Sermon Ideas For Isaiah 62:1-5 Part 2
Have you ever felt that God was determined to save you from something for someone? To save you from a sin, a wrong path, a shallow and stagnant faith, and unwillingness to forgive someone or receive forgiveness for yourself? The theology of the question may not seem very clear, but for many of us it is true. We have felt ALMOST overpowered by the leading of God's Spirit which has brought some change or new direction. This is often the case when people come in for counseling. They are there because of an urgent need for redirection, resolution, or orientation.
I work with a Christian who was in the midst of an affair. The man was married and the father of three children. Even though he no longer loved his wife, he was intent on leaving the other relationship. He told me, "God brought me here to get help. I can not explain it, but God brought me here. I need to stop what I am doing".
I have thought about that man many times. It is not too often that we find ourselves driven by God, our souls filled with the presence and energy of God's Spirit. But God is a patient, loving and forgiving Lord. Our creator wants the best for us. To seek God's will may mean that we find ourselves overpowered by the leading of the Spirit.
I think many Christians want to have that kind of experience but are afraid of it. We are taught, even in the church, to hold back our feelings about spiritual matters. We become hesitant about expressing our faith or even saying we find joy in being a Christian.
In Isaiah 62:1-5, we discover a loving God speaking to a rebellious Israel. Like an unfaithful partner, Israel had strayed from the path of obedience. But as Isaiah tells us, the Lord wanted to once again delight in the nation he had called to be his people: "You shall no more be termed forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate. But you shall be called My Delight is in her, and your land Married".
I like the word "desolate". It carries a lot of images and feelings. What does it mean to say the soul is desolate? For me it means there's emptiness, something incomplete, unfulfilled. There is even some sadness in the word, because it also means a lack of nourishment. In the context of the passage, the lack of nourishment is spiritual. How true this is in the world today as well. There are so many empty lives, broken hearts, shattered dreams and pressures that mount from day to day. People feel empty or desolate in their souls and in their lives. As the mouth becomes dry when there is thirst, so the spirit becomes dry when it is not sustained by the energy of God's Spirit.
How does the Lord our God speak to this need for fulfillment? To Israel the Lord said, " You shall no longer be called desolate". That is a message of hope, of restoration, freedom, healing and renewal. Renewal is a blessing that comes alone from God. We see Christians flocking to workshops and conferences on renewal, but so often little change takes place because they do not really believe spiritual change is possible. The result is that the human spirit does not discover the greater power of God. The human condition remains in frustration, desolation, and emptiness.
The Lord told the people, " You shall be called by a new name". That's pretty exciting! The new name would represent faithfulness, obedience, love and the desire to live in union with God, married to him in spirit and inpurpose. As pastors we know very well the difficulty couples have in keeping a marriage together. Many relationships fail because the spirit of love has died and the partners feel an emptiness. For some it is easier to walk away than deal with the problems. Faithfulness in a word and in deed becomes a struggle and people go their separate ways. What is lacking in so many Christian marriages? There are numerous answers to that question. As troubled couples talk to me I hear them often refer to a loss of the discipline of love, love for God and love for one another. Like Israel they have strayed in their allegiance. Marital vows and personal covenants have been broken.
One of the most joyful weddings I performed turned into a sour divorce within three years. The memories of a joyous marriage became a faded memory because the couple lost trust in one another and in God. By the time they reached my office their souls were desolate and the relationship was beyond repair. How do you speak to that kind of emptiness in your counseling and preaching? It must be addressed because it is very much a part of so many people. This passage is an opportunity to talk about a basic human need, that of finding fulfillment and nourishment from the Lord and from personal relationships. The text allows us to talk about renewal, helping people to decide where the healing needs to be for them.
A woman who had struggled for years with alcoholism told me she could never be a complete Christian. When I asked her what she meant, she said, "I'll never be worthy of God's love because of my drinking". Receiving that worthiness took a long time, but what a blessing it was when she began to see herself as worthy before God. The healing was painful, yet she was able to change what God asked her to change. In biblical language, she became a new creation.
One of the alternative texts for today is from 1 Corinthians 12. The Apostle writes, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit". All are invited, all are loved by God, worthy in God's sight. As pastors we need to repeat over and over the saving message of the Gospel, the saving grace in Jesus Christ. Christianity is not for the select few, but for the huddled masses who cry out to God. Certainly the mainline Christian Church has come under valid criticism for being a church of the select few, people who close the doors to outsiders and to the outcast. Still people cry out and the church must find new ways to respond in love to the human condition of personal emptiness and lack of fulfillment.
The psalmist spoke to the realities of emptiness and destruction in this way; " How precious is thy steadfast love, O God. The children of men take refuge in thy wings. For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light we do see light". This passage resounds the hope that the human spirit seeks in God, that in the darkness of life, the light of God still shines through.
When I read these verses from the psalmist I thought about a blind woman in one of my congregations. Although she was blind she had truly seen the light of God. Her days were filled helping others, doing what she could to make a difference. One Sunday she told me, "I don't need to see to know that God loves me". Her witness brought many people closer to God. Her joy gave others encouragement. This is what so many people are lacking, the ability to be people of encouragement and hope. As the Lord patiently waited to renew Israel, God can use us to help those who are in need, those waiting to hear the word "salvation" and to know what it means for them.
As pastors let us pray with the people, " Lord give us a new word of hope and assure us of your love. May there be less war in our hearts, so that you delight in us and find our peace in you. Because of our faith and obedience, "delight in us" as you brought your delight and blessing to the people of Israel. Through the Spirit we ask it, Amen".