6 Pentecost Proper A10
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Isaiah 55:6-13 Sermon
July 16, 2017
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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & With One Voice):
WOV 716 "Word Of God, Come Down On Earth"
TLH 446 "Lord Of Glory Who Hast Bought Us"
TLH 511 "Jesus Shall Reign Where E'er The Sun"
TLH 46 "On What Has Now Been Sown"
GOD COMMUNICATES WITH HIS PEOPLE
TEXT (vs. 10-11) "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.Ē
The radio is a marvelous invention. In 1894, Gugliemo Marconi, an Italian inventor, was able to take the electrical waves first generated by the experiments of Heinrich Hertz, and send them over long distances. He soon was able to generate these waves and detect them over a distance of a couple of miles. Marconi received a patent for his invention in 1897, and the first radio factory was opened in 1898.
As a boy, I found the radio a fascinating thing. I had an old 12 tube AM radio in my bedroom. I had a long wire coming out the back of it to use for an antenna. I would go at night and tune around, to see what I could pick up. I would regularly find stations that broadcast in Spanish from the southernUnited States, likeSan Antonio. At the top end of the dial, I could often find a variety of ďhell fire and brimstoneĒ preachers who literally screamed their message to their listeners.
One station in particular that I remember listening to on a regular basis was KAAY, 1090 am, a 50,000 watt station fromLittle Rock,Arkansas. Back then, it was a ďtop 40Ē station; and at night, I could listen to it on a normal table radio. It came in very clearly, even thoughLittle Rockwas over 700 miles away.
I remember in the summertime when Molly Jo Dittman came to baby sit with me. I was almost to the age where I didnít need a sitter, but Mom and Dad felt better when they were gone for the evening if someone more responsible was in the house. She was a high school girl who lived across the street from us, and she also liked to listen to KAAY. I would open the window which was on the east side of the big wrap-around verandah on our house, and set the table radio on the window sill. Then weíd sit on the porch swing outside, watch all of the activity on the busy street where we lived, talk, maybe have some popcorn, and listen to thisLittle Rockradio station. It was a lot of fun.
In later years, I remember driving at night and tuning around on the AM radio to see what I could get. Often there were radio dramas which would make a long drive more entertaining, and they would be broadcast from who knows where. I remember listening to KFAB fromOmahain places as far away asNew Mexico. Granted that AM radio lacks the quality of FM, but what it lacked in quality, it more than made up for it in distance.
Today, our whole planet is engulfed in various types of broadcast signals. I donít believe that you can go anywhere in the world without being able to pick up some sort of radio signal of some description. Satellite communications have revolutionized things. Even in my car, I have a satellite radio receiver, where I can tune in to the same station wherever I happen to be in theUnited States. Wireless communications connect our whole world.
Our text for today is a communication text. God is telling us through the Prophet Isaiah that he will communicate with the people of the world through his Word, regardless of whether that Word is written or spoken. Godís Word is indeed powerful, because it has the very power of the Holy Spirit behind it. God communicates some very important things through it, which are intended for the entire human race.
In verses 6-9 of our Old Testament Lesson we read: "Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.Ē
As human beings, we think that we are so smart. Weíve got everything under control, and we know what is best. Weíve got it all figured out; what is best for us, what is truth and what isnít, and how we need to live. All the time people are coming up with things that fly in the face of what God has said. People try to twist Godís Word to fit what they want, and not the other way around. Situation ethics seem to dictate morality in this day and age, and not what God has clearly spoken.
But God lets us know in this section that he is there, and ready to bless us. Furthermore, he states in no uncertain terms that he is in charge; his knowledge and ways far surpass anything we can conjure up on our own. Therefore, we are to look at his Word as something that reflects his superior knowledge and wisdom. Even though we might think we know better than he does, yet when all is said and done, we have to admit that we donít. God is still the one in charge of everything; and when we try to supercede God, then all we do is frustrate ourselves.
As a Pastor, and as a Christian, I find the words in verse 11 of our text to be of special meaning. God says, ď[My Word] will not return unto me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.Ē
One story I remember was about a man inChinayears ago that had been given a small Bible. In his country, it was illegal to have a Bible; and so being afraid heíd be caught with it, he put it into an empty cigarette pack and threw it out of a bus window. Someone came along later and picked up the cigarette pack and found the Bible. The person who picked it up read it. The Holy Spirit worked through that Bible, and the person became a Christian.
The Bible indeed stands on its own merit, and it is very powerful. So what does Scripture say about itself and its power?
One powerful statement is recorded in Hebrews chapter 4, verse 12: ďFor the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Ē
This verse points out the work of Godís law. The law is what convicts us as sinners. Anytime we think we may be smarter than God, or somehow above God, all we need to do is examine ourselves according to that Law. When we do this, we find that we are sinners who deserve only Godís wrath and condemnation.
The two-edged sword used to illustrate Godís law was something that was extremely razor-sharp. A two-edged sword could slice and dice a person in a heartbeat. It was a very effective weapon.
