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Sunday, June 16, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Hope in the LORD"

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“Hope in the LORD”
June 16, 2013
Isaiah 40

I picked Isaiah 40 for today for several reasons.

One is that Isaiah 40:30-31 is our Hide the Word Memory Verse for June and July this Summer.

Say it with me:

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

And you can see where we get our title for today’s message, “Hope in the LORD.”

A second reason that I picked Isaiah 40 is because this is Father’s Day, and Isaiah 40 is a favorite Bible verse of many men.  Today, we have candy bars for all of the men in the church with special wrappers on them with Isaiah 40:30-31 on it. We’ll let all of the guys decide if they are a man or not.  It’s not just for Dads but for all men.  Make sure you grab your candy bar on the way out today.

And third reason that I picked Isaiah 40 is that it ties back in with our last sermon series on the Tongue of the Wise because it’s all about praising God which is something that is always a good thing to do with your tongue!  And thank you, Steph, for capping off our series on the tongue with that special song today.

And a fourth reason that I picked Isaiah 40 is that starting tomorrow the adult class at Family Bible Week will be learning how to read, understand, and apply the Old Testament prophets to our lives today. So, I thought I’d start the week with a taste of what we’re going to learn each night in the adult class at Family Bible Week.

And there is fifth reason that I picked Isaiah 40 for today and that is that this weekend marks our 15th anniversary of pastoral ministry here at Lanse Free Church.

It was June 14th, 1998 that I first stood in this pulpit and looked out upon you as your pastor and brought the Word of God.

These are my notes from that day.

And my first sermon (first two sermons, actually) came from Isaiah chapter 40.

We didn’t have these pew Bible then, but if we did, I would have said, “Turn with me, please, to the book of Isaiah chapter 40, Pew Bible page #714.”

I wanted to start my ministry with as beautiful a picture of the glory of God as I possible could.  Because I didn’t want my ministry to be anything but God-centered.

So, we went to Isaiah 40. How many of you believe that you were here on June 14, 1998?

We’ve been on this journey together now for a long time.

15 years.

A lot has changed in 15 years.

Gas was .89/gallon at the Kwik Fill when we moved here in 1998.

I typed my messages on a little green-screen computer and saved them onto floppy disks.

Heather was beautiful but not as beautiful as she is now.

And we have no children. Now, they are almost 13, 11, almost 10, and almost 9.

I was just a rookie pastor, young and dumb and wet behind the ears.  Now, I’m an old pastor, old and dumb and dry behind the ears.

Those of you who did not raise your hands have joined our fellowship since then. We have grown as a church. We were around 90 people on Sundays when I came, and God has blessed us to average nearly twice that this year.

A lot has changed in 15 years. But our LORD has not!

And what God has said about Himself in the Isaiah 40 has not changed.  Not one bit.

Our LORD is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

And because of that, we can “Hope in the LORD.”

Isaiah 40.

My first Sunday here, I joked with you that my first sermon was the second in a 4 part series.  Because as a new preacher, I had no idea how to preach the whole chapter at once. I only made it from verse 12 to verse 17 that first week. Then the second week, which was Father’s Day 1998, I preached verses 18-26.  And then, a few years later, I preached verses 27-31. And then a few years after that, I finally got around to preaching verses 1 through 11.

But today, I feel like trying to preach the whole thing. We’ll see if the “seasoned veteran” can do the whole thing in one shot!

Isaiah 40, verse 1-5 to start with.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

I have only 3 points this morning and all three have deep application for our lives.

Here’s number one.

#1. THE LORD IS COMING.

Therefore, hope in Him.

The LORD is coming.

Isaiah 40 marks a turning point in the book of Isaiah. For 39 chapters, Isaiah has focused condemnation for the people of Israel because they had forsaken their God and chased after idols. And they were then sent into exile. 39 chapters mostly of doom and gloom with a few bright spots shining through.

But starting in chapter 40, Isaiah turns a corner and beings to focus on consolation for God’s people. Consolation.

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.  Starting here.

Consolation is the flavor from chapter 40 on.

