15th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 17 – C)
August 28, 2016
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Old Testament reading from Proverbs, which was read a few minutes ago.
I think just about all the kids would agree with me that it is entirely unsatisfying to hear parents say, “Because I said so” when they’re asked “why”. That’s not an answer at all, right? When someone tells us no, we want an explanation. But as my parents said to me, and as I’ve said to Becca, parents don’t have to give a reason. Sometimes they don’t have a good reason, other times they choose not to share it. I know this bothers kids, but it’s just one of those things you have to live with.
When it comes to things going on in our lives we often question God. We ask Him “Why?” and “Why me?” because we want an answer for all the bad that’s happening in our world and in our lives. We think that God owes us some sort of an explanation, that He must defend His actions. But like our parents, God’s answer is sometimes “Because I said so”. He may not say that directly, but that’s the gist of His message. Someday we’ll have all our questions answered, but for now, don’t look for what you cannot see.
The author of First Kings wrote that Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs which covered a wide range of topics. As you would expect, much of what Solomon said was about God and today he tells us, “It is the glory of God to conceal things.” This is God’s version of “Because I said so.” He doesn’t reveal everything to us, He doesn’t answer all our questions, and He’s not going to. We don’t like that though, do we? We want to know that things that happened in our lives or to those we love have meaning, that there’s a purpose for them. We want to know: Why did I get cancer? Why did they die? Why does my parent hurt me? Why did my spouse leave me? Why does God hate me?
As this world spins around on its axis it is also spinning out of control so we have more questions. Why are there mass shootings? Why is our nation becoming so racially divided? Why devastating earthquakes? Why terrorism? Or as someone asked me the other day, why are babies killed by those who supposedly love them?
Humans are naturally curious, we look for explanations and we search for solutions to problems. I’m sure that we wouldn’t like some of the answers we would get, but still, we want to know. When it comes down to it though, what we’re really doing by asking these questions is demanding that God explain Himself. He has to answer to us. He has to justify His actions. Then, if He does, we can either accept what He says or accuse Him of being unfair.
When we ask for answers we’re viewing God as if He was one of us. We’re assuming that His mind works like ours, that He would always do what we would do. We forget that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). As Elihu says to his miserable friend Job, “Who has prescribed for Him His way, or who can say [to God], ‘You have done wrong’”? (Job 36:23) By asserting a right that isn’t ours, we’re sinning.
Solomon puts it this way, “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.” On the surface this verse doesn’t fit with the first verse, but it does. By trying to see what God doesn’t want to reveal to us and by demanding that God the King explain Himself, we’re claiming a place of honor. When we do this, God sends us away because we’re tried to take a seat that’s reserved for someone else.
This should be humbling because we have to admit we’ve exceeded our standing in relation to God. God may not speak to us face to face as He did Job, but His answer to us is the same, “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:7-8) When we’ve been humbled and have realized our sin by questioning God, we have to say with Job, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3) So we confess our sins and listen to what God wants us to hear and look for what He does want us to see.
The reason we don’t look for what we’re not allowed to see isn’t because God is mean, rather it’s because He’s already revealed to us all we need to know. He hasn’t written answer in the stars or on our bedroom walls or revealed them in dreams. Instead, He’s shown us answers where we usually don’t look. He reveals what He wants us to see in a crowded stable in a dinky little town, in a homeless, wandering man who cured all manner of diseases and spoke a life changing Word, in a bloody death on a cross, in the dead body lying on a cold stone slab, in an empty tomb on a beautiful Sunday morning.
We look at Jesus as the incarnation of God. God’s hidden glory is in Christ and it’s in Him that God reveals Himself to this world. And He reveals Himself not in power and glory but in humility and suffering, the exact way would never expect. Paul puts it this way, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (I Cor 1:21). The answer to our questions, and what God wants us to see is in Christ. It looks like nonsense, but we find what we need in Christ.
When we look at Christ we see that God isn’t punishing us when we suffer because He punished Christ. God saw every sin you would ever commit and He poured them out on Jesus as He hung in agony of the Tree of Death. Don’t ever look at God as hating you because you suffer, rather know that when you do, Christ has already suffered for you and He is suffering with you. The Father said to His Son to go redeem His people, and the Son never said “Why?” or “Why me?” He just went. He went because it was the only way to save His suffering people.
God doesn’t want us to see why we’re suffering or why our world is experiencing such misery. However, He does what us to see the promises that have been written in His Word. He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). He says, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). When we are miserable, when our hearts are torn apart, when life is coming unraveled, He reveals that He is here for us. This is what He wants us to see, this is what isn’t hidden away, His love and compassion. When Paul was hurting, Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” II Cor 12:9). In our suffering and in our weakness God is at work. We may not see it, but we believe it, because He promised it.
To find His grace, to find the strength to endure, to find answers we look to where God has revealed His glory, where He reveals what He wants us to know. Not the answers to life itself, but answers to our life with Him. He gives us prayers and promises in His Word. He gives us strength and forgiveness. He guides us through the distresses of life until we take our seat of honor in His kingdom.
Until that day, He doesn’t leave us floundering by ourselves, but as I’ve said numerous times before, He reveals also Himself in His Sacraments. The word sacrament means mystery, and they’re mysteries because we don’t really understand how they work. Our lack of knowledge though doesn’t change the fact that they work. I don’t know how a nuclear reactor works, but I know it does. So I believe that water, when it is combined with God’s Word, washes your sins away and makes you a child of God, filled with His grace. I believe that the Lord’s Supper in an inexplicable way gives me the very Body and Blood of Jesus which forgives my sins, reminds me of my place in God’s family, and enable me to see clearly what lies ahead, knowing that Christ walks with me through whatever comes my way.
When we question God and demand that He give us an explanation for why He’s doing what He’s doing, we trying to see what He doesn’t want us to see, and we’re elevating ourselves to a place of honor that isn’t ours. When we do this, He humbles us by not complying with our demands. He doesn’t want you to peer into His thoughts or ways and He doesn’t want you searching out His hidden glory. He wants you to look to Jesus, because there you will find all that you need. So don’t look for what you cannot see, but look at what you can see – Jesus. For He and He alone is the answer to all our questions of “Why?”.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen