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You would think, wouldn’t you, that the almighty God,
• who “laid the foundations of the earth and determined its measurements… when the morning stars sang together and the Sons of God shouted for joy;”
• who “shut in the sea with doors when it burst from its womb… and said, ‘thus far you shall come and no further and here shall your proud waves be stayed;”
• who “commands the morning…and causes the dawn to know its place;”
• who “puts the stars in their place in the sky;”
• who “commands the clouds,”
• who “sends forth lightnings,”
• who “draws out Leviathan with a fishhook; and plays with him as with a bird, and puts him on a leash for your girls…” (Job 38)
You would think, that this God, could get you to do His will too, wouldn’t you? You would think, wouldn’t you, that if God can impose His will upon the sea and the stars and the clouds and Leviathan, He could impose His good and gracious will upon His two-legged humanoids just as easily? Wouldn’t you?
Or, maybe you think that He does.
• Maybe you think that the murders at Sandy Hook;
• and the bombing in Boston;
• and the unborn children who never see the outside of their mother’s womb;
• and the children who are sold for sex;
• and the drugs that are sold for money;
• and the marriages that are ruined for lust…
Maybe you think that this is GOD’S WILL being done. Because after all, God is almighty and can do what ever He wants to do. Right? Therefore His Will must always be done. Right?
Why is it that we look at what man does and what we do and assume that whatever we do, whatever is done to us, it must be GOD’S WILL?
Maybe, rather than trying to interpret God’s Will from the episodes of our life, and say things like, “it must be God’s will,” no matter how evil and ungodly it might be, maybe we should look let God’s speak for Himself and tell us what His will for you and me is.
He happens to spell His will out in unequivocal terms.
• It is God’s will that “you shall have no other gods.”
• It is God’s will that “you shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”
• It is God’s will that “you shall honor the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
• It is God’s will that “you honor your father and mother; that you not murder; that you not commit adultery; that you not steal; that you not covet.”
It is God’s Will that you should obey His commandments. Is God’s will DONE in your life? How many times a day is God’s will NOT DONE in your life? How many times a day do we over rule God’s will with our own will?
The Bible makes GOD’S WILL perfectly clear:
• ‘Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?’ (Ez. 18:23). But how many will not turn and therefore die in their sins? And God’s will is NOT DONE.
• ‘[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ (1Tim. 2:4). But not all are saved. And God’s will is NOT DONE.
• “it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.’ (Mat. 18:14). But some do, and God’s will is NOT DONE.
• ‘For this is the will of my Father; that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’ (John 6:40). But not all who look to the Son believe in Him, and God’s will is NOT DONE.
At least let us see things in the light of God’s Word and not our own imaginations. NOT EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IN THIS WORLD AND THAT HAPPENS TO US IS GOD’S WILL. Let us see that in fact, much of what happens in this world and to us, is NOT GOD’S WILL, but is the product of MAN’S WILL as it is opposed to GOD’S WILL.
If we were to be completely honest with ourselves, (which is way too painful to do, apart from faith in Jesus Christ, in whom we have the safety of divine forgiveness and divine mercy), if we were to be honest with ourselves, we would confess that more often than not, we strive to carry out OUR WILL, no matter how much it may stand in opposition to GOD’S WILL.
If there is a place where we may actually identify the WILL OF GOD in the disasters and the destruction that take place, and in our own unhappiness and discontentment with the way our life seems to go, it may well be found in those terrible words from Paul’s letter to the Romans, “And God gave them up…”
He lets the will of sinful and fallen man be carried out without His gracious interference or His hindering hand, in the hope that we may realize the deadly direction that OUR WILL is taking us and repent and turn and pray: “Our Father in Heaven… ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” (Mathew 6:10)
Once again in our tour through the Lord’s Prayer, we find that our Lord leads us into this blessed relationship with “Our Father in heaven” through the CONFESSION OF SINS.