Israel’s exile will soon be over. God promises it.

And more is coming than just the end of the exile.

God is coming.  The LORD Himself is coming. V.3-5 promise that God is coming and call the people of God to get ready for it.

They are to build a highway in their hearts.  Knocking down the mountains and fillin up the valleys so that the King can ride straight in style.

And when is this coming?

Well, the first fulfillment is probably the end of the exile itself but that wasn’t as glorious as they might have expected.

Where do you see this language picked up elsewhere in the Bible?

John the Baptist right?

The gospels quote this as fulfilled in the forerunner of Jesus. He’s the one in the desert saying “Repent! The King is coming.”

And we sing verse 5 as part of Handel’s Messiah because it’s proclaiming the coming of the LORD – in human form!  In a tiny baby in Bethlehem.

The LORD is coming, but not as might have been expected.

And we know that His first coming was not His full coming.

We know that we still look forward to the full fulfillment of this promise.

So, if we’re still waiting, how certain can this promise be?  V.6

“A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I [Isaiah] said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.’”

The LORD is coming, and it is sure. It is certain. It is inevitable. His coming is unstoppable.

You and I are like grass. We have lots of grass right now. But come winter, it will fall.

We are transitory, small, flimsy.

But God’s Word is like a sequoia compared to us.

It is that sure and certain and strong.

That’s why my sermons have been directly from God’s Word every Sunday that I’ve preached for the last 15 years.

Because the words of Pastor Matt are like grass. Here today and gone tomorrow.

But God’s Word is eternal and strong and unshakable.

And when He says, “The LORD is coming,” then we can hope in that promise.

We can take it to the bank.

Do you need comfort today?

Do feel abandoned, imprisoned, alone?

God’s word to you today, is “Comfort, comfort my people” because I am coming to them.

So, Isaiah says, “Go tell it on the mountain.” v.9

“You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ [And how does He come? He comes in both power and gentleness. V.10] See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. [But also] He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

This is what our God is like. He is both powerful and gentle at the same time.

When the LORD comes, He comes with all of His power. He is the LORD!

But that power is bent to the good of His people, and He is tender and gentle and compassionate and caring and gracious with us.

He is both a powerful King and a tender shepherd.

That’s whose coming!

Hope in the LORD.

Now, in verses 12 through 26, Isaiah shifts gears.  He thinks that Israel is going to have a tough time believing the comfort of verses 1 through 11.

They are going to be in exile and their circumstances are not going to feel very spiritually strong, spiritually confident.

It won’t seem like God is doing anything.
It won’t seem like God is keeping His promises.
It won’t seem like things are okay and that God is in control.

Can you relate?

Does it seem like God is not doing anything?
Does it seem like God is not keeping His promises?
Does it seem like things are not okay and that God is not in control?

#2. THE LORD IS AWESOME.

In verses 12 through 26, Isaiah paints word picture after word picture to remind the people of God who their God is.

And that God is not intimidated by anything.
And that God is not mastered by anyone.

That God is incomparably awesome.

That was the title of my first sermon here. “Incomparably Awesome God.” v.12

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”

That first Sunday, my first point was, “Our God is the Biggest.”

The “waters” here in verse 12 mean all of the waters on the planet.

All of the 7 seas on this Blue Planet fit into the hollow of God’s hand so to speak.

And that’s nothing. He looks at the heavens. The universe, everything in it, and He says, “Yeah that fits about here.” in a span.

After sweeping the Earth, he gathers up the dust in his basket, and puts all of the mountains of the world on a balance. Yep, that’s what I thought.

Do you see the perspective?

That’s Who our God is.

Hope in Him.  V.13

“Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?”

What is the answer to those rhetorical questions?  Nobody. Noone.

Point #2 in that first sermon was that “Our God is the smartest.”

He knows everything. No one is smarter than God. He has never needed a teacher or a counselor or a guide.

Sometimes, we act like we’re smarter than God.  I know that I have done that way more times that I would like to admit.

But no one is smarter than our LORD. And so, if He says something, we know that it’s the best. He is incomparably smarter than anyone else. Incomparably wise!

And so He should be the foremost authority in our lives.

Hope in the LORD. V.15.

“Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.”

This is what I said about those verses 15-17 in that first sermon, “Our God is the Toughest.”

God is not intimidated by anyone.

The “nations” of verse 15 were very intimidating to Israel. They were always threatened by the other nations (and ethnic Israel still is today!).

And the “nations” (notably Assyria and Babylon) were going to conquer and take captive the people of Israel.

But that did not intimidate the LORD.

Those nations don’t scare Him a bit.  They are just a drop in bucket.

How much is a drop. [plop]

They are dust on the scales.  That means that they are insignificant.

This is how awesome God is!  Lebanon (v.16) was like Pennsylvania, it was known for its woods.

But Isaiah says that if you gathered up all of the wood in Lebanon and used it as kindling for a fire to make a giant sacrifice of burnt offering, you would run out of wood long before you had made a fire big enough to be worthy of the LORD!

“Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.”

That means that they do not intimidate Him. Nobody gets in His way.

It doesn’t mean that He doesn’t care for the nations. It means that as enemies, they are like a Smurf fighting the Incredible Hulk. No contest. Not even in the same league.

You can’t even see that league from here.

The LORD is the toughest, so hope in Him.

But what about idols?  Idols are God-substitutes and they had always ensnared the attention and focus of Israel. V.18

“To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? As for an idol, a craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. A man too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot. He looks for a skilled craftsman to set up an idol that will not topple.”

Why is Isaiah saying this? Is he giving lessons in how to make an idol?

No, he’s pointing out how ludicrous idols are.

They are not awesome. They have to be manufactured!

And if you don’t make them right, they fall over!

What kind of idols have a foothold in our lives today? What God-substitutes have we given our time and money and attention to?

Our God is awesomely superior to every idol.

Hope in Him. Not in anyone else. V.21

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.”

Isaiah is a little ticked off with the people of Israel.

This stuff about how awesome God is should be blatantly obvious to them by now.

Don’t you know this stuff?  You should know this by now!

Our God is awesomely superior to every earthly power.

Everything on Earth comes under His purview. He is the awesome divine King Who is sovereign over every nation on Earth.

We are like grasshoppers to Him.

Why would we ever worry about anything?

If that’s our God, if our God is that awesome, then why would we ever worry about anything?

We all have enemies.  We all have enemies who are against us.

It’s true.  But substitute in your most powerful enemies for the powerful princes in verse 23 and how do they compare?

They are like weeds that are here today and gone tomorrow.

Our God is awesome! Hope in Him.

In verse 25, Isaiah steps out of the way and God Himself speaks. The poem switches to the first person, and God takes on all comers.

He says, in effect, that He is awesomely superior to every other thing in the universe. V.25

“‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

That’s how awesome our Lord is.

He created each of the stars. And not only are they numbered by Him, He has a name for them all that He doesn’t forget, and because of His power and strength, not one of them goes missing.

We should have a superiority complex about our God.

How Great is Our God!

He is incomparably awesome.

Nothing is too difficult for Him.

If God can handle the stars, He can handle our problems today. Right?

Hope in the LORD.

Because for those who hope in the LORD God will give them strength.

#3. THE LORD GIVES STRENGTH.

It may not seem like it, but our God cares and for those who put their trust in Him, He will give them amazing spiritual strength. V.27

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’?”

Why are you talking like that?

I know that it seems bad right now, but that is unbelief speaking. You need rebuked.

Don’t talk like that. Remember how awesome our God is! V.28

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

Everything we’ve just seen in verses 12-26 is true! And you know it!

“The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

God has promised good for His people, and He won’t get to the end of His strength and say, “I can’t go on. I’m sorry I just can’t go on.” And He won’t say, “I want to do it but don’t know how.”

Now, wisdom, power, and love our God is an awesome God. An everlasting God.

And He gives strength to those who need it most. V.29

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. [And that’s all of us.]  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

The LORD will give you the spiritual strength you need, not just to survive but to thrive. To soar!

