Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
INI + AMEN.
Our reading this evening about the family life of Issac and Rebekah and their sons, Jacob and Esau, points us to the 4th Commandment, and that Commandment is our sermon text. Our praying of Psalm 32 this evening is our confession that we have not kept, that is, that we’ve not truly cherished that Commandment, not truly cherished the gifts that God protects with that Fourth Commandment: “parents and other authorities.” But that Psalm 32 confession is really that we’ve not “feared, loved, and trusted God above all things.” For rejecting His Commandment, His gifts flows from rejecting God.
Since it is our sermon text, why don’t we look at the Commandment and its explanation again? (It’s page 321 in your hymnal.) What is the Fourth Commandment? [Honor your father and your mother.] What does this mean? [We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.]
If you take the 10 Commandments in order, you can see that next to Himself and His own Name and Word and glory, God stations father and mother. In this life, none are given greater authority in house and home than father and mother. In this life, none are given greater authority in country and nation than governors, kings, presidents, whoever happens to be in power, really. From Pyongyang to Moscow, Washington D.C. to Brussels, all rulers are masks of God, placed there by Him alone. “For there is no authority except that which God has established,” as we learn in the Table of Duties from St. Paul.
God isn’t joking around when He commands each of us, “Honor your father and your mother.” It’s no child’s play when St. Peter says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” God commands us to obey “parents and other authorities” because they speak where His Word is silent. God’s Word doesn’t tell us what speed we should drive, where we should stop and go, when to be home after school, what homework to give in math, when we need to get to work in the morning, even specific advice for whom we should marry or not, like Jacob and Esau this evening. For all those things God gives us government, parents, teachers, bosses. He speaks to those things through them.
Like Esau, we don’t cherish the Commandment, though. We don’t pay much mind to obeying those over us. We’d rather not. We’d disobey, rebel. Who really wants to pay taxes? But “he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” But to cherish the Fourth Commandment, to hold it dear, to cherish and obey those above us who have been given by God as a gift is holy work. God Himself is holy, and what He says to do is holy.
But doing a thing doesn’t make you holy. There are lots of atheists who pay their taxes and drive the speed limit; plenty of non-Christian children who obey their non-Christian parents. Plenty out there who “do not despise or anger their parents and other authorities,” who, in fact, “honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” So, what’s the difference? They do not “fear and love God.” They don’t have faith in Jesus. To our eyes they are the same works, and equally beneficial. But before God, when a believer obeys parents (holy), when an unbeliever (unholy).
It’s not doing or not doing that makes one holy or unholy. It is Jesus who makes holy. Jesus obeyed the governing authorities. “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” Jesus submitted Himself to the religious leaders’ judgment: condemned for being the Son of God. Jesus accepted Pilate’s authority over Him—a pagan, unbelieving Roman! Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” Our backtalk, our disobedience, our not cherishing our leaders was placed upon Him. He obeyed His Father even to dying for you. His keeping the 4th Commandment is credited to your account.
So, your Baptism into Christ, and His death and resurrection, means that stopping at a stop sign is a God-pleasing work. It’s holy to obey and honor those over you: teachers, mom, dad, police, governors, presidents. It’s holy because Jesus holied you in Baptism. To ignore the Commandment, to not cherish those people God has placed over you as a gift, is to reject your Baptism, and the holiness and new life He freely and abundantly gave you there. Because you are baptized, you are a gift to those over you (“to honor them” and all the rest), and you receive them as a gift from the Lord, too, because of your Baptism.
Let’s look at page 321 one more time. What is the Fourth Commandment? [Honor your father and your mother.] What does this mean? [We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.]
You are baptized. Those over you are gifted to you, and you to them. They speak for God where He doesn’t speak in His Word. No greater authority in home than father and mother, and whatever other authorities are out in the world. He places them after Himself. To “honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them” is holy work, and God Himself has already holied you for that task. His font grafts you into His Son, who died for you, obeying His Father, and now Jesus lives in you, the Spirit does, too! For you who are holy, the 4th Commandment is holy and God-pleasing. We cherish His commandment, don’t want to break it, because we are His baptized-into-Christ children. What’s even more: He delivers the love and forgiveness needed for the task, too: body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. For, in His body and blood given you to eat and to drink, you “learn to love God and your neighbor,” like those over you. (Jesus gave His body into death for them, too, after all.)
“Let each his lesson learn with care, and all the household well shall fare.”
INI + AMEN.