Hammer of Fools Anvil of God / Psalm 14 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 22nd 2021 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / August 22nd 2021: Season of Pentecost, Psalm 14, Hammer of Fools Anvil of God
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up My people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the LORD?
There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.
You would shame the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is his refuge.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of His people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all are hearts be acceptable in your sight O, Lord. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: Good Christian Friends. Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death? The one who is wise answers “I do, by the grace of God.” Our introit today Psalm 14 begins with these words, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Last week we talked about the table of wisdom and the table of foolishness and today we are warned of the dangers the foolish present, the Psalm describes the fool saying that, “They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good … not even one.” St. Paul in 2nd Timothy warns young pastor Timothy, and through Scripture warns us, how, “in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” And then Paul concludes saying, “Avoid such people.”
I started with a question asked at your confirmation of Baptism, here’s another one, “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” Now maybe when you were younger, when most of you answered this you wouldn’t have counted yourself as wise, and perhaps by your years of attending the Divine Service, your years of reading God’s Word and listening to it read to you, your years of hearing Sermons and receiving the Lord’s Supper you might count yourself as more wise than you were back then, even still the one who is wise answers this question regardless of age or experience saying, “I do, by the grace of God.” Remember “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.” The LORD in Psalm 14, on the other hand, describes the foolish as ones who, as He puts it, “eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon [my name]?” In their selfishness, in their belief that they are the arbiters of life and death, in their callousness they treat people like cattle who are expendable if they don’t please their desires. They put themselves above God, they misuse God’s name and do not keep the day of the Lord holy.
Pastor this all seems rather harsh, is there really such a divide between godly wisdom and worldly foolishness? And if there is what on earth are we to do about it? Dear ones as grim or ugly as it might be today or might become tomorrow remember the foolishness of evil men and women cannot separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The fool who gains power today, even if they look like they have won, even if they have worldly might and power on their side cannot hold on to their winnings for long. They will fail: Psalm 14 teaches, “For God is with the generation of the righteous.” God the Father is with His children, with the baptised, with all those who hear and believe.
To help make this clear let’s go back in time a bit, let’s say to November 7th 1980, now on that date if we were to be in Russia, we would see the celebration of a state holiday marking the “Great October Socialist Revolution” of 1917. And as you may remember one of the key convictions of the Communist uprising was this: That there is no God; they also firmly believed the Marxist idea that Religion was the opiate of the masses. That religion was a kind of drug to keep people subservient.
Within a year of the revolution The Communist regime of 1917 had confiscated religious property and church buildings, and set itself on a path that would include ridiculing religion, harassing imprisoning torturing and martyring believers by the millions all through Russia. And in the areas they had gained control of they quickly changed the nature of education in order to propagated atheism in schools. In their bid for full spectrum dominance they desired to control the thoughts and desires of everyone in their control. Now there were times when they hammered away against Christianity with a relatively light hammer and times when they hammered away with a very heavy handed hammer indeed.
It was their firm conviction that it was foolish to believe in God or in anything that was seen by them to be ‘subjective fiction’ i.e. ‘the Bible’; but remember what the Word of God says in Psalm 14, “The fool says in His heart, “There is no God.”” The Communist Government in those days thought themselves to be wise, they didn’t see themselves as fools; fools seldom see their foolishness: “The fool is not a person who simply lacks intellectual gifts and understanding. He is one who stubbornly rejects the wisdom of God.” The prophet Isaiah describes the fool like this, he says,
“For the fool speaks folly,
and his heart is busy with iniquity,
to practice ungodliness,
to utter error concerning the LORD,
to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied,
and to deprive the thirsty of drink.”
As we have been hearing in the last number of weeks in the Gospel of John, our Lord Jesus [says], “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” The fool doesn’t just want to go hungry himself, the fool doesn’t just want to thirst all on his own; the fool isn’t satisfied until he has worked to make everyone equally thirsty and hungry in body, mind and spirit.
One Church that’s likely etched into your mind when you think of Russia is probably the 16th century Cathedral of St. Basil in Moscow with its swirling colourful domes and red stone work. It stands there, impressively made, very near the Kremlin on the Red Square in Moscow and while it had every appearance of a Cathedral back in the days of the Soviet Union it was no longer a church, it had been turned into a museum and no church services were held there, no Scriptures were read there, no Sermons were preached there, no Sacraments were administered there, no one gathered there to worship the Lord Jesus or to sing His praise. This again shows what these Atheists wanted to do; by turning St. Basil’s into a museum they wanted God to be relegated to the museum, it was their conviction that if they killed and imprisoned enough Christians, and demolished enough churches, if they used enough churches as grain silos and museums that God would just become some old broken “fictional” thing from the past, hammered down to size and put in His place, put in the museum of history.
Jesus has made His Church more resilient than the fools of the world. When the world sees you as weak, remember that your strength is in Christ Jesus and in His cross. The fool both despises this and everything to do with God and underestimates this and everything to do with God at the same time. The Atheists of the Soviet Union didn’t just say in their hearts that there was no God, they said it with their lips, and with the work of their hands: [they] “proved themselves to be corrupt, they showed their abominable deeds.” Today as we look at the world around us we see many fools, but there is a group of fools that share something in common with the Communists of Soviet Russia they are the Taliban. Now the Taliban are not Atheists, they are Muslims, but they are still fools for in their hearts they say Jesus is not God. Because they are Atheists towards Christ Jesus they treat Christians in a similar way to how the Atheist Communists treated Christians.
