Even though nobody is really sure when Jesus was born, this time of the year is as good as any for us to celebrate the historic event of the incarnation of God the Son.And celebrate we must!There is really nothing more important than the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and being born of a woman was part of that work.
Phil. 2:5-8 – Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men.And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
In our first Advent message from Gen. 6:5-8, we saw that we were created to love God, but sin has marred that love.We haven't stopped loving because we can't do anything but love.However, now it is no longer a love for God that dominates our hearts, but love for self.The grace of God frees us to love God instead of self.That is what the Advent is all about.God was personally grieved by the betrayal of his creation, but motivated by an even greater personal love.Instead of sending a flood to blot out the earth, he sent his Son to be exposed to all the harsh realities of life in a fallen world.
Introduction to Today's Sermon
Gen. 6:5-8 helped us see that sin grieved the heart of God and he responded in grace.Isaiah 59 exposes our sin and leaves us hopeless on our own, but then points us to the source of hope, Jesus Christ.
I don't know if you have thought about this or not, but we are hardwired not only for love, but also for hope (and faith to complete the triad). Every decision we make is fueled by and motivated by hope. Our happiest moments are often about hope fulfilled and our saddest moments are about hope dashed. We are always hoping. Isaiah 59 will help us see that.
I.What is happening in Isaiah 59?
A.Isaiah 59 is a brilliant hope passage because it's written in a dark moment.
1.Isaiah, and virtually every other prophet, sum up all sin under two categories: idolatry and social injustice.
2.Isaiah 59 deals with the first category of sin: idolatry.
a.Israel was hoping in false gods, then blaming God for abandoning them.
b.This is the natural, sinful tendency of not only Israel, but all of us.
Rom. 1:21-23 – … because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Himas God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
B.There was a fundamental breakdown of society in Israel, but into that darkness comes this discussion of hope found in Isaiah 59.
II.If this passage is all about hope, we need to define it – there are four important truths about hope.
A.Hope is an object and an expectation – when you hope, you are hoping in something and asking that something to deliver.
B.The doorway to hope is hopelessness – the only way you will ever find true hope is to give up on all your false hopes.
C.Hope, to be reliable, must fix what is broken – it must successfully address the biggest dilemmas of our existence, otherwise it isn't worth hoping in.
D.Hope is a Person, and his name is Jesus.
1.Hope is not a situation; hope is not a location; hope is not an experience.
2.Hope is a Person.
III.Isaiah 59 divides up into four sections.
A.The first section (verse 1) begins with a false charge against God by Israel.
B.The second section (2-8) is a return accusation by God against his people.
C.The third section (9-15) contains a very important confession by God's children.
D.The fourth and final section (16-20) describes how God will respond to the confession.
IV.An accusation against God, 1.
A.God, through the prophet, is answering a charge that Israel is making against him.
1.They were a suffering people, and in the middle of the difficulty, they began to question God.
2.They questioned his power (is his hand too short) and they questioned his goodness (does he not hear our cries).
B.We are much like the Israelites.
1.When life disappoints us in some way, and the comfort and ease that we seek is removed, it's very tempting for us to bring God into the court of our judgment and question his faithfulness.
2.But often, the grace of God comes to us in uncomfortable forms.
a.God allows difficulty to enter our door, not because he is too weak to help or because he doesn't hear our cries, but because we need personal heart transformation.
b.Just like the Israelites, we want the grace of relief and the grace of release, but what we need is the grace of refinement.
V.God responds to the misplaced charge with a divine accusation, 2-8.
A.You and I like to think that our deepest problems in life are outside us, not inside us, 2.
1.We like to blame circumstances, locations, or relationships.
2.We like to think that we are one of the good guys, and sure, while we might make a few mistakes along the way, other people and other things are ultimately to blame.
a.Isn't that why people love to protest?
1)You will never find someone in a protest carrying a sign above his head that says, "I'm the problem" with an arrow pointing down.
2)We love to protest because we can point the finger and accuse someone else for our problems.
b.This is what Israel did; they tried to blame God and their circumstances, but God was quick to describe what the real problem was – their heart.
B.Think with me for a moment.
1.There's no such thing as a bad marriage.
a.The institution of marriage is completely fine.
b.Marriages turn sour because you have two people involved.
2.The same goes for a bad neighborhood – that so-called bad neighborhood would have nothing bad in it if you removed all the bad people.
3.There's no such thing as a corrupt government – governments are corrupted by corrupt politicians.
C.You and I can't just blame other people.
1.We can't just blame our circumstances.
2.Of course, we will be sinned against and we will live under harsh circumstances, but our biggest problem is our heart.
3.That's the accusation God made, and when God accuses, we better listen.
VI.This divine accusation is followed by a confession, 9-15a.
A.The apex of this confession is v. 12.
1.Israel couldn't blame God.
2.They couldn't blame the peoples around it or any other group
3.They couldn't blame their harsh circumstances.
4.They were their biggest problem.
a.They also couldn't find hope in anyone else, because all of humanity suffered from the same condition.
b.Every location and situation was populated by these people.
c.Israel was hopeless.
B.This hopelessness was the best thing for them to experience.
1.Remember the second truth about hope: the doorway to hope is hopelessness.
2.Just like Israel, you and I need to abandon all our false hopes – it won't be found there.
a.Biblically, it makes no sense to find hope in the people and places of this world, but we do it all the time.
b.We say, "If only I had _________, I would be happy" or "If only ______ didn't happen, I would be content."
c.Whatever fills in that blank is where you are searching for hope.
d.Once Israel realized that they were their biggest problem, and that all horizontal hopes would fail them, they humbly confessed and ran to the only source of hope that could save.
VII.After the accusation and confession, the Lord reveals his plan of salvation, 15b-21.
A.In light of the disaster and rebellion, God didn't turn his back on his children.
B.Instead, he revealed his plan of salvation and redemption.
C.These final verses are a prediction of Christ, sent from heaven to earth and armed with Righteousness and Grace.
1.Verses 17-19 describe his Righteousness(or justice).
a.God was going to deal with evil.
b.This passage makes it very clear that this is a God who is perfectly committed to justice.
1)This should terrify us, but it should also comfort us.
2)You wouldn't want to live in a world where injustice was permitted to reign.
3)There's comfort in knowing that the King of the universe is fully committed to repaying every evil act.
2.But Christ isn't just armed with justice; he comes armed with Grace, 20-21.
a.As you know, to redeem means to buy something back.
b.By his life, by his death, and by his resurrection, the righteousness of Christ has been deposited to your account.
c.You can stand before a holy God as if you never sinned, unafraid of his wrath, and have him wrap his arms of acceptance around you and invite you into a personal relationship with him.
d.Because of Christ, your sin no longer separates you from your Lord.
That's the Christmas story. Christmas is about hope coming. That's why the angels sang those glorious songs.That's why the shepherds were blown away.That's why the wise men came to worship.Hope had come, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.As you think about Isaiah 59 throughout the week, ask yourselves the following questions:
·Have you ever questioned the faithfulness of God? What circumstances caused you to doubt his character?
·Are you quick to blame your circumstances or relationships for your sin? Why do you point the finger and argue for your own righteousness?
·What difficult circumstances or relationships are you facing right now? How is Jesus your source of hope in the midst of this difficulty?
This Advent season, don't search for hope in your situations or circumstances or relationships. Hope will never be found horizontally. Hope has already come, and his name is Jesus.