"Prayer: Look and Live!" Numbers 21:4-9

May 22, 2022
Rev. Nathan J. Rusert

Prayer is breathed forth in us by God the Holy Spirit through the Word of Christ to God Our Father! Sermon Text: Numbers 21:4-9. Sermon Theme: "Prayer: Look and Live!" preached for Rogate, 22-May-22 at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Tell City, Indiana by Rev. Nathan J. Rusert.

Episode Notes

Rogate, The Sixth Sunday of Easter                   22-May-2022
Sermon Text: Numbers 21:4-9
Sermon Theme: “Prayer: Look and Live!” by Rev. Nathan J. Rusert

I.N.R.I. “Psa 107:1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” The fifth book within the book of Psalms begins with singing this truth, echoing as a refrain recounting God’s grace in Christ to the children of Israel through its history. In the middle of this song the Psalmist teaches us to sing, Psa 107:17-22 Fools, because of their transgression, And because of their iniquities, were afflicted. (18) Their soul abhorred all manner of food, And they drew near to the gates of death. (19) Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He saved them out of their distresses. (20) He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions. (21) Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! (22) Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, And declare His works with rejoicing.”. God the Holy Spirit here teaches us to pray. Joseph Scriven echos this truth in his hymn: What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Ev'rything to God in prayer!
      Today is Rogate. Rogate comes from the Latin rogare which means “to ask.” We hear our Lord Jesus on the night He hands Himself into the hand of His enemies for us promising, Joh 16:23-24 ".... Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. (24) Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Jesus speaks of His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension. Joh 16:28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father." This Thursday Christ’s Church gathers to celebrate Jesus’ ascension - His coronation and enthronement as True Man and True God at the right hand of God the Father. He fills all things to be with us always our God our Brother who has given us His Word and Holy Spirit to teach us to pray. Learn from your Beautiful Savior - King of Creation: “Prayer: Look and Live!”
      Every morning six days a week faithfully the Lord God fed the children of Israel with bread from heaven. He blessed them with the dignity of gathering it in, but He gifted it all to them. Their work of gathering didn’t produce the food - it was gifted to them from their heavenly Father through His Word. It is still true today - farmers can plant the seed, but they cannot make it grow. All our food is gifted to us by our Heavenly Father through His Word spoken on the 3rd, 4th, and 6th days of the creation of all things. By the power of His Word - plants still bring forth seed and fruit according to their kind, birds, fish, and all animals still reproduce after their kind - providing all food in due season and satisfying the desire of every living thing. . (21) Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!  
    We forget. Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear–All because we do not carry Ev'rything to God in prayer!. The children of Israel forgot! (Vs.4) Every six day the Lord commanded His wandering people to gather twice as much daily bread preparing enough for the sabbath day. They were to find their rest in their Creator and His Word. He cared for them, protected them, sustained them so that even their sandals and clothing did not wear out. They are so close to the promised land, now the Lord leads them away, around the land of their cousins the descendants of Jacob’s twin brother Esau. It isn’t the way they wanted to go.
      “Father, Thy will be done!” Jesus teaches us to pray. Are you a doer of this word as James preaches, or only a hearer who forgets? “God, why did you let this happen to me?” “It’s not fair!” “Do you even care?” Our old adam corrupts our prayer - “My will be done!” “I know what’s best for me!” “Come on God, do it my way!” Our soul, like that of Israel becomes very discouraged on the way. We forget that God is our True Father and we are His true children. He created us, redeems us from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil through the holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death of His only begotten Son who became One with us. He makes us holy breathing forth His life giving Spirit through His Word to bring and keep us in the one True Faith in Christ Jesus within His Church. Graciously He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of my sinful stubborn will which doesn’t want to Hallow His Name of let His Kingdom Come! His good and gracious will is to strengthen and keep us firm in His Word and faith until we die - under the cross, trials, temptations, and suffering.
