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God’s Word for You

Luke 12:51-53 Not peace but division

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 22, 2018

51 “Do you think that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. 52 For from now on five in one family will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Isn’t Jesus the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6)? Doesn’t Jesus himself say “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36) and “Go in peace” (Luke 7:50)? The Bible does not contradict itself, and Jesus tells the truth in everything he says. Here he is not talking about the small group of his followers who have peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:20). He is talking about bringing something to the whole earth—all people, believers and unbelievers alike. The coming of the gospel will bring division in the world.

The division is illustrated here with a single household: a father, a mother, a son with his wife (the daughter-in-law), and an unmarried daughter. The division Jesus illustrates is between the father and son and between the mother and the other two women. But are father and mother divided? Are the son and his wife (and sister) divided? Jesus doesn’t need to elaborate more. There can be no worse division in a family than a spiritual division. For a time—even years—they will try to overlook their differences, and they will attempt to get along. But their faith can’t be hidden under a basket. It will erupt and ignite, and where they disagree they will disagree with a vengeance. And unless the Bible itself is brought into what is said; unless the Scripture is allowed its place of honor and stature as the “ruling rule” and the “norming norm,” then there will never be a consensus. There will never be an agreement. Without the repentance and change of heart that the word of God brings, the family will remain separated, divided, and there will be hostility and grief. Those who know Jesus will grieve over the souls they love. Those who turn from Jesus will rage against those who embrace him.

This is what the word of God does. “His word runs swiftly” (Psalm 147:15). It works in the heart. When it is rejected, it works anger and rage. When it is not rejected but takes root like a living thing in the heart, then it works faith, peace, joy, obedience, and eternal life.

This is also the prophecy the Lord makes through Micah in the familiar “Bethlehem, Ephrathah” passage (Micah 5:2-6). After promising that the Savior would come from Bethlehem, Micah says that “He will be their peace,” and then he describes the Assyrians invading the land (Micah 5:5). But what will happen next? The Savior has come! The gospel is nigh! “They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword” (Micah 5:6). The prophet is seeing the work of the sword of the Spirit at work among the heathens and pagans beyond the river, where the exiles will surely go. No armed resistance would undo the Assyrian exile, or else the rest of the Bible is nothing but lies For Hosea says that the exiles would sadly remain and “eat unclean food in Assyria” (Hosea 9:3), and Jeremiah (who I think wrote Chronicles) says that only the tiniest remnant of people ever escaped from Assyria (2 Chronicles 30:6), something confirmed in the story of the birth of Christ when the old Asherite prophetess Anna blessed the Christ child in the temple when Mary went to be purified according to the Law of Moses (Luke 2:36-38). Micah’s words show us that the word of God is the sharp double-edged sword (Psalm 149:6; Hebrews 4:12). It cuts the heart and creates grief over sin and calls the terrified to repentance. It draws the lost to the light of the Lord. It proclaims our salvation, and so we call it the “Holy Bible” with good reason. It is indeed holy, and it makes us holy. It cleanses us through and through.

When there are sad and sorry divisions among us, and even among our families, it is the word of God that heals. When we share a common faith in Christ we aren’t just united with one another, we are united with God himself. In our eternal home, all our differences will vanish forever as we are gathered around our Savior. We trust in God that he will deliver us. Let him deliver us—for he delights in us. Amen.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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