Today we are going to approach this passage a little differently – we are going to start at the heart of the passage – at the middle – rather than the beginning.
At the heart of the passage we see the heart of God – and the heart of God is one of forgiveness towards His chosen people.
- Whether in a national sense = Israel
- In an individual sense by way of application to those of us in this church age who have experienced forgiveness through Jesus Christ
GOD’S GRACIOUS FORGIVENESS CAN TRANSFORM WORTHLESS WORSHIP INTO SURPRISING SALVATION
Today God wants to raise our level of Confidence in His redemptive purposes. He calls on His people Not to Fear – despite whatever trials we might face – threats of overwhelming floods or fires that would consume us. “Do not fear,” says our God. God wants to raise our level of Certainty in His redemptive purposes – our conviction that He will carry out all that He has promised to perform. The more we understand of our God – who He is in relationship to His chosen people and what it means for Him to function as the one true God – the more we will live in Confidence and Certainty.
- What type of confidence and certainty did God want Noah and his family to have in the face of the oncoming judgment of a worldwide flood?
- What type of confidence and certainty did God want Israel to have as they fled Egypt in the Exodus and were trapped against the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his troops pursuing them?
- What type of confidence and certainty did God want the 12 spies to have whom Moses commissioned to bring back a report about their prospects of successfully entering the Promised Land?
- What type of confidence and certainty does God want His people today to have in His gracious redemptive purposes and His providential care?
GOD’S SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP TO HIS PEOPLE REINFORCES OUR CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S REDEMPTIVE PURPOSES AND
GOD’S IDENTITY AS THE ONE TRUE GOD MAKES CERTAIN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS REDEMPTIVE PURPOSES
How is it that our nation today can be so oblivious to our precarious position due to our rejection of God’s moral law and standards for righteousness? How much more patience can God extend to us in His love and forbearance? We seem to have no clue regarding how far we have fallen. I am not claiming that all of our founding fathers were dedicated believers; many of them like Thomas Jefferson were Deists. But still for the most part they had a healthy respect for the God’s revelation and understood the reality of absolute morality as opposed to the relativism that has engulfed us today. Look at the Puritans up in New England – wonderful depth of theology. Look at the founding of prestigious colleges on the East Coast as centers for studying theology and preparing men for Christian ministry.
As a nation, we tolerate and now even promote abortions. We tolerate and now even promote the homosexual agenda. We have come to the point where we call good evil and evil good. Have we not learned anything from the lessons of history. How did the great cultures of the past fare when they went down this same road of decadence and worship of entertainment and materialism? What about God’s warnings to us in passages like Romans 1 that spell out the downward spiral of a culture who has rejected God and exchanged the worship of the Creator for the worship of the creature? Who anymore even believes in the simple creation account recorded in the first chapters of Genesis?
What is the mission of the church? Some would point to worldwide evangelism as the goal – and that is certainly an important part of the equation. But remember that the Great Commission calls us to make disciples of all the nations. That goes beyond seeking conversions. Ultimately Almighty God is seeking for those who will “worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). Satan has a similar goal. In the Temptation of Jesus, “the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he sad to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4: 8-9).
Brian Borgman: The church has been called to “declare the excellencies of His name” 1 Pet. 2:9;
(“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”) God is infinitely worthy of our admiration and praise; God doesn’t want lifeless, half-hearted, mumbled, dull worship – that minimizes the work of the Lord Jesus and the power of the gospel; C. S. Lewis “The Word About Praising” quote from his Reflections on the Psalms; “whatever we value, esteem, love – we praise it, delight in it; share it exuberantly with others;” look at all the people and things we praise; the praise completes the enjoyment; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed; what we value we automatically praise; we seek to convert others to what we delight in; doctrinally sound churches can be dead and boring; “doctrinally as straight as a gun’s barrel, but emotionally just as empty” (Tozer); In another unbalanced extreme, the church shouldn’t take worship and turn it into some form of palatable entertainment to try to reach the world; instead our worship should be so transcendent that it overpowers the unbeliever; They come into our worship services and can tell that these people love God; they take God seriously with an attitude of reverence and joy.
