Sermon Text – Isaiah 55:8-9
Meditating on the character of God usually falls into particular grooves. We think about his love, how he shelters us under the shadow of his wings, how he walks up and down the vine—pruning branches here, grafting branches in there, providing support in one area, and providing cover to protect against frost. We think about his grace, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor so that you, by his poverty, might become rich. We think about his mercy, how our debt piled high. Our balance sheet was covered in red. And yet he zeroes it out, hands it back to us and says, “Now you go practice this same forgiveness.” We think about his goodness. And doing that, generally leads to pondering our own badness. That God would save a wretch like me? We ponder about his glory. What does the Father look like? My mind goes to a pure unadulterated light. A light that emanates so purely from his visage, that seeing through it, to the true form from which the light transmits is impossible. We think about his peace, and we imagine tranquil scenes of still waters, slight breezes, and a warm sun. We find ourselves at ease despite living in a world that’s falling down around us. He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. His great patience comes to mind. How can he see the evil in this world and not stamp it out right now? Because The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
WHY HE IS TO BE FEARED
Let’s begin with the basic concept, why should we fear God? Outside the context of the Christian experience, is man afraid of God? Not so much that we’d notice. Our culture literally parades their sexual immorality in the streets. Sam Smith and Kim Petras, dress in red and devil horns for their performance at the recent Grammy awards. Gyrating around, with demonic minions in cages, surrounded by flames. We bestow the title of “doctor” to men and women who specialize in the dismemberment of babies in the womb. The culture chides about tolerance and blind acceptance, unless of course a Christian calls for tolerance, and the answer is, what it’s always been, “Well, you’re an exception,” which basically means, we’re more than willing to be tolerant, just so long as you don’t disagree with us. But this sort of behavior is not surprising. Whether it’s the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, the Philistines at Aphek, or the Pharisees in Jerusalem, this is standard fare for those who have no fear of God before their eyes.
But when it comes to the followers of God, fearing God is one of the principles of Christianity 101. So to begin the discussion, I will ask a basic, child-like question. Is God scary? We will turn to the Word, but like Elijah of old, let’s douse the altar with water and fill the trough.
What realization? The realization that in this life, we can only experience God through a filter. A watered down version, if you will. We are approaching autumn. And I love the weather this time of year. There comes a point when you can find a sunny patch of ground, stand there in a t-shirt, close your eyes, spread your arms, and bask in the sun. The sun is just warm enough to keep you in this perfect equilibrium between the cool of the brisk morning and the warmth the sun provides. Most of the time we don’t think about such things, but the truth is, we experience the sun through a series of filters. For one, it’s very far away. The heat travels and cools as it makes its way through the void of space, and then hits our atmosphere where absorption, scattering, and reflections take place. Some of those molecules end their 93 million mile journey by hitting my skin’s thermoreceptors which then generate electrical signals in my nerves to tell my brain that it’s warm. If I was to be transported to such a location where I could reach out and touch the sun, I would be unable to experience what that intense heat would feel like because I would be vaporized before the signal could ever reach my brain. 8 million degrees!? Who can fathom that?
OUR BLESSED HOPE
If you were forced to relinquish one of your senses, which one would it be? I venture to say the one lowest on the list for most of us would be sight. How difficult it would be even in this modern age to navigate the world without sight. How much more of a trial would it be in the first century. There are no guide dogs, there is no brail, there is nothing to aid the blind. And so the man at Bethsaida begs the Lord to touch him. Our savior, what a loving savior he is, drops everything that he’s doing, gingerly grabs the hand of the blind man and leads him out of the village. “Excuse me, coming through, make way.” He comes to a stop, away from the hustle and bustle of the market, The Lord spits on his eyes, lays hands on him and says, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees walking.” This is the state we find ourselves in. We hear the voice of our savior. We sense his calming presence. Our eyes are darkened, but we follow him where he leads us. We feel the strength of his hands, pressing on our maladies. We open our eyes, and see a blurry face. The resolution is low, but yet we cannot deny the change. We once were only privy to darkness. But it’s still not quite right.
Looking at God and then despising yourself, wallowing in the mire and the dust and the ashes, being ashamed of your sin, recognizing that you are man of unclean lips is either a good thing, or a bad thing. And what makes it good or bad depends on what side of the line you’re on. There is a line of repentance. On this side of the line is pre-repentance. On this side of the line is post-repentance. And it’s actually not a line at all, but rather a waterfall of blood that separates the two sides. A recognition of your guilt and shame is proper and right and good on this side of the line. And if that is where you are today, then by the power of the Holy Spirit, put your faith in Christ, dust yourself off, cross the line, and be washed in the blood of Christ. But if you are experiencing guilt and shame on this side of the line, then rebuke the devil and tell the accuser to begone because resentment and grief and sorrow belong on the other side. This is a place of rejoicing. This is a place of singing. And this is a place of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you’re there, come over. And if you’re here, experience God to the fullest.