Monday, May 08, 2017

Sermon on Isaiah 40:25-31, for the 4th Sunday of Easter (1 Year Lectionary)--Jubilate (Shout for Joy) Sunday, "Who is Like God?"

Sermon Outline:
·         The conclusion of a conversation (begins vs. 9): “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him says the Holy One.” Isaiah 40:25-31—God is asking, Have you considered His greatness? The size and reach of the universe? We have the most meager and inadequate measurements to try to grasp it. Man has not instructed God in wisdom or understanding, as if we could teach Him anything—neither about justice or knowledge. Compared to God, we are utterly nothing—dust, a drop in the bucket, nothing and emptiness. God is incomparable to anything we might compare Him too, and the thought of comparing Him to idols and false gods is an utter insult and foolishness. He is the One who laid down the foundations of the earth and stretched out the heavens like a tent. Our existence is momentary in comparison.
·         Don’t like to think of ourselves this way, as dust and nothingness, and it is greatly humbling, but the truth. How often have we challenged God’s wisdom or justice, whether openly or secretly? We forget our place when we try instructing God. God is God, we are not. Dangerous when we arrogantly presume to instruct or question God. We don’t have the total knowledge to understand any situation. Our own wisdom is nothing in His sight, however convinced we may be of our own view of the situation.  
·         As witness to His power, God cites His creation of all the “host” or stars of heaven. “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number calling them all by name, by the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power not one is missing.”
·         In the night sky we can see at most about 3,000 stars with the naked eye. When Galileo turned his telescope skyward, he increased the number of stars he could see 10X, to about 30,000. One hundred billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy alone. And the Milky Way is just one of 100 billion galaxies in the known universe!! Multiply that and there is an unfathomable number of stars in the universe. Jeremiah 33:22  “As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the offspring of David my servant.”
·         Crude estimate: 1 followed by 25 zeroes. And God knows them all by name! Not one is missing or forgotten. And no less amazing, He numbers every hair of your head (Matt. 10:10). Knowing this about God, how can we think that He doesn’t know or care about every least thing that is happening in His universe. It is not a careless waste or vast meaningless expanse, but it’s His glory and wisdom to display and to know. These verses are a comfort when we fear that we have been lost in the midst of all this grandeur and enormity—but God is intimately aware of everything, including us.
·         Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God?’ It’s easy to feel forgotten and lost in the universe—insignificant place, smallness, seeming that God doesn’t pay attention. My “right” or justice is neglected by God. When we sense that injustice in this world, or against us goes unchallenged, or when we cry out for help, and no apparent answer.
·         God’s answer: 28    Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29          He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31. Calls back to God as Creator—the Everlasting God. Expresses His total control and awareness of creation. While we wrestle with exhaustion, weakness, and reach our point of surrender—no strength to go on—this is not true of God. God not only is untiring in His work and care—but also supplies His strength and renewal to those who wait for the Lord—rely on Him.
·         One of the hardest things—to wait for the Lord. Waiting involves patience, faith, dependence. When we are eager for a quick solution to our problems, waiting is the hardest thing. It means a solution hasn’t come yet. How long must we wait? This question is asked of God dozens of times in the Psalms. Over and over, why don’t you answer. But they always put their trust in God’s goodness and salvation, even though they don’t know how long. Hebrews 11:13 (ESV) “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Even till death! Never received the things promised, only had faith in them from a distance.
·         But what is the reward of waiting? 31but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. For those who are laid low by the sins and struggles of life, feeling in the pits, or in the muck and mire of whatever troubles beset them, the picture of soaring on wings of eagles is uplifting. That our strength would daily be replaced and renewed means that we will be able to continue to run the race, to carry on and not faint or surrender.
·         How does God bring you this strength and renewal? Day by day we surrender the sinful flesh through repentance, and baptized into Christ He crucifies and buries our old sinfulness, together with all its arrogance and pride, its self-pity and victimhood, its doubtfulness and impatience, and Christ also raises us with Him to newness of life. In that newness of life Christ supplies us with humility and trust, with compassion for the needs of others and perspective on our own crosses, so that we bear them together. He fills us with the hope, faith, and patience that we need to wait on the Lord, especially in the hardest times. The Holy Spirit richly and daily forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers, and keeps us together in the Church of Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Gathered in the name and the remembrance of Jesus, we also feed here on the strengthening food of Christ’s body and blood. In fellowship with Christ and with each other, God renews and strengthens us by the Bread of Life, so that we may run and not be weary, walk, and not grow faint. Truly, we can confess and say, “Who is like God?” Powerful, glorious, and gracious. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Isaiah 40:25-31 is the conclusion of a conversation and challenge to consider who God is, and what He does. The discussion begins as early as Isaiah 40:9. Read from there through vs. 31. What rhetorical question does God raise in vs. 25? In what way is God incomparable? Cf. v. 18.
  2. In Isaiah 40:12-14, what are the things about God and what He has done that we are unable to measure? What does that tell us about God, and about our relation to Him? In vs. 15-17, how does God measure us?
  3. What is ridiculous about comparing God to an idol or false god? Isaiah 40:18-20; 44:9-20; 46:1-7.
  4. In Isaiah 40:26, was are the “host” whom God has created, brought out by number, and called by name? Psalm 147:4; Nehemiah 9:6. How does God’s incredible attention to detail in the enormous vastness of the universe speak of His care for us? Matthew 10:30.
  5. What circumstances sometimes lead us to fear that God has forgotten us or neglected our “right” (i.e. to care for justice)? Isaiah 40:27; 49:4, 14. How do we know that God has not forgotten, and that He is in control? Isaiah 40:28-31; 49:14-16.
  6. What does God do for us when we are weakened or exhausted by the trials and sufferings of life? Isaiah 40:28-31. Why can’t we understand or comprehend His ways?
  7. Why is it difficult to “wait for the Lord”? Isaiah 40:31. What is the blessing of doing so? Psalm 103.
  8. In John 16:16-22 Jesus talks about the themes of waiting for Him, suffering, and the reversal of our sorrow to joy. How do these words increase our hope? 

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