1st Sunday after Christmas LSB #’s 903, 398, 380
Text – Isaiah 16:5
Then a throne will be established in steadfast love, & on it will sit in faithfulness in the tent of David One who judges & seeks justice & is swift to do righteousness.
The Righteous King On David’s Throne
How was your Christmas? Was it a wonderful day of celebration? It is a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, because He is the fulfillment! But the fulfillment of what? The fulfillment of every human wish? The fulfillment of every utopian dream?
Over the years people have treated Jesus like clay, shaping Him into their own image, as the answer to their own self-determined needs & desires. Think of all the images put on Jesus.
Is Jesus the teacher of liberal morals? That was the view of Thomas Jefferson. In terms of politics Jefferson was very bright. But in terms of theology, he was a heretic. He created his own Bible by cutting out events like Good Friday & Easter.
Is Jesus a hippie? Is Jesus the Hindu sage? Is He the Nazi who promoted the supremacy of the Aryan race? Is Jesus the Marxist revolutionary who will help people overthrow the government to establish communism? Is Jesus the greatest therapist who will help people get in touch with their inner psyche? The list goes on & on & on.
Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment, but the fulfillment of what? Not the fulfillment of what we dream up in our imagination, but the fulfillment of Moses & the Prophets. He is the mediator of the new & greater covenant. He is the new & greater high priest after the order of Melchizedek; the all-sufficient atoning sacrifice, the new & greater Temple.
Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the OT Scriptures, & He is the new & greater Davidic King promised by the prophet Isaiah 2700 years ago. In order to understand Jesus of Nazareth, & what He came to do, we need to study the Before Christ Scriptures. The OT reveals what Jesus came to fulfill. They give us His job description. Isaiah announced in several places that there would come a new & greater King David. In these 12 days of Christmas we celebrate the birth of the new & greater Davidic King.
But you protest. We’re Americans. We don’t need a king, & do not want a king! Our standard is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” For this world,
that may well be, however, before God we need a king – a righteous king.
Ancient Israel discovered this during the time of the judges, when everyone did what was right in his own eyes – not in the eyes of God. They needed a king to lead them in the ways of Yahweh. Their Before Christ kings never lived up to this standard, but Isaiah promised that such a king was on His way. Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment given by the Great I Am.
Jesus is “the Christ.” The word “Christ” is not a name but a Greek word meaning “Anointed One.” It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” also meaning “Anointed One.” Jesus of Nazareth is the Anointed King, promised by Moses & the Prophets.
In several passages Isaiah made this promise & the sermon text comes from one of them. Moabite refugees were fleeing the devastation experienced by their land. They sought refuge in Jerusalem. God told Jerusalem to receive them & give them shelter. Even though they were Gentiles, the God of ancient Israel considered them His own:
“Let my outcasts sojourn in you [O Jerusalem]. Even Moab – become a hiding-place for them from before the devastator. When the oppressor will have ceased, (when) devastation will have ended, (when) they will be finished from the earth, namely, everyone who tramples others, then a throne will be established in steadfast love, & on it will sit in faithfulness in the tent of David One who judges & seeks justice & is swift to do righteousness.” (Isaiah 16:4–5)
Through His prophet Isaiah, God promised that the day will come when every wicked oppressor & every form of devastation will come to an end. When that happens, there’ll be a new king from the line of David, & He will sit upon David’s throne. That throne will be established by God’s steadfast love & trustworthiness to remain forever. The King will rule with steadfast love & trustworthiness. He will rule with righteousness. Both Israel & Gentiles will enjoy the blessings of His righteous rule.
Therefore, at the time of Isaiah God exhorted Jerusalem to shelter Gentiles already then, in anticipation of the day when oppression will come to an end & the future Messiah will rule on David’s throne. Isaiah gave a similar promise in chapters 9 & 11 – there will come a righteous king who will sit enthroned upon David’s throne, establishing peace & ruling with righteousness.
This King will not be like the corrupt kings of ancient Israel’s past, or the corrupt kings of the ancient Near East. Israel had seen their share of those kinds of kings. Every generation since has suffered under such rulers, self-aggrandizing, self-exalting, self-enriching & self-glorifying, who constantly victimize others while seeking their own coercive power.
This future king promised by Isaiah will not be just another corrupt & oppressive king of the world. This future king will rule in righteousness, in steadfast love & trustworthiness. To live under Him in His kingdom will be a blessing & a joy.
Isaiah promised that the future messianic king will sit on David’s throne. The angel Gabriel declared the same thing to the Virgin Mary, in Luke 1:32–33: “He will be great & will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, & He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, & of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Jesus of Nazareth did sit on the throne of David, but it took the shape of a cross. Above Him was written “King of the Jews.” By dying on a Roman cross Jesus was ruling, not ruling like a Caesar or king of this world, but ruling over sin itself, conquering it for Israel & for Gentiles. He was bodily raised from the dead on the 3rd day as the ruling victor over death itself.
Then Jesus ascended to heaven & was exalted to the right hand of God. David’s throne
has been exalted with Jesus to the right hand of God. Now, for 2000 years, Jesus has been ruling on David’s exalted throne, ruling over all authorities & powers & rulers, seen & unseen. He rules as the new & greater Davidic King, promised by Isaiah the ancient prophet. He rules to the benefit of His church – to your benefit.
Through Holy baptism His Spirit brought you under His blessed rule. Jesus of Nazareth is your King & your Lord, which means eternal life with Him in His kingdom with His Father & Spirit. Through His Word & the Lord’s Supper Jesus continues to exercise His saving rule.
You are not autonomous, & it’s a good thing. You have the blessing of living under the saving rule of Israel’s Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. The rule of this new & greater Davidic King will never come to an end. Even the last chapter of the Bible reminds us of this, when the exalted Jesus says, “I am the root & the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Rev 22:16).
Isaiah promised that the future messianic king would rule in righteousness. Jesus has fulfilled that promise in a superlative way. He did so through becoming God’s righteous servant as promised in Isaiah 53. God laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. In 53:11 God says, “The righteous one, my servant will make the multitudes accounted righteous.”
Jesus the righteous king & servant took your sins upon Himself & gave you His righteousness. He rules with righteousness in a superlative & surprising way by giving sinners His righteousness in order to make them citizens of His kingdom. He rules in righteousness by giving you His righteousness. You now stand righteous before His Father.
Today we celebrate the birth of the messianic king of Israel. He rules on David’s throne with righteousness. Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of Moses & the Prophets. He is the king promised by Isaiah. That means good news for you & me. Rejoice! Jesus, Israel’s messianic king has been born, the righteous king who sits on David’s throne. He rules now & will come again in visible glory. Then will come to an end every oppressive rule of this age. All injustice will be brought to an end. The promise of Isaiah will reach its full consummation. Glory be to the Christ who rules now & forever. Amen.
Hail to the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater Son! Hail, in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun! He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free, to take away transgression & rule in equity. Over every foe victorious, He on His throne shall rest, from age to age more glorious, all blessing & all-blest. The tide of time shall never His covenant remove; His name shall stand forever – that name to us is Love. Amen. LSB 398:1, 5-6.
Christmas Eve – 2021 LSB #’s 356, 375, 363
Text – Isaiah 12:4-6
You will say in that day: O give thanks to Yahweh! Call upon His name! Make His deeds known among the peoples! Make memorable that His name is exalted! Make music to Yahweh, because He has done majestic things! Let this be made known in all the earth! Shout & sing for joy, O Zion who dwells securely! For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
O GIVE THANKS UNTO YAHWEH
It is a wonderful time of the year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, Israel’s promised messiah. Doing so, you have received a great gift & privilege. You are living in the age of the fulfillment. God’s Son has already accomplished His saving work with His perfect life, death & resurrection. Salvation has been won for you.
Not only that, but you’ve been given the gift & privilege of thanking God, praising Him & commending Him to others. This too is a great gift from God – the gift of singing doxology. Isaiah 12 can help us appreciate this great gift, because many Americans do not consider going to church to be a blessing.
Even for many Christians, going to church is a chore, a tedious burden. “Mom & dad, do I have to go to church?” they complain. They’d rather stay home & occupy themselves with more amusing things. Most Americans now consider church to be just another voluntary association of like-minded people, like the Rotary, the bridge club or the friends of the library.
In their mind going to church is a big yawn because they see nothing special happening there. Isaiah, prophet of ancient Israel, helps us understand “church” in a very different way. You’ve been given the great gift & privilege of living in the promised age to come. Many Before Christ believers longed to be in your shoes, or should I say in your sandals.
In chapter 11 Isaiah announced the coming messianic age. The new & greater David will be anointed by the Holy Spirit who will bestow the gifts of wisdom & understanding, of counsel & might, of knowledge & reverence toward Yahweh. He will know how to rule & will be able to execute wise rule. He will be faithful to the God of ancient Israel. This new & greater Davidic King will rule in righteousness. He will establish the age of peace, when the wolf lies down with the lamb.
In that age to come the entire earth will be full of knowing Yahweh, the true God, the Creator of the heavens & earth. He will restore Israel. To this Messiah of Israel Gentiles will gladly come & enjoy the blessings under His saving reign & rule. In Isaiah 12 the prophet gave the response that future Israel would give to their God when He brings in the Promised Age.
It follows upon chapter 11 & its promise of the messianic age. In the age to come Israel will sing the song of chapter 12. Isaiah composed a hymn of the future. In that day Before Christ, Israel was experiencing tough times. They suffered under the tyranny of ancient Assyria & soon would suffer under the oppression of Babylon.
But, Isaiah proclaimed, the day is coming when our God will reverse our plight, when we will enjoy the blessings of salvation under a perfect Davidic King. And in that day, you O Israel & Jerusalem will sing a song of praise & thanksgiving:
“You will say in that day: O give thanks to Yahweh! Call upon His name! Make His deeds known among the peoples! Make memorable that His name is exalted! Make music to Yahweh, because He has done majestic things! Let this be made known in all the earth! Shout & sing for joy, O Zion who dwells securely! For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
Life with God means doxology where life & praise are inextricably linked. Isaiah promised that the age to come will be one of praise & thanksgiving to the Holy One of ancient Israel, the true God. The sermon text is the 2nd stanza of the hymn in chapter 12 – eight lines that call for music & singing to God. How will Israel praise the Lord? By exhorting each other with imperatives. These lines are plural imperatives which the future Israelites will say to each other. “You all, give thanks to Yahweh. You all, call upon His name in holy worship. You all, make His wondrous deeds known among the Gentiles. You all make memorable that His name is exalted.” To give God praise is to brag about Him in public before others.
Christians extol the Lord, not themselves. Believers direct attention away from themselves to the Lord Himself. The God of Israel is the one to be glorified & magnified. That is how faith talks. In church we encourage each other to praise the Lord. We give glory to the Holy One of Israel.
But why? Because of what He has done. Not only were his BC promises marvelous. He fulfilled them in the most marvelous way. You have the privilege of seeing & knowing the fulfillment. There did come a new & greater Davidic King, One anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism under John. He was endowed with wisdom & power.
Jesus healed the sick, restored the lame, and gave sight to the blind & hearing to the deaf. He established peace with God & peace among His followers. Not only that, by His death He atoned for the sins of Israel & all Gentiles. By His resurrection, death itself was conquered. And through His gospel the earth is being filled with the knowledge of the God of ancient Israel.
Because Yahweh through His Son has done majestic things, make music to Him. Extol Him & His saving work to each other & around the world, so that more & more people can join His choir. For your saintly nature, going to church is a great joy & privilege. There the Lord gives you His saving gifts. There you can give the Lord your praise & adoration.
You live in the age to come inaugurated by Jesus Messiah. You can now sing Isaiah’s futuristic song as a present reality. A Christian church is a walking & singing doxology to the true God. The fulfillment has come. Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of the Davidic Messiah. He will rule all of creation in perfect joy, peace & harmony. This Christmas season give thanks to Yahweh, through Jesus the Davidic Messiah! Encourage each other to do that: “O give thanks unto Yahweh, for He is good, & His steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1) Amen.
Come, your hearts & voices raising, Christ the Lord with gladness praising; loudly sing His love amazing, worthy folk of Christendom. Christ, from heaven to us descending & in love our race befriending; in our need His help extending, saved us from the wily foe. Gracious Child, we pray, O hear us, from Your lowly manger cheer us, gently lead us & be near us till join Your choir above. Amen. LSB 375:1-2, 6.
4th Sunday in Advent LSB #’s 437, 513, 394
Text – Isaiah 13:9
Look! The day of Yahweh is coming, cruel, & with anger & hot wrath, to destine the earth to desolation, & its sinners he will exterminate from it.
THE DAY OF YAHWEH WILL COME
Will any of your words today still matter 2700 years from now? Yahweh is the God of ancient Israel, the almighty Creator of the heavens & earth, the only true God, the only God who deserves to be heard. He called His prophet Isaiah to speak to His people over 2700 years ago, & still what He said to them remains His speech to you & me 2700 years later.
The words of the Great I Am spoken through Isaiah the mighty seer of old remain God’s words. Today we want to hear & to heed His words. We want to let the ancient prophet Isaiah speak to us today. He calls us to get ready for the future coming of Yahweh. Are you? Let us listen to Isaiah & therefore to God speaking through Isaiah:
13:9 Look! The day of Yahweh is coming, cruel, & with anger & hot wrath,
to destine the earth to desolation, & its sinners He will exterminate from it.
13:10 For the stars of the heavens & their constellations will not shine their light.
The sun will have become dark when it goes forth,
& the moon will not make its light bright.
13:11 “And I will visit in punishment against the world (its) evil,
& against the wicked their iniquity;
& I will make cease the pride of the presumptuous ones,
& the proudness of the terrible ones I will lay low.
13:12 I will make humans sparer than fine gold & man (sparer) than the gold of Ophir.
13:13 Therefore the heavens I will convulse, & the earth will shake out of its place,
by the anger of Yahweh of Hosts, & in the day of his smoldering wrath.
13:19 And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the splendor of the pride of the Chaldeans,
will become like God’s overthrow of Sodom & Gomorrah.
14:1 But Yahweh will show compassion to Jacob.
Are you ready for the coming day of the Lord God Almighty? Isaiah calls you to take heed. For the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of the heavens & earth will come in a terrible way. It truly is a frightening picture that Isaiah paints for us.
The almighty Creator of the heavens & earth will come into His universe & will descend to earth in all of His raw power. The entire cosmos will come undone. The heavenly bodies will go dark; the heavens will convulse; the earth will shake. Life will not be able to go on as usual. The entire creation will come unhinged.
And why will the almighty Creator enter into His creation in such hot anger? He will come in His hot wrath & anger against sinners. Judgment day it will be when He comes to punish the wicked for their evil & their failure to repent of it.
Sinners, like us, are curved in on themselves. They strive to be self-determining, self-directed, self-absorbed, self-centered, & self-glorifying. That is what we call “original sin” – the desire to be autonomous, the desire & constant effort to replace God with ourselves.
In Isaiah 13, the prophet breaks us out of our carnal security & complacency calling all sinners to take heed. The day of the Lord is coming. There will be an ultimate judgment day. We are accountable to our maker, not just to ourselves. You are responsible to the Lord God Almighty & not only to yourself.
It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not; whether it makes you feel good or not. It is reality. There is coming a Judgment Day when everyone has to stand before the Creator & judge of all. The potter gets to judge the pots. He made them. He holds them to account. The Day of the Lord is coming, & soon. It will mean utter humiliation for all human pretentions & pride.
At the time of Isaiah, the city of Babylon was the “glory-capital” of the world. The ancient Near East admired Babylon for its splendor & beauty. An example was King Hezekiah. Envoys from Babylon came to Jerusalem, & Hezekiah tried to impress them with all the glory of his own kingdom (Isaiah 39). The city of Babylon was considered the beauty of kingdoms. In response, Isaiah proclaimed, God will make Babylon like Sodom & Gomorrah, a wasteland – a place only for desert creatures to occupy.
Because sinners have fundamentally & arrogantly rebelled against their own Creator, God in His just wrath will remove them from His holy sight. This is the terrible future awaiting all naked, proud sinners. Isaiah stated the threats of God’s judgment in their most severe pronunciation: God will exterminate all sinners & punish all the wicked – a frightening prospect.
The NT affirms & repeats this threat. St. Paul calls it “the wrath to come” (1 Thes 1:10), “the day of wrath & revealing of God’s righteous judgment” (Romans 2:5). It will come like a thief in the night & bring destruction to those carnally secure (1 Thes 5:1-3), “destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7).
You & I need to hear this warning & threat because it is so easy to become preoccupied with our own daily concerns, to become curved in unto ourselves. All human beings are tempted to become infatuated with the rich & famous, admiring their glory. We need to hear Isaiah 13 & to let it lead us to repentance, to fall down & say “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
However, there is also good news for Isaiah did not stop there. He went on to set forth a contrast. The self-glorying kingdoms of the world like Babylon will have no future, yet God’s Israel will have one – “…Yahweh will show compassion to Jacob.” (Isaiah 14:1)
Isaiah promised that God would show compassion toward His people Israel & restore them. He would bring them back from exile & make them His very own people again. God began to do that in the time before Christ’s incarnation. He brought the Israelite exiles back to Jerusalem in the 500 & 400s BC. That was only a beginning. The fulfillment came with Jesus the Messiah. In order to restore God’s Israel, Jesus went through the deserved punishment Himself. He took the wrath of God in the place of sinful Israel, in fact in the place of all sinners. Jesus became the Suffering Servant promised in Isaiah 53.
