St Paul's UMC
January 8, 2023
  • O Worship The King (Lyons)
  • Jesus Is All The World To Me (Elizabeth)
  • Doxology
      • Isaiah 42:1–9NIV2011

      • Matthew 3:3–17NIV2011

  • Love Divine All Loves Excelling
  • Does it anyone else find it hard to stay positive these days?
    To keep a hope alive on the inside so that you can live well on the outside and handle whatever comes your way?
    For some of you, if not all, the celebration of Christmas brought a measure of joy and peace as you listened to and reflected on the story of Jesus’ birth.
    Luke 2:10–11 ESV
    And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
    We have been given this beautiful gift of hope in Christ Jesus. Hope that no matter how difficult our circumstances, Jesus is with us and will lead us through. Hope that no matter how badly we mess up, Jesus is able to forgive us and redeem us. Hope that one day, all suffering and heartache will end and there will be real, lasting justice.
    And it is easy to forget this. Maybe forget is not the right word. It is easy to be detached from this truth. We may have the knowledge that hope is found in Christ, but we have difficulty connecting this knowledge to our daily reality. We need constant reminding.
    I know for me, the start of the New Year brought a level of heaviness as I contemplated all that now calls for my full attention.
    There is the whole matter of completing the necessary steps related to discerning whether or not we disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church - and my role in making sure that the members of the Church are properly informed and educated. This is a denomination through which I was baptized and later confirmed. It was a Methodist pastor who married Krista and I. It was the United Methodist Church that I returned to in my late twenties when God was leading me to reengage my faith. The people of the UM loved me into God’s presence, provided me with ways to serve the Lord, eventually affirmed my call into ministry, and entrusted me to lead as a pastor. So nothing about this process is easy or without heartache.
    There are other matters in the church that weigh on me. Challenges that distract us from our mission and weaken our witness.
    There are the concerns I have for the times we are living in. The economic crisis that we are all living through. With rising inflation, mass layoffs, and a bunch of other indicators going in the downward direction - how low will we go?
    As a parent of a Marine, with the instability in the world, especially in regards to Russia and China - there is the constant concern that war is on the horizon.
    I observe all the broken families in our community and our nation. All the children being raised without a strong foundation.
    This is just me - I’m sure if each of you have your own issues that are weighing you down. Health issues. Work issues. Family problems. Concern over our government and lack of good leadership anywhere.
    Romans 15:13 ESV
    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.
    My purpose this morning is not to lead us down into hopelessness. On the contrary, I want you to know, not just in your head, but also in your heart - to truly know that God is in control and in Him, we have an inexhaustible source of hope. Jesus is the cause and the source of the hope.
    John 16:33 ESV
    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
    There was a time, recorded for us in the Scriptures, when the faithful remnant of Israel lived each day with worry and concern about their circumstances, the future of their nation, and the despair that comes when every social indicator has hit rock bottom.
    Isaiah was a prophet and his book was written somewhere between 739 and 681 BC. Isaiah was God's spokesperson and his message was for the people of Israel (specifically the southern kingdom of Judah) at a time when the nation as a whole had drifted far from God. He called them out on their sin, urging them to repent. and foretold destruction that would fall upon them if they did not return to God.
    One commentator I came across summed up Isaiah this way:
    “Do you know people who claim to be believers in Christ who are two-faced, who are hypocrites? That is perhaps the best summary of how Isaiah viewed the nation of Israel. Israel had an appearance of righteousness, but it was a facade. In the Book of Isaiah, the Prophet Isaiah challenges Israel to obey God with all of their heart, not just on the outside. Isaiah’s desire was that those who heard and read his words would be convicted to turn from wickedness and turn to God for forgiveness and healing.”
    The people did not heed Isaiah’s warning and in chapter 39, he foretells the coming Babylonian exile.
    Isaiah 39:6 ESV
    Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.
    Isaiah’s warning comest to pass. From Chapter 40 onward, Isaiah speaks from the viewpoint of Babylonian exile. Our reading this morning from Isaiah comes out of this section of the book. The people are living in exile. Everything that they counted on had been taken away. Grief surrounds them. The outlook is bleak. From where will they draw their hope? Will God deliver them? Is he able to deliver them?
    Isaiah’s message to the remnant - the people who still trust in God, is clear. Yes God is able and willing to deliver his people. One of the most beautiful promises is found in Isaiah 40:28-31
    Isaiah 40:28–31 ESV
    Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
    God gives strength to the weary, to those who know him - those who are like the Psalmist who proclaims “I lift up my eyes to the mountain - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Ps 121)
    With this context, I want us to turn to our reading this morning from Isaiah chapter 42, as we are introduced to the first of four poems focused on one who is called the Servant of Yahweh.
    Isaiah 42:1 ESV
    Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
