I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. (Hosea 11,3)
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. (2.Timothy 2,13)
Teaching a child to walk is one of the proud moments of parents. Salman Rushdie describes his passionate dream of teaching a child of his to ride on bicycle in a park. Lovely story! I remember how our eldest started walking in a mission gathering in Gifhorn, where his God father was serving as missionary of the Lutheran Church. Suddenly the little toddler left the safe and supporting hands of his caring mother, who was seated in the circle and plodded came towards me – oblivious really of what was going on around him, just beaming over the newly won mobility, no longer earth bound, but floating across it. In our case it was none of our doing as the child moved and kept going. However in the case of Ephraim and Israel it was God, who taught him to get up and go. Step by step, he showed them the way to do it. He took them by the hand and guided, supported and empowered them to walk freely and be healed on the way. It’s a life’s journey be it alone like Abraham, be it as a people like Moses. It takes decades and entire generations, many ages. It’s the stuff of Church history from the very beginning, continuing even now and keeping on going until the returning Christ will call an end to it all. What a gift, what a joy!
This delightful and divine experience of learning to walk by God’s help and teaching, however has a recurring catch, a surprising drawback, which spoils the story every time. This is because Ephraim is so ignorant and blind, that he doesn’t realise God’s doing good, his positive input of teaching and his healing, blessing and saving care. He thinks, I’ve done it on my own. He’s under the illusion of being independent, self-sufficient and self-reliant. Like we Germans like to say: “Selbst ist der Mann!” (A true man stands on his own – or something to that effect). We human beings are like this. That’s how we’re wired – in rebellion against God’s omnipotence.
In society its just a sad joke to see somebody blowing his own trumpet and doing as if he’s just the bee’s knees whilst being guilty of plagiarism all along. Reminds me a bit of the old matrons showing off their beautiful gardens and parks with a flourish and bragging: “That’s all my work!” without even giving a hint of the helpers and helper’s helpers working avidly to get it there and keeping it there. How much worse is it, if people think they have achieved spiritual enlightenment, self-righteousness and their standard of living by what they think, talk or do. Jesus Christ draws that picture with the conceited Pharisee praying in the temple and adding up all his divine blessings and achievements and glorious successes. Oh, what a proud fool! That’s why I really like the verse that was theme of my niece’s wedding: “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) No reason to be boastful. No cause for looking down on others either – nor to be envious or jealous or even despair, because others are seemingly so much better off than we are. Rather we should look at Job and learn from him: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
What a blessing it is to know, that what we are and what we have, all the daily blessings, learning experiences, growing, healing, surviving, flourishing and thriving – we owe without exception to the loving goodness and mercy of our loving God, who saves, blesses and heals us so generously and doesn’t treat us as we poor, sinful beings deserve it for all our ingratitude, selfish pride and egoism. He even leads us by the hand into old age and lets us learn, that all and everything serves to our best – even our illness, failings and death. He knows all along, but we are still learning. We are not there yet, but we are getting there by his grace, forgiveness and mercy. He is faithful and can’t deny himself nor that he loves and cares for us every single day of our life – always drawing us closer and even closer to himself until we are inseparably united with him – here in time and there in eternity. Amen.
“Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus” by Sigismund von Birken, 1626-1681 and translated by J. Adam Rimbach, 1871-1941
1. Let us ever walk with Jesus,
Follow His example pure,
Flee the world, which would deceive us
And to sin our souls allure.
Ever in His footsteps treading,
Body here, yet soul above,
Full of faith and hope and love,
Let us do the Father’s bidding.
Faithful Lord, abide with me;
Saviour, lead, I follow Thee.
2. Let us suffer here with Jesus,
To His image, e’er conform;
Heaven’s glory soon will please us,
Sunshine follow on the storm.
Though we sow in tears of sorrow,
We shall reap with heavenly joy;
And the fears that now annoy
Shall be laughter on the morrow.
Christ, I suffer here with Thee;
There, oh, share Thy joy with me!
3. Let us also die with Jesus.
His death from the second death,
From our soul’s destruction, frees us,
Quickens us with life’s glad breath.
Let us mortify, while living,
Flesh and blood and die to sin;
And the grave that shuts us in
Shall but prove the gate to heaven.
Jesus, here I die to Thee
There to live eternally.
4. Let us gladly live with Jesus;
Since He’s risen from the dead,
Death and grave must soon release us.
Jesus, Thou art now our Head,
We are truly Thine own members;
Where Thou livest, there live we.
Take and own us constantly,
Faithful Friend, as Thy dear brethren.
Jesus, here I live to Thee,
Also there eternally.
Hymn #409 The Lutheran Hymnal Text: John 11:16 Author: Sigismund von Birken, 1653
Translated by: J. Adam Rimbach, 1900 Titled: “Lasset uns mit Jesu ziehen”
Composer: Georg G. Boltze, 1788 Tune: “Lasset uns mit Jesu ziehen“