Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. You have a unique privilege, an opportunity, to study past events, examine decisions made, and avoid falling into the same consequences by altering your decisions now. Because those who pay attention to history will not repeat the mistakes made.
That’s why God repeats three historical events throughout the entire Bible. Noah spends 120-years building the ark. God’s judgment is coming; he would wash evil from the world. So, each new day presents another opportunity for some passerby to ask Noah, “Why are you building this boat?” Instead, many continue running errands and making dinner, marrying and planning future family gatherings as though tomorrow’s sun would rise again! (Matthew 24:37-39). Lot scrambles around Sodom’s city-streets. God’s judgment was coming; he would burn evil off the face of the earth. Lot pleads with his future son-in-laws, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” (Genesis 19:14). The son-in-laws? They laugh! They mockingly imitate! They think it’s a joke!
Do you realize these events are the only ones mentioned throughout beginning to end in the Bible? They appear in Genesis. God’s Old Testament prophets mention them. Jesus refers to both. Peter uses them to discuss the end of time. God is making a point: Take his judgment seriously! Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it— and suffer the same consequences.
Where God threatens, the heart can react with this careless complacency. “You still have time. God’s not coming— yet. Don’t worry.” God shatters any faulty notions with Malachi’s pen. The Day of the LORD is Coming! The arrogant will burn away and Those who revere God will shine.
In chapter 4, verse 1, Malachi writes: “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.”
Malachi writes these words about 400-years before Jesus is born. Yet, he points ahead to one, single specific ‘Day:’ the day Jesus judges the living and the dead.
You see, Malachi sounds the warning. The Israelites are whining: “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements[?]” (Malachi 3:14). Nonbelievers find no reason to obey God. They drag bruised, broken, unwanted animals to God for a sacrifice. Priests tolerate a believer marrying a pagan, and then turn a blind eye when that believer starts worshipping false gods. Families are holding back their offerings. The wicked deliberately break God’s commands— and guess what? Nothing happens! The earth does not swallow the ungodly. Waters do not wash away the immoral. Fire does not spill from the heavens. God punishes no one. Even the believers notice this. [T]he evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape!” (3:15) This attitude appears: “God, we’ll keep doing what is wrong because you have not come to put an end to it.”
If we are honest with ourselves, if we dissect the motivation for our actions, we can find that same attitude lurking within. We do what is wrong because nothing bad happens. The Second Commandment forbids cursing and needless swearing, but we curse anyway because God has not cursed us. Laziness steals money from our employer, laziness robs us of time to serve others— but we defend laziness because God has not lit our feet on fire. God commands: “Honor your father and mother”— including the government and spiritual leaders (Exodus 20:12; Romans 13:1-5; Hebrews 13:17). Still, we criticize and pout, insult and ridicule simply because God has not walked through the door and stopped us.
You see, the temptation exists to disregard God’s threats. To think God is not really serious. So, God-forbidden behavior is behavior embraced for no other reason than: “God doesn’t punish me, so I’m going to continue living the way I do until God does something about it.”
Do you know what God calls that? Arrogance. That is, believing you possess incredible self-worth that you can justify your actions before God and he must agree with you. It’s arrogant to deliberately do what is wrong and then think God does not care. It’s arrogant to mistake God’s patience for indifference. It’s arrogant to think God will not send people to hell because they have rejected him.
God makes it abundantly clear: The Day of the LORD is Coming and The arrogant will burn away. Not a root or a branch will be left to them. You chop a tree down and the stump looks dead and lifeless, but roots can keep it alive. New shoots sprout. Or, you can take a branch and graft it into a new tree. Sometimes branches can grow roots; branches still have life. We can foolishly believe that there will always remain one last chance to enter heaven.
God is saying: “No. When the end comes, all those who wicked and arrogant, those who have rebelled against my Word, will be stumps. I will cut him down and he will be dead. I will take that branch and throw it into a blazing furnace. There is no more chance for life.”
The Day of the LORD is Coming. The arrogant will burn away. Just like the scoffers washed away in the flood. Just like the mockers became pillars of salt. Pay attention to these words. Take the time now to understand that God is serious about his threats. Because Those who revere God will shine.
Malachi continues in verse 2: But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
The natural reaction to ‘hell’ or ‘punishment’ is to discredit it. Many think hell does not exist. Others believe everyone will enter heaven. The reason for this is that people do not want to go to hell and so they create ways to avoid it. Yet, God’s solution to hell is not to ignore it or undermine its seriousness. God’s solution is to confront it head-on.
[F]or you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. God’s ‘Name’ is everything that God reveals about himself. So, think of it like a reputation. If I say, “Mom”— what thoughts come to mind? Perhaps you think of a woman about (this many years old), (this high), with (this color hair). Or, maybe you’re thinking about your mom’s mannerisms. I say the name: ‘Mom,’ and you think about characteristics, appearance, and behavior. When we consider of God’s ‘Name,’ we think of his characteristics. God is eternal, you (and I) are mortal (Psalm 90:1-2). He is the LORD of Hosts, meaning, he holds supreme authority. All the armies of the world put together cannot stop the Almighty from executing his plans. The LORD is just, meaning he will punish those not sorry for their sins, but he also gracious to forgive (Exodus 34:6-7). Those are God’s characteristics, his behavior.
To ‘fear’ means to ‘show respect, revere, honor.’ Simply put, ‘fearing’ God’s Name means respecting God’s abilities. God will do what he says he will do. We stand before God and realize he stands far above, far higher than us! He reigns in heaven, we do not. He controls all things, we do not. He enters heaven, we cannot. The God who stands high above us is the God who heals us with the Son of Righteousness.
Jesus is that Son of Righteousness. He is the Righteous One, who obeyed God’s commands with all his heart, mind, and soul. He is the One who did not open his mouth to insult his accusers— even though he had every right and reason to do so (1 Peter 2:21-24). He is the One who came down from heaven to sacrifice himself one time, for all time (Hebrews 9:24-28).
