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16 OCTOBER 1988

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

Exodus 16:15
Ezekiel 18:1-9
Matthew 25:31-46

Preparation Verse: (Exodus 16:15)

When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.”

Why do we walk for hunger?

Well, we shouldn't do it for Brownie points. We should be doing it because our heart is soft and compassionate, and we desire to do the will of God.

If we love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our might, and love our neighbors as ourselves, then we will take care of each other in times of need.

And, we will do everything in our power to protect the whole of God's creation, because God lovingly made it, and put it into our care.

If we are not committed to accept the whole "love package," then what we do will be incomplete or it will be done for the wrong reasons.

If our heart is truly in tune with the Lord, then we will just naturally do the things that He desires us to do; and we will not have to be told about it, or even have to have a "Crop Walk" to call our attention to the need.

But when our hearts are not in tune with the Lord, or if we haven't accepted our Lord, then all this is as foolishness or a bother in which we feel obligated to participate.

But if we are filled with the love of Jesus Christ, then all that we do will be a joy to our hearts as well as to those we help.

On the whole, we are a very prosperous nation, but there are still many in need. And on the whole, we also seem to want someone else to take care of the needy, but this is not what God desires.

For hundreds and hundreds of years, God tried to tell all of Israel to love Him and follow in His ways, but they kept falling away; and eventually there were almost none left who followed the Lord, and they were led into captivity.

The prophet Ezekiel lived in the time of the last captivity of Israel when Judah was led captive into Babylon.

In today's Old Testament lesson, Ezekiel 18:1-9, we hear the word of God coming to the prophet to explain to the people why all this has happened, for they still didn't seem to understand.

1. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying,

2. ''What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel saying,
'The fathers eat the sour grapes,
But the children's teeth are set on edge'?

The Lord is upset with the people because of what they are doing and saying.

The proverb they are using is saying that they are suffering for the sins of their fathers and not on account of their own sins.

They consider themselves righteous in their own sight, but God does not.

Thus the Lord continues:

3. "As I live," declares the Lord God, "you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore.

4. "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.

God sees the intent of the heart. Each person must stand before Him on their own merit, and also bearing their own sins.

The righteousness of our ancestors will not save us; neither will their sins condemn us.

Then God continues and says what He is looking for in His people when He searches their hearts.

5. "But if a man is righteous, and practices justice and righteousness,

6. and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor's wife, or approach a woman during her menstrual period –

7. if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry, and covers the naked with clothing,

8. if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity, and executes true justice between man and man,

9. if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully – he is righteous and will surely live," declares the Lord God.

Why do we walk for hunger?

God has told us here why we should be walking for hunger. It is the right thing to do.

But He has said much more.

He is saying that if it is the intent of our hearts to help others in their need because we are all His children, then it is what He desires, and He considers it righteous.

Because we do it this one day?

No. But because we are doing all these things that He is telling us, and we're doing them every day.

Now, let's pause for a moment and think about what the Lord said. We should have been feeding the hungry all along, and if we had, there wouldn't be any need for a walk for hunger.

However, not everyone is doing this, and many needy people go hungry.

Then is this a way of working our way into heaven?

No, it is not; for no one can work their way into heaven. We are saved by grace, not works.

We should be doing all these things because it is the desire of our hearts because we love the Lord our God, and because we love our neighbor.

But since the whole of creation should be a part of this equation, we should only be promoting a plant food diet, as God created for us and the animals to eat.

We should be looking out for the welfare of animals at the same time we seek to help our fellow human beings.

Also, a plant food diet is the healthiest diet anyone can eat, and it prevents most of the chronic diseases that plague so many people.

Isn't this also a part of loving our neighbor?

If it's not, it should be.

Helping others should be so natural a thing to do that we hardly have to consider it in our minds before we do it.

Then it is living in righteousness.

In one of Jesus' prophetic messages of the end times, He tells us how He will weigh the intent of the heart of each and every person when they come before Him.

Let's return again to our New Testament lesson for today, Matthew 25:31-46, and consider what we are being told in light of the reason we should be walking for hunger or supporting those who are walking.

31. "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.

32. "And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;

33. and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

The separation of the people is not being done on the basis of appearance, as one would with sheep and goats, and as some people do with other people.

The Lord doesn't care what we look like on the outside. He cares about what we are like on the inside. He seeks the intent of the heart.

Thus, He will separate the people, one from another.

34. ''Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35. 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;

36. naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'

Have you done the same?

Have you done the same for the Lord?

Perhaps you don't fully understand, as those who are being told this by the Lord. Let's look further.

37. "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink?

38. 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

39. 'And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

40. "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'

Do you remember last week when we were talking about the fact that the true laity are also true disciples of Jesus Christ?

Do you remember that the only people who were considered worthy enough to wait on the tables of the widows were the disciples?

Do you remember that as disciples we are to go out and preach the kingdom of God wherever we go, making disciples of all who will listen and hear?

And do you remember our discussion on the fact that our lifestyle will usually speak louder than our words?

And do you also remember that when we become disciples of Christ, we abide in Him, and He abides in us?

Thus, what we do for those in need, we do unto the Lord as surely as if it were actually Him alone.

41. "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;

42. for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;

43. I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in, naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'

44. "Then they themselves also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'

The answers of the believers and the nonbelievers sound exactly the same, but the intent is as far apart as they can get.

The followers of Christ do things naturally, and don't recognize that what they are doing is for the Lord.

Those who are not following the Lord have done nothing to help their fellow man, and thus were never in a position to recognize the Lord.

But the Lord recognizes the two groups, and thus concludes His message to them:

45. "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'

46. "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Last Monday night, prior to the Bible study, the visitation teams met to gain greater insight and confidence about what is necessary to do when visiting on behalf of the church and the Lord.

Ethel made a very profound comment about the way we behave toward one another.

She said, ''When new people used to move into town, people would bring a cake over to them as a way of welcoming them. We don't do that any more."

All week I have been pondering over that statement, and about another request I was given: that I would give a sermon on what I saw or desired for the future of this church.

Well, centered in this sermon and in these other comments is one of the answers to what I would like to see in the future of this church.

I would like to see us reach out to everyone in our community that is in need, that is not going to church, or that is new in town, and bring them the love of Jesus Christ.

How do we do this?

Some of us have already volunteered to visit these people.

Some others have also agreed to make phone calls to say “hello” and to see if those we call are in need or would like a personal visit.

Perhaps there are others who could bake cookies, or small cakes, or some other food to take to someone from time to time.

And I think of all the joy we have from those plants you gave us on Easter, and the hibiscus is still blooming every day.

Perhaps others would like a little plant, or even a single flower, as a way of saying “we love you and Jesus loves you.”

And once we let others know that we truly care and don't gossip about them, they will also let us know their other needs.

Remember that loneliness can also be a form of starvation, and we have the power to feed that need as well.

This is one of the things that I would like to see happen here, and I know it is what Jesus desires also.

And I know that you will have more ideas than these.

But are we, as a body, ready to take on this challenge?

If the answer is yes, then don't just talk about it. Let's put it into action.

Let's put it into action this week, and share the results with all of us next Sunday; but remember to share it without gossip. We don't even have to mention the person's name.

Then watch the miracles of God being manifested in the body.

People will begin committing their lives to God publicly, and not just in words, but in their changed lifestyle.

God will supply the funds to make this program work.

Darkness will be changed into light.

Sadness will be turned into joy.

And none of us will ever be the same again.

Why are we walking for hunger today?

It is because we haven't been doing it every day, but we can change that if we truly want to do it.