Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1328
Dr. Ed Pettus December 3, 2017 Isaiah 64.1-9
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
“That You Would Come Down”
That You Would Come Down
It’s Advent! Happy Advent! Advent is the season before Christmas. It is a season of expectation. It is a season anticipating the coming of God into the world. Certainly, that includes the coming of the Christ child. It also includes our anticipation of Christ’s second advent. We might also think about advent, or at least I do, as those times when we experience God in our lives, kind of a “God has come and I really know it!” time. We live in a time when God has come and is here by His Spirit, and yet we know that Christ will come again. We know that the Bible prays for God to come, like the passage today, Isaiah 64.1 “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down...” I think we would like an answer to that prayer these days! I also think of the end of Revelation when the prayer is for Christ to come again, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!’” (Rev. 22.20) Come, Lord Jesus. Come. This is the prayer of advent. This is the prayer of expectation and perhaps a prayer yearning for the end of suffering and evil and corruption. Come, Lord, come!
Who is this God who comes down? Who is this God who has promised to come again? Isaiah demonstrates who this God is about how we can recognize his advent in our lives. This is what I want us to consider today, the advent of God in our lives today. We know that Christ has come in His first advent. We know that Christ will return in His second advent. But how do we know God’s advent with us between those two events?
His Advent in Presence
First, we know God’s coming in His presence. Isaiah 64.1-3 speaks of God’s presence three times.
v. 1 that the mountains might quake at your presence
v. 2 that the nations might tremble at your presence
v. 3 the mountains quaked at your presence
Anytime we see a repetition of words, especially in the Hebrew language, it is a particular point of emphasis. This is how Israel had experienced the advent of God, in the movement of the earth at His coming. The quaking of the earth and the trembling of nations signaled the presence of God. This particular memory of of Israel is probably recalling God at Mt. Sinai and God in the exodus causing mountains and nations to tremble at His power to deliver His people and to meet them on the mountain. What we see is that creation itself responds to God’s advent. When God is present, the earth quakes! When God is present, nations tremble.
The purpose of His coming is found in verse two, to make His name known. This is one of the reasons God comes, to make His name known. Think about the greatest name we know, Jesus Christ. His name became know through His first Advent. His name shall be Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. We call on the name that we know and the God we know who is present. Immanuel, God with us.
We also look for the ways we experience God’s presence. It might not be how Israel did, but it may be in more subtle ways today. We experience God in creation, perhaps in an earthquake, but more often in something more quiet, a breeze, a flower, a gentle rain. We experience God in relationships with family or friends. We may experience God is the way we see world events unfolding. We may experience God in and through Scripture. We experience God in worship. There are a multitude of ways we can know that God is with us. This is how we know His advent, His coming into our lives through His Spirit.
His Advent in Actions
Second, we know God’s advent through His actions.
3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.
God did awesome things and acts for those who wait for him. Again, the memory is all the great things God has done for Israel, most likely a reference to the Exodus. The Exodus is the primary event of the Old Testament. It is the event of God’s advent that marks Israel’s life and their memory. Psalm 105 is a classic example of Israel marking the actions of God. Let me give you a quick outline of Psalm 105.
7-25 is the story of Genesis and the covenant He made with Abraham and the story of Joseph
26-38 is the beginning of the story of the exodus and all that happened in Egypt
39-45 is how God cared for Israel as they began their wilderness journey until they came to the promised land.
These are the awesome things God did and no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like this God.
We also lay claim to this narrative of exodus and deliverance and we add to it the actions of God through Jesus and our story of exodus from sin and death in Christ’s resurrection. We also tell of the wonderful things He has done today, bringing healing, forgiveness, hope, salvation, blessings of all kinds to our lives. We know God’s advent today in His awesome actions.
His Advent as Father/Maker
The third way this passage of Isaiah recognizes His advent is in who He is as Father and Maker.
8 But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
The first reference is God as Father. This is, of course, how Jesus expressed God as Father and called us to do the same when we learned to prayer, Our Father. God is our heavenly Father. He is the perfect Father, unlike our earthly fathers who have flaws, yes, we do, but God is the perfect Father. He teaches, and leads, and disciplines, and more of all He loves. This is how we experience God’s advent, with God as our Father.
The next reference is maker, or more precise, a potter. God is making the clay into a work of His own hand. I use the term maker rather than creator here because God is making something out of what exists rather than creating out of what does not yet exist. God takes us as we are and molds us into something better or new, a new creation. Think of the ways God has molded your life, either by His word, or Spirit, or trials of life. God is at work constantly to mold us into a vessel that makes His name known. Paul writes this thought in Philippians 1.6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God the Maker, God the Potter is working on us every day!
His Advent for Forgiveness
A fourth way we experience God’s advent or the result of His advent is in forgiveness. Sin is a large part of this Isaiah 64 passage. We need forgiveness. Look at the verses that address the sin of Israel, 5b-7 & 9,
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 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, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities... 9 Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.
The need for forgiveness is great. That forgiveness is most known for us in the advent of Christ. It is even a part of the Christmas story.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1.18-21
The name is Jesus in Greek. In Hebrew the equivalent name is Joshua which literally means, “he saves”. Jesus is the one who saves us from our sins. This is the one who comes to forgive. It is only through God’s advent that we know freedom from sin and death.
What I hope that we can see today is that advent is not just one season in the life of the church. It is not just about the first and second coming of Jesus Christ, but is also about how God has come and is come. He has come in the exodus. He has come in His presence. He has come to take action. He has come as our Father and Maker. He has come to forgive. Advent is more than a season, but a way of life with God, the God who comes. Amen.