Prayer: O Lord, You have given us the priceless blessing of liberty, that we may freely serve You according to Your Word, be strengthened in the true faith by unhindered worship of You in Your Word and Sacraments, confess Your name freely, and spread abroad Your Gospel. Continue to spread the wings of Your mercy over us. Guide, bless and protect all whom You have placed over us in our government. Guard and protect all the soldiers preserving our freedom. Keep us from vanity and presumption, that we may so use our freedom and earthly prosperity that we do not forget You but praise You in word and deed. Amen!
1 Peter 5:6-14 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand. She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen. Lord, this is Your Word and these are Your words. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
In the name of Jesus Christ, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
Here at the end of 1 Peter the apostle says, “she who is in Babylon greets you.” The kingdom of Babylon was a heathen land where the Israelites were carried away captive in the Old Testament time. God promised to bring them home after 70 years; however, in the meantime they were to seek Babylon’s peace and pray for it, they were to be good citizens and build homes like they were going to stay there a long time, even though they knew they would come home soon.
When Peter says “Babylon,” his first readers knew what he was saying. It was a similar situation. They were living in godless Rome. Though they might live and die there, it wasn’t their true home. That was heaven, where they expected to be soon. For now, they lived in two kingdoms. This is the “she” living “in Babylon” – the holy Christian Church. It included “also Mark my son,” which was Peter’s tender way of referring to John Mark, writer of the 3rd gospel.
Like them, we live in two kingdoms. Unlike them, we need not live in fear that an emperor will subject us to torture and death. But despite our nation’s freedoms it is still our “Babylon,” allowing us freedom in faith but in many ways discouraging it, surrounding us with false religion and promoting wicked living. As we’ve sung that “Zion in her anguish with Babylon must cope,” today we learn:
How We Cope With Our “Babylon”
1. For Her Our Prayer Shall Rise
Our life in the world, in this America of 2012, actually makes remaining a Christian difficult. Because of our nation’s great “freedoms,” we are “free” to hear words of disrespect for proper authority, words that promote the homosexual lifestyle, words that undermine God’s institution of marriage – and now an election result that has done so — and we are “free” to see what our eyes should not see: pornographic images, improper display of the body even on “children’s” networks, images of violent behavior in video games geared at young teen-agers; not only seeing visual images but in what is available to read, our eyes are exposed to words of hatred, bullying, slander, disrespect, immorality.
Is this freedom? It’s a different kind of slavery: being captive to the sin all around us. This is because of the world we live in. When Peter speaks of “the sufferings experienced by your brotherhood in the world,” we can relate.
Peter shows where this comes from: “your adversary the devil [who] walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” A lion normally stalks its prey silently; the roaring is to make someone distracted with fright and terror, unable to think straight because of worry and fear. That’s what your life in the world is like. It’s hard enough for you, but you don’t want to expose your kids to these spiritual dangers, so you’re distracted with worry, maybe you don’t even like to hear God will “exalt you in due time,” it’s waiting too long.
Then comes: “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” – saying to take all that load of worry and throw it on God. How do you do that? You pray. Even for the wicked government, especially for wicked government. “For her our prayer shall rise.” Involvement in the political process might be good. But it will never do what prayer can. We can’t put our trust in men, in the right party or candidate. That introduces worry and anxiety, depending so much on the right person being elected or the right laws being passed and whether they will be upheld or struck down. You end up depending on your prayers being answered in such a specific way. You might think God answered your prayers if there is a certain result of an election, or if the opposite happens then God answered no. But who’s to say God didn’t answer the prayer? Perhaps in His wisdom He knows that His Christians are relying too much on who their leaders are, putting too much trust in earthly power and the ways to influence it. The words “casting all your care upon Him,” condemn you for relying only somewhat on Him, holding onto your worries.
It doesn’t mean there is nothing for Christians to do. In a state [Minnesota] where enemies of Biblical marriage are aggressively working to undermine it, starting in the schools, and in a nation that is governed by individuals who are waging war on unborn babies and passing laws that would force Christians to pay for abortion-causing drugs, we Christians should recognize that we are living in a Babylon even more today. God is calling you to resist the evil influences of this world you live in. “Casting all your care upon Him” means that you have more to do than ever in exercising your faith. In Minnesota the government is totally in the hands of those who in the past tried to pass progressive sex education which would be mandatory in every public school, which teaches girls how to apply for abortions and urges children to be unsure of their sexuality, says things like “it’s your choice” instead of “fear and love God by leading a chaste and decent life.”
