Pentecost 2, 2016
“This is God's House and this is His Word”
1 Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43 & Galatians 1:1-12
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The land of Canaan was filled with many nations and peoples. There were the Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites, Hivites, Girgashites, Perizzites, and Philistines. These were the nations God defeated to give the Israelites the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and their descendents. These people, like the Egyptians who enslaved them, did not believe in the true God. Instead they believed in many gods…gods of their own creation…gods formed by their imagination.
Before the Israelites went into the land of Canaan Scripture records the false belief of the people. “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12)
The Israelites were given the 10 commandments. They were not to be like the other people and nations around them. They were to believe in one God, not many. They were to trust in God to provide for them. They would worship God alone and keep His commandments. While the people around them were morally loose, sacrificing their own children, cutting themselves to spill blood to their god, having temple prostitutes, and the like…the Israelites were to obey God’s laws. Those laws are still looked on by non believers as “taking the fun out of life.” Other religions gave in to the lusts of this world and centered around them.
Our Old Testament text occurs after King Solomon finished building the Temple to God. The ark and the tabernacle had been placed in the holy of holies. Sacrifices had been made for the people. “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart; you have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day.” (1 Kings 8:22-24)
“There is no God like you.” The Holy Trinity is unlike all other gods. There is no God like our God. But what is it that makes our God different…for we too have a God that demanded sacrifices. We too have a God that we pray to make it rain…or stop raining; heal, grant children, and bless us. Other believed in false gods and prayed to them for these things as well.
A man in Scotland spent the day fishing and stopped at an inn in the evening for refreshments and also for an audience with which to share his fish stories. As he described the one that got away with the usual hand gestures to indicate the size of the fish, he flung his hands out without watching where they were going. As he did so, he struck a waitress who was about to set a cup of tea on the table. The cup and its contents were dashed against the wall and immediately an ugly brown stain appeared on the white surface.
The fisherman was embarrassed and apologized profusely. But one of the guests got up from the table and said, “Never mind.” He took a pen from his pocket and began to sketch around the brown spot. Soon there emerged a picture of a magnificent royal stag with huge stately antlers. The artist was Sir Edward Landset, famous painter of animals in England.
In a way, that is what God does with us. Our sinfulness has stained us and the world around us. The ugliness of sin is everywhere. God, like the painter, makes us beautiful. He takes the darkness and ugliness of sins upon himself to the cross. Through Christ all our sins are washed away and we are forgiven.
There is no God like our God. God answered the prayers of Solomon. God kept His promise to continue the lineage of Israel’s kings in the house of David. God indeed heard the prayers of the people as they prayed at the Temple and towards the temple where God deigned to dwell. God heard the cries of the people and forgave their sins.
There is no God like our God. Even as the Israelites fell away from their faith in the true God…our God remained faithful. Even as His chosen people began worshipping Baal; a Canaanite god…our God remained faithful. Even as the kings of Israel promoted false gods and set up altars to them…our God remained faithful. Even as the people were punished, the nation overthrown, and the people enslaved…our God remained faithful.
God sent the faithful Israelites and us a King in the lineage and house of David. God sent us His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God in the flesh, our Immanuel, remained faithful unto death on the cross. Jesus was born to save us. He lived for us. He died on the cross for us. Our Heavenly Father raised Jesus from the dead for us.
In Christ we are made beautiful. In Christ, God died for us. In Christ we are made children of God. In Christ we are forgiven. In Christ heaven is ours. There is no God like our God…for our God loves us, our God forgives us, our God died for us.
God is still with us, He hears our prayers, He helps us and loves us. God still dwells within His house for us. For here, in this place; His holy house, God dwells with us in His Word and in Jesus’ very body and blood. This is God's House and this is where God's Word is proclaimed. And what is that Word? What does God have to say to miserable sinners like us? God's Word tells us that: "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." (Isaiah 1:18) God's Word tells us how that happens too: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:16-17)
There is no God like our God. For our God, the true God, loves you. No matter how wicked you have been, no matter how ugly your sinfulness is…God loves you…and sent Jesus who died and rose for you. God hates sin. But loves you so much that He blesses you with His grace, things you don't deserve, as well as mercy, sparing you from eternal damnation which you do deserve by placing His wrath upon Jesus. There is no God like our God who gave up His Son for us. His love, grace, mercy, and blessings are found here in His House and they are proclaimed in His Word. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.