Like the morning sun, Jesus rises from death with words of healing. He has taken away punishment due for our arrogance. He has brought salvation, that is forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. He points us to heaven and says, “Pay attention! That is where you are going!” He lifts our attentions of the passing pleasures of this life, and he unveils a magnificent home beyond compare.
This is why we learn from the past; we do not want to miss this eternal hope. And we will not. God’s Word shines in our hearts, exposing sin and guilt, and illuminating Jesus as our Savior. Baptism has put God’s Name on you, the life of Jesus is draped on you (Galatians 3:26-27). Jesus’ body and blood assures you of sins forgiven, release from guilt, and freedom forever!
How do we respond? In the only way possible. [Y]ou will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. A calf released from a stanchion (or stall) stretches, feels energy and strength; he’s free! You hop and leap for joy— which is the opposite of fear and dread. God’s great Judgment Day is not a threat meant for you to tremble in fear. You look forward to the Savior’s return because that is the Day you go home to heaven. Jesus is your certainty. You stand healed, cleansed, purified, made whole! At the last trumpet, you will stand before God. He will repeat the same Words you have read and heard on every page of Scripture and repeated every Sunday: “Forgiven!”
That awesome, life-changing news makes it difficult to stand still. Your heart flutters, your feet can never carry you fast enough and when you finally reach your destination, you cannot keep the words contained; they spill out. The Day of the LORD is Coming! Those who revere God will shine.
God speaks about the Last Day so that you are prepared to stand before him and live. Some disregarded his future promise. Noah spends 120-years building the ark. Each new day presents another opportunity for some passerby to ask Noah, “Why are you building this boat?” and then, turn to God in faith. Lot pleads with his future son-in-laws, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” (Genesis 19:14). The warning is meant for them to see how they live and change. God mentions those events from beginning to end so that you might learn, examine, and avoid the foolish decisions made and hellish consequences.
You can because God repeats one final event on every page of Scripture: A Savior. A Savior promised to Adam and Eve. A Savior proclaimed by God’s Old Testament prophets. A Savior who announces peace with God. A Savior who will come again to judge the living and the dead— just as Peter says (3:11-16).
The Day of the LORD is Coming! Is it taking a while? By human standards, yes. By God’s standards, no. Each new day is another ‘time of grace.’ A day for the nonbeliever to come to faith. A day for the believer to grow in faith. A time to get ready now. Because The Day of the LORD is Coming! The arrogant will burn away and Those who revere God will shine.
Last month’s issue of Forward in Christ [our synod’s magazine] shared some shocking statistics. A recent survey gathered religious beliefs from members in the largest Lutheran church body in America. The survey revealed:
So then, is it any wonder your world behaves so schizophrenically chaotic? Is it any wonder no one can agree on what is morally “right” and what is morally “wrong?” Pastors— those who call themselves “messengers of God”— hold the Bible in one hand, but preach a message found nowhere in that book! They instead create a message meant to scratch itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3). Is it any wonder droves are fleeing worship? If those same pastors proclaim, “All people go to heaven!” then why attend? When you dump the Bible, you will create your personal set of beliefs based on opinions, ideas, and reason.
Those statistics serve as a grim reminder of Satan at work still. You are a Christian living in an increasingly Christ-less world. That means, you will face the constant temptation to conform your beliefs to what the world expects to hear. Yet, tuck this truth into your memory: God’s Word Breaks Rebellious Hearts. Listen to it. Use it.
God is telling Ezekiel the same thing. Ezekiel grows up in a Christian nation. Just recall everything God gives Old Testament Israel. Father Abraham receives— and passes down— the promise of Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world (Genesis 12:2-3; 15:4-5). This Israelite nation, set free from Egyptian slavery, camps around Mount Sinai. God carves out Ten Commandments for them. No, not to restrict freedom. Rather, these commands are meant to keep believers, believers, and to protect against destructive false teaching (Exodus 19:5-6). The nation understands that; they even shout: Everything the Lord has said we will do! (24:3) God sets up kings as shepherds to steer the people away from false teaching and to lead them to trust God.
Do you see how God describes that same nation here? I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn.
Obstinate! Stubborn! The people have the Word, but they resist obeying it! Masses skip worship. And those who did attend simply went to church because it fulfilled an obligation. National leaders trust puny mortal men instead of the powerfully immortal God! Judges are bribed; widows are cheated; orphans ignored. God sends out steady streams of prophets to call people back to him, but those prophets are rejected, beaten, and killed. Then, even after God strips away their freedom, the nation scratches its head asking: ‘Why has the Lord decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the Lord our God?’ (Jeremiah 16:10).
Ezekiel is to preach to these people: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says?’ It’s not that they do not know what God teaches. It’s that they reject what God teaches. That makes Ezekiel, a Christian in an increasingly Christ-less nation, a minority.
Do you know that feeling? To feel outnumbered? … to feel as though no one cares about God’s expectations? You urge and plead with your adult-child to worship with you just like they did 40 years ago, but he shrugs off your invite [again]. You chirp up and defend the life of the unborn, but your friend looks at you as though you are a dumb, hateful, and stupid. You make it no secret: “I worship at [Faith/ St. John] Lutheran,” and your friend lists off every fault they have with your church: “It’s too ‘strict,’ too boring, too old, too (fill in the blank).”
You encounter so much resistance that the resistance begins rubbing off on you. Take a moment and ask yourself: Do you feel ashamed when you say out loud: “Marriage is between one man and one woman for life?” Do you think your congregation needs to ask people what they want to hear instead of hearing what God wants them to hear? Do you stand out as a Christian among your friends? Or, is it becoming difficult to see the difference after a night out? … in your relationships? …with the words you use?
The devil lures you, little-by-little, to change with the world, even if it means changing what God has taught you. When you evaluate your thoughts, words, and actions, you will see how successful he has been.
Dear Christian, rebellious hearts will always resist listening to the Word— yours and mine included. The heart does not want to face insults or unpopularity at the expense of God. The easiest way to make sure your life is pleasant is to push God away.
