Philip Casmer

The Lord Richly Blesses

by Philip Casmer on February 6th, 2022
Romans 10:12–17

Who will answer, gladly saying, “Here am I, send me?” Will you? The fields are ripe. Your neighbors know nothing of the gospel (some of them). The harvest is waiting. Countless thousands are awash in the discord of the world; the sounds of salvation need a hearing. The Lord is calling, loud and long, again and again. Who will answer, gladly saying, “Here am I, send me?” Will you?

If there’s any hesitation, perhaps the problematic word in the hymn is “gladly”. If we’re honest… Perhaps you feel a little guilt. It’s not gladly but out of obligation, you’d go. Maybe you cannot speak like angels; unabashed and faithful tellers of God’s message – less glad, more afraid. Maybe you cannot preach like Paul, relentless in trials – not glad but hesitant. Maybe you cannot rouse the wicked with a fire-alarm of judgment – that’s harsh and you’re soft-spoken and given to pulling back from conflict. 

I love the hymn of the day, but it feels a little simplistic sometimes, doesn’t it? It’s a beautiful hymn, but the transition in st.2 isn’t always that simple. You were thinking that speaking like angels and preaching like Paul was synonymous with just “telling the love of Jesus” — you never had in mind something more complex in the first place. And you might never have thought at all of rousing the wicked in any way; but if the alternative is leading children, that might be equally as daunting for you! You’re not a watchwoman, you say, pointing the way to heaven for all to see. But you might also feel poor in offerings or prayers. 

But that’s not really fair to the hymn. It’s the right call. And fitting with the day. The problem isn’t the options provided there. It’s that often you don’t feel you have what it takes – whatever the options are – to speak or preach or watch or point or rouse or give or pray or lead. And that can suck the gladness right out of us.  The real question is, “How will you answer gladly?”

In Romans 10, Paul addresses it some by getting down to what’s key to remember. He’s reminding his listeners of the truth: that God had not abandoned his people Israel as the gospel went out to other people, the Gentiles. No, God’s people had stopped listening and opted instead for living before God on the basis of their own works. They’d leaned into the old sacrifices and rituals. They’d stopped looking ahead to where those things pointed (God’s promised Savior) and instead toward themselves and how those rituals worked and felt. As Paul says at the beginning of this chapter, “[T]hey are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge…[they] sought to establish their own [righteousness].” They were missing this knowledge: Jesus Christ is our righteousness and there is no other – to be found or worked. And, God is indiscriminate with this good news: v.11 “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Doesn’t matter if they’re Jew or Gentile, old or young, man or woman, and so on. To v.13 in our text, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (the Lord Jesus Christ) will be saved.” This is what God’s doing.

From which, Paul draws you in to thinking this through, “14 How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (10:14–15, NET)  Which leads us back to the main problem, “Who will answer the call to go and preach, gladly saying, ‘Here am I! Send me!’” Circular and frustrating?

The solution to the problem is actually right there in the verse I skipped—v.12. Where Paul says there is no distinction between people before God… 

Like between you and Isaiah. Isaiah answered gladly saying, “Here am I, send me!” But you wouldn’t have guessed that’s where that scene was headed. Not in that looming throne room with the God of Might and Power and holiness that shakes you to your very core… It isn’t gladness Isaiah had. To put it in our vernacular – “I do not belong here… I have sins in the things I’ve said and the stuff I’ve watched and the things I’ve pursued in this place I live, and I’ve seen pure righteousness and unimaginable power – power that destroys whatever capabilities I thought I had… I’m ruined! Woe to me!” 

It’s the same with you and Peter, though less visually intimidating. Peter knew his craft, so when Jesus told him to take another stab at the fish-catching – and not with any ingenious thing – just hit the deep water and drop the nets… maybe it was a bit like when the electrician doesn’t super appreciate your suggestions about what gauge wire to use on the basis of what YouTubes you’ve watched. But as they hauled net-breaking, ship-sinking piles of fish back to shore, Peter understood something was different. He wasn’t glad. “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Because he was astonished; knocked out of his normal operation by the mighty power of one who knew and could do anything he wanted, far beyond what Peter could. This one standing there on the shore looking thirty-something and kind could only be the holy God, the Lord Almighty…

Hear their words and understand it’s the same. If you want a reason not to be glad, it’s in the sins we have. The one holy beyond imagining is the sender, and you are filled with sins of excuse and fear and doubt and selfishness and weakness and blame. And so am I. Romans 3:22–23 “There is no difference between [you, me, and anybody else], for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” They do not belong in his throne room. They do not deserve his fish-catching prowess. We’re sinful people. Not remotely righteous. Not when compared with him. Not by anything we have ever done.

If we want a reason to be glad, it’s also in v.12.  No distinction between people God makes, to say it literally, because “the same Lord over all is rich toward all”. That’s actually the main point in this section of Romans and for if you ever think about proclaiming his message or if we ever wonder about who believes and does not. The thing to remember and rely on is: the Lord richly blesses.

Isn’t that actually what you see with Isaiah, trembling in God’s throne room? At God’s gracious touch, “See… your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” What separates from God is removed. And with Peter, to put words in Jesus’ mouth, “Don’t let sin make you afraid, I’ve taken care of it.” 

We need not fear either. The Mighty Lord is rich in everything, and he shares it. His Word tells of Jesus who lived right in our presence proclaiming God’s rich, undeserved love. He gave himself to purify us of all sins; to be God’s Word of salvation to us.  By faith in him and his work, God richly blesses us even more: we belong in God’s presence too. 

That’s “the word about [Jesus] Christ,” his story. But maybe it’s not only or best in v.17 a “word about Christ”. Maybe we need to think of it today as the “word of Christ”, the one from him to us: “from now on you will fish for people,” he says to Peter. He says to you, “I don’t call you sinners, I call you servants. And I send you…”

Isn’t that what fills Isaiah’s heart with gladness, so that he raises his hand? “Here am I. Send me!” Isn’t it what kept Peter on the path with Jesus, finally to proclaim him in places he never thought he’d be? Isn’t this what makes our hearts glad to raise our hands to be pastors or teachers in God’s church or preachers and messengers in our lives in this world? Not because we have prowess or power or wit, but because the Lord in his richness has sent Jesus to call us his very own? And in this way we’re not weak or afraid or poor speakers or timid – more than anything else we are blessed.

If so, then we must listen, for his call works like this: “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”  Hear his Word yourselves and do not stop up your ears. Listen to how he speaks of you as his own and pure and holy. Hear and know that nothing is more powerful than his grace; no one is more wise than him, and nothing could be more simple – where this Word is proclaimed, God promises to work. 

That’s the real emphasis. That’s how we might preach relentlessly like Paul, or instead very simply. And how we could point the path to heaven like a watchman, or hold up God’s church in offerings and prayers. How you might rouse the wicked with alarms of judgment, or encourage the little children into Jesus’ waiting arms in Sunday school. Because the Lord richly blesses, we gladly take up the task and let his work our pleasure be. Answer quickly when he calls you, “Here am I, send me!”

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