13th Sunday after Pentecost September 3, 2017
2 Timothy 3:14-17
628, 692, 625, 631
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Prayer of the Day (Collect): Almighty and everlasting God, who wills that none of these little ones should perish and have sent Your only begotten Son to seek and to save that which was lost and has said through Him has said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven;” most heartily we implore You so to bless and govern the children of Your Church by Your Holy Spirit that they may grow in grace and in knowledge of Your Word; protect and defend them against all danger and harm, giving Your holy angels charge over them; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces. (ESV)
Theme: BIG LESSONS ON WISDOM FROM LITTLE CREATURES
Dear fellow redeemed in Jesus Christ, who may be small and foolish in the eyes of the world, but are so precious to Almighty God that He would give His own dear Son to call you His own, peace be with you all. Amen.
Little things are very easily overlooked and often ignored. Bigger is usually thought of as being better. The bigger the company, the bigger the nation, the bigger the army, the more powerful and important these things are. Our natural tendency is think that little things are insignificant.
There was a time when the disciples of Jesus took this attitude with little children. Some parents had brought their little ones to Jesus to have Him bless them, but the disciples thought their Master should not be bothered with such “little things.” Perhaps they felt He should be dealing with the big important things like healing adults and teaching big, hard doctrines about the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, the Scriptures record that Jesus was very displeased, even indignant with His disciples. “Let the little children come to Me,” Jesus said, “and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14) All souls are precious to Jesus, including little children. Jesus was born and shed His holy blood to save these little sinners too and desires to bless them just as much as grown adults. In fact, Jesus says that the faith of these little children is actually to be admired and imitated. With a simple faith, the believing child looks to Jesus as his Savior and the way to heaven simply because the Bible says so. Lord, give us all a faith such as this!
If this was so important to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, it is likewise important to Christian parents and to all of us here today as a congregation. As we consider Christian Education this morning we examine four big lessons on wisdom from little things in God’s creation. “Four things are small on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise.” May God build us all up by His Word that we all, young and old, may grow in Christ!
Our first lesson in great wisdom is found in the ant. “The ants are not a strong people, But they prepare their food in the summer.” Ants have been known to carry objects in their mouth that are over 5 times their body weight and drag items up to 25 times their body weight. That would be equivalent to me carrying a 1,000 pound car in my mouth or dragging a 5,000 pound rock. That’s pretty strong! But in the grand scheme of things ants are nothing. Consider how many ants you have killed throughout your life without even knowing it! The ants are not a strong, mighty people that can wage war or build sky-scrapers.
Yet, notice their wisdom in their preparedness. Unlike humans, ants do not procrastinate and wait until the last moment to get their work done. They don’t risk waiting until late Fall when an early frost or snow fall could ruin and kill their food. Nor are they scavenging for food at the last possible moment before the snow arrives. Ants are exceedingly wise! They use the summer months, the good months, to prepare for the coming winter.
Do you see the valuable lesson of the ant? These small creatures are exceedingly wise and we do well to imitate them in their preparedness. Ants take advantage of the good weather they are given in the summer to gather their food. They are prepared for the winter even before it comes. Let us likewise not risk waiting for the storms that rage against us— whether that is persecution from enemies of God, or health problems or death itself. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2b) NOW is the time, NOW is the day to prepare ourselves and our children for the storms of this life and to one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
We prepare ourselves for those storms by doing what you are doing right now—hearing and learning God’s Word. By bringing our children to church and Sunday School from infancy, by having devotions at home with them, we are preparing them in the summer months of their lives before that harsh winter season of their life. “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 3:15) Through the Holy Scriptures God Himself prepares us for all the storms of this life and even unto eternal life! Let us learn from the exceedingly wise ant to prepare now for the stormy weather to come!
There truly is nothing new under the sun. The sins present today have been committed since Cain murdered his brother Abel in jealousy. What deeply concerns us today is seeing how such sins are being flaunted openly as it was in Sodom and Gomorrah. From radio, to television, to the internet, to conversations on the bus—we live in a generation that no longer knows how to blush. If our society behaves this today, what sort of wickedness will our children and grandchildren have to face 20 or 30 years from now? We look at these little ones and we wonder how they will be able to remain faithful to Christ amid such open wickedness.
Let us learn from wisdom of the rock badger. The rock badger is a small, shy, furry animal. They kind of look like an overgrown guinea pig with the feet of a rabbit. With such a build, the rock badger would have trouble fending off any sort of enemy larger than itself. They are not, as our text says, “a strong people.” Yet, the Holy Spirit reminds us that they too are exceedingly wise. Since they cannot defend themselves, they go to a place with a solid defense—“they make their homes in the cliffs.” Living in the rocky cliffs of Palestine, the rock badger is safe from most enemies. Neither the lion nor the hyena would be able to get at the rock badger for a quick meal.
Though we and our children may be weak and vulnerable, there is a Rock of Refuge in which we can hide. Scripture reminds us that the LORD only is our rock and our salvation. Jesus Christ is our defense and in Him we shall not be moved. Jesus says that not even the gates of hell can prevail against His Church. Jesus, the one who resisted all the temptations of the devil and overcame death itself by rising from it, is the help of the helpless, the defense of the powerless, and the strength of the weak. Our Good Shepherd reminds us of the safety of His sheep when He says—“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (Jn 10:28-29) You and these weak little ones are only safe in the Rock. Jesus who was more powerful than death, ascended to His throne in heaven to rule, protect and be with His believers always. He is your Rock of refuge. Take note of the exceedingly wise refuge of the rock badger.
The next example of small but exceedingly wise creatures in nature is the locust. “The locusts have no king, yet all of them go out in ranks.” The prophet Joel pictures the devouring hoard of locusts as an enemy army descending on the land to destroy crops and scar the landscape. “They run like mighty men, They climb the wall like men of war; Every one marches in formation, And they do not break ranks. They do not push one another; Every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, They are not cut down.” (Joel 2:7-8) Though small, these exceedingly wise creatures are pictured as moving together to cause great destruction.
What can we learn from these small yet exceedingly wise creatures? Well, consider this: the responsibility of training up a child in the nurture and admonition of the LORD is laid first and foremost on the shoulder of Christian parents. It is a parent’s number one responsibility. God calls upon fathers specifically to share the Word of God with their children. But like the little locusts, we can work together for a mighty purpose of training our young people in the way of the LORD. That is why our congregations offer Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Catechism class. Our church body offers Bible camps during the summer and a high school, college, and seminary to train our youth in the way of the Lord. These things do not replace the calling God has given to parents, but exist to help Christian parents in this important work. Like the locusts advancing in ranks, congregations work together to spread the story of Jesus Christ and Him crucified to young and old alike as we advance together from this world to the next.
Finally we come to the lizard. “The lizard you may grasp with the hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces.” A little lizard is something small enough that a young boy can catch one with his hands and put it in his pocket to show it to his mom later. Yet, in the days of the kings of Israel, it would not be uncommon to see a small lizard climbing the walls inside the palace. Lizards gained access to the very place where the common citizen would have longed to be!
As the lizard can be caught with the hand, the enemies of Christ have always found it easy to capture and persecute Christian. Throughout the Old Testament the prophets of the Lord were viewed as being disposable. The enemies of Jesus did not find it difficult to grasp him with their hands as they arrested Him, beat Him, and put Him to death by crucifying Him. Today, Islamic jihadists find it easy to kill Christ-confessors. Atheist university professors mock and ridicule Christians for their faith. Society belittles us and shames us if we stand up for the truths of Scripture. Like the lizard the enemies of Christ have not found it difficult to grasp Christians with the hands.
While it is so easy to persecute the weak, small followers of Christ, we do not fret because we know our citizenship is in heaven. We too have found ourselves in the palace of the King of kings. This is the sole focus of true Christian education. Through the Word of God we see ourselves for what we really are, who the true God is and what He has done for us in Christ Jesus. In the Bible God’s holy commandments for our lives, our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Through that Law we see just what miserable and wretched sinners we are. We have fallen short of God’s glory. There are other things in this world that we loved more than God. We have not treated our neighbor with the love and respect which we desire to be treated with. Because of our sin, none of us deserves access to the throne room of Almighty God.
Yet, in the Bible, this same God reveals His limitless, undeserved love which led Him to send His Son Jesus to give us entrance into His eternal mansion. Jesus came to be our Substitute. On the cross, Jesus offered Himself to reconcile us to God—to make right the relationship we had ruined by our sin. By raising Jesus from the dead, God showed the world that we have been reconciled to Him. Now, through faith in Christ, we stand in a right relationship with God. Though any one of us could be grasped with the hand, through faith in Jesus, we belong to the King of kings and His heavenly palace is our eternal dwelling place.
While many see things like Sunday School, Catechism Class, Bible Class, Sunday services of the Word, or family devotions as something that is “small” and “insignificant,” may it never be so with us! Like the ant, may we use the calm summer seasons of our life to store up good things from God’s Word before the winter storms of life affect us and our children. May we, like the rock badger, find refuge and safety for our souls in the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ. Learn from the locust to work together as the organized army of the Lord in training up our children together. And rejoice, that like the lizard, that through the Word and Sacrament, you gain access to the throne room of the King of kings! May God be with us all and bless our parents, our Sunday School teachers, and our children as we seek to declare to the next generation the great goodness of God our Savior. 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.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.