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Midweek Divine Service

Isaiah 59:14-21

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Wed. after First Sunday after Christmas
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Wed, Dec 30, 2020 

Justice is turned back.  What an ugly description of this world!  The innocent are punished, and the guilty go free.  Fairness is often abandoned.  And why not?  If a person can, he will take advantage of the system and get better than what he deserves.  Who wouldn’t?  Yet if you get a bigger piece of the pie, then someone else gets a smaller piece.  If you take advantage, someone else must be taken advantage of.

Truth stumbles in the public square.  How frustrating that we often find this twisted principle in operation!  When the truth is told it is scoffed at and treated like stupidity.  Laughter is sometimes the only answer that the facts receive.

Especially, the truth and justice of God are met with cynicism.  The Gospel should always create joy.  But sinful man wants to put things on their head.  When God speaks, man yawns or is skeptical.

He who departs from evil makes himself a prey.  When someone used to walk with sinners and indulge in their immorality, but now he turns away and stops indulging, then he will be mocked.  “Why not enjoy life?” they say.  But it will not stop at mockery.  After all, he has gone off the deep end, or so the sinful world sees it.  Soon he is seen as a hateful man and will soon be attacked, ostracized, or worse.

The Lord Yahweh sees all this, and it is evil in His sight.  It is very displeasing to Him that His principles of justice and truth are denied.  He hates that the righteous are treated as hateful and worthy of hate.

It is even worse in His eyes that there is no one who would intervene in the world.  What man would stand up to make everything right?  We may look to human beings that we think will set the world in order, but they disappoint.  They may seem great to us, but eventually we see that they lack in wisdom, or they lack enough power to do what they set out to do.  The ones we thought were examples of morality stumble.  If anyone makes some strides to create justice in the world, then it will not take long for their progress to be reversed by opposing forces.

This does not surprise us, or it should not.  But there are even bigger problems that underlie all this.  Wickedness is rampant, even in common people, although they nearly always rationalize why it is not wicked when THEY do it.  In our information age, truth is denied or reversed or confused to the point where no one seems to know that the truth lies with the Lord who reveals Himself in Scripture.

Mankind is in big trouble.  We destroy ourselves with immorality.  Our transgressions stink to high heaven, and we cannot even tell what our transgressions are.  In our blindness, our corruption eats away at our life until we die, and even death is more serious and horrifying and eternal than we think.

Who will stop this?  God looked out upon the world and saw that there is no man who can reverse the inevitable destruction of our race.

Then His own Arm brought Him salvation.  What is God’s Arm?  God has no arm, not physically speaking.  But His Arm is the strong action of the Lord, His working to do what He desires.  The powerful working of God to create salvation is in His Son, Jesus Christ.  The Son of God is the Arm of God.

There was no man to save, so God made a Man who could save.  That Man is the Son of the Virgin, truly human yet truly divine.  He could make things right.

He has come in human flesh, dressed for battle.  Holy prophet Isaiah describes Him as wearing a breastplate of righteousness, a helmet of salvation, garments of vengeance, and zeal as a cloak.  This war equipment is much like the Armor of God described in Ephesians six, yet not exactly.  We are dressed as Christ is, because He clothes us with His victory.  He gives us the salvation that He has won for us.  We are dressed as He is, which is terribly comforting when we face powerful enemies.

Christ’s battle clothing describes His readiness to win over sin and evil.  He came ready to save us from death and all our enemies.  He came to bestow righteousness by God’s declaration of innocence.  This could only happen because He conquered the huge evil which is our sins.  Only the Cross could make righteousness for us.  Christ came ready to go to Calvary.

Christ’s vengeance is not for Him to punish us, but to strike the enemies that held us captive.  The ancient serpent was struck upon the head, and death’s sting removed.  Hell is shut to us as heaven is opened to us.  All the deniers of truth and the hunters of the innocent will be struck down.

Christ’s zeal is His burning desire to accomplish the mission His Father set before Him.  With that tremendous fire of love and determination, who could stop Him?  He crashed into battle like a rushing flood, or like a stream released from a floodgate.  He washed away all who stood before Him, and completely overwhelmed all that was in His way, even our sins.

This Redeemer comes to all who turn from transgression, declares the Lord Yahweh.  “Uh oh,” we think.  “There’s a catch!  We have to turn away from sin.” But we kind of like some of our sins.  Lots of sins we can turn away from.  Some of them we try to stop, but we fail.  Some we indulge in, if only in our secret thoughts, and heaven knows we cannot fully control our thoughts!

But the turning the Lord declares is something He gives to us to do.  He both commands and grants the gift to be able to do.  If He did not, then we would indeed fail.

We turn away first by repenting.  We know that we do evil in numerous ways.  We learn from the Holy Spirit to despise our own sins and hate that we do them.  We are sorrowful and regret that we do them.

But we also truly try to do better.  We try to turn away as much as we can, the Lord helping.  Sometimes we are able to overcome.  Other times not.  Yet the turning away is what we are constantly doing and trying to do better throughout our Christian life.  By God’s grace He leads us to fight this battle in our life.

Yet the main battle, the strategic victory, happened with Christ, not us.  It is not our doing that makes us fit for salvation.  Christ overcame.  He accomplished.  He has done all things well.  By Him, we are saved already.

Then the Lord Yahweh says something a bit strange.  “This is My covenant with them: My Spirit that is upon You, and My words that I have put in Your mouth, shall not depart out of Your mouth, or out of the mouth of Your offspring, or out of the mouth of Your children’s offspring, from this time forth and forevermore.”

The Lord switches from talking about “them” to talking about “You”.  Some people assume that both pronouns are talking about the same group, namely, the Church.  But it seems to me that the Lord is saying that “them”, the Church, has a covenant from God, and the covenant is this: That there is One called “You”, the Redeemer, who has gracious words in His mouth.

Either way, the promise is essentially the same: Because the Messiah has come, we are blessed forever.  The Word in the mouth of Christ is still with us, spoken through His servants to His offspring.  His offspring are all those who are begotten by His Word and born of water and the Spirit.  The Word and Spirit are the promise, because they are given by Christ for His Church.  Because Christ remains with His people, His blessings remain with us.

What a comfort this is!  There is and shall remain one holy Christian Church in which Christ speaks His Word, through which the Spirit will work faith when and where it pleases Him.  Our feelings may tell us that God has abandoned the Church.  Our feelings may say that THIS little band of beggars can’t be the Church.  But the Lord Yahweh has promised that the Redeemer He sent remains here, and with Him, His Word and Spirit.  These are at work, although we cannot always see it.

So these will remain with us forever and ever.  Amen.

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