Baptism of Our Lord – C LSB #’s 605, 358:8-9, 12-15, 922
Text – Isaiah 43:1
But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
CREATED BY GOD
Has the thought ever crossed your mind that God hates you? The devil would love for you to believe it. It might be that God also wants you to consider that question, “Does God hate you?” The sermon text is the answer, it is God’s answer, to those emotions!
This should help clarify in your mind what’s going on as the prophet Isaiah writes to the people of Israel. You see, at this point in their long history, they are convinced that God hates them. They aren’t even sure anymore if He’s real, but if He is, the recent years of their history make it clear that the heavenly Father is out to destroy them.
It’s like this – the people of Michigan, you & me, & everyone you know who lives close to you, are the chosen people of God. We’ve been told that for hundreds & hundreds of years. But one day, the evil governor of New York sends his armies to ransack the state of Michigan, to plunder all of our wealth, & then to cart us off to sweat shops & slavery in New York City.
When the armies arrive in Michigan they capture our governor, line up all of her sons in front of her, & execute them. And to make that horrific sight the last thing she ever sees, they gouge out her eyes, carry her back to New York City & imprison her until she dies. Finally, every last building in the city of Lansing is burned to the ground.
Through all of that, the people of God never once repented or sought to turn back to Him for deliverance. And that was the culmination of 30 years of warfare & destruction, right there in the promised land. That is how the city of Jerusalem, & the nation of Judah, came to its end under King Nebuchadnezzar. As chapter 42 comes to a close, this is how Isaiah
summarizes the situation:
“They (Israel) were not willing to walk in His roads, they would not hear His teaching. And He poured upon [Israel] wrath, anger & the fury of war; it blazed all about him, but he did not know; it burned him, but he did not take it to heart. And now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, & who formed you, O Israel. ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by my name: You are mine! When you pass through the waters, I am with you, & through the rivers, they do not overwhelm you. When you walk in the midst of fire, you are not scorched, & in the midst of flame, it does not burn you.’”
Did you notice the turn in the middle of that quotation! It was not the nation of Israel that turned, but God the heavenly Father. As chapter 42 draws to a close, He has finished His alien work of bringing death to the sinful nature of His people. As chapter 43 begins, Yahweh has returned to His proper work which is to create life – abundant life.
Jesus makes that point in the Gospel of John, “I came that they may have life & have it abundantly.” (10:10b ESV) Unfortunately, because of man’s fall into sin, we twist & turn that life away from its Creator. We don’t simply wander off the path, we run away from it, headlong into the wilderness of sin, & in Isaiah’s day, God’s people had been there for a very long time.
Our nation, our culture, the people of our land, compared to our past, appear to be going to hell in a hand basket. Rebellion against God’s creation is no longer simply a matter of promoting the theory of evolution. Rebelling against God’s creation no longer has to do with merely rejecting the spiritual identity that Yahweh has given to His people.
In our nation today, rebellion now has to do with rejecting the physical identity that God has given to His people. In the very 1st chapter of Holy Scripture, Yahweh teaches the truth that is now being rebelled against by so many in our nation: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male & female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 ESV)
The question that is looming over Christianity in America is this, what will God do next? In the little picture, He is always doing both His alien & His proper work. In many small ways, Yahweh is always bringing death to sinful natures & life to saintly natures. The question, however, concerns the big picture. Is our nation doomed, or will God relent? Americans have turned against Him in so many ways, yet the greater sin is that in too many situations we no longer even consider God to be relevant. Not knowing our exact future, our call is to be ready!
After the vigorous denunciation of Israel as chapter 42 ends, there is a very sharp transition as chapter 43 begins. Clearly, Israel has done nothing to earn salvation. They have not chosen to follow God, but have rejected Him instead. Still, Yahweh turns back to them with His proper work of creating life. Punishment alone will never return God’s people to Him.
At God’s direction, Israel had been carried off into exile in a foreign land. Now, the Lord’s alien work of discipline had run its course. The testimony of the OT never has to do with Israel’s faithfulness. They have none. Instead, the OT chronicles the faithfulness of Yahweh, who created & formed Israel to begin with.
How effective was Israel as God’s witness? While He summoned the nation to be His servant, Israel entraps itself in idolatry thus giving a completely negative witness of truth to the nations. Unable to see or hear, it fails miserably. Therefore, Yahweh chooses another Servant to stand faithfully & in the place of Israel. Through Him, the final creation begins.
Yahweh claimed Israel as His own in the Exodus from Egypt & it’s particularly portrayed by Israel’s passing through the waters of the Red Sea. The same God claims us in Holy Baptism, again as we pass through the waters to which His word is connected. When they accepted God’s claim on them, Israel was filled with hope. The same is true for us.
Such a response to what God has done for us is called faith. Faith is a relationship in which was yield ourselves to Him & to His will for us. Not to listen, always to be speaking, to want to retain the initiative, always to insist on defining ourselves is to reject God. It reveals a rebellious spirit. It sounds a lot like what is being promoted in & by our culture today. It is God’s desire that His people be molded & formed in accordance with His will, which sometimes requires the fires of affliction. His faithful are facing these fires in an increasing number today.
These fires may be the result of one’s own sin; the by-product of the sins of others, or simply part of the situation in which the Lord chooses to place us. Yet, we should realize that it is always God’s intention to bring us blessing through whatever affliction we may be called to endure. Chapter 42 of Isaiah speaks of affliction which was to prepare His people for grace.
Chapter 43:1 begins with the language of Genesis, & verse 7 includes those words again, “…thus says the Lord who CREATED you, He that FORMED you…”
That 2nd verb suggests His control over the development of each of His creatures. Not only does existence begin as a result of His command; all the many elements that enter into the life of one of God’s children are supervised & controlled by the Creator.
The word REDEEMED follows & it pictures the reclaiming of a person by making a payment or by providing a substitute. The result, not only has God created Jacob & developed the nation, He is even ready to redeem it after it has been lost through its own sin.
Thus, when God’s redeemed people go through fiery trials, they can know that He is with them to lead & to protect. God’s creative power is necessary to turn us from darkness to light, from the realm of Satan to the realm of Yahweh. Under Satan’s dominion we become nothing just as we were nothing before God created us or called us into being.
Therefore, if infants are baptized, then God is at work calling them, creating them again, in the 2nd birth. Also, these words of the OT reading are a doubling of the encouragement, in verses 1 & 5, “Do not fear.” In addition, V. 5 foreshadows the church as the assembly of all believers in Christ, the true Israel, founded by Jesus – Jew & Gentile alike. It foreshadows God’s final gathering of the elect from the four corners of the earth. The Christian church today is the new Israel, the fulfillment of ancient Israel that failed to follow Yahweh’s teaching. And this church is founded on Jesus Christ. After His suffering, death & resurrection, a new Israel is incorporated into the covenant & becomes a righteous witness to the nations.
God’s proper work is that of giving life to the new man that He creates within us. His alien work is that of bringing death to the old man within us. That is the work that causes us to believe that God hates us. Yet, both need to occur in order that we be saved. So Isaiah writes:
“But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’” Amen.
Welcome to earth, O noble Guest, through whom the sinful world is blest! You came to share my misery that You might share Your joy with me. Ah, Lord, though You created all, how weak You are, so poor & small, that You would choose to lay Your head where lowly cattle lately fed! And so it pleases You to see this simple truth revealed to me: that worldly honor, wealth & might are weak & worthless in Your sight. Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child, prepare a bed, soft, undefiled, a quiet chamber set apart for You to dwell within my heart. Amen. LSB 358:8-9, 11-12.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet