Audio Service - Fourth Sunday in Lent
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Psalms 33:1-22, Matthew 8:5-13
March 22, 2020

The Word of the Lord Strengthens Us

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Psalm 33 has been a great encouragement to me this week in light of the impact of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. There are a number of reasons for this.

The first reason is that Psalm 33 speaks in a global scope. “[T]he earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5b ESV). The coronavirus also has a global scope. As such, it impresses itself upon as something powerful; as something that we cannot control. The bigger things get, the less control we have. But if it seems that the earth is full of the coronavirus, its apparent bigness is matched by God and His love: “the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.”

The bigger things get, the more important it is for God to be in the picture. For God is bigger than the big perils we face. And there is no bigger peril than the threat of death. So the Psalm bolsters faith in God: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses” (Psalm 33:6-7).

Who is almighty? The word of the Lord. How have things come to be? What keeps things going? Things came to be and are kept going by the word of the Lord. The word of the Lord made the heavens and all their host, the stars and the galaxies. The seas are in His power. All the earth is under His dominion and stands firm by His power (Hebrews 1:2). “For [the Lord] spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:9 ESV).

The Lord is the living God who was, and who is, and who is to come. He always is there for you and always will be.

We have been hearing a lot of words lately. We have been hearing a lot of commands from government leaders. Nothing exists, however, apart from God’s command. Nothing stands firm apart from God’s Word. Nothing is therefore outside of God’s control. Nothing is more powerful than God. Therefore, the Psalmist says, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” (Psalm 33: 8 ESV). The Lord’s dominion extends to all people. The Psalmist continues, “The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth” (Psalm 33:13-14 ESV). No one is beyond of His sight. No one is unknown to him.

But does all the earth fear the Lord? Are the inhabitants of the world standing in awe of Him? Is this the case in Western Europe? Is it the case in the United States? Do these societies live as if God mattered most? Do they obey God’s commandments? Do they protect and preserve life as God has given? Do they seek God’s deliverance as He is revealed in the word of the Lord? We also do not escape these questions. So do you and I?

Now is a time for repentance: God, I have often not lived as if you mattered most. I have often lived and thought and felt contrary to your commandments. I am worthy of your present and eternal punishment. Have mercy on me.

Now is a time for faith: but God, you have created me and all things. Your steadfast love abounds toward me, as it does to all people. Your steadfast love has redeemed me in Jesus. In Him, you forgive my sins and call me your own. In him, you give me life and hope in you. Hear my prayer.

If God is not in the picture, human beings look to themselves for salvation. But, the Psalmist teaches: “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, by its great might it cannot rescue” (Psalm 33:16-17 ESV). But then the Psalmist speaks comfort and hope: “Behold the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine” (Psalm 33:18-19 ESV). He is our help and our shield and so “our soul waits for the Lord.” Our heart is glad in God and we trust His Name. And so we pray: “Let your steadfast love, o Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:20-22 ESV).

Is the pandemic and its consequences too big for God? God’s written word, inspired by His Spirit, the breath of His mouth (Psalm 33:6b), speaks the faith into our hearts that says “no.” God is bigger. His eye is upon those who fear Him and hope in His love. His eye is upon you.

“Fear” here means that deep reverence and awe of God and the faith that you owe God everything and that He is almighty. Yet the Psalm speaks also of hope, hope in God’s steadfast love. This almighty God to whom you owe everything is also love, who gives and gives and cares for you beyond your own comprehension.

But now we must speak of the fact that the Lord did not remain in heaven, looking down upon the children of men. He came among us. His love has done a wonderful thing. He joined us here. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. His Name by which we find Him among us is Jesus. His name means the Lord saves.

Jesus entered Capernaum, a village along the Sea of Galilee. A centurion met Him. A centurion was a commander in the Roman army. As such, he was a gentile, not Jewish. He was in desperate need. His servant was lying paralyzed at home, quite possibly from some disease. He was suffering terribly. Jesus told the centurion that He would go to his house and heal his servant.

The centurion had an amazing response. No Jesus. I am not worthy for you to come to my house. But I believe that if you only say the word, my servant will be healed.

He confesses his unworthiness. At the same time, he confesses great confidence in Jesus. He confesses great faith in what Jesus can do. Jesus can just speak the word and the man’s servant will be made well.

Usually, Jesus is the one making other people marvel at what He does. This time, Jesus is marveling at the man’s faith. He tells the Jewish people around Him that He has not even found such faith among the people of Israel.

Jesus then speaks a word and the centurion’s servant is healed. But this is a most amazing and wonderful word: “Let it be done for you as you have believed” (Matthew 8:13 ESV). God works salvation in connection with faith. The centurion is the illustration of such faith. I am not worthy for you Jesus to come into my house. Nevertheless, if you but say the word, it shall be.

If you but say the word Jesus, I forgive you all your sins, so it is and so it shall be and my heart rejoices. If you but say the word Jesus, I have overcome the world—and He has said it, as He has done it, then it shall be, and there is an answer from God for my fear and anxiety. If you just say the word to me, you will live in eternal life with me and all God’s saints in the glory of the Father, and so it is and so it shall be. And there is an answer to the fear of death that has gripped the human heart.

Jesus has said and done these things. And you believe them. And this faith is in your mouth and in your heart, the word of faith that we proclaim. If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. It will be done for you as you have believed. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. The Name of the Lord is Jesus.

Let us continue to look to Jesus for deliverance in this difficult time. He Himself is the word of the Lord by whom all things were made. He has died to redeem you and lives to be your life and hope. He is with you always, even now, in the darkest moments, and sustains you. Nothing is beyond His power. Nothing can overcome His love. Look to Him and see what He can do. Amen.