The iniquity of all sinners was laid on Him. He suffered the eternal punishment that each of us deserve. As Isaiah prophesied, “Yahweh laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” (53:6). He received God’s just wrath in place of all the guilty, & His righteousness is credited to the multitudes of sinners (Isaiah 53:11). Our sins went on Him, & His righteousness covered us.
The heavenly Father has given you, through the gospel, that righteous status before His throne. You need not fear the coming Day of Judgment. You belong to the Messiah by faith. You were baptized into Him. Therefore, you belong to His Israel, the Israel upon whom He shows compassion. You need not fear the coming Day of Judgment.
All authority has been given to Jesus. On the last day He is the one who will judge the living & the dead. That will be a terrible day of wrath to those who stand naked before Him in their unbelief. But to you who are clothed in His robes of righteousness – a glorious day, the day of restoration & rest for God’s Israel, from all their labors.
The day of the Lord is coming soon. Repent & believe the good news. Your sins have been made as white as snow. Jesus will give you the crown of righteousness & invite you to your eternal home. Amen.
The home of fadeless splendor, of blooms that bear no thorn, where they shall dwell as children who here as exiles mourn; the peace of all the faithful, the calm of all the blest, inviolate, unfading, divinest, sweetest, best. Oh, happy, holy portion, relief for all distressed, true vision of true beauty, refreshment for the blest! Strive now to win that glory, toil now to gain that light; send hope ahead to grasp it till hope be lost in sight. Amen. LSB 513:3-4.
3rd Sunday in Advent – C LSB #’s 803, 357:1-4, 357:5-7
Text – Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. Those are beautiful words, from a much loved hymn that has been sung in churches since the 12th century. Literally millions of Christians have sung those words at Christmas century after century. Their beauty & their message has bound together people of faith across time & space.
But the Christian faith is not simply sentimental memories or feelings. Millions of Christians have also endured a brutal death in this life because of their faith in Emmanuel. So I have to ask, “Do the words have any kind of personal meaning for you? Is there joy harbored deep inside your heart & mind no matter what the external factors of your life may be?”
Do you rejoice at Christmas, & why? Is there something specific that you are rejoicing about this morning – not just happy or glad or content, but rejoicing? It’s a sad state of affairs if something, anything does not immediately come to mind. You know what the obvious answer is! Until the day we die each of us should be rejoicing that God’s Son has paid for our sins.
Sinful human beings should never ever get used to that fact. If you think about the gravity of what Jesus did we should rejoice with every breath we take. But we don’t, & that makes the forgiveness of our sins, the very forgiveness of our ingratitude, even more incredible. Right now, take a moment to just think about that kind of joy. PAUSE
If you were able to do that you experienced exactly what the apostle Paul is writing about in the words of Philippians 4. Alleluia! If you were not able to get there, because I didn’t pause long enough, or there is too heavy a burden weighing on your heart, that does not make you a bad Christian. It does not mean you are a failure as a child of God. All of us fail at rejoicing every day. Our failure is why Jesus was born. It’s why the Malach Yahweh Himself took on human flesh & for the joy set before Him endured the cross. Jesus knows what true joy is & He embodies it. How we long to be like that – to clear our heart & mind & soul of sadness – that we might be joy!
The answer to our dilemma is right here in these words – “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” You, as the children of God, are the new Israel & Emmanuel shall come to thee. That’s what we look forward to during this season of Advent, not just the coming of Jesus as the babe in a manger, but the coming of Jesus as Lord & King.
We can rejoice because Jesus is a good King. He is, in fact, the best King ever & He will rule the circumstances of our lives so that everything will be perfect forever & ever! “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, & death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)
That is what’s coming. It’s why we rejoice already in this life, because what we have here, or what we endure here, is not everything. In fact, it’s barely anything at all. We rejoice because our King has already defeated all the brokenness that you or I experience here. The joy that we have is not of this world & it cannot be understood by this world.
We have a difficult enough time understanding it ourselves, because our sinful nature is constantly corrupting the joy that God’s Spirit creates in us. Mankind is not able to manufacture the joy that Jesus has won for us. It is a joy that stands in sharp contrast to the anxiety which our sinful flesh, Satan & the world flaunt before us & within us.
