Sermon outline on Isaiah 55:1-9
God, throughout history, has an amazing relationship with His creation. First God gives us everything in the Garden of Eden and when we sin we are sent out of the garden and have to work and earn our keep. The people become sinful and worship false gods. God gets angry with the people, except for Noah and his family and God destroys everything and starts over again.
But, then God realizes He doesn’t ever want to do that again so He makes a covenant with the people through the symbol of the rainbow to never flood and destroy the earth again. Back and forth the stories go with the people sinning and God getting angry and threatens to destroy them but then God forgives them and restores his relationship with us. The people in Exile, Jonah and on and on. God never gives up on us. The people of Israel had been living in Babylonian exile after 587 B.C. and were in that country of captivity because they had ignored God and run after false gods and blasphemed God’s holy name.
And now, what does God say to her through his prophet Isaiah? “Return to me, for I will have mercy on you and will abundantly pardon.” It reminds us of the words of our Lord on the cross when the nails held him up against the sky, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Despite all the indifference and wrong with which we have treated our Lord, he holds out to us the invitation to return and to be forgiven. God cries out to the people to return to Him. God is offering wonderful things to the people and most importantly a wonderful relationship. ‘Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant’. God’s everlasting covenant came to us of course through Jesus the Christ.
The prophet Isaiah calls out to the people and to us to call upon the Lord. To let the wicked forsake their ways. Give up your old ways and sin no more. Return to God and God will show you and give you mercy in your life. In fact, Scripture tells us he will ‘abundantly pardon’. God doesn’t just pardon a little or forgive just a little. God forgives us completely ‘“ abundantly! Have you ever received something in abundance? Maybe you have received an abundance of birthday cards or Christmas cards and you were overwhelmed by all the people who wrote you. Maybe someone gave you a pounding and you receive such an abundance of food you didn’t know when you would ever eat it all. If nothing else, I bet every one of us have received an abundance of junk mail in our mailboxes or spam in our emails. An abundance is an overwhelming amount of something.
God is letting us know that He forgives us abundantly! You will receive an overwhelming amount of forgiveness from your sins if you simply turn away from what you are doing and return to God! What joyous and good news for all of us. The season of Lent gives us an opportunity to think about what it means to be forgiven by God and granted another chance. When no one else will take us in, most of us when lost, lonely, or feeling unloved can always call home. Calling home is always comforting because the voice on the other end is familiar, friendly and encouraging.
How do we call home? Through prayer. God is always here to answer our call and our cry out to Him. There is never a busy signal or call waiting. God simply wants us to call out to Him and God is here. The Israelites had fallen away from God and had been suffering in Exile. God was offering them the opportunity to quit following false gods and to repent of their sins. If they did they would be welcomed home to a house of love. Not only that they would be returning to Israel but God would welcome them with open arms. However, first they had to repent for what they had done. God told them, ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thought than your thoughts’. The good news is that to know God’s thoughts and to follow God’s ways are attainable.
God doesn’t want us to stay low or below standard in what we do. God wants greater things for us and that is something to celebrate! God wants you to have great thoughts and great ways, and great happenings, and great grace. All of this is attainable if we only turn to Christ. If we go back to the very beginning of our text I think we find the key to the whole issue for ourselves. The prophet says to the people, ‘Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant. We waste so much of our time buying things that we do not need and that do not bring us happiness. We start out thinking that they will. And, initially, we enjoy the new sound system, the new MP3 player, or the new car. However, they become like anything else. Another belonging that we can’t find, we lose, or we quite using anymore. There is no lasting happiness in them. True happiness comes when we know the gift of God’s unfailing love for us, when we eat of the bread of life at Holy Communion, when we serve others by being a servant of Christ. God is crying out to us that we are wasting our time and energy on things that ultimately do not matter.
God wants us to delight in those things which are good. In worship, in fellowship with other Christians, in teaching our children the right path in life, in helping our youth to grow in body, mind and spirit, in reaching out to the community and helping those in need and inviting them to be a part of the Body of Christ. God has made an everlasting covenant with us through Jesus. God has promised since the earliest of time to never leave us nor forsake us. What God is now asking of us is to not leave nor forsake God. And when we do to repent of our sins and return to God’s unending grace.
In the middle of WWII on October 29, 1941 Winston Churchill delivered a short address at the Harrow School. England had been through some of its darkest days with the war. Many countries would have fallen after what they had been through but he told them ‘never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in’. The church at times forgets that this is also God’s message. God has promised never to give up on us.
Old Testament and New Testaments together are a record of how God never, never, never, gave up. – Adam and Eve disobeyed the very First Rule. But God never gave up. – Abraham wandered, and Sarah laughed. But God never gave up. – Moses hid and shook with fear. But God never gave up. – David plotted against Uriah. But God never gave up. – Ahaz sold out to Assyria. But God never gave up. – Israel fell into pieces. But God never gave up. – The Jewish people became exiles. But God never gave up. – John the Baptist was beheaded. But God never gave up. – Peter denied he even knew Jesus. But God never gave up. – The disciples all ran away. But God never gave up. God never, never, never gave up and he has not given up today! God’s covenant is an everlasting covenant to us through Jesus. God will always be with us, love us and forgive us. May we never give up in our relationship with Jesus and may we follow Him and accept His love for all of our lives. Amen.