Written by the Spirit
Monday of Pentecost 16
25 September 2017
When teaching children the catechism, occasionally a child who really does know his memory assignment cannot remember how the passage begins and the harder he thinks about it, the more impossible it is that he should come up with the correct phrase. At that moment, a judicious gift of a word or two on the test page will open the floodgates of memory. So too God has seen to it that we should receive His own Word with His own finger. He began the flow of His divine Word through Moses and all the prophets and the apostles, by condescending to put His finger into the words that appeared on the two tablets of stone when giving the Ten Commandments. He well started what all the inspired penmen would subsequently offer from their own humble styli held in ink stained fingers. They then continued what God had begun and honored by His own practice on Sinai's hill. The God who wrote with His own finger also inspired the humble penmen sent by Him.
 
Moses wrote at God's command what God desired for His people to know in the Pentateuch, Genesis-Deuteronomy. God's own writing added glory to their task of writing. The inspired authors would write as God had when He gave the Decalog. God our Father also intended that we should hear His voice from the lips and pens of His spokesmen. Israel was commanded to hear this Word given through Moses. They were to put the Word given to Moses everywhere because these words were God's: "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Dt 6:6-9). These are not the things that are commanded for merely human words. God spoke and He spoke through Moses. Now what was written would vouchsafe to Israel a deposit of the truth, so that she did not have to await a constant purification of the oral tradition, but could constantly return to the Word of God as penned by Moses.
 
The church is now tied to the written Word. We no longer await a new revelation, for the divine self-disclosure was made full and complete in the person of Christ. The Spirit uses the written Word of God to write the will of God upon the hearts of the faithful. So what was written on tablets of stone is written upon human flesh. The Old Testament Word prefigured the New. The New Testament Word exceeds the Old because it places the glory of Christ upon the tablets of the human heart. The church is given the deposit of truth not in some nebulous tradition, supposedly available everywhere and at all times, but in the Word of God in Scripture.


Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Chemnitz

"It does much to shed light on the dignity and authority of holy Scripture that God Himself not only instituted and commanded the plan comprehending the heavenly doctrine in writing but that He also initiated, dedicated and consecrated it by writing the words of the Decalogue with His own fingers. For if the writing of the sacred books had first been done by men, an exclusion of more than two thousand years could have been argued, where in the better times of the world and among the most outstanding patriarchs the doctrine of the divine word was transmitted without writing, by living voice. Therefore, God Himself and His own fingers made a beginning of writing in order that He might show how much importance should be connected with this method, according to which the purity of the doctrine is to be preserved to posterity by writings.
 
"For the fact that he took tablets of stone on which to write the words of the Decalogue there is another reason, which is explained in 2 Corinthians 3. In order that those things which were either to be written through men of God, adorned for this by miracles and divine testimonies, or to be approved by them after they had been written, should not have a lesser authority or no authority at all for the confirmation of dogmas and the refutation of errors, God chose not to write the whole Law Himself, but having written the words of the Decalogue, He gave Moses the command that he should write the remainder from His dictation. And in order that the people of God might be certain that this Scripture of Moses was not introduced by the will of man but was divinely inspired, God gave the testimony of Moses authority through many mighty miracles before, after, and during the writing itself.
 
"We have thus shown two things for the most ancient sacred history. First, that the purity of the heavenly doctrine was not preserved always and everywhere through tradition by the living voice but was repeatedly corrupted and adulterated. Second, in order that new and special revelations might not always be necessary for restoring and retaining purity of the doctrine, God instituted another method under Moses, namely, that the doctrine of the Word of God should be comprehended in writing."

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent
2 Corinthians 3
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
 
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
 
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
 
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord God, You granted Your Word to Moses and all the holy prophets and apostles as men carried along by the Holy Spirit. Help us to listen to this Word as it is, indeed, the Word or God. Amen.
 
For Sebastian Graf, who is having some breathing problems, that the Good Shepherd who loves the little ones would grant him strength and healing
 
For Pr. Christopher Ahlman, who is considering his divine call to be Associate Pastor and Director of Parish Music, that God the Holy Spirit would grant him wisdom in his deliberations
 
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that he might ever lead the people of God back into purity of doctrine through the Word of God
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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