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God Was Not Pleased
March 20, 2022*
By Pastor John Partridge
Isaiah 55:1-9 Luke 13:1-9 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Have you ever had a bad boss?
Wherever we go, wherever we work, play, or volunteer, we learn things. Sometimes we learn how to do things with excellence from good mentors, bosses, trainers, drill sergeants, coaches, pastors, and others. But sometimes the lessons that we learned were lessons in how not to do things from some of those same kinds of people who did things badly. In one of my military non-commissioned officer training courses, I had learned that a supervisor should never, ever, reprimand a subordinate in public and humiliate them. Correction and reprimand should always be done as privately as possible. But in my last engineering job, I witnessed several supervisors contribute to a semi-toxic work relationship by doing exactly that.
While I learned that this was the wrong thing to do in the military, if I had any doubts about it, watching that negative example unfold in front of me, and seeing the fallout from it in employee retention and morale resolved those doubts forever. If we’re smart, we learn from both good and bad examples. We can learn how to do things, and how not to do things.
And, as we read the stories preserved for us in scripture, we see those same kinds of lessons, both good and bad. There are examples for us to follow, and examples of how not to follow, things we should do and things we shouldn’t do. In Isaiah 55:1-9, we hear God’s invitation to follow and a calling to become a part of the covenant that God made with King David, but also a reminder of our limitations.
55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God invites the world to come, drink from the water of life, to drink wine and milk, and to eat bread at no cost. God asks why we spend our money and our time on things that do not, and cannot, satisfy us and invites us to listen to his teachings so that we might live. God promises to make and eternal contract with his Messiah, Jesus, just as he did with David so that we can, like David, be an example, witness, and role model that will draw others to God. Our calling is to seek God while we have the chance and to do what we can to encourage others to turn back to God.
But is everything in life a sign from God? Is everything that happens to us something that is sent to us, or caused by God? Generally, no. While God is involved in leading and guiding our actions and those of the people around us, God isn’t the cause of everything. Random events happen, accidents happen, people make choices, both good and bad, God isn’t always the cause of those things, and that’s what Jesus tries to explain to the people in the story found in Luke 13:1-9.
13:1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
Pontius Pilate was a paranoid madman who, historians theorize may have been driven mad by the degenerative effects of brain damage from an advanced syphilis infection. Pilate had murdered a group of Galilean worshippers as they brought sacrifices to God and people were speculating that God must have been punishing them for being terrible sinners. But Jesus says no. Everyone, Jesus says, is a sinner and everyone must repent of their sins before God, or we will all die. The people who were murdered by Pilate, were not being punished for their sins by God, and nor were the people who were crushed when a tower collapsed. Random things happen. Accidents happen. Jesus knew, as we’ve all seen in recent weeks, that crazy despotic leaders do crazy despotic things. Death is coming for us all sooner or later. But if we want to find ourselves on the right side of God’s judgement, we must repent of our sin, turn from our wicked ways, and do the best that we can to reproduce our faith and bear fruit for God.
In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul emphasizes the need for us to make good choices. Some people can be given every opportunity to know the truth about God and still make poor choices. He notes these examples in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13:
10:1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptationhas overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be temptedbeyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Paul reminds his congregation that there were people who knew Moses, who were rescued by God from slavery in Egypt, who saw God’s presence in the cloud during the day and a pillar of light at night, who saw the Red Sea part and walked across its bottom, who ate the manna that God provided, who saw all the miracles, and who had every opportunity to follow God, but still God was not pleased with most of them. Despite repeatedly seeing God and his miracles in person and despite having their entire lives transformed by the acts of God, they still did not have faith and chose to do evil, act immorally, to worship an idol in the form of a golden calf, and to complain about God and the food that he provided them. And Paul says that these things happened as examples and warnings for us. How often have we heard someone say that they would believe if only God would somehow reveal himself to them, and yet here were thousands of people who saw God, who saw God’s miracles, and experienced God in ways that most people can only dream about and still they fell away, made bad choices, and put their faith in other things.
But that doesn’t mean that we are without hope. Paul says that while we must be careful not to fall away, and while temptation is common to every human being who has ever lived, God is faithful. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to stand up against it, God will provide a path out of your temptation and, if you only take the time to ask, God will help you to endure.
Role models come is all shapes and sizes. There are good role models, bad role models, good bosses, bad bosses, good examples, bad examples, models that we should follow, models that teach us what not to do, and examples that warn us of the consequences of making bad choices. Years from now, when others look back on our lives, I pray that what they remember is not, “God was not pleased” but rather, that we are remembered for our faith and that God found joy in what we did.
But these things don’t happen in a vacuum. Good bosses don’t happen by accident. Good bosses made good choices and had good training and good mentors. And like them, making good choices and strengthening our faith requires good role models and constant, thoughtful, preparation.
What will you do this week to strengthen and deepen your faith?
What will you do to draw closer to God?
What will you do to stand up against temptation?
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com . All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.