Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

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

Tag Archives: promise

Feasting with God #49 – An Exceedingly Good Land

Feasting with God #49

“An Exceedingly Good Land”

Text: Numbers 14:6-11, 21-23

6And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy out, is an exceedingly good land.  8If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey.  9Only do not rebel against the Lord.  And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us.  Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”  10Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones.  But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.  11And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me?  And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them…?  21But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, 22none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers.  And none of those who despised me shall see it.”

“Well, that was dumb.”  I remember thinking that when, as a student in Sunday School, I first learned about Israel’s wandering in the wilderness.  40 years of suffering and yearning and hungering could have been avoided, if only they had trusted in God.  They made a really dumb mistake.  Joshua and Caleb even tried pointing out how little they  had to worry about: “And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us.  Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”  St. Paul repeats this concept in the New Testament: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).  Joshua and Caleb tried to tell the Israelites, “God has promised this land to us: with him on our side, we’ll eat our enemies alive!

But their message of hope was met with intense hostility: “Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones.”  Human nature was taking over.  Rather than trust God, believe his promises, and stop relying on themselves, these men preferred to fear, and, blinded by that fear, wanted escape.  They thought that Joshua and Caleb were leading them into certain death.

But it really was dumb.  As God himself said, “And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?”  These people had seen the miracles Moses performed; they had witnessed the ten plagues firsthand; they had been given water from a rock and received miraculous quail and manna from heaven.  Nevertheless, even after all these things, they thought, “Sure, God did that, but he can’t do this.”  Because of their unbelief, they were cursed to wander through the wilderness for 40 years, while the rebellious generation died out and a new, believing generation rose up in their place.

Think again of Paul’s encouragement to rely on the Lord: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” and as proof, he goes on: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will ne not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32).  Like the Israelites, we have witnessed the providence of God already: to them he gave deliverance, nourishment, grace; to us he gave his Son the Deliverer, the Nourishment of his Word and Sacraments, and the Grace of Salvation and Eternal Life.  For the Israelites, what they had already received should have assured them that they would receive what was promised.  For us, what we have already received should assure us of what is promised.

Israel’s 40-year sojourn through the wilderness is one inspiration for the season of Lent—a 40-day sojourn through repentance.  At the end of Israel’s journey, they came to the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey.  At the end of our Lenten journey, we come to Easter, the Resurrection, a time of joy for God’s eternal gifts overflowing from the empty tomb.  As Israel’s voyage brought about the death of the old, sinful generation and the rising of the new, faithful generation, our voyage of repentance puts to death the Old sinful Adam of our flesh and gives rise to the new man made in the image of Christ.  Lent should be a spiritual exercise in letting go of our selves and our doubts and our fears, placing our trust wholly into the arms of God.  Humble yourselves this season, and be like the father of the child with an unclean spirit, falling before Jesus and crying out: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).  Our God is faithful to forgive and to give us promised salvation.

Lord, we believe; help our unbelief!  Keep us from being overcome with the weight of the world, and instead help us to cast all our cares on you, and be assured that you have borne all our burdens and will give us every good thing.  Lead us to daily repentance and sorrow over sin, so that daily we might receive your forgiveness, all on the basis of the passionate death of your dear Son, and his glorious resurrection from the dead.  In his 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.

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.