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midweek Vespers

Isaiah 56:1-8

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Wed. after First Sunday after Christmas
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Wed, Jan 4, 2017 

Today the Lord gives a message of comfort to two groups of people: the foreigners, that is, the gentiles, and eunuchs.

Now a eunuch was a man who did not have the possibility of a family in the future.  The removal of hope for family could be for a variety of reasons, none of which are really important here.  The point is that a eunuch was tempted to think that there was no future of life and hope for him.  In the words of Isaiah, the eunuch might say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” No green leaves would come, no fruit, no new shoots from this tree.  This tree was a dead end.  So these men thought for themselves.  “I have no hope for a fruitful future.”

Such a person surely thought himself accursed by God.  But the Lord says to them through Isaiah, “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, who choose the things that please Me and hold fast My covenant, I will give in My house and within My walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters.  I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”

This comforting message surely lifted the spirits of those men who felt despair.  The Lord was on their side, even these men who felt dejected and cursed.  They had hoped for no good future, yet the Lord promised them a better future than family.  He promised the everlasting blessings of the covenant.

Today there are people who feel similar dejection.  Some people have difficulty finding a spouse, or difficulty having children within their marriage.  Or perhaps their family life collapsed upon them in terrible tragedy or conflict that snatched away hope for a future with family.  Such people must sometimes feel like a dry tree, fruitless and hopeless.

God says to such people, “My promises are for you.  Do not lose hope.  I will give you a monument and a name within My house.  Within My Church you receive blessings that outshine any earthly family.  I give you a place in My everlasting kingdom, so that you will receive prosperity and joy and peace more than anyone has ever felt on this present earth.  Even now, I give you blessings here in this House of worship better than any others: The washing of regeneration, the preaching of the eternal Gospel, the Body and Blood of My Son.  I speak to you, and I am a Father to you.  I give you My Name, the Name of the Triune God, written upon you in your Baptism.  You are My family.  Do not despair, but put your hope in Me.”

You see that it is not just any eunuchs or any hopeless persons to whom God promises these things.  It is specifically those who have faith.  As Isaiah says, they hold fast the covenant.  They hold onto the promises of God that are in Christ Jesus His Son.

When you feel such hopelessness, remember these promises.

The second group to whom God gives comfort tonight are the foreigners.  These are men who say, “The Lord will surely separate me from His people.” Why would they say that?  Because they do not deserve to be among God’s people.

They are not God’s chosen people by birth.  They have been grafted onto Israel by faith.  Yet there is a nagging suspicion in the back of their minds that God does not really want them among His people.  When they examine themselves, they find many things wrong.  Sure, they try to keep justice and do righteousness, but they fail so much.  They try to keep the Sabbath and not profane it, yet do not always hold it as sacred as they should.  Profane thoughts creep in, or rather creep up out of the sinful heart in us.

So these men are gentiles who are in the Church, yet are painfully aware that God, if He was fair, would give them the boot straight out of His Church.  That is what they deserve.

In other words, these men are you and I.  We Gentiles do not deserve to be in God’s holy Church.  We are here by grace.  Yet we may feel, in our more paranoid moments, that God is watching us, waiting for some excuse to separate us from His people.  Perhaps there is that big sin we have in our past, and we are not quite sure that God can forgive something that big.  Perhaps we look at our current circumstances and fail to see God’s loving hand in our lives.  How easy to conclude that God is already starting to abandon us.

But the Lord says to the foreigners who join themselves to Him, to love His Name and to be His servants, who hold fast His covenant – “These I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer.  Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Not just any Gentiles receive this promise, but specifically those who hold to the covenant, that is, those with faith in Christ.  To them God says that He will not separate them from His people.  He has received them sincerely and with no evil intent.  God is not jerking your chain.  He will not give you forgiveness and then yank it away.  He wants you to prosper in His kingdom forever.  Furthermore, He is the One in charge of keeping you in the covenant.  So who will remove you from His hand when He holds you?  Who is strong enough to overcome God?

So do not despair.  Do not think that God is cursing you or trying to separate you from Him.  He is not that kind of God.

He tests you by sending you difficult times.  He allows tribulation to strike you.  He does not do this out of evil intent.  He disciplines you as a Father.

That is the wonder of all this.  Us who are Gentiles, who should not be His people, God calls to be His children.  He teaches us to call Him Father.  How could we despair when the Almighty is our Father?  How could we think He has cursed us when He has given us all things through His Son?

We are aware of our unworthiness.  We know our sins.  There are even more sins of which we are not aware.  But the Lord says, “I have redeemed you with precious Blood.  I have created a covenant with you that is eternal through the death of My Son.  Do not fear that I will reject you when I have shown you the greatest love that could ever exist.”

So be comforted.  The Lord is on your side.  The Lord desires that you be with Him forever.  He has cast all your sins upon His Son to be nailed to the Cross forever.  Therefore He does not see your unworthiness.

Instead, He has brought you to His holy mountain, which is the Church, both here in time and forever in the new heaven and new earth.  For He will soon reveal His deliverance, and His salvation will come.  As once His Son was revealed to deliver the world, and once Salvation came in human flesh, so He will once more appear to take us, His children, Home.

In His Name, the only-gracious God.  Amen.

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