The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost
October 29, 2017
The LORD’s Holy Mountain!
On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I’d like you to take a moment and think back on all of the wonderful celebrations you have enjoyed over the years. If you were asked to pick the top three most glorious celebrations, which ones would you choose? Would any of you include your wedding day? How about the day your children and grandchildren were born? Would any of you include the day you graduated or the day you landed your “dream” job? How about the day you retired? Would any of you include the day you moved into a home of your own? How about the day you made that last mortgage payment? In His goodness the Lord our God allows us to enjoy many special glorious celebrations during the course of our life!
Now, take all of the joy, all of the happiness, all of the excitement you experienced on all of those special days, pack it all together like a snowball and drop it into an ocean of joy, an ocean of happiness, an ocean of excitement! That’s what God the Holy Spirit enables us to experience through these inspired words of the prophet Isaiah! Today let’s see how God in His grace transports us to: The LORD’s Holy Mountain! There are three things we want to see from this text. First let’s see that the LORD’s holy mountain is the place where our God prepares for us only His very best. Then let’s see that the LORD’s holy mountain is the place where our God takes away from us even the worst things that we endure here on this earth. Finally, let’s see that the LORD’s holy mountain is the place where we bring to our God our very best.
Twice in just four verses Isaiah focuses our attention with the words, “On this mountain….” (Verses 6 & 7) What “mountain” is he referring to? When we stop to consider that Isaiah is writing to the descendants of Abraham living in the Promised Land of Canaan there are two main possibilities. One possibility is Mount Sinai— the place where God gave His people His powerful holy Law. The other possibility is Mount Zion— the place where God dwells among His people, the place where the LORD dispenses His grace through His appointed means. Considering the context of Isaiah 25 it seems clear to me that the phrase “On this mountain…” refers to Mount Zion, the beloved City of Jerusalem. At the very same time, it is certainly not a coincidence, my friends, that in the New Testament era the term “Mount Zion” became synonymous with the heavenly City of Jerusalem, the Holy Christian Church, the “city” where God dwells. The writer to the Hebrews clearly proclaims this truth when he writes to God’s people, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven” (Hebrews 12:22, 23).
It is here “on this mountain”— on the LORD’s holy mountain, in the heavenly Jerusalem, the Holy Christian Church— it is here “on this mountain” that the Lord our God prepares for us His very best! Look at how Isaiah describes the Lord’s very best here in our text. He says, “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.”
On the LORD’s holy mountain, the LORD God Jehovah freely provides His saints with an endless banquet of only the very best. The Hebrew here paints a picture that undoubtedly brought a smile to the faces of God’s people in Isaiah’s day. Very literally Isaiah describes this feast as a “feast of fat things, feast of aged wine, fat things with marrow, aged wines purified.” Many of us go out of our way to avoid “fatty foods.” But in the ancient Near East in the days of Isaiah when hunger was a constant threat, fatty or rich foods and aged or purified wines were the most desirable of all!
So what is this “feast” that God has prepared for you and for me? We need to answer that question from two perspectives: a heavenly perspective and an earthly perspective. As Jesus brought out in our Gospel Lesson for today, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his Son” (Matthew 22:1). On the LORD’s holy mountain, in the LORD’s heavenly kingdom the “LORD Almighty,” or “Yahweh of hosts” has prepared for His people a lavish feast that is so abundant that in the book of Revelation John is able to say concerning God’s people, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst” (Revelation 7:16). In heaven our Savior God will take care of all of our needs so completely and so “richly” that all the joy and all the happiness and all the excitement that we experienced in all of our celebrations here on this earth are but a “drop in the ocean” compared to what we enjoy at the wedding feast of the Lamb in our heavenly Father’s home!
Here on this earth the King provides us with a “feast of rich foods” through His precious Means of Grace— the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it comes to us in God’s holy Word and God’s holy Sacraments. Think about this for a moment: The wildfires that have ravaged our area now serve as a very powerful reminder to us of two unchangeable truths. First, these fires now serve to remind us that everything in this world is temporary. Things we worked so hard to gather together our entire life can literally go up in smoke— overnight. Second, these fires can also serve as a reminder to us that nothing and no one will ever be able to take away from us the most precious gifts we have been given: complete forgiveness for all of our sins through faith in what Jesus the Christ has done for us (Pointing to the cross); our adoption as God’s dearly beloved children through the Sacrament of holy Baptism; the comfort and the strength we receive through the Lord’s holy Supper; the guidance and the refuge we find in God’s holy inspired Word. Truly, my friends, we will never be able to thank God enough for the “feast of rich food” that He so graciously and so abundantly provides for our souls through His precious Means of Grace.
In addition to enjoying the very best that our God provides for us on His holy mountain, Isaiah assures us that on the LORD’s holy mountain our God takes away from us even the very worst things we endure here on this earth. Isaiah continues, “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.”
With these words God the Holy Spirit highlights three of the worst things we endure here on this earth— all of which are the direct consequence of sin. The first one is death— pictured here as “the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations.” We all know what God proclaims in Romans 6:23a, “For the wages of sin = death.” The simple fact that sin permeates this entire world, the simple fact that each and every single one of us sins against the God of heaven each and every single day day guarantees that one day each and every single one of us will die. While death is not “natural” part of life (i.e. God did not create us to die, but to live with Him forever) death is most certainly “inevitable” part of life (unless we are still alive when Jesus returns to this earth). But in His power and in His mercy God has His servant Isaiah proclaim to His people, “On this mountain…he will swallow up death forever.” Do you remember where these Old Testament words are quoted in the New Testament Scriptures? In 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul writes, “’Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57). (Pointing to the cross)
On the LORD’s holy mountain God frees us from the “sting of death,” namely, sin. The fact that we will be free from sin and all the effects of sin helps us to understand what the Scriptures mean when it proclaims, “The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces.” (See also Revelation 7:15-17) Think of all the tears that you and I shed because we live in a sinful world. Think of all the tears that you and I shed when someone we love sins against us or when someone we love becomes entangled in Satan’s web of sin. Think of all the tears you and I shed when we realize that we have sinned against Him. (Pointing to the cross) On His holy mountain the Lord our God wipes away all those tears with His tender assurance, “My dear child, your sins are forgiven!” (See Matthew 9:2; 26:27)
And third, Isaiah assures us that on the LORD’s holy mountain God “will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.” What is the “disgrace” of God’s people? Is it the “disgrace” that the unbelievers heap on us for sharing with them this world’s only Savior from sin and for standing up for the Truth of God’s holy inspired Word? Is it the “disgrace” that we bring upon ourselves for not living up to the calling we have received— the call to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”? (See Matthew 5:13-16) Yes! But in His power and in His grace the “Sovereign LORD” removes our “disgrace”! When Jesus returns to this earth as the Judge of the living and the dead all the unbelievers will be overwhelmed by terror, but we— we, my friends, will “stand up and lift up (our) heads because (our) redemption is drawing near”! (Luke 21:20-28) Oh how we look forward to the day that God “removes the disgrace of his people from all the earth”!
How do we respond as the Lord gives us His very best? How do we respond when the Lord takes away the very worst things we endure here on this earth? Isaiah gives us a hint when he says, “In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
Have you seen all the thank you signs as you drive up and down Highway 101? Have you heard all the commercials thanking the first responders? Why are we doing that? Why are we giving them such open public expressions of thanks? Because they are the ones— the firefighters, the police officers, the medical personnel— they are the ones who ran toward the danger, they are the ones who rushed into the fire zones even while the fires were raging out of control so that they could save as many people as possible. They deserve our open public expression of thanks! How do we thank the LORD, my friends? How do we thank the LORD for coming into our world as our true Brother so that He could save us from the unquenchable fires of hell? We bring to Him our very best! We openly give Him the glory and the honor, the thanks and the respect that He so rightfully deserves! We openly boast about who our God is and what our God has done for us! We join with Isaiah and say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
My prayer then this morning, my friends, is three-fold. First of all, I pray that every time you have the opportunity to experience the joy and the happiness and the excitement of being a part of a celebration that you take a moment to remember that on the LORD’s holy mountain your God will give you His very best. Second, whenever the power and the reality of sin brings hardship or heartbreak into your life I pray that you take a moment to remember that on the LORD’s holy mountain your God will take away even the worst things you endure here on his earth. And finally, I pray that each and every day you will take a moment to say:
To God be the glory!