Here, Jesus directs us to pray against ourselves. We desperately need GOD’S WILL to be done, in this world, and in our lives. We confess that OUR WILL is opposed to GOD’S WILL. We therefore pray that OUR WILL would be broken; that God would crush the rebellion against HIS WILL in which we daily participate.
If we can swallow this, (which again, is way too painful to do, apart from faith in Jesus Christ, in whom we have the safety of divine forgiveness and divine mercy), in this petition, our Lord directs to pray for what we DO NOT WANT.
Luther captures the paradox of our situation like this, “It is not a bad, but a very good sign if the opposite of what we pray for appears to happen. Just as it is not always a good sign if our prayers deliver all that we ask for.” (Lectures on Romans).
When Jesus says, “pray like this, Our Father in heaven… Thy will be done, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN,” He is exposing the great gulf that exists between heaven and earth.
In heaven, the WILL OF GOD is always done perfectly, completely; not grudgingly or with resentment; but with ‘heart and mind perfectly united to the heart and mind of God.’
But on earth it is not this way at all. The forces that work against the WILL OF GOD on earth are both external and internal – the world, the devil and our own sinful nature.
Let’s be sure that we listen closely to what He says and what He doesn’t say. Jesus does NOT say that WE should strive to establish GOD’S WILL on earth. Isn’t it true that whenever man tries to establish the GOD’S WILL ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN, he typically makes a bad situation even worse? For how else can man establish the Will of God on earth except by force and threats and punishments, which is precisely NOT how “it is in heaven.”
It is the work of God to establish HIS WILL ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. And He never does that nationally or corporately, through power or politics or referendums, but by the conversion of one WILL at a time, through the washing of Holy Baptism, and preaching of the Holy Gospel, and the administration of Holy Communion.
Which makes perfect sense ONLY if we consider Whom this is who is telling us to “pray like this?” This is Jesus Christ, in Whom heaven and earth are united together completely and perfectly AS ONE. “I and the Father are one,” He says. (John 10:40). “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38).
This is how we are to understand that hour in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prays in a bloody sweat. “And he withdrew from [the disciples] about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. NEVERTHELESS, NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE.”
Jesus Christ takes our FALLEN WILL upon Himself and stands in our place before God the Father. Whenever we are faced with trials and troubles and suffering, we pray to God with the goal that we may CHANGE the FATHER’S WILL so that OUR WILL would be done. We want to force OUR WILL upon GOD.
But the Son prays as we should, in our place and on our behalf. “NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE.” We picture this scene all wrong if we see Jesus praying with clenched teeth and a raised fist.
No, He prays with the blessed liberation of being set free to do the THY WILL ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. A blessed relief that is found in the words of St. Luke who reports, “And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him.”
As the good and gracious WILL OF GOD is done in Jesus Christ, it is done in all those who are in Jesus Christ.
One last thing. There is an idea that has been going around for a long time that everything is to be attributed to ‘FATE,’ and that everyone’s ‘FATE’ is predetermined and inescapable. And therefore the best thing that you can do if you want to find peace and contentment for your life is to surrender to your ‘FATE.’ Learn to love and affirm the thing you hate since you will never be able to overcome it.
This of course, is not what is happening with Jesus in the Garden, and it is not what He says we should pray for. Jesus never tells us to embrace or love our ‘FATE.’ Never once in the gospels do we ever see Jesus say to the blind man or the demon possessed or the sick that the best they can do is to embrace their fate and learn to love it.
No, Jesus showed each and every one who came to Him the HIS FATHER’S WILL for them. And in each and every one of the blessed miracles that Jesus does, we are to see that it is the WILL OF GOD to overturn the “FATE” of sinful men and women.
For now, we neither look for miracles to see God’s Will being done on earth as it is in heaven; nor do we look to the circumstances and conditions of our life to try to discern God’s Will for us. We look to Jesus, in whom the good and gracious will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven – FOR YOU.
The day will come when the great gulf between heaven and earth will be closed and the two will become one.
Already, the last day is being carried out in the present by Jesus Christ and through faith in Him.
Already, “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.” (Small Catechism explanation to 3rd petition).