Sermon – Isaiah 49.8-13 (Lent 4 – 2020)
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your Son You fed five thousand men in the wilderness with five loaves and two fish, showing that you nourish our bodies: We beseech You to nourish also our souls with Your gospel, that by the redemption of Your Son, we may be freed from sin, and be led with believers from every nation to our eternal inheritance by Your merciful Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace, from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
8 Thus says the LORD: “In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;
9 That You may say to the prisoners,`Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness,`Show yourselves.’ “They shall feed along the roads, And their pastures shall be on all desolate heights.
10 They shall neither hunger nor thirst, Neither heat nor sun shall strike them; For He who has mercy on them will lead them, Even by the springs of water He will guide them.
11 I will make each of My mountains a road, And My highways shall be elevated.
12 Surely these shall come from afar; Look! Those from the north and the west, And these from the land of Sinim.”
13 Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
In the desolate place, Jesus fed the many who were hungry and faint. He had mercy on them. They needed food. Where there was very little to nourish them in this desolate place, Jesus gave them a feast. Miraculously He fed the multitude out of five loaves of bread and two fish.
This miracle is a sign, or indication, that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah. But this feeding is not the feeding that is prophesied in Isaiah.
Let’s examine the prophesy Isaiah puts before us. Pictured before us is Israel returning to their inheritance. God’s servant will go and say to those imprisoned Israelites in exile, go free. They who are in darkness, come into the light. They who hunger in desolate places, will now have pasture from which to eat. They shall return to God. The mountains will not prevent them. God will make His mountains into roads. The highways in the valleys will be lifted up. They shall come from all over the earth. He who has mercy on them will lead them. He will give them plentiful pasture, and water for them to drink to sustain them on the way. They will return with singing and great rejoicing, because they are comforted and have received God’s mercy.
But what exactly is pictured? What is God prophesying here?
He’s speaking about the acceptable time, the day of salvation. At the time of Isaiah, the day was yet to come, but for us the day has already come. The Father hears the prayers of the Son. The Son of God became man and though He was without sin, He was able to sympathize with weaknesses of man, and thus He prayed to the Father on behalf of all mankind. And so the Father hears, and He plans out the day of salvation. He sends His Son to be the covenant of the people. That means He will be the personal bond which unites Israel and its God in a new fellowship.
So this return prophesied in our gospel reading is not a return to the land, but a return to God, who created us, but from whom we have lost communion. But on the acceptable day, the day of salvation, the Father gives up His Son to draw us to Himself and accept us for the sake of Christ alone. This is not a two-sided agreement, that we do our part and God does His. Rather Christ has made all things right between us and God. He has accounted for our sins, paying the price for them. He is the righteousness that justifies us with God. He is the bloodied, beaten, and crucified Mediator that creates peace between us and God.
This is meaningful for us only when we know what our spiritual situation is. We were in exile, separated from our Creator on account of our sins. We were in darkness, alienated from God, not knowing Him as our gracious God, but only our Judge, from whom we hide in the darkness.
We are hungry and thirsty in this wilderness. There is that innate longing for something that is missing, something lasting, that which we lost, the relationship with God. But we cannot satisfy it. Even the crowd Jesus fed had the answer before them–there was Jesus who is their righteousness and life. But they wanted from Him only satisfaction for their bellies. So also, in this wilderness, there is nothing to give us what we lost. In this wilderness, we try to fill our longings with whatever we can find, we even try to produce our own righteousness to make us right before God, but this is a delusion. It fails.
Furthermore, our spiritual situation can be compared to captivity. We can perhaps relate to this most of all these days. We’re stuck at home. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a blessing to be home, but yet, we are limited on what we can do outside the home. We leave only for necessities. But how much greater is the captivity under sin and the devil. Our wills were completely bound to the devil. We were slaves of sin. We think we were free, but we were not. We could not budge from their grasp, not an inch to the left or to the right.
The way to God, is fraught with mountains and difficult terrain. There is no way we can make our way to Him.
But then because of Christ, what happens!? By His saving work, and through the preaching of His gospel, what wonderful things now happens for you. You in captivity: “Go forth.” You are free! Free from sin and Satan! You in the darkness, “Show yourselves, live in my light and life, and see that I am gracious to you!”
“The way to Me has been opened. Jesus is the Way. Through Him I have drawn you to Myself.” My mountains have been made into roads, the highways in the valley have been lifted up. There no longer anything separating you from Me. You are Mine, and I have claimed people from all four corners of the earth to be Mine as well. I have drawn all of you to Myself through My Son, who was lifted up on the cross. And while you remain on the earth, though it will be difficult, suffering the evil of the world, war, disaster, and famine, He will be with you. He who has mercy on You, will lead you. He is your Good Shepherd. He is also the Bread of Life. Eat of His Word, and partake of His body and blood, for He satisfies your hunger, for He is the righteousness by which you have peace and communion with Me. He will lead you beside still waters, upholding you in the grace of your baptism, and refreshing you in my grace.”
And so we go led by our Lord, feasting on Him, and living in our baptism, until we enter the glorious presence of God in heaven. And so we go, with believers from every tongue, tribe, and nation.
It hasn’t been long that we’ve been away from church, but I’m really looking forward to when we can leave the walls of our house, and we will come from the north, the west, the south, and east, and join together within the walls of our Father’s house, to gather in His most gracious presence, and partake of the Bread of Life, in Word and Sacrament, receiving from Him, His forgiveness, righteousness, and refreshment! It will be a joyful day!
And this is a foretaste of heaven, isn’t it? Gathering together with one another in God’s most gracious and glorious presence. And so we sing and rejoice, for the Lord has comforted us and has mercy on us! He has united us to Himself, and we shall be with Him forever. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.