Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon comes from the Old Testament, which was read earlier.
Last week, I finally watched a movie that I had wanted to see for a while: 2012. The premise of the movie is this: according to the Mayan calendar, the end of the world will be December 21, 2012. Scientists had discovered that the end of the world as we know it is quickly coming and they have just a matter of a few years to figure out how to save the human race. Unfortunately, the end of the world comes sooner than December 21 and the beginning of the end of the world commences.
Now, if you are wondering, the end of the world will not come on December 21, 2012. We do not know when the end of the world will be, not even Jesus Christ. That is information that only God the Father knows. However, this movie is a good reminder for us that we are living in the last days, that period of time that we await the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
As we look at our text, Isaiah is doing what Isaiah does best: prophesying. Prior to our text, Isaiah tells the people of Israel of how God mercifully delivered His people from Assyria. Those in Jerusalem lived to see the dramatic events and rescue, but failed to see beyond the disappearance of the Assyrian armies. They failed to recognize the work of God in all of this and instead continued in their rebellion and unbelief. He revealed to them the unhappy truth about the spiritual blindness of the people of Jerusalem. For those people who were spiritually blind and drunk, the message of God was a sealed book they could not understand. For all who remained in unbelief, the book was sealed. Those who could read couldn’t, because the message was sealed, that is, it was impossible to understand. Those who could not read could not penetrate the meaning of the words.
Why would God cause His Word to be sealed for His people? Isaiah tells them it because their hearts were far from the Lord. They would speak the right words, go through the motions, but at the end of the day, their hearts were as far from God as could be. They had lost the essence of God and His revelation to His people. They did not understand His grace and the promises of the coming Messiah. They were a people who had more or less developed a religion made up only of rules taught by men.
How fortunate for us today living in these last days that we are a people solely centered upon God and His Word, focused on the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ. Oh wait, we’re not that people. Instead, we are a people that are fractured when it comes to who God is. We are a people who say that God can be anyone or anything. We are a people who say that you can have your god, lowercase g, and I can have my god, lowercase g, but even though they have different names, we’re talking about the same god and that both are equal in stature.
Instead of focusing on the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ, we focus on the salvation that our works earn for us. Instead of focusing on the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ, we look to the various other avenues in which we can be saved, all just as equal or greater to the salvation accomplished for us by Jesus Christ on the cross.
The prophesying words of Isaiah not only speak of people whose hearts are not in their religion, but also speak of those whose hearts are sincere and devout, but whose beliefs are wrong and without Christ. Such people believe that they are worshiping the true God when they follow rules taught by men. Many are devout and zealous in their beliefs, but they are without Christ.
Even those within the visible Church of Christ can have hearts that are far from the Lord. When they abandon the message of the cross and adopt social issues, they begin to adhere to rules taught by men. Whenever the free and gracious gifts of God become rewards earned by man, worship and religion become hollow and we find ourselves separated from that communion with God.
Isaiah speaks to those who know they oppose God and who persist in their unbelief and rebellion. Such people sought to hide their evil and perversion from the Lord, just as Adam and Eve tried to. Unfortunately, we cannot hide our evil from the Lord because our God is an all-knowing God and knows all that we do, including our evil acts. Instead of hiding our evil from God, as if He would not be able to see what we have done, we must confess our sins and repent of them in order to receive that blessed forgiveness our Lord desires to grant to us.
However, there is good news for us and for all people. Even though we still sin and even though we still die, our Lord has sought to grant to us a Savior. Jesus Christ has redeemed us from sin and death and hell. His death on the cross is our death, and His resurrection is our resurrection, shown to us in advance, to comfort us in the face of the dangers of life and the terror of death. God addresses those truths through Isaiah. He says, “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.”
We live in that day, spoken of by the prophet. We are the deaf. We are the blind. In and of ourselves, we cannot hear the Word of God. We can physically hear it, but without the working of the Holy Spirit in us, we automatically reject it as false, old-fashioned, or absurd superstition.
Our Lord rescues, redeems, and reconciles us to Himself, not out of our worthiness but out of His grace. He turns our sins into salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. This message that the deaf shall hear is none other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of His life, death, and resurrection for us. It is the story of how He atoned for the sins of the whole world in order that you and I might have the free gift of everlasting life. It is the story of how you have become one of God’s beloved children.
We rejoice in our forgiveness. When all else fails, we have eternal life ahead. We shall rise from our graves and live with the Lord forever! But even while we live here, our sufferings are not pointless and endless and hopeless. God is with us, and He has a plan. He will guide us and keep us, and He will not allow us to bear more than we are able, but will provide us with a way of escape and bring us through. That is His promise, and that is our faith and our hope. And believing that we can rejoice, and increase in our gladness in the Lord.
We live in that day spoken of by Isaiah. And on that day, the promise is true, and it still brings comfort and hope to the chosen people of God! On that day we do hear the words of a book that we are not naturally able to hear, and we do see though the gloom and darkness of a fallen and utterly corrupt pagan world. Our gladness is increased because we who are needy have our needs met: our sins are forgiven, and we have received that gift of everlasting life. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.