Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Midweek 3

Advent Midweek 3 – Isaiah 52 – December 17th, 2014

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Advent King +
          For this final Advent lesson, we are going to look at the beginning of Isaiah 52.  Now, what is interesting is you know what comes after this – this passage rolls into the great suffering servant section from Good Friday.  However, we don’t normally pay much attention to this part of Isaiah, yet these verses capture the joy, the passive joy of our salvation that is accomplished by Christ Jesus.  Let us go through the text and see.  “Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean.”  We get a familiar start.  The idea of waking up is a familiar way of describing the idea of waiting for the Lord, of the Lord’s coming.  We know the parables of the Wedding Feast that Jesus gives – put on your beautiful, wedding garments!  Wake, awake, for night is flying!  And what is the hope – Jerusalem isn’t going to be messed with again.  But here is the twist – put on strength.  No, the strength isn’t going to be your own – Isaiah isn’t saying “You folks need to man up” – no, put on strength like a garment.  Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.”  Arise, be seated.  “Good night, almost as much up and down as Pastor Brown makes us go through in our service!”  What’s going on – wake up, pay attention – now rest, relax, sit down, and behold what God is going to do for you, Jerusalem.

          “For thus says the LORD: ‘You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.’”  When you went into Egypt, you were welcomed with open arms – Joseph’s family, the family of the wise man who saved the nation in the face of famine.  And then, as time passed, you were just cast into slavery.  God delivered you from Egypt – not by buying you, but by rescuing you.  Likewise, now, Israel, you won’t buy or bribe your way out of the current political problems you are in.  You aren’t going to sweet talk the vile Assyrians out of anything.  Instead, God will deliver you.  But even more than that – this points forward to Christ Jesus.  This is actually going to be our Catechism lesson this next Sunday – what has Jesus my Lord done – “[He] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”

          This brings us really into the topic, the idea of redemption.  We will talk about Christ Jesus being our Redeemer – but I think that we often forget just how visceral that word is.  To be Redeemed means you had been a slave, that you had been trapped and caught and unable to go where you wish, unable to do what you wanted.  And this is actually the classic Scriptural depiction of original sin, of what it means for us to be born sinful.  We are born stuck in sin, slaves to sin.  Often we tend to think of sin as a mere bad moral choice – I can choose to be good or I can choose to be bad.  That’s not the fullness of it – we are born sinful, full of sin.  We aren’t able to simply choose God or come to Him, we aren’t able to choose to be righteous in God’s sight.  We cannot of our own power choose to believe in God – But how are they to call on Him in Whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard?”  We know this – faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  Without that Word of God coming you to, you are stuck without faith, and if you are breaking the first commandment, it doesn’t really matter how “nice” you are and choose to be.  Rather, God must come in, burst in and win salvation.  Christ Jesus must defeat and destroy sin and death, and that is how He delivers, how He redeems, how He buys us out of the mess we are in.  When it comes to our salvation, our redemption, it isn’t about what *we* do – we are passive.  We were sold into slavery, even before we were born – and we were purchased out of slavery, redeemed.

          That is why we get this next part – “How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”  Feet are associated with the Gospel – it’s why in Ephesians when Paul is talking about the full Armor of God, he says, “and, as shoes for your feet, having the Gospel of peace.”  The reason for this is that the Gospel is never something *you* do, but something you hear, something that is announced to you, that is proclaimed to you.  Something that a messenger comes and proclaims.  We get this – the word for messenger in Greek is “angelos” – angel.  A week from now, come Christmas Eve, what do we think of when we think of angels?  They come and they announce good news to the Shepherds – and what had the Shepherds *done* to earn or merit this news?  Nothing.  It’s not about them and what they do.  It’s not about us or what we do.  Rather, the news, the good news, the Gospel is this – your God reigns – Christ Jesus has come and with His death and resurrection has defeated sin and death and won you eternal life.  It’s not about you, but it is for you – it is the declaration of God for you, being born for you, suffering for you, in your stead, rising for you – and even coming again for your good.

          “The voice of your watchmen – they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion.”  Your watchmen are the folks standing on the city walls, keeping a watch out for anything approaching – so they would be the first one to see the messenger coming.  They would be the first one to see, maychance even to hear the shouts of joy and victory of the messenger.  And then, there is rejoicing, rejoicing that cannot but help to spread.  “Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem.  The LORD has bared His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God from this time forth and forevermore.”  This is the might of God.  Even the waste places, even the dead and dull places, they will break forth in singing.  So, what of you?  Do you face and feel the weight of life in this sinful world?  Do you feel worn and beat down, like a used up piece of land?  Christ Jesus has redeemed you.  And all this relies not upon you, but upon Him.  He has bared His arm, He bared His arm as He hung bare upon the Cross, taking upon Himself all the weight of sin, including that weight that bothers, that oppresses you.  This is why He came – to take on sin and death and to burst them open and destroy them with His death and resurrection.  Christ is risen – Jesus Christ, true God and true Man is alive – a true Man is alive, never to die again – and thus you will live; we are all going to follow after Him.  God grant that we who are still on earth in this life see this salvation ever more, even until He comes again and we see Him face to face and break forth with the watchman’s joy.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!  In the Name of Christ Jesus our Advent King +

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