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Hope According to God’s Promises

Set Your Hope with the Promises of the Lord in View

Luke 16:19–31 (CSB)

19 “There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. 20 But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was lying at his gate. 21 He longed to be filled with what fell from the rich man’s table, but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side., The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 24 ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’

25 “ ‘Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.’

27 “ ‘Father,’ he said, ‘then I beg you to send him to my father’s house—28 because I have five brothers—to warn them, so they won’t also come to this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

Dear fellow redeemed: Most of the time, the portions of God’s word which we consider each week go together and form a whole. Therefore, what we end up with is greater than if just taking one after the other.

Last week Jesus taught Nicodemus (and us) that our spiritual life – which is the eternal life of faith, is the gift of the Holy Spirit and it is an eternal life. But it can also be discarded, rejected or scorned as Nicodemus did, in favor of something more attractive to the flesh. In Luke’s gospel, that “something more attractive” is money, wealth, prosperity, affluence. The Pharisees were described as “lovers of money,” and they possessed their money with the pride that it was an indication of God’s favor, as opposed to being “born again of water and the Spirit.”

But your hope of heaven does not depend on your earning or deserving it, and even more, it doesn’t depend upon some earthly sign or indicator of God’s favor. God’s love for you is shown in something completely apart from you: “He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. …(Romans 8:32, CSB) So, even in misery, we should

HOPE ACCORDING TO GOD’S PROMISES

  1. Beware of Idols, Counterfeits
  2. The Miserable Will Be Comforted
  3. Take Comfort Now in the Word
  1. Beware of Idols, Counterfeits

The rich man has no name. His name is not written in God’s book of life. He had the veneer of religion but had no faith. He was a Jew, a “son of Abraham,” knew of Abraham and the prophets, but his love was for money, by which incidentally, he assured himself he was in God’s favor. He was lavish in his tastes. He enjoyed a feast every day; a simple meal wasn’t enough.

Understand the context here, just before this, Luke wrote, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and scoffing at him. And he told them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.(Luke 16:14–15, CSB) The rich man was made of the same cloth as these Pharisees who scoffed at Jesus when He said that riches don’t show us innocent in the eyes of God. These were the self-congratulatory elites of their day, certain that THEY were in God’s favor and scorned people like Jesus who came as a servant.

I expect that all of us have something about ourselves that we think puts us “in God’s good books,” that makes us complacent about our faith. Is it that we are well educated? That we are members of a confessional Lutheran church? That we have the right politics? That we look down on people who have politics? Is it that we are prosperous? Well washed? Well-adjusted? Popular?

None of those has anything to do with what we really need— that we are born again of water and of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. (Galatians 5:22–23, CSB) This is the opposite of self-righteousness, of condescending elitism, or of loving only the lovable.

His unbelief, his idolatry in making money his idol, showed in his utter neglect of poor Lazarus. He wasted more food than Lazarus needed, but he wouldn’t share it. So, he died and was buried and went to hell. He had no righteousness by which to claim heaven, rather his selfishness condemned him.

In telling about the rich man, Jesus captures his arrogance and pride, as he demands comfort from Abraham and expects Lazarus to serve him. 23 And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 24 ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’

     2. The Miserable Will Be Comforted

But things were different for Lazarus. Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. This is something that Luke emphasizes often in his gospel, the principle of reversal. Remember Mary’s song? “He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:51–53, CSB)

The fact is that for those who do not repent, there is justice, and justice for God’s people. “For the Lord loves justice and will not abandon his faithful ones. They are kept safe forever, but the children of the wicked will be destroyed.(Psalm 37:28, CSB)

We call this the “Great Reversal.” What God is revealing through Luke is the fact that while none of us deserve His mercy, and that our place in heaven is a gift, that nevertheless he truly loves us, appreciates the faithfulness of those whom He has made His children, and is eager to save and glorify those who have suffered and struggled in this world.

   3.  Take Comfort Now in the Word

This is one more source of hope for us. I can tell you that for fifty years I have looked out upon congregations and seen their struggles. The young people trying to find their way in the world, the parents struggling with rebellious children, faithful children struggling with abusive parents. People torn up by unfaithfulness in marriages. Poverty. Sudden illness. Loss of a dear loved one. Loneliness. Victims of crime. Murder, robbery, rape. Fortunes lost. Injury and disability. Unbelief on the part of loved ones.

But in such a situation Paul wrote (maybe even thinking of this illustration of Jesus) “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.(Romans 8:18, CSB) Our suffering and struggling will be as nothing when, like Lazarus, we are carried to our eternal home and are resurrection to the eternal life where is the ultimate of all joy, all beauty, all peace, all love, all music, all nature, all art, all thought, all dance, all creativity, – – – all good.

Now, the last part of the text deserves its own sermon, but just take this from it. There is no hope in the idols of this world: fame, pleasure, wealth, government, medicine, philosophy, science, or just plain money. Dust and ashes they will be. Escape from these idols is not to be found in emotional pleas, waves of popular social approval, great signs, or even the marvels of God’s power.

We escape from these idols through the rebirth that comes from the Holy Spirit working through the word and sacrament, as Jesus says through his character, Moses, 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

So don’t find your hope in the idols of this world, but HOPE ACCORDING TO GOD’S PROMISES.  Find your hope in God’s word, Moses, the prophets, the witness of the apostles. For through them the Holy Spirit works life in us and keeps us in the one true faith until all becomes new, the old passes away, and we stand in the presence of the Lord.

God grant it to each one of you!

AMEN.