A sermon based on Isaiah 52:1-6 for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, November 5/6/8, 2020.
The alarm rings. A tired hand slams the snooze button. Just as quickly as the alarm goes off, eyes shut for a few more precious minutes of sleep. All too quickly the alarm blares again. Maybe this time a voice shouts, “Time to get up!” Sunlight peeks through the blinds welcoming a new day. As much as the warn blankets invite us to remain in bed, we need to wake up. This new day brings with it many things that need to be accomplished. Quickly we rub sleep from our eyes ready, at least hopefully, to face a new day.
God called for his people to wake up. They became lazy in waiting for better days. Their sins left them drowsy in their service to God. They felt beaten down. They cycle constantly continued making them wonder if anything would change. At their time of deepest distress, they heard God speaking to them, “Wake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength, O Zion. Put on your beautiful garments, Jerusalem, you holy city, for never again will the uncircumcised and the unclean enter you. Shake off the dust. Get up and take your seat, Jerusalem. Loosen the chains from your neck, you captive daughter of Zion” (Isaiah 52:1-2).
God spoke those words to a nation that would sit in exile. Isaiah prophesied about the Babylonian captivity that would come. The once mighty nation of Israel was left empty of all their strength. Sadness filled their heart as they took in their new surroundings. Would this be the new reality? As those worries took their mind captive, they felt all alone.
If that would not be enough, their sins left them in a stupor. They rebelled against God. They replaced worship at the temple with bowing down at the altar of idols. Fame filled their hearts forcing out God’s glory. Greed kept them from bringing firstfruit offerings to God instead lining their own pockets. Deep down the people knew their sins were the reason they were left reeling. The stupor of sin left them sleepy.
Wake up! The cry went out. Never again would uncircumcised nations overtake Israel. They would replace their worn-out clothes with dazzling new garments. Their weakness would be exchanged for strength. God would restore. God would rebuild. God would not leave the nation all alone. Even the chains, which slowly tightened their grip around their neck, would be loosened. Relief for the nation would come! They would be free.
Isaiah also pointed the people ahead to a much greater relief that would come. “Yes, this is what the LORD says. You were sold for nothing, and you will be redeemed without money” (Isaiah 52:3). The price of slavery was not afforded to the people of Israel. They simply were taken captive as prisoners. However, they would be freed. Not with money but with something even more precious.
Isaiah pointed the people ahead to the great Deliverer, Jesus. He would come to awaken the people from their stupor of sin to salvation. He would clothe them with his robe of righteousness instead of their sin stained clothes. God’s strength would lift up the heads of the weary sinners wallowing in self-pity.
All this would be done not with any amount of money, but with the holy precious blood of Jesus. He delivered his people by offering his life upon the cross. His blood washed away all of their sins. This freedom allowed them to lift our heads high. Their strength restored so they could stand with Jesus.
Do we ever feel like we are in a stupor over our sins? Our words bring pain to our consciences. Our actions leave us feeling weak. Our thoughts make us fall in a daze. The evidence against us mounts. Jealousy makes us feel unworthy of our own gifts and abilities. Complacency brings with it weakness. Soon we feel all hope lost.
Christ calls us to wake up! He came to save us from our sins. We look back upon the cross and see the sacrifice of sins completed. We hear Jesus cry out in agony that his Father has forsaken him. Jesus suffered the pains of hell so that we would not have to. From the cross we hear, “It is finished.” Jesus’ work of redemption has been completed. With everything done, Jesus willingly gives up his spirit bowing his head in death. His resurrection three days later puts God’s glorious stamp of approval upon all of this. We awake to a new life. We live in forgiveness. We live for a brighter day that will soon arise.
The people of God saw leaders that would only mock him. “Their rulers howl with mockery, declares the LORD. My name is continually despised all day” (Isaiah 52:5). Those Gentile leaders who ruled over Israel would give thanks to their false gods for the victory. They spit upon the name of the Triune God. However, their victory would be short lived. “Therefore my people will know my name. So on that day they will know that I am the one-the one who is saying, ‘Here I am’” (Isaiah 52:6)!
God would establish himself as the Lord of lords and King of kings. His people of faith would lift their eyes up to see him. He is the one that will allow a brighter day to dawn upon the nation of Israel. On this earth the people of Israel would only know trouble and hardship. However, they looked forward to a greater Zion, their heavenly home.
In that city the Lord would be their leader. All people will know the name of the Lord. They will look to him to sing their praises for all eternity. He is the one that brought them from this world of darkness to their eternal home in heaven.
We live in a world that mocks our Lord. People put themselves above God’s Word and commands. People think that God has no place in this world. We stumble in this world struggling with sin. It is not easy. Sometimes we find ourselves torn on who to believe and follow. We feel ourselves pulled in two different directions. We ask God for strength to battle those sinful desires. We go back to God’s Word to find strength in our times of doubt.
As we do that, God establishes himself as the ultimate Savior. We look around and find no other God besides him. No other has risen from the dead. No other rules over the world awaiting the time when he will come back as judge of the world.
This means that we have to be ready for that day. The day when Jesus comes back will come like a thief in the night. However, for us it is a much brighter day. Jesus will firmly plant himself as Savior in the minds of all those who doubt. The believers will welcome that day because they will see their salvation nearer than anything else.
We better be ready. This brighter day will dawn upon us. We will leave behind all sin and sorrow from this world to the perfections of heaven. Our hearts yearn for that glorious day to come. Our eyes twinkle with excitement looking to the skies awaiting the return of our Savior.
We cannot let the darkness of this world bring drowsiness upon us. Right now, we need to know our sins are forgiven. Our Savior has redeemed us from sin, death, and the devil. A brighter day will soon dawn upon us. A day that we constantly need to be alert in our watchfulness. Heed that call from our Savior, “Wake Up!” Amen.