Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

The Christmas Life: Hope (Isaiah 61:1-3)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Of your able. Please remain standing and let's hear God's Word From Isaiah, Chapter Sixty one. Here we give attention to one of those Prophet bards that we just sung of Isaiah. Here for telling of Jesus Isaiah Sixty one, verses one through three. The spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of Jehovah's Favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, to grant to those who mourn in Zion, to give them a beautiful head dress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness, instead of mourning, the garment of praise, instead of a faint spirit, that they may be called Oaks of Righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, the He may be glorified. You may be seated. This morning we finish a brief series of sermons I've called the Christmas life. In these sermons, I've tried to show the significance of Jesus's birth. In connection with themes that we usually associate with Christmas, we've considered humility, miracles, gifts and joy. This morning we consider hope, hope. Hope is a funny thing to finish with, because in life, hope is often what we start with. Hope is the thing that gets us going, especially when we know that the going is going to be tough. I once heard a bit of advice that suggested before you go to bed, you should try to think of one thing you're looking forward to the next day. Hope has a way of putting our minds at ease and preparing us for whatever lie as ahead. But it's not always easy...

...to find something to look forward to, even the next day. Sometimes we dread the next day. It's also not easy to find something to look forward to, especially when yesterday's wishes and hopes didn't come true. That happens a lot. Some people even find themselves in situations where bad days feel like bad lives, like the people mentioned here in Isaiah Sixty one one through three. Poor people, afflicted people, brokenhearted people, prisoners, mourners, and that's why Isaiah Sixty one is so important and Isaiah Sixty one. God offers hope to the hope less. Hope is important because of hopelessness, and hopelessness exists because there are these gaps in our lives. Hopelessness exists it's what we feel because of these gaps, these gaps between what we have and what we want, between who we are and who we know we ought to be. Hope in some ways bridges that gap. It helps us feel like there's a way to get to that other thing, a bridge between who we are and who we want to be. But without that bridge there, all you have is a gap, all you have is hopelessness. You know that feeling, don't you? That feeling of wanting so badly to have something but not really believing you'll ever get it. It's been said that a harsh reality is better than a false hope, and there's some truth to that. The message that we ultimately want to hear is that there's a real bridge, there's a real way to bridge that gap, to have someone tell you to wish upon a star and just believe hard enough. Ultimately, it's not very hopeful and we know it. We'd rather face the reality as it is and and recognize the vanities for what they are, but that doesn't make us feel any better. Those gaps, those gaps in our lives between who we are and who we ought to be, between what we have and what we so desperately want. Without a bridge there, what we have is hopelessness. Consider a few examples. Consider the poor person Isaiah mentions first. Now there's all kinds of poor people. This could be translated afflicted, for example, but think about it just...

...in terms of money, affliction in terms of not having things. Financial advisors tell us that having an emergency fund with six months of saved income is an essential thing for a financially stable household, but to the person who feels trapped in poverty, that goal feels unobtainable, hopeless. With not enough hours at work, wage garnishment, increasing debt, medical bills and all the rest, that gap just grows and grows and even when you feel like you make some progress, you have a lot of doubt and with no obvious way to reach the other side, it's easy for people in this situation to feel hopeless. The gap is just too big and many even give up trying. Or consider the example of prison, the the prisoner, the one in captivity. So many things you could think of. Let's think of a biblical example. Imagine yourself as Joseph. What kind of hope do you think you would have if you were being held in a prison based on the false accusations of a powerful and wealthy person? Do you think you'd have a lot of hope about getting out, especially when you're a foreigner and a slave, probably without any rights? Joseph was there two years. How long do you think you would hold on to hope in a situation like that? A week, a month, half a year, a year? At what point would you taste the same food yet again and think this is going to be it for me? It's that gap, you see what I mean, that gap between freedom and captivity, between wealth and poverty, between godliness and disobedience. You may not be poor or in prison, but you know the feeling of that dreadful gap. Maybe it's a relationship that's been broken with no obvious way to fix it. Maybe it's a sin that has its claws dug so deeply in your soul that you just know it's going to kill you. Maybe the gap is hopelessness itself, that depression, that terrible empty darkness in which we often lose ourselves. There are little things that we experience in life which are are nice enough, little things that we look forward to, the coffee break at work, a...

