Thursday, May 22, 2014

Do you have the faith and fear to wait on the Lord's power?

HAVE COURAGE

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. Exodus 14:30

Only God has power over water.

At creation He separated the water from the dry land.  Without such a distinction the world would be nothing more than a large aquarium, but fish are not the crown of creation.  In Noah’s day He separated water from His people by means of an ark, a boat made out of wood, which should always remind us of the cross on which our Lord died to pay the price of the world’s sin.  By it He saved the last eight people on earth who worshiped Him from the cleansing He was about to perform.  At the Red Sea He separated water from water.  He made a path of dry ground through the Red Sea so that His people might escape the fierce Egyptian army which meant to do them great bodily harm.

Jesus did water miracles too.  He changed water into the finest wine, walked on water and slept through a storm that scared experienced sailors out of their skin.  Why?  Because a storm was nothing to Jesus.  They were afraid; He was not.  But to teach us that there is never a reason to fear when Jesus is with you He spoke a divine word and all was well again.  As Jesus was with them then He is with us now.  Not just in our sweet imaginations but in our hearts by faith, our ears by His Word and our tongues by the Holy Sacrament so that it can truly be said: we are in Him, and He is in us.

Our Lord did another water miracle when He established baptism as a sacrament and gave it to the church to convert the world.  Baptismal water is different from all other, not due to its substance but because it is combined with God’s Word and included in God’s command.  As such it has great power!  By it we are crucified with Christ, our sins are drowned and we emerge from the water a new man, with new understanding, new abilities and a new future to serve God in righteousness and purity forever.  This is why St. Peter boldly states in his epistle that “baptism now saves us,” and why Moses says, “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.”

What do we learn from these inspired words?  Two things:  First that God delivers us from our enemies, and second, that He takes revenge on them so that like Israel of old we too might learn to fear and believe.  Let us remember once again that it is God who saves us from all of our enemies, but this distresses us because He never does it how we expect or when we expect.  Instead, just when we think that all is lost, when there is no way out, when every hope is exhausted and our doom certain, that is when God “wakes up,” stills the storms of our lives, and does greater things for us than we could ask or even imagine. (Eph. 3:20)

Why does God work this way?  Does He like to toy with us, to play cat and mouse, or to test us to the limits of our existence?  Not at all, dear Christians.  Our heavenly Father is never malicious but He does know what it takes to tame our pride, and soften our hard hearts.  He knows what is needed to disabuse our sinful minds of the notion that we can save ourselves, and what it takes for us to attain mature manhood and reach the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ. (Eph. 4:13)  Though God’s ways distresses us, rest assured that Christ will never let us perish but will save us from all our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. (Luke 1:71)

There is another facet to the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3:15), namely that God will settle all scores, and pay back in full all the forces of evil, all the people and all the things that have injured the people He loves, and this gives us hope.  It assures us that the evil which dogs us without ceasing, which makes us sick, which tempts us to sin, which degrades us, which robs us of peace, divides our families, makes our children go astray and causes poverty, robbery, assault, addiction and all manner of despair…this evil will not go on forever.  It is not infinite!  It is not eternal!  It has its limits and it has an end!  But the Word of the Lord, and the promise of His love endures forever, so however bad things might look at any given moment rest assured that we, like Israel of old, will see our enemies drowned in God’s wrath, and scattered on the shores of His vengeance, and this fills us with joy.

Indeed, there is no sweeter joy in life than when a long standing evil comes to a miserable end, and is soundly defeated.  When that happens the ensuing delight is not equal to the loss endured, but many, many times greater.  Does this mean that we should avenge our enemies?  Not at all.  Jesus teaches us to pray for them and St. Paul to feed them if they are hungry, but to leave the vengeance to God who knows how to repay in full.  Instead of revenge we should follow the example of Israel who, seeing God’s awesome power, feared the Lord and trusted in Him, and though this is a hard thing to do, and goes against our grain, it is made easier if we follow the good counsel of David in the 37th Psalm where he says, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret, it leads only to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.  A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.  But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.”  Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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