26th Sunday a Pentecost, Last Sunday of the Church Year “Deliverance”
November 21, 2021 2 Timothy 4:18
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
On this last Sunday of the church year, the word of the Lord gives us exactly what we would expect. He says: “Give attention to me, my people; my righteousness draws near; lift up your eyes; stay awake! The master of the house is coming; heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Our old nature needs the warning; and our faith receives courage. The Son of Man is coming in clouds with great power and glory; He is our Savior, and He will deliver us into life-everlasting.
Deliver. It’s a good word. St.Paul used it in 2 Timothy 4:18, as he neared the end of his ministry & life. He said, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Listen to this story. In the late 1800s, the British express train with the Royal Car carrying her majesty Queen Victoria, was speeding thru the night. Its powerful headlight barely able to cut thru the foggy darkness. Suddenly, in the beam of the engine’s headlight, far ahead on the tracks, the engineer saw the figure of a man in a black cloak, waving his arms. Immediately the engineer pulled the brakes and brought the train & its Royal passengers,
to a screeching halt. The engineer climbed down and ran out to where this cloaked man had been seen, and he found …nothing.
As he searched up the track further, he hadn’t gone very far when he stopped, disturbed by what he saw. Just beyond the next curve, was a bridge; but he could see that a section of rail had been separated. Had they not stopped, going the speed they were going, the train would’ve derailed and fallen into the river. The disaster had been prevented by the waving man on the track. While the rail was being repaired, the engineer looked again for the mystery man, but no one was found.
Later, when the train had arrived in London & was being serviced, it was discovered that a large moth had gotten into the outer housing of the train’s headlamp. It was now dead, so the engineer considered a little experiment. He moistened the moth’s wings and stuck it to the lamp’s glass. He went to the cab & switched on the light; and there again was the man in the black cloak.
The engineer was able to share the story with the queen of how lucky it was, that barely moments before the curve & broken bridge, that moth projected the image of a man waving his arms. Queen Victoria just shook her head. ‘This was not luck. It was God’s way of delivering us.’ I think the queen was right.
As another Church Year comes to a close, and as you & I have survived these last 12 months, our faith should reflect on our deliverance, which comes thru the will & purpose of our gracious God. The confident faith of Paul will help us. As he writes -a second time-
to young pastor Timothy, Paul was in prison, & some of his friends had abandoned him. Emperor Nero was busy trying to blame Christians for that great fire in Rome. And yet, Paul writes: “The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Now, it’s true that Paul had experienced some miraculous deliveries; but that didn’t mean he had an easy life. He talks about his life in 2nd Corinthians. He said: “I have often been in prison; I have been beaten countless times, and often been near death. Five times I received 39 lashes at the hands of the Jews; three times I was beaten with rods, and once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked and I’ve spent a night and a day adrift at sea.” ‘I have been in danger from rivers, from robbers,… in the city, & in the wilderness,… I have had many a sleepless night, with hunger and thirst…’ (2 Cor. 11:23-28)
Paul is not bragging about his troubles; he’s thankful he’s still alive & he’s praising the God who had always delivered him from each trouble; the One who would keep delivering until his days were done. On occasion, God did step in with some supernatural event for him; but mostly not; he just endured trouble until it was done. And each time Paul encountered trouble, and suffered, and then recovered, he counted it as a gracious delivering by the gracious God.
Our own lives can confirm the same thing. At the end of another Church Year, the fact that we are still here, having come thru our own troubles, says that God continues to deliver us = His will & purpose is still upon us. Perhaps on a rare occasion, the way we came thru a trouble was a true mystery to us; but miracle or not, our faith is the same as Paul’s: “The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.
To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Our faith will conclude this based on God’s own history, and on His words of promise. We recall that Jesus once fed thousands of people with five loaves & two small fish. Those hungry people were satisfied -for that one meal- in a very miraculous way, and they were amazed & grateful. But I wonder: how often did they thank God for feeding them in the regular way? By that sign of loaves & fish, Jesus had revealed himself as the very same gracious God – who had faithfully provided for them every other day too — just as He does for you & me. Is that not also amazing & praise-worthy?
The Lord does deliver his people from every evil attack. That doesn’t mean we don’t have trouble, or life isn’t hard at times. But every trouble we come thru IS His delivering; and all the unseen troubles that the Lord has kept away from us is ALSO His delivering.
God’s people have reason to be thankful every day for what He provides, and also thankful for the trouble that we are spared from. When is the last time that you or I have been hungry for days without something to eat? Ever? It’s not just an accident that we live in a place & a time when the weather is cooperative, farming is productive, and manufacturing is effective so that food is widely available. It is because God is looking after us; He so regularly rescues us from the trouble of hunger that, on most days, we don’t even notice; but I hope we’re still grateful.
The Lord delivers us from every evil attack. At times we might be disappointed that the Lord has not miraculously healed our bad heart condition; and yet the Lord has provided a daily medicine that has kept our heart pumping == when not so long ago, those without that medicine died rather quickly. A near miss with a car accident can cause us to be grateful that the Lord kept us from serious harm; but we can be grateful for each mile we drive. In fact, hundreds of miles can go by without much thought or thanks that the same Lord has protected us the whole time.
