A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on January 16, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether¬† Jesus¬í Baptism Sealed the Success of His Work Isaiah 49:1-6Have you ever felt like you were beating your head against a wall?¬† Sometimes it might be over something we need to let go of.¬† In the big scheme of things it¬ís just not that important.¬† At other times it is important, and so we pray about it.¬† We do everything we can, and yet we get nowhere.¬† For example if we¬íre struggling with some temptation, that can be a high, hard wall to get through.¬† We resist with all our might, and just when we think we¬íre getting on top of that temptation, ¬ďops, I did it again.¬Ē¬†¬†¬† ¬†Another time we might feel like we¬íre banging our head, is when we¬íre concerned about another person¬ís faith.¬† We of course can¬ít look into anyone¬ís heart, but sin eats away at faith and that person we care about is involved in something he won¬ít let go of.¬† Or, he¬ís got false ideas about God and His Word, and he won¬ít listen.¬† So, we turn to God¬ís Word for guidance, we pray for the right words to say, but all we get is a head ache.¬† At such times we ourselves might face a new temptation.¬† We might start thinking that God¬ís Word doesn¬ít work and there¬ís no point to even caring anymore.¬† If you have ever felt that kind of discouragement, well, this is normal for Christians living in a sinful world.¬† But on the basis of our text, let¬ís see what gave Jesus encouragement and strength to keep going.¬† Jesus¬í Baptism Sealed the Success of His Work. ¬†1.¬† The Father stood behind Him.¬† 2.¬† The Father would reward Him.¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†If anyone ever had a right to feel like he was wasting his time, God did with the Israelites.¬† You know how He had rescued them from Egypt with the 10 plagues and the crossing at the Red Sea, and then miraculously fed them each day.¬† Yet when God told them to take possession of the Promised Land, they refused.¬† They thought it¬íd take a miracle, because the Canaanite armies were bigger than theirs.¬† It would take a miracle?¬† Dah!¬† ¬†Anyway the Israelite¬ís refusal did not stop God from loving them.¬† So rather than give up on them, He disciplined their faith by announcing that no one over the age of 20 would be allowed to enter the Promised Land ¬Ė just the Promised Land of Heaven if they repented.¬† They refused to accept that.¬†¬† So, they decided to conquer Canaan without God¬ís help.¬† Dah, the Canaanites beat the snot out of them.¬† But rather than repent, they blamed their defeat on Moses. A man named Korah led 250 of Israel¬ís leaders in a revolt.¬† God ended the revolt by causing the earth to open up and swallow them alive.¬† If you had seen that, would that have settled you down?¬† It didn¬ít the Israelites.¬† They continued their revolt against Moses and against God, so God sent a plague into their camp that killed 14,700 people.¬† That finally got their attention.¬† They started screaming, ¬ďWe¬íre all going to die, we¬íre all going to die.¬Ē¬† Dah for their rebellion!¬†¬† Dah for thinking God wouldn¬ít keep His promise to send the Savior through them!¬† But do you see what I mean about beating your head against a wall?¬† All God wanted to do was love and bless them forever, yet that¬ís how strong sin and unbelief are.¬† ¬†We read in our text, ¬ďListen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.¬Ē ¬Ė Isaiah 49:1¬† Jesus was about to smash down the walls of sin and unbelief.¬† Before He was born, the angel Gabriel said He would be called Jesus, which means Savior.¬† He was also called Immanuel, which means God with us.¬† Actually the entire Old Testament directly and indirectly was all about Jesus.¬† And so, just as the Father announced at His baptism, ¬ďThis is My Son, listen to Him¬Ē, so Jesus says, ¬ďListen to me.¬† I am your creator, I am your righteousness, I am your forgiveness and your strength.¬Ē¬† Nevertheless getting sinful man to listen was going to give Jesus more than a headache.¬† ¬†We read on in our text, ¬ďHe made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.¬† He said to me, ¬ďYou are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.¬Ē ¬Ė Isaiah 49:2-3¬† God¬ís Word is like a razor-sharp double edge sword.¬† It cuts through a person¬ís self-deceptions and exposes what God sees in his heart.¬† But God¬ís Word also heals and guides.¬† For example when we hear about Israel¬ís stubbornness, should we not also be thinking about our repeated sins when we knew better?¬† But also when we see God¬ís patience with Israel, know that for Jesus¬í sake He is patient with us too and ever working in our lives to lead us to heaven.¬† People of God, hold on to that hope, whenever life is beating you up! ¬†But how can we be sure God will keep holding on to us?¬† Well, we can jump out of His hands by stubbornly refusing to listen and stubbornly choosing sin.¬† May God forgive us, may God help us so that we do not do that!