Testifies of Christ
Tuesday of Pentecost 14
12 September 2017
Ancient Israel became impatient with God's law. They presumed that the law could be understood from the results they saw in the world. They saw the wicked prosper and blasphemers go unpunished. Those who worked wickedness were testing God and getting off scot-free. God seemed to tolerate mockery of Himself.
This was a mistaken view on several bases. First, it did not take into account God's willingness patiently to wait for the last day. There will be a final retribution for those who have mocked God and acted as though He did not exist. He has promised that He would take vengeance (Rm 12:19). Who are we to doubt God's promise? There is no promise that we will be aware of God's vengeance, although we may see it at the final judgment. Second, God's vengeance may work itself out in time. Sometimes the mill of God's judgment sifts out the wheat very slowly. Perhaps long after we are dead, those whom we see mocking God will receive their recompense. Third, God's vengeance may be hidden from us. The law can work its way in the heart of an evil doer, so that there is great sorrow and suffering where we shall never see it. We must believe that God will work His will, even if we never see it or know about it.
The Apostle Paul says that the law is spiritual (Rm 7:14). That has several ramifications. The law deals with acts, yes. But more significantly and terrifyingly, God's law judges our internal motivations, our thoughts, our desires, even and especially our sinful and depraved hearts. So the law can't easily be dispensed with by our actions. Right action does not create righteousness before God. Thus the law is a devastating killer which reaches into the heart.
The Old Testament law also proclaims Christ. Here the word "law" is used in the broadest sense to refer to the "Torah," which includes both law and gospel. It preaches both our sin and death and Christ and our life in Him.
We cannot murmur against the law of God, because we may never see how it works out over the long haul. That is in the hands of God. He is in it for the long haul. Look at how long He takes to bring into effect our salvation. He planned our salvation from the foundation of the world. His heart was always set on us. That's why the whole Bible testifies of Christ, because He discloses the compassionate heart of God through His death and resurrection for us sinners.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"In the words, 'Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel' (Mal 4:4), the prophet Malachi opportunely mentions precepts and statutes, after declaring the important distinction hereafter to be made between those who observe and those who despise the law. He intends also that they learn to interpret the law spiritually, and find Christ in it, by whose judgment that separation between the good and the bad is to be made. For it is not without reason that the Lord Himself says to the Jews, 'If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me' (Jn 5:46).
"For by receiving the law in a fleshly way without perceiving that its earthly promises were figures of things spiritual, they fell into such murmurings as audaciously to say,  'It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape' (Mal 3:14-15). It was these words of theirs which in a manner compelled the prophet to announce the last judgment, in which the wicked shall not even in appearance be happy, but shall manifestly be most miserable; and in which the good shall be oppressed with not even a transitory wretchedness, but shall enjoy unsullied and eternal blessedness. For he had previously cited some similar expressions of those who said, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them' (Mal 2:17). It was, I say, by understanding the law of Moses in a fleshly way that they had come to murmur thus against God.
"Hence, too, the writer of the Psalm 73 says that his feet had almost stumbled, his steps had nearly slipped. For he was envious of the arrogant when he saw the prosperity of the wicked (Ps 73:2-3), so that he said among other things, 'How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?' (Ps 73:11) and again, 'All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence' (Ps 73:13). He goes on to say that his efforts to solve this most difficult problem, which arises when the good seem to be wretched and the wicked happy, were in vain until he went into the sanctuary of God, and understood the last things (Ps 73:23-28). For in the last judgment things shall not be so; but in the manifest blessedness of the righteous and manifest misery of the wicked quite another state of things shall appear."

Augustine, The City of God, 20.28
Psalm 73

Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, "How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?" Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed the generation of your children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. (ESV)
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the spiritual center of the divine law. Grant us the patience to await Your justice and righteousness. Amen.
For Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman, who has been called as Associate Pastor and Director of Parish Music of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the Lord of the church would be with him in his deliberations

For the family of Brenda Blackwell, who was called to the nearer presence of Christ her Lord, that they would be strengthened by their heavenly Father as they mourn her loss
For all those who are still trying to clean up homes and businesses following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, that the Lord Jesus would be their hope and strength
For Memorial Lutheran School as the faculty and staff provided education and spiritual care to children and families, that they would be granted wisdom and clarity of confession as they carry out their tasks

Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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