Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday in Lent (March 24, 2019)

EXODUS 3:1-8b,10-15


In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.”  No doubt, that is a heart-felt prayer by many Christians.  We all have different evils that come to mind when we pray that, depending upon what we are going through.  We either pray that we never have to face certain difficulties, trials, and sorrows, or we plead that God would relieve us from the ones we are facing.  Brothers and sisters, the day is coming when we will be delivered from every form of evil that exists.  The Lord is remembered as your deliverer.  On the Last Day, our Lord will deliver us to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.  Then, everything will be right.  Everything will be restored to the perfection that God has always intended us to have.
     Until that day, we will have to deal with various difficulties, trials, and sorrows.  However, even these God uses for our good.  We have this promise: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  God makes use of the evils of this world for our eternal good.
     Consider the Israelites.  For many generations, they were enslaved by the Egyptians and pressed into hard labor.  It was a bitter existence, and we would never want to endure what they did.  While they were enduring this hardship, God was still with them and even blessed them.  God blessed them not with money or freedom, but with children.  They grew into a great nation while they were slaves in Egypt.  Do not think lightly of this blessing.  Money and freedom are temporary blessings.  Children you will get to have forever in heaven, by God's grace.  Still, it did not feel like God was blessing them, or even remembered them.  Life was hard.  And no doubt, many Israelites were praying, “Deliver us from evil.”
     In this way, God used their hardships for their good.  If they had built luxury condos and set up a thriving, comfortable community in Egypt, they would have settled in nicely.  They would have had no desire to see the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  They might have even forgotten about God's promised Savior.  If life were that wonderful, who would want to be saved from it?  But the Lord used their hardships so that they would long for something better and cry out for deliverance.
     The cries of the Israelites were not hopeless dreams, either.  They were based on promises.  God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would deliver their descendants to the Promised Land, and that he would bring a Savior into the world through them.  So, when Israel cried out, they cried out holding on to a promise that God had made, and they were holding God to that promise.  True to his word, the Lord acted.  The LORD said [to Moses], “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters.  I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey...” (Exodus 3:7-8)
     The hardships you face do not rise to the level of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt.  But that does not make them any less painful or frustrating for you.  Still, God uses those hardships for your eternal good.  Your hardships and your pains are a constant reminder that this world is corrupt and dying.  Nothing here is permanent, and therefore, nothing here is reliable.  We tend to trust in the blessings we can touch and hold, but they are taken away by being stolen, broken, worn out, or by dying.  When we are dealt our problems, we want someone to blame for them.  Often, that falls to God.  The devil convinces us that, if God truly loves us, he would spare us from heartache and difficulties.  But God did not make the Egyptians oppressive and abusive to the Israelites.  The sinful ambition of the Egyptians drove them to that.  And God is not the one who brought sin and death into the world.  Man did that, and now we suffer the consequences.  Some consequences come because the world is broken and bad things happen.  Some we bring on ourselves because of our sinful choices.  God is not the reason evil is in the world; but God is the one who can deliver you from them all.
     The Lord is remembered as your deliverer, and he uses even the evils of this world for your good.  Because of them, you long to be delivered from a world of sin and to receive a better home.  Because of them, you pray to the Lord for mercy and for strength to endure.  In short, they drive you to Jesus.  Just like the Israelites', your cries are not wishful thinking or empty dreams.  You have been given promises by God that he will bring this deliverance to you.  The Lord is remembered as a deliverer.
     Although the Lord had allowed the Israelites to endure about 400 years of hardship, he had not forgotten them.  When God was ready to act, he called Moses to act for him to deliver Israel out of Egypt.  Moses was not eager to do it.  God said, “Tough.  You're doing it.  Go!”  Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)
     The Lord calls himself “I AM.”  That means he is eternal.  He is always “I AM.”  In the Garden of Eden, he is I AM.  At the burning bush, he is I AM.  When he took on flesh to save mankind, he is I AM.  And in the midst of your life and struggles, he is I AM.  Since he does not change, neither do his compassion and his promises.  Though he is eternal, this God entered our time to save us from all that is temporary and passing away.  He came to give us a life without end.  The Lord is remembered as our deliverer.
     But a life without end would actually be torturous if we were to keep on living in a world of difficulties, trials, and sorrows.  The Lord also delivers us from that.  As the “I AM,” the Lord is independent of everything.  He is not affected by the troubles of this sinful world, just as he is not affected by sin itself.  If we as the human race managed to destroy ourselves, God would not be changed.  The “I AM” would still be holy, glorious, almighty, and merciful.  But rather than keep his distance from sinful creatures, the Lord invested himself into saving us from sin, death, and every form of evil.  The Lord is remembered as a deliverer.  For the Lord entered our world as a man, submitting himself to all of the pains, sorrows, and hardships that we know.  He grieved over the sick and the dying.  He made fellowship with those who had messed up their lives with sinful choices.  He gave himself into the hands of those who plotted against him, who sought his death, and who mocked him while he died.  But all these things the Lord did for them, and for us.  Although he is independent of us, he invested himself in this world.  He gave his life as the ransom price to deliver us out of the curse of our sin and the consequences of our sin in this sinful world.  We are wholly dependent upon Jesus for our deliverance from sin, from death, and from every form of evil.  But Jesus has demonstrated that we are right to depend upon him fully for deliverance from all of these.  When we cry out to Jesus, we are clinging to promises of forgiveness and salvation.  We are holding Jesus to those promises, and we are right to do so.  For he is to be remembered as our deliverer.
     The Lord revealed himself to Moses and declared: “This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus 3:15)  The Lord is remembered as our deliverer.  Whatever evils you are enduring, they are not everlasting.  The mercies and promises of our Lord are.  The day will come when Jesus will deliver you out of a corrupt and dying world and will free you from your corrupt and dying body.  He will deliver you from every form of evil, and he will give a perfect and permanent answer to all your prayers.  For, he will make all things right.  He will raise you up from the dead to life everlasting, and he will restore his creation to a flawless condition.  The Lord entered our sinful world and our temporary time to deliver us to everlasting, heavenly glory.  And we will praise him then as we remember him now—as our gracious deliverer.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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