Eighth Sunder after Pentecost (Proper 12, a) July 26, 2020
6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”
In the Name of Jesus.
You are a people holy to the Lord your God!
Stark, clear words giving hope and joy to the Church. The words are spoken, of course, by Moses to the Israelites.
They were not a holy people. They are a rebellious and callous people. They are known for building a great calf of gold to celebrate the false god Baal, and this was after the true God, the Lord their God, had delivered them out of Egyptian slavery.
They were not a holy people. Upon being given manna from Heaven for food in the desert, they complained.
They failed at circumcising their sons into the covenant as they should’ve, they rejected the Lord’s prophet, they harbored hatred in the heart even against each other, they doubted the Lord’s word, they complained about his deliverance—this was not a holy people.
You are a people holy to the Lord your God!,
This is holiness as gift. Holy not according to your own worthiness, holy not according to anything in you or of you, holy which you could in no way claim on your own, but holy from God.
For God is a holy God, and he makes holy: Israel made holy by the forgiveness of sins given them in the promise of the covenant; Israel made holy by the cleansing of the Tabernacle’s blood of the sacrifice; made holy by the prophet declaring the Word of the Lord, that Word sanctifying them.
It all depends on the Lord. If the Lord doesn’t cleanse them, forgive them, justify them, and make them holy, then they will not be holy.
But you are holy, said the Lord in his Word spoken through the prophet.
And at the Lord’s Word, this miserable little band of rebellious people are now holy.
The Lord’s Word to the Church? You are a people holy to the Lord. Holy not by your own worthiness, holy not according to anything in you or of you, holy which you could in no way claim on your own, but holy from God.
The Lord knows all the people in the Church. The Lord knows each one of us. He’s not deluded; he’s not naïve.
The great sins, he knows them. The little sins, the little weaselly thoughts against others we keep hidden, the malice in the heart, the lack of love for another, the attempts to excuse ourselves, as if we were less sinner than anyone else—the Lord is not naïve to this. He knows us.
His Word to the Church? His Word to each one of us?
“You are a people holy to the Lord your God.”
You are made holy by the forgiveness of sins given in Baptism’s promise. You are made holy by being cleansed and sanctified by the blood of the Jesus in his Sacrament of the Altar.
Made holy by the declaration of the Word of Absolution, in which Word your sins are forgiven on Earth as they are in Heaven.
You are made holy by the proclamation of the Gospel.
You are made holy in your conversation with fellow Christians as we build-up and encourage one another in the Gospel, rejoicing in the Lord’s justification of the sinner.
You are made holy by the Lord’s Word and the prayer of your fellow saints.
You are made holy—that is the Lord’s promise. It is his work of grace toward you, and he stakes his Name on it.
So who calls you unholy? Who calls you worthless, or diminished? Who can be against you? Romans 8:31:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
We do have our enemies. Against us stands the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.
The devil, accusing us of our sin, keeping our sin tight before our eyes—he keeps dragging us down into the muck of shame and guilt. The devil, letting us hear God’s Word, but only the accusation of the Law, never the relief and grace of the Gospel.
He stands against us.
Also the world. The world with its temptations and afflictions, the world with its accusations of made up guilt, the world with its false piety of politics and its hypocrisies.
The world stands against us.
Also our own sinful flesh. Our flesh so eager to search out ways to justify ourselves before God, to justify ourselves over against our neighbor, our sinful flesh, ricocheting between a false security of self-justification and a looming despair of having no hope.
The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh, they stand against us. We do have our enemies.
But, says Paul,
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The accusations of Satan, his troubling of our conscience; the temptations, afflictions, false piety and hypocrisies of our world, the self-justification of our own sinful flesh—none of this stands against the Word God speaks concerning you.
He predestined you to his grace and life-eternal—he sealed that predestination to you in Baptism, and your faith knows nothing to stand against that.
He called you by the Gospel, he justified you by the Word forgiving your sins at the Throne in Heaven and in your life here on Earth, and he glorifies you, holding your name in honor, for you are redeemed by the blood of his Son.
Who is there to condemn you? Over against the Gospel, over against the Word by which your God justifies you, there is no one to condemn you.
It is Christ who died. He is at the right hand of the Father. And he makes intercession for you.
And not for you only, but for your brothers and sisters in the faith. For the whole Church.
The Lord’s Word to the Church?
You are a people holy to the Lord!
In the Name of Jesus.