Wednesday, Lent 1 March 4, 2020
Catechism Emphasis: The Second Commandment
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by his name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.
1 The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. 2 And he said: “The LORD roars from Zion, And utters His voice from Jerusalem; The pastures of the shepherds mourn, And the top of Carmel withers.” 3 Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron. 4 But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, Which shall devour the palaces of Ben-Hadad. 5 I will also break the gate bar of Damascus, And cut off the inhabitant from the Valley of Aven, And the one who holds the scepter from Beth Eden. The people of Syria shall go captive to Kir,” Says the LORD. 6 Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they took captive the whole captivity To deliver them up to Edom. 7 But I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, Which shall devour its palaces. 8 I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, And the one who holds the scepter from Ashkelon; I will turn My hand against Ekron, And the remnant of the Philistines shall perish,” Says the Lord GOD. 9 Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, And did not remember the covenant of brotherhood. 10 But I will send a fire upon the wall of Tyre, Which shall devour its palaces.” 11 Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because he pursued his brother with the sword, And cast off all pity; His anger tore perpetually, And he kept his wrath forever. 12 But I will send a fire upon Teman, Which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.”
13 Then [Jesus] went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. 14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
In the Name of Jesus.
And [Amos] said: “The LORD roars from Zion, And utters His voice from Jerusalem.”
Strong words by the prophet, accusing Israel of misusing the name of the Lord her God: Commandment 2.
The Lord God had made a promise to Israel, and he had bound that promise with his Name. He had told Israel that the Temple in Jerusalem was a gift to her. A gift by which all her families would go to the Temple to receive the Lord’s gift of sacrifice, to hear the Lord’s priest declare them clean by the blood of the Lamb, to have all sins forgiven.
To have sins forgiven—that was the gift the Lord gave by his Temple in Jerusalem. And where sins are forgiven, there is life and salvation.
Come to Jerusalem, come to the Temple at Mt. Zion, come to the voice of the priest, come to the blood of the Lamb, come to sins-washed-away and guilt-removed—that was the call that went out to every Israelite family. The Lord loved his people, and he would have them nowhere else. Jerusalem, the Temple, the altar of the sanctifying blood—this was where the Lord God placed his Name, where located himself for the benefit of his people, to sanctify them for himself: they are to look for him nowhere else.
But Israel forgot Mt. Zion. She didn’t go just to Jerusalem. She went also to the altar at Gilgal, and the altar at Bethel, and at Mt. Carmel, and other altars. These were altars away from Jerusalem, altars where other gods were prayed to, and the Lord God of Israel had not promised to be at these altars in his forgiveness, had not called Israel to pray at these altars, and these prayers to the other gods were an abomination.
So, seeing his people go to the false altars at Gilgal and Bethel, that’s when the Lord God sent his prophet Amos to say those burning words:
“It is from Zion that the LORD roars; and it is from Jerusalem that he utters His voice.”
Here is Israel’s sin: In going to altars other than Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, in praying along with the priests from altars where the Lord God had not placed his Name, Israel was taking the name of the Lord her God in vain. She was misusing his Name.
So Amos called upon Israel to return to Mt. Zion, to Jerusalem, and there find forgiveness.
For us, for the church today, it is not Mt. Zion, it is not Jerusalem. Jerusalem on top of Mt. Zion has served its purpose. So it is no longer the given-location of the Lord’s holy Name. The Lord God, for the sins of Israel and the sins of the world, came into the flesh, and on Mt. Zion, he gave himself over to death on the cross—the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. At that hill in Jerusalem, he made himself, his person, his body and blood, the location of salvation for all sinners.
So now if we want to know where God locates himself on Earth for the salvation of the sinner, we go to … Jesus. To his voice, to the location of his body and blood, to his Name, and there, where he gathers two or three to his Name, he is in the midst, forgiving sins, cleansing, bestowing salvation.
The Second Commandment:
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
What does this mean?
As we learn in the Catechism,
We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by his Name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.
God has his Name proclaimed. God has located his Name at his word and sacraments.
It is no longer at Mt. Zion and Jerusalem from which the Lord roars and utters his voice—Mt. Zion and Jerusalem have served their final, full, and ultimate purpose by being the location of the cross of Jesus.
Now, for us, for the New Testament Israel, for the church of Jesus Christ, the Lord God roars, he utters his voice from the location of his word and sacrament. It is his roaring of victory over sin and death, it is his voice uttering sins-forgiven, grace bestowed, shame removed. We look for his voice nowhere else but where he has promised to be for our benefit—in his Word and Sacrament.
Lent looks to the cross: the humiliation of the Son of God, the murder of the Innocent Man, the sacrifice to atone for all sin, the blood poured out.
Looking at that cross, we call upon his Name. It is the Name he has put on us in Baptism, the Name he gathers his church to each week at his sacrament, the Name of salvation—it is the Name we are given to “call upon in every trouble, praying, praising, and giving thanks.”
In the Name of Jesus.