A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on May 15, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether You Are a Royal Priesthood, a Holy NationI Peter 2:4-10Children, have you seen the Lion King? In case you haven’t, Mufassa is the king of the Pride Lands, and Simba is his son. But Scar wants to be king so he kills Mufassa, and Simba runs away. Simba thought he was responsible for his father’s death, so even though Scar was ruining the Pride Lands, Simba didn’t feel he could ever go back and fight for his Pride Lands. Finally Mufassa spoke to Simba in a vision. He said, “Remember who you are.” After that Simba went back and defeated Scar, and then becomes the rightful king. You adults, here’s a picture of our Pride Lands. It’s in sad shape. Our enemy is the devil, and he has lots of allies. In Peter’s day it was the Roman Empire combined with Greek rationalism and Jewish work-righteousness. To Christians then it seemed like there was no way the Gospel could win. Maybe it seems that way to us too? With the media’s me-first-ism, and atheistic rationalism, and many churches no longer preaching salvation by grace alone through faith alone based on Scripture alone, the future looks bleak. How can we bring our country back to Christ, or, how can we keep the next generation with Christ? Sometimes the challenges seems so huge, it’s tempting to give up and take life easy, or as Simba put it in the Lion King, “hakunamatata – no worries.” However, what did Simba’s father say to him? “Remember who you are.” That’s what Peter also told believers in his day and what God is telling us in our text, “Remember who you are.” We Are a Royal Priesthood and a Holy Nation. 1. This is what Christ has made us to be. 2. Declaring His Praises is what we do. Israel was in the news again this week. Have you ever wondered why the Bible put so much importance on Israel? The quick answer is Israel was the nation from whom the Savior was born. However, if that’s the only reason Israel was important, the Bible could have simply reported that fact and moved on to talk about other things. As it is, the Bible mentions Israel 27,466 times. So, we ask again, what was so important about Israel? Well, here’s how Peter describes every true citizen of Israel. They are a Royal Priesthood and a Holy Nation. You see, the name Israel goes back to Genesis 32 when God appeared in human form, and Jacob physically wrestled with Him. Anyway, Jacob would not let God go until He blessed him. God then changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Israel means literally, “He rules as God.” What a name! God called Jacob “He rules as God” because he had struggled with God and struggled with men, and won! This seems impossible! We get it that Jacob struggled with some of the people in his life and won, but how could he win against God? Because God had chosen him for this, and so God allowed Jacob to win. However, not only was Jacob now called, Israel, but his descendents would be called Israelites. They too were to rule as God. In Exodus 19 God told the Israelites what that involved. “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’” The Israelites would rule as God by being a royal priesthood. You see, sin separates people from God. But through the Old Testament priesthood and the sacrifices, they would defeat God’s anger at sin. However, those sacrifices were really a foreshadow of the sacrifice Christ would make. Christ is the true Israel. He rules as God, because He is God. And so, at the cross Christ wrestled with the Father over our guilt. He forced Him to say to all sinners, “I forgive you.” Christ also struggles with men. By nature all are rebellious and hostile toward God, but the true Israel wins peoples’ hearts over with His love, and makes them Israelites headed for the Promised Land of heaven. Now, because the Old Testament Israelites were treasured by God, it should have affected how they lived. In fact, they should have lived such holy lives that God could richly blessed them, without making it look like He was condoning sin. Then other nations would see this, and the Israelites would have an opportunity to tell them about the coming Savior. Well, Old Testament Israel forgot who they were. They lived such immoral lives, that even unbelievers were grossed out by them. Finally after warning them for hundreds of years, God gave the Israelites a different name. In the Book of Hosea He called them, LowAmee. That’s not a name you would want God to call you. LowAmee means “Not my people.” Shortly after that the Babylonians destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and scattered the Israelites all over the world. 70 years later a small remnant of Israelites came back and rebuilt the Temple. However, the physical nation of Israel would never again be a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation belonging to God. Nevertheless, at the appointed time the true Israel, Jesus, was born. But He was rejected by physical Israel. We read in our text, “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for – I Peter 2:7-8.” By rejecting Jesus, by crucifying Him, the true Israel became the Savior of all, and the Father proved this by raising Him on the third day and seating Him at His right hand. There He is ruling as God for the sake of the Gospel and the good of believers. But then what about the way things were going for the early believers? Knowing that persecution by the Romans was coming, they were tempted to give up. But in our text Peter called Jesus “a Stone”. That name had a special meaning for these people. In the Book of Daniel, that’s the name God gave to the Savior, when He prophesied that His Kingdom would crush the Roman Empire and then grow to fill the whole earth. So then why should the early believers quit being Christians just to get out of a little persecution, especially since the Stone, would be working in all things for their good? Today we too are treasured by God. With our sins paid for, we too have been called to faith, so that we may join Israelites of all ages in being a Royal Priesthood and a Holy Nation. We read, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good – I Peter 2:1-3.” Just like Jacob wrestled with God and with men and won, we are to wrestle with our sinful nature. We are to get rid of all malice, deceit, envy, hypocrisy and slander of every kind. Also we are to train ourselves to crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word, so they we grow up in our attitudes. This means showing proper respect to everyone, loving the brotherhood of believers, fearing God, and honoring all who are in the government. In short, we are to imitate the true Israel and be a Holy Nation. But what does it mean for us to be a Royal Priesthood? Well, sins no longer have to be paid for; that’s finished. But another job of Old Testament priests was to pray for others. So, suppose someone does something to us that’s evil? Even if it’s as evil as what the Romans did to early believers, we are to wrestle with God over His desire to punish them, and ask Him to forgive them for Jesus’ sake. However, that forgiveness we prayed for won’t do a person any good unless he believes it. And so, God wants us to wrestle with that person’s unbelieving heart by speaking the truth in love to him. But can we really win? We don’t know what God’s time table is, nor do we know who will come to repentance and faith or who will keep on resisting. Our calling as Israelites is to keep declaring His praises through our words and actions, and leave the rest in God’s hands. If we do these things, we will never be sorry we did. We read in our text, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame – I Peter 2:6.” In all our struggles for the Kingdom, we are winning – one soul at a time. Also, at the end of our earthly life, we will not be sorry that we trusted in Him for forgiveness, or to work in all things for our good. But what if as we look back, all we see is our failures and all those times we did NOT serve Him, but served our sinful desires? How can we overcome the feeling that it’s too late for us? Even then we can win, we can still be true Israelites, because if we build our hope on Christ, God will say to us, just like He said to the Jews in our text, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” No matter what our past, God is conquering us to be His Israelites. There is one more thing in our text we have to look at, because it’s often misunderstood. It said about the Jews who did not believe, “They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for – I Peter 2:7-8.” This doesn’t mean certain people are predestined to sin and unbelief. Rather, when a person refuses to believe, God may punish his unbelief by giving him over to unbelief. This is warning for us all. We are a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation. But if we refuse to believe that, if we refuse to live that, we put ourselves on the side those who are kicking against the Stone of Israel. We don’t want to do that. It hurts our feet! It hurts our soul! Instead, let’s remember who we are. Let’s marvel at what Christ has made us to be, and what He has given us to do. Then we can say with Simba in the Lion King, “hakunnamatata – no worries.” No worries because Christ is the true Israel – He is ruling as God; and no worries because we are true Israelites – we are ruling with Him, as He builds His Church one precious stone at a time. And now may remembering who we are fill us with peace and at the same time restore us to serve Him, until He makes His Pride Land new again. Amen.

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