Just look at Jesus’ homecoming. Childhood friends shout, “Carpenter, you are too insignificant to preach to us!” (Mark 6:1-6) Thousands swarm around Jesus. When Jesus does not preach what they want to hear, they leave (John 6:66). Do you know just how tempting it is for Jesus to change the message? To crawl on his knees, hands folded, begging, “Please, tell me, what do you want to hear?” Instead, Jesus shares the truth you (and I) need to hear: You (and I) are a son of man. A mere mortal who will one day be ripped from this planet and forced to stand before the eternal Judge in order to explain why you felt God’s Word could be changed to suit your interests.
For that reason Jesus is born the son to a man named Joseph. Jesus, the Son of Man, does not change the Word to gain popularity. Rather, when asked: “Who do you say you are?” he answers in truth, “The Son of God” knowing full well that answer would bring death (Matthew 26:62-64). He receives the death sentence because you (and I) changed our beliefs to save our lives. Yet, it is Jesus who never changes God’s teachings in order to save your life.
Why Listen to the Word? Well, listen to God call you, “Forgiven.” Listen to God promise you unending life with him in heaven. God’s Word Breaks Rebellious Hearts like yours and mine. Listen to it. Then, go out, use it.
That was God’s instruction for Ezekiel. As [God] spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. Who brings Ezekiel to his feet? God. God the Father speaks his Word. God the Holy Spirit gives Ezekiel the courage to speak. The power of the Word rests with God.
The same Word strengthens you to stand out in your world today. One powerful way to preach is by putting the Word into practice in your own life. It’s no secret Sunday mornings have become another Saturday. Families spend Sunday mornings at baseball and softball games. And if you lament that so many choose sports over worship, then use the Word. You see, sports will still be played on Sunday as long as parents let their kids play. If families set worship as a higher priority, it forces organizers to change scheduling. Simply let coaches know, “I would play, but after worship.”
Summer is time spent with family, fishing, and camping. When away, make it clear: “God’s first.” Head out after worship or locate another Wisconsin Synod congregation near your area. Invite your children to come with you to worship or let them know you will duck out for an hour and they can remain home. You, by your example, are powerfully preaching that God (and his Word) take priority in your life.
If you feel out-of-place to say a dinner prayer with your family at a restaurant table, then pray! Make others feel out-of-place that they do not thank God for their daily bread [earthly possessions]. Instead of you changing to meet the ever-changing standards of your world, live in such a way for the world to change to God’s standards.
And yes, will one person really make much of a difference? Well, what does God say? Whether they listen or fail to listen— for they are a rebellious house— they will know that a prophet has been among them. Did you catch that? God does not guarantee Ezekiel that he will have instant success. God even suggests he will face resistance because the nation is rebellious. If people reject the message, it does not mean the message is less powerful. The fault lies with the person. Not the message, not the messenger. God simply tells you: Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ Use the Word and let God worry about the results.
God’s Word Breaks Rebellious Hearts. All Ezekiel did was preach. Some did not listen. Yet, they did not reject Ezekiel. Instead, they must answer to God why they rejected his prophet. Others did listen. Eventually Israel returned home. They rebuilt the temple and set their hearts back on God. The line of the Savior was handed down from generation to generation. Faithful Joseph and Mary brought Jesus into the world. Twelve apostles carried the life-changing Word to the corners of the earth. Through their work and God’s blessing, you have the Word today. God’s Word Breaks Rebellious Hearts. You get to use it.
Your world will continue behaving so schizophrenically chaotic as long as God’s Word is changed to meet worldly standards. Masses will never agree on what is morally “right” and what is morally “wrong” if they search for answers apart from God. Droves will flee worship as long as pastors proclaim the lie: “All people go to heaven!” Dump the Bible, you will create your personal set of beliefs based on opinions, ideas, and reason.
As a Christian living in an increasingly Christ-less world, you will face the constant temptation to conform your beliefs to what the world expects to hear. You may even feel unaccepted, unpopular, unwelcome. That something is wrong with you.
Stand strong on the Word. Remember that God speaks so that you might listen, apply, and live. Remember that it’s not up to you to make God’s Word more appealing or popular. The message belongs to God. Simply lead others to hear, read, and see it. God’s Word Breaks Rebellious Hearts. Listen to it. Use it.
Call it a case study if you will... He grew up attending Sunday School and Sunday worship. In later grade school, he studied the teachings of the Bible in catechism class. He continued increasing his understanding in Bible Class. This Christian man even served as an elder in the congregation, giving special attention to the spiritual life of his fellow believers. He made it his regular habit to take in God’s teachings and to live God’s teachings.
Now, this Christian leader had three children: one daughter and two sons— and he cared for their spiritual life. He carried each child up to the baptismal font. He made Sunday School their regular spiritual diet, while he learned in adult Bible class. He faithfully drove each child to catechism class, where they studied the teachings of the Bible. Eventually, each child was confirmed.
Now, after confirmation day, this Christian father let his first two children— a daughter and son— decide if they wanted to worship on Sundays. If they wanted to wake up Sunday at 8:00am and join him for worship, they could. Can you guess the decision those teenagers made? They stayed home in bed, sleeping every single Sunday. Can you guess how that affected them spiritually? The daughter grew up, moved out, and stopped attending worship. God was no longer important to her. He did not occupy a place in her life; she could not even give him one measly hour of her week. She created her own teachings for living. The son also stopped worshipping. He married a lady who [honestly!] created her own strange religion. Unfortunately, he floundered in his marriage because he had no firm footing on God’s truth.
One final son. The father woke him up every Sunday at 8:00am. Bible Class remained their spiritual diet. He encouraged his son to sing in the church choir and help maintain the church property. Can you guess how that affected this son spiritually? He started studying for the pastoral ministry. Even though he did not become a Pastor, he still assists his congregation every Sunday as a musician.
Do you comprehend the results of this case study? Confirmation is not graduation! Confirmands, you are not finished learning what Scripture teaches you! Parents, your child is not graduating (or completing) church! Your life in the Word of God never ends! Each of you will face new challenges that come with the many changes of life. You must Continue Your Training! Your sinful nature constantly fights God, but God keeps you on the way of life.
