HOLY KEYS: DO NOT FORGET!

The Third Sunday of Easter, 14 April 2024

A Sermon on Isaiah 40:25-31 by Deacon Robert Alan Shivers

Isaiah 40:25-31 English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

25 To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

HOLY KEYS: DO NOT FORGET!

Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

They Forgot

The people of Judah forgot. They forgot who they were, where they came from, and who is their God. They forgot that He sees all, that He hears all, and He knows all. This is apparent to us when God says to Isaiah, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”. The people of Judah found themselves exiled from their land. Many of them were taken as captives by the Babylonians around the year 597 BC. They were a hard headed and hard-hearted people. When the times were good and the harvest was plentiful they refused God, they pushed Him aside. They did not want Him and they felt that they no longer needed Him. Part of their hardheadedness showed when a little over 120 years prior to their exile, they saw Israel, the northern kingdom, being invaded and the people being exiled by the Assyrians. If you remember the history of Israel, the kingdom split around 925 BC thus creating two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Israel refused God and He stepped away from them, letting them have their way.

The kingdom of Judah not only had protection, but guidance from God. But when they turned away from Him, they lost it all.  But God did not forget them. He sent them Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah spent years trying to get the people to turn back to God, to refuse the easy ways of the earthly gods, to refuse child sacrifices and to turn away from the temple prostitutes of Baal, but it was like trying to stop a child from running into that proverbial brick wall. Sin had taken over the hearts and minds of the people of Judah. Satan had gotten his way with them. They made decisions based selfishness and fear of other nations, instead of basing their decisions on a loving fear for God. They forgot who He is. So He let them have their way.

Do Not Forget

In the first lesson we find that Isaiah is writing God’s word to the exiles. God wants to remind His people that He alone is God and that He was not defeated by the gods of Babylon when Judah fell. He wants to give His people hope. But He first has to admonish them for forgetting that He is God, the same God who created all things, who made the covenant with Abraham, who delivered His people from slavery, who lead them by a pillar of cloud and fire through the wilderness, who gave them the promised land, who gave them the strength and power to defeat their enemies, and much more. They forgot who God is. They put their trust in other gods and on themselves. So it must be asked, will we forget who God is? Will we push Him to one side? What will be our God? Martin Luther tells us that anything that we put our faith and trust in, anything which the heart relies on is our God. () So what is it that your heart relies on? What is your God? Is it God the Father who gave His only begotten son? Or have you made someone or something your god?

Yes, we are in the Easter season, yes Christ rose from the dead, but what caused him to die in the first place?  It is our selfishness, our greed, our lust, our coveting heart, our desire to play God. It is all of our sins which put Christ on the cross. It was us that made him cry out “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It was because of us that he died on that old rugged cross. After he died, they brought him down from the cross, they cleaned his body, they wrapped him in linen and laid him in the tomb. But that was not the period like you find at the end of a sentence. That was not the ending. In the morning on the third day, when the women who had been faithfully following him went to put spices on his body, what did they find? They found an empty tomb! It was empty because Christ has risen, he has risen indeed, alleluia! Do not forget that, my dear brothers and sisters. That empty tomb is the assurance of our forgiveness.

The Promise

We find the Easter promise in the latter part of our first lesson. Verse 29 says “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength”. But if we want strength we must be patient, my dear brothers and sister. We must be patient. For God works on His time, not ours. Why do I mention patience? We find it in verse 31, “… but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength…” When waiting for God, when waiting for Christ, do not forget, that when you wait, you are saying to the world that you have confidence in God and you have confidence in Christ. You are saying that you have faith that in Christ’s death you have the forgiveness of sins. We don’t find forgiveness in his resurrection, we find it in his death. For he is the lamb who was slain for the forgiveness of sins. But we rejoice all the more because Christ has risen, he has risen indeed, alleluia! Through his forgiveness you shall find that you will be mounted up with wings like eagles. But that is not the only promise we are given.

We are given the promise that through our baptism we become a child of God, marked with the seal of Christ, washed in his blood. We baptize as we are commanded, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. When each person of the Holy Trinity is spoken, water is poured on the head of the baby, of the teenager or of the adult. It does not matter how old the person is, we rejoice all the same to see them become a child of God. They become a brother or sister through Christ, receiving the forgiveness of sins, the eternal mark of Christ. For those who are yet to be baptized speak to Pastor Sam, we want nothing more than to see you baptized. And if you should ever have someone tell you that you must be baptized again, leave them. They are not following scripture. Our Lord Jesus Christ never said anything of multiple baptisms nor did he put a stipulation that it had to be a Baptist, Catholic, Calvinist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Lutheran baptism. There was not nor is there an asterisk. He did not say that X denomination is the only valid baptism. So long as you are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, it is a lasting baptism, it was done as our Lord Jesus Christ commanded.

