Summary: Sermon for Mission Festival / 4th Sunday in Lent
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus:
I love how this section of scripture ends, “Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” The Holy One of Israel is among you. Doesn’t that send chills up and down your spine? For some people that sends a thrill to their heart. For others it fills their hearts with fear. To them The Holy One of Israel among us is like having the CEO of the company start roaming you area of work. Or having an officer of the law pull you over. The Holy One of Israel is the ultimate authority figure. God hates sin! If we truly examine ourselves and compare our lives to what God requires of us we can see that we do not measure up to God’s holy yardstick. So the question we have to answer is, “What do we do?”
Well, the prophet Isaiah gives us the answer. Isaiah invites us to leave behind sin, death, and destruction. He invites us to run to God because God is our salvation.
This beautiful section of Scripture from the book of Isaiah actually comes from a much larger psalm of praise that we find in the 15th chapter of Exodus. After God led the Israelites through the Red Sea and defeated Pharaoh’s army, Moses and the Israelites sang a song of praise to God for what he had done. Isaiah has taken that song and condensed it down to its essence. Where the original song was praising God for the Israelites’ exodus from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, Isaiah is praising God for our second exodus; the exodus where God has led his children out from the bondage of sin and death.
We were all held captive by sin and death. From the very moment of conception, we are natural enemies of God and hostile to his will for our lives. God says to worship him and serve him only, yet how many of us have made idols out of our jobs or sporting events? God tells us to read and study his word, yet we find it hard to make time for personal devotions or Bible study. We may have plenty of time to gather at the local pub, but we simply don’t have the time for God and his word.
What about the way we treat our loved ones and our neighbor? We lash out at our spouse and children with harsh words and criticism. We gossip and slander, curse and lie, steal and commit false testimony without any thought that these things are sins that God has condemned. We think that we can get away with doing anything we want, but God does not ignore our sins. The prophet Ezekiel tells us that God punishes sin. He writes, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4).
God punishes sin. There is no question about it. But the very one who punishes sin is also the one we need to run to for our salvation because God is our salvation. Isaiah writes, “In that day you will say: “I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:1-2).
Isaiah, looking to the future, sees the day that God will lead his people out of the bondage of sin and death. He tells us that God will turn away his anger from us. That day of course was Good Friday. The day where God turned his anger over sin away from us and place it all onto his one and only son. God became our salvation by living that perfect life you and I can never live and by dying an innocent death for our sins.
Knowing what God has done for us comforts us. We can trust and not be afraid. God tell us in chapter 41 of Isaiah, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). God has done everything, our salvation does not depend on what we have done. God the Father planned this out in eternity before the creation of the world. God the Son carried out his plan by becoming our salvation for us. And God the Holy Spirit worked faith in our hearts so that we believe this message of salvation.
We have reason enough to praise the God of our salvation. Is there anyone of us who cannot join Isaiah in praising the Lord for his presence in our lives? How often have we not felt down and defeated by the many problems and troubles we have in this life? When we have suffered a serious injury, or fight a lingering illness or feel the heavy burden of sorrow at the death of a loved one, we may feel the only direction life is going is down. And yet in time, in one way or another, we have seen the Lord’s mighty hand reach out and touch our lives. We have experienced the joy of knowing that God will work all things out for the good of those who love him and we have his promise that he will never leave or forsake us. Isaiah knew this as well as we do. That is why he writes “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).