Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sermon for August 9-10

The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 9-10
Text: Job 38:4-18

Dear Friends in Christ,
In the United States we are proud of our egalitarianism. That can be good. For example, why should we show deference to an incompetent oaf who just happens to have been born king or duke of this or that or named Kennedy. Many nobles are among the most unaccomplished people on earth. We could look, example to Louis XVI of France or Nicholas I of Russia. Both were clueless as their countries were overrun by revolution. They didn’t even have the good sense to run away. Our egalitarianism can also be bad. At the fair this year, I had a guy try to say he knew more theology than I did because he had taught Sunday School and was on a church council somewhere. I asked him if he had studied Greek and Hebrew and spent four yeas studying under world class theologians? This doesn’t mean that pastors or other experts are never wrong. But if one is going to argue against them, you’d better have some bases for your complaint. I think of the heroic, faithful laymen at the time of the Seminex battle in our synod. They would say, “No I don’t have a degree from Harvard or Oxford of some such place. But here is what the Small Catechism says and we are both sworn to this as the true confession of our faith.” They treated the theologians respectfully, with deference, but they still held to the truth. They pointed to an authority to which both they and the theologians were bound. All too often today there are people who are determined to show their ignorance and treat all learning with contempt. This is the dark side of American egalitarianism.

Our text is best described as a rant. It is a rant given by Christ Himself. It is spoken to Job. Job had come to a point where he had not lost faith in God, but did begin to question God and challenge God’s justice. Then God appeared to Job in a whirlwind. We know that this is God the Son, that is Christ, because, as Christ Himself tells us, no one has seen the Father, except the Son. (John 6:46) Christ here should not be seen as angry with Job so much as peeved. He had come to get in Job’s face and tell him off.

Christ begins: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” While we think of creation as the work of God the Father, John 1 clearly teaches us that God the Son also participated in the creation of the world. Christ challenges Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” Christ if flashing His credentials. I have the right to come and tell you off. Why? Because I made everything including you. Christ continues His rant. “Who determined its measurements—surely you know!” The answer of course is that Christ determined the measurements of the foundations of the earth. In fact, Christ created the geometry to measure it. He further reminds Job that while the angels were singing for joy at the creation of the world, Job was not there. Christ continues: “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?” Here Christ is claiming that He created the laws of physics and is Lord over the laws of physics. Finally Christ asks: “Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?”

We live in a time of great arrogance. Many presume to know more about the origins of the earth than those who were there. Many presume to know what happens after death, though they have no real means to know this. Those who seek to know and understand death apart from Scripture often turn to spirits, seances, and the like. They might make contact with something, but have no means to know if it is the spirit of the dead, the spirit if deception, or an evil spirit. They are playing with things they do not and cannot understand. Many presume to know the nature of God apart from what God has revealed. They reject the scriptures, but then spout mindless platitudes about the love of God. In the darkness of their minds they glorify the vile behavior men, worship the creation instead of the creator and invent a false god or more often goddess in the image of sinful mankind. To all this Christ simply says: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”

The reality is that we can only know what God Himself has revealed to us. We were not there when the Three Persons of the Trinity gathered in counsel and said: “Let us make man in our own image.” But God tell us this in Genesis 1:26. Christians have understood for two thousand years that there is no knowledge of God apart from Jesus Christ and there is no knowledge of Christ apart from Holy Scripture. We weren’t there. Someone has to tell us about these things. So God sent holy men to write Scripture, so that we would have a reliable record of these things. God sends pastors to teach God’s people. God’s sends faithful parents and grandparents to share these things with their children and grandchildren. It can be something as simple as reading from a Bible story book to them. Our knowledge of who God is, what God has done, and what God promises to do, comes to us totally from outside of ourselves. It is revealed knowledge. We must never forget this. For we were not there when Christ laid the foundations of earth.

Why does it matter if we know what God has revealed? Because God is not only our maker, but also our redeemer. We are sinners. That is why so many arrogantly reject what God has revealed. That is a symptom of the sinfulness of mankind. God as creator is also judge. It’s the old Bill Cosby line - l brought you into this world, I can take you out of this world and make another one just like you. In God’s case this is literally true. Since God made us and not we ourselves, we under His judgement. And indeed Christ will judge and Christ will condemn. But Christ is not only a righteous judge. He’s revealed something else to us as well. He is our redeemer. He has taken our sins upon Himself. He has died on the cross as payment for our sins and risen to life again for our salvation. This gift is intended for all mankind. It becomes reality for those who trust in Christ rather than themselves.

If we were to update Christ’s words to Job and apply them to the people of today, it might sound like this. “Hey, dummy, listen up! You think you’re so smart! Were you around when the world was made? What do you know about it? Nothing. Because you weren’t there. You weren’t there when I made the world. You weren’t there when I created Adam and Eve. You weren’t there when I was born in Bethlehem. You weren’t there when I cried from the cross ‘It is finished.’” All too often we presume to know things by our own power. But this is not possible. All these things must be revealed to us. All too many in our age reject what God has revealed. That truly is a dumb thing to do. Because knowledge of Christ is not just about creation. It is also about redemption. If we know Christ, as He has revealed Himself, we know that He is our maker, our judge, and most of all our redeemer.

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