God With Us: Love

God With Us (Advent 2019)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  17:41
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As many of you know, last week we began a study of some of the writings of the prophet Isaiah which relate to the birth of Christ for our journey through Advent this year. Since we were not here together and some of you were not able to join us on Facebook, let me recap some of what we talked about last week for you this morning…when we hear the word prophet, I am sure many of us think of the person on the corner advertising to be able to tell the future by reading cards, or palms, or something of the like. However, when we hear the description of a prophet in ancient Biblical times, we are to think of something completely different. In our Bibles, we have 13 prophetic books, starting with Isaiah and ending with Malachi. Of these 13, 4 are considered to be “major” prophets, meaning they hold a greater significance to the life of Israel and us today. The minor prophets describe stories and have a more narrow focus. These 9 books also are a bit shorter in length.

So What is a Prophet?

As we consider Isaiah this year, I want us to consider a few things first…Isaiah is not a tarot card reader, nor is he a palm reader. He did not make money trying to sell people on the idea that he knew what was going to happen in the future. This is the major difference between our modern day understanding of prophets vs. what we know as the Biblical Prophets. Biblical Prophets received messages from God directly and gave those messages directly to the people of Israel and Judah. The Biblical Prophets are defined as intermediaries between God and God’s creation. Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand, Isaiah writes about many things and much of the Prophet’s writings have global implications, both for his time and ours, which is part of the reason why we don’t usually study these writings. The prophets often write about how God manages the relationship between God and God’s creation. This year, though, I want us to consider the words of Isaiah because he wrote about the past, the present for him, the present for Jesus, but he also wrote about our time too.
Because Isaiah can be misunderstood if taken literally, I want to encourage each of us to do more studying of the passages on our own for it is only through continuous study and reading that we can truly take into our hearts the meaning of the words and what they hold for us in today’s world. A word of caution if we take what Isaiah wrote literally…there is much frustration that can come if we do so. Isaiah, as with most of the Prophets, writes both in the literal and figurative sense and changes between the two quite quickly and without any indication of doing so.

A little historical context...

So, let’s begin as I usually do in these situations, with a little bit of history. Isaiah, we believe, lived at a time when the land of Judah and Israel were at odds with one another. He wrote, mainly, from Jerusalem and spoke of events that were to happen in the near future as well as some distant events. Because we know that he lived at the time of certain rulers, we can place the time of his writings to be somewhere around 700 years before Jesus’ birth. Now, let’s put this in perspective…as we look at Isaiah’s writings about the Messiah, which we know to be Jesus, he wrote these words 700 years before anyone even knew who Jesus was. Think about that for a moment…Isaiah wrote about Jesus a really long time before anyone would ever know him. Remember this too, Isaiah wrote those words for the people that had been a united nation, living in the land that God provided to them, and because they rebelled, the land was soon going to be taken from them and they were now a divided family. Sounds a lot like our world today doesn’t it?
Now, with that being said and stage being set…let’s dig into the words that Isaiah has for us this morning...

Speaking of figurative...

This passage from Isaiah is one of the few of my favorite writings from the Old Testament. Isaiah uses a lot of figurative language in this passage. The thing is though, I believe that Isaiah wanted to use some of the most familiar animals that would not, just would not even be in remote proximity to one another to show that when the Messiah returns, there will be absolute love in all the world. Sitting here in 2019, we know that this has not come to pass but there is an expectant hope that when Jesus returns, these things could most certainly happen and that is what we all strive to make happen in this wild and crazy world. And that is Isaiah’s link between the past, the present, and the future…there is hope in the love of God.
So, when we look at this passage, bear in mind that Isaiah wrote this nearly 3,000 years ago for a time that is yet to come…talk about a grand vision for how things can be!!! Let’s start off this morning exploring just a few of these verses to get a very high-level basic understanding of what God showed Isaiah so that we can see that love does change everything…if you have them, I invite you to turn in your Bibles to Isaiah 11…we will spend just a few moments reflecting on pieces of this passage…so let’s start in verse 6...
Isaiah 11:6 NLT
In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.
For us today, this imagery might be a little difficult to understand. However, for the people of Isaiah’s time, these were images that were fanciful and a lot fanciful. Think about it this way…when you go to the zoo, if you spend time being able to do so and are able to catch feeding time for some of our predatory animals, what do they feed them? Right, meat, usually the larger cats will get exactly what Isaiah is saying will lie down or will live with them. Or think about this, I know none of us know what a nomadic, shepherding life is like but in Isaiah’s time, that was the main way to earn a living. In the desert, if you have lambs, they are the hardest to protect because they are the most vulnerable. To see a wolf and a lamb living together would be unheard of because the lamb would typically be served on the dinner table rather than sitting at the table with the wolf.
Again, bear in mind these are images that people of Isaiah’s time would have understood very clearly to mean that at the time that the root of Jesse returns, all things will be just like it was meant to be in the garden with the shadow of God’s love protecting all from harm. But I also want us to consider something else about what Isaiah might be trying to get people to understand. So let’s jump ahead about 700 years…if we think of Jesus’ life on Earth…who did he reach out to the most? Right…he reached out to those that were tossed aside, marginalized, and kept at arms’ length. It’s really no wonder why the religious leaders of the time did not like Jesus very much. He was living out these verses even if it wasn’t literally...
So let’s go back a couple verses to see what Isaiah really says about the Messiah, Jesus...
Isaiah 11:3–5 NLT
He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.
Isn’t this truly what Jesus did in his time on Earth…as I mentioned just a few moments ago, Jesus fought for the oppressed, healed the sick, made the lame walk, made the deaf hear, and the blind see. Mind you, he did all of these things physically but he also did them figuratively. Isaiah is writing God’s words about what it means to show true love in this world, the love that God intended for all of creation to have. Jesus lived that out for us in his time but we are also challenged to live that out in our time today.
Now, I want you to imagine if this were possible...
Isaiah 11:8 NLT
The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
Again, this is prophetic imagery but imagine what the world would be like if it was filled with more love, less hate and arguing…if we actually do what we say and live together as if we do actually love one another, imagine, just imagine how different the world would be...


Gracious and loving God…you have given us so more love than we can even try to return…grant that when our angers rise, or when we find that we are not able to love as you have loved us, grant that we stop, listen for your still speaking voice in our hearts, and refuse to the let the world dictate how we need to be. Let us always act in love because you gave us your Son and often we forget that he came as an infant to show us that you desired to connect with us in a way that only a child can do. In this coming week, help us to show love to just one person that someone else might deem to be unlovable. Amen.
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