It’s time for school to start. Today we welcome our Redeemer Lutheran School teachers and staff. We welcome people new to our school and welcome people returning for another year. We pray the students God is entrusting to us will learn from us to be good citizens and parents and spouses and workers. Most importantly, we pray they will learn and believe The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We don’t just think about this today. On this, the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, The Church remembers the fall of Jerusalem’s Temple. Josephus tells us both temples fell on the 9th Day of the Hebrew month Av, during parts of July and August. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in the year 587 BC, and the Temple Jesus visited was destroyed by Titus’ army in 70AD. It is also claimed that was the day Moses’ spies convinced the people not to obey the Lord’s command to take the Promised Land and the day Rome crushed the Bar Kochba revolt and destroyed old Jerusalem once and for all. This is so important our German-speaking Lutheran fathers read on this Sunday during the service Josephus’ account of the fall of the temple – so it appears in our Synod’s first German hymnal, published by Dr. Walther in 1847.
From this we learn God is very serious about His Word. If you reject it, you will be judged. If you believe it, you will be saved. So Lutheran education is important. Redeemer Lutheran School doesn’t exist just to be another option in an area filled with schools. Our school exists to bring God’s Word to children. It’s not just another class. It’s the heart and core of everything we do both here and at Penn Hills. Every child that comes through our doors is to hear every day: “We are sinners saved by Jesus’ Blood alone.”
God is serious about His Word. There are many examples of that from the history of God’s people. I mentioned events Jewish tradition says happened the same day. At first we might think they just made it up. But I’m not so sure. Even if they didn’t all happen the exact same day, when put together they send a clear message: Do not reject God’s Word.
God had led His people out of Egypt. He was excited to bring them to the home He prepared for them. He planned to hand the land over to them by giving them victory after victory, many of them miraculous. You see that when Jericho’s walls fall! These people had seen 10 plagues cripple Egypt and free them. The crossed the Red Sea on dry ground and watched Egypt’s army drown. They heard God’s voice at Sinai. They knew God’s promise to give them the land, and they knew He was going to keep His promise. But what happened? The second 8 spies saw the size of the heathen, they got scared stiff and convinced the people there was no way they could take it. Only Joshua and Caleb, the other 2 spies, believed the promise. They were rewarded for their faith. Joshua did take the Promised Land; Caleb was there too, and is an ancestor of our Savior.
Why did God destroy Solomon’s temple and send Israel into captivity for 70 years? Because the people had been unfaithful. They had worshiped other gods during the time of the Judges and they never really stopped. It got really bad after David died. Even Solomon spent time worshiping the huge amount of idols of his huge amount of wives and concubines. Many of his descendants, such as Manasseh and Joash, did the same and defiled God’s temple. This led the people into idolatry too. So God sent them off and destroyed that temple.
But He didn’t forget His people. He remembered His promise of Jesus. So He sent them home; through His prophet Haggai and His servant Zerubbabel, another ancestor of our Savior, He had them rebuild the Temple. He told them the Savior would visit it; He also told them through Daniel that once He came, sacrifice would cease. He came, and the leaders of His people rejected Him. They wanted to keep their place in the world, but they lost it. The sacrifices had to end because Christ had made THE sacrifice. The temple had to go. It wasn’t needed anymore. Therefore the temple fell. They rejected Christ. He made the sacrifice. He is eternal High Priest and Temple. Jerusalem’s Temple is no longer needed. Rome put a period to that when it defeated Bar Kochba.
Dear Christian friends, we are God’s people now. It doesn’t depend on our racial background. It all depends on faith in Christ. That’s what it’s always been about. God chastised His ancient people because they rejected His promises. God used His threats and followed through with them to beg them to repent. He still desires all people to repent. He is calling out to you to repent. Jerusalem’s destruction foreshadows the end of the world. The sky is not falling, but the end is coming. Therefore repent and believe the promise.
Repent of what? Your sins! Today’s Collect reminds us to run in the way of God’s commandments. What are they? We hear all sorts of commandments all over around us. People come up with them out of thin air, it sometimes seems, in all walks of life. Today the great commandment may be love and tolerance, but love and tolerance means rejecting Biblical morals and accepting sin as true morality. So what are God’s commandments?
They are the Ten Commandments. You haven’t kept them. Luther’s Catechism teaches us all about them. We often think on the surface we’ve kept them. If I haven’t killed anybody, haven’t been a rebel, have kissed my wife, haven’t stolen anything or lied, you’d think I’ve kept them. But something our children will learn in the school is you don’t come close to keeping them just by doing that. You know this because God is often not the most important or influential thing in your life. You know it because His Name can so easily escape your lips for no good reason. You know it because you know how easy it is to not let His Word take part of your life. You know it because you grumble when you pay your taxes. You know it because you get angry and hate. You know it because you rather serve yourself than your spouse. You know it because you like to see the little guy get littler and like to hear the town gossip. You know it because you are full of sinful desires that cause you to act out to do all the other sins you do.
But the children won’t just learn The Ten Commandments, will they? They’ll also learn to say The Creed. There you find The Gospel. God’s own Son, Christ Jesus, for our sakes, took on our flesh. He became just as human as we are – except He is not a sinner and never sinned. He kept God’s Law for us because we haven’t. He suffered all the punishment we deserve for our lawbreaking. He died for us upon The Cross. He shed His Blood to wash away our sins. He died to rescue us from eternal death. He rose again to give us eternal life. Your sins are forgiven. They are pardoned. They cannot condemn you. There’s nothing for you to do. Trust this, and you are saved.
Trust Jesus. Trust His promises. Don’t reject them. Jesus tells us today that if we reject Him, we will perish. But if we believe in Him, if we cry out to Him to deliver us from the battles of sin with His peace, if we cast our burdens on Him, yes, our sins and all troubles, He will deliver us. He will save us. This is the most important thing our children, whether they’re preschoolers or high school seniors, can learn at RLS. It’s not Math, History, Science, English, Spanish, Gym, or any other class. It’s God’s Word. Trust His Word. Believe Him. Believe you deserve hell for your sins. Believe Christ suffered hell for you and gives you heaven now. Then you will gladly run in the way of His commandments, obtain His gracious promises, and partake of His heavenly treasure.