Summary: This is an advent sermon.
Play “All in the Family” theme song.
Oh, the good old. Do you remember the good old days? I remember my parents talking about the good old days. “I remember when . . .” my parents would say. “Back in my day . . .” was another favorite. What about, “When I was you age . . ..” Simon and Garfunkel had a song in the 60s that said, “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?” They were longing for different times, the good old days. The “All in the Family” theme song was a satire, but it points out that people often long for the good old days. Oh, we love the good old days. Why aren’t things like they used to be? What happened to the good old days?
The prophet Isaiah sang a similar song.
Turn with me to Isaiah 64. Read Scripture.
The glory days are long gone. The Northern Kingdom of a divided Israel had been taken into captivity. The southern kingdom of Judah was precariously balanced between rival international powers. This is similar to modern times. Israel is currently balanced rather precariously in an area world that desperately wants to see it destroyed. Rival powers were vying for supremacy in the Middle East. That sounds familiar. Judah longed for the days of its power. David and Solomon were only distant memories. They were names in the history books, like George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt.
Isaiah looks longingly back on the good old days. Those were the days. God had done many wonderful things. Verse 3 states, “For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.” There was Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon. Good intervened at Mt. Moriah, Sinai, the Passover, the Red Sea, Jericho, and with Goliath. They were only faded memories. Isaiah wanted God to demonstrate His power. He wanted to see the heavens split open. He wanted an earthquake.
Why wasn’t God intervening like He used to? Why wasn’t there another Mt. Sinai or Red Sea crossing? Where have Moses and David gone? I can see the ancient Israel equivalent of the “All in the Family” theme song:
“Oh the way King David played, songs that made the Psalms parade. Guys like us we had it made, those were the days, and you knew who you were then, Israel was Israel and heathens were heathen, mister we could use a man like Old Solomon again, didn’t need no divided state, we were all headed the same way, gee our old Sinai was great, those were the days!”
Where had Israel’s and Judah’s good old days gone?
Isaiah understands why. In verse 5, Isaiah states that God helps “those who gladly do right, who remember [His] ways.” Judah “continued to sin against” God’s ways. They had missed God’s plan for their lives. God was angry with them. Isaiah wondered if perhaps they have gone too far, “How then can we be saved?”
Verse 6 is rather eye opening. Isaiah says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” The people were stained by their sins. They had become polluted. They weren’t gladly doing right.
Even worse, they were doing right things. Isaiah states, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” They were going through the motions, but there was no heart commitment to the Lord.
Sometimes we fall into that mode. We go through the motions of playing Church. Then we wonder why God isn’t blessing us, or things are rough. God wants our heart.
Isaiah really brings it home in verse 7. The real problem is, “No one calls on you name or strives to lay hold of you.” No one bothered to seek God’s will. No one was praying. No one was trying to reach God. Consequently, God had turned His face from the people. He allowed them to “waste away because of [their] sins.” Sin causes separation from God. Sin had driven a wedge between the people and God. This is why Isaiah wonders, in verse 5, “How then can we be saved?” Isaiah wondered if the people had gone too far.
But verses 8 and 9 are ones of hope. (Read them).
Isaiah asserts that God is the Father. It’s not easy for a father to turn his back on a child. I have watched fathers agonize over the mistakes of a child. It takes a long time for a father to turn his back on his child. One man I knew had a son who was constantly in trouble. He had been in jail, skipped school, and done other things. But dad was always there. I was talking to him one day and he threw up his hands and said, “I don’t know what to do with my son.” Imagine the pain that God must have felt to turn His head from His people.