A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on January 2, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether¬† Tell of the Kindness of the Lord!Isaiah 63:7-9Martin Luther often said that a Christian is an optimist.¬† Are you optimistic for 2011?¬† Let¬ís go down a list and see.¬† Are you optimistic for our nation¬ís economy?¬† For your personal finances?¬† For your health?¬† For the direction our country is going morally?¬† For Jesus to come in 2011?¬† I sense that the only thing many of you are hopeful about is Jesus¬í coming again.¬† The rest of things you¬íre not that optimistic about.¬† So, was Luther wrong in saying that a Christian is an optimist?¬† Well, maybe his times were better than ours?¬† I can assure you they were not.¬† Everyone had to work hard just to eat and stay warm.¬† In those days you would not have wanted to have to go to a doctor.¬† Spiritually things were not good either.¬† When Luther visited all the congregations in his area of Germany, the pastors were so ignorant of the Bible that many of them couldn¬ít pray the Lord¬ís Prayer.¬† They spent most of their time gardening and when did teach, mostly it was on how to make beer.¬† How could Luther be optimistic for the spread of the Gospel, especially since the pope was putting together an army to invade Germany and burn him and anyone who believed as he did at the stake?¬†Christians of any age can be an optimist, because in our text this morning Isaiah shows us how.¬† ¬†Tell of the Kindness of the Lord.¬† 1.¬† This is an encouragement to us.¬† II. It¬ís an encouragement to others.¬† ¬†Isaiah was living through a lot of hard stuff, and he knew from God that things were going to get a lot worse.¬† The Assyrians had already destroyed the northern 10 tribes.¬† In time the Babylonians would destroy the southern two.¬† All of this was because of Israel¬ís unfaithfulness to God, beginning the king, who was Israel¬ís spiritual leader, to the priests, who were the spiritual teachers, right down to the moms and dads in their homes.¬† So how could Isaiah not fall into depression?¬† How could he be optimistic?¬† He reminded himself of God¬ís kindness ¬Ė past, present, future.¬† ¬†We read, ¬ďI will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, ¬†according to all the LORD has done for us¬ó yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses ¬Ė Isaiah 63:7.¬Ē¬† The language Isaiah used in this chapter points back to God delivering His people from Egypt with the 10 plagues and the crossing at the Red Sea, and then how He cared for them the 40 years in the wilderness.¬† He fed them every day.¬† He fought their battles for them.¬† And then finally, He settled them in Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey.¬† ¬†Looking to God¬ís kindnesses in the past, should convince us that God will also get us through the future, and therefore we will trust in Him and not be afraid.¬† Isaiah and others did do that.¬† We read on in our text, ¬ďHe said, ¬ďSurely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me¬Ē; and so he became their Savior ¬Ė Isaiah 63:8.¬Ē¬† In spite of what I said earlier, not all the Israelites were false to God.¬† Isaiah trusted the Lord along with Jeremiah, Micah, Amos and all the other Old Testament prophets.¬† And then there were the 7000 the Lord had preserved in faith when Elijah thought he was the only believer left.¬† In addition there was Elisha, who succeeded Elijah, and the 50 men who were studying with him to be pastors.¬† Miraculously God preserved His Old Testament church, just as He miraculously preserved the Gospel in Luther¬ís day, just as He IS still at work in our lives today.¬† ¬†¬†¬†But there¬ís also another reason why we can be optimistic.¬† We read on in our text, ¬ďAnd so He became their Savior.¬† In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.¬† In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.¬Ē This prophecy has so many fulfillments in Jesus.¬† When the time had fully come, He was born of a woman.¬† However in the Gospel reading you heard about King Herod.¬† Do toddlers sense when mom and dad are upset?¬† Absolutely!¬† Do you think Mary and Joseph were upset as they fled Bethlehem knowing what was happening to their friends¬í children?¬† You bet they were, and so was Jesus.¬† In fact in the verses before our text, Jesus uses very graphic language to describe His anger at Herod and all who harm God¬ís children.¬† He said in prophesy, ¬ďI trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing.¬† It was for me the day of vengeance¬†and my own wrath sustained me.¬Ē¬† This is Jesus talking!¬† There is evil in the world, because there are sinners in the world, but God¬ís justice is coming.¬† Actually it has come at the cross, and it will come to all who reject His payment for sin.¬† ¬†¬†¬†Anyway getting back to Jesus feeling our distress and then an angel helping Him.¬† This happened again when Jesus was in the wilderness fighting Satan¬ís temptations for us.¬† As true man he felt every temptation we do, only more so.¬† For example, are you ever tempted to doubt that God is taking care of you?¬† Try not being allowed to eat for 40 days and nights ¬Ė Jesus knows temptation.¬† Or have you ever been tempted to take the easy way out instead of God¬ís way, which involves painful sacrifice?