FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT – March 13, 2016
TEXTS: JOHN 8:42-59; HEB. 9:11-15; GEN. 12:1-14
I AM – DELIGHTS IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. Amen. Dear hearers of the Word made flesh; Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”  And he said, “Here am I.”  He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”


What does this mean…now I know that you fear God?  Scripture leads us to see that “the fear of Lord” or “the fear of God” is deep and wide and abounding with substance. It may include the emotion of fear – fear of God’s deserved wrath against our sin. However it rises far beyond that to include wisdom, wisdom the world cannot give, wisdom found ultimately is Christ crucified – to include hearts that hate evil and actions that turn from evil – to include trust that God desires good for us - to include faith that receives God’s gift of eternal life. That and more is bound up in the fear of God.


The angel of the Lord who called to Abraham is the Malak Yahweh – that is the pre-incarnate Christ. Listen carefully to his words that stopped Abraham’s hand. He (that is the Malak Yahweh – the angel of the Lord) said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son from me. The word spoken to Abraham was spoken by God – specifically – the pre-incarnate Son of God. But what of Abraham’s fear of God causing him to travel three days, build an altar, bind Isaac his son, lay him on it and take knife in hand?

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT – March 13, 2016
TEXTS: JOHN 8:42-59; HEB. 9:11-15; GEN. 12:1-14
I AM – DELIGHTS IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. Amen. Dear hearers of the Word made flesh; Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”  And he said, “Here am I.”  He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”


What does this mean…now I know that you fear God?  Scripture leads us to see that “the fear of Lord” or “the fear of God” is deep and wide and abounding with substance. It may include the emotion of fear – fear of God’s deserved wrath against our sin. However it rises far beyond that to include wisdom, wisdom the world cannot give, wisdom found ultimately is Christ crucified – to include hearts that hate evil and actions that turn from evil – to include trust that God desires good for us - to include faith that receives God’s gift of eternal life. That and more is bound up in the fear of God.


The angel of the Lord who called to Abraham is the Malak Yahweh – that is the pre-incarnate Christ. Listen carefully to his words that stopped Abraham’s hand. He (that is the Malak Yahweh – the angel of the Lord) said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son from me. The word spoken to Abraham was spoken by God – specifically – the pre-incarnate Son of God. But what of Abraham’s fear of God causing him to travel three days, build an altar, bind Isaac his son, lay him on it and take knife in hand?


The book of Hebrews helps unveil the true nature of Abraham’s fear of God. There we read (11:17-19) - By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”


The Holy Spirit hereby reveals that Abraham’s fear of God was not horror that God would strike him dead. His fear was not the selfish thought “better Isaac gets slain than me.”  There was no way he could logically resolve and make sense of God’s Word to sacrifice Isaac in earthly terms. Astoundingly his fear was trust in God’s word - both God’s word of promise and God’s word of sacrifice concerning Isaac. He was confident that God, who spoke directly to him, was able to raise Isaac from the dead. Dr. Luther wrote…“Abraham understood the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, and through it alone he resolved the contradiction, which otherwise cannot be resolved…”  Beloved, God is not sadistic, nor does He needlessly cause suffering for His children. He has not abandoned us to speculation and imagination concerning His command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. He rather anchors all hearers of the Word in the certainty of the bodily resurrection – to fulfill all God’s promises. That was the foundation to Abraham’s serious and reverent and trusting fear of God.


What was true for Abraham is also true for you for you are children of promise - saints baptized into Christ’s death. There is no possible way to resolve so much of what you see outwardly or feel inwardly with God promises - except by the reality of the bodily resurrection from the dead. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. This sinful world is full of challenges to God’s gracious and loving promises – sickness – loneliness – lawlessness - terrorism - disappointment – depression – despair – corruption – deliberate lies - debilitating pain – and death!  In the midst of this - faith lives from God’s promises – even when the testing is severe. Even when every sense and every ounce of human wisdom cries out “no,” God’s promises in Christ Jesus cry out – “yes!” (2 Cor. 1:20). Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Such trust was the foundation to Abraham’s fear of God.


