Sunday, October 22, 2023

Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity - Isa 55:1-9


Trinity 20

                                                                                       Isa 55:1-9



          What would it be like if you could eat out any time you wanted?  What if you could eat out all the time?  It certainly would be easier.  You would never have to worry about going grocery shopping.  You would never have to plan meals.  You would never have to cook or do dishes. Now that sounds great.

          And of course, you could have a wide variety of food.  During my years in Marion I have seen the number of different restaurants continue to increase.  We now have a nice range of places to eat, and they keep adding new ones.

          Eating out all the time would be great.  It would, however, be very expensive.  Food costs more when we eat out.  We would all probably like to eat out more often than we do.  The reason we don’t is that we can’t afford it.  It would cost too much.

          In our Old Testament lesson God invites his people to eat and drink food that costs nothing.  He offers to satisfy them with what they really need.  As we listen to our text, we find that in his compassion our God offers pardon and forgiveness as he draws us to himself. 

          Our text is from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah lived in the eighth century B.C in the southern kingdom of Judah.  During his lifetime he saw the northern kingdom of Israel conquered by the Assyrians and taken into exile in 721 B.C.  The Assyrians threatened Judah as well, but God rescued the nation.

          However, Judah did not learn its lesson from this experience.  Judah might have been going through the motions of worshipping Yahweh, but their heart was not truly in it.  They worshipped false gods. They did not want to listen to God’s word.  Isaiah began his prophecy by saying, “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.”

          Judah would not repent and so God was going to bring judgment upon the nation.  He would take them into exile.  He did this in 587 B.C. when he used the Babylonians to destroy the temple and take the people to Babylon.

          Through Isaiah, God speaks about what is going to happen in the future.  In the second half of Isaiah’s prophecy he speaks a word of hope because God would not abandon his people.  Instead, he would bring the people back from Babylon.  Just as God had rescued his people from Egypt in the exodus, so God would again act to bring the people back to their own land.

          Isaiah begins our text by saying, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”  This is an amazing offer. God begins by promising to satisfy the people.  He offers food and drink without cost.

          Yet as we continue to listen, we realize that God is speaking about more than literal food.  He says through Isaiah, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”

          Isaiah warns about focusing on that which cannot satisfy.  He urges us to turn away from our false gods.  We make money and wealth our goal.  We get caught up in the accumulation of things.  We focus on our job and career.  We allow sports to take on a role of central interest and effort.  These and so many other things compete with God for the number one place in our life.

          But these things cannot satisfy.  They are not the food that we need.  We were created in the image of God.  We were created for fellowship with God.  Only in this relationship can be find true peace and meaning for life. As St. Augustine said, “Man remains restless until he finds his rest it in God.”

          In our text God urges the people, “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.”  God offers life. He offers abundant life.  And our text directs us toward where that life is found.  God says through Isaiah, “I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.”

          Our text points us to the Messiah descended from David.  It points us to Jesus Christ.  In the book of Isaiah, God speaks about what the Messiah will do.  He speaks about the child born who is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He promises, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”    

        God acted to bring his people back from exile when the Persian king Cyrus defeated the Babylonians, and then issued a decree in 538 B.C. that the Judahites could return. Yet this act of rescue was not the end of God’s work.  Instead, it pointed forward to something even greater.  It pointed to what God would do through the descendant of David, Jesus Christ.

In our text God urges, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” 

God calls all to repent.  He urges us to confess our sin and to turn away from it.  He bids us to return to him for he will have compassion on us and pardon our sins.  Like the promise of free food and drink with which our text begins, this sounds too good to be true.  After all, we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed.  We have harmed our neighbor by what we have done and what we have said.  How can God have compassion on us and forgive us?  That’s not the way we act towards others.

Yet that is the exact point that God makes in our text. God is not like us. And thank God this is so!  He 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.”

Our thoughts are wicked and unrighteous. God’s thoughts are completely different.  They are gracious and compassionate.  He wants to forgive. He wants to save.  He wants to pardon even those who show no love towards him.  He wants to pardon us.

We have intentions, but often don’t carry through on them.  We intend to lose weight or save more money.  Yet somehow we often fail to do so.  But that is not true of God. He not only has intentions, but he carries through on them. He does it in surprising ways - in ways that we would not expect.

Our text makes it clear that God will pardon.  But how can the just God be true to himself as he pardons our sins?  Doesn’t he have to punish sin? The answer is yes, and two chapters earlier Isaiah explains how he has done this.  There Isaiah speaks about the Servant of the Lord.  He tells us, “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.”

God placed our sin on the Servant.  Then God punished the Servant in our place.  We hear: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 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.”

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.  God’s ways are not our ways.  We hear about the Servant and there does not appear to be anything glorious about him. Yet the great surprise is that the Servant of the Lord is the Messiah!  He is Jesus Christ. 

God had promised that the Spirit of the Lord would rest upon the descendant of David – the shoot from the stump of Jesse.  This the One who would bring peace to God’s creation.  Yet he also said that he would put his Spirit upon the Servant.  The great surprise is that the Messiah and the Servant of the Lord are one and the same!

Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities as he hung upon the cross.  This was the just God acting to condemn sin.  Our Lord died in the humiliation of the cross and was buried.  It did not look like this One could really be the Christ.  But God’s ways are not our ways.  On the third day God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him as he was seated at God’s right hand.  He vindicated Jesus as the Christ.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.  He reigns now, and all will have to acknowledge him as Lord when he returns in glory on the Last Day.

God has given us what satisfies – his love and forgiveness.  In his compassion he has restored us to himself.  We have seen that he did this in the unexpected means of the cross.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways.

This is true not only of how God has worked our salvation.  We find this to be true when God allows times of suffering and hardship to enter our life.  We don’t want these things.  Yet the death and resurrection of Jesus is the reason that we can trust in God in the midst of them.  Jesus Christ is the assurance that God continues to love and care for us no matter what things may look like.

God has had compassion on us and has abundantly pardoned our sins. Through baptism we have been born again of water and the Spirit, and had all our sins washed away.  Because this is so we begin to think and act differently.  We begin think with God’s thoughts and act with his ways.

God has had compassion on us and pardoned our sins in Christ. By the work of the Spirit we now have compassion on others and pardon their sins.  When wronged, do not hold onto the offense as a kind of weapon that you can continue to use against the other person.  Instead, forgive as God has forgiven you.  Pardon others with the forgiveness by which God has pardoned you. 

God helped you when you were in need.  Now as the baptized child of God, help others around you.  Support those in difficult circumstances with your presence and care.  Bear up the burdens of others as you help them in whatever way you can.  Look for opportunities to be Christ to your neighbor.

In our text, God invites us to receive what truly satisfies.  He calls us to himself because he is compassionate and pardons.  He has acted in the Messiah who is also the Suffering Servant.  He has won forgiveness for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Baptized into Christ we have received this forgiveness.  We now live as God’s people who forgive others and act in compassion toward those in our life.          




No comments:

Post a Comment