Isaiah 42:14-21 (ESV)
14 For a long time I have held my peace;
I have kept still and restrained myself;
now I will cry out like a woman in labor;
I will gasp and pant.
15 I will lay waste mountains and hills,
and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn the rivers into islands,[a]
and dry up the pools.
16 And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.
17 They are turned back and utterly put to shame,
who trust in carved idols,
who say to metal images,
“You are our gods.”
Israel’s Failure to Hear and See
18 Hear, you deaf,
and look, you blind, that you may see!
19 Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf as my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind as my dedicated one,[b]
or blind as the servant of the Lord?
20 He sees many things, but does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not hear.
21 The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake,
to magnify his law and make it glorious.
There is an activity I have done with the youth group which I think illustrates the state of what is going on right now as we try to minimize the number of outbreaks of the Coronavirus which has been rapidly spreading across our country and the globe. Even though the spreading of this virus is nothing to laugh or joke about, if you decide you want to do this activity at home with your family, it can be quiet humorous. It is also a great way to get some pent up aggression out. Both of which are things I think we all need as we practice this social distancing thing.
Here are the supplies you need. First, you need a balance beam of some kind. A 2×4 on the ground works well too.
Second you need something to act like swords. When I did this I used pool noodles. If you don’t have those, if you still have the tubes from paper towel rolls, you can use those. Or if you want to go extreme … use a pillow.
Last thing you need, a blindfold or a sleep mask or anything which will make it so you can’t see.
I’m sure you can “see” what you need to do. Two people, one on each end of your balance beam. Each person is blindfolded and given their “weapon.” On the word go, you have sixty seconds to see if you can knock the other person off the balance beam without falling off yourself.
I compare this to us trying to minimize the number of Coronavirus outbreaks because our dealing with this is kind of unprecedented. Sure there have been plagues and pandemics in the past, but the world in which we live today is so much different than in the past because we are so much more mobile. We are approaching this virus and these times kind of blindly. Everyone is doing what they think is best with the hope and prayer that it works.
This blindness idea leads me to think about what I was originally planning on preaching about this morning.
And that is that sin is blinding. Sin is blinding because it makes me not see things clearly. Sin clouds my thoughts and my judgment. Do I move forward or backwards? Do I swing or do I brace for impact? Sin like a blindfold darkens my life and how I live.
But this darkening sin is not something people like to talk or think about. No one really likes to talk about it because it’s not cool, it’s not “in” anymore. And no one likes to be told what to do or what not to do. When most people look at the Ten Commandments, I believe they see list of party pooper rules of things which prevents me from having fun or doing what I want to do. Much like the suggestions which are passed down on how to possibly limit the spread of this virus. It is easy for any pastor to get bogged down on looking at commandments 2 through 10 that we forget what is running underneath them all. We easily forget about the 1st Commandment. And even though we don’t like to talk about sin, getting back to the fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things isn’t necessarily a bad idea.
In line with this, there is this mentality that we don’t need to take sins very seriously, that they aren’t really all that bad. We, especially people living in the United States, have enough money that we can buy our way out of most difficult situations. We justify our actions of the evil things which go on with some simple excuse like, well, they are just being boys. People blindly don’t take sin seriously …
God however does. God does take sin seriously and we see that in our lesson from Isaiah. Our reading begins with a strange verse. God says, “For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself” (Is. 42:14). I’m sure if I gave you the time, you could probably think of a time where you wanted to say something to someone but instead of saying it and possibly offending, possibly upsetting that person … you just held your peace. You kept still. You restrained yourself. In doing so, thinking it was for the best … the unthinkable happens. You watch things fall apart, become unpeaceful, and you wish you could go back in time and that you would have said something.
God though is incredibly patient. God holds his peace. He lets us today get away with things which our parents never would have let our kids get away with.
But then comes the moment. Then comes the moment when God has had enough. Isaiah says that God like a mother giving birth lets out this horrendous, deafening, ear piercing shriek. This shriek of God over the sinfulness of His children echoes across the land and through valleys and it literally destroys mountains and hills. The movement of God’s voice causes the vegetation as well as rivers and pools of water to dry up. The ear piercing shriek of God causes His balancing blind and yes, even His deaf children to stop, to freeze. By causing them to stop … God is able to get their attention. And man, does God ever need to grab the Israelites and our attention.
The Israelites of old and us today run blindly to what is pleasing to us at the moment. Paul says to a young pastor named Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3). This time has been around for a long time and continues to stay here with us today. The thing is though, because of our sins … we blindly grab after these false teachings and this leads us down a dark and dangerous path.
And yet Isaiah tells us that even though we are blind, even though we fail to listen to Him like we should … God is still there. In God’s righteousness, in His mercy and steadfast love as Luther puts it … God comes after you. He does so not to trap you or to punish you … but instead to restore you. God comes after you to renew the conversation He had with you before you and I broke it off by running away and ignoring Him.
God has been doing this, this restoring His people to Himself for a long time. Back in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they scurried into the woods to hide from God. Standing there in the midst of the garden, Adam and Eve trembling in their skin, God physically comes to them and out of love and concern He calls out to them, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9).
Looking for you and me … God physically comes again. He doesn’t come to just ask where we are but instead God sends a shepherd who willing enters into our dark dens of denial, our destructive denial of His word and our doubt to find us.
If you want to see how serious God is about sin, don’t focus on the destructiveness of mountains, no, instead look at how Isaiah 42 begins. God sends for His servant, His Son, the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. Isaiah describes this servant as dedicated and devoted, perfect in every way. He will not break bruised reeds nor will He extinguish faintly burning wicks. Instead He comes to restore.
Although there is something different about this restorer. Isaiah says about him, “Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD?” Essentially Isaiah is saying that Jesus is blind and deaf. Because of our sin … you and I are blind and deaf. This doesn’t seem to comforting does it?
But listen to these words which Paul says to the Corinthians in our Epistle lesson. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin. God sent Jesus to be born of a woman, to be 100% man so that he could experience everything which you and I experience. God sent Jesus to know your pain, your fear, your anxiety. Becoming like us, Jesus is able to take the peace of God which he enjoys and share it with us. In sharing it with us, he freely takes your pain, your fear, your anxiety, and all of your sin upon himself.
Let’s paraphrase the verse from 2 Corinthians. “God made Him who knew no blindness to be blind for us so that we who are blind might see. God made Him who knew no deafness to be deaf for us so that we who are deaf might hear.”
What an awesome reversal this. Instead of going on in life with a blindfold on and balancing on a thin board … Jesus places us on the solid foundation of himself and removes our blindfold. He removes it so that we can see the empty cross upon which he won for us our forgiveness, we can see the empty tomb which promises the gift of eternal life yet to come, and we can see that as we go through this valley of deep darkness, He is with us, wherever we go. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.