Sermons

Summary: God wants us to have a fresh start.

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:1, 25 (1)

This week a package arrived from my son, Jason. Among some gifts of perfume for his mother and sisters and a wonderful certificate for the parents of the soldier, there was a flag he carried with him as he served in Iraq this past year. The flag was labeled “Operation Iraqi Freedom”.

Every American soldier carries one. Beside the American and Iraqi flag emblems, there are messages written in Persian (Farsi), Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic and English for anyone who might help a soldier in trouble, perhaps separated from his unit. Even strong liberators sometimes need help.

Isaiah looked at the nation of Israel and saw a people enslaved to the Babylonian empire. Modern day Babylon is called Iraq. As modern day Iraqi’s knew under Sadaam Hussein’s regime that personal freedom was at the whim of the dictator – it was no different for the ancient people of Israel, pressed-down under the heavy hand of Babylon’s King Cyrus.

Liberation is a sweet thought when you are the one who has been defeated and occupied by the enemies’ armies. In the case of Israel it was even worse. The army may have been wearing Babylonian uniforms, sworn to serve King Cyrus, but it was God who had engineered the whole thing. Israel had sinned by worshipping idols and not trusting Jehovah. Jehovah was answering; captivity and harsh bondage was the language.

There are many types of bondage or captivity.

• There is political bondage like Communism where someone else controls what you are allowed to do.

• There is financial bondage. I know about that one. I had about 12 years without a car loan…then the old Buick died!

• There is physical bondage, such as a down-turn in health. I know about that kind too.

In each case there are some things you can do;

• Politically, you can revolt,

• Financially, you can begin to save and not spend

• With health issues the doctor can find a pill or do surgery (which may cause further financial bondage)…

The worst kind of bondage however is spiritual bondage. Why is it the worst? Because, like Israel of old, when God takes you to the woodshed, there is no revolt that works…there is no buying your way out, and there is no surgery any medical team can offer. Spiritual bondage is when people lose their connection with God.

What does spiritual bondage look like? Mistakes are made; a job goes sour, or a marriage. Kids get in trouble. People feel like they’ve squandered their chance to be respectable – like they’ve squandered-away their chance to know God.

It is a tough row to hoe for several reasons:

1. Spiritual bondage is internal, but it affects and controls every area of life. Moses had lost his connection with God. It drove him to become a hunted murderer.

2. Being internal, it is hidden from view. You know you’re there…others don’t.

3. The consequences are also hidden – at least delayed, often until it is too late to change the outcome.

4. Spiritual bondage is caused by sin.

In our text the word “transgression” is often translated “rebellion”. That is the nature of the source of spiritual bondage, rebellion against God. Ever since Adam and Eve decided they wanted to have that fruit off the tree of knowledge of good and evil, rebellion has been our human nature.

And that puts us in a rather difficult location, square in the middle of rock and hard place. We are in need of a fresh start, a second chance. And the text tells us that is what God is willing to offer.

A Fresh Start is Available

Because God Says So

I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:25

Notice the language God uses, “I, I am…” Certainly we are familiar with that statement from Moses’ encounter with the Lord at the burning bush. The way the words are ordered, there is emphasis. It is as if God is saying “I and I alone can blot out your rebellion”.

Agreed; God is the only one holy enough to deal with our rebellion and our spiritual bondage…but how can it be dealt with. Every attempt we ever make to deal with it ourselves – self help programs, new years resolutions, diets, pills, materialism, good deeds – even going to church…it all falls short. It doesn’t work. That is precisely the point, all our righteousness is as filthy rags.

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