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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1227

September 6, 2015                                                                                          Isaiah 35:1-10

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“Behold, Your God”

 

The Bible is filled with promise.  I don’t just mean that God has promised us life and salvation and lots of other things.  I mean it is like when we say that someone has promise or some idea has promise.  There is hope in the Bible, constant, persistent hope.  No matter what the world presents us, there is always hope in the Bible, hope in God.  No matter what life circumstances come our way, there is hope.  There is the promise of hope and there is the certainly of hope.  It is a sure hope, but it is still hope in that it is not yet here.  The promise is good, the promise is sure, but still a promise that everything will pan out as promised in Isaiah 35, or John 14, or Revelation 21-22. 

      And yet, this is all we have.  In the end of all things, at the end of our rope, there is promise and hope. 

 

  1. Creation Rejoices  Isa. 35:1-2

 

Let’s take a look at Isaiah 35:1-2.  It begins with the wilderness, dry land, and desert.  The picture is of barrenness.   It is a lifeless setting that is emphasized by using three different words for the same arid land – wilderness, dry land, and desert.  But this land is under a promise.  There is a future of some sort for this wilderness.  Think about the ways the Bible has emphasized the land.  Abraham is promised land for descendents.  John the Baptist is one who cries out in the wilderness.  Israel journeyed forty years in the wilderness.  There is this interesting passage in Hosea 4:1-3 that demonstrates how the land suffers when God’s people rebel. 

Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,
    for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
    and no knowledge of God in the land;
there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
    they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

 

Sin destroys creation.  Sin turns the land into a wilderness.  But, in Isaiah 35 there is a promise that not all things shall remain dry and lifeless.  The land shall be glad and the desert shall rejoice.  Look at all the upbeat words in just the first two verses: glad, rejoice, blossom, rejoice (again), joy, and singing.  Creation itself shall rejoice and even receive the glory and majesty of God and his land.  It is the hope of promise.  The lifeless shall have life.  The barren will blossom.  Someday, in God’s time it will happen.

 

2. Humanity Saved Isa. 35:3-6a

 

The result of the promise is a word of encouragement to the people, “say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not!  Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.’”  The section of 35:3-6a is filled with what happens when God comes on the scene.  When God comes there is salvation –

            the eyes of the blind are opened,

            ears are cleared,

            the lame leap,

            the mute sing!

 

This is our hope – that God will come and save.  It has always been the hope of God’s people.  It has always been the prayer of God’s people and of many people seeking to come to God.  Many people today have been beseeching God to come and heal our land.  This is the hope.  This is the promise, the prophetic promise of God.  This is one of the places in scripture where we see that promise in the Bible.  As I said earlier, there is hope in the Bible, constant, persistent hope.  No matter what the world presents us, there is always hope in the Bible, hope in God. 

 

3. How we know!  Isa. 35:6b-10

 

The remaining verses in Isaiah 35 speak to the reasons we have hope.  They tell us why we can have hope.  Here is the evidence, even if the evidence has yet to happen,

For waters break forth in the wilderness…

 

All the dry places are revitalized with water, all the beasts that could destroy are tamed, and all the people are ransomed.  This is God’s way: life from death, blossoms from barrenness, the lost are found, and therefore, there is always a hope.  Always hope!  The reason we have hope is because God has acted and will act again. 

 

Isaiah tells the anxious to be strong and fear not, behold your God…

The chapter ends with the main reason we might not fear,

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

 

The God we behold is the one who ransomed us through Jesus Christ.  He puts a song in our hearts and brings joy and gladness to us.  Behold, your God. 

 

4. Behold, Jesus.  Matt. 11

 

Turn to Matthew 11.  John’s disciples are seeking to find out if Jesus is the one they had hoped for.  Remember too the words of Isaiah that the blind will see, the deaf hear...Jesus tells John’s disciples, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

 

Jesus is a fulfillment to the prophecy of Isaiah and of all the Old Testament.  Jesus is the hope and the promise that all the promises of the Bible reveal. 

 

Hebrews 6:19

17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

 

In a world that is constantly changing, and moving away from God’s way, we have an anchor.  The anchor is a hope set firmly in Jesus. 

 

 

5. Behold, Your God.  Hope for the future.

 

Proverbs 23:18 Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

           

The hope has been around for a long long time.  Even before Jesus.  But in Jesus we have the fulfillment and the complete confirmation of the hope given us by God.  We can mourn the loss of Christian influence in our country and we might be anxious about how things are progressing, but in the midst of everything, in the midst of the turmoil, we have hope.  We are the only ones who really have hope.  So many people are living in despair and don’t even know why.  So many people are living in darkness and don’t even realize it.  So many are worried about the future or if there is even going to be a future. 

            Our message to all of those people is, “Behold, your God.”  Behold, Jesus is the only one who can deliver you from despair.  Jesus is the light in the darkness.  Jesus is the only hope for a broken world and a broken people.  That is our message and our hope.  But that message will never be heard if we, as the church, are not the ones telling it.  Jesus told the disciples of John to go tell him what you have heard and seen.  That is all we are called to do as well, tell everyone what we have heard and seen in Jesus Christ.  Behold, your God.  He is our promise and our hope.  Amen.

 

Benediction:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Rom. 15:13).