Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sermon Post Mortem: Isaiah 14:24-19:25 -- the one about racism, God's sovereignty, and our calling

OK...I've already missed a week, and here we are on Thursday when I'm getting this one up. It takes more time than I anticipated to get these post mortems up and running. However, given the discussion on the sermon from two weeks ago, I think this might be a valuable exercise. Go check out the comment stream -- some great feedback given by members of the church.

This week's passage was Isaiah 14:24-19:25....I'll post the link when the sermon audio is available. We only read selections from it and touched on a couple of the major themes:

First we look at the theme of God's sovereignty over the nations. Particularly, we tie the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost back to the oracles God gives here. (see Acts 2:1-41). We focused particularly on that astounding passage in 19:23-25:

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and the Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying 'Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheiritance.'
And we linger on how amazing it is that Egypt and Assyria ... the enemies of ancient Israel ... would come to be considered brothers before the throne of God. Here are some photos I have from the Oriental Institute Museum of Colossal figures from both Assyria and Egypt ... showing the impression of power over the people...the might of the temporal rulers ... indeed their claim to divine kingship. Throughout Isaiah, God pronounces judgment against these nations and rulers for their arrogance, but here God shows that judgment is not the last word. The last word is inclusion into the worshipping family of God. This is really big news.
I wish I had tied this back to the Abrahamic covenant .. Genesis 12:2-3 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you : I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." -- in that Covenant we see God's intent to bless the nations and to use the offspring of Abraham to be a blessing to the nations. In Isaiah, we see the nations being blessed by being included in the worshipping community of the God of Abraham. Very very cool.

And so the tie back to Pentecost...that all nations are gathered to worship...see Galatians 3:26ff "You are all sons of God thorugh faith in Christ Jesus for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
This truth confronts us with racism ... we don't have any room for racial discrimination. I had some people affirm the need to hear person privately offered repentence for this sin. Others said that I might get in hot water. I was surprised however by one verbal feedback which indicated I was being tribal or sectarian. I think this person was trying to convey that they thought I was playing up bondedness in Christ too much at the expense of our common human bondedness.
To clarify on that point....we all share a unique dignity as being made in the Image of God. This dignity is to be honored and respected in all human beings. The commands to extend love and care and concern apply to our relationships with all human beings. However, at the same time, scripture makes clear that there is a special bondedness among the people of God. There is a special connection there based off our shared faith. Just as in Islam, there is an understanding of the ummah as the worldwide community of believers, so in Christianity we have this understanding of the church....that the Invisible Church is the worldwide community of true believers, bonded by the Holy Spirit ... a community that transcends national and political bounds. It is my belief that we can at the same time assert the universal dignity of humanity as made in the image of God alongside the particular community of the Invisible Church of God's covenant people.
Second, we see that this passage is a goad for missions. If I had my wits about me, I would have made very explicit the truth that the Sovereignty of God over the nations is indeed what gives hope to our mission efforts. And here we take a global view of the need to take the gospel to the unreached people groups.
I mention the Joshua Project -- encouraging prayer for the unreached people groups ... info is on their website, and I hope that some of you will check out their material.
Third, we see that God's sovereignty over the nations should give impetus to our own personal mission effort. God's purposes will be fulfilled. Here I applied God's sovereignty to the current troubles in our own time..... I quote John Adams' worries about his times.... the citation comes from McCullogh's biography, an excellent read. However, I'm embarrassed that I misquote scripture ... I talk about John Adams being formed in his mothers womb for his time and refer people to Psalm 138 -- when It should have been Psalm 139. That's what happens when I veer from the printed words in front of me.
The point being that God's sovereignty is not an excuse for us to be lazy and rest upon laurels or to cower in fear because the times are too great for us. Rather God's sovereignty is the grounding and foundation for us to act and involve ourselves in the world; We were made for these times and we were given a calling for these times.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments (if you even remember anything from the sermon by this point at all)....Next week, I'll try to get the post-mortem up sooner.
Soli Deo Gloria