Working through God’s holy & perfect Law, the Holy Spirit shows us our sins, “Do not be anxious about anything...” (Philippians 4:6 ESV) Anxiety reveals our lack of trust in God & His promises. It’s a violation of the 1st commandment. Working through the good news of God, the Holy Spirit creates in us a clean & repentant heart, “Be glad & rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment…” (Zephaniah 3:14b-15 ESV)
That is the rhythm of spiritual life – sorrow in repentance – joy in forgiveness & in the life that it brings! People have suffered from anxiety over the corona virus for two years now. Even with all their blustering, doctors & politicians have not been able to protect us. Yet, in the forgiveness of our sins, God’s children still find joy & life in spite of Covid 19.
More recently people are anxious over the raging inflation spreading through our economy. In spite of our government downplaying its significance, it is having a real impact on the lives of the people the government is supposed to be serving. Nevertheless, in spite of the ineptitude of government, God’s children still find joy & life in the forgiveness of our sins.
The tornadoes that tore through our nation’s midsection on Friday evening have utterly destroyed the possessions of many thousands of people & ended the lives of possibly hundreds of them. As a result, anxiety will be an ongoing issue for many people. Children of God do not find joy in that destruction, nor in the loss of life, but we recognize that those are temporary.
Tornadoes, along with the destruction & death that they can bring, are another result of the sin & corruption that man brought into this world. They are a sign that should move us to repentance, another opportunity to accept the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus’ own life was destroyed in order to rescue us from the eternal destruction & death that awaits all unbelievers.
Sin has brought anxiety into our world. Jesus came to bring peace – one that surpasses all human understanding. Unbelievers can never comprehend that peace, & believers can’t explain it, except to say that it comes entirely from the heavenly Father. The peace of heart & mind that all human beings seek comes only as a gift from God.
As we reject that gift, to whatever degree, anxiety is a certain result. Just look at our
culture today. Is it not filled with anxiety? We blame it on Covid or inflation, crime & politics, even the weather. The truth is our anxiety comes from being uncertain about our future in the here & now, & about our future in the eternal hereafter. As we focus on those anxieties, we are turning away from trusting God’s promises, & joy can never be the result of that process.
Already on this side of eternity, apart from Christ we are dead even while we are living. That’s why the Son of God also became a son of man, that He might reunite human flesh to our Father in heaven. Sin had separated us, & anxiety over our future was one of the chief results. There is no joy where anxiety reigns. It’s not possible to be rejoicing if you are worried!
To worry is to reject God’s peace that comes to us along with the faith His Spirit creates in us. In Philippians, Paul is writing to a persecuted church. They had plenty of reasons to be worried or anxious, yet, what is Paul’s key note? – Rejoice! Only a person with faith in Jesus as Savior from their sins is able to comprehend this & do it.
Paul is calling us to continual & habitual action. We are always to have joy in Christ, & mourning in ourselves due to our sinfulness. This joy invades us, we do not choose it. This joy does not leave us during times of illness, poverty, oppression or persecution. This joy does not separate happy days from sad ones, nor successful moments from moments of failure.
Because of the new creation to come, Christian joy always has an “end of the world” dimension to it. The perfect bliss of heaven breaks into our lives through the faith that we have in Jesus as Savior. Insecurity causes us to be uptight, selfish & cruel, to be contentious & self-seeking. Confidence in God enables us to be meek & gentle as Jesus demonstrated here on earth.
Paul is not referring to imaginary troubles or phantom anxieties. He is not making light of the troubles the Philippians face, but he knows that God is greater than all troubles & is wise enough to work through them. There’s no way that you or I can explain what God is doing through events like the tornado that just ripped through our nation. All that our faith in God allows us to say is that He is good & so is His will. Yahweh calls us to submit to Him because He has given us life & purpose & meaning even when we don’t understand it.
That Jesus has saved us from eternal death by paying the price for our sin, is alone reason to rejoice forever. We pray that God’s Spirit would guide & direct us how then to live. Amen.
O come, O come, Emmanuel, & ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Key of David, come, & open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, & close the path to misery. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! Amen. LSB 357:1 & 5.
2nd Sunday in Advent LSB #’s 900, 648, 349
Text – Isaiah 37:20
So now, O Yahweh our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are Yahweh.