The words for our hearing this morning come from Proverbs 22:6: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Do you know why you must train a child? Confirmands, you know the answer to this question; in just a few minutes you will describe the natural condition of the human heart. Everyone else, you have witnessed baptisms; in fact, every Sunday you admit: God, I am by nature sinful. The human heart is not naturally good; the human heart is naturally hostile to God. That means, the very moment you (and I) are conceived, we are God’s enemies. You do not submit to God’s law, nor can you do so (Romans 8:7). You do not want to obey God; you fight God. You see, every single child born has a “way.” His “way” leads to death in hell.
So God commands: Train a child in the way he should go. A child needs someone to start him on a different “way,” a “way” that leads to life in heaven; a child needs someone to teach him Jesus. Who is that person? You.
[Grand]Parents (and Christian examples), you have done that as you carried your child to be baptized into the family of God. You have done that as you brought your child to catechism class. But you are not done yet. You must Continue Your act of Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
Parents, the devil is still out to destroy the faith of your children. Do you know who he will use to help him? You. He will stoke your own sinful nature to adopt the oft-repeated beliefs of this world. The excuses are many: “I’ll let my child decide what to believe…” “I brought my child to church; I’ve done my part. Now my child will decide what to believe….” “My child is too old to be encouraged to worship…” “Oh, she will come back later…” Do you know what those are? Lies. God explicitly says: Train a child! The devil says: “Why bother?” The devil knows if he can make you— spiritual leaders(!)— indifferent to the spiritual life of your child, he will have removed one more obstacle keeping your child in faith and on the way to life with God. You must Continue Your act of Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
Confirmands and students, you are walking on this path that leads to life. What you learned in catechism class provides a firm foundation on which to build your life. You will find peace and comfort and strength from God. But you are not done yet. You must Continue Your Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
The devil’s working hard to destroy your faith. Do you know who he will use to help him? You. He will dangle alluring temptations to snag you away from the teachings you have learned. The temptations are many. Your world will entice you into following its manmade gods of money, pride, and arrogance. Your sinful nature will create fantastic excuses as to why you may ignore what God so clearly teaches. The devil will push you to self-worship: you are the reason for success, you hold all-wisdom, you control life! You must Continue Your act of Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
Dear friends, Continue Your Training. The sinful nature continues fighting God, but the sinful nature has been conquered. Jesus has opened the way to life. Continue Your Training because God keeps you on the way of life.
Parents, do you see where you have ushered your child? Confirmands and children, do you see where you stand? You are walking on the way that has led to the cross of Jesus. This visible reminder preaches God’s love for you. Jesus marched to fight your sinful nature— and did that by resisting every temptation. He makes worship his regular routine. He urges his disciples to follow the words of Moses and the prophets. He puts God in the number-one spot of his heart— and did all this for you.
That perfect life trickled out on the cross for you. Jesus paid off the debt of your sin for you. Jesus rises to announce forgiveness to you. Jesus rises up into heaven to make it a home for you. Your faith in Jesus as Savior has placed you on the way of life.
So, Continue Your Training. Do not forfeit what you have begun.
Parents and Christian friends, Continue Your act of Training. God has set you in charge over the spiritual health of your child (and other Christian friends). You are the people God uses to bring others to him. It is not always the guy next to you. It is not always the Pastor. It is not always a stranger. It is you. That’s why, parents, you Continue Your Training, your act of training up a child. Statistically speaking, these children have about another 70-years to their life. They have much life left and much ahead of them. They have college, marriage, children, parenting, work, retirement, older age, and the thought of approaching death. Those are some serious life hurdles, but hurdles they overcome with God. So, bring them to worship; do not even offer skipping as an option. Encourage them to read their own devotions. Speak your faith to them. Continue Your Training.
Children and confirmands, Continue Your Training. God has begun a good work in you; he has brought you to faith. You have a foundation on which to build. So, build on it. Grab God’s promises and find peace in trouble. Run to God in prayer on the day of trouble. Lay anxiety and worry to rest because God is in control. Stand confident of eternal life in heaven because Jesus has won it for you.
When you do step off the way, God will use his Word to draw you back. He will expose the error of your walking and the foolishness of you heart. He will walk you up to the foot of the cross and reveal Jesus who died for you. Continue Your Training because God keeps you on the way of life.
Our case study demonstrates that truth. One Christian leader. One daughter and two sons. Two spiritually neglected neglect their faith. One spiritually strengthened strengthens his faith.
Do you understand the results of this case study? Confirmation is not graduation! It never was; it was the devil who leads us to believe it is. That means, confirmands, you are not finished learning what Scripture teaches you. Parents, your child is not graduating church! Your life in the Word of God never ends! Each of you will face new challenges that come with the many changes of life. So, Continue Your Training! Continue Your Training in the Word of God because Your sinful nature constantly fights God, but God keeps you on the way of life.
Imposing stone columns surround you, soaring to incredible heights before interlocking together high above. Thick brick walls press in on your right and left, each one also towering well over a hundred feet above you. The polished granite floor under your feet glistens. Pieces of clear glass pack massive window openings, letting bright white unfiltered light to pour into this temple. A hundred feet ahead lies four steps rising up to an intricately carved altar. On this platform is planted a dominant royal throne. Music fills the air all around you, angelic voices blending together singing praises. Can you picture the scene?
If you can’t, just Google: “British royal wedding ceremony pictures” and drink in those exquisite details. White poufy flowers drape walls and dress the front. Children’s choirs stand to your right and left. Delicate hats rest on the heads of every royal lady. Shiny medals hang from finely pressed military coats and gowns flow from each guest. This is the sight of power and dominance and respect.
You get to stand in that grand temple. No, this is no royal wedding. You stand in far more powerful, far more dominant, far more glorious setting. You stand before the King of the Universe! …in his presence! …in a sight of brilliance and dominance! The Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty! But how? He stands apart from sin.
Do you see that?
