The Lord our God said to Joshua: „Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.“ (Jos.1:9 KJV)
And his apostel St. Paul writes to the pastor and bishop St. Timothy: „For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.“ (2.Timothy 1,7 KJV)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you +
Dear friends of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ + In trying times it is necessary to remember that our living God would not want us to be timid or even cowards, but rather to fear no ill nor evil, being strong and of good courage, not afraid nor dismayed filled with his Holy Spirit, who grants strength, love and a sound mind. The triune God does not just demand this positive attitude, but rather equips his saints with power from on high and more still he himself is with us (Immanuel) and not just on Sunday mornings, but rather „whithersoever thou goest!“ That is his encouragement to Joshua in those trying times, when Moses had to stay behind and Joshua was now to lead God’s people over the river Jordan and into the holy and promised land. Joshua is not to be afraid to carry out God’s sacred command. Rather he is to be strong, stick to his guns and courageously do, whatsoever his high and precious calling as leader of God’s people demands of him. This calling is not some vague idea, but rather God’s holy law and prescepts, his rules and regulations. God wants Joshua to be faithful and to lead his people according to God’s revealed will – in all that his brother Moses had recorded faithfully in the Torah. Through these five books of Moses God would continue to direct, lead and guide his people as they were now facing a new world – no longer in Egypt and in slavery, no longer in the desert and on the move, but settling down, farming, doing business and going about their daily lives in towns and cities as God’s holy people: A light amongst the nations and a beacon of hope to those, who didn’t know the true God yet. He – the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – was with them and he would rule and reign as the true Lord and saviour of his people forever.
The greatest challenge for God’s elected and chosen people is to think, feel and be neglected, forgotten, deserted and rejected by God himself. It’s the greatest affliction and the worst fear there is. „God is dead!“ is not just a slogan, but our worst nightmare and most terrible threat there is – even if it is a contradiction in terms. God is the source of life and even better, more and greater than life itself. But for us without him there is no hope, love or light. Without him we are lost, condemned and dead. And the worst punishment throughout history was never this or that, but the threat, that God had left his people to their own devices. See the stories of Joseph and how he gets mistreated by his very own brothers, by his trusted master in Egypt and forgotten by that baker/foodtaster, whom he had helped. Still, he was doing just fine – even in slavery, in prison and always. Why? Because God was with him. Same with Daniel in Babylon – right there in the lion’s den. Same with Job even as he was filled with sores and sitting on the ashheap. Same as St.Paul and Silas there in the prison of Philippi. As long as God was with them, there was no cause for overt concern, anxiety or despair. Rather God filled out their every need. He cared for them and kept them even in the darkest of times. Yet, if God hides his face, rejects us and departs from us, then we have all reason to fear and to give up. That really is the worst scenario. It can’t get worse than that. Then we even dread the rustling of falling autumn leaves. We can’t see the light anymore. We are truly alone. There is nothing that can help us. It’s when people rather commit suicide than try to carry on – Judas and king Saul are frightful examples of this.
Our Lord Jesus Christ on Golgotha went through this very great tribulation and worst nightmare, but it was not just a dream, but harshest reality. There on the cross, when the sun stopped shining and the earth was trembling and all was falling apart, he our Lord and God cried out: „My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me!“ That was the very pit of the deepest and most dismal abyss. That was the cup of wrath that he drained for us and on our behalf. The bitter pain of death and the very poison of sin and all devilry and evil too. It all was laid on his shoulders. That was the burden he bore for us, on behalf of us and on account of our sin, but for our good and eternal salvation. In this vicarious sacrifice there on that Mt of Calvary he soothed the wrath of the Father that was against us. By going through with this work of suffering and dying, bleeding and giving up his Spirit even being obedient to his very last breath, not in vile rebellion against the Father, but in perfect harmony and obedience he fulfilled the will and law of the Father, placated him, met his highest demands absolutely and even in the last moment committed his all and everything into the hands and being of the Father: Not my, but your will be done! Thus this only begotten Son of the Father, the Son of Mary there in Bethlehem begotten by the Holy Spirit made everything right again. Caused the change of favour in the heart of the living God. No longer against us, but for us in loving care and gracious favour. That’s how he was victorious and triumphed over sin, death and devil for us.
Now he rules and reigns at the right hand of the Father – in our favour and for our best even as we still struggle along in the world and fight against our own anxieties, fears and tribulations. So many things seem to get out of hand. We don’t see the dominance and rule of our Lord so clearly. Our faith is weak and we often feel alone and left to our own devices. Like those miserable Emmaus disciples on the way home!
That is why our Lord Jesus Christ so repeatedly says to his disciples after his resurrection: „Don’t be afraid!“ „Do not fear!“ „It is I“ „JHWH“ and „See, I am with you all the days of your life!“ „I will not forsake you. I will not leave you. I will strengthen and keep you in the true faith now and always.“ He wants us to trust his promises faithfully, rely on his gracious presence in his holy Word and sacraments and thus be strong, confident and full of hope and godly conviction: „He does all things well and for our very best! That is why we can go about our daily chores as pastors, teachers, missionaries, evangelists, deaconesses, mothers, father, shopowners, soldiers, farmers, grandparents, children, politicians, lawyers, sportsmen, hunters and gatherers, doctors, nurses, engineeers, accountants and taxcollectors, fishermen and musicians etc etc with confidence, joy and gladness. He is there with us. We need to fear no ill. All is going to be all right. He’s our Lord and our saviour. He will not desert or leave us. Not even in our last hour and in the time of death. Rather he is with now and always with his grace, mercy and peace, which passes all understanding. He will carry us through so that we will eventually see and behold, what he has prepared for us onhigh in the heavenly mansions. Nobody and nothing can harm us ultimately, because he is with us. His goodness and mercy endures forever. His rod and staff comfort me. Even in the shadows of death I fear no ill, for you are with me… Therefore get up, do what you are supposed to do, be manly and be strong – don’t whine, cringe and growel. Rather do your work, carry out your job, be faithful and hard at work, mindful, sober, think straight, get things right, do the right thing, strive to improve and work hard too so that when your Lord comes, he will not find you asleep, loafing or just being good for nothing. Rather let him find a faithful servant doing, what he’s called to do joyfully, gratefully and with dedication. Thanks, praise and mercy be to him, our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns together with the Father and the Holy Spirit – one God – now and forever. Amen.
The peace of the Lord be with you always + Amen.
“All Depends on Our Possessing” by unknown author, c.1673
Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1828-1878
1. All depends on our possessing
God’s abundant grace and blessing,
Though all earthly wealth depart.
He who trusts with faith unshaken
In His God is not forsaken
And e’er keeps a dauntless heart.
2. He who hitherto hath fed me
And to many joys hath led me,
Is and ever shall be mine.
He who did so gently school me,
He who still doth guide and rule me,
Will remain my Help divine.
3. Many spend their lives in fretting
Over trifles and in getting
Things that have no solid ground.
I shall strive to win a treasure
That will bring me lasting pleasure
And that now is seldom found.
4. When with sorrow I am stricken,
Hope my heart anew will quicken,
All my longing shall be stilled.
To His loving-kindness tender
Soul and body I surrender;
For in Him alone I build.
5. Well He knows what best to grant me;
All the longing hopes that haunt me,
Joy and sorrow, have their day.
I shall doubt His wisdom never,–
As God wills, so be it ever,–
I to Him commit my way.
6. If on earth my days He lengthen,
He my weary soul will stengthen;
All my trust in Him I place.
Earthly wealth is not abiding,
Like a stream away is gliding;
Safe I anchor in His grace.
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Prov. 10:22
Author: unknown, c. 1673
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1858, alt.
Titled: “Alles ist an Gottes Segen”
Composer: Johann B. Koenig, 1738
Tune: “Alles ist an Gottes Segen”