Pentecost 6 (Proper 10), July 12, 2020

That Which Does Give Life

Text: Isaiah 55:10–13

It is not hard to believe and to carry on when things are going well, but when God’s saving action is not apparent and completely obvious, things get much more difficult.

1. Carrying on with difficulty was the case with Israel, both before the exile to Babylon and during that exile. Things were, indeed, bleak. But God promised through Isaiah an eternal covenant and eternal benefits. 

2. The people of Jesus’s time were in an almost identical situation—under the oppression of Rome, with no apparent victory of God’s gracious reign and rule. But, in Jesus’s actions in his ministry, God’s word of promise through Isaiah came to fruition in a preliminary way, and the word of promise of a new covenant (Is 55:3) came to fulfillment in an even more complete way through the new covenant in his blood (Lk 22:20). And all of this as a token of the full redemption of this people at his second coming.

3. These verses speak to us today. We stand in relation to our Lord’s second coming as the people of Israel did to Yahweh’s promise of return from exile and to the promise of a new covenant in the Servant, Jesus. Just like them we wait; we wait for the completion of the promise in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, what was true for them is true for us, as well: 

  • God’s word is powerful, creative, and trustworthy. It can never fail. You can trust it with your life. We will surely come into possession of the promised inheritance of a new creation, as the sons and daughters of the King.
  • Anchored to the preceding and following verses, the text and its interpretation narrow considerably and focus clearly on the effectiveness of the Word.

Vv 1–6 

  • The gracious invitation is conveyed through the Word: “Listen, listen to me . . . Give ear . . .hear me . . . you [Christ] will summon . . .” 

Vv 6–7: 

  • Continuing the theme of vv 1–5, man is called to forsake his own thoughts and ways and to turn to the Lord while he can be found.
  • Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed is helpful: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith” (Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, 17). 
  • The faith that answers the Gospel call is itself a gift from God, created by the Holy Spirit working through his Word. 
  • God is near and can be found wherever the Word of the Gospel remains.

Vv 7–9 

  • The problem that the Word is sent to alleviate:
  • Humans engage in wickedness and evil. There is a great disparity and separation between God and us, our thoughts and his. 
  • God’s ways are more lofty in two respects: 
  • they are righteous, and also merciful. 
  • God desires to abundantly pardon free of charge, sola gratia. 
  • Humans prefer to get even. 
  • God offers to the thirsty water without cost. 
  • Humans rarely miss an opportunity to make a dollar. 
  • God in his faithful mercy promises to establish an everlasting covenant (vv 3, 13), 
  • even though his unfaithful people have broken the covenant (24:5; 33:8). 

Vv 8–9 

  • God says, “You know that what separates us is your sin, but do you know how great is the distance of that separation?” 
  • The moon is 238,900 miles from the earth. 
  • The sun is 94,498,000 miles away. 
  • The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.25 light-years away. 
  • That gives us some idea of the distance between God’s thoughts and ours.
  • The problem is, no matter how much I want to follow God’s instruction, I am powerless to make it happen. When it comes to righteousness before God, I am lame, bankrupt, blind, and impotent.
  • God’s greatness is seen in the mercy he shows us in Christ.

Vv 10–11: 

  • God assures us that he can be trusted to accomplish what he has promised. Like the rain and snow, which water the earth and bring forth life, the Word of the Lord succeeds in its life-giving purpose. 
  • Ultimately, this points us to Christ, “the Word of life” (1 Jn 1:1), in whom all the promises of God find their fulfillment (2 Cor 1:20).
  • God showers his blessings on those who do not deserve them.
  • The causative Hiphil Hebrew verbs in our text further focus our attention on the efficacy of the Word. 
  • Literally translated, in v 10 the moisture “CAUSES the earth to be watered,” “CAUSES her [the earth] to give birth,” and “CAUSES her to sprout forth.” 
  • Likewise, v 11 says the Word will “CAUSES to succeed” [NI V: “achieve”] that purpose for which God sends it. 
  • There is no room here for synergism, Pelagianism, or decision theology. 
  • God’s Word alone is responsible for working in us the miracle of faith—a faith that grows and bears fruit.

V 12:

  • The joy in v 12 is the bliss of Eden restored. 
  • All creation joins in the celebration of God’s redemption
  • Restoration of spiritual & physical creation!!
  • The thorny curse of Gen 3:18 is reversed through him who wore the crown of thorns. 
  • “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). 
  • This restoration is our joy, a gracious gift from a loving God. Soli Deo Gloria—God alone gets the glory (v 13). The restoration he has provided is the basis for his fame; it is the glory of his name, and it is eternal.
  • God's Word Works!
  • But can this Word be trusted? After all, the Babylonian propaganda sounded very persuasive. Didn’t their gods defeat Israel’s God? Isn’t the Lord, therefore, inferior to their god Marduk? And what about talk of a “new exodus”? Isn’t this just a pipe dream? 
  • Isaiah announces that God’s Word will accomplish that for which he sends it!
  • The Word of God doesn't ONLY go out (proclamation) but also brings something back (redemption)!!
  • The Sacraments are tied to this truth - the WORD with the visible elements DO such great things!
  • This Word is more powerful than armies, treaties, chariots, horses, as well as every other human might.
  • שָׁלוֹם:237 n.m.:Is. 54:13 completeness, soundness, welfare, peace 
  • Weedy and Scruffy stuff will be replaced with blooming flowers and fruit producing plants!!
  • The word of God is the ONLY true thing that can be counted on forever!!
  • God actually WANTS His people to remember His word and witness that He really DOES what He says!
  • The Lord’s work through his Servant is not for Israel alone, but for the entire world. 
  • The verb yatsa’ (“to go forth”) is in pivotal places in Isaiah 40–55. Because God’s Word goes forth (55:11), Israel is commanded to go forth from Babylon (48:20; 52:11). 
  • Isaiah is not saying that everyone who hears the Word will come to faith. He is simply and powerfully asserting the effectiveness of the Word in accomplishing God’s purpose.
  • There is now no doubt. It is the Word of the Lord that accomplishes the purposes of the Lord. Jesus Christ has succeeded in the thing for which he was sent. 
  • Now, he continues to send his Word down from heaven to water the earth, and, by his own Spirit, he uses his Word to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify the whole Christian Church on earth, so that sinners would be saved and the dead, dry desert of this world would be filled with life. 
  • God’s Word (Jesus) alone is That Which Does Give Life! Amen.