Look through the eyes of Isaiah the prophet. [T]he Lord [sits] seated on a throne… The Lord. Do know what that [name] means? Lord is not God’s first name like: Bob or George or Dick. [The name] Lord has a meaning; Lord credits God as One with authority, all-power, superiority; the One holding control over every single thing in the world with unsurpassed might. This is the God who rules the entire universe! This is the God before whom each individual must give account (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:12)! This is the God who holds final judgment over your eternal future! And your feet remain planted just a few feet away.
Staring straight ahead, you only see the legs of his throne. Your eyes trace those legs up higher and higher; your head tilts back more and more, reminding you of just insignificant you are compared to him. [T]he train of his robe fill[s] the temple. Exquisite white linen sprawls across the polished floor, touching each wall, covering every square inch that you dare not step on these unsoiled garments.
Above him were seraphs… such unique angels that we know nothing more about them other than what Scripture says here. These angelic beings flash like flames of fire, showcasing the power and the purity found in this temple. Look up; see seraph after seraph after seraph fill the space above your head. [Each one has] six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.
And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” You sing the same song in the Common Service. Ho-ly, ho-ly, ho-ly Lord God of heav-en-ly hosts: heav’n and earth are full of your glory Yet, they do not prepare for Holy Communion. These seraphs trumpet a very truthful reality: God is holy. That means two things: (1) Holy: the Lord has no moral fault; he is perfect. (2) Holy: the Lord stands opposed to everything and everyone that is imperfect. Holy: because he is set apart from our sins.
Does that sound quite right? The puffed up, proud society in which you live boom: “Hey! Wait just a minute! Who is God that he should call my hate wrong? Who is God that he commands me how to treat my body? Who is God that he condemns my unbelief?” That proud human heart tears down Isaiah’s sight and replaces it with one where the human sits in the throne next to God— or, worse yet, in the throne over the Almighty.
Have you wandered into that arrogance? It comes out when you intentionally skip worship for the boat or for yard-work, but you cover over it with your self-understood excuse: “Well, God understands. I’m busy.” Never mind God commands your whole heart (Matthew 22:37); you can determine to give God part of your love. That proud heart smirks oh-so-smugly at harsh words meant to destroy. “Well, she made me angry.” “Dad needs to get with reality.” “I must exert power over my neighbor.” Never mind God expects words to build up (Matthew 5:22); you must have the authority to overthrow God’s command. That arrogant heart wraps an arm around God, calling him your buddy who understands why you can lose self-control, why it’s acceptable for you to neglect your parenting discipline, why it’s alright for you to create your own beliefs. Inside each of us is this heart which believes it sits on the throne of God. That it sits in authority over God. That you are free to live according to your rules. That God is honored by your presence.
Do you see who sits on the throne? Not you. Not me. Not the seraphim either. In fact, even the seraphim tremble at the sight. The ones already in heaven cannot even look at the face of God! So how can you (and I), mere mortals living in an unclean world approach God and live? The best we can is join with Isaiah, trembling, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
The LORD God Almighty is Holy, Holy, Holy. He stands apart from our sins. Yet, your
Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty cleanses you with his life.
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar… The altar. The place of sacrifice. The place where blameless animal after blameless animal sacrificed its life to remove sin.
Flying from the altar of forgiveness, the seraph touches [Isaiah’s] mouth [with that coal] and says, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” A holy God does not sweep Isaiah away into the very depths of hell. The God of patience and mercy cleanses him with his life.
Your Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty deals with you in the same patience and mercy. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16), the disciple John writes. God the Father sends his only Son into a life soiled with sin’s awful grime. The devil pushed pride before him. Jesus faces the pull to run away from the cross and live a cushy earthly life. Yet, he never does. He treasures the Word of the Holy God above all things— remaining the Holy One of God.
This Holy One, the One seated on this magnificent, towering throne steps down and humbles himself. Leaving heaven, he takes the form of a servant, allowing corrupt men to spit on him, punch his face, crush a mockery into his head, and nail him to a cross. God so loved you that he laid his one and only Son on the altar of the cross in order to cleanse you.
Jesus leaves his tomb and says: See… your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. Jesus bridges the gap between you and God; that’s what is meant by the word “atone:” Jesus makes you “at-one” with God. At your baptism the Triune God announces, “Look, this water and my Word has touched you: your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” At the altar, Jesus touches you with his body and blood, together with the bread and wine, and says: See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Jesus has removed the stained garments of arrogance and dressed you in splendid white robes. He has washed grimy pride away. He has cleansed an arrogant ego. He makes you (and me) acceptable to approach the Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty because his holy life has been used to cleanse you.
Now cleansed, your Triune God calls you to a holy life. Just look at Isaiah. Just moments earlier trembles at the sight of approaching a holy God, fearing his life would roar to a violent close. Yet, a merciful God sets him free from bondage to hell. Set free from threats of death, he is free to serve God with a willing heart and life. He heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” [Isaiah] said, “Here am I. Send me!” Touched by that forgiving love, he is transformed to share it with many others.
God may not have called you to be a minister or missionary. Yet, he has called you into a new way of living. Forgiven, restored, brought into his family, you can approach God with confidence.
Your singing of “Holy, Holy, Holy!” comes not from fear, but from hearts thriving on the forgiveness through a Triune God. You shout: “Holy! Holy! Holy! Is the LORD Almighty!” giving God credit for his perfection and him giving you that perfection for eternal life in heaven. You praise God as you read your Meditations devotions. You praise God as you study God’s Word in Bible class. You praise God as you take his Word into your hearts. You demonstrate proper love for God as you place him in the first-place spot of your hearts. His Word drowns out your words… and thoughts… and opinions. You are following the One who is Holy, Holy, Holy!
You bring your offerings to God. Gifts of money, of your time, and of your talents. You support a minister bringing God’s Word to your ears and heart— and to your friends and community. You offer God a beautiful space where he might reign and dwell. You serve him from a heart motivated by love. The Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty has called you to a holy life.
On this Trinity Sunday, you stand between two halves of our church readings. From Advent (end-November) through Pentecost (mid-May), we study the life of Christ: his faultless birth, innocent living, and perfect life sacrificed, and triumphant resurrection. Now, after today, the focus shifts from the steps taken to save us to the teachings Jesus gives over his three-year ministry.
