“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)
You are daily in the devil’s kingdom. He ceases neither day nor night to sneak up on you and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against these three commandments and all the commandments. Therefore, you must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle and the Word does not make a sound, the devil breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware.
How aptly Luther describes the world we live in as Christians! Neary five hundred years and forty-six hundred miles distant, but he summarizes the current cultural climate very well. We have heard and sung the great promises that are ours in Christ, but many Christians live in a constant state of fear. Fear of disease. Fear of being caught without our masks. Fear of persecution for our own thoughts and beliefs of what is going on in the world. Fear of death. Fear of the devil. All things which should not cause us fear. But many fear anyway. Because fear is more contagious than any virus.
But, as Christians, what do we have to fear? Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” It’s very easy to say, but it is difficult to put into practice. But that is pulling the verse out of context a little bit. Let’s look at the context around it. Jesus continues by giving this comfort: “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Your heavenly Father knows you so intimately that He knows the exact follicle count on your head! If He has concerned Himself with knowing that, why do you continue to worry and fear despite His promises?
We have heard and sung these promises throughout the service this morning: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” “It was grace in Christ that called me, taught my darkened heart and mind; else the world had yet enthralled me, to Thy heavenly glories blind.” “Now no more can death appall, now no more the grave enthrall; You have opened Paradise, and Your saints in You shall rise.” “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” All of these wonderful promises, but fear still tries to win the day.
The LORD asks, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” Why? Why do we prefer the fear over the promise? The first words out of our mouths this morning: “Lord, ‘tis not that I did choose Thee; that, I know, could never be; for this heart would still refuse Thee had Thy grace not chosen me.” Without Christ and His grace, all we know is fear. By nature, we hear the LORD’s promises, but we cannot believe them. They are foreign to our natural way of thinking. Ever since the Fall into sin, man has allowed fear to rule his life. We always question God’s motives. We always question His promises.
With all the questions in our sinful human nature, what are we, as Christians, to do? How would Luther encourage us to go forward? He continues in the Large Catechism:
On the other hand, the Word is so effective when it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, it is bound never to be without fruit. It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not lazy or dead, but are creative, living words.
“Hear, that your soul may live.” Listen “to Him who alone does great wonders.” Fill your heart, lips and ears with His Word constantly. They are not just “lazy or dead” words on a page. They are “creative, living words.” Three weeks ago, we heard the end of this chapter in Isaiah. We heard exactly what happens when God’s Word is proclaimed: “It shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” What is God’s purpose in sending His Word? To free us from our fears. To welcome us back into His loving arms.
“I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” This morning’s Psalm reminds us of this constantly. The last half of every verse in the Psalm confesses, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Steadfast love that never leaves His people. The people He has claimed through His covenant.
St. Paul shows us this wonderful promise even to those who have walked away from His Word. Stopped their ears to listening. Closed their hearts to His love. As he begins to speak about his “kinsman according to the flesh,” what does Paul say? “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises.” The Israelites had completely abandoned God, turning the faith of the Old Testament saints into a religion of the Law. The Israelites had everything they could ever want from God, but they turned aside because our sinful human nature seeks to reject everything that comes from God. As it has been from the beginning. The serpent deceived Eve that eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would make her and Adam “like God.” Ever since, sinful man has always thought he knows better than God how to live in this world. Therefore, he seeks to throw away everything that has to do with God.
How does God respond to this? How does God react to His people getting rid of anything belonging to Him? He continues to send messengers, calling His people to return to Him. Isaiah was one of the many Prophets God sent to His people, but Paul points back to before the Prophets. “To them belong the Patriarchs.” Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To them, God promised the land in which they lived as strangers and sojourners. He promises them salvation through their Seed. He encourages them to listen and hear the Word that He has proclaimed to them. The Word that would become incarnate and dwell among His people. This incarnate Word brings the LORD’s great blessings with Him as He begins the process of the new Creation through His blood.
Therefore we sang, “Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed, paschal victim, paschal bread; with sincerity and love eat we manna from above. Alleluia.” This wondrous incarnate Word brings forth His message of salvation. One almost as old as time itself. The same message given to Adam and Eve. The same message given to the Patriarchs. To the Prophets all through the centuries. To the Apostles and the pastors they sent out. All of these proclaimed the same message. Christ, who would come from the Israelite line, would shed His blood as a once-for-all atoning sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
With the genealogy at the beginning of his Gospel, Matthew drives home the point that Jesus comes from the Israelite line in the flesh. Matthew, whose Gospel we are reading throughout this year, has a great deal to say about this Savior who has come not only to satisfy our stomachs with bread and fish, but He comes to satisfy us with the forgiveness of our sins. A promise made millennia ago to our first parents. Echoed down through the generations. Made personal in Jesus’ Incarnation. Applied to your sins and mine in Baptism.
Often, we think of repeated messages as being rather “lazy or dead.” However, Jesus shows in our very lives that they are truly “creative, living words.” Words that cause our lives to overflow with His blessings, even when—and maybe, especially when—things are falling apart around us. It is in these moments were we must see His blessings around us. Understanding these blessings appropriately, we can have “ever joyful hearts” that rejoice in His wonderful gifts. Where we can thank Him in our deepest struggles like we can when everything is going well.
He encourages us—even commands us—to come to Him in times of hardship and times of plenty. When our stomachs are satisfied and when they are growling. When our throats are parched, He says, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Eat and drink freely! Not just to satisfy your belly. Satisfy your soul. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Your Lord comes to you with His Word of forgiveness, leading you to the living waters of salvation, so that you may be satisfied in righteousness. Jesus promised this living water to St. Photini, the woman at the well: “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Again, the promises far outweigh any fear we might have in this world. God’s promises last far longer than your mortal life. Your fears last until you overcome them or you die. Fears do not follow you into God’s Paradise. God has promised you His Paradise after this life. A place with no fears, no sorrows, no mourning, no death. With this awaiting us upon Jesus’ return, what fear on earth can stop you in your tracks? There should be none.
However, we still succumb to the fears of this world. We do live in the devil’s territory. He does everything he can to keep the fears of this world front and center in your minds. But his words always fall short. All of the fear he can muster is nothing compared to God’s promises. As David says, “The LORD is my Light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” He goes on to say, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life to gaze upon His beauty and to inquire in His Temple.”
How do we keep this confidence? We hear the Word. Not just the sound waves hitting your ear drum. Listen to the words and their meanings. “You must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears,” Luther said. Only then can you seriously contemplate, hear and use it. The familiar Collect of the Word encourages us to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” God’s holy Word so that “we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.” Holding to this hope is seen by coming to God, eating and drinking freely from the fountain of salvation. Hearing His Word. Eating His body. Drinking His blood. Receiving His promises as truly “creative, living words” that do not return to Him empty, but accomplish His purposes and succeed in giving and fulfilling the promises He gives you. Promises that overcome every fear in this world. Amen.
If you wish to check out more of Pastor Minton’s work go to: https://www.wrestlingwiththeology.org/