Pastor Jacobson – Lent 4 – Isaiah 42:14-21 – March 26, 2017
PAY ATTENTION TO GOD’S AMAZING GRACE
14“For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. 15I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools. 16I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. 17But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame. 18“Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! 19Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one in covenant with me, blind like the servant of the Lord? 20You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen.” 21It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious.
1. For Israel & All Nations
The Word of God for our consideration this morning takes us to the 42nd chapter of Isaiah’s prophesy starting with the 14th verse. This starting point puts us thousands of years after Adam and Eve, a thousand plus years after the time of Abraham and 500 plus years after Moses. Those were the people and the times we have studied here at Grace the past three Sundays. Though the people and the times have changed, the problem has not. The problem is still idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of a false god. Idolatry is giving someone first place in one’s heart instead of God. In Old Testament times idolatry was expressed openly with images. These statues and shrines, altars and poles visually demonstrated a faith in a supposed higher power other than the true God.
All nations throughout history have had false gods. Only Israel had the true God, and it was God’s plan to bless all nations through the promise he spoke to Abram. The Lord said to Abram, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). Were you listening when Pastor Clark preached on that promise two weeks ago? Not only did the Lord promise good things to Israel, the Lord also did good things to the nation of Israel. The Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and he also made sure they had water. Did you pay attention to how God addressed every need as Vicar Hering preached on that text (Exodux 17:1-7) last Sunday?
The Israelites at the time of Isaiah once again did not listen to God’s Word. They did not pay attention to how he had faithfully served them. They were not the influencers of other nations as God wanted them to be. Instead once again they were influenced by the nations around them, but God in his grace in this second half of the prophesy of Isaiah promises how he will take the captive nation of Judah out of Babylon and return them to Jerusalem. It will happen, as surely as a pregnant woman is looking forward to childbirth so the Lord was looking forward to the return of Judah. The Lord would clear out all the obstacles in their way. The Lord would lead them. He would not forsake them. Let me illustrate God’s amazing grace with a little basketball tournament.
There’s this little college basketball tournament in Glendale next weekend, called the final four. This basketball tournament started with 68 teams. Millions of people try to predict the winner of each game. If you picked the champion before the tournament started, that’s pretty good. If you picked four teams playing in Glendale next weekend, that’s impressive. No one has ever picked the winner of every game in this college basketball tournament.
The Lord’s prophecy here is more amazing than picking every winner in the college basketball tournament. What’s so amazing about this prophesy for Israel? When the Lord prophesies Judah’s return from Babylon, the people of Judah weren’t even in Babylon. At the time of Isaiah’s prophesy Babylon wasn’t even a threat. In the next couple chapters Isaiah names the man responsible for their return home, a man who won’t yet be born for more than 100 years, Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1, 13). Pay attention to God’s amazing grace for Israel. God was going to discipline them for their sin of idolatry through the Babylonians, but even before he punishes them for their sins he promises how he will deliver them. His reason for this amazing prophecy, this amazing grace is he wants Israel to trust in him, not idols.
2. For the Pharisees & Gentiles (John 9-7, 13-17, 34-39)
But in spite of God’s amazing grace, the majority of the Israelites still won’t trust him. When the Lord says, “You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen,” don’t you see the Pharisees in our Gospel lesson? For three years they saw Jesus’ miracles, they didn’t pay attention. For three years they heard his teaching, they didn’t listen. Yet, Jesus keeps trying, and in our lesson today, Jesus in his amazing grace has another man give a try, a man who had been born blind. This man not only believed in Jesus. He also witnessed to the Pharisees. He also witnessed for the Gentiles (non-Jews).
Remember the conclusion the disciples were working on with Jesus about this man? “Rabbi,” they said, “who sinned: this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Ouch! Hopefully this question was asked some distance away. The man was blind, not deaf. Still, the disciples didn’t ask how they could help this man or how they could share the gospel with this man, they asked about his sin. As God’s Word brings this man to faith, Jesus teaches these disciples an important lesson about mission work: anyone can believe and, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
3. For You & Those around You
And, brothers and sisters in Christ, you are among those who have believed and have been baptized. You trust in Jesus. Your faith in Jesus is a result of God’s amazing grace for you especially as we consider all the idolatry around us today. Idolatry is all around us today as idolatry was all around the Israelites. Idolatry today doesn’t take the shape of shrines and statues or altars and poles. Idolatry today takes whatever form it has to in an effort to draw your heart away from God. We hear idolatry in the love and lust songs on the radio. We see idolatry in the sports seasons that never come to an end. Idolatry is found in doing whatever it takes to be successful, in the Messiah-size expectations of a political party. Idolatry can also be found in a 7lb., 6 oz. buddle of joy. Idolatry is giving someone first place in one’s heart instead of God. How often haven’t we been influenced by the world around us instead of influencing the world around us?
The good news is Jesus. Jesus came into the world, but Jesus was never of this world. Jesus was different. We needed Jesus to be different. Jesus had to rank the Creator over the created. Jesus had to give thanks to God for his blessings and not see his blessings as the be-all and end-all of his existence. Jesus lived for God, and in his living for God, he lived for everyone else, too. What made Jesus so different is that Jesus lived his true human life without sin, and as true God, Jesus didn’t save his own skin, but voluntarily gave his life to take away the sin of idolatry. Jesus’ redeeming work is finished, but his saving work of souls through the proclamation of the gospel is ongoing. We get to be a part of this saving work.
Hacksaw Ridge is a new movie on video. The movie tells the story of World War II American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss. Desmond Doss became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. Desmond Doss refused to shoot a gun in battle, but in battle Desmond Doss did everything he could to save the wounded. The best estimate is Desmond Doss saved the lives of 75 soldiers. Desmond Doss tells the story that every time he saved one soldier, he prayed, “Lord, help me save one more.” He never gave up.
Desmond Doss was uniquely different from the soldiers around him. Different was good. Dear Christian, you and I are different, too. Our difference, as practicing Christians is good, too. Live as children of the light. Recognize the idolatry of today. Don’t be influenced by the idols and the world. Instead, be an influence on the world around. Lord, help us save one more. Amen.