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Through the Waters

The VBS Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  21:56
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The VBS Series
Today I am breaking away from our summer sermon series in Genesis, “It All Starts Here”, and I starting a new mini-series called the VBS series. That is the nice thing about summer, we will just break off of one series for a while, go on to something new, then perhaps come back to it. The VBS series, is not about Vacation Bible School, it is about the lessons that will be taught in VBS.
Today, we are talking about the theme verse of VBS this year. Each year VBS selects a theme verse. This year for Rolling River rampage they have Isaiah 43:2, for their theme verse. We are going to look at that verse, first in it’s context, then see what it has for us individually, and as a church.
Isaiah 43:2 NIV
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Pray
As we come to the book of Isaiah, it is helpful if we remember the setting of the book. At the end of the book of Genesis, we find that the twelve sons of Jacob are living in Egypt. They are fruitful, and the multiply and the they start to be quite a population in Egypt. The Egyptians place them in bondage and they are put to brutal slave labor. God then redeems or purchases them out of slavery. God leads them out of Egypt through the red sea, into the wilderness. At the foot of Mount Sinai, Yahweh, God, created a nation of His people, called Israel, made up of His chosen people. Then Yaweh gave them a law to follow, and the jewish people were formed. Then, His people the jews, with a law, needed land, so God led His people through the waters of the Jordan river, into the promised land.
Yahweh, had originally intended that the Nation of Israel was to be one-united Nation, living under God’s law and following Yaweh, in the promised land. Well you know people right. Even with God dwelling among us, even with guidelines set in stone, we still love sin, right ? So, as a result Yahweh’s kingdom. split. The one single nation of God’s people split into two kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom called Israel, and the southern kingdom called Judah.
The split caused a whole new set of problems. The southern kingdom, Judah had Jerusalem, the temple. The northern kingdom did not, they had troubles worshipping so they set up their own centers of worship. Although the southern kingdom had the temple sacrifices and priests, they did not have right hearts either. They were judgmental, and not helpers of the poor and oppressed. But even through all this, God did not abandon His people. Instead God sent prophets. Old Testament Prophets were messengers, sent by God to deliver His message to call the people back. The prophets gave warning messages, and told the people that of they did not turn back, God would punish them.
Isaiah was a prophet who began his ministry in 736 BC. He was sent to deliver God’s message to the southern Kingdom. The Northern kingdom already had ignored God’s prophets, and God was bringing His judgement upon the Northern Kingdom, through attacks from foreign countries. The Northern kingdom fell to Assyria in 722 BC, and the southern kingdom suffered under Assyria attack as well, but did not fall to them. It is in this setting that Isaiah is delivering God’s message to the people.
In today’s scripture reading I had Jowane start off in Isaiah chapter 42 verse 18. This is that warning and judgement I was talking about. This is addressed to the jewish people. The people who have everything from God that could need. They have land, they have the law, and even when they aren’t following the law, God is sending prophets to call them back.
Isaiah 42:18–20 NIV
“Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one in covenant with me, blind like the servant of the Lord? You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen.”
They don’t get it. It is so frustrating. I can imagine the prophets, and those whose hearts were right with the Lord, over and over again, they talk of God, they have the book, they have the ark the actual 10 commandments, Evidence of God’s hand in how they were led through the waters and into the promised land. Yet they didn’t listen.
This appears to be a pattern with people. This idea that God is attempting to reach out to people, but they aren’t seeing it. Or to use another sense, they are not hearing God’s message. John picked up on this in His Gospel when we echoed the prophet Isaiah in John 1 “The people walking in darkness...” It is like they could see, what was happening. Jesus took off on this as well calling the religious leaders of his day “Blind guides”, in Matthew 15 and Matthew 23. Last week we talked about Cain. God said to Him, remember that? Cain sin is crouching at your door. But, Cain ignored God’s call, He didn’t hear him. He wasn’t physically deaf, but as Isaiah says, your ears are open, but you do not listen.
So what happens. What happens when people do not heed the warnings of God. When that happens, when people don’t hear, when people don’t see, when people don’t turn back, they are subject to God’s judgement. We know for Cain, he did not heed God’s warning, he committed murder, and Gen 4- Cain went “out from the Lord’s presence.”
The northern kingdom, did not heed the warnings and God allowed Assyria to invade, and to carry off the people into captivity. The southern kingdom would later fall to the Babylonians, for not listening to the prophets. Here in Isaiah 42, we hear about that judgement that awaits the nation.
Isaiah 42:24–25 NIV
Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.
They were experiencing the discipline of the Lord. It is as if God is saying through the prophets, here are my words, follow them, but if you don not follow them, if you refuse, I will use physical means to draw you back. I will do whatever it takes to bring Israel back. If that means an invasion, If that means for a period of time you will be out of the land, then that is what I will do. Again, this idea of punishment from the Lord as discipline is not unique here.I think this is also what the author of Hebrews warns against.
When God’s people hear His word to turn from sin and follow Him, and they do not, and instead when they don’t God may use his discipline to draw them back to Him.
Hebrews 12:4–5 NIV
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
Do not lose heart when he rebukes you. People have a tendency to lose heart when they are rebuked. People tend to be discouraged and wonder where God is. The people fo God were certainly wondering. War is a horrible thing to happen on your land and in your city. The city is in ruins, people are killed, others are captured. Houses and cities are destroyed. Perhaps even God abandoned them.
This is very traumatic for people. You can go through just about anything as long as God doesn’t abandon you. They were wondering if God had abandoned them. Was it too late? Like David, don’t take you spirit from me. As he pled with God in Psalm 51, to not abandon him even though he had been such a horrible sinner. That is what the jewish people are going through, when we turn to chapter 43.
For the Nation of Israel it looks dark -things are at an end but God comes to them and says, do not fear!
Isaiah 43:1 NIV
But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
But now....do not fear. The country is ruins, there is only a few people left, the wrath of God has been poured out, But NOW. this is what God says-Do not fear. Your creator is telling you do not fear.These people were formed by the hand of God. He formed them, like creation itself was formless and void. God took a nation that did not exist before- He gave them order and law and and God’s word and formed them and made them a Nation.
Then our VBS theme verse. Verse 2.
Isaiah 43:2 NIV
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
The waters God is talking about here, are not the same waters as the red sea, or the Jordan river. The waters here are the trials, the tribulations, the difficulties that the Nation has faced in their discipline, from turning away from the Lord. It may seem to them like an overwhelming flood of problems, like a rapidly flowing river due to sweep them away into oblivion, but God says, Do not fear! they will not sweep over you, Yahweh will be with you. The fire will not set you ablaze-God will be with you. Like shadrach Meshach and Abengo in the fiery furnace the flames will not destroy you God will be with you.
Israel must have need that assurance. Things must have looked dark as their homeland house and family were destroyed and in ruins, but God is telling them, he is assuring them that it is not over yet. He is not done with them, and it is not because of anything Israel has done, but because of who God is, and what He has done.
Isaiah 43:3 NIV
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
The promise lies in God, His character, His being, as demonstrated by what he has done.
Isaiah 43:4 NIV
Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.
Again, because God loves Israel, not that Israel loved God, they certainly demonstrated that they were sinners, and blind and deaf. But because God loves them and finds them precious, and honored-Yahweh will give people in exchange for them.
Even though His people have been scattered. Even though they are in Exile in Babylon, God will call them back from no matter where they are.
Isaiah 43:5 NIV
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.
Don’t be afraid God says, -I am with you-a second time in this passage-I am with you. God will bring his people back-These people that are scattered whose cities have been destroyed. I am still with you, God says, I will bring you back from the ends of the earth if I have to-I will bring you back
Isaiah 43:7 NIV
everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Everyone who is called by His name. Everyone who is part of God’s people, he will call back. He will do this why? Because God created them for His glory! He formed them for His Glory. He made the Nation of Israel for his glory to display who He is to the rest of the world. He led Israel out to show to the Egyptians that He-Yahweh alone is God, not the sun or the moon, or animals. There are no other Gods, that have demonstrated in a real and tangible way-by forming a nation, by creating a people. God is not done with Israel yet. He will see to it.
