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The Second Day
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. Genesis 1:6-7
   
     

The firmament refers to the vast expanse of the sky. Many have scoffed at the term, getting their meaning for firmament from the concept of the hammered out bowl. The Bible has many self-appointed editors who would love to improve the language of the Holy Spirit rather than deepen their understanding of the text. The bowl concept is not entirely wrong, since the earth's atmosphere is solid compared to the near-vacuum of space. When our vehicles return to the atmosphere they become fiery comets, glowing red with the friction of hitting the air particles at high speeds. The Space Shuttle requires a complicated system of tiles to keep this heat away from the metal ship and the passengers inside.

This firmament stretches out to protect all the inhabitants of earth from the direct radiation of the sun. We now realize more than ever how much the firmament is a shield against radiation hazards. This firmament must have changed over time. At first, a mist watered the earth (Genesis 2:6). After the Flood, seasons adjusted the heat and water cycles of the earth. Before the Flood, the entire earth was a blessed with remarkable abundance and balmy weather, as the geologic evidences shows. Therefore, the firmament was a misty shield of protection, a vast source of fresh water and fertility for the earth.Although we often forget this, our earth is 70% water and 30% land. God lifted the land out of the water.

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 2 Peter 3:5

The watery chaos returned with the Flood and still creates terror and uncertainty today. The threat of flooding brought about the majestic Hoover Dam, but that was not enough. The City of Phoenix , in a desert valley, has a complex system of flood control to keep flash floods from destroying the economy.

 
Water-World
 

All life on earth is just as watery as its host. Our babies are born with 70% water content, just like Mother Earth, but children dry out in time. Adults are 50-60% water. Our need for water to sustain life is so great that the law requires Phoenix residents to give water to anyone who comes to the door and asks.

Our food is mostly water, but we consume more water in addition to our food. Pure water has become an upscale luxury, reminding people of the many lessons about water in the Bible.

When Jesus gave His lessons about water, near the water, or upon the water, He was teaching about the most basic element of life, an element He created. This should always guide our thoughts about the Gospel, that we are receiving this wisdom from Jesus as Lord and Creator.

Civilizations have grown up around water. The greatest cities in the world have been communities built near the sea, for food and commerce: Athens , Rome , Constantinople , London , New York City. The Roman Empire made a science out ofconstructing aqueducts, heated baths, and water-heated homes.

 
Water into Wine
 

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. John 2:1-11

In this Gospel we have a miracle that is so remarkable that it made the divinity of Christ apparent to everyone. People have always claimed to have the power to heal others. We often hear the claim today. Some fakes use animal parts and

pretend to pull them out of their patients through “psychic surgery.” Pentecostal healers carefully select those whose ailments can improve temporarily with a shift in mood. Arthritis and hearing problems are quite variable, so an instant cure seems impressive. One fake named Popof was exposed for using a radio setup with his wife. She sent him messages in his earphone about personal information on the cards of members in the audience. So Rev. Popof could miraculously tell someone that her sister was ill, or that she had a son named Bob. Once he displayed his amazing powers, thanks to the hidden microphone, Popof could fool the audience about anything. As I said, Popof was exposed a few years ago, disgraced, and now he is back again on television. Televangelists are an inspiration to any politician in trouble.

But with this miracle the claim is very clear. The people knew they were out of wine. The servants knew they were dealing with water. They filled the water pots with water. If they had poured in wine by mistake or through cunning, the aroma would have given them away. The texture of wine is also quite different. I doubt whether the whitest wine could pass for water, especially in a culture where wine was a daily staple.

At the Word of Jesus, the water became wine. No one asked for a miracle or looked for a miracle, except Mary. Mary knew her Son had the ability to solve the problem. Most mothers think so, but in this text we can see that she is asking for something beyond His immediate desire to fulfill. His response is at least a mild rebuke.

Here the translators often think they are wiser than the Holy Spirit. They do not like Jesus calling His mother woman, so they add words, softening woman (the actual text) to dear woman (more appealing but inaccurate).

"Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come. John 2:4 (NIV)

Twice when Jesus addressed His mother directly in the Gospel of John, He called her woman instead of “mother.” This shows us that He was her Lord and not just a son.

The proper role of Mary is seen in the Scriptures as the mother of Jesus who raised Him in faith. She was a mortal woman, a sinner who died in the same way all must die. She did not fully understand her Son, as shown in the incident in the Temple, but she believed in Him and had a major role in the apostolic church. She is named early in Acts and then never again. (We should marvel that the apostles did not make a cult out of Mary then, for she was there at the beginning and had many years of memories of Him. So we see that the apostlesresisted the urge to concentrate on Mary. Instead they preached the Gospel of Christ.)

This miracle raises the issue of justifying faith.

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. John 2:11


When we speak about faith, the word faith can have many meanings.

