2 Corinthians 6:1-10
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
David did it with five smooth stones taken out of the Jordan River—the river Our Lord was later baptized in. This river is connected with the salvation of the whole world through Our Lord’s Baptism. Five stones. One for each of the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. The books written by Moses, known as “the Torah” which means the Law in Hebrew, or the Pentateuch, which means “the Five” in Greek. These books are the foundation of all of God’s Word. They set out the perfection of His creation, the birth of our enemy, the giant called SIN, and His promise and plan of salvation. Those are a mighty five books. Five stones that can slay the giants that attack God’s people.
Five stones for five words but only one is needed. Just as the sermon hymn says, “one little Word subdues Him,” can fell or slay him. One little stone. One little word. The right word, at right time can kill a giant. Jesus, the Word, kills giants.
The history of Israel loomed large over them. A history of failure. It was a millstone around their neck. Do you know how a big millstone is? You can’t go swimming wearing such a thing. You can’t do much of anything with that around your neck. It crushes you. Israel’s history was a crushing history of sin and unbelief. A history of slavery in Egypt, freedom worked by God through the miracles of the Ten Plagues and the Exodus through Red Sea over to freedom. On one side of the water they were slaves. On the other side they were free. But what did they do with their freedom? Even before they get to Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments they begin to complain against the One who set them free! “Why did you bring us out into this wilderness to die? Where is the water?” They did not trust the One who had saved them. They did not take Him at His word. They did not believe His promises. They complained and tested Him. To which He responds, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test,” for He can save, He can provide for your every need, but He gives such salvation through faith in His Word. Those who test Him, who doubt His Word, who reject His Word place themselves outside of His salvation of them to their own everlasting peril!
But nonetheless, our gracious Lord provides water for them. Then what do they need in the wilderness? Food. And God answers miraculously with bread each day that falls on the ground covering it like snow. The people living in those desert lands respond? “What is it?” (Which in Hebrew is, “Manna!?”) It was bread from heaven, just as God said He would provide for them. For Man does not live by bread, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. His words can cause the heavens to rain down bread if need be. They are mighty words. Words of salvation. Words that slay giants. But even this miraculous fulfillment of His promise they complain about.
And when they arrive at Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments Moses goes up the mountain but he stays too long. Again, the people complain, “Where is this God who brought us up out of Egypt? Aaron make us an new god to worship! Here, we’ll give you gold. Make it for us.” Aaron disobeyed God. He did as they said and they rose up to revel in their sin, to party and play in the sight of their “god” at the foot of the mountain. But along with these Ten Commandments God says, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him alone shall you serve.” And that particular generation suffered the consequences of their sin. They all died in the wilderness without seeing the promised land. They put God to the test. It did not go well for them.
The people of Israel got it all wrong. They broke every commandment. They failed to be the people of God. And it did not stop with that generation. It continued all down through the ages, the same cycle repeated over and over again. Their history towered over their present and their future. Until finally along comes Jesus. The true Israel. True, for only He can fulfill all they were meant to be. And having been baptized He is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to face down their ancient foe: the giant of their sin and with it the Accuser who constantly throws it in their face again and again.
The Accuser comes at Jesus after forty days and nights of fasting. “IF you are the son of God show me your power. Turn these stones into bread.” Our Lord knows He does not need to. God, His Father, can provide bread from heaven. God had promised to provide for Israel in the wilderness and would provide for Him too. Man does not really live by bread, but by the Word of God which promises and provides all that is needed for this body and life. God provided for those unbelievers in the wilderness and He would provide whatever Jesus needed at that moment. Satan tempted Jesus to sin against the 3rd Commandment: to not trust God’s Word.
Jesus passes the test. So another comes. This time the 2nd Commandment: God’s name, the name of protection and salvation placed on all those who are baptized. "Let’s see if God will actually protect you or not." Satan even throws in a misquoted Scripture making it seem like Our Lord should be able to do stupid, sinful things and expect His Father to protect Him. But Christ our Lord knew how the Israelites had tested God in the wilderness and that such testing is unbelief, and takes the Lord’s name in vain. Again, He passes the test.
The final test. “Worship me and I’ll give you more than you can imagine.” Deny God. Break the 1st Commandment to have no other gods. Make me your god. At this point Our Lord has had enough. “Depart!” He commands with the full authority of the Godhead, “For you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve!” He would not go the way of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He was the true Israel who did all things well. As the true Israel He is the true or Second Adam. He is the one who will slay the giant of sin for the whole world, putting death to death, bringing life to the walking dead. He does this for Israel, He does it for Adam, He does it for you!
He defeats the old evil serpent, crushing the snake’s head under foot. All this He does with no sword in His hand. Only a sword in His mouth. The sword of the Word of God. David hurled a stone which represented God’s Word. Our Lord battles Satan with the Word. The Word in the flesh dies for us defeating Satan, giving us life.
The giants of our past, of our sin, they have been crushed. Their heads cut off. Their power gone. We are free.
Thanks be to God.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON