The Church forgives as God forgives. Anytime we try to imitate God, we quickly realize our inadequacy. Yet this week God tells us to model our forgiveness on his: a boundless, free, and loving forgiveness based on the sacrifice of Christ. How could our sinful hearts ever forgive like that? We pray that the mercy and grace of God would precede us and follow after us, that we might love God with undivided hearts—hearts always ready to forgive as God does: sins are forgiven, forgotten, forever.
The Church is militant: first the cross, then the crown. Christ tells us that for him and for us, going God’s way means death must come before life. He calls on us to deny ourselves and follow him on the way of the cross. Those words offend our sinful flesh and make our Old Adam cry with Peter, “Never!” They make us accuse God with Jeremiah. We pray for the never-failing mercy of Christ that we might avoid such wicked and harmful thoughts and instead be guided on the cross-laden path to salvation. Then, and only then, do these words of Christ cease offending our flesh and become a joy and delight for our heart.
The Church will stand forever. Nothing can keep our Redeemer from upholding his promised salvation. Neither false expectations nor the gates of hell, neither an Egyptian army nor a flowing river, not even the great tribulation of the end times will keep our God from preserving his Church.
The Church is meant for all people. It is only by God’s gift of grace that we come into his presence to offer true and faithful service. This week’s lessons teach that the gift of grace given to Israel, God also intended to give through Israel to the world. The Church is meant for all people: a display of God’s mercy and a result of the living and active Word of God.
The Christian seeks spiritual wealth. Next Sunday, we pray a very ancient Prayer of the Day, asking for God to give us true spiritual wealth. “Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised.” What a magnificent prayer for the materialist world in which we live! Our lessons this week show people who have come into great wealth, but yet this earthly wealth only serves to illustrate where true treasure lies. True, spiritual wealth can only be found in God and his eternal blessings for us in Christ.
“Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” These words of our God place the responsibility for judgment—especially the final judgment—solely into the hands of God himself. Of course, to the person without Christ that is a frightening notion, for none will escape the judgment of the Lord. But to God’s children, who still struggle daily with temptation and sin, these words are a sobering reminder of our evil nature but also an opportunity to remember that our good Savior has already borne that judgment for us.
Doubt is the unfortunate companion of faith. Wherever faith clings to the promises of God, doubt is always right there lingering in the back of our mind, constantly asking the serpent’s Garden question, “Did God really say?” How striking to think that we must have faith in God before we can doubt him! This week’s lessons show us believers who had faith in God and his abilities to save them, but yet doubted when his plans or purpose failed to match theirs. In each case, it is adversity that fights against faith and allows its unfortunate companion to rear its ugly head. And in each case, the true answer to doubt is not found in the great miracle that removes adversity, but in the still small voice of our Savior God whispering in his Word. This week, we hear our Savior God ask us, “Why did you doubt?”, and we see that the Christian answers doubt with faith.
Our Savior is a God of mercy and kindness. Our very existence is testimony to that fact. Daily he provides us with all that we need to keep our body and life. He also grants protection from all earthly dangers. In addition, our Savior provides us with spiritual blessings—food for the soul. In his Word we receive the good news of sins forgiven and free salvation.
How do you get people to join your church? There are lots of suggestions. Most people suggest something special for every age group. It seems that you need to provide people with all kinds of programs. You also need to tell people what they want to hear. You may get people to join your church that way, but chances are they won’t ever become a part of the Holy Christian Church. You only become a member of God’s kingdom one way: through the preaching of the gospel. But even the success of our gospel preaching doesn’t depend on us. Instead it depends entirely upon God’s power and blessing.
From the beginning of time, God provided rest for his creation. He blessed the seventh day and set it apart, that man might learn to find his rest in God alone. In Jesus, the Christian finds rest from his burdens, rest from his battles, and rest forever in heaven.