¬† Yet when we fear that we might, because we¬íre understanding how weak we are, remember how strong God is.¬† Again we read, ¬ďIn the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.¬Ē¬† God hid Jesus from Herod.¬† Or, when Jesus¬í friends and neighbors in Nazareth try to throw Him off a cliff, God protected Him, and God continued to protect Him, until it was time for Jesus to display God¬ís glory on the cross.¬† There He would display God¬ís holiness by suffering the full punishment of sin.¬† There He would also display God¬ís love by doing this for all sinners, even those whom winning them over would be like beating His head against a wall.¬† ¬†However, all Jesus¬í hard work would pay off, for the Father would reward Him.¬† We read on in our text, ¬ďBut I said, ¬ďI have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. ¬†Yet what is due me is in the LORD¬ís hand, and my reward is with my God.¬Ē¬† Isaiah 49:4¬† There are a number of things we can learn from this.¬† Jesus is sinless.¬† Jesus got discouraged.¬† Therefore getting discouraged with ourselves or with another is not a sin.¬† Getting discouraged comes from the pain of loving righteousness but seeing sin.¬† It also comes from caring about others and seeing what they¬íre doing to themselves.¬† However, no matter how discouraged we may become, we are to keep trusting God and do whatever He sets before us.¬† That¬ís what Jesus did perfectly. ¬†For example in the Garden of Gethsemane He pleaded with His disciples to watch and pray with Him.¬† They slept on.¬† Also, He knew His friend, Judas, was leading a band of soldiers to arrest Him and that His own people would soon be shouting, ¬ďCrucify, crucify!¬Ē¬† Yet Jesus prayed on and then willing did what God gave Him to do.¬† And now here¬ís what kept Jesus going as true man.¬† We read, ¬ďAnd now the LORD says¬ó he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength¬ó he says: ¬ďIt is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.¬Ē ¬Ė Isaiah 49:5-6¬† Because the Father stood behind Jesus at His baptism, Jesus knew His mission would succeed.¬† The Father would keep the promise He had made in our text and He would reward Jesus for everything He did and everything He suffered.¬† Not only would a remnant of Jews become believers, but through them Gentiles would be made believers too, who in turn would shine His light to the ends of the earth to both Jews and Gentiles.¬† ¬†This happened through the early church, and it¬ís still happening today!¬† For example worldwide there¬ís so much in the news that¬ís discouraging that make it seem that sin and Satan are winning.¬† Yet in China it¬ís estimated that 8000 people/day are coming to faith.¬† Soon, if it isn¬ít already, there will be more Christians in China than there are in America.¬† Praise God!¬† And we get to play a small role in this.¬† 12% of our offerings each week go for Synod missions, and some of those dollars are being used to support our seminary in Hong Kong, where anyone who wants to be trained as a Christian pastor, can be.¬† Praise God!¬† ¬†However the light of Jesus is also shining here.¬† Every week I am hearing testimonies from you about how you¬íre talking with your friends and relatives about Jesus and inviting them to learn more.¬† Keep it up, even when you feel like you¬íre beating your head against a wall.¬† God will reward you, and your reward will be more people in the Kingdom of God because of you.¬† But what if in the past we haven¬ít always been that good of a witness, but were ourselves rebellious and self-centered?¬† Or, what if we haven¬ít been as patient with others as God is with us, and gave up on people.¬† Then just as Jesus could look back to all that happened at His Baptism, remember what happened at yours.¬† You see, Jesus went into the water holy and perfect including being discouraged and yet always trusting God to keep His promises.¬† We went into our baptism full of rebellion, laziness and lack of trust.¬† Jesus came out of the water with our guilt.¬† We came out with His righteousness.¬† ¬†Rejoice in this by believing that God is now our Father too.¬† Because He is our Father, He protects us, He takes care of us, He blesses our labors.¬† And so, maybe people will still give us headaches once in a while.¬† But those headaches just remind us that our strength is not from within us, but the Lord is our strength.¬† Also, as we listen to Jesus and obey His will to go and make disciples, blessings will fall on our head.¬† Or rather they will walk through those doors, or the doors of our Academy.¬† And sometimes it can even those about whom we would say, ¬ďNo way.¬Ē¬† After all, aren¬ít we by nature ¬ďno ways¬Ē too?¬† And yet now we are His, and He stands behind us.¬† Furthermore, His Word on OUR tongues is like a sharp sword as it was for Jesus, and we are like arrows hidden in His quiver.¬† In other words, if you have a shot, take it.¬† And finally have fun shooting, because you don¬ít know what God can do through you.¬† Amen.¬† ¬†

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