July 4, 2021
Pastor John Hering
20 Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on 21 and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
24 “‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
It’s the 4th of July and here you are in church! Did you happened to glance at the sermon theme for today? “One Nation Under God, Indivisible with Liberty and Justice For ALL!” and thought, “How cool! Today Pastor Hering is going to preach a sermon on our nation and blast those politicians and all the social injustices in our land!” Or maybe some fire and brimstone about deficit spending and run-away inflation! Or maybe you were hoping that I would have something to say about how corrupt presidents are and the people who follow them even to the point of becoming violent! Well, if that’s what you were expecting, you’re going to be disappointed. Today, I’m not going to talk about the 4th of July, fireworks or the flag. Today I’m not going to talk about our political scene but about the spiritual scene. Through Ezekiel the prophet we are going to listen to God speak to the Nation of Israel of long ago, and see how God’s Word still speaks to our Nation, yes, to each of us today. May the Holy Spirit cause us to listen as Ezekiel describes:
One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All
When you’re out shopping or in a restaurant and watch parents discipline their children do you get frustrated? You might if you saw parents threaten to spank or give a time out, but never do. God is the perfect parent for Old Testament Israel. He threatened to punish them if they didn’t trust in him or follow his laws. He threatened to discipline them if they wanted to go their own way. They did and God said, “Okay – have it your way!” Then he shut off the faucet of love and mercy and turned on the faucet of oppression by evil empires (Assyrians for the Northern Kingdom and Babylonians for the Southern Kingdom) to carry them off into captivity. The Bible records some of the first Israelites doubting God’s threats even as they were getting carried off to Babylon (Jer 46:2 in 605 BC) saying, “God let us get captured, but he will never let Jerusalem get destroyed.” But, Ezekiel told them, “Turn on CNN or Fox News and you will see that Jerusalem has been destroyed!” (2 Kings 25:9 in 587 BC). What a horrible day for rebellious sinners to realize God doesn’t just threaten to punish, but God keeps his threats and punishes those who transgress his commandments!
You can well imagine the heartache, sorrow, regret and repentance. That’s when God gave Ezekiel this message to proclaim: “This is what the Lord God says…. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will be king for all of them….24 My servant David will be King over them, and they will all have one Shepherd. They will follow my ordinances and be conscientious about keeping my statutes. 25 They will live on the land I gave my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They will live there permanently—they, their children, and their grandchildren—and my servant David will be their prince forever.” Those who heard this prophesy knew King David’s ashes were in a tomb in Jerusalem. They knew he wouldn’t not be raised to life again until Judgment Day. But, we now know this prophesy was pointing to David’s greater Son, Jesus, the promised Messiah. It is our Ascended Lord Jesus that is in control of God’s Kingdom.
What a thrill for us to know that Jesus rules over all things for us! He rules with compassion and love, power and might, threats and promises. Let’s make it personal. When politics, economics, health, and wealth come and go, when life seems likes its unraveling, when you’re bombarded with deteriorating relationships, missiles of job pressure, torpedoes of bills and life without thrills, Jesus comes and says to you, “You are still One Nation Under God. You are in my kingdom! All the other relationships you have might go south, but your relationship with God guarantees you are going up….. to heaven! He reminds you that he has already taken on the pressures of your life, the disappointments, suffering and pain, and the debt of sin all to the cross on your behalf. You are One Nation Under God, for Jesus’ sake,
Are you surprised to hear me call God’s people “Indivisible”? Do you know the history of the 12 Tribes of Judah? We would hardly call them “One Nation Under God, indivisible!” If anything they were a house divided. And you know what Jesus said about a house that is divided against itself (Matt 12:25). A quick summary. They settled into the Promised Land as One Nation under the Judges and God’s Rule. Then soon after the reign of David & Solomon they divided into the Northern and Southern Kingdom. 10 to the North (code name Ephraim) and 2 to the South (code name Judah). The Northern Kingdom rotted away rather quickly. Due to being faithless and fruitless they were overrun by the Assyrians and wiped them out never to be heard from again. All that remained was Judah. They swirled around in the swamp of sin, too. God brought in Babylon to take away the skilled workers and leaders into captivity. Ezekiel was taken into captivity, too. And we can see why God would allow his prophet to be taken, too. They were getting their well-deserved punishment and captivity—and deserved even worse. But, God has a promise to keep, and he would be undivided in keeping that promise.
