Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

Monthly Archives: March 2016

Feasting with God #54 – Feeding God

Feasting with God #54

 Feeding God

Text: Numbers 28:1-8

1The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Command the people of Israel and say to them, ‘My offering, my food for my food offerings, my pleasing aroma, you shall be careful to offer to me at its appointed time.’  3And you shall say to them, This is the food offering that you shall offer to the Lord: two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a regular offering.  4The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; 5also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil.  6It is a regular burnt offering, which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord.  7Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb.  In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the Lord.  8The other lamb you shall offer at twilight.  Like the grain offering of the morning, and like its drink offering, you shall offer it as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

If your family was like mine growing up, you had daily devotions.  Ours were always right after supper.  While we kids were squirming, anxious to get out and play with our friends, Dad took up the devotion book and read, sometimes including questions about the devotion, sometimes with a recitation of the Creed or Luther’s Small Catechism, always ending with prayer.  Maybe you do something similar each day.  Maybe this devotional series is part of your routine.

The daily devotional life of Israel centered around this core: each day, once in the morning and once in the evening, they sacrificed a perfect male lamb.  This sacrifice is presented in an interesting way: it’s called by God, “my food for my food offerings.”  Does God need food and drink?

In Egypt, the Israelites would have been surrounded by a polytheistic religion in which worshipers provided food to placate their gods, although more commonly the Egyptians left food offerings at the tombs of loved ones, so that they could be sustained in the afterlife.  In Canaan, the Israelites were to be confronted with religions that sought even more fervently to feed their gods, so that the gods would be happy with them.  Does the true God want the same thing?

In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, we state:

In Num. 28:4f. three parts of that daily sacrifice are repre­sented, the burning of the lamb, the libation, and the oblation of wheat flour.  The Law had pictures or shadows of future things.  Accordingly, in this spectacle Christ and the entire worship of the New Testament are portrayed.  The burning of the lamb signifies the death of Christ.  The libation signifies that everywhere in the entire world, by the preaching of the Gospel, believers are sprinkled with the blood of that Lamb, i.e., sanctified, as Peter says, 1 Pet. 1:2: Through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.  The oblation of wheat flour signifies faith, prayer, and thanksgiving in hearts.  As, therefore, in the Old Testament, the shadow is perceived, so in the New the thing signified should be sought, and not another type, as sufficient for a sacrifice. (Ap XXIV 36-37)

In the Old Testament, the people of God were in training.  They were learning as children the building blocks of their education, the alphabet and simple addition and subtraction.  So they were taught to understand that, for their sins, a daily—a double-daily—sacrifice of blood was required.  And the creature to be sacrificed had to be perfect.  Its blood had to be given to God, and its meat burned.  Fine flour had to be offered as well, bread with the meat.  God thereby used a picture that they would have been familiar with to teach them: they would have been well acquainted with the idolatrous practices of placating gods with food offerings.  The true God informs them that, yes, indeed, there does need to be placation for sin.

But this was all training.  It’s fulfillment came in Christ, the ultimate perfect “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  His death, and no longer he burning of a lamb each day, took away all sins once and for all.  And as though to say, “I no longer need this food, for all wrath is turned away; therefore instead I give you this wonderful food,” God gives us, not the blood of animals, but “the blood of Christ,” and not the flour of fine wheat, but “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16).  To turn away God’s wrath, Jesus gave him the final offering.  And now we are given the blessed feast.

Lord, we thank you that, through the offering and sacrifice of your Son, you have turned away all wrath for our sins, and even more have given us the undeserved gift of a heavenly feast.  Let us receive this gift worthily, with believing hearts, and therefore be strengthened by it in faith and love, until we may finally come to your kingdom, where we will partake of the blessed heavenly banquet in eternity.  In your Son’s name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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March 25 is Christmas?

At Redeemer, we’ll be celebrating the Incarnation and the Death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the same day: March 25th.  Learn why from this video by a church in our fellowship:

Join us at 6:30 p.m. on March 25th to learn more.

Feasting with God #53 – Israel, the Lioness in the Wilderness

Feasting with God #53

“Israel, the Lioness in the Wilderness”

 

Text: Numbers 23:18-24

18And Balaam took up his discourse and said,
“Rise, Balak, and hear:
            give ear to me, O son of Zippor:
19God is not man, that he should lie,
            or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
            Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
20Behold, I received a command to bless:
            he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
21He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,
            nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
            and the shout of a king is among them.
22God brings them out of Egypt
            and is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
23For there is no enchantment against Jacob,
            no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
            ‘What has God wrought!’
24Behold, a people!  As a lioness it rises up
            and as a lion it lifts itself;
it does not lie down until it has devoured the prey
            and drunk the blood of the slain.”

God has been very strict with his people as they wandered through the wilderness.  Even a toe out of line, and his discipline was upon them.  At the same time, they felt his grace as well, for even though they grumbled, he continued to provide them with miraculous food and victory over enemies.  But it may have been difficult for them to see the big picture—why was God doing things this way? why did he demand this or that sort of behavior? why did he provide this or that specific blessing?  Well, now Moses gives us a glimpse into the perspectives of outsiders.

Balak, king of Moab, saw how Israel was coming and conquering all the surrounding nations, and sought a way to remove the threat.  He sent Balaam to lay a curse on them.  But Balaam, being warned by an angel (and by his donkey; Num. 22:22-41), had to tell Balak that the Israelites could not be cursed by him, because God had predestined them for a higher purpose.

Leading Israel through the wilderness, through such a difficult terrain and such mighty effort, God was directing them toward a goal: yes, they would take the land of Canaan, but if that were all, then the dispute would be between men and nations.  Balak could then certainly have come to God and said, “Why should they have this land.  Why not I?  I could obey you, and not grumble against you.”  And God would be left in his court to weigh the options between different men for who should have the right to a scrap of land.

And this is going on in the world right now.  How tumultuous isn’t the land of Palestine—the Israelis think it is theirs, because God promised it to their forefathers; the Muslims think it is theirs, because their Qur’an claims that it was given to them, to replace the Jews; and the Christians believe it is theirs, or that they should restore it to the Jews, because of some strange, worldly readings of New Testament passages.  But God isn’t worried about some parcel of land.  God “has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.”  His people, under his care and guidance, are an unstoppable force, accomplishing his purposes.  “God brings them out of Egypt / and is for them like the horns of the wild ox.”  He charges forward toward his goal, so that this magnificent people is like “a lioness” rising up: “it does not lie down until it has devoured the prey / and drunk the blood of the slain.”  The nation of Israel would, under God’s might, accomplish his purposes for them.

And his purpose culminated in this: the blessing God pronounced on Israel was all rooted in the original promise given to Abraham their forefather: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3).  Through Abraham’s descendants would come a blessing for “all the families of the earth.”  But those who pronounced a curse against God’s people (such as what Balak wanted to do) would be excluded from this blessing.  And this blessing came about in Abraham’s offspring: “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).  The people of Israel themselves, “not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:13-16).  Thus the true, full Promised Land, is the one provided by Jesus Christ, who died to win it for us, and ascended, declaring the purpose: “I go and prepare a place for you, [and] I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

Come, Lord Jesus, and bring us to the heavenly place you have prepared for us.  Through your death, it is ours.  Forgive us our sins, therefore, and clothe us in your righteousness, so that we may take possession of our heavenly Promised Land.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Reblog: “Which Candidate Should I Support?”

This article was originally posted by Rev. Paul Fries on the Evangelical Lutheran Synod‘s website.  All rights reserved.

Political battles are being waged throughout our country. Who will be the party nominees? Who will be the next president? There are many issues deeply dividing our country that are concerning to all. Christians wonder which candidate they should support. God doesn’t tell us.

As Christians, we are citizens of two kingdoms: the kingdom of the left (this world—in whichever city or country we live) and the kingdom of the right (the Christian Church). It’s difficult to balance those two kingdoms in our lives since they often intersect and occasionally collide in opposition. What are we to do in a rage-filled political battle like the one currently being waged in the United States?

When it comes to politics, one concern of Christians should be to conduct ourselves in a manner that does not bring shame upon Christ and His Church. It is our thankful response to God to obey all of His commandments, to love our enemies, and to let ourconduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). With those things in mind, we can enter into discussions respecting the views of others even when we strongly disagree with them.

As Christians, we cannot expect everyone to believe as we do. Our views on everything in life should be informed by our faith and seen through eyes focused on the cross. A different political view does not mean someone is not a Christian. They may have a very strong faith and yet support a candidate with some views inconsistent with Christianity for a wide variety of reasons. God does not require a political candidate to be a Christian.

