Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | October 4, 2010

Sermon on Hebrews 11:32-33

Downloadable version

Faith Shuts the Mouths of Lions

Lessons:  Daniel 6:1-24, 1 Peter 5:6-11, Luke 18:1-18

Hymns (from Christian Worship and Christian Worship:Supplement): 461, 440, 765, 431, 277

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions…

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

What more can we say about faith?  We’ve talked about it for months.  We’ve heard Hebrews redundant refrain, By faith, more times than we can imagine.  You’d think we’d have gotten it.  Move on.

But we haven’t even scratched the surface of faith.  We haven’t comprehended the depth, the width, and the breadth of God’s gift of faith.  The writer of Hebrews was correct when he said, And what more shall I say?  I do not have time… The author isn’t simply acknowledging that there are more faith stories to tell.  There are, and he is.  It’s stunning to see which stories he just glosses over.  He gives just a word to famous Old Testament men – Gideon, who led 300 against thousands; Samson, whose strength was legendary; David, who killed Goliath; Samuel, the greatest of the prophets after Moses; the prophets, with that word encompassing Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others.  If Abel and Enoch and Rahab get paragraphs in Hebrews 11, ought not they?  Equally stunning, is that in the phrase who shut the mouths of lions we have so obliquely mentioned a Sunday School staple and universal favorite, Daniel in the lion’s den.

The Spirit makes his point.  Time will run out if we try to grasp faith, this gift of God, which we take for granted because we were baptized and confirmed once, or put in our hour each week in a pew, devotedly struggling our way through a liturgy and sermon.  What Hebrews shows us is that faith starts with Christ, and then filters into every moment of our life.  It’s why Paul said that the Christian life is a living sacrifice to God.  Faith is a living, breathing thing.  By faith our Old Testament fathers acted.  By faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised and shut the mouths of lions. This faith orients life properly.  It orients life around God the Father and Jesus Christ.  Faith taught these Christians the power and grace of the NAME of God.  And it does so for us.  This faith with which we have been gifted shuts the mouths of lions.  It does so where God’s Name is kept holy, because God’s Name is powerful.

We pray, Hallowed be thy name. Hallowed is a little used word, so we define it.  We talk about “hallowed halls.”  Perhaps it’s our alma mater, or the halls of Congress, or some sports stadium.  It’s a special place.  A place set apart.  A place where great deeds are done.  About God, hallowed is greater.  Hallowed means to keep holy.  Luther, God’s name is indeed holy in itself.  But we pray in this petition that it may become holy among us also.  How is this done?  When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity and we as the children of God also lead holy lives in accordance with it.  To this end help us, dear Father in heaven.  But anyone who teaches and lives other than by what God’s Word teaches profanes the name of God among us.  From this preserve us, heavenly Father. Really, the 1st Petition is the Christian asking to keep the 2nd Commandment, You shall not misuse the name of the LORD. So serious is God that He adds a threat, The LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.

Because God’s Name is who God is.  You don’t like it when people drag your name through the mud.  Or when they claim you can do something that you can’t, or say you can’t do something that you can.  Your name is who you are.  When your name is said, it means something.  So, we understand why God wants His name kept holy.  More so even than ours.  Because this is God, this is Deity.  He lives in unapproachable light.   No one has seen Him or can see Him.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.  His ways are not our ways.  His judgments are incomprehensible.  God, in His bare omnipotence, in all His glory and power, is something we can’t see or grasp.  But, He has revealed Himself to us so that we can see Him and grasp Him.  He has revealed His Name, to which we cling by faith.  Exodus 34, Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with [Moses] and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” This God then clarified things:  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. God said, “Here I am,” in that cradle as the son of Mary, who said to Philip and Thomas, If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.

And this God says, Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you. This God says, Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. Are you angry at Jesus that you haven’t conquered kingdoms, received what was promised, or shut the mouths of lions?  Are you surprised?  Have you kept Christ’s name holy?  The God who says, “Ask, seek, and knock,” is the God who says in Deuteronomy If you forget the LORD, and fail to obey, I will destroy you. God’s Name is holy whether I think it is or not.  God is holy in and of Himself.  But I can drag His name through the mud.  When I have not been that persistent pray-er, as Jesus taught about in Luke 18, when I have let fear, or doubt, or peer pressure determine my actions, not faith, then I have not kept God’s Name holy.  When I have caved or compromised on God’s teaching, because they aren’t popular, or they don’t make sense, or I think God’s being unreasonable, then I have not kept God’s Name holy.  When I have failed to obey everything God has commanded me, then I have not kept God’s Name holy.  And so why should I be surprised?  God said, I will not hold guiltless anyone who misuses His name.

Like Isaiah, we must confess, “Woe is me, I am a man or woman of unclean lips!”  Like Paul we say, “I am the chief of sinners.”  I wait for the teeth of the lions to tear my flesh.  Ah, here now is grace.  Here now is where faith turns.  We beg for help, and we see Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.  There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. By faith, in faith, and through faith, we turn to this Christ, this Christ who came, who suffered, and who died, this Christ who rose from the dead.  And faith shows us who Jesus is:  our God who was the sacrifice of atonement we needed.  Here is God making good on everything He said about Himself.  God says, “I am holy and just.  I punish anyone who does not keep my name holy.”  That’s me.  And then it was Jesus instead.  And it is still Jesus instead.  You and I look into our hearts and lives and see false doctrine in our hearts and on our lips, we see sinful actions that bring shame to the name of God and Christian, and yet there stands Christ saying, “Hide behind me.  I will speak to the Father on your behalf.”

Oh, what a Name to call upon.  Oh, what a rock to cling to.  Oh, what a God to pray to.  And Daniel got this.  Hebrews 11 glossed over his heroic faith, but we heard it from Daniel’s own pen.  His enemies used his faith against him.  They passed a decree that made praying to the LORD forbidden.  And what did Daniel do?  Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. By faith He kept God’s Name holy.  And when he was thrown to the lions, nothing changed.  When Darius ran to see the remains of Daniel, he was overjoyed to hear, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight….”  …And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. By faith, the mouths of the lions were shut.  For God’s Name was kept holy and God’s Name is powerful.  The Name upon which Daniel called outside of the den is the same name upon which He called inside the lion’s den.  And that God did what that God does, I will deliver you. For, as Peter wrote:  because He cares for you.

The holy Name of this holy God was placed upon you at your Baptism.  At that moment He named you His own.  He did in time what He declared in eternity:  He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ… And those He predestined, He also called, those He called he justified, those He justified, He glorified. He knows His sheep.  He listens to His sheep.  He acts on behalf of His sheep:  those who by faith cling to Christ crucified and risen from the dead.

Like Daniel, you have His Name and you can use His Name.  This is the promise of our Father in heaven, the Father who sent His Son to die because of your sins and to rise so that you are declared righteous and holy.  This Father shuts the devil’s mouth.  This Father shuts hell’s mouth, by Christ, for you.  There is no lion left about whom God hasn’t said, Call upon me…I will deliver you. Thus, Paul says, Pray continuously. Whether for the mundane or the miraculous, you have God on your side, the holy God who has told you His Name and says, “Use it.”  The holy God who showed you His Name in action through Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. We call on this Name now, confident that we will sing it before Him in eternity!  Amen!

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Responses

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