Sermon Isaiah 8: 18-9:7
Today is 4th Sunday of Advent. Xmas is next Sunday. The countdown is nearly over: 1 wk = 7 d = 168 h until our Xmas worship service.
Are you ready?
Are you ready to stop and marvel at God’s amazing rescue plan?
Are you ready to celebrate how God refused to abandon his creation to utter darkness and gloom but unveiled a brilliant light in our world?
We lit 4 candles today. The wreath is getting brighter. Today’s candle celebrates that God sent messengers to say: fear not!
Isaiah the prophet proclaimed God’s word in a troubled time. We talked about this 2 wks ago when we read prophecies from Micah. Isaiah and Micah were colleagues. They worked at the same time in Jerusalem in the days of King Jotham, King Ahaz, and King Hezekiah.
In the Bible, God uses the imagery of marriage to describe his relationship w/ his people. If the Lord God is married to his covenant people, Isaiah lived during a rocky period in the marriage. The Lord remained steadfast to his vows (as he always does) but God’s people in the Southern Kingdom of Judah strayed into unfaithfulness.
Isaiah sounds surprised as he talks to God’s people: Hello-o! WHY are you consulting mediums? God is RIGHT here! Why would you risk everything you have with the Lord to consult dead people? That’s the kind of stuff that got Zebulun and Naphtali and the rest of the Northern Kingdom, in hot water.
It happened just north of Judah’s border: after countless warnings about idolatry, Samaria faces the consequences of not relying on the Lord for security and peace. Samaria found there’s no security and no peace w/o.
The Southern Kingdom followed the news w/ horror as Samaria was attacked and conquered by the Assyrians. The Northern 10 tribes of Israel were led into exile. There was distress and darkness and fearful gloom when God’s people were thrust into utter darkness.
It’s easy to say this all happened long ago and very far away. Does God’s word through Isaiah the prophet have anything to do w/ us? Is there any darkness or gloom in Tillsonburg – in Oxford, Elgin, or Norfolk? Is there any way we could be cut off from the light of life?
If you’ve never consulted mediums or a Ouija board or dabbled in astrology – good for you. Stay away from it! To be honest, some people found it too powerful to resist.
Spiritual forces are at work in God’s world. Powerful spirits have rebelled against God and meddle in the relationship b/t God and his people. Their aim is to derail your faith in God.
It's been a problem since Adam & Eve listened to the evil one who spouted lies and half-truths about God’s loving guidance. Our first parents, representatives of all humanity, listened to evil lies and rebelled against God, their Creator and Heavenly Father.
It happened all over again in N&S Kingdoms in Isaiah’s day.
It happens in our day too. We look for comfort and hope in the wrong places, chasing options that look easier than trusting God’s promises and following his instructions.
The trouble is: disobedience or trusting anyone other than God as #1 in our lives always lead to darkness, judgement, and death – for me, for you, and everyone else. Sin leaves us far from God; far from the light of life.
Isaiah brings God’s message of peace, breaking through all the gloomy news from the battlefront. Listen:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)
This news is calculated to bring hope to those trapped in the gloom. Like when the first rays of sunshine come blazing across the fields; golden shafts of light brightening your home, your yard, lifting the darkness of night.
It’s not just an empty metaphor or a hollow word picture. Isaiah’s word picture brings hope of lasting peace. He mentions the day of Midian’s defeat.
Have you heard the story of Gideon? Judges 6 & 7 follows the familiar pattern in OT book of Judges:
· People wandered away from the Lord into idolatry.
· God allowed a king, an army, a nation harass the Israelites.
· Being far from God was miserable. The taxes and bands of marauders were like a heavy yoke on the farms and villages.
· So, Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.
Again and again in days of the Judges, the Lord raised up a hero or judge. In this case Gideon: God gave Gideon instructions how to free his people. Gideon is famous for double-checking: fleece.
· Gathered army from Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali
· God said, “too many.” If you’re afraid, go home: ↓ to 22 000.
· Still too many: ↓ to 300.
· Gideon sent 3 X 100 men at night with trumpets and torches covered w/ jugs around the Midian’s camp.
In the dark, 300 jugs smashed, 300 torches flared, and 300 trumpets blared! Midianites fled the blaze of light! That was the day of Midian’s defeat. The Lord used Gideon and 300 trumpeters to free his people from the darkness and gloom of sin and disobedience.
Isaiah speaks of a hero greater than Gideon:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders. Isaiah 9:6a (NIV)
I don’t know what the people of Jerusalem made of the reference to a child being born in Isaiah’s day. But Jesus’ followers recognized how Jesus’ coming fulfilled God’s promises through Isaiah.
Every year at Christmas we remember how Jesus came to rescue the world: true God and truly human. This child is born and this Gon is given to rescue humankind from the gloominess caused by our dark deed: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”
That’s at the heart of our celebration of Christmas. Watching the news or scanning the newsfeed can be gloomy. There’s no end to the wars and swindles, the celebrity break-ups or people injured or killed.
There’s also gloomy news among our family and friends. Sure there are marriages and babies and anniversaries to celebrate, but there are also strained relationships, addictions to drug or alcohol, and people missing the gathering this year b/c of broken relationships or illness or death.
What gives us hope or joy or peace at Christmas time?
Jesus’ birth so long ago is a “great light on those living in the land of deep darkness.” His coming gives us hope of renewal and reconciliation. In the midst of challenges, Jesus gives joy b/c we know that sin and death don’t have the last word. Jesus came to bring peace: peace b/t the creation and the Creator. Peace b/t God and humankind.
See, Jesus’ birth is part of God’s rescue plan. As he grew, Jesus faced temptation and suffering, but did not sin. In obedience to his heavenly Father, he did what we can’t do, even on our best days: he loved God and neighbour.
At the cross, Jesus took the punishment for our sin and shortcomings. On that gloomy day, the powers of darkness thought they could extinguish the light of the world. Jesus died on the cross and was buried – that’s what Good Friday is all about.
But we celebrate on Easter, that as the light dawned on the 3rd day, Jesus rose from the grave. His resurrection shows that the light of the world will chase away the darkness. Jesus fulfilled the mission that he was given before he was born: he defeated sin and darkness. He fulfilled God’s promise spoken by Isaiah:
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Isaiah 9:4 (NIV)
Jesus rose from the grave and rose to heaven’s throne. He now reigns over all creation as Rescuer and Lord.
Like the kings of old, Jesus offers gifts and privileges to all who follow him, to all who trust in him.
· Jesus offers to swap your guilt & shame for his righteousness.
· He offers to set you free from punishment b/c he suffered on the cross for you.
· He offers to send you his HS so you can learn and practice loving God and neighbour the way Jesus did in the Bible.
All this is free for the asking. What would stop you from saying “yes, I’m in?”
All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus. That’s why Chr. read and reread the OT prophets and the gospels to remember and celebrate all the benefits we enjoy by faith in Christ.
Celebrating Christmas never gets old, b/c we remember how great God’s love for the world is:
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV)
But it’s not just Jesus’ first coming that we remember in Advent.
Jesus promised that he would come again as King of kings and Lord of lords. We get a hint of what lies in store in this passage:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever. Isaiah 9:6–7a (NIV)
Does that sound like a Kingdom you’d like to be part of?
Jesus has begun to bring peace. The day is coming when God’s peace will come over all creation. Not just peace w/o conflict, the Hebrew word Shalom goes ever deeper: everything, everyone in proper, healthy relationship w/ everything and everyone one else.
Jesus Christ, the newborn king
has brought and will bring