          Our sinful nature peddles a false spirituality turning our eyes inward to look at our own hearts, feelings, and experiences. God the Holy Spirit fixes our eyes outside of our self - on the Word and works of Christ. Through Jesus alone do we know God the Father and hear His tender invitation to believe that He is our true father and we are His true children. Away with discouragement! Ask your dear Heavenly Father as dear children ask their dear Father!
          Why pray? Satan either deceives us into turning prayer into a work we do to earn God’s favor, or he accuses us of being too great of a sinner to be loved and heard by the Holy God. Why pray? God invites you - no He commands - pray. “Ask” Jesus commands, “that your joy may be full!” The Triune God has blessed you with His Name. He has adopted poor miserable sinners like me at the baptismal font. He washes you forgiven with Christ’s blood. He breathes His Holy Spirit into me through the Word of Christ - and I breathe it back in prayer - “Abba, Father” “Our Father” who art in heaven. The 2nd Commandment commands me to “call upon” His Name “in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” Faith speak to God the loving Father in Christ. Unbelief speaks against God. (Vs.5) The subtlest form of unbelief refuses to speak at all to God - it falls silent. Prayer is faith’s breath. If your breathing becomes labored - you are ill. If it stops - you die within four minutes.
      Instead of praying the children of Israel accuse God and His called and ordained servant of His Word. They echo the deadly words of their deceased parents. Complaining that God is leading them on the path of death. Despising God’s gracious gift of daily bread. Desiring delicacies that cannot sustain or satisfy their body or soul.
      Despising God’s means of grace and His preacher. The Lord God gives them what they ask. (Vs.6) He removes His gracious hand of protection and allows the deadly fiery serpents of the wilderness to invade their camp. Their bite brings death. In the school of suffering and death - they are taught to pray. (Vs.7) They stop self-deception confessing their sin of speaking against the Lord and His chosen servant. They beg Moses to intercede - to pray to the Lord God for them. Joh 1:17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The One Greater than Moses - Christ Jesus promises to hear and answer your prayers - Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” He ascends to ever make intercession for you. God the Holy Spirit prays for you when all you can do is groan. Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged– Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our ev'ry weakness–Take it to the Lord in prayer.(LSB 770:2)
      Moses prays and the Lord answers. He delivers them. (Vs.8) It isn’t what the people wanted. They wanted the serpents gone - instead a new serpent is to be brought among them - a fiery serpent fashioned by Moses and raised up on a tree - on a pole. When anyone is bitten if they look to the crucified Serpent - they shall live. They have the Lord’s Word His healing life renewing promise. Moses makes a bronze serpent. Is God contradicting Himself? He had commanded no graven images, no idols to worship - their fathers died for worshiping a golden calf. It this a trap to slaughter more of them for breaking His Law? (Vs. 9) What does this all mean?  
    Learn from the Author and Finisher of your faith - Jesus! Joh 3:12-15 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (13) No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. (14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, (15) that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’ Pious and faithful Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel, couldn’t understand that we must be born from above through Holy Baptism to see the Kingdom of God. He hadn’t learned from Moses. Moses testified of Jesus. The Snake on the pole pointed forward to Jesus’ crucifixion.
    The children of Israel were brought back to God’s promise to Abraham - The Seed - Christ would be born! He alone would take the venom of our sinful rebellion into His innocent body. He would be raised up on the pole of the cross bearing our curse and death. Looking to Him - We live! Prayer fixes our eyes on the crucifix - the price of our redemption - the Son of Man lifted up for us! He has drained sin of its power. Satan lost all right to accuse us for we are washed new in His blood. Death has lost its sting - for He lives and rules - joyfully we live in Him. Joh 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." He gives you His Word to pray. He prays through you and with you.
    Prayer - look - fix your eyes on Jesus through whom you are reconciled to your God and Father and made new again by God the Holy Spirit through His Word. Are we weak and heavy-laden, Cumbered with a load of care?Precious Savior, still our refuge– Take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer. In His arms He'll take and shield thee; Thou wilt find a solace there.”
    Prayer - live forgiven a beloved true child of your heavenly Father in Christ Jesus! “Psa 107:1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”   Amen.            

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