The First Sunday in Lent February 10, 2008
360, 291, 568, 437(1)
And you shall answer and say before the Lord your God: “My father was a Syrian, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. But the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, and laid hard bondage on us. Then we cried out to the Lord God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, “a land flowing with milk and honey;” and now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land which you, O Lord, have given me. Then you shall set it before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
We have a tendency to remember people and events the way that we want to remember them. We might even make hardships worse than they were. Many parents have told their children of how they had to walk to school through 2 feet of snow and it was uphill both ways.
It goes to another level if we remember things in a way that steals glory from God and gives it to ourselves. This happens more times than we would care to admit. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness he wanted Jesus to fall down and worship him, to take away glory that was due God and give it to another. It is the very same approach that Satan uses with us. May God guard and keep us from falling into that trap. Instead may He lead us to give credit where credit is due and glorify Him alone. I. Satan tempts us to steal glory from God and II. The Lord directs us to glory Him alone
As the Children of Israel were about to enter the promised land of Canaan, they were given a list of things to do once they were there. One of those ceremonies was the offering of the first-fruits as we read about in our text. The Lord told them to do this because He knew that it would not take very long at all to forget the Source of their blessings.
God wanted the Israelites to recall their helplessness and His strength. He had taken a few in number and made them “a nation, great, mighty and populous.” [v.5] Yet even though they were a great nation, the Egyptians mistreated them and laid hard bondage on them. They should recall: “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’” [v.8]
The temptation would be to rewrite history and forget how it took the power of God to achieve their status as a nation. Because of this revisionist tendency, God wanted the Israelites to repeat the words in our text and bring to Him the first and best from the produce of their land, thus giving glory to Him. Even with this warning they turned to Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech, golden calves, and other gods giving them credit for what God had done.
We come together to worship and we read the Bible so that we do not forget the power of God involved in our rescue. It took God’s mighty hand to release us from enslavement to sin and Satan. We’ll talk ourselves into a rewritten history of our conversion, thinking that we found God instead of He finding us. Instead of remembering the stench of our sin we might recall that we weren’t so bad. In revising history we might think that it didn’t take much to rescue us. We forget that it took Jesus Himself waging war against Satan to break us free from the curse of sin.
There is the temptation to forget about God when it comes to the blessings of daily bread. Like the Israelites we are tempted to see any success solely a product of our hard labor. It is easy to forget that God gives us the ability to work. He gives us intelligence and drive. He makes the sun shine and rain to fall.
If we worry about not having enough, if we put the acquisition of goods above the worship of our God, then we’re stealing glory from God. The same is true when we would want to take care of our bodies instead of seeing that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3). We too often end up putting the weight and responsibility for the care of our bodies on ourselves. That’s not being self-sufficient, that’s being idolatrous. The Lord desires us to ask of Him, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
We read of how nine out of ten lepers who were healed by Jesus forgot to thank Him (cf. Luke 17:11ff) and we think, “I could never be that ungrateful.” We read of how the children of Israel worshiped the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai when Moses was receiving the Law of God and we think, “I would never so easily forget about my God.” Don’t fool yourself. Each one of us easily falls prey to the temptation of the Devil to steal glory from God.
We worry about problems unnecessarily. How will I pay for this bill? How will I get everything done? This is forgetting that the Lord has promised to take care of us. Even after we hear in church how the Lord has mercifully rescued us from the fires of Hell and we partake of the Lord’s body and blood in Holy Communion proclaiming His death, we may then within hours or even minutes be involved in idolatry by stealing credit away from God.
The reality is that God found you and made you His own. How else could we have been freed from slavery? The Devil has no compassionate side that in a moment of weakness he would have said, “I’ll let you go.” His grip on us was firm and he was not letting go.
It took not only nine plagues to get Pharaoh to let the Children of Israel go. It was the last plague in particular —the death of the firstborn—that tilted the balance in favor of letting them go. In the same way it took the death of the only begotten Son of God to set us free.
Remember the facts. The facts direct us to God alone. God provided the ransom price. Consider what you see and hear today about His great works and miracles, the Word and Sacraments that create and strengthen faith. The Lord deserves glory for the great things He has done. You may be confident without wavering when you know the facts of your rescue and who deserves the credit.
The same is true when it comes to giving glory for our daily provision. We are not mandated to go through a certain ceremony as the Israelites were in giving their first-fruits. God makes our offerings purely a voluntary system. It’s not like the government that takes right off the top without even giving us a choice. Yet the Lord does want us to recognize His providential hand. We glorify Him by not only thanking Him in our prayers, but giving our first and best to Him when it comes to our time, talent, and treasure. We do well to give glory to God as our Provider. He has given us far more than we deserve.
While we acknowledge our failure to give credit where it is due, we rejoice in Jesus’ perfect obedience. We have to remember that He was tempted in all points just as we are. He faced the full onslaught of Satan’s spiritual assaults. These were very real temptations. He was as hungry as you and I would be after not eating for forty days. Being able to eat bread at the direction of the Devil would be horribly difficult to avoid. If He would worship Satan, He would have been able to avoid the terrible suffering that He went through on the cross. It would have been a very easy, pain-free approach if He would have given glory to Satan even for a moment (cf. Luke 4:1-13).
Look to Jesus as your champion. His obedience is your own. He was able to always give glory to God as He so richly deserves. He did what we could not. In doing so He also teaches us how to worship and serve God alone. The fact that Jesus overcame the Devil and His temptations is key in the understanding of our salvation.
The Devil’s temptations continue to plague us. These temptations will include stealing glory from God. Don’t rewrite history, though you will be tempted to take credit for your spiritual and physical well-being. Nothing could be greater than the true history of what the Lord has done for you. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.