Matins Devotion: September 13, 2023
The theme of God’s deliverance lies at the heart of both of our readings this morning.
God acts to deliver King Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from Sennacherib, this Assyrian blasphemer and butcher who has his sights set on destruction and murder. After all of Sennacherib’s huffing and puffing, Hezekiah lifts up a cry to heaven and God sends an angel to wipe out the entire Assyrian army in one night. The once mighty Sennacherib is forced to limp home, tail between his legs, where his own sons murder him because of the shame he has brought upon their family.
We also heard how God acts to deliver this community of believers in the ancient city of Colossae. Not from a barbarous butcher this time, but from something even more insidious—false teaching. From what we can gather, religion in the city of Colossae was much like that of today—a little bit of this, a little bit of that. A little bit of pagan mythology combined with a smattering of Jewish folklore and mysticism. In other words, the people of Colossae were “spiritual,” but they were also blind. Their hearts and minds held captive by darkness and hostile to God.
But then God sends an angel—a minister and servant named Epaphras. Epaphras brings the light of the gospel directly to those who sit in darkness. He proclaims to them the word of truth—that through Christ God has declared all prisoners free. All sins forgiven. All enemies at peace. Through this angel—this pastor—God delivers these Colossians from the domain of darkness and declares them to be citizens of the kingdom of his Son—what we call the one holy Christian and apostolic Church—the body of Christ—who is the Head.
Through the Office of the Holy Ministry—God still sends angels to deliver his people. God gives pastors to his church as a gift. He raises up men, he gives them his Word to proclaim freedom to prisoners, his keys to unlock their chains, and his medicine to heal their wounds. While an angel slaying an entire army of Assyrians might strike us as more dramatic than a pastor who preaches, baptizes, and distributes the Lord’s Supper—there is no less of a miracle taking place—in this place—every Divine Service. The word of Christ is proclaimed through human lungs and lips, but it comes with divine power. This is why Luther admonishes us not to “despise preaching and the Word”, but to “hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” When a pastor speaks in the stead of Christ and by his command, there is no greater power on earth or in heaven. God’s word goes out and it does that for which it is sent. It delivers you from darkness. It forgives your sins. It sets you free.