Sermon on Isaiah 48:17-22, Lent Midweek 5 2021, "Get Out!"
Part 5 of Lent Midweek series "Singing with the Exiles" by Rev. Reed Lessing
Two urgent words are spoken to people in the following situations. Can you guess what they are? Three children are stuck inside a burning home. A family of five is stuck in a minivan plunging into a river. A talented young man is stuck in a dead-end job. Can you guess the two urgent words that are spoken to these people? What are they? “Get out!”
August of 586 BC
with every passing year, the Babylonian god Marduk seemed more and more
powerful, while Yahweh seemed more and more incidental. Slowly but surely the
exiles began to accommodate themselves to their new surroundings. Economic
documents unearthed in Tel el Murassu on the
It was the whole boiling frog syndrome. You know, it is said that if a frog is placed in hot water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in lukewarm water that is gradually heated, it will never get out, but slowly die. The exiles are calling their Babylonian basement the new normal. They are in hot water! If they don’t get out soon, they will die!
Isaiah’s charge, therefore, is
to do everything possible to awaken
climax of this preaching comes in Isaiah 48:20, “Get out of
That’s why throughout Isaiah 48 the prophet calls them, and I quote, “stubborn … unyielding … headstrong … prone to idolatry … deaf … deceptive … and a stubborn rebel from birth.” All this because Israel refused to listen to the gospel of their salvation; “listen” is the governing verb of the chapter. It appears eleven times in Isaiah 48.
you just imagine the people responding to the prophet? “Isaiah, haven’t you heard?
This is like a thirsty person choosing to drink raw sewage instead of water from a mountain stream, or a bankrupt company rejecting a government bailout, or a student saying he doesn’t want an automatic “A” from his teacher! The exiles are unmoved by Isaiah’s poetic claims, alarming narrative and stunning doxologies.
Our bondage began with just one more drink, one more lie, one more fling, one more glance. But one more always longs for one more, and then … just one more. I know, oh God, I know. And then a massive earthquake hits and in its aftershocks we find ourselves trapped in a basement called Babylon. What next?
The boiling frog syndrome unleashes its hypnotic power! Sure, being obsessed with pornography, money, gossip, food, people’s approval or work is a strange place to be in, at first. It’s crushing to be trapped beneath tons of collapsed hopes and shattered dreams. But in time we become accustomed to living in destruction and death. With each passing day it becomes easier to deny that I am stuck on stuff that kills and steals and destroys. We are in hot water! Hear the word of Yahweh, “Get out of Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare it with a shout of joy.”
It’s in Yahweh’s heart to call people out of
darkness and into his marvelous light. He called Abram and Sarai to get out of
We don’t listen to the gospel of our salvation. Isaiah 30:10-11 is the classic response to the prophetic call. “Speak to us smooth things, prophecy illusions; stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” But deep down we’re thirsty. Not for more of the same. We know its salt water in the desert. It doesn’t quench – it kills.
No. We’re thirsty for a clean conscience, a fresh start, for a loving, tender hand to reach into our basement and get us out.
that’s exactly what Yahweh says to his
These great and precious promises are found, fulfilled and come to fruition in Isaiah’s Servant who alone is able to reach into our wreckage, and he does it with hands laced with blood.
Finally, you see, blood was all Jesus had. His disciples had deserted him. His garments had been gambled away. He even cried to his Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Blood was all he had, but the blood of Jesus is all we need. “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”
And our response? We get out of Babylon, we flee Chaldea and we declare it with a shout of joy! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.