Sunnyside Church of the Nazarene
Sunday, November 29
- Everlasting God
- Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)
- O Come O Come Emmanuel (Veni Emmanuel)
- Please turn to Isaiah 64 (OT).Ever come to a situation in life that caused you to say, “This is not how life is supposed to be.” Or “This is not how I imagined it.” A tragic event. The loss of a job. That dreaded news from the doctor. A thousand things …. That moment when you feel hopeless? Or on the verge of despair. Begin to wonder, where is this God? We’ve all been there, and if you haven’t you will be - it’s part of the journey. We all face seemingly hopeless situations - it seems like God is not there. Life is not the way we expected.As we look at Isaiah 64, we’ll discover that Israel is in one of those situations. When Isaiah wrote this prayer (appox. 200 yrs. earlier), he had prophesied of the day when Israel returned to Jerusalem. See, in 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered the last tribe of Israel - Judah - they were taken away - so all of Israel is in Exile.Jeremiah prophesied that after 70 years of exile, they would return. That’s where we’re at in Isaiah 64. The 70 years has past, and now under the Persian Empire, the Jews returned home. What started out as a joyous homecoming ended in despair. As Israel approached Jerusalem, reality of their situation kicked in. It was not what they had imagined. The City was destroyed - ruined - the walls, the Temple, homes - decimated. Their once glorious city was nothing but rubble. It was not how it is supposed to be.As their joy dissipated, they began to wonder, where’s this God. Confusion sets in. Emotions. Anger. Questions. Doubt. Trying to make sense of the situation. Can you relate?That’s the backdrop. Isaiah 64 is a prophetic record of their reaction - their prayer (in poetic form). Let's look at this prayer and see how it might apply to our situations that sometimes causes us to wonder, where is this God.Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!This is a lament. A lament is a petition to God to take notice of an injustice and an invitation for God to fix it. They, as a nation cry out to God - “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down! Intervene! Give us some hope. Yahweh, show up - do something! If you would show up, everything would change.” Can you relate?Sadly, that's where a lot of people stop - “God do something!” When we stop there, we linger in our hopelessness and despair - we linger with our eyes fixed upon the problem and nothing changes. But that’s now where this prayer ends. Their lament moves to remembrance.For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved?They begin with, “God, do something,” then remember God has done something. He has interceded many times in the past. They remind themselves of God’s past faithfulness. As they remember God’s past faithfulness, they also remember His present faithfulness. “Oh, if You were faithful then. We’ve heard stories of your faithfulness. We’ve experienced your faithfulness. You’ll be faithful today - regardless of what the situation looks like.”A little bit of encouragement begins to take root. Situation hasn’t changed, but something changed. What? See, rather than seeing God outside of the situation, they began to see God inside the situation.Curious, what do you see in this picture?So, they’re bringing God back into the situation. There’s another shift that take place. Confession.You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.This is an eye-opening moment for Israel. They’re coming to the place of owning their brokenness and sinfulness. Now, we need to see something here and I think this is a lost truth to the Western church - a truth we should regain.How did they come to this moment of confession?Follow me: Who confessed? Notice the language - “we, all of us, our.” These are the tribes of Israel - the ones who had returned from exile. So, together as one body, as one nation they confessed their brokenness and sinfulness. This is interesting, because many of these individuals were not yet born when Israel was exiled. This is 70 years later. They were not responsible for the exile. They weren’t around when Judah rebelled. They’re not guilty. Yet, we have a communal confession. “We confess!”Confessed what? The past sins of the nation. What? Why would they confess the brokenness and sins of their ancestors?This is for another sermon but know this - communal confession is Biblical. Sometimes, we’ve carried on the sins of our forefathers and we need to acknowledge that, and repent. Sometimes, we are the recipients of sinful choices of others, and we need to acknowledge that - and realize that we too are broken. Not all of our hopeless situations are caused by our own choices or sins. Sometimes they are caused by the sins and choices of others. But, at the end of the day, we’re all broken people, living in a broken world where sometimes life is not the way it's supposed to be. And sometimes, communal confession is the first and best step toward a solution.I think that's what is happening here, in Isaiah 64 - they're not confessing personal sin. They’re not assuming guilt for the sins of the previous generation. But they are acknowledging that they too are a broken people - which causes this sense of connection - we’re in this together.As they confess, another shift takes place. They stop looking for someone to blame. Stop looking at the ink spot. They also realize that God is and is not the cause of their circumstances. God is not the cause of the destruction of Jerusalem or the exile. Israel made that choice. However, God is the cause their return home. They marched into Jerusalem, and it looked horrible, but that’s right where God wanted them to be. They just didn’t see it at first.There’s a space or a gap between verses 7 and 8. That gap is there for a reason. It’s a pause. A space for silence. We’ve lamented. We’ve remembered. We’ve confessed. We’ve stopped blaming. We've exhausted our emotional and mental capacities. And now … we exhale. We sit quietly before the Lord, which is often one of the best things we can do - especially in a hopeless situation. Somewhere in that pause, that silence comes the truth of“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”And here we have another shift - hope begins to enter the scene.Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.What just happened? Circumstances haven’t changed. This shift takes place - “In spite of all this, You are Yahweh, the Sovereign Lord of the universe.” A theological concept became a personal truth. The concept of God’s sovereignty and faithfulness made its way from their head down into their heart.Let me explain it this way. They began to look at their situation through faith. And that faith gave them hope. And that hope became love. God had not left them - He was there with them because He loved them.On this first Sunday of Advent, let us remember that Advent is a season to lament - life is not the way it is supposed to be. Advent is also a season to remember. We remember God’s faithfulness, regardless of what our circumstances appear to be. He was faithful to Adam and Eve after they sinned. He was faithful to the world when He came to this earth as a man - Jesus the Christ - God saves; Immanuel, God with us. He was faithful when Jesus bore our sins upon the cross. He was faithful when Jesus died. He was faithful when Christ rose from the dead. He is still faithful, and we look forward to His return.Advent is also a season of confession. We confess our brokenness and our sinfulness - as individuals and also as a community. It’s also a season to hope. Not everything will work out the way we think it should, but God is still God; He is still the Potter. We are His people - we’re not forsaken - we are loved.Just a moment to pause before the Lord. Perhaps lament, confess, remember or find hope.
- Lord I Need You
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