The Mighty Way of the Lord
Second in a series of five
Isaiah 40:1-11 // 2 Peter 3:8-14 // Mark 1:1-8
Dear friends in Christ,
The way of the Lord. Last week, Pastor Griffin started out with the phrase “My Way or the highway.” Today, we see that at least in one instance, Isaiah chooses the highway. Which reminds me that on all kinds of occasions I in my youth would be a little brother to my two brothers in the back of our car on our way home from something, my Dad would tell me to stop, then he’d tell me, “If you keep on doing that, you’re gonna walk home” and I would stop. But I remember particularly on only one occasion that as I was doing all that a little brother seems called to do, my dad told me to stop, and he told me to stop, and I didn’t back down, and so Dad followed through on his threat, opened up the car door, he told me to get out, and I walked the last block home. It wasn’t that long – it was only the last block – but…
I tell you that to tell you this: there were two ways to go that day, and they were really only one way. There was the way of obedience that led home quickly or the way of repentance that took time. But they really were one in the same.
Just like last week, we find Isaiah giving us the image of the conquering king. Last week, we explored our God’s faithfulness, faithful even when we cannot see what he is doing, faithful to deliver an eternal purpose to our days, faithful in unexpected ways.
Today, we explore the MIGHTY way of the Lord, how the might of our God is so vast that it is unlike our strength. Three lessons that we draw from three readings today, three adjectives that further describe our God’s might. First it is a gentle might. Second it is a patient might. Third, it is a humble might.
First, his might is gentle… I’ll tell you this Benjamin and I, we carry on one of the traditions of my childhood. We wrestle. Actually Benjamin calls it “Knock Papa Down.” He pushes and I fall. I grab him and make bear sounds and we roll around. He gets worked up and runs at me from across the room. He pushes me down with all of his might. It’s a fun game, but my point is that, he can go all out on me; I don’t use my full strength on him. He can have fun at me full force. I use my strength for his safety.
We go to the text. Isaiah writes, All flesh is like grass. But he is forever. All the world is wilderness. But he makes the path of salvation.
Thought number one is that his might is not like that of a father for a son. Not like a father for a son… in this way – his might is DIFFERENT IN KIND. It is the difference between the might of beast and the might of a mountain. It’s the difference between Creator and Created. It’s not simply a difference in degree. It’s a difference in kind.
Thought number two is that his might is like that of a father for a son. It is like a father for a son… in this way – his might is FOR us. The one who is eternal is eternally working for the good of those who love him who are called according to his purpose. The one who is unlike the grass that withers has sent not a death-dealing word but a life-giving word that stands forever.
Second, his might is patient… Consider the epistle lesson from Peter – we have a God who is not slow as we count slowness… We’re like a kid at Six Flags – it’s going to take forever before he’s tall enough to ride the rides. We’re like a kid after his birthday – it’s going to take forever for that day to come around again. But God’s might is patient. He is strong enough to bide his time and act when it is time to act.
His actions take into account the whole tapestry of time, from beginning to end. When we have the whole Scriptures, we find that most of our pages deal with relatively few people at few places and few times.
Consider this. There are 400 years between the ending of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus. 400 years of privilege sliding into slavery, of dreams and prayers, years without miracles, without comment, 20 generations with all kinds of faithful people passing down their faith to their children. Consider this: There between the last page of Malachi and the first sentence of Matthew, there are 400 years – that’s two empires, one independent Jewish kingdom, the birth of synagogues and Pharisees and, if we want to get really mundane, one of the greatest architectural achievements ever, the first known use of concrete.
And yet, Bible records none of that significant history. Its authors had something absolutely other in mind. God is telling a different story. He is not slow as some count slowness. He is patient.
We are often frustrated because we are impatient with our pace. That is, in fact, the greatest danger for anyone who is a runner. The worst thing you can do is to do too many miles too early and too fast. To move forward, you need the patience to go slow and the strength to keep at it.
Patience takes strength. Deliberate action comes from patience and patience comes from experience and experience comes from resting in the wisdom of those who have done it before.
To the text! We see in 2nd Peter the picture of our God. Our God is not slow as some consider slowness. Let’s know it, and then let’s know that we don’t know what we think we know. Our God is not slow as some consider slowness. He is patient with us. His is a canvas spread out from the beginning of time to the end, and every brushstroke has significance.
His might is humble. You see, humility isn’t so much downplaying what you do and who you are; true humility is knowing your own worth, knowing what you can do and what you can’t do, and considering the welfare of others.
The same Jesus so far mightier than John the Baptist was the Creator of the universe who stooped down to wash his disciples’ feet before his last Passover. In our God’s strength, he allowed all that could happen to him to happen to him, so that he could bear our sins and be our savior. In our God’s strength, he emptied himself of his divine power to be humbled to the point of death.
Because, as Paul would say, when I am weak then I am strong. His grace is sufficient for me, for his power is made perfect in weakness.
I was named after the Apostle Paul, which was pretty exciting until I took Greek class. You see, the Apostle’s name had been Saul. Saul was the first king of Israel, a great big, tall, imposing guy, an honorable name. But when God got ahold of Saul on that road to Damascus, he changed his name to Paul. That’s a Greek adjective that means, “Little guy.” “Short stuff.” In 2 Corinthians, Paul struggles with his smallness, with his weakness. He says that a messenger from Satan assailed him and he pleaded that God relieve him and God would not. Instead, he heard these words “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” When I am weak, then I am strong.
My grace is sufficient for you, even when your suffering will last the rest of your life. My grace is sufficient for you, even when your weaknesses will keep tempting you for the length of your days. My grace is sufficient for you even when your past mistakes would seem to never blow over, on this side of eternity they will always haunt you. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
The Way of the Lord
The way of the Lord draws us on as he weaves together all ages into his story of salvation. He takes the strands of obedience and disobedience. He takes the strands of repentance and forgiveness. He takes the amount of this world’s comings and goings and weaves them into the most unlikely summary of world history; he weaves them into the one way the truth and the life, the only way to the Father, Jesus Christ, our mighty Lord.
The kingdom of heaven is like a large church in a small town where you can’t really point to anything that makes them different, except that everything feels different. It isn’t that life is strange in any one way; it’s that in their life together, there is strength and joy that seeps through every crack, so that in the best of times and in the worst of times, one thing is clear, that this one article reigneth: the presence of their Lord, the hope of a life spent with you.
Our God is mighty. He is gentle. He is patient. He is humble.
Amen and Amen.
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