How are we doing in our worship and praise? Today we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Are we just going through the motions or are we emotionally excited to participate in remembering and praising our Savior until He returns? Our songs of praise are a key element or worship. The bible has a lot to say about music and singing. Until the Reformation, the church went through a very constrained period in its form of worship where the only allowable songs were the recorded psalms from Scripture. Look at the rich hymnology that has developed since that time. We are going to see in our passage today that the Lord calls for us to sing new songs of praise.
Remember the Messianic prophecy that Isaiah had delivered in 9:1-7, chap. 11. What a tremendous prospect to look forward to: the advent of a Messiah who would rule on the earth in justice and righteousness . . . Who would deliver God’s chosen people from their oppression and affliction. In order to comfort Israel as they face the approaching hardship of the Babylonian Captivity, Isaiah focuses their hopes back on this same promise. No matter how bleak things get, no matter how much injustice reigns around you, God will ultimately send His servant Messiah to triumphantly usher in this reign of justice on earth.
Look at current events that cause us to cry out for justice on earth:
- ISIS beheading of Japanese hostage
- Yemen coup
The false idols exposed in chapter 41 are powerless to call the shots. But God always calls the shots and He will fulfill all of His promises as He intervenes in history to accomplish something totally new and wonderful.
Our culture loves to try to predict the future. Look at the sports world. Every day there is an entire gambling industry built around the prospect of being able to pick which team will win – and even more importantly – the overall point spread. As if that does not provide enough of a challenge, when it comes to the upcoming Super Bowl there will be all sorts of exotic side bets: Not just the normal under-over in terms of overall point total, but just about anything you can imagine – here is just a sampling from last year’s Super Bowl:
- Will Richard Sherman get a taunting penalty? (4/1 on yes)
- Coin toss: Heads or tails?
- Peyton Manning total passing yards over/under 289
- Will the player who scores the first touchdown have a jersey number above or below 79.5? (Even)
- Who will be seen on TV first Pam Oliver (46%) or Erin Andrews (54%)
This lust for predicting extends to many other realms as well:
- In the field of Economics, the arrival of the New Year means that one must demonstrate their crystal ball proficiency in predicting the performance of the Dow Jones and the stocks that will be the best picks
- Politics is a never-ending game of using the polls to predict the outcome of every race
- When it comes to Entertainment, the experts weigh in ahead of time on who will win every imaginable coveted award
There is something magical about demonstrating the wisdom and insight and even gut feel to be able to call the shots ahead of time. And yet nobody but God would claim to be able to control the future to such an extent that they could be right all of the time.
Facing Hostility and Weakness with Courage, Strength and Rejoicing –
We are talking this morning about the recovery of Worm Theology. The great theologians and hymn writers of centuries past understood the doctrine of Total Depravity. They could sing with great conviction: “Would you devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” A worm is the lowest of God’s creatures. Certainly not attractive – not powerful – not desirable (unless you need bait for your fishing poles). Yet our modern day advocates of self esteem would have us change the lines of such hymns to try to put a more positive spin on the condition of man.
Piper: Satan has master-minded a phenomenal victory in the American church. By teaching us through a thousand lectures and articles and books that we are too valuable to be called worms, he has made it impossible for us to sing “Amazing Grace” with truly amazed hearts. The more beautiful and valuable man is made to appear, the less amazing it is that God should love him and help him. The gospel of self-esteem is healing our wounds very lightly. The wings of self-worth that carry us briefly out of fear will quickly weary and drop us in despair some day. For, as John Newton said in his hymn, “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.” Where the glory of God’s free and sovereign grace pales in the shadow of human self-esteem, there will one day be a great shudder of fear.
DESPITE OPPOSITION AND WEAKNESS, GOD’S COVENANT PEOPLE HAVE NO NEED TO FEAR AND MUCH CAUSE FOR REJOICING
Max Lucado: The House of God
Every time Satan sets out to score for evil, he ends up scoring a point for good. Consider Paul. Satan hoped prison would silence his pulpit, and it did, but it also unleashed his pen. The letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians were all written in a jail cell.
