Home » Spiritual Direction » Lectionary Sermon for January 9, 2022

Lectionary Sermon for January 9, 2022

Isaiah 43:1-7 Listen, learn, and Do Not be Afraid

“Do not be afraid.” This is one of those sayings that are right up there with “pray without ceasing” and “in everything, rejoice.” These are phrases easier to say than to do.

How can we be asked to do these things when they seem impossible to accomplish? Is God just kidding or playing with us? Never, God never behaves in a frivolous manner. God never asks us to do something by ourselves that is impossible. When something seems impossible, we need to exam what is asked of us closely. When we do this, we will find, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Lk. 18:27 NIV) It all depends on what our relationship with God is.

God is speaking through the prophet Isaiah to a people who have strayed far from God’s guidance. God’s chosen people had violated the covenant God had made with them. They had ignored God’s laws. They had decided for themselves what was right and what was wrong. They worship false idols. They cheated and took advantage of one another. God tried to call them back, but they ignored God. God allowed them to reap the consequences of their actions in order to try and get them to come to their senses, but they still maintained an attitude of rebellion and hostility toward God’s efforts. They brought upon themselves violence, destitution, and exile. They abandon God but God did not abandon them. God still loved them and remained faithful to the promise made despite their behavior.

God speaks through Isaiah to once again remind the people that God still loved them and would redeem them. God wanted them to know that God would help them too not be afraid.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells a parable of the prodigal son. Do you remember the story? A son goes to his father and asks for his inheritance. This alone was very disrespectful to the father. The son leaves his responsibilities with his family and goes to a city to live a life selfish life of perceived pleasure and immorality. When his money runs out, he is abandoned by his so-called friends and ends up feeding hogs better than he himself is fed. We are told that he “comes to his senses,” and returns to his father’s care and compassion. What this implies is that the young man had not been thinking rationally.

Insanity is defined as a derangement of thought, a defect in rational thinking, foolish and irrational behavior. Insanity is to defy God, to believe we can be our own savior by willfulness, to ignore the truth that without God we have no hope. Sanity is restored when we are no longer under self-delusions, demonic deceptions, and dissipated life.

Insanity is simply a word used to show the difference between that which is normal and that which is abnormal. The things we allow our thoughts to dwell on would be considered completely abnormal to the mind of a normal person. Therefore, we could call such thinking spiritual insanity, as not being in our right senses.

Isaiah is being used by God to help God’s people “come to their senses.” Isaiah is offering them the truth instead of the delusions and deceptions that had been living by and trusting.

I fear, a concerned fear, that there are many people today who would claim the title Christian but whose lives reflect the influence of the enemy of humanity. I know I have made this mistake. I know I have had to “come to my senses”.

Such people have, in many ways, become like the people to whom Isaiah is speaking. However, now God is giving them another chance. I believe there are many, many of us who need to “come to our senses” and return to the way Jesus has called us to think and live. We need a return to spiritual sanity. Jesus is willing to give us such a chance.

When you pass through the waters, when you pass through the rivers, when you walk through the fire, these are situations and events that would be a reason to fear if a person is not walking closely with God. But Isaiah tells the people and through the Scripture tells us, “Do not be afraid.” for I am with you.” God is telling the people that God will guide and protect them through such times. The question is will they listen?

What is important when we are in, coming out, or entering difficult situations, we need to be sure we are listening to God. While most people pray or talk to God, many do so without listening.

Some would say they have never heard God speak yet God is always speaking. If we do not hear perhaps, it is because we are not listening desiring to hear. To hear God we must break through the barriers of willfulness, which was the main problem with God’s people, and embrace a willingness that allows us to hear what God is saying.

I once had a person that I was giving spiritual direction to ask me what language God speaks. I told him God speaks in all languages and in some languages we might not realize. God speaks in the language of circumstances, God speaks in the language of nature, God speaks through challenges, and God even speaks in the language of silence. God always speaks in the language of love.

In the wisdom given to us through the book of Proverbs we are told, “Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me find life and receive favor from the LORD. But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.” (Prov. 8:33-36 NIV)

God’s people had not listened and experienced the consequences. They became separated from God. They wanted to go their own way, the way of death, and because God is love, God did not stop then. God never forces us to do anything for love cannot be forced. Instead, God works through God’s words and promised to reach out to us hoping that we will allow God to love us while we grow in our love and understanding of God.

Isaiah tells the people, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.” God did more than this. God became one of us. God became one of us and gave his life for us. Jesus, God incarnate, died for us, for our redemption. Why did God do this? Because, as the Scripture says, God loves us. And just as God rescues and redeems God’s chosen people even though they were wicked and rebellious, God will do the same for us. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8 NIV) This is the reason those who belong to God should not live in fear. We are precious. We are God’s desire. We too may be led to be joined to God. The question is, “How will we respond?” The choice is ours. We can “not be afraid,” or we can make the same mistake of the people of old and end up going it alone, in fear, in the clutches of death, failing to listen to God. As for me, I will choose the former over the latter.

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