St. Matthew 6:24-34
13 September 2015
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, X and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Adam and Eve did not worry about what they would eat or what they would drink or what they would wear. Moses records the marvelous way that God took care of them in Genesis 2. “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…..15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:8-17). From the beginning, God showed himself to be the creator and the preserver of man. He provided for all of man’s needs, yet this did not exempt man from working and tending the Garden. That was Adam and Eve’s duty. They were to “work it and keep it.”
After the Fall, the land would still provide for man, but God said to Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19).
The words would lead us to think that God would not feed His people by miraculous means anymore. That unless every man worked for his bread, he would waste away of starvation and die. The curse on the ground and the judgment of man’s sin seem to demand that. To be sure, this would be fair. No one could complain. God warned Adam and Eve of this consequence. It was Adam’s sin that caused this, not God. Yet in nature, God still provides for birds and lilies, and you. And throughout Scripture we have records of God taking care of His people in even more miraculous ways.
The feeding of the Israelites in the desert for 40 years is one of the most memorable for us. Every morning except the Sabbath the children of Israel woke up to bread that had “fallen” from heaven with the dew. The reason they were in the desert, still, instead of entering the Promised Land was due to their stubborn unbelief of God’s providence. They refused what God promised. Yet even in the face of their sin, God feeds them. They deserved to be abandoned by God. But He is truly a God full of compassion and gracious as the Psalmist says in our Introit (Ps. 86). His mercy and patience are truly everlasting. He does not want the death of a sinner.
The account of Elijah and the widow at Zeraphath is another account that shows God’s providence, compassion, and mercy. What’s more, it also shows God’s universal love to all people. That widow was not an Israelite. She was a Gentile. She did not worship the true God. Jesus tells us that there were plenty of widows with children in Israel in the days of that famine, but God sent Elijah to a foreign country and let Israelites suffer from hunger (Luke 4:18ff).
We are inquisitive to ask why God takes care of some people miraculously and not others. Why do some people suffer and others don’t? This line of questioning has led people down the road of thinking that God is evil. But this is allowing the devil to phrase the questions. This is the question that springs from unbelief. It’s like unto the temptation of Eve in the Garden. It casts doubt on God’s goodness and omnipotence. It makes us think that God is withholding something from us that we deserve. What the devil and your sinful flesh want you to do is forget that you are a sinner deserving of nothing but hardship and death. Your innate sinful pride tells you that either you are worth more than other people and God should give you more, or at least you would better decisions than God on who should suffer and who should thrive. This is a First Commandment issue. Just like Adam and Eve, you want to be God. It’s a struggle in your inmost flesh. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people tell me that “their god would never do that,” or that they “can’t believe in a God that would allow this.” I’m sure you’ve heard those statements, too. The problem with them is when we look at the world around us, we’re tempted to agree.
Just look at any newspaper, listen to any radio or TV news program. There are people all over the world at any given second suffering horrendous things at the hand of natural disasters, war, and other people. Women, children, and Christians are being tortured and murdered in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Hundreds of thousands of people feel so unsafe in their home country that they are risking their lives and the lives of their children to make dangerous trips to get to Europe or other safe havens. Near the anniversaries of 9/11 and hurricane Katrina, we don’t have to strain our imaginations to think of the suffering that takes place in our own country. With all of the misinformation surrounding abortion and gay marriage, the suffering in our country is going to skyrocket. Depression, sexual misconduct, violence, and addictions will increase. Our children are growing up in a country that calls right wrong and wrong right. Immoral decisions destroy lives. “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6, the Epistle).
So is there a God? Is He merciful and gracious? Does He care? Can He help? Will He help? The devil is in the questions. The devil is a liar from the beginning. Get behind us Satan. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. The kingdom of God is Christ and His Word. Seek first the Word of God and all these questions will take their rightful place. Seek first to understand what God says about you, the world, and your life; then your mind and heart can stop spinning with the devil’s lies. You need Christ and His Word as your foundation, or you will run after any number of worries that cross your path. There is no end to the suffering and heartache in this world. Satan and sin will see to that. But your Lord has overcome this world. He hungered and thirsted for you so that you could be satisfied with His inheritance. He was stripped naked so that you could be clothed with His righteousness.
Believe what He says about you. You are a sinner, but He has come to rescue sinners. You are sick, but He is the physician who came to heal your sickness. You worry about what you will eat, what you will wear, your spouse and how others look at you, but He is faithful and true and will provide for you as your merciful Creator. You are an eternal being, your soul was created and will live forever. Your Lord seeks to give you eternity with Him.
Believe what He says about the world. It is sinful and causes anxiousness. It is temporary and will be destroyed. It offers no lasting happiness. Its pleasures are fleeting and not satisfying. (See Philippians 3:8ff). You are a pilgrim here, moving through to the Promised Land.
Believe what He says about your life. It is precious to Him. It is more than the clothing you wear and the food that you eat. Your citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Jesus feeds your soul with eternal food. He washes you with eternal, life-giving water, He comforts and forgives you with life-giving, transformative words. He clothes you not with fine garments, but with Himself (Gal. 3:28). He will “transform your lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:21). “Rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3). “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Sprit reap eternal life” (Gal 6:8). So do not be anxious. The outcome is certain. God has created you. He sustains you. He has redeemed you. And He will give you eternal life.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
Rev. Michael N. Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana