Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

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Tag Archives: law and gospel

Feasting with God #55 – “The Rich Man and Lazarus”

Feasting with God #55

“The Rich Man and Lazarus”

Text: Luke 16:19-31

19“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.  20And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.  Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.  22The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.  The rich man also died and was buried, 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  24And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’  25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.  26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’  27And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—28for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’  29But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’  30And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  31He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise form the dead.’”

This is a concept that is found throughout Scripture’s teachings.  Jesus said it also when he told the disciples: “I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24).  Paul likewise warned, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world….  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:6-10).  And Jesus also stated, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, / but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4).

Countless times throughout Scripture this concept is repeated.  It is the concept of the man who sees his self-sufficiency and obtains what reward he can earn, and of the man who sees his need and obtains what reward is given freely.  Scripture does not say that it is impossible for a rich man to enter heaven, but instead, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).  This is what Abraham told the rich man in this account: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”

Noticeably, the rich man does not like this answer, because he knows that his family will not accept this.  They, like him, are probably rich, relying on their wealth and comfort.  The rich man sees no need in himself.  Therefore he sees no need to have faith in anyone but himself.  The one who seeks his reward in earth will have his reward in earth, and nowhere else.

But the poor man, Lazarus, “who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table,” only the scraps, the most unworthy pieces, he sees how deep his own need is.  It is a constant illustration in his own life that he cannot save himself.  The Law has been and continues without stopping to be preached to his soul.  This left him in terror of hell, worrying that the fires of torment would come upon him.

The irony of the story is that the one who was full of comfort in his position found himself in torment, while the one who was tormented in his position found himself in comfort.  This can only be because, as Abraham says, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”  The rich man did not heed the Word of God.  Lazarus did—that is the impression we are left with.

Human nature seeks to build a god and confidence in anything—anything—other than the pure Word of God.  It may be riches or wealth; it may be our own abilities; it may be our families, our love, our good feelings.  But none of these grant the assurance of salvation.  Instead, salvation is found most assuredly, certainly, without doubt, in Scripture, where we find one of these prophets pronouncing:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn. (Is. 61:1, 2).

To this, Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).  He is the fulfillment of all Scripture, the source, the climax, the one in whom we rely.  We could not save ourselves, but in hearing the Word of God, we see that he has already saved us.

Eternal God, our Savior Jesus Christ, give us grace to face temptations from all sides.  Remind us that you have already overcome all things for me, and are even now preparing a place for me at your side.  In your name we ask it.  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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Feasting with God #46 – Such Sweet Sorrow

Feasting with God #46

“Such Sweet Sorrow”

Text: Ezekiel 2:8-3:3

8“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you.  Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”  9And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it.  10And he spread it before me.  And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.  3 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here.  Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.”  2So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat.  3And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.”  Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.

When he was tempted by Satan to use his divine omnipotence for selfish purposes, Jesus responded by citing the book of Deuteronomy: “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (8:3).  But who would have ever thought to take this literally?  No, we don’t go around tearing pages out of our Bibles and eating them.  To do so would be missing the point.

Ezekiel was called to be God’s prophet at a time when Israel was rebelling (and God here calls that nation “that rebellious house”), and like many prophets before and after him, he was called to bring the rebellious people back to God.  This was a difficult and terrifying task.  Imagine the comparatively small task that would face you if you had to confront a loved one with their sin.  If your parent, sibling, spouse, or other close friend or family member was living in some sin, is it easy to speak to them about it?  What goes through your head?  “They’ll get mad at me.”  “I’ll lose that relationship.”  For Ezekiel and the other prophets called upon to tell Israel about their sins, these same thoughts were going through their heads, added to the fear, “They’ll kill me!”

And there was God, commanding Ezekiel to go and be the bearer of bad news to Israel: “Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.”  Earlier God had told him, “I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’” and, “And you shall speak my words to them” (2:4, 7).  Compare how God called others of his prophets: Moses, “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Ex. 4:12), and Aaron through Moses, “You shall speak to him [Aaron] and pout the words in his mouth” (4:15); Jeremiah, “Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth.  And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth’” (Jer. 1:9); Isaiah, “And [the seraph] touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’  And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’  Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’  And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people,’” (Is. 6:6-9), and Isaiah later prophesied to the redeemed people God’s words, “And I have put my words in your mouth” (51:16).

