Isaiah 12:1-6 (Fourth Sunday in Lent—Series C)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
March 10, 2013
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Old Testament Lesson recorded in Isaiah 12:
You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
In Martin Luther’s explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed, he writes, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person.” Think about those pointed words that in confessing the Christian faith of the Creed you admit about yourself, “I am a lost and condemned person.” That’s a harsh reality. It’s an uncomfortable reality. We are by nature lost and condemned people.
Lost. We can’t find our way to anything truly meaningful. We can’t find our way to God. We can’t find our way to eternal life. The Bible’s comparison of lost people to lost sheep is spot on. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” (Is. 53:6) It’s totally and completely hopeless. Lost sheep can’t find their own food. Lost sheep can’t find water. Lost sheep can’t find their way home to safety. Lost sheep are pretty much under a death sentence unless they are found—lost and condemned.
Condemned. It means you are doomed to die. It means we are walking that green mile to the death chamber. “The soul who sins shall die,” God declares. (Ezekiel 18:20) The soul who sins will die because the just and holy God is angry at our sinfulness. His righteous anger and hatred against sin is an all-consuming fire. No sin of ours can ever be excused. No wrong desires or impure thoughts can just be erased. No wicked words or actions that fall short of God’s perfect Commandments can ever be ignored or swept under the carpet. God can never, ever pretend that our sin doesn’t exist. God will not turn a blind eye to our sexual immorality, gossip, and envy. He will not disregard our cursing, speaking carelessly, and misuse of His name. God will not close His eyes to our angry, stubborn disrespect towards those in authority over us. Nor will He look away when we fail to use our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, hurting our harming ourselves by gluttony, chemical addiction, or other abuse.
We are lost people, sinners under the anger of God’s justice against our sins, people condemned to eternal death. The wrath of God will fall upon the guilty one, and he will be punished. But that guilty one is not you. It’s not me. God our Father, in an act of His grace and mercy, of Himself chose that you and I and all people should not be the recipients of His divine anger and wrath. God turned His fierce anger away from us to Jesus Christ, His only Son.
Did God just make it all go away? No. Has God just pretended our sins don’t exist? No. There is no way that God could ever ignore sin. Sin has to be punished; otherwise, God is not just and holy. That’s why Jesus was placed under your death sentence and mine. Jesus, as the once-for-all substitute for all humanity, took upon Himself the sins of the world on the cross. God’s wrath and anger at your sins and mine were visited upon Jesus, who in our place bore the very guilt for what we have done and have left undone. Jesus was condemned for our sexual immorality, gossip, and envy. He faced death for our cursing, speaking carelessly, and misuse of the Lord’s name. Christ died because of our angry, stubborn disrespect towards those in authority over us. The Son of God faced the anger of the Father because you and I fail to use our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, hurting our harming ourselves by gluttony, chemical addiction, or other abuse.
In the counsels of eternity God the Father ordained the life and salvation of His people. In time God the Son brought about that salvation by His death on Calvary’s cross. And also in time God the Holy Spirit applies to our hearts the blessings of forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation which Christ won for us by His death and resurrection. We are delivered from the guilt and pollution of our sins. We receive the wonderful and blessed righteousness of Christ Himself who had no sin. God is our Father, and by an act of His all-powerful grace, He has adopted us in Christ as His own children. In the fullest and deepest sense, we receive God. He is our salvation.
Is it any wonder, then, that Isaiah, looking forward to day when Christ Jesus would accomplish this salvation for the whole world, has God’s children saying, “I will give thanks to you, O Yahweh, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold God is my salvation; I will trust and will not be afraid”? You are no longer lost and condemned! God’s anger turned from you to Christ as He hung on the cross. Jesus paid the price. He paid the penalty for you. The message of the cross is comfort for you. “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own.”
You are a forgiven and redeemed child of God, and so am I! And that means that you and I draw water from the very wells of salvation with joy! As Jesus, the very water of life Himself, told the Samaritan woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. . . . Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10, 14) This is pure comfort and pure spiritual refreshment. From the wells of the living water of Jesus Christ we draw, by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit, that which gives and strengthens and sustains our everlasting life—forgiveness of sins received in the Gospel through Word, Baptism, and Lord’s Supper.
In the Means of Grace we receive the crucified and risen Christ Himself with His gifts of refreshment. And how can we not approach the font, pulpit, and altar with great joy and singing in anticipation of the gifts of Christ here given? As we receive the Lord’s washing of Baptism that creates saving faith in Christ in our hearts, as we sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Gospel proclaimed, and as we kneel at His table to receive Christ personally in His Body and Blood, our hearts cannot help but overflow with the bounties of the Lord’s forgiveness, life, and salvation. Our tongues cannot help but to sing His praises.
Singing His praises for what God has done in turning His anger away from us is also our confession to the world. Singing His praises for the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life that Jesus purchased and won for us through the shedding of His blood, His sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection is our confession to all people: “He has done majestic things! Let this be made known in all the earth. Shout and sing for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!”
Once, we were lost and condemned people. Since God could not ignore our sin He saved us from it by turning His anger and punishment away from you and me to His Son, Jesus Christ. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7). The Lord is our salvation. We can trust in Him and never be afraid that we will be lost and condemned again, for He has delivered us, rescued us, and redeemed us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our Savior. This redemption results in our praise. In your hearts and in your lives continually “give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people, proclaim that His name is exalted.” Amen.