Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Lift Your Voice!" Is. 40:9

S‑1084 12/07/2008 2SIA/3B Hymns: (O)#63; (S) 60; (C) # 66

Texts: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

Theme: “Lift Your Voice!” (Isaiah 40:9)


Question: “How strong is your voice?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Old Testament Lesson: “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold Your God!’” (Isaiah 64:8).

Saints in Christ, There are so many voices out there. They seek to make their voice the loudest and the longest in the marketplace as they beg us to come in to purchase that “just right” piece of Christmas for our loved ones. They scream their mantra of consumerism from every direction. We hear the bell of the Salvation Army at store fronts. We hear the music in the mall. During this time of year, ordinary things drown out the blessed joy of God’s extraordinary work begun in a Bethlehem manger so many centuries ago. So MANY voices calling for us.

All around the voices are being lifted up so that others might hear them. In California when proposition 8 passed, many who advocate gay marriage began to scream unacceptable, unfair, and unethical. They want to force their way on the people. In the state of Washington, an atheist’s group placed this sign at the Capitol building right next to a manger: “At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” So many voices longing to be heard. So MANY voices that would seek to grab our ear and bend it away from the Word of God.

As you well know there is no shortness of voices out in the world who are attempting to get our attention. But beloved in the Lord, DON’T be tricked by modern day “prophets” who claim to have all of the answers to your needs. Even the apostle Peter warns us against such people. Listen to his warnings: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1).

As if we had any shortages of voices vying for our attention; in our text we hear the prophet Isaiah add yet another voice to the symphony of sound. But this voice is different. Rather than point to self-glory and self-profit, this prophetic voice points to another. Isaiah tells us of “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord” (Is. 40:3). What does that mean? Here is how Luther put it: To prepare the way of the Lord means to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s activity in us, so that God may help us and our life may be the life of Christ. But how is this way prepared? To prepare is to clear out of the way whatever will be an obstruction. This preparation is nothing else than our humbling ourselves from our arrogance and glory, to walk before God naked, without merits of any kind, in the grace of God alone. (Martin Luther Lectures on Isaiah American Edition. Vol.17).

This voice is none other than the voice of the proclamation of the Word of God. Through this voice that is crying in the wilderness we hear purely, joyfully and most loudly declaring that the warfare is ended and that our sins are forgiven. Isaiah wants the people of Israel to know what God in mercy has given them—comfort, life, restoration and payment for their sins. These people in exile and oppression need it; and so do we. For we are in exile over our sin and under its oppression. And to us, as we shared this past Wednesday, the voice speaks a word: A word of comfort.

But as Isaiah makes clear to us, this voice is not only a voice to be heard. It is also a voice to be shared. Isaiah calls you and me to lift up our voices and share the Good news. Don’t just lift your voice from where you are, but get up high on the mountain so that everyone and everywhere may hear the news that is worthy to be proclaimed.

If you have ever been to a Basketball or football game, you may have seen the cheerleaders holding a mega phone and speak into it. This is the image that Isaiah wants us to have. Speak from the mountain top. Speak loud and clear so that all people may know the depravity of their sins, but also the deliverance that God has brought forth. Speak loud and clear that God is doing a mighty thing. Don’t be afraid to echo the Good News. Don’t be afraid to lift your voice higher and higher to drown the other voices in the world. It is not only a matter of getting louder. It is also a matter of getting it right. For our message is so much different than the message of sin and death of the world. Our voice is the voice of a Savior and His salvation!

Now we don’t do this in an obnoxious way; but in a blessed and beautiful manner. We speak of the comfort of knowing sins are forgiven. We speak the blessed truth that God has paid double for all sins. We speak of His eternal and an ending love.

This is why Isaiah wants to lift our voices high! We are simply announcing what the Lord has done and will be going to do. He was determined to send a Son to be born of a virgin—His only Son, who would lie in a manger of straw. A Child who would bring peace between heaven and hell. A Man who would die for the sins of the world. A Man who would honor God with His life and in His death and fulfill all of the promises of old. And that One will come again as that word of lasting, final comfort!

The people of Israel heard the voice of Isaiah in captivity and rejoiced in knowing that God has forgiven them their sins and would restore them by bringing them back to the Promised Land soon. John the Baptist’s voice was heard in the wilderness of Judea and many came to repentance before the coming of the Savior—confessing their sins and bowing the knee to the God of all grace. The angels’ voice was heard on the night of the Savior’s birth and the shepherds came in haste to see the wonderful news of a king being born. The Apostles’ voice was heard throughout the Middle East, and many came to faith in Jesus Christ as the Advent King and Lord of the Nations. But above all it is the voice of God that needs to be heard as He speaks words of hope and help and healing to the wounded hearts sayings: “Comfort, comfort My people, says Your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Is. 40:1-2).

Beloved in Christ, today, you, through the preaching of the Word of God have heard the Good News. And that Good News dear friends is to be taken by you and spoken. Spoken to everyone and everywhere—at work; at play; at school; and even here from this mountain top—the pulpit. Yes, lift your voice and sing and declare the mighty deeds of God in delivering us from the bondage of slavery, sin and satan.

We have the ultimate answer to those atheist and immoral voices that would seek to deceive, destroy and bring about death and destruction. Don’t listen to the voices of the atheist’s. These are the voices of fools who put that sign on the capital building in Washington saying, “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” The Gospel is not made up of myth or superstition. It doesn’t harden hearts and enslaves minds. On the contrary, Christianity frees the people of God to worship Him out of love for Him.

It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and resurrected that has brought the Good News to all peoples everywhere. It was Moses as God’s spokesperson told the Israelites that God will deliver them from Egypt’s slavery. It was Isaiah who told the Israelites that God would deliver them from the captivity of Babylon and it was the Savior our Advent King who from the mountain of the Cross spoke words of Good News—“Father, forgive them”.

It is on account of the cross of Christ, His suffering, His death and His rising in power that we lift our voice heaven ward and declare to all. That this is our Savior. This is our King. This is our Lord and Master who frees us, comforts us, loves us and wants to spend an eternity with us.

What a Savior we have. A Savior who wants us to clearly and joyfully raise our voices and praise His holy name. God grant us the will and power to do so now and always. Amen.

Now the peace…

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