4th Sunday after Pentecost June 25, 2023
1 Peter 5:6-11
Worship Supplement 2000 #746, 447, 381, WS #785
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Sermon Audio: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/ministrybymail
Prayer of the Day: O King of glory, Lord of hosts, uplifted in triumph far above all heavens, leave us not without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father; for You live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)
Dear fellow pilgrim partners, who are like strangers in a strange land, journeying to your heavenly home which your Savior Jesus has gone to prepare for you,
What does it mean to be “under someone’s hand?” What comes to mind for me is a father and his children. With his hand, a father is leading, protecting, disciplining, and providing for those children. Depending on the father that could be a wonderful relationship or an oppressive relationship. I think we all are aware of kind, loving, and patient fathers who dealt fairly and lovingly with their children. Such children grew up longing to return home and visit their father. On the other hand, we also know of fathers who were oppressive tyrants, who dealt with their children with a heavy hand. Children in homes such as this were afraid of their father and couldn’t wait to leave home, never turning back.
As Peter writes to suffering and dispersed Christians in 1 Peter, he concludes his letter by writing of “the mighty hand of God.” We can see the mighty hand of God in many different ways. You can see the mighty hand of God when you star-gaze at night, looking at all the stars He created by His mighty hand. We also see His mighty hand in the majestic mountains and the roaring waves of the ocean.
But we see God’s mighty hand in other ways—ways that make our sinful flesh tremble. It is a terrifying thing to hear God’s laws and threats of punishment for breaking them. It’s terrifying thing for us sinners to hear that the wages of our sin is death and that the soul that sins shall die! Because of our sin, we tremble hearing of God’s mighty hand.
Yet, there is one more way in which we can see God’s mighty hand, a way that is glorious to behold. We see God’s mighty hand on Easter as God raises His 3-day-dead Son to life again. We see God’s mighty hand as Jesus ascends from the earth and into the clouds, seating His Son at His right hand to rule over all creation.
You see, there are two ways of being under God’s mighty hand. Those who do not believe in Jesus as their Savior from sin are under the mighty hand of God’s judgment and will not escape His punishment. But for those who have been born again through the living and abiding word of God, you are under the mighty hand of God’s grace. Through Jesus, He has rescued you from the judgment to come and given you a living hope in Jesus Christ. Knowing you are under God’s mighty hand, Peter urges us to humble ourselves, to be watchful, and to be firm.
Our text begins with Peter talking about this mighty hand of God: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” Humbling ourselves isn’t something that comes naturally or easily to most of us. It is especially hard to humble ourselves when we think we know better then those who are in control. When a child doesn’t understand or doesn’t agree with why or how they are being punished, they complain. Maybe when you’ve heard of the recent decrees of our governor or our president, you thought you could handle things better. Our sinful nature does not want to humble itself.
When suffering and trials come into our lives from God, we often don’t understand why. We question God and may even complain about what God has brought into our lives. Like the devil tempting Eve in the garden, saying “you too can be like God,” our sinful nature sometimes thinks it knows better than God.
But having been born again to a new and living hope through Jesus’ resurrection, when trials and suffering comes into our lives, we need to remember that we are not under the OPPRESIVE mighty hand of God, but the GRACIOUS mighty hand of God. The hand that punished His Son for our sins, now picks us up and holds us. Jesus says of His sheep that follow His voice, “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.” (John 10:29)
Therefore, let us humble ourselves and place ourselves under this mighty hand of God’s grace. When adversity comes, let us commit our way to Him rather than complaining about it. When cancer strikes, entrust yourself to the Father’s mighty hand. When a virus turns our world, our jobs, and our worship life upside down, humbling ourselves, we yield ourselves to His good and gracious will. We see Job doing this, saying, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21) Jesus did this as He prayed to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
And so what is it that causes you anxiety today? What troubles your heart and presses down on you? Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand of grace and cast that anxiety on Him. God’s mighty hand can handle our worries—whatever they are. When we hang onto our anxieties we don’t resolve anything. Strangely enough, by holding onto them, we only make things worse for ourselves—physically and mentally. But God cares for you. His Son’s cross shows how much He cares for you. Humbling ourselves, let us cast those cares, let us throw them to the Lord because He cares for you.
Some of you might be familiar with the story of “The Ghost and the Darkness.” In the late 1800's, the British Empire was trying to build a railroad across East Africa near Kenya. One of the big obstacles was not the temperature or the landscape, but lions. Two man-eating lions were lurking in the tall grasses near the work sites and camps, waiting for workers to be alone and vulnerable. One estimate says that these two lions killed 135 people before they were killed by Lt. Col. Bruce Patterson in 1898. Would you want to work on that railroad or sleep in an unprotected camp, knowing what was waiting in the tall grasses?
Peter warns us of a greater threat. Verse 8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” A greater threat than the Ghost and the Darkness, a threat greater than COVID-19, is your adversary, the devil. He is on the prowl, in the tall grasses, looking for his moment to strike. He is looking for weakness. He is waiting for you to let your guard down and spiritually wandering off alone, for his moment to strike.
Peter knew firsthand about this danger. His Lord had warned him that he would deny Jesus three times. Peter was so confident in his own strength, that he assured his all-knowing Lord that he would die before denying Jesus. Yet, on his own, warming himself by a fire, it was the questioning of lowly servant girl that led him to deny his Lord.
And so Peter urges us to be watchful of the lion in the weeds. The devil wants you to rely on your own strength, rather than on the mighty hand of God. He wants you to wander away from the safety of the Shepherd’s fold, and be alone, on your own, in the weeds, away from the Word for his moment to strike. Therefore, be on watch against the devil and your own weaknesses, relying on the mighty hand of God.
Finally, be firm. When I hear of “mighty hands” I think of toddlers—not because toddlers have mighty hands, but because they NEED mighty hands. They need the strong hands of their parents to pick them up when they are scared. They need the strong hands of their parents to help them walk on their wobbly little legs. Their balance is not firm and they fall often, so they need strong hands to help them along their way.
We are not much different. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NIV) We want to be firm, we need to be firm in our faith, but humbling ourselves under His mighty hand we realize we need the mighty hand of God to keep us firm. And He does just that!
Verses 9 and 10, “Resist him (that is, the devil), firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experience by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Watchful of the devil on the prowl, we resist him, firm in the Christian faith by using the tools God has given us to strengthen our faith and defend ourselves against the devil. Lt. Col. Bruce Patterson was not afraid to go against those man eating lions, because he was armed with hunting rifles. You have been given the sword of the Spirit, that is the Word of God, to defend yourself against the lies of the devil. And God uses that same word to keep you firm in the faith.
We don’t exactly know in what way the Christians were suffering as Peter wrote to them. And maybe no one knows what you are going through right now, except yourself and the Lord. Whatever it may be, humble yourself under God’s mighty hand and cast it on the One who cares for you. Watch out that the devil doesn’t use this to drag you away or distract you from Jesus. Rely on God’s mighty hands to keep you firm as He works in you through His mighty Word, the Bible.
Peter ends this letter where he began—with the eternal glory that is ours in Christ. The God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will Himself restore you (just as he did Peter), He Himself will strengthen you, and He Himself will establish you and keep you firm unto the end. Under God’s mighty hand of grace—there is no better place to be. To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, 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.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.