1st Sunday in Advent – B LSB #355:1, 4-7 to tune #498
Text – Isaiah 64:7
There is no one who calls upon Your name, who rouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us, & have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
Some people appreciate silence more than others. Has there been a time in life that you felt as if God has been silent? Has He given you the cold shoulder? It’s a common technique of interacting with people. We give the cold shoulder when they’ve done us wrong, when repentance is called for on their part. Could that be why God has been silent towards you?
In OT times, when the prophet Malachi was done, nothing more was heard from God in that special means until over 400 years later when John the Baptist came along. Matthew wrote, in his Gospel: “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 3:1-2 ESV)
The season of Advent begins today. It’s a time for you & me to be concerned specifically with our alienation from the heavenly Father & the awful consequences of human sinfulness. It is our sin that has corrupted our relationship with the Source of love. Whenever we experience that silence from our Creator, sin is the cause of it – our sins separate us from our Creator.
Advent was designed for looking forward to the birth of Jesus, & to His final coming on the Last Day. It was created to look beyond our alienation & sinfulness to God’s intervention, as Jesus would take on human flesh so He might die for us. When we feel like God is giving us the silent treatment, Advent reminds us of words from John the Baptist:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The OT reading from Isaiah 64 is the Advent cry of the church when we’re especially concerned with our alienation from the heavenly Father caused by the awful consequences of human sinfulness. Isaiah 64 is the Advent cry of repentance for our indifference & outright rebellion against God: “Oh that you would rend the heavens & come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence… Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, & remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.” But those were the words of Isaiah, & they were not for long the heartfelt words of God’s people.
Around 100 years later, the city of Jerusalem lies in ruins at the command of Yahweh & under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. After many more generations of unfaithfulness on the part of God’s people, the prophet Malachi pens the last words of the OT:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great & awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children & the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come & strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6 ESV) There was kindness & severity in those words. Then – silence for over 400 years.
Those years were a difficult time of waiting & disillusion set in. Life was hard; the people were poor, ground down by foreign powers. The prosperity promised by the prophet Haggai, if they got their priorities right, did not materialize. Zechariah’s glorious predictions of the future messianic king & the day of God’s judgment & restoration did not come to pass.
The people began to doubt the words of the prophets, to feel God had forgotten them & let them down. That shows in an increasingly casual attitude to worship & the standards God set for them. Yahweh’s message for His people in Malachi began with reassurance of His constant & continuing love for them.
The rebukes that follow call them back to the covenant agreement which binds His people to Him in a very special relationship. The Day of the Lord is coming! It is vital that God’s people live in the light of that certainty. Then – silence for over 400 years. Maybe, after some cold shoulder treatment, the people would recognize their need for God’s love. How are you doing with that gift of a repentant heart, which you received from God’s Spirit when you 1st believed? In our day, we look forward to Christmas for the celebrations, for the presents, & for the worship services where so many more people attend than normal.
Beginning our preparations this morning, through the season of Advent, “Are you looking forward to Jesus?” You know what the answer should be, but is Jesus truly what you are looking forward to?
I remember, as a child, lying on the couch at night trying to sleep. As I recall, if I was in danger of throwing up I’d end up sleeping on the couch because it was closer to the bathroom.
Now, the cuckoo clock was also in the living room, & what sticks in my mind is the deafening drumbeat of the tick, tock, tick, tock, counting away the innumerable seconds until the sickness passed. Swallowed up by that awful & feverish silence there was the deafening drumbeat of the seconds ticking away one by one.
Has God been silent in your lives? If you have become spiritually deaf & blind, then the words of Isaiah 64 are for you. They’re part of a prayer, set in a time, when it appeared as though God had withdrawn Himself from men. It was like He’d spread out an impenetrable garment across the heavens, & hidden Himself, in silence, from His children:
There is no one who calls upon Your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of You;
for You have hidden your face from us,
& have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. (Isaiah 64:& ESV)
“Oh that you would rend the heavens & come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence… Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, & remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.” (Isaiah 64:1 & 9 ESV) Amen.
O Savior, rend the heavens wide; come down, come down with mighty stride; unlock the gates, the doors break down; unbar the way to heaven’s crown. O Fount of hope, how long, how long? When will You come with comfort strong? O come, O come, Your throne forego; console us in our vale of woe. Sin’s dreadful doom upon us lies; grim death looms fierce before our eyes. O come, lead us with mighty hand from exile to our promised land. There shall we all our praises bring & sing to You, our Savior King; there shall we laud You & adore forever & forevermore. Amen. LSB 355:1, 4, 6-7.
Opening video is 2:37 long.
 Isaiah 64:1 & 9 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet