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A Forever Exodus March 13, 2016

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Isaiah 43:16-21

Fifth Sunday in Lent

March 13, 2016

Focus:  God pours out His judgment not on us, but on His Son.

Function:  That the hearers praise Yahweh among the nations.

Structure:  Walking through the Text.

 

A Forever Exodus

 

One of the most powerful attacks on our faith, that hits us square between the eyes and challenges our faith, one of the most doubt provoking questions your family and friends have probably already asked you is this:  How can you believe in a God who does evil?  How can you believe in a God who kills people?  How can you believe in a God who does x?

A theme in our book study right now on Already Gone is the need for apologetics, the need to talk about our doubts, to ask and answer the difficult questions of our day.  Too often we don’t, we ignore ‘em, we sweep ‘em under the rug.  And so not only our youth, but everyone of us is discouraged, and our doubts grow as we begin to wonder if anyone in the church actually has answers.

My encouragement to you today is to ask your questions.  That old phrase is right, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.  Ask away.  If it’s bothering you, ask me, ask Pastor Fritsch.  That’s part of what we’re here for.  We may know the answer right away, we might have to get back to you.  But ask.  This is an open invitation.

That question of God killing people is a worthwhile question to ask. It’s one we absolutely have to consider and discuss.  And we have a lot recently.  We took an entire Bible class on it a few months ago.  I cover it every year in confirmation.  We’ve preached on it.  It’s a good question.  It gets us talking about how the whole Scripture fits together.  How it connects to life.  How it’s all a part of God’s plan.  We get to talk about the holiness of God, the depths of our sin and death and the impending judgment, we get to talk about the temple curtain, which is so unknown among Christians today, despite how vastly important it is to our faith.

Asking questions is a good thing.  It helps us grow.  And this question fits right in today, as the prophet Isaiah starts our Old Testament reading by reminding the people of some of the judgments of God, of some of the death they witnessed.  He reminds them of the Exodus, of Pharaoh’s army wiped out, drowned, snuffed out like a wick in the Red Sea.

God worked through miracles to judge Egypt.  But that’s only after He worked through Egypt to judge a faithless and sin-filled Israel with generations of slavery under the thumb of a cruel ruler.  Many times in history, God worked through the things of this world to bring His final judgment upon sinners.

But there was a key turning point in the course of the history of creation.  About 4,000 years in, something happens that takes us from being Jews or Israelites, and instead makes us followers of the Way, or Christians as we’ve now come to be called.  And here, 700 years before it ever happened, Isaiah prophesied about it.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.”

This was a problem for them.  And sometimes it still is.  We look back to the good old days.  We look back to the glory of the past and we long for it.  It was no different for the people of Isaiah’s day, nor in the New Testament age.  John the Baptist said this to the crowds who gathered around him.  Jesus said it to the Jews.  Paul to the Romans.

Just because you were born of Abraham doesn’t mean you have a relationship with God.  Stop boasting in your history.  Don’t look back to your Exodus from Egypt and think that’s good enough for you.  That somehow that’s your salvation.  It’s not.  Don’t count on that.

In fact, they had abandoned God.  And this led to Israel being destroyed as a nation.  And not much later Judah, too.  They abandoned God and paid the price for their sins.  The Jews did it, the Pharisees did it, the Romans did it.  And we still do it today.

Too often we focus on the past.  We dwell on the sin our brother committed against us.  The time our friend wronged us.  The time our spouse deceived us.  The time our boss abused us.  We said we forgave it, but we hold on, we dwell on our grudge.  And sometimes we take it even further.

The world might say that revenge is a dish best served cold.  But in eyes of God, revenge isn’t yours to be had.  You have no right to revenge.  It’s a sin, it’s hate, it’s a grudge, it’s murder.  It doesn’t fit.  And yet we’ve all done it.  We’ve all held that grudge, we’ve all gotten revenge.  We’ve taken our eyes off of the new thing for the former things and find ourselves deserving God’s judgment.

But that’s the joy of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Behold, I am doing a new thing;”

Don’t focus on the past, don’t focus on the old Exodus.  There’s a new one coming.  And in the beauty that is prophecy, there were several new exoduses coming.  First, the exodus closest to Isaiah’s life would happen about 200 years later, when God raised up a new king in Persia, who would grant the captive people of God the ability to go home. To depart from Babylon, back into the wilderness to their homeland.  And there, God would indeed provide life-giving water in the midst of the wilderness.  He would provide for their daily needs.  A new thing, and a good thing indeed!

But it was topped by the next exodus.  The exodus of the Christ from Jerusalem.  Egypt and Babylon were temporary.  There was a greater problem overshadowing us all.  The problem of sin, of our rebellion against God that leaves us lacking in His presence.  It leaves us damned in the judgment.

But rather than pouring out His judgment upon us, God did a new thing.  He has rendered judgment.  The judgment of God, the punishment we earned for our sin, rebellion, and revenge is poured out.  But the full and total power of His wrath fell not on us, but on His own Son.  The wrath of God, and punishment of death for sin was given to Jesus Christ as He walked up the hill to Golgotha.

But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.

God did a new thing and provided another exodus for us, this time in the death and the resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  He raised Jesus from the dead and in doing so has given us an everlasting promise involving a life-giving water.  That in our baptisms we would be buried with Christ, that we would be united with Him both in His death and also in His resurrection.

As wonderful as that exodus is, it is not the last.  On the Last Day, there will be one final exodus, the consummation of the exodus theme of Scripture as we depart from sin, death, and the devil.  When Christ returns for His people, He will bring us before the very judgment throne of God.  But He has already claimed our punishment.  The judgment of God has already been hammered into the Christ without holding back.  And on that day, we will receive the very life-giving water Christ promised the woman at the well.  The fullness of life with God in Paradise each and every day for the rest of forever.

And that’s how Isaiah chooses to wrap up this short prophecy, the idea that God will “give drink to My chosen people, the people whom I formed for Myself that they might declare My praise.”  We were created for Him, by Him, to be in a relationship with Him.  And in the life-giving waters of baptism that we rejoice in this day, we sing praise to the Lord in the presence of all the nations.  We live each and every of our lives now on this earth glorifying God by telling of His good deeds to the world around us.  By sharing the good news of the exodus from sin, death, and the devil and the life-giving waters of a holy Paradise.

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