When you look at the world around you, do you have moments when you think God is powerless or deaf? Death and suffering have rolled over regions of Ukraine, Africa, and Central and South America. The fabric of society is tearing apart on many fronts: Government, Media, Arts and Entertainment, Business, Education, Religion, and even Family.
The Israelites were forlorn and hopeless when they returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. There were no city walls. The temple was in ruins. There was no central government. There were no enforceable laws. There was massive poverty and widespread social breakdown. Those who had remained in Jerusalem were living in an unjust and violent society. The Israelites charged God with being weak and deaf to their cries during captivity. There was no hope. And then, there was a flash of God’s attention-getting glory, spoken through a prophet named Isaiah and recorded in the 59th chapter of Isaiah. Here are the highlights of that chapter, and they stand for us today as the basis for our hope in a hopeless world:
God identified the false charge of Israel (Is 59:1) - God heard the charges of Israel against him. Therefore, God sent Isaiah to tell Israel that he was not too weak to save and that his ear was not too deaf to hear. Nothing is more sobering than being caught complaining about someone and hearing, “I heard you!”
God Identified the True Cause of Israel’s Plight (Is 59:2) - God said their sin separated them from him. By definition, sin is a turning from God. And when we turn from God, we do not see his face anymore, nor do we talk with him, that he might listen.
God shares the people’s sense of injustice (Is 59:15-16) - As the Israelites beheld and grieved the condition of Jerusalem, God told them why Jerusalem fell. God said that truth was missing. He saw that evil people had plundered good people. He saw that there was no justice, and he declared his offense. As in the days of Israel’s return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, we live in an age where truth is missing.
God spoke into hopelessness by declaring the promise of a Redeemer (Is 59:20) - God was amazed that no one was interceding for Israel. He promised a Redeemer who would come to Zion and to those in Jacob who turn from sin. This is a crucial insight: The Redeemer comes to those who turn from their sins.
The Christmas Story begins with the problem of sin and progresses with a promise of a Redeemer. To all who see the truth of sin, our inability to do anything about it, and our need for God’s grace to set things right, hope ignites in the hearts of all who believe that the promise of a Redeemer is true because, as Isaiah records, “This is the Lord’s declaration.” (Is 59:20)
The full Christmas Story continues this Sunday as we hear a Proclamation about the Promise of a Redeemer who removes our Problem of sin. See you on Sunday!