Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Justification in the Apostles’ Creed - December 13, 2017 - Second Advent Midweek - Text: The Apostles’ Creed

This year, in keeping with the celebration of the 500 anniversary of the Reformation, for the Advent through New Year’s Eve services we will look at the main emphasis of the Reformation, which is the authority of the Word of God and the article of the confessions on which the church stands or falls, the article on justification by grace through faith in Jesus alone. We will look at justification in the way of the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism and prayerfully we will connect this justification to our Christmas, birth of Jesus celebration and our New Year’s celebration as well.

Last week we took up the first of the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism, the Ten Commandments. Today we take up the second chief part of Luther’s Small Catechism, the Apostles’ Creed. As there are some in our world who say they do not believe in creeds I would suggest that is because they do not know what a creed is. So we define a creed as nothing more than a statement or confession of faith or as some call it today a statement of faith. We might liken a creed to Jesus warning that if we do not confess faith in Jesus, He will not confess His dying for us.

Although we learn of the persons of the trinity each individually as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we must at all times remember that they are never separate, but are always one, just as the creed is one creed. With that reminder we want to being with the first article of the creed. In the first article we begin in the beginning with a confession of faith that in the beginning God created. God created all things out of nothing. In the beginning all was perfect because all was created by our perfect God.

Unfortunately, what God created as perfect, as good, man quickly made sinful through disobedience. It was the disobedience of Adam and Eve that brought sin and the need for a Savior which brings us to the second article.

In the second article we confess our faith in God’s promise of forgiveness, especially His promise first given in the Garden of Eden and reiterated to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, King David and so on throughout the Old Testament, a Savior for all people.

We confess that we believe that Jesus is and had to be true God in order to be born in perfection. Because we humans have had our DNA, our genes tainted by sin and because only God can be born sinless, therefore Jesus was conceived by God the Holy Spirit in order to be born sinless and truly God incarnate, or in the flesh. We confess that we believe that Jesus is also truly human and He had to be a human in order to be our substitute, that is in order to trade His life for ours. Remember, the price for sins was death, one human death for another human death. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament did nothing to gain or earn forgiveness, they merely pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice of a true man, Jesus and His death for our death as a substitute for us.

We confess that we believe that Jesus lived for us. He lived in perfection, as we were reminded last week, never disobeying any of the commandments but perfectly keeping them all. He perfectly obeyed all God’s Law and perfectly fulfilled all God’s promises concerning His coming as the Messiah, the Savior, the Christ.

We confess that we believe that having lived in perfection Jesus then took our sins, all our sins and the sins of all people, of all places, of all times on Himself. The price for sin which was set in the Garden of Eden was death, physical death and apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus it would be eternal spiritual death. Jesus suffered death, physical death as well as hell, eternal spiritual death for us on the cross and He died.

We confess that we believe the Jesus did not stay dead but on the third day He rose from the dead. He rose bodily from the grave. Death and the grave had no power over Him as He defeated death and the grave. He rose and showed Himself to be alive for forty days so as many as possible might bear witness of His resurrection. He rose and because He rose we know that we too will rise again.

In the third article we confess our faith in the third person of the trinity, God the Holy Spirit who is one with the Father and the Son, undivided in unity. We confess that we believe that God sends the Holy Spirit just as He promised to bring us to faith and keep us in faith.

We confess that we believe the Holy Spirit points to Jesus and points us to Jesus. The Holy Spirit does not point to Himself and does nothing to point us to look at Him. We hear little of the Holy Spirit because He is doing His work of pointing to Jesus. He points us to Jesus because in Jesus is life and salvation.

We confess that we believe the Holy Spirit works through means to point to Jesus. God has given us a way or a means in which He comes to us to give us the good gifts and blessings He has to give and those means are His Holy Word, confession and absolution and His sacred acts or Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Through these very means, even ordinary means God comes to give us faith, to give us forgiveness, to strengthen us in faith, to keep us in faith, to give us life and salvation. As we read and hear God’s Word the Holy Spirit uses and works through that Word to give and strengthen us in faith. As we confess our sins and hear the pastor speak the words of absolution the Holy Spirit works through that proclamation to give us the forgiveness won, earned and paid for by Jesus. As water and God’s name are spoken on us at our Baptism the Holy Spirit gives us faith and forgiveness, writes our names in the Book of Life, and makes us His own. As we eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood in His holy meal the Holy Spirit connects us to Jesus so that we participate in Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection so that they become a part of us and ours.