Godís Word has the power to expose the sin of any person, regardless of how hard they would try to cover it up, or otherwise justify it. Just like a two-edged sword, it could cut out and expose even the most buried and secret sin.
Now if that were the only power Godís Word were to have, everybody who would hear it would be left with nothing more than despair and hopelessness. People would want to run away from God, instead of into his waiting arms.
Now if we return to verse 7 of our Old Testament Lesson, we can see the word of hope and promise that God gives. We read, ďLet the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.Ē
Godís Word gives hope and promise for all who come to him with repentant and contrite hearts. The Word certainly shows a God who condemns; but more importantly the Word shows a God who loves and forgives abundantly.
Godís Word shows us Jesus our Saviour, and what we have through faith in him. The very popular John chapter 3, verses 16-17 gives us this word of the Gospel in a nutshell: ďFor God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.Ē
Godís Word plainly teaches us about Jesus. We learn who he is, and what he did for us. Here we see Godís ultimate gift of love, and how he has redeemed the entire human race. Whoever believes in Christ as their Saviour indeed has this gift of forgiveness and everlasting life, just like the Bible says.
In Romans chapter 10 verses 8-9 Paul records some important words for us to remember: ďThe word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.Ē And then continuing on in verse 17 we read: ďSo then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.Ē
Godís Word not only gives the Law and the Gospel, but it also has the power to give faith and convert. When a person comes to faith in Jesus as their Saviour, it isnít something a person does themselves. A person doesnít come to faith through their own reason and rationalization simply by reading words on a page. Rather, God the Holy Spirit is at work through those words, working with power which can convert even the coldest and hardest heart of stone.
Conversion is truly one of the greatest miracles God does. Heís done it in my life, in your life, and in the lives of true Christians throughout the world. In our lives, weíve been made aware of our sin and our need for a Saviour. Weíve seen our sinfulness time and again; and time and again God keeps coming to us with words of forgiveness and hope. God the Holy Spirit working through the Bible keeps our eyes focused upon Christ our Saviour. Our lives of despair have been turned into lives of hope.
At the beginning of this sermon, I used the illustration of radio, and how it can reach some unexpected places. I doubt if the disk jockeys who were playing records over radio station KAAY 1090 AM inLittle Rock,Arkansasrealized that it was reaching the ears of a kid and his baby sitter sitting on a porch swing some 730 miles away inEmerson,Nebraska. But it was, and we heard it as clear as if they were broadcasting in the same town.
Godís Word works a lot like that radio signal. We often donít know how far it goes, or who it reaches. We may never find out or know. But we do have that promise of God which assures us that his word will not return unto him void, but will accomplish what he desires and will achieve the purpose for which he sent it.
As a congregation, our primary function is to preach and teach the Word of God in its truth and purity (of course that includes putting it into practice as well). The important thing however, is that it isnít what I say or how I say it that has the power, rather it is purely the power of God at work through the Word.
It is also important for us to remember that wherever the word of God is, the power of God is there also. Even if a church is guilty of false teaching and practice, yet if the Word is there, then the truth is there also. Sadly many of them will choose to ignore or pervert it; but some have allowed the Bible to speak for itself, and have come to the knowledge of the truth.
The Apostle Peter in his second Epistle, chapter 1 verses 19-21 writes: ďAnd we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.Ē
The Word of God is everywhere. The Gideons do a fantastic job of distributing Bibles. It is all over the internet. It is being broadcast over television and radio. People virtually everywhere have Godís Word close at hand, whether they might be in the jungles ofAfrica, the farms and ranches in theMidwest, or in the large metropolitan areas. The Word of God is being distributed and proclaimed like never before.
Ray Huebschmann, one of our Gideons from St. Johnshared a story with me a few weeks ago. He's experienced several motels operated by non-Christians who want the Gideon Bibles removed. When he is confronted with this situation, he tells them, "Do you have any idea about how many suicides that have been prevented because somebody has picked up a Gideon Bible in a motel room? So would you rather see a Bible in the room, or clean up after a suicide?" If nothing else, it makes them think; and hopefully it is also a powerful witness.
We certainly find it offensive when people despise God's Word. I know that school kids will rip the pages out of their free Gideon pocket testaments to use as cigarette papers to roll a joint. But we hope that perhaps he might take the time to read some of those pages before they are ripped out and burnt, and therefore experience the power of God. There's always hope.
The Bible continues to be the #1 best-selling book of all time. Nothing else even comes close to it. The Bible has been translated into practically every known language on earth. Bibles are virtually everywhere. You can hardly go into a hotel or motel room, or a hospital room without finding one. People who go into military service are often given at least a pocket New Testament with Psalms.
Godís Word is certainly not returning unto him void. Yes it does fall on the deaf ears of people who intentionally tune it out sometimes, but thankfully that isnít the case all the time. Every day people are experiencing the power of the Word and are coming to faith.
Therefore we pray that God will continue to use us in the ministry of the Word to bring the precious message of the Gospel to our community and to the world.