Isaiah 55:10-13 (6th Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 10—Series A)
“The Word That Goes Forth”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
July 16, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Old Testament Reading from Isaiah 55:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for Yahweh, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
We need the rain and the snow. We might not always like the timing of the rain and snow, but no one would say that it is not necessary. Without water, the earth cannot support life. Without water, seeds won’t sprout and grow. Fruits and vegetables won’t be produced. Without enough food, animals and people will die. Without enough water, plants, animals, and people all die. We could say, then, that if water were “exiled” from our land, the result would ultimately be death for all creation.
The real “exile” for humanity was God’s expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. In the Garden, Adam and Eve and all creation were in perfect harmony and at perfect peace with God. Looking at the Genesis text, the Garden itself was “self-watering” as the text indicates that subterranean streams or springs would well up and water the land. There, in the Garden, they had everything that they needed as they cared for the Lord’s new creation. The Lord Yahweh Himself walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve. They had perfect fellowship with the Triune God and they were with Him in peace. But it all ended abruptly.
The man and the woman ate of the fruit of the tree of which God had commanded them not to eat. They disobeyed God. Their sin separated them from God; they were no longer at peace with God but were now His enemies. As a result of their sin and willful rebellion against God, they were exiled from God. They could no longer be in His holy presence without fear of condemnation.
As a result of sin, the whole creation itself was also messed up. The ground fell under sin’s terrible curse so that it would produce thorns and thistles, hindering humanity’s work of caring for creation. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). Adam and Eve’s exile from God meant death for them and all their descendants. They were then driven out of the Garden of Eden by God Himself—exiled from His nearer presence, exiled from eternal life, subject to condemnation and everlasting death.
Such is the state of things. We still live under the curse of sin. We still eat our meals and provide for ourselves and our families by the sweat of our faces. We are subject to illness, weakness, and pain. We, by nature, are still enemies of God. We are sinful and we commit sins—we disobey God’s commandments. As a result, we too will die and return to the ground from which we were taken.
But have you noticed that, even though humanity in its sinful rebellion exiled itself from God, God has never exiled Himself from us? Before God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden (which was for their protection so that they did not eat from the tree of life and live forever in sin), it was Yahweh Himself who made for Adam and Eve garments of animal skins and clothed them. And does it still rain and snow? Sure! Jesus Himself said in the Sermon on the Mount that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).
Martin Luther explains the First Article of the Creed using words that show us how God still cares for His fallen creation. “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. . . . All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”
In the same way that the Lord sends the rain and snow, and richly and daily provides each us what we need to support our bodies and lives in this corrupted world, so He, out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us, also sent forth His Word to accomplish His purpose. His Word is most assuredly the holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, but first and foremost, God’s Word is God the Son, Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:1, 14 ESV).
In the same way that God sends His rain and snow to water the earth, He sent His one-of-a-kind Son to accomplish humanity’s redemption from sin, death, and the power of the devil and to restore the whole creation to Himself. Yahweh’s Word, Jesus Christ, “came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man” (Nicene Creed). The Word was sent into this fallen world to accomplish God’s gracious plan of salvation.
In Bethlehem this faithful Word took on flesh and blood, and he had a heart. He lived exiled from the Father’s home for thirty-three years. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20). Jesus was exiled, not only from the Father’s home, but finally from the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34). His lips are cracked and his mouth is cotton. His throat, so dry he can’t swallow; his voice, so hoarse he can scarcely speak. To find the last time moisture touched these lips we need to rewind a dozen hours to the meal in the Upper Room. Since tasting the cup of the new covenant, Jesus has been spit upon, bruised, and beaten. He has been a cross-carrier and sin-bearer.
In order to redeem us lost and condemned creatures, Jesus Christ the Word of God incarnate suffered this way on the cross in our place. Through His suffering, bleeding, and dying, Jesus purchased and won for everyone with “His holy, precious blood” the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. You see, God’s Word, Jesus Christ, does more than just tell us about God’s mercy and forgiveness. He effects and accomplishes that forgiveness and mercy. God’s Word speaks as loudly as His action when He says, “It shall not return to me empty! It shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it! It is finished!” The work of saving humanity from sin is complete. The work of restoring people to God’s favor is done, the exile from God is over.
The alienation that the Fall into sin brought about has been removed by Jesus’ work on the cross. On account of Jesus who died and rose for us, God is at one with us and we are once again one with our heavenly Father. What the Word of God has brought about through His suffering, death, and resurrection is our unity with God. Through faith in Jesus, we are no longer separated. The division begun in Eden has been healed. You and I now stand before God with our sins forgiven. There is no condemnation. There is nothing to keep us from our Lord and God—no dividing wall, no exile. In fact, what we have to look forward to as believers in Jesus is a new creation, a new Eden, with pristine beauty.
John, in the revelatory unveiling that Jesus gave him, sees the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words, the fulfillment of what we have to look forward to in Eden restored. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. . . . Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 21:1; 22:1-5 ESV).
The spiritual power of God and of the Lamb, Jesus, will forever sustain the common life of God’s people with Him in this new creation. In the new Eden, there is life, eternal life with the triune God. There will no longer be the curse of sin. There will be only God’s eternal blessing. And there, we in body and soul will see God face to face as Adam and Eve did so long ago in Paradise. We, together with all the people of God in Christ Jesus will be praising and worshiping God with our voices and our actions.
So rejoice! The exile is over! The Word of God, Jesus Christ, has redeemed you from sin and death. He has restored you to the Father. Look forward in faith to your eternal life in body and soul in the new creation where the Church will praise our God and Savior in “the holy, holy, holy, Celebration jubilee” (LSB 680:5). Amen.