Sermon 12.11.16 Advent 3

Isaiah 35:1-10
Pastor Ken Frey
Advent 3
12/11/16

Dramatic Reversal
1. Your God will come
2. The Way of Holiness
3. The Joy of Zion

Isaiah 35:1-10 The wilderness and the dry land will be glad. The desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose. 2It will blossom abundantly, and there will be great joy and singing. Lebanon’s glory will be given to it; it will be excellent like Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3Strengthen the weak hands, and make feeble knees firm. 4Tell those who have a fearful heart, “Be strong. Do not be afraid. Look! Your God will come with vengeance, with God’s own retribution he will come and save you.” 5Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be cleared. 6The lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy. Waters will flow in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. 7 The burning sand will become a pool, and in the thirsty ground there will be springs of water. Grass, reeds, and rushes will be in the haunts where the jackals once lay. 8A highway will be there, a road, and it will be called The Holy Way. The unclean will not walk there. It will be for those who walk in that Way. Wicked fools will not wander onto it. 9No lion will be there, nor will any ravenous animal go up on it. They will not be found there, but the redeemed will walk there. 10Then those ransomed by the Lord will return, they will come singing to Zion, and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain happiness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

“He’s coming!” Do these words strike fear in your heart, or do they warm your heart? It depends on the situation, doesn’t it? If you’re drawing a funny picture of your teacher on the white board before class, a classmate’s cry: “He’s coming!” should set your heart a-thumping as you sprint for your chair. On the other hand, if you are standing outside in the rain after school waiting for your dad to pick you up, “He’s coming!” are welcome words of relief.

As you know, Advent is a time to focus on Christ’s coming. His coming should strike fear in our hearts. His coming, rather, is welcome relief for us because he will bring a dramatic reversal.

Isaiah said, The wilderness and the dry land will be glad. The desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose. 2It will blossom abundantly, and there will be great joy and singing. Lebanon’s glory will be given to it; it will be excellent like Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3Strengthen the weak hands, and make feeble knees firm. 4Tell those who have a fearful heart, “Be strong. Do not be afraid. Look! Your God will come with vengeance, with God’s own retribution he will come and save you.” The hills of Carmel were known for their oak forests. Lebanon had mighty cedars covering its mountains. If you go there today, will you see big trees like that? No. You know why?

About a thousand years ago the Turkish empire put a tax on trees. You had to pay a dollar for every tree on your property. What did people do? They cut down all the trees and that changed the climate. No trees, no moisture gathering and condensing and eventually you have the beginning of a desert.

Life can be like a desert, dried up and dying. After the death of a husband, or a child. Or a marriage slowly dries up and becomes like a desert. Cancer or other serious diseases can dry up a person’s zest for life.

Life can be like a desert, when God seems to be very far away. When love seems so very far away. When the marriage is dead. When the husband is dead. When mom is dead. When the energies have died. Life can become like a desert.

Our old Adam tells us life is half empty. God has not blessed us as he has blessed others. God doesn’t love us. No one does. It’s a barren desert all around.

But Isaiah promised a dramatic reversal. The wilderness and the dry land will be glad. The desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose. 2It will blossom abundantly, and there will be great joy and singing. Lebanon’s glory will be given to it; it will be excellent like Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

He prophesied a dramatic reversal where the desert would be full of life and growth, trees and flowers everywhere. How would God bring about such a dramatic reversal? In the desert it begins with water. In our hearts, it begins with the Water of Life. Jesus invited us to come to him and drink and “living water would flow from within [you].” (John 7:38)

The water of life brings life to our dead hearts when water and word give us the washing of rebirth and renewal. Life grows in us when we hear and believe the good news of Jesus Christ.

With that life flowing in us we can be strong and fearless no matter what we face. Death, cancer, divorce, loss. Whatever comes into our lives we can face with strength because of Jesus. Our God will come with a dramatic reversal. He will bring us from the struggles of life to the glory of the Lord.

The people of Israel experienced the glory of the Lord when God brought them out of Egypt. It was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night that protected them and led them through the wilderness.

Many years later, the glory of the Lord shone again around the shepherds as the angel announced the Savior’s birth. There’s where we find the glory of the Lord: in the face of the baby Jesus.

We are on that road to glory now. Isaiah calls it the way of holiness. 8A highway will be there, a road, and it will be called The Holy Way. The unclean will not walk there. It will be for those who walk in that Way. Wicked fools will not wander onto it. 9No lion will be there, nor will any ravenous animal go up on it. They will not be found there, but the redeemed will walk there. The word means a raised highway. It is straight and firm. Those who travel on it will not get lost. It is the way of salvation. It is the way of him who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Who is on this road? Only the redeemed are found there. Redeem means to buy back. It’s a great picture word expressing what Jesus has done for us. We were held captive by sin and death, but Jesus paid the price to buy us back. That price was his holy blood and innocent suffering and death. He paid the full price for us so that we could belong to him.

But at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, wait, there’s more. He not only came to redeem us, but to fix us.

5Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be cleared. 6The lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy. The gospel lesson this morning was a fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus healed the blind, the deaf and the lame. Jesus’ miracles of healing promise that someday we too will be healed. Someday every birth defect, every handicap, every disabling disease will be a thing of the past. No more cuts and bruises. No more pain. No more cancer. No more death.

Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. We’re still many miles from the promised glory. Many dangers and detours still beckon as we travel the highway to heaven: the false god of materialism, the temptation to trust in our own strength, and the onslaughts of spiritual indifference. We can easily become disgusted with life. We can become discouraged with our country and society. We can be disheartened by the apparent lack of commitment of other Christians.

When people on the Lord’s road home are discouraged by daily failures, he “strengthens the feeble hands” with the good news of forgiveness. If we are tempted to buckle before the pressures of an unbelieving world, with its godless theories and amoral attitudes, he strengthens our spiritual knees with the Lord’s Supper.

Alzheimer’s disease may be waiting around the next curve, death is always stalking us, and Satan acts as though he had not been defeated. God, however, has never built a road that won’t hold up, never issued an invitation he won’t honor. He will bring our trip home.

10Then those ransomed by the Lord will return, they will come singing to Zion, and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain happiness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah opens the door to let us look inside of Zion. We see everlasting joy there. The wearisome journey will become only a faint memory as the gladness and joy of Zion overtake and overwhelm those who enter this blessed city of God. Sorrow and sighing will disappear. Singing will replace sorrow. Joy will replace sadness. And we will see the Savior face to face with worship that will have no end.

What a dramatic reversal. We were lusting after the fool’s gold of this world’s treasures. God gave us the golden streets of heaven. We embraced the world and our sinful flesh as if they were our dearest friends. God showed us a much better friend in Jesus. And all of this is a gift of his grace through Jesus Christ, our Savior. A dramatic reversal indeed.