August 31, 2008

Jehovah God Will Gather What He Has Scattered - Aug 31, 2008


Farmers in Jesus’ day planted seeds in a different way than the farmers of today. They would till up their fields, and then simply walk through those fields casting handfuls of seed to the left and to the right as they went along. To the casual observer it might seem like the farmer really didn’t care about the seeds. He never looked back. He didn’t carefully bury each seed. He just kept on walking and scattering until his bag was empty.

But, no farmer ever scattered seed in a field just to get rid of it. Every farmer who scatters seed does it so that later he can gather in what he scattered. Only, when a farmer finally gathers in what he scattered his investment of seed has changed to a harvest of good things.

God scatters things in much this same way. With the way that God scatters blessings into our world it may seem that He doesn’t much care where those blessings fall. It may even seem that God isn’t really following a plan at all as He scatters blessings down on the human race.

But God does have a plan. Jehovah God will gather what He has scattered, when the time is right.

As we read from God’s word today, think about how our God scatters and gathers. Ask yourself, “Why does God scatter?” Ask yourself, “How does He gather?” May the Holy Spirit build our faith by His Holy Word.

Letter reading............................. Romans 3:1-20

1What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.

3What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? 4Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written:

“So that you may be proved right when you speak

and prevail when you judge.”

5But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

9What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;

11 there is no one who understands,

no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away,

they have together become worthless;

there is no one who does good,

not even one.”

13 “Their throats are open graves;

their tongues practice deceit.”

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”

14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16 ruin and misery mark their ways,

17 and the way of peace they do not know.”

18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

Laws differ greatly from country to country, but certain laws are common in every culture. Laws against things like theft, murder and lying. Like a farmer scattering seed God has scattered His laws throughout this sinful world.

God has also planted his Law in the hearts of men. That sense of right and wrong is often inaccurate because sin has damaged mankind’s moral compass. But, even so, the imprint of God’s law is still found on the hearts of men.

This section from Romans tells us that God’s law is incapable of getting us the stamp of approval from God that will open heaven’s doors. No one can be declared righteous because we have God’s Law. We are sinners, and sinners are not allowed into heaven.

So, why has God given us an inner sense of right and wrong if it cannot get us to heaven? Why has God scattered His law throughout the nations of the world? To show the world that it is sinful. To make the world feel it’s guilt and see that it desperately needs a Savior from sin.

In our Psalm for today, the writer speaks of two sets of people: the wicked and the righteous. The righteous are those who have turned away from their sins and trust in God to forgive them for those sins. The wicked are those who have their backs turned to God. Instead of seeking to avoid sin, they seek it out.

In this world, the wicked and the righteous live together, like good and bad seed sown in a field. It may seem that the weeds are blessed more than the good plants. But the One who tends the field of this world has set a day in which the weeds will be uprooted and the good grain gathered in.

Psalm of the day....................... Psalm 37:12-24

P: The wicked plot against the righteous

and gnash their teeth at them;

but the Lord laughs at the wicked,

for he knows their day is coming.

C: The wicked draw the sword

and bend the bow

to bring down the poor and needy,

to slay those whose ways are upright.

P: But their swords will pierce their own hearts,

and their bows will be broken.

C: Better the little that the righteous have

than the wealth of many wicked;

for the power of the wicked will be broken,

but the LORD upholds the righteous.

P: The days of the blameless are known to the LORD,

and their inheritance will endure forever.

C: In times of disaster they will not wither;

in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

P: But the wicked will perish:

The LORD’S enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish—vanish like smoke.

C: The wicked borrow and do not repay,

but the righteous give generously;

those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,

but those he curses will be cut off.

P: If the LORD delights in a man’s way,

he makes his steps firm;

C: though he stumble, he will not fall,

for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

gospel Reading................................. Mark 9:14-29

14When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Like worthless seeds God cast Satan and the other fallen angels from His presence. They have taken residence in our world since the very beginning. Here one was even growing and thriving in a young Jewish boy. Why would God cast out the demons from his presence if they would then dwell in our world? So that He could show His power in removing them. So that He could show His love in restoring a boy to his father. So that their faith in God would grow up strong, when the weed of this demon was removed.