    Now initially, the servant is identified as the nation of Israel personified. We find this in Isaiah 41:8
    Isaiah 41:8 ESV
    But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
    God’s intention for Israel was for them to be a light to the nations and to lead all nations to God. They failed to do so since they repeatedly turned to idols. As we continue along in Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the servant of Yahweh - the picture begins to form of a Messianic figure - one specific person, a Davidic king, who would come and fulfill what Israel as a nation was unable to do. This servant, rising up out of the family of Israel, would fulfill all that God had chosen the people of Israel to accomplish.
    Isaiah 42:1 ESV
    Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
    As you hear this description given to Isaiah from the Lord God of his servant - I want you to put your finger here on chapter 42 and then jump over to Matthew 3:16-17
    Matthew 3:16–17 ESV
    And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
    At Jesus’ baptism, God affirms that He is indeed the promised Messiah that Isaiah spoke of centuries earlier. It is Jesus whom God says “my soul delights” and it is Jesus who God has put his Spirit upon.
    Now flip back to Isaiah.
    God would indeed answer the cries of his people and deliver Israel out of captivity. Isaiah would go on to prophesy that one named Cyrus would lead them out of captivity and to rebuild Jerusalem (this is found in the 45th chapter) and 150 years later, King Cyrus of Persia would do just that.
    But delivering Israel out of Babylon was not the full extent of God’s plan for deliverance.
    Have you ever been a bad situation that seemed inescapable - but by the grace of God, he delivered you out of it?
    God does hear our prayers and often times will bring us out of situations that are bad for us - yet his desire for us goes beyond rescuing us from particular circumstances - he desires to completely deliver us from that which easily imprisons our whole life - our sin.
    That is what we find in Isaiah. God is going to deliver Israel out of Babylon, but more importantly, the Servant of Yahweh will bring spiritual deliverance for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, freeing them from the power of sin and reconciling them with the Lord. The people’s hope will rest on the arrival of this Messiah.
    Isaiah 42:4 ESV
    He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.
    We may at times feel faint and discouraged, but know that Jesus never is. He is accomplishing exactly what he has set out to do. We may not always see it from our vantage point - but Jesus is bringing all things under his power and authority.
    Listen to Lord God speaking of the Messiah:
    Isaiah 42:6–7 ESV
    “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
    Now flip again over to Jesus’ baptism by John in Matthew 3:13-15
    Matthew 3:13–15 ESV
    Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
    In Isaiah, God tells his servant that he has called him into righteousness.
    Righteousness is a quality of being where we do what is right and just because that is who we are. It is a divine attribute - when we live righteously, we are living in accordance to how God himself exist.
    John didn’t want to baptize Jesus because John was baptizing people to symbolize their repentance of sin and their commitment to draw near to God. Jesus was without sin, so why would he need to be baptized.
    Matt 3:15
    Matthew 3:15 ESV
    But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
    Jesus, as Messiah, was called into righteousness. All who chose to follow him would need to walk in his footsteps. He was full-filling prophecy, identifying himself as the Messiah. His baptism shows us the way to God. It is not that he sinned, rather for us to become righteous, we must follow him and enter into the baptismal waters to be cleansed by God. And having been washed of our sins, God says “I will take you by the hand and keep you.”
    So here is the takeaway. We are living in a difficult time. I know it can be wearisome. When Isaiah spoke to the remnant of Israel and told them of a future pardon and deliverance, it didn’t mean that particular generation would see it. It just meant that it was coming. But his hope is timeless and the future is beautiful.
    The good news for us is that the Messiah has come. Jesus has already paid the price of our sin. He already sits at the right hand of the Father is the position of ultimate power and authority. For all who repent and call upon his name, who follow him into the baptismal waters, the gift of the Holy Spirit has already been given to us. The Spirit will guide us through all our trials and tribulations - never leaving us. Death has already been defeated - we are promised life eternal. Our hope is not so much that our immediate circumstances will improve - but that Jesus has already overcome the world and we already stand in victory with him.
    For now we wait anxiously for his return when all things will be made new as we continue to do the hard work of winning over souls for Christ.
    Matthew 3:7–10 ESV
    But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
    Don’t be distracted by the hypocrites. God is not fooled - he knows who is seeking and following him. He knows who his Church is. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance and...
    Romans 15:13 ESV
    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.
      • Luke 2:10–11NIV2011

      • Romans 15:13NIV2011

      • John 16:33NIV2011

      • Isaiah 39:6NIV2011

      • Isaiah 40:28–31NIV2011

      • Isaiah 42:1NIV2011

      • Isaiah 41:8NIV2011

      • Isaiah 42:1NIV2011

      • Matthew 3:16–17NIV2011

      • Isaiah 42:4NIV2011

      • Isaiah 42:6–7NIV2011

      • Matthew 3:13–15NIV2011

      • Matthew 3:15NIV2011

      • Matthew 3:7–10NIV2011

      • Romans 15:13NIV2011

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