Isaiah 6, 40, and 61 Top Ten Bible Characters
Elizabeth M. Deibert 16 July 2016
Earlier in the week I said to Gia I’m sure we will not have another violent crisis to address, so let’s just enjoy Isaiah’s comforting message, and reflect on it with singing, which we will do. But who was I kidding to think that we could have a week without random and indiscriminate violence. When Rebecca got home from work at Cedarkirk, where they are not watching TV and on their cell phones, she did not know about the tragedy in Nice, France, and when I mentioned it she could not believe it. At times like this we need to remember as Richard and I discussed, “We are not citizens of this world, but of the realm of God.” This is not our home. Yet we cannot run from this place, but with Isaiah’s help perhaps we might get some perspective on it. All three parts of Isaiah proclaim God’s truth to suffering people and propels them to a perspective of hope.
It was hard to limit myself to such a few verses of Isaiah. You might be saying in a few minutes, “She was not at all successful in limiting to a few verses.” But in trying in capture the essence of Isaiah, I wanted us to read verses from all three time periods. First there’s holy call, then there’s the comfort of transformation, then there’s the challenge of the call to proclaim truth.
(slide) First reading is the holy call, reminding us of the awesomeness of God. God is not just one of us. God is holy and beyond us. In the presence of a Holy God, Isaiah felt small and inadequate until the seraphim touched him. Notice that it is his lips that are unclean. James would agree that our tongues stir up more anger and hatred, more sin than any other part of our body. If we could begin to speak the truth in love, we might become more loving in our actions. Our first theme in Isaiah is holiness.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out." 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!" (NRS)
Singing #68 – Heaven Opened to Isaiah
Holy is the first word, and comfort is the second. Comfort those who are in the wilderness. Comfort those in a valley. Comfort those in a rough place. The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people, ALL people, will see it together, for the mouth of God has spoken. In times like this, with crazy, unpredictable violence around us, with strange political trends, we all want to cry out. “Stop the craziness.” As someone posted on FB, don’t shoot people. Shooting people, or driving over them, or setting off bombs, what good is that? It is NOT accomplishing anything. It is making things worse. Don’t shoot people because of their skin color. Don’t shoot people because of their religion. Don’t shoot people because of their sexual identity. Don’t shoot people because they wear a uniform. Stop the craziness. Isaiah says, “All flesh is grass. We are are flowers, here today, gone tomorrow. But God will endure.”
God in Jesus Christ did not rise up in self-defense, who did not stand his ground, but spoke his truth, then laid down his life. Immanuel, Prince of Peace, Mighty God took all our anger and rage upon God’s own self. This God is like a shepherd, gathering up those who are lost and wandering. This is the one in whom we trust. The one who brings comfort.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2 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. 3 A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 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. 5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." 6 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. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. 9 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!" 10 See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 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. (NRS)
Singing #79 – Light Dawns on a Weary World
The first word was _______ (Holy) and the second word was _________(Comfort). And now the last word is Challenge. These are the words that Jesus quoted in the beginning of his ministry, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. This is the identity of Christ, and therefore, our identity as Christians.
The Spirit of the Lord is in us, on us, working through us, and our job is to bring good news to those who are oppressed (weighed, put down, crushed, mistreated). Our job is to comfort and heal the brokenhearted, and to be part of the freedom movement for those who are entrapped – to announce that God loves them, that God wants them to live securely and and wants all of us to treat each other respectfully. We are called to build up the good things that have been destroyed, to welcome strangers, allowing them to work alongside us, to share our land. God will restore things, doubly to the right. God loves justice and despises wrong-doing.
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; 6 but you shall be called priests of the LORD, you shall be named ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory. 7 Because their shame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs. 8 For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed. (Isa 61:1 NRS)
Singing #744 -- Arise Your Light Has Come (vs 2 & 3)
If we can humbly embrace the holiness of God, gratefully receive the comforting news of God that transforms us, and joyfully accept the challenging call of God to provide generously for others in need, then we will be living the message of the Prophet Isaiah and walking the life of Jesus Christ, Messiah, our friend and Savior.
(slide) Just as Christ was raised from the dead, just as God brought comfort and challenge to the Israelites in their calling, so the Spirit reminds us that the evil forces of this world will never get the final word. Living with hope, living with encouragement requires that we look beyond the suffering of this present time to the glory of God which will surely be revealed to us and to all flesh.