...phone call from a friend, a particular part of the drive home, but the gaps between who we are and who we want to be, between what we have and what we ought want, these gaps are often too large for these little things to spam. You can't cross a canyon with paving stones, even thousands of them. You need a bridge so strong and so large that no gap is left and every step is secured. That's what hope is, isn't it? It's knowing that getting to the other side is possible. That's what hope is. It bridges that gap and it allows us to move forward through the darkness, through our suffering, through our captivity, through our poverty. Well, because we know that internally and we have this a desperate need for it, we seek for it and we seek for it often, but we often seek for it at all the wrong places. One of the most commonplaces look. People look for hope is, of course, in money. Why do we look for it in money? Well, because money so obviously allows us to obtain things. You're hungry, you buy bread, you eat, you see there is hope in money. You are needing a break, so you take a vacation. There's all kinds of things that money seems to solve, and yet there's never enough of it, it never goes far enough, it's not permanent, and the Bible points out so often the foolishness of trusting in this particular hope, even though we so often go after it. Paul Tells Timothy to charge those who are rich in this present age to not be haughty nor set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches. He says watch out too, rich people. He says watch out, because there is not certainty here. Don't set your hopes on it. Don't allow money to be that thing that bridges that gap, because it'll vanish away right out from underneath you. Job Knew that right job, had all kinds of wealth and possessions and all the things that he could want, and just a moment's time it was gone. God even warns us in the pages of the Bible that money can often lead away from the things that we desire, the good things anyway. Like the rich man who asks Jesus to Inherit Eternal Life in mark ten and, after hearing Jesus's answer, left disheartened and sorrowful because of his great...

...possessions, his money took him in a wrong place. It sent him, in a sense, to his death. This is when Jesus said to his disciples how difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter into the Kingdom of God. Psalm Sixty one ten reminds us how thinking of money as our best hope often leads to other evils. Put No trust in Dick in extortion. Set No vain hopes on robbery. If riches increase, set not your heart on them. So you see why this is important to mention, not only because we generally do this and we do this a lot, but especially when we are poor, when we're suffering these kind of difficulties. Often than the answer that we are given is, well, don't be poor, well, don't be poor, work harder, work faster, be more productive, gain the wealth. But we all know that this expectation of wealth perishes. It vanishes out from underneath of our underneath our feet. Proverbs Eleven says, eleven seven says, when the wicked dies, his hope will perish and the expectation of wealth perishes too. But it's not just money might. There are all kinds of other things that we put our our hopes in. Some seek hope in political power, but Psalm one hundred and forty six three says put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is no salvation, or if not political power, than military power. But Isaiah thirty one one says woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the holy one of Israel or consult Jehovah. Here we get begin to beget the other part of the Bible's message, that there is a real hope to be offered. It's just we often go for it in the wrong places. We go after money, we go after connections or knowing people, or we go after power of some sort, military or otherwise. We trust in the things that we have to get us places, to do things for us, and yet fail to look to the God who made all these things, the God who is in control of them. Much of the entire book of ECCLESIASTES is devoted to cataloging the false hopes of mankind. The preacher in that book looks everywhere in the world, a world full of vanity, and he tries to find meaning. He tries to find reasons for hope. He looks for it an education...

...and entertainment, in relationships, in children, but in every case he finds nothing but an empty wind. Another another promise unfulfilled, a hope. It was nothing more than a wish. So there are these gaps in our lives and there are bridges, but there are bridges that are nothing more than our imaginations, nothing more than empty winds, empty promises, false hopes. Some of these bridges that we trust in are as light as the wind, empty promises found in our minds and in glossy magazines, bridges which vanish into the air and fail us even on the first step. And yet we continue dreaming them up, thinking about them, planning for them, desiring for them. But we are wasting our time and we are losing our faith in what is truly offered by God. There are things in this world that can help us, but only in a secondary way and only as they are part of something much larger, something that God has given and while we are wasting on our to our time on these things, putting our fit our hopes and things that should never be hoped in, know that God is offering you a hope that is more solid than the biggest, most expansive bridge that you could find in this world. In Isaiah Sixty one, one, POW three, and throughout all the pages of scripture, God offers a hope that spans the distance, hope that is secured by the giant rivets of his providence, perfectly placed, each one engineered according to his eternal will, a bridge that leaves no gap between sorrow and gladness, between captivity and freedom, between poverty and wealth, between death and life. And this bridge, this bridge, is Jesus. It's the one who's spoken of here in Isaiah Sixty one, when he says the spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. Isaiah here writes prophetically, not about himself, but about one who is to come, a prophet who is to come. Indeed, Isaiah himself brings good news to the poor. He does it right here as he gives us this prophecy. But the one who's coming,...

...the one who's prophesied here and Isaiah Sixty one, doesn't only bring good news, he effects good news. He causes it to happen, he makes it happen, he makes the news, you might say, he doesn't just tell it. There is one who's coming, who is anointed by God, anointed by the spirit. We make a distinction in theology between and an external call and an internal call. An external call is one that I make every Sunday, is that call that proclaims to you the Gospel and says believe. But there is an internal call, which I'm not capable of, but which God is. And when God makes that call and he says to a heart believe, and he does it effectively, he can do it in a way that changes it. He makes the news, he brings about freedom. God did this at the beginning of the world when he created the world. He said let there be light, and there was light. It was effective. There was an a power in that speaking, that spirit that was hovering over the waters, that empty void, that darkness, brought about these things of God. And in the same way, this same spirit, when God decides to act, he makes it happen, and that's what happens. That's what happens when this one, this one who has been anointed by God to bring good news to the poor, when he comes into the world, he affects certain things, he makes things happen, and that is what makes our hope secure. Jesus tells us that this prophecy is about himself. We read to you where this happens, in Luke chapter four, and notice not only Jesus saying that this prophecy belongs to him, but also know the role, notice the role of the spirit as well. So, Luke Chapter Four, I'm going to read it verse fourteen. This is right after Jesus is temptation in the Wilderness. We read in Verse Fourteen Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country...

...and he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all, and he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and, as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath Day and he stood up to read, and the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written. The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him and he began to say to them to day, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. And all spoke well of him and marveled at his grow the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, is not this Joseph's son? And he said to them, doubtless you will quote me with this proverb. Physician, heal yourself. What have we what have heard? Sorry, what we have heard, you did at Copernham do here in your hometown as well. And he said, truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. He goes on from there to describe the rejection of various prophets. We read and then in verse twenty nine of the when they hurt a verse twenty eight, when they heard that these things in the synagogue, they were all filled with wrath and they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff, the passing through their midst, he went away. We see several things in this passage. We see, first of all, Jesus telling us that this prophecy is about him. He goes into the synagogue, he opens this passage and Isaiah that we just read. Jesus reads it to the people and he says today this has been fulfilled in your hearing. They seem generally favorable at first, until they kind of get what he's saying and they start asking questions. This is not this Joseph's son. This is always the way it is with Jesus. This great news of him is proclaimed, this hope that spans the gap, and people say, Jesus, a carpenter, Joseph Son, the guy who died on the cross, and where is he, by the way? This great hope of yours, this great one who brings you peace with God, this great one who secures your eternal life. I don't see eternal life. I see you dying, I see you suffering, I see you in...

...captivity, I see you in poverty. Same thing happened to Jesus when he was alive. In fact, it's so enraged them that they wanted to kill him, and indeed they eventually did. It's hard sometimes to believe that Jesus is the hope that we are seeking, and yet it's true. We know it's true because he was anointed by the spirit. We know it from his signs, we know it from his works, we know it from his resurrection from the dead, and we also know it from his birth. Of what man has angels come declaring the shepherds in the Field News, good news, joyful news to you. One has been born. What man has had a star born over his manger that Wise Men following from afar would come and worship? What man has been born of a virgin? What man has died on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins? What man has been born, I'm sorry, as has been raised from the dead and been lifted up to the right hand of God, the Father, Almighty what man has sent out the spirit of God to fill up doubters and confused people and ungodly people that they might become preachers and fishers of men? Only one, the God man, Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus is a sure hope to us, and it's why rejecting him means certain death. It why it's why rejecting him means the opposite of all the things that are promised here in Isaiah Sixty one. If these things sound good to you, know that if you turn away from Jesus, the only thing that spans those gaps, then all you have is hopelessness. You will remain in your poverty, you will remain in your captivity, you will not find favor, but you will find vengeance for rejecting the word of the Lord. But to those who do hope in Jesus, in this great gift that has been given you, have all of these things considered the description in verse three, and let your hearts be glad to grant to those who mourn enzyme, to give them a beautiful head dress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead...

...of a faint spirit that they may be called Oaks of Righteousness, the planting of Jehovah that he may be glorified. Go back to that picture of job. Imagine what it is to be to have your family taken away, your wealth, all of the things which often bring us hope. Job was in a difficult spot. He cried, he wailed, he tore his clothes, he put ashes on himself. He was not a happy man. He struggled and people came to him and accused him of all kinds of wrongdoing and attacked him and his soul and all of that. Job struggled. He struggled, but God promises to those who trust in him, to job and to you, that instead of those ashes, instead of a faint spirit, he'll lift you up, dress you, put oil on you, make you shine and be happy. And this is the hope that we have in the one who not only proclaims these things, as Jesus did, but accomplishes them on the cross. The New Testament describes in all kinds of ways the effects that this has on our lives. In Hebrews six, nineteen and twenty, hope, this hope we have, is described as an anchor for our soul. The fact that Jesus has gone in and offered himself in his body as a sacrifice for sins means that we don't have to fear the vengeance of the Lord and we know only his favor. Or consider God's word in First Peter one. Three. Blessed be the God and father of our Lord. Jesus Christ, according to his great mercy, has caused us to be born again, to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Not a false hope, not a dead hope, not a pretend hope, not a wish, a living hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That's why it's living. He doesn't just mean living and in kind of abstract way and a sort of metaphorical way, though I think he's kind of doing a play on words there. He means living as in real and he means living as in Jesus Christ, a hope that is to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you who, by God's power, are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time.

Do you see why, as Christians, we have a secure hope. Why? This bridge, with these giant Rivets of God's Providence made in Jesus Christ, is secure? Because it is welded together by God Almighty himself. We are being guarded and kept in that hope by God himself. Did you hear Peter's words? WHO, by God's power, are being guarded through faith. Now that's hard to see sometimes. We often suffer, we face, as Peter will go on to say, fiery trials of various kinds. But that's why we believe, that's why we keep walking, because of who God is and what he has promised. I'll finish with these words again from Peter. It's the next verse in this that is, in this hope of Jesus. You rejoice, though now, for a little while if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him, though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. When we speak of false hopes, of dreams that don't come true, we're talking about the unobtainable, aren't we? That's when hopelessness sets in, because the things that we want, the people that we want to be, it's unobtainable. What does God say here about the salvation of your souls, about riches, of the kingdom, of the glory, of the Kingdom of God and his glory, that inheritance that's imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you? What does he say about those riches, about that freedom, about that gladness and rejoicing, about the salvation of your souls? He says it is obtainable, that you are obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls, because you walk...

...in Jesus, because you are strengthened in him. So, Christians, when all the wrapping paper and trees and Candy and Christmas hopes are gone and a New Year begins, whatever trials may come along, whatever sufferings God might bring, know that you are walking in faith, that is secure and that when you walk in Jesus, you are obtaining and will obtain this outcome, the salvation of your souls. And so say, as the PSALMIST says in Psalm forty two five to his soul, hope in God. Why are you cast down on my soul and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Let us pray.

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