I love history. It was one of my favorite subjects in school. I love museums and places that demonstrate how things were in the old days. I especially love maps – they show how boundaries have changed, cities have grown, and people have migrated. History tells us how we’ve gotten to where we are.
But there’s something history books won’t tell you and museums can’t show you. They can’t tell you or show you what’s behind everything that happens. They can’t tell you what’s behind wars and rumors of wars, behind political intrigue and all sorts of wickedness that happens in all sorts of ways, whether through people doing what’s wrong or promoting what’s wrong. What the museums and books can’t show you or tell you is that a war is going on all around us: a war between God and Satan.
It began when Satan fell. He decided to throw God off His throne. He wanted angels and men to serve him alone, not The LORD. So he enlisted perhaps 1/3 of the angels, now the demons, and they joined him in his plot. But he failed. He was cast out of heaven like lightning. God is God, and always will be God. Nobody, not even Satan, can overthrow Him. Satan may be a strong man, but he’s not strong enough to overthrow The LORD.
Satan wanted both angels and men, all of them, to serve him. He may only have gotten 1/3 of the angels, but he still wanted to get all mankind. So he went to Adam and Eve like a snake. He hissed at them with words that sounded good and wonderful. “Eat this tree, this tree God told you not to eat from, eat it, and you’ll be just like Him. You’ll know good and evil. He’s been holding out on you. You can be so much better than you already are. Eat it, and you will!” Adam ate. He discovered that knowing evil wasn’t such a good thing after all.
The war between God and Satan has been going on around us ever since. We can’t see it. We don’t see the devils or the angels. They’re spirits after all. They may not even look like our depictions of them. After all, the devils were once angels of light, so maybe they still look that way. Scripture says Satan disguises himself as one! And since they’re spirits, we can’t see them. So we can’t see this war.
How is it fought? Satan is never opposed to using weapons of mass destruction. He’ll use whatever it takes to keep people away from God. But God fights back with only one thing. He doesn’t fight back with the fighting the world uses. He doesn’t use swords or guns, lawsuits or mockery or coercion. He uses one thing only: His Word.
That’s how He cast out the devils. He told them to leave, and they had no choice. They had to leave. He continues to fight the demons with words. The words He uses are nothing less than His Word, The Sacred Scripture, the proclamation of Law and Gospel. What is this Law and Gospel that Sacred Scripture proclaims? “You are a sinner worthy of eternal death, but Christ Jesus has saved you by His Death upon The Cross!”
The Law is very important. It shows us ours sins. If we don’t get shown our sins, we’ll never know we need a Savior. St. Paul shows us this very well in today’s Epistle. He wonders if any of us could be found guilty by God of any immorality or impurity or covetousness. Immorality is living and thinking contrary to God’s Commandments. It’s opposing the morals He teaches in The Bible, and using our bodies and minds in ways God doesn’t want. Impurity is related; in Scripture it also has this idea that our immorality, our sinfulness, makes us unclean, impure, like the most filthiest rag you can think of. That’s what sin has done to us in God’s sight. And covetousness? That’s a big word we don’t use, but a related word we do use is greed. It being not content with what God has given you. Being greedy is wanting more and more and more all the time, never having enough, desiring even things we shouldn’t have and can’t have and trying to get them. It consumes us and becomes our god. Perhaps that’s what leads us to engage in filthy or foolish talk and crude jokes, instead of giving God thanks. All these things, all these sins, can become gods to us. Why? Because they all oppose God and His will for us. He wills for us to live in love, love that reflects Him in everything.
What does God’s Law say about us for being immoral, impure, and greedy? Paul said in the Epistle that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of Christ and God. If you do these things and are pleased that you do them, if you are not sorry for them and don’t desire to do better, you will not enter into eternal life. You will be cast outside forever with Satan and his demons in the prisons of outer darkness.
The Law condemns us to eternal death. We are unable to keep it. Why? Because we are sinners at our very heart and core. Adam’s sin infects us all completely. There’s nothing we can do to escape it. There’s no amount of good deeds we can do to get free of it. We need somebody else to free us from it. Who can do it?
Jesus can. Paul also said: “Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” The devil came along offering Adam big promises, lots of glory and fun. Jesus comes along and offers us Himself. It’s not attractive; after all, this Lamb of God is not the cuddly lambs we like to cuddle. Instead He’s a crucified man, bloody and battered to death. He has no form or majesty to get us to look at Him; He isn’t beautiful so we’ll desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. They hid their faces from Him and despised Him; He is not at all esteemed by mankind, even to this day.
Yet God loves the sight and smell of that sacrifice, the very thing we’d call ugly. Why? Because on The Cross God’s Lamb bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastisement that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each on our own way of sin, but The LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
What does Isaiah mean? Jesus on His Cross suffered all the grief and sorrow this world has, all of which have come into the world because of our sins. He suffered for all our sins. He was punished for each one of them. He was even given the guilty sentence we all deserve for them. He is declared guilty, so you are declared not guilty. He is made sin for us, so God says you are not a sinner, but a saint.
So always turn your eyes to The Lord; He alone can and will pluck you up out of the net of eternal death for eternal life. He alone turns to you and has mercy on you and rescues you from the desolate affliction Satan inflicts on us. He defends us against all our enemies, against our satanic foes, with His Word, which declares: “I forgive you all your sins. You are Mine. Satan cannot part us.”