Pentecost 4, July 7, 2019
God Cares for Us!
Text: Isaiah 66:10–14
You ever get lost? That’s harder to do these days, with GPS and all. But even with all of our tech, we can still get lost. Last year when Christopher and I were in Germany, we set the GPS wrong (Well, to be honest, I set the GPS wrong) and asked for the direct route instead of the autobahn route. We saw some pretty country and it was going ok until we came to a road that was closed, and we had no clue how to proceed. That was fun.
At the time of Isaiah, God’s people were lost; they had lost their way. What was even worse is that many of them thought things couldn’t have been better: times were good (economically speaking), and they were offering sacrifices to God—so many that it became a show of who could offer the most. But their hearts were not in it, they were not humble, and they thought they were above, they were better than, God.
So God had to bring His justice. Sin must be dealt with, punished. Isaiah warned the people, but they did not listen. There would be destruction, even of the very temple they had trusted as a symbol of God’s presence and favor. First, the Assyrians all but destroyed Jerusalem, and then the Babylonians did come in and destroy it. Most of the people of Judah were taken into exile, humbled and humiliated as slaves by the Babylonians, humbled and humiliated by their own sin.
Yes, we, too, can look around us and know that things are not right. We see sin all around us. We see sin in us. We try and lie to ourselves and tell ourselves we are ok. There are a lot of lies going on out there. Sometimes we fall for the falsehoods, and we think we are doing just fine, when the reality is that we are still enemies of God, on the wrong side. People out there say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.” Sounds good. People believe that. But it’s wrong. People out there say, “God is a loving God, so everyone goes to heaven, no matter what they believe.” Sounds good. People believe that. But it’s wrong. People out there say, “All religions, all roads lead to God.” Sounds good. People believe that. But it’s wrong. People keep on sinning. We keep on sinning. And the results of those sins are what messes up our lives.
So why doesn’t God do something about this mess? Where is the power of God? Where is our hope and salvation? Is there any hope for the future?
God has a better plan than people do. He always does. Yes, He must punish sin. Yes, we must face the consequences. But God’s plan has a future and a hope. God promises to save us from our sins. To the folks in Isaiah’s day, the prophet says that it will come suddenly. A couple of verses before our text, He describes the birth of a son in extraordinary terms, as though the child is born without labor pains: “Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she delivered a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things?” (66:7–8).
Isaiah’s folks may have thought this child was a prince, an heir to the king. But we know about the final and ultimate royal Son of the house of David. We know how this played out, in the birth of Jesus. And the very same story takes us to the death of Jesus, because, yes, God in His justice must deal with sin: our sin and the sins of all the world. And then God raised Him from the dead; because after the death of our sins comes new life with Jesus.
Well, today Isaiah reminds us to rejoice! “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her” (v 10). Rejoice in that hope. Rejoice in the plan of the God who made it all. Rejoice that we are saved from hell by Jesus. Rejoice that Jesus Christ has come, that Jesus Christ has died, that Jesus Christ is risen—and that Jesus Christ will come again.
But if Christ has come, died, and risen, why does it feel like we are still waiting for God to act? Why is the world still a mess, and why are we as God’s people in the kingdom of God still living in hope and expectation?
We have that hope, right? But we still suffer. We want peace, stability, and security in our lives, relationships, and a plan for the future, but the world can’t deliver. We want peace, but we see division, hatred, violence. We want security, but we only have more metal detectors. We seek the waters and bread of life, but we still get hungry, thirsty, not just physically but in our life with Jesus, in our life as God’s people. We know that God has saved us from our sins. We know we are going to heaven. But what about here? What about now?
Well, my brothers and sisters, Isaiah tells us that God will provide for us: “You shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees” (v 12). Like newborn babes, we receive comfort from God like a momma takes care of her babies, her little ones. Not just in the future, when Jesus Christ comes again, but even now, as He feeds us with refreshing food, not just bread and wine but His very presence in our lives. He comforts us with a way of life, with His plan of life, even with the world in turmoil, even with so many appearing to be enemies of God. Like a crying baby is fed and like a restless child is bounced on mama’s knee, so our God comforts us. We are, indeed, children of God, and He says, “as one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (v 13).
The Good News continues: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream” (v 12). In Isaiah’s world, water was scarce. But when water was abundant, and not TOO abundant like it has been in this part of the country this summer, when you were thirsty on your journey and finding that well, that was a time of thanks and happiness. Here Isaiah tells us that it is God’s peace, God’s shalom that comes like a river. When we have seen rivers swallowing houses and rivers throwing barges into dams and water wiping out everything in front of it, including half marathon courses, God gives us the picture of a flood, only it is God’s peace, love, faith, forgiveness washing over us and surrounding us and blessing us. This is a good flood! And we have and know the flood of God’s Grace while we are here. Not someday. Now.
So, yes, we rejoice in the comfort of our God, won for us by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. God’s Care for His Children, through His Son Jesus, Provides for Us Even as We Wait for Jesus to Come Again. Yes, we know that there will be struggle and discomfort all over the sinful and sin-filled world in which we live. But we rejoice in a God who comforts us, as a mother comforts her child. And yes, we know that God’s grace and peace and comfort is for all. And that peace that flows like a river has come to us; Jesus Christ lives in you, with you, and is with us wherever we go.
We are not lost. We know where we are going. Because Jesus is in us, with us, and leading us.
In Jesus’ Name,
Adapted from Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 29, Part 3.