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Worship Series: The Promise
Worship Theme: The Father will Redeem and Forgive His Children
First Lesson & Sermon Text: Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1-8 (EHV)
Gospel: Luke 13:32-37 (NIV)
Music: CW 23 Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel, CW 7 Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers, CW 1 The Advent of Our King (in worship folder)
Handbells: Rejoice, the Lord Is King
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Watch the livestream beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.
Message: The Father will Redeem and Forgive His Children
Have you ever grown tired of being patient? Have you ever just completely wanted to give up trying to be a good person? Have you ever just wanted to let someone fail? After all, they probably earned it. Most of us have felt this way. It could be being a good example and when no one notices or cares. It could be praying for someone who never seems to turn his/her life around. It could be taking care of a kid that will simply not follow the rules you’ve set in place for their own good. Or they shun your love for something else that is incredibly superficial. If you’ve ever felt this way, you can empathize with God in our text today.
The nation of Israel is in deep trouble, but they don’t look like it. On the outside, they are wealthy, healthy, and successful. On the inside, storms are brewing. Spiritually, Israel is drifting away from God. Maybe drifting is too gentle of a word. Israel is purposefully departing from God. They don’t follow his commands, care for his Word, nor treasure his love. To put it another way, their hearts are becoming hard. God is becoming weary of Israel’s unbelief. In fact, he sends Isaiah a vision to prophesy. Isaiah was to tell the people a sad truth: Israel would suffer rejection from the LORD. It’s terrible and depressing news, especially since Israel didn’t seem to care. Because of this God was already hiding his presence from Israel in some ways. Today, we’ll see the prophet Isaiah’s desperate plea for the LORD to hold back His anger and deal with his highly unworthy children in mercy. And when all hope is lost, we see that the LORD still pours out his free and faithful love by providing hope and preserving a remnant.
For this first part to really sink in, I’m going to need you to answer this question: who would you call if you got into some deep trouble? Maybe you’ve seen those police shows where someone is arrested and that person gets one phone call. Who would you call? The first words of our text show us something important. Israel is in deep trouble and Isaiah is using his phone call to call upon God. God’s line is always open and he’s always listening so it’s a good call to make. Our first verses show why Isaiah is even bothering to take the time to pray to God. He is our LORD, all capital letters. Which means...anyone remember? He is the LORD of free and faithful love, the LORD who does not change, and will therefore keep all his promises. The verse tells us he is also our Father. On top of that, he is our redeemer, the one who buys us back from sin, death, and the devil. Isaiah calling on the one person who cares about him the most.
Then Isaiah describes the situation and he gets a little touchy. If you’ve ever been in a bad situation, you get a little grouchy too. He says, “Why do you cause us to wander from your ways, LORD? Why do you harden our heart so that we do not fear you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your heritage” Let’s summarize. Isaiah is asking, “Why are you letting this happen?” and “God, please put a stop to this.” But Isaiah is not done there. He continues praying. And what often happens when we really get into prayer is we just pour out our hearts. That is exactly what happens here. Isaiah pours out his heart in verses 1-8. I’m going to divide this into 3 different parts to make it more manageable. The first part is going to be verses 1-4.
Isaiah begs that God would burst back onto the scene in a way no one could deny his presence. He asks God to interfere with the way history is currently going and rip open the skies and make the mountains quake. Even the Hebrew here has a lot of consonant sounds that make this sound kind of epic. Isaiah then introduces an image to us. You know that whenever water boils, heat must be causing it. Isaiah wants the people of Israel to once again know God is causing miracles. Isaiah wants the enemies of God to once again quake at his name. Can God actually do things like that? (wait for answers). Of course he can. Look at some of the things we know from the past. God led his people out of Egypt with a slew of plagues and miracles. When it seemed like Israel was doomed, he parted the red sea so they could walk across...ON DRY LAND! Then he let the waters rush back and destroyed the fearsome Egyptian army. God tore down the impenetrable walls of Jericho like they were made of paper. God shook the mountains as he gave his commandments to the Israelites. He warded off the Assyrians when all seemed lost. The list goes on and on. God intervened to save and help his people again and again. Isaiah exclaims this in verses three and four. He tells that God did things so amazing that the Israelites didn’t expect them. God took this tiny little nation and made it his own. He made it great and no army or force of nature could stand up to God’s power. Out of all the gods of the world, only one God had made himself known and revealed himself. Only one had shown his power. Only one had worked for the good of his people. Because the LORD is the only true God. The Triune God consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So God definitely can interfere with history. After all, it’s his story. He can do as he pleases. But should he? We see Isaiah answer this question in the next part, verses five through seven. “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.” So Isaiah shows us God is just, rewarding good with good, but also punishing those who sin against his ways. So let’s see how the people of Israel stack up, shall we? Isaiah tells us they are unclean. Now, “unclean” didn’t just mean dirty or you hadn’t taken a shower lately. It meant diseased. When people had diseases they were forced to stand away from the rest of the camp and when anyone came near, they had to shout, “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!” This way no one would come close to them and catch the same disease. Isaiah describes the Israelites as having the incurable disease of sin. It had taken them over and made their souls rancid and unlovable. He then compares the Israelites and their actions to a filthy rag. The English translation is actually very polite, because the Hebrew shows this dirty rag was a very used menstrual rag. Probably not what you want to hear, but it’s the not-so-pretty picture Isaiah paints of their lack of holiness. Then Isaiah compares them to a dry, dead leaf. You know, the kind that you want off your lawn. The wind sweeps it away as if it’s nothing. Sin took the Israelites away from God and left to their own devices they didn’t put up even an iota of resistance. They wouldn’t even call on God’s name. Sin taints everything. It ruins all. It had taken over Israel. God had every right to hide his face from them.
Isn’t our current age a lot like Isaiah’s? Full of sin. People don’t respect one another. People equate happiness with holiness. People are selfish. People are greedy. People mistake evil for good and good for evil. People put other things in their lives ahead of God. Maybe you are even picturing certain other people in your mind as I’m describing them. But I’m not talking about just the unbelievers surrounding us. I’m talking about us.
Let me tell you a story. I was going for a walk and I sat down on a large bench. It was in one of those enclosures you often find in bigger cities, but this particular one wasn’t part of any bus route so anyone could sit there without accidently hailing a bus. Anyways, like I said, I sat down. It had been a long week, my legs were tired and I needed a quick break before walking to where I needed to go. I hadn’t really been paying attention, but as I sat down I registered something in the corner of my eye. There was this guy sitting on the opposite side of this bench, but man, could he use some cleaning up. I didn’t want to look at him directly and draw attention to myself, but I evaluated him with my peripheral vision. His hair was long and unkempt. He looked like he needed a shower. His clothes were baggy, ragged, and torn. It wasn’t as if his clothes were rags so it looked like he could afford clothes. It just looked like this guy didn’t care about his appearance. The guy himself wasn’t looking so good either. He was hunched over, and his skin was a deathly pallor. I wondered if this guy even knew how to take care of himself. I don’t normally think like this, but I was having a bad week and I am ashamed to say that in my mind, I just let this guy have it. “What kind of fool would let himself get to that point?” With my innermost thoughts, I just berated him with everything I had. And I felt a little better because hidden in my heart of hearts was the feeling that I was better than this guy. Well, eventually I was all rested and ready to start walking. As I got up, I saw out of my peripheral the guy on the other side of the bench get up too. I chanced a look directly at him and guess who I saw? Someone had placed a mirror on the side of the bench. The whole time, I had been mentally assaulting myself! In my life, I do not think I have ever felt more like an idiot than in that moment. But I learned several lessons. 1. Perhaps, I needed to concern myself a bit more with my appearance. 2. You could easily be in the shoes of someone else you are judging. And the most important one is: 3. You could be judged by God just as harshly as someone you are judging. We often look around at the world full of sin and think, “Thank God that isn’t me.” We may have looked at the Israelites in our text and thought, “Whew, good thing I’m not like that.” But you are. You are just as sinful. You are just as undeserving. You are the one with the unclean disease of sin. You are the filthy rag. You are the dry leaf swept away by sin. You are just as undeserving of God’s help as everyone else. And just as desperate for God’s grace too. Isaiah’s plea to God strikes to our very core because we must ask ourselves too, how then can we be saved?
It's obviously not going to be because of us, but we do have someone to turn to. It’s the same person Isaiah’s been pleading to: his heavenly Father. Let’s read verse 8 together. “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” That verse may not seem like a lot of Gospel message, but it is when you think about what the Israelites had just heard. In chapter 60 God proclaimed His church will be glorious and composed of many nations. In chapter 61, he proclaimed freedom to those enslaved by sin. In chapter 62, God said we will be called by a new name throughout the world. In light of those chapters, verse 8 means so much to us.
When we see the reflection of our sins in the mirror. When we look past all of our lame arguments and excuses and see ourselves as sinners, we realize we need a Savior. God realized it too. He saw your sin and loved you anyways. Even after everything Israel did, he was still their Father waiting for them to return with open arms. God is still your Father too. What more capable hands could you be placed in than the Father’s? No one cares more deeply than Him. He fulfills all his promises. He’s the potter. And with infinite wisdom works in us through his Word, molding us how he wants us to be. He crafts us beautifully into his plan. Your story is a part of his story. There may be times where you wonder what God is creating as the potter, but keep watching and you’ll see it take shape around what Jesus did on the cross. “What no eye has seen and no ear has heard and no human mind has conceived—that is what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).” God hasn’t revealed all his plans to us, but he has revealed the most important one. God once again interfered and did the unexpected. He took the punishment meant for us and made us pure and holy in his sight. He directly interfered so we could be His own. When you see your reflection in a mirror, see yourself as you truly are. A redeemed and clean child of God. Our Father, that’s right, our Father, redeems and forgives his children.