TEXT: Isaiah 40: 1-11
QUESTION: When we feel helpless and hopeless, who will rescue us?
ASSERTION: Salvation comes to us not in political alliances, military power, or government action. God is the One who promises to redeem his people in all circumstances.
INVITATION: The prophet is called to prepare the way of the Lord by preaching the good news that God is about to rescue and redeem his people. And we can be the voice of the prophet today. We can preach the good news of God’s salvation and prepare the way for the coming of the Kingdom without end; the Kingdom of God.
Move 1: Introduction
There is a prophet before John the Baptist called to "prepare the way for the Lord." Namely, the prophet Isaiah. This morning we hear from Isaiah. At this point in Isaiah’s career the Jews have been in exile for more than 50 years. Against the advice of the prophet Jeremiah, the king had put his trust in political alliances and military power rather than in God. Babylon attacked Jerusalem and despite Judah's alliances Jerusalem, its walls, and the temple were destroyed and the people will taken captive into Babylon.
Now, however, the prophet has good news. Judah's suffering and ridicule are nearly at an end. The days of their slavery are numbered. For God is about to rescue them. Listen for the Word of God in Isaiah 40: 1-11:
“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” (Isaiah 40:1-11, NRSV)
Prayer for Enlightenment
Move 2: Bail Out
Judah is about to be “bailed out” by God. Their salvation has come near to them. But take note their rescue is not due to the action of an earthly king or government. God is about the redeem Israel, and pay the debt of the nation long in exile.
In these days we are hearing a lot about 21st century “bail outs” in the news: seven hundred billion dollars and counting. The credit markets are being rescued. Banks are having their bad assets redeemed. Losses due to excess extravagance and risky business policies are being covered by government bailouts and taxpayer dollars.
Move 3: Sad Stories
In the midst of all the talk of bailouts we hear the sad stories of individuals. I’m really not too moved by the stories of the captains of industry who are losing their private jets and Christmas bonuses. My heart goes out to the families who have lost their homes. I weep for the moms and dads, and children living on unemployment benefits who are struggling to buy food, pay for gas to get to doctor appointments and job interviews, while still providing clothing and shelter for the whole family.
Our hearts break with each new story. And if we are honest we are all full of fear.
Move 4: Good News
At the darkest hour for Judah, the people received good news. Their days of suffering are numbered. God was at work to rescue, redeem, and restore his people. But the hope of rescue was not from a government bailout. God was about to rescue his people.
Today, when we look to the government for “bailouts” we are looking in the wrong direction. I’m not saying that the government shouldn’t do anything at all and just let more and more industries fail and more and more individuals lose their jobs. What I am saying is that right now, perhaps more than ever, we need to look to God. It is God who saves and it is God who can rescue us from the worst of times.
Right now churches across this nation and around the world need to pray, give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, lead us not aside to false saviors, for the Kingdom without end is the Kingdom of God. We need to pray thy kingdom come, thy will be done. Right now we need to be praying for leaders and leadership. We need to be praying for families and those who are alone. And we need to be reaching out to share what we have with those who are just barely hanging on.
Move 5: Prepare the Way
My faith leads me to proclaim good the good news that God is about to rescue those who are in need. And God won’t be asking, “how did you get yourself into this mess?” In the middle of our passage today the prophet is called upon to comfort, comfort, God’s people. The prophet is called to prepare the way of the Lord by preaching the good news that God is about to rescue and redeem his people. And we can be the voice of the prophet today in this crisis. We can preach the good news of God’s salvation and prepare the way for the coming of the Kingdom without end.