O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Where does judgment come from? From heaven or from man?
Where does judgment come from? From heaven or from man?
Based on Ez. 18:1-4, 25-32 and Mt. 21:23-27
Preached on September 28, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, a number of years ago I was sent a video with the title "must see." It was about a man in court, the defendant, who challenged the judge in his ruling. He had just received his sentence - 300 hours of community service - but apparently, he didn't like it. In his opinion, he had been wronged and he was quick to let the judge know. He dropped some snarky remark as he made way to leave the court. But the judge ordered for him to be brought back to the mic. "What did you say?" the judge asked. The man sheepishly repeated his remark. "I hold you in contempt of court," the judge ruled further, "Do you have anything to say?" "No," he responded. "Then, I sentence you to sixty days in the county jail." "Bailiff, take this man away before he gets into any more trouble." The man had made a critical mistake, hadn't he? He forgot that he was the defendant and not the judge.
Now, I gotta tell ya, when I was watching the video, I couldn't help but think to myself - What are you doing? Just keep your mouth shut. I marvelled at the nerve this guy had to challenge the judge in his own courtroom. I just couldn't understand how he thought it could end well.
But it must've been a couple of days later that I realized I do the same thing. I had got really sick with the flu, and it totally took me out. I was down for days. Stuck. Sick. Sunk. All of life seemed to go on just great around me, as I lay trapped, missing out on everything. And all I could think was "why me?" Why me? Like it was an injustice that I was sick. Like this should never happen to me, because I am way above sickness. No, I know, it sounds ridiculous - it's as ridiculous as the guy in the courtroom, but it is exactly what I felt, even what I prayed. Because according to my own view of myself, according to sinful Old Adam within me - I'm pretty good - I don't want to admit that I have to keep changing the rules so that I can say that to myself - but I think I'm a good person. I think I have a righteousness in me that should keep bad things away. So my sinful heart's automatic response to this trial was "why me?"
Why me? Not let it be done to me according to your Word. Not you are the Lord of my life and I trust you. Not faith. But why me? The words of my flesh. (And just as a side note: I've noticed I never ask why not me, or why didn't that happen to me when something terrible happens to someone else - just why me in the moment something befalls me.)
But this is not new. In our Old Testament lesson, 2500 years ago, the house of Israel, God's people, are quoted saying, "the way of the Lord is not just." You see Lord, we've got together and we've determined that the way you do things isn't the right way. You need to change. You need to come back to the microphone and prove yourself to us. Show us. Show me. Why should I believe in you? Go ahead. I will be the judge of this.
Do you know who's words these are? They are your great-grandfather's. Adam's. God's first. But the problem is Adam was not created to make judgments about what is right - he was created to trust God. And since the moment he made that critical mistake, from the moment he forgot that he was the creature and not the Creator, all of his children have been born treating God the same way. Born with hearts not enthroned by God and His judgments, but enthroned by Adam. Enthroned by self. Enthroned by me. I will tell you what is good and bad, what is right and wrong for me. I don't trust you Lord. In fact, I can't.
And so, each of us is left saying "the way of the Lord is not just." Each of us is left complaining "Why me?" Each of us is the ridiculous guy from the video, thinking we should be the one calling the shots, while the angels marvel at our nerve to challenge the judge in His own courtroom. They just can't understand how we think it will end well.
But now it's the judge's turn to speak. "Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed. Why will you die, O house of Israel? Why will you die?"
Finally! We are talking about what really matters. You are going to die. You're arguing about authority when your life is going to end, and there is nothing you can do about it. But I can, God proclaims, and I want to. I have a way. One in which you who deserve to die will live. One in which you who cannot trust Me will trust Me. One in which I will declare you innocent. Righteous. Clean.
And that way is Jesus. My Son who emptied Himself of authority for you. My Son who put Himself into injustice for you. My Son who was beat and scourged and spit on for you. Because I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD! Instead I die myself.
The way of the Lord is not just? You're right its not just. It is mercy. Free, undeserved mercy for you in Christ. The judgment of death upon Jesus and the judgment of life upon you. His faithfulness imputed to you and your faithless, doubting imputed to Him. So turn, and live.
This is what the judge says. Not - guilty! Not - the jailcell! But turn from your ways and trust My way. Trust what I say even more than what you think or what you feel. Trust My Word more than you trust your heart. Trust in My Son's death more than you trust in your life. Because this has always been about faith, about you trusting My judgments. Ever since Adam lost his trust for me in the garden, I have been working to give it back to you. For this is your salvation - that you trust Me. So hear my verdict and believe it: You are forgiven.
You are free. Gone are the days when you need to justify your actions. Gone are the days when you need argue with the judge, for you like His verdict. You know His Word is good. For He has taken His rightful place on the throne of your conscience, and there He will defend you from every judgment that can be made against you, even those you make against yourself. The judge is your friend. He is your Saviour. And it is His blood which promises you eternal life with Him. Come, taste, trust. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr