Vol. IX — No. 34 August 25, 1968


Names Written in Sand

Jeremiah 17:13-14

O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.

Beloved in the name of Him who will not forget His saints:

It is not here vanity that makes man want to be remembered; for no man needs a vast amount of divine enlightenment before he realizes that the worst thing that could happen to him would be to be Forgotten by God. Even those rather careless about devoting their lives to God are rather careful to seek some kind of blessing from Him upon their death. This may not be sought with the earnestness of the dying thief upon the cross: “Lord, remember me when thou camest into thy kingdom,” Luke 23:42, but something is usually done to avoid forgottenness.

The Scriptures for this Sunday speak of all those who in some way become involved with God. In a familiar Gospel story there are ten men who were lepers, whom Jesus healed; but only one is remembered eternally. Jeremiah speaks of those who had come under the influence of God’s working among men, but forsook Him; and then he speaks of himself as one whom God healed and saved. And Jeremiah will praise God for it.

Those who had the opportunity to become God’s children, but who then forsook Him, “shall be written in the earth.” These are those who have


But there are others, represented by the one leper who returned to give glory to God, and these have their names written in heaven. Just as we are impressed by the one leper who returned to give thanks as he appears against the background of the lost nine, so the beauty of the believer’s faith is impressive against the black background of unbelief.

What can be more temporary than to have one’s name written in sand? Only for the present day can we read where someone has walked from his footsteps in dust. A board sprinkled with sand is used to this day in the Orient, where people cannot afford paper, for the teaching of reading and numbers. It can be so easily erased.

Just so, many make some kind of a confession of faith, even showing considerable zeal at the tine, but they forsake God as easily, and as fast, as writing in sand can disappear. The nine lepers could not show faith long enough to go back to Jesus and thank Him—as did the one. They had faith to be healed; they recognized the power of Christ; but they did not have faith to be saved by Him—as did the one. Their names were written, but they were written in sand.

Job had a faith that clung to his God through troubles that none of us could match; and he could wish that his words were written with an iron pen and lead upon the rock forever. His wish was more than fulfilled by God, who has inscribed Job’s confession upon the imperishable pages of His own holy Book. No name in sand is Job’s!

As Jesus sat at meal in the house of Simon the leper a woman came in and anointed His head with costly ointment. Over the protests of others, Jesus said, “Whereever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her.” (Matthew 26:13) Her name was Mary. Neither her name nor her out pouring of love were written in sand. What she did is told, wherever the Gospel goes in all the world, and in her honor.

Again and again we are told that the memory of the wicked is forgotten. They are banished forever from the presence of God, as the Book of Revelation paints the picture in frightening colors. If a few such names are remembered (and they are), they are remembered in execration, that is, with a curse: Satan, the leader in rebellion against God, the name of all evil, known only until his final banishment in the lake of eternal fire; Ahab and Jezebel, the embodiment of all that was evil in Israel; Judas, the betrayer, whose name no Christian would think to give his son; Pilate, though his name is used in the Christian Creed to date the event of our salvation, a synonym for all that is weak and despicable; Ananias, the liar; and Nero, about whom the little boy rightly said, the less said the better. Had their names only been written in sand, it might seem a mercy.

And what makes the average run of people so live that their names are written in the dust of oblivion, in the sand of forgetfulness? For there is an opium that can put us to sleep toward God as surely as the hypodermic of the surgeon. It is that massive sleep-inducer of this world known as its cares and riches. It is that of which we heard in Jeremiah recently: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches.” (Jeremiah 9:23) They that have coveted after it have pierced themselves through with many sorrows—the eternal woes of being forgotten. The nine lepers no doubt had too much to enjoy in getting back to their friends and homes and businesses to remember the Christ of salvation. They simply did not remember. And now their names are written in dust.

It is the stupidest thing to do! Our prophet says this of it in today’s chapter: “As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not, so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool!” (Jeremiah 17:11) The picture is from the world of poultry and birds: a clucking hen wants to set on eggs to hatch a brood, but in this case the eggs are not fertile to develop into chicks; so after a long, long time she walks off in disgrace because her efforts were as useless as though she had sat on glass or wooden eggs, or stones. So man, who devotes himself to the things of this world, to the forgetfulness of the things of God, likewise is put to shame—and he would be glad to forget it all if only he had had the sense to remember what is important in time! Remember this picture from the farm when you are tempted to write your name in sand. It is the stupidest thing in the world. And the Tempter is the liar behind it.

Solomon tells us in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done.” (Eccl. 8:10) They had done just as the nine of the ten lepers, they came to the place of the holy, and they went away to forget where they had been: they were buried and forgotten in their own city, their names written in sand.

“The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Proverbs 4:18) They move in the direction of that eternal home of which the Revelation says, “There shall be no night there.” (Rev. 22:5) In the darkness things and men are forgotten and lost, not in the light. He that is of darkness disappears in night; he that is of the light cometh into the presence of the eternal God, into the brightness of noonday for all to see and rejoice with him, together enjoying God forever.

“O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth,” their names put down as those who came after a fashion to the holy court of God’s presence—at least they seemed to come, they had the opportunity, they stood at the very gates, like the ten lepers in the presence of their Savior-God. They are identified. Their number is given. They stood in the presence of the Giver of eternal life. They received great blessings. But they walked off, no doubt appreciating the healing and enjoying it, but not returning to establish any personal relationship with the God-Man who healed them and would also be their Savior from sin. So their names were written in sand, lost, gone, forgotten.

Those in our text walked off from the prophet, from Jeremiah. “They that depart from me shall be written in the earth,” he says. To all who speak for Him Jesus says, “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.” (Luke 10:16) So crucial is it to listen, and to hear with believing hearts the preaching of the Gospel of salvation. Jeremiah could rightfully say that those who went away from him had their names written in sand, rather than in the Book of Life. It is true, that Bildad said to Job regarding those who turn away, “His remembrance shall perish from the earth, and he shall have no name in the street. He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world.” (Job 18:7f)

“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and Will have mercy upon his afflicted.” (Isaiah 49:13) So said Isaiah. “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise,” said Jeremiah. (v. 14) The one leper returned to give glory to God. But you can be so sure of it as that you are living and listening today: all of these believers had times of affliction and stress, when it seemed that God had forgotten them, and that their names, too, must have been written in sand. Isaiah records it! “But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.” (Isaiah 49:14)

Nothing so stirs God up to make answer as when His people complain that they are forgotten—as when Satan has made them think that they, too, have been abandoned to the fate of writing done in dust and sand. Then God speaks up with force, as He did by 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.” (Isaiah 49:15f) A mother may forget her nursing child, if you can imagine so gruesome a deed; but God has engraved the names of those who appreciate His salvation with the sharp chisel of the jeweler’s art upon the palms of His hands for eternal remembrance! Thus are your names written in heaven, never to be forgotten.

There is a writing which the sands of time and the winds of change can not erase from the Book of Life. Engraved upon the hands of God, and written as with the blood of Christ, is YOUR NAME! Amen.

—Pastor Martin Galstad

Immanuel Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, Florida

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