Overwhelmed by Joy!
† Jesus Son & Savior †
As we begin this year, may the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ overwhelm you, leaving you noticeably at rest and full of joy!
Standing in the wings
Isaiah, the prophet gives an incredible description of the new beginning we have in Christ in today’s Old Testament. It takes most of back a decade or two or five.
Back to when us guys were standing in churches, or chapels, and waiting for the doors to open. Back when you ladies were on the other side of those doors, in that moment of anticipation, in that moment of joy.
That’s what Isaiah starts the passage with, as he attempts to describe the joy he feels, as he catches a vision of the restoration of the people of God. Hear it again,
10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
All dressed up – and waiting, but what clothes! Salvation and Righteousness!
And Isaiah saw this coming – and the joy was overwhelming!
As we start this new year, this is what we need to realize, that our lives have changed, and changing as much as a young couples lives change, as the bride and groom see each other on their wedding day….
We’ll get back to that in a moment…
The prayer – for the new beginning
We need to understand that Isaiah is one of the prophets whose writings are filled with lament. With the words that people will hear, because they continually choose sin over God. They are self-centered, and ignore those in need, which Isaiah mourns over, even as he warns them what they are heading for, if they continue.
In between the woes, and the promises of judgment, there brief views of hope. He will talk about a virgin who would conceive, and the baby who would be the wonderful counselor, eternal Father, the prince of peace. He would mention the one who pleased God by taking on himself all the wrath of God, thus giving life to those crushed by their own sin.
But overall, the book is challenging to read, Lots of what we might call hell fire and brimstone. But then, sin is a serious issue, and it took a serious cross to cure and heal the damage done to sinners.
But you see God’s heart reflected in Isaiah’s prayer
Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.
Even as the prophet has his moments, okay, more than moments, years of struggling to get them to listen to God, he has a desire for them to come into the relationship they were meant to be in.
God’s desire infused the heart of Isaiah, and even as he weeps over their disobedience, he longs for the change that God has promised.
He has to pray, and will pray until they are right with God, so right they shine like the sun rising, and the proof of God’s delivering them lights up the darkness like bonfire.
This is what the prophet longs for, and what causes incredible joy, as he looks to the future, and gets a hint of what Jesus, the one born of a virgin, the suffering servant whose wounds would provide our healing, when Isaiah realizes the work of Christ!
Even as it was His hope, it is ours as well, and we are so much closer to realizing it fulfilled.
We like Isaiah are dressed, and waiting for the doors to open, to see the promise come into its fullness.
The clothes and the name.
When I mentioned the joy of Isaiah being such that he compared it to a groom standing here, or a bride back at the door, all dressed up in their clothing of salvation and the robe of righteousness, I didn’t explain the depth of those words.
The clothing is that of the greatest finery – the same words are used for the special robes of a priest on the highest of holy days. As is the robe – we aren’t talking about a bath robe or choir robe, we are talking about the covering of a king… and the types of garments aren’t even the best thing!
The clothing of salvation – that is in Hebrew the being clothed with Yeshua – being clothed with Jesus! The very thing Paul will talk about, as we are united to Jesus – as we put Him on,
Which explains how our robes are righteousness – the purity and innocence of one who does not know sin at all.
This is what Isaiah saw as our future, this moment of pure joy, pure bliss, as the people of God are made so righteous that the world is amazed, because we will share in the glory of God, as He holds out for all to see.
This moment as God makes you His, this special moment that Isaiah prayed and prayed and prayed for, that the people of Israel and all the nations would come to know…
The moment we were united to Christ, it is already here, it happened at the cross.
In the beginning of the sermon, I mentioned waiting here as a groom would, or there, as a bride would, that is what Isaiah saw – but for us, we’ve come to that point where the pastor announces our name for the first time, for we have be claimed by Christ at this font, and again at this altar.
We are his, and though we can’t quite believe it has happened, it has, and the rest of life is the walk down the aisle, dwelling with Him in holiness, until we go out into eternity.
The thought of this occurring caused Isaiah great joy, so much so He was overwhelmed,
How much more can this overwhelm us, who don’t see it far off, but know it true now.
How much more can it affect our very lives, this incredible gift of God.
May we sing His praises, now and forever! AMEN
Come and See: The Day!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God, the love and mercy and peace that is yours in Christ Jesus, be that which is most evident in your life, until the day
He returns in Glory for us! AMEN!
Come and See!
Yesterday afternoon, a man named Michael was standing right here, with his dad standing next to him. He was as anxious as any man I have ever stood beside as they prepared to enter marriage.
As the doors back there opened, as he looked upon his fiancé, dressed in white, there was the loudest gasp I have ever heard from a man, as he commented, in awe of how beautiful she was, at how her beauty exceeded every expectation he had, every dream of how this moment would be.
During the wedding, it was kind of cute – as he looked upon her with such adoration that she often looked away – almost embarrassed to see the look in his eyes! A couple of times during the vows I even had to remind her to look at him!
That kind of mindset, that nervous anticipation of the bride and groom, the moment before the doors open and they look at each other, that ½ second when time slows to a crawl prior to the doors opening – that is the mindset of advent.
We know He is coming, we know what has been promised. We have desired the day to finally come, the moment, the time that is drawing closer. Maybe we’ve even dreamed about it, as we hear the descriptions of what it will be like.
There is a sense of awe, and a sense of anxiety, a feeling of doubt as we wonder “how will I live up to His expectations?”
As we walk through this advent together, as we look to the day when Christ comes again, fulfilling the promises that were first fulfilled when He came 2000 years ago, it is my hope that we realize that our situation is not unlike the situation Mike’s lady found herself in, as we realize the love of God and the way that Christ sees us, the church, His bride.
For that is what that day is all about!
The day when we have come to see, as we come to adore our Lord.
What do we expect of the Messiah?
In my more self-righteous moments, I wonder how the people of Israel could overlook all of the prophecies about the Messiah. How could they have been so far off in what they expected Jesus to be like, how they expected Him to come. How could the experts have been so…wrong?
Those errors had incredibly serious implications, for example – if Herod’s advisors had known that Jesus didn’t come to establish some mere political kingdom, that he wasn’t going to overthrow Caesar and Herod, would he have bothered to slaughter all the innocent male children? Would the Pharisees have reacted to Jesus if they had spent more time in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel, rather than just seeing the promises of a new Moses, a new David?
What about our expectations today, as we look at the church around the world – does it still expect the kingdom of heaven to be established on the earth? I have mocked the television-evangelist types, when they promise wealth and health and happiness, yet there are times, I have to admit, when my expectations are just as self-centered. And that leads to trouble, for false expectations can create a let down of massive proportions. When our expectations are shattered, no matter their basis, how do we react? Are we like the young couple that sees their life in the harsh reality that occurs when the bills are piling up, the in-laws are becoming more critical, and the pressures of work and household are taking their toll? Do we spiritually “fall out of love” with God at times?
How do we balance off promises like “all things work for good for those who love God,” with the things we don’t understand, like economy, like disease, like death? How do we hear passages like Jeremiah, that promise a day coming… when we’ve been waiting so long, when we’ve heard that Jeremiah’s promise was about the coming of the Messiah? – the first coming? When those promises, supposedly fulfilled by the baby in the manger, now seem to be as naïvely received as the promises of how perfect a young couple thinks their marriage will be?
Has God let us down? Will the second coming also be…more of the same?
What is promised?
As we enter Advent, as we take a moment and light an extra candle, and then two and then three, and then four, and then, in the right moment, at the precise time, this fifth candle is lit, the one that really matters, the one that makes hope and peace and joy and faith possible, we need to learn that lesson – these candles only find their meaning in that candle.
So to do the promises of God, found in the Old Testament only make sense when we, the church, the bride of Christ, are looking at our groom, at our Lord.
Hear Jeremiah’s words again,
14 “The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them.
In Sunday School, we are going to talk about who Israel and Judah are, and who they aren’t. For us, in this moment, I am going to tell you – what matters is that you are, one way or the other, included in that group.
God will do what He has promised, in His time, and it will be good.
What will done? What will God do?
He will raise up a righteous servant. One of David’s line. He will do what is just and what is right – throughout the land – that is what Jeremiah tells us.
Isn’t that why Christ came? To set everything right, to fix it all? TO make life perfect?
Was not the Messiah to bring healing and light to the nations? To bring glory to Israel?
Even as I look around at the broken world in which we live, I can in truth say, yes, I believe Christ came to do that, and has done it, and is doing it still.
Except that we don’t see the work all that clearly, in fact, only with a little more clarity than those awaiting the Messiah the first time. For in Jeremiah’s promise, we see that the righteousness – the perfection comes, not in us, but in Christ. It is His work that establishes what is just and right – it is His work.
At the cross, that work was done. At that time, we were saved, and indeed the people of God live in safety. We have been delivered my friends, from all that threatens us. Sin has no power over us, for God has given us the keys of the kingdom, the responsibility to nullify sin through the authority to forgive it, to dismiss it, to negate it.
Likewise its compatriots, Satan and death, though they seem to loom powerfully in this world, are but illusions and fraud. They cannot separate us from God, they cannot diminish His love for us. They cannot remove His guarantee that all will work for good, because He stands behind that.
That is what it means, for the city of God to be named, The Lord is our righteousness. Yhwh-tsidkenu. It is He that is perfect, righteous, holy.
And we, the church, are His bride. Joined to Him, one, even as a husband and wife become one…
He Has Come, He is Coming!
In many ways, life is like the wedding ceremony, with the life that will become true, only hinted at, even as we wait for the life that is to come, afterward.
We haven’t begun the life together yet… even though the joys of the moment are here. We still struggle to look our Lord in the eyes, to see His love there, to know that He sees us as His beautiful, clean, glorious bride.
Yet that too is part of advent, the reminder that life is yet to truly begin.
We are in the presence of the bridegroom, who has paid every price to bring us to this point. We see Him in His glory, and wonder whether we truly belong here.
There is the message of advent as well – we do, we’ve been called here, we’ve been called to live eternally as the bride of Christ, as the people of God.
Soon, the wedding will become the feast, and then the life…
May we live in this moment, looking to Jesus, the Lord who chose us to be His, who brings us into life and shares His life and His righteousness and holiness with us.
Come my friends. Come and see your Lord, the One who shares it all with you. Come and see your Lord, look into His eyes of love, do not look away.
I’d leave you with two promises, found in the writings of the Apostle Paul, to churches like us…
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NAB)
1:6 I am quite confident that the One who began a good work in you will go on completing it until the Day of Jesus Christ comes.
Philippians 1:6 (NJB)
Your Lord awaits… it is time to celebrate, for you have been saved, your life with Him is lived safely and peacefully, for in His righteousness, you are guarded, your heart and mind always in His care. AMEN.
This afternoon, a couple will become husband and wife, as they are married at my church.
It will be a special day for her, as every wedding day is for every bride. A day that they look forward to most of their lives, a day they dream about.
As we went through the practice for the wedding, I made the comment, that for three of the people in the room, the day is even more important, than it will be for her. Which indeed grabbed everyone’s attention, for who in a room can a wedding day be more important for, than the bride?
The answer is, for the three children of theirs, who, as the first act the family participates in as a family, will be baptized, Who will be cleansed of all their sins, pastor, present, and to come. Who will be marked and sealed as the children of God. For them, this day marks a new beginning, a new moment, a new life. It is Pentecost – for them. If you read the Old Testament prophecy of Ezekiel,36:25, you will see what I mean. You will see it as well in Titus 3:2-8.
As the couple gets married, promises will be exchanged, vows will be made. THe same is true in the baptism, as God will make promises that can never be broken. Marriage is about a loving relationship – so is the baptism. Marriage is, as the vows say, until death do us part. But the relationship that is committed to in baptism – that is eternal – He never will leave them or forsake them, He will pour out love and peace and mercy and forgiveness (those things are important too in marriage – but not a powerful or perhaps as abundant)
It’s an interesting question of course, in contemplating what the most important day of one’s life is, and any day we walk with God is incredible (especially if we realize we are!) but our lives change, they come alive, on the day when God cleanses us with water and the promises of His word.
A day to rejoice in!