Sermon Start for Oculi Exodus 8:16-24

Here’s what one of my rough drafts looks like. It still needs to be edited down. Parts need to be re-written for better oral flow. You get the idea.

Oculi OT Sermon 2013
Exodus 8:16-24
March 3, 2013

+INI+

You can make an argument that Pharaoh was a strong man. He was a great and powerful man who had some great and powerful magicians at his disposal. They kept up with Moses in turning their staves into snakes.

The turning of the River Nile into blood was a pretty nice trick to watch, but Pharaoh’s still not impressed with YHWH or Moses. Pharaoh just dismissed what he saw happening. He thought, “maybe some red algae was growing in the river and all came dislodged at the same time only looking like blood.” It’s amazing the excuses we can come up with when we don’t want to believe the truth and when we’ve hardened our hearts to God and His Word.

The second miracle plague of frogs was also nothing special to Pharaoh and his mighty magicians who were the special spawns of Satan. Frogs could have come because the water was resting and there was an over abundance of insects for them to munch on. Maybe it was the end of dry spell and all of their natural predators fled earlier for some better prey leaving all of those tadpoles they would have eaten to mature at the same time. More and more lame excuses we can make for Pharaoh.

But gnats can get your attention, especially when they swarm and fill the sky blocking out the sun like a dust storm. And that’s what Jesus told Moses to do. Jesus told Moses, “Tell Aaron. ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.'”

Millions upon millions of the little buggers causing all sorts of havoc on the Pharaoh’s citizens all throughout Egypt. No corner was safe from these gnats. There was nowhere to run. There was nowhere to hide. Gnats are so small they can find their way into anything.

Compared to gnats, dust is no big deal. When a dust storm comes, you cover your mouth and nose, watch your eyes, because some dust may get in there. Sure you may get sore from the beating of the wind and dust particles flying at high speeds. You might get some dust up your nose, in your ears, or in an open wound and it would sting, but no long lasting effects to slow you down.

Gnats are worse… way, way worse. They can fly in your nose, ears, wounds like dust, but then they bite. Millions of these things flying around like a dust storm biting every piece of exposed flesh they can find. And if it’s not exposed to the eye, the gnats will still find a way to get to it and cause you pain and irritation. No part of the body is safe.

Those special spawns of Satan just look in awe and shock that someone would do something like conjure gnats upon them. So they try to do the same. They try to prove that they are stronger than Aaron and that their god of this world, Satan (2 Cor. 4:4), is stronger than Jesus. They try to prove that they are stronger than the miraculous plague told by Jesus to be done. When these spawns of Satan fail all they can do is say, “This is the finger of God.”

Today, taking a cue from Jesus, the devil sends gnats and also the fourth plague of flies to Christians in the world. They are the false teachers, the heretics, and the unbelievers who occupy pulpits and preach unionistic, pop-psychology, all paths lead to whatever creator god you believe in, can’t we all just get along, civil religion loving sermons.

The flies are larger, easier to see and swat away. When they bite you, you immediately feel it. When you hear their sermons or read their teachings you know it’s full of false-hoods and half-truths. You brace yourself for their attacks and insidious teachings with a bottle of Raid or Deep Woods Off in hand. These are the teachers that those with faith can spot a mile away and stay clear of because they can smell the stench of DEET before these heretical fly’s even open their mouths. True Christians are safe from them, living in Goshen like Israel. Being all safe and sound from the big-time heretics of this day and age in the Church.

The gnats, the false-teachers who teach mostly the truth, but add just a dash of falsehood are even more insidious and harder to spot. They can burrow into your skin and find a way to figuratively nest in your brains. They gain your confidence because most of what they say is true, but by the time you notice you’ve been bitten, you have hundreds of more bites around your body all itching and aching. Your soul is in anguish from their law-filled preaching and mandates upon your life instead of the Gospel and Christ-won forgiveness for you. The devil attacks all with gnats, leaving no place safe, especially in this post-modern world where all thoughts are equal, except for Christ crucified.

Only God’s finger is greater than all of the power that these special spawn of Satan could possibly hope to muster. This is because the “finger of God” is the Holy Spirit… and the spawn of Satan, and even Satan himself are no match for the Holy Spirit.

How is the Holy Spirit the “finger of God?”

Exodus 31:18 says, “And He gave to Moses, when He had finished speaking with Him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.”

And Moses in his farewell address in Deuteronomy 9:10 tells the Israelites, “And the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God and on them were all the words that the Lord had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the first on the day of the assembly.”

We discussed this in our Bible Study on the Gospel reading today. The “finger of God” is the stronger man that comes and cleans out the house of your hearts from the strong man, the devil and his offspring, that live in there uninvited. The Spirit crashes in and takes out the trash leaving your heart cleaner than it was when He arrived. And He stays and dwells within making your heart that is dead in sin alive in Christ.

Martin Luther’s alternate baptismal rite emphasizes this point. Immediately prior to the Baptism, the pastor proclaims over the child, “The Word of God teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.

Therefore, depart, you unclean spirit, and make room for the Holy Spirit in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The devil will continue to send his gnats and flies to this world until Jesus comes again. The devil wants to get as many people away from Jesus as he can. He doesn’t worry about the world and unbelievers because they’re already in his bag. So he focus’ all of his attacks on believers. He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

And the more you strive for Christ, the more you suffer attacks from this old evil foe. And the more you reject his false-hoods and half-truths, the harder he is going to attack you. But have no fear because Jesus is the even mightier Lion from the Tribe of Judah, “the root of David; He has conquered” the lion (Rev. 5:5). The “finger of God” dwells in your heart and will not give up His dwelling place without a fight.

Have no fear, because Jesus has already walked this path of faith and assaults of the devil. Jesus has walked in the valley of death and made it but a shadow of what it once was (Psalm 23). Stay close to Christ who knows the way through. Hold onto Him and don’t let go like Jacob who wrestled with Jesus last week.

Christ has already won the decisive victory on the cross of Calvary for you. There upon that cross, during those three hours, Satan unleashed all of his spawn, all of his army, all of his tricks. Satan left no stone unturned and fought with all of his strength and was vanquished by weakness… and love.

For it was in the weakest act of drying on a cross that Jesus’ true strength is shown and your victory was won and made secure. Yes, God our loving Father still allows you to be tempted and tested so your grip on Christ can be strengthened.

Cling to Christ… cling to the cross… cling to the baptismal font… cling to Jesus in body and blood in the Sacrament… cling to Christ in forgiveness and like a beggar who finally gets some money, don’t let go.

When the devil attacks you with what sins you’ve committed, when he calls you the sinner that you are, when he tells you in fly-like and gnaty false-teachers to earn God’s love, reply, “Jesus came only for sinners.” Call the devil a liar. Tell him you are “Baptized into Christ and are not so easily enticed” and that the Holy Spirit has swept the house of your heart clean and Jesus alone sits on the throne.

Amen.

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