Abraham Lincoln 1863, October 3.
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
He continues: I do therefore invite the fellow citizens in every part of the United States, also those who are at sea, those who are sojourning in foreign lands; those to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as Thanksgiving Day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. I recommend to them that while offering up ascriptions justly due Him for such singular deliverances and blessings that they also with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.
What president in modern times would use the words “our national perverseness and disobedience?” Can you envision any of them? Come into His tender care, all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers, and the lamentable civil strife. What’s a civil strife?1863, the Civil War which we are unavoidably engaged and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes.
The Most Thankful People
These people were more evangelical than most evangelicals are today. So we have in my humble opinion, which you can certainly disagree with it’s a free country, we have a lot to be thankful for. Comfort food and comfort football and uncomfortable proclamations, but if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ you have far, far, far, far more to be thankful for than anything.
If you trusted in Christ and Christ alone for your salvation; you put your trust in Him; what He did for you on the cross to pay for your sins, to die in your place instead of you on your behalf; to take the full penalty of your condemnation on Himself to die in your place; to live die, be buried and be resurrected; and to offer a free salvation to you and to me. Any and all and put their trust in Christ, and Christ alone are given a free gift of eternal life. If you put your trust in Christ, you and I have more reason to be thankful than anything else on the globe. If we remember it, remind ourselves of it, and we don’t forget what He’s done.
The Hopeless Condition of a Throw Away Person
In Luke Chapter 17, we read this plea for mercy from ten leprous men. Now, a couple of things. Number one: How did they know, Jesus, this Master could do these things? The message has traveled quickly in the ancient world. They didn’t have Twitter or iPhones, or 3G or 4G, or 1G, they didn’t have anything like that. How did this information travel so quickly by a rumor and word of mouth?
So information can travel very fast without technology. So these lepers have heard about this Jesus, that He’s healed people, that He’s cured people, that He’s multiplied loaves and fish, that He can walk on water. They’ve heard these stories. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
They went into the Canaanite country and if a brick had leprosy in a house the Levitical Priest was brought into inspect it. Early home inspection. Early black mold. They took the blocks out and if it grew back, they tore the house down. They had to take the stones outside the city to an unclean place and dump them there. If you had a lesion, a hair, this type of thing on your arm, on part of your body, the priest inspected it; if he declared you leprous, you were unclean and out of the village.
Invisible Leprosy of The Believer
They did not understand viral or bacterial transmission in the ancient world. But they understood clean and unclean that God had given the Levitical Priest this law. If you’re unclean, you’re outside the camp. Now the interesting part about the miracle that we’re going to read is: the disease is not just a picture of this leprous throw away person. The disease is an illustration of our sin condition. We all are spiritually lepers. Every disease, every blindness, every deafness, every lame person, every person who dies is an illustration of our sin.
When Christ comes back and He comes in the first century and He exercises miracles over these diseases, He didn’t just come to heal diseases, He came to heal the disease. So the plight cannot be missed. We are all spiritual lepers. We’re all throw away people. The only difference is visibility. You can see the disease of leprosy on a person’s skin, but you can’t see the disease of sin on our heart, mind, and soul, and body.
So the leper was illustrative, that we’re all leprous people, we’re all unclean outside of a relationship with God, outside of a relationship with God’s people. What do we see calling out for mercy? By the way there’ll be a time in your life when all the props are going to be knocked out and you’re going to cry for mercy. It’s very maddening to think about living with a disease, cancer, pain, Lupus, MS, and that your life is one that is crying out for mercy, but it is what the penitent sinner does. We’re all spiritual lepers and sometimes it’s desperate.
The Compassion of Jesus
There’s no record of hesitation. There’s no record of discussion with them, other than this one injunction, “Go, and show yourself to the priest.” That’s it. Now from Leviticus 13 and Leviticus 14 and following, the priest is the one we might say is the health inspector. He’s the one that is going to inspect the home or the person’s body, but the Levitical law did not say, Go to the priest. If you had leprosy in the home or had it, you invited the priest to come to you.
The only time you went to the priest is when you were healed. So Jesus is giving them a command that is out of step with their disease and that’s where the miracle hits the audience of the first century. A leper is going to go show himself to the priest as they’re going to heal because if you have leprosy you don’t go show yourself to the priest, you’re already unclean outside the camp of people and treated as a pariah in the refuse of humanity. Go show yourself to the priest. In the Levitical Law, the only time you went was when you were cured. Now their leprous skin is now pink and healthy and whatever deformity is gone, the lesions are removed.
The Disease of Sin
You see, when you’re a leper your disease isolates you from community and puts you in an unclean community. When you and I are sinners, we’re isolated by our disease from our relationship with God. We’re all abnormal. It’s just the visibility of the disease. The sin condition of the leper is no different than the condition of you and me. Being in a wheelchair is no different than walking on two feet upright. We’re all in that situation. Now these after they are healed, they are no longer isolated and their disease is gone and they’re back in a community. It’s a great picture of the compassion and grace of Jesus.
Sin is no respecter of persons. In other words, we’re all guilty. We’re all sinners. There are none righteous. No not one. The good news is that the ground of calvary is level. The base at the foot of the cross where Christ died for your sins and for mine is level ground. You don’t have to be a little better than someone else. I don’t have to be better than you. We need to stop the comparison game and realize we’re all sinners.
What We Got vs What We Deserve
We all deserve hell. None deserve heaven and it is by grace and grace alone that He calls, that He compels, that He chooses us, and then by faith, by trust, by believing in Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, we are saved. We of all people should be the most thankful people on the planet because He loves you and He cares about you and He died for your sins.
If you’ve trusted in Christ, in Christ alone, you’ve received the greatest gift of all time. His life for yours, eternal life with Him, forgiveness of sin forever and ever in a community with His people and His kingdom forever. That is a great reason to be thankful.
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