Sermon on Isaiah 45:20-25
Text: “Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. 21 Declare what is to be, present it — let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.
22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. 24 They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are deliverance and strength.’”
All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. 25 But all the descendants of Israel will find deliverance in the LORD and will make their boast in him.
In many of the Nativity scenes that you see, you find that all of the other figures are bowing down to the baby that is in the manger. In the song, “Angels, We Have Heard On High,” we are invited “Come to Bethlehem and see Him Whose birth the angels sing; Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King.” (Verse 3) Bending the knee or bowing down to someone shows that you recognize that the one to whom you are bowing is of greater honor than you. They are worthy of your praise and worship. In our Gospel Lesson this morning, we watched as aged Simeon took the Christ child in his arms. He praised God and said that he was ready to depart this life, because he had seen the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises with his own eyes. He honored God who was faithful to his promises. This morning, we are encouraged to raise our voices with believers of all ages and praise God. ALL THE EARTH WILL HONOR THE CHRIST. 1. Jehovah Is His Name. 2. Faithful Is His Word. 3. Righteous Are His Works.
First of all, God identifies himself. The reason for this is mentioned in verse20, “Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save.” People were blindly following after and worshiping idols. Yet, in spite of all of the honor that they were giving to these gods, they were not the real God. For this reason, God uses several different names to identify himself to the people and teach them about himself.
God refers to himself and says, “I am God, and there is no other.” (Verse 22) God was showing his superiority over the other so-called gods. He says that he is the only God. In addition, the Hebrew word that is used for God has the idea of God’s almighty power. He is the one who created the heavens and the earth. The name also carries with it the idea that God is eternal. He is without beginning or end. This God is everything that all of those false gods claimed to be. He is superior to all of them, as well as the rest of creation.
God also uses another name to refer to himself in these verses. He calls himself the “LORD.” If you note the spelling of this name of God in the Old Testament, you see that all four letters are capitalized. This was a very special name by which God referred to himself. Usually, when this name is used in connection with God in the Old Testament, it highlights God’s love for people. It is often used when God was speaking promises to his people or when he was rescuing them. The ancient Israelites held this name is such high honor that they would not even pronounce the name as they were reading the Scriptures. When they came to this name of God, they would say, “Adonai.” In all likelihood, this special name for God was pronounced “Jahweh” or “Jehovah.” This is a way that they would honor God. However, God’s name is not just honored by how we say his name. It is a recognition of whom he is. He is our God, who protects and provides for us. In addition, he is the “LORD.” He is the God who shows his love to us. That is why the angels told the shepherds, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) That little baby, whose birth we celebrated about a week ago, is no one less than God himself. We come on bended knee and adore the Christ, who is our Jehovah, our LORD.
God, also notes another difference between himself and all of the other false gods that there were and are. He asks a rhetorical question in verse 21, “Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD?” All of the other false gods did not speak directly to the people. Their priests and prophets would say that this is what their god had told them and they would predict what the future would be. This was not the case with the true God. There were many times when he would speak directly to his people. We think of the time that God spoke to the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. Even if God spoke through his prophets, they were not just predicting the future. God told them exactly what would happen. Think of all of the prophecies that pointed ahead to the coming Savior. Starting in the Garden of Eden, God said that the coming Savior would crush the serpent, Satan’s, head. There were prophecies about where he would be born and from which tribe he would come. Even the manner of his death was foretold. There was no assurance that any of the prophecies of the false gods would come true. God put himself under obligation to keep all of the things that were recorded in his Word. He said in verse 22, “By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked.” You could count on it happening, if God told his people that it would.
What a comfort we find in those words. God has made many promises to us in his Word. For example, we find the Messiah, Jesus, saying to us, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2&3) We don’t have to wonder what will happen to us at the end of our time on this earth. Jesus said, very clearly, that he is preparing a place for us in heaven and that he will take us there to be with him for all eternity. Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” You never have to face anything in this life all on your own. Jesus promises that he will be right there beside you. He has also promised to take care of us by providing everything necessary that we need while we are here on this earth. He has promised and it will be so. We honor the Christ, who has been faithful to every one of his promises and will continue to do so.
Another noted difference between the false gods and the true God is the relationship between them and their followers. Every other god demands that you do for them. You have to make this sacrifice. You have to live a certain way. If you do, they may or may not be kindly disposed toward you. All of the other religions are the follower doing for their god. If you did enough, you were saved.
Contrast that to the way that our God has dealt with us. He says in verse 24, “They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are deliverance and strength.’” He speaks of deliverance and strength. Actually, the word that is translated as “deliverance” in our text could also be translated as “righteousness.” God is our righteousness. Righteousness is basically being in a right or correct relationship with God. This is not something that we could not attain for ourselves. The reason for this is our many sins. Yes, God has set up a standard that we are to live up to. We find this recorded in his law. For example, he says that we are not to worship other gods. We might think to ourselves that we have never done this. We have never bowed down to an idol made of wood, as our text states. However, if we have ever let anything or anyone become more important to us than God, we have, in essence, worshiped that. It has taken God’s place in our lives. It might be our possessions, in that we were willing to do whatever it took to get them, even if it meant doing something that was wrong. It may have been our leisure activities, as we were willing to put God and hearing his Word aside, so that we could pursue them. It may have come in the form of a family member that was sinning, but we didn’t want to upset them, so we kept quiet. We were saying that their feelings were more important that what God says. Whatever the instance may have been, we have sinned against God. There is no righteousness on our own.
How thankful we are that we can say, “In the LORD alone are deliverance (righteousness) and strength.” Because we could not attain righteousness, the LORD did it for us. That is the reason that we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus, our Righteousness, came to the earth on that day. He was righteous throughout his life. He lived that perfect life for you and for me. His path led him to the cross where he exchanged the righteousness that was his for the sins that are ours. On that cross Jesus was punished for every one of those sins. Now, when God looks at us, he sees that righteousness that is necessary for entrance into heaven. We know that this is ours because Jesus rose from the dead. We have every reason to honor the Christ because in him alone is the righteousness that we need for this life and for the life to come.
In our text, the Lord says, “Before me every knee will bow.” (Verse 23) This will happen on the Last Day, when Jesus comes back in all of his glory. Every person that has ever lived on this earth will bend the knee before Jesus. On that day, many will bow in terror before the throne of God, as they see for themselves that he is the only true God. For others, that bending the knee will be a mixture of terror and despair, because they will realize that all of the things that they thought that they were doing to earn God’s favor have accomplished nothing at all. However, for the believer that day when we bend the day will be one of great joy. Finally, we will get to see Jesus face to face. We will be beginning our eternity with him in heaven. We will have the opportunity to praise and honor him as he deserves for all that he has done for us. However, we don’t have to wait until the Last Day to bend the knee and honor the Christ. Every day, God gives us opportunities to say thank you to him for all that he has done for us. May he continue to open our eyes to see these opportunities and may he give us the willingness to carry them out. Though the Christmas music has already faded from the scene, yet the joy that was expressed can still be part of our lives as every day we honor the Christ. Amen.
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