Sermon: Proper 21A (OT)
Theme: A Matter of Life and Death
Summary: “God isn’t fair!” we often complain. If we thought more about it, though, we might instead complain, “God is fair!” Through the prophet, He flatly claims that He rewards good and punishes evil. What could be more fair?
If we’re honest with ourselves and with Him, we see that most of our requests for divine fairness are actually requests for leniency, excuses, and blame-shifting. When we realize that we are never fully free of the stain of sin and recognize that we sin daily, we begin to see that asking God to treat us fairly might not be in our own best interests. We dare not ask God to pay us what our works have earned, for “the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)”
However, God assigned full blame for all wickedness to His beloved Son. He exercised His justice — His fair treatment of evil — by cursing Jesus, sending Him to the cross to suffer and die for all the sins of all people. All who believe that this salvation is their gift from God then receive full credit for Christ’s righteousness.
He calls Israel (and us) to do the impossible: “Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” Those who sorrow over their sins then are led by the Spirit to cry out with the Psalmist to our merciful God: “Create in me a clean heart ... renew a right spirit.... (Psalm 51:10)” We realize that such heart surgery is no do-it-yourself project but that to succeed, it must be accomplished by Him.
Recognizing the gift that is ours in Christ, we receive it in thanksgiving. We trust that because the living God is also the God of the living, we who have new life in Christ will keep it even to life everlasting. In Christ, in Baptism, in the preaching of the Word, in Absolution, and in the Lord’s Supper, God puts to death our old, sinful selves and grants forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to all who believe.
Text: The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
“As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die....
“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
“When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.
“Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!
“Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of A Matter of Life and Death.
Other Readings: Psalm 25:1-10; Romans 13:1-10; Matthew 21:23-27 (28-32)
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