Trust the LORD: Second Sunday In Lent - Genesis 17 & Mark 8 / Rev. Ted A. Giese
2 Sunday in Lent, 2015 March 1st. Rev. Ted Giese, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina SK. Mark 8:27-38; Genesis 17:1-7, 15, 16; Romans 5:1-11
And Jesus went on with His disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told Him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ.” And He strictly charged them to tell no one about Him.
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
And calling the crowd to Him with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our 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. When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, and his name was still Abram, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between Me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Now God had already had a conversation with Abram like this before, in fact back in Chapter 12 of Genesis when Abram was 75 years old, “the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation ...”
When Abram was 75 years old God says “I will make of you a great nation” and then when he was 99 years old the LORD says to Him that He will “multiply [Abram] greatly.”
There is a 24 year period between the two times the LORD made this promise to Abram. And in those 24 years Abram and Sarah, who’s name at that time was still Sarai, had no children together; in fact at one point, during those 24 year, after God says to Abram “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Abram responds to the LORD saying, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? ... You have given me no offspring, and a [servant in] my household will be my heir.” [Then], the word of the LORD came to [Abram and said]: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And He brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then [the word of the LORD] said to [Abram], “So shall your offspring be.” And [Abram] believed the LORD, and [the LORD] counted it to him as righteousness.” So here we have Abram, upright, one made righteous by God, confident in almost every way.
During those 24 years, between 75 and 99 years of age, Abram was reassured by the LORD that the promise was going to be fulfilled ... all Abram had to do was to trust that the LORD would do it.
Part way through those 24 years, Abram was tempted not to trust, not to trust God’s promise, and this temptation came from someone very close to him: seeing that she had not produced any children Sarai, Abram’s wife said to Abram, “[Look], the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant [Hagar]; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” Abram fell to this temptation and didn’t say, as he should have, “No, let us trust the LORD and His promise.” So when Abram was 86 years old, Hagar the maid, gave birth to Ishmael a son of Abram; but Ishmael was not the promised child that the LORD had appointed for Abram. Ishmael was born out of lack of trust in the promise of God.
Abram who was to become Abraham (the Father of Nations), who has his faith credited to him as righteousness by the LORD also shows us a profound lack of faith in the birth of Ishmael. So then we ask? If Abraham struggled with trusting God, is there any hope for us? Trust is a very important element of faith. Nowhere does scripture say that, Abram lost his faith, but when we think on God’s promise to Abram and Abram’s handling of that promise, it does shed some light on last week’s Old Testament reading where Abram, (now Abraham) was told to take his son Isaac, his only Son with Sarai (now Sarah), the son of the immediate fulfilment of the LORD’S promise to Abram, and sacrifice him (sacrifice this Isaac) on mount Moriah.
Ishmael was born out of a lack of trust in God but Isaac was a miracle child, a life changing child for Abraham: after the birth of Isaac Abraham trusted God, and after that Abraham did what God asked, Abraham trusted that the LORD would work miracles to make all His promises come true. In fact in the Epistle of Hebrews, in the New Testament, the writer tells us that, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” [Abraham] considered that God was able even to raise [Isaac] from the dead.” Abraham had failed in trusting God before, even though Abram had been given great faith, so the LORD tested Abraham’s trust, his trust that God would do for Abraham as He had promised and that the future God promised was to be believed. This test of Abraham’s trust was not just for the building of his character, but it is for you here today.
Do you ever struggle to trust God’s promises to you, - there is a quote falsely attributed to the Bible, you know it, "God helps those who help themselves," this is not a God pleasing quote and it's not Scriptural, yet many in the world live by it, have you lived by it? For lack of patience are you tempted to find alternatives to God’s pattern and plan, are you left looking for ways to speed things up on your own as Abram and Sarai had? Remember love is patient and what then is impatience? A lack of love, a lack of trust? 'But I'm in a very dark place,' you say, 'It's a really emotional time in my life,' 'I'm under a lot of psychological pressure,' 'I've got physical, medical, health concerns: Surely that counts for something? Clearly God will let me take matters into my own hands in this case, He won't mind if I set aside His concerns for my own concerns?' In the dark of night, in the cold light of day have you been left wondered ‘why is this all happening to me? Why hasn’t God done anything yet? Why is it all taking so long?’ Trusting promises that take a long time to be fulfilled is hard for us to do, we are an impatient bunch, just think, from the LORD’S first promise to Abram to the day Abraham stood on the mountain top with the knife in his hand, his trust in God tested to the utmost, that stretch of time was right around 40 years. The Holy Spirit had given Abraham his faith in the LORD around 40 years before that day, and still there were tests to his faith. You received the promise of eternal, everlasting life in your baptism and there are some of us for whom that promise came nearly 100 years ago.
