17th Sunday after Pentecost October 2, 2022
2 Cor. 3:14-17
657, 252, 262, 247
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit, You give us faith to cast out all fear of confessing the true faith; for we are helpless to save ourselves, and we must trust in You and You alone for our salvation. Keep us faithful to the end, that You will not be ashamed of us when You come in Your glory with Your Father and the holy angels; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
O LORD, my strength and my fortress, My refuge in the day of affliction, The Gentiles shall come to You From the ends of the earth and say, “Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things.” Will a man make gods for himself, Which are not gods? “Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know My hand and My might; And they shall know that My name is the LORD.” (NKJV)
In the name of the LORD God, dear fellow redeemed;
One of the most important questions that everyone needs the correct answer for is, “Who is the true God?” The right answer is needed, because while mankind in his sin-blinded state knows by nature that there is a god, he is unable to discover on his own who the true God is. In addition to this, not only is it necessary to know who the true God is, it is also absolutely essential to have a heartfelt faith in the Savior God. This is what Jesus said in this regard in a prayer to His Father, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
In mankind’s tireless search to discover the one true God, different world cultures down through the centuries have dreamt up who this God is. They have made images of their gods out of wood, stone, or metal. Their gods have been fashioned after different animals like eagles, Brahmin cattle or monkeys. They have come up with many and various names for their deities like Zeus, Dagon, Ra, Allah, along with hundreds of other names.
A major obstacle for this present generation to discover the one God is the deceitful belief that every religion in this world with their varied teachings and divine entities are equally valid. In other words, it is foolishly held that we all believe in the same god, even though they have different make-ups and names.
The devil revels with glee over this misbelief. How so? The apostle Paul declares how hopelessly damnable this kind of belief is. He speaks of heathen unbelievers before they came to believe in the one true God, “at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)
Today’s text touches on this important matter of answering the question, “Who is the true God?” It reveals that the gods of the heathen are worthless idols; that the LORD of the Bible He alone is God; and that the LORD is our Refuge, Fortress and Strength.
Jeremiah had the unenviable task of bringing the bad news of divine judgment descending upon Judah. This rebellious people had long forsaken the LORD and were running after the false gods of the Canaanites. Because Judah refused to repent and return to the LORD, God was going to overthrow them, using their enemy neighbor of Babylonia. The survivors would then be carted off to far away foreign lands as captives.
The silver lining in this is that in amongst the captive Israelites were a remnant of believers. They would carry along with them their belief in the LORD. These Old Testament Christians would serve as ambassadors for Christ, spreading the message of the LORD. They would make known the prophecy of the promised Christ entering this world to redeem all mankind through His sin-atoning death on the cross and His victorious resurrection from the dead.
As these believers bore witness to heathen Gentiles concerning the LORD, Jeremiah prophesies the following as he says to God, “The Gentiles shall come to You from the ends of the earth and say, ‘Surely our fathers have inherited lies, worthlessness and unprofitable things.’ Will a man make gods for himself, which are not gods?” (vv.19,20)
When the truth got out about manmade gods, Gentile nations saw how vain and futile it is to believe, serve, and worship their so-called gods. The psalmist reveals about these gods in contrast to the LORD, “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” (96:5) By identifying such gods as idols the psalmist reveals that they are lifeless and nonexistent entities. (Read also Psalm 115:3-9)
The God of heaven and earth knows full well that if fallen mankind is to possess peace of conscience, joy of life, and hope that springs eternal, He needed to reveal Himself in the pages of Holy Scripture. On account of this, He declares through the prophet Jeremiah in our text, “Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know My hand and My might; And they shall know that My name is the LORD.” (V.21)
When God speaks of making His name known as the LORD, He is testifying not only about His personal name by which He is known, but also about the many different things that can be known about Him in Holy Scripture.
Thank God for this, because in the Bible we learn that the LORD is eternal, almighty, infinitely wise, good to everyone, fair, just and impartial; loving, patient, longsuffering and forbearing; merciful, gracious and forgiving. And concerning all these wonderful characteristics of God, it can also be added that He is unchangeable. Is not this a source of great comfort to know that the LORD will always be all these helpful ways?
Whenever we find the name ‘LORD’ spelled out in all capital letters, it is speaking of the LORD God Jehovah who alone is God. The prophet Moses reveals in Deuteronomy about the divine singularity of the LORD God Jehovah, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (6:4) This dispels the erroneous and eternally destructive notion that there are many gods who are known by many different names.
With Holy Scripture revealing the LORD God Jehovah as the one and only true God of heaven and earth, the Bible also makes known to us that Jehovah God is made up of three distinct persons of the godhead. And these three are one God. The Bible clearly makes known to us that the heavenly Father is Jehovah and the Son of God Jesus Christ is Jehovah and that the Holy Spirit is Jehovah. And still there are not three Jehovahs, but only one Jehovah God. The apostle John testifies in his epistle of this divine unity, saying, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word (the Son of God, cf. John 1:1-14), and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.” (1 John 5:7)
Jehovah God, Who alone is God, has shown Himself to be our Covenant God Who has made many promises to us and is always faithful in keeping them. The heavenly Father promised in Old Testament times that He would send His eternal Son into this world in human form. He pledged to sinful mankind that His Son would do for us what we couldn’t accomplish, namely suffer the full punishment for our sins in order that we can be forgiven of them by God, and that His only begotten Son would also perfectly keep all the commandments of God for us so that He would be our Righteousness. God the Father kept all these important promises, along with countless other promises.
As our Covenant God Jesus Christ promised that He would carry out everything that His heavenly Father gave Him to do for our eternal salvation. Jesus kept His Word throughout the course of His 33 years in this temporal world. And just before He died on the cross for our eternal redemption, He declared concerning all that He had done for us “It is finished.”
The Holy Spirit, Who together with the Father and Son is our Covenant God, has assured us that He will always be by our side. Working through the Word of God, the Spirit of God comes to us and blesses us with divine knowledge, giving us faith, spiritual life, and love. With the Holy Spirit always coming to us and being by our side in these ways, He blesses us with peace, joy, and hope in the LORD. In all of these promised ways, the Spirit of God has been faithful.
When the prophet Jeremiah reminded the children of Israel that the LORD God Jehovah is the one and only true God, and that the Canaanite gods were worthless idols, he was met with severe persecution. Also, when the prophet warned the people of God visiting them with the judgment of overthrowing them and carrying them off into captivity by an enemy neighbor, the unrepentant Jews wanted Jeremiah dead.
We can also say with certainty that when we speak out against the false notion that there are many gods known by different names, and that the LORD God Jehovah He alone is God, unbelievers will scoff us to scorn. And yes, there are even heathen who not only take exception to the exclusive Christian belief of the Trinity, but they also want us dead because of it.
How could Jeremiah or any of us for that matter not shrink back with fear and dread in the face of such opposition, but rather unflinchingly continue to openly confess our belief in the one true Savior God? Jeremiah declares concerning our Lord and God, “O LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in the day of affliction.” (V.19)
Jeremiah looked to and relied upon the LORD God Jehovah as his refuge and fortress, and his source of strength. When this prophet was faced with rejection, opposition, and oppression, even to the point of being put to death for his beliefs and his ministry, his mind and heart rushed to the LORD for refuge. And he found the LORD to be a strong, impregnable fortress that encompassed him, providing him with safety and security. Even though Jeremiah’s enemies plotted to put him to death, yet because the LORD still had work for this prophet to do, God prevented Jeremiah from being killed.
It was also the LORD Who was Jeremiah’s source of courage to continue with his unpopular ministry to the Jews. Certainly, this was not an easy thing for Jeremiah. Not only did he have the threat of death hanging over his head, but he was also fiercely hated and ostracized from his fellow countrymen.
But Jeremiah was not all alone. He had the LORD Who was with him and by his side. Because of God’s great redeeming love in Christ Jesus, Jeremiah was more concerned about doing what was right, good, and beneficial, and thus please the LORD, than he was about being a people pleaser who compromised the Word of God for the sake of being accepted by the Jews.
When reading of Jeremiah speaking of the LORD being his refuge, fortress, and strength, one can’t help but think of Martin Luther. He too was faced with deadly opposition, because he spoke against the errors in the church he grew up in, and testified of the Gospel that we are saved alone by God’s grace through faith in Christ’s redemptive work. Like Jeremiah, Luther regarded the LORD as his refuge, fortress, and strength. This comes across in his Reformation battle hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”
Thank God that we know by faith that the LORD God Jehovah is the one and only Savior God. May we openly confess Him before others, even in the face of opposition, knowing that He is our Refuge, Fortress, and Strength. 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.