Second Sunday after Epiphany January 16, 2000
8, 416, 17, 46
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. …I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD. Here ends our text.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, In whose arms we find shelter, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
“You’re in good hands with Allstate!”—How many times have you seen that commercial? The big insurance company tries to inspire confidence by picturing a huge set of hands, gently cradling a house, or a car, or a family. The message you’re supposed to get is that when you buy homeowner’s insurance, or car insurance, or life insurance from this particular company—you’ll be protected and safe. They’ll watch over you and take care of you, and you’ll never have anything to worry about.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true?—If you could plunk down a certain amount of money and be completely protected from all of life’s unpleasant surprises? Unfortunately, no insurance company can do that. For one thing, the insurance industry is on rather shaky ground at the moment; some say they may some day go the way of the Savings and Loans. Besides that, even the best insurance policy doesn’t really protect you, does it? It doesn’t prevent tornadoes, or car wrecks, or the sudden loss of life. It just pays you some money when it happens. No matter how slick the advertising—when it comes to real security, those “good hands” aren’t really all that good!
We Christians, however, have a different source of security: our gracious and all-powerful God. And our text for today uses nature as an illustration of just how solid that security is. If you’re a worrier, if you suffer from anxiety attacks, if you have even the smallest shred of insecurity about your future—then have I got Good News for you! In the words of our theme:
This is a very stately and awe-inspiring psalm. In it, the psalmist is acknowledging God’s great wisdom, His gracious providence, and His almighty power. But as you read it, you can’t help noticing that it’s also a very joyful psalm. It sounds as though there should be an exclamation point after every sentence! Obviously, there’s something here that almost overwhelms the psalmist with joy every time he thinks about it. What is it, I wonder? What is it about God’s wisdom and power that should make every one of us believers click our heels with happiness? Well, everything this passage says about God, and His relationship with His creation, also tells you something about yourself, and His relationship with you. The message is that you’re in good hands with God. In the first place, because His wise hands created you.
The story is told of a science professor who constructed a planetarium—a precisely scaled model of the solar system. One of his students was impressed, and asked him who built it. “No one,” said the professor. “Come on,” said the student, “who made this fantastic piece of precision work?” “No one,” said the professor, “it just happened.” The young man became confused and angry. His professor told him, “Well, if you can leave this classroom and look at the wonders of nature and believe that they just happened, with no creator, then you can also believe that this piece of precision work just happened, with no creator!”
The Bible is right when it states that only a fool could believe there is no God. In our text, the Psalmist says, O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. To really be an atheist, you have to ignore literally a world of evidence. The wisdom of God is clearly seen in all the things He has created. Think for a moment how incredibly complex and varied are the creatures God made. One scientist estimated that if you wrote down the genetic code for a single mouse, it would fill six whole editions of Encyclopedia Britannica. And that’s just a mouse, a minor land mammal. Consider the sea, says the Psalmist, the oceans that cover three-quarters of our planet with teeming biological diversity! So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. If a mouse is a wonderful creation, what about the millions of sea creatures? What about “Leviathan”—the whale? Each of these creatures demonstrates the unapproachable wisdom of the God who created them. Wisdom that makes human scientists and their technology look like a bunch of kids playing with tinker toys!
Why is this especially comforting to Christians?—Because it means God’s hands not only created all these creatures, they also created you! In another place the psalmist says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.”—Psa 139:14. Consider your own body: your eye, more precise and accurate than any camera; your hand, more flexible and articulate than any robot; your brain, infinitely more complex and powerful than any computer! And then remember that it’s the Lord who created you and gave you these abilities. Whenever you stand up in church and say, “I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” you’re also saying, in the words of Luther’s explanation, “I believe that God has made me with all creatures, giving me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my faculties.” You ARE in good hands with God, because He created you. And He knows you, right down to the numbered hairs on your head.
Yes, it takes quite a stretch to believe that there’s no God. But it takes even a bigger stretch for a Christian to doubt God’s providence—for it is God’s provident hands which support you!
Think about it. Can it be possible that the God who created you—the God who knows what’s going on right now in the tiniest cell in your body—can it be possible that this God will ever forget to give you what you need? Will He ever neglect you or overlook your needs for a single moment during your life? Because if that were possible, then we truly would have something to worry about. If God’s providence were an off-again, on-again thing, then we’d have very good reason to be anxious about what tomorrow will bring!
Well, if you DO think that’s possible, then the psalmist has another lesson for you. He takes us back to the sea, and all the hoards of God’s creatures that live there. How do they make it from day to day? That’s easy: These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Ah, I see—the Lord invariably provides for whales, but once in a while He forgets about human beings, is that it? God feeds the sharks and the squids and the flounders, but He neglects His own dear children?! What nonsense!
Do you see now how silly it is to worry about tomorrow? Worse than silly—it’s a sinful denial of the grace God has promised you in His Word. Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.”—Mat 6:26,31.
My Christian friends, cheer up! Sing to the Lord, rejoice with the psalmist, and be glad—because you are in good hands with God. His provident hands, the hands that constantly support the rest of His creation, also support you. He’s going to make sure that you meet that next car payment, that your bills get paid, that there’s never a day when you can’t put food on your family’s table. How can you make doubly positive that the Lord will provide you with all these things? Because He’s already given up something far more precious for you: His only Son.
It’s precisely because we are sinful, doubting, unbelieving creatures that God sent His Son Jesus to earth. Jesus fulfilled the Law in our place. He died in our place on the cross of Calvary. And when He died, Jesus erased every sin and disobedience and transgression that you and I have ever committed. With His own precious blood, Jesus wrote your name and mine in the book of eternal life. With the sacrifice of His Son, God promises that you are now reconciled to Him. Instead of being His enemy, you are now His own dear child, whom He watches over and cares for more faithfully than the most loving earthly parent could possibly care for his precious child. Can He possibly fail in His care of us? Can He possibly forget about us? Never! God says through Isaiah, Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands. Isa 49:15-16. Can He possibly overlook the smallest need that we feel in our lives? Never! You are in good hands with God! Paul asks a question that needs no answer: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”—Rom 8:32.
Would you like to live a life that is truly “care free”? Would you like to insure for yourself and your family absolute and permanent security? You can, you know! That security doesn’t lie in any earthly insurance policy, but it does lie in our Almighty God. My prayer is that you may find shelter—not necessarily under the Traveller’s umbrella, but under the umbrella of God’s grace and love. Even if you’ve got a piece of “the Prudential rock”, make sure your real confidence is founded solidly on the Rock of Ages. Go ahead and put your car insurance into the “good hands” of Allstate if you want to. But when it comes to your eternal future, make sure you put THAT—into the truly good hands of your creator God! AMEN.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.