Often when we look back it’s easier to see the handiwork of God in our lives, looking forward is something different, Saint Paul tells us that “we walk by faith, not by sight.” It’s hard to see the outcome of what’s ahead of us, that’s why trust is such an important part of faith. Some will say things like this, “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards." Hind sight is 20/20: In part, that much is true, however such an assertion will also concede that you do need to trust something in life; they will say things like, "You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” On the surface such talk sounds inclusive but what's missing? As Christians we don’t put our trust in our gut, or destiny, or life, or karma, or "whatever" - in fact those are just the kind of thing Scripture warns us to be careful of, many will say "follow your heart," or "trust what your heart is telling you," but in the book of Jeremiah Scripture says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Yet have courage, Jeremiah also provides you with this encouragement, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD." As Christians then we put our faith and trust in the LORD, we put our faith and trust in Jesus! And when we do, we remember His promises to us and we await our ultimate blessings, the fulfilment of the promises.
In today's Gospel reading, from the Gospel of Mark, we hear how Saint Peter struggled to trust Jesus. Peter was tempted by impatient human concerns, like Abram’s temptation to father a child with the maid Hagar, Abram and Peter thought they knew what God wanted - they thought they knew the plan and how to fulfill it but in their haste and impatience they fell into sin and lacked trust in the LORD. From our Gospel Lesson today we see that, no sooner than Peter had boldly confessed that Jesus is “the Christ,” that same Peter begins to have a lack of trust when Jesus plainly explains in unmistakable language that He, Jesus, “must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” The same Peter who said to Jesus, “You are the Christ” turns around and rebukes Jesus. Peter does not trust the Word of the LORD, He doesn’t listen to Jesus and the plan of salvation being laid out before him, And when Peter falters in his trust and rebukes Jesus, Jesus stops Peter dead in his tracks saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” When we struggle to trust God 9 times out of 10 it will be because we are setting our mind on the things of men, and in doing so we lose track of God’s purpose and His promises for us, we lose track of God plan for our salvation.
So then we ask? If Abraham and Sarah struggled with trusting God, if Saint Peter struggled with trusting Jesus, is there any hope for us? For we struggle at trusting our Heavenly Father, and we fail at following the Word of the LORD Jesus, and in illness and in adversity and tribulation and trouble and suffering we come face to face with a mighty temptation to go our own way, apart from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Is there any hope for us?
Your hope is in Christ Jesus, not in yourself, Where Abram failed to trust the Lord and sinned by sleeping with Hagar; where Peter failed in trusting Jesus and sinned by putting himself as an authority over God breaking the first commandment; Where you have failed to trust God and found yourself in sin ... in all these things you can put your hope in the fact that Jesus, even in the darkest hour, trusted the plan of salvation and didn’t waver from it, Jesus didn’t go it alone, He didn’t come up with a different plan that suited Him better, Jesus simply trusted and was obedient, “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Abraham trusted that Isaac would be risen from the dead if he had had to sacrifice him, God the Father spared Abraham from this, all the while this Old Testament account points forward to the plan that Peter at first rejected and later embraced and preached, the plan of salvation that is for you and for me, the plan that would see Jesus die for our lack of trust and for our sin and then be raised up to new life, so that you can have the same. You see this is God’s ultimate plan for you, that no matter what difficulties and suffering you face in life, no matter what cross you have to bear in following in Jesus’ footsteps, in the end God the Father through Jesus will bring you to life everlasting in heaven where every hardship you’ve faced will be no more and you will live in perfect peace, trust and love. You will be free. This is God's promise to you.
In your baptism you are grafted into this plan of salvation, you are sealed into it, bound to it; you are given the Hope that is Christ Jesus: and in your baptism you are given to Him. His forgiveness is yours and you can place your trust in Jesus. He is your Hope! Abraham and Peter were forgiven for their lack of trust, and this forgiveness is for you too; whether you’ve struggled long with a trust testing affliction or whether you have been moved to sudden and powerful mistrust by a wicked temptation of Satan, Society or Self, either way, run to the refuge of the Rock of your Salvation! Run to Jesus, the One Who is Trustworthy and True, the One Who displayed perfect trust in thought, word and deed! For He is better and more fair that your gut, or any notion of karma or fait or destiny, He is greater than your heart, He will not lead you astray, and He has you in the palm of His Hand. Amen.
Let us pray: 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 Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Genesis 17:1-2
 Genesis 15:1
 Genesis 15:2-6
 Genesis 16:2
 Hebrews 11:17-19
 2 Corinthians 5:7
 Jeremiah 17:9-10
 Jeremiah 17:7
 Philippians 2:8
 1 John 3:20