  1. For instance, everyone has faith or trust in something. The atheist Carl Sagen did not believe in God, but he believed in extra-terrestrials. He needed to. Anyone who insists on evolution must have life on other planets, to prove that life can generate itself spontaneously, without God being involved.
  2. The epistle of James speaks about dead faith. Lutherans should not be afraid of this letter or fail to study it. The Gospel always brings the fruit of the Spirit. If the fruit is lacking, then it points to a lack of faith. We see that in many church leaders who can speak the right words but keep themselves in power through lies, slander, and protecting false teachers. It is good to remember their faith and avoid falling into the same trap. As James says quite vividly, “The demons believe and their hides bristle.” That is not justifying faith. It is an awareness of the power of the Word: hating and fearing it.
  3. Faith in miracles. Martin Chemnitz writes about this in his Loci, and it should make us think. Many hundreds if not thousands saw the miracles of Jesus. Certainly this happened at the wedding feast, at the grave of Lazarus, and in many other instances. They believed it was a miracle but they did not necessarily follow Jesus or believe in Him as their Savior.
  4. Historical faith. Many scholars and people on the perimeter of Christianity have faith in the basic facts about the Bible. They even believe in the historical truth of the Bible. But it never goes farther than that. Luther said in many ways that it does no good to say that Christ died for the sins of the world if we fail to say, “and for me.” Unless we say, Christ died for my sins, we only have historical faith.
  5. Kohlerglaube . A collier's faith is based upon an incident where a coal handler was asked what he believed. “I believe what the church believes.” And what does the church believe? “The church believes what I believe.” In other words, it is just an attachment to the institution, without knowing much or believing. Although this can bring a whole family or ethnic group to church, it is easy for someone to hear the Word and reject it by saying, “This is the right place. All my friends and relatives are here.”
 

This shows how many ways faith can be something other than justifying faith.
Chemnitz and the authors of the Book of Concord were anxious to teach the proper understanding of faith.

 

But when we are speaking of the subject itself, it is certain that the doctrine of gracious reconciliation, of the remission of sins, of righteousness, salvation, and eternal life through faith for the sake of the Mediator is one and the same in the Old and in the New Testament. This is a useful rule which we must retain at all costs: The doctrine, wherever we read it, in either the Old or New Testament, which deals with the gracious reconciliation and the remission of sins through faith for the sake of God's mercy in Christ, is the Gospel." (Chemnitz, 1989, Loci Theologici , II, p. 459)

This is beautifully expressed by Melanchthon, the primary author of the Augsburg Confession:

Thus when we say that we are justified by faith, we are saying nothing else than that for the sake of the Son of God we receive remission of sins and are accounted as righteous. And because it is necessary that this benefit be taken hold of, this is said to be done 'by faith,' that is, by trust in the mercy promised us for the sake of Christ. Thus we must also understand the correlative expression, 'We are righteous by faith,' that is, through the mercy of God for the sake of His Son we are righteous or accepted. (Melanchthon, Loci Communes, “The Word Faith.” Cited in Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici , II, p. p. 489.)

Lutherans confess in the Book of Concord, in harmony with Luther, that we are justified by faith alone:

For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriatedand enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which could not attain of ourselves. (The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III, #38, Concordia Triglotta , St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 689. Tappert, p. 415.)

 
   
 
Jesus, Lord of the Sea and Storm
 

And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! Matthew 8:23-27

Ye of Little Faith

In this Gospel we have a brief but powerful lesson about faith and lack of faith.

The foundation for many different errors is confusion about the two natures of Christ. Jesus was and is both divine and human, God and man. Before the Holy Spirit conceived the child in the Virgin Mary, the Son of God existed from all eternity, but only in His divine nature. From the moment of conception the Son of God took on our human nature without losing any of His divine nature. He has both natures now. In that respect the Holy Trinity changed in time, since the Word of God became Incarnate in the Virgin Mary.

This is important to remember when we read the text about the stilling of the storm. Travel by foot or by donkey was slow and arduous in Palestine . Those who live in the desert can easily imagine why anyone would travel in a boat straight across a lake rather than walk around it. The Sea of Galilee is not a gentle fishing lake, but a large body of water, easily tossed about by storms and great winds.

The cults do not realize this, but Jesus chose to hide His divine nature most of the time. It was never absent, but it was often difficult to imagine that this ordinary looking man was anything other than a teacher. The disciples saw many displays of God's power in Jesus and yet they still forgot.

We should not be quick to condemn them for being block-heads. We know far more than they could imagine. We can look back at the miraculous spread of Christianity, at the glorious lives of the apostles, the unfolding of church history. Centuries of sincere believers have explained the Biblical texts to us. And yet we doubt.

And how do we doubt? We doubt when we are in exactly the same position as the disciples. In the midst of a great storm that seems to overwhelm us, we stop viewing our world with faith and start looking at the raw facts. No one can really do that. We process the facts with our minds. We start filtering. Our emotions take over. And they are remarkable filters.

Have you ever been afraid in the dark? Any sound or movement can make you jump and suck in your breath. Sweat breaks out, even in cold weather. Hands get moist. One fact after another increases the fear. The sounds and the movements are raw facts, but the fearful mind turns them into terrifying evidence. My wife Chris and I were walking down the street in downtown Chicago , late at night. We heard steps behind us. We walked faster. The steps quickened. We looked at each other. We were being stalked. We were sure of that. Downtown Chicago . Late at night. No police in sight. We could hear the steps getting closer. I decided to look at our assailant, perhaps to have some evidence to offer, this side of the morgue. I saw a somewhat familiar face. “Jack?” It was Jack Preus, president of the LCMS. He was walking back to the same hotel, for the LCA convention, 1978. Fear vanished. He said,“Are you one of ours?” I said, “No.” Years later he signed my copy of The Two Natures of Christ , by Martin Chemnitz, and we discussed a few things.

