Is it not yet just a little while before Lebanon will be turned into a fertile field, and the fertile field will be considered as a forest? And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The afflicted also shall increase their gladness in the LORD, and the needy of mankind shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the ruthless will come to an end, and the scorner will be finished, indeed all who are intent on doing evil will be cut off; who cause a person to be indicted by a word, and ensnare him who adjudicates at the gate, and defraud the one in the right with meaningless arguments. Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, "Jacob shall not now be ashamed, nor shall his face now turn pale; but when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, they will sanctify My name; indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. And those who err in mind will know the truth, and those who criticize will accept instruction."
Sermon for Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 8/30/20
The End Is in Sight
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Our world today is rocked with scandals. Our political leaders have lied, cheated, stolen and made themselves rich and many people much poorer. During this extended pandemic pseudo-crisis some people have lost their retirements. Some have lost their life savings. Some have lost their jobs. And it seems that it was all so that a political party could force an election to go their way. This situation has been exacerbated by the coming election. The public media has abandoned its role as watchdog, of keeping us informed of the misbehavior of public officials. It has become part of the problem instead of protectors of the people.
What a painful and clear object lesson on the corruption of this present world, and the total depravity of man. Isaiah didn't know it at the time, but he was speaking about just such men and political entities and fraudulent media corporations when he prophesied the words of our text, this morning. And those words are words of comfort because they tell us that the end is in sight. And that is our theme, this morning: The End Is In Sight.
Of course, these people aren't the only ones Isaiah was addressing. He was addressing all sorts of evil people. Listen to the words he uses: For the ruthless will come to an end, and the scorner will be finished, indeed all who are intent on doing evil will be cut off; who cause a person to be indicted by a word, and ensnare him who adjudicates at the gate, and defraud the one in the right with meaningless arguments. The targets here are all those who take advantage of the little guy, of the innocent. God has a word of judgment for those who abuse the righteous. And that word is, the end is in sight.
The end of all the pains, the end of all the frustrations, is in sight. Is it not yet just a little while? God says it is almost here. And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The afflicted also shall increase their gladness in the LORD, and the needy of mankind shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
Actually, that day is here! We were the deaf - and we have heard the words of a book – the Bible! We were blind, 1 Corinthians 2:14 says that a natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit because you need to have the Spirit to understand. And what do we say when comprehension dawns? "Oh, I see!" We are the blind mentioned in this text. The gloom and darkness is the gloom of sin and the darkness of our condemnation for our sins and evil. When the Holy Spirit comes, He enlightens us with the light of the Gospel and of faith, and we see the goodness of the Lord and of salvation, and we rejoice.
We are also the afflicted. We are afflicted by the devil, the world and our flesh. They entice us to sin, and they punish us for holiness, and ridicule us for faith, and persecute us for Christ's sake and for His name. We are those whose gladness is increased in the Lord. We are gladdened by the forgiveness of our sins, and gladdened by the hope of everlasting life.
After all, what can the world do to us, really? The world can make us hurt now, and the world can kill us. While we suffer now, we can look forward to the hope of the resurrection where there is no more pain and sorrow. Almost anything can better be endured when we see that the end is in sight. Besides this truth, God also promises to strengthen us and help us to endure and bear up. And if the world should do its worst to us, and kill us, it merely hurries us on toward heaven! As Paul said in Philippians 1:21, For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
We are not just looking forward to that day of salvation and everlasting joy. It is already the day of which Isaiah prophesied, God was telling us already eight centuries before Christ that it was just a little while. The end is in sight.
It has to be in sight, because the very end of the world began already, on Good Friday. When Jesus died, He ended the old world, and destroyed sins and death. That was Judgment Day! God judged your sins – and mine – and punished them. He poured out His wrath on Jesus. And Jesus pours out His love and forgiveness, and everlasting life on us. We take hold of it by faith, and we look forward to the fullness of it, knowing that the end is in sight!
Those evil people who take advantage of others and abuse others will be dealt with by God. That is part of our joy! The power of those who do evil will be gone, and God will settle with them in justice. They will come to an end and be finished entirely, just as Isaiah says. But even now, we know that the end is coming. We can see it in the Word and hear it in God's good news, proclaimed to us by His will. We can feel it in the wounded spirit of our age.
God guarantees it! He speaks through Isaiah about how He will teach, "And those who err in mind will know the truth, and those who criticize will accept instruction." It isn't by accident, and it isn't by chance. It is by the work and plan of the Lord. God finds a way. He pushes each of us through the door. We are not gathered here by chance, but by design. It is the work of God.
He says so in our text. He says that His people are "the work of His hands." Each one of us has been chosen by God, called by name in our Baptism, and kept by Him for eternal life. When we stop and consider what God has done to call us and gather us and keep us, we will sanctify His name, as Isaiah says, and stand in awe of the God of Israel. He has made the things happen that we needed to happen. He paid for our sins, and then caused the Gospel to be preached to us. Some of us were carried into the church as infants, and some of us have come the long way around, but God has claimed each one of us. It is His handiwork, and it is awe inspiring and praiseworthy and we thank Him.
And we know that the end, which began the day that Jesus died, is almost come to completion. Jesus pointed to that in Luke 21:28, "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Some of us here may yet be alive in this world when Jesus calls all things to an end and raises the bodies of all people from their graves. It will be a wonderful and terrifying day. For those who rise to be with Jesus, it will be wonderful beyond all telling. For those who stand on His left, and hear Jesus speak those four most horrible words in all of human history, "I Never Knew You!" it will be a day of unmatched and unimaginable terror - a terror that will never end.
And the end is in sight. God is going to end the power of evil men and women to hurt us. He is going to silence the liars. He is going to stop the ruthless evil. He is going to end the power of the wicked to defraud and cheat us. And He will show the true joy of the Lord to His redeemed. That is what the Bible says. That is what we confess. The end is in sight!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
Monday, August 31, 2020
The End Is In Sight