140928 Isaiah 51:4-6

Last Updated on Monday, 29 September 2014 Written by Pastor Pagels

Guest preacher: Rev. Larry Schlomer
Text: Isaiah 51:4-6
Theme: Give The Nations What Never Fails

Technology can give you an insight into the world that is amazing. We can see what is going on in different parts of the world instantly. As the Administrator of WELS World Missions I have to pay attention to what is going on in countries where we have missionaries residing or traveling. I don't know if you have discovered this yet, but Google has a simple way to keep in touch with the news form a certain area. All you have to do is go to the Google web page and sign up for news alerts. Google will ask what key words they should search for to provide you news and then they email you a page with links to news stories on that topic from around the world.

For example, one of the alerts I have set is for our missionaries who travel into Nigeria. I entered the key words Nigeria and Ebola. The deadliest outbreak of this scary disease has made its way into Nigeria. Another alert I have set for that same area uses the key words Nigeria and Boko Haram. That is to receive alerts about what this terrorist group is doing. The name means Western Education is Evil and they are active in the north part of Nigeria. Another alert I have set is to follow the key words China and Christian to see what the news brings about how the government there is reacting to the growing churches there.

One thing becomes clear quickly as I get these reports and others. The world is a mess. The news is full of reports. Fathers murdering their own children, civil wars and terrorist attacks, the move of extremists who are butchering people who wear the name Christian - the list could go on and on. The world is a mess. We want justice. We want God to step in. This morning we are going to talk about what we can do about it.

It is true that today our world is a mess, but I think many others at many other times in history would have described the world of their day in a similar way. Our Biblical prophet Isaiah was a prophet at such a time. God had called Isaiah to bring words of judgment and hope to the people of Israel. The Assyrian army had marched into Israel and had brought about God's judgment. The brutality of extremists today is no worse than what this nation brought in its conquest. Slavery, the murdering of children and women, and even worse were the norm as this monstrous army plowed through. Only by the miraculous intervention of God did the Assyrians after defeating the northern Kingdom of Israel turn away from Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah.

Unfortunately the Judean Israelites who escaped that invasion had not learned the lesson. God had made a contract with them that guaranteed his protection if they followed his commands. That is what the Israelites continually failed to do. Isaiah's words in this part of his book were the warning of what would happen when the next invasion would take place and a new empire would take hold of Judah and rule with an iron fist. After witnessing and hearing the reports of this first atrocious invasion many Israelites may have been ready to see some justice. The prophets were telling them it would soon be carried out among them. These words would really hit home as they were read by those in captivity crying out to God asking how long until he would step in. Now in exile the Israelite people seemed to have little hope. How long do we have to wait for God's righteous judgment on such evil people?

Part of that answer is in what Isaiah is led by the Holy Spirit to leave in his book. Hear these words from chapter 51:4-6 "Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: Instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. (NIV)

As we look at the world Isaiah lived and worked in it is easy to see that it was a mess. And we would like to see the arm of the Lord bring some of this type of justice to the world. It is hard to sit still and hear the reports of what is happening to Christians around the world. Misguided people who think they are following God are doing unspeakable atrocities in the name of that God. These people think they can earn God's favor by their actions and it curdles our blood to hear the reports. We want God's justice. We want them to pay. From where we sit it looks like God should step in.

But as we are pointing those fingers let's take a look at things from God's point of view. It is easy to point fingers at people who have a misguided sense of how to make things right with their God, but as we point at them how long before we realize that we are all too often right there with them. Our society has set some standards about what it good and right and we might do a good job of carrying this role out. God must love us more since we go to church faithfully, right? Surely God knows and loves me because of how good I am to my neighbors!

But what does God say about these things? They do nothing to earn God's favor unless they are done perfectly. God doesn't just want you to be at church. God doesn't want you to do things that look kind to others. God wants you to be righteous. God wants your whole heart all the time. Without a perfect heart these things can't earn us status with God. If that was all we had to hold on to, the righteousness of God that Isaiah says draws near speedily would need to destroy us also.

Our ugliness, the ugliness of human beings in this world seems to spin out of control and that is why God had to step in. The righteousness and justice that Isaiah describes came to this world through Jesus. But it is not what we expected. It is certainly not what we deserved. To bring us into his kingdom God gave us what it would take to fulfill his justice and stand as our righteousness. He gave his Son. He gave Jesus who loved us so much that he was willing to live in the mess of this world to carry out the perfect life we were unable to fulfill. He spilled his blood to pay the price and consequence of what our lives deserved. He did that for you. He did that for all. My arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm. This hope is what Jesus brought into this world.

And this brings us to what we can do about it. The mess of this world is clearly described by Isaiah: Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. This world does not provide any hope. This world is indeed a mess. Today those who study these things tell us that there are 7 billion people living in this world. Many in this world are hungry. Many need a drink of clean water. We could wear ourselves out trying to figure out the logistics behind getting a clean drink of water to every person in this world who needs one right now. But even if we could figure it out that would not be near enough. This world will still die.

We can do even more. They need to know what we know. They need what never fails. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. And that is what God has asked us to take to them. It is a wonderful thing when God allows us to help someone with a physical need, but he has not promised that we will be able to carry out that task everywhere. But God has promised to bless the gift of his word. His Church on earth is promised to carry his salvation to the ends of the earth. This world is a mess and that is what God has called us to do about it.

But what can a gathering here today do? Can we really make a difference? Don't sell God short. In his hands of course we can! There are hundreds and even thousands of stories of ways that God has used your church, the WELS, to bring his salvation to those who desperately need it. It is a privilege to work on your behalf. It is amazing to see what God is using us to do.

The next time you are sitting in front of the television watching some of the things that prove that this world is a mess, take some time to reflect on what we have talked about today. Think about what really matters. Think of what God has given you that makes you different and gives you hope. Think of what God has called you to do. Think of the people who do not have the hope you have. Join together with your forgiven brothers and sisters and find your place in the effort. We have what people desperately need. God has promised to be with us until the very end. In his hands his Church will not fail. We have his promise. We have that same promise for all. We give the nations what will never fail. Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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