Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “There is No One Like This God!” based on Deuteronomy 33:26 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered: Ascension Sunday, May 13, 2018
Although he is a two time winner of the Mr. Universe competition, John Brown knows what it was like to be ignored, forgotten and overlooked. That’s what happens when you have the 2nd most common first name and the 5th most common last name in America over the course of the last 100 years. He was determined that his firstborn son would not be subject to the same utterly forgettable moniker, so John Brown went to (what some might consider to be) the opposite extreme. He wanted his son to never be overlooked, to always be remembered and so he named him Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J. St. Brown. If that name rings a bell—and well, why wouldn’t it?—it’s probably because Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J. St. Brown was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 6th round of last month’s NFL college football draft. So it’s possible that you might hear that name a lot more in the years ahead, along with his younger brothers, who are equally as talented on the gridiron: Osiris Adrian Amen-Ra J. St. Brown and Amon-Ra Julian Heru J. St. Brown.
John Brown knew it. Unusual names grab people’s attention. When you hear them, read them, or are introduced to someone who has one of them, they tend to stick. We have one of those unusual names in the Word of God before us tonight. It makes us stop, pay closer attention, and it might just stick with you long after you leave this place. As we study, we’ll see that this unique name opens the door to a discussion of our unique, one kind Savior. Truly There is No One Like Our God!
Moses says in Deuteronomy 33, “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty.” He’s not called the God of Israel. Not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But the God of Jeshurun. A name so unique that it only appears 4 times in the whole Bible, three of them right here in this section of Deuteronomy.
Most Bible scholars think that Jeshurun is a diminutive name for Israel. You know what a diminutive name is? It’s a term of endearment. It’s like on Gilligan’s Island when the Skipper calls Gilligan “little buddy.” It’s when I shake hands with a little one after church and I say, “Good morning, chief” or “Good morning, princess.” A diminutive could also be a nickname, like Margaret getting shortened to Maggie, Joseph to Joe or Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J. St. Brown perhaps being called EQ by his close friends. It’s the name that people call you when they know you less formally, and more intimately.
So now take all of that and consider that Moses talks about God and the Israelites with a diminutive name. There is no one the God of Jeshurun. Their great Jehovah had brought this people too far, they’d been through too much together to be relegated only to formal addresses and high falutin’ verbiage. Oh, don’t misunderstand. They were not comrades, nor were they equals. He was still the Creator and they, the Created. He was still perfect and they were still cabbageheads, creeps and clodhoppers. But they were His cabbageheads, creeps and clodhoppers. (Yes, I had to get out the thesaurus for that one!)
It might make you think how nice it would be for God to have a nickname for you, for you to be so dear to his heart, have that close of a relationship with the Almighty. No, we don’t have what Israel had. We aren’t his little Jeshurun for a limited time and in a specific context. We have something even better and closer. We aren’t a physical nation that belongs to him. We are his family.
Remember what Jesus called his disciples after he rose from the dead? He said “Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17) At Mount Sinai, Israel became God’s Jeshurun. But at Mount Calvary, you and I become something so much more, not to mention so much more than we deserve. And it was all because Jesus willingly became so much less than he deserved. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus was treated like a sinner, vile and disgusting in the eyes of the perfect God so that sinners can be treated like family, approved, welcomed and unconditionally loved in the arms of the perfect God.
It’s just like Moses said. There is no God like this God! I read something that crystallized that perfectly this week. I cannot attribute it to its proper writer because I absolutely cannot remember where I read it. But it was something to this effect. Every religion in the world is like swimming lesson at the lake. Buddha, Muhammad and all the rest will gladly shout instructions to you from the boat. But only one, only one will jump in the water when you start to go under, only one will plunge to the deepest depths for you. Not only does Jesus have the heart to jump in. He has the power to save you.
See that’s the beauty of the Ascension that Moses unwittingly brings out for us-1500 years before Jesus and his disciples stood on the hilltop in Galilee! There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The same God who is the God of a soft heart and diminutive names is the God of powerful arms, who rides on the clouds in his majesty. He doesn’t just ride on the heavens, he rides on the heavens to help you!
That is why we’re here. We need help. Because every day is a struggle. We were just talking in Wednesday morning Bible study about the Greek word ἀγω̂να. It gives us our English word “agony.” It literally means conflict or struggle, especially in the context of an athletic competition. Paul uses it in his letter to the Philippians to talk about our Christian struggle. (1:30) I asked the class what kind of things do we struggle against as Christians? Where do we have a little ἀγω̂να? They didn’t have any trouble coming up with answers: We struggle with being content with our callings and carrying them out each day without wanting to be someone else somewhere else. We struggle with temptations that lure us before we sin and then we struggle with consciences that bother us after we sin. We struggle with doing the things we shouldn’t do. We struggle with not doing the things we should do. We struggle with serving selflessly when we know our service won’t be acknowledged our appreciated. We struggle with not always knowing the God-pleasing thing to say or do in a given situation. We struggle with holding on to our values and principles in the face of work demands, family demands or the demands of a world that thinks they’re outdated and even hateful. Is there a single moment of the day when we do not struggle? Sadly no. The struggle is always going to be there. Good thing Jesus says he’s going to be there, too. “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
The one who was once visibly present among men, now is eternally present among us in Word and Sacraments. The one who stood on the neck of the devil now sits at the control panel of the Universe (while still standing on the neck of the devil!) There may be times when he eases our struggle. May be times when he takes a particular struggle away all together. But most often, he picks us up and carries us through the struggle. See his tender heart today. Trust his powerful arm today. Rejoice in an ascended Savior today. Who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. There is no one like your God! Amen.