Sermon Date: January 20, 2008
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: Isaiah 49:1-6
Why God Gives Us Faith
God is Faithful to Us
Have you ever had an argument with God? Usually arguments with God will go something like this: “God, what you allowed to happen doesn’t make any sense”; and He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Or, we say, “God, I’m at the end of my rope. Why aren’t you helping me?” And He says, “I am.” Most of our disagreements with God come when we’re in an extreme situation that’s been dragging on for a long time. Often what’s at issue is we can’t see His love and faithfulness with our physical eyes, but it feels like He’s ignoring us or is on the other side of the universe. Actually whenever we go through something like that, God is teaching us to rely on His Word. Jesus as true man had to do that too. This morning we get to eavesdrop on a discussion between Jesus and His Heavenly Father.
What we’re going to learn is that God Is Faithful to Us.
- Our Salvation is based solely on the work of Christ.
- Our being brought to faith is His reward to Christ.
God loves us, because God IS love. However, there are lots of things about us that God can’t stand. For example He can’t stand it that from the moment we’re conceived we have a nature like Adam and Eve’s after the fall. This includes listening to Satan’s lies instead of to our creator. It includes looking out for #1 instead of looking out for the glory of Him who’s taking care of us. Finally, it includes choosing the path of sin in order to be happy, and then blaming God for the problems we cause. God loves us, but our nature and the sinful things we think, say and do is such an extreme offense to God that we can’t even begin to comprehend it. All we can do is take His Word for it.
So, since God loves us and yet can’t stand us, He sent someone, who could stand in our place, someone He would enjoy working with. Let’s listen in now as Jesus describes His becoming our brother. “Listen 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.” Jesus’ birth was no accident. Before the creation of the world God had planned it and throughout the Old Testament, He foretold it. But now the point here in our text is that while God does love us, the only we can be in His presence is by relying on Him, whom He called to be our Savior.
Reading on in our text, “He 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.” A sharp sword coming out of Jesus’ mouth is picture language for the Word of God. But when did Jesus get His training in the Word? God made sure it began when Jesus was still an infant. He gave Jesus Mary and Joseph as His parents; and we know from Mary’s song in the Bible that she had many of the Psalms memorized. She would sing them to Jesus as she nursed Him. In Psalm 22 Jesus said, “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast.” But what if Mary had neglected Jesus’ spiritual training? Well, God just would not let that happen, anymore than a parent today would his/her two year old play in the street. God loved His Son too much not to keep Him in the shadow of His hand, and He loves us too much not to prepare Jesus for what He would need to do to save us.
Before we move on, there is an application I’d like to share with you. At what age should parents begin guarding what their children hear coming out of their own mouths or out of the TV set? Or, at what age should parents start bringing children to worship and letting them hear about God in their homes? From the example of Mary, a good time to start is as soon as a child is nursing. And even if those little one are making a ruckus, God’s not going to let anyone in church loose his/her faith because of that.
Anyway, let’s get back to that one baby, who wasn’t born with a sinful nature and who was truly pleasing to God. We read, “He said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor."” Jesus displayed God’ splendor through His kindness, His goodness, His gentleness and humility. This was GOD’S splendor, because Jesus IS God. Yet since Jesus is also a man, He was the one human being everyone could enjoy being with. At first people did flock to Him, but then more and more they turned away. They didn’t want to hear Jesus’ call to repent, even though they couldn’t accuse Him of even one sin. Yet rather than face their guilt, they demanded that He be crucified.
This however is how Jesus displayed God’s greatest splendor. Earlier I had said that we can’t comprehend how much our sinfulness offends God. But look at the cross. See Jesus’ agony. See His bruises and lacerations. See the crown of thorns and the nail wounds. Hear Him cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And now understand that our sins and failures are not just little oops’ that God needs to get over. Our sinfulness and sins must be punished with hell, but Jesus suffered that for us. And so by washing away our sins, Jesus made us people God can stand to be with, - no, loves to be with. And now in view of all of this, how can we be proud before God or think He owes us? Or, how can we think He’s uncaring about what’s going on in our life? Or how can we doubt His wisdom as He leads us in our daily life? There’s no excuse for any of this. Yet Jesus foresaw all of this coming, and so, He says to His Father, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God.” It seemed to Jesus that fighting temptation in man’s behalf and then paying for man’s sin was a waste of time, because He knew that man’s sinful heart would still refuse to trust in Him. Nevertheless Jesus trusted that the Father WOULD reward Him for all His hard work.
And Jesus was right. Here’s what the Father said to Jesus, "It 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." Just as the Father was determined to protect the baby Jesus from Herod, who was trying to kill Him, and just as the Father was determined to train the child Jesus through Mary and Joseph, that’s how determined the Father is today to reward Jesus for all He did.
And now here is God’s reward to Jesus. You are Jesus’ reward! The Father gave you to Jesus already in eternity, when He chose you for faith. Then because He chose you for faith, He gave you parents who brought you to baptism, or so directed your life to bring His Word to you. At any rate, God gave you your trust in Jesus, because He loves His Son and through His Son He loves you and me.
Unfortunately this can hurt our pride a little. We may not like hearing it that God doesn’t just accept us sinfulness and all, but only accepts us through Christ. That’s our sinful nature talking! On the other hand, since God worked faith in us through His Word and Sacrament, let’s never stop growing in the Word! Also, should it ever seem that the Word isn’t working for us, because we still have guilty feelings or we still have doubts or we still have some kind of spiritual weakness, let’s not conclude that God doesn’t really want us! Rather at such times, remember how God the Son was holy for us. Remember how God the Son suffered for us. Then be certain of this – no matter what we’re feeling, God wants us to be His Son’s reward in heaven, and so all the more let’s keep growing in His Word.
However, growing in His Word doesn’t just mean acquiring more head knowledge for the sake of having more head knowledge. Rather, it means learning from Jesus to be as kind and good and gentle and humble as He is. And then whenever we fall short, even a little bit, Jesus wants us to face it and confess it. And then all the more let’s rely on His work for us, so that we keep striving to be worthy of His grace. But isn’t that impossible? Grace is God’s undeserved love – how can we ever be worthy of it? On the other hand, the more we see His grace in our life, the more we will WANT to act and talk and think in ways that are pleasing to Him. St John put it this way, “The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”
But what if some of you are thinking right now, that it’s too hard to always be consistent in following Him or serving Him? Well, God knows us better than we know ourselves. Yet God is faithful to us, and He is determined to make us lights in this world to honor His Son. In fact, that may be one of the very reasons why we go through some of things we go through. Just as He had made Jesus to be His sharpened sword and polished arrow, so now He is sharpening and polishing us, so that we in turn may tell others who Jesus is and what He has done. However, here’s where we may have another disagreement with God. Sharpening comes through affliction, and we like to think we’re already sharp enough. Still, if sharpening us is God’s will for us, let’s pray, “Thy will be done.” And so, even if times are rough and nothing makes sense, instead of arguing with God, let’s trust Him that all things, both big and small, happy or sad, are all part of that same big picture – that God is faithful to us. He’s faithful to us for the sake of Jesus. He’s faithful to us in bringing us to Jesus. He’s faithful to us in working through us to honor Jesus. And now I’d like to close with a little prayer. Lord, make me faithful to you! Amen.