God gave Ezekiel the privilege of announcing the promise of restoration. Ezekiel was told to use a visual aid. He was to take two sticks and write the names “Ephraim” and “Judah” on the two sticks and hold them in one hand (Ez 37:16). When the people asked what in the world he was doing, he was to say, “21 Then say this to them. is what the Lord God says. I am going to take the people of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from all around, and I will bring them to their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will be king for all of them. Never again will they be two nations, and never again will they be divided into two kingdoms.” God kept his threats and he kept his promises, too. Israel was brought back to Jerusalem to rebuild their nation, but Ezekiel’s prophesy was pointing to something far greater! He was pointing to the work of the Savior. Jesus lived and died to save all of God’s people—Jews and Gentiles. Those who believed in Jesus then told more people this good news. God’s kingdom grew. This isn’t a nation of politics, walls or border guards, but a nation made up of all those united by the Holy Spirit who have undivided trust in Jesus. They are One Nation Under God, Indivisible. It is a nation we call the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints. Through the gospel of Jesus Christ we are all members of one body who share the blessings of Jesus Christ as Paul says, “6 This mystery is that in Christ Jesus the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and people who also share in the promise through the gospel” (Eph 3:6).
I remember one of the first sermons I ever preached in a church called St Andrew Lutheran Church in Chicago. It was a church of hundreds of members. I remember preaching in Daigo, Japan, with two Japanese men when we held “church” in my van! I remember preaching to a few Texans in a storefront in Rowlett, and then growing to having an average of over 100 in this building, and today preaching to about 30 or 40 in a service. All were members of God’s indivisible Church. And the devil hates that! He uses sin to tempt us to think we need something bigger, better, more social or even go church shopping for a prettier, or a church that has more social activities (I’m not saying these are bad), at the risk of not hearing the truth of God’s Word. But, God’s Church will stand indivisible on the truth of His Word and the faithful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This motivates us as One Nation Under God, Indivisible
With Liberty and Justice for All
The Nation of Judah was hauled off into exile but they still had some political and social freedom or liberty. They were not in prisons. They had freedom to work and worship as they pleased. Think of Daniel for instance. The Lord even told them to adopt the culture they were in and gain relationships in order to share the Good News of the Messiah’s coming. However, they had no freedom of conscience. That’s one of the reasons God had Ezekiel minister to them. He had to announce their guilt of sin due to their breaking of God’s law and deserving his punishment. But, Ezekiel also had to remind the people to look forward to their release and the covenant promise of the Messiah. “26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It will be an everlasting covenant with them. I will establish them, and I will multiply them and set my sanctuary in their midst forever.” God wanted his people to know that they were sinners, but they were not his enemies, but rather his chosen nation with whom God would establish peace, freedom and liberty. They could not do this work as rebellious sinners, but God’s promised Son, Jesus, would do the work. God the Father agreed to accept the perfect work of Jesus in order to established his gospel covenant with them. This covenant would last forever and nothing would get in it’s way. This amazing promise of grace and mercy would a take place on the cross and grant Liberty and Peace for All!
As believers in Jesus we enjoy all the benefits of this covenant. In our baptism the Lord granted you freedom and liberty from the chains of sin and the prison of eternal death. In Jesus Christ we have justice. God’s demands for the payment of sin were satisfied by our Savior. God declared us not guilty and granted spiritual freedom and justice. Then comes even more promises from God: “I will establish them, and I will multiply them and set my sanctuary in their midst forever. 27 My Dwelling Place will be over them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I, the Lord, make Israel holy when my holy place is in their midst forever.” God kept his promise through his chosen people, the people of Judah, and extended his promise to the spiritual nation called the Holy Christian Church, Zion, God’s Holy People! This is exciting business! “9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, the people who are God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9). Let’s be what God has made us and eagerly share Jesus with others! Why? In a recent survey (Barna.org) it says that 79% of people who were active in a church were NOT brought in by a pastor or program, but by friends and relatives that invited them. So, don’t be afraid to tell a friend or relative about the Liberty and Justice that is Ours in Jesus! Then let the Holy Spirit work on their hearts to make them a part of One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice For All!
It is the 4th of July! What a joy to know we are part of God’s eternal nation. But, for a moment let’s return to a focus on our nation. In the past 20 years we have experienced some tough times in the USA. The 9-11 attack, Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Harvey, Firestorms in California, Tornados, Covid-19, the Texas Winter Storm and the building collapse in Florida! Living is this country is wonderful. But, it isn’t life without political, social, economic and disaster fears. But, I can tell you this—even if our country is overrun by terrorist attacks or disasters, you are safe in God’s Nation. So, today we thank God for our nation, and rejoice that we are all believers in Jesus to form One Eternal Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All! Amen!