Sermon Date: September 8, 0911
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: Romans 11:13-32
The Christian Faith One Word at a Time: Grafted
Parents, do you think it’s good when children question a parent’s decision? I suppose it depends on the situation. There are times when a child can handle the reasons behind it, and so if he’s not being rebellious, you may very well explain the whole thing. It can help him when he has to start making decisions. But what if you want your seven year old to go to bed at 8:30, and he wants to stay up till 10? How does explaining your reasons work in getting him to bed without a hassle? Maybe not the greatest. But let’s look at this from the child’s point of view. Do you remember when you were little and your parents made decisions for you, you didn’t agree with? Did you ever think to yourself, “Unfair! All my friends get to stay up later, and when I’m a parent, I’m going to listen to my kids!” We may have thought such things. But somewhere between the ages of 20 or 30, we begin to realize our parents were pretty smart about a lot of things. We may even find ourselves saying to our children things our parents said to us like, “Because I said so!”
God is our Heavenly Father, we are His children. There are times when His decisions make absolutely no sense to us. We might even feel like He’s not listening to us or doesn’t care. This is where some of the people in our text were at. They had been asking: “If God is all powerful and saves people by grace, why isn’t He making some of my loved ones believers, why isn’t His word working in them? We may questions like that too. “Lord, why did you let this happen to me? Or, why haven’t you heard my prayers to help me?” We have been following a sermon series called, The Christian Faith One Word at a Time. Today’s word is worship. When there are things we don’t understand, God still wants us to worship Him. 1.Confess that we are sinful. 2.See His love for us at the cross. 3.Praise Him for His glory.
We read: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! Romans 11:32 Wisdom and knowledge are similar words. Wisdom is all the facts God holds in His mind. Knowledge in His pure intelligence in the way He acts on those facts. Now Paul had attempted to look down the well of God’s wisdom and knowledge. If anyone could have succeeded in seeing all the way to the bottom, it would have been Paul. His education in the Old Testament Scriptures was the best ever. Also, he had been personally trained by the resurrected Lord for three years, and some of that time was actually spent in heaven. However, even with everything Paul knew, the deeper he looked into the wisdom and knowledge of God, the more he realized he was just scratching the surface.
Anyway here is the surface that Paul could see. God knows our hearts better than we do. God knows the effects of sin on us better than we do. God also knows why He let Satan tempt man in the first place. But we need to trust God on this: our sins are not His fault. However our sins do merit us eternal separation from Him in hell. So, let’s go back to any “why” questions we might have. Instead of insisting on an answer from God that we understand, we won’t be able to understand, until we take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror of His Word. This is why we begin our worship services with a confession of sins. We confess that we are altogether sinful from birth, that we have sinned against God in countless way in our thoughts, words, and actions; and for this we deserve His punishment both here and in eternity. However facing these things in ourselves is painful. I wonder how much that pain keeps people from worshipping or when we do worship, they look for worship that doesn’t remind them of that pain and makes them “feel” good. Is feeling good in spite of the cancer of sin in us really helpful? But now let’s look again deep into the wisdom and knowledge of God, and see what He planned in eternity to do about our guilt.
His Son would become a human being, so that He could be holy in the place of all. In this way God would not be lowering His standards in making us His people, for we would have holiness, HIS own holiness. However God’s maintaining His justice wasn’t a matter of covering up our guilt with His Son. His Son also paid for our guilt with the awful sacrifice of Himself on the cross. But couldn’t a loving Father have found a more humane way of saving us than through the whippings, the crown of thorns, the nails, and making Him experience the very pains of hell? God’s wisdom says there was no other way. Now, we for our part may not fully understand that, but even when we don’t, see His love at the cross!
St. Paul put it this way: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32We don’t know when God is going to give us all things. Some is in this life. Much more will be in the life to come, but we can’t even fathom what all things might be. And so, here we might kick against God, and keep asking, “Why? Why? Why?” But as we look to the cross God silences us. He touches our hearts with His Word. He touches our bodies through the water and the bread and the wine, and He says to us, “See how much I love you.” And now seeing His love at the cross is what our worship services are all about. We see it in our hymns, the liturgy, the Creed, the Word and the Sacrament. But how often do we need to see His love? Well, how often do slip into sin? Or, how often does our conscience accuse us? Or, how often do we need strength to deal with things in our life? This is why God calls us to worship every week. And then as He helps us to trust His wisdom and love, there are many things about His Word and about our life that we do understand better and better.
However, even then we can run into situations that test our faith. Our text reads: How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Romans 11:33-34 In our Old Testament reading Moses’ faith was being tested. He understood it was God’s will that he lead the Children of Israel to the land of Canaan, where the promised Savior would be born. So, what happened when Moses began his work and did everything exactly as God told him to. Everything went south. The Pharaoh piles even more work on the Israelite and all of them got mad at Moses. Guess what question Moses then had for God? “What are you doing, God?” Moses would not see till after the fact that God was using Pharaoh’s hardness to be a blessing for all people. Through the ten plagues and the crossing at the Red Sea, God would strengthen the faith of His people. Furthermore even without the internet and cell phone cameras, news of what He did spread like wildfire, so that even Gentiles would be drawn to faith, and Rahab in Jericho being just one example.
God works the same way in our lives. So, when we’re trying to do God’s will and everything keeps going from bad to worse, let’s not question God. Rather let’s admit that He knows more than we do. One proof of this is the Doctrine of the Trinity. Volumes have been written on that topic by people who have spent their whole lives studying the Bible. Yet the best anyone can come up with is to simply restate what the Bible says, but no one can explain it. If we can’t understand things that God has revealed, why should we question Him about things He hasn’t revealed, things we may only begin to understand after a years of walking by faith a day at a time?
Now having said all this, it’s not wrong to ask our Heavenly Father, “Can’t this or that be done differently?” Jesus, our sinless brother did. He prayed three times, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me.” However, always remember how Jesus concluded His prayers. “Not my will, but your will be done.” So also for us, as long as we’re trusting God’s wisdom and love, we are worshipping Him when we tell Him what’s on our heart. In fact sometimes the very reason why God puts us a position, where it seems impossible that any good can come out of it, is He wants to work through our desperate prayers. At the same time He also wants us to keep digging deeper in His Word to know His will and His promises better. In the process we will also better see our sins and weaknesses and that our spiritual riches can’t save us. And then we will appreciate even more God’s wisdom and love, and the fact that only He can get us safely through this life to the Promised Land of heaven.
Now in all of this, God is preparing us for worship to praise Him for His glory. Taking time out in our busy week, praises His glory. Fully participating in the liturgy praises His glory. Our singing, even when our voices aren’t that great, praises His glory. And working at concentrating on message praises His glory, because worship isn’t just what we get out of it, it’s also the effort we put into it.
At the beginning I had talked about what we might say to a child who doesn’t think he’s ready for physical rest. Along these same lines, what do we say to a child who’s not ready for spiritual rest, who would rather be playing or sleeping in bed? We could say what our fathers might have said to us at times, “Because I said so.” “Because I said so”, isn’t entirely out of line with what our Heavenly Father says in the Third Commandment.“Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.”God grant that as we grow up that we will worship, not just because He says so, but because we want to. Here in the confession we acknowledge our sins what we deserve because of them. Here through the Word we learn to trust His wisdom and love. And here we glorify Him for all He has done and are strengthened to better glorify Him in our daily life.
But what if this just isn’t where we’re at yet? What if we’re feeling spiritually lazy inside? Well, stay with it, and don’t let any “why” questions hinder you. But stay with it, until our mouths drops in wonder and we join Paul in shouting from the heart, Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, for from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.