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You shall never be set ablaze

Deuteronomy 33:1-3

Rev. Andrew Eckert

All Saints
St. Paul's Lutheran Church  
Wellston, Oklahoma

Sun, Nov 4, 2007
*All Saints' Day (Nov 1)

The words of Moses, the man of God: "The LORD came from Sinai . . . from His right hand came a fiery law."

At the time he spoke those words, Moses was one of only three people left alive who had seen the awesome event of the LORD Yahweh of Hosts descending with visible majesty upon Mount Sinai.  Thunder and lightning began, and a thick cloud like smoke.  A very loud blast like a trumpet was heard, and kept getting louder and louder.  The LORD came down with His holy angels, and His presence was a burning flame.  The whole mountain shook.  When Moses entered the dark cloud, the glory of the LORD was a consuming fire like a furnace.

At first, we think, "Wow!  That must have been amazing!  Wouldn't it beg reat to see that happen!"

But the people of Israel didn't think it was great.  They were afraid.  They were uncontrollably trembling at the terrible sound of God's voice.  They begged Moses that he go talk to the LORD, so that they would not have to listen.  Ask those Israelites whether the fiery presence of God was a pleasant, nice thing.

In our comfortable, controlled society, we sometimes forget how threatening fire can be.  We can remember the wildfires in Oklahoma.  In California, flames have attacked again.  Ask them if flame is beautiful.

When Christ, the Son of Man, appeared to Saint John, His eyes were like burning fire, His legs like glowing, red-hot bronze out of a furnace.  Did Saint John greet the Lord with joy, and praise Him for His glory?  No, Saint John fell flat on his face at His feet, like a dead man, because he was so afraid.

The fiery presence of the Almighty is terrifying.  Likewise, the blazing fire of His holy Law is threatening and fearful.  As the Prophet Jeremiah wrote, "The Word of God is like a fire."  It consumes and devours.

The Law is absolutely perfect in itself.  But it sets a standard we cannot meet.  For the holiness of the Law is the holiness of the LORD.  To obey the whole Law requires a righteousness that only He possesses.

Yet the Law threatens punishment against those who transgress it.  The wrath of God against law-breaking sinners is a burning wrath that cannot be extinguished by all the oceans in the world.  The end of that wrath is to cast sinners into the lake of burning fire that never goes out.

And here is the most terrifying fact of all: You, too, are a sinner, deserving wrath and fire everlasting.

You cannot put out this blazing fire with good works.  You cannot argue with God.  You cannot bribe Him to turn away His justice.  You cannot wait for His wrath to go out in Purgatory, even if there were such a place.

You cannot make up for the multitude of sins you have committed.  Your sinful nature is like lighter fluid to God's burning wrath.  Every attempt to placate Him only makes it worse, since it insults His righteous judgment.

But in the midst of your doom, a New Man has appeared for you.  A Man of God greater than Moses has come.  This Man made no excuses.  He did not try to escape the burning wrath of His Father.  No, He thrust Himself into the flames.

And He snuffed them out, for you.

This is the love of God for His people, that He sent His Son to suffer in your place.  He took on Himself the full, burning wildfire of hell's fury, so you will never have to.

It was the fiery Law that accused you.  But Christ fulfilled the Law.  He obeyed every single commandment with every thought, word, and deed.  Now His obedience is counted as yours, so the Law cannot accuse you.

Our Lord delivers His extinguishing love with water.  Remember that no earthly water could extinguish the fiery wrath of God.  Yet Christ uses holy, heavenly water.  He uses water combined with the holy Word of the Gospel.  He Baptizes with water in which the Holy Spirit works.

This mighty, powerful water washes away every sin.  This holy water of God makes you completely clean.  So God sees no sinner in you.  No, He sees a Beloved Saint.

You are the saints of God.  You rest in the palm of His mighty, protective hand, so neither death nor hell shall consume you.

You are the holy people, men of God equal in righteousness to His only Son.  You are the true children of Israel.  For all who have faith are God's holy nation.

Like the people of Israel, God leads you through this present wilderness to His promised land.  As He has dawned upon you with the Light of His grace, so He has journeyed with you, and with the rest of His beloved saints.  For He also lived a human life.  He also felt the pain and sorrow of this vale of tears.  He has walked with you as one of you.  He is, and always remains, true Man, a human being of flesh and blood, who lived and bled and died.

But His Blood is more than human blood.  It is the Blood of God, by which He has spared you from death.  And His death is the death of God, of more value than the greatest treasure, since by His death He has given you eternal life.

Now, you sit at His feet to receive His Word.  Once Martha sat here, at the blessed feet of Christ.  Once, the Twelve Disciples sat down with Him to hear the Sermon on the Mount.  But right now, it is your turn.  Christ teaches you His very Word.  He gives you His Light and Life, and they shall never be taken from you.  He blesses you with the Kingdom, with righteousness, and with mercy, for He calls you sons of God, who shall see His face.

Fear not, O saints of God!  You shall never be set ablaze by His judgment.  Instead, you are His holy ones, in whom He delights.  Be content in His blessing, and the infinite love He has given you at the Cross.

In the Name of this One LORD, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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