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Monday, February 2, 2015

02012015 Septuagesima Sunday

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

February 1, 2015
Putting God to the Test!
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

            Since Sarah is in Kindergarten, I thought that she would attend school for her first official year, learn how to play well with other kids, start mastering her numbers and letters and maybe even begin to learn to read.  When we received her first report card, I was in for a shock.  It wasn’t that she had gotten bad grades or been sent to the principals office.  The standards of learning that are used presently require the use of a four letter word, ‘test’.  Kids these days like Sarah take a test in order to determine how well they know their colors, their numbers, how well they write with a pencil or cut with scissors and even if they can count to 100 by 10’s.  But still, a test for a standard could be a good thing, but for the Israelite people from our lesson this morning, ‘Putting God to the test’ isn’t as positive as one might think.

            God creator of the Universe, giver of the Israelites very life, Who had a vision of what would occur in the future was being put to the test by them.  Consider the Israelite people had been enslaved in Egypt by Pharoah.  Moses had been born and God had used Moses to rescue them and deliver them from bondage.  These same people had experienced the plagues that God had sent including, water into blood, frogs, flies, boils, locusts and even hail.  Then the first celebration of Passover, where the Angel of Death took the first born child of every home that did not place blood on the door post.  And the people of God had escaped into the Wilderness.

            Now after all of the miracles God had performed through Moses, because they didn’t have water to drink or to bathe in or give their animals, they were complaining.  Was it a thirst of their body, or a lack of faith they had that God would provide for them?  Probably all of the above, for the Israelite people asked a simple, but profound question, “Is the Lord among us, or not?”  They were putting God to the test and testing God and His resolve to help them.

            How often do we do the same thing?  How often do we pray, “God if you will only…”?  More than likely this occurs daily, if not every hour of every day by a lot of people.  Whether it is the tests that we took when we were in elementary or high school, the wrestling matches or basketball games we played, or even in our relationships.  When we saw the pretty girl who worked in the next room or we saw walking down the street.  Even in the Ultimate Life, the story line revolves around an encounter by Red Stevens and his asking the girl out that he had seen walking down the main street of town.

            But what happens, when we don’t get the response, the outcome or what our heart desires from our ‘test of God’.  Whether of grades, the crop we planted and tended all winter or summer or even the match with an opponent.  We quickly judge God and blame God and doubt God even cares for or about us.  We doubt God, because He is the easy target.  God is the one Who we can hurl insults, innuendo and anger at verbally and try even physically but even in our mind, heart and spirit by our doubt of His existence.

            Clearly we are no different than the Israelite people.  For the Israelite people, they had a challenge that we cannot claim today.  If you read carefully, our text is from the Book of Exodus.  Though they had experienced God in clear and unmistakable ways, they did not have any written ‘laws’, except what was on their heart.  For the 10 Commandments had not been carved on the stone on top of the mountain as of yet.  But we who gather here today are not only separated by 3500 years, but we have laws, including, the Ten Commandments and even a text we call the Holy Bible.  But we still like the people of Israel, ‘put God to the test’!  We doubt God, because unlike the Israelite people who had personally experienced God’s miracles and salvation from the Egyptians and Pharaoh, we have not had a clear and tangible experience with God.  Or have we?

            When the Israelite people ‘tested God’, they had experienced God through the work of Moses.  Moses was clearly the intermediary between God and Man, but clearly, Moses was just a man.  But for we who gather here at Emmanuel today, we have a greater intermediary.  It is Jesus Christ.

            Today as we gather around the table of our Lord, we receive not only the gift of grace and mercy of Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood, but especially the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.  It is in, through and by our receipt of the gift of Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood around the altar that we have the most profound and tangible experience with Jesus Christ, short of our being in heaven.  Yes, it isn’t like being hugged by our parents or children.  It isn’t like our going on a cruise or learning how to make cabinets.  But what we receive from the altar this morning in, with and under the bread and wine, of the True Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, clearly and radically changes everyone who receives it.

            No longer do we have to question or discern whether God is doing what He promised to do or put God to the test like the Israelite people.  Because as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.  In the meal we receive today we proclaim that God ultimately sacrificed His Son, Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary in order that we might be set free.  We no longer are bound by this world and the human desire to question and put God to the test.  When we receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we proclaim, Jesus fulfilled the promises of God for all time.

What we then have the opportunity to do is not just believe that the promise is fulfilled, but we can live that.  And this is exactly what will drive Satan crazy.  Unlike the Israelite people who questioned God at every move, every opportunity and every twist and turn in the path that led to Israel, we who gather here today can go on faith and trust in the fulfillment found in Jesus Christ.  For Jesus Christ is not only the Rock that our church is built upon, but Jesus Christ is the Rock of our Salvation that holds us up and will never let us down.  The Israelite people didn’t have a book to follow, a story of a Savior, nor a building to go in and worship their God.  But we do!

God wants us to worship Him, trust Him and not put Him to the test.  For God has been faithful and fulfilled His promise of His Son Jesus Christ.  And God passed the ultimate test with and by His offering His Son Jesus Christ, not for a select few, but for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

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