Worship Helps for Pentecost 15

Artwork: Gideon choosing his soldiers
Artist: Gustave Dore’

Worship Theme: Many think numerous roads lead to eternal glory. “It doesn’t matter what religion you practice—or whether you have none, “they say. “All that matters is that you try to treat others well and do the best you can.” Yet while religions may espouse some noble goals for earthly living, all these goals lead people away from Christ. All fall far short of what God demands for entrance into heaven: perfection (Matthew 5:48). The good news is Jesus came to be perfect in our place. He has given us his perfection in God’s sight (2 Corinthians 5:21). Through faith in him we have eternal life. Jesus is the only way, the narrow door.

Old Testament: Judges 7:1-8
Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The LORD said to Gideon, "You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, 3 announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'" So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. 4 But the LORD said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go; but if I say, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go." 5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink." 6 Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. 7 The LORD said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place." 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others. Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley.

1. At first Gideon had 32,000 men to fight against the Midianites. To how many did the LORD reduce his troops?

2. Why did the LORD do such a strange thing? (See 7:2.)

Epistle: Romans 9:1-9
I speak the truth in Christ-- I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit-- 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. 6 It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." 8 In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."

3. What could Paul have wished, if it were possible?

4. Why did so many Jews in Paul’s day reject the gospel of Christ Jesus? Was it God’s fault in some way?

Gospel: Luke 13:22-30
Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, 24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' "But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' 26 "Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' 27 "But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!' 28 "There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."

5. Why does Jesus describe the entrance into heaven as being a “narrow door,” and how does one enter through this narrow door?

6. True or false: Many people will be surprised come Judgment Day that they stand condemned.
1. The LORD reduced Gideon’s troops first to 10,000, then to 300 men.

2. The LORD did not want anyone in Israel to boast against the LORD that their own strength had saved them from their enemy. All people today, even those who are on God’s side, are prone to the same temptation.

3. Paul could have wished that he were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of other Jewish people.

4. Many Jews of Paul’s day rejected the gospel, but it was not God’s fault. God had given them every advantage. God’s Word did not fail, either: Paul says that just because a person has Abraham’s blood in his or her veins, does not mean that person is a true heir of Abraham. All who trust in Jesus are sons of Abraham (Galatians 3:7).

5. The door into heaven is “narrow” because there is only one way into heaven, not many ways. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Apart from trusting in Jesus as your Savior, you will not be saved. (See Mark 16:16 and Acts 4:12.) In another respect, however, the door into heaven is “wide” because Jesus has paid for the sins of all people (1 John 2:2), and because of his sacrifice God has declared all people “not guilty” in his courtroom (Romans 3:24). Only those who trust in Jesus for salvation receive the benefit of his sacrifice. Those who do not enter into glory cannot blame God. The fault will be entirely their own.

6. True. Sadly, many will be surprised at the final judgment. Both here and in Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus shows that many will be shocked at being shut out of heaven. Such will be the destiny for those who rely on anything or anyone but Jesus to be rescued from the fire of hell which we all deserve.

Putting your faith into action
Jesus was the master teacher. What did he teach? He taught the gospel. He taught that there is forgiveness and salvation in him, that God’s love has been shown to all people in him. That was his message and mission. He and he alone is the door to eternal life. Jesus Christ is our greatest treasure. The gifts God gives us to enjoy and use here on earth are transitory. The gift of salvation through Jesus is a gift that lasts forever. May we use what God gives us here on earth to spread his name so that many might enter the narrow door of heaven.

A reading from the Book of Concord for Pentecost 14
Because of fleshly lusts, God’s regenerate children need the daily instruction and admonition, of the Law in this life. But they also need frequent punishments.  So they will follow God’s Spirit, as it is written:
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes. (Psalm 119:71) I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27) If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. (Hebrews 12:8) Dr. Luther explained this in the Epistle [Ephesians 4:22-28].

We must explain what the Gospel does and Law’s office in this matter, regarding believers’ good works. The Law says it is God’s will that we should walk in a new life.  But it does not give the power to do it.  The Holy Spirit renews the heart. He is given and received, not through the Law, but through the preaching of the Gospel.  Thereafter, the Holy Spirit uses the Law in order to teach the regenerate from it and to point out and show them in the Ten Commandments what is the “will of God, what is acceptable and perfect” in what “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk”.  – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article VI, The Third Use of God’s Law (paragraphs 9-12)

Hymns: 539; 431; 310; 399

1  To God be the glory; great things he has done!
He so loved the world that he gave us his Son,
Who yielded his life an atonement for sin
And opened the life-gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice!
Oh, come to the Father through Jesus the Son
And give him the glory—great things he has done!

2  Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To ev’ry believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

3  Great things he has taught us, great things he has done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son,
But purer and higher and greater will be
Our joy and our wonder when Jesus we see.

Text: Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915, alt.


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