Home > Trinity 16-End of Church Year > God calls what is not as though it were. Trinity 16 2013 Sermon.

God calls what is not as though it were. Trinity 16 2013 Sermon.


Gideon16th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

1 Kings 17:17-24, St. Luke 7:11-17

September 15, 2013

“Out of Nothing”

Week 1: God calls things that are not as though they were

 

(not exactly what I preached.  I tried to revise it after this but I couldn’t get it to print so I went off of handwritten notes.  But I think it’s probably much the same, except with more in the “gospel” portion and less in the introduction.  I took out the stuff about Abraham, for instance.)

Jesus

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith…

 

Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end [that] the promise might be sure to all the seed…of Abraham, who is the father of us all…before Him whom He believed, even God, who quickens the dead, and calls those things which are not as though they were.

 

Who against hope believed in hope…And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead…nor yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb.

 

He did not stagger at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

 

And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.  And therefore it was imputed to him as righteousness.  (Romans 4:13, 16-21)

 

Why did God promise Abraham that he would inherit the earth?  Was it because He foresaw that Abraham would believe Him?  Was there less disobedience and sin in Abraham than in other people?

 

The words from Romans chapter 4 we just heard say a resounding “no.”  It was not through the law that Abraham received the promise.  It was not because Abraham had obeyed God.  It had nothing to do with measuring and calculating.  The promise was free.  God made it unconditionally.

 

Most of what Abraham saw after hearing God’s promise did not help him believe.  He went to the land where God told him to go and lived there as a stranger.  He was not among friends and he did not have his clan there to protect him.  And years stretched into decades, and he had no son.  And without a son he would have no offspring for God to make into a great nation, out of which God would bring salvation to the whole earth.

 

Finally he got to be about a hundred years old.  His wife was ninety.  Her womb was long dead.  His body was a withered tree.  What kind of a fool would go on believing that he had heard God’s voice say that the whole earth would be saved through his offspring?

 

But Abraham believed what God had promised.  So he ignored the fact that it was impossible, as far as he could see, for him to have children now.  He only looked at the promise of the God who quickens the dead and calls those things that are not as though they were.”  (Rom. 4:17)

 

So God counted it to him for righteousness.  As Abraham believed, so it was done for him.

 

God counted to Abraham the righteousness of his descendant, through Whom all the ends of the earth would be saved.

 

And God did what reason and experience said was impossible.  He gave a 100-year-old man and a 90-year-old woman a child according to His Word which raises the dead and calls that which does not exist into existence (Rom. 4:17)…or calls what is not as though it were.  From this child, born by the word of the Lord, came a nation of people.  And from this nation came a virgin who conceived and bore a child by the word of the Lord even though she had never been with a man.  This child was the Word of God in human flesh who gives salvation to all who believe in Him.

 

God raises the dead.  He calls things that are not as though they were.  He creates out of nothing simply by His Word.

 

But where people are still alive His Word does not raise them from the dead.  Where people are something His Word does not call them into being.

 

In Elijah’s time things were very bad.  There was one nation on earth that worshipped the true God.  But it had started to worship the false gods of the nations alongside of the Lord.

 

The one place the people in the world were supposed to be able to look and see the true God and what He was like had set up other gods to worship alongside the Lord—even in His house.

 

So what did they see?  The Lord is just one god among many.  The God of the Israelites is no different than our gods; they have their God, we have ours.

 

The people of Israel were dead, and they didn’t even know it. So God sent His Word through Elijah to make them realize that they were dead, and Elijah said, “As the Lord lives, it won’t rain at all unless I say.”  Then God sent Elijah out into the wilderness.  Ravens brought him food and he drank water from a brook while Elijah hid and waited for God to tell him to turn the rain back on.

 

But the people did not repent.  “The rain will come,” they said.  Then the harvest failed and people started to die of starvation.  “We must not have offered enough sacrifices to the Lord and to Baal,” the people were saying.  “We need to fix this!”  Meanwhile, the brook went dry in the wilderness where Elijah was staying.  The people still hadn’t learned that they were dead and there was no fixing this until the Lord gave the word.

