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What Does God Think of Me?

8/13/00

What does God think of me? That's a good question. At some time, some point, we all ask it. Some seek to answer that question by looking at nature. There they find a good, beautiful God until they see a tornado's devastation or a famine's cruelty. Others look for the answer to what does God think of me inside themselves. These too find a kind, loving God until their conscience puts before them some sin. Actually, the only way to find out what anyone thinks of you is to come right out and ask them. What they do or what you feel is often times misleading.

So what does God tell us He thinks of us in out text? He has compassion on you. Our English word compassion is not nearly as graphic as the Greek word. The Greek comes from the noun for spleen. It later was used for the nobler organs such as heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys as distinct from the entrails. The Greek verb means to be moved in the inward parts. It is a blunt, forceful term such as our expression, "gut feeling," or "breaking heart." The verb for this powerful, uncompromising emotion is only found in the Gospels and used only to refer to Jesus.

Jesus did not come walking this earth as some new law giver. He did not come as some Moses to whip the people back into shape. He did not come to show sinners how to live a holier life. He didn't even come to judge the world. He Himself says, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him." Saving, having compassion, being merciful is the proper work of God in flesh and blood. Law giving, judging, and condemning are God's foreign work; His alien work. Is it any different for any of you loving parents? Sure you do lay down the law, judge, and condemn even, but is that your proper work? Is that what you really are about as a parent? No.

Neither is God. He is tenderhearted and forgiving says the Scripture. His tender mercies are over all, not some, of His works. His mercy endures for how long according to the Scriptures? For awhile? Till your 18? Till your 80? No, His mercy endures forever! How does the all powerful, all knowing, all perfect God relate to His children? As a father pities His children, says Psalm 103. This same Psalm goes on to say that the Lord is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." He has not dealt with according to our sins; nor has He rewarded us according to our inequities. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. You see, says Psalm 103, He knows our frame that it is but frail, weak dust.

What does God think of me? He has gut-wrenching compassion for you. Not just sometime, but all of the time. How beautiful, right? So where is the Law in this? It's not where you think. It's not that you do not do as you should. It's not that you sin this way or that. The Law here is that you not take God at His Word. You do not regard Him as a Father who mercy endures forever, as one whose compassion is higher than the heavens are above the earth. You treat Him like my kids treat me. Because I am a sinner, I get in foul moods, and the kids have to tiptoe around the house lest they inadvertently call my wrath down upon themselves.

Admit it; that is your view God. A seminary professor I had called it "baseball bat theology." As if God is in heaven with a large bat, just waiting for His children to step out of line so He can whack them. That is why when things are going well, we have this secret fear that something bad is about to happen to us. I know what you're going to say, "But look at all the bad stuff that does indeed happen. This one gets cancer; that child gets sick; this family is in crises."

Yes what should we make of this? In these type of things, we are viewing God from behind not in front. We are seeing God's foreign work not His proper work. Our sinfulness shows in that we regard this as God's face as God's proper works. We are like the neighbors of a man who had a crippled child. Her illness required that he give her painful physical therapy everyday. The neighbors heard the horrible screaming of the daughter and concluded that the man was a beast of a father. How unfair; how evil. They judged this father from behind, by his foreign work. If they had seen His face, they would have seen it glowing with tenderness and streaked with tears as he gave his beloved daughter her therapy.

Perhaps we can understand these neighbors' wrong conclusions. After all they could not see inside that father's house. But we can see inside our heavenly Father's house. In fact, we see His very face says St. Paul in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Jesus whose heart goes out to sinners, who can't bear to snuff out the weakest of faiths, who dies for ungodly sinners. When Philip wants Jesus to show them the Father's face, what does Jesus say? Look at cancer wards, natural disasters, or family troubles? No, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." Show me in Scripture a Jesus who is like the God we imagine we have: judging, condemning, unmoved by frail, weak sinners, and I will show you a God who says, "Come unto me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest."

What does God think of you? According to this text, He has compassion on you, and He says you need a shepherd. Of course, this is not what you and I think, is it? What we really need is more money. What we really need it to healed of this or that illness. What we really need is for the trouble to out of our lives. How about the people in our text crowded around Jesus in the text? What does Scripture tell us the people who came to Jesus normally brought with them? Their sick, demon possessed, the lame, the blind and the deaf. Jesus looks a crowd full of such people, and says, "What they really need is a shepherd."

