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Listen! The Splendid Servant Speaks!

Listen! The Splendid Servant Speaks!

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Sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church of Toledo, Ohio and St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Monroe, Michigan on January 16th, 2011. The sermon is based on Isaiah 49:1-6.
Sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church of Toledo, Ohio and St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Monroe, Michigan on January 16th, 2011. The sermon is based on Isaiah 49:1-6.

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Published by: Rev. Christopher D. White on Jan 17, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Sunday after Epiphany - January 16
, 2010Isaiah 49:1-6
There are times when we hear things come out of other people’s mouths that just leave us dead inour tracks! Children especially have the ability to take us back with what they say. Sometimes it’s thewisdom in their words that leaves us speechless. Other times it’s the careless profanity that makes usquestion, “Where did they hear THAT?” Especially, I’ve noticed with Christian children, I am often awe-struck by their words of simple faith, and their simple, yet powerful confessions of trust in Jesus asSavior. Those kinds of words often leave us speechless, and yearning to possess that child-like faith that Jesus himself commends.We know how powerful words can be, and how, at times, they are so shocking and astonishingthat we can be left truly speechless on the receiving end. This morning, we are invited to listen carefullyto the splendid servant of Isaiah chapter 49. Last week we were introduced to him as the “chosen one,”and now we hear him speak – some 700 years before he took on our human flesh, and be sure that what he says is not just a mumbling of meaningless words that have no significance for us today. What thisservant says will take us back and leave us in astonishment, because he speaks of his agonizing labor, thedepths of which we can never personally know by experience, and he speaks of his all-encompassing,global love, the lengths of which we can never comprehend. Listen! For the splendid servant is about tospeak – and what he says will blow you away!
I. Of his agonizing labor
He says first of all verse 1:
Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar.The L
called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.”
Essentially what heis saying is that he has been assigned work, a task and this task is the entire reason that he has enteredthe womb and was called out of the womb and given that special name – Jesus, Savior, the great Joshua,who brings saving grace and truth...which is exactly what John the Baptist fleshed out in our gospel lessonby announcing: “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”The servant continues to speak...
He made my mouth like a sharp sword...he made me a polishedarrow...”
A sword, an arrow – those are instruments of harm, pain, and death. What he says, his messagecuts to the heart with a deadly blow. How often did Jesus’ words cut to the very core of the Phariseeswho thought themselves righteous and holy and ready to stand before the throne of Almighty God, whenin reality their hearts were so far from God in their self-righteous spirit? How many times did Jesusthrust a deadly blow to the rich and powerful, exposing the blackness/darkness of their soul becausetheir hearts sought only earthly comfort and treasure, all at the expense of their eternal welfare?When our Savior speaks in Scripture, his word runs us through. He strikes our pretentiousness,our conviction that we have no need for divine help. He hits us in the heart with the simplest of divinecommands: “Love the Lord your God; Love your neighbor as yourself,” because our pattern of behavior isto hate God and to hate our neighbor, elevating ourselves above both. He slices us open when,repeatedly, he teaches that glory comes through suffering, and that eternal glory cannot and will not beacquired by our pursuit of temporal glory in works or treasures.
Now that’s shocking to us! But the reason that we must be struck, that we must be harmed,pierced, sliced by the law’s demands is so that our splendid servant may apply the healing balm that binds up the wounds that the law opens up...the balm of the gospel. The reason that we are draggedkicking and screaming to the foot of Sinai is so that we can see the majestic holiness of God, that we hearthe thunderous sound of his voice. It’s not pleasant for us that the law harms us. But we need torecognize that of our own merit, we are dead to God. We are in desperate need of mercy, and are left withno excuse to ever think or believe, “This servant’s labor I don’t need!”Yes, we do. Does a stab victim not need the careful and gentle hands of the surgeon? Can theybind themselves back up? Can they stitch themselves back together? We need his labor, in all itsdarkness, in all its horror, in all its gore, in all its terrible reality, which the servant speaks of when hesays in verse 4:
But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.”
 Do you hear the echoes of Gethsemane? Do you sense in his words rejection and abandonment?That’s the agony of his labor. He labors for those who would abandon him. He labors for those who hatehim. He labors for those who could care less that he entered the world to die for them. And nonetheless,he allowed the piercing arrow of the law’s curse, the sharp sword of sin’s wages to pierce his hands, hisfeet, his side, his soul – so that “by his wounds, we are healed,” Isaiah 53 reminds us.That’s the depth of his commitment to you, the depth of his agony for you, and the depth of hislove for you. He doesn’t leave us torn apart, broken and destroyed. He is torn apart, in body and soul,binding us up and healing us completely through agonizing, laborious sacrifice that, as John the Baptist proclaimed, “takes away the sin of the world.”
II. Of his global love
The depths of the servant’s agony is shocking in and of itself. But these words jump right off of thepages of Isaiah 49, words spoken by the Father to his Son:
And now the L
says: “It is too light a thingthat you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I willmake you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
 Too light a thing? These are words that we REALLY need to listen carefully to! It wasn’t enough, iwasn’t satisfactory, it was too small of a thing to the Father that his Son would labor in agony for just aselect few. Yes, the Israelites were chosen by God to carry the special promise of this splendid servant.And yes, they were set apart from the nations of the world for that very purpose. However, the reach of the gospel’s healing balm was not to be limited to one group, to one family, to one bloodline, to one areaof the world, because,
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his gracethrough the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
 Here’s the point: nobody is left out! No one is excluded, which is astonishing given how big theworld is, and how many people occupy it. No one is forgotten. The woman who has been granted 80years of life and has lost the ability to speak, to hear, to eat and is just awaiting that moment in time whenlife will finally ebb away – forgotten by many, not by Jesus. The child in the womb of a teenage mother,whose destiny is set because the mother has decided in selfishness or despair to abort it – known by noone, not forgotten by Jesus. The murderer who sits on death row, despised by all, a shedder of blood –his sins covered in full by Jesus’ innocent blood. Here at home, and far off, in places we’ll never see, incountries we’ve never heard of, in places that even maps don’t recognize, in areas that are forgotten bymost, are precious blood-bought souls remembered and redeemed by Jesus with no exception!

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