September 7, 2008

Nothing Sacred in God's Restoration Project - Sep 7, 2008


Restoration. Whether it’s restoring a classic corvette, a Victorian style house, or a trash littered park, restoration means making something the way that it used to be. Restoration means making something beautiful once again. Making something functional. Making something the way it was meant to be.

Today, our readings from God’s Holy Word focus on how God restores people.

LETTER READING: 1 Corinthians 8:1-6 (NIV)

1Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God.
4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

God the Father created the human race to live for Him. But through sin the human race died to God.

But the Father’s Son, who was also there at the beginning, became human in order to take our sins away and restore our life. All who trust in Jesus are forgiven their sins and are restored to life through Him.

GOSPEL READING: Mark 8:22-26 (NIV)

22They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
24He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
25Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”

Jesus could have restored this man’s eyesight without touching his eyes. But Jesus wanted to restore more than the man’s eyesight. Jesus wanted to restore spiritual life to this man’s soul. Jesus wanted to make this man come to faith in Him.

Jesus takes the blind man out of town and away from the busy crowds so that the blind man can concentrate on Him. Jesus then uses a two step process to heal Him. It wasn’t that Jesus failed the first time and had to take another shot at it. Jesus restored this man’s sight slowly so that he could understand that Jesus was the one doing the healing here. The power was in Jesus!

Jesus was able to restore his eyesight and allow him to see the world once again. But what Jesus wanted most of all was for this man to see that He was the Savior sent from God, who is able to restores spiritual life through the removal of sins.

Our Old Testament reading for today comes from Second Kings. A little historical context will help us to understand this story better.

The prophet Elisha occasionally travelled through the town of Shunem. A woman there recognized that Elisha was a man of God, and invited him to eat with her and her family. Eventually the Shunammite woman convinced her husband that they should build a little room on the roof of the house for Elisha. That way whenever he was travelling through Shunem he could stay there comfortably.

Elisha was thankful, and wanted to do something for her. But when asked she said she didn’t need anything. It was brought to Elisha’s attention that she did not have any children. Elisha promised her that by that time next year a child would be born to the Shunammite woman and her husband. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

OLD TESTAMENT: 2 Kings 4:18-37 (NIV)

18The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19“My head! My head!” he said to his father.
His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out.
22She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.”
23“Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.”
“It’s all right,” she said.
24She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.” 25So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.
When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! 26Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’”
“Everything is all right,” she said.
27When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why.”
28“Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”
29Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.”
30But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her.
31Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.”
32When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. 35Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
36Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” 37She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

It was the LORD who had given life to the Shunammite’s son when he was conceived. It was also the LORD who restored his physical life through the prophet Elisha.

God could have worked this miracle through Elisha’s staff. But God didn’t. God could have immediately answered Elisha’s prayer in the closed room. But God waited. God could have breathed life back into the boy after Elisha had laid down on him once. But God didn’t.

Elisha had said,

“…Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why” (2 Kings 4:27 NIV).

In delaying the restoration of this boy’s life, God was apparently teaching Elisha something. Or teaching the Shunammite woman. Or teaching Gehazi. I do not know what the lesson was that God was seeking to teach.

One thing I do know, God is capable of doing whatever we ask of Him. When He doesn’t, it is not because He cannot do it, so it must be for another reason. When our prayers seem to go unanswered, we must continue to trust in Him. We must continue to pray to Him. We must continue to listen to Him speak to us through the Bible. Eventually we will understand why God does the things He does. If not in this world, then in heaven when all things have been restored (Revelation 21:5).

SERMON READING: Ezekiel 24:15-27 (NIV)

15The word of the LORD came to me: 16“Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. 17Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners.”
18So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.
19Then the people asked me, “Won’t you tell us what these things have to do with us?”
20So I said to them, “The word of the LORD came to me: 21Say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary—the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword. 22And you will do as I have done. You will not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners. 23You will keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet. You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of your sins and groan among yourselves. 24Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.’
25“And you, son of man, on the day I take away their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes, their heart’s desire, and their sons and daughters as well—26on that day a fugitive will come to tell you the news. 27At that time your mouth will be opened; you will speak with him and will no longer be silent. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the LORD.”

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

Is nothing sacred?

I don’t know where this phrase comes from originally, but I’m sure we’ve all heard it at one time or another. When a person says, “Is nothing sacred?” they are usually expressing disgust that something that was supposed to be special has been used in an un-special way.

You don’t use the United States flag to wipe off your hands when you’re working on the car. You don’t use your Bible to prop up that end of the couch that has lost its leg. Certain things are sacred. They are special because of what they represent, or because of what they are associated with. At least, that’s what most people would say.

But when it comes to God and His project to restore life to dead sinners, it appears that nothing is sacred. God will use anything and anyone to make sure that fallen sinners are restored to the status of saints.