You are being called to surround yourself with the true teaching of God’s Word, to be even more dedicated to coming to church and bringing your children, to spending time together every day in the Word and in prayer, to teaching your children in words what God’s design for marriage is, and in your actions by showing them how a Christian wife and husband live out God’s will in marriage. You are being called to a more active awareness that you are living in a society that will do everything it can destroy your faith and the faith of your child.
Putting your trust in God instead of what you can do in the political realm does not mean that you are giving up and retreating. We pray for our rulers to hinder wickedness and punish it, promote righteousness and do what’s needed to establish it. We pray God to protect, bless and guide our rulers. What this looks like we leave to Him. He gives more than we ask or deserve, “for He cares for you.” As you pray for our government, you’re putting it all in God’s hands.
How do we cope with our Babylon? For her our prayer shall rise. But also:
2. Now We Live in Hope
We ended the 2nd verse of “God Bless Our Native Land” singing “To Thee aloud we cry, God save the State!” — our prayer for America — but our next words were: “O sweet and blessed country …” That country isn’t America, it’s the “heavenly country” (He 11:16). This is the answer to all our prayers and all our cares.
This is what Peter is constantly directing us to in these verses.
How will God “exalt you in due time” but by taking you to heaven? This is, finally, how “He cares for you.”
Peter says He “called us to” something, not a perfect life on earth but it’s to “His eternal glory by Christ Jesus”! This is how “He cares for you.”
He says “after you have suffered a little while” – which God limits, it isn’t you who limits what even your government can do to you but God limits it so it won’t overcome your faith – “He will perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.” This is how “He cares for you.”
The last words, “Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus,” what is that but the peace that comes from sins forgiven? This is how “He cares for you” best.
The only way to handle the struggle of living in two kingdoms is to keep hearing the Gospel and receiving what it gives us. What do you hear? What does the Gospel say to you? Be very clear about this. It does not say what you must do. It does not bring up what you have done in the past or failed to do. It does not make any threats or give any dire warnings about the future. The Gospel says what Jesus has done for you as your Savior. The Gospel tells you that God loves you in Christ. The Gospel promises and comforts you with heaven.
So living in our Babylon, living in hope, depends not on what you do but what Jesus has done for you. Where you have lost confidence because of what is happening in your world and not cast all your care on your heavenly Father, He perfectly “entrusted Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pe 2:23). He did this to count for you so that all you have not done is completely forgiven. When you do not pray as you should, or don’t pray for the right things, don’t want to pray for your leaders or don’t pray from the heart for what they truly need, Jesus’ blood purifies your prayers, His Holy Spirit turns your groanings into the exact words that are pleasing to God, and He gives you “the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness” (Is 61:3). When you have in mind earthly things more than heavenly things, here too Jesus’ perfect obedience and trust count for you so that even your wants and wishes are made pure in His sight.
We know what our true fatherland is. Love for your country is a dim foretaste of the heavenly country, your true homeland. In fact, love of country is somewhat empty and meaningless without knowledge of, faith in, and love for the heavenly country. You love your earthly country more, the more you love the heavenly country. It is what keeps us from being hopeless, “for now we live in hope,” looking forward to the perfect country where nothing is lacking, where the King of kings rules us in perfect love, and perfectly provides for and protects us.
At the end of 1 Peter, as we see Peter in prison, kept company by St. Mark, suffering and expecting death any day, we turn to the book of Revelation which specifically shows us among the heavenly multitude the 12 apostles – including Peter – and the four evangelists – including Mark – no longer threatened by any earthly tyrant, nor by the devil prowling around, whose roar has been silenced, and their song of praise to the Lamb on the throne drowns out everything else. Hear this music, the “new song” of the Gospel. It will take away your care and worry; in its place thanksgiving and praise will come forth from you. Amen!