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.
Think about people you have known who have come through great tragedies in life with the ability to maintain a spirit of hope. That ability or disposition is most certainly a gift from God. It is truly a gift when people are able to recover from grief and despair, when they are able to turn from the pain and suffering of a past event to discover healing in new community life and wellsprings of hope for the future.
As Isaiah writes this portion of his letter, God’s people had suffered great tragedy. But this speaks beyond the people of Isaiah’s day; this speaks of the Church, God’s believers. What wonderful good news this is for the Church, knowing that God has not forsaken His people! This inseparably associates Christ’s righteousness and salvation, granted to us in His means of grace through Holy Baptism, where we are made God’s children.
Look again at the words of Isaiah: “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch.” In the Lord’s plan for a perfect world, there would never be a situation like this. God had created the heavens and the earth and all that inhabits them to be perfect. He created man and woman to be perfect. Creation was deemed to be “good” in God’s eyes, while man was deemed to be “very good.” As God saw things, this was perfection. Perfection did not last long and as a result, this world fell into sin. And with creation’s fall into sin, so did creation suffer. That suffering that creation experiences trickles down to the Church as well.
As much as we would like it, the Church is not immune to suffering. Even our Lord Himself is called the Suffering Servant. The Church suffers greatly for the sake of Christ and His teachings. The Church suffers for what is right according to God’s Word. The Church suffers as a result of who she is.
For the sake of creation, God sent His Son to earth with the single task of saving creation. God became fully man and lived the perfect life that we could not. That meant that Jesus never sinned. That meant that Jesus never failed to do the Father’s will. That meant that Jesus did what was required of you and me and of all creation so that we are forgiven of the damning guilt of our sin.
The picture that Isaiah paints is one of good times and bad. Leading up to our text for today, Israel had seen better days. But we know that God is faithful and just and because He promised to Adam and Eve a Savior, Israel held out hope for that Savior. Way back at the time of Abraham, He called them to be His own. He brought them out of Egypt. He compared Himself as their bridegroom and called His people Zion, called them His bride. He promised always to be faithful, to provide for them and to keep them safe. But they were not faithful to Him. Time and time again, they turned to other gods. Time and time again, they ran to idols that promised some sort of forbidden pleasure. The Lord pursued them, called them back, repeated His faithfulness and love to them again and again, but they would not have Him. They wanted another instead.
As we look back, we tend to shake our heads and say, “Israel, you should have known better. You should have done what God asked and there wouldn’t be any problems.” As I said earlier, Isaiah is not only describing Israel, but his description is that of the Church. God has called us to be His bride. God has promised to the Church to be faithful and to provide for her safety. But we as God’s people have not been faithful to Him. We have turned to other gods, running to idols and all that we think will give to us the same things that God Himself promises.
All of this sounds tragic for the Church, and it is. But as we know, God does not allow the Church to wallow in its sin forever. Listen again to the words of Isaiah: “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her….” God has a plan to redeem creation. He becomes flesh and takes their place. He takes their sins upon Himself, their guilt and their shame. He bears all their sins to the cross. At the cross, God the Father says to Christ, “I see that you bear the sin, the guilt and the shame. I see on You every last sin that I despise. And because I condemn sin and sinners, I condemn You.”
This is the Gospel, as Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5, “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” What wonderful news this is for the Church as a whole and for each individual Christian! God did not leave us to our sinful nature but on account of Christ’s atoning salvation were we restored to full honor and glory. For you, the Lord does not keep silent. He will not be quiet as you waste away. Though you feel the bitterness of sin and shame, He declares that He has already borne your sin to the cross. Before God, your sin is gone. Before God, you are righteous for the sake of Jesus.
Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection have verified once and for all that we are perfectly right with God; holy and just as if we had never sinned. As the vow before the wedding altar states once and for all time a commitment we can always trust, God has taken the vow. We are the Bride of Christ, never forsaken, never desolate and lonely, but married to Him. We are the Lord’s delight.
For your sake, the Lord is not silent. He continues to declare His delight in you, His joy over you. That is why you hear His Word, even when you can’t stand yourself, because there the Lord proclaims His faithfulness, His redemption, His love for you. That is why you run to His Supper for forgiveness, because there is your Bridegroom, present to save. The time will come when sorrow and sighing will flee away—on the Last Day, at the marriage feast of the Lamb. Until then, the Lord is not silent. He will not be quiet. He says, “I delight in you, for I have redeemed you. I rejoice over you, because you are righteous and holy in My sight: because you are forgiven for all of your sins.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.