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  • Writer's picturePastor Hans Fiene

Matins Devotion: December 20, 2022

A number of years ago, I bought my dad a book called “War Letters.” It was a collection of letters that American soldiers who were fighting in our nation’s various wars and conflicts wrote to their loved ones–their family, their friends. I remember one of those letters quite well. A soldier in the European front of World War 2 was writing to his pastor looking for comfort. As he looked out upon a continent torn apart by bloodshed and violence, as he considered all the friends he had lost and perhaps the lives he had taken, he asked his pastor whether or not he mattered as an individual. He knew God’s will was at work in the world, but did he as an actual distinct human being matter? Or was he, to use his language, a cog in the machine? Was he just cannon fodder sprinkled with a little bit of divine purpose? It was a heartbreaking question, to be sure. But it was also an understandable one. When the world around you is raging, it’s easy to forget who you are.

The book didn’t have the pastor’s response to this young soldier, but if I’d been his shepherd, in order to comfort him, I would have pointed him to some words from our reading in Isaiah today. “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off’; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God speaks these words to his people as they are looking out on a world where war rages all around them, both geographically but also in terms of time. War raged in the past, rages in the present, and will rage in the future. This is a world where Assyria wars against Egypt, against Israel, a world where Babylon wars against Assyria and then destroys Judah, a war where sons are slaughtered, where daughters are sold into slavery, where your kings are blinded and imprisoned and dragged through the streets in humiliation.

But in all of this, God reminds His people not to forget who they are. They are not cogs in the machine. They are not nameless, faceless creatures fulfilling his will by dying alone in the dirt and rotting to dust. They are His children, the ones He set apart, the ones He will clothe in His mercy and forgiveness, the ones He will restore to His eternal kingdom through the blood of His Son.

So whether you’re a soldier defending your nation from Nazis in 1943, whether you’re a housewife defending your children from a perverse and empty world in 2022, or whether you’re a husband defending your marriage from destruction in the future, don’t forget who you are. Through faith, you are a child of Abraham. Through the waters of your baptism, you have been grafted into the family of Israel and been made an eternal child of God. And your Father will not forget you. He will not abandon you, even when everything around looks lost. Christ is still coming to gather you into His victory and His kingdom. He is returning to welcome you into the arms that will shelter you from war and hardship forever. You are not a cog. You are a child of God, with a name Your Father will never stop calling and a face He will never stop loving. God has not forgotten you. Don’t forget Him.

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