Faith is powerful. But, faith is only as powerful as what a person believes in. When Jesus says everything is possible for Him who believes, He’s not talking about faith in anyone and anything. He’s talking about faith in the Heavenly Father.

Like an extension cord plugged into an electrical outlet, faith in God’s Son connects us to God the Father and all the power that resides in Him. That is why Jesus says that everything is possible for him who believes, for everything is possible when God is involved.

Sermon reading................ Isaiah 56:8-57:2 (NIV)

8 The Sovereign LORD declares—

he who gathers the exiles of Israel:

“I will gather still others to them

besides those already gathered.”

9 Come, all you beasts of the field,

come and devour, all you beasts of the forest!

10 Israel’s watchmen are blind,

they all lack knowledge;

they are all mute dogs,

they cannot bark;

they lie around and dream,

they love to sleep.

11 They are dogs with mighty appetites;

they never have enough.

They are shepherds who lack understanding;

they all turn to their own way,

each seeks his own gain.

12 “Come,” each one cries, “let me get wine!

Let us drink our fill of beer!

And tomorrow will be like today,

or even far better.”

57:1 The righteous perish,

and no one ponders it in his heart;

devout men are taken away,

and no one understands

that the righteous are taken away

to be spared from evil.

2 Those who walk uprightly

enter into peace;

they find rest as they lie in death.

These are the words of God. May the Holy Spirit impress these things upon our hearts, for our learning and so that we may go from God’s house today, refreshed in Spirit. Amen.

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Isaiah the prophet died about a hundred years before Jerusalem was conquered and the people of Israel enslaved and taken away to Babylon.

God scattered the people of Israel into foreign lands because they had continually turned away from Him to worship false gods.

But God scattered Israel for another reason as well. These people had been entrusted with God’s Old Testament Bible. Some still believed it. Some still trusted in the Savior that God had promised to send.

When God scattered the Jews He did so with a plan. After a time He would gather them back in. And when He did, there would be more believers among them then when He had scattered them.

The exiled Jews would bring God’s word into the lands where they were scattered. God would use these exiled people to help others come to faith. This is what God is talking about in verse eight when He says,

The Sovereign LORD declares—

he who gathers the exiles of Israel:

“I will gather still others to them

besides those already gathered” (Isaiah 56:8 NIV).

Jesus once told His followers,

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16 NIV).

Jesus’ followers were Jewish by birth, but Christ did not only come to save Jews. He came to save sinners, one and all. Our ethnicity or our family name do not make us Christ’s people. Christ’s people are made up of those who truly trust in Him as their Savior from sin.

God wants all Gentile believers to know that they will not be excluded from heaven because of their non-Jewish birth. They will be gathered to God’s side because they trust in God’s Son.

In judgment God scattered the people that had been entrusted with His word. In love God gathered the Gentile people by the power of His word.

But, people aren’t the only things that God scatters and gathers. In Romans chapter 13 the apostle Paul writes that all authorities on earth - all rulers, kings, governors, pastors, teachers, parents and elders - all authorities, are given their authority by God.

God scatters gifts of power and authority to all sorts of different individuals. But, not all the people use that authority responsibly. Not all rulers faithfully do the job that God has given them to do.

In verses 9-12 of our sermon reading Isaiah talks about the “Watchmen of Israel”. These “Watchmen” were the spiritual leaders of Israel. Isaiah describes how these “Watchmen of Israel” did not do their job. They did not seek to protect the people from spiritual harm.

Isaiah describes them as “blind watchmen”. They didn’t even notice when false teachers came along. He calls them “stupid watchmen”. They didn’t know God’s word, and therefore couldn’t teach it to God’s people. He calls them “mute dogs”. They didn’t sound the alarm when pagan teachers were leading the Israelites to worship false gods. Isaiah reports that all these “watchmen” were concerned with was sleeping in, filling their bellies with food and getting drunk.

God had blessed the watchmen of Israel with a lot of good things. But instead of using these blessings to help them watch over the people of Israel, instead they just served themselves and left the people easy prey to Satan’s teachers.