YAHWEH WILL SAVE HIS ZION
Imagine yourself in the city of Jerusalem in the year 701 BC. It’s a bustling, fairly large & well-known city in the ancient Near East. Archaeologists estimate that it was about 150 acres in size. The temple is there, built by King Solomon over 250 years earlier. Outside of Jerusalem is the presence of a terrifying army, the multinational military of Assyria.
The kings of Assyria have conquered the surrounding lands, including the northern kingdom of Israel. Their practice was to conquer & deport the local populations to distant places. The northern Israelites had already gone into exile. In 701 BC the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, had already destroyed 46 towns of Judah & deported over 200,000 people.
Now he wants Jerusalem to surrender to Assyrian rule. Their surrender would be less of a bother for him, rather than having to carry out a military attack & go to all the fuss of destroying the city’s walls. It would be simpler if Jerusalem just waves the white flag.
Sennacherib was currently busy with destroying Lachish, a prominent city of Judah, located to the west. In order to persuade Jerusalem to surrender Sennacherib sent the Rabshakeh, a high-ranking official in the Assyrian government.
King Hezekiah, of Judah, believed in Yahweh, the God of Moses & the Prophets, the God of Isaiah, the God whose temple was there in Jerusalem. Earlier when Hezekiah had been seriously ill & near death he prayed to Yahweh, who answered his prayer. In Isaiah chapter 38, Yahweh promised to give Hezekiah fifteen more years.
And, He made this promise: “I will deliver you & this city out of the hand of the king of
Assyria, & I will defend this city” (38:6). King Hezekiah believed that promise from the true God. Hezekiah believed the theology he was taught, the theology of Isaiah the prophet. King Hezekiah told the rest of Jerusalem this promise. Now the Assyrian official was trying to undermine confidence in that theology.
Let’s imagine ourselves in Jerusalem in 701 BC. We the people of Jerusalem live under the rule of King Hezekiah. Isaiah 36–37 records the speeches given by the Rabshakeh, the Assyrian official. You & I will listen to his arguments.
He had done his homework. He knows something about the theology of King Hezekiah. So, he tries to undermine our confidence in that theology. His goal is to persuade us to surrender. Will we give in or will we believe the theology that you & I have been taught?
Will you believe the theology you were taught from this pulpit Sunday after Sunday? Will you believe the theology you were taught at Sunday school & in confirmation class? Will you believe the theology you were taught in adult Bible study? Will you believe the theology you were taught every Sunday through the liturgy & the hymns?
Judgment Day will recognize whether you believed the promises of God or surrendered to the voices of the world. Have you become a Christian in name only, whose mind & heart & will were actually shaped by the voices of the world more than by the voice of the Lord?
We are inundated by the world’s voices every minute of every day. They come to us 24/7 via TV, the radio, our computer screens & phones, in countless ways. Many Christians end up conforming to the world & its ways of thinking. Many Christians basically surrender to the Rabshakeh, the Assyrian official. Will you? Or will you believe in God’s promise to save?
Let’s listen to the Rabshakeh’s speech. He is trying to undermine confidence in the claims made by King Hezekiah. Hezekiah tells Jerusalem to trust in their God, Yahweh, the God of Israel. Yahweh promised to deliver Jerusalem, His city, from the king of Assyria & his army. But the Rabshakeh claims that is all a bunch of nonsense. The Rabshakeh says to Jerusalem:
You are no match to the might of Assyria. If you rely on Egypt, they are a broken reed. They cannot & they will not save you. If you think your own military power can deliver you, the king of Assyria will spot you 2000 horses, if you even have that many horsemen (Isaiah 36:6–9). The Assyrian official speaks to Jerusalem:
Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in Yahweh by saying ‘Yahweh will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah... Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying ‘Yahweh will deliver us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath & Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that Yahweh should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?” (Isaiah 36:13–20)
The Rabshakeh mocks the theology of Isaiah & King Hezekiah. He says: “Wake up, Zion. Resistance is futile. Your god is no match to the overpowering, unstoppable might of Assyria. Sennacherib has already conquered countless other cities. Their gods were no match. None were able to deliver them. What makes you think your god is any different. Surrender!”
Today, the challenge from the voices of the world remains basically the same. “What rules the world is earthly power & might, the economy, politics, science. That is what calls the shots. Your theology is a bunch of nonsense, wishful thinking, made-up dreams. All religions are the same. The world & its ways rule, not your god. Conform to the reality of life!”
