Your Paper Is Too Small

Though we know that passages in the Old Testament addressed to Israel were not written to us, Paul said that they are still for us. What happened to them is recorded for us as an example “that we might not desire evil as they did” (see 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).

Let’s learn from one of those Old Testament passages, Deuteronomy 28. The entire chapter describes blessings on those who are faithful and curses on those who won’t obey the voice of the Lord. In the section describing disobedience the Lord addresses the cause of their upcoming devastation.

Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you. (Deuteronomy 28:47–48)

Though they had been given affluence, “the abundance of all things,” they did not abound in thanksgiving. Finding reasons for gratitude required no great exercise of imagination. They only needed to taste the bumper blessings and see that the Lord was good. But they refused. All the gifts that they received without gratitude would soon be repossessed.

We lose what matters most when we won’t be thankful. Instead, we were made to receive from Him and so we “offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14).

Sunday in worship, and Thursday in mashing potatoes, waiting for late guests, wondering why you believe believe in the Lord but your extended family doesn’t, and in a thousand other moments of effort, serve the Lord in gratitude. Though sin tells you that your list for thanks is too small, the real challenge comes when you see that your paper is too small for the list.

Adorned with Divine Delight

A fantastic footnote (#10) found in chapter 6 of The Things of Earth (paragraphs added):

Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, ‘Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful, carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.’

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, ‘O God, because I am certain that Thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with Thy perfect pleasure. I confess to Thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving Thy creature and Thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised! Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in Thy sight.’

A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; and as she busies herself with other duties and renders help and obedience to her husband. These are truly golden and noble works….

Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all His angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all His creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools.”

–Martin Luther, “The Estate of Marriage,” in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 2nd ed., ed. Timothy F. Lull (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2005), 158– 59.

Getting Accustomed Again

Noah was 600 years old when the rain came down and the floods came up. He spent one of our entire lifetimes just building the ark. That project kept him busy, but life was basically the same for him until the day the Lord shut him in safety. A year later when he disembarked, life was similar and yet it could not be the same as before.

As Christians, we learned one way of living before the way of salvation. Some spent a long time in the world’s workshop, others less. But length of life in sin isn’t an excuse for staying in sin; we are all called to leave the old and live in the new. Naturally this is difficult. We have to relearn how to talk, how to relate, how to work, how to worship. We had ways of going about it before, now we have to get accustomed to going about it like Christ.

Some persons want to get on the ark and get off again with everything the same as before. They want salvation from sin and to keep living in ways that required their salvation. They might as well try to stay dry while giving a bath to a pack of lions.

The church is the people relearning to walk. We don’t always take every step in the right direction, but we keep coming together as fellow-citizens of Christ’s Kingdom to renew our training in faithful obedience. The communion meal is part of the program reminding us to give thanks to God who sent us a Savior from the flood of judgment we deserved.

He Condemned the World

The world prefers that we do not confess when we disobey God. For that matter, the world prefers when we do not obey God. It might seem as if this puts us in a position where we cannot win. By faith we know that it means we are.

Noah showed how this works.

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)

Noah believed God and did all that God commanded him, and look what it accomplished: “by this he condemned the world.” His obedience to build a boat–not his letters to the editor, his weekly sermon podcast, or his public revival meetings–declared the disobedience of the world. Noah trusted and submitted to God and, because his generation saw him do it, they were accountable for it. They couldn’t say that they didn’t know.

They were responsible for 100 years of mockery-of-mouth toward the ark-itect, 100 years of laughing off the ridiculous idea of rain, 100 years of evidence they couldn’t un-see.

Just because our obedience isn’t as dramatic doesn’t mean that it isn’t as effective in condemning the world. Even when we disobey but then acknowledge our sin and seek God’s forgiveness in Christ, we show the world what they should do. By faith we trust the judgment of God on His Son, by faith we expect the judgment of God by His Son, and by faith we become the heirs of righteousness. Our obedience of faith is antithetical worship and a witness to the unbelieving culture.