He Promises
Wednesday of Pentecost 5
17 July 2019
God's promises are as good as the one who gives the promises. That's pretty good. I had some warranty issues with window blinds, which when I purchased them were said to have a lifetime warranty. When I returned them for repairs, I found out that the "lifetime warranty" was limited to five years. The discussion I had with sales manager about the blinds was a bit like a Monty Python skit, in which I said, "The warranty is only five years then, not a lifetime warranty." To which the sales manager said, "Oh no, it is a lifetime warranty." "Well, what would the lifetime warranty cover after five years?" "Uh, nothing actually." "So, really the lifetime warranty covers only the lifetime of a gerbil." "But it is still is a lifetime warranty, sir." Uh-huh. So much for promises! If words can't carry the freight that the promises imply, the promises are quite empty.
Do you remember when President Barack Obama contended that a tax that he deemed to be beneficial to the social good was not a tax ("Obama's Nontax Tax"). What is the meaning of a nontax tax? It is merely a sophistical way for politicians to gain power over your life without upsetting you. For postmoderns like Mr. Obama, language has no solid or objective referent. In other words, the words themselves don't mean anything, except as a tool for imposition of power over the person at whom the words are addressed. I say "at whom" rather than "to whom" quite purposely, because there is no concern in this speech for the welfare of the other, only the power of the speaker. The other is not addressed so that they understand and can build relationship with the speaker, only so that they conform to the will of the speaker. The speaker is everything. The spoken-to are nothing. In this kind of speech "truth" is merely whether the words gain the result desired by the speaker. So the speaker can say whatever he wants as long as it enables him to get people to do what he wants.
God did not give humans the gift of language for this debased use. He created it not for His empowerment or our own. He speaks not merely to tell us what to do. He is disclosing Himself to us in His speech, so that we can have a relationship with Him, who desires eternal fellowship with us humans and goes to shocking lengths to establish the conditions in which that fellowship with Him is built. Even the Ten Commandments are prefaced by the statement of Israel's salvation: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" (Ex 20:2). God wants to tell us what He has done for us. Salvation is the bedrock on which He founds the Ten Commandments for His people. God does not speak for the sake of gaining power over humans, but He speaks to offer Himself to us, to place Himself at our disposal, and for our needs. "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28). His promises are all certain because they are founded on the blood and death of the Son of God. "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory" (2Co 1:20). He is not a mere man that He should go back on His promises or that He would play bait and switch with us. "For I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath" (Hos 11:9). If He has promised, we can depend absolutely on the promise, because the promise is His. On His lips language carries the full freight. He promises.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Cyprian of Carthage
"No one believes that the things which God promises are true, although He is true, whose word to believers is eternal and unchangeable. If a grave and praiseworthy man should promise you anything, you would assuredly have faith in the one promising, and would not think that you should be cheated and deceived by him whom you knew to be steadfast in his words and his deeds. Now God is speaking with you; and do you faithlessly waver in your unbelieving mind? God promises to you, on your departure from this world, immortality and eternity; and do you doubt? This is not to know God at all. This is to offend Christ, the teacher of believers, with the sin of unbelief. This is for one established in the Church not to have faith in the house of faith."

Cyprian, On Mortality, 6
2 Corinthians

Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say "Yes, yes" and "No, no" at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

But I call God to witness against me - it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. (ESV)
Almighty and everlasting God, You have made eternally valid promises to us sinners, that we should be saved from our iniquities through the precious blood of your eternal Son. Send Your Holy Spirit that we might quietly compose ourselves in the midst of all trial and suffering committing our cause to You alone and so take You at Your Word. Your promises are never yes and no, therefore grant us the faith to trust such great and unbreakable promises unto eternity. Amen.
In thanksgiving for clement weather, that the Lord would continue to bless us with the fruits of the verdant fields and overflowing granaries
For the people of United States, that they would take seriously the blessing of a government by the people and for the people
For the youth delegation attending the Higher Things conference in Mequon, that the good Shepherd would watch over their time of learning and confession of the faith
For Pastor Charles Wokoma, that the Lord Jesus would watch over him and send ever more of His abundant blessings to His servant
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
Sent by smurray@mlchouston.org in collaboration with
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