Luther reminds us that fear and faith are opposites. The lack of faith causes fear. Fear leads to despair. Many people live in despair even though their outward circumstances are pleasant and stable. The facts do not mean much. In fact, telling someone not to worry because of the facts is rather fruitless. It's like yelling shut-up at a crying baby. It relieves tension in the speaker but not in the listener.

The disciples were frantic in the storm. The waves were swamping the boat, which was large and flat-bottomed, to provide stability in those waters. All of us would have been scared, too. Jesus was asleep. Looking at this from our perspective, we can say, “If the King of Creation is asleep in my boat, then I am not going to worry.”

But at that moment they did not see the Lord of Creation but their beloved teacher, a man, asleep. They saw indifference.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? Mark 4:38

Once again, we can place ourselves in that same boat. How often has each one of us said, in one way or another, “Lord, don't you care that I am suffering?” Although hundreds of passages in the Bible tell us that God does care, that Jesus does understand our fears and weakness, we still fall into the same frame of mind.

God knows that our doubts make us fearful. He tells us not to be afraid, but He teaches us why we should not be fearful and anxious. The antidote to doubt, anxiety, and fear is the Gospel promise. The more we hear the promises of God, the more confidence we have in Him. “I believe, Lord. Help thou mine unbelief.”

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. Mark 9:24

 

Do Not Be Afraid
 

After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. Genesis 15:1

And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt ; for I will there make of thee a great nation: Genesis 46:3

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? Psalm 118:6

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:15

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Be careful for nothing {do not be anxious}; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Philippians 4:6

 
Antidote to Fear
 

The antidote to fear is clearly revealed in the text. The disciples awakened Jesus by saying, “Save us, we are perishing.” Notice what the little Gospel says, using that same verb, perish:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Jesus berated the disciples for saying they were perishing when they were in the same boat with God Incarnate, God-in-the-Flesh (the literal meaning of God Incarnate). Although the disciples only saw the human nature of Jesus, His divine nature was not missing or inactive in any way. Jesus quickly rebuked the storm, silencing the wind and waves. Only God can perform such a miracle.

Why did Jesus allow the disciples to become so fearful before He revealed His awesome power? Times of great fear, despair, or anxiety show us how weak we really are. Then, when we see how God takes care of us through His Word, in an instant, we grow in faith.

This is extremely important. Faith either increases or shrinks away. God allows us to go through times of trial so that our trust in Him grows.

Lutherans have become terribly afraid of the word faith. I do not know exactly why. It is the most frequent word in the Bible and the Book of Concord. The word faith appears in the KJV 247 times, without counting the verb ( believe ) or such compounds as faithful and little-faith . When faith grows in an individual, it is solely because of the effect of the Word. In other words, faith grows when the believer knows and believes what God is like and what God can do.

Our daily experiences create a little school where we receive our lessons. Too many people, especially in the secular world, think that the experience itself is good. But it is God's Word informing us about our role in His kingdom, and experience opens our eyes to what God can do and what we cannot do. The more we grow in faith, the more we have confidence in God and lose confidence in ourselves. I know that will not sell on TV talk shows, but it is the essence of the Christian faith.

We are by nature self-centered and prone to imagine we have the answers. The Christian faith takes our attention away from ourselves and turns our eyes toward God, what He has done and what He will do.

In this light the most important storm God can quell with His Word is the turbulence caused by sin.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

Forgiveness gives us peace with God. Jesus gives us forgiveness through His cross. The Gospel says to us: This is your faith, Christ crucified for your sins. He has paid the price. Gone are the illusions that we can atone for our sins. Vanished are all the promises that we can improve ourselves by our own willpower. The broken bones rejoice (Psalm 51) because the Gospel brings healing, comfort, peace, joy, and genuine love.

Romantic love is a wonderful thing. God blesses the love of a husband and wife with children. To love a child is one of the greatest blessings of this world. At the art museum in Phoenix we ran into a woman who adopted a child, her only child, at the age of 50. On the way to the museum we were talking about how children bless us by taking away our self-centeredness. This woman with her adopted girl from Korea seemed to be a young mother because she was filled with such delight and wonder at this little creature now given to her. The little girl was shunned and pointed at in Korea for being half-American. She was just 19 months old. Now she was being touched and complimented. After a long conversation, she smiled and blew kisses.

This is what God does to us. As sinners we deserve nothing more than condemnation, being shunned by the Almighty. But because we are justified by faith, God treats us as beloved, as the prophet Isaiah teaches us:

Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. 4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee. Isaiah 62:3-5

God rejoices over us because Christ has made us part of His flock. Being loved by God bears fruit in our lives as sinners forgiven, justified by faith.