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Sermon - December 6, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1238

December 6, 2015      2nd Advent                                                                 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Dr. Ed Pettus                                                                                                  Isaiah 64:1-12

 

“A Plea Toward Heaven”

 

  • Come, Lord Jesus

 

Of the thousands of things I love about the Bible, one of them is the way the Bible ends.  In Revelation 22, the very end of the chapter, last chapter, second to last verse:

 

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20)

 

Jesus makes the same promise an angel made when Jesus ascended into heaven in Acts 1:11, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?  This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 

 

Jesus is coming again!  John’s prayer to end Revelation pops into my mind from time to time, especially when I see news of a shooting or terrorism around the world or Christian persecution, “Come, Lord Jesus!” 

 

This is also a great prayer (and short too!) for advent.  Advent is the time we focus on Jesus coming into the world and we do that with two events, Christmas and the Second Coming.  Perhaps the trouble we have with Advent is the other aspect, that is, the waiting.  We are waiting patiently, maybe, perhaps, perhaps not.  We are waiting for Jesus Christ to come again.  When we were children we hating waiting for Christmas to come, and that was when Christmas was barely mentioned before mid December.  Now kids have to wait for over a month as Christmas is commercialized prior to Halloween! 

 

So we wait, but we wait with great expectation.  It is a good prayer on bad days or good, "Come, Lord Jesus." 

 

 

  • The Hope of Advent

 

Advent is also a season of hope.  There is hope in the prayer for Jesus to come.   It is the yearning for God to straighten things out.  It is the plea of the Psalms, “How long, O Lord?”  It has been the desire of every generation since Jesus ascended into heaven, that He would come down, that He would come again.  You may see that people are saying the times are fulfilled and Jesus could come at any time…this is true, but it is no more true than it was when John wrote Revelation, no more true than during medieval times or world wars or perhaps even the sexual revolution of the 1960’s.  Every generation has had sufficient reason to believe that their generation would see the return of Christ.  Don’t get me wrong, I hope Christ comes in our generation.  That’s what Advent is about, hope. 

 

I selected Isaiah 64 partly because it is a passage of hope.  Verse 4 is the hope – “no one has seen or heard what great things God will do for those who wait for Him.”  There’s the rub, those who wait.  We have been waiting for 2,000 plus years!  Come, Lord Jesus, is expressed in a different way by Isaiah.  “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down…”

  • To set the world right,
  • To do justice,
  • To show mercy,
  • To meet your bride, the church,
  • To take us to heaven and end this broken existence.

 

 

  • A Prayer for Advent (Isaiah 64:1-2)

 

 

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— 2as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
 

We might make this first verse a prayer for Advent.  Open the heavens and come down!  The Jews had been praying for and hoping God would come long before Jesus was born.  And generations have been praying for Christ to return since the ascension.  In Isaiah’s time the prayer sought God to down like he did to deliver them out of Egypt. 

 

When God does come down big things happen: fire, quakes, trembling nations…

 

God's advent is likened to a brush fire and a boiling pot of water.  It is like a wildfire that destroys yet also heals the land.   It is like a water pot on your stove that boils water.  "A watched pot never boils."  Advent is sometimes slow to come. 

 

Our waiting becomes impatient because we desire that God would come down and make his name known.  We look at some of the conditions of the world and pray that God would come down. The threat of ISIS around the world, fighting in Syria, constant trouble in the Middle East, strife at work, dysfunction in our families, it all adds up to crying out for God to come down.

 

  • God’s History of Advent (Isaiah 64:3-5a)

 

When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
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.
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. 

 

The second section of this passage is a recital of God's awesome works.  God has acted this way before.  God has responded to Israel's petition.  We have promises made and kept.  We have testimony to God's action taken.  We have cause to remember how God has come down in Israel’s history and so we figure there is no reason God will not come down again.  "You've done it before, God, come to help once more."  What I love about verse three is that Israel knows God will come but Israel has no idea what to expect from God once God begins to take action.  You did awesome things that we did not expect.  God will turn the world upside down to save his people.  The mountains will tremble, the fires will rage at God's presence but we have no idea what wonders God will do when he comes. 

 

In Advent we anticipate God acting, we expect God's coming, but we really cannot be sure what God will do.  The shepherds did not expect to find a baby lying in a manger to be the Savior of the world.  We don't expect that God will move in our lives in miraculous ways.  Pharaoh could not fathom that this God could deliver his people from slavery.  But there is no god like this God, like our God.

 

I want to point out that Paul quotes Isaiah 64:4 in 1 Corinthians 2:9. 

 

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”

 

Paul interprets that Jesus is the One whom no eye had seen or heard.  It becomes obvious to us that in Jesus Christ the heavens were opened and God came down.  And yet, we can still use this verse for the Second Coming because no eye has seen and no ear has heard what God has prepared for us in Christ’s return. 

 

 

  • A Confession for Advent (Isaiah 64:5b-7)

 

Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
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.
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.

 

There is another reason why Isaiah call upon God to come down.  Sin.  Sin causes us to fade like a leaf.  This fall season, as with every fall, we see hundreds of leaves that fall and become brittle and the wind tosses them around.  The effects of sin on our lives lead us to cry out to God for forgiveness.  We see the power of sin in our society every day.  The saddest thing is that so few are calling out to God because of our public sins.  The sad thing is that verse 7 has become reality in the larger culture.  There is no one who calls upon your name. 

 

 

  • A Plea To Heaven  (Isaiah 64:8-12)

 

 

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.
Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever.  Behold, please look, we are all your people.
10 Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
11 Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins.
12 Will you restrain yourself at these things, O Lord?  Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?

 

This last part of Isaiah 64 is our petition after we confess our sins, "forgive us, do not be angry, look upon us with mercy."  The potter and the clay metaphor reminds us that God is the one who shapes our lives, the one who takes a misshapen lump and spins it around until something is created of great value.  We may get dizzy spinning on the potter’s wheel, we may not know what will be shaped until the final outcome, but we can be sure that God will create something new. 

 

If I have read this text correctly, there are at least four reasons to offer an Advent plea to heaven. 

 

  1. Come so that all will know that you alone are God.  Come because there are forces that would take our lives from us and those enemies would tremble at your sight.

 

  1. Come because, when you have come before, wonderful, unexpected things happened.  We think we know so much and that we might even be able to live on our own.  Nothing surprises us anymore and nothing saves us except you, O God.

 

  1. Come so we will not sin.  Our lives are helpless unless the Lord comes in and molds us to be like Jesus.  Sin will keep us in bondage unless the Lord comes.

 

  1. Come because we are yours, we are the clay that you have responsibility to shape. We are all your people, your vessels, your pots, your bowls.   

 

In Advent it is time to pray that God will come again as we remember God's coming long ago in a lowly stable and as we await the coming of Jesus in glory.  Amen.