How threadbare is the fabric of human hope! As long as we pin our confidence on the capabilities and intentions of mankind, we will always be disappointed. The Psalmist warns us against trusting in princes -- except of course the One Prince. We can understand that, but is democracy any better? Democracy means rule by the majority. Since only a minority of people are good, brave, and wise, democracy means being ruled by the evil, the cowardly, and the stupid. On the other hand, God's Word is forever true, forever good, forever powerful. The promises God made to us are absolutely trustworthy.
As St. Paul calls us to faith in God's Word, he uses the example of the patriarch, Abraham. God tried and tested him in more and greater ways than such soft saints as we could ever tolerate. In the midst of all that, however, God definitely promised Abraham that a Redeemer would one day come from his family. To human reason that was an unbelievable promise. Abraham was 100 years old; his wife was 90, but isn't that characteristic of God? That is so much in keeping with what we know about the first Easter. We know our God as the God who raises the dead, as St. Paul calls him here. Now in Abraham's day that hadn't happened yet. All our father had were the words he heard. Still, he did not stagger at the promise. He believed the Word of God, and Isaac was born from God's promise.
Don't say that you can't understand God's promises. Ask yourself whether you want to understand them, because they make us accountable to Him. People don't want to believe in God at all. Even though our bodies are so marvelously designed that every cell contributes its irreplaceable donation for the common good, even though we are aware of organisms so small they have to be magnified 1200 times to be visible at all, still we have a problem saying in our hearts that with God nothing is impossible. When the creation was still new, the horrible plague of sin infected our world. God then designed a great salvation. In His wisdom He chose Abraham to play a key role in it. That role required him to beget a child long after he was past the age for men to do that. So the nation God was producing would result from a miracle. The people of Israel, from whom the Redeemer would come, began with a miracle even as the Redeemer Himself was miraculously conceived. God intervened constantly along the way, chastising, delivering, preparing for His greatest intervention when His Son would become incarnate.
The fathers we think about today who protected us, provided for us, and eventually helped us find our independence should remind us of a far better Father who is in heaven. Perhaps in your earthly experience you did not have a father who was there for you, still your heavenly Father has provided for you in other ways. One task all fathers have to do is correct their children. This may not be pleasant, but it is necessary. He was always correcting Abraham, always correcting His people, and He is so concerned that you inherit eternal life that He will do what He must to correct you. Sometimes it will be difficult.
When we lose our jobs, when we get sued, when we find our children doing shocking things, when friends don't keep their promises, when heart and flesh grow tired and weak, when loved ones pass away, do they drive us to despair? Where is the God who raises the dead? Do we so fear the future that we contemplate killing ourselves? Do we raise a clenched fist to the heavens to express our defiance? Or do we seek to escape? Do we lavish ourselves with luxuries, or bend our minds with drugs, or indulge the pleasures of the flesh? Or do we try to impose our own will on our circumstances by practicing witchery? How blessed are they who wait for Him. We can count on the God who raises the dead. Though His mercy may tarry, it shall surely come!
Will it come quickly enough? For Abraham the supreme test was the sacrifice of Isaac, the son born of the promise. There was no question in Abraham's mind that God had requested this. Of course he was upset by it, but he did what he believed he had to do. God was looking on in tender mercy. He knew how the story was going to end, just as we hear it year after year on the first Sunday in Lent. But Abraham only knew the heart-wrenching melancholy of his task. In the end it would not be Abraham's son who would be sacrificed, but God's. Isaac's name means "laughter, ." but the Lamb Himself, whose name means "He will deliver" is the One in whom God lifts up His countenance upon the whole world. The death of Isaac would not have taken away sins; the death of Jesus did. The Lamb was the Substitute for Isaac and for us. The God who raises the dead gave Isaac back to Abraham, and also raised the Righteous One. That event is the center of all history. Everything up to it was preparing for it. Everything since has been to spread the grace that flows from it. So in Jesus not only is God our Father, but so is Abraham, because he was the prime example of faith.
Yes, we believe in God who raises the dead. We believe in God who elects and corrects. We wait for Him to act, with prayer, with steadfastness, with patience. We don't tell Him how to serve us, either by His Providence or by His grace. We are thankful that His Word has come to us, launching its all-out attack on our sin. We are thankful that we have heard the Law, condemning us, pointing out our bondage, raising the alarm that all is not well, making us hunger and thirst for righteousness. And we thank Him for the Gospel where we see our Savior die and overcome death, to redeem us and make us as righteous as He. AMEN.
~ Rev. Lloyd E. Gross