Saturday, August 4, 2012
Who do you think Jesus is? What about your friends? What about your family? What about your acquaintances? What about your enemies? Who do THEY think Jesus is? We know that he is God. What do our enemies think about God? They want to grab onto any negative aspect they can find about God and make that their platform for attack. One of my friends is having an online discussion with someone who keeps repeating the same attack: if God allows for evil, then he must be evil.
God doesn't need us. He made us for his pleasure, but he doesn't need us. He could do away with the whole thing, if he wanted, but he loves us, and wants to have a relationship with us. However, he has a reputation, and when we sin, as Christians, we are always pointing to God, and our enemies can grab a hold of that sin, and say to the world, “this guy's God lets him get away with evil.”
Today's Old Testament reading was supposed to be Nathan's condemnation of David, but we covered that last week, so I wanted to talk about what happens next. I think verse 14 of chapter 12 of second Samuel is an important verse, because this is an actual “lost in translation” verse. In our bulletin we read, “by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord.” This is very general. What does “scorn” mean? How did David “scorn” God? We look at what he did with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite, and we say, “that is how he scorned the Lord.” But then we get into saying, “so David's sin is worse than other sins?” when we know that God looks down on ALL sin as repulsive. We fall into the trap of starting to rate sin, rate the commandments, and we become legalistic all over again.
What is lost in translation is that the original Hebrew, and about half of the English translations, actually read, “by this deed you have caused the Lord's enemies to blaspheme.” This is very important to note, because God has forgiven David his sin. He says through Nathan that David is not going to taste eternal death. He will live and have a place in God's kingdom. David has truly repented and will have everlasting life.
BUT. The Lord's reputation among the pagan nations is important, just as it is NOW among the whole world. All through the Old Testament and through history, God has showed his glory to the world. He rescued his people out of Egypt in such a phenomenal way that everyone had to take notice of what a powerful God he was. And when Israel itself began to sin and follow other Gods, he allowed them to be killed, captured, and taken into exile, because the world must know that Yahweh is a God of truth, of goodness, and justice. He abhors evil. He does not allow even his chosen people to get away with it. This is a message for the world.
And so the child, the product of David and Bathsheba's illicit love affair must die. Don't weep for the child. The child most assuredly went straight to heaven. This is not karma, because in this case, karma would have been David tasting death. But this is karma for the pagan nations. They will see that Yahweh punishes evil, even when it appears in his own camp. Our God is a good God. What the people outside of God's chosen think of God is VERY important to him, because among those outsiders...among those outsiders are INSIDERS.
Even in our day and age, there are God's elect spread throughout the nations. America does not have a stranglehold on belief. There are more believers in Africa and Asia right now. Our behavior in America is not changing the hearts of the elect throughout the world, but the elect in Africa and Asia are changing OUR hearts back to the Lord.
So, the death of the baby in second Samuel is not an act of karma by the Lord but an act of evangelism. The world must be made aware of how our Lord is just and good. There will be those who will never believe that the Lord is good, no matter how much evidence is presented to them, but among those who are lost to the kingdom are those who have been immersed in that negative culture, but whom God is gathering to himself. He is a true and good Lord. He will surely accomplish his goal.
One last word about God's reputation. It works both ways. We see this in our Gospel reading (John 6). Just as there are elect outside the church who need to brought into the church through God's word, there are those inside the church who are “going with the flow”, “getting along to get along” who are not called by God. The gospel—the full gospel—the unaltered gospel message—is offensive to them, and by saying the truth in love to those people, by preaching Christ crucified and not ourselves, they actually are driven away.
Jesus does this very thing. The crowd in John 6 is pressing in on him, and it is a huge crowd. It is the same crowd that were fed with the loaves and fishes, so over 5,000. When Jesus claims to be the “Bread of Life” and that we have no life in us if we do not eat his flesh and drink his blood, it's not just the Jews that get offended. No, verse 60 says, “when many of the disciples heard it, they said, 'This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?'” And verse 66 says, “Because of this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” How many left him? The next verse has Jesus asking the twelve is they plan to leave, too, which may mean that EVERYONE left, except the twelve.
Even then, Jesus knows that there is one among them, who is not leaving, whom God has NOT called, who is not one of the elect—Judas Iscariot. This “bread of life” teaching of Jesus has started the wheels turning in Judas' head. As he watches the crowd of 5,000 leave them, he also sees the donations to the moneybag—which he carries—dissipate, too. This was not in the plan, he thinks. We were supposed to gather people and money so we could afford and carry out the revolution, he thinks. And now, I'm watching it all walk away. This is NOT what I signed up for, and Jesus just blew it. The time of betrayal is drawing near.
God's reputation is so important, because it will draw is elect to him from the fallen world, or it will drive his enemies out of the church. There is no half-way. There is no Luke warm. We are either FOR God or AGAINST him. It is God's reputation and how we preach that reputation to the world that makes the case for Christianity. Our God is a God who is just and good, and he will allow an infant to die to preserve that reputation. Our God is also the bread of life, and we must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have life in us. Our God was also CRUCIFIED on our behalf. If those things do not offend you, if they make sense, welcome to the Church.
Posted by Rev. Fredric Barrett at 12:43 PM