Grace, Mercy, and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. For forty days and forty nights it rained upon the earth. Eight souls in all were in that boat. As the rain began to come down, Noah and his family began to fast. It would be some time before they would see the sunshine again, or to breath the fresh air as the wind carried it down the face of the mountains and across the valleys. Forty days the rain came down and for forty nights, too. It deprived them of everything they knew and loved and kept them locked up with all the animals.
Not a self-chosen fast, like “I’ll give up liver this Lent,” but a fast inflicted upon them because God counted Noah righteous. Forty days and forty nights the rain beat down upon that boat as eight souls remembered their village, their friends, the green grass, and the warmth of the sun upon their cheeks. They remembered the ridicule, the pain, and the violence that filled the earth. Locked up by the Lord Himself because the Lord found favor with Noah.
Jesus was hungry. Again, not a self-inflicted fast, but it was the Spirit of God that led Jesus to the wilderness. For forty days and forty nights, He he did not eat. A desolate place, alone without the niceties of life, away from everything that He knew and loved, led there to be tempted by the Prince of Darkness. And when he was good and hungry Satan came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But Satan didn’t get it. Well, he thought he was punching Jesus when He was down. You find the weak part in the armor and drive the sword straight through. Tempt Jesus with food when He’s hungry, yeah that’s the way to go…and maybe, just maybe, He’ll take the bait and lose the war. But Jesus’ answer was more devastating for Satan than he would ever know. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”
In those Words, in that short little bit of preaching, Jesus’ fast was over. “It is written,” Jesus said. Man shall live by the words that God has written. Man shall live by the bread that comes from God, that comes down from heaven, that fills our ears, our mouths, and our eyes. It is the gifts from heaven that sustain God’s people.
Beware dear Christians, it has been a long fast. Many years have gone by since we have walked with God in the cool of the Garden. The Prince of Darkness has waged a long and dangerous war and each of you is his target. Get the weakest link, take down the ones that are hungry, and carry away the spoil. Too often this devil’s lies have found willing ears nestled upon our heads, his seduction an easy mark in our wayward hearts.
A fast has begun for us this past week. Our alleluias taken from us. No more “Glory be to God on High”…for forty days and forty nights…our lenten fast carries us outside the walls of Jerusalem to the bread that came down from heaven. Each stop along the way eating up the Word we live by. Nourishment for the war that is being waged upon us.
A bumper sticker, “Pray for peace!” it said. Peace in our world, no doubt, peace that keeps soldiers from marching through Kabul…that keeps Twin Towers from falling…that cures cancer and dries each tear before they are formed. Satan would tempt us even with a little bumper sticker. Tempt us to forget about the Peace nestled within the Word of God and rather to turn to the desires of sinful men.
Temptation is always temptation to break God’s Word, to go against it. God says, “Do this” or “Don’t do that.” And the devil says, “Oh, come on now! That is not practical. You’re being a prude, old-fashioned, no fun. Surely God didn’t really mean it. And even if He did then it is only because He is holding out on you. What kind of a God is He, anyway? I thought He was supposed to love you.” This is the way he attacked Eve in the garden. It is the way he attacked Our Lord in the desert. It is the way he attacks us here and now. Eve could not bear the assault. Adam failed to protect her. He, and she, gave in, and became children of Satan and you are the spawn of their loins. But the 2nd Adam, the perfect Adam, suffered these temptations also. And He did not fail. He overcame. He lived the perfect life of faith and with nothing more than the Word He drove the devil back.
So we pray for a different peace, knowing that bombs will still kill, and soldiers will still march. There will always be hospitals…and those that die in them. We pray for a peace that sustains and brings us through the lies and attacks of Satan. We pray for the peace that brings us life and unifies us with Christ. We pray for peace that is the Word of God. The Word that we live by. Christ, our fighting King, has succeeded where Adam failed. He does not stand idly by as Satan and his legionnaires taunt you with their siren songs of destruction and death. He intervenes. He shields you, His beloved, but weak bride. He protects and defends you. He attacks those who would harm you. He goes in your place, overcomes what you and Eve could not. He did not need to do this for Himself. He did it for you. He removes death’s sting, the grave’s morbid victory. The roaring lion who once terrified you is now but a barking dog with no bite. His teeth, his claws have been removed. He is chained to his own torture which will never end. He cannot have you. He cannot harm you. For you have a Master, a King, a Benefactor, and a Protector. You bear the Name He placed upon you in Baptism. Thus you belong to Him, not just because He made you, but also because He bought you.
So be forewarned. Be prepared. Make yourself ready for warfare, ready for sneak attacks, and dirty underhanded tricks. Make yourself ready by eating and drinking the provisions provided in His Grace, that which He has given and shed for you. Open your ears. Hear the Word of God. Pray that He would strengthen and sustained you in the days to come. Pray lest you fall into temptation. And learn to pray once again, O Christians, the prayer He taught, the prayer He gave. And learn to pray as the early Church so fervently prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly!”
“And the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.” In +Jesus’ Name.
Reverend Steven Thomas Cholak