 

God told Elijah, “Go to the pagan city of Zarephath, north of here.  There is a widow there that I have commanded to feed you.”  And when Elijah got there and met the widow, she was getting ready to make a last meal for her and her son, because the surrounding nations were getting no rain either.  But when Elijah told her, “Before you eat, bring me some of your last meal.  Because the Lord says that your flour and oil will not run out.  God will make it last until the rain returns.”  And the pagan woman believed the word of the Lord.  She had nothing; she was as good as dead.  But the word of the Lord called what did not exist as though it did.

 

But now in the text today after saving her and her son’s life it seems that God has only blessed her in order to crush her.  Now her son dies.  She says to Elijah, “You have only come with the word of the Lord to expose my sin and slay my son!”

 

And Elijah prays, “Is this Your way, Lord?  You withhold rain from Your people and slay them because they turn away from you.  Then you send me to a nation of idolaters and a widow receives Your Word and lives, only so that you can even turn around on her and not forgive her sin either?”

 

Yet did she deserve better?  Isn’t it the Lord’s right to punish our sins?  Even if we are sorry?

 

Yet Elijah knew the Lord.  That this is not His way.  “He chastens with forbearing” as the hymn says.  In wrath He remembers mercy.  He longs to be gracious; He raises His arm and strikes down in order to raise up again.  He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner.

 

Rather His Word reduces us to nothing and kills us so that He may call us what we are not and raise us from the dead.

 

We are in a similar situation to Elijah’s day.

 

He brings us to nothing, like He did Elijah and Israel, and the widow, and Abraham, so that He may call us what we are not.

 

He stops the funeral procession and says what we cannot imagine to happen.  He speaks a new word.

 

He does this not because there is anything worthy of His pity or compassion, but by His pure grace.

 

He had every right to come to the widow at Nain and pass her by.  This is the wages of sin.

 

But He is not here on earth to judge and condemn, but to save.  To raise the dead and call that which is not as though it were.

 

He is the Word of the Father made flesh; in the beginning it was He who created the world and all that is in it; now He is in our flesh saying that we are what we are not without Him and He is what He is not without us.

 

He is not sin but became sin; He became nothing.  He was laid in the depths.  That is because He has become us.

 

We are not righteous and holy children of God but He declares us to be in Baptism.  We have nothing in us that would permit us to be children of God, or to be His church.  His word creates it out of nothing in Jesus’ incarnation death resurrection, ascension.

 

His word declares it to be true of us.

 

His word will continue to sustain His church, even if it is impossible to see how it will survive, and even if it is overrun by idolatry.  God had His church drinking from a brook in the wilderness and being fed by ravens.  And scattered in places where His prophet did not see it were the remnant that God had chosen, including this woman from a pagan country.

 

They were nothing, like us.  The only conclusion was that they were sinners and deserved God’s wrath.

 

But God looks on those who are nothing and calls them something.  Calls them a new creation.

 

It is not because of any human possibility but because of His Word, which enabled Abraham and Sarah to conceive a child when they were dead.

 

Even more, His Word imputed righteousness to them, even though they were dead in sin.

 

His Word sustained Elijah in the wilderness, the widow with the handful of flour.

 

His Word declares God’s compassion to two sinful widows who had no reason to expect compassion.

 

On us who also deserve no compassion he raises us to life through His holy Baptism and through the preaching of the Gospel, where He declares us forgiven of our sins through Christ alone.

 

He declares that we will march triumphant over our sins and the devil in righteousness through the cross into eternal life, and that we will live in this world by His power and then forever at His right hand.

 

That is why we have hope even though we are sinners and even though the Church is weak and a mess and no small part of it is our fault.

 

We come and say, “there is no reason why you should not destroy me and the church.  That is what I deserve.”  But He speaks another word.  “Do not weep.  You are alive, righteous, heirs of my kingdom.”

 

The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

SDG

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