So if you are a baptized child of God, again baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, come to the table. Come with your sinful hearts and empty hands for that is all we have to offer Christ. And what does he give us in return? We receive his body and blood. We are given that promise when he shared the last supper with his disciples. He said to them “Take eat, this is my body, take and drink this is my blood”. The bread and the wine are not symbols; they are not transfigured into him. He comes to us in the Host and in the Cup. He does not raise us up spiritually to commune with him in heaven as the Calvinists teach. Christ comes down to us. With the words of institution, we find Christ here, in the bread and in the wine. When we receive Christ we receive the forgiveness of sins, the medicine of immortality. Let it fill your heart with joy and let your mind be at peace. When you leave the table, know that you have received Christ. That is a promise that we are given.

What should you take away from today’s sermon?

Do not be like the people of Judah, do not forget who God is, what He can do, and what He has done. Do not live your lives as though He has not given you the greatest gift of all, His son, Jesus Christ. Do not let your heart embrace false gods, for they will only disappoint you. Remember the promises made, that Christ has died for your sins, that with the water and the word you become a child of God, and through the bread and the wine, you receive Jesus Christ. So go out into the world and let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Deacon Robert Alan Shivers

busyman49@gmail.com

St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

Wilmington, North Carolina

Bulletin Insert

Holy Keys: Do Not Forget

Praying

“God, who by the humiliation of your Son raised up the fallen world: Grant to your faithful people perpetual gladness, and make those whom you have delivered from the danger of everlasting death partakers of eternal joys; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 1332).

Listening

Isaiah 40:26 “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?”

Origen [Late 2nd – early 3rd century Bible scholar in Alexandria, Egypt]: “‘Lift up your eyes’ occurs in many places in Scripture when the divine Word admonishes us to exalt and lift up our thoughts, to elevate the insight that lies below in a rather sickly condition, and is stooped and completely incapable of looking up…” (19).

Isaiah 40:26 “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?”

St. Jerome [4th century translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible]: “Since so great is the power and majesty of the Creator, to which likeness do you compare God, thus failing to understand the founder from the greatness of creation? If you do not believe the words, at least believe your eyes and recognize the power of the Lord from the service all heavens and elements give him…” (19).

Isaiah 40:28 The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

St. Athanasius the Great [4th century Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt]: “No, a worse absurdity lies before the people who speak this way, for they distinguish between the creatures and the framing and consider the latter the work of the Father, the creatures the work of the Son; whereas either all things must be brought to be with the Son, or if all that is originate comes to be through the Son, we must not call him one of the originated things” (20).

Isaiah 40:31 “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles;”

St. Jerome: “We have said that the old age of eagles is revived by a change of their wings and that they alone who see the brilliance of the sun and radiance of its splendor are able to gaze with gleaming eyes; and they test their young ones to see whether they are of noble birth by this same test. In the same way the saints are made young again as they put on their immortal bodies so that they no longer feel the toil of mortals but are taken up into the clouds before the face of Christ, and in no way [following the Septuagint] do they hunger, since they have the Lord present to them as food” (20).

Reflecting

  1. Do I believe that the Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus is indeed the One through whom all things were made?
  2. Do I look to the one God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) for all good things? Or, do I seek blessings from myself or from another of this world’s false gods?

 Learning

 DAILY PRAYERS (from Luther’s Small Catechism)

 AS THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH HIS HOUSEHOLD TO PRAY MORNING AND EVENING

 Evening Prayer

In the evening when you go to bed, make the sign of the holy cross and say:

In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may also say this little prayer:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Then go to sleep at once and in good cheer.

Doing

  1. Pray for every unbaptized child, youth, and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too. Place their pictures and/or names in a prominent place as a reminder to pray for them
  2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Place their pictures and/or names in a prominent place as a reminder to pray for them. Invite one or more of them to worship.
  3. Prominently display young pictures of your dear ones, who are with the Lord, as reminders that the Holy Spirit will raise them bodily from the dead.
  4. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend the daily prayer discipline that you practice. Is your practice similar to what Luther suggests? Is your prayer life more sporadic?
  5. Consult Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 188, for the daily lessons appointed for 3 Easter (Year Two) and read them daily before offering your prayers on behalf of your family, the world, our nation, our state, and our local communities.
  6. Our next New Disciples Class for those new to Christianity or to the Lutheran church will be Saturday, April 27, from 9 a.m. to noon. The next New Member Orientation for those who previously attended the New Disciples Class and confirmed Lutheran transfers is May 25 from 9 – 11:30 a.m. To register, please email Donna at dcapozio@stmatthewsch.org

 For Husbands and Wives

Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”