Sermon on Isaiah 43:16-21
Text: This is what the LORD says — he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
As you look around, you can begin to see some green. The grass, in spots, is starting to grow. It will not be long before the flower bulbs sprout, pushing their leaves through the ground. The sight of green is refreshing and gives hope that winter is finally winding down. The first sight of green is pleasing to the eyes and gives the reassurance that life continues on. In a sense, it is a new life from what appeared to be dead and dried up. Today we want to talk about new life and the blessings it brings. This morning, we are reminded of OUR NEW LIFE IN CHRIST. First of all, we are reminded that 1. God Has Rescued Us From Spiritual Bondage and secondly that 2. God Gives Us Spiritual Blessings.
This section of the prophecy of Isaiah is interesting. Inspired by God, Isaiah looks back at Israel’s history. Building on that, he looks to the near future and also the future of about seven hundred years. First of all, he calls the readers’ minds to their past. He writes in verses 16&17, “This is what the LORD says — he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick.” Obviously, the event being referred to is the crossing of the Red Sea as the Israelites were set free from the hands of the Egyptians. Remember the situation. The people of Israel were trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army that was pursuing them.
However, God “made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters.” (Verse 16) He caused the Red Sea to split apart, with a wall of water to the right and one to the left. The people of Israel passed through the Red Sea on dry land. The Egyptian army pursued the Israelites through this opening. Then God caused the waters to come back together and, as God calls to their remembrance, “They lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick.” (Verse 17) God had rescued his people from their bondage to the Egyptians. They were in a seemingly hopeless situation. However, in a miraculous way, God had rescued them.
Now God says in verse 18, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” No, God is not telling them that they were to forget this rescue at the Red sea. In essence, what God is saying is, “You have not seen anything, yet! If you thought that was amazing, just look at what I am going to do.” Recall that Isaiah initially wrote this book for the people of Judah. In the not too distant future, the Babylonians were going to come and attack their nation. The Israelites would be defeated and many of them would be led off into exile. To many, it might seem as though all was lost. Here they were, in a foreign land, far away from their homeland. They were enslaved by this foreign power. With these words, God is telling the people that, just as he had rescued their forefathers from the hand of the Egyptians, one day they would be brought back from the Babylonians. As a matter of fact, God even told them that it only would be seventy years that they would be gone. With his mighty hand, God would rescue his people.
As I said earlier, Isaiah looks both to the near future and the distant future. He not only told the people about the eventual release from the hand of the Babylonians. He also told them about their greater release by the coming Messiah. Especially in the second half of his prophecy, Isaiah points the people to the Servant whom God would send to rescue all people. There are many similarities that we can see as we look back. We, also, are beneficiaries of this great rescue.
The Israelites were in a seemingly impossible situation. It looked as if there was no hope for them. We, indeed the entire world, were in an impossible situation because of sin. You and I were held in its captive sway. Every time you and I have gone against God’s will, we sinned. There is no way, humanly speaking, that we could get out of it. Because of our captivity in sin, you and I would have been lost forever. We would have died, as surely as the Egyptian army would have destroyed the Israelites at the Red Sea.
However, just as God sent a deliverer in the person of Moses, and as God sent Cyrus to release the Israelites from Babylonian captivity, so God sent the Great Deliverer, Jesus Christ. He did what was impossible for us to do. He rescued us from a certain eternity in hell. First of all, he rescued us by keeping all of his Father’s will in our place. He further rescued us by facing the punishment that we deserved. As marvelous and wonderful as the rescues were from the hands of the Egyptians and the Babylonians were, they pale in comparison with the rescue that Jesus won for us on the cross. Because of Jesus’ perfect life, his innocent suffering and death, and his glorious resurrection, we have life where death was the only thing in our future.
More than that, God gave us new life when we were brought to faith. The Old Adam in us, our sinful nature, was put to death and a New Man, which wants to live according to God’s will was brought to life. You and I, who were spiritually dead, have been made spiritually alive through the working of the Holy Spirit. You have a new life since God, in his grace, rescued you from your spiritual bondage.
Along with this new life, God has blessed you. We know that, when we come to the end of our lives, we will be in heaven with our Savior. There we will be free from all pain, sorrow, and heartaches, troubles and concerns. All sickness and death will be gone. We will have perfect joy and peace for all eternity. How we long for this blessing, which we will receive from Jesus’ hand.
However, we do not have to wait until someday to receive great blessings from our God. Already today we receive great blessings from him. In verse 20, God says, “I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen.” As the people of Israel were traveling through the wilderness from Babylon to their homeland, God promised to provide for their needs. So also as we travel through the wilderness of this life on our way to our heavenly homeland, God promises to refresh us, as well. He gives us his Holy Word from which our souls can drink deeply. Think of how good it feels to drink a nice cold drink of water on a hot day, especially if you have been working outside. You savor every drop as it cools and refreshes you. So also as we struggle through this life with its hurts, etc., how much our souls are refreshed when we read God’s Word. It fills us up and helps us to go forward on our journey. We have also been given his Holy Supper. As we eat the bread and drink the wine, we are receiving the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. In this sacred meal, our souls are refreshed as we receive the personal assurance that our sins have been forgiven. Through this sacred meal our faith is strengthened for the journey that lies ahead of us. God greatly blesses us with his gifts of Word and Sacrament.
God also blesses us with a purpose in life. So many people wander about, wondering, ‘Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?” God describes us and our purpose in life in verse 21, “The people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” God tells you that he made you for himself. You are not some accident of nature. You are not just the highest link in the chain of evolution. You have been created as the crown of God’s creation. He formed you for himself. He also gives our lives purpose: “that they may proclaim my praise.” This is why you and I exist – to proclaim God’s praise. We do this in many different ways. We do this in church when we sing our hymns to him. We do this as we tell our children about their Savior. We do this when we tell a friend or neighbor, who is searching for answers, the answers that we have found in God’s Word. We proclaim his praise as we look for opportunities to serve him at church. We proclaim his praise by the way that we live our lives. All of this is saying “Thank you” to God for all that he has done for us. What a great blessing this is – that God accepts our hymns, words, and lives of praise. I let my new life show as I live for him and proclaim his praise.
Spring is a marvelous time of year. There is new life all around us. We see it in the lawns and trees, in the fields and even in the livestock. How appropriate to think about new life at this time of year, especially when we think of Lent. We spend six weeks focusing on Jesus’ suffering and death. We do so because we know that Jesus did not stay dead. He rose again and through his death and resurrection, we have new life. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we will live forever. In the meanwhile, may God help us to live in the new life he has given us. May we remember the purpose God has for our lives. Amen.
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