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Romans 11:25-36

 

Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob;" "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

 

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (ESV)

The Deep

Wednesday of Lent 4

2 April 2014

How deeply Jesus desires our salvation! So fervently does He love us that He is willing to offer Himself into suffering and death, as a payment to win back even those who will ultimately despise Him and revile His faith. But He won't quit trying. He won't stop grieving for those who are being lost. But we treat His word and faith as something obvious, easy to grasp.

                                 

We live life like the Midwesterner who, when taken for the first time to the coast of our great country, gazes out at the limitless ocean and says prosaically to his guide, "Oh, look at all that water. What's next on the tour?" As though all that is important about the ocean is that it is a lot of water. He never sees beneath its depths in which a myriad creatures live, the nourishing fisheries, the tidal pools full of teeming life, and the pleasant beaches for relaxing vacationers, just to mention a few of the complexities of the ocean's richness. We humans have a nose for the obvious. Only when reality hits us on the bridge of our nose are we wont to wake up. We treat God like he is a major league baseball manager: "What have you done for me lately?" We are always looking for a bigger bang than what Jesus seems to be offering.

 

Will we receive Jesus like the blasé Midwesterner? Will the horrible mystery of unbelief blossom in our hearts? Will we look only at the surface? Will we see Him as a wonder working rabbi, who really hasn't given us a big enough show yet? Or will we see the depths of the work of God using those little-appearing means, like preaching, a little bread and wine (take eat...) or the water of baptism (I baptize you...), or the speech of holy absolution (I forgive you...). What we take for granted, what we gaze at every Sunday without thinking about them, what we arrive in the divine service too late to receive, or too preoccupied to listen to, He gives again and again. Each time He gives them He wants to waken your faith to the depth of them. He accompanies His preachers with the Spirit and power that seeing you might truly see, and at the same time admit that you see nothing. "Listen, watch, believe," He begs you. That in all that little stuff you might see the great wonders that He works.

 

Martin Luther once wrote: "It is the place of faith that all things which are believed by it would be hidden. These things are not hidden far away, but under the things contrary to our sense and experience. So when God makes us alive, he does so by killing us, when He justifies us, he does it by making us guilty, when He leads us to heaven, he does so by casting us into hell." This is why Lutherans have always been critical of pilgrimages to faraway places or the establishment of monastic communities laboring night and day to reach knowledge, love, and faith in God. God is right under our noses and no work or pilgrimage will ever bring us closer to Him than He has brought Himself to us in the preaching of the gospel. Jesus invites us into the depths with Him. Only He can lead us under the surface to see the depths in faith.

 

Augustine of Hippo

 

"It is right that John did not say, 'The wrath of God shall come upon him,' but 'remains on him' (Jn 3:36). For from this wrath, in which we are all involved under sin, and of which the apostle Paul says, 'For we too were once by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind' (Eph 2:3), nothing delivers us but the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. The reason why this grace comes upon one person and not another may be hidden, but it cannot be unjust. For 'Is there injustice on God's part? By no means!' (Rm 9:14). But we must first bend our necks to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, in order that we may each arrive at knowledge and understanding through faith. For it is not said in vain, 'Your judgments are like the great deep' (Ps 36:6). The profundity of this deep causes the apostle, as with a feeling of dread, to exclaim: 'Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!' (Rm 11:33). He had indeed previously pointed out the meaning of this marvelous depth, when he said: 'For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.' (Rm 11:32). Then struck, as it were, with a horrible fear of this deep: 'Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen' (Rm 11:33-36). How utterly insignificant, then, is our faculty for discussing the justice of God's judgments, and for the consideration of His free grace, which, as men have no preceding merits for deserving it, cannot be partial or unrighteous, and which does not disturb us when it is bestowed upon unworthy men, as much as when it is denied to those who are equally unworthy." 

 

Augustine, On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism of Infants, 1.29

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, You who command the depths, send your Word and Spirit to us, that we might patiently plumb the depths of your mercy. Amen.

 

For Luke George, who is undergoing therapy for a fever, that the Lord of all would guide and guard the hands of the doctors and grant to him the healing he needs

 

For the Board of Regents of Concordia University Texas, that their work for the university would be brought to a blessed fruition

 

For the family of Don Phelps, that they might be encouraged by the gospel of Christ in the midst of their grief

 

For those who labor in the building trades, that the Father of all mercies would watch over them and keep them safe under the wings of His mercy

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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