Sermon for December 6, 2020 — Three Truths to Bring You Comfort
Epistle Lesson: 2 Peter 3:8-14:
8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
Psalm 14 in Christian Worship Supplement
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one.
Will evildoers never learn—
those who devour my people and do not call on the Lord?
You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Israel rejoice and be glad!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 1:1-8:
1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”–3“a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'”
4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
6A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”
What is it that brings you comfort? As you know, my family recently suffered a bout of COVID-19. During that time, I tried to find anything at all that could comfort me. I would try to find the softest blankets that I could to wrap myself up in while I sat shivering with a fever. When I could eat, I would try to find food that would comfort my stomach. I would go with something that was a little bland , but which had good memories from my youth. One of the things that I found to be comfort food at this time what is Campbells chicken noodle soup. Not only was it easy on the stomach, but it was also a thing I remember my mother serving me when I felt sick when I was a child. So it comforted me both physically and emotionally. This passage of scripture that we are looking at today contain some of the most comforting words that you will find in all of scripture. Today we are going to be looking at …
Three Truths to Bring You Comfort
I. Your hard service is completed
II. Your sin has been paid for
III. You will receive a “double” blessing
To fully appreciate the comfort that is in this verse, it helps to know a bit about the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. The first 39 chapters of the book of Isaiah deal with the situation in Isaiah’s day and time. Isaiah was sent to the people of Judah and Jerusalem about 700 years before the birth of Christ. It was his job to show the people their sins, call them to repentance, and show them what God had in store for them if they did not repent. He did this in a masterful way. He began by calling out the sins of all of the nations that surrounded Judah. I can well imagine the people of Judah listening to Isaiah and hearing the punishment that God had in store for them. After Isaiah had done that, he showed Judah in Jerusalem that they were guilty of the same sins for which their neighbors were going to be judged. He left them no wiggle room. He showed them that they had turned to other gods, perverted gods law, and were engaged in an empty sort of worship life. Isaiah said that God was going to Kerry through on a threat that he had made way back at the time of Moses. He was going to use a foreign nation to oppress them. He specifically mentioned the nation of Babylon, which was not a very powerful nation at the time , but would grow to become a powerhouse in the ancient near East. This nation, he said, would invade them, burn and loot their capital city, and take a third of them captive into Babylon. This is the bleak picture that they are left with at the end of the first half of the book of Isaiah.
What Isaiah does next, is to imagine himself living at the time of the Babylonian captivity. What message would God give him to share with this people? He sums up the message in the opening verse of our text. 1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. What He is doing in this verse is to sum up the message that he would share with them in the second half of his book. God’s comfort was that they would be delivered from Babylon, he would send a savior from sin, and the savior would win for them any eternal existence in heaven.
First of all, let’s briefly look at that 1st bit of comfort that they received. The comfort they received was that their hard service would be over. This is speaking, specifically, of their captivity in Babylon. It would be a time when they could not worship at the temple, when there would be no King sitting upon the throne in Jerusalem, and when 1/3 of the citizens of Judah in Jerusalem would be held captive over in Babylon. As they sat there in captivity, they would think that there would be no way that they could be rescued from this. After all, they were being held by the most powerful nation on the face of the earth at that time. Just as it seemed for the children of Israel enslaved in Egypt about 700 years before this, it would seem that they had no deliverance, no escape, no hope. Isaiah, though, promise them that God would deliver them from their captivity. When they were powerless to do anything about their physical condition, God would bring the Babylonians low and he would raise up a new leader. Isaiah very specifically names this leader , Cyrus the ruler of the Persians. This man would free them from their captivity , allow them to return home, and give them permission to rebuild their city and their temple. We know from a reading of the rest of Old Testament history that God did just this. Why should we spend any time looking at this at all? It’s because it shows how true it is that God is able to deliver us from the thing that impresses us most in life, our sins.
God promises us a great deliverance from sin here. He promises a deliverance that only he could workout with his almighty power. Just as it took his almighty power to free his people from their captivity to the Babylonians, it takes the almighty power of God to free us from our sins. Listen to the vigorous way in which he describes his deliverance for us. 3A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
On this Sunday, these words remind us especially of the work of John the Baptist. It reminds us of that bold proclaimer of God’s truth who called the people of his stage repentance and pointed them to their savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. However, this is the kind of action that God takes at all times. It is the action that he took in our lives. Speaks about leveling mountains and raising up valleys. What does that remind us of? It reminds us of what he does in the heart of every sinful human being. He breaks through all of our defenses. The defenses that we throw up are those times and we insist that we are good enough and that we are righteous enough tamarit God’s reward. But he uses the law, the way John the Baptist boldly called people to repentance, to show us our sins in all of their ugliness. He breaks down those earthly barrier’s that we throw up and convinces us that there is no way that we could earn Salvation on our own. He shows us just how sinful and weak we are , how powerless we are to save ourselves.
And then he points us to Jesus. In the second part of this longer section of the book of Isaiah, that is exactly what Isaiah the Prophet does. He points the people to the suffering servant of God. In chapters 52 and 50 three of the book of Isaiah, the Prophet does what John the Baptist did in his day. He points us to the suffering savior who, as the Lamb of God, took upon himself all of our sins and weaknesses and was crushed for our iniquities and who brought us healing through his wounds. This is the greatest comfort that we have in life. This is what shows us that our God has used all of the power at his disposal to save us who, if left to our own devices, would stay walled up in our insistence that we could do the job ourselves when we just cannot. It is so comforting to know that our God has not abandoned us when we, like the nation of Judah, took every opportunity that we had to sin against our God. Finally, discomfort is made even better when we know what the forgiveness of our sins leads to.
In the opening words of this section, Isaiah said that the third thing they could bring them comfort was knowing that God would pay them back double for all of their sins. When he says double here, it means that God’s blessing is almost impossible to fully understand in this world. He isn’t just giving us the opposite of what we deserve, he is giving us much more than we could possibly imagine him giving us.
In this section, Isaiah writes, 6A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” First, we see A reminder of who we are. We are mortal. Every achievement that mankind will ever produce in this world is like the flower of the field or the grass that so easilly Withers up when a hot dry wind blows up on it. God’s achievements are not like that, though. He tells us that his word lasts forever. That means his deliverance is not just for a time. It isn’t even something that just simply lasts a lifetime. His blessings to us will keep flowing for all of eternity. This is what The Lord, our God, has promised us. Because his word lasts forever, we can bank on it. And in this we can find our greatest comfort in life. Amen.