¬† Jesus fought that temptation too, especially in the Garden of Gethsemane.¬† And finally have you ever been tempted with sins of omission, to not work as hard as we should and could and just take life easy?¬† As true man Jesus felt that one too when Satan offered Him all the glories and treasures of this world.¬† All Jesus would have to do is worship him.¬† ¬†¬†But Jesus won for us!¬† Also after each time of distress, an angel helped Jesus.¬† An angel led Jesus and His parents out of Egypt when Herod had died.¬† Likewise an angel comforted Jesus after His temptations in the wilderness and again in the Garden of Gethsemane.¬† Jesus was the Son, Isaiah spoke of, who was always true to the Father.¬† ¬†The same can¬ít always be said of us.¬† For while we maybe haven¬ít pulled any Herods, there may be sins in our life that we¬íre having trouble overcoming.¬† We may even be wondering why God isn¬ít helping us more to overcome them.¬† Isaiah wondered that too.¬† He asked in verses after our text, ¬ďWhy, LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?¬Ē ¬Ė Isaiah 63:17 ¬†Our sins are not God¬ís fault, plus God does give us new strength each day to defeat them.¬† We¬íll talk more about that in just a moment, but our sins do this much ¬ďgood¬Ē for us.¬† They prove to us that we are sinners.¬† They are the tip of the iceberg of what God sees in our hearts.¬† We need forgiveness, so that we don¬ít end up in Herod¬ís crowd when Jesus comes again, because which makes Jesus more angry ¬Ė physically harming one of his children or leading them into sin by what we do or fail to do?¬† Nevertheless Jesus wants us to be optimistic about our forgiveness, no more than optimistic, He wants us to be certain.¬† ¬†¬†We read in our text, ¬ďIn his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.¬Ē ¬Ė Isaiah 63:9b¬† As I said earlier, Jesus feels with us what it¬ís like to be tempted.¬† But He gives His victory to us, as that His righteousness is now our righteousness before God.¬† Furthermore Jesus has a right to do this, because He redeemed us.¬† We owed God an eternity in hell, but Jesus paid that debt for us on the cross.¬† ¬†¬†¬†However, I¬ím speaking globally here ¬Ė ¬ďGod so loved the world¬Ö¬Ē¬† How do we know we can claim Jesus¬í blood and righteousness for ourselves personally?¬† We can be confident through our baptism.¬† Just as God¬ís son made Himself part of our human family by becoming flesh and blood, so He adopted us into His family through the water and the Word.¬† As a result, we may confidently call God our Father.¬† We may talk to Him about all our needs, and we may be absolutely sure that He is working in all things to bring us safely to His eternal home.¬† ¬†Getting back to Isaiah, he was optimistic of that, because when he looked into the future, he saw Jesus¬í first coming, and then from that vantage point he could look back to what was going on in his day, and it all made sense.¬† In the same way, Paul tells us in Romans chapter 8 that we may look into the future and envision ourselves glorified in heaven, and then look back from that point to today, and again more and more it will all make sense.¬† As a result, temptations to doubt God¬ís love are overcome.¬† Likewise the world¬ís ideas of truth or fun become repulsive to us, and God lifts us up and carries us to want to serve Him.¬† ¬†And now this brings us to encouraging others. We see them going through the same struggles and temptations we¬íve gone through.¬† But we know there is help in the Lord, and we pray that the Holy Spirit give us the right words to say so that we can tell of His kindnesses.¬† Actually several of those words are in our text.¬† ¬†¬†¬†Here¬ís one ¬Ė redeemed.¬† Tell the person you want to encourage he is redeemed.¬† He belongs to Jesus, because Jesus shed His blood for him.¬†¬† But many today would insist they don¬ít want to be owned by anyone.¬† Then tell him being owned by God is a blessing, because it means we aren¬ít owned by the devil, who would eternally abuse us.¬† It also means we are not owned by ourselves, which is good, because we would mismanage our souls straight to hell.¬† But we are owned by God and we are precious to Him.¬† ¬†This brings us to another word picture in our text ¬Ė carry.¬† When a toddler is worn out by a day at the zoo, what does he do?¬† He lifts up his arms and says with his eyes, ¬ďCarry me.¬Ē¬† Tell that that¬ís what God does for us.¬† When we¬íre worn out by the zoo of this life, God carries us through our troubles.¬† Now, being able to tell people these things makes us all the more optimistic, because God¬ís Word never returns empty.¬† So, now how do you feel about 2011?¬† Well, let¬ís go back to our list at the start.¬† Are you optimistic about our nation¬ís economy?¬† God is in control.¬† Are you optimistic about your personal finances?¬† God gives us our daily bread.¬† Are you optimistic about your health?¬† Our times are in His hands, not to mention He¬ís working in all things for our blessings.¬† And finally are you optimistic about the direction our country is going morally?¬† Preach the Word personally and through your prayers and offerings too, keep telling of God¬ís Kindness.¬† Amen.¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

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