Third in a Series of Seven Sermons
40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
• Two weeks ago – receiving gratefully God’s good gifts, receiving ungratefully, or not receiving them at all
• Last week – searching eagerly Holy Scripture, searching not so eagerly, or not searching at all
• Tonight – confessing humbly your sins to God and others, confessing sort of, kind of, with a few conditions, or confessing not at all
• Two parts to confession 1)acknowledge our sins, and 2)receive absolution
• To be repentant is to be 1)sorry and 2)to believe in Jesus as Savior
• Necessary result of repentance – amend sinful ways / change in behavior (tell story of older brother beating up younger brother / saying he is sorry, but he keeps beating him up)
• Story of Jake in our Release Class Time video /Christian boy making a one time mistake, posting nude photos of girl friend on website / called into principal’s office, at first denying, then confessing, then getting expelled. His youth pastor helped him to believe that his sins were forgiven, and at the same time he suffered consequences. Saint and sinner. Temporary but not eternal suffering. 1)run to God for mercy, 2)learn from mistakes, 3)teach others.
• Story of Israel was one of sin, suffer, supplication, savior cycle / messing up, suffering miserably, drawing near to their holy God for forgiveness, learning from their mistakes, teaching their children and others.
• The first 16 chapters of Leviticus told Israel how God was to come near to God with a)blood sacrifices, b)through the priesthood, c)by avoiding defilement.
• The last 11 chapters of Leviticus show how Israel was to live out their relationship with God in terms of personal holiness, holiness with regard to sexual behavior, holiness in society, holiness for the priests, holy festivals, holiness of the land, and tonight we turn in chapter 26 to God’s rewards for obedience and punishment for disobedience.
• Rewards for obedience required 11 verses to enumerate / if they listened and were careful to walk humbly before the Lord as a nation included rain in its season, ground yielding its crops, and trees bearing fruit. Additional rewards include all the food they could possibly want to eat, the ability to live in safety, and peace in the land. They would be able to lie down in peace at night, they would not have to sorry about savage beasts, and enemy armies would not bother them. If they listened as a nation and obeyed their covenant God, five of their good men could handle a hundred of their enemies and a hundred of their soldiers could chase down a thousand. No problem. They would still be eating last year’s harvest and would have to make room for the new one. That’s how abundant their lives would be.
• On the other hand, the punishment for disobedience took 27 verses to list. Five different paragraphs.
1) If they didn’t listen and obey as a nation, if they rejected his statues and hated his commandments, God threatened them with panic attacks, infection diseases, and high fevers. They would sow but not reap, and their enemies would rule over them.
2) A second time God said if after all that they would not listen, he would punish them seven times over. He would break down their stubbornness, the rain wouldn’t fall, the ground would be dry and hard, no crops and no fruit.
3) A third time God repeated that if they would not be corrected, he would be hostile towards them, he would get out the big sword, they would be given over to the enemy, ten women would have to share one oven, they would eat but always be hungry.
4) A fourth time God said he would punish their obstinate ways with wild animals destroying their children and their animals.
5) A fifth, as if they had not already gotten the message, God would punish them with neighboring bands of raiders,their armies would be defeated, there would be cannibalism, wholesale slaughter, cities destroyed, captivity. Not just a streak of bad luck, but it would seem as though God had cancelled out the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Finally, we get to our text for tonight, with Good News that is even sweeter than the bad news is sour. If they would confess their sins, God’s grace would cover them. If they would admit the sins of their fathers and if they would come clean with their record of treachery and hostility and stubbornness, the mercies of God would be fresh like the morning dew. When they were ready to cry out as the publican in the temple, God be merciful to me a sinner, and when they were ready to suffer the temporary consequences of their sins, as a nation they would be declared forgiven. As a nation, God would remember the sacred promises He had made to their patriarchs. As a nation they would be saved and their sins would be sent away as far as Egypt is the east is from the west. As a nation they would be blessed and kept by the God who had brought them out of slavery and across the Red Sea on dry land. As a nation, they would once again see the Lord making his face shine on them and being gracious unto them, and as a nation, they would know once again what it would be like to have the favor of their God upon them and to be at peace.
The kingdom of God is like a man I know in a distant city who was happily married with children, but not any more. Over the years their good habits were overcome with their bad ones, and their good intentions gave way to all kinds of fussing and fighting. They did eat and drink with believing hearts at their Lord’s Table, but their own supper tables were a disaster.
They did listen to the preaching of God’s Word with attentive hearts, but more often than not, they couldn’t practice what had been preached. The good that they would do they did not and the bad that they would not, that’s what they ended up doing. As the marriage comes to an end, this man throws himself on the mercy of his wife, but it’s too late. Not too late for her to forgive him, but too late for the marriage to be rescued. Not too late for God to wash him clean, but too late for the damage to be undone. Not too late for grace to rule, but too late for lifelong consequences to be avoided.
The kingdom of God is like a large nation more blessed than any in the history of the world, but some days you wonder where it’s all going to end. Over the years their good habits have given way to not so good. Their thankfulness has dwindled into discontentment. They struggle even to define what a marriage is, much less live them out in God honoring fashion. They have a hard time deciding if they would rejoice in babies born or perhaps terminate them long before they have the chance. The bad news is nasty in so many ways, but every day the Good News remains sweet. It may be too late for this nation to recover its glory years, but it’s not too late to confess their sins. It may be too late to avoid the consequences of their immorality, but it’s not too late to cry out for mercy.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town learning more time that as often as they cry out for mercy, mercy is theirs. That in every one of their days, confession will be good for their souls. That no matter how conflicted their relationships, Jesus Christ is the way through and beyond. That every one of their stories which takes them to the cross is a story that has a good ending. That all is well that ends well.
Worship Sermons & Letters