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The Words of a Book

Isaiah 29:18-19

Pastor Robin Fish

12th Sunday after Trinity
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church  
Laurie, MO

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Sun, Aug 26, 2012 

Isaiah 29:18-19

And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book, And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.  The afflicted also shall increase their gladness in the LORD, And the needy of mankind shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

The Words of a Book

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Have you ever heard anything so unusual?  The deaf shall hear the words of a book.  Why not, the deaf shall hear the voice of a reader, or the sound of salvation, or just that the deaf shall hear?  But the words of a book?  We have computers and tablets and smart-phones that will read to us, but if you put a book to your ear, you won't hear a thing - not even the ocean.  So what is the prophet talking about here?  That is our topic and theme this morning, the words of a book.

This prophecy is a promise about that day, the day of the Lord, when He will work His redemption and salvation.  It is a day of such wonder and power that the unexpected and miraculous shall occur.  The deaf will hear, the blind will see, and the afflicted and the needy shall rejoice. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy quite literally in healing the deaf and the Blind and so forth.  The prophecy promises more than that, though, it says that the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.  How often have we heard about 'that day"?  It comes up a lot in the Old Testament.  It comes up a lot because the people of the Old Testament era were looking forward to a day of salvation.  They were looking forward to a time when sin and death would be done away with.  The day they looked forward to was in the future, but it was a future they knew would include them, somehow.  So, let us consider what it was that they were looking forward to.  Our theme is, the Words of a Book.

The one thing the children of Israel needed that we also need just as much is peace of mind: forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, and somewhere to turn in times of sorrow, sickness, and at the approach of death.  We still haven't figured out any better answers for any of those things than our great-grandparents knew.  Our best answer is still the answer Isaiah spoke of in our Old Testament lesson.

Sorrow still comes to our lives.  We feel as though we have more stress than ever.  There are perhaps greater and more subtle dangers surrounding us in our world than in other ages.  Men have found ever more numerous and persuasive ways to deceive us and cheat us and control us.  Our technological world is a different and sometimes frightening place.  You cannot trust what you hear or see in this world of Photoshop, of CGI, computer manipulation of both sight and sound, and special effects.  And, with all our technological advances, we still die.

We still die because we still sin.  Because we still sin, we still need a redeemer.  Thankfully, God has provided us with one.  Jesus Christ has redeemed us from sin and death and hell.  His death on the cross is our death, and His resurrection is our resurrection, shown to us in advance, to comfort us in the face of the dangers of life and the terror of death.  Promised to us in the Word of God; He that believes and is baptized, shall be saved! God addresses those truths obliquely through Isaiah.  He says, "And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book, And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see."

We live in the day spoken of by the prophet.  It just isn't as simple as it sounds.  For example, we are the deaf.  We are the blind.  You need to remember your Catechism, to follow the prophet.  Luther reminded us in the Catechism that we are spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God.  Scripture says it quite directly that no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost.  We need God to enable us to believe!

In and of ourselves, we cannot hear the Word of God.  We can physically hear it, but without the working of the Holy Spirit in us, we automatically reject it as false, old-fashioned, or absurd superstition.  That may seem contrary to our experience because we already have the Holy Spirit at work in us, poured out on us in our Baptism, and preached into us by the Word.  But without the working of the Holy Spirit, there is no faith, and there is no real understanding of the Word of God.  Famous theologians, like Rudolph Bultmann, who died in 1976, could beautifully describe the Gospel in great detail, but he could not believe it, even though He was world renowned professor and teacher of New Testament Studies.  His unbelief blinded him to the truth of what he knew, intellectually, so well.  After detailing the faith of the Christian Church, based on the Bible, he wrote, "But modern man cannot turn on the lights with a switch and accept that ancient mythological framework."

Look at the world around you for evidence.  Forty years ago, everyone seemed to be religious, and those few who did not go to church were looked at as somehow anti-social and a little peculiar, if not undesirable.  Twenty year ago, even our politicians were careful to look "Christian".  Today, going to church is more uncommon than common, even among those who claim to be members of churches.  None of our newer television shows depict families that go to church together any more.  President Obama used to attend a political, not religious, church in Chicago, and after over three years as President, he has yet to identify a church to regularly attend in Washington.  He still has not convinced many people that he actually is a Christian and not a Muslim.

