A sermon based on Isaiah 43:16-21 for the 5th Sunday of Lent, April 7, 2019.
The expectations have been set. They really knocked it out of the ball park with their activity. How would they ever top this? Did anyone really expect them to start this fast out of the gate? They set the bar so high, one has to wonder if they will be able to meet the same or exceed all expectations next time. All of us have been there at one time or another. Our team starts out the season undefeated. Dreams of winning the national championship greet us as we fall asleep. All of a sudden the bottom falls out. The rest of the season is a disaster. A family picks the perfect vacation spot. The weather, the views, everything is top notch. How will this be topped? Will next year’s vacation be a letdown?
We take a look at God’s deeds, and we wonder how will God ever top what he has already done? God sits back and says, “Just wait!” Those awe inspiring deeds keep coming. Just when we think that God cannot possibly top what he has done in the past, God does something just as, or as often is the case even greater, than we could imagine.
One Good Thing Deserves Another
- God has delivered his people.
- God’s people sing his praises.
The praiseworthy deeds of God are great. Page after page of Scripture pour forth miraculous signs from Jesus. He heals. He provides. He calms. We cannot help but stand in awe of all those signs. We hail the awesome power God shows us with brilliant displays of strength and might in this world.
Has God set the bar too high? Right away in the opening chapter of Genesis, the very beginning of the Bible, the inspired writer recorded for us the creation of the world. God simply spoke and everything came to be. God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. He fashioned Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. The earth, with all its splendor and glory from the deepest depths of the oceans to the farthest stretches of the galaxies, proclaim the great praise of the Creator. How can God ever top this? Well, God just kept putting forth new wonders and glories for all people to see.
Isaiah held before his listeners the great escape from Egypt. “This is what the LORD says, who makes a road through the sea and a path through mighty waters, who brings out the chariot and the horses, the army and the strong warrior. They will all lie down together. They will not get up. They are extinguished. Like a wick they go out” (Isaiah 43:16-17). All through the Ten Plagues the nation of Israel remained patient. God said he would deliver them. They watched as each plague took its toll upon the Egyptians. Eventually, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Finally, Pharaoh had enough. After the plague on the firstborn, Israel was freed. Pharaoh told the people to go. The citizens of Egypt handed the Israelites whatever they desired, just as long as they would leave their land.
God brought the nation of Israel to the shores of the Red Sea. By this time Pharaoh changed his mind. He mustered his chariots, and chased after the Israelites. The nation of Israel was trapped. On one side the Red Sea blocked their path; on the other side the chariots of Egypt waited to attack. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. God would once again show his power with a great deed. Moses stretched out his hands. The Red Sea split.
The people walked on a dry path. On their right and left a wall of water was held back by the Almighty God. As soon as the Israelites crossed, the Egyptians dared to follow. They stepped into the sea cautiously watching the walls of water. All of a sudden God released the water over the mighty army. Horse and soldier drowned. God snuffed them out as easily as blowing out a candle.
The nation of Israel observed this deliverance every year. They celebrated the Passover. Their minds went back to the great deliverance of God. How would God ever top that? “Do not remember the former things. Do not keep thinking about ancient things” (Isaiah 43:18), God said. Even though the bar had been set very high, one good thing deserved another. “Watch, I am about to do a new thing. Now it will spring up. Don’t you know about it? Indeed I will make a road in the wilderness. In the wasteland I will make rivers” (Isaiah 43:19). God delivered his people from Egypt, and God would deliver his people again.
The cries from Babylon had reached the ears of God. They would not live in a foreign land forever. They would return to the Promised Land to once again inhabit the cities of Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem. God’s love and mercy for the people would not diminish. He would deliver them now with a great show of power just as he did in ancient times.
The bar has been set very high. God has indeed done great things to save his people Israel from captivity. How would God ever top all of these things? God did. God showed how one good thing deserves another. He would not be out done. His love and mercy continued to be shown to all.
God delivered the world from their sins. This would be his greatest show of love for the world to behold. Once we lived in captivity. We came into this world dead in our sins. We could not please God. Our sinful hearts kept us captive to the devil. Our sinful nature wanted to lead us away from God and his Word. The signs of this captivity are obvious. The evil around the world displays the immoral acts of the sinful nature. Drinking and driving causes harm and loss for many. Domestic disputes harm relationships. Stress sinks us down. Worry fills our daily life.
God delivers us from the power of sin and the devil in our life. The Holy Spirit creates a new heart. All the blessings Jesus won for us by his victory proclaimed on the cross become ours. We are God’s child. Our hearts are released from bondage to the devil to serve Christ. Our sins, no matter what they might be and yes even the ones that wake us up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, find forgiveness in Christ. The worry and the stress of this life cannot compare the gracious hands that our Lord holds over us.
God’s love and mercy come to us new each day. The bar has been set. God delivers his people from the devil. He leads us out of our life of sin and unbelief to him. He leads us to a life of forgiveness and peace. This shows his great power. It also shows that one good thing deserves another as God’s people sing his praises.
As God accomplished the wondrous deeds of ancient times, a natural result would follow, “The wild animals, the jackals and ostriches, will honor me, because I am providing water in the wilderness, rivers in a parched wasteland, to provide water for my chosen people to drink” (Isaiah 43:20). Even the wild animals in the desert reacted to God’s deliverance of his people. They recognized the miraculous ways God brought his people out of slavery. Nature would be shouting out their praises to God.
More praises would also come from another source. One good thing deserves another. God’s people, the very ones he chose to be his own, would come to him with their praises. “This people that I formed for myself will declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:21).
The nation of Israel would often come with their songs of praise to God for all the good things he had done. Moses and the Israelites would praise God for keeping them safe from harm through their travels in the wilderness. David and others wrote psalms to thank God for all he has done. The captives from Babylon would continue to raise up their thanks to God for his power and might in bringing them home.
Unfortunately, those praises also quieted down. These people should have known so much better. They saw with their own eyes all the good things God had done, but they pushed them so far back in their minds that they became forgotten. So often they failed to return and give God praises for all the good things he had done for them.
How is our praise life? It might seem like a silly question. We are in church. Even though during the season of Lent our praises might be muted, we still offer our praises to God. The longing for the return of the Alleluias on Easter burns within us. The natural reaction of faith is to sing praises for all the good deeds Christ has done.
That is, at least, until it looks like we have no reason to sing his praises. We do not see the great deeds of God like the Israelites did. God does not rain down manna in our life. He does not separate waters for us to cross. We feel the world closing in all around us. Our own sinful nature leads us in the opposite way of praising God. The devil wants us to turn to him rather than God.
Our praises slow down. We do not think God has done marvelous things in our life. Our praises become muted. We think God has failed us. Our praises stop for we forget about God all together.
We need to open our eyes and see all the good things God has done for us. He still sets the bar very high in our life. He gives us our health and home. Our abilities to perform our work come from God. We flee to him who is our refuge, who keeps us safe from all the evils lurking in the world. God continues to show his greatness and power in our life.
So our praises ring out. We are God’s people whom he has saved from a life of sin. We experience the great mercies of God which are new every day. The bar has been set high, however that does not mean God is done. God will continue to raise that bar. So, we triumphantly shout our praises to him. We rejoice. We let our thanks run over for all that God has done. God’s people out of thankfulness for God’s deliverance sing his praises.
One good thing deserves another. Those good things from God keep coming. God cannot be outdone. He delivers us from all the dangers around us. He delivers us from our sins. We see all of this and all we can do is praise him. We praise him for his goodness. We praise him for his love. We praise him for all he has done. Amen.