Deuteronomy 32:4 and John 1:12
Sermon by Jim Kane
This month, Pastor R___ and I are going to be preaching across the Bible in a series called “God is…I am”
At last year’s International Youth Convention there were these cards that had on the one side the phrase, “God is” that lists 12 statements about who God is and on the other side is “He Sees Me As” which lists 13 “I Am” statements about how the Lord sees us.
Eight statements, four “God is” and four “I am,” have been selected and paired for this month with the base texts that R___ and I will use as departure points for our messages. Will you pray for us as we sit down to write, then pray, then write, then wrestle with the texts, and pray some more? I don’t think that I often ask you for prayers. I know that you pray for me and I appreciate it. But your prayers are sought for me, and R___, and Q___ because we need the power and protection of your prayers for us.
God is Just and I Am God’s Own – Deuteronomy 32:4 and John 1:12
Sunday. February 12th
God is Faithful and I am not Alone – 1 Corinthians 1:9 and Isaiah 41:10
Sunday, February 19th
God is Love and I am Loved – 1 John 4:8 and Romans 4:8 – (R___ is preaching)
Sunday, February 26th
God is Holy and I am Righteous and Holy – Psalm 77:13 and Ephesians 4:24
On this Communion Sunday, we are reminded, as we remember and give thanks to the Lord, that because of Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf, that in addition to be a loving God, God is also a just God.
One of our texts for this morning is Deuteronomy 32:4
He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect.
Everything he does is just and fair.
He is a faithful God who does no wrong;
how just and upright he is!
This verse is part of a song, a song of Moses as he grows closer to the end of his life and his leadership of Israel. In chapter 31 we read about his passing the leadership of the nation to Joshua and then as noted in verse 30, after reminding the people of Israel of their history, “Moses recited this entire song publicly to the assembly of Israel…”
In this song, which also served as a reminder, a history lesson to the people about their journey with God and who their God is they are reminded that…
His deeds are perfect
Everything he does is just and fair
He is a faithful God who does no wrong
Just and upright he is…
It is important to remember at this point that Moses is reminding the people of the kind of God they are serving. A few weeks ago, I read from Joshua 24:15:
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Notice the phrase, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites…
Joshua gave them a choice because they had a choice to make, just as we do.
What kind of gods (small ‘g’) did the Amorites serve?
According to one source their chief God was Amurru and it is also believed that this group of people founded the nation of Babylon which figures prominently later in the Old Testament. They, as well as other nations, had a pantheon, or collection, of gods, not just one God. They were polytheistic people because they worshipped more than one god.
Israel, as Moses was reminding them, were to worship and serve only one God and this God was a faithful and just God.
Now some people might ask, what if Amurru was a good and faithful god like our God? What’s wrong with worshipping him?
(By his question, Joshua understood the attraction of worshipping other gods, hence the question.)
Well, let’s talk for a few moments about a god mentioned in the Old Testament we know a bit more about – Baal
In 1 Kings 16 and verse 29 and forward we hear about the incorporation of Baal into Israel’s group of gods that were being worshiped and served.
“Say what, Pastor? Israel did not serve and worship more than one god! That’s not true!”
Let’s look at 1 Kings 18 and beginning at verse 20 where King Ahab and the prophet Elijah had a show down. Ahab who was now worshiping the god Baal was the King of Israel
And here is a picture of what Baal probably looked … remind you of another Old Testament image? (Think Aaron melting gold)
(Baal means “lord” by the way.)
So as we read verse 20 and forward, Elijah issues a challenge to the prophets of Baal and somewhat directly King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.
Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.
Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.
What happens next is one of the most intense events in the Old Testament. The prophets of Baal work themselves into a frenzy cut themselves until their blood flowed and the dropped in exhaustion unable to convince their god to send fire down and consume the altar.
Then it was Elijah’s turn and we pick up at verse 30
Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.
Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”
After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.
At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”
Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”
This God, who heard and responded, is the God of whom Moses spoke of.
Now the story ends on a gory note.
Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.
And people who have trouble with not just believing in the God of the Bible but believing in the Christian faith often say, after reading a passage like these, “I want nothing to do with that God or the Bible or Christianity.”
I acknowledge those views. But there is more to God than this story. As I said last week grace is spoken of more in the New Testament than Old Testament. The justice of God is sometimes harsh not because He hates humankind, because He does not hate humankind but what they do.
Which takes me to the next verse for this morning John 1:12
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
I am a child of God.
Say that with me…
Parents, have you ever become angry with your kids? Why? Ultimately, it is because you love them and want what is best for them.
But a raging and angry God is something that no one wants to believe in. But God does get angry with us not because He hates us. He gets upset with us when we choose to do our own thing and follow our way and not His.
Was the father of the prodigal son angry with his son? I would say yes. He was angry with his son’s choices, his attitude. But when he saw him “a long way off” love took over.
So today, as we again remember and give thanks to the Lord for His love expressed on the cross, let us remember that God is just and that we are children of God.
But I also want us to reflect for a moment before we have Communion on something that came to my mind as I prepared for this week.
As I re-read the familiar story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, I was struck by the image of “us” (used in a larger and collective sense) of dancing in a frenzy in these days because we worship other gods as well and some of them are called:
And we expect them to save us.
But do they?
As we prepare for communion, I ask each of us to consider putting our idols, including some of these perhaps, into God’s hands and letting go of them.
We are children of God. We have been offered forgiveness from the hand of a God who loves us dearly and deeply.
And the peace and success we often seek, in these idols, do not and will never satisfy us.
Let us surrender to life… to Christ…to faith, hope, and love.
Thanks be to God!