God Does Not Justify Himself, But You
Wednesday of Pentecost 6
24 July 2019
We are constantly seeking to justify our own actions and therefore we presume that God must be doing likewise. God will have no part in the mealy-mouthed evasions that we often produce to justify ourselves in the sight of other persons. Following the pattern of our first parents, Adam and Eve, we often point in every direction but toward our own heart. "The woman, she made me do it, God. Come to think of it, You gave her to me, therefore you are to blame. And besides, the devil tempted me; he made me do it" (Gn 3:12-13). Excuses, excuses.
 
But God is not like us. He does not need to explain Himself to us. He does not need to excuse His behavior, or defend it. There is no need that He who is justice itself should offer any defense for His actions. He is Himself the standard of rightness. No one would ask a meter stick if it has any right to be a standard of measurement. No one would ask the atomic clock why it has the authority to keep time. They are the standards against which all others are measured. They are not subject to measurement. God is that standard for us humans. He is not subject to our measurement. It is well. When left to our own standards of measurement, we will contend that good is evil and evil is good.
 
Exhibit 1: the number of people who think that poor Roman Polanski, the convicted rapist, should not be extradited to the United States to serve his prison sentence. Why? Because Polanski is a true artist. Therefore, why shouldn't he get a pass on the predatory sexual abuse of a thirteen-year-old child? Let's be honest, what if I had been captured in Switzerland and was convicted for exactly the same crime, committed in 1977? Would anyone rush to my defense? No, I think not. And rightly so. What has happened to equality under the law? The law that I know includes no "artistic" defense. If some kinds of people are not subject to the statutory standards of our legal system, someone just needs to tell us, so that the rest of us second-class citizens can figure out how to survive under such a regime. The same legal measurement needs to apply to all persons. There is only one standard of rightness, if there is right at all.
 
Suffering Job from the beginning recognized the rightness of God's actions, even if he debated with God about those actions. His wife recommended that he curse God and die. (With help like that who needs enemies?) However, Job would not succumb to despair and remained confident of God's ultimate righteousness and His ability to save in the midst of terrible circumstances. Indeed, God permits Satan to work his worst in the life of Job and all the great saints to prove his faithfulness to them and to build their faithfulness to Him. We shouldn't be surprised when Satan attacks the children of Christ. True evil, when it cannot succeed with the head, attacks those who belong to the body. There have been many recent examples of this in the political life of America, where the president cannot be politically attacked, the members of his administration and their minions are. So it is with Satan. He has done his worst to our Head, Jesus Christ, and to no avail. Now we are in the cross-hairs. The God who permits his Son to embrace suffering on the cross is the God who can redeem suffering in our lives, buying it back in Christ. God doesn't justify Himself, but us.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Cyprian of Carthage
"If the Christian knows and holds fast the condition and the principle under which he has believed, he will be aware that he must suffer more than others in the world, since he must struggle more with the attacks of the devil.
 
"Thus Job, after the loss of his wealth, after the death of his children, grievously afflicted, moreover, with sores and worms, was not overcome, but proved; since in his very struggles and anguish, showing forth the patience of a religious mind, he says, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord' (Job 1:21). And when his wife also urged him, in his impatience at the acuteness of his pain, to curse God with a complaining and envious voice, he answered and said, ''You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?'In all this Job did not sin with his lips' (Job 2:10). Therefore the Lord God gives him a testimony, saying, 'Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?'" (Job 1:8).

Cyprian, On Mortality, 9-10
Job 1:13-22

Now there was a day when [Job's] sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you."

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
 
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
(ESV)
Prayer
Dear heavenly Father, be near us with Your grace when we suffer for the sake of Christ our Lord. Help us to respect Your justice and righteousness and not rebel against Your good will. Help us to take up our cross, so that we might follow our Lord, who has redeemed us by His suffering. Amen.
 
For the unemployed, that the Lord would grant work to them in keeping with their needs
 
For those who are grieving their losses, that the God of all comfort would grant them the peace that surpasses all human understanding
 
For the delegates and guests at the LCMS convention, that they would not become weary in doing well
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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