A Treasured Possession
Text: Deuteronomy 7:6-9
Proper 12, A
Do you have a treasured possession? Nearly everyone does. That one thing you can’t picture yourself living without. That one thing you are afraid of losing. What makes it so special to you? Would everyone appreciate it the same way you do? What were you willing to pay or go through to get it? How long did you search for it, or did it just fall into your hands? What do you do to protect and care for it? What is your treasured possession?
In the Old Testament Reading God declares that Israel is His treasured possession. They didn’t deserve it, but God loved them anyway! Just listen to the way He goes on and on about them. See how He singles them out as special: “6For you are a people holy to the Lord your God … chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. Notice how he worked to deliver them from the bondage of slavery. What He was willing to pay to gain them: the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Hear again the grand sweep and scope of lasting mercy, all that He was willing to do to keep them: the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers … Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. These are the words of someone who treasures His people almost beyond belief!
It is so over-the-top full of grace and mercy and love that we wouldn’t believe it if we didn’t see it play out through those thousands of generations recorded in Holy Scripture. But you have also seen that same love and mercy in person, right up into our own time. Because the way God spoke of Israel is the same way He speaks of you and me. The same calling to holiness, the same delivery from slavery to sin and death, the same faithfulness and love and mercy He heaps on us too. You are His treasured possession!
Remember how in Holy Baptism God singled you out as someone infinitely special to Him, giving you His own Holy Spirit as a pledge and guarantee. See how in Christ Jesus God was willing to pay the ultimate price to deliver you from the enemies of sin, death, and the devil. Look to the preaching of the Gospel, the Sacrament of the Altar and all the blessings of this congregation by which God is still holding you firmly in His mercy and keep you as His treasured possession!
But why all this mercy? There was nothing special bout Israel, such as size or prominence, that prompted God’s kindness toward this nation. Just as we are not so significant either – not really. Israel’s character had nothing to do with it. Nor does ours. 7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
So why was it, first that God would choose Israel, and later us, to be so highly treasured? Brace yourselves because the answer is both the hardest and the most wonderfully freeing thing you will ever hear. The reason why God does any of it is solely and simply because of God’s own character! All of it comes from God not from us. 6The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
All of this is simply because of our Lord’s love and faithfulness 7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers,
You are His treasured possession not because you are so highly to be prized, but because God treasures you in a way that defies all logic. 9Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love ...
As Dr. Martin Luther said, “What, then, is left in this work about which you can boast? Nothing of yours; but ‘because the Lord chose you and kept His oath, etc’. You see that nothing is held out to humans trust in any work but the undeserved love of God, by which He is moved to approach us with His Word and promise even before we are born. It is out of the question that He should reunite anything after we are born or begin to serve Him. And this is the pure and unalloyed meaning of the first commandment: We should deem ourselves to be nothing as regards our merit, but to have, receive and find power to do everything only by His mercy and love, [and] to His glory.” (LW AE vol.9 p. 85)
And this is what is so wonderfully freeing in all of this. Grace by its very nature is always pure grace, or sheer grace, or only grace. Grace takes no modifiers for it is by its very nature all or nothing (all FOR nothing). God in His grace has given His all for you, and always will. Nothing you say or do has earned it, nor can you ruin it. Grace alone makes you the Lord’s treasured possession ... from before there ever was a you! As Paul showed us in the Epistle: “29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Treasured indeed!