”Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”
“Keep” doesn’t mean “do.” “Keep” certainly doesn’t mean “obey.” That’s not what the word means. That’s how we hear it. That’s how our flesh wants to hear it. Makes room for us and our personal doing. Now “keep” includes doing, but to say that’s what it’s all about, well, that’s to put the cart before the horse, harvest before planting.
So, what does Jesus mean by “keep”? “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are safe.” “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and guard it.” Same word in both verses. Guard, protect, watch over. That’s what “keep” means. Castles had keeps, the most secure, the most central part of the castle.
Doing comes after. A king doesn’t let an enemy into his keep, parents don’t let children play with the fine china. “Guard” doesn’t mean keep people away. Rather it’s keep it safe so it can be enjoyed. Like security at a museum or park.
But why does Jesus say this? Why does Jesus say, ”Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and guard it”? Why protect it? Why listen to it? Why hang on to it? Keep it safe for yourself and for others? It’s simple:
GOD’S WORD HAS POWER TO CHANGE YOU.
((I. We doubt its power.))
GOD’S WORD HAS POWER TO CHANGE YOU, but we doubt its power. We don’t believe. It’s why we so readily set His Word aside. It’s why our Bibles collect dust. It’s why we can easily shrug off devotions or going to church. It’s why we feel safe and secure avoiding the Lord’s absolution. It’s why the Lord’s Supper is so often a second or third thought, if that…
We put ourselves, our thoughts, our mindset, how we feel about our relationship with God, over God’s powerful Word. It’s why we substitute so many other things for His Word, experience, knowledge, emotions, as more important than His Word and promises.
It’s why some people change His Word. Why some people teach and live contrary to God’s Word. “Protect us from this heavenly Father!” (SC III) We’d never let our thoughts determine what God says, would we? We always let God’s Word have it’s way in our thought, words, and actions, right? ”Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and guard it.”
Do we want Jesus wielding God’s powerful Word to change us? Or would we rather live comfortable? “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe.” Satan wants to hold on to us. He wants to guard our heart, soul, mind, and strength from Christ Jesus. Satan wants to set up walls to make sure God’s Word stays out of our daily life, and also out of our Christian life of gathering around Christ’s Word and Gifts. Satan wants the powerful word of forgiveness to be silenced. Not just in the absolution, but he wants to lock up your mouth so that you won’t say, “I forgive you in Jesus’ name” to the people in your daily life. He’d have us settle for, “It’s ok.” GOD’S WORD HAS POWER TO CHANGE YOU, but not just you—those around you! But do you want them to be changed?
((II. God’s Word does have power.))
But as much as we doubt it, avoid it, or try to change it, we really can’t. “The Word of the LORD endures forever” in spite of all human and demonic attempts to destroy it. Through His Word and Promise and the Holy Spirit, Christ always preserves, keeps safe, guards a remnant, His little flock. Sure, Satan may be “the strong man,” but Christ is stronger still! “Jesus has come as the mighty Redeemer. See now the threatening strong one disarmed!” He is mighty and strong with the Word of God because GOD’S WORD HAS POWER.
It does. Just look at the reading. His Word casts out demons. It binds Satan. Ransoms, redeems those who are held captive in Satan’s kingdom. Still today Jesus wields that Word. “We are all…under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.” He did. He stood in our place—death and resurrection! And in the waters of Holy Baptism Jesus thrusts out the devil and his minions into waterless places. He cleans house through “the washing of water with the Word.”
It’s this same Word that delivers forgiveness to you and through you. GOD’S WORD HAS POWER to forgive sins—any sin, all sins, each and every sin. There’s no sin that won’t be wiped by the Word of forgiveness because there was no sin that wasn’t paid for by Jesus’ blood. The Word of forgiveness that I’m called and ordained to speak, the same Word of forgiveness you’re baptized to speak to those around you, HAS POWER TO CHANGE YOU, to change others. Forgiven—that’s you and them through you! GOD’S WORD HAS POWER to deliver Jesus’ body and blood to you. The same Word that created the universe from nothing now comes to His creation, bread and wine, and bring you Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.
GOD’S WORD HAS POWER to do more. “Jesus has come! Now see bonds rent asunder! Fetters of death now dissolve, disappear!” “Jesus breaks down all the walls of death’s fortress. Brings forth the pris’ners triumphant, unharmed.” His Word will raise you from the dead. That’s the promise in His own resurrection from the dead. A promise He delivered to you in Holy Baptism, His Absolution, and His body and blood, the medicine of eternal life.
GOD’S WORD HAS POWER TO CHANGE YOU. To “deliver us from the domain of darkness and transfer us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” That’s Holy Baptism, water and Word changing us from “children of wrath” to children of God His Father. POWER TO CHANGE YOU to forgiven in Christ. POWER TO deliver His own body and blood to you for the forgiveness of your sins and the promise of everlasting, risen-from-the-dead life. “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will resurrect Him on the Last Day.”
That’s why we rejoice to hear and receive and guard God’s Word. “Keep” doesn’t mean “do” or “obey.” That’s much of us. But to hear and guard, to listen and hang on to, is all rooted in what His Word does for you, and will also do for others through you. Font, Forgiveness, Supper, preaching and His Word—there He changes you. Child of God, forgiven, raised from the dead. Even for others, too! GOD’S WORD HAS POWER TO CHANGE YOU. You are changed—saved!