For your brothers and sisters in Christ living in Afghanistan the questions asked at your confirmation have taken on pressing and immediate importance. Remember what St. Paul says, “If God is for us who can be against us!” … Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death? The one who is wise answers, “I do, by the grace of God.” … “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” The one who is wise answers, “I do, by the grace of God.” Death cannot separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Right now imprisonment, public punishment humiliation and torture, rape, slavery and martyrdom are all very real dangers for your Afghan brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray that they will have the conviction of their faith in Christ Jesus in the face of these dangers at the hand of the Taliban and those who support the Taliban: That by their example of faith placed in the death and life of Jesus that the fools of Afghanistan would gain wisdom and turn from their foolishness to Christ Jesus. We here in the west have long lived in peace but so had Christians in much of Russians before the Marxist Communist revolution, and so had the Christians of the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean before Islam swept over their lands and subjugated them back in the seventh century. Just because it hasn’t happened here doesn’t mean that it can’t or that it won’t. We as Christians need to be prepared and we need to remain steadfast in the LORD. Our brothers and sisters in the former Soviet Union our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan today and for all the ones who this day and through the course of time stood face to face with the barrel of the gun, or who found their necks on the chopping block, or their flesh consigned to the fire, their lives were in the hands of fools, and we too might just as easily find our lives in the hands of men and women who break the first table of the Commandments with impunity, our lives may one day likewise be the hands of those who say there is no God ... Remember however that your life is not truly in their hands, the eternal life of your brother and sister is Christ are not truly in their hands ... your life, and theirs, are in the hand of God, God is your refuge. And they are fools who think they have ultimate control of you, they do not.
Psalm 14 ends with a prayer of supplication, a plea to God:
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of His people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
The Psalmist in his day waited for the Christ, the Psalmist waited for the Saviour, we wait for that same gladness to come in the return of Jesus on The Last Day, The Day upon which the final and complete restoration of the people of God will take place. The foolish plans of the fools of this world will not frustrate the plan of God, who “when the fullness of time had come, ... sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” The fool cannot take that adoption from us, even if they take all our possessions, our loved ones or even our life. Jesus [says], “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” No fool can take that from you.
Because your heavenly Father loves you He shows, even now, the futility of the fool. Remember the Cathedral of St. Basil in Moscow: In the shadow of the Kremlin in1991 the occasional Church Service started to happen at St. Basil’s and more Divine Services started to take place in 1997 and more in 2004 and nowadays Orthodox Christians gathers together there for the Divine Liturgy weekly and the three hundred or so other churches in Moscow likewise hold regular worship services, the Scriptures are read there, Sermons are preached there, the Sacraments are administered there, the Christians gather there to worship the Lord Jesus and they sing His praise. The Communist atheism of the Soviets Union failed, because their plans were the plans of the Fool, all their hammering away at God’s Children, God’s Kingdome, God’s Word was in vain. The efforts of the Taliban against God will fail because no matter how many Christians are enslaved or martyred Jesus is still Jesus and the Christian has life in Him. Pray for the fools of this world and remember if you have been a fool if you have disregarded God and the wisdom of God, repent and return to the Lord your God there is forgiveness even for the fools:
I leave you with this pomes by John Clifford;
Last eve I paused beside a blacksmith's door,
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then, looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
"How many anvils have you had," said I,
"To wear and batter all these hammers so?"
"Just one," said he, and then, with twinkling eye,
"The anvil wears the hammers out, you know."
And so, thought I, the Anvil of God's Word,
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The Anvil is unharmed, the hammers gone.
Dear Christian friends the fools of the world are here and then they are gone, “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” Who is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is Eternal and “He is not God of the dead, but [God] of the living.” Therefore be glad, Jesus says to you in the Gospel of Matthew: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” And no amount of hammering by fools will ever change that. Pray that the fools will put down their hammers and join us in the wisdom of the LORD. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord, have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.”
 2 Timothy 3:1–5
 The Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, pg 273.
 Psalm 111:10
 The Ten Commandments: First Table of the Law, Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, pg 13.
 Paraphrase of quotation originating from the introduction of Karl Marx’s (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) proposed work “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right”; this work was never written, but the introduction (written in 1843) was published in 1844 in “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher.”
 A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, Northwestern Publishing House 2004, John F. Burg, pg 211.
 Isaiah 32:6
 John 6:35
 Romans 8:31
 Romans 8:38-39
 Galatians 4:4-5
 Confessional Lutherans in Russia: Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC), Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR)
 John Clifford (1836 – 1923)
 Matthew 22:32
 Matthew 24:35
Photo Credits: Main photo St. Basil's Red Square Moscow from pixabay; detail Parade of Fools from pixabay; One Good Door from pixabay; Doors from pixabay; detail Lenin Bust CCCR from unsplash; detail of Hammers from pexels; detail St. Basil's from pixabay; Grains of Wheat from pexels; Map of Afganistan from pixabay; detail of Christian Martyr Statue from pexels; detail Russian Orthodox Crucifix from pexels; detail Man at Anvil from unsplash.