Ezekiel was deported to Babylon earlier than when Jerusalem fell. About ten years before Jerusalem was destroyed, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar took ten thousand prominent Jews to Babylon. Ezekiel had been one of these.

In Babylon God called Ezekiel to the hard job of preaching to the exiled Jews. The exiled Jews had heard that the people who remained in Jerusalem had been allowed to keep their property and were living in peace. When they heard that, they didn’t believe that God was really going to level Jerusalem in judgment over their idol worship.

But God had made up His mind. Jerusalem would fall.

Ezekiel had the difficult job of preaching to a hardened people. Many of the exiled Jews were hardened against the LORD but open to worshipping idols. Back home they had taken pride in the beautiful Temple of Jehovah, while continuing to worship at the shines of false gods as well.

So, God would desecrate that beautiful Temple that they loved so much. He would burn His own Temple to the ground. The outward beauty of the God’s Temple was nothing if it was not being used to worship the true God. And if by leveling the Temple God could cause some of the unbelieving Jews to repent and turn back to Him, than it would be well worth it in God’s eyes.

Jehovah God would use every resource that He had to turn the Jews back to Him. He would even use the believers who living among the unbelieving exiles.

Ezekiel’s wife was the love of his life. God calls her the delight of his eyes. But she would suddenly be taken away from Ezekiel in death. The horrible void in Ezekiel’s life would have filled in with mourning, but God commanded Ezekiel not to express his sorrow except by moaning quietly.

Ezekiel was to be a sign to the exiled Jews. They would mourn in the same way when they learned that the glorious Temple that they loved had been burned to the ground and their children who had remained there had been slain.

It doesn’t seem that the LORD is trying to restore anything here. It seems like the LORD is destroying instead of restoring. But in these events God was seeking to restore the unbelieving Jews to faith through a dramatic thing. God was foretelling the future with both words and with events in the life of Ezekiel.

How hard this must have been for Ezekiel. And yet it was his lot in life. It was what God had chosen for Him to do. As Christ Jesus had THE cross, all of God’s followers have their own crosses to carry. We are God’s forgiven children, but we are also His servants. It is God working through us that brings His precious message of sins forgiven through Jesus to people who don’t know it yet. Or don’t understand it. Or don’t care.

What is your burden? What cross has God given you? What responsibility is it that you carry so that others might know their Savior? If it feels heavy, remember that God doesn’t place burdens on His people without also placing His all-powerful hand underneath to support us. Pray to Him. And persevere in the promises that He speaks to you through His word.

In college I worked one summer at a printing factory in Milwaukee, WI. Since we were only working for the summer months we packed in as much as work as we could. We did as many twelve hour shifts back to back as was legally possible.

The work was physically demanding, tedious and often aggravating. We all had our different ways of coping with it. One of my friends said that whenever he was really thinking of walking out the door he would remind himself that the factory only had him for 12 hours. That was it. No more. It was a finite number, and he could make it.

In a way the suffering Christian can apply this same idea. This world only has us for this lifetime. That’s it. No more. There are a finite number of days that we have to spend in this broken world. The eternal weekend is closer with every day we live. Soon we will rest with Jesus in heaven.

God’s people can bear the crosses that God gives them in this life for another reason too. They know that God has done the same.

The Father took away the delight of Ezekiel’s eyes, his beloved wife, as a sign to the Jews. But the Father would know what that felt like in the years to come. When His Son was crucified and taken away from Him God the Father would know sorrow like no one has ever known. And He would bear the sorrow of losing His Son so that people who hated Him could be redeemed, restored and forgiven.

The events surrounding the death of Ezekiel’s wife were meant to jar the Jews into seeing the seriousness of their sin. The events surrounding the death of Jesus do the same thing on much greater scale.

For the Jews, Ezekiel was meant to be a sign that said, “Wake up! You’re sliding down the slope to hell! Turn back to God before it’s too late.”

For the whole human race Jesus is a sign that says, “Wake up! This is what your sins deserve! They earned you suffering, hell and death! But now God has rescued you through His Son!”

We were broken down cars, dilapidated old houses, polluted fields. Through Jesus we are restored! God has cleansed and restored us through Jesus’ sacrifice in our place. Believe it! And watch as God continues His work of restoring you through His Holy Word and the power of His Son.

God told Ezekiel that when all these things happened the people would know that He was the Sovereign LORD. In the Hebrew you could translate that, the “Master Jehovah”. He is the powerful promise keeper. Jehovah promised Adam and Eve that He would send a Savior for them and their children, and He has delivered.

The LORD has been able to restore us sinners because He considered nothing above using to get the job done. Not his Temple, not His people, not even His Son.

Is nothing sacred? Is nothing special to God? Yes. We are. For He used everything to make us His own. Let us walk then as His people, that He may never need to wake us up to His love with great tragedy and sorrow.

In Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

No comments:

Post a Comment