The Rich Man and Lazarus (Part Four)

189746-p“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Luke 16:19-31

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Living in an age where seeing is believing those are startling words. Of course, if someone rose from the dead we could be convinced of pretty much anything he or she had to say about life. If only we had some sort of sign like that, if only we had some sort of miracle in our lives that we could see and feel and hear to show us the way, because that right there is proof, and proof is all that we are asking for, it’s all that we ultimately need.

But then, we’re not alone in that belief. That’s what the Rich Man himself believed. Had Abraham just sent someone to explain it to him clearly, if God just created this encompassing miracle that he could see and be unable to deny then surely he would have believed and he would have been able to change his course. Even now, if Abraham just sent Lazarus to his brothers, they would surely repent of their wicked, idle lives and would alter the course they were on, being spared the anguish and the torment of the suffering that he himself now felt.

Perhaps it was because he was so unfamiliar with the words of Moses and the prophets that he had this flawed and naïve view, this simplistic understanding of human nature, of who we are and how it is that we can so often turn a blind eye to the truth. It isn’t, after all, physical proof that creates a faithful heart. Had it been the children of Israel who had seen the plagues that struck Egypt, who saw the pillar of God’s fire in the Sky, who watched as He used Moses to part the seas that they might cross on dry land and be saved from the wrath of Pharaoh, would never have demanded Aaron build the Golden Calf that they might worship the idol with eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear. The word of the Lord is filled with examples of the miracles of God, of the Lord of Hosts raising His hand for the children of Israel as He guided, fed and protected them, and it is filled with just as many examples of them looking to His miracles and just as quickly turning away from Him. That is the long, sorted history of the vast human experience as the Lord God reveals Himself to humanity and humanity ignores the signs and wonders for their own pleasures and delights, to enrich themselves and abandon their man as soon as it becomes convenient for him to do so.

The truth of the human experience has taught us that it’s not the signs and wonders, it’s not bearing witness to the grand and encompassing miracles of God’s hand by our own eyes that creates in us a sincere heart, it is faith, and “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Yes, of course there will be exceptions to that understanding. Had the earth not trembled and the skies not opened, had he not looked on the face of the Heavens and heard the voice of Christ calling out to him, Saul of Tarsus may never have had come to know the truth of our dear Savior, but even he had to take much on faith after that fateful day on the Road to Damascus as he lived with his trials and tribulations, as his ailments pained him, causing him to suffer amidst his toils and pain. Each time he didn’t demand a sign or a miracle from God, nor did he suddenly believe he could return to an idle life because a miracle didn’t appear before him, because God didn’t part the skies or raise the dead to tell him where it was that he needed to go and what it was that he needed to do.

Perhaps, in our lives we want these big and encompassing signs, we want wonders that would remove from us any doubt or question. How easy it would be for us to believe, or to make the journey, to give of ourselves and to offer hope in the lives of others, if God just gave us these miraculous signs and wonders, if He sent the dead to us to tell us who we need to be and what we need to do. How simple it would be for us if His signs were that easy to see and our lives were so directed by His hand. We would willingly do whatever He told us to do if that just happened because there would be no question in our mind or conflict in our souls.

Yet, as had discussed last week, God gives us the signs we need. By His hand guiding and protecting His Word, we have the wonder that we need to live our lives according to His word and His will. It is our instructions for a Godly life if we take the time to study it, to know it, and to learn what it is telling us about who we are and how we are to live our lives. In that we see a man rising from the dead, the true Son of our God, fulfilling the laws of our Heavenly Father as He conquerors sin, death and the Devil for us. What we are then reminded of is the fact that there is a responsibility that rests with us to search the Word to discover the Heart of our Heavenly Father. We can’t just cast it back to Him, blaming Him for our shortcomings because we were unwilling to take His Word and apply it to our lives when He has made it so readily available to us. If we are then unwilling to take that Word and live by it, to accept it on faith as the truth of God’s will and desires, plan and design for our lives, then what other sign will we accept, what other wonder will be good enough for us that it will be enough to turn us from our own sinful nature and base unrighteousness?

Here then we realize that the problem isn’t our God, the problem isn’t that He hasn’t sent us enough of a miracle, it isn’t that He hasn’t done enough for us to make His plans known for us, or that He hasn’t done enough for us to reveal Himself or His will to us. The problem is that we haven’t been listening close enough. The problem is that we haven’t been opening ourselves up enough to Him. This is the God who, after all, promises that “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) Yet, He is also the God who we are warned, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7) He is who will always answer us, but whose answers can only be heard through our belief and our faith, as we turn to Him and place our trust in Him, not because we are told to through the miracles He might perform but because of the great love He has already shown.

Look then not to signs and wonders, dear brothers and sisters, but to faith and to belief, leaning on the Word of the Lord and not some odd human demand for God to perform for you. Realize that He has already laid it all out right in front of you in the great love that He has for you, and that there is no greater miracle than that which He has already done to reveal Himself and His will for you. He is waiting for you, He is waiting to reveal His truth and His hope to you, not in some base temporal way, but through the triumphant truth that He has preserved through the ages for you. That is the great truth that He wants you to hang on to, it is the great truth that He wants to move you even as His Spirit moves through Your life to graft you to His tree that you might produce the fruits of His love, hope and peace, edifying, nourishing and uplifting all around you.

It is then that you will truly come to know His plan and design for your life as He moves through your life and in your life, giving to you all that you need to truly then dwell in His righteousness according to His hope and His mercy.

Lord, grant this unto us all.

Now may the peace of the Lord, that transcending, encompassing peace that surpasses all human understanding, knowledge and wisdom, keep your hearts and minds, spirits and souls in Christ Jesus even unto life everlasting. Amen.

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