As we confess our faith in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we confess our faith in our justification by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. On our own, our standing before God is that we have messed up what God has first given in perfection. Even as Adam and Eve brought sin into the world through their disobedience, we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. God created all things in perfection and He demands the same from us that we live in perfection, which we cannot do.

God’s demand is perfection and we cannot regain perfection on our own, no matter what. As we were reminded last week, a drowning person cannot save themself but must completely depend on the life guard to save them. So even us, we cannot save ourselves but we must completely depend on Jesus to save us.

As we confess in this creed, God cleans up what man messes up, and He does so on a daily basis. As we heard last week and the reason for the commandments is to show us our sin so that the Gospel might lead us to repentance. The Apostles’ Creed is a confession of the Gospel, of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who created all things perfect and holy out of nothing; who took on flesh and blood in order to bring us back into a right relationship with Himself, who comes to us through ordinary earthly means, Word, Water, Bread, and Wine, to give us forgiveness, to strengthening and keep us in faith.

As I have reminded you time and again, we get it right when we point to Jesus. We point to Jesus as we confess that God makes us right with Himself because He loves us so.

As we continue to move through this Advent season we continue to prepare ourselves to celebrate the beginning of the end, the birth of the One sent to bring us justification to us and to all, Jesus. We are reminded of the reason for Jesus’ birth, our sinful and fallen nature. But more we are reminded of God’s great love for us so much that He did give His life so that we might have forgiveness and life.

And so we boldly confess, not for someone else, but for ourselves. We confess and profess our faith in God who is one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We confess and profess pointing to Jesus, the author and Perfecter of our faith. We confess and profess as we reflect His love back to Him, as we echo His Word, that is as we say back to Him the very Words that He has given us to say and in so doing worship Him and give praise and glory to His Holy Name, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Prepare the Way for the Lord - December 10, 2017 - Second Sunday in Advent - Isaiah 40:1-11