If you hope in Him.

That word translated “hope” in the NIV and “wait” in the King James and ESV is “QVH” in Hebrew.

And it is a really cool word.

When I was in seminary, one of my professors made us do a Word-Study of this word.  I still have it.  He made us look up every occurrence of "QVH"  and it occurs 33 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.

So I looked up, in Hebrew, all 33 uses of QVH.

And here is what I found.  This kind of hope is a Resolute, Expectant Longing.

It's cool the way the word is used.  Let me give you a couple of instances.

In Job chapter 7, it says "Like a slave longing for the evening shadows or a hired man waiting eagerly for his wages..."

Both of those are this same Hebrew word.  A slave is working real hard in the heat of the day, sun beating down on his back, sweat is making is eyes sting.  And he can see tree over there.  And he just knows that there is a cool breeze under it.  And if he could just go sit over there, when the sun goes--ohh how nice that would be.  Can you feel his longing?

How about the hired man waiting eagerly for his wages?  It's been two weeks, and he's out of money.  He knows that today at 4:30 is pay-day and he's already spending that money in his mind.  He can't hardly wait–he longs for it.  But he has to hang on a little longer until he gets it.  Can you feel his expectancy?

Change the situation, same word:  Psalm 56:5-6, David writes about his enemies "They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life."  Behind those English words is our word–QVH.  You can just picture how David feels–his enemies are waiting around the corner, hoping to pounce on him, they expect to destroy David.  You can feel how they feel as they are waiting.  Haha.  Any second now, he'll be ours.  Do you feel how intense their longing is?

I call this longing “resolute,” expectant longing because the word originally meant to be wound as in a rope, the cords wound together to make a tight, firm rope.  Something that held and was strong. Even when stretched, it held tightly.  Resolute.  It is the idea of faith, and trust, and persevering in that faith.  Enduring.

One more place where that word is used (if you want the whole list, I'll make a copy of my study for you--it would make a great study this week in your QT's).  In Psalm 130:6, The psalmist cries "My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.  More than watchmen wait for the morning."  –  Same word.

If you were a night-watchman in Israel, you couldn't wait for morning to come!  Your job was to stand in that tower and watch over the city until daybreak.  Your shift ended at dawn.  So imagine it, you are standing there. You haven't slept all night.  Everything is quiet.  You have been on your guard.  But you're watching, waiting, longing for the sun to come up.

You know that it will.

The sun has never failed, but it seems like it will never come.  It's always darkest before the dawn you remind yourself.  You think that you see the beginnings of shoots of light breaking over the horizon, but it isn't the sun yet.  You hope, you wait, you long, you expect, you stand resolute in your expectation.
You stare at the Eastern horizon waiting, waiting, waiting.  You trust that the sun will come and until it does you wait in hope.

Those who do not run stumbling on their own, but instead resolutely, expectantly, long for the Lord, will renew their strength and SOAR!!

I love this picture.  People in their own strength, trying to live, they run and they stumble and fall.

But the trusting ones.   The hoping ones.  Out of their backs spring wings (so to speak)! And they mount up and they fly!  They get God’s inexhaustible spiritual energy.  The God of verse 28, pours His inexhaustible strength into those who hope in Him.

These people are the hope-filled.  And they run without wearying and they walk without fainting.

And it is among them that I want to be.  God as my cool shade in the evening.  God as my wages after waiting and working so long.  God as the prey that I wait around the corner to nab.  God as the coming of the sun at the end of my watch.

I want to hope in the Lord.  Patiently, actively, expectantly, resolutely trusting in what he has promised.  Trusting in our incomparably awesome God and everything that He is.

And I want that for Lanse Free Church.

I want us to SOAR.

Soar! Even when it doesn't feel like it, the LORD has promised good to us and He will keep His promises. The LORD is coming. The LORD has come and is coming again.  And He is incomparably awesome and awesomely superior to everything else in the whole world!

Do you feel weak and lost and needy and weary?

Hope in the LORD.

Hope in the LORD.

Hope in the LORD.

And you will soar.

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