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.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Salvation For All - January 15, 2017 - Second Sunday after the Epiphany/Life Sunday - Text: Isaiah 49:1-7
This morning we come to the second Sunday after the Epiphany. This year we actually have a rather lengthy Epiphany season. The Epiphany season can last no longer than eight Sundays followed by Transfiguration Sunday. This year we have seven Sunday in Epiphany. The reason for this lengthy Epiphany Season is that this is one of those years when Easter arrives later and since Easter arrives later that moves everything back, so that we have seven Sundays after the Epiphany, then we will celebrate Transfiguration Sunday, followed by Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten Season. This morning we also celebrate Life Sunday, the fact that God gives life at conception and that life is precious in His sight. With all that in mind, we again hear words of promise and prophecy from our Lord, through the prophet Isaiah. And again, the word which we hear is a word which reminds us that God’s promise to send a Savior was a promise given to all people, all nations, not simply to one people or one nation and we see this great Gospel message time and again here in the Old Testament.
As we get into our text, we begin with the Prophet speaking, “‘1Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. 2He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. 3And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ 4But I said, ‘I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God’” (v. 1-4). Notice that God called the prophet from conception. Also, notice that life begins at conception. At conception we have all the genetic information in our cells so that all that is added is nourishment and we grow to be born, to be babies, to be children, and to be adults. Anyway, the question we might ask is this: “Is this the prophet Isaiah or is this another prophet?” And as we read this text we can see that this is not a text speaking about the prophet Isaiah, but is indeed a text speaking about the coming Messiah. God promised to send a Savior, a Messiah. His promise was that the Messiah would be born of a woman.
God’s promise was also that He would gave the prophet “sharp” words to speak. As Jesus lived, walked and preached, His words were often “sharp” words. His words were words which called attention to sin and unbelief, disobedience to God’s Word and commands, and His words often upset those who believed He had no right to speak to them in such a way. Kind of like what happens in our churches still today. When the pastor preaches words of law we do not always like to hear such words because we like to think we are good people, at least we are not as bad as some people. But the purpose of the law is to show us our sins so that we do repent.
Unfortunately, because the people failed to listen, the prophet believed his labor was in vain. Time and again the prophets of God were mistreated, abused and even put to death. Time and again the prophets of God believed themselves to be failures. Of course, we would remind ourselves, as we read these words, that God never asked the prophets to be successful in whatever it was they were called to do, rather He simply asked that they would be faithful and would faithfully proclaim the message He gave them to proclaim. Here again, is not this the same as what happens in our churches today? Pastor’s are called by God, through our congregations to be faithful and to faithfully proclaim the message of law and Gospel, the message of salvation and yet we have some in our church body who would suggest that what we should be looking for are pastors who preach feel good sermons who are successful, at least in human terms and according to their own measure of success. And as I mentioned before, there are times I believe my labor is in vain, especially when so many people refuse and reject the gifts God has to give by absenting themselves from divine service.
But God is not through speaking through Isaiah. He continues to speak of the Messiah, “5And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him—for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength—6he says: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ 7Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: ‘Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you’” (v. 5-7). God’s promise is to send a servant to save Israel. Last week we talked about this Servant Messiah or this Suffering Messiah. Jesus came as our Messiah, our Savior. He came humbly, giving up all the glory that was His in heaven, taking on human flesh so as to be one of us, so that He could be our substitute.
Isaiah tells us that the servant will be born of Jacob. This is why we have the genealogies of the New Testament. As we read through the genealogies of the New Testament we are shown how Jesus is from the line of Jacob, so that we might know for certain that Jesus is the promised Messiah.
Isaiah tells us that the servant will be a light to the nations. Notice, he does not say that the servant will be a light only to the Jews, but that He will be a light to the nations. Here again we might be reminded and pointed back to Genesis, to the fall into sin and to the first Gospel promise. The promise of a Messiah, of a Christ, God’s promise to send a Savior was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The promise was given before there was a Jew and a Gentile. The promise was given when there was simply one nation.
Isaiah tells us that the servant will be despised and hated. Of course, we have the advantage of looking back and seeing how these words of Isaiah did have their complete fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus was despised and hated, at least by those who would not believe He was the Messiah. He was despised and hated by those who refused to believe in Him. And Jesus continues to be despised and hated even in our world today. The world despises and hates Jesus and His followers. Yes, the world despises and hates us Christians because of the exclusive message of God’s Word that is that there is only one way to eternal life and that one way is through Jesus alone.
And Isaiah tells us that in the end all people will acknowledge Him as Lord. Even John in his Revelation reminds us that in the end, on the day of judgement all people, believers and unbelievers alike will stand before Jesus and confess that Jesus is who He says He is. Unfortunately, for the unbeliever this will be a day of confession to eternal judgement. They will finally get it right. They will finally understand and acknowledge the exclusive claims of the Christian church, but it will be too late. And for us Christians, it will be a day of confession to eternal life.
What Does This Mean? The children of Israel were chosen by God and called by God to be His people. They were to be the nation through which the Savior of the world would be born. They were to bear witness to the world of their belief in the one true God. They were to be a light and beacon for the world so that the world would know of the coming Messiah, but they failed.
By faith in Jesus, faith given through our Baptism, faith strengthened through God’s Word and Sacraments, we are called by God to be His people. God has chosen us and has called us to be His people. God has called us to bear witness of our faith through our very lives, through our words and actions. God has chosen and called us to be lights and beacons to the world so that the world might know that Jesus is the one and only Savior, but we too fail. We fail to keep the commandments, actually breaking many of the commandments, on a daily basis. We tend to be like the Pharisees and teachers of the law, thinking more highly of ourselves, believing ourselves to be above the “law” or that God’s law is not speaking to us, but to others who are worse sinners than we perceive ourselves to be. We believe that if Jesus did need to die for us, it was only that He needed to die a little for us, because, again, we are after all good people. Yes, we sound very much like the Israelites, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.
Thanks be to God that He promised to send a Savior for Israel and for us. Here again, we might point ourselves back to Genesis, but we might also point ourselves to the New Testament where we are reminded again and again that Jesus came for all.
The Messiah, Jesus came to live for Israel, that is to do what she could not do and He came to live for us, to do for us what we cannot. Because God demands perfection and we cannot be perfect, Jesus came to live in perfection. Because we cannot keep God’s laws perfectly, Jesus obeyed all God’s laws perfectly, for us, in our place. Because we cannot save ourselves, Jesus came to give His life for ours in order to save us.
Jesus is the Messiah, the one promised by God, the one promised through the words of Isaiah in our text for this morning. Jesus was born of a woman, the virgin Mary. He was born under the law. He fulfilled all God’s laws perfectly. Last week we were reminded of His Baptism by John in the Jordan river. This was, as Jesus Himself tells us, to fulfill all righteousness, to identify with us as our substitute.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. These are the words of John the Baptist in our Gospel reading for this morning. John knew who Jesus was. John came to prepare the way for Jesus. John knew of the sacrificial system of the laws concerning the offering of sacrifices as satisfaction for sin and He knew that Jesus came to offer Himself as a once for all sacrifice for us for our sins. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
After living a perfect life, Jesus took our sins upon Himself, all our sins, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission and commission, all our sins. And Jesus died for ours sin. But death and the grave had no hold over Him. He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death and the devil. So, that now, by faith in Jesus we are saved.
For those of us living in the last days, in New Testament times, you would think it would be easy to believe and live according to God’s Word, we have, after all, the advantage of looking back and seeing how Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world and yet, because of the temptations that surround us in this world we tend every day to look and sound like the world in which we live, we tend to let the culture take over our lives and then we begin to look like the world, not like the people God has chosen and called us to be. It is not difficult to read through the Old Testament and substitute us Christians for the children of Israel and see the similarities. Hopefully, as we do this, we also recognize our need for a Savior and our utter helplessness without Him. And hopefully, we then recognize that Jesus is the one promised in the Garden of Eden, the one promised to Abraham, the one sent from God, for us, for you and for me and for all people. So that, by faith, given through the Word and Sacraments, given by the Holy Spirit, put in our hearts and strengthened by God, we know and have confidence in our eternal salvation so that we might respond living lives of faith and giving praise to God alone.
Finally, this morning we are also celebrating what has become known as Life Sunday, that is we are celebrating God’s gift of life especially in children and in the pre-born children. Life is indeed precious to Jesus. He shows us how precious life in through the very fact that He gave His perfect life for the sins of all people, of all places, of all time, including pre-born children. Just as the Lord called Isaiah from the womb to be a prophet and as He called Jesus from the womb to be our Savior so He calls us from the womb, and even more, He calls us even before the foundations of the world have been set, to be His own, so much is His great love for us. So we rejoice in His great love for us and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.