by with a baseball bat, waiting to whack us when we sin. For the sake of Christ, He is gracious to us: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose… If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:28, 31-32)

When we have a bad conscience and Satan accuses, “This inexplicable misfortune happened because of something you did,” then we should run to our Baptism, which has saved us and is continually “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21-22). God doesn’t want us mired in the sins of our past but rather living a new life under His grace: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

Prayer (LSB 440: 1, 5, 6):

1. Jesus, I will ponder now

    On Your holy passion;

With Your Spirit me endow

    For such meditation.

Grant that I in love and faith

    May the image cherish

Of Your suff’ring, pain, and death

    That I may not perish.


5. If my sins give me alarm

    And my conscience grieve me,

Let Your cross my fear disarm;

    Peace of conscience give me.

Help me see forgiveness won

    By Your holy passion.

If for me He slays His Son,

    God must have compassion!


6. Graciously my faith renew;

    Help me bear my crosses,

Learning humbleness from You,

    Peace mid pain and losses.

May I give You love for love!

    Hear me, O my Savior,

That I may in heav’n above

    Sing Your praise forever. Amen.

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