The world we live in is different from the world we grew up in, we all know that.  I am pointing to these changes simply to illustrate the natural human propensity not to believe.  We are, by nature, the deaf of whom Isaiah speaks.  We simply cannot naturally hear the truth of the Word of God.  We are, also, blind by nature to God, as the dominance of the teaching of evolution is in our schools and in our media illustrates.  You and I only believe because God makes us able to hear the Words of a book.  Stop and think about it: the word "Bible" is Latin for "book".  We literally hear the words of a book every time we hear the preaching or reading of the Bible and when we believe it, then we are doing what Isaiah calls "hearing the words of a book."

"The peace of God that passes all understanding", passes all understanding because we cannot see, by nature, how any of the troubles of life are solved or resolved by faith.  We don't see God's hand at work, unless He makes us able to see it.  That is why our modern television characters preach rationalism and unbelief, from Patrick Jane on the Mentalist, to the new guy on the show called "Perception".  The really smart people, they keep telling us, reject that baseless fiction called religion.  The only believe what they can see and understand - or so they say. 

There are churches full of people who call themselves "Christian" and yet cannot imagine how the death of Jesus really solves anything, including their sins.  They cannot believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead, so they do not really believe that they will rise one day either.  Such people tend to make up stories about how "meaningful" and "significant" this or that aspect of their religion is because they cannot quite believe in the historical truth of the miracles reported in Scripture, or believe the promises God makes to them in the Bible, or accept that God is actually at work in them or through them, or around them.  Over the years, I have read the newsletters of some of the churches in our area, and I have listened to their preachers, although not on Sunday mornings obviously - and some of their members - talking out in the community, and I know that they don't believe in God.  They don't believe in His grace.  They do not trust in His protection.  Sometimes they do not even really accept their own need for His salvation.  Many times, they just sort-of expect everyone to go to heaven, and Aunt Myrtle is looking down on us, watching over us - as though that makes any difference in anything that happens, or as though Aunt Myrtle has some sort of power to bless them or rescue them.

We have that peace of God because He makes the eyes of the blind - our eyes - see through the gloom and darkness of our natural blindness and in this pagan and godless world.  We are the afflicted of whom the prophet speaks.  It is our gladness that is increased as we see and hear and believe that God is with us, and that life is not out of control, and we see that the things, even the unfortunate things, that happen to us and around us are the things God promised would come upon those that believe.  In our sin and in our suffering, we are the needy of mankind.  Once we realize that, and we repent, we truly do rejoice in the Holy One of Israel, for He has forgiven us, and given us a sign in His Son.

We rejoice in our forgiveness.  It means, among other things, that when all else fails in this life, we have eternal life ahead.  We shall rise from our graves and live with the Lord forever!  But even while we live here, our sufferings are not pointless and endless and hopeless.  God is with us, and He has a plan.  He will guide us and keep us, and He will not allow us to bear more than we are able, but will provide us with a way of escape and bring us through.  That is His promise, and that is our faith and our hope.  And believing that we can rejoice, and increase in our gladness in the Lord.

And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book, And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.  The afflicted also shall increase their gladness in the LORD, And the needy of mankind shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

This promise brought comfort to the children of Israel - the chosen people of God - back in the time of Isaiah.  They looked forward to the day described in the prophecy, and knowing that it was coming, and that they would somehow participate in that day, brought them hope and comfort.  That day came on Good Friday, when Jesus died in your place and for your redemption.  Your sins are forgiven!

We live in the day described by Isaiah.  And the promise of God spoken by Isaiah is still true, and it still brings comfort and hope to the chosen people of God - to us!  Today we do hear the words of a book that we are not naturally able to hear, and we do see though the gloom and darkness of a fallen and utterly corrupt, pagan world.  Our gladness is increased, even though we are afflicted among the ungodly, and we who are needy have our needs met: our sins are forgiven, we shall rise from our graves, and we hope confidently in the salvation of our God!  We have all of that because we hear - and believe - the words of a book!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

(Let the people say Amen)

These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due. Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.

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