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 1, 2017
The Lord’s Acts of Mercy - January 1, 2017 - First Sunday after Christmas - Text: Isaiah 63:7-14
Today is one of those rare Sundays as today is the first Sunday after Christmas and it is also New Years day. The waiting has ended, the presents have been opened, we have had time to relax and enjoy our families, we have eaten as much food and especially sweets as we can, and perhaps finished most of them off last night at New Year’s Eve parties or we may have saved some to finish off during our New Year’s day celebrations today. Some people used the past week to make New Years resolutions, which may or may not have already been broken by the time they made it to church this morning. After a late night as we come to be given the Lord’s gifts on this first day of the new calendar year, a new year as a gift from God, our text is just what we need, another beautiful Word of the LORD telling us the good news of all that He has done for us.
In our text Isaiah tells us of the kindness of the LORD. To the untrained eye that might sound, well, okay, but when we take a look at what this kindness is that he is speaking about, then we will see just what an impact this text can make. The word “kindness” in our text means more than just being kind to someone. The word “kindness” in our text refers to our LORD’s steadfast love for us and His faithfulness to His promises. When we keep our text in its context, we understand that when Isaiah speaks of the LORD’s kindness he is speaking of the LORD’s continual covenant loyalty even through the Israelites were disloyal. In speaking to us today we might say that the LORD continually shows us His kindness even though we continually disobey His commandments.
Isaiah tells us that the LORD is to be praise because of all the good things He has done. Our LORD is the one who created this world in which we live. He has given life to each one of us. He has given us new life through our baptism. He sent His one and only Son into our world, born as one of us, born under the law. Jesus lived the perfect life for us. He obeyed the commandments for us. He took all our sins, all our disobedience, all our disloyalty, upon Himself, suffered, and died for our sins.
The LORD has done these many good things because of His compassion and many kindnesses. That Jesus died for us has nothing to do with our goodness. In no way did we or could we influence our LORD to be good to us. As a matter of fact Paul tells us that it was while we were yet sinners, that is while we were in the midst of being sinners, while we are in the midst of being disobedient, that is when Jesus gave His life for us. It was because of His compassion and many kindnesses that the LORD has done these many good things.
It is the LORD who has chosen us. He has chosen to do these things for us. He is the one who calls us His people. Isaiah tells us that God said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely” (v. 8). We are God’s people because He chose us to be His people. By faith we are Abraham’s children. All believers in Christ are God’s people and children of Abraham, not by flesh, not as a physical descendant, but by faith, not by birth.
Because we are God’s people, chosen by Him, Isaiah tells us, “And He became their Savior” (v. 8). God chose us. He chose to be our Savior and to save us. He chose to save us by sending His one and only Son to be born as one of us. Jesus freely gave up Himself for us, to save us.
Now please do not misunderstand this next statement, because you well know that I am not one of these touchy feel-y preachers, but does not all that make you feel good? Kind of makes you feel like smiling, does it not? The problem is that we often have a hard time believing all that we have just heard. We would rather have a part in our own salvation, in one way or another. Our first defense of our own self-righteousness is the denial of our sin. We think to ourselves, “I am no worse than the next guy.” And that is true, we can always find someone who is a worse sinner than we are, at least in our own eyes. The problem is that if we are going to compare ourselves to anyone the person we must compare ourselves to is Jesus. And we remember He was perfect.
What we often fail to realize is that with the denial of our sin and even with the minimalizing of our sin, we imply the denial of the need for a Savior. Hardly ever is this an outright denial, usually it is more of a subtle denial. We figure that if we have never intentionally hurt anyone then we must be pretty good people. The problem is that being pretty good does not get you very far with God.
More often than not we confuse the Gospel of the LORD with the word of society. This usually occurs when our desire to fit in with society is greater than our desire to live according to God’s good and gracious will. The problem is that what society tells us is, more often than not, the exact opposite of what the Gospel of the LORD tells us. It is the word of society which is what makes us have such a hard time admitting that we are sinners, admitting that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.
We live in such and affluent country that we believe we are entitled to all that we need and even all that we want. And often it is believed that if we do not have all that we want then somehow life is not fair and then there is a demand for what is wanted. We have a difficult time distinguishing between wants and needs. God’s promise is to take care of all that we need, not all that we may want and we can want an awful lot. Indeed, we have so much more in this country and in this world than we are entitled. To what are we entitled? According to the Word of the LORD, in and of ourselves, we are entitled only to eternal life in hell.
What is really frightening is that after we read about what a kind, compassionate, loving, merciful God we have, that rather than receive all His kindness with open arms, we would rather give our feeble excuses as to why we deserve for Him to do anything for us. Our sinful human nature even makes it difficult for us to simply open our arms, open our hearts to passively be given all His good gifts and blessings. It is really too bad that so often the only time we come to the LORD is when we are distressed and even then we often come with the attitude that He should have helped us before the distress took place. Should we expect anything from the Lord? Are we entitled to anything from the Lord? Our first answer to these questions should be “no,” we are not entitled to anything, nor should we expect anything from the Lord, except eternal death and punishment. Our second answer to these questions should be “yes,” we are entitled, we should expect everything from the Lord, because He has promised to give us all things. However, and this is a big however, it is only when we realize just how sinful we really and truly are and that all we deserve is eternal death and punishment, only then will we begin to realize how wonderful are God’s gifts of grace.
Thanks be to God that we do have such a loving God. Isaiah explains to us that our God continues in His kindness. He tells us, “In all their affliction he was afflicted” (v. 9), in other words, Jesus took all our afflictions on Himself. Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and suffered the punishment for them.
The most difficult phrase of this passage might be Isaiah’s reference to “the angel of His presence” (v. 9). “The angel of His presence” is Christ Himself. Isaiah is referring to the presence of the LORD Himself. It is the LORD Himself who saved us. He is God, born in human flesh. We just celebrated His birth, the beginning of His life on earth. A life in which he lived perfectly, something we cannot do. The exciting thing is that His perfect living was done for us. When we stand before God, by faith in Jesus we will be able to claim that perfect life as our own.
“In his love and in his pity he redeemed them” (v. 9). In spite of us, or rather because of our sinfulness, in His love and mercy, He redeemed us. In His love, is the kind of love that only God can have, so much that He gave His life for us. In His mercy, in His great compassion, He felt sorry for us, sorry enough to deliver and protect us from the danger of sin, death, and hell.
And, “He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (v. 9). The LORD not only has created us, not only has He recreated us through the waters of Holy Baptism, but now He lifts us up and carries us all our days. He is the one through whom we given strengthening, daily as He comes to us, especially through His means of grace, His Word, confession and absolution and His Sacraments; Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The Word of the Lord for today is a Word in which we rejoice. The Word of the Lord for today is a Word which reminds us of the kindness, the mercy, the compassion, the love of our great God. The Word of the Lord for today is a Word which lifts us up and carries us all our days. It is a word reminding us of what a great, loving and compassionate God we have, a God who does all and gives all, for us, because of His great love for us. And because of His great love and compassion for us, we are moved to respond and say, thanks be to God, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.