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The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

June 23, 2024; Rev. Kurt Lantz, Pastor
Proper 14 C. sermon on the plain.jpg


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Strong Judgment

Little children: Do you ever have to tell someone that they are doing something wrong and they need to stop? It is important that we do that with the same heart that Jesus has. He doesn’t tell us to stop doing bad things because He is better than we are. He tells us to stop doing bad things because He loves us.

 

I feel, more now than at any other time of my life, that I am being judged, but at the same time that I am not allowed to judge anyone else. Do you feel that way, too? There are so many critics who have a platform to speak what they don’t like about me (what I believe, what I do, what I say), that I cannot escape their criticisms. But when I would like to offer a word of correction to them, they are quick to quote Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel reading: “Judge not... You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,” (Luke 6:37, 42).

 

Yet we need judgment. We need to receive it and we are sometimes called to give it. These words of Jesus are judgment in themselves. Throughout this sermon He is quite judgmental. But then, He is the Judge, appointed by the heavenly Father. His Word is full of judging words and judgments in an effort to bring justice to His people. He even commands people to exercise judgment.

 

In today’s Psalm (138) God is praised for His judgment, because it is different from most of the judgment that we receive from our fellow man. King David begins the psalm, not only with his own praise but prophesying that others also will praise the LORD for His good judgments. Other kings and all in authority will be amazed at how the LORD exercises His authority. They know what it is like to have to pass judgment and how other people react to it.

 

I think we would all agree that government officials are more criticized than praised for their judgment. I had a long conversation yesterday about the government and I confess that it was all criticism and no praise whatsoever. Even governments need to be judged, don’t they? They need to be held to account. In a democratic society they are accountable to the people whom they represent. But in all of creation they are all accountable to God, even if very few of them believe so.

 

King David believed that he was accountable to God, that he was to be judged by the LORD, and he wrote this and other psalms of praise to the LORD. He was grateful and thankful for God’s judgment.

 

In today’s psalm, King David remarks that not only all those in authority will praise the LORD when they hear His judgments, but even all the gods will praise Him. Now, we know that there is only one true God, but people have all kinds of false gods. Some of them are of their own making, attempts to mould the one true God to fit their own ideals, or personifications of the values of society into a being that does not really exist. Others are the result of people exalting demons who have deceived them, or the result of people deifying saints or angels against their will.

 

It is no surprise that saints and angels will join in praising the LORD, but the others (demons and deceived societies) will not be able to stop themselves from praising the LORD when they realize what His judgments are all about. They will come to realize that the Word of the LORD upon which His judgments are based is true, eternal, and without any deceit or manipulation.

 

The LORD stakes His name upon His Word. And it is because He has proved Himself faithful to His Word, that His name is praised and magnified. Reciprocally then, anything attached to His name is revered, so if the LORD said it, we try to uphold it. And when all people, all authorities, and all gods see God’s good judgments, they have to praise His name.

 

David made some good judgments and some not so good ones. He judged rightly when he had opportunities to kill wicked King Saul and did not take advantage of them. His judgment was correct that God had anointed Saul as king, so God would have to be the one to dethrone him. At other times David’s judgments were abhorrently evil. Such as when he had Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba placed in the front of the battle so that he would be killed and David could have his wife for himself.

 

Then, when Nathan the prophet revealed this sin to King David, David recognized just how amazing God’s judgments are. David knew that he deserved to be dethroned. He deserved to have everything taken away from him. He deserved to be killed and the kingdom removed from his line of descendants. But that is not the way that God exercises His judgment. God didn’t give judgments the way that David thought they should be given.

 

When King David confessed, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Samuel 12: 13 then God’s judgment was to put away David’s sin and not kill him. It was to forgive the one who humbly acknowledges their sin. Furthermore, instead of removing the throne from David’s descendants, as the LORD did to prideful King Saul, He rather promised David that a descendant of his own flesh would reign forever.

 

By answering King David with grace and mercy and forgiveness when he called out to the LORD in trouble, God did something for which all people, all kings, and even all gods will praise Him. He judged in compassion by restating His promise that the eternal Son of God would become a son of David, and take the punishment, not only for David’s sin but for the sin of all people, so that God’s judgment might be just and still gracious. All sins would be punished in full and yet sinners would be pardoned. That is why all will fall down and praise the name of Jesus.

 

It was being on the receiving end of such judgment of God that made King David’s heart bold to exercise the good judgments that he was called to make as King of Israel. God then declared David to be “a man after His own heart,” a man making the judgments he was called to make with the same justice, grace, and compassion that the LORD had shown to him. That is the way that the LORD expects us to exercise our judgment over others as well.

 

We heard that very thing in today’s Old Testament Reading (Genesis 50), where Joseph had become ruler over all of Egypt and his brothers who had thrown him into a pit and sold him into slavery so long ago were then cowering before him. Their father had just died and they couldn’t understand what was still holding Joseph back from pronouncing judgment against them. It was the grace and mercy of God.

 

As Joseph had come to see that through the sinful action of his brothers, the LORD brought about the salvation of many nations through the famine (i.e., by getting Joseph to Egypt and exalting him in the eyes of Pharaoh so that he was put in charge of food during the famine), so Joseph was determined to do all that was necessary in order to preserve the lives of his brothers and their families. And from one of those families Jesus would be born to be the Saviour of the world. And God would work again through His incomprehensible judgments that through the betrayal of His Son and His rising from the pit of hell to be seated on the heavenly throne, salvation would be secured for all who trust in Him.

 

We see God’s glory shine through in His judgments and we cannot help but praise Him for them. His words do pronounce judgment upon us. They declare what is right and wrong. They condemn us for our sins. But they pronounce pardon and forgiveness to those who humbly throw themselves upon His mercy in Christ the crucified. That is what emboldens our hearts to confess His judgments are true and to draw near to Him with a true heart saying, “I, a poor miserable sinner, confess to You all my sins and iniquities” (LSB. 184).

 

As the Lord Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, He looks down upon those who confess their sins, not in a condescending way, but in the way of one who has descended in love in order to suffer and die Himself for the full payment of our sins. And from the same throne of judgment He also sees those who are full of pride and arrogance, who are quick to condemn others while ignoring their own sins, quick to condemn others as a smokescreen for their own sins. He holds them at arms length until they come to know the wondrous love of His grace, which He displayed with arms outstretched upon the cross.

 

The gracious judgments of Jesus make our hearts bold to follow His gracious ways. When we walk in trouble and are revived from the wrath of our enemies, we become all the quicker to come to the rescue of others, rather than to join in unmerciful judgments against them. When we see His arms outstretched upon the cross to save us from our sins, then we reach out to the sinners around us offering words of compassion and pardon. When we see that through His just judgments He is accomplishing His purposes for us and through us for others, we are strengthened to bear the sins of those who sin against us, like Joseph did for his brothers.

 

37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged;
... 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye’, when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

The judgment of God gives strong correction. It uncompromisingly judges us for our sins. It does not allow any excuses for breaking the Word of God. There are no extenuating circumstances allowed. Everyone is held accountable for their actions, their words, and even their thoughts. And the full weight of it was carried by Jesus on the cross, so that the Lord’s purpose for us would be fulfilled, so that He could extend to us complete forgiveness for all that we have done, that we would be God’s holy children, sinners justified by the gracious judgment of God.

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