Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for Lent 4 — Isaiah 42:14-21

Sermon for Lent 4 — Isaiah 42:14-21

Augustana, 2011

24 Sermon for Lent 4 mp3 audio

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon today is the Old Testament reading for today from Isaiah chapter 42.

This is an interesting reading especially when paired up with the Gospel reading.  It begins with the Lord speaking.  “For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself.”  It’s not really a picture of God we have in our minds, God as the strong and silent type.  But since the beginning, since He called Israel to be His own, He has watched them twist and rebel against him like a fish on a line.  After He delivered them safely out of Egypt, He watched them make a golden calf.  After He delivered them safely into the Promised, He watched them form a kingdom of their own and relegate their Lord the King to a position equal to the idols they would make with their hands.  But the time has arrived when He will not remain silent any longer.  He was not silent all those years because He did not care but because of His great love.  It has been difficult to restrain Himself.  But now, “I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant.”  Again this is not the image we would easily apply to God but here He applies it to Himself.  He longs to deliver His own.  The time for action has arrived.  “[This is] some great thing with which Jehovah has, as it were, long been pregnant, is now about to be born.” (Young, 129)

In verse 15, the Lord goes on to describe this as a complete reversal of nature as we have come to know it.  The highest mountains He will make low and the rivers He will dry up and expose their islands.  God does it to prove His point.  The change continues in verse 16.  The change is so radical, even the blind will go on a way they do not know.  That the blind are thus able to act contrary to their physical condition is due solely to the sovereign work of God, “I shall cause to go… and I shall guide them.”  God removes the darkness so that it is light and God makes the rough places smooth so that the journey is made easier.  This is a metaphor for the work of God in conversion.  It is He who works the redemption.  “I have done for them,” says the Lord.  In His final line, God puts those to shame who believe chunks of metal to be Gods.

God’s work here is complete.

The Old Testament Readings can be harder for us to understand.  We are separated from the world Jesus knew by two thousand years and by great differences in cultural and society.  The years really add up when the readings are from the Old Testament and we do not immediately know what’s being spoken of or prophesied.  The broader context of chapter 42 is that it is one of the Servant Songs, one of the passages that describe the Lord’s perfect servant who will come to serve and redeem His people.  Christians derive a great deal of our understanding about who Jesus is and what He does, not from the New Testament as much as from the Old Testament and from passages like the Servant Songs in Isaiah.  The chapter starts out, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.  2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  (Is 42:1–3)   It sounds like the Lord is talking about Jesus.  He is!  This speech becomes a song by verse 10.  “Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. 11 Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the habitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains.  12 Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the coastlands.” (Is 42:10–12)  Why this great song?  Because the Lord will no longer hold His peace.  The creation as we have come to know will be reordered.  The mountains made low and the rivers dried up and the blind see, because the Lord is sending His faith Servant.

If today’s service were a musical or maybe even an opera, the Old Testament reading would be sung by the narrator explaining why Jesus is healing the man born blind today.  It’s about God no longer restraining Himself but crying out to do this great thing and fix what is broken in the world through Jesus.

But there is something of the Jews in us too, those who simply could not understand how God could permit someone to heal on the Sabbath.  The blind man teaches them.  “This is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (Jn 9:30–33)

In the same way, Isaiah now addresses the people of Israel in verse 18.  Listen, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see!”  (v. 18)  Repent!  Hear what it is you really need to hear instead of what you want to hear.  The task of all people before God is to repent, especially now the blind who are unable to see God.  These are not just physical conditions, but spiritual blindness and deafness; they lost and condemned creatures.  If Israel would but turn from her deafness and hear or turn from her blindness and see, she would be spared the judgment.  But she cannot.  It there is to be redemption it will be a work of sovereign grace alone.  More than a mere opening of the eyes is needed’ there must be looking to see what needs to be seen.  Servant Israel is blind.

The irony is that of all the peoples of the earth, Israel should be able to see the most clearly, yet they are the most blind, they who were rescued by God through the Red Sea, they who were delivered into the Promised Land and able to conquer the local Canaanite kings.  Israel should not be blind but she is and therefore does not fulfill the necessary requirements for being the Lord’s servant.  He must send His own and He does!

Let Israel be as blind and deaf as she will, the Lord intends to act.  “The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious.” (v. 21) For the sake of Himself and His mercy, He will make plain the Law in the body of His own Servant, the Son, Jesus Christ.  Israel’s condition stands in stark opposition to the beauty and purity of God’s Law.  In her rebellion, Israel despised God’s Law, but it is God’s intention to carry out His purposes.  He will magnify His Law so that all the world will see the glory and honor of His truth and authority.  The Lord Himself will see that the Law is obeyed and completed thereby showing Himself to be glorious and honorable.  And so when is God’s Law glorified and fully explained but at the cross of Jesus?

So it was then that when the Servant came, He said about the man born blind, he was born blind “that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  And so it was that the truly blind did not understand what the Servant did.  “Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”  (Jn 9:16-17)  The blind man can see with more than his eyes just as Isaiah foretold.

Today we can see Jesus in action healing the man born blind, serving as the Lord faithful Servant, fulfilling His God’s Law and even glorifying God in the fulfillment of it.  To this day there are many like the Pharisees here who stare at Jesus actions like a cow staring a new gate.  And then there are others who can truly see.  God bless you richly as you see again what our Lord has done through His servant Jesus Christ for all creation and for you.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

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