“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.’”
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Why don’t they just write a manual? There is no manual? Nobody has ever really written a handbook on it. I’m sorry but you’re in uncharted territory, there is no real reference guide for it. How many times have we heard someone say something like that? How many times have we said it ourselves? It’s become so common that it has almost seems to have become a cliché for us in how we live our lives each and every day.
The truth is that we want easy answers, we want them laid out there right in front of us and when life becomes hard or difficult, when we are forced to face challenges, challenges unlike anything we were ready for or unlike anything we have faced before we find a reason as to why the answers are not that readily available to us. We want a manual, or a handbook or, perhaps we just want some miraculous sign that we are on the right path or the right road. If only we had some sort of guide that would show us the way. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be a dramatic as God parting the skies and shaking the ground with that blinding flash of light that gave Saint Paul or Constantine their call to faith, laying out their path for them, but can’t it be something certain? Can’t it be something just as decisive so that we can know with our hearts and souls exactly where God is lead us to.
If we listen to the rich man as he pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers, to show them the way, as he pleads with him to send that once poor beggar, now glorified in the Kingdom, to appear before them, to warn them, that is exactly what he is asking for. He is begging Abraham to send a guide to the five he has left behind so they could be spared his fate, and the torment and agony that it has brought to him. After all, how could they know the fate that would await them and their idle lifestyles if there was no one to tell them? How could they know the suffering and the sorrow that would come by ignoring the plight of the poor and the downtrodden, the weak and the afflicted if no one was there to tell them how they were supposed to live their lives for the good of others and the betterment of their fellow man? They needed something, someone who would tell them, so send Lazarus to them, let him warn them.
Abraham’s response is telling though, isn’t it? He looks down and he says to him in no uncertain terms that he won’t. They, after all, have Moses and the prophets to guide them. What more could they possibly need that they don’t already have? It was all there for them if they just took the time to heed the call and listen to the words that they offered and lived by them. The key to an abiding faith wasn’t in seeing and hearing the voice of someone coming back from the grave to warn them to change their ways like some Dickensian fairy tale. It was in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, “God-breathed” and “useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Perhaps Abraham’s response may have seemed cold and distant to the Rich Man now suffering in agony, wishing for nothing more than to spare his brothers the same fate that he met for his lifetime of idle selfishness. The man pleaded with him, after all, to send Lazarus to his family, and yet he was met with rejection, hearing Abraham tell him that he will not. Yet, the truth is that they, like the Rich Man himself, had everything they needed to spare themselves that life of torment and agony, that eternity of bitter pain and sorrow, they didn’t need Lazarus to return from the grave to tell them that which God had clearly laid out in front of them through the Word that He, Himself, preserved through bondage and captivity and destruction to edify, instruct and uplift His children. If the divine and holy Scriptures, ordained and inspired by God, written by His servants through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, wasn’t enough for them then what good would the words of a man be, even a man who rose from the dead?
You see, there is no real divine mystery to our Heavenly Father, nor is there some holy secret to understanding Him and His plan for our lives. God didn’t hide from the Rich Man some knowledge or wisdom that he and his family needed to escape the punishment that he ultimately came to face. In fact, every moment of each day He is talking to us, revealing Himself to us, offering us guidance, wisdom, understanding and direction. He is doing so through His Word which He has preserved, in love, for us through the generations. We don’t need miraculous signs or wonders; we don’t need the Heavens to part and the booming voice of God to break forth from the clouds like rolling thunder to guide our way because we have the Word, and that Word itself is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Psalm 100:105) It is there in our lives, for our lives, and it “is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) What more could we possibly need to help us along our way? What else could we possibly have to look to that can better guide us or instruct us, that could better show us the way as we remember that though God is everywhere He only reveals Himself in certain places and certain ways, chief amongst them being His Scriptures?
God freely gives to His children the wisdom that they need, offering to them the knowledge that is necessary to truly do His works and be His people. He does so freely and without reservation, that each and every person called by the Spirit and willing to offer of themselves to their Heavenly Father are able to find exactly what He wants of them, what it is that He expects of them, and how He has called them to live their lives. For as many times as we may complain that we don’t have a manual or a handbook, for as often as we wish we just had some sort of guidebook to life that would just show us the way and make it easy for us, the truth is that we have one through the Word of God. It is a manual that was written not as a one size fits all sort of instruction book for a specific model of human life, but one that was written for all people according to all walks, living in every sort of way and every sort of life. It handles not only the very vague, but the very specific as well, as God tell us what it means to be His children and to walk according to His light and His love. Its written for us and to us in the deeper truth that our Heavenly Father knows us and understands us better than we know and understand ourselves. Whatever the stumbling block might be, whatever the challenge might hold, whatever the struggle is that’s in front of us, whatever limitations we put on ourselves or pettiness that takes hold of us, He gives us the means to live a better life and to do more with the gifts that He has given to us. We just need to read our Bible, to study it and to remember that it has everything we need within its pages as Moses and the Prophets, as Christ and the Apostles, as Saints and Disciples, testify of God’s great love for our lives.
Yes, there are going to be times when the Word of our Lord is going to be filled with some hard truths about ourselves, forcing us to reflect and examine our lives and our priorities. There are going to be times when it’s going to convict us through the power of the Holy Spirit, calling us to see our sins clearly, opening our eyes to our thoughts, our words and our deeds, that which we have done and left undone around us. These are sometimes hard truths for us to swallow as they call us to leave our sinful nature behind us, to abandon our flesh and to seek the true Spirit of our Lord and God. It causes us to open our eyes to the truth of our Lord, that we are given to uplift, to edify, to sanctify and to nourish those around us, showing care to those in need just as our dear Savior showed care unto us, rescuing us even when we were lost and without hope in this life.
Turn then to the Word of the Lord, and let the warning of Abraham be your warning also dear Brothers and Sisters. If your waiting for the earth shattering sign from above that will completely remake your world and transform your life, stop, if you are complaining that life needs a handbook because you’re just not getting it, then stop, and turn to God’s Word. Listen to the warning of Abraham and let it be a call, you have Moses and the Prophets, you have the Saints and the Savior waiting to lead you and guide, willing to offer the insight of a life given to God, a life where they were taken by the hand and lead by their dear Savior through trials and triumphs, sorrow and success, taken from selfishness and lead to selflessness. It is there waiting for you as your Heavenly Father whispers to you the deeper lessons of life and faith in His abundant mercy.
Our God doesn’t want any to stumble or to fall, He doesn’t want any to falter in their steps. It is why He has preserved and safeguarded His blessed Word for you and your life. It is yours then to make good use of it as you turn from your own ways, as you let go of this world and the distractions of it and set your sights on Him and His plan for your life. Remember, He has plans for you, plans for you to do wonderful things as you touch the lives of those around you, you just need to begin your journey with Him as you mediate and learn at the feet of His throne. Then you shall learn not only how to love rightly or how to give of yourself freely, but also how to do more and be more with the gifts that He has, in love and hope, in grace and mercy bestowed upon your life. Everything He does, right to sending His only Son to conquer sin, death and the Devil, is meant to uplift you in His righteousness that you may behold Him in His glory in His Kingdom. His Word is no exception. Take hold of it and let it be the source of knowledge, wisdom, truth and guidance as you strive to be all that He calls you to be.
Lord, grant this unto us all.
Now may the peace of the Lord, that transcending, encompassing peace that surpasses all human knowledge, understanding, wisdom and enlightenment keep your hearts and souls, spirits and minds, in Christ Jesus even unto life everlasting, Amen.