Herrenhuter readings for Wednesday, the 26th November 2014

means-of-grace1Then Gideon said to the Lord: “If now I have found favour in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me.” (Judges 6:17 NKJV) Jesus said: Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29 NKJV)

It’s easy to follow the wrong call – especially if you’re impulsive and you get a good idea only to find out that it just seemed like a good idea, whereas it actually was everything but that. For some it might be a good idea to sleep over it. You might still come up with the correct answer and the appropriate response. For others it might be helpful to speak with some people in the know, look it up in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica or to Google it for that matter. Most of us don’t have very weighty decisions to make anyway. So it doesn’t really matter, which way we go or what course we take. In the big picture our little issues carry little weight and are of no great consequences.

It was very different with Gideon. He was a judge in Israel. The entire nation depended on his proper and rightful call. His faithful leadership was crucial for the ongoing well being and prosperity of God’s people. It was critical that he would follow the directives of the living God most meticulously. Loving, fearing and trusting God above all things had absolute priority. It was not so much about, what this one or that one said, thought or tried. Rather it all hinged on obeying the one and only Lord of all.

That is why Gideon wants a sign from God. An authorisation practically. God was to legitimise himself before Gideon so that he would have visible proof that this was meet, right and salutary. It’s like Moses, who asks some kind of tangible proof from God before he goes face to face with Pharaoh, to demand: “Let my people go!” Or later and after the liberation from Egypt has been successful asks God to just show himself – sort of like a personal assurance, to lift up his sagging faith or just to tick that one off on his list of spiritual levels attained or to add another success on his personal bucket-list.

Well, with Gideon God plays along quite a bit more cooperative than with Moses, who just get’s the signature: JHWH – and is not allowed to see God face to face. He just get’s to see his disappearing outlines. Here with Gideon the Lord of heavenly hosts devours the sacrifice offering of meat, bread and broth with fire from on high. Whoosh! Stamp! Clearly God shows up, don’t you think? So Gideon goes and does as God demands – opposes the Baalim, tears down their sacrilegious altars and builds one acceptable to God. But before Gideon goes further to gather the faithful in warfare against the idolatrous Midianites he asks for still another signs – the wet and dry fleece – and God mercifully complies – again. Helpfully nudging on Jerubbaal (i.e. Gideon) further and further on the way to achieve peace and salvation for his nation Israel. Don’t you just love the way God sends off most of Gideon’s troops just to make sure that they realise it’s God’s victory and not their own? I do. I think that is great godly stuff really. Well, God did many wonderful things through his faithful servant Gideon for Israel and to make way finally for the coming saviour right there in Israel for all the world. For the salvation of all was to come through the promised Messiah – Jesus Christ to be born in Bethlehem. That’s what this old story finally leads up to.

Now when Jesus Christ came, he did a lot of miracles and wonders to legitimise himself as the promised one, showed himself as the true Son of God and fulfilled the will of the Father meticulously and to the very last detail. Still – it never was enough for those, who did not believe in him. They always demanded something extra and still some more. If he did something outrageously divine – like healing the sick on a Sabbath, raising the dead Lazarus and forgiving sins of the lost sons and daughters of Israel, others would still demand: With what authority do you do this! In the end, they disqualified this very God of God by branding him as the prince of demons and a blasphemous charlatan. They excluded him, exiled him, threw him out of the city and hung him on the cross and gave him a grave amongst outcasts and good-for-nothings. His entire salvation story from the beginning is just folly to the wise philosophers and remains a stumbling block for the religiously correct and lawfully biased. Yet for us, who believe this gospel of Jesus Christ it is the amazing power of God to save all, who trust in him and his salvation.

