O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Deut. 7:1-9
Preached on April 18, 2014
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The text for the sermon this evening is from Deut. 7:1-9
"When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations."
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Fellow baptized saints, I need to give you a warning: The sermon you are about to hear is about ... Nobody. It is not a sermon about everybody, or anybody ... or even a sermon about ... somebody. No. This is a sermon about ... Nobody. Now I don't tell you this to encourage blank stares, closed eyelids or gaping yawns. The reason this is a sermon about Nobody is because that's what Moses says to Israel, "... you were the least of all the people."
Israel was a lightweight, a loser ... Israel was well..... Nobody.
But you know the feeling, perhaps all too well, don't you?
I don't cause my teachers trouble; my grades have been okay.
I do my chores at home; I'm in school every day.
My teachers think I'm average; my parents think so too.
I wish I didn't know that; ‘cause there's lots of things I'd like to do.
I'd like to build a website; I've got a book that shows you how.
I'd like to make the baseball team; well no use trying now.
‘Cause since I know I'm average, I'm just smart enough, you see,
To know there's nothing special I would ever expect of me.
I'm just part of that majority, that bump part of the bell,
Who live their lives unnoticed in an average kind of hell.
Living life unnoticed ... in an average kind of hell. That's us. That's Isra-el. As Moses said, "You were the least of all the people." Nothing but one huge unnoticed ... Nobody.
Well, it takes one to know one. Moses too, was all washed up. He was a three-time loser. Strike one--he took matters into his own hands and mur-dered an Egyptian. Strike two--he tried to cover it up by hiding the dead man in the sand. Strike three—he scuttled out of Egypt and ended up watching his father-in-law's smelly sheep for 40 years in the desert.
And so rather than being a hero, Moses ended up a big fat ... zero. Ra-ther than looking forward, Moses looked back. And rather than dining with heads of state, Moses counted the heads of sheep. This is hardly what his friends wrote about him in his high school year book!
But then there was a voice and a burning bush and holy ground and it all shocked the sandals right off his feet, literally! God chose, of all people, Moses!
Now, you've got to wonder, if God had determined to choose a no-body like Moses, why not choose the forty-year old version instead of the eighty-year old version? Moses at forty? Okay. Moses at eighty? No way!
But benched at 40, 80 year old Moses is the LORD's first-round draft pick. And his assignment? Get Israel out of Egypt.
The Israelites were state slaves in Egypt. They had no legal status, no worth and no value. They were driven by whip to meet their quota of mud, bricks and straw. And when they failed, their sons were murdered.
It was like getting braces on your teeth and never getting them off. It was like being in college for eight years and never getting your diploma. It was like working for your dad and never getting paid. It was like hoping to die, but death never comes. Israel was living life unnoticed ... in an average kind of hell.
But then there were frogs and flies and fire - a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and God chose, from all the nations, Israel!
But why? Because, as God told them in our text, you are my treasured possession. You are my segulah. This Hebrew word segulah denotes a one-of-a-kind treasure, someone's prized, priceless possession.
A segulah is not loved because it is valuable; no, a segulah is valuable because it is loved. Let me say that again. A segulah is not loved because it is valuable, "... you were the least of all the people." A segulah is valuable because it is loved. Because One dares to look it straight in the eye and say, "No matter what ... I ... love ... you!"
We all have things like this. Maybe it was that dirty old blanket you grew up with, or your first teddy bear. Maybe it was your first hockey jer-sey, or that one toy you loved more than anything else. Maybe it was that special dress you'll keep forever, or that photograph of a moment that meant so much to you.
We all have a segulah; something that we love, not because it is valu-able, but because it ours. This is what God says to you. To His people Israel. His Church. You are my treasured possession. My segulah, and no matter what – I -- love -- you.
And this is critical, because as Israel stands on the plains of Moab lis-tening to the book of Deuteronomy, they are about to enter the Promised Land filled with enemies called Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And these enemies are going to tempt Israel into dis-counting everything God has said and done. They are going to tempt them, and Israel is going to fall. What God had called priceless--his Word, his cov-enants, his presence, his steadfast-love ... his people—all these treasures were quickly deleted and discarded when they entered the Promised Land. Israel forgot they were segulah – they didn't believe it – so they were chewed up and spit out.
You and I have enemies too. We face the same kinds of temptations, and yes, we fall. Our chief enemy doesn't even want to make our life miser-able here. He just wants us to let go of God's things – His Word, His cove-nant, His presence, His steadfast love – His people. Satan wants you to be comfortable with your life, as long as you are loosening your grip on God's Word. Is everything in the Bible really true? Has God really revealed His eternal will regarding life? Regarding sexuality? Regarding things that are good and bad for my eternal well-being? Am I really His treasured posses-sion? It is so easy to forget. So easy to get mixed up – to intermarry with all the worthless words of the world. But we do it, just like Israel, and we find ourselves living life unnoticed ... in an average kind of hell.
But the burning bush and the exodus were just the prelude and the first act and the warm-up and the spring training to another choosing and reclaiming and redeeming. And this final plan of rescue also involved a No-body who became, "the least of all the people."
Oh, don't get me wrong. At one point he had been Somebody. He had been Mr. Somebody. Angels worshiped him saying, "Holy, holy, holy!" The apostle John told us, "All things were made through Him." St. Paul con-fessed, "He is the image of the invisible God." Oh, He was Somebody alright!
But Pharisees plot with Sadducees. Detractors say he's demon pos-sessed. His brothers ride and ridicule him. And for 30 pieces of silver he's sold away like a slave.
In Gethsemane Jesus loses all his friends. At Gabbatha he loses the skin and muscle off his back. And at a hill called Golgotha he loses the pres-ence of his Father. Blood-soaked and spiked to the wood, his lungs are screaming for air.
Look ... again. Spit and sweat are caked to his cheeks. His lips are cracked and swollen. Stretched nerves threaten to snap as death twangs her morbid melody. Passers-by mock him, "King, ha - This guy is one, huge, un-noticed ... Nobody!"
Our Savior's death means that he says, just here, just now, "My dear, dear, dear segulah ... No matter what ... I will always love ... you!"
And this is no sentimental or syrupy love. But a fierce love ... for you ... driven by nails, marked with scars, crowned with thorns, and sealed in Holy Baptism. Yes, you have fallen – but then there was blood and water and Spirit – a pouring hand and a promise of eternal grace and God - chose you. (really pause)
All of this means that you are not just ... anybody. It means you are more than just ... somebody. And it means that no one in this place is an un-noticed ... nobody. No. That's not you. Not here, not now, not ever. For Christ has come. He has been crucified for you. And His Word will always be true. "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peo-ple belonging to God." In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr