August 4, 2019
Pastor John Hering
Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.
I wonder which events in his life bothered him the most. Sure, he trusted in the Lord and knew it would all work out, but he certainly had his share of sad surprises. Maybe his worse memory was being sold as a slave. Or maybe it was the time he was falsely accused of sexual abuse and was thrown into jail for it. And then you have the disappointing story of a jail inmate. Remember how that went? One morning the inmate woke up looking all sad because he had a dream, and he was trying to make sense out of it. Then our man, Joseph, helped him understand his dream. Remember what he said? “Then Joseph said, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams” (Gen 40:8). God revealed the meaning of the dream to Joseph. “So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.” “This is what it means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days.13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer” (40:9-13). Then Joseph told the inmate to remember him when he was back in Pharaoh’s presence. And just when you think Joseph was going to catch a break by having the cupbearer remember him in jail and be his Good Samaritan, the story ends on yet another disappointing note: “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” (40:23). No one remembered Joseph, but God did.
People in need often live like Joseph—as forgotten people. All too often people, yes, we are like the cupbearer who learn of someone else’s story, hear about their needs, but for a variety of reasons and excuses we’re not the ones to help. I know, you’re busy with your own life and you just kinda forget about them. The Lord could say to us today, “Just go find someone in need and help them.” However, while the Lord is concerned that we are helping others, he also wants us to remember others for the right reason. Therefore, may the Holy Spirit lead you to:
Remember God’s Word in Your Life
1. In Your Hands 2. In Your Hearts
Remember God’s Word in Your Life in Your Hands
The Bible is full of examples of people helping other people. Moses came down Mt Sinai with this command: “If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it” (Ex 23:5). Or how about this one: “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you” (Lev 25:35). When the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites and as long as Moses held up his hands they were winning. But, when he got tired and let them drop, they were losing. So, Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands until sunset and they defeated their enemy. And in today’s Gospel, the Good Samaritan showed what it means to help others. The Holy Spirit inspired Moses to write in Deut 24 “Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge……1When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.” God certainly is speaking to our hands here. It is God’s will for us to help those in need by using our hands and feet. We can break it down into three words.
Fair: God’s Word said, “Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice.” Be fair when you deal with others. They might even be complete strangers. They might be completely helpless, orphaned and can never pay you back. Be fair. I’d like to use James as an example. James walks our neighborhoods and does jobs in order earn some money. I told him to bag the leaves in our children’s playground and I would pay him $20 to do it. He said, “That’s fair.” While cleaning he found a garden snake and crushed his head. So, what story do you think I told James? Then I said, “James, if you do a good job we’ll see about a bonus.” He said, “That’s fair.” So, at Wednesday Bible Class I put out a basket, told the story, and James walked away with a new T-shirt and $55 in hand. Dear friends, be fair!
Selfless: God’s Word said: “Do not take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.” If someone borrows something from you, don’t take an important piece of their daily life as a pledge. Your goal isn’t just about having a pricey pledge, but selflessly helping your neighbor in need by finding a solution that works best for him. It was 1982 and Air Florida Flight 90 taking off from Washington National Airport. Between faulty gauge readings and pilot error, the plane crashed into the Potomac River. All but six passengers were killed. A helicopter arrived to throw and life ring to Arland Williams, who passed it one to another victim. Then again, he was thrown the life ring and he passed it on again. The 3rd time, Arland had frozen to death. He is an extreme example of selflessness for the sake of others.
Generous: God’s Word said, “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.” When you earn your livelihood in field, vineyard, orchard; electrician, plumber, or office and you get your paycheck. Don’t take it all. Don’t be greedy for every last grape or dollar. Save some for those in need. I know in our days of skepticism, we hear of abuse of our generosity. That is one reason your church has created a Good Samaritan fund, or on a larger scale, the WELS Christian Aid and Relief in order to be generous to the needy.