Well, what happened? King Hezekiah & Jerusalem trusted in their God, Yahweh. King Hezekiah brought the matter before God & prayed:
O Yahweh of hosts, God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven & earth. Incline your ear, O Yahweh, & hear; open your eyes, O Yahweh, & see; & hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Yahweh, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations & their lands, & have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands – wood & stone. Therefore, they were destroyed. So now, O Yahweh our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are Yahweh. (37:16–20//2 Kgs 19:15–19)
What happened next? The God of ancient Israel, the God of King Hezekiah & Isaiah the prophet, wasn’t just another run-of-the-mill god on the smorgasbord of ancient gods & goddesses. Yes, the kings of Assyria conquered other gods, for they were no gods but simply statues of wood & stone. Big deal, the kings of Assyria conquered a bunch of statues.
Now they were facing the true God, the almighty Creator who made the heavens & the earth. The true God heard Hezekiah’s prayer & acted in a mighty way: “…the angel of Yahweh went out & struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.” (Isaiah 37:36)
What happened to Sennacherib, king of Assyria? He returned to Nineveh. The text records that 20 years later in 681 BC, while “he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech & Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword” (37:36–38//2 Kgs 19:35–37).
How ironic! Sennacherib’s god couldn’t even deliver him from being assassinated in that god’s own temple. But the God of ancient Israel, the God of King Hezekiah & the prophet Isaiah is not impotent. He is not a bunch of religious made-up mumble-jumble. He is the true God, the Creator of the heavens & the earth.
Yahweh acted upon His promises. He carried them out. They were not empty words. God fulfills all of His promises. He came mightily to save His people from the formidable Assyria. Jerusalem did not save herself. Her own might was no match for the Assyrian armies. The Rabshakeh was right about that.
Jerusalem’s salvation, her deliverance was due only to her God & His faithfulness to His promises. Believe the promises of your God, the true God, given by His ancient prophet Isaiah. The day of deliverance of Zion in 701 BC was one of the greatest miracles recorded in Holy Scripture. That mighty act of salvation gave a foretaste, an anticipation, a preview, a down payment on a coming act of God to save as frequently promised by Isaiah, the time when God will save from death itself, from sin itself, from all the might of the world to oppress & rule.
This Advent season we look forward to that future day of salvation. In fact, that future day of salvation has already entered into history ahead of time. Through Jesus of Nazareth, God’s saving work already took place. As Jesus said: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b-c).
He already has saved us from sin, death & the power of the devil. He did it by living the perfect life in our place & by offering Himself as our substitute. He did it willingly by allowing Himself to be crucified & put to death by the world. He saved us:
“…from all sins, from death, & from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood & with His innocent suffering & death that we may be His own & live under Him in His kingdom & serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, & blessedness.”
You do not belong to the world. You belong to Jesus the Lord, “as He is risen from the dead, lives & reigns to all eternity.” Jesus is the victorious Lord over all. He now gives you a share in His victory. Here in His new & greater Zion, in His new & greater Jerusalem, He gathers you into His saving presence & gives you the blessings of His salvation.
As 1 Corinthians 1:9 states: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” He called you through Holy baptism. He calls through the gospel proclamation. He calls through the Lord’s Supper. Here in Zion among His people in His presence He gives salvation. And this gift now is the guarantee that on the last day Jesus will come again in visible glory to save you. Believe the true theology you were taught. Don’t surrender to the voices of the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit trust in the promises from the true God spoken by Isaiah His prophet of old. The true God will come mighty to save.
Trust in God’s promises as they were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth, God’s own Son in the flesh. Trust in God’s promises that one day will reach their consummation when the Lord returns in visible glory. Yahweh will save His Zion. Amen.
Glorious things of you are spoken, Zion, city of our God; He whose word cannot be broken formed you for His own abode. On the Rock of Ages founded, what can shake your sure repose? With salvation’s walls surrounded, you may smile at all your foes. Savior, since of Zion’s city I through grace a member am, let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Your name. Fading are the world’s vain pleasures, all their boasted pomp & show; solid joys & lasting treasures none but Zion’s children know. Amen. LSB 648:1, 4.
Isaiah it was foretold it, the rose I have in mind; with Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind. To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior, when half-spent was the night. This flower whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere. True man, yet very God, from sin & death He saves us & lightens every load. O Savior, child of Mary, who felt our human woe; O Savior, King of glory, who does our weakness know: bring us at length we pray to the bright courts of heaven, & to the endless day. Amen. LSB 359:2-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet