God says, “I WILL BRING…”
Isaiah 56:1-3a, 6-8
I pray that you realize the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ which has gathered you into His presence here and that you would realize you aren’t just invited to be here, God desires your presence here!
Doing Right and Good defined…
In the first verses of the fifty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, we heard this morning that God wanted us to do this,
“Be just and fair to all, do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you, and to display my righteousness among you. Blessed are all those who are careful to do this, Blessed are those who honor my sabbath days of rest and keep themselves from doing wrong….”
That’s a great promise, but perhaps a bit vague. What is right and good to do, what is just and fair? We might have our own ideas, but God gives us a great picture of it in the verse that follows us,
“Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD say, “The LORD will never let me be a part of His people.”
This isn’t just God commanding us to do this, this work He asks us to do is revealed in the 6-8th verses as His action, as He blesses those who are committed to His care. He pours out the blessings upon them, even as He has on every single one of us.
And so what God is calling us to do is imitate Him, to share His heart towards people He has created, to have His heart and love all those He loves.
It’s not going to be easy… it is, in fact, it will cause us to take up our cross, this call to follow him.
Who are these outcast & foreigners?
This passage shows two groups of people God loves, foreigners and those who are called outcasts. Or as Deacon Bob is preaching about right now, those people who think they can’t be admitted to our club.
And we need to make sure they never, ever think this…. We can’t let them say, “The Lord will never let me be a part of HIS people!”
The first group is simple – they are people who aren’t like us, who don’t share our genes, or our language, or our culture, or economic or social status. Some translations use foreigner, some describe them as alien, some stranger. Given our church’s makeup, I think he’s talking about Australians because we have members from just about everywhere else! Guyana, Germany, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Indonesia, we even love people from places like Boston and Hemet! Yet the command is to make sure they don’t think and say that God won’t let them be part of us.
Some people still struggle to feel comfortable in our presence, and it is our role to help those who God brings here to know they are welcome, that they are part of His people, and therefore part of us.
God is calling us to proactively make sure they know they are welcome,
In verse 8, God adds in another group – those who are outcast.
Back in the days when Moses and Israel left Egypt and were wandering around the desert, hen the Old Covenant was given to the people of Israel, there were a number of sins that could be committed that would require the sinner to leave the camp of the people of God.
Sometimes it was for a day, sometimes it was for life.
Basically, until they served their time, they were outcast, they had to make do for themselves, they weren’t welcome among the people of God. They were the recognized sinners, or those that condoned the sin that was committed. They were the outcasts, the sinners rejected by their own people, who also rejected themselves. Never again would the joy be theirs, or so they thought.
Ever been there? Ever been in a situation where you weren’t in the in group, where you didn’t understand what was going on, or wonder whether you were part of the church?
Ever wonder if you were beyond God’s desire to forgive, beyond His mercy? Either because people treated you that way, or because you simply felt to guilty?
Ever treated people like they weren’t?
Or maybe, like me, you have been all of the above…
Time to hear God, time to make the foreigner and the outcast welcome..
Filling us with joy!
I want you to hear the gospel from the Old Testament again,
6 “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. 8 For the Sovereign LORD, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.” Isaiah 56:6-8 (NLT)
These promises aren’t just basic entry, by saying that God will accept their offerings, because God is hearing their pray- the prayer of all people, he’s talking about full membership in this family.
Not half-sister, or step brother, but complete membership in the house of God….
For those who were once outcast, victims of their own sin, and who were once foreigners. They are family, because of the love of Jesus on the cross, the cross where we were all made family.
We need to understand, and we need to share with people – that Christ died for all. For you and for me, for people from every language, every tribe, ever culture. For people of every economic group and from every generation.
Jesus died for them all. Every person in Cerritos, Artesia, Norwalk, Buena Park, Cypress, La Palma, Whittier.
All those who are different, all those who have sinned and belong somewhere besides a house of prayer.
Jesus changed all that, as Isaiah prophesied, as God unites us to him on the cross, cleansing us of the sin that could have prevented us from being here.
We need to know this, we need to understand that God died for us, that we might live, and we need to welcome all who would know this, that would come to adore the God who loves us all.
Which is why we have hope, no matter where we’ve come from, no matter what we’ve done wrong. HE can and will restore us! We have hope because of Christ’s death and resurrection for us all.
(you can find the audio for this sermon on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQLSG0ngxU8 )
With this Gift I Acknowledge
† I.H.S. †
May you become so aware of the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that you respond to God with your entire life!
As we enter Lent, a lot of the readings we will hear are about the journey to the promised land, and they often take place in what I call the “in-between time.
The “in-between” time starts with the rescue of Egypt, where the Red Sea split and they crossed through that sea until the time they crossed the Jordan river, and they headed west into the Holy Land.
That’s the in-between time, the time between the crossing, between the rescue and the delivery.
Often we compare that time to the time we live in now. In such a comparison the land of the promise becomes the equivalent of heaven. We’ve been told we’ve been saved, but we haven’t arrived yet. We follow that pattern, then we are in the journey toward the promise land. We can take the same comparison and compare the season of lent to the time wandering around in the wilderness. And the promised land becomes the celebration of Easter.
It lines up nice and neatly, and there are some interesting parallels. Such a study helps us build up the anticipation of heaven, and the glory and rejoicing we will see when we all get to heaven.
As I was preparing this series, some of my thoughts went along that journey, as the idea written about in the old song came to mind. “Sing the wondrous love of Jesus, sing of His mercy and His grace, in His mansion, bright and blessed, He’ll prepare for us a place.”
What a day of rejoicing that will be, the chorus says, but an odd thought struck me.
Are we expecting to rejoice only then? What about now? The song doesn’t say wait till then to sing of the wondrous love of Jesus, wait till then to know His mercy and His grace.
Then I looked at this passage and the idea that when we get “there” when we enter the land, we are to prepare an offering.
“With this gift, I acknowledge to the Lord God that I have entered the land He swore to our ancestors He would give us…”
And so we think of heaven… for isn’t that the promised land?
And we aren’t there yet, I mean all you have to do is look around and see that is so…we haven’t entered the promised land, right?
We have entered into what was promised; our problem is that we can’t see it yet. Which is why we have to understand what Paul means when he says, “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth, for you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”
That sounds more like we have entered the promised land… except that life doesn’t look so heavenly… does it? How can we be in the Holy Land, the Promised Land, when it doesn’t sometimes seem like we’ve left behind struggling with God in the wilderness?
We Cried out to the Lord
If we are going to make a parallel to the wilderness journey that is described in Deuteronomy, we need to figure out what verse 7 is talking about.
“we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors. He heard our cries and saw our hardship, toil, and oppression.”
Where these words find their place in our lives, is when we were in bondage, not to Egypt, but to sin. Where our hardship and struggle were the futility that comes in life that is self-centered and only worried about its own happiness, its own contentment.
I will be the first to admit that there are days where we act like Israel, doubting God and wanting to return to the lives unrestricted by God, but enslaved to “our” own desires.
But does that mean that we are back in Egypt? Does that mean we are living on manna and quail and wandering around like Jacob/Israel?
The question comes down to this my friends. Are we living in the Kingdom of God, in the promised land, or are we living in the wilderness, cared for and waiting for the promises of God to come true in our lives?
For the land God promised us isn’t primary geographical. Rather, it is the land where God clearly rules, where He is Lord and King, providing for His people. It is the place where His people find rest and refuge, a sanctuary of peace and a place where His love evident.
A place where Deuteronomy describes as the place which in our special possession, the place where our inheritance, what God has promised His people has become a reality.
You see, that’s what bothers me about the passage being only a parallel to our journey to heaven.
For in Christ, we already are citizens of His kingdom and heirs of His promises, He has already delivered us. We just have to understand this and trust Him on it, knowing our reality is in heaven, in Christ.
Which is why we can bring before him the gifts that acknowledge that we have been delivered. The gifts that acknowledge we dwell in Christ. The gifts that acknowledge we have been killed off with Christ in our baptism, and brought to life because of His resurrection.
That is why Paul will also tell the church in Romans 12 to present our bodies as living sacrifices, which is the appropriate worship, the reason worship, declaring what God has done.
The passage in Deuteronomy ends with this, “
It’s time to party!
11 Afterward, you may go and celebrate because of all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. Remember to include the Levites and the foreigners living among you in the celebration.
My friends, Jesus has given us life, the abundant life that begins in the waters of baptism, and matures as we see the Father face to face. We aren’t waiting on that to come about some day. We are His children, now.
So it is time to celebrate, to know His love… and to include all who would come in the celebration, so that they too may understand and celebrate His love. It will take faith; it will as Paul said mean focusing on the reality of heaven, of dwelling, not among clouds, but in the very presence of our loving God. AMEN?