Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 16) LSB #’s 803, 790, 817:1-3, 5, 7
Text – Isaiah 29:16
You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”?
CREATION VERSUS EVOLUTION
“May the words of my mouth & the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our strength & our redeemer.” Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ that prayer is one I use occasionally as an invocation before I begin the sermon. I first heard it used in that way by a seminary student. It invites God Himself to be working through us by the power of His word. It struck me instantly as a prayer that speaks to the heart of what should be going on during a sermon.
Yes, the pastor is the one doing the preaching, but the congregation is to be completely involved as well. You should be listening, hearing & meditating upon the very words which God is sending you. The form of the prayer I used to begin the sermon is a slight paraphrase of the last verse of Psalm 19. I would like highlight how King David begins that Psalm:
“The heavens declare the glory of God, & the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, & night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, & their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4a ESV)
In other words, the heavens are even today preaching a sermon about the glory of God. Are we, as the congregation – listening, hearing & meditating upon the words of that sermon?
One thing that’s impressive about the night sky is the vast number of stars & yet the utter silence with which they speak to us. That combination declares the glory of their Maker to all the inhabitants of the earth. Culture after culture has recognized the awesome nature of the heavens & how puny mankind is by comparison. The Psalms tell us, “The heavens themselves testify to the righteousness & faithfulness of the Lord who created them.” (Psalm 50:6; 89:5-8; 97:6)
As a result, people who teach that the 1st two chapters of Genesis are simply mythology ignore the fact that many of the Psalms they cherish also declare that Yahweh is our Creator. People who love to read the Psalms, yet don’t believe God created everything in 6 – 24 hour days, are denying one of the basic messages that comes from the book of Psalms.
Depending on how you search, there are as many as 31 Bible verses which teach that God created the heavens & the earth. Those verses are scattered throughout Holy Scripture. So if a Christian is going to accept the teaching of evolution, they basically have to deny that the entire Bible is the holy & inspired Word of God. They can’t simply redefine the 1st two chapters.
Isaiah, a prophet who lived 800 years before Christ, gives the verdict on evolutionary teaching: “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’?…” (Isaiah 29:16 ESV) That is exactly the claim that teachers of evolution are making & Isaiah nailed it almost 3000 years ago.
About a thousand years after Isaiah, St. Peter warned of the same thing, but made sure to tell us that this attitude on the part of evolutionary teachers was a willful denial of our Creator:
I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago & what our Lord & Savior commanded through your apostles. Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth & following their own desires... They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of His command, & He brought the earth out from the water & surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. (2 Peter 3:2-3, 5-6 NLT)
That Flood, which Moses recorded in Genesis, is another thing that evolutionary teachers adamantly deny. Yet, St. Peter connects the flood with the creation of the world, because both of them are the work of our heavenly Father. Denying creation clearly means denying the words of St. Peter, a man chosen by Jesus Himself to be one of His disciples. Those words of St. Peter, inspired by God’s Spirit, go out into the world & they do not return void or empty. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit creates faith through those words. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit renders judgment. The Word of God never fails at the task for which it was sent. To deny that word is foolish!
In Isaiah 29, the prophet was delivering a word of judgment to the nation that had been God’s chosen people. The leaders & the people had, for many years, been refusing to surrender or submit to the will of God. Isaiah compared their attitude to clay that said to the potter, “You did not make me!”
With their lips the people of Judah said all the right words, but their hearts were far from their Lord & Creator. Isaiah had been warning God’s people for many, many years. They refused to listen & now the prophet was describing the judgment that would befall them. The voice of God’s people would be as one from the realm of the dead:
“And you will be brought low, from the earth you shall speak, & from the dust your speech will be bowed down; your voice shall come from the ground like the voice of a ghost, & from the dust your speech shall whisper.” (Isaiah 29:4 ESV) If the people refused to honor the Words of God, then their very own words would become the words of the dead.
