Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Isaiah 43: 16-21
That They Might Declare My Praise
Fifth Sunday in Lent, 17 March 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
About the Cover: Our God is always up to new things. He delights to form for Himself a people from all nations who belong to Him. They are shaped by His Word, around which they [are] gather[ed]. His Word fills their mouths with praise as they declare His mighty deeds to one another and to the world. They have no righteousness but Christ’s. He is the cornerstone that makes this new people of God one.
Consider the situation of the prophet Isaiah by the time he shares God’s Word in chapter 43: The people are discouraged. God promises to bring them out of captivity as He did before during the exodus. Even the words the Lord puts in Isaiah’s mouth borrows the language of crossing the Red Sea on the way to the promised land.
16 Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, 17 who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: 18“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Can you picture Moses holding up his hands as the Lord holds back the water so the people of Israel can cross the Red Sea on dry ground? Chariot and horse soldiers of Pharaoh pursue God’s people. And once the people are safely across, Moses’ hands come down and the waters with them, army and warrior lie down in death, quenched like a wick. When the Lord’s is the will, He makes a way.
The Lord had given the people a meal, celebrated annually, to recall His mighty work in bringing them out of the bondage of slavery. The Passover meal of lamb, wine, and flatbread recalled the death of all firstborn in Egypt, a meal ate in haste on the way out of Egypt. The people were to have a weekly “mini Passover” in addition to the annual Feast. They were to remember the Lord’s work for them forever. It likely came as a surprise to the faithful people, God’s holy remnant, when they heard the Lord’s prophet declare: 18“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Remember not? What could be so important that its new reality would cause the exodus to pale in comparison? What is this new thing?
Christians are rightly suspicious of the “new.” “New and improved” tends to be a marketing slogan. We might think of a “Top 40” countdown of new pop or country songs. There’s a short shelf-life for both. “New” in the church most often means a departure from Biblical teaching and practice. The best “new” thing we have is the New Testament—Jesus Himself. He sets us free from sin, death, and Satan. He remembers us forever. He gives us a meal of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
The Promised Land was a disappointment in many ways. It had nothing to do with the place itself. The problem lay within the hearts of the people who dwelt there.
Abraham and Sarah were promised descendants like the number of stars in the sky and the sands of the seashore. They sinned in trying to make God’s promise fulfill itself through another woman, Hagar, and the son she bore to Abraham, Ishmael, rather than waiting for the Lord’s way in the Lord’s time.
Joseph was favored by his father. His brothers were jealous. So, they sold him into slavery and faked his death. Famine afflicted the land. Egypt was a storehouse of food thanks to that same faithful servant of God, Joseph. The nation found refuge, but it came at a high cost: slavery.
The forty years in the wilderness were a consequence for sin, particularly the sins of idolatry, doubt, and grumbling. First there was the golden calf. The people then followed their stomachs instead of the Lord even though He provided manna, water, and quail. And then they feared those who occupied the Promised Land that the Lord had already given into their hand. It would be up to the next generation under Joshua and Caleb to claim their homeland in the name of the Lord.
The Promised Land was a disappointment in many ways. The problem lay within the hearts of the people who dwelt there. They showed their lack of faith in thought, word, and deed, by what they did and especially in what they left undone.
It is up to the Lord to be faithful, drawing His people back to Himself. His people are His because of His doing, not because of theirs, nor our doing. And so He accomplishes the impossible. The Promised Land, a land of milk and honey, a land made desolate and unproductive as punishment for the unfaithfulness of the people, is made lush and fruitful again. All of creation will cry out because His people largely have not.
The Lord says: I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.
The Lord always makes a way. The Lord gathered to Himself a people for a purpose. The Promised Land was part of the benefit of being the faithful people of God. He gives His gifts for His own purpose: for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. O Lord, open our lips!
Do not expect His gifts if you do not declare the praises of God.
We can learn from God’s ancient people. I pray that we do learn from the counter-example of all who reject, neglect, ignore, or profane the Lord’s name, God’s Word, and a lifestyle and practice that honors Christ Jesus. Consider Patrick.
LSB Commemoration Biographies: Patrick is one of the best-known of the missionary saints. Born to a Christian family in Britain around the year 389, he was captured as a teenager by raiders, taken to Ireland, and forced to serve as a herdsman. After six years he escaped and found his way to a monastery community in France. Ordained a bishop in 432, he made his way back to Ireland, where he spent the rest of his long life spreading the Gospel and organizing Christian communities. He strongly defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in a time when it was not popular to do so. His literary legacy includes his autobiography, Confessio, and several prayers and hymns still used in the church today. Patrick died around the year 466. [Patrick preached a faithful Christ in the midst of an unfaithful people.]
The New Song the Old Testament predicts is Jesus Himself. Jesus is the person and teaching of the New Testament. Today we feast on the New Testament of His Body and His Blood for the forgiveness of our sins, tasting and seeing for ourselves that the Lord is good.
The Lord still gathers to Himself a people. And He has done so again this morning. He blesses us that we may be a blessing: for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.
About the Cover: Our God is always up to new things. He delights to form for Himself a people from all nations who belong to Him. They are shaped by His Word, around which they gather. His Word fills their mouths with praise as they declare His mighty deeds to one another and to the world. They have no righteousness but Christ’s. He is the cornerstone that makes [us,] this new people of God one. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.