Let me tell you how I was introduced to these verses.
It was 1952. I was 28 years old and had been an ordained pastor for 4 years in Atlantic, Iowa. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church was a delightful congregation. The people were kind and understood this young pastor who was just getting started in the ministry. These were the years that there was a shortage of ministers and calls were plentiful. I had several opportunities to leave Atlantic, but was not tempted until a letter of call came from Nazareth Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls to become its pastor. I learned that the congregation had a lot of good leadership, but it was divided and they needed someone to bring unity to this group of believers. What a challenge.
We prayed and thought much about the move and finally came to the next step, which was to share our thoughts with some close friends.ÊTwo of these people were known in the congregation as UncleÊMartin and Aunt Mary. We often visited them and listened to theirÊstories telling what Christ had done for them as a family. When we shared with them that we were thinking about moving, they listened carefully and asked very few questions. After they had heard us out,ÊAunt Mary wanted to know if we had come for counsel and we assured them we were anxious to hear how they felt about the possible move. It was silent when Uncle Martin said, “This comes to us as a surprise. Things are going well in our congregation and you have only been with us four years. Let us think about it and we will get back to you.”
In a few days they came to our house and gave us their reasons why we should stay. They were well thought out and very logical. However,Êlike most people seeking counsel our minds were pretty well made up, and I began to argue a bit with Martin and Mary. I remember telling them how I felt this was a real chance for me to bring this congregation together.ÊI pointed out that I was young, strong, had something of a sense of humor and could provide the necessary leadership that was needed.Ê
After several cups of coffee Aunt Mary, who was very perceptive and an excellent student of the human personality, said, “Perhaps it would be better that we leave but before we do let me share with you twoÊScripture passages that have meant much to me. “As your day is so shall your strength be. The everlasting God is your resting placeÊand underneath are His everlasting arms.”
I am sure that I had read those verses before but they had neverÊimpressed me as much as they did that day. After they left our home, I wondered why Aunt Mary had left us with those words. Had she seen in me a cocky young man who thought he was going to beÊable to straighten out the difficulties in that congregation by myÊown reason and strength? Had she seen tough days ahead for me especially with an attitude that might have been a bit proud and arrogant? For some time I wondered how those verses applied to our conversation. I don’t know what Aunt Mary’s reason was for pointing me to these verses but she did not know who God used her that day. We moved. The going was a bit rough and I soon learned that I was not adequate for the task before me. At times I felt crushed wondering why we had ever made the move.ÊThen those words from God rang through my head and soul and there was strength and grace to march on.
It is now 47 years since Aunt Mary and Uncle Martin passed on these jewels from God’s Word to us. It was not a surprise to me that in the midst of her serious stroke Eunice told me that these were some of the words which had brought her great comfort in the darkest hours of not knowing what tomorrow held for her.
The background of this text is interesting. Israel had been roaming around in the wilderness for 40 years. They had often been a rebellious people turning their backs on God. Now it was time to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. It was the land that GodÊhad promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Israel was moving on but Moses was not going with them. It was not a surprise to Moses for God had made it clear that He would not lead Israel into Canaan. Several times in the book of Deuteronomy Moses says, “Because of Israel’s grumbling and complaining the Lord became angry with the whole generation and said that none ofÊthem, save Caleb, would walk into the Promised Land. ThisÊincluded Moses. I wonder if it did not hurt Moses to be left behind.Ê
As he tried to lead the Israelites there were many days when their leader was at the end of his ropes. Through these experiences he saw how weak he was but how God gave him the strength that was needed. In his hours of despair Moses felt those everlasting arms of God underneath him. Now the appointed day had come andÊMoses walked to the top of Mt. Nebo. There he had a clear view of Israel’s homeland. As the people prepared to march in to Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, Moses died on top of the mount.ÊHis parting words pointed the people to God who would beÊtheir security and strength.
How may people do you suppose have received great spiritual help from these words of Moses. Uncle Martin and Aunt Mary had and so they shared those words with my wife and me and today I share them with you.
This leads to the question, “What word do you share with your loved ones in times of adversity or temptation? What about your parents? There is going to be a high school party and your son or daughter will be going. It sounds innocent but the stories about these parties are true. At many of these gatherings there is a lot of drinking, drugs, sex, and other bad behavior. How you would love to shield your children of this by saying, “You can’t go.” But that isn’t the answer either. Did you say, “Don’t disgrace yourÊfamily’s name.” “Be strong, you have power within you to resistÊthe temptations that will come your way.” It’s not very goodÊadvice, at least it is superficial. Why not give them a goodÊword from the Lord. Point them back to Jesus Christ who isÊtheir strength under all conditions.
Your children are leaving for college. This will be a new world for them. How will they handle the temptations meeting them on the campus? Can you prepare them for the struggles that will be theirs.ÊWe read in the newspapers the shocking stories that come fromÊthe state universities and we wonder if our family might escape this horrible environment by sending our sons and daughters to a smaller college, perhaps one that is operated by the church. We are nowÊlearning that this is no escape. Even at some of our church colleges the temptations present themselves.
In a meeting with college staff a few days ago, I was impressed toÊsee how the faculty and staff wanted the best for the students andÊwere anxious that they would grow in their relationship with God,Êbut they had many disappointing moments when they saw theseÊyoung people show very little interest in the things of God. TheyÊelaborated on students coming from communities, many of themÊvery small, who had been living in a “beer culture.” From childhoodÊthey had been surrounded with alcohol of one kind or another.ÊWhen they got to college there was the same culture only thisÊtime it could get out of hand and lead to some very undesirable consequences. What do you say to these sons and daughtersÊwhom you love so much?
Learn from Moses. Give them a word from the Lord. KeepÊChrist ever before them as their only source of help facing aÊworld that is broken and away from God. Leave them withÊa word like our text. The eternal God is your resting place,ÊMary and Dick. When the going is rough and you have fallen into a type of behavior that disappointed even yourself, justÊremember that Christ is there to pick you up. He will not excuse what you have done but He will forgive you. Aunt Mary must have felt that her words were not adequate and soÊshe pointed me back to God.
Maybe this word from God will live in your sons’ and daughters’ souls as it has lived in my soul. We can only share to the degreeÊwe have experienced God’s presence in our lives. This all begins with our personal relationship with God. As we receive ChristÊinto our lives and grow with Him, He will give us words to shareÊwith others. It is surprising what a good word from the Lord, spoken at the right time, can accomplish in the lives of all people.