That so many people are teaching evolution, instead of creation by God the Father, is a clear sign of judgment from the Lord of the universe. The words of evolutionary theory are the words of the dead just like the voice of a ghost. Teaching evolution is a word & a meditation that is not acceptable to the Lord God, for it says He is a liar.
St. Paul directly connects the suppression of the truth, through rejection of God as Creator, to the immorality that is so prevalent in our country today:
But God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth & sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power & divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship Him as God or even give Him thanks… So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile & degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie… Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking & let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior & gossip. (Romans 1:18-21a, 24-25a, 28-29 NLT)
If you follow the news at all you recognize those words of St. Paul in the lives of American politicians, our news media & the people in general. If the meditation of our hearts is acceptable in God’s sight, we also recognize the words of St. Paul in our own daily living. But not all is doom & gloom for where God brings judgment He also brings salvation.
Immediately after the sermon text Isaiah brings hope with words of the new day that is coming: “Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, & the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book,
& out of their gloom & darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” (Isaiah 29:17-18 ESV)
Listen to the words of a book called the 1st chapter of the Gospel of John:
“In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God, & the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, & without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, & the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, & the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5 ESV)
Even as children of God darkness still lives in your heart & in mine, but our heavenly Father’s promise is this – that darkness will not overcome the Light of Christ. The prophet Isaiah, even while announcing judgment upon them, was calling God’s people to turn back to Him to be healed. Jesus Christ is longing to turn your heart back to Him.
You see, billions of years & the evolution of species, is a false teaching centering squarely in violation of the very 1st commandment. We are called to submit our thoughts, our words & our deeds to Yahweh alone. Human reason is always the lie. Consider this – what was so terrible about eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil? Human reason would say that murder is a far greater sin. The travesty of The Fall, was not in the sin, but in Whom Adam & Eve sinned against. They rebelled against their Creator.
As Isaiah accused the people of Judah, “You turn things upside down!” Likewise, disbelieving the events of Creation is not such a terrible act, except for Whom it is that we disbelieve when we deny creation by our Creator. If you aren’t sure you can believe in a six day 24 hour creation, then submit to Christ as Ephesians instructs us to do.
Christians who teach evolution may honor God with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. They are teaching as doctrines the commandments of men, which is exactly what Jesus criticized the Pharisees for in the Gospel reading from Mark. If you didn’t notice, Jesus quoted those words from the OT reading in Isaiah.
There is no such thing as the purely ethical scientist who operates with no bias against our heavenly Father. If you remember, St. Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned & fall short of the glory of God.” Even to teach that God used evolution to create Adam & Eve is not a harmless sin. It undercuts the entire foundation of Holy Scripture.
The words of Psalm 19: “May the words of my mouth & the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our strength & our redeemer,” do not simply apply to sermons. They are valid words for every aspect of daily living. So consider meditating on these questions:
The “sealed book” of the text has been replaced by the “open book,” with the message of God’s love revealed, in Christ’s suffering, death, resurrection, ascension & anticipated return. The promise of peace & the opening of eyes have been & will be fulfilled by the work of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace.
As one who was spiritually “blind” at birth I have experienced the Holy Spirit at work in me through the means of grace – God’s Word & Sacraments. “I was blind but now I see.” The promise of ‘peace’ & source of ‘joy’ are renewed by the very presence of our Lord in the bread & wine of Holy Communion.
By the work of the Holy Spirit through Word & Sacraments I believe that Jesus Christ will return to claim me & all believers. He will invite us to experience His presence, “life without end.” I anticipate being there with you. Amen.
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul praise Him, for He is your health & salvation! Let all who hear now to His temple draw near, joining in glad adoration! Praise to the Lord, who has fearfully, wondrously made you, health has bestowed &, when heedlessly falling, has stayed you. What need or grief ever has failed of relief? Wings of His mercy did shade you. Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him! All that has life & breath, come now with praises before Him! Let the Amen sound from His people again. Gladly forever adore Him! Amen. LSB 790:1, 3, 6.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet