Listen! The Lord Has a Big Plan!
Sermon on Isaiah 49:1-6
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Listen! The Lord Has a Big Plan!
Text: Isaiah 49:1-6
Listen! Listen carefully! Jesus is speaking. He is speaking to you. He is speaking about something very important. He is speaking about God’s plans. They are not small plans. They are big plans. They are plans that concern you. They are plans that affect you. They are plans that include you. So listen, and listen carefully.
Two thousand seven hundred years ago, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, Jesus said this in Isaiah 49:1: “Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.” Isaiah lived around 700 B.C. As Jesus was speaking through him, he was both looking into the future and looking into the past. Looking 700 years into the future, Jesus knew that he would take on human flesh and be born of the virgin named Mary. That would happen in about 700 years. But speaking at the time of Isaiah and even looking further back in time, Jesus says that this had always been the Father’s plan. Long before Jesus was born the Father chose his Son and made mention of his name—Jesus.
In fact, at the time of Isaiah this plan had already been in place for several thousand years. It officially began in the Garden of Eden. God had stitched every inch of this universe together with glorious perfection. There was not one problem or pain, not one mistake or misfortune that existed. But Adam and Eve ruined that. They indulged in that tempting fruit and opened Pandora’s box—or rather, Satan’s box—of sin and death and hell. Perfection was lost. Paradise was lost. Eternal life was lost.
God could have just as easily erased what he had made and started all over again, as easily as erasing chalk on a chalkboard. Instead, he set a plan in motion—a big plan. He chose his Son Jesus to come and be born in our world to save our fallen race. So Jesus calls all peoples, all islands and nations, to attention to listen to this plan: “Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.”
For generation after generation, year after year after year, God continued this plan. He continued the plan and the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; to Moses, Aaron, and Joshua; to David and to Solomon. All the while, God was preparing the world for his Son to come. He was waiting for just the right moment. At the same time he kept his Son ready and prepared—hidden as if in a shadow, ready for action like a polished arrow waiting in a quiver. Jesus describes these actions of his Father in verse 2: “He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.” All of these preparations, all of these generations of people, all of this time—it was all part of the big plan.
Finally the time had come. The time came for the Son to be born of a woman and born under law. The time came for the Son to conceal his divinity for a time and to take on the role of a servant. Jesus describes how his Father prepared him and encouraged him in verse 3: “He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.’” Those words remind us of the words we heard last week when the Son was here in this world and was baptized: “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.”
Indeed, the Father would display his splendor and glory through his Son. Indeed, he had every right to love his Son and to be pleased with his Son. The time had come for his big plan to develop and come to fruition. The time had come for the Son to carry out salvation.
So the Son came with great power. He came preaching and teaching with authority. He healed the sick. He cast out demons. He raised the dead. He walked on water. He calmed the wind and waves. He fed thousands. He revealed some of the glory and splendor of his Father in heaven.
Sadly, his own people rejected him. They wanted an earthly king. They wanted a military general. They wanted a magic man. They wanted a healer. They didn’t want a Savior. So they closed their eyes and their ears and their hearts.
How this saddened Jesus! He continued to show them love. He preached with righteous anger. He even wept over his beloved Jerusalem. All to no avail. Jesus reveals his inner thoughts as the God-Man and Savior in verse 4, “But I said, ‘I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.” All of that work, only to be rejected? All of that preaching and teaching, compassion and healing with no purpose and in vain?
Just when we might begin to think Jesus was frustrated or sinfully doubting, he reminds us of his perfection as he maintained his trust in his heavenly Father. At the end of verse 4 he says, “Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” Though there seemed to be no worldly and tangible results to his work, the Son remained confident that the Father would bring a reward through his work.
And indeed, this too was part of the big plan. Jesus was rejected by his own people. They arrested him. They accused him. They abused him. They crucified him. But you see, this was all part of the plan. In fact, this was the plan from the very beginning.
The plan was for the Son to become a servant. The plan was for the Son to serve his people and to serve sinners. He came so that he could go to the cross. He came to be lifted up and to receive the curse. He came to carry sin and guilt. He came to be abandoned by his Father and to suffer hell. He came to die. This was part of the plan. He came to live perfectly. He came to die innocently. He came to forgive and save.
But did he come to forgive only minor offenses—a few curses and swears, a couple lies, and a few lusts? No. That’s too small of a plan for God. Well did he come then only for constant liars, for those who can’t control their temper, or those who are spiritually lazy when it comes to church or reading his Word? No. That’s too small of a plan for God. Well did he come then for cheaters and thieves too? Could he have come also for murderers? Could he possibly have come for adulterers? No. That’s too small of a plan for God.
Well then did the Son come only for female sinners? Or only for children? No. That’s too small of a plan for God. Did the Savior come only for those of Jesus’ race? Or did he come only for Americans? Only white Americans? Only Americans born in this country? No. That’s too small of a plan for God.
Listen. Listen carefully. Listen to the Father speak to his Son in the last verse: “He says, ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Did you hear it? This was the plan. This was the big plan. Jesus came to forgive and to save. Not just the Jews. Not just some. Not just the “good” people. Jesus came for murderers, adulterers, abort-ers, addicts, liars, cheats, thieves, potty-mouths, hot-heads. He came for sinners. Period. Not just some. All. He came for every sinner of every race of every nation on earth. What sins have you committed? What have you done wrong? What small sin do you overlook but do all the time? What big sins have you done that make you want to throw up when you think about them because they are so shameful and terrible? Whatever your sins, Jesus has forgiven them. Whoever you are, Jesus has forgiven you. This was God’s big plan. Jesus accomplished it on Calvary and proved his victory with his empty tomb.
So what is your problem today? What hurts? What makes you terrified and afraid? What makes you cry yourself to sleep or worries you half to death? What is it that leaves a hole in your heart or a knot in your belly?
Brothers and sisters, there is pain in this room. There have been lost jobs. There are worries about money and worries about foreclosure. There are hurt feelings and hurt relationships. There has been the discovery of cancer. There has been the sadness of death. Those all have been experienced in our church and school family just in the last week!
But brothers and sisters, Listen! The Lord has a Big Plan! If God can carry out his plan of salvation—a plan set in motion from the very beginning and carried out perfectly through his Son thousands of years later—can’t he also carry out his plans for your life? If he can save the world and even save you through Jesus, can’t he also take care of your life? If he can make good on his promise to send a Savior, can’t he also make good on his promise that all things will work out for your good? If he can redeem you, can’t he also guard and guide you, protect and provide for you?
Listen! Listen to the Lord’s big plan! His plan for you isn’t quite finished yet. He saved you through Jesus. He chose you to be his own. He brought you into his family. And he promised—he promised—to bring you to your eternal home. Listen! The Lord has a big plan. The plan is for you to be with him in the joys of heaven. Listen, because his plans never fail!
If you would like a copy of this sermon to print or to share, click here.