Sermon May 10, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1444      Click here for audio worship.

May 10, 2020 Isaiah 35.1-10

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“The Ransomed of the Lord”

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
2 it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

8 And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 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.

 

  • Creation’s Gladness 1-2

 

One of the many things I love about God’s Word is how it reveals creation. Of course, the start of that is when God speaks all created things into existence. That speaks to the awesome power of God’s speech but I believe also to the beauty of that which is created. I know of one German scholar, for instance, who says that when Genesis says creation was good, it is referring to good in its beauty and esthetic quality. It was good to behold! The Bible also gives creation a sense of human quality, capable of groaning (Rom 8.22) or mourning (Hosea 4.3) as languishing at the sins of humanity. In the text for this morning we see creation rejoicing with joy and singing. Because of these kinds of references, I believe there is a deep connection with all of God’s creation. When sin is committed, it affects not just humans, but all of creation in some capacity. When redemption occurs, it affects creation is some fashion. I do not know precisely what to make of this and I am not advocating hugging trees, but I simply want us to see that our connection is biblical because God created all things. Perhaps we could approach it through what Paul writes in Colossians 1.15-17 when writing about Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. What fascinates me here is that all things hold together in Christ and I suspect that when sin comes into play and disrupts life and creation itself, it is only in Christ that all things can be held together. Without Jesus, sin would completely destroy us and creation.

The word that Isaiah brings us today is that creation rejoices in gladness, the wilderness and dry land shall be glad! The desert rejoices! Why is that? What brings gladness to creation? Verse 2 says that they shall see the glory of the Lord and the majesty of God. What follows is the revelation of that glory and majesty...it is everything that surrounds the Good News that God will come and save. This is what I want to explore today.

 

  • Strength to the Weak 3-4

 

God’s salvation is seen first in verses 3-4 in three areas: strength for weak hands, firmness in feeble knees, and reason to rid ourselves of anxiety. Could it be that this text is intended for those of us getting older? (Just joking) No, this passage is to illustrate that all of us are in need of redemption. Isaiah is proclaiming the Good News that God is coming. For Israel that meant that their exile would end. For everyone it meant that Jesus was coming. For us in our time right now we might say it means that Jesus will end this lock down and bring people home, that is, home to our churches again, to corporate worship as God intends. God will strengthen our hands and knees and relieve any anxiety so that we will be able to come together again. For some that is today, for others it may take longer, and that is okay, but God will give strength.

I take these verses like those T-shirts or hoodies you may have seen that have in bold letters, CALM DOWN or KEEP CALM, and then it will have some saying below. For school kids I saw one that read, “Keep calm, it’s P.E. not the Olympics”. If we had a shirt like that it would read, “Keep Calm, Jesus is Coming Again”. “Calm Down, God will Bring Strength for our Weakness”.

 

 

  • Signs of Redemption 5-7

 

The next three verse, 5-7, speak of human and creation redemptive wonders. Let’s hear is again!

 

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

 

We must make the connection here with Jesus, especially when He read from Isaiah in the synagogue in Luke 4.18-19,

 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

 

Or consider 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: 5 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. 6 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.

These are the signs of redemption and they proclaim God’s glory and majesty for all the world to see. Jesus is that redemption. He has come and we see in the Gospels those signs of eyes opened, lame men dancing, people fed, demons driven out, prophecy fulfilled. We have seen it, read about it, even experienced it in our own lives because Jesus has come to us as Jesus comes to all believers, to give us life and gifts and to take away our fear and our anxiety.

Isaiah reveals in these three verse that humanity is restored and creation is filled! All that stains our lives is washed away and all that scars the earth is healed. Water breaks forth in places we would never expect and vegetation grows beyond our wildest dreams. I still grow vegetables and I continue to hope that God would restore all things so that wild animals would not eat half my crop or bugs get my beans or weeds overrun everything!

These verses tell us why we can have hope. Here is the evidence, even if the evidence has yet to happen, it is still evidence of what God has promised. Many people have been beseeching God to come and heal our land. This is our 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. There is hope in the Bible, constant, persistent hope. No matter what the world presents us, there is always hope in God’s Word, our hope in God. I ran across Psalm 56 this week in my Psalm devotion time and found theses words…verses 3-4 and in 10-11,


3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

 

10 In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

 

We trust and hope in God and in His Word!

 

 

  • The Way of Holiness 8-9

 

Then Isaiah speaks of a highway. It is named the Way of Holiness. We should have more highways and streets named like this. Imagine giving directions to people, “You turn left on Righteousness Avenue and then right on the Way of Holiness and then you are there.” Isaiah describes it as a clear path, no wickedness, no ravenous beasts, that is, no threats on the way. This is the way of the redeemed. It is the path we are to take. John the Baptist proclaimed that we make a way for the Lord, but here God has made a way for us.

 

 

  • The Ransomed of the Lord 10

 

This passage of Isaiah 35 is a “grand scheme” type of prophetic word; it gives the big picture. But I also believe that God gives us little redemptive events all through our lives, things that happen along our way that we might call signs of redemption. I would like to suggest that coming back to worship is one of those signs. As I spoke two Sundays ago, I believe Jesus is calling us to come out! And Jesus is calling us to be unbound and let go! Couple that with Isaiah and we might consider our renewed journey into the world the Way of Holiness. That is the way we are to pursue and perhaps our break from corporate worship and break from engaging in the world might inspire us to go and make disciples, for we are among those whom Isaiah spoke, the redeemed who shall return with singing, with everlasting joy upon our heads, obtaining gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Remember when James and John came to Jesus and asked if they could sit on his left and right in glory and Jesus gave them a lesson on becoming servants and He concluded with this word in Mark 10.45 - “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We are the ones among many more who have been ransomed. The ransomed of the Lord are on this Way of Holiness, to be holy as the Father is holy, to be like Jesus, to exercise our faith in the way of sanctification. This is the prophetic word that feeds our lives and nurtures our hope and grows our faith. That is the way of holiness. It is in Jesus telling us to obey His commandments and walk in His way and follow Him. It is known in worship and prayer and fellowship and evangelism and service and all the aspects of being a disciple of Christ our Lord. We seek that which God calls out in our lives. Come out! Unbind them and let them go! In Christ the word is always “Yes!” Creation rejoices! The ransomed shall return! These are the promises of God’s Word, true, filled with life, driving away fear and anxiety, honing us in on peace, shalom.

 

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

 

The ransomed are those filled with 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. So many will panic at the first sign of crisis precisely because they do not have hope in the God who provides.

Our message to all of those people is Jesus. Jesus is the One who has paid the price and ransomed us. 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. Tell of what Isaiah has prophesied. In that proclamation, creation will sing with us and the redeemed will walk the Way of Holiness. 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).

 
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