December 03, 2017

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit

Gospel Lesson; Mark 13:32-37

Epistle Lesson; 1Corinthians 1:3-9

Sermon Text; Isaiah 63:16b – 17

                       Isaiah 64:1-8

Today we begin a new Church Year. So, “Happy new Church Year, to you!” It is the Season of Advent. The word 'advent' means, 'coming'. Probably the most obvious way, during these next four weeks, as we think about Jesus coming, is as Jesus comes as a baby.

-Jesus comes as a baby the first time, to be our Savior, to be our Redeemer.

But, it is also appropriate, during these weeks before Christmas to think about another way in which Jesus comes.

-That is as He comes the second time, to be our Judge. Really, this morning's Epistle Lesson, and also The Gospel Lesson focused on that – Jesus coming on Judgment Day, and we should be prepared, and ready for that.

But, it is also appropriate for us to talk about Jesus coming to us each and every day, and each and every week.

-He comes to us through His Word. The Bible tells us,
“Faith comes from hearing the message

and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”

Also, Jesus our Savior comes to you today as you receive The Lord's Supper. He is coming in His body and blood to bring forgiveness.

So today as we begin a new Church Year, we celebrate as we talk about Jesus coming to us. We use the theme from our Old Testament Lesson for today, which is really a prayer. Isaiah is praying these words on behalf of the Old Testament Children of Israel. Think of it this way. It is a prayer for mercy. Isaiah is asking God that He would not give to us what we deserve, because of our sin. He is asking God to be merciful. Right in our text is the question: “Can we still be saved?”
Well, let's look at this prayer, this morning.

During this last week, I was really wrestling with how to present this text to you. I feel the best way to do it is, to do it kind of like a Bible Study Session. I won’t be asking questions of you, but I will be going through, a verse at a time.

I simply am just going a verse at a time to explain this prayer of mercy. Isaiah begins by addressing God in verse 16 when he says,

“You, the Lord are our Father.

Our Redeemer from everlasting is your name.”

So, here in this prayer, Isaiah addresses God as, “the Lord”. That is the proper name of God. He is saying, “You are our Father”. Remember when Jesus' disciples came to Him, and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Jesus said, “When you pray, pray this way. Our Father, who art in Heaven.”

Already, seven hundred years before that, Isaiah was instructing the people to do the same thing – come before the Lord as “our Father”.

God also is “our Redeemer”. The word 'redeem' means, 'to buy back'. And so, here Isaiah is asking God would buy us back from our sin.

He includes an attribute for God, here, which is a quality, or a characteristic. God you are “everlasting”. You have no beginning. You have no end. You are infinite. You are eternal.

Go to verse seventeen.

“Why do you cause us to wander from your ways, Lord?

Why do you harden our heart so that we do not fear you?

Return for the sake of your servants,

the tribes that are your heritage.”

Well, does God wander away from His people? The answer is, “No”. Rather, it is God's people who have wandered away from Him.

Does God harden the heart of His people? The answer is, “No”. Rather, it is we who have hardened ourselves to God. Maybe the one, and only exception to that in scripture (and you have heard me talk about this before) is Pharaoh. Remember when God was sending the Ten Plagues against the Egyptians? After each plague, Pharaoh was going to release God's people, and tell them they could go. But then, Pharaoh relented. He changed his mind. And during the first five plagues, it says Pharaoh “hardened his heart”. But, when you get to the sixth plague, no longer is Pharaoh hardening his own heart. Rather, it is God who is hardening Pharaoh's heart. I think that is the only exception in scripture.

It is not that God has hardened our hearts, but it is rather we have hardened our hearts to God. Here is now where the theme of mercy comes in, as Isaiah pleads, “Return to us”. Really, the Hebrew word there is 'have mercy'. “God, don't give to me, don't give to us, what it is we deserve, because of our sin. But, please return to us.”

Go to verse one.

“Oh, that you would rip open the heavens and come down.

Mountains then would then quake because of your presence.”

The hymn we just sang, the hymn writer got its theme from this verse, Isaiah, chapter 64, verse one.

Oh Savior rend the heavens wide.

Come down, come down with mighty stride.

In this prayer he is asking, “God please come. Rip open the heavens. Come to us, so that our enemies who once were afraid of us, would fear you once again.”
Go to verse two.

“As fire ignites stubble

and as fire makes water boil,

make your name known to your adversaries.

Then, nations would quake in your presence.”

Does fire make twigs burn quickly? Yes. Does fire make water boil quickly? Yes. Well, just as the answer to those two questions is yes, Isaiah is asking that God would come quickly. “Please come quickly so that our enemies who are not fearing us right now, because we have strayed from you, that they would fear you once again, and they would quake at your coming.”

Verse three.

“You did amazing things that we did not expect.

You came down. Mountains quaked because of your presence.”

Up until this time in history, think of the many ways in which God did amazing things.

-Go back to The Ten Plagues. In each of the ten plagues, God was doing amazing things.

-When the Children of Israel left Egypt, and God led them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night, God was doing an amazing thing.

-When they came to The Red Sea, and God parted the waters of The Red Sea for them to walk across on dry ground, God was doing an amazing thing.

-For forty years in the wilderness, when they ate manna every morning, and quail every evening, God was doing an amazing thing.

-When they came to the land God had promised to them, and they walked around the city of Jericho, blew the trumpet, sounded the horn, and the walls of Jericho came crumbling down, God did an amazing thing.

-When they were conquering the land, and they were defeating their enemies in one of those battles they had defeated their enemy, the enemy was running, and God sent hail stones down from Heaven. The Bible tells us more enemies died from hail stones, than they did from the actual battle, God was doing amazing things.

