You are God’s mouthpiece, proclaim the Gospel
They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understand what was being read.
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah: 8:8-10.
Many pastors, in delivering a sermon, focus their message on the law. They use the Law to beat their hearers over the head and make them feel that there is not hope or way out of their sinful dilemma.
What is the law?
Matthew Henry writes: “It works death, and speaks terror, shows men their sin and thunder a curse against everyone that continues not in his duty.”
Simply, the law is like a mirror. It shows us that we are not a good sight in the eyes of God. Yes, the law cuts to the heart.
In the above text, the children of Israel had only recently returned home to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. Under the leadership of Nehemiah, their governor, and Ezra the priest, they were given permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall and the temple.
Having returned safely to their homeland, the people observed the Feast of Trumpets, which fell on the first day of the seventh month. Ezra, the priest, was persuaded to bring out the book of the law and read it to the people.
He read from morning until evening. When the people heard the word of God’s law, they were cut to the hearts and began to weep bitterly.
Nehemiah, the governor, saw their grief and their despondency. Consequently, he was compassionate towards them. He told them that the day was not a time to feel sorry but to rejoice. Nehemiah was showering them with the gospel.
God did not only give us law. He also gave us gospel, his grace. Therefore, after hearing the law, we are not left hanging with the fear of destruction. No, God is merciful and gracious. He comforts us with redemption.
The law always sends us to the gospel, which tells us what God in his mercy has done for us and what he continues to do for us in Christ Jesus. God is merciful to forgive us of our sin.
Therefore, when we preach, we do not only give the law, leaving our hearers hanging with the fear of destruction. We use the law to show them their sin and hopelessness without God, driving them to the cross.
Then, like Nehemiah, we shower them with the gospel. In the gospel, they find God’s grace and mercy, which is found in the suffering death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior.
Yes, God’s word cuts us to the bone, but even so, they are words, which bring peace and comfort. Quite often I have the opportunity to spend time with some who experience both sorrow and joy. One group may lose a loved one in death while another receives a blessing of a loved one through new birth. In one incident, God’s word is used to comfort. In the other, God’s word is used to bless and give thanks and praise. God’s word is always our best option. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas, or telephone: 323-4107; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.Nassaulutheranchurch.org.