Even after our Lord Jesus Christ had risen victoriously from the grave and appeared before his disciples more than once, some did not recognise him, they continued to be afraid and have their doubts. Well, our Lord Jesus Christ has had mercy on us and them. He taught them everything again – again starting off with Moses and all the prophets and demonstrated, how this all had to come to pass. It was God’s way of redeeming his people in Jerusalem, Israel and all nations from the very ends of the world right from the beginning He showed them his pierced hands, feet and side. He ate in front of them. He dispelled their disbelief and fear more and more. He assured them graciously and freely in the true faith and sent them out with the precious mandate to make disciples of all people by baptising them in the name of the triune God and teaching them all that he himself had entrusted to them in his testament. See, Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed his testament!

We pray: Lord heavenly Father, we come before you and plead you to strengthen our faith in your Son Jesus Christ. We have not seen him, but have heard his living word being preached, taught and explained to us by your faithful servants, missionaries, teachers, pastors, bishops. We trust in your promises of our salvation, which you have attained and sealed for us in your Son Jesus Christ and his ongoing mission through the Holy Spirit and his most precious and effective means of grace. Grant that we will take up your word as our fathers did, read, study and learn it gladly and accepting its guidance and saving message faithfully. Let us attend carefully to and partake thankfully of your vitalising, creative and effective signs of life and your divine goodness – in Baptism and the most holy and precious gifts of your body and blood shared with us at your altar. Thus strengthen our faith and grant us deliverance in your peace now and always. Amen.

“I Come, O Savior, to Thy Table”
by Friedrich C. Heyder, 1677-1754
Translated by composite

1. I come, O Savior, to Thy Table,
For weak and weary is my soul;
Thou, Bread of Life, alone art able
To satisfy and make me whole:

REFRAIN:
Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood
Be for my soul the highest good!

2. Oh, grant that I in manner worthy
May now approach Thy heavenly Board
And, as I lowly bow before Thee,
Look only unto Thee, O Lord!

3. Unworthy though I am, O Savior,
Because I have a sinful heart,
Yet Thou Thy lamb wilt banish never
For Thou my faithful Shepherd art!

4. Oh, let me loathe all sin forever
As death and poison to my soul
That I through wilful sinning never
May see Thy Judgment take its toll!

5. Thy heart is filled with fervent yearning
That sinners may salvation see
Who, Lord, to Thee in faith are turning;
So I, a sinner, come to Thee.

6. Weary am I and heavy laden,
With sin my soul is sore opprest;
Receive me graciously, and gladden
My heart, for I am now Thy guest.

7. Thou here wilt find a heart most lowly
That humbly falls before Thy feet,
That duly weeps o’er sin, yet solely
Thy merit pleads, as it is meet.

8. By faith I call Thy holy Table
The testament of Thy deep love;
For, lo, thereby I now am able
To see how love Thy heart doth move.

9. What higher gift can we inherit?
It is faith’s bond and solid base;
It is the strength of heart and spirit,
The covenant of hope and grace.

10. This feast is manna, wealth abounding
Unto the poor, to weak ones power,
To angels joy, to hell confounding,
And life for us in death’s dark hour.

11. Thy body, given for me, O Savior,
Thy blood which Thou for me didst shed,
These are my life and strength forever,
By them my hungry soul is fed.

12. With Thee, Lord, I am now united;
I live in Thee and Thou in me.
No sorrow fills my soul, delighted
It finds its only joy in Thee.

13. Who can condemn me now? For surely
The Lord is nigh, who justifies.
No hell I fear, and thus securely,
With Jesus I to heaven rise.

14. Though death may threaten with disaster,
It cannot rob me of my cheer;
For He who is of death the Master
With aid and comfort e’er is near.

15. My heart has now become Thy dwelling,
O blessed Holy Trinity.
With angels I, Thy praises telling,
Shall live in joy eternally.

Hymn #315
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: 1 Cor. 11:28
Author: Friedrich C. Heyder, 1710, cento
Translated by: composite
Titled: “Ich komm’ zu deinem Abendmahle”
Tune: “Ich sterbe taeglich”
1st Published in: Ms., Municipal Library
Town: Leipzig, 1756

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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