feel like God is ignoring you? Does it
seem like God is treating you in a way that is not fair? It’s not surprising that sometimes we feel
this way. When we experience problems
with our health, we want to ask God, “Why is this happening to me?” If they are severe, or if they drag on it can
indeed seem like God is ignoring us. It
is discouraging to deal with ailments that sap our strength and take joy out of
life as we deal with them day after day.
feel like God is ignoring his people the Church? Does it seem like God is
treating us in a way that not fair? You know the world in which we live
today. It is discouraging to see that
the life of a faithful Christian is becoming and more difficult. You know what it is like to talk to a person
who has a completely secular world view - a person for whom the idea of a God
who acts in our world and reveals himself is the stuff of fairy tales.
seem like God is ignoring the problems that are occurring in your life, or that
of family and people you care about? I
will tell you that I learned of a tragedy this week that really struck home for
me. Chris was a guy I played baseball
with at Concordia College, Ann Arbor. I
certainly liked him while in college, but honestly, at the time I wasn’t sure
what kind person he would turn out to be.
losing track of him for years, Facebook became the means by which I reconnected
with Chris and had a chance to see what he had become. It was wonderful to see that he was a man of
faith, family, teaching and coaching at a Lutheran school. He was a really good
guy. Then, I learned that Chris died
this week of Covid. I was shocked. I don’t know anything about the
circumstances, but his death leaves behind a widow, several children who are
around college age, and a grieving church and school community where he had
clearly impacted many lives.
Our text from
the prophet Isaiah addresses these kinds of experiences. The prophet reminds us
first, that God is simply out of our league.
We don’t want to hear it, but we are just not in a position to
understand, much less question what he does.
But while that is true, Isaiah also assures us that God does not just
leave us there. Instead, he is the One
who gives us strength – a strength that is grounded in his remarkable and
dramatic action to save us.
wrote in the eight century B.C. In his day, the Assyrian empire was the great
threat from which Yahweh miraculously delivered Jerusalem. The Assyrians had conquered the northern
kingdom of Israel and taken the people into exile. God had used the Assyrians as the instrument
of his judgment against Israel, for from the very time when it broke away from
Judah after the death of King Solomon that nation had embraced the false gods
of paganism in every way.
was sinful in this way. The experience with the Assyrians was a warning – a
call to repentance. But the people were
not going to pay attention. And so in
his prophecy Isaiah writes about the exile that would occur to Judah in the
sixth century B.C. The Babylonians would take them into exile. But in his prophecy Isaiah also speaks
Yahweh’s word of promise and good news that he would bring them back to their
through Isaiah at the beginning of our text, “To whom then will you compare me, that I
should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them
all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.” Yahweh begins by
reminding the people that he is the true God – he is the Creator – and there is
no one else like him.
In Isaiah’s prophecy Yahweh
continually reminds the people that he is the almighty Creator. He has all might and power and there is no
one that can be compared to him. In the verses just before our text Isaiah
writes, “Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the
beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It
is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like
grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads
them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the
rulers of the earth as emptiness.”
Because this is so, the complaint by
the people of Judah – and by us – has no justification. God says through Isaiah, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O
Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded
by my God’?” There are two accusations
here. The first is that God does not know about the problems experienced – that
he is oblivious to them. The second is that he doesn’t care and isn’t doing
what it right for them – what they should be able to expect from God.
Yahweh’s response to Judah and to us is very direct. He says, “Have you not known? Have you not
heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the
earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”
God is the almighty One who never lacks power.
He never grows weary. And his
understanding is unsearchable.
This is one of the moments when we just have to admit
that we don’t know what God is doing. We aren’t capable of knowing what God is
doing. He is God and we are not. We say
things like, “I don’t understand what God is doing.” And that is precisely the point. We don’t,
and we won’t. Later in Isaiah God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my
ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so
are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
We can’t understand what God is
doing because he is God and we are his creatures. Beyond that, we can’t understand what God is
doing because we are sinful people.
Even as those who are a new creation in Christ our lives are still
pulled down by the old Adam. We may not understand what God is doing, but God
has revealed in his Word that he uses the circumstances I described at the
beginning of the sermon to crucify the old Adam in us. He uses them to force us to turn away from
ourselves and toward God. He uses them to cause us to grow in faith.
In our text, God promises that he
gives strength to faith. He says, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who
has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD
shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
The source of this strength is God’s
action in this world. This chapter begins with the words, “Comfort, comfort
my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she
has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.” God speaks of the
rescue he is going to provide to Judah.
He will act to bring them back from exile. Isaiah then
writes: A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the
LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley
shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground
shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the
LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth
of the LORD has spoken.”
Isaiah speaks about the return from
exile. But this saving action by God pointed forward to something even
bigger; something even mightier. The careful listener will hear in
that text the prophecy about John the Baptist.
Matthew tells us in his Gospel, “In those days John the Baptist
came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ For this is he who was spoken of by the
prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the
wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”
The glory of the Lord was revealed
as God sent his Son into the world to win salvation for us, and defeat death.
This is what happened when Jesus Christ died on the cross. Although he is true
God, he took on a human nature in the incarnation – he became man without
ceasing to be God. He did this in order
to take our place as he suffered and died receiving God’s judgment against
us. Jesus Christ was the Servant of the
Lord who fulfilled these words of Isaiah: “But he was wounded for our
transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the
chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are
healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to
his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Jesus died on Good Friday to win
forgiveness for us. He was buried in a sealed tomb. But during this season of Easter we are
celebrating the fact that God acted in our world in an incredible and new way. He raised Jesus from the dead. He raised
Jesus with a body transformed so that it can never die again. Jesus lives!
And because he does, death has been defeated. He is the first fruits of the resurrection. Because Jesus has risen, we will too.
There was nothing about Good Friday
that would have led us to expect this blessed outcome. Jesus hung on the cross in weakness, failure,
shame, and humiliation. It certainly looked like his way was hidden from the
Lord, and that his right was disregarded by God. But God’s understanding is unsearchable. His ways are not our ways. And what looked like failure and rejection,
was actually God’s most powerful action to take away our sins.
We know this now, because God raised
Jesus up on Easter. And in fact, we have learned that Jesus’ death was the
means by which God has defeated death forever. Because Jesus Christ died on
the cross and rose from the dead we have been reconciled to God. Baptized into
Christ’s death, we are saints who already now possess eternal life with God.
And because Jesus has risen from the dead, we know that Christ will raise and
transform our bodies on the Last Day.
The resurrection of Jesus gives us
living hope. This is what allows us to
trust in God when it seems like our way has been hidden from the Lord, and that
our right has been disregarded by God.
The Spirit gives us grace to trust in God because we have already
experienced his amazing love in the death and resurrection of his Son for us.
In circumstances of difficulty and
hardship, we wait for the Lord. But we wait for the One who has already acted
in the death and resurrection of Christ. The Spirit of the risen Lord gives us
strength through the knowledge of what God has done for us. And because he
does, Isaiah’s words are true for us: “He gives power to the
faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths
shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall
exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be
weary; they shall walk and not faint.