Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sermon for November 22-23

The Sunday of Fulfillment
November 22-23, 2008
Text: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20, 24

Dear Friends in Christ,
Every so often there is a story in the paper about a registered sex offender being released into the community. What is the reaction? Fear. Anger. Often such people, when they are released into the community take a great deal of abuse. Since our current laws make few distinctions, and “sex offender” covers a vast array of things, this reaction may or may not be deserved. But let us set that matter aside and consider those cases where the person has done truly terrible things, say to children. These would be the classic pedophiles. Why is there fear? Well, they might do it again. Well, so what? Why are we concerned about this? Because what they do injures others in a profound way. Or more simply, we could rightly say that what they have done is evil. Plain and simple. They have done evil. And so that they don’t do evil again, we want them walled off from their potential victims. We divide those who have done evil from those who have not. We are judgmental toward them. This is what we do in the realm of civil righteousness - that is good and evil before the world. We would consider it insane to let these evil people wonder about freely in society. Yet, how many people, seem shocked when God does the same thing? Surely God would not condemn anyone. Surely God would not punish any one. Why not? If we do this among men, and it is indeed good and right, why is it so shocking that God would do the same thing?

Our text tells two very important things about God. We will take the text backwards and start with the second half. “Therefore, thus says the LORD GOD to them: ‘Behold, I, I Myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep... And I will judge between sheep and sheep.’” God will judge between the people of the world. We learn here that the fat sheep have oppressed the lean sheep. That’s how they have made themselves fat. They have scattered the lean sheep by their abuse. So such abusive sheep will be condemned. They will be cast out of the pasture. By this Christ is saying that He will divide good and evil people. And the evil people will be cast out of heaven. They will not be allowed to be around God’s people. This is to protect God’s people from further abuse. The implication here is that the people in hell would still like to injure God’s people if they could. This is why it is imperative that God do this. It is actually a mark of God’s grace toward’s His people that He shuts evil people up in hell. God’s people can never be harmed again.

But wait, doesn’t God make everyone holy in heaven? If one gives a gift do they ever force another person to take it? What of those who don’t want to be made holy? Does God ever force this upon them? The implication here is no. God doesn’t force His good gifts upon anyone, though He offers them to all. So what do you do with a person who chooses to remain in their sin? What do you do with a person, who, even at the gates of eternity, refuses give up the evil in their heart? Salvation is a gift of God that does not come by our choice or decision, but condemnation to hell is always our choice. Do not ponder this saying, this doesn’t make sense. It is not ours to fully understand how this works. It is ours to confess what the Scriptures say. If it doesn’t make sense to human logic, then we must say that our reason is simply clouded by our sins. To God this makes perfect sense, even if it does not makes sense to us.

In short, God does in eternity, what we do in time. God separates the evil from the righteous. He does this to protect the righteous. One of the joys of heaven is that we will never again be troubled by those who would do evil against us.

The first half of our text is a statement of great promise. God will gather His people. Though evil people oppress God’s people and scatter them throughout the world, God will find them. He will gather them back together and He will appoint David to be their king and shepherd. Now here we must understand how to read Biblical prophecy. The prophet Malachi offered the very last prophecy of the Old Testament - that the Prophet Elijah would come and proclaim the arrival of the Messiah. But Christ Himself tells us that this Elijah was John the Baptist. So also here. It is not speaking literally of David. But it is speaking of someone who will be like David - a Davidic king. A successor to David. This was quite a promise as the heirs of King David had, almost to a man, turned to great sins. The kings who had followed David were the fat sheep of our text. But there would be an heir to David’s throne who would truly be king and shepherd to God’s people. This Son of David is none other than Jesus Christ. This Davidic king and shepherd would gather God’s people together and He will rule over them, protect them, and provide for them. It didn’t matter how far afield God’s people were scattered. He would regather them from the ends of the earth. God’s people would again be gathered before His throne. This was a rich promise to the people of Judah facing exile in Babylon. It is an even richer promise to us. No earthly power can take us out of God’s reach. Regardless of what calamity happens in this life, all those belong to Christ will be before His throne in the halls of heaven.

This promise that God will regather His people is certain because He has said it. We must not forget the effect of God saying something. God’s words are not simply truth. They call the very thing they say into being. When God said let there be light there was light. This is the nature of God’s Word. So when God says that in Christ, He will regather His people and bring them into the halls of heaven, it is certain and unchangeable.

Today we come to the end of another church year. As always we consider here at this time the last things. In the words of Ezekiel the prophet, we have great warnings and great promises. Those who reject Christ, will be condemned. They will be condemned so that they can do no further harm to God’s people. What will Christ do for God’s people, those who have placed their trust in Him? He will regather them and take them home to the promised land of heaven. There Christ, the Son of David, will be our king and shepherd. We will be at peace. We will have this peace because those who would harm us have been walled off from us. They will no longer have access to us. We will be protected from them.

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