S-1409 3SAE/3A 1/26/2014 Hymns: (O) #106; (S) #574; LS #87; #315; (C) #512
Texts: Isaiah 9:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-25
Theme: “Increase My Joy!” (Isaiah 9:2-3)
Question: “What fills your heart with joy?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany is from the O.T. lesson “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil” (Isaiah 9:2-3).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Beloved in the Lord, it happens when you least expect it. At times you are despondent, disappointed and discouraged and don’t know what to do. Then something out of the ordinary happens. You get a phone call, a card in the mail or someone stops over and the dark cloud is lifted and your heart is joyful. You are at the hospital for tests and are expecting the worst. Then the doctor comes in and says, “All is well!” This has happened to me numerous times. On January 3rd after picking up the mail and going through it, I was dumbfounded with two letters. The first contained $250.00 check for the roof project and the second almost caused me to fall to the ground. In it was a check for $2500.00 to be used in any manner for the church without any stipulation. The irony was that these gifts were neither sought out nor expected. They were a gift from the Lord and He certainly increased my joy that day. I was so joyful I couldn’t help but call someone and tell them.
To be sure, the increase of my joy is not because of the funds that came in; but because they came in when least expected from the most unlikely people. This incident shows again how God uses people to lift the burdens from our hearts and fill it with joy. To Him Alone Be All the Glory.
Today, the prophet Isaiah tells us what God is going to do for His people of old and us. He will increase the nations and fill them with Joy. This joy is brought about by the One who causes salvation—God Almighty. Isaiah describes this joy as of a farmer harvesting his crops and a warrior dividing the spoil. This joy is tangible, touchable and true. This joy is rooted in an activity that brought about a change in one’s life. PAUSE.
Beloved in the Lord, what causes you joy? What causes you to be happy? What changes need to take place in your life to fill your heart with joy and happiness? By the power of the Holy Spirit, listen to Isaiah describing the God who is on a mission of increasing the joy in our lives. Isaiah proclaimed to the people of Israel, that God is the active agent in doing this. Isaiah states God is behind the scenes demolishing and destroying the enemy of Israel. Isaiah confesses His God is a warrior God who crushes and crumbles every force that attacks His precious children.
The message of Isaiah is not only to the people of Israel but also to us here living in Armour, SD. Isaiah’s message is one that increases our joy because it shows our God is fighting our enemies —Satan, the world and our sinful nature. This God gets involved in our lives by sending someone to fight our battles. Few verses after our text (For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.) it tells us that a special Warrior will come forth. Under His reign, peace and joy will be evident. His kingdom will have no end and He will rule over the nations in justice and righteousness. Through this special Warrior, the people have won a great military victory over their oppressors and therefore have every reason to be joyful. Through His grace He increased their joy.
It is hard for us to understand this kind of joy, because we often allow the events around us to rob us of the joy that God provides through the special Warrior—His Son—Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus our joy has increased and multiplied and will continue to increase. PAUSE.
Yet, yet, we don’t always believe this message. It isn’t that the Heavenly Father is angry with us any longer. Oh, no. It is much more than that. It is much greater than we know. We are His children through faith in the salvific work of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, what a caring father is ever angry enough at His children to hate them? Rather it is the old man left in us whose desires is to sin against God. Sin...like the advocate of satan seeks to rob us of the full joy our Good Shepherd gives us.
Perhaps we fell short this past week and got into an argument with a friend or family member. It could be we had some kind of financial dealings where we sought to get more money than we deserved. Maybe we’ve been lax in our duties (huh) and we feel a little guilty about it. Whatever the transgression be it against God or neighbor, it often causes us to feel like we come short in the sight of God…and we do.
Grasping this, Satan comes into our conscience and accuses us before God—you can’t be serious about being joyful. Look at your life and see what a terrible sinner you have been. Satan is right you know. But because of the Warrior and Champion Jesus, we can take God at His Word that He is the active Agent behind this joy. Satan can’t accuse us. Our sins can’t condemn us. The world can’t enslave us because Christ has paid the payment on our behalf in giving His all and forgives our every sin.
We Christians have real joy in spite of living in this sin-polluted world. Only a life that is faith- filled, love-filled and hope-filled can be joyous. Such a joyous life is found only in Christ our Savior. For this Warrior Champion has increased the joy of many through His earthly life. He increased the joy of the couple who invited to their wedding in Cana. He increased the joy of the parents whose daughter lay dead but was raised. He increased the joy of the crippled man who waited 38 years to be free. He increased the joy of Bartimaeus when He opened His blind eyes to see the Son of God in person.
For this reason, God’s promise is true—He has increased our joy. Our joy is increased on account of the Warrior God who fought our fight against the evil one—satan and demolished him, destroyed his domain and once and for all removed his bite of death from us. Our joy is increased in knowing Christ has done everything to save us and redeem us through His death and resurrection. Our joy has increased in knowing there is not a sin that I or you have ever committed that is not forgiven.
My joy is increased as I visit other Districts and see the gracious work of God carried out by many. My joy is increased when I hear of the blessings God is doing in your lives. My joy is increased when I see some of you living the faith, inviting a friend and forgiving others. The fruits of the spirit are wonderful and they are mighty in the lives of the saints. What a blessing for me to see them in all of you. PAUSE.
Yes, our joy has increased because of the Savior who made us His very own in the waters of Baptism. Today, our joy is increased at the blessings of being in His house, hearing His Word, receiving His forgiveness and dinning at His table. Today, our joy is increased on account of the grace of God being poured upon us.
Oh, the joy that fills the heart of God’s people. Paul could even be joyful while in jail and facing death. He rejoiced as he remembered the saints at Philippi and the fellowship he had with them. Likewise our joy increased on account of the fellowship we have with Christ and one another.
Indeed, God in mercy and compassion has increased our joy no matter what our situation in life and status before the world. It is my fervent prayer and I might say the wish of the Savior...that you go forth this week and through His Spirit be able to take your joy to others; while remembering that Satan is wrong, he cannot take the joy which you have received from CHRIST. Amen!
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA