Monday, March 10, 2014

Under His Wings

First Sunday in Lent, March 9th, Year of Our + Lord 2014
St. John and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Fairview and Sidney, Montana
Under His Wings – Psalm 91 and Matthew 4:1-11

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in His shadow for life,
Say to the Lord: 'My refuge, my Rock in whom I trust!'
     'And He will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn,
     Make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand.'
For to His angels He’s given a command, to guard you in all of your ways,
Upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.

     “On Eagles’ Wings” is a well-loved hymn for a reason.  The promises it repeats, promises found mostly in Psalm 91, are fantastic, promises of angelic protection, of direct divine protection, from all sorts of evils.  Life is full of dangers, like accidents, and violent people, job loss and dangerous weather.  Those dangers come from outside of us.  Then there are disease, doubt, depression, addiction, loneliness, fear, dangers arising from within.  We long to be protected from all these dangers, and to know that our loved ones are protected.  And God makes just such a promise.  So we love this hymn, even though we struggle to believe it is true for us, since bad things still happen to us, even though we confess the Name of Jesus.  Are you tempted to doubt the promises God makes to you in Psalm 91? 

     Satan tries to tempt Jesus with the words of Psalm 91.  Taking Jesus up to the top of the temple, satan says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,  'He will command his angels concerning you,'  and  'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.' ".  There is a very great deal for us to learn from the devil’s temptation of Christ, but for this morning, let’s focus in on this one temptation, that Jesus should throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, to force the Father to send angels to catch Him, putting God to the test, to see if His Word is true, if His promises made in Psalm 91 hold up. 

     Satan is confused, or perhaps is ignoring, the Nature of Christ.  Even though the evil one says, “If you are the Son of God,” the temptation is really aimed at the man Jesus, is it not?  The promises of Psalm 91 are made by the LORD God, to man.  Jesus is a man, and so He properly falls under the promise.  But Jesus is not only a man.  He is also God, the LORD Himself, entered into human flesh.  So Jesus made the promise of Psalm 91.  The promises of God are the promises of Jesus.  Jesus is the hen who gathers the people of God under His wings to protect them.  Jesus is the source of our hopes, the font from which flow the promises of God.  Only as a man would Jesus Christ need the protection of God’s angels.  As Almighty God, He needs protection from no one.    

     Of course, satan’s temptation to Jesus the man is also false, based on a lie, based on the twisting of God’s Word, as are all of the devil’s temptations.  For Jesus to swan dive off the top of the temple would be a failure as a man, an attempt to impress the devil by proving the ability to control God.  The promise of Psalm 91 is for the man who dwells with God, who loves God and trusts in Him alone.  The promise is “if you fall, if you are attacked, like by Satan, God will rescue you.”  The promise does not apply to someone who is seeking the devil’s approval.  Neither is there a promise that if you willfully try to hurt yourself, God will protect you, although often enough the LORD does protect us, even when we seek to hurt ourselves.  Still, to willfully put your life at risk to show the devil who’s in charge is utterly foolish, and it is certainly not the behavior of one dwells in the shadow of the Lord.  Psalm 91 promises protection to the faithful, not to the rebellious. 

            Jesus was not going to give in to Satan’s temptation, like Adam and Eve did.  Jesus is God. Jesus created the angels, including satan and the rest who rebelled and fell away.  Jesus is LORD, and  so of course, of His nature, He dismisses Satan’s temptation to act like a mere, and even sinful, man.  Jesus rejects the temptation to serve Himself, for He came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.  Here we find the real goal of satan’s temptations, trying to get Jesus to serve himself and avoid the Cross.  None of this was ever going to happen, no way, no how, no contest.  Be gone, satan. 

            But, have you considered this: the fact Jesus, because He is God, could not give in to temptation, this fact actually made enduring the temptation much worse?  His divine power to resist all temptation does not minimize what the man Jesus went through.  In truth, it increases His temptation, immeasurably.  Jesus could, and would, face far more temptation than we can even imagine, precisely because He would not succumb.  He would not give in to sin.  So, all the way to the Cross, Jesus had to face every imaginable temptation to give up, to turn from His path, every imaginable temptation, and no doubt many more that we cannot imagine.  Remember, the ordeal Jesus was being tempted to avoid was to suffer the entire wrath of God against all human sin.   

            We cannot imagine very far down the road of ever-increasing temptations, because we give in so easily.  I pray that you and I resist temptations.  We ought to, for how can we who died to sin through our Baptisms, how can we who have received the Name of God, how can we who confess Jesus as Lord, then turn around and live in sin?  We ought to resist, and we do, we try, but not very successfully.  Now and again we resist sin bravely, God be praised.  We may even, over time, more or less successfully set aside gross sins that once plagued us.  With discipline and support, alcoholics can avoid drink, and the violent can resist lashing out at people in anger.  But still, when we are tired, or confused, or angry, or embarrassed, whenever our human weaknesses show up in our lives, we are easy marks for all too many temptations.  Indeed, this is why, even though resisting temptation is important, the key to Christian living is returning to Christ, again and again, for forgiveness.  The key to Christian living is regularly confessing your sins, your failures to resist temptation, in order that Jesus can take your sins from you and give you Himself, again, for another day,  another hour, God forgiving and restoring you as often as it takes to lift you up, forever.    

            Why?  Why does God forgive us, again and again?  Why did Jesus fast forty days and forty nights, and then face satan’s temptations in our place?  Why did Christ go all the way to the Cross, never straying from the path His Father set for Him?  Why did He do all that He did, even though we do so little for Him in return? 

            Well, it’s not because God is just, although He is.  We see divine justice in the fact that Jesus suffered for the sins of the whole world, paying the price, once for all, so that divine justice is served, perfectly, completely, eternally.  And Jesus did not do what He did because God is all powerful, although He is.  Indeed, we see the almighty power of God in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and in His Ascension on high, and even in the continued endurance and growth of His Church, despite all that the devil, the world and our own sinfulness does to defeat her.  No other power than God’s almighty power could keep the Church alive in a world like ours. 

            But neither God’s power nor His justice are the cause of Jesus’ actions.  No, Jesus, indeed God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, does what He does to win and deliver salvation to us, simply because God is love.  The love that flows, and has flowed eternally, between Father, Son and Spirit, has overflowed, to give us life.  God loves His people, the crown of His creation, loving us in spite of the  sad fact that we are fallen, sinful, runaway children.  And the way that God loves humanity is Jesus, the sinners’ friend.   

            This is our good confession, that the God-man Jesus Christ was tempted, without ever giving in to sin, suffered, without turning back, died, not just a physical death, but also a spiritual death, enduring the hell we deserve, in order to save you and me and the whole world.  Jesus denied all temptations, in order to gather you under His wings, the wings of His Cross, where all your sins were carried away, where your death was defeated, and where your new and eternal life was won. 

            This is the promise of Psalm 91 for you.  Danger and enemies and disease and all sorts of bad things will attack you in this life.  But the consequences of sin which ruin this world have no power over you, not ultimately.  God’s promise to raise you up stands, indeed, it is already fulfilled, in Jesus, who has risen to all glory, for you.  Because He has defeated temptation, you will defeat temptation.  Because He has died in your place, your death has no power to separate you from God.  Because He has risen to the right hand of glory, He will send His angels, to carry you to Himself. 

            So stay close to Jesus.  Stay close to Jesus, by staying close to His promises, to His Word, which have made you a believer.  And come to His Supper, where He gives you strength for living, by the forgiveness of all your sins,

in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

1 comment:


    Who are those who are included in salvation? All men who believe and obey what the apostle Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost are saved. It does not make any difference what denominational name is written on the church building where you worship, if you obey the gospel preached by Peter, then, you are saved, you are a member of the Lord's church, you are part of the church of Christ, you a member of the body of Christ, you are a Christian.

    What did Peter preach?
    1. Peter preached that Jesus was a miracle worker. (Acts 2:22)
    2. Peter preached that Jesus was resurrected from the dead by God the Father.(Acts 2:24-35)
    3. Peter preached that Jesus was both Lord and Christ.(Acts 2:36)
    When the three thousand believe Peter, they asked "What shall we do?"(Acts 2:37)
    4. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven.(Acts 2:38)

    This is the same message Jesus preached. (Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved....)

    THE TERMS FOR PARDON ARE: Faith-John 3:16, Repentance-Acts 2:38, Confession-Romans 10:9-10, Baptism (immersion in water) 1 Peter 3:21

    All who meet the terms for pardon are saved regardless of the denominational name on the church building.