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Pentecost 3 (3)

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“Did you come to remind me of my sin?”
Belief that there is a connection between calamity and punishment for sin. Agree or disagree. When we suffer, we should consider whether or not it is a result of our own personal conduct.
Genesis 42:21 NIV
21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
Numbers 32:20–23 NIV
20 Then Moses said to them, “If you will do this—if you will arm yourselves before the Lord for battle 21 and if all of you who are armed cross over the Jordan before the Lord until he has driven his enemies out before him—22 then when the land is subdued before the Lord, you may return and be free from your obligation to the Lord and to Israel. And this land will be your possession before the Lord. 23 “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.
Job 33:27–30 NIV
27 And they will go to others and say, ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved. 28 God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’ 29 “God does all these things to a person— twice, even three times— 30 to turn them back from the pit, that the light of life may shine on them.
Luke 16:27–29 NIV
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
1 John 1:8–2:2 NIV
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Romans 8:1–4 NIV
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
1 Kings 17:20 NIV
20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”
Jeremiah 12:1 NIV
1 You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?
Elijah’s prayer to the Lord seems to indicate he shared her belief that God is the one who brings tragedy. He questions the justice of it.
It has been said that a parent should not outlive their child. Perhaps the greatest grief experienced in connection with death is the death of a child regardless of the age of that child but especially when the child is still young. We understand the sentiment behind the statement but the reality is that at times children do die before their parents.
This is much less common than the days before immunizations and the almost eradication of deadly childhood diseases such as In 1900, pneumonia and influenza, tuberculosis, and enteritis with diarrhea were the three leading causes of death in the United States, Certainly, living conditions are much more safe now than even a hundred years ago in many countries. But the sad fact is that in many countries childhood mortality is still high and even in our country we are still affected by the deaths of children due to SIDS, suffocation,disease, accident, or even criminal activity.
Although rarer than in the past, it is still a very difficult event. Maybe even more difficult because it is not as common.
The infant mortality rate started a long slide from 165 per 1,000 in 1900 to 7 per 1,000 in 1997. The health of older children also improved. Diseases that had carried off thousands of children in 1900 were practically eliminated by 2000: diphtheria, and pertussis, measles.
The under-five mortality rate is the number of deaths of infants and children under five years old per 1000 live births. The under-five mortality rate for the world is 40.8 deaths according to the World Bank and the World Health Organization. 5.6 million children under age five died in 2016, 15 000 every day.[1][2][3]
The infant mortality rate (IMR) figures are from the United Nations World Population Prospects report, by five years averages,[4] and the CIA World Factbook.[5]
The infant mortality rate is the number of deaths of infants under one year old per 1,000 live births. This rate is often used as an indicator of the level of health in a country. The infant mortality rate of the world is 49.4 according to the United Nations and 34.1[6] according to the CIA World Factbook.
The Bible certainly addresses this type of event in its record. What examples are we given of the deaths of children?
Abel.
Absalom.
2 Samuel 18:33–19:4 NIV
33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” 1 Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” 2 And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.” 3 The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Widow’s son at Nain.
Widow’s son at Nain.
Children sacrificed to Molech.
Child in connection with Solomon.
Jesus.
The son of the woman at Zarephath.
Today we acknowledge the grief that is felt at the death of a child. We also acknowledge that often in times of tragedy, people believe that there is a connection with personal loss and an act of God. That the loss that we are experiencing is a result of our own sins.
This latter part is expressed by both the widow at Zarapheth and Elijah.
Backstory.
1 Kings 16:29–17:6 NIV
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him. 34 In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun. 1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” 2 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” 5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
Connection: Because of the government sponsored idolatry, God would bring hardship by not allowing it to rain unless he allowed it. The Old Testament will often connect bad weather and droughts with punishment from God and vice versa.
The brook dried up and Elijah went to Zarapheth at God’s command.
1 Kings 17:7–16 NIV
7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” 12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ ” 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
Then the tragedy of our lesson happened. The boy became sick and finally stopped breathing. An autopsy may have shown that he had caught a deadly disease and that he had succumbed from natural causes. Perhaps we can cope with the death of someone if we understand the cause of death or can draw a connection between what they were doing and how they died.
Example: We may cope better if we know someone died as a result of their own risky behavior instead of being an innocent victim.
Note again the belief that this woman had which Elijah also expresses.
(NIV)
18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”
A careful reading of the Bible will find this sentiment often expressed — often as a warning.
Psalm 14:1–7 NIV
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. 4 Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord. 5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous. 6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge. 7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
The moral fool does not believe that his actions are judged or punished by God so he is a liberty to do whatever he wants. The Bible warns against such folly teaching that we do have an omniscient God who is just in his judgments. This is why Luther begins the explanation of the commandments with “We should fear and love God so that . . . “
We also have to be on guard against taking advantage of God’s love and forgiveness. We no longer live in terror or doubt that when tragedy happens we are getting what our sins deserve because we believe that God had punished our sins by the death of Jesus that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We don’t necessarily face tragedy with questioning God’s love or being overwhelmed by personal guilt. But historically there are those who have reasoned thus: Well, if God forgives all sins, then it doesn’t really matter how I live because I will get off “Scott free”.
Romans 6:1–4 NIV
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Romans 6:8–14 NIV
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
St. Paul points us to Jesus how died for us and rose again to live to God.
In our lesson today, we also learn of someone who died and rose again. But not for the same reason. He died as a result of a disease although the widow and Elijah assumed it was punishment for sin (probably not). The Lord empowered Elijah to bring the child back to life to confirm the word of the Lord which Elijah spoke. We know nothing about the rest of the young boy’s life but we can assume he did die again and we aren’t told he became anyone special.
Jesus was already someone special when he died and he rose again to affirm that he is the Christ, that our sins are forgiven, and now he lives controlling all things for the church.
So when we face tragic loss, rather than fear God’s anger or wallow in guilt, we can look to Jesus to give us help in our time of need.
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