Trinity 1 2022
Psalm 13:1-6; Genesis 15:1-6
June 19, 2022
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
The first commandment states, “You shall have no other gods.” Now, every Lutheran should know what this means, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Certainly easier said than done. While each of these three aspects have their own nuance, this morning we consider what it means to trust in God above all things.
Psalm 13, which we sang as our introit this morning, highlights the kind of trust that we are talking about here in the first Commandment. This is a Psalm of David, and the impression we get when hearing this Psalm is that it is the voice of a man in deep distress. To make matters worse, David complains that God seems indifferent to his suffering, that God has forgotten him despite His promises to be with David. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” The exact threat that he faces is never really spelled out, and not really even the focus on his attention. It is what is behind the scenes of his trouble that riles him up.
What seems to really bother him is a sense of loneliness, of abandonment by God. There is no indication here that this is being caused by being a sinner; there is no confession of sin, no contrition, no recognition of personal guilt. But his worry and concern lie in his fear that his enemies will succeed in their evil plan and the question of where God is in the midst of his suffering.
This is a wonderful psalm for us to pray. Which one of us here hasn’t felt abandoned at times, experienced the unfairness of this life when no fault lies within ourselves? When God doesn’t seem to be holding up His end of the bargain, His covenant, His promises. “Am I being punished for something? Did I do something to deserve this? Why is this happening to me? How long must I go through this?”
For the psalmist, these questions do not paralyze him with fear or lead him into self-pity and wallowing in depression, rather is aggravates him. He doesn’t adopt the cringing speech of a victim, nor engage in some sort of passive aggressive virtue signaling. He doesn’t beg or wallow in self pity. The “how long” questions express a deep and abiding faith, the sentiment that God has been hiding long enough, that he has been suffering long enough, that the enemy has worked against him long enough. How long is God going to put up with this? This has more to do with God than it does with us.
Veiled within these questions, is the faith that he actually matters to God, that he is important, that God actually cares if he lives or dies. And so he is tossed back and forth between the feelings that he actually matters in God’s eyes and his feelings that God has forsaken him, or that God has left him to suffer alone, that God has stopped caring.
Abraham also knew this feeling well. God had promised that He would be the father of many nations, a blessing to the world, yet here he was childless, a wandering man with no future. And God seems to have abandoned His promise, for now he and Sarah were much too old to have children. And so he struggles in trusting God’s previous promise and his current situation that seems hopeless and out of his control.
And then the Word of the Lord comes to him and says, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Abraham questions what the Lord could give to him, for it is too late. God directs Abram to look up. God tells him to number the stars, if he can. God’s promise would be fulfilled in a way that was greater than Abram could imagine, and greater than he could see with his eyes. And then we have it, one of the most important Bible verses in the Old Testament, “And he believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
This is the first passage of Scripture which we have had until now about faith. In this passage no mention is made of any preparation for grace, of any faith formed through works, or of any preceding disposition. This, however, is mentioned: that at that time Abraham was in the midst of sins, doubts, and fears about his future and the future of his family, he is declared to be righteous. How? In this way: God speaks, and Abraham believes what God is saying. Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, bears a trustworthy witness and declares that this very believing or this very faith is righteousness or is imputed by God Himself as righteousness and is regarded by Him as such.
No one has treated this passage better, more richly, more clearly, and more powerfully than St. Paul in the third to the twelfth chapters of Romans. Paul treats it in such a way as to show that this promise concerning Abraham’s descendants should not be interpreted to apply solely to the legitimate biological offspring, but to the spiritual and eternal heritage, those who are children of Abraham by faith in promises of God. For righteousness is given to Abraham not because he performs works but because he believes. It is the same for us: righteousness is given because of God’s thought, which faith lays hold of. So Paul writes in Romans 4:24-25, “[Righteousness] will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
And this is the answer promise of God-Jesus the Christ who was crucified for you, and who was raised for your justification. Every promise of God includes Christ. Therefore, the only difference between Abraham’s faith and David’s faith and ours is this: that they believed in the coming Christ who was promised, while we believe in the promised Christ who has come and who promises to come again; and by that faith in Christ, and only through faith in Christ, in the Old and New Testament alike, that people are saved, that God answers our cries of “How long?”
It is out of this belief, it is out of God’s declaration to you that you are righteous, justified, for the sake of Christ through your faith in Him, that we can pray along with the David the Psalmist, along with Abraham, indeed along with Jesus Himself as He cries out the Father while hanging on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” In the most astounding way, the Father sent His own Son to experience the entirety of human life, to feel the burden and the pain of “how long” suffering endures and to give answer! “How long” ends with the cross and with the resurrection – both Jesus’ and yours!
In your baptism, God has marked you as His own, given you all His promises of God. In the Lord’s Supper, the very body and blood of Jesus that hung on the cross is given to you for the forgiveness of your sins. In this, He tells you that you matter to Him, that He pays attention to you, that you are loved, you are never completely abandoned, for you have the Word of God and the Spirit which He has sent to live in you.
As people of faith in Christ, continue to pray, “How long, O Lord?” while at the same time confessing that all the promises of God are fulfilled in Christ, rejoicing in your salvation for the One who has dealt bountifully with you (Psalm 13:6). While you wait on God to keep His promises too, when you wonder, doubt, question, the word of God directs our attention up to the heavens as well. To look up to Jesus, to behold the crucified, resurrected and ascended Jesus, and to know that God’s plan is greater than you realize, and more than what you can always see, and to learn to fear, love, and trust in God above all things.