"See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, And say, as I live forever."
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Some things never change. Truth is one of those things. Either it is true, or it is not. Some would argue that some "truths" change. That might be so for facts, which are either accurate or inaccurate, but not for truths. A fact could change - such as which person is the President of the United States. The statement that was accurate a year or two ago is no longer accurate. It might be said to be 'true' at the time, and no longer true, but the reality is that the statement was merely accurate, correctly defining a changing condition at the moment of its statement, and now that condition is changed.
A truth is something that is true no matter when, or what others may think. Truths may come into fashion, and then go back out of fashion, but they remain true even when society does not like to acknowledge them. Every statement that you can make about God, for example, is either true or false. It cannot change its state, even if the culture around you changes its opinion on the matter. Society may be correct at one time and wrong at another in its popular opinions, but the truth remains true even when it is not acknowledged.
Our Old Testament lesson this morning is one of those truths. It is a truth that is easy to state. Our text is two verses long, fifty-seven words. The truth of it could be stated in fewer words. It is reflected in both the Epistle and Gospel lessons, each in their own way. It is spoken by the God through Moses to answer the very common confusion about who is God and how many there are. The temptation to invent other gods and to become uncertain about who is God, or which God is real, is another one of those things that never changes. Our text is just one example in Scriptures of God answering that unchanging question. Our theme this morning is Only One.
Our text is a small portion of a song God taught to Moses and commanded him to teach to the children of Israel. God began by telling Moses that once the people came into the promised land, they would become numerous and prosperous, and would turn away from Him and serve other Gods. God knew the hearts of His people. This idolatrous impulse resides in the nature of every human being. That is one of those things that never changes. We start out good and faithful, and when God blesses us, we tend to let our attention wander and find other things to serve rather than God.
You can see that tendency even in our little congregation. We began under great strife - which is part of where our name came from. We were shaped by the cross that fell upon us. At one time no one missed worship, and almost everyone came to both Sunday and Tuesday Bible Study. No one demanded that anyone come to more than one a week, but everyone came to one or the other, and many of you came to both. Now, just five years later, our Sunday attendance is no nearly as regular as a group, and our Bible Studies are not attended as often. Some people only show up occasionally for Bible Study, only a few attend both, and some people almost never take the time any longer to come to Bible Study - or stay for Sunday study.
Yes, I know that life has dealt many of us several changes, and I am not trying to beat anyone with these facts. I am using them to illustrate the principle which God speaks of to Moses in the chapter before the one containing the song in which our text appears. If this shift in behavior and attitudes happens to us in five years, imagine the shift over a couple of generations - or just look at what has happened to our own church body during our life-time. Churches have emptied. Attendance is just a small portion of what it once was. In our nation it was once thought peculiar if you did not go to church on Sunday. Now it is less likely that any particular people will go to church, and it is actually expected that you will sleep in or go golfing or to some sporting event rather than go to church, in our society. We have gotten prosperous as a people, and we have wandered. False Gods and pagan religions are increasingly popular, and culturally the hostility toward traditional Christianity is palpable and increasing at an alarming rate. I just read an article on-line about how even those who believe that adultery is wrong feel that the Christian explanation of why it is wrong is "intolerant".
In the face of this unchanging reality - and the question it raises in the human heart - God says that there is only one God, and that He is it, or Him, and that there is no other. He alone determines the issues of life and death, of health and sickness, and that there is no one who can change what God is doing. God says that to Israel in the light of the rescue from Egypt and His preserving them miraculously for forty years in the wilderness during the Exodus. I am the only One! That is what God said to them. I determine life and death, health and sickness, and no one can rescue anyone from My hand!
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus illustrates that truth by raising the son of the widow of Nain from death. He determines the issues of life and death! He felt compassion on that poor woman, whose husband had previously died, and now her only son was dead, and He changed the situation by speaking a word of life to the man. Jesus obviously had another, second agenda in raising this young man to life again, but He demonstrated the truth of God's Words to Moses by giving life again to that young man. The act shouted I am He!
In our Epistle lesson, Paul writes, Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. He was speaking the same truth, but applying it to the lives of the Christians in Ephesus, and to the challenges and temptations that they were going to face. He was saying that God is truly God, and that there is nothing that we will confront that God cannot handle, change, fix, or accomplish in us, for us, or through us.
The message is the message of faith - trust God and never despair, because God is with you, and He knows what is happening, and He can deal with anything you will encounter. He is God, after all. He is in charge of life and death, so you cannot die early, or hang on too long, no matter what human opinion around you may be. You will be healthy when God gives you health, and when you endure sickness, God has given it or permitted it for His good reasons, and for your blessing. When you face the temptation to wonder how this all is for blessing for you, you need only ask yourself if you know what God thinks of you and what His will for you is like. Do we know the will of God toward us? YES!
We see that will expressed for us in the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He came to be one of us for our salvation. It was and is the love of God which made Christ live and then die in our place. He has redeemed us from our sins and rescued us from death and hell. His love is expressed in taking things all the way to the cross, and the grave, — and that He really means it is shouted to us by the Easter resurrection from the grave. God loves you, and me, and has purchased and won us from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true! He is the only One!
What that all means is that when we face those situations in life that inspire fear and frustration, we need to turn to God. First, we need to trust Him and believe that He is in control. We want to remember His will toward us, that it is good and love and salvation. He has given us prayer so that we may know for certain that He knows, and that we may ask Him for the help, the strength, the health, the comfort, the faith, the patience and all those things that we need and want, and that we may be utterly confident that He is aware, and on the job for us.
Then, it is helpful to remember this specific passage from the Old Testament lesson. "I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; And there is no one who can deliver from My hand." It is not powerless, useless, or unhelpful to call upon God, and to trust in Him, no matter what it may feel like, and no matter what anyone else says around you. Go to the doctor when you are sick. Their talents and abilities are a gift from God for your use, but place your trust in God, and never forget that not even you doctor can fix things without God's blessing. Do what you can do, vote responsibly, help your neighbor, serve your community, take care of your family, but remember that every issue rests ultimately in God's hands alone, and so call on Him and trust in Him while you do what God has given you the ability to do - and do not despair. We don't know what all God is doing or intends by what we see around us! Our best hope is to trust in Him.
And as you watch the world ponder the question of who God is, and how do we take advantage of the deity, and what is the meaning of life and wrestle with Islam and Buddhism and Hinduism and all the false and pagan religions that they like to throw against the wall, hoping one of them will stick, or trying to deny them all - and discredit the true God in the process, remember: you know the answer already. It does not matter what the world thinks. Public opinion is not always right. In fact, it is not usually right. It is just public opinion, the sort of opinion that guides the choice of the winner of Dancing with the Stars and America's Got Talent - and that elects our leaders. You see how well that works for us sometimes.
We know that human nature is sinful, and that it hates God and righteousness. We were once like that too, before God taught us to know Him. He told Moses that men will wander away from Him into idolatry pretty much automatically. So we keep that in mind, and remember that God is the only One - and that there is only one - our heavenly Father who is in charge of life and death, sickness and health, and that no one can deliver from His hand or thwart His good will of love and salvation toward us, We are safe and we are secure with Him, and the cross of Jesus shows us His love for us. No matter what anyone or any situation may say, even what our own minds might suggest, Our God is the only one. We can depend on Him! Some things never change!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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