Today is the Second Sunday in Advent and we continue to prepare ourselves for our Christmas Day Celebration. Preparation is something that is very important to us. When we do not take the time to prepare, things do not go the way we might want. It is very much like the old saying goes, “People do not plan to fail, they fail to plan.” God had a plan. His plan was to send His one and only Son to suffer the eternal consequences for the sins of the whole world. God did a lot of preparing to make sure His plan worked. At just the right time God set His plan in motion and His plan did work, because God prepared it and worked it. As we go about our daily lives during this time of the year, it is as if most people skip the part of planning for Christmas and just jump straight to the Christmas celebration. That is too bad, because the time for preparation brings more excitement and anticipation for the celebration.
Our text for today speaks of God’s preparation. We read about the sending of a Savior beginning at verse one; “1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 3A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken’” (v. 1-5).
In English a double negative is not a good thing. In Greek and Hebrew a double negative compounds and emphasizes the negative. Likewise a double positive emphasizes the positive. In our text we hear the prophet Isaiah emphasizing the positive when he says, “Comfort, comfort.” This word is one which means to breath deeply, to sigh in deep relief. These words remind us that our comfort, our real comfort, comes only from God. The prophet speaks words which prepare the people for God’s comfort, because the people had suffered enough.
The prophet announces the Savior’s coming. The Savior’s coming would be in Bethlehem, but His saving work, His dying on the cross would be in Jerusalem, the capital city of the children of Israel.
Before Jesus began His earthly ministry, His way, His path was prepared. John the Baptist is the voice of one calling in the desert. John the Baptist is the one the Lord sent to prepare the way for the Savior. In somewhat the same way as we prepare ourselves for our Christmas celebration, so the Lord prepared His people, those who continued to believe in the promise of a Messiah so that they would recognize Jesus as the One promised to save the world.
John came calling in the desert. Many years earlier the Lord delivered the children of Israel out of the desert into the promised land. This deliverance was a foreshadowing of what was now about to happen. Now the Lord has sent His Son to deliver the people out of their desert of sin into the promised land of salvation. How fitting that John came calling in the desert.
John came calling people to repentance. Jesus came to earn forgiveness for the world, but the world can refuse that forgiveness. John knew and understood this, thus he came calling the people to not refuse Jesus’ work of forgiveness by encouraging them to repent. John knew that some of the people were looking for a social-political savior, one who would overthrow those in power over them. He also knew that this was not the reason Jesus came into the world, as a social-political savior. The promise of a Savior was first given in the Garden of Eden, to Adam and Eve and to all humanity. The promise was for a Savior who would bring forgiveness of sins, a Savior who would bring humanity back into a right relationship with God the Father. Thus, John came calling, not a call to arms, but a call to repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The prophet continues with his encouragement to repent because he knows the shortness of time. We pick up at verse six, “6A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (v. 6-8).
We have talked about this before and we will again. Time is always relative. When you were a child, how long did it take you to go from one place to another? It depended on what you had to do to occupy your time. How long did it take for Christmas day to arrive? It depended on how much other stuff you had filling your time. Our time on this earth is short, especially when we fill it with so much earthy stuff and, even more so when we compare our short time here with our eternity in heaven. The prophet reminds us that our time is like that of the grass and flowers, that is, our time is but a season compared to the whole year.
Again, our time is nothing, our time is very short, compared to eternity. We tend to forget that in eternity our time here on this earth will be merely a blip on the screen, and yet we spend more time being concerned about the things of this world, often to the detriment of our eternal life. The Devil would have us contend ourselves with the pettiness of this world rather than being about the business of being God’s people, because if our time is time away from the Lord, if we die in sin and unbelief, then our time away from the Lord will be in hell for eternity.
If you have lived in this world long enough you may have come to the conclusion that there is nothing permanent in this world. The only thing that does not change is the fact that everything does change. As Christians we realize that everything in the world might change, but the Word of the Lord does not change. The word of the Lord stands forever.
God through the prophet proclaims the Savior’s first coming, but the prophet also reminds us of Jesus second coming. We pick up at verse nine, “9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ 10Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him’ and his recompense before him. 11He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (v. 9-11).
Jesus’ first coming was to live for us and to give His life for us. Jesus’ second coming will be to take us to live with Himself forever in eternity. Jesus’ second coming will also be at a time no one knows.
Jesus’ first coming was humble and in a manger. He came riding humbly into Jerusalem on a donkey. He humbled Himself and was crucified for us on the cross. He humbled Himself so that He did not always or fully use all His divine power. Jesus’ second coming will be with power and great might. He will come to judge the world. He will come to create a new heaven and a new earth. He will come to destroy the devil and all his works and all his ways and to lock him up forever in the abys. He will come in all His glory and all His divine power and all His majesty.
At Jesus’ second coming every knee will bow, those believing as well as the unbelievers. Unfortunately, it will be the unbelievers who will bow and yet blame God for their unbelief. They will blame God because they are going to hell. They will blame God because they still will not recognize that God does hold us accountable for our sins if and when we refuse Jesus’ work on the cross to grant us forgiveness.
Jesus’ second coming will be to judge the world. He will judge the world rightly. He will judge those with faith in His saving work on the cross to eternal life with Him in heaven. And He will judge those who refuse to believe in Him to eternal life in hell.
Jesus’ first coming was to give His life as a ransom for the world. Jesus’ second coming will be to take us to heaven to be with Himself for eternity.
As we move into this second week in Advent we ask, “how do we prepare ourselves to celebrate Jesus first coming?” We begin preparing ourselves by being in the Word, that is by reading and studying our Bibles. We begin in the Word, because the Word, the Bible is a word with power. It is a Word through which the Holy Spirit works to create faith and to strengthen faith.
We prepare ourselves by remembering our baptism. It was at our baptism that the Lord put His name on us, put faith in our hearts, gave us the forgiveness of sins, life, eternal life and salvation. There may be times during this Advent season that we do not feel very Christmas-y or very Advent-y for that matter. It is at these times that we put our minds in gear and remember that it is not our feelings that save us, rather it is God through Jesus who saves us.
We prepare ourselves by coming and confessing our sins and hearing the most beautiful words in the world, “Your sins are forgiven.” These are the most precious words because left in our sin we would be eternally condemned, but with forgiveness is life and salvation.
And we prepare ourselves by attending the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is that means where by the Lord comes to us through His true body, in, with and under the bread, and His true blood, in, with and under the wine, to give us forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins gives us strengthening to know that God has accomplished His work of salvation for us on the cross.
Our text for this morning reminds us, not of the messenger, but of the message and its fulfillment. It is not the messenger that is most important. What is most important is the message and its fulfillment. The message of God is the message of the sending a Savior to be born to save us and to come back to take us to heaven. The message and its fulfillment is given as we read, hear and experience it in God’s means of grace. As we make use of God’s means of grace, these means do what they say, that is they give the gifts God has to give, faith, forgiveness and life, even eternal life. And as we are given these gifts we are so moved to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Justification in the Ten Commandments - December 6, 2017 - First Advent Midweek - Text: The Ten Commandments

This year, in keeping with the celebration of the 500 anniversary of the Reformation, for the Advent through New Year’s Eve services we will look at the main emphasis of the Reformation, which is the authority of the Word of God and the article of the confessions on which the church stands or falls, the article on justification by grace through faith in Jesus alone. We will look at justification in the way of the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism and prayerfully we will connect this justification to our Christmas, birth of Jesus celebration and our New Year’s celebration as well.

Today we begin with the first of the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism, the Ten Commandments. We divide the Ten Commandments into two parts, the first table, commandments 1-3 and the second table, commandments 4-10. The first table of the commandments concerns our relationship with God and gives us direction in how we are to be in relation with God.

The very first commandment is indeed the key to all the commandments. The very first commandment reminds us that we shall have no other gods than the one true God. If we could get this first commandment right, if we could keep this very first commandment then we can get them all right. The problem is that because we are conceived and born in sin, because our very nature is contrary to God, we have a tendency and we actually place many people and things before God in our lives, thus breaking this commandment, thus breaking our relationship with God and therefore causing us to break all the rest of the commandments as well.

This very first table of the commandments does what all of history and all of Holy Scripture does, it points us to God and to Jesus in particular. God is the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier and the Preserver. He gives and we are given to, thus He rightly demands first place in our lives, He rightly demands perfection, He rightly demands our all, but because we are spiritually blind, spiritually dead and enemies of God, in and of ourselves we are unable to keep this very first commandment and truly we are unable to keep all the commandments.

In these first three commandments we have God’s very gift of Himself and His desire to abundantly pour out on us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give. And He does give to us through the means that He has given to pour out on us all He has to give. We are to fear, love and trust in God above all which includes keeping His name Holy through our participation of the Divine Service Sabbath rest. It is only as we keep the Sabbath that we are given the gifts and blessings God has to give and we keep the Sabbath by not refusing and rejecting the gifts of God by absenting ourselves, putting something before God, but by making regular, every time service is offered, and diligent, paying close attention, use of the means of grace.

The second table of the commandments concerns our relationships with each other. This second table directs us in the way in which we should go in our daily lives so that we might have order and peace with each other in our world. Of course, as we realize that our relationship with God has been broken so this broken relationship puts a strain on our relationships with one another. Yet God in His infinite wisdom and mercy has given us this second table of commandments in order to direct our ways even if imperfectly.

The first commandment of the second table, that is, the fourth commandment sets the foundation for all authority, that is for all government. All government flows from God to us through mediators in particularly first and foremost through our parents. God gives parents the gift of children and the authority and responsibility to care for, raise and nurture children in the ways of the Lord, or as we say, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As parents we extend this authority as we give some authority to those who rule over us for the common good of all, that is to those who teach our children, to those we elect into office, mayors, governors, presidents, also those in law enforcement and the like.

In the remainder of the commandments, which are often seen as simply God’s Law, we might understand the blessings of the commandments as God gives the gifts of authority, life, sexuality, possessions, reputation, and contentment. As we hear God’s law that we should not murder we can see that in this command God gives us the gift of life, that is we are to live and let live according to God’s will. As God commands chastity so we see God’s gift of sexuality and the good He gives us in leading chaste and decent lives. In God’s command to not steal we see God’s gift of possessions and care for the possessions of others as well. In God’s command to not bear false witness we see God’s gift of our reputation and the need to be careful of what we say and how we speak of others, always explaining everything the best way possible. And in God’s command to not covet we see God’s gift of contentment, that is to be content in all the good gifts and blessings He gives as well as to not be envious or covetous of others who have different gifts and blessings, rather to rejoice with them and to help them improve and protect what is theirs.

What does this mean? The main point of the commandments is to point out the fact that we are sinners. As we confess at the beginning of many services, “8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). How can we confess if we fail to recognize our sins and if we fail to confess then our sins remain on us and we would be eternally condemned.

The commandments were given and were not meant for us to find loopholes as some and even as we would sometimes seek to do, but they are given to show us our sins so we might repent. Indeed, how often do we find others and ourselves making excuses for our sins, pointing the finger of blame to someone else, “It was not my fault, after all,” or so we protest, “He/She/You made me do it.” “The woman you gave me.” “The serpent beguiled me.” And so it continues even today. This denial and loop hole finding is the work the Devil who would have us remain in our sin.

As we may need to be reminded, the Law shows us our sins, that is the point of the Law. And yet, ultimately it is also the point of the Law to point us to the Gospel. The Law does not motivate us to repent, only the Gospel motivates repentance. However the Law does show us our sins so that we see our need for the Gospel.

The Law and the Gospel together remind us that we cannot justify ourselves. We cannot make ourselves just and right in God’s eyes. We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our hearts if evil all the time. The good that we would do we do not do but the evil that is before us, that is what we do, wretched people that we are. Just as a drowning person cannot save himself so we cannot justify ourselves.

Justification must and does come from outside of us. As a drowning person must have someone come to save them so we must have someone to come and save us. Just as a lifeguard will push away a drowning person attempting to help save himself so as to not have them both drown so too we cannot help God save us. He must do the work completely because He and He alone is without sin and He and He alone can take our sins and give us forgiveness.

As we prepare for the Advent of our King, we prepare to celebrate the birth of the One who came as true God, in perfection in the flesh as true man, we prepare for the one who justifies, Jesus. Jesus is true God, conceived by the Holy Spirit and true man, born of the human woman. Jesus is perfection and He is God’s answer to our sin and imperfection. We owe our very lives because of our sins, remember, the wages of sin is death. Jesus owes nothing as He is the sinless Son of God even God Himself in human flesh. Jesus came as God promised, to reconcile us, to bring us back into a right relationship with Himself, a relationship that we broken in the Garden of Eden.

The fullness of the Gospel is the fact that Jesus came to live for us, to do for us what we are unable to do, to be perfect for us, and that perfection He fulfilled by keeping the commandments for us, in our place. When God looks at us, by faith in Jesus He no longer sees us as sinners, but as saints, as redeemed children. He sees Jesus in and through us.

Jesus makes us just and right in God’s eyes. We have no part in what Jesus has done, does and continues to do for us and in and through us. It is all Jesus and Jesus alone.

As we prepare our hearts and mind to celebrate the birth of Jesus, God in flesh, we do so by being reminded of the reason He was born, to live for us, to be perfect for us in our place, to obey all the commandments for us because we cannot. As we prepare our hearts and minds we do so by confessing our sins and our part in the reason for Jesus’ birth, especially as we are reminded that the ultimate reason for His birth was to give His life as a ransom for us all, not out of coercion, but because of His great love for us. As we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Jesus’ birth we do so with the joy of the faith given to us through the very means of the Word of God which is the ultimate authority in this Word, given to us by God because of His great love for us a love seen in His Son and His life for our forgiveness. Our response; to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent - Coming - We Are All the Work of Your Hand - December 3, 2017 - First Sunday in Advent - Text: Isaiah 64:1-9

We might begin this morning with the words, “Happy New Year.” Today is the first Sunday in our New Church Year. Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is the Latin word for “coming” and it is the time we use to get ready for the coming of our Savior. How fitting that our Church year begins with the birth of Jesus, because our whole church year calendar centers around Jesus; His birth, His life, His suffering, death, resurrection, and His promise to come again to take us to heaven with Himself.
Our text actually begins at the end of the previous chapter with Isaiah’s reminder to God of His promise to send a Redeemer. We read verses sixteen and seventeen (v. 16-17) of chapter sixty-three, “But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance.”
God is our Father. In the beginning He created all of humanity. He created each one of us, personally, at our conception. Way back in the Garden of Eden God made His promise to send a Savior, a Redeemer. He made His promise immediately after Adam and Eve sinned. God’s promise was that a woman would have a Son who would crush the head of the Devil with a mortal wound and would Himself, in the process, would also suffer a mortal wound, that is this promised Savior would die, yet this Savior would rise from His wound. Notice also, that this Savior was promised to Adam and Eve, that is to all people. This promise was made before there was a Jew or a Gentile, before there were other nations, ethnicities and cultures. This Savior was promised to all people of all places of all times.
So that the world would not forget the Lord’s promise, He continually reaffirmed His promise with His people. In particular, the Lord reaffirmed His promise and at the same time narrowed the line of fulfillment of His promise with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel. Notice that the promise was not changed, nor was a new promise made, simply the line of fulfillment of the original promise was declared. Because of man’s state of sinfulness, because of man’s always being about the things of this world instead of being about God’s work, because humans are forgetful, because of all these reasons and more, God had to continually remind His people of His promise and how He would keep His promises.
We see an example of how all humanity is in the lives of the children of Israel. The children of Israel were continually wandering away from God, from His promises, forgetting them, ignoring them, or outright refusing them. And then, when things would go wrong they would cry out to the Lord for help. Only after things got too rough for them, only then would they remember Him. We are really no different. When our lives are running rather smoothly, when things in life are going great we tend to forget God. It is not until something “bad” happens that we are snapped back to reality, the reality that God is the one who continually cares for us.
Our text begins with Isaiah’s prayer for the coming of the Lord’s judgement. We pick up at verses one (v. 1-5), “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved?”
These verses contain harsh words of Law and judgement. Isaiah’s call for judgement is meant to frighten the nations who hold them captive and at the same time his words were meant to renew the faith of the children of Israel.
Isaiah wants God to show Himself with His mighty deeds in order to frighten the nations who oppress the children of Israel. Here we see the difference between God’s usual way of doing things and God’s unusual way. God’s usual way was a way of not showing Himself physically to people, rather that they saw Him through His mighty acts, and especially His mighty acts of judgement. Isaiah wants God to show these heathen nations that He alone is God by bringing down on them His worst. Isaiah also believes that if the children of Israel see the Lord’s judgement they will be snapped back to their senses and what little faith they might have will be strengthened.
God’s usual way of dealing with the children of Israel when they wandered from the faith was that He would confront them with there sin. They would deny their sin. He would then allowed for them to suffer the consequences for their actions, and when they returned, He was always gracious and forgiving.
What Isaiah wants in these verses is what we might call vindictive salvation, or salvation that kills. It is very much like what we see in the treatment of cancer patients. Radiation is used to kill the disease, but it also kills the person. It kills to bring life. Isaiah wants God to kill to bring life. He wants God’s harsh judgement on the heathen to bring life to the children of Israel.
Picking up at verse six (v. 6-9) Isaiah helps us better understand how God works. We read, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.”
God is perfection. He is holy, blameless, without sin. Because we are imperfect and because God is perfection, anything on our part that strives for being good, or close to perfection, only looks bad, unclean, and as a filthy rag, in God’s eyes. That is why we do not strive to get to heaven by perfection. Our original sin puts a soiled mark on any of our attempts at perfection. Thus, we look forward to heaven, not because of anything within us, but rather, we look forward to heaven because Jesus has been perfect for us and because He has clothed us with His prefect righteousness. By faith in Jesus, His robes of righteousness become ours.
Isaiah also reminds us that we do not go looking for the Lord. We are not seekers, at least not in the sense that many suggest in our world today. We do the exact opposite. We sin and then we run away from our sin, or try thinking that it will go away. We sin and we try to hide. Why do you think most robbers do their work at night, so they will not been seen. We close the door when we sin so we will not be seen. We forget the God sees us always, even when we are in the midst of our sinning.
Lastly, Isaiah remembers that the Lord is God. As God, Isaiah reminds Him that He can do whatever He wants. He created us, He can recreate us. He is the potter, we are the clay, we are the work of His hands. And He does recreate us. He makes us new by the faith He puts in our hearts, faith in His Son who He sent to die on the cross for us.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. How is this text an Advent text you might ask? Advent is the time we get ready to celebrate Jesus’ birth. We look forward to Jesus’ birth because without His birth our lives would only lead to physical death and eternal spiritual death. During Advent we are reminded that God created the world in the first place. We are reminded that He created us at our conception. And He recreated us spiritually through His Word and the waters of Holy Baptism. We are reminded that He gives us forgiveness through confession and absolution as well as forgiveness and strengthening of faith through His Holy Supper.
Jesus’ birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection is what God used to recreate the world.  Jesus’ atoning death on the cross made us whole again. His death became ours when He recreated us at our baptism.
Advent reminds us that the Old Testament people were looking forward to the birth of the Savior. As New Testament people, we know what happened as we can look back with twenty-twenty vision and at the same time, we are looking forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth on Christmas morning.
At the end of the church year our eyes were focused on Jesus’ second coming. At the beginning of the church year we look forward to celebrating Christ first coming, His birth in Bethlehem, as we look forward to celebrating His first coming, we cannot help but also look forward to Christ’s second coming, when He will take us to be with Himself in heaven for eternity.
Isaiah does a wonderful job of reminding us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. The first sin happened in the Garden of Eden immediately following creation and that sin still infects our world today as sin still happens today. And yet, just as immediately as God promised to send a Savior, His one and only Son, to redeem us, to buy us back from our sin and to mold us into His divine image so God’s promise is just as immediate today, that is that even before we sin our sins have been forgiven. By grace through faith in Jesus we are recreated as children of God. And to that we respond, to God be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.