How easy then to get the impression that our faith will never measure up – that we will never have the faith or the holy fear of Abraham. But listen closely!  The most important human figure in these verses is not Abraham, but Isaac, the type of Christ. Today, God has not asked us to sacrifice Isaac or anyone else. That testing command will never be given again!  It was given directly and it was given only to the father of those who believe – only through the son of promise – only at the place of God’s eternal provision!  Today God speaks to us through His Son in His Word. Today God invites us to trust in the Lamb that He Himself provides.


He is the one speaking so sternly and confidently in the temple to those physically descended from Abraham. It is an amazing exchange!  Listen to Him! “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me…But because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin?  If I tell you the truth, why do you not believe me?  Whoever is of God hears the words of God.


While Abraham trusted the words of the pre-incarnate Christ, the Jews sought to use Abraham to deny the words of Christ in the flesh. Their strongest denial was aimed directly at that which Abraham believed – the resurrection. When they accused Jesus of having a demon He answered, I do not have a demon but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”  The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon!  Abraham died…yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died!  Who do you make yourself out to be?  While the devil made himself out to be more than he is – reaching for God’s place - and while he tempted our first parents and tempts us to make ourselves more than we are – not so with Jesus.


Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, “He is our God.’  Jesus added, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad.”  Jesus was not making Himself out to be anyone. He was God in the flesh to make us sinners to be what He is – to give us His standing as sons of God. My Savior’s love to me, Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.

 

So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. Throughout the Old Testament the most frequent name for God is Yahweh (I AM). It is used over 5000 times. Jesus’ use of it here – before Abraham was, I am - is clearly understood by those opposing Him. They picked up stones not only to end His life – but also to end His claim to be God - to be Yahweh (I AM).


This man – the Son of Man – was not for stoning!  He was however fit for sacrifice – bound for crucifixion!  He came from His blest throne – Salvation to bestow. Unlike young Isaac who asked his father “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”– Jesus knew that He was God’s Lamb - heading toward the altar of the cross by the will of the Father!  Recall that Abraham did not call Moriah the place - the Lord has provided – but rather – the Lord will provide. He is focusing us on a greater rescue!  Abraham is preaching Jesus to us! 


That very place – Mount Moriah – is closely connected with the temple in later centuries. The very place where God provided the lamb as a substitute for Isaac is virtually physically identical to the location of Golgotha – where the Lamb of God provided Himself as the substitute for us. What took place between Abraham and Isaac and the Christ is the clearest Old Testament picture of what would take place on Mount Calvary between God the Father and Jesus and us.


The wood He carried was nothing compared to the sin He bore. In His exchange with the Jews Jesus had asked – “Which one of you convicts me of sin?  On Calvary the answer to that question was God the Father - convicting Jesus of the sin of the world –condemning Christ for your sin. When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.


It is His redemption – His blood – that fully gives the fear of God. When the prophet Isaiah foretold His coming he spoke also of the Messiah’s fear of God. He said, And the Spirit of the Lord shall be upon him…the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. The Son of Man, tempted in every way as we are delights in the fear of the Lord – for us!  That delightful and holy fear manifested itself in perfect love for the Father and perfect obedience to His word. By God’s grace through faith – not only His love and trust is yours – but also His holy fear of God. And now The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God purifies our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.


Your heavenly Father, did not withhold His only Son and when eyes were lifted up on the third day – it wasn’t the place of sacrifice seen from afar but the place of His resurrection seen from up close. The eternal I AM was breathing again and breathed on His disciples giving them the Holy Spirit and sending them out with the forgiveness of sins. As He said to the Jews Jesus now says to you - I am from God and I am here – for you!  You provide the problems – the persistent sin – the pursuit of passing things – the misplaced priorities and passions. I am from God and I am here – for you!  I provide the pardon (full and free) – the peace (the world cannot give) – the purity of conscience (with blood that cleanses you from all sin) – the promised eternal inheritance. I am from God and I am here – for you - the Mediator of a new covenant – the New Testament in my blood. Take and drink for the forgiveness of your sins. Before Abraham was, i am. Today – I AM. When your earthly life has run its course – I AM. And you also will be with me where I am.


What does this mean?  We should fear and love and trust in God above all things. In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a