You are ready for this growth. Your Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty has ushered you into his grand temple. You look up to see the One high and exalted, seated on his magnificent throne. Yet, you do not fear. Through the blood of Jesus, the Father declares you forgiven. The Holy Spirit points at your baptism as evidence that you belong to God. Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD God Almighty! He stands apart from sin. His life cleanses us. He calls us to a holy life.
Morgan Spurlock had a simple question: What would happen if I eat at McDonald’s three times each day for one month?
So, he put his question to the test. He went to McDonald’s every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He ordered every single item on the menu board at least once over the course of 30-days. He made sure to eat nothing except McDonald’s. So, that means no cookies at home, no chips, no tacos, no apples, nothing except what McDonald’s offered. He would even SuperSize his meal if the order-taker asked him. Now, he made sure to stay somewhat active during this test; he walked about 5,000 steps per day (which is about how much the average American walks). He did this for 30-days.
Can you guess what happened? In one month Morgan Spurlock gained 25-pounds. In fact, he gained ten pounds in just the first five days and gained an additional eight pounds about a week later. Doctors figure his diet averaged 5,000 calories per day. (For comparison, nutritionists recommend a 2,000-3,000 [calorie] daily diet.) Put another way, he ate the equivalent of nine-and-a-half Big Mac [sandwiches] each day. (Can you imagine eating that?) Not only did he gain weight, but he experienced mood swings, depression, and laziness [lethargy]. His heartbeat grew irregular. He had fatty accumulations piling up on his liver. Friends pleaded with him to stop this unhealthy test. His doctor even said, “If you continue this diet, you will die.” Morgan Spurlock went from healthy to near-death all within 30-days (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Size_Me).
You must watch what you consume because what you consume can kill you. This morning God is not discussing your diet habits at McDonald’s. Instead, God wants you to examine your spiritual diet. What are you taking in? Feasting on false teaching can bring spiritual death. So, God cannot make it any clearer: Test What You Believe. Many false messages exist. So, make sure to stand on the side of God.
It might be the most popular question asked when stepping into a church: “How do I know what the Pastor says is right?”
That is an excellent question to ask. It demonstrates your concern about on what your faith rests. You want to hear God’s thoughts, not the thoughts of another human being. You want a message that will not harm you spiritually, but will strengthen your faith. You do not want to stand before God only to hear him say, “No. What you believe is wrong. Away from me.” You want a message that puts you on God’s right side for eternity!
So then, how do you know that what the Pastor says is God-pleasing? Well, our reading from 1 John says this: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God… John tells you: Test What You Believe. In the old wild west, bankers would bite down on gold coins in order to test if they were real. If their teeth left a mark, then the coin was made of real, soft gold. If there was no mark, then the coin was made of false gold. How do you that what you believe God approves? Take what you hear and compare it to what the Bible teaches. Does what you hear agree with what is written down? Or does it contradict the Bible?
This is something you must always continue. Why? Because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Did you catch that? You will encounter many different people who claim to speak with God’s authority. You must Test What You Believe.
Understand, no one will sneak out of the shadows and tell you, “Follow me. I preach my own feelings about heaven and hell.” No one will jump out of a dark alley and say, “Hey! Come to my church. What we teach is wrong!” No false prophet calls himself “false.” What makes a prophet “false” is that his preaching and teaching will contradict what God says in the Bible. You will hear Pastors tell you, “Do not baptize infants,” even though Jesus commands, “Go, baptize all nations”— that is, all the people in the world (Matthew 28:19). You will hear Sunday School teachers say, “Mary is not a virgin.” Yet, God makes it so clear, in the Bible: “Jesus is born of a virgin; he is without sin” (Matthew 1:23; 3:17). A couple weeks ago, a very prominent religious leader (whom millions follow) said, “Even an atheist [one who believes God does not exist] will go to heaven if he is a good man” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-pope-francis-comforted-a-boy-who-wondered-if-his-dad-a-non-believer-was-in-heaven_us_5ad5f549e4b016a07ea0afac). This religious leader contradicted Jesus’ clear teaching: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16).
False prophets look religious. They preach in churches with crosses in them. False prophets open the Bible and speak random passages to cover up their error. False prophets may be sincere, but still spread lies about what God says. When it comes to your heart consumes, Test What You Believe because Many false messages exist.
The trouble is, we are not always so careful about what our hearts consume, are we? The devil does such a tremendous job at convincing us to believe that it doesn’t really matter if you believe the whole Bible. “Just believe the ‘big’ things,” he says.
If you wish to think that your baptism is meaningless, then you are free to disregard God’s teachings on baptism. If you do not think Mary is a virgin, then don’t. If you want to believe that all people go to heaven, then believe it. “Believe whatever you want,” the devil whispers. “It does not matter.”
Yet, it does matter what you believe. No, not because I (as Pastor) say it does. False teaching is dangerous because it puts you against God. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. Did you catch that? If you want to follow teachings not found in Scripture, then you will follow the spirit of the antichrist… which is just as it sounds: a person who “stands against” Christ. You will either stand with God or you will stand against him. If you choose to stand against God, then you will hear the most horrific words ever imagined: “I don’t know you. Away from me” (Matthew 7:21-23). If you fill up on spiritual junk food, you will die.
That is why God stresses: Test What You Believe. Many false messages exist. So, make sure you stand on the side of God.
You can because God has given you his Word, the Bible. Do you realize, that God has written down his very thoughts and his very words and his very actions so that you may hear and read and believe? Do you realize that God has made sure that what was first written in the Bible some 3,500 years ago are still same words you have today? God has handed you the Bible so that these words may fill your heart and give you life!
These Words contain the events Jesus endures to bring you to his side. The Son of God is born of a virgin, born sinless— just like God promised. While he lived on earth, Jesus did not chase after teachings that felt good or sounded pleasant. Rather, Jesus keeps repeating the same teachings of God even when Jewish leaders reject it. Jesus will not change his teachings even when he dies on the cross because of it. Jesus never changes God’s Word because it gives life.
You see, Jesus suffers all this to bring you to stand on the side of God. (1) He lets God punish him instead of you (and me) for the times we tolerate false teaching. (2) He rises from the dead to show he never warped the Word of God. (3) Then, he tells you, You, dear children, are from God.
The Word of God gives life. Jesus has grafted you into himself at your baptism. He strengthens that bond in the Lord’s Supper. You, dear children, are from God and you stand on the side of God.
Just think about that! You stand on the side of God. If you stand on the side of God, then it means you have overcome all enemies of God! Yes, false prophets will remain in the world. Christian leaders will pressure you to change your beliefs on sex and marriage. Sunday School teachers may try to tell you that all people will go to heaven regardless of what they believe. Some Pastors will remove parts of the Bible that sound offensive so that churches get bigger, so that they attract more children, so that they can tug on people’s emotions. You may feel as though your congregation is failing! That you must change your beliefs in order to succeed in today’s world. Yet, God still says, [T]he one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
That means you must continue Testing What You Believe. You stand on the side of God. The devil knows this and he will spend night and day to destroy your faith. He will try to convince you that children’s programs and the number of kids in church is more important than what the Pastor teaches. He will try to convince that the more people in church, the better that church is. He will tell you that you can make an oath to join any organization that honors any Supreme Being. That Supreme Being might not be your Triune God, but all members may pool their beliefs together.
Since the devil wages constant war on you, Test What You Believe and stand on the side of God. If a Pastor teaches that every religion teaches the same thing, then leave that Pastor; he is preaching falsely. If a teacher tells you the Bible has some mistakes in it, then stop listening to that teacher; he is preaching falsely. If your heart makes up beliefs that contradict God’s plan for marriage and divorce, then change your heart. If you realize a group you belong to makes you compromise your beliefs by swearing to an unknown God, then leave that group. Pumping your heart full of spiritual junk food is not worth spiritual death. Test What You Believe; feast on God’s unchanging Word and stand on the side of God.
You must watch what you consume because what you consume can kill you. That was Morgan Spurlock’s wake up call. If he continued his McDonald’s diet, he would die. Change his diet and live.
So, what makes up your spiritual diet? Are you making sure that God’s pure Word enters your life? Or are you willing to change the Word so that you feel happy for today? Are you willing to pick and choose what to believe? Or do you, out of love for God, fight to keep his Word pure?
Feasting on false teaching can bring spiritual death, but Jesus brings you spiritual life. The Holy Spirit used God’s Word to bring you to faith. That faith has grafted you to Christ the Vine. Connected to Christ, you are motivated to live for him. How? Test What You Believe. Many false messages exist. So, stand on the side of God.
You have heard me say it before: You and I live in a postmodern society. That means, many believe truth is relative. There is no absolute standard of “right” and no absolute standard of “wrong.” So, many make choices based on what feels right to them. If it feels right, then it must be right (so the thinking goes).
So then, what’s the difference between an abortion and the murder of the unborn? [To a postmodern thinker] Whatever the mother thinks is going on inside the womb! If the mother does not wish to keep the child, then she does not think it is “life.” And if it is not a “life,” then she will not call it murder and there is nothing morally wrong. Yet, if a mother wishes to have a child and the child is taken away through an act of violence, then, since the mother felt this was human life, the offender can be charged with murder! Even ‘life’ becomes defined by whatever a person wants it to be—based on what they think or feel it is (and that definition changes from person to person).
Or, if you feel that the speed limit down Old-27 (in Harrison) and McEwan St. (in Clare) should be 50 miles per hour, then the officer who pulls you over for speeding has no reason to write you a ticket because you feel the speed limit should be higher (and the city has posted the wrong speed limit). Postmodern thinking teaches that you determine what is right and what is wrong based on your feelings.
The reason I keep bringing up this postmodern mindset is because you and I live in this postmodern society; this is the current thinking which dominates what you see and hear in life.
That same thinking filters into the world’s beliefs about God. A September 2016 poll surveyed American religious beliefs (and most surveyed identified themselves as Christian). This poll discovered that 58% of Americans believe God is the author of the Bible and 42% percent believe the Bible does not have the authority to tell them what to do. Seventy-four percent feel that small sins do not deserve hell and 52% believe they will go to heaven because of the good deeds they do. Not to mention, 70% of Americans (who, again, identify as Christian) do not believe hell exists and 64% believe all people— regardless of belief— will go to heaven. (http://lifewayresearch.com/2016/09/27/americans-love-god-and-the-bible-are-fuzzy-on-the-details/)
So, what does a poll like this reveal? In words of the pollster: “Most Americans identify as Christians, but seem confused about some details of their faith… Contradictory and incompatible beliefs are OK for most people.”A survey like this reveals a heart which picks and chooses what it wants to believe. The real trouble is not just that you live in this kind of religious atmosphere, but that you too can adopt this same thinking, that you also begin picking and choosing what you want to believe.
Setting your beliefs on your own authority can put your soul in eternal danger. That’s why God warns and urges: Listen to the Prophet! God gives him the Word and He speaks God’s Word.
So, how does anyone know anything about God? How you do know if you stand right in his sight? If your words are pleasing to him? If your actions meet his expectations? If he would approve of your behavior? Because, according to our reading, even the Israelites (at one time) are not too sure.
They were camped around this place called Mount Horeb (or, as you know it, Mount Sinai). Smoke billows from its top. The ground rumbles. The shrill trumpet blast echoes across the desert floor. God came down from heaven and now rests on Mount Sinai— and they are terrified.
God is there! The perfect God with the highest of highest standards for moral perfection. The mighty God who demands absolute obedience! The God who ultimately has the final say on their life. One day their earthly life will end and they will meet him, but they have no idea how they can and live. So, they ask for a prophet— someone who receives God’s Word and brings it to the people.
Enter Moses. He walks up Mount Sinai. God hands him the Word and Moses brings down God’s Ten Commandments. If the nation ever wondered how God saw them, all they had to do was Listen to the Prophet, listen to Moses.
Yet, for you, God has raised up a Prophet even greater than Moses. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers… The New Testament so clearly identifies that Prophet as Jesus (Acts 3:22-23; 7:37). [I] will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.
If you want to know what God expects of you in this life, then listen to Jesus. Understand, Jesus’ words carry authority. Jesus does not base his teaching on his own opinion. He does not share what feels is right in this life. Instead, he tells you what (1) God says and (2) what God will do.
There’s a part of our hearts that doesn’t want to hear this, a part of our lives fighting for a reason as to why God’s truth does not apply to us. Do you hear it?
Jesus says: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10). Yet, our hearts try undercut Jesus’ authority. “Jesus, I don’t need to worship every Sunday. I determined, by the power of my own feelings that it does not matter if I am here or not. You must accept my belief.”
Or, Jesus explains eternal life: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Yet, that doesn’t sound too fair. “God, I think everyone will go to heaven, I know Jesus says that we need faith in him. But I have determined, through my own investigation that this is not the case. My belief feels right to me, so I am right and you are wrong.”
Or, Jesus cares about the way you live. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Yet, maybe that does not sound too realistic. “God, I know what pleases you—what kind of words please you, how I can use my body and mind to glorify you, but I have determined that this brings nothing bad into my life. Therefore there is nothing morally wrong with the way I act.”
Your heart (and mine) will try to create its own beliefs, its own rules, and follow them— even going so far as to demand that God cater to you. That sounds good; that sounds acceptable. Except… except of one truth no one can deny: You (and I) will die one day. When that happens, God clearly reveals what will happen next. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.
Yes, God’s Word can offend us. The sinful nature inside each of us does not want its deeds evil, wicked deeds exposed. It does not want God to tell us how to live. Yet, God tells us how to live so that you (and I) do not fall under his eternal judgment!
So, God raises up his Prophet for you! Look at Jesus and recognize that his Word is not mean to enslave you, but to free you! To free you from the consequences of sin! To free you for eternal life!
That is what the Prophet preaches! Freedom for the captive! Good news for the spiritually poor and empty (Luke 4:18). The message of his mouth has authority; it accomplishes what he says it will do.
On the cross Jesus speaks: It is finished (John 19:30)--and that word does something. He pushed Satan back into hell. He grabbed you (and me) by hand, led us to himself, and leads us out of the bondage of our sins. He rises from the dead and proclaims real truth: Peace be with you. As I forgive you, you are forgiven. I can tell you that you are at peace with God (John 20:21).
Listen to the Prophet. God gives him the Word to proclaim, a word which reveals your truthful reality. There remains no more guesswork as to how you stand before God. Listen to the Prophet because He speaks the Word.
Still. Today. Right now. Jesus the Prophet still speaks. The writer of [the book of] Hebrews says: In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways… that is, God sent out people with his Word. Yet, God does not send out new messages to prophets anymore. In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (1:1-2). The Bible is similar to a diary. If you write down your day’s events, and I read that book out loud, I am not reading my words, I am not reading my thoughts. I am reading your words and your thoughts. God gave certain men his Word to write down (1 Thessalonians 2:13). When I read it out loud, you hear what God desires. When you read it, you read God’s teachings. Listen to Jesus, the Prophet, because he speaks God’s Word.
Yes, Listen to Jesus, the Prophet as you step out into a postmodern society. Most recently, the president of the largest Lutheran church body in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] (a liberal branch of Lutherans) went on record to say: If hell exists, I think it’s empty. (https://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/elizabeth-eaton-presiding-bishop-evangelical-lutheran-church-in-america-chicago-if-hell-exists-i-think-its-empty-face-to-faith-podcast/) This religious leader speaks in the name of God, that is, she passes along a teaching that appears to be approved by God. But, does God approve it?
First, If hell exists? Jesus, in the Bible makes it clear hell exists. He tells how a man named Lazarus went heaven and a nonbelieving rich man when to hell (Luke 16:22-23; see also Matthew 10:28). Then, If hell exists, I think it’s empty. Yet, Jesus makes it clear: All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another… He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…[the goats] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:32-33,46). Again, this Lutheran preacher speaks a teaching different from the One Jesus himself gives.
You must be on your guard against prophets who speak in God’s name, but are not sharing what he commands. No one advertises himself as a false prophet. No one says: “Come to my church. I’m going to tell you a bunch of lies.” No one says, “Listen to me; I’ll share my firm opinions with you.” No one will stand up and say, “We take little snippets of the Bible out of context and pass along teachings that make sense to our minds.” No one will say that.
That is why you need to Listen to God’s Prophet. When someone tells you something about angels or heaven & hell or how people enter heaven and you’re not so sure they’re right, go back to the Bible and see if this matches what Jesus says. And yes, our world passes along sentimental thoughts and some of them appear quite harmless. Maybe you even wonder: Why not let people believe what they want? What’s the harm in that? Because God warns: [A] prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.”
God is that serious when it comes to the matter of your soul! He knows that allowing just a little false teaching into your heart can lead you down the wide road into hell. So, he goes to the extreme: Remove those words from your presence! Get rid of them!
This can sound strict, like God is a narrow-minded elitist. Yet, is he? Many of you already act in the same way as parents and grandparents. If you have a little one in your house, you recognize there are some dangers in that house. If a child grabs a bottle of bleach and you take it away. He will cry. He will think you’re the worst parent on earth. He might yell and stomp his feet. He will try to make you feel bad. Does that mean you are a bad person? No! The child is still wrong and you are still right. You took the bleach away because it harms. God, in the same way, protects his Word so that you get to hear his truth and remain close to him.
It’s a tough teaching. It’s tough because our world really does not enjoy hearing truth. They will agree on opinions, but when you call an opinion a fact, it will be resisted. It’s tough because even you (and I) will want to follow our feelings.
Yet, Listen to the Prophet because God gives him the Word—the authoritative truth on life. God removes all guesswork as to how you stand with him. Listen to the Prophet who still speaks the Word so that you may live guided to your heavenly home.