Rejoice in What God Will Do
The 3rd Sunday of End Times
Rejoice in What God Will Do
Text: Isaiah 65:17-25
Three years ago on this day of the church year I told you the story of a friend pastor of mine whose young child tragically stopped breathing and died. I’ve shared other sad stories. A friend pastor whose baby was born with a hole in the heart and parts of the brain missing. Former members of our church whose daughter was born a few months ago with hydrocephalus. She’s currently receiving ground breaking treatment at Duke University. We have a student in our Preschool that is fighting cancer and a tumor fused to the top of his spinal chord. On Thursday a man with a gun was shot by police in the newborn wing of the Children’s hospital just down the road from my parents’ home in Milwaukee. I know other stories. You know other stories.
A few months ago we included in our prayers our former vicar or intern Jacob Hoff and his family when his mother-in-law passed away after fighting brain cancer for about six months. A few weeks ago I told you about the pastor in his 60s that died from lung cancer, making a cross over his heart as he took his last breath. I know other stories. You know other stories.
Some of you have experienced these sad stories very recently. A lost grandfather. Or mother. Or friend. A new person with cancer. A new life-threatening illness. Another life expected to be too short. Another life cut short. Some of you have such stories right now.
Loss of family and friends hurts the most. But other tragedies keep the waterworks flowing and the Kleenex nearby. Beautiful houses built to fulfill the wildest dreams of happiness are being foreclosed and sold for pennies compared to what they cost. Renters are living in someone’s former dream.
Farmers are losing their crops to natural disasters. Entire orange groves were frozen last year. Tons of good food was destroyed, along with many lives and careers. They did all that work in vain.
Farmers aren’t the only ones. Countless others work hard, labor, and toil only for someone else to take the credit. Someone else gets the promotion. Someone else steals the patent rights. The big dogs trample on the big dogs who don’t know where to go and don’t know what to do.
As we trudge through this dreary life with tear-stained cheeks, sometimes it feels like life consists of simply trying to “make it” from tragedy to tragedy. Can I find enough strength in between to make it through the next one?
When a child is born these days it seems almost like a perplexing juxtaposition. There is such joy that the child is born, but such sadness that the child has to live in this world. The next generation seems doomed to even more sadness than you and I experience. It makes us wonder with wise king Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes if we would just be better not born.
Struggling to hold our heads up, stumbling to keep our feet, we choke back the weeping and the crying and the pain and call out to the Lord. “Are you there, Lord? I need you Lord. Please. Help.”
When will the sadness end? When will the pain and sorrow go away? When will things get better? Ever? When?
Soon. Very soon.
This morning our Savior-God is here amongst us. It is his house, after all. He watched as you routinely walked in. He saw your forced smiles, hiding something underneath. He saw the distracted looks on your faces as you sat down. No one else can, but he can see the invisible mountain of burdens burying your heart. He can see tense shoulders and muscles. He knows all the broken hearts and all the fractured lives. He sees. He knows.
This loving God waited for you to enter this holy sanctuary. He waited for you and then he gladly and warmly welcomed you. He didn’t shout, “Wait! Check your troubles at the door!” He didn’t yell, “Stop! You’re too sinful for this place.” Rather, this loving Savior-God stretched wide his arms to greet and welcome you.
You see, this isn’t the first time he stretched wide his arms for you. He did that once before a long, long time ago. He stretched out his arms on a cross, almost opening himself up like a target. On that target all of your sins landed. On that target all of God’s wrath and anger erupted. And on that cross he bowed his head between his outstretched arms and died—for you.
Today he stretched out those arms again. But now the blood has dried. The holes have healed and closed. These arms, once stretched out and lifeless, are now living and inviting you into his house. Bring your sins with you. He died for them. Bring your worries. He has an undeniable peace to offer you. Bring your problems and your pains. He has a confidence and a strength to give you that you can find nowhere else.
This is the kind of place and he is the kind of Savior that makes you forget about everything else that has happened. The former things are forgotten—they don’t even come to mind. This is the kind of place and he is the kind of Savior that dries tears, that turns weeping and wailing to shouts of joy and delight. And it’s for this simple reason: Our God delights in and rejoices over us. No matter the sin, no matter the pain, no matter how frail and fragile we might be—he is delighted to call us his own people.
So as he welcomes us—his own people—into his holy house, he calmly wipes our tears. He embraces us with his love and wraps us in his peace. And then he shares with us this message: “Soon. Very soon. Soon everything will be different. Soon this will all be over. Soon you will not have tears. Soon you will not have sadness. Soon.”
Did you hear him say that today? Did you hear your God tell you—no, promise you—what he will do? He told you through the prophet Isaiah in the first lesson this morning. Look again at what he says.
“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.”
A time is coming very soon when God will do away with his first creation that humans have tarnished and ruined by their sin. Now that he won forgiveness and redemption for his fallen creatures he has something new to offer. It’s a heavenly Jerusalem—Jerusalem the golden, if you will. And in the heavenly Jerusalem things will be completely different for us.
There we won’t remember the former things. The troubles, the tears, the pains—they won’t even come to mind. It will be a delight and a joy for us. There will be no weeping or crying heard there ever because God rejoices over his heaven and takes delight in us being there.
“What will this be like?” we wonder. We’ve never had anything remotely close to this. We can hardly fathom what this kind of eternal life will be like. God knows this. God knows that we are such simple creatures that we cannot grasp his grandeur. So sometimes he gives us descriptions in words and pictures that we can understand. He does that in the second paragraph of Isaiah 65 today.
“’Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the LORD.”
This is how grand our new life in heaven will be: Never again will there be the tragedy of an infant who dies after a few days. Never again will we utter words like, “He’s gone too soon.” Life will go on and on and on forever. Never again will we experience injustice, like having someone else live in the house we built or someone else eating the fruit we planted. Never again will we toil. Never again will there be misfortune.
There our days will be like a tree—firm, solid, lasting. We will be in full and open communication with our God. We already enjoy the privilege of calling out to God and having him hear and answer. But there in heaven we will speak even more clearly as we will see our loving God face to face.
There will be such peace and such happiness, it will be kind of like this: A wolf and a lamb will feed together and a lion will be eat straw and be gentle like an ox. God is not necessarily telling us here there will be animals in heaven. But he is giving us a picture to tell us this: “’They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord.”
“Says the Lord.” You came here this morning broken, hurting, full of pain, full of guilt. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be human. God welcomed you into his house with loving grace and a firm embrace. Then the Lord told you something. Your sins are forgiven. You are his child. He delights in you. And soon, very soon, things will be different. The Lord, who delights in you and rejoices over you, will end your heartache and your hardship. He will dry your tears forever and give you peace and joy and happiness that lasts forever and ever. Where? On his holy mountain. In Jerusalem the golden. In heaven. How do we know this is true? “Says the Lord.” This is what the Lord says so this is what the Lord will do.
This world has never been easy for God’s people. Never. Isaiah witnessed his fellow Israelites get crushed and destroyed by the Assyrian empire. His ministry included warnings that Babylon would soon do the same. There was violence and bloodshed and great sin everywhere. A terrible time to live.
So God held out a sure and certain hope to his people. Soon things would be different. Soon they would be pain and problem free. “Says the Lord.” Many believed what the Lord said and went from the sadness of this life to the joy of the next. That includes Isaiah, whom historic legend says was executed by being sawed in half. Isaiah knew unbearable pain in this life, but now he knows unending joy in the next.
Dry your tears today. Be strengthened. Be comforted. Soon, very soon, things will change. Temporary pain and problems will be over. Momentary sadness and sorrow will be gone. Soon, very soon, unending joy and eternal peace will be yours. This is what your Lord says. This is what your Lord promises. This is what your Lord will do.
Heaven is yours. Soon. Very soon. Listen. Be glad. Rejoice.
Posted on November 18, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Death, Eternal Life, Happiness, Hardship, Heartache, Heaven, Isaiah, Isaiah 65, Joy, Pain, Peace, Sadness, Saints, Saints Triumphant, Sermons, Sorrow, Tragedy, Trouble. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.