The Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 31, 2019
Get Ready for Easter—
Praise the Lord!
In that day you will say: “I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Do you have any “pipe-dreams”? Is there anything that you truly hope the good Lord will grant to you— someday— in the future? Perhaps there is a house that you drive by in your daily travels and each time you pass by that house you say that little prayer, “Lord, someday I would like to have a house like that.” Perhaps your “pipe-dream” revolves more around a cabin in the mountains, a home someplace where it is warm and dry in the winter, or a trip to someplace you have always wanted to visit.
Do you have any “pipe-dreams”? If so, imagine if the good Lord granted your request! Imagine if the good Lord gave you the ability to buy your dream house or to go on your dream vacation! Better yet— imagine if the good Lord saw fit to give you your “pipe-dream” absolutely free! How would you react? Would you half-heartedly say, “Oh, yeah, thanks Lord”? Would you consciously make sure that you never told anyone about what the Lord has done for you? Probably not!
As you and I continue to get ready for Easter, my friends, this portion of God’s holy Word focuses our attention on an extremely joyous truth. Our goal this morning is to see that as the adopted, forgiven and saved children of God we always have reason to: Praise the Lord! There are two things we want to see this morning. First, let’s see that we are to praise the Lord because He is the God of our salvation. Then let’s see that we are to praise the Lord by proclaiming to others what He has done.
In Isaiah chapter 11 the Lord pointed His people forward in time to when the Promised Messiah, the “shoot” that will “come up from the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1) will come into this world. In beautifully clear language the Lord revealed to His people through His servant Isaiah exactly who the Messiah will be, exactly what the Messiah will do, and exactly what the results of the Messiah’s work would mean for them— and for us.
With the coming of the Promised Messiah clearly in the background the inspired prophet Isaiah writes in the opening verses of our text, “In that day you will say: ‘I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.’ With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
The prophet Isaiah begins by leading God’s people to openly acknowledge that the Lord their God was “angry” with them. Why was God “angry” with His people? There is only one thing that makes God angry. It is sin. As the holy, just and perfect God the Lord cannot and will not simply ignore or overlook sin. As the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth the Lord does not and will not make empty threats when it comes to the consequences of sin. Every sin makes God angry. Every sin deserves the punishment of death. Every sin must be paid for—in full! In the Old Testament era the Lord made this point vividly clear to His chosen people by requiring them to make animal sacrifices. Each and every year more than 1,000 animals were sacrificed to graphically remind God’s people of the seriousness of sin.
By itself that is a very sobering reality, my friends. It’s sobering because of the fact that God’s anger over sin has not changed one iota over the course of the millennia. It’s sobering because of the fact that when each and every one of us looks into our own heart and examines our own life we certainly do not see a shortage of sins, do we!
Thankfully, the Lord’s servant Isaiah was indeed given the privilege of peering into the future and seeing what the Lord’s Promised Messiah would do so that God’s anger over our sins would be completely “turned away”! (Pointing to the cross) With the comfort of the cross clearly in view Isaiah leads us to praise the Lord because purely by His grace we are able to say, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”
The Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, the LORD God Himself— the God of absolutely perfect justice and the God of absolutely boundless love— He is our salvation, my friends. He is the Cause, He is the Source, He is the Author, the Agent and the Accomplisher of saving us from our sins. Truly you and I have every reason to praise the Lord! As the repentant children of God do we ever have to fear God’s anger? No! Why? Because God is our salvation! As the saved children of God do we ever have to fear God’s condemnation? No! Why? Because God is our salvation! As the forgiven children of God do we ever have to fear enduring the guilt and the shame and the punishment for our sins whether here or in eternity? No! Why? Because God is our salvation! So yes, my friend, as the repentant, saved and forgiven children of God you and I do indeed have every reason to praise the Lord each and every day. He is the God of our salvation! (Pointing to the cross)
Why is it then that sometimes we just don’t “feel” like praising the Lord? Why is it that sometimes we might even find it “difficult” to praise the Lord? I think we find a clue to answering such questions when we look at verse 3 of our text. Isaiah writes, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The picture of water— especially living water— is a picture that is often used on the pages of Scripture to describe the wonderful spiritual blessings that only the Lord, only the God of our salvation can grant to His people. In Psalm 23 great King David expresses this truth when he says, “The LORD is my shepherd…he leads me beside quiet waters….” In John chapter 4 Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, “…whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
When I hear the Lord our God say to us through His servant Isaiah, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” I automatically think of the Means of Grace that God has given to us— the precious message of the Gospel as it comes to us in both Word and Sacrament. The more we draw “water” from the “wells” of God’s holy Word and Sacrament the more our faith will be nourished and strengthened. As our faith is nourished and strengthened we will be filled with more and more joy as we come to an even greater understanding of who the Lord is and as we are given an even greater appreciation of what the Lord has done for us. As that joy bubbles over from our hearts into our lives then, yes, we will indeed— praise the Lord!
Before we run out of time let’s see how Isaiah reminds us that praising the Lord also includes proclaiming to others what He has done. Look at verses 4-6 of our text, “In that day you will say: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”
As much as you and I rejoice in knowing what the Lord has done for us, as much as you and I praise the Lord for the gift of eternal salvation He has secured for us, we cannot lose sight of the fact that many people— perhaps even people you know personally— many people do not know this glorious truth. That’s why you and I always need to remember that praising our Lord includes proclaiming to others what He has done!
On the table in the back of church you will find Easter invitations like this. My hope and my prayer is that over the course of the next few weeks you will look closely at your circle of family and friends. Look for someone who does not know what the Lord has done for them. Look for someone who does not have a church “home” where they go to worship and praise the Lord on a regular basis. Look for someone who truly needs to hear the true message of Easter and then praise the Lord by giving them an invitation to come celebrate Easter with us. It really is that simple to praise the Lord!
No matter how many “pipe-dreams” I may have, no matter how many “pipe-dreams” you may have there are no “pipe-dreams” when it comes to what Isaiah proclaims to us here in our text for today. As you and I continue to get ready for Easter this portion of Scripture does indeed remind us in a very beautiful way that we have every reason to praise the Lord each and every day! May God grant that we will indeed praise Him because He is the God of our salvation. Because of what He had done for us (Pointing to the cross) we are the adopted, forgiven and saved children of God! May God also grant that the joy that we have in knowing this great and awesome truth will motivate us to share with others— especially those who are nearest and dearest to us— what the good Lord has done for them!
To God be the glory!