But the wicked watchmen of Israel were wrong about one thing. They thought that tomorrow would be the same as today. But, tomorrow would eventually bring God’s judgment on their heads.

The power and authority and resources that God has scattered abroad will eventually return to Him. He will gather all His faithful servants and reward them. He will gather every faithless servant and punish them.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught this truth to His disciples with a parable. He said,

14“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

21“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

23“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28“‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 25:14-30 NIV).

We are not all given the same resources from God. But, everything that you and I have is on load from Him. Be careful to fulfill the responsibilities that God has given to you, with all the various resources that He has given to you. Do it today, for tomorrow may not be like today.

God scatters His gifts so that they might be used properly. He will gather those who have served themselves instead of Him. He will gather those faithless servants for destruction.

In the last two verses of our reading, God shifts from talking about the faithless watchmen of Israel to talk about His faithful followers.

The righteous perish,

and no one ponders it in his heart;

devout men are taken away,

and no one understands

that the righteous are taken away

to be spared from evil.

Those who walk uprightly

enter into peace;

they find rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57:1-2 NIV).

In the Hebrew the world for “perish” doesn’t refer to death brought about by old age. It refers to a sudden and unexpected death. Perhaps the righteous man was killed in an accident at work. Perhaps though healthy, he falls asleep one night and doesn’t wake up in the morning.

At the funeral of such a person we would probably hear people saying, “Oh, it’s so sad that he died before his time. He had so much to live for.”

The people still living would consider themselves lucky to be alive. They would consider their deceased friend to be the unlucky one. But God says just the opposite. God says,

“…no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil” (Isaiah 57:2 NIV).

When God makes a promise, what is important to Him is the keeping of that promise. He doesn’t always care if everyone knows that He kept the promise. He feels no need to trumpet His faithfulness each time He keeps a promise or answers the prayer of His followers. God doesn’t keep His promises to be seen. God keeps His promises because He is faithful. It’s just what He does.

When the lives of the faithful come to a sudden end, God is actually keeping His promise to rescue them from their own sin, and from this world of pain. God gathers the righteous to Himself through death. And in this particular case in Isaiah, God says that He was gathering these faithful so that they will not have to suffer the evil times that were about to come.

When I read that line, “the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil,” I think of the last righteous King of Judah. The last King of Judah that worshipped Jehovah and led the Israelites to do the same was good King Josiah.

Josiah became King at the tender age of eight. The nation had strayed so far from Jehovah that it was quite a discovery when a priest named Hilkiah found a copy of the Book of the Law in the temple of Jehovah. Imagine that. They found a Bible in the Temple and it was a big news.

When Josiah learned how far they had strayed from the true God He was cut to the heart. Josiah dedicated the rest of His rule to restoring the worship of the true God to Israel. He destroyed the idols that had been placed inside God’s Temple. He desecrated the altars of the pagan worship places. He put the false teaching priests to death and reinstituted Godly worship in Jerusalem once more.

But Josiah died suddenly at the age of 39. He was cut down in battle by the Egyptian Pharaoh named Neco. Josiah could have lived to be a lot older than 39. Why did He die so young?

Only 23 years after Josiah died, Jerusalem fell to Babylon and the Jews were taken into slavery. I believe that God was delivering His faithful servant Josiah from the evil times that were coming soon. God gathered Josiah to Himself by a sudden death.

In Revelation it is written,

“…Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them” (Revelation 14:13 NIV).

It is not the living who have the advantage over the dead. It is the righteous who have the advantage over the wicked. God watches over those who trust in Him, and even in death they are blessed.

Do not fear that God will not gather you in to heaven. If you are a sinner, Christ Jesus died to save you. Trust in Him. Jesus, who rose from the dead, has promised that He will return to gather all His believers at just the right time.

We all have responsibilities laid on us by your heavenly Father. God help us to use the resources He gives to do the work He gives. As Christians. As parents. As citizens. As human beings. Those resources are only on loan for a while. Only until the one who gathered us together today, gathers us to Himself in Heaven.

Jehovah has scattered, and He will gather.

In Christ Jesus, Amen.

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