The Word of God Disrupts Our Sin and Shame
Fourth in a series, “The Disruptive Word”
Grace, mercy and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for this midweek Advent is Isaiah 40, very famous Advent words, “Comfort, Comfort my people says your God. A voice crying in the wilderness make straight his paths.” Our text thus far.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In the days of waiting and preparing for Christmas, in the season that we call Advent, we consider the disruptive Word of God. We consider how the Word of God does not leave us alone. It does not let us be, but instead that every advent is another calling for you to consider and reflect on your own lives, a time when you get to long again for Jesus Christ to come back and make all things right, a time when you pray for hope and ask God to remind you what hope is, pray for peace and ask God to remind you what peace is.
Today, we consider how the disruptive Word of God disrupts our sin and shame, and we consider that as we read Isaiah chapter 40.
Isaiah begins, with God talking: “‘Comfort, Comfort, my people,’ says your God.” Then he says, “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended.”
So, what is comfort? It comes from the Latin, cum forte, which means “With Strength.” I think of my son, Amos Stanley. He’s a big three year old these days, big enough to get into some real bonkers, but little enough that he runs to us for comfort. It was just the other day that had bonked his head. He ran up the stairs. He cried in my arms, and I asked him what he needed. He said, “A hug.” I gave him the hug, and he ran away. He needed comfort. He needed my strength. He needed my presence.
Why is Isaiah supposed to cry “Comfort” to God’s people? We get the answer in the last three verses of chapter 39. The people were going to be carried off to Babylon. They were staring down the barrel of 70 years of servitude to yet another monstrous empire, and all the way from chapter one to chapter thirty-nine, Isaiah has been saying that this is a result of their sin and their shame. He is crying, “Comfort” to a people that feel trapped.
Have you ever felt trapped? One of my very favorite Poppa day games is all about this idea. We play a game called Blanket of Doom. It started out just as wrestling, but then I did my Pastor Muther thing to it, and now I run around with the blanket of doom in my hands until I catch one of the boys. I trap them in the blanket, and I always say the same. Ha ha! No one has gotten out of the blanket of doom for a thousand years.....” and then they escape. And eventually they start wrapping me up in the blanket of doom.
But, have you ever felt trapped? Trapped by your own choices? Trapped by what someone else is doing? Trapped by your circumstances? Unable to do what my boys did? Unable break free?
In the middle of that, Isaiah cries, “Comfort.” What should we take comfort from? Comfort, he says because your warfare is ended, your iniquity is pardoned.
He goes on. A voice cries, Comfort, because God has pardoned your iniquity, he has won your salvation, and in the wilderness, he is preparing a way. When Isaiah says, “Wilderness,” he doesn’t mean a picturesque walk in the Walden Woods. He means, in the harshest of environments, in the place where there is no straight path, no way forward, in the exact places of our lives where we feel most trapped, God has prepared a way.
God has made a level path. God has torn down the mountains so that he can make a straight way. He has filled up every valley so that he would not stop, he would not turn to the right, he would not turn to the left, but that he would make a straight path for his salvation to be yours.
You see, in this life, it seems like most days are anything but a straight path forward. We get side-tracked on a side path. We get distracted from what we thought we were supposed to do. Sometimes we spend hours doing something that we realize later was a waste of time. We feel like we’re not even moving at all. We’re just stuck in place.
But the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Your salvation is a path straight to the cross. Your salvation straightens out all the hills and valleys before God in your life. Your salvation makes your path, with all of its twists and turns, so that when you look back on your life, in Christ, you find that the miracle is he used it all so that he might be glorified.
A voice says, Cry. Comfort my people. Cry to them that their warfare is ended. Cry, in the wilderness, make straight the path of our God. Cry. Isaiah asks, “What shall I cry?” Then he has an aside.
All flesh is like grass. It springs up and withers. All flesh is like the flowers; they bloom and fade. He says, we can feel trapped, but the word of God reveals something deeper. Whether we feel trapped or not, the Word of God reveals that we are. Whether we see it or not, we are hemmed in. Whether we want to think about it today or not, we are trapped in this mortal coil. We are in a cycle of birth and death. Our sin leads to our death. Our sin leads to our eternal death.
The grass withers and the flower fades but the Word of our God will stand forever. Trapped in sin and shame, we are set free by God’s salvation. Trapped by our own short mortality, we are set free by the eternal Son of God to live forever. We are set free....
To do exactly what Isaiah does here. A voice tells him, cry. Cry, Comfort, comfort my people. Raise your voice and cry that their warfare is ended, their iniquity is pardoned. Raise your voice and cry that God makes straight the path of his salvation. Raise your voice and cry that we never ever have to be afraid because we behold our God. We never ever have to be afraid because we are led like sheep by a shepherd.
The Gospel for you today is this, that in Christ, you are set free, and in Christ you never ever have to be afraid again. You do not have to be afraid because you are set free to love your neighbor as yourself. You do not have to be afraid of death because you are set free to eternal life. You never have to be afraid of hate because love incarnate comes down at Christmas. You never have to be afraid because when you suffer, you know you have a God who suffered all for you. You never ever have to be afraid because you live in a reality where the path of salvation is straight. Life ends not in death but in life. Iniquity is pardoned. And comfort is yours.
Amen and amen.
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