Summary: Pentecost 14(C) - Believers are to proclaim God’s glory among the nations. God’s glory is his glory found and seen in judgment, grace, and heaven.
PROCLAIM GOD’S GLORY AMONG THE NATIONS
September 10, 2006 - PENTECOST 14 - Isaiah 66:18-24
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Dear Friends in Christ:
The text for our meditation this morning contains the final words of the prophet Isaiah. Verse 24 sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? "They will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." Because it ends that way, tradition has it that the Israelites liked to go back to verse 23 and read that again as the ending for Isaiah: "They will all come and bow down and worship before me." Yet, it is fitting that Isaiah ends with a word of God’s judgment. God’s judgment also reveals God’s glory. God’s glory is something that is seen in all the acts that he does, even in his judgment. Today, we are going to look at the glory of God, even in his judgment.
In the middle of our verses this morning it says, "Proclaim my glory among the nations." Isaiah writes that to these people of Israel, because before this he already had told them that they were going to be a light to the Gentiles. They considered the Gentiles as untouchable and the nations as unclean and outside of God’s kingdom of grace. Yet, God told them they were going to be a light to the Gentiles. God had chosen them to proclaim his glory to the nations.
In the liturgy on page 15, we sing the words of Simeon the prophet. Simeon stayed in the temple of the Lord in the New Testament times waiting for the salvation of Israel to be revealed. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus there, we have Simeon’s response in the Gospel of Luke: "For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2:30-32). Christ the Savior is a light for us and for the glory of the nation of Israel. This is the glory of God that Isaiah is referring to, the glory that he says we are to proclaim among the nations. Thus our theme:
PROCLAIM GOD’S GLORY AMONG THE NATIONS. We will examine God’s glory to proclaim.
I. The glory of judgment,
II. The glory of God’s grace,
III. The glory of God’s heaven
I. THE GLORY OF GOD’S JUDGMENT
We know that as Isaiah had foretold the judgment upon the children of Israel, it came to pass. As Israel rebelled against God and as they rejected God, they had to face that judgment. Verse 18 begins with ominous words: "And I, because of their actions and their imaginations, am about to come…." Reading the verses before these words, we realize the actions of the children of Israel were actions of rebellion. The imaginations were the imaginations of the sinfulness and the wickedness of their hearts. The Lord says, "I am about to come. Judgment is about to come." Then he describes for them that judgment that they are going to be rejected. He says, "And I, because of their actions and their imaginations, am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory." The Lord is saying to them, "Since you are so wicked and evil, I am going to leave you behind; and I am going to gather all the other nations and peoples of the world to come and see my glory.
This judgment is bad news for Israel that they would finally be rejected. But this judgment is good news for the nations of Gentiles that they would be brought into God’s kingdom. Then he describes the judgment. This is judgment in verse 18 against Israel for not repenting and falling away from God. Isaiah also goes to the end of time and describes the judgment for all the wicked, whether Gentile, whether Israel, whoever. He says: "They will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." Not a pleasant sight. Isaiah uses very, very descriptive language. Isaiah writes, "Their worm (or soul) will not die", but lives on in eternity. "The fire will not be quenched", the eternal fires of hell will be burning torment but never consuming nor destroying. Those rejected will be loathsome, despised, and unpleasant to mankind. God’s judgment reveals God’s glory.
In this world and in this lifetime it seems as if God’s judgment isn’t around much. The evil prosper, wickedness goes on, and the inhumanity of mankind continues endlessly. The world grows evil and wicked more and more with each passing day, year and generation. Sometimes the believer thinks: "Where is God’s judgment? When will he return? When will he come back?" God’s judgment is always around the corner. God’s judgment came upon Israel time after time as they forsook God. God’s judgment will come at the end of time with no one escaping it. In Ecclesiastes: "I thought in my heart, ’God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed’" (Ecclesiastes 3:17).