A Daily Dose of Good News
Monday, January 11, 2021
At 10:30am today, this devotional will be offered online at https://youtu.be/VhpKAlyP39w
A printer-friendly version of today’s devotion is available at DDGN 20210111
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Good morning! It is January 11th and it’s time for our Daily Dose of Good News. I want to talk about a passage in Romans, but in order to understand that, I need to give you some context from one of the other readings in Genesis. So we’re going to start with this Genesis piece for context. Genesis 17:1-13.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”
God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.
Here ends the reading.
So to highlight a few pieces from this text… First, is: God shows up to Abraham and makes this huge promise to Abraham. Before Abraham even does anything! It’s just this gift that God bestows on Abraham. It happens before Abraham completes his part of the promise, OK? So the beginning is God saying: Here’s the promise, this is what I’m going to give to you. And the promise is enormous! The promise is: a multitude of nations, kings will come from you, and you’re going to have this land perpetually as a holding. It’s a huge promise! Then God says: as for you, you’re going to keep My covenant. This is the part that relates to your actions. But the promise is given first. Without any of Abraham’s actions. In the promise and then in the explanation of what Abraham needs to do, God also says I’m going to mark you as my own. There is this physical mark, thiscircumcision. OK? And I think maybe a way to think about, that that might be helpful for us, while we’re not necessarily country folk in the city of Columbus… one way to maybe think of it is branding. If you have a herd of cattle and you brand them, if you put your mark on their flank, it connotes relationship. Thisherd has an owner, a manager of them. This herd is in relationship to a person- who claims them, takes responsibility for them, cares for them. So that mark on them, demonstrates to anyone- even walking by in even the most quick interaction- that this herd is a part of something bigger, is part of a relationship. An interactive relationship, they are claimed by someone and they belong to someone. This is our relationship with God, OK?
While you hold that in your head, I want to skip to this portionin Romans 4:1-12.
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Here ends the reading.
So that is maybe confusing, but hopefully the Genesis piece gives it a bit more context. The one component I really want to reach out and have you get, in this Romans piece, is this idea of: Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
So, in this, Abraham wasn’t already in this covenant relationship with God. God, initially when he approached Abraham, said: this is what I’m going to do. Abraham falls on his face- immediately submitting, and yielding and acknowledging God immediately. God gives him this gift. But Abraham wasn’t already in this covenant relationship. So God offered it. God justified Abraham the ungodly. God gave it to him as a gift. So this idea of wages aren’t something we view as a gift. We view that as: “well I deserved that, I worked my butt off for that”. Sometimes in our Christian faith, we can feel like we’ve earned it. That’s where Lutheranism is so great! Because it highlights- no, this is the grace of God. So you might go to church every Sunday. You might think that you’re a lovely, kind and nice person. You may feel like: I tend not to be angry or hold grudges. So you can think: “Well of course God should like me, or I should be in relationship with God, because I’m pretty fabulous! I deserve it.” But what this is talking about is: God loves you- even BEFORE you do anything to earn it! God loves YOU even in your ungodly behavior! God loves you! God loves YOU! Even before you do anything to think you might have earned it. God loves you and sees you in the midst of behavior that’s ungodly and God still loves you and wants to have relationship with you! So, I just want you to soak in the grace of that today. Even before you do anything that’s good or godly. God loves you and promises relationship with you, as God promised to Abraham from generation to generation after Abraham. So, cling to that today. You’re loved! In the midst of behaviors that are ungodly- you’re loved! In the midst of whatever ways you might think you need to earn it, you don’t! Rest in that and enjoy the day. Bye, everybody.