Satan is the Colonel Klink of the Bible. Remember Klink? He was the fall guy for Hogan on the television series, Hogan’s Heroes. Klink supposedly ran a German POW camp during World War 2. Those inside the camp, however, knew better. They knew who really ran the camp: the prisoners. They listened to Klink’s calls and read his mail. They even gave Klink ideas, all the while using him for their own cause.
Over and over the Bible makes it clear who really runs the earth. Satan may strut and prance, but it is God who calls the shots.
The people of Judah were about to enter into a period of 70 years of Captivity under the oppression of the pagan Babylonians. They would be tempted to doubt the covenant love of the God of Israel. They would be tempted to doubt the promises of God’s providential care and future blessing. Pagan gods would be paraded before them and extolled while the one true God was mocked and despised.
But Isaiah wanted to encourage God’s people ahead of time not to panic or fear. Remember who it is that is in ultimate control. GOD CALLS ALL THE SHOTS
THE QUESTION OF ULTIMATE CONTROL BEGINS AND ENDS WITH THE SUPREME “I AM”
What’s the Big Deal about Christmas? Secularists today continue to try to minimize Christmas. They do everything in their power to have the name of Christ blotted out from the very day that celebrates His great incarnation – the Word becoming flesh and dwelling with man; the arrival of Immanuel = “God with us.” What’s the big deal about a baby being born to the Virgin Mary (that’s a pretty big deal) and laid in a manger in the stable in Bethlehem? What’s the big deal about the shepherds in the local fields and the wise men from afar coming to worship this baby and bringing presents of great value?
There’s no question that Christmas is a big deal to all of the retail businessmen in our economy. Their whole year hinges on the amount of sales they can generate during this frenetic shopping season. Now we have the convenience of never leaving our couch but ordering anything we can imagine online and having it delivered to our door in a couple of days. Ask your friend who works for UPS – no question that Christmas is a big deal.
There’s no question that Christmas is a big deal to our Hollywood entertainers and the music industry. Every night there is one television special after another with the most bizarre people you can imagine associated with celebrating the holiday season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Miley Cyrus twerking some obscene rendition of a popular Christmas carol. Most of the music centers around the secular icons of Santa Claus and Christmas trees and mistletoe . . . but even the sacred songs seem misunderstood as they are sung by cultic religious groups like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – what do they know about the significance of Christmas?
Certainly our very calendar testifies to the fulcrum point in history of the arrival of Jesus Christ, the prophecied Son of David, the promised Messiah of the Jewish nation. We date everything by His birth – either B.C. – Before Christ . . . or A.D. — Anno Domini is Medieval Latin, translated In the year of the Lord – pretty impressive; no other individual has had that type of impact on the world. But the world remains blind to His true significance.
What’s the Big Deal about Christmas? The Apostle Paul unfolds it in our passage from Galatians for today. It changed everything with respect to our relationship to God the Father.
Last week at the end of the message we rushed over what is one of the most precious gems in the prophecy of Isaiah – 40:31. So this week we are going to slow down and catch our breath and just meditate for a short time on the encouraging truth in that closing verse. Especially in this Christmas season which is so often characterized by activity and hustle and bustle and busyness … we need to slow down and learn what it means to “Wait for the Lord.”
Last week: (:12-31)
WE CAN PATIENTLY WAIT FOR THE LORD FOR SUSTAINING STRENGTH AND PERSEVERANCE BECAUSE OF HIS ULTIMATE SUPREMACY AND SIGNIFICANCE
2 Presuppositions already addressed:
“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly”
[I don’t fall into either of these 2 categories where someone might imagine that they don’t need strength from the Lord – you are in denial if you think you can handle all that life throws at you by yourself]
- We all need strength — We all face hard times and need persevering strength which we do not have in ourselves
- Only the Lord can provide that strength — The Lord is awake and active and reigns supreme; He cares about the difficulties His children are facing; He has the power that is sufficient to grant us persevering strength
Waiting for the First Coming of the Messiah
Waiting for the Second Coming of the Messiah
THE KEY TO PERSEVERING STRENGTH IS WAITING FOR THE LORD