Getting What We Deserve

Heritage Presbyterian Church

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2023

Scripture readings:  Ezekiel 34:7-15 and 1st Peter 2:19-22

What do any of us truly deserve?  That’s a very good question.  I may have a very good answer for us to ponder for today.

I think any of us truly deserve to win the Texas Lottery.  If you watch the Lottery news like I do, then you know that often one winner will score the really big jackpots, the ones that go above $500 million dollars.  Whenever that happens, I always watch for their names to come up a few months or a few years later in the news. 

Because inevitably, you will find that they didn’t invest the money, they didn’t spend it wisely or to help others, and they certainly didn’t give it to their church.

What did they do instead?  They went to Vegas, they splurged on new cars, fancy clothes, expensive dinners, outings to the fanciest nightclubs with all the beautiful people.  They blow it, in other words.

I just know in my bones that the good people in our church would never NEVER act that way.  We wouldn’t blow it like other Lottery winners have done.  I just know that the good people in our church would invest the money wisely, they would take care of others, they would set up scholarship funds for deserving students who wanted to study subjects that would help others, they would take care of their families and friends.  And they would most certainly give a bunch to our church.

I know this because I have heard many of you whisper promises to me whenever that Lottery grows above $500 million dollars, and dreams and plans began to grow in the hearts of you,

In other words, winning a big lottery jackpot is what we deserve.  Don’t you agree?

Oh, never mind…it’s not going to happen, and I’m not 100% serious anyway.

Seriously, what we deserve, what we get, what we should get, and ultimately what happens with whatever we DO get is a puzzle that I am still unraveling.  I can’t figure it out for myself, so I doubt I can figure it out for you either.

In our two readings for today, we have a very clear sense of the people getting what they deserve from the Lord.  But we also get a very clear sense of the people getting what they most definitely don’t deserve from the Lord: namely, grace, forgiveness, and a second chance.

In the Book of Ezekiel, we have the prophet receiving a vision from the Lord that shows the complete and total destruction of the nation of Israel.  First, that powerful, blessed nation split into Israel and Judah, which weakened both nations.  Then false shepherds led both nations into disastrous decisions and actions that led to their protection and blessing from the Lord being removed.  Finally, both nations were completely destroyed, taken prisoner, and carried off into captivity by lawless, pagan armies.  

But what did the people of God do to get what they deserved?

  • They listened to their earthly leaders, not the Lord.
  • They worshiped other gods, set up those altars worship sites on high places for all to see.
  • They turned away from the Lord in all that they did.
  • Worst of all, they taught their children and their grandchildren to turn away from the Lord they had once known.  

This hurt the Lord, it enraged the Lord, and it broke the Lord’s heart.  What more could the Lord have done for His people?  He had done it all, and His people had turned away and stopped following Him.

They stopped loving Him.  

So, they deserved what they got.

Yet, years after the people of Judah were taken to Babylon in captivity, Ezekiel received his vision showing that they Lord had NOT forgotten His people.  The Lord still loved His people.  And the Lord still had a plan for His people.

At some point in the future, a time of the Lord’s choosing, He would once again gather his flock, his sheep, his people, and He would care for them and protect them.  To follow the symbolism, they would dwell on fertile pastures under His protective arms, and they would be safe, happy, and content.

The Lord would not be like those…other shepherds…the ones who had failed to guide the other sheep toward the Lord instead of leading them away from Him.  The Lord would take care of things.

In other word, the people of God would get what they most certainly DID NOT deserve: love, grace, forgiveness, and protection from the Lord.

Then we hear from the Apostle Peter, probably the one man in human history who may not have gotten what he truly deserved.

Peter served next to Christ for three years.  He trusted Him, followed Him, believed in Him, promised to do anything for Him; yet, when Peter was confronted by three people who thought he might have been one of the Galileans with Jesus, Peter vehemently denied even knowing who Jesus was.

Oh, if there was ever an Apostle of the Lord who deserved to be permanently banished from the Kingdom of Heaven, it was Peter.  Yet, Peter was forgiven.  Peter was not only brought back into the flock, but he was once again put at the head of Christ’s church here on earth – just as Jesus promised…just as Jesus renamed him to do so.  “Petras”… “Rock”…remember?

Now, most of us have never publicly and while cursing loudly that we don’t even know who Jesus is.  And if we were threatened with the barrel of a gun, we could be forgiven for trying to save our own lives – or the lives of others we loved.

But in our reading for today, makes several points about suffering punishments:

  • We must submit ourselves to masters whether they are good and considerate, or bad and cruel.
  • If we bear up during a punishment we do not deserve, it is commendable because the one suffering the punishment is conscious of God.
  • Being punished for doing something good puts us in a similar situation to that of Christ.
  • Enduring punishment – whether deserved or undeserved – reminds us of the love that Christ showed us by accepting and enduring his punishment.
  • Finally, Peter reminds us that the Lord put his trust in the One “who judges justly.”  By the Lord’s wounds, each of us have been healed from our sin.

But no matter how we live our lives, no matter how many punishments we receive in our lives, no matter how often we admit our sins and vow to never commit them again…it will NEVER come out right in the end. 

For you see, if we live a bad life, we will be judged by God, and we will go to hell and get what we deserve.  

But if we live a good life – if we are good servants – we will also be judged by God, and then we will get what we don’t deserve – a place in heaven.  For we all know that none of us deserves heaven.  None of us are good enough.  None of us lives righteously enough – not even the best person you know.  All of us fall short of what we should be.  

Thank God that Jesus was sent to save us.  

Praise God that Jesus lived and died and rose for us.  Hallelujah God that he loved us enough.

Because if he didn’t, we just might get what we deserve.