God commands our hands to be fair, selfless and generous to those in need. Indeed, that is one purpose of the rich blessings God has poured out on you. He blesses your harvest NOT just for you, but also for those in need for whatever reason. God remembers those in need by being generous to us, then in turn his blessings to us overflow so that we can be generous to others. Therefore, let us Remember God’s Word in Our Lives as he speaks to our hands and feet in order to be a blessing to others in need. This is God’s will for our hands, but then…
God speaks to our Hearts
When we lived in Japan and rode the trains they had a special area of seating with a sign that said something like this: “If an elderly person gets on the train, please give them your seat. You will be like them some day.” That’s not bad motivation, but God put it like this, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.” Now, think of the times when you asked for help or when someone asked you for help. Those conversations almost always involved a story. Even the beggars on the street corner usually tell a story, even if just in a word or two. “Homeless. Hungry. Veteran. Need Help.” I don’t ever recall anyone coming to church asking for help coming right out and saying, “Can you give me some money”? Usually you tell your story and give the reason you have for needing the help. That’s what Joseph did. He let his heart speak. “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon” (Gen 40:14). The heart stories tug at our heart strings. You’ve heard them before. Before we talk to the hands we talk to the heart: 1) This is a real need because my spouse is out of town and I can’t do this while juggling the kids. 2) We’ve tried raising our kids and nothing has worked. 3) Or Someone just stole our car and we’ve got medical bills to pay. 4) We had no idea that weather could do such damage to our home. We just weren’t prepared for what happened. These are all heart stories. They invite you to share the burden, to feel sympathy and compassion for the situation. The stories motivate us to help.
But, God doesn’t tell those stories here. True, he gives examples of how they can show kindness to widows, orphans and foreigners. But, when God speaks to our hearts, he talks about something different, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord You God redeemed you from there.” Simply put, the Lord God invites us to help others by remembering first what God has already done for us. Remember your times of need? They did! Oh yes…. They remembered Egypt! Slavery was awful. Torture horrible. Slave drivers harsh. Worked ruthlessly. Beat us, whipped us and when we still became a strong nation, the threw our baby boys into the river! We needed to be delivered and you, O Lord, delivered us! Yes, the Lord did not forget them. He rescued them. He redeemed them. They left with riches they had not stored up. They were given a Promised Land they didn’t purchase. They inherited fields, vineyards and orchards they didn’t plant. They didn’t just live on the generosity of God, they thrived on it! That was their story. They were God’s treasured possession as the people of God. Why? Because God had a promise to keep. He had a Savior to send!
What’s our story in the USA? In June of 2018 a survey by Forbes found about ½ of Americans said they were living paycheck to paycheck. Perhaps you were in need last year. Or I’m sure all of you at least heard about someone who needed help. Many look to the church for help, and so they should, because that’s our story. When we live without fairness, are selfish and refuse to be generous we are denying who we are in the Lord. When we are unfair, we battle against the Spirit who is fair to all. When we are selfish, we war against the Spirit of service and love. Being tightfisted opposes the generosity of God. Forgetting my neighbor in need is not loving my neighbor, is not remembering our story. Then it is time for God’s people to remember just how Good God is!
Jesus came for you and me! It is because Jesus lived completely fair, never selfish, and eternally generous and then died to pay his perfect life for times we’ve been unfair, selfish and stingy. Then, along with all our other sins, Jesus set us free us from the curse of death and power of Satan. It is because of our story, the story of Jesus’ love for us that motivates us to be fair, selfless and generous to others.
It can be so simple. Recently our family finished our meal and the bill was paid, but I had to wait to leave until my family was finished stacking the plates and glasses. I have never worked as a waiter, but they have. I had tipped the waitress, but so did they…. By remembering their story and remembering a special way to help them out. It’s about remembering how much Jesus loves us from God’s Word and then turning around and passing on that love to others. Hurricane victims are eager to travel and help out other hurricane victims, but how much more so when we remember God’s Word in our lives to hear of Jesus’ love for us so we can love others. Cancer survivors passionately take up the cause of cancer research, but how much more so when we remember God’s Word in our lives to hear of Jesus’ love for us so we can love others.
Yes, dear Christian friends, let us celebrate our God who remembers us all and never forgets us. In the words of Psalm 145 King David proclaims, “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made….The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”
Our God has an open hand and an open heart. That is the theme of our story. Our God has rescued us from the curse of sin and freed us to live in Christ. How rich we are. How blessed we are! But, don’t forget what it’s like to be in need or to cry out for help. Share your neighbor’s burden by remembering what it was like and helping them fairly, selflessly, generously.
I threw the cupbearer under the bus earlier for forgetting Joseph. But, he did eventually remember…. A few years later. Pharaoh himself had a dream with no interpreter. That’s when the light went on for the cupbearer—“I remember a Hebrew slave who can interpret dreams. He’s back in jail!” And we’ll save that story for another sermon. For now, Remember God’s word in your life, in your story, so that your hands and your heart will remember your neighbor’s need. Amen!