That is the message to Israel in these first 7 verses of Isaiah 43. They are powerful, they are hopeful. We can sum them up Like this.
Fear Not because...
God created them.(v1 and v7)
God is with them. (v2)
God redeemed them. (V1, v3, and v4)
God loves them. (v4)
God will gather His people back. (v5 and v6)
This is for God’s glory. (v7)
Ok wow what is that like 6 points, and a bit of the overall redemptive story woven in along with several in-communicable attributes of God, and we are calling it a VBS lesson. I’m not sure I understand it how are the pre-k and elementary kids gonna grasp it right! Whew. Well I’ll you what, let’s take a little break from the sermon, and clear or heads, then we will boil it down and apply it. We are going to learn the verse just like the kids do. So help me out here, if you are able and you would like to participate I am going to ask you to stand, while I go get my props here, and it goes like this, you are going to repeat after me!
Thank you you can be seated. The Tag line is Experience the ride of a lifetime with God. All of those 6 points, that are still up there are for this one purpose. When the waters of life feel like there are overwhelming you-when you are part of God’s family-HE WILL BE WITH YOU. The waters WILL NOT OVERTAKE YOU.
Slide
Did you see the picture I selected for this week? It is on the screen. It is a picture of woman who was just baptized. The waters in Isaiah 43:2 are not the same waters of Believer’s Baptism. The waters in Is 43:2 that may sweep over you are waters of trouble and hardship.
But here is the reason I selected that picture. That woman is getting Baptized to mark her conversion. She is beginning her new life in the family of God. She is happy and she is joyful. Someone is hugging her, the man in the back has a great big smile on her face. This is a picture of someone being welcomed into the family of the Church. She is now part of the body of Christ.
As a Christian, you will face hardship and trouble and discipline from the Lord as he draws you back to Him, when you walk astray. When you go through those things, God uses the church to do that work. He uses the word of God as preached on Sunday, and studied in Bible Studies and small groups, He uses fellowship opportunities to make clkose loving binds of brotherhood and sisterhood.
And as the river waters rise as the fires of trouble and hardship and difficulty blaze around you-Jesus will be with you. He will be with you spiritually, AND he has provided a physical means to be with you through the body of Christ and that is us. The Church. The way I close the service-every week.
Ephesians 3:21 NIV
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
In the church-and in Christ Jesus! So when you face a loss of a job or the loss of a loved one. Jesus is right there beside you and He has given you us to hold you and comfort and to stand beside one another as the waters get higher, to keep you from being swept away, and to walk through the fire with you.
When the temptations get too much, and pain of addiction is too great and the anger in your heart swells up from the past, Jesus is right there with you, and we the church your brothers and sisters are the hands and feet of Him who can do far beyond all that we can imagine and we will hold you you and comfort you and help you find your way back to Him.
That is why everyone of us here needs to be careful that we are deaf to God’s word, that we are blind to seeing God as revealed himself in His holy word, and that we all are examining our heart and repenting of when we go astray and to continue to seek after Him with all our heart. Seeking and asking Jesus to rid us of the sin that we struggle with.
Did you realize that this year it is 110 years since this fellowship of believers was formed. 110 years ago God called, God created, and God formed this congregation here in Faribault. Over those years God has redeemed many people. The blood of Jesus Christ has redeemed many out of the slavery of sin, as God has used this church to spread the message of redemption and bring Glory to himself.
There have been times when this group has heard the call of God clearly and followed him with sincerity and with humility. And over the years years I am sure there have been times when the fellowship meeting here has not followed God’s word faithfully and with sincerity and with humility. But now God... through those times, the waters have not overwhelmed us, and the fires have not consumed us. Jesus is here with us, with this little group right here in Faribault, and we have not been swept away or lost .
Brothers and Sisters, God has created this Church, God has formed this church, God has redeemed this Church God loves this church, God will be with us as the waters surround us and God will be with us as we walk through the fire.
God has placed us together in this place to show His glory to the world.
In Jesus name for His glory alone,
Amen
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