-All of the enemies that were conquered in the Promised Land, God was with His people, and He was doing amazing things.

Go to verse four.

“From ancient times no one has heard.

No ear understood.

No eye has seen any god except you,

who goes into action for the one who waits for Him.”

It is the Apostle Paul who quotes this text in the book of 1 Corinthians. Our Epistle Lesson for today was 1 Corinthians, chapter one. In the very next chapter, in 1 Corinthians, chapter two, the Apostle Paul quotes this text. Here is probably how you have heard it before, when Paul said,

“No eye has seen.

No ear has heard.

No mind has conceived what God has prepared

for those who love Him.”

We didn't see with our own eyes what God did amazingly in The Old Testament. We didn't hear with our own ears those amazing things God had done in The Old Testament. But, God has revealed it to us. He has revealed it to us by His Holy Spirit. And, He shares that with us through His Word.

Go to verse five.

“You meet anyone who joyfully practices righteousness,

who remembers you by walking in your ways!

But you were angry because we sinned.

We have remained in our sins for a long time.

Can we still be saved?”

If you would have been at our service, this morning, you would have heard the 8th graders recite The Ten Commandments. They walked through, and shared them all with you. At the end of The Ten Commandments, there is something known as The Conclusion, in which the meaning basically says what Isaiah says in this verse, right here.

“God threatens to punish those who transgress these commandments. Therefore, we should fear His wrath, and do nothing against these commandments. But, He promises grace, and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should love, and trust in Him, and willingly do according to these commandments.”

“Can we still be saved?”, is the question that is asked. The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

But, hold onto that answer, for just a moment, because I need to get through one, or two more verses of explanation, before looking at how it is God answers this prayer.

Go to verse six.

“All of us have become like something unclean,

and all of our righteous acts are like a filthy cloth.

All of us have withered like a leaf,

and our guilt carries us away like the wind.”

There are three word pictures in there that Isaiah wants us to pick up on.

-First of all, we are “unclean”. I want you to have the picture of a leper here in your mind. If a person had leprosy, they had an infectious skin disease. They were booted out of the city, and they had to go live in something known as a Leper Colony. They were separate from the rest of the people, because of their uncleanness.

-Isaiah gives us a second word picture where he says even “all of our righteous acts are like a filthy rag”.

It is kind of uncomfortable to talk about this in a group setting like this, but really the Hebrew word here for “filthy cloth” is “a menstrual rag”. Even the greatest things we do in life, because of our sin, in God's eye, is like a filthy cloth.

-The third word picture is we “have withered like a leaf”. All of the leaves are off of the trees, now. They are drying up, and they are crumbling. They are getting blown about in the wind. They are worthless.

Because of our sin, we are unclean. We are filthy, and we are like a withered leaf.

Verse seven.

“There is no one who calls on your name,

who rouses himself to take hold of you.

So you hid your face from us.

You made us melt by the power of our guilt.”

Do you remember when King David committed adultery with Bathsheba? He compounded his own problem, when he also killed Bathsheba's husband, Uriah. When King David broke The Sixth Commandment, he also broke The Fifth Commandment.

He thought he had gotten away with it, but God sent the prophet Nathan to David. The prophet Nathan told David a story about a rich man who took advantage of a poor man. The prophet Nathan looked at David, and said, “David that is you. What I just shared with you, that is a picture of you. That is what you have done.”

Now David's guilt was piling up against him. How was it King David responded? Did he blame somebody else? Did he blame his parents, saying, “It is my parent's fault. I was raised in a dysfunctional family.” Did King David blame Saul. “Saul was verbally abusive to me. It is his fault I fell into this sin.”

Or, did King David blame Bathsheba, and say, “It was her fault, because she was the one who was bathing up on the rooftop.”

No, King David took full responsibility for his own sin, when he said, “I have sinned.” His guilt was piling up against him, and he admitted his sin. “I have sinned.”

That is what Isaiah is asking us to do in this prayer, to take full responsibility for our sin, to look in the mirror, and then come before God, and say, “I am the one who has sinned against you.”

That gets us back to the question, “Can we still be saved?”

Again, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Go to verse eight.

“But now, Lord, you are our Father.

We are the clay, and you are the potter.

All of us are the work of your hand.”


“When the time had fully come,

God sent His Son,

born of a woman,

born under law to redeem those under law,

that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

Did God answer this prayer for us? “Can we still be saved?” Again, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

As God sent His Son, Jesus came the first time for what? He came to be our Redeemer. He came to buy us back from our sins. Through Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection He has fulfilled this question: “Can we be saved?” “Yes!”

He has given us eternal life in Heaven. He is the Lord. He is our Father. He is our Redeemer. He is from everlasting.

But, this is now what God is asking of you, and me. I brought a pot here with me this morning. This is one my daughter made in ceramic's class. What did she do? She simply took a lump of worthless clay, and with her own hands she fashioned it into this beautiful, honey pot.

What has God done for you and me? Well, He has taken you and me, who are 'worthless pieces of clay', and He has molded us. He has fashioned us into His likeness, and into what He wants us to be.

“Can we still be saved?” Praise God, the answer is, “Yes!”

Jesus came to be our Redeemer.

Here now is what God is asking of us. He is asking we be 'clay'. He be 'the potter'. We allow God to shape us, as He sees fit, so that we can be in service to Him in His Kingdom, and we can be in service to Him, and others.

God grant that, for Jesus, our Savior's, sake.