These prophets are never expected to go and tell God’s people God’s will on their own.  Each time, God places his Word into his prophet’s mouth, whether through speaking to them aloud and sending his Spirit (as in Moses’ case), through a touch (as Jeremiah), through a burning coal upon the lips (as Isaiah), through the eating of those very words (as Ezekiel), or through hearing the words aloud from another prophet (as Aaron, and perhaps more significantly, as the people to whom Isaiah prophesied).

Look at what Ezekiel had to preach: this scroll, written on both sides, is entitled, “Words of Lamentation and Mourning and Woe.”  To say it is an unpleasant message is an understatement.  And yet Ezekiel, having been told three times by God, “Eat what I give you,” three times building up how bitter he expects this experience to be, ate it, “and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.”

This is what is surprising about God’s Word.  We speak of its two doctrines: Law and Gospel.  The Law terrifies, and when we hear or read it we want to withdraw.  However if, as in Ezekiel’s case, we “feed [our] belly” and “fill [our] stomach” with God’s Word, Law included, if it is allowed to permeate our entire being through the working of the Holy Spirit, if it penetrates our soul, then we will find that in our mouth it is “as sweet as honey.”

This is because the Law of God’s Word is never allowed by God to be left alone.  The Law is always followed by its fulfillment: the Gospel, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).  “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:21-25).  For the same reason, we can see the sweetness of putting God’s Word of Law in our mouths and preaching it to sinners, for when they see the Law, they can see also how it was fulfilled in their salvation through Jesus Christ.

“Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word!  Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.  My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.  My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.  Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.  I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight.  Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.  I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.” Amen. (Ps. 119:169-176)

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.

Feasting with God #31 – The Mountains Shall Drip Sweet Wine

Feasting with God #31

The Mountains Shall Drip Sweet Wine

Text: Amos 9:13-15

13“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord,

“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper

and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;

the mountains shall drip sweet wine,

and all the hills shall flow with it.

14I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,

and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;

they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,

and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.

15I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted

out of the land that I have given them,”

says the Lord your God. 

The prophet Amos was a violent preacher of the Law, proclaiming the harsh judgments of God against the people of Israel and Judah for their idolatry and injustice.  God says repeatedly throughout this little book: “I will send a fire upon” those who committed transgressions.  With all this fire the mouths of readers quickly become parched.

And then comes this beautiful Gospel promise of restoration.  Although fire may destroy the land and make it inhabitable, indeed killing all the inhabitants, there is a future time when this land will be bountiful to the point that “the plowman shall overtake the reaper”—the harvest will hardly have come in when the plowing and planting is begun again.  After famine and war and thirst and mourning and captivity look at the abundant crop, and at the wealth of wine!

“The mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Just imagine that picture.  All the thirst is quenched, and it won’t be just to give each person just enough, but the mountains shall drip; the hills shall flow; it will be so superabundant that we will just rest and enjoy it.

The prophet Amos was describing the situation for the literal nation of Israel, when they were attacked and taken captive by the Assyrian nation, and then when they were able to return to their homeland.  But he was also describing a future time when destruction and judgment loomed for people, but then the sweet advent of the Savior brought about reprieve.

And we can also apply this to each soul: the threats of fire and destruction loom before us on account of our sins; we are the idolaters, the unjust, the trespassers, and we are already captive in the devil’s chains and bound for the fires of hell; but then the sweet Gospel comes and quenches our spiritual thirst, so that the blessings won by our Savior flow like wine over us, as his blood flowed from his pierced side on the cross.

Our own fortunes are restored, and our dwelling place is rebuilt, so we have mansions we may inhabit forever; as the Garden of Eden was taken away from us in the Fall, it is restored to us in Christ, and we are provided “vineyards” where we may “drink [our] wine,” “gardens” where we may “eat [our] fruit.”  We are planted firmly in the promised land, and we will never be uprooted, because this is given to us by God.

Lord, we praise you for your blessed gifts, which we by no means deserved.  We thank you that you sent your Son to suffer the wrath we earned, and to bleed his precious blood which is given to us as a refreshing wine.  Bring us to our promised blessed home where our vineyards and gardens yield abundant fruit in your presence.  Since you have promised us this, we ask it in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, 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.