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Sermon

A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church,

West Melbourne, FL on January 9, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether

 

Rise and Shine!

Isaiah 60:1-7

Have you ever slept through an alarm clock?  I had a roommate in college who put his alarm clock on the other side of the room.  But even that, the alarm would go, he’d sleep walk to turn it off, crawl back into bed and never wake up.  Spiritually we can be that tired.  Alarm clocks are going off all around us, but maybe we feel helpless to do anything about the problems.  So we pull our blankets over our heads and try to just get on with our lives.  But that’s not a restful way to live; plus deep down we know the problems aren’t to go away, they’ll get worse.  So, what do we do about them?  Probably feel guilty.  Our text this morning was written to believers who really needed help getting going, not more guilt.  It gives three invigorating reasons to Rise and Shine!  1.  Our light has come.  2.  Our light is needed.  3.  Our light will attract others to the Light. 

 

We read, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” – Isaiah 60:1  Isaiah wrote this about a century before things got so bad that God would allow the Babylonians to destroy their country and take the people as slaves to Babylon.  We can only imagine how discouraging it was for the believers to hear the warnings of the prophets and see most ignore the warnings.  However, here Isaiah is showing them the distant future.  In spite of Israel’s sins, God would be faithful to His promises – His light would break through the darkness.

 

Darkness is symbolic of ignorance, sin, guilt, misery, and damnation.  Light is a symbol of truth, goodness, forgiveness and eternal blessedness with God.  Arise, shine for your light has come!  Jesus is the truth.  Everything He said came from the Father, and is therefore 100% reliable.  But don’t all religious claim to have the truth?  Jesus is exclusively the truth, because He alone is the fulfillment of 100’s of Old Testament prophecies.  Also, Jesus Himself made prophecies and kept them.  For example He said, “Destroy this Temple (murder Me), and in three days I will bring Myself back to life.”  Jesus did that, which no one if he carefully looks at the evidence, can deny.   And so, whenever you have doubts about what truth is, rise and shine!  Keep reading your Bible.  He who raised Himself from the dead promised to give the writers of the Bible the exact right words and would preserve those words forever.   

 

However, Jesus did not give us the truths of the Bible just for truth’s sake.  Directly or indirectly it all points us to the light of His goodness.  You see, unlike every other human being, there was nothing fake or conditional or self-serving about Jesus’ love – ever!  His love shines like we know deep-down our love should be shining.  But the Good News is Jesus shined for us.   He has credited His perfect life to us, as though we had lived that perfect life.  Do you see what I mean that God wants to invigorate us, not guilt us?  So, should you get down on yourself for things you didn’t do so well, rise and shine!  Be glad that Jesus is your goodness!

 

But sometimes our sins are more than failures here and there.  They can be described as nothing less than evil, for which God has the right to abandon us.  If you have ever felt that, you know that there is nothing you can do, short of getting drunk or lying to yourself, to get rid of those feelings.  That doesn’t work either.  But here’s how the people in Isaiah’s day could fight those feelings.  Last week our Academy children learned about the Day of Atonement.  Once a year in the fall, the people would come to the Temple courtyard.  A goat would be sacrificed, its blood was drained into a bowl and mixed with water.   Then the priest would use a branch of a hyssop plant to sprinkle blood on the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple and on the people in the courtyard.  Through that blood their sins were covered and they were once again at-one with God, except this was all only symbolic.  God was teaching in a graphic way what would happen to His Son.  He would be abandoned because of our sins, and His blood would be spilt and spiritually sprinkled on us through the water of our Baptism and the Word.  And so, whenever God’s Word combines with the consequences of sin to stab our conscience, rise and shine!  The Lamb has died in your place.  The picture is of Simeon telling Mary of how her Son would die. 

 

You know, the rejoicing that our sins are forgiven is a different kind of rejoicing.  It’s not a ha-ha rejoicing.  It’s more of an awe struck rejoicing like when the wise men bowed down and worshipped the baby Jesus.  Awe struck rejoicing also makes us want to serve Jesus, and our service is needed!  We read in our text, “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” – Isaiah 60:2   There’s an old saying.  “You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.”  There are a lot of thirsty horses out there, and it’s so frustrating!  They believe lies.  They glorify self-destructive sin.  They drag others down with them.  Yet they refuse to come to the light.  They just keep adding to the darkness and making more problems for everyone. 

 

Have you ever been tempted to think, “Who needs those people?”  Maybe even, “I wish God would hurry up and take those people out!”  I wonder how many Christians thought that about Saul before he became the Apostle Paul?  Likewise in the Old Testament, the Jews tended to have a “who needs them” attitude toward the Gentiles and that they weren’t worth saving.  In the chapters before our text, Isaiah corrects this attitude.  He points out the insincerity and hypocrisy of their faith in not caring what happens to others; and then God reaffirms His desire to be the Savior of all. 

Earlier I said that God isn’t trying to invigorate us through guilt.  But this is invigorating, whenever we realize again that He chose us to be His Own by grace, and that He has brought us to the light of Jesus by grace.  Also, listen to God’s promise to everyone who repents of their insincerity and hypocrisy and starts caring what happens to others.  “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.” – Isaiah 59:21  Isn’t that an invigorating reason to be keep looking to the light of Jesus and being as truthful and good and patient and forgiving toward others as He is with us?  This will pay off in attracting others to His light, beginning with those who are closest to us – our family.

Still, for those living in dark times, this can be hard to believe.  And so, Isaiah tells believers again to rise and shine.  We read, “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm.  Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.  Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah.  And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.” – Isaiah 60:4-6  Tradition has it that there were three wise men, and their names were Gaspar, Melchior,  and  Balthasar.  We don’t know how much of that is true.  But we assume that since the prophet Daniel was an astronomer in the East and God had given him a special prophecy, which he told to his fellow astronomers.  At any rate, when the wise men came to see the Savior of the world, they brought their little boys and girls with them.

So, how did Jesus feel about these Gentiles and their children coming to Him?  The prophecy said, “Your heart will throb and swell with joy” – kind of like when you see you one true love.  We too are Jesus’ one true love, because the wise men coming to Him was only the first fulfillment of this prophesy.  It’s fulfilled again each time we walk through those doors and have our children sitting with us in these pews.  Also, Jesus would be the first to have this joy.  The prophecy is fulfilled in us too each time we experience the joy of angels over another soul being saved. 

Finally let’s not forget the joy the wise men had.  We read on in our text, “All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple.” – Isaiah 60:7  In the Old Testament not all offerings were acceptable in the Temple, but only those given according to the Old Testament Law.  That Gentile gifts would be accepted was shocking to the Jews.  But it was equally shocking to the Gentiles that God was putting them on the same level as His chosen people.  And so their joy multiplied, both for those who came and those who saw them coming.   

However, I’m overstating their joy just a little.  Here the results of letting our light can be hidden.  Here our performance in letting our light shine always lags behind our desire.  And so in the last part of this chapter, Isaiah invigorates us by describing the time when the results will not be hidden and our performance will be perfect.  He said, “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light.  Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever.  They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.  I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly.”   

Because the Light of Jesus is shining, because our light is needed and that’s why we’re here, and because God is using our light to bring others to His light, should we not feel foolish to sit around and complain about how bad others are?  Instead let’s rise and shine!  Let’s keep looking to His light through Word and Sacrament, and let’s worship Him in how we use our time, talents and treasures!  And finally let’s keep resetting our spiritual alarm to each Sunday morning, and to a special time each day for reading our Bible, because we can easily fall back asleep spiritually.  And so, all of us, as we celebrated Epiphany, let’s recommit ourselves to rising and shining daily until the sun and moon shine no more!  Amen. 




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