As a citizen of the United States, you have the privilege of speaking your mind about political issues and candidates. As a Christian, be careful of the manner in which you speak your mind. As in all things, we must be patient with others and try to understand their views. When it comes to issues that contradict God’s teachings, we must stand firm in the truth of God’s Word above all else.

As a Christian, you are a citizen of two kingdoms. But only one of those kingdoms is eternal. Jesus has earned your citizenship in His kingdom by His perfect life and innocent death. And we live our lives in love and thanks for His mercy.

Which candidate should you support? You must decide according to your conscience. But note what God does say about political leaders: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes (Psalm 118:9).

-Rev. Paul Fries

For more information on the government’s God-given duties as well as your responsibilities toward the government, read the passages under “Civil Government” in the Table of Duties in Luther’s Small Catechism.

Feasting with God #52 – Striking the Rock of the Lord

Feasting with God #52

Striking the Rock of the Lord

Text: Numbers 20:10-13

10Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”  11And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.  12And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”  13These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quar­reled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.

This marks the moment when Moses himself lost the right to enter into the Promised Land.  But what exactly happened?

Israel had been wandering a long time.  Over and over and over again they grumbled and accused Moses of leading them astray.  Even that great prophet had a limit to his patience, and now it was drawn quite thin.  He’d had enough.  God told him what to do in this instance: specifically, “tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water” (Num. 20:8).  But the spiritual leader of Israel was so emotionally worked up that, instead of speaking to the rock, ye shouted at the people: “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” and he “struck the rock with his staff twice.”

A similar occasion happened some time previously.  The people needed drink, and God commanded Moses to strike a rock (“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink,” Exodus 17:6), out of which poured water for all the Israelites.  Paul exposes the meaning of this rock: “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4).

What Paul means is that this miraculous water-bearing rock was a sacrament—a holy thing given by God to grant his grace and holiness to the people.  It reminds us of two New Testament sacraments: The first is the sacrament of water, the “washing of regeneration” (Tit. 3:5), baptism.  Just as water poured out of a rock for the Israelites, bringing with it God’s grace, so when we were baptized, water poured over us and brought God’s grace upon us.  The second is the sacrament which includes drinking, as Jesus said, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:27-28).  Just as the Israelites drank the liquid that came from the side of the rock (which was Christ), so we drink the blood that came from Jesus’ side on the cross in the Lord’s Supper.

When Jesus instituted his Supper, he gave it so that his disciples would take the blessings of his death: Jesus died to pay for the sins of the world and to bring forgiveness to all.  He told his disciples, therefore, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).  From that moment on, whenever the Supper was celebrated in the way Jesus instituted it, the very blood he shed on the cross and the very body born of Mary was present, with the forgiveness and grace he earned.  Just like Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).  In short, Jesus instituted his Supper and sealed it with the violent action of his death, and thereafter all that was needed to receive the same blessings are the words to accompany the materials.

This is what Moses should have understood regarding the rock in the wilderness.  That rock foreshadowed the blessings that would come from Christ Jesus.  Therefore when it was first given to the people, it was accompanied by the violent action of the staff striking its side.  But the second time, God wanted his people to know that he had already provided for them, and hereafter his providence was accompanied only by the words.  This principle was recorded later by Moses: “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3).

But Moses sought to impress the people, to wow them, to shock them into obedience, so he resacrificed the rock, deciding that God’s words weren’t enough.  He asked the people, “shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” as though it were an act that he, their spiritual leader, were to perform, not an act that God performed through him.

This occasion was something God intended as an act of grace, for although the people were rebellious and quarreling, he wished to provide for them.  Moses, as spiritual leader, ought to have performed the duty of dimply enacting God’s wishes for the people.  Instead, he took it upon himself to add to it.  Let this never be so among us.  Instead, let us take God at his word, and realize that his Word is powerful.  Specifically, his Word is powerful to save: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

Lord, lead us ever to trust in you, and never in our own works.  Even though our patience may be running thin, even though we may wish to see action and immediate answer to our prayers, guide us to see that the power of salvation we receive is from you and your Word.  Lead us to see this Word for the great blessing that it is, and give us thankful hearts that appreciate this gift; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.