Text: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Theme: And so it begins
*In the Name of the Father…Amen.*
*The Old Testament lesson serves as our sermon text for today.*
*Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God the Father through our Lord
Jesus Christ. Amen.*
*Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:*
*I trust, O Lord, Your holy name; *
*O let me not be put to shame Nor let me be confounded. *
*My faith, O Lord, Be in Your Word Forever firmly grounded. *
*Bow down Your gracious ear to me *
*And hear my cry, my prayer, my plea; Make haste for my protection, *
*For woes and fear Surround me here. Help me in my affliction. *
*Text: Public domain*
*There’s a shadow over the land:*
evil and murder and darkness are all around.
There’s the stench of fear, and the ground shakes with those who march for
*It’s in the second book of J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy,
during the battle of Helm’s Deep, when King Theoden says, “And so it
*Today is the First Sunday in Lent. *
*Each year we enter this journey into Lent for forty days. *
*In the season of Lent, we focus on the journey that represents our entire
life, from font to grave. *
*In our text today, God commands Israel to recount their journey from
slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. *
*It put life in perspective for Israel, as our Lenten journey does for us. *
*As we “walk through this valley of the shadow of death,” focusing on our
journey with Christ to his cross and empty tomb enables us to “fear no
evil”—even though evil and murder and darkness are all around—for we are
united to Christ, our Redeemer. *
*As God commanded Israel in our text, so this week—this past Wednesday
night and this morning—we enter the Lenten journey once again, and our text
shows us where we’re headed.*
*Recounting Israel’s Journey from Slavery to Freedom Pictures Our Journey
*“And so it begins.”*
*“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an
inheritance,” Israel was told, “you shall go to the place that the Lord
your God will choose. . . . And you shall make response before the Lord
your God” (verses 1, 2, 5).*
*I. Israel remembers her slavery: “The Egyptians treated us harshly and
humiliated us and laid on us hard labor” (verse 6).*
*A. Joseph became second to Pharaoh, but Joseph died, and Israel had
grown great in number.*
1. A new Pharaoh rules over Egypt, a Pharaoh feeling threatened by so
a. And so, Egypt set taskmasters over Israel and forced them into harsh
b. Their lives became bitter, making brick and mortar to build the
Had God not seen the affliction and suffering of his people?
Had he not heard their cries over the evil treatment of Pharaoh and the
whips of the taskmasters?
3. When God sent Moses to deliver his people, Pharaoh’s heart became
hardened, placing even more evils upon Israel, harsher taskmasters.
*B. Cyril of Jerusalem taught Christians in the fourth century that
Pharaoh is a figure for Satan, that most bitter and cruel tyrant of sin and
evil, who seeks to strip us of salvation, to devour us, to drag us into the
torments of hell, and not give to us what his lies promise: comfort,
security, a life of ease.*
1. The old evil foe attacks you every day and desires to bring deadly
woe upon you.
a. He uses great guile, slyness, and treachery to fight against you, to
wear you down, and to destroy you.
b. He sets the riches of the world before you, and soon you are enticed
to make them your idol for seventy or eighty years and lose the Promised
Land of eternal life with Christ.
c. He whispers in the ears of evil people to deceive you and lie to you
and hurt you.
He revels in your sickness;
he antagonizes your doubts;
he brings gloom and doom to your fears—all that you might curse God and die.
2. Satan and sin and death—they are cruel taskmasters; they tighten the
cords of our bondage.
a. There is no good in Satan and his minions.
b. Don’t think for a moment you can believe them or trust them or
that they will befriend you in any way.
c. They pursue you constantly and treat you harshly and humiliate you and
lay on you hard labor, suffering, pain, doubt, and dread.
3. This is our journey on earth—not forty days, but forty years times
two . . . and more!
*II. Israel reconfirms her repentance: “Then we cried to the Lord, the
God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction,
our toil, and our oppression” (v 7).*
*A. Lent always confronts us with our sin, the sin that enslaved us to
the evil one in the first place. Where Jesus in the wilderness was tempted
ferociously by the devil, we didn’t even put up a good fight.*
The prophet Joel cries out as we begin our Lenten journey:
*“Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to
anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13).*
John the Baptist cries out in the wilderness:
*“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).*
Jesus’ very first words recorded in Mark’s Gospel are:
*“The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark
4. So we fall on our knees in repentance to our merciful God.
B. *We have an advantage each Lent: we know the end of our journey,
Christ’s cross and open tomb.*
1. We know God’s grace and mercy and love for his wayward children under
the tyranny of Satan and this wicked generation.
a. We know Jesus turned aside all Satan’s temptations, so that
his obedience counts for us.
b. We know the power of the cross, forgiveness for all the
2. And so, at the beginning of this Lenten journey, at the beginning of
each new day, at the beginning of each new journey in life that takes us to
old age, we return to Christ.
a. We kneel before the Lord and say in faith, “I, a poor,
miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which
I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and
eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent
of them” (*LSB*, pp 184, 213).
b. And God says to us through the living voice of his called and
ordained servant, “Your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
3. Throughout our journey in life, we cry to the Lord, and he forgives
*III. Israel retells God’s deliverance: “The Lord brought us out of
Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. . . . He brought us into
this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey”
*A. The holy land of Canaan was promised to Abraham 680 years before our
1. There were times when it seemed nearly impossible that God could—or
should—make good on his promise.
Abraham sinned often,
Jacob tricked his father for the inheritance that belonged to his brother
and the sins of Jacob’s sons led Joseph and the Israelites into Egypt for
hundreds of years.
2. But God always makes good on his promises.
*B. God sent Moses to Pharaoh with his direct command: “Let my people
1. After many plagues, Pharaoh’s hardened heart, and then the death of
the firstborn and the Passover with Israel’s doors marked with
blood—Pharaoh was no match for God!—Pharaoh let the people go.
But not so fast!
Satan and sin and death don’t give up that quickly!
Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued Israel to the banks of the Red Sea.
Israel was trapped and doomed!
There was the stench of fear, and the ground shook with those who marched
3. Israel’s God was in the outstretched arm of Moses. Moses stretched his
arm over the Red Sea, and God divided the water so that Israel passed
through on dry ground.
Pharaoh’s army and chariots pursued them, and, again, through the
outstretched arms of Moses, God brought the water over the Egyptians, upon
their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
Moses and the people sang:
* “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and
his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation” (Exodus 15:1–2).*
Israel was now on their journey to the land God promised—a land flowing
with milk and honey.
God delivered Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land.
This is the greatest redemptive act of God in the entire Old Testament.
*C. But . . . all this is a foreshadowing of the greatest redemptive act
of God in all history for all mankind, the eternal salvation of sinners and
the restoration of all creation.*
1. Cyril of Jerusalem declares:
a. Moses was sent from God to Egypt, as Jesus was sent
from the Father into the world.
b. Moses was to lead a people in bondage out of Egypt, as
Jesus came to rescue all creation under the bondage of sin.
c. Moses was to paint the blood of a lamb upon his doorpost
to avoid death, as Jesus came to shed his blood and paint it
into your soul. Now eternal death passes over you!
2. While with the outstretched arm of Moses God delivered Israel from
that devilish Pharaoh, with outstretched arm God in the flesh hung on the
cross, taking the place of us all.
With outstretched arms, while Jesus hangs on a cross he declares:
*“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots
to divide his garments. (Luke 23:34)*
We are released from bondage to sin and eternal death; the chains fall
With outstretched arms, Jesus bleeds a blood that washes us clean and opens
the doors of paradise, a promised land in which we will live forever, a
land flowing with life and joy and peace.
With outstretched arms, Jesus delivered us from the devil and crushed his
head. He has triumphed gloriously!
*D. Our Lenten journey therefore turns into our Easter eternity.*
1. Lent only lasts for a moment, but Easter lasts a lifetime and forever.
This is our baptismal faith:
while we live on this earth, we live in Lent and Easter at the same time.
we repent . . .
3. And in the waters of your Baptism, daily you are forgiven; daily you
are a child of paradise.
*IV. Israel recommits to worship the Lord: “* *Behold, now I bring the
first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O Lord, have given me.’ And
you shall set it down before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord
your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has
given to you” (verses 10–11).*
*A. God is here describing Israel’s response to their freedom from the
bondage of Egypt. It’s a response of worship and good works and joy.*
1. Nowhere does God say he will save his people *if *they give their
firstfruits to Him or *if* they do good works for Him or *if* they
2. God’s people give their firstfruits to Him, they do good works for
Him, and they worship Him *because* he redeemed them. This is their
response to Him; this is what Christians do.
Israel was no different.
Oh, they backslid often; they were even exiled to other lands.
But their faith and life were *always* a response to God’s grace, mercy,
*B. **And so it begins—our Lenten journey.*
1. Once again, we give particular focus to our life in Christ, which
includes our good works, our worship of Him, our love toward our neighbor.
2. And so it begins, our entire life in Christ, from font to
grave—loving God and loving neighbor as we are grafted into the Vine, Jesus
Christ, from whom we have life and eternal salvation.
*St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated later this month on March 17. *
*Patrick was born in Britain perhaps around AD 386 to a pious and
well-known Roman Catholic family. *
*His father was a deacon in the church, and his grandfather a member of the
*Even so, Patrick was not raised with a particularly strong emphasis on
religion or education. *
*When he was sixteen, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and sold into
slavery to tend sheep.*
*Patrick was in bondage, owned by a druid high priest. *
*During his slavery, Patrick cried to the Lord in prayer and became more
convicted of his Christian faith. *
*Patrick escaped Ireland and soon became a free man. *
*In response to his “redemption,” Patrick was ordained a bishop and
returned to Ireland to shepherd a small community of Christians and spread
the Gospel to unbelievers. *
*After some resistance, Patrick was preaching regularly and performing many
Baptisms, bringing many to faith.*
*Patrick could certainly understand Israel’s journey from slavery to
freedom, which God wanted them to remember (Deuteronomy 26:1–11). *
*Likewise, he wants us to remember our journey of faith and life.*
*God delivers us from the bondage of sin and death, and we return to the
world as a light to the world, loving our neighbor and witnessing our
Christian faith in our daily vocations.*
*Lent is a miniature copy of life’s journey—from font to grave. *
*We enter this Lent with the confidence of God’s love for us in Jesus
Christ, as he journeys to the cross and rises from the dead for us—to
rescue us, to save us eternally, and to take us to his eternal kingdom. *
*And so it begins . . . **again. Amen.*
*Let us pray:*
*With You, O Lord, I cast my lot; *
*O faithful God, forsake me not, To You my soul commending. *
*Lord, be my stay, And lead the way Now and when life is ending.*
*All honor, praise, and majesty *
*To Father, Son, and Spirit be, Our God forever glorious, *
*In whose rich grace We run our race Till we depart victorious. *
*Text: Public domain*
*The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and
minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.*
*In the Name of the Father…Amen.*