Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Old Testament, which was read earlier.
Maybe you’ve seen the commercial, either this season or years past. It has a guy and a girl with usually a gold necklace or bracelet with a sparkling diamonds. His expression to her is one of eternal love to her. At the end of the commercial you hear the tag line: “diamonds are forever.” The question we have to ask ourselves is this: is it really?
Granted, for all practical purposes a diamond may outlast most of us. But will it last forever? That’s a long time, a very, very long time. In fact, God says through His prophet Isaiah that we are to consider the heavens and the earth and know that “the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner….” Eventually, everything will be destroyed, even diamonds.
When we look at God’s salvation, it is different in this manner. Though the heavens vanish like smoke and the earth wears out like a garment, God’s salvation is forever. It is forever already now and not yet. There is a now to God’s salvation, for it has gone out to His people. Something has been done. God seeks our attention today to come to Him with a simple invitation: “Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation….” God used His prophet Isaiah to prophesy of the coming Messiah. This Deliverer would be the Great Servant of the Lord. God had announced His coming through Isaiah in chapter 42. This Servant was the One in whom the Lord would delight and on whom He would put His Spirit. In Isaiah 49, we hear the words of the Servant Himself.
Even though we already have that salvation from God, we wait for the full enjoyment of God’s salvation. When Christ comes again at the end of time and the dead in Christ are raised for eternal life in the new heaven and earth, then the full enjoyment of that which we already have will be ours. There is a call to enjoy and to hope for God’s salvation, a call for all the peoples.
If you were a Jew living in Babylon at the time of Isaiah, you may have thought that any hope of a return to Jerusalem remained a hopeless and impossible dream. The once glorious city now lay in ruins. All the beauty that once belonged to Zion and Judah had disappeared. During the period of captivity, the Promised Land remained nothing but a wasteland. Yet God promised to have compassion and to bring joy, gladness, thanksgiving, and the sound of singing again to His people. The faithful were not to despair. They were to listen to the promises of God, because God wanted to reinforce their faith with His promises. The deliverance He promised drew nearer. Israel was going to be saved.
Isaiah is a crafty wordsmith here in our text. He doesn’t say anything that doesn’t have meaning. When he says that “the coastlands hope for me,” the word is suggestive for all the world’s peoples. That means that Christ is not just reserved for the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, but that the coming Messiah will indeed come to save everyone. This indicates the blessings God intends for all peoples: salvation and righteousness. God declares sinners right and holy. Through faith in that declaration, they are saved from the consequences of sin. Both are God’s; they do not come by human effort or merit. They are a wonderful gift that comes only from God. His wonderful and gracious declaration and its consequences endure: even though the earth and the heavens will disappear and vanish, God’s righteousness and salvation will endure.
For the Christian, we look to God and wait in hope for His coming. Today, we focus on His second coming. We yearn for the return of Christ, knowing that God is able to satisfy, help, and save His people. We wait in hope for His glorious return, but we also wait in hope in for the first coming of Christ that we anticipate in the weeks ahead.
This salvation that is offered is offered to all. God invites all peoples of all nations to experience His true and forever salvation. That means that salvation is offered to you. That means that salvation is offered to the vilest of persons as well. In our hearts there are people whom we would love to see excluded from heaven and from God’s forgiveness and salvation. However, God knows no such distinction. St. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
God’s salvation is forever given by God and no one else. There are many who seek forgiveness through other means and there are many who seek to provide that forgiveness through other means. Life itself may seem to offer salvation. We seek salvation through self-help books and works that we do. We fill our lives with those things that promise salvation or the things that we think will provide salvation. Isaiah reminds us though that “they who dwell in it will die in like manner.” You see, everything will pass away. The things of this world. The false promises of salvation and the like. But the one and only thing that will remain is God and His steadfast love for us.
These words from God through the prophet Isaiah are not a matter of selfishness on God’s part. These are words that are a matter of reality and truth. The salvation that God offers is the only true salvation. He is the One to whom we will all answer. It is through Him that we can have life and have it abundantly.
The salvation that our Heavenly Father provides for us is a gift that will last forever, even beyond the passing away of the heavens and the earth. There is a difference between what God offers and what the world offers. God is willing to say so. In fact, He is so willing to say so that He sends His own Son to the cross in order to prove it and to show that the promises of God are never broken. His salvation lasts forever.
His righteousness will never fail. God’s righteousness did not fail to secure our salvation. Jesus said, “It is finished.” For three days He lay in death’s dark tomb. Even then, God’s righteousness did not fail to vindicate Jesus by raising Him from the dead. And even now, God’s righteousness will not fail to finish the work He has begun in us by the Holy Spirit’s power.
God’s call to listen is a call to look to Him and away from all the false hopes that the world offers. It is a call to seek His eternal salvation, to yearn for it more than we do for all the things of this world. While none of us can claim to this perfectly, it is precisely for this reason that God’s salvation is so precious and pure, for His righteousness will never fail. It is His salvation that will last forever. He calls us to receive what He has provided, and He promises that will be forever glad. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.