Where does Jesus get off saying that? Jesus knows His Old Testament. From Moses in 1500 B.C. to Zechariah in 400 B.C. their persistent problem was that they did not have a shepherd. Moses on his deathbed prays for the Lord to appoint a man over the congregation so that "they may not be like sheep which have no shepherd." Skip ahead about 700 years and you find Prophet Micaiah saying Israel's problem is "that they are scattered on the mountains like sheep which have no shepherd." Go ahead now about 120 years and Ezekiel says Israel problem is that "they were scattered for lack of a shepherd." Finally go ahead another 300 years and you'll find Zechariah saying that the people of God are "afflicted because there is no shepherd."

The persistent problem of God's people was that they had no shepherd. O they had shepherds even as the people of Jesus day did. They had shepherd's that beat and drove them. Shepherd's who kept them under a God of wrath and judgment. Shepherd's who preached that God had to be placated, appeased by believing on Him, by repenting, by doing good works. This is still the problem of God's people today. They have false shepherds that tell them God is angry with unless they believe, unless they repent, unless they do good works. Don't misunderstand; of course God wants us to believe, repent, and do good works. But if we think, we need to do these things in order to change God's heart we have missed the Gospel. The Gospel is that God has poured out all of His wrath on Christ on Calvary. The Gospel is that Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath there so that there is not even one drop left. The Gospel is that God loved His sinful, straying sheep so much that He struck His own God Shepherd for the sake of the sheep.

We are called to believe, repent, and do good works before a God who is already gracious to us for the sake of Christ. He is gracious to us before we believe, before we repent, before we do good works. That's what Scripture says. While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. The goodness of God leads us to repentance says Paul in Romans. Again if we turn it around and think my believing, repenting, or doing makes God good toward me, then you have a heavenly Father who is no better than me. Then you can join my kids in tiptoing around doing their best to get me in a good mood.

God, however, is a much better Father than I. He first reconciled the whole world to Himself in Christ, then He begged sinners to be reconciled to Him. He first put away His wrath and judgment, then He called sinners to find shelter under the cross. He first declared in the Gospel that He was pleased as punch with sinners, then He called them into His house. His children need not tiptoe around their. They can believe that God is as pleased as can be to have them in His house, not based on what they do, repent of or believe, but simply and solely because of Christ.

The persistent problem of people is that they have no shepherd or they have false shepherds who keep them constantly in doubt concerning their own salvation. So where do we find God's shepherds. Follow the shepherding thought through the Old Testament. You will see as I have shown that God's concern is that His people are without proper shepherds. Finally, at the time of Ezekiel, around 600 B.C., it's like God can take it no more. Remember, He is the true Shepherd of Israel, yet He dwells in a cloud above the ark of the covenant. He watches as His sheep are plagued, beaten, robbed and made afraid by false shepherds who drive and fleece sheep rather than lead and feed them.

Finally, He says in Jeremiah, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: 'Because you have scattered My flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done...I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture...I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing." So the One who dwelled in the cloudy presence above the ark of the covenant commits Himself to coming down to shepherd His sheep. This He did at Christmas. He went all the way to the bloody cross and the cold tomb to get His sheep.

Then what happened? He rose from the dead, and upon rising sent His shepherds out into the world. The word pastor means shepherd. He knows what sheep need is shepherds, so He sent His pastors out into the world to get them. They come with Christ's promise that the ones who hear them hear Him. They come with the Waters of Baptism that bring the Good Shepherd's forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and eternal salvation, and eternal salvation. They come with the Shepherd's Word of Absolution that bind and lose in heaven what they have bound and loosed on earth. They come with the Shepherd's Body and Blood which was given and shed for the remission of sins which strengthen and preserve a person till life everlasting. They come for every last sheep of the flock even as today the Good Shepherd came in Holy Baptism for little Anton.

What does God think of me? Don't look to nature or your own feelings for the answer to that; you will be deceived. Listen to what God says. He says He has unfailing compassion for you and that you need a shepherd. God never changes His mind about either one of these. From the earliest books of the Bible you will find these two themes side by side. God's great compassion and His desire to shepherd sheep. Depend on both. Amen