I once heard a preacher ask if we have given thanks that the Lord has delivered us from burglars who passed by our house without breaking in, & we didn’t know about it. As we consider the news, are we thankful for another week when no terrorist bomb or natural disaster has affected our nation? Paul was right. God has kept us from many evil attacks. We can count on Him to deliver us from them ALL, and to bring us safely into His heavenly kingdom.
There is a little story about a young girl who lived about the same time as Queen Victoria. She had to take a long journey alone, on a train. She prepared for her trip by learning of the geography between the two cities; she learned that she would be crossing a number of rivers along the way. This caused her some anxiety, since she wasn’t fond of water and she didn’t know how trains could cross those rivers safely. She was quite intent on watching as they neared the first river. It was then that she saw the bridge; and then the train passed over the river as if it wasn’t even there. After she watched as they passed over the second river bridge, she leaned back relieved and said, “I don’t have to worry, somebody has built bridges for me all the way!” Somebody had delivered her.
As we read the Lord’s Bible history, and we hear His promises, we can each conclude the same thing: ‘I don’t have to worry; the Lord has built bridges for me that will take me over every dangerous place.’ This is the design of God’s gift of faith for us; that we can say that, & believe it; because it is true. This is especially true of that final danger =death. Our Lord built a bridge so that every one of us might be delivered, and reach that final destination.
Look back to the Garden of Eden. Mankind’s rebellion against God had created a canyon between heaven and man. Adam & Eve could not bridge that ravine, but the Lord did = when He promised His Son as the Sacrifice which would buy our freedom. After about 9 generations, God concluded that the heart of all men was only evil all the time. (Gen.6) So God spoke to Noah, giving him the project of building an ark as a kind of a bridge between unacceptable wickedness and a second chance. God had made a promise of deliverance for Adam & Eve & their offspring; so He kept unfolding His plan of the Savior for the world.
When the Children of Israel were caught between the chariots of Pharaoh and the Red Sea, God opened the water, and made a bridge of dry ground to deliver His people to safety.
In the following years, even in their rebellious times, the Lord rescued His people from enemies & troubles every day so that they would receive His Promised Land.
The Lord is OUR Deliverer; He builds bridges. God told the prophet Jeremiah: ‘before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.’ WE can count on that same word of truth. Before we were ever born, He knew our pains & problems, our sins & shortcomings. He saw all our obstacles, but with a powerful love to save us, He has always built bridges ….>
…so that His people of faith could always safely continue on. God says in Ps.50: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and shall glorify Me.” And in Isaiah 43 He says, “Fear not!…you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and thru the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, … the flame shall not consume you. …for I am the Lord…your Savior.” Our Creator has a plan to keep delivering us thru troubles until the day He delivers us into His eternal kingdom.
You & I have met people who have given up on God & on His church because they heard about His deliverance, but they didn’t learn what God means when He promises it.
So, their grandparent, spouse, or child gets sick; they pray very hard for recovery, but their loved one dies. Or, they suffer from an injury or disease, and they pray for healing, but they continue to suffer. They think that God has lied about delivering them. God cannot lie, & He helps us understand His promise. The promise of deliverance must be seen & measured -first & foremost- against the eternal punishment & condemnation for our sin.
To illustrate that, consider the young husband & father who had complications from diabetes; to live, he needed a kidney & pancreas transplant. The surgery would deliver him from the troubles of dialysis & irregular blood sugar; it would lengthen his life. There’s only one problem. For him to enjoy this new life, someone else had to die; and some other family -in a time of great sorrow- had to be willing to share the organs of their loved one with a total stranger. This illustration comes from one of our LCMS pastors talking about his son-in-law. After a long wait, a willing family was found, and the son-in-law was able to enjoy his new life = which was only possible by another man’s death.
This is the story of our deliverance. We are under the power of sin; & the wages of sin is death. Sin & death are an impossible canyon that separates us from the God of holiness & life. We are helpless to change that separation; but God is not helpless. Because of His great mercy =by undeserved grace= He decided to build a bridge and deliver us.
He decided to give us life, and to provide for us; to see us thru various injuries & illnesses along the way, and finally He would make a way for us to pass thru death, avoiding hell, and land us safely in His heaven. That’s the big picture. We need that big picture, otherwise we won’t trust Him with our little daily pictures along the way.
There was only one problem. For us to receive this new life, Someone had to die;
and not just anyone. Because our problem was eternal & world-wide big, & that Someone had to be the right match for that. /He had to be holy enough to be worthy for ALL of us; /he had to be strong enough to remain holy thru all temptation; /he had to be powerful enough to die and then raise himself back to life. In other words, only our Creator Himself could BE the bridge we needed, and deliver us from sin, death & hell.
God’s love for us has been shown by this: He gave His one & only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. By the name & work & life-blood of Jesus, God has taken away your sin, your death, & your hell; and He has given to you a new life. You are living in Him now by faith, and will live with Him later – face to face.
That Someone has built bridges for you the whole way. You have been delivered.
This is what Paul was talking about in 2Tim.4. God’s promise in the Lord Jesus Christ was giving Paul all the deliverance he would ever need. Even if he would never walk out of prison a free man, or even if he would not survive the next beating he took for the gospel. Little deliverances are nice; but the big picture was the most important view.
The same is true for all of God’s people, in all conditions and all circumstances.
The promise is true for you and me: “The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack,
and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever.”