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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Jan 8, 2017 SERMON ARCHIVE
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.
A reed is a plant that is shaped like a tube or a straw, hollow on the inside. When the wall of a reed gets crushed or dented, the whole stalk weakens, bends, and wants to fall. In today's Old Testament Lesson, Isaiah uses the bruised reed to describe people who have become weakened and distressed by the cares of their life or existence. A smoldering wick on a candle or an oil lamp has already lost its bright and cheerful flame and now is in danger of going cold. In today's Old Testament Lesson, Isaiah uses the smoldering wick to describe people who feel themselves exhausted, "whose inner and outer life is only hanging by a slender thread" (Delitzsch). The prophet Isaiah says about the Lord Jesus Christ, "A bruised reed He will not break, a smoldering wick He will not snuff out" (Isaiah 42:3).
Dear Christian friends, Rahab (Joshua 2) was a bruised reed and a smoldering wick. She was a prostitute, her entire life had been reduced to being momentarily used and quickly disposed of by her neighbors. She was one of those people who do not exist until they are needed. The only eyes that could see her were those that were yellowed by desire or blackened by contempt. She was a vending machine, a treadmill, a toy, a shadow. Now, along with her entire town of Jericho, Rahab had become terrified by the impending judgment of the LORD God Almighty. She had heard how the God of the Israelites had delivered His people out of Egypt; of how He had defeated Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites on the east side of the Jordan; of how God had promised this land in which she lived to His people Israel. This preaching of God's mighty acts gripped Rahab and the entire city of Jericho with "a great fear" (Joshua 2:9) that melted their courage and caused them to despair for their lives. A bruised reed He will not break, A smoldering wick He will not snuff out. Although this divine preaching of God's judgment only increased Jericho's defiance against Him, the Word of God that Rahab heard created in her both fear and faith.
She rightly realized her impending doom, yet quite miraculously she also believed. Joshua, the leader of Israel, had sent spies to Jericho. Rahab met them and welcomed them and confessed her repentant faith to them with these words: "The LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below" (Joshua 2:11). Then, as we read in Joshua 6, God had commanded the fighting men of Israel to circle the city of Jericho one time per day for six days. On the seventh day, Israel was to march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets" (Joshua 6:4). When they heard the long trumpet blast, all of the people were to give a loud shout, and the walls of Jericho would completely collapse, allowing Israel to move straight in and conquer. While Rahab hid Joshua's spies from those who wanted to capture them, she begged them to save her and her family from the coming doom. "Give me a sure sign," she implored, "a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death" (Joshua 2:13). A bruised reed He will not break, A smoldering wick He will not snuff out.
Okay, Rahab, God seemed to say through the mouth of Joshua. Do you want a sign of your deliverance and salvation? I am happy to give you such a gift. Here is a common and ordinary piece of red string. You hang this red string in the window of your house, and you gather "your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house" (Joshua 2:18).
Do not take the thread down. Do not take this word and promise lightly. Do not underestimate the seriousness of that sign I now give you.
This red thread is my promise to you that when the walls come tumbling down, you shall yet live. You will be saved, spared, delivered, and preserved and this red thread will hang for you as proof and assurance that every promise I now make to you will indeed come true. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and the walls of Jericho collapsed; and every man charged straight in, and they took the city. Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, "Go into the prostitute's house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her."
So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel. Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD's house.
But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho-and she lives among the Israelites to this day (Joshua 6:16-17,20,22-25). Dear friends, it is not necessary to become a prostitute in order to feel and believe that you are being used by others; to be reduced to the status of a tool even if they do not consider you a toy. You don't need to make your money immorally to feel as if you are other peoples' vending machine and treadmill.
Not so much a friend and companion as a punching bag, a handkerchief and a crutch. Not so much a mom as a taxi driver. Not so much a wife as a cook. Not so much a husband or a father as a pack animal, a money tree. Too needed ever to be allowed to have any needs. Unnoticed to the point of non-existence. Over extended.
Alone. Afraid. The object of people's resentment and contempt. A bruised reed or a smoldering wick. A reed is a plant that is shaped like a tube or a straw, hollow on the inside. When the wall of a reed gets crushed or dented, the whole stalk weakens, bends, and wants to fall. In today's Old Testament Lesson , Isaiah uses the bruised reed to describe people who have become weakened and distressed by the cares of their life or existence. A smoldering wick on a candle or an oil lamp has already lost its bright and cheerful flame and now is in danger of going cold. In today's Old Testament Lesson, Isaiah uses the smoldering wick to describe people who feel themselves exhausted, "whose inner and outer life is only hanging by a slender thread" (Delitzsch). The prophet Isaiah says about your Lord Jesus Christ, "A bruised reed He will not break, a smoldering wick He will not snuff out" (Isaiah 42:3).
John records in his Gospel, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us" (John 1:14) not to break that which is bruised and leaning, but to "bind up the broken and strengthen the sick" (Ezekiel 34:16, NASB).
God the Son stepped up to His cross not to snuff you out, but He came so that you "may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10, NASB). He came to spare you the judgment that Jericho suffered. He came to forgive you of all your sins and incorporate you into the people of God, just as was written of Rahab, "she lives among the Israelites to this day" (Joshua 6:25). So careful is your Lord Jesus Christ that you would know and not doubt His great deliverance that He has given you a sure and faithful sign, as vivid and as relentless as Rahab's scarlet red thread. He has give you His gift of holy Baptism.
Common and ordinary thread or common and ordinary water, it does not matter: your Lord has attached to your water the same great promise and assurance as was attached to Rahab's red thread. The Israelite spies assured this Christian that her red cord would spare her from the coming judgment, so also does God give you the same assurance with regard to your Baptism.
It is as if He says to you, "Do not take this baptismal thread down. Do not take My Word and promise lightly. Do not underestimate the seriousness of the sign I now give you. This Baptism thread is my promise to you that when the walls come tumbling down, you shall yet live. You will be saved, spared, delivered, and preserved and this baptismal thread now hangs for you as proof and assurance that every promise I make to you will indeed come true." Every time Rahab heard another report of how the coming army was destroying everything in its path, she looked at her red thread hanging in the window.
Every time she feared that the authorities would find out how she helped Joshua's spies, she looked at her thread. Every time she shuddered to think of the future of her land and city, she looked at the thread, trusting in the promise that had been spoken to her.
Every time she wondered if she would ever be free of the life in which she found herself, she looked at the thread. A bruised reed He will not break, A smoldering wick He will not snuff out. Look the same way at your Baptism, dear saints! Look in the same way at your own red thread, given to you with God's immovable promise.
Dig out your baptismal certificate and hang it on the wall by your bed. Put your children's certificates by their beds and teach them the date of their Baptism just as you would teach them their phone number and address. Memorize your own baptismal birthday and mark it into your calendar. Write it into your Bible and your catechism along with your sponsor's names.
Place the tips of your fingers here on the top of your head. Move your hand down and touch your heart. Move to your right shoulder, and then to your left. Now move your hand back to your heart. Not so bad is it? Try it again. To your head, then to your heart, your right shoulder, your left and back to your heart.
Common and ordinary thread or common and ordinary water, it does not matter: your Lord has attached to your Baptism the same great promise and assurance as was attached to Rahab's red thread
Whenever you feel yourself bruised and smoldering, look at the thread! Whenever you feel used and neglected and overlooked, look at the thread. Whenever you feel the weight of your existence, and whenever you fear for your future and for the future of your loved ones, look at the thread
Whenever you worry or fret, keep your eyes focused on the beautiful scarlet thread of your Baptism, for it has been empowered by your Lord's own Baptism.
Look at it in confidence, and let come what may. Do not take your eyes off from it, even if all the walls come tumbling down.
Remember dear friends, Christ Is Risen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son(+), and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN
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