October 2, 2022
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
He could not sleep, so he got up and went outside. As he walked around, he saw one of his female neighbors in a way only her husband ought to see her. The view brought him to ask out about her. Then they met, and shortly after, she, a married woman, let him, a married man, know they were expecting, and they were not the only ones who knew what had happened.
When you lose something, you search for it until you find it. Jesus knew this and used this simple truth in two parables recorded in our Gospel reading from Luke 15. First, Jesus spoke of a shepherd who lost one of his sheep and went to find it. Second, he spoke of a woman who lost a silver coin and searched her house for it. At the end of the first parable, the shepherd finds the lost sheep and rejoices, and then Jesus said, 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Then, at the end of the second parable, the woman finds her lost coin and rejoices, and then Jesus said, 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” In these two parables, the lost things represented people, souls, who are lost to sin and the dangers of unbelief, but God wants them to be found, to hear of his forgiveness through Jesus, to repent, to trust in him and be welcomed with rejoicing in heaven and on earth.
Searching for what is lost comes naturally, unless you feel what is lost does not deserve to be found. Hearing the parables of lost sheep and lost coins, and the rejoicing over them brings to mind a beautiful picture. Yet, Jesus was making a point about sinful people. When sins cause someone to be lost, finding them to share forgiveness and picturing rejoicing is not easy. In the real-life account recorded in our Old Testament reading from Exodus 32, we hear God’s anger at the lost, sinful people of Israel. After God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt with ten miraculous plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, they arrived at Mount Sinai where Moses went up to get direction from God. While Moses was gone, the Israelites became impatient waiting for him to return. They were like any of us watching the swirling circle on a screen waiting for something to load quickly becoming impatient. The Israelites gave up waiting for Moses and trusting in God. Instead, they asked Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make them a god, and he made a golden calf. Israel worshipped this calf shaped piece of metal, while standing before Mount Sinai which was smoking and on fire with the presence of God. After watching this happen, we read,
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.” 9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”Exodus 32:7,9-10
If you were Moses listening to the God who sent the ten miraculous plagues and parted the Red Sea on the mountain that was on fire and smoking from God’s presence who offered to wipe on this wicked people and make you into a great nation, then you would have some things to consider before going down to the lost, sinful Israelites to ask them to repent and turn back to God.
The sins of Israel did not make sense. When you consider all the Israelites had seen God do, it seems strange that they would turn away from God to serve a golden calf forged in a fire, designed by a man and unable to move, speak or think. However, Israel’s situation was not simply based on logic or reasoning. It was affected by sin. Sin does not make sense. Sin chooses what is wrong, evil and selfish. From our perspective, it might be easy to think, if we were in Moses’ position, that he should remain silent or even cheer God on as he destroyed the wicked people. Plus, God offered to make Moses into a great nation to replace Israel. Yet, we must stop because our sins also do not make sense. You and I also deserve God’s fierce anger to destroy us. For all those times you have questioned why God has not given you some miraculous sign like the ones given to Israel so that you would know he is there, which would then keep you from putting your trust in other things, this is God’s response in Psalm 19,
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.Psalm 19:1-4
God created the universe that you live in, see, hear, feel and experience every moment of every day, and it is incredible, vast, complex, beautiful and able to call you out for the foolishness of not trusting in God, as Paul wrote in Romans 1, 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. In our impatience each day, we turn from God to trust in and serve gods of our own design. You may have noticed that the confession of sins at the beginning of the worship service centered around the ways we have broken the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods.” As strange as it sounds, you and I have done what the Israelites did at the base of Mount Sinai. You and I have idols in our lives that we serve, whether money, people, politicians, etc. We have sinned against God and deserve the results of his anger in hell.
As much as our sins do not make sense, God’s response to our sins is even more outrageous. We hear Moses’ response to God’s anger in Exodus 32,
11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? … Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’”Exodus 32:11-13
Moses showed his heart of love for lost souls and turned to the only one who could spare Israel from destruction, God himself. And God did not destroy them because he had promised to make Israel a great nation. Thus, Israel was spared, not because of their faithfulness, but because of God’s faithfulness. And God has the same response for your sins through someone greater than Moses. In Isaiah 53, we read,
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.Isaiah 53:5-6
Jesus stood between you and God to stop his anger from destroying you for turning away from him like sheep wandering away from the flock. Jesus was pierced, crushed, punished and wounded on the cross for the sins of Israel, your sins and the sins of all the world. God was faithful to his promise to make a great nation with an eternal inheritance. You will live at peace with God forever in heaven through Jesus.
Filled with the love of God we search for lost sinners. So often, we picture the lost sinners as someone distance from us or someone we have not yet met, but do not forget about those closest to you. In our New Testament reading from 2 Corinthians 2, the congregation was dealing with one of their own, a man who was lost and had been found, but many were not allowing him to move on even though he had repented of his sin. Paul wrote,
6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.2 Corinthians 2:6-8
When there is repentance, forgive, comfort and rejoice. This is especially true in marriage. Every marriage is between a sinful husband and a sinful wife. Both will grow impatient when the wedding vow promises are not kept. Both will not want to pursue the lost. Both will not want to see their own lost, sinful ways. Both will miss out on the joy of forgiveness when standing in judgment of one another as if God were only angry at the other. Instead, chase after one another. Instead, picture standing at the base of Mount Sinai staring at the golden calf and the huge mountain of smoke and fire where God was speaking with Moses. Do not hold onto your selfish, sinful idols. Confess your sins to one another, be honest, be patient, forgive, keep the matters of your marriage private, build trust and love one another as a forgiven brother and sister in Christ. Then, live in the peace and joy of God’s forgiveness.
The man and woman were not faithful to the promise made in their marriages. They had conceived a child outside of marriage, and someone else knew about it. God knew what they had done. Yet, God did not destroy David and Bathsheba, but sent one of his prophets, Nathan, to confront David with their sin and he repented. The words of our Psalm for today, Psalm 51, were written after Nathan confronted David, we read,
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.Psalm 51:10-12
We are unfaithful to God and would be lost to our sins if not for Jesus. He is faithful to forgiving, restoring, sending the Holy Spirit and